About Lessons from Lou

Retired chaplain with more than 25 years of service from the US Army and former board certified hospital chaplain. Currently teaches for the Tennessee School of Ministry. For fun I am the webmaster of my churches' website, open source advocate, and avid user of OpenSUSE.

Spring Feasts Part 2 – The Sacrifices

The Three Sin Offerings of Jesus on the Cross
or
God Is Not Playing Games

 

If you were playing hockey, you might call it a hat trick. If you were playing the ponies, you might call it a trifecta. If you were playing basketball, you might call it triple doubles. These illustrations are three achievements in one game or race. Jesus did this, too. When the Lord Jesus the Christ gave His life on Calvary for us, He simultaneously fulfilled all three major sacrifices for sin that both the spring and the fall festivals require. That’s another reason it is called a “finished work.”

Church tradition keeps our eye on the fact that the Lord Jesus the Christ fulfills every aspect of the requirements of the Mosaic law for the Spring feasts of Passover (our Lamb), Unleavened Bread (Sinless), First Fruits (Resurrection) and Pentecost (Holy Spirit). But there are two more dimensions of our Lord’s death that needs to be highlighted. He did more than what tradition tells us.

Our Lord’s death fulfilled all the requirements for sin not just at Passover, but for Yom Kippur and that other odd sin sacrifice that people misunderstand called the Red Heifer. His death on the cross was actually three sacrifices in one!

There are three major “blood” sacrifices for sin for an individual, corporate Israel and for the temple: Passover, Yom Kippur and the Red Heifer. All three are completely necessary for the Christian today.

Passover.

For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus; whom God displayed publicly as a propitiation in His blood through faith. This was to demonstrate His righteousness, because in the forbearance of God He passed over the sins previously committed; for the demonstration, I say, of His righteousness at the present time, so that He would be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus. Romans 3:23-25

agnusdei01sI’m not going into why Passover is necessary for a Christian. I just one to touch on a couple of high points. Passover is so foundational that if you are a reader who doesn’t know Christ as Lord and Saviour, most of this blog probably makes no sense to you. Jesus, as our Passover Lamb, provided the perfect and only acceptable sacrifice to God for an individual to be saved.

The ancient Hebrews were instructed to smear the blood of a spotless lamb on the door posts of their houses the day before the tenth plague. (Exodus 12:1-28) That night the Death Angel flew over the communities of ancient Egypt killing the first-born of both people and animals. Passover literally means that the angel of death “passes over” your house was protected by the blood of the Lamb Christ Jesus shed on the cross. You are no longer subject to spiritual death, which is separation from God.

This is the first point I want to emphasize to Christians. Your spirit never dies, you either are united with Jesus in heaven or eternally separated from God in hell. This separation is not temporary, it is permanent. (Ecclesiastes 12:7; Isaiah 59:1-2; Revelation 21:8, 22:14-15)

The second point that Christians need to remember is that salvation is a real, tangible and permanent new existence for the Christian. (Read my first blogs on Kainos Ktisis.) Let me give you an example from the Passover, about the need for the blood of our Passover Lamb. The Bible teaches that the blood of Jesus just doesn’t cover sin, it removes sin. Pastors often say that when we sin, God doesn’t see us, He sees the blood.

This is absolutely true in the most physical sense. I was reading a great article from Ministry Magazine some time ago, when the archaeologist showed the truth of God’s word – literally! The Egyptians were wild about names. The name of officials were inscribed on every public building and the names of their citizens were on the door of their houses. It is very possible that the name of the homeowner of each house, even the lowly Hebrews, was chiseled above the door! Think about it: when the Hebrew smeared the blood of the lamb on the door posts, that families’ name was covered up! In the most real sense, the blood of the Passover Lamb protects you in such a way, it is not you who the death angel sees, but the blood of Jesus. I have never heard this from the pulpit. And that blood does not fade, and it’s waterproof!

Yom Kippur.

“This is how Aaron is to enter the Most Holy Place: He must first bring a young bull for a sin offering and a ram for a burnt offering. He is to put on the sacred linen tunic, with linen undergarments next to his body; he is to tie the linen sash around him and put on the linen turban. These are sacred garments; so he must bathe himself with water before he puts them on. From the Israelite community he is to take two male goats for a sin offering and a ram for a burnt offering. Leviticus 16:3-5

Yom Kippur, or Day of Atonement, dealt with the corporate well-being of the state of Israel. Why was that necessary? God knows that sin functions at different levels. The High Priests of Israel needed God’s blessings for the corporate destiny of their nation. The high priests were charged with the direction and protection of the nation and her people.

Yom-Kippur-serviceWhy is this important? Because each Jew everywhere was part of the nation of Israel. Because someone sinned at home shouldn’t impact international dealings in Jerusalem. Yom Kippur represents the sacrifice Jesus made to protect the corporate bride of Christ.

Our High Priest Jesus is charged with the direction and protection of corporate body, namely the Bride of Christ. (Ephesians 5:27) He is charged to bring her to the Father to be wed (direction) without spot or wrinkle (protection). How does this happen? If I am part of the body of Christ, (1 Corinthians 12:21) don’t I stain her when I sin? I just blemished the body of Christ. Yes, the blood of Jesus takes care of it, but how does that affect the destiny He has for me as His bride? Good question.

Briefly, Yom Kippur is the most sacred day of the year for the Hebrews. On this day, the high priest entered the Holy of Holies to sprinkle sacrificial blood on the Mercy Seat to atone for the sins of Israel. The outcome of this ceremony dictated whether or not Israel was going to be blessed for the coming year.

Interestingly enough, this is the only sacrifice that included the expulsion of a living animal. Hence the term “scapegoat.” Two goats were chosen. Then, by lot, one was selected to receive the sins of the people of the nation. A red cloth was tied around its horns. The other was doomed as a sacrifice with a red cloth tied around its neck.

The first animal, the scapegoat that represented the sins of Israel, was led into the wilderness (outside the camp) and presumably, had no further contact with any Israelite. The other animal was slaughtered and its blood sprinkled seven times in the Holy of Holies, the outer room, and eventually on the congregation.

This is a prime example of how our Lord Jesus the Christ, took the sin of the people in His body, so that while the vilest sinner the Jews knew, Barabbas, was freed. The one who knew no sin, Jesus, was sacrificed outside the camp, and the one who was a sinner, Barabbas, was freed by the head of government, Pilot. (Hebrews 9:6-28, 13:11-13)

In the spiritual, the corporate bride of Christ is cleansed by the washing by faith in the Word of God. But look at that word “blemish.” That is a sacrifice word. In Greek, it has the connotation of disgrace, but in Hebrew it means exactly what Paul said: stained, defective or spotted. It means that an animal that had a blemish, it was unfit for sacrifice. For Christ, the Bride would be unfit for presentation to the Father (Leviticus 21:17ff; 22:19-25). The Christian church is justified by faith because Christ is the scapegoat sacrifice – without blemish – that makes us acceptable to the Father (1 Peter 1:19).
The Red Heifer

“Speak to the children of Israel, that they bring you a red heifer without blemish, in which there is no defect and on which a yoke has never come. You shall give it to Eleazar the priest, that he may take it outside the camp, and it shall be slaughtered before him….Then the heifer shall be burned in his sight….And the priest shall take cedar wood and hyssop and scarlet and cast them into the midst of the fire burning the heifer….Then a man who is clean shall gather up the ashes of the heifer, and store them outside the camp in a clean place; and they shall be kept for the congregation of the children of Israel for the water of purification; it is for purifying from sin.” Numbers 19:2-9

The red heifer offering is the third sin-offering that Jesus keeps for us on the cross. It differs from all other sin-offerings.

In the natural, the Red Heifer sacrifice was not completely understood by the old testament priests. That sounds funny to say, but it is true. It started as a purification rite for those who were defiled by a dead body, or someone with leprosy (Numbers 19:9, 17). But unlike the sacrifices of Passover and Yom Kippur which was done annually, the Red Heifer sacrifice was done once for all defiled by sin. Its’ blood was sprinkled, not on the altar, but outside the camp towards the sanctuary; it was completely burned, including the cedar wood altar, the hyssop. The ashes together with running water were sprinkled on the third and seventh days on the defiled person or object. At some point the purpose of the offering changed to sanctification of the temple.

numbers-1720-red-heifer-ashes-zin-rod-budding-resurrection-a-sign-salt-covenant-outside-the-camp-scarlet-speak-rock-zin-kadesh-hor-rejects-the-rock-meribah-30-638

Seven days before the red heifer was to be killed, the priest appointed priest was sequestered and kept in the Temple. He was daily sprinkled with the ashes of the previous red heifers. There was an arched roadway that led from the Eastern Gate of the Temple, across the Kidron Valley, to the Mount of Olives. It was “double arched, that is, arched over the supporting pillars, for fear of any possible pollution through the ground upwards. Why because there were grave in the outcropping of rocks leading up to the Mount of Olives.

The Red Heifer was sacrificed on the Mount of Olives. The reason why Golgotha was chosen on the west side of town is due to church tradition. Jesus could very well have been crucified on or near the Mount of Olives which also along a main Roman road which lead into Jerusalem. Where was Jesus on the night He was betrayed? Mount of Olives, outside the city. “Wherefore Jesus also, that he might sanctify the people with his own blood, suffered without [outside] the gate. Let us go forth therefore unto him without the camp, bearing his reproach” (Hebrews 13:12-13). Jesus also as he was led to His death, He crossed the Red Heifer bridge which leads to the Mount of Olives. Jesus, then, was in full view of the Temple itself (Matthew 27:50-54). Remember the Roman centurion “saw the earthquake, and those things that were done” (v. 54), including the rending of the Temple veil, or massive curtain, from his vantage point at the crucifixion site. This means he must have been standing on the Mount of Olives, just east of the Temple, the only point outside the city where the entrance to the Temple, and the veil, would have been visible.

The Red Heifer was sacrificed very rarely, and its ashes served to purify so long as they existed that is until ashes ran out. Not so with our Messiah who “offered one sacrifice for sins for ever” (Hebrews 10:12) Remember, we are “sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all” (v. 10) and that “For by one offering he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified” (v. 14).

Putting It All Together.jesusoncross
Jesus needed all three sacrifices to ensure our salvation. Think about the forethought and timing of our Lord’s sacrifice and what He did for you on the Cross.

When Jesus the Savior and High Priest got to heaven, He had to go to the heavenly temple not made with hands. (Acts 17:24) I would think He probably had to first sanctify this place of worship because Lucifer probably desecrated it when he was cast out of heaven. (Revelation 12:7; Isaiah 14:12) So, needed to be the red heifer sacrifice, to purify, sanctify and rededicate the temple again. Remember what the red heifer was for: defilement (Satan defiled it) and contact with the dead (Jesus was around the dead in Abraham’s bosom).

Second, Jesus needed to be the sacrificial lamb because He must pass by the Brazen Altar before He gets to the Holy Place. He needed to smear His precious blood over the door posts of my heart so that the Death Angel would passover my individual house. (1 Corinthians 3:16,17)

Thirdly, He needed the Yom Kippur sacrifice to ensure my arrival in heaven. There at the Brazen altar, He sacrificed Himself as the scapegoat offerings for my corporate sins as part of the Body or Bride of Christ. To direct me and to protect me (mostly from myself!) and deliver me to the Father as a spotless and blameless Bride. Then He sprinkled His blood on the Mercy-Seat insuring my success.

God got a lot of mileage out of that one sacrifice! I am so glad.

The Scandal of the Lord’s Supper

The Scandal of the Last Supper
or
The Blasphemy of the Blood!

Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. For my flesh is true food and my blood is true drink. (John 6:53-55)

And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.”In the same way, after the supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you. (Luke 22:19-20)

Once again, I reiterate, the modern church is not pagan enough to understand the shock, scandal and significance of what we call the Lord’s Supper. Drink His blood, eat His body? Oh, no! This is blasphemy!

Historically, the Last Supper is actually a subset of a week-long celebration of the Feast of Passover, the Feast of Unleavened Bread and the Feast of First Fruits (and additionally a high Sabbath).

Most church tradition teaches the Last Supper was the Passover Seder celebrated on a Thursday night and on the next day, Friday, Jesus was crucified. This is historically, theologically and practically not true. The Council of Nicea in 325 AD set the Easter time frame for us according to the solar calendar despite the fact the Jewish calendar is lunar. The resulting fact is that all of the seven day events are contracted into four days for simplicity and this is where we begin to loose the real significance of the Lord’s Supper or the Last Supper.

But there is so much more if we understand a little more Jewish tradition.

The supper Jesus celebrated with His disciples was a variation of the modern Kiddush meal. Kiddush means “sanctification.” This is an ancient meal eaten among Jewish men on the sabbath evening in the local synagogue which continues on until today which often now includes all members of the family. Originally, it sanctified the Sabbath as God commanded. Jesus used this common meal to sanctify or set apart now His sacrifice of love for us. Let’s review the sequence of events so we can see how this fits into the Week of Unleavened Bread.

The Actual Sequence of Events

agnusdei01sThe Lord Jesus the Christ is our Passover Lamb. I believe that He fulfilled each and every aspect of the Torah, it’s laws and intent. (Matthew 5:17-20) Holy Week concludes the Prophetic portion of the three-fold ministry of Jesus. Sitting at the right hand of the Father in heaven, Jesus fulfills His Priestly role and when He comes back with His saints following the Tribulation, He will fulfill His role as King.

So, Saturday, He triumphantly enters Jerusalem much to the dismay of the Sanhedrin who were at the same time probably going out to check on the temple flock of sheep to begin the four-day process of declaring them blemish free. (Matthew 21:1-11, Mark 11:1-11, Luke 19:28-44, and John 12:12-19)

On Sunday, Monday and Tuesday, Jesus chases out the money changers, observes the Widow and her sacrificial giving, and most importantly, questioned by the Sanhedrin. Saturday through Tuesday, for four days, the Sanhedrin could find no sin in Jesus. He is our spotless, sinless Lamb. (Matthew 21:12–22, Mark 11:15–19, Luke 19:45-48, and John 2:13-17)

On Wednesday, the Temple priests begin the long and ritualistic process of slaying and dressing out the lambs. The process needed to start at least on this day due to the large number that was needed for Passover. Maybe upwards of 2,000 lambs were slain for the throngs of pilgrims in the holy city.

On Wednesday then, according to John Chapter13, the day of preparation, the disciples follow a man carrying water (a woman’s job in that day) into the Essene quarter of the city, behind closed gates to prepare a meal for the Master.

The Scandal of the Last Supper

Jesus-and-the-Chalice-357x300If we follow strictly scripture, and not read into anything, we see a simple meal of bread and wine with his male friends. Today, the Kiddush is a simple meal of two loaves of leavened bread (for the two natures of Christ), wine and prayer. If we believe Jesus performed all of the law and the feasts according to the Torah, and this Passover Seder could not have happened as written.

First, He could not have taken it with His male friends. Passover was a family affair. It is conducted by the male head of the house. If you want to contend as I did for many years that the disciples were His family, then who conducted the Passover for the each of the twelve because they were not their for their individual families? (Matthew 26:17–75, Mark 14:12-72, Luke 22:7-62, John 13:1-38)

Second, He would not have taken it reclining and their could not have been foot washing as stated here. The Passover was taken standing with sandals on their feet. If there was a foot washing, then they had to put their dirty sandals back on. I was told they took it the “Roman way.” I asked pastors why then would Jesus not have done it according to the Torah? No answer.

Third, why the mention of leavened bread? Leavened bread is specifically mentioned by both John and Paul. I realize that Matthew, Mark and Luke us the term unleavened bread, but they also use the term for a normal main meal of the day, not the word for a feast. The bread needed to leavened. If Jesus fulfills all the law down to the smallest detail, then He followed the Sanhedrin dictates which mandated that no one would eat unleavened bread at least twenty-hours prior to the Feast of Unleavened Bread to make the ceremony more special. This makes a lot of sense because leavened bread “sops” better. The bread may have been dipped in salt and olive oil as some do today, that bread would soak up better to give to Judas, than bitter herbs or unleavened bread in a traditional Seder. On Wednesday, the Sanhedrin was ceremonially chasing leaven out of the Temple and burning chametz. So here Jesus is chasing the leaven out of the disciples.

Fourth, then there is the scandal of the blood. Jesus specifically instructs His disciples to drink the cup of the New Covenant which is His blood, and to eat His body. (Luke 22:19-20) In Greek, He is not saying symbolically, He saying literally, this IS. I am not getting into transubstantiation or consubstantiation, and the disciples did not literally become vampires, but He has brought something unheard of in Jewish tradition to “table:” consuming His blood! This was a pagan ritual, not Jewish.

Profane Blood?

Jesus-Blood-Without-Shedding-of-BloodThe Jews were prohibited from consuming blood under any circumstance. Passover meal was literally devoid of blood. The Jews had two obligations in dealing with the blood at Passover. First, the Jews had drain the blood of sacrificial animals on an authorized altar, “for it is I who have assigned it to you upon the altar to expiate for your lives; for it is the blood, as life, that can expiate” for your lives when you take the animal’s life for its flesh (Leviticus 17:11). (Think the chalice of wine at the table as the altar vessel.) When the Passover lamb was slain, the blood was poured out into a ritual vessel and used in the Temple. The second procedure was the blood was dabbed on the door posts of their houses so the death angel would pass over their dwelling and family. So where is this applied to the door posts of the upper room?

Scandal basically means an action that is morally or legally wrong that brings general public outrage. What did the disciples think when they heard their master tell them to drink His blood? This was against more than a thousand years of tradition and law. That is what pagans did. For us today, it would be going against explicit scripture. What we hold sacred today was jaw-dropping to the Jews. This could not have happened at the Passover.  However, it could happen at the separate weekly Kiddush meal which means “sanctification” or “setting apart”.  The Lord Jesus the Christ took common bread and wine from an ordinary meal and made it holy. Just as He does with mortal humans today. He takes our common lives and actions and makes them acceptable to Him by sanctifying them by His blood.  Everything that we do, down to the smallest action is sacred to Him.

Something else is scandalous about the blood of Jesus. Sacrificial blood not caught in a vessel, but spilled out on the ground is profane. (Leviticus. 19:26, I Samuel. 14:32–33, Ezekiel 33:25) To the Jews, blood of Jesus spilled on the cross was contaminated because it was not saved properly at the Temple altar.

So then late Wednesday night, into early Thursday morning, and into Thursday afternoon the sacred blood of Jesus – dedicated at the Kiddush which means sanctification – dripped “profanely” onto the ground. This was scandalous! At the same time Jesus was suffering and dying, the sacrificial lambs were slain in the Temple. Jesus’ sweating blood from His forehead (Luke 22:44), dripping blood from the crown of thorns (John 19:1-5 and following), hemorrhaging blood from the scourging, and of course from His hands, feet and side on the cross according to Jewish law was wasted according to Jewish law.

All Of His Blood Is Sacred

wortheverydropBut we know that every drop of blood in Jesus’ body is sacred and effective to wash sin away and make the believer acceptable to God the Father. His blood cleansed the heavenly Temple and poured out on the Mercy Seat. But what we hold as sacred today was profane to the Jews who were prohibited from consuming blood. This is scandalous!

Thursday night, Jesus is placed in the borrowed tomb of His great uncle, Joseph of Arimathea, sealed until Sunday morning when in anticipation of the Feast of First Fruits. Then the Lord Jesus the Christ, the first fruit of the resurrection under the New Covenant in His blood arises. And He is seated at the right hand of the Father making intercession for you and me.

Today, every Christian holds dear every drop of blood shed by Jesus either in the Garden, in Pilate’s or Herod’s palace, on the pillar on which he was beaten, on the way of suffering to Golgotha. When He dripped blood on that wooden cross, that blood that was profane to the Jews as the Lamb of God, but was the door posts of my house which saved me.

This lesson is not meant to be an exhaustive study of every aspect of Holy Week, but to highlight how shocking and scandalous the Last Supper probably was that the Son of God would command His disciples to drink His blood and eat His body that was forbidden by Jewish law. I would have liked to be a fly on the wall of that banquet!

 

YHWH: What the Name of God Really Means

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Your Salvation is on the tip of your tongue!

or

What’s in a Name? 

“And I will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of grace and supplication. They will look on me, the one they have pierced, and they will mourn for him as one mourns for an only child, and grieve bitterly for him as one grieves for a firstborn son. Exodus 3:14,15

And when they came to a place called Golgotha, which means Place of a Skull, they gave Him wine to drink mixed with gall; and after tasting it, He was unwilling to drink. And when they had crucified Him, they divided up His garments among themselves by casting lots. And sitting down, they began to keep watch over Him there. And above His head they put up the charge against Him which read, “THIS IS JESUS THE KING OF THE JEWS.” Matthew 27:33-37

The plan of God is so magnificent and yet so simple, it is hard to understand how the Jews missed it when they so close to the Hebrew Man, Christ Jesus, their Manuscripts were in Hebrew and their Main language was Aramaic which is a derivative of Hebrew. It was so close, it was right on the tip of their tongue!

It just doesn’t mean as God told Moses “I am who I am,” Exodus 3:14,15. It has a deeper and most descriptive name than that. When Sanhedrin they spoke the name Jesus, “Yeshua,” at the trial, they were speaking the Person of Salvation “God saves.” When they spoke the name of God, “Yahweh,” they were speaking the Plan of Salvation.

God’s “name” was the very meaning of the plan of salvation. Yahweh means “The Hand, Behold, the Nail, Behold.” Does that sound familiar to you here at Easter? You see, the “name” of God isn’t so much a “name” as we think of it, God’s name is a description of God. Why, because His greatness surpasses the finiteness of our minds and His magnificence, including His loving plan for us can only make sense to us if it is described.

ancienthebrewAncient languages are all descriptive languages. People from difference countries and background drew pictures and used signs to communicate, so words became written descriptions as well as as having a separate oral meaning.

Yod, Hey, Vav, Hey which makes up the four primary letters of “Yahweh” have individual meaning. Additionally, ancient words had no real vowel sounds, the speaker supplied those. You also may be surprised to know that their was no future tense in ancient Hebrew the way we speak and write now. That is the subject of another Bible study.

ancientnameA “yod” was a symbol of a hand, wrist or arm. A “hey” was the symbol of raised hands as in “ahah or behold!” A “vav” was a symbol of a nail, or peg. So put this description together: a hand, behold! the nail, behold! This is accepted Biblical archaeology, it’s not me making this up. How could you not miss the fact that this is crucifixion! And when you put this together with the name of Jesus, “God saves,” you have a clear picture of the magnificent plan and person of God.

This is proven in archaeology. In the 1968, a skeleton was found with nails driven through its feet and hands. A 19cm nail was driven through olive wood and into the heels so hard it bent. The other nails were driven through their wrists. The Greek word for hand includes the wrist and finger.

crucifixion-Zias-needpermissionGod had this procedure of crucifixion nailed down since the beginning of time. When the prophet talked about looking at the one who was pierced (Zechariah 12:10), stoning was the authorized method of death among the Jews. It wasn’t until later, the Phoenicians invented crucifixion and later picked up by the Greeks and Romans. The Roman records seem to indicate crucifixion in the third century B.C. until the first Christian emperor, Constantine, outlawed it in 337 A.D. By then, the cross had become a symbol of Christ and His followers.

God is passionate about your salvation and the salvation of the world. It’s in the unique blood of Jesus, and it represents His very name.

Spring Festivals of Israel Part 1

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The Secrets of the Barley Harvest
or
The Real Reason Jesus Came at Passover

 

But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law. (Galatians 4:4)

But now Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since by man came death, by Man also came the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive. But each one in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, afterward those who are Christ’s at His coming. (1 Corinthians 15:20-23)

Do you not say, ‘There are still four months and then comes the harvest’? Behold, I say to you, lift up your eyes and look at the fields, for they are already white for harvest. (John 4:35)

What is So Special About the Barley Harvest? 
Most people today are not farmers. They didn’t grow up in a rural area, or derive their living from the ground. But in the not too distant past, America and the world was an agrarian society. That consciousness is missing from our understanding of the Bible. Easter today is governed by what the Council of Nicea said: the first Sunday after the first full moon after the vernal equinox. But back in the time of Jesus, Passover was determined by when the barley harvest was ready. This distinction is critical to a more fuller understanding of scripture and Jewish life.

Without the barley being ripe for harvest, Passover and the accompanying holy days would have been possible! Why? Because the barley harvest represents what Jesus died for: you and me!

All seven feasts have to do with harvests. Passover, Unleavened Bread, First Fruits were dependent on the barley harvest. Pentecost was dependent on the wheat harvest. The feasts of Trumpets, Yom Kippur and Tabernacles were dependent on the grape harvest.
Passover week culminates with the Feast of First Fruits in which sheaves of barley were waved in the temple. Pentecost is 50 days after First Fruits in which the Jews celebrated the wheat harvest. The fall feasts, especially Tabernacles celebrate the harvesting of the grape and other crops.

What’s so important about the harvests?
The harvests represents various stages of the church or Christians. The barley harvest represents the early church. The wheat harvest represents the contemporary church or Christians. The fall harvests represents the persecuted church or Christians, as does barley.
The flax and barley were destroyed, since the barley had headed and the flax was in bloom. The wheat and spelt, however, were not destroyed, because they ripen later. (Exodus 9:31,32)

Barley represents the early church and it’s persecution. Barley is a winter crop grown in many places in the world because it is a hardy grain. It is planted just after the fall feasts and harvested in the early spring. It can take the harsh winter to include the cold, snow, rain and hail. Exodus 9:31 says that the barley and the flax crop in Egypt was beaten or smitten by the intense hail storm of the plagues. The weather is a picture of the world, satan and its effects on people. How many people have been beaten up and hailed on?

Wheat is grown in the late winter and harvested in the early summer and it needs the gentle rain to grow. When you are saved, God gives you the gentle rain of the Holy Spirit to grow. In Christ we are no longer subject to the world. God does not hail on you.

So what about the Barley Harvest itself?  firstfruits

The festival of First Fruits was commanded to be the first day following the Sabbath..”.. He is to wave the sheaf before the LORD so it will be accepted on your behalf; the priest is to wave it on the day after the Sabbath.” (Leviticus 23:11)
Without the barley harvest timed with Passover, Jesus would not let Himself be crucified. Jesus came because the fullness of time had come for his birth. It is the same with his death. If the barley harvest was not ripe, another month was added called “Abib” and Passover was postponed another 30 days (next new moon).

In other words, Jesus didn’t show up and then start gathering the church together. Jesus died for the harvest that was already prepared for Him which was ready for reaping.

What does that mean to you? Jesus just doesn’t show up in your life and ask what can He do for you today.  God has already prepared an answer for your problem ready to appear when the time is right.

How do I know when the timing is right?  

How did the priests determine the time and the seasons? The ancients determined the feasts where ready by two criteria. First, whether it was a new moon.   Second, whether the harvest was white.

Remember, the Jews determined everything by the phases of the moon. So when two rabbis agreed they saw the first sliver of a new moon, they announced a new month had started. Then, they checked the garden they kept near the Mount of Olives to see if the harvest was white.

When the two coincided, they could announce that Passover, Unleavened Bread and First Fruits could begin. If the harvest was not white, it was postponed for another month and another month was added to the calendar called “Abib.” Abib means “in the ear” or “green ears.” That’s a reference to the stage in which the barley was close to ripe. In the natural, there are days when people are not receptive to the word of God.

Barley was harvested just before it turned brown. Brown meant that it was too ripe. Being white means that the kernel was still in the ear, held in place by the husk. Brown means that the husk was releasing the kernel which would fall to the ground and be useless. We need to be harvested while we are still good for God.

800px-Illustration_Hordeum_vulgare0BOur bodies which house our spirits are like the husk that protects that kernel. When we die, the spirit and the body separate which makes us no good for God. Barley which is white, is translucent in color. This means that the way we start out (green) isn’t the way we finish!

We are harvested while still in the “flesh,” in the husk or body. Therefore we are not completely useful to God or ourselves. When we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8) When we were not ripe yet, the reaper does several things to make us useful. First, when he puts the sickle to us, he separates us from our earthly source of nourishment.

He then bundles us together and causes us to stand upright instead of blowing in the wind. This is a picture of the christian and the church A stalk of barley cannot stand upright by itself, it has to be bundled with other stalks and then tied together to be able to stand against the elements. We are bound together with cords of love.

Later, the harvest is brought to the threshing floor for two reasons First, it was a means of protecting the harvest from the elements and theft. (John 6:39-40) Second, it was brought there to be made useful. The kernel was separated be gentle shaking, beating and airing The corner were not reaped to allow others to gather grain. This is a type of special ministry that is not part of the regular church, such as missionaries and chaplains.

Don’t Keep the Barley Harvest a Secret!

Most people because we grow up in an urban or suburban environment have no idea the importance of the barley harvest is in the coming of our Lord. We concentrate on Palm Sunday, Passover and Good Friday which are all important. However, the reason Jesus was born, died and rose again was for the harvest of the people in this world.

First Fruits is representative of the complete harvest to come culminating with the Fall Feasts. Jesus the Man is the First Fruit of that world harvest. (1 Corinthians 15:20-23) That means if He is the First Fruit, I’m in the harvest somewhere as part of the resurrected humanity of Jesus the Christ. This means that I have a place in the harvest, you have a place in the harvest and the harvest is not over. That is something to shout about!

Lessons from the Gospel of Mark

Right on the Mark!   Part 1
Or
All the basics of Christianity I learned from the Gospel of Mark

At that time Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. Just as Jesus was coming up out of the water, he saw heaven being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. And a voice came from heaven: “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.” At once the Spirit sent him out into the wilderness, and he was in the wilderness forty days, being tempted by Satan. He was with the wild animals, and angels attended him. Mark 1:9-12 (New International Version)

The basics of being a new Christian is in the gospel of Mark. Look no further to have a basic understanding of being a new creature. It’s that simple!
Mark is the earliest gospel, for many reasons. The biggest reason is because it’s the briefest. Everyone else expounded and expanded on what Mark wrote. That’s a good thing for us, because being the briefest, Mark gets right to the point about the activities of the Lord Jesus the Christ.
Mark gives us three important principles of who we are in Christ. He illustrates our authority in Christ, our Power in Christ, and our Journey in Christ. He reinforces two things throughout his book: the immediacy in our earthly mission, and our image in our heavenly Master.
Right off, Mark emphasizes the urgency of the mission by immediately narrating the baptism of Christ and defeat of the Devil in the desert (Mark 1:9-13). In five short verses of scripture, he sums up two important aspects of my new life in Christ. I am a beloved child of God, and I have authority over the Devil. The two go hand-in-hand. When you are a born again Christian, you have authority. You have been changed forever and you know have a different status in the world. It took me a long time to understand that I am fundamentally different. (I changed verb tenses on purpose.) You may not feel different, but at conversion, you are fundamentally new, never have you been seen before in this world (2 Corinthians 5:17). Therefore, Satan does not have authority over you, you have authority over him. He does not know what to do with that. And another point: God is pleased with you!
At Jesus’ baptism, the other two members of the Trinity, Holy Spirit and God the Father validated Jesus’ manhood, His ministry and His message. God the Father told Him in an audible voice for the world to hear, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” Simultaneously, the Holy Spirit like a dove, landed upon Him. Jesus the man turned a corner in His life on earth. So did you at salvation. You are a beloved child of God, and He is pleased with you!
In the act of water baptism, Jesus as a man, showed Himself subject to both earthly and heavenly authority. This is critical for a new creation to understand. Jesus, being both man and God, needed to be working in both the earthly and heavenly realms. He wasn’t going to be in rebellion to earthly authority, nor smug in His approach to earthly authority. This is critical for a new Christian: you are not better than anyone, just a believer. Jesus was going to overcome earthly authority in another way. He was showing what each Christian needs to do, be humble when it comes to the earth, but heavenly when it comes to the authority of the spirit.
Straightway, immediately, and right now, God made Jesus make a beeline to the desert to ultimately confront Satan. Later in Mark, you will see that the well-meaning crowds tried to persuade Jesus to move in another direction that was not the Father’s will at that time. Well meaning Christians do this now to pastors and to you. But do not be distracted from the first priority of your new life: you must immediately understand that Satan is a defeated enemy and has no authority in your life (Ephesians 4:8; Colossians 2:15).To do this, you must get the fleshly distractions out of the way as did Jesus.
The flesh itself is not the problem with defeating Satan, although I have been taught that in many churches. Jesus fasted as a way to keep the flesh under control for a reason. Your body itself is not evil. Fasting does not obligate God to move because you are being so pious. Jesus fasted not to keep the flesh under control for the sake of piety, but to allow His Spirit to be more sensitive to the Holy Spirit. This is why you fast: to be more sensitive to the leading of the Holy Spirit! Period.
Jesus had to defeat Satan because he is the sworn enemy of God and His plans. Satan is defeated for eternity. Christians need to be reminded of this as much as Satan needs to be reminded. We overcome Satan by the blood of Lamb and the word of our testimony (Revelation 12:11, Mark, 16:17, Philippians 2:10). This means that we reinforce Jesus’ victory by pleading the blood of Jesus, and reminding Satan who we are. Jesus defeated Satan by using God’s word because His blood wasn’t shed yet. Satan tries the same thing on us today as he did with Jesus. Satan tries to use God’s word against us to get our flesh, our fears and our faith doubting. Notice that Satan misquotes what God the Father said about Jesus: he said if you are the Son of God.” Did you catch that? He left out the word “beloved.”
idenitysAgain, your authority in this world as a Christian stems from who you are as a new creation in Christ (1 John 3:8, Colossians 2:15 ). You are “beloved.” You are no longer a stranger, an enemy or unholy. God the Father loves you, God the Son loves you, the Holy Spirit loves you, and Satan know that. But do you know that? If the foundation of your Christian walk is that you are loved as a person, not based on your works, – but who you are, – then you can never be defeated.
Understand this first lesson from the Gospel of Mark, you have authority over Satan because of who you are as new creation: you are the beloved child of God in whom God is well pleased!

Next, the power that comes with your authority.

 

2016 Recap

Let’s Review the bidding.

Do you remember why you are a new creature in Christ?

Now that the rush of the holidays is over, I want to again reemphasize the purpose of this blog. I want you to know why you are a new creation, what fundamental changes happened at your salvation and give you the understanding you need to be a successful Christian. I want to give you the steak on Sunday mornings I seldom get.

First, your spirit was permanently and eternally renewed into perfection by the Holy Spirit at salvation. It’s what the word “kainos” means. Something that has never been seen before. It’s new wine, it’s new wine skins, its the new covenant. For many Christians, salvation is a mental exercise of “if I just keep believing, if I just keep doing God pleasing things, if I just keep from sinning.” I’m, telling you you have missed the whole point. 2 Corinthians 5:17 Things My First Pastor Didn’t Know to Tell Me (John 16:12)

Second, righteousness is a state of being, not a state of doing. In other words, your works as a means of salvation or maintaining your salvation is dead. If you don’t believe me, then let me ask you a common sense question. For those in Hollywood who want to have a sex change operation, are they still a man or a woman? Of course they are their birth sex, because their DNA was not altered, only their outside flesh. It’s the same with your salvation. God permanently and eternally altered who you were at your new birth. Man cannot alter what God has created. 2 Corinthians 5:21 Righteousness is a State of Being

Third, as a new creation, you are adopted into the family of God. If you are certain that you can loose your salvation then you must not believe in the Roman concept of adoption which Paul taught. Additionally, there is spiritual pecking order that comes with adoption and salvation. God has our new life as His adopted child worked out for us! John 14:26 Living as an Adopted Son of God

Fourth, as a new creation, our Lord, Jesus the Christ keeps the covenant for us because we can’t. This is the problem for all the covenants, man cannot keep a two-way covenant. This is why God covenanted with Jesus His Son, to keep the covenant for us as representative of the human race because we can’t. We share in it by being adopted into the family of God. I had been incorrectly taught about this by well-meaning pastors for years because religion is so man-centered. We got to get back to understanding Christianity is Christ-centered. The Christ Covenant

Fifth, I am marked by God. New creatures, you have the mark of the Holy Spirit upon you as did Cain, that sets you apart from all other persons on this earth. God knows who are His and so does Satan. This is an indelible “etching” that is not removed. Ephesians 2:12-14 Marked by God

Sixth, you are redeemed by perfect blood. There is the unique and untainted blood of Jesus that God the Father gave Him through the Holy Spirit at conception and many other topics I think gives you a different perspective of your status as a new creation. There are other subjects that I will write about as the Holy Spirit gives me light.  The Blood Of Jesus and the Virgin Birth

The next few blogs will deal with topics from the earliest Gospel, Mark. The three basics of living an overcoming life comes from the Gospel of Mark – – Authority, Power and Discipleship. We will talk about the most important parable, the Parable of the Sower, the real sequence of events during Passion Week, and the two sacrifices, the Widows Mite and the Savior.

The Magnificent Magi

 

The Magnificent Magi and the True Meaning of Christmas: Worship

or

When the Legend Becomes Fact, Print the Legend

And Jesus having been born in Beth-Lehem of Judea, in the days of Herod the king, lo, mages from the east came to Jerusalem, saying, ‘Where is he who was born king of the Jews? for we saw his star in the east, and we came to bow to him.’ And Herod the king having heard, was stirred, and all Jerusalem with him, and having gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he was inquiring from them where the Christ is born. And they said to him, ‘In Beth-Lehem of Judea, for thus it hath been written through the prophet,” Matthew 2:1-5 (Young’s Literal Translation of the Bible)

. . . . .and having come to the house, they found the child with Mary his mother, and having fallen down they bowed to him, and having opened their treasures, they presented to him gifts, gold, and frankincense, and myrrh.” Matthew 2:10-11 (Young’s Literal Translation of the Bible)

I loved what the reporter in the movie The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance said. Jimmy Stewart asked “are you going to use my story Mr. Scott?” He replied “No sir. This is the West. When legend becomes fact, print the legend.” Well, this is the western church. And when the legend of tradition grows bigger than the facts, teach the legend.

Thus it is with Christmas. Soon I’ll have a Christmas quiz for everyone. But this week I want to continue on with what the Magi has taught me about worship. We’ve got to get around the legend that has grown up which obscures the real purpose of the visit of the Magi. The real purpose of the visit of the Magi is the real meaning of Christmas. Each one has to find the Christ and worship Him.

What is a Legend?

A legend is a story based on historical facts that gets retold and embellished to where it looses it’s original meaning. A legend that doesn’t square with the facts is what many “manger scenes” depict: three magi kneeling at the feeding trough with mother Mary on the night of Jesus’ birth. When in fact we don’t know how many magi visited, when they visit occurred and they didn’t stay kneeling. The magi did not visit the baby Jesus on the night of His birth, it was several months later. We don’t know how many magi actually made the trip, the Bible just records wise men from the east. Most importantly, when they got there, they didn’t just kneel, but, in truth, they worshiped. Worship in the East is prostrate on the ground. This is the truth we need to learn from this legendary visit.

We may never know how many and when they arrived. We may never know their real names or what what home within Bethlehem they found the Baby. We many never find out the composition of the “star” they followed. But the example they set for us today is something we rarely do in churches in North America. They set the example of true worship.

magiphotos_2211The Magi worshiped in two distinct ways. First, they brought an offering. Second, they prostrated themselves before the king of kings. In my opinion, true worship involves the two distinct acts the Magi demonstrated that is so often lost in western churches.

Worship gets confused with praise in western churches. We list church times as “Sunday School at 9am and praise and worship at 10:30am.” We talk about a gifted singer or musician joining the worship team. But in reality, what we really promote on Sunday morning is praise. Praise is a mandatory part of our adoration toward God, but it is not the same as worship. For growth of churches and Christians a distinction needs to be made. Praise is the lifting up of hands with joy, exaltation, extolling and thankfulness. Worship literally means to be prostrate, to kiss the ground.

Worship here is the word “proskuneo.” This word occurs 60 times in the New Testament, 57 times in the Gospels.

  • Jesus said to him, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.’ Matthew 4:10
  • A man with leprosy came and knelt before him and said, “Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean.” Matthew 8:2
  • When he saw Jesus from a distance, he ran and fell on his knees in front of him. Mark 5:6
  • When he had led them out to the vicinity of Bethany, he lifted up his hands and blessed them. While he was blessing them, he left them and was taken up into heaven. Then they worshiped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy. And they stayed continually at the temple, praising God. Luke 24:50-53

Another word is latreuo which means to worship through service. Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God and serve him only.’” Luke 4:8 The third word is sebo which means to worship as “God-fearing or religious.” Mark 7:6-7, Acts 13:43, 45-50.

Our modern legend is wrong. We depict kneeling or standing Magi. The fact is the Magi demonstrated true worship by prostrating themselves before the King of Kings and bringing an offering, not a gift.

What is Then True Worship? 

Theopedia has a great definition:

Worship is an active response to the character, words and actions of God, initiated by His revelation and enabled by His redemption, whereby the mind is transformed (e.g. belief, repentance), the heart is renewed (e.g. love, trust), and actions are surrendered (e.g. obedience, service), all in accordance with His will and in order to declare His infinite worthiness.

In both Hebrew and Greek, there are two categories of words for worship. The first is about body language that demonstrates respect and submission; to bow down, to kneel, to prostrate oneself. The second is about doing something for God that demonstrates sacrifice and obedience; to offer, to serve.

worship_prostrate_crupiFirst, the Magi prostrated themselves before the Lord Jesus. The precursor to this action is the word pesontes. They knelt. A connotation of the word here is “to fall under as in condemnation.” They didn’t kneel long. They felt convicted. They knew they were in the presence of the King of Kings, and the Lord of Lords even in His infancy. We rarely even on an individual basis, do this in church today. I have been to thousands of church services and don’t remember one pastor inviting people to prostrate themselves. I on occasion have invited people to get on their knees, but, I don’t remember encouraging people to fall on their face before God. How different a church service would be if we did! 

Second, their offering denoted worship. The magi presented “gifts” of gold frankincense and myrrh. The legend says they were just “gifts.” However, taken in context the “gifts” were in fact “offerings.” There is a big difference. You see that proskuneo word shows up again in the word “they offered.” That is porsphero which means “to make an offering.” Eastern worshipers always brought an offering before their king. In the Old Covenant, you brought an offering to God even if it was flour or a turtledove. You didn’t go empty-handed. This makes the word doron not something that is owed, but something that is “a spontaneous sacrifice, something uncaused.” In the western church we would say that it is something not connected to our tithe or even a “special offering,” but given freely out of respect. Many Christmas gifts today are not given out of obligation, not spontaneously.

Gold, frankincense and myrrh are yes, according to legend representative of the Lord’s offices as King (gold), Priest (incense from the temple) and Messiah (myrrh used at embalming), but these together were used in worship in the temple, also. So, even the offerings are that of worship. They anointed the Tabernacle with oil made with frankincense and myrrh, along with the priests and instruments of worship. And they brought these things to the priest on a gold platter. (Exodus 30)

So lets put this together.

They fell on their knees (pesontes, to fall under as in condemnation), they worshiped (proskuneo, fall on the ground, to kiss), they offered (prosphero, to offer) gifts (doron, free, uncoerced, spontaneous offering). Doesn’t sound like they did much kneeling or praising.

But this type of worship, that proskuneo worship, is what we are going to do in heaven. I am going to start practicing now. I have a long way to go, just as the Magi did. The fact is – not the legend – worship is the true meaning of Christmas.

The four living creatures said, ‘Amen,’ and the elders fell down and worshiped.” Revelation 5:14

The Magnificent Magi

The Magnificent Magi and the Prophecies of Daniel
or
How God Uses the Foolish Things of the World to Shame the Wise

The king talked with them, and out of them all not one was found like Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah; so they entered the king’s personal service. As for every matter of wisdom and understanding about which the king consulted them, he found them ten times better than all the magicians and conjurers who were in all his realm. Daniel 1:19-20
Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem, saying, “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we saw His star in the east, and have come to worship Him.” Matthew 2:1–2
But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. 1 Corinthians 1:27

How did the dumbest men on earth become the wisest? That is the real question the Magi poses. People get hung up on what the star. Was it an alignment of planets? Was it something completely supernatural? Who knows, and no one has a good answer. But the bigger question should be how can the men who couldn’t answer Nebuchadnezzar’s dream take a key role in the birth of the biggest star the world has ever seen: the Lord Jesus the Christ?
The simple answer to that question is the Prophet Daniel told them. But, why? Why would God speak to non-Jews to reveal the greatest event in human history? The simple answer to that question is that when people who think they know it all really seek God, God has a way of wising them up.
There is some “law” that states the simplest answer is the best and truest answer. Think on this. Here is Daniel, in the lion’s den, eating a kosher diet, his friends walking around the firey furnace, then joined by a Fourth, having special rewards and position above all the locals who have been mugging for the camera for their entire lives. If I had a twinge of jealousy or I hope intellectual curiosity, I would like to find out what makes these guys special and willing to risk their lives.
These incredible adventures meant something to the Magi. Usually, when God shows Himself to a new group of people, He does so by showing His superiority over their “gods.” So, when Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego were thrown into the firery furnace, it wasn’t because it was a handy location because they were making pottery. No, they were to be a sacrifice to their “god.” But, of course, God showed his superiority by including Himself in the sacrifice (sound familiar?) which astounded the magi. A principle element of magian worship was fire, and on their primary altar burned a perpetual flame, which they claimed descended from heaven.
Because God interceded and came to the rescue of the Daniel and his friends, Daniel, in turn, was able to plead for the life of the magi who could not interpret the king’s dream. (Daniel 2:24) So now, God sets Daniel up to be able to teach the magi the word of God. Daniel was appointed “ruler over the whole province of Babylon and chief prefect over the wise men of Babylon.” (Daniel 2:48) Daniel was so highly respected and probably people saw the effects of the Hebrew God over their idols that the king was talked into throwing Daniel into the lion’s den. (Daniel 6:4-9)
Don’t forget the influence of Queen Esther and Mordecai in the book of Esther. (Esther 1:13,19) Because many Jews remained in Babylon after the Exile and intermarried with the people of the east, it is likely that Jewish messianic influence remained strong in that region even until New Testament times when this new generation of magi sprung up searching for the Messiah.
What Did the Magi Know and when Did they know it?

we-three-kings
This is hard to say, except to assume they probably did not have scripture past Daniel’s encounter initially, then, as the scribes traveled to the east, they may have brought then the other prophetic books.
When they studied the Hebrew Scriptures they found a clear prophetic truth.
“A Star shall come out of Jacob; a Scepter shall rise out of Israel.” Numbers 24:17
“But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of you shall come forth to Me the One to be Ruler in Israel.” Micah 5:2
Probably the most notable truth is the famous Seventy Weeks of Daniel regarding the appearance of the Messiah (see Daniel 9:24-26) and came to the conclusion that His coming was near.
“Seventy weeks of years, or 490 years are decreed upon your people and upon your holy city Jerusalem, to finish and put an end to transgression, to seal up and make full the measure of sin, to purge away and make expiation and reconciliation for sin, and to bring in everlasting righteousness, and to seal up vision and prophecy and to anoint a holy of holies. Know, therefore, and understand, that from the going forth of the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem until the coming of the anointed one, a prince, shall be seven weeks of years, and sixty-two weeks of years; it shall be built again with city square and moat, but in troublesome times. And after the 62 weeks of years, shall the anointed one be cut off (killed) and shall have nothing and no one belonging to and defending Him…” Daniel 9:24-26
What Does Daniel’s Prophecy Mean?

bible-raised-high-fire-burst-300x300
Combined with prophecy in Micah and Numbers, the Magi now have an idea of when the Savior was to appear. To me, it is hard to say if they were expecting a baby or someone older. The prophecies merely talk about someone being born, not necessarily how old they would be upon discovery.
I am not the first person to suggest the Magi were students of the prophecies of the Old Testament, especially, Daniel, but it makes sense. If they were, then the gifts brought to the Babe makes sense also. So what then would the Seventy Weeks tell them?
The first seven weeks or 49 years is the account of the Jewish pilgrimage to rebuild Jerusalem following King Artaxerxes’ decree. The prophet Nehemiah assumed charge of this rebuilding effort, which was carried out in such extreme danger that the builders carried swords with them. This fulfilled precisely the prophecy in verse 25,”…it shall be built again with city square and moat, but in troublesome times.” The rebuilding began in 445 BCE and finished in 396 BCE, exactly 49 years.
The second period or 62 weeks of years, 434 years is the preparation for the coming king. Daniel 9:26 tells us that the “anointed One” would come after this period and would then be killed or “cut off suddenly.” This refers to the Lord Jesus Christ’s offices as Messiah and King. In my opinion this was his His baptism and His triumphal entry into Jerusalem later known as Palm Sunday. When did Palm Sunday occur? The Messiah came to Jerusalem on Passover April 6, the year 32 C.E.
For those of you who are numbers nerds, that’s 7 + 62 = 69 weeks of years, or 483 Jewish years, or 173,880 days. And it gets better!
March 14, 445 BCE to April 6, 32 C.E. is 477 years, 24 days. Then deduct one year because only one year lapses between 1 BCE and 1 C.E. This then is 476 years, 24 days or 173,764 days.
Then, add 119 days to account for the 119 leap years during these 476 years (476 divided by 4). That is now 173,883 days. It gets even better!
The Julian calendar and the Jewish solar year does not perfectly align. The Royal Observatory in London calculates that a Julian year is 1/128th of a day longer than the Jewish solar year. When you multiply 476 years times 1/128, you get three days. Subtracting three from the figure above, you arrive at the 173,880 days!
Therefore, there are exactly 69 weeks of years (173,880 days) between the decree of King Artaxerxes in 445 BCE to rebuild Jerusalem to Palm Sunday, April 6, 32 C.E..!! God told everyone – even the Magi – the day when Messiah would present Himself to Israel as their Messiah and King. (Matthew 21:1-11).
But what about the last seven day week? The Lord Jesus the Christ was crucified at the end of the 69th week. At the end of the 70th week, Jesus shall return to the Mount of Olives after He destroys the armies of the Antichrist at Bozrah and Petra. He shall return to the one-third the Jews who remains (Zechariah 13:8-9) and they shall receive Him as Israel’s Messiah.
Therefore, God told to Daniel the exact day the Messiah announced Himself as King. The learned Magi knew of Daniel’s prophecy and trusted him. Knowing when the Messiah would be announced, the Magi could back track and speculate when the Child would be born. If the Messiah was to announce Himself in the year 32 C.E. he would have to born “now.” Were the Magi also looking for a heavenly sign? Probably. And the star in the appeared for them to follow.
And the rest is history. The dumbest guys wound up being the wise guys.
One lesson we need to learn from Daniel is that Yahweh is a God of action. He stands ready to show his superiority over the idols of your life or “god” of the unsaved. Again, when God is ready to introduce Himself to a group of unbelievers in the Bible, He usually conquers or destroys their sacred cow. The God of Daniel showed His superiority over the fire god of the Babylonians by preserving the prophets in the firery furnance. But we don’t do that in America. When we try to introduce God to an unbeliever by reason. “This is why you need God: for better living, better friends, better school for your children.” When an evangelist goes to Africa, the people there want to see the blind healed, the lame walk and evil spirits destroyed. The great English theologian John R.W. Stott once said that America is the only place Christianity can get away with preaching a cerebral Jesus.
So God makes wise the simple. God has a long way to go with educating me about His ways. The Magi also taught me a lesson about the difference between worship, praise, gifts and offerings.

The Real Lineage of Prince Jesus

The Families of Prince Joseph, Princess Mary and the Birth of Prince Jesus (Isaiah 9:6,7)

or

The Benefits of Being Poor and Persecuted

 

Out of the stump of David’s family  will grow a shoot – yes, a new Branch bearing fruit from the old root. Isaiah 11:1

But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.” Luke 1:30-33

 

Growing up, I got the idea from many pastors and teachers I knew that Joseph and Mary were just two poor Jews living around Jerusalem in mud huts until all of a sudden, the Holy Spirit intervened. Nothing could be further from the truth! I did not know that they were Davidian royalty and they had connections to Herod and to the Sanhedrin.

Researcher David Hughes’ book the “British Chronicles” has an excellent well-researched section on the ancestry of the Lord Jesus the Christ, which helped me gain a fuller idea of what was happening in Jerusalem during the first century. Another good book on the subject is “The Elite Knighthood” by Brian Daniel Star. So what was the family of Joseph and Mary really like?

Their lives would make a great secular movie full of politics, power and perversion. The motivations of people then are the same as they are today. I want to pass along three points. The Politics: Herod the Great, the local ruler, had to keep the rebellious Jews in line to keep his throne. The Power: The Jewish rulers wanted to please the Herod to keep their power because they were not entitled to it by heredity. Therefore, The Perversion, they colluded with the Romans to kill off or persecute the rightful heirs who happened to be the house and the lineage of King David.

Once I got this straight in my head, the nativity story grew more real and alive in my soul than ever before. I never understood how many people were related to each other.

The Politics

To keep the Jews in line, Herod the Great wished to marry a Jewish Princess. Even today, powerful families intermarry to insure a certain amount of domestic tranquility and loyality. This was no different with Herod. The problem was that she was not recognized royalty. The House and the Lineage of David was quite polluted with foreign blood because of the Babylonian captivity. But, because of the fact the scripture requires a minimum of 10 generations and because the lineage of Kings is passed down through the father, the Sanhedrin recognized that part of the lineage of King David.

king-herod2

Herod the Great

Miriamme was the wife of Prince Jacob ben Mattan from about 23 to 30 BCE. She was also wed to her second husband High Priest of Israel Simon IV Boethus, and lastly, to the King of the Jews, Herod the Great. What caught Herod’s eye the most, in addition to the link to the Jews, was the fact her mother was THE Cleopatra of Egypt. When she was brought to this area by Rome, she was given to Prince Jacob was the most prominent “eastern prince” in the around and Patriarch of Jerusalem.

Herod killed of Prince Jacob, but not before she had three sons Prince Joseph who was born about 29 BCE, and twin boys Ptolas and Clopas in 26 BCE. So politics makes strange bedfellows, Herod’s second wife was Prince Jesus’ earthly grandmother! It is not known how Prince Jacob’s first wife, Eucharia, died. Prince Joseph’s Uncle Clopas scholars think is the same person whom the Lord Jesus the Christ is talking to on the road to Emmaus.

Now behold, two of them were traveling that same day to a village called Emmaus, which was seven miles from Jerusalem. And they talked together of all these things which had happened. So it was, while they conversed and reasoned, that Jesus Himself drew near and went with them…Then the one whose name was Cleopas answered and said to Him, “Are You the only stranger in Jerusalem, and have You not known the things which happened there in these days?” Luke 24:13

The Power 

The real power in keeping both Rome and the ruling Jews content was to keep the real contenders for the throne and the temple under control. As most Christians know, the church wields a lot of informal if not informal power. To keep the current crop of Chief priests in office who were put in place my the previous Jewish dynasty, they had to collude with Herod (or the current ruler) to keep the descendants of King David in line, even if they had to kill them, or persecute them. That is what happened to both Prince Joseph and Princess Mary.

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The Sanhedrin 

The family of Joseph, the foster father of Jesus, came from a family of royal Davidian princes. In contrast, Mary’s family was from a family dynasty of priests. Equally regal and powerful, they carried the mantle of spiritual power, while Prince Joseph’s family carried the regal mantle of temporal power. For many rulers in the middle east, spiritual power was more effective than the political power because it motivated people at an emotional level.

Princess Mary, was born to Prince Heli and Hannah, about the year of 20 or 19 BCE. Mary, was a Davidian on her father’s side, and a Zadokian priest heiress on her mother’s. Mary, means “bitter.” She was named that for a reason. Her father, Heli, a Davidic and Hasmonean prince, called Alexander III “Helios”, was apparently executed circa 15 BCE, by King Herod the Great to shore up his claim to both the throne and the temple. Her mother a few years later also died from disease. To add to her sorrow, her grandfather, High Priest Yeshua III, was executed in 23 BCE, for “sedition” against Herod the Great. The orphaned young woman was placed in the temple within the Order of the Temple-Virgins until she was eligible for marriage about the year of her bat Mitzvoth at 12-13 years of age
The Perversion

The upshot of all this is that the royal lineage of King David was perverted into poverty and persecution. Prince Joseph and Princess Mary were denied their legal and heredity rights as the head of the Jewish nation. Remember what satan does, he comes but to kill, steal and destroy. So it was with newlyweds Prince Joseph and Princess Mary who lived in the shadow of the splendid temple, but in reality started out life in poverty and shame, bearing a child before the official betrothal period ended.

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Prince Joseph and Princess Mary on their way to Bethlehem

I’m sure at the time it was devastating to them. But, God used this perversion of justice, not just to fulfill scripture, but for our benefit 2000 years later.

 

 

 

So what does this all mean for me?  Think on these things.

Points to ponder:

  • If Mary hadn’t come a family of priests, would she so quick to understood the significance of the Angel who asked her to be the world’s most blessed woman? (Luke 1:28) Remember, her cousin Elizabeth was going to have a miraculous baby, too, but her husband balked at the idea.
  • Because they were poor and often in hiding from the government they were able to fulfill prophecy.
  • If they had money, they would not have a problem getting room in the inn. (Luke 2:7) I really think that it was not an issue of over-crowding, but because of lack of money. If their relatives were not killed off, there would be people in Bethlehem to receive them and Jesus wouldn’t have been born in a stable.
  • If they had power and influence, the shepherds would not have come to them. (Luke 2:8) They wouldn’t be let in their wealthy home. Because they were poor, perhaps in hiding, the shepherds could come and appreciate the Lord in a manger.
  • If they had power and influence, the Magi would have known from the rulers in Jerusalem where the Christ child was. (Matthew 2:1) Instead, they were poor and in a modest home in Nazareth, and the Star had to guide them.
  • The tragically, because they were poor and perhaps in hiding, the Herod the Great did not know where the Prince Joseph and Princess Mary was. Therefore they had the toddlers killed off all over the area.
  • Because they were afraid of the continued legitimate bloodline being born, the Sanhedrin did not warn the people of the impending slaughter of the children. But the Angel of God warned the Magi not to go home the way they came because, I’m sure, they would have been captured and tortured to find the location of the Christ Child. (Matthew 2:12)
  • Since they were poor and for certain in hiding now, they used the gifts of the Magi to finance their journey and stay in Egypt. (Matthew 2:13) They went to Egypt, yes to fulfill scripture, but both Mary and Joseph had ancestors there. Remember that Cleopatra woman.
  • Now somewhat out of danger now that Herod was dead, they could return home. But Mary and Joseph had spent their endowment in Egypt. Mary had to bring two turtledoves to for Jesus’ dedication at the temple because they were still poor. (Luke 2:24)

The Real Lineage of Prince Jesus

The Prince, the Princess and the People Problem
or
How the House and the Lineage of David Almost Died Off

The Lord also declares to you that the Lord will make a house for you. When your days are complete and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your descendant after you, who will come forth from you, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for My name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. 2 Samuel 7:11-13

But when the right time came, God sent his Son, born of a woman, subject to the law.             Galatians 4:4
The Jews had a problem. So did Mary’s family. So did Joseph’s family. So did the Chief Priest and Scribes. Which in turn gave the Roman rulers a problem. Which ultimately made it God’s problem.

What was the problem? Legitimate heirs. Some Christians are not aware of this fact: the five different branches of the family line of David the King was about to die out! Which meant that no one could legitimately occupy the royal throne of King David. That was a problem that couldn’t easily be fixed.

When your very existence as a Jew or a ruler of the Jews is wrapped up in your earthly heritage, you gotta make sure you leave some acceptable heirs around. This was the crushing issue the generation before the Lord Jesus Christ was birthed on this earth.

So what? Every Bible study and sermon boils down to “so what?” God promised to King David in 2 Samuel 7: 11-13 that his family line would be established forever. The last members of the Davidic family was dead or did not have an acceptable heir. This had major political implications not just for Mary and Joseph, but for the High Priest. These implications are the reasons why the rulers of the Jews hated Jesus and wanted Him dead. Also, the reason why people wanted Jesus as their king. If you understand the real world predicament the Jews were in just prior to the first century, you will rejoice to know what “in the fullness of time” really means (Galatians 4:4).

The genealogies of Jesus to the modern-day reader is irrelevant. You can play the numbers game of fourteen generations here and there. And you can see there are some black sheep in the family. But the real meaning to the Jews was they had to have legitimate heirs if they were to continue to be the dominate religion and hold on to power against the Romans.

The best $10 I ever spent in ministry is hanging behind my desk. It is a 38X68 inch poster with the genealogy of the Adam and Eve, 12 tribes of Israel all the way down to Joseph and Mary all with scripture references.

mary-mother-of-jesus-cropped7Joseph’s Problem

When you look at it, you can see the problem right away. Joseph’s side of the family coming from King Solomon, is a mess of arrows and parenthesis pointing to various non-direct descendants because of political intrigue and sordid affairs. The biggest problem resulting from that is there is no direct descendant from King David. Other family lines must then be factored in by the scribes. Joseph’s side of the family was really a combination of some five ancestral lines which was corrupted by various non-Jews. That made them legally ineligible for ruling and in some cases ineligible to be a Jew at all.

Joseph’s family was the kingdom in exile. His great-great grandfather several times over, King Jeconiah and others were the carried off to captivity in Babylon. King Jeconiah’s family was cursed so that none of his descendants would ever sit on the throne of Israel.

“Thus says the LORD: ‘Write this man down as childless, A man who shall not prosper in his days; For none of his descendants shall prosper, Sitting on the throne of David, And ruling anymore in Judah.'” Jeremiah 22:28–30

If there was a time when satan and his angels in hell were giving each other high-fives this would be the time. God just cursed His own people and King David’s family line! In exile, King Jeconiah’s family inter-married. Joseph’s family line was corrupted and cursed. What to do?

Mary’s Problem

Mary, though, is a clean line all the way from a son of King David named Prince Nathan. Mary’s problem was that there was no male heir from her side of the family. Mary’s womb was barren and was going to be for the foreseeable future.

This is why, in my opinion, Mary got her name. Mary, is the English derivation of the root word “mara” which means bitter. But how could the woman who found favor with God, who rejoiced in having God the Saviour, represent bitterness? Because her family line was about to die out. Her family is bitter. Has God forgotten His promise? Perhaps her father Helio wanted a boy. But that wasn’t going to happen. To complicate matters further, her father was dead. There was no one to speak for her or arrange a marriage. She became a ward of the temple.  What to do?

King Herod’s Problem and the Sanhedrin Problem

sanhedrin2King Herod wanted to marry a Jewish princess Mariamme who was part of the Jewish Hasmonean dynasty. The problem was that she wasn’t a real Jewish princess from recognized line of King David. Mariamme just happened to be part of the despised line of King Jeconiah which was corrupted by the foreign blood of Babylonians, Persians and Greeks. But, she was part of the family of the Hasmoneans (and later the Maccabeans) who put the Sanhedrin in power. But, because her family line was so corrupt, they had to meet to legally recognize it.

So the Sanhedrin reasoned. In one way you can say the blood line was cursed and corrupt. In another way, you can say that the blood of Persian emperors ran through his veins. That is they way the scribes wanted to look at it. Ezra, determined centuries before that to be a Jew, your mother had to be Jewish. And, you could not enter the assembly of the people for 10 generations if you had a corrupt blood line. (Deuteronomy 23:3) So they agreed there were enough Jewish mothers for Mariamme to be a princess.

So the Sanhedrin legitimized the her family line which included Joseph. For the ruling Jews, this solved several problems. First, the marriage gave the Sanhedrin credibility with Herod and cemented their continued service in the temple. Second, for Herod, that marriage would hopefully keep the rebellious Jews under control.

The Sanhedrin really hated to legitimize her family line because that showed they were not the true hereditary rulers of the Jews. The Sanhedrin at the time of Jesus were illegitimate rulers of the Jews and the temple. To show how illegitimate they were, Mariamme’s only brother, Aristobulus III was made the high priest of the temple. Therefore they were not direct descendants of King David or the hereditary High Priest families of Zadok or Levi.

This also solved another problem that Joseph and Mary had. It made them a legitimate prince and princess!

 

God’s Problem

But God still had a problem. He made a promise. He said that there would always be someone to sit on the throne of King David. But how was that to be? He cursed King Jeconiah and the family line was corrupted. In the natural, the lineage of David was over. Mary’s side which was called “Rhesiate” line and Joseph’s side was called “Abiud” line. Mary had no viable male heirs and Joseph’s side was fractured. In addition, heirs of the house and lineage of King David have been murdered and persecuted into poverty and obscurity. What to do? But bitter Mary found favor in the eyes of the Lord. (Luke 1:30) This is why Isaiah said:

“Sing, O childless woman, you who have never given birth! Break into loud and joyful song, O Jerusalem, you who have never been in labor. For the desolate woman now has more children than the woman who lives with her husband,” says the LORD.” Isaiah 54:1

birthSo “when the fullness of time had come,” when the last man and woman of the house and lineage of David needed a miracle heir to carry on the family name, God provided. God supernaturally intervened in the life of a Mary and Joseph and produced an heir. Jesus was born from the first “artificial” insemination in history.

Three learning points about the lineage of Jesus.

First, Jesus was a threat to the Sanhedrin not just because He was the Son of God and performed miracles. He was a threat because He was a legitimate heir to the Throne of David, and the Sanhedrin were not. This is why Jesus had a royal purple robe with Him at the crucifixion, a seamless robe so beautiful the Roman guards decided not to tear it, but gamble for it.

Second, Jesus was a threat to the Sanhedrin because He survived the massacre of the innocents. Remember, the Sanhedrin themselves legitimized Joseph’s and Mary’s bloodline. This royal blood continued to survive in Jesus threatening their relationship with Herod (remember the illegitimate Mariamme Herod’s second wife?) Did you ever wonder why the Sanhedrin didn’t warn the parents of the toddlers who were slaughtered by the Romans? They needed Jesus dead so the Davidic lineage would die.

Third, we as western Christians need to elevate the Lord Jesus Christ in our teachings in church to His full honor as Prince. Not just in heaven, but Prince Jesus on earth, the Prince of Peace. Prince Jesus was born full fledged royalty. Ezra the scribe decreed four hundred years before the nativity, long before anyone would believe that the house and lineage of David would be on the verge of extinction, that you were a Jew if your mother was a Jew. In the nativity narrative, we are dealing with Prince Joseph, Princess Mary and Prince Jesus. But most Christians have never been taught that.

Problem solved!

So now, as Paul Harvey would say, and know, you know the rest of the story.