Sunday, September 28, 2014

Marching Orders

The Exodus of the children of Israel from Egypt and their journeys in the wilderness as they prepare for the Promised Land mirrors the individual journeys of our own lives. The children of Israel began their journey as slaves in Egypt; we begin our journey as slaves to sin. God delivered the children of Israel from their slavery, protecting them from the angel of death by the blood of the Passover lamb which they placed on the doorposts and lintels of their homes. God delivers us from slavery and protects us from the angel of death by the blood of Yeshua which we place on the doorposts and lintels of our hearts. By faith, the children of Israel left Egypt and followed God into the wilderness where He met with them at Mt. Sinai. God made a covenant with them and gave them the Torah telling them how to live a holy life. By faith, we leave our old lives behind and follow God into the wilderness where He speaks with us. He gives us the Holy Spirit teaching us through God’s word how to live a holy life.

But, neither they nor we are to stay in the wilderness at Mt. Sinai. At Mt. Sinai, we are equipped for the journey to the Promised Land which represents God’s “rest.” When we have defeated all our enemies and dwell in the land that God has provided for us, God provides rest!

As the children of Israel left Mt. Sinai for what should have been a short journey to the Promised, they left as an organized host. God told them the order in which they should march and which tribes should lead the way. The shekinah glory of God is visible as the cloud of the LORD went before them.

Numbers 10:35-36 NKJV 35 So it was, whenever the ark set out, that Moses said: "Rise up, O LORD! Let Your enemies be scattered, And let those who hate You flee before You." 36 And when it rested, he said: "Return, O LORD, To the many thousands of Israel."

The order of the march of the tribes was Judah, Issachar and Zebulun in front. Behind them came the Sons of Gershon and Merari carrying the Tabernacle. After them came Reuben, Simeon and Gad. Then the Kohathites followed with the holy things of the Tabernacle. The tribes of Ephraim, Manasseh and Benjamin followed them. Finally, the tribes of Dan, Asher and Naphtali completed the company as the rear guard. 

What does the order of this march tell us? As we look at what was said about why each son was given his name, we see a promise of the rest that awaits each of us who love the LORD. References to these names are found in Genesis 29:31 through Genesis 30:24, Genesis 35:18-19, and Genesis 40:50-52. In the case of Benjamin, no specific words were spoken other than his name which, as spoken by Rachel, meant “son of my sorrow” and, as spoken by Jacob, meant “son of my right hand.”

These are the words:

I will praise the LORD
I have received my reward
My husband will dwell with me
The LORD has looked down on my afliction
The LORD has heard that I am unloved
Good fortune comes
God has caused me to be fruitful in the land of my affliction
God has caused me to forget all my toil
The son of my sorrow is the son of my right hand
God has judged my case
I am happy
I have wrestled and prevailed

As the apostle Paul approached the end of his life. He reflects on his life’s journey in his final letter to Timothy.

2 Timothy 4:7-8 NKJV 7 I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. 8 Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing.

May our journeys end as Paul’s ended—being confident of the reward waiting for us as we enter into His presence.

James 1:12 NKJV 12 Blessed is the man who endures temptation; for when he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him.

Shalom and be blessed
Dan & Brenda Cathcart

© 2014 Moed Ministries

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

I Desire Mercy and not Sacrifice

God spoke these words through Hosea to the children of Israel. These words are about what God wanted the people to bring to Him. But when we really think of these words we wonder how do we offer God mercy? When we use the word "mercy," we think of forgiveness of sins or wrongs done to another person. God doesn't sin or commit injustices! So what does it really mean that God desires mercy? Our traditional understanding is that God desires us to extend mercy to one another, and that is part of the answer but not the whole answer. To get the complete answer, we need to look at the original Hebrew word and the overall context of its usage.

First, let's look at the overall context of the book of Hosea. God tells Hosea to marry a harlot as a metaphor for God's relationship with His people. God took the children of Israel as His people at Mt. Sinai, essentially marrying them. But the children of Israel forgot God and went after other gods, thus, committing adultery!

Through Hosea's adulterous wife, God compares their behavior to that of a wife engaging in sexual intimacy with other men, then expecting her husband to desire sexual intimacy with her. The children of Israel offer their worship to idols through sacrifices of various types including sacrificing their children; they then come to God and expect God to accept or even desire the sacrifices they bring to Him! No way does God want their sacrifices after they have worshiped other gods and committed such abominations! What He wants is the same thing any husband wants, commitment and faithfulness to their marriage vows! God desires loyalty to the covenant they made with Him at Mt. Sinai. It's not that God doesn't want their sacrifices; He does. But their sacrifices are not acceptable when they have also been offered to others!

Now, let's turn our attention to the words translated as mercy. In the book of Hosea, there are two different Hebrew words translated as mercy. The first one is racham with a root word meaning womb. In this case mercy would mean taking one into the family or as one's own.

Hosea 1:6-7 NKJV 6 And she conceived again and bore a daughter. Then God said to him: "Call her name Lo-Ruhamah, For I will no longer have mercy on the house of Israel, But I will utterly take them away. 7 Yet I will have mercy on the house of Judah, Will save them by the LORD their God, And will not save them by bow, Nor by sword or battle, By horses or horsemen."

The context of this verse is Hosea rejecting the daughter his wife bore to him. He was instructed to name her Lo-Ruhamah which means not loved. God then says He will no longer have mercy, racham, on the house of Israel. They have been disinherited! They are no longer part of the family! But  God will still have mercy, racham, on Judah. Judah is still part of the family. God then goes on to say that He will eventually woo Israel back to Himself. She will be adopted back into the family.

God turns His attention to the charge against Israel, namely her unfaithfulness.

Hosea 4:1 NKJV 1 Hear the word of the LORD, You children of Israel, For the LORD brings a charge against the inhabitants of the land: "There is no truth or mercy Or knowledge of God in the land.

The word mercy in this verse comes from the Hebrew word chesed which is sometimes translated goodness or lovingkindness. In this context, coupled with truth and knowledge of God, we see that it refers to covenant devotion. Israel has no devotion or commitment to their covenant with God.

Now, to the passage about God desiring mercy not sacrifice, God starts by stating their lack of faithfulness!

Hosea 6:4-5 NKJV 4 "O Ephraim, what shall I do to you? O Judah, what shall I do to you? For your faithfulness is like a morning cloud, And like the early dew it goes away. 5 Therefore I have hewn them by the prophets, I have slain them by the words of My mouth; And your judgments are like light that goes forth.

Then God states what He desires concluding that they have transgressed the covenant.

Hosea 6:6-7 NKJV 6 For I desire mercy and not sacrifice, And the knowledge of God more than burnt offerings. 7 "But like men they transgressed the covenant; There they dealt treacherously with Me.

God desires commitment, loyalty, devotion to the covenant He makes with Israel. This is the same commitment He made to them. Instead they have been unfaithful to the covenant.

Exodus 20:5-6 NKJV 5 you shall not bow down to them nor serve them. For I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and fourth generations of those who hate Me, 6 but showing mercy to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments.

This word translated mercy is again the Hebrew word “chesed.” God extends covenant devotion  to thousands of generations to those who love Him! In Jeremiah, we read of God's commitment to His covenant with Israel and Judah.

Jeremiah 31:37 NKJV 37 Thus says the LORD: "If heaven above can be measured, And the foundations of the earth searched out beneath, I will also cast off all the seed of Israel For all that they have done, says the LORD.

We are part of God's new covenant with Israel and Judah ratified by the blood of Yeshua who died to bring us into covenant.

Jeremiah 31:31-33 NKJV 31 "Behold, the days are coming, says the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah- 32 "not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, though I was a husband to them, says the LORD. 33 "But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the LORD: I will put My law in their minds, and write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people.

Luke 22:20 NKJV 20 Likewise He also took the cup after supper, saying, "This cup is the new covenant in My blood, which is shed for you.

When we read these words that God desires mercy, we understand that God desires our whole hearted commitment to Him and the covenant He makes with us.

Shalom and be blessed,
Dan and Brenda Cathcart

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Observing the Sabbatical Year

Last Saturday a friend asked about observing the Sabbatical Year for land. She loves God and wants follow His instructions for living her life. She lives on a fixed income and each year she plants a garden and the produce from that garden provides a major part of her fruit and vegetables for the year.  Her question was what would she do that year without the fresh vegetables and fruit from her garden. Let’s start answering this question by looking at what God says about the Sabbatical year.

Leviticus 25:1-2 NKJV 1 And the LORD spoke to Moses on Mount Sinai, saying, 2 "Speak to the children of Israel, and say to them: 'When you come into the land which I give you, then the land shall keep a sabbath to the LORD.

God’s words to Moses about observing a Sabbath to the LORD are specifically about the Promised Land, the land of Israel. This commandment only applies to the land of Israel. The argument can be made that the reason God said when they come into the land, is that they didn’t have opportunity or land to harvest while they were wandering in the wilderness. After all, you can’t plant and harvest when you’re wandering! A careful reading of the scriptures reveals that the Israelites spent most of that forty year period camped at one place! Numbers 33 details their journeys from Egypt. We easily follow each of their camps right up through their stop at Kadesh Barnea right before they were to enter the land. This is where they dispatched the twelve spies to look over the land. This is where the ten spies reported back with the bad report that resulted in Israel refusing to go up to take the land.

Numbers 13:26 NKJV 26 Now they (the spies) departed and came back to Moses and Aaron and all the congregation of the children of Israel in the Wilderness of Paran, at Kadesh; they brought back word to them and to all the congregation, and showed them the fruit of the land.

This took place only eleven days after they left Mt. Sinai on the twentieth day of the second month of their second year in the wilderness! After refusing to enter the land, the scriptures record only one more move for the Israelites: they moved Mount Hor where they remained until Aaron’s death as the fortieth year began.

Numbers 33:36-38 NKJV 36 They moved from Ezion Geber and camped in the Wilderness of Zin, which is Kadesh. 37 They moved from Kadesh and camped at Mount Hor, on the boundary of the land of Edom. 38 Then Aaron the priest went up to Mount Hor at the command of the LORD, and died there in the fortieth year after the children of Israel had come out of the land of Egypt, on the first day of the fifth month.

The point of this is that the Israelites could have planted gardens and raised crops. We don’t have a record whether or not they did so; we do know that God provided manna and water during these forty years, but what did their livestock eat? This is an interesting question to which we don’t have a definitive answer. But God didn’t give them instructions to observe a sabbatical for any land except the Promised Land. We read later that they Israelites didn’t keep the Sabbaths for the land and were exiled from the land one year for each Sabbath year that was not observed. So again, we see that the Sabbath year is specifically for the land of Israel.

What, then, is so special about this land that a Sabbath year is determined for it? The short answer is that it is the symbolic and perhaps even actual location of the Garden of Eden. Let’s look at the evidence. First, the land belongs to God. The children of Israel own the land as caretakers for God.

Leviticus 25:23 NKJV 23 'The land shall not be sold permanently, for the land is Mine; for you are strangers and sojourners with Me.

Within that land, God has specifically set aside Judah as His portion and Jerusalem as the center of that portion.

Zechariah 2:12 NKJV 12 "And the LORD will take possession of Judah as His inheritance in the Holy Land, and will again choose Jerusalem.

Second, God said that He would dwell with them and walk among them when they keep God’s Sabbaths. This includes the Sabbath for the land.

Leviticus 26:2 NKJV 2 You shall keep My Sabbaths and reverence My sanctuary: I am the LORD.
Leviticus 26:11-12 NKJV 11 I will set My tabernacle among you, and My soul shall not abhor you. 12 I will walk among you and be your God, and you shall be My people.

This reminds us of the Garden of Eden where God walked with Adam in the cool of the day. This also reminds us of the promise in the Book of Revelation that God would once again place His temple among His people and dwell with them.

Revelation 21:3 NKJV 3 And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, "Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God.

Third, the land would freely give of her fruits. Unlike when Adam was exiled from the Garden of Eden and had to labor to work they land, the land of Israel would produce abundantly. 

Leviticus 26:4-6 NKJV 4 then I will give you rain in its season, the land shall yield its produce, and the trees of the field shall yield their fruit. 5 Your threshing shall last till the time of vintage, and the vintage shall last till the time of sowing; you shall eat your bread to the full, and dwell in your land safely. 6 I will give peace in the land, and you shall lie down, and none will make you afraid; I will rid the land of evil beasts, and the sword will not go through your land.

Ezekiel describes the time when Israel returns to the land as a time when the land will gladly produce fruit for the inhabitants.

Ezekiel 36:8 NKJV 8 "But you, O mountains of Israel, you shall shoot forth your branches and yield your fruit to My people Israel, for they are about to come.

God says that on the day that Israel is cleansed from all uncleanness and iniquity, the land will be like the Garden of Eden.

Ezekiel 36:35 NKJV 35 "So they will say, 'This land that was desolate has become like the garden of Eden; and the wasted, desolate, and ruined cities are now fortified and inhabited.'

Fourth, living water will flow from the temple of God like the waters that flowed from the Garden of Eden.

Ezekiel 47:12 NKJV 12 "Along the bank of the river, on this side and that, will grow all kinds of trees used for food; their leaves will not wither, and their fruit will not fail. They will bear fruit every month, because their water flows from the sanctuary. Their fruit will be for food, and their leaves for medicine."

Fifth, the tree of life that was in the middle of the Garden of Eden will be in the New Jerusalem nourished by the water flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb.

Revelation 22:1-2 NKJV 1 And he showed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding from the throne of God and of the Lamb. 2 In the middle of its street, and on either side of the river, was the tree of life, which bore twelve fruits, each tree yielding its fruit every month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.

Finally, we have the physical imagery. When Adam and Eve were exiled from the Garden of Eden, God set cherubim at the east entrance to prevent man from reentering the garden and having unlimited access to the tree of life in his fallen state.

Genesis 3:24 NKJV 24 So He drove out the man; and He placed cherubim at the east of the garden of Eden, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to guard the way to the tree of life.

The temple of God faces east and the entrance to the Holy of Holies is covered by a veil embroidered with cherubim that guard the entrance.

Exodus 36:35 NKJV 35 And he made a veil of blue, purple, and scarlet thread, and fine woven linen; it was worked with an artistic design of cherubim.

Cherubim also guard the mercy seat, the location of God’s presence on Earth.

Exodus 25:17-20 NKJV 17 "You shall make a mercy seat of pure gold; two and a half cubits shall be its length and a cubit and a half its width. 18 "And you shall make two cherubim of gold; of hammered work you shall make them at the two ends of the mercy seat. 19 "Make one cherub at one end, and the other cherub at the other end; you shall make the cherubim at the two ends of it of one piece with the mercy seat. 20 "And the cherubim shall stretch out their wings above, covering the mercy seat with their wings, and they shall face one another; the faces of the cherubim shall be toward the mercy seat.

When Yeshua died, the redemption price for all mankind was paid. Atonement was made for the sin of Adam and all our sins. When Yeshua died, the veil was torn; a way was made through the cherubim that guarded the way back to the Garden of Eden. Access to the tree of life was restored.

The Sabbatical year for the land is reminder of all that was lost in the Garden of Eden. It is a promise of the rest we have in Yeshua as our Messiah. It is a prophecy of the restoration of the Garden of Eden and that once again; God will dwell with His people and walk among them. We will fulfill the command to Adam to guard and keep His garden.

Revelation 22:3-5 NKJV 3 And there shall be no more curse, but the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it, and His servants shall serve Him. 4 They shall see His face, and His name shall be on their foreheads. 5 There shall be no night there: They need no lamp nor light of the sun, for the Lord God gives them light. And they shall reign forever and ever.

Back now to the original question: should my friend keep the sabbatical year even though she doesn’t live in the land? It is not required, but if she chooses to do so, she should ask God. If it is God’s will for her to do so, He will bless her in advance with a blessing from the land during the sixth year.

Leviticus 25:20-22 NKJV 20 'And if you say, "What shall we eat in the seventh year, since we shall not sow nor gather in our produce?" 21 'Then I will command My blessing on you in the sixth year, and it will bring forth produce enough for three years. 22 'And you shall sow in the eighth year, and eat old produce until the ninth year; until its produce comes in, you shall eat of the old harvest.

She should be careful though to follow the rules of the harvest, leaving the edges of her garden to be gleaned by others, but also as food for the birds and, oh yeah, to self-seed for the next year! Then she can eat of whatever grows freely in the following year.

Leviticus 25:5-7 NKJV 5 'What grows of its own accord of your harvest you shall not reap, nor gather the grapes of your untended vine, for it is a year of rest for the land. 6 'And the sabbath produce of the land shall be food for you: for you, your male and female servants, your hired man, and the stranger who dwells with you, 7 'for your livestock and the beasts that are in your land-all its produce shall be for food.

Shalom and be blessed,
Dan and Brenda Cathcart

Monday, March 24, 2014

Reason 1 for Christians to Celebrate the Feast of Passover

Passover is on the 14th day of Nisan on the Biblical calendar.  It just so happens that it is also April 14 on our secular calendar this year.  Yeshua (Jesus) celebrated many Passovers in His lifetime, but the last one with His disciples was a special one.  He gave them special instructions and He told them about the deeper meaning of the Passover; that it spoke of Him and the LORD's redemption plan for man.  Here is part 1 of three video presentations on reasons why Christians should celebrate the Passover.

Shalom and be blessed
Dan & Brenda Cathcart

Sunday, March 16, 2014

On That Night: The Book of Esther and the Festival of Purim

The Book of Esther records that an enemy of the Jewish people, Haman plotted to have all the Jewish people killed. The king of Assyria had promoted Haman above all the princes of the kingdom. As second in command to the king, he wore the signet ring of the king. All the servants of the king very properly bowed before him and "paid him homage"—all that is except for Mordecai the Jew. Haman began to hate Mordecai and his entire people.

Esther 3:5-6 NKJV 5 When Haman saw that Mordecai did not bow or pay him homage, Haman was filled with wrath. 6 But he disdained to lay hands on Mordecai alone, for they had told him of the people of Mordecai. Instead, Haman sought to destroy all the Jews who were throughout the whole kingdom of Ahasuerus-the people of Mordecai.

In fact, there came a day when He nearly achieved his goal. He actually thought that he had won his battle against the Jewish people. Haman had convinced the king that the Jewish people were enemies of the state because they kept laws other than those of the Assyrian empire.

Esther 3:3-4 NKJV 3 Then the king's servants who were within the king's gate said to Mordecai, "Why do you transgress the king's command?" 4 Now it happened, when they spoke to him daily and he would not listen to them, that they told it to Haman, to see whether Mordecai's words would stand; for Mordecai had told them that he was a Jew.

These laws are, of course, the commandments of God recorded in the Torah. Even today, the Jewish people are hated because they keep these laws which separate them from the people of the nations where they live. Yeshua said that we are to be a people separate from those around us. We are to be in the world but not of the world.

John 17:14-16 NKJV 14 "I have given them Your word; and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. 15 "I do not pray that You should take them out of the world, but that You should keep them from the evil one. 16 "They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world.

Haman succeeded in getting the king to sign the decree authorizing the murder of all the Jewish people. The decree was signed on the thirteenth day of the first month, the day before the Passover

Esther 3:12 NKJV 12 Then the king's scribes were called on the thirteenth day of the first month, and a decree was written according to all that Haman commanded-to the king's satraps, to the governors who were over each province, to the officials of all people, to every province according to its script, and to every people in their language. In the name of King Ahasuerus it was written, and sealed with the king's signet ring.

So Haman and the king sat down together and celebrated. On that night, Haman thought he had won! But unknown to both Haman and the king, Queen Esther was a Jew and ready to intercede on the behalf of her people. On the fourteenth of Nisan, the day of the Passover, Esther and all the Jewish people began a three day fast. On the third day of the fast, Esther went in to the king and invited him and Haman to a banquet that night. Haman was beside himself with joy! He alone was singled out to be included in the banquet with the king and the beautiful young queen!

The banquet went well and Haman was invited back to attend a second banquet the next evening. It just so happened (Many of the events in Esther "just so happened" reminding us that God is the one in charge!) that the king couldn't sleep that night and called for the books of the records of the chronicles. In them, he discovered that the Jew Mordecai had uncovered a plot against the king and had not been rewarded for his deed. Haman happened to be hanging out in the court that night, so the king summoned him and asked him what he would do for a man the king chose to honor. Haman thought surely that man was him! After all he was the only one invited to join king at the banquet given by the Queen Esther. So Haman described how he would want to be honored.

Esther 6:6-9 NKJV 6 So Haman came in, and the king asked him, "What shall be done for the man whom the king delights to honor?" Now Haman thought in his heart, "Whom would the king delight to honor more than me?" 7 And Haman answered the king, "For the man whom the king delights to honor, 8 "let a royal robe be brought which the king has worn, and a horse on which the king has ridden, which has a royal crest placed on its head. 9 "Then let this robe and horse be delivered to the hand of one of the king's most noble princes, that he may array the man whom the king delights to honor. Then parade him on horseback through the city square, and proclaim before him: 'Thus shall it be done to the man whom the king delights to honor!'"

On that night, Haman though he would be honored above all others in the kingdom. But this was the night that Haman's world would begin to fall apart! The man the king chose to honor was Mordecai not Haman. Haman was charged with the task of parading Mordecai through the streets as he proclaimed that Mordecai was the man the king delighted to honor! O the morning of the eighteenth of Nisan, Haman carried out the king's instructions.

Esther 6:10-11 NKJV 10 Then the king said to Haman, "Hurry, take the robe and the horse, as you have suggested, and do so for Mordecai the Jew who sits within the king's gate! Leave nothing undone of all that you have spoken." 11 So Haman took the robe and the horse, arrayed Mordecai and led him on horseback through the city square, and proclaimed before him, "Thus shall it be done to the man whom the king delights to honor!"

That evening, Haman attended the banquet consoling himself with the thought of the gallows that he had already had built to hang Mordecai. But it was on that night that Esther exposed him as the one who would have her and all her people killed.

Esther 7:9-10 NKJV 9 Now Harbonah, one of the eunuchs, said to the king, "Look! The gallows, fifty cubits high, which Haman made for Mordecai, who spoke good on the king's behalf, is standing at the house of Haman." Then the king said, "Hang him on it!" 10 So they hanged Haman on the gallows that he had prepared for Mordecai. Then the king's wrath subsided.

Mordecai was hung on the gallows he had erected to kill Mordecai.  

Five hundred years later, Yeshua was crucified on Passover and put in the grave where he would remain for three days, the same three days as Esther's fast. Like Haman, Satan believed he had won when Yeshua died and was laid in the grave. Unbeknownst to Satan, Yeshua would not stay in the grave! Yeshua rose from the grave on the day Esther went in to the king to invite him to the banquet. Yeshua appeared before His disciples that evening, the same evening as Esther's first banquet!

John 20:19 NKJV 19 Then, the same day at evening, being the first day of the week, when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in the midst, and said to them, "Peace be with you."

We can imagine that next day in heaven as Yeshua is honored as one in whom the King delights. Clothed with the royal robe riding the horse with the royal crest with the hosts of heaven proclaiming this is the one the king delights to honor! One day He will return to earth in the clouds of heaven and all will see the one the King chooses to honor.

Matthew 25:31-32 NKJV 31 "When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him, then He will sit on the throne of His glory. 32 "All the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate them one from another, as a shepherd divides his sheep from the goats.

But when will Yeshua come and sit on His throne? Let's go back to the Book of Esther. The signet ring that was given to Haman was now given to Mordecai.

Esther 8:1 NKJV 1 On that day King Ahasuerus gave Queen Esther the house of Haman, the enemy of the Jews. And Mordecai came before the king, for Esther had told how he was related to her.

The king clothed Mordecai in royal apparel and awarded a crown.

Esther 8:15 NKJV 15 So Mordecai went out from the presence of the king in royal apparel of blue and white, with a great crown of gold and a garment of fine linen and purple; and the city of Shushan rejoiced and was glad.

But the decree exacted by Haman still stood, all the Jewish people were to be killed at the end of the year on Adar 13. So the king issued a new decree sealed by the signet ring worn by Mordecai that the Jewish people could gather and protect their lives.

Esther 8:11-12 NKJV 11 By these letters the king permitted the Jews who were in every city to gather together and protect their lives-to destroy, kill, and annihilate all the forces of any people or province that would assault them, both little children and women, and to plunder their possessions, 12 on one day in all the provinces of King Ahasuerus, on the thirteenth day of the twelfth month, which is the month of Adar.

At the end of the year, when the enemies of the Jews attacked, the victory belonged to the Jews. Great fear came on all the enemies of the Jews and they were overwhelmingly defeated!

Esther 9:2-5 NKJV 2 The Jews gathered together in their cities throughout all the provinces of King Ahasuerus to lay hands on those who sought their harm. And no one could withstand them, because fear of them fell upon all people. 3 And all the officials of the provinces, the satraps, the governors, and all those doing the king's work, helped the Jews, because the fear of Mordecai fell upon them. 4 For Mordecai was great in the king's palace, and his fame spread throughout all the provinces; for this man Mordecai became increasingly prominent. 5 Thus the Jews defeated all their enemies with the stroke of the sword, with slaughter and destruction, and did what they pleased with those who hated them.

All their sorrow turned to joy!

Esther 9:22 NKJV 22 as the days on which the Jews had rest from their enemies, as the month which was turned from sorrow to joy for them, and from mourning to a holiday; that they should make them days of feasting and joy, of sending presents to one another and gifts to the poor.

Mordecai ruled second only King Ahasuerus. While he ruled, tribute from the nations flowed into Assyria and Mordecai's people prospered and knew peace.

Esther 10:1-3 NKJV 1 And King Ahasuerus imposed tribute on the land and on the islands of the sea. 2 Now all the acts of his power and his might, and the account of the greatness of Mordecai, to which the king advanced him, are they not written in the book of the chronicles of the kings of Media and Persia? 3 For Mordecai the Jew was second to King Ahasuerus, and was great among the Jews and well received by the multitude of his brethren, seeking the good of his people and speaking peace to all his countrymen.

When Adam sinned, dominion over the earth was given to Satan. With Yeshua's death and resurrection, dominion is returned to Yeshua. He wears the signet ring of God. God has turned over to Him authority to judge all the peoples of the earth! When the appointed day comes when all the nations gather together at Jerusalem to destroy the Jews, great fear will come on those nations; fear of God's people and fear of Yeshua.

Zechariah 14:3-4 NKJV 3 Then the LORD will go forth And fight against those nations, As He fights in the day of battle. 4 And in that day His feet will stand on the Mount of Olives, Which faces Jerusalem on the east. And the Mount of Olives shall be split in two, From east to west, Making a very large valley; Half of the mountain shall move toward the north And half of it toward the south.
Zechariah 14:13-14 NKJV 13 It shall come to pass in that day That a great panic from the LORD will be among them. Everyone will seize the hand of his neighbor, And raise his hand against his neighbor's hand; 14 Judah also will fight at Jerusalem. And the wealth of all the surrounding nations Shall be gathered together: Gold, silver, and apparel in great abundance.

Revelation 19:19-21 NKJV 19 And I saw the beast, the kings of the earth, and their armies, gathered together to make war against Him who sat on the horse and against His army. 20 Then the beast was captured, and with him the false prophet who worked signs in his presence, by which he deceived those who received the mark of the beast and those who worshiped his image. These two were cast alive into the lake of fire burning with brimstone. 21 And the rest were killed with the sword which proceeded from the mouth of Him who sat on the horse. And all the birds were filled with their flesh.

All the sorrows of their former defeats will turn to joy!

Zechariah 8:18-19 NKJV 18 Then the word of the LORD of hosts came to me, saying, 19 "Thus says the LORD of hosts: 'The fast of the fourth month, The fast of the fifth, The fast of the seventh, And the fast of the tenth, Shall be joy and gladness and cheerful feasts For the house of Judah. Therefore love truth and peace.'

Isaiah 25:8 NKJV 8 He will swallow up death forever, And the Lord GOD will wipe away tears from all faces; The rebuke of His people He will take away from all the earth; For the LORD has spoken.

Revelation 21:3-4 NKJV 3 And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, "Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God. 4 "And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away."

On that night when Satan thought he won, his final defeat was certain! We await that day when the nations will think to defeat Israel and all those grafted into Israel through Yeshua. When they will come against Jerusalem, but their defeat will be certain!

All the nations will bring tribute to Jerusalem as Yeshua rules second only to His Father.

Zechariah 14:16-17 NKJV 16 And it shall come to pass that everyone who is left of all the nations which came against Jerusalem shall go up from year to year to worship the King, the LORD of hosts, and to keep the Feast of Tabernacles. 17 And it shall be that whichever of the families of the earth do not come up to Jerusalem to worship the King, the LORD of hosts, on them there will be no rain.

As we celebrate Purim on March 16 this year, know that victory is assured. Yeshua will return leading the attack against those who hate Israel, Yeshua, and God. He will establish His reign, and during His 1000 year reign, His people will prosper and experience peace.

Shalom and be blessed
Dan & Brenda Cathcart

© 2014 Moed Ministries

Sunday, February 23, 2014

When is a Camel Not a Camel?

Brenda and I are engaged in teaching a series for El Shaddai Ministries called “Foundation of Our Hebrew Roots.” During one of the recent sessions, the question was asked about the origins, or more precisely the original language of the New Testament scriptures.  I have previously written a blog on this subject you can find at this link:

So what is the original language of the Bible?  I think we all can agree that it wasn’t written in English, with the possible exception of the poor souls who are convinced that if the KJV was good enough for Peter and Paul, it should be good enough for us.

We could spend an entire book discussing the subject of textual origins and original language, but let’s take a look at one example from scripture that hints at an original language other than what you would naturally expect.  The New Testament has been preserved in more manuscripts than any other ancient work.  There are more than 5900 manuscripts and fragments in Greek, over 10,000 in Latin and over 9,000 in various other ancient languages.  The dates of these manuscripts range from the early to mid 2nd century, to the time of the introduction of printing press in Germany in the 15th century. But the vast majority of these manuscripts date after the 10th century, more than a thousand years after the time in which they were originally thought to have been penned. The Masoretic text of the Old Testament, which is what the vast majority of our modern day translations are derived, is from the 10th century.  It was the oldest known manuscript of the Old Testament writings until the discovery of the Dead Sea scrolls in the early 20th century. No New Testament writings are among the Dead Sea Scrolls.

The earliest fragment of a New Testament scripture we have today is known as the Rylands Library Papyrus p52. It is thought to date from sometime in the mid 2nd century.  It is from a codex (which is a book like format) since it is written on both sides and not a scroll which is written on only one side. It contains a portion of the Gospel of John 18:31-33 on the front side and John 18:37-38 on the reverse.  The oldest, nearly complete manuscript of the New Testament is the Codex Siaiticus, thought to date from the 4th century but discovered only in the later half of the 18th century.  Both of these are in Greek.  But is Greek really the “original” language?

I suppose the operative word in both of these cases is “thought to date from.”  The science of “dating” a manuscript and fragment is far from exact.  Traditional scientific methods such as carbon 14 dating is relatively useless because it destroys the sample.  Manuscript dating is done by studying the materials used to produce it such as the parchment or papyrus, how it was manufactured and its quality, the ink composition, the style of the writing itself, etc.  The process involves a lot of educated guesswork.

So what is the original language of the New Testament?  Is it Greek with 5,900 samples or is it Latin with far more examples?  What about the other ancient languages and the examples in them which combined, outnumber the Greek?  Bible scholars and linguists have debated this for centuries and we are not going to solve it here.

I have written in the past about the need to understand the cultural and, along with it, the linguistic context of the scriptures.  It is a great dilemma and effort on the part of a translator to determine the intent of the author.  Most languages, including those of the ancient near East, reflect the culture in which they are developed and used.  A classic example today would be the native peoples of northern Canada and Alaska who have 35 plus words in their language to describe snow.  By contrast the Polynesian people of the south Pacific islands have none.  So how does one go about describing snow to a Polynesian in their own language?

We know that Hebrew, in its ancient form, is a language without vowels.  Therefore there are many words, although spelled alike, can and often do have vastly different meanings depending on the vowel sounds which are implied by contextual factors not necessarily included in the immediate text itself.  We know that there are other related languages which share a common alphabet, word origins, word forms and spellings but can mean something completely different in their respective language and culture. In Biblical times, this was true of ancient Hebrew and Aramaic, both of which, along with Greek, were common spoken and written languages of the Near East.

How does this get us in trouble with our understanding and translating of the Biblical texts? There is a puzzeling passage of scripture recorded in both Matthew and in Mark. Let’s take a look.

Matthew 19:24 NKJV 24 "And again I say to you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God." (3a)

Mark 10:25 NKJV 25 "It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God."

Does this statement make any sense?  A camel going through the eye of a needle?  How is this possible?  A needle is so small and a camel is so large.  I’m sure that we have all heard that this is a metaphorical reference to a certain type of city gate. But did you know that it was not until the middle ages that a city gate was named “The eye of a needle?”  There is no historic or literary record of the use of this phrase as a proper name in reference to a city gate in any ancient source.  So there is no real corroborating evidence that this phrase would a cultural metaphorical reference in ancient times. So if there is no evidence that “the eye of a needle” is a proper place name in Yeshua’s day, then that leaves only the literal interpretation which leads us to conclude that Yeshua was telling not only the young inquisitive rich man, but also His disciple that a rich man cannot be saved!  But in light of the full body of scripture on the subject of salvation, how can that be true? Here is where the importance of the concept of consistency in scripture comes into play, what about the wealthy persons listed in Luke 8:1-3 or Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus?  The only consistent conclusion that we can draw here is that we have misinterpreted the cultural metaphor and therefore mistranslated the scripture passage in Matthew 19 and Mark 10.

Fortunately there is a linguistic answer to this dilemma.  And that answer lies in the translation of a single word, the word translated as “camel.” In this case, both Hebrew and Aramaic share not only a common alphabet but they share a common word at least in its spelling.  That word is גמל it is pronounced “gamla” in Hebrew and means camel.  However, there is another word, which is spelled exactly the same but in Aramaic is pronounced “gamala,” and this word means “heavy rope.”  Now with that in mind, take another look at the passage in Matthew and Mark, and its metaphorical context,along with the broader context of the passage.  Does it now make much more sense?  So how does a rich person enter the Kingdom of God?  A camel certainly cannot literally go through the eye of a tiny needle, but a heavy rope can, once it is unraveled: once it is disassembled it can pass through the eye of a needle one strand at a time!

Now we can perhaps understand the linguistic and cultural context of this passage and glean from it the real message that the Master Yeshua intended for us to hear.  But what about the question of original language of the New Testament scriptures, does this mean that the NT was originally Aramaic?  Not necessarily.  This is only one example of a possible Aramaic origin; or perhaps a mixture of languages or borrowed words from Aramaic to Hebrew or Greek.  We must keep in mind that languages are very dynamic and change rapidly over time.  New words are added and older words go out of favor.  Also, in a multilingual culture,words and syntax tend to be mixed quite often. There are many examples that would lead us in the direction of Hebrew being the original, and still others in the direction of a Greek original.  This is one of those debates that will go on for a long time and one has to weigh the preponderance of the evidence and arrive at your own conclusions through your own research.

For some fun on your own, try studying Matthew 26:6-7 and see where it leads. Begin by referencing the standard by which a “leper” is to be dealt with in Leviticus 13:45-46.  Keep in mind that in the Matthew passage, this is a very orthodox, Torah observant society that is most likely multilingual. Use a good cross reference study Bible or on-line cross reference tools.  Again look at the Greek, Hebrew and Aramaic sources.  Let me know what you come up with.

Shalom and be blessed
Dan Cathcart

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© 2014 Moed Ministries

Sunday, September 8, 2013

The Star of David as a Symbol of Judaism

Recently I had a friend ask me about the Star of David as a symbol of Judaism. The concern was that this symbol had been taken from or used as a symbol in pagan worship. If that was the case, what action if any should we take in regard to the Star of David? Does having a Star of David mean we are inadvertently endorsing a pagan religion, or even worse, participating in the worship of an idol? Those of us who have embraced our Hebrew Roots and seek to live sanctified lives are examining every aspect of our lives. We search the scriptures allowing the Word to wash us so we may be presented to Him as holy and without blemish. We read over and over again in the Scriptures that Israel turned from the worship of God to worship the idols and gods of other nations. We know that we are not to make carved images to bow down to them, nor even to make an image of God and worship it as if it were God. This was the sin of the Israelites in making and worshiping the golden calf. We seek to avoid this pitfall, but what exactly is the worship of idols and what constitutes endorsing or participating in worship of another god?

God actually gave detailed instructions as the children of Israel prepared to enter the Promised Land. He describes the worship of the pagans and tells us not to worship that way.

Deuteronomy 12:30-31 NKJV 30 "take heed to yourself …that you do not inquire after their gods, saying, 'How did these nations serve their gods? I also will do likewise.' 31 "You shall not worship the LORD your God in that way; for every abomination to the LORD which He hates they have done to their gods; for they burn even their sons and daughters in the fire to their gods.

What are the abominations that the Canaanites did to their gods that the LORD hates? One is the sacrifice of their sons and daughters. Other abominations are described in Leviticus 18; these include various sexual sins. After listing these sexual taboos, Moses concludes with these words from God:

Leviticus 18:24-25 NKJV 24 'Do not defile yourselves with any of these things; for by all these the nations are defiled, which I am casting out before you. 25 'For the land is defiled; therefore I visit the punishment of its iniquity upon it, and the land vomits out its inhabitants.

We read another description of the abominations of their “worship” when the women of Moab enticed the Israelites to sin.

Numbers 25:1-3 NKJV 1 Now Israel remained in Acacia Grove, and the people began to commit harlotry with the women of Moab. 2 They invited the people to the sacrifices of their gods, and the people ate and bowed down to their gods. 3 So Israel was joined to Baal of Peor, and the anger of the LORD was aroused against Israel.

The worship included sexual immorality as well as joining in the sacrifices to their gods, eating and bowing down to their gods. During the days of Paul, the believers in Corinth lived in a city saturated with temples to various gods, chief of which was Aphrodite whose worship incorporated temple prostitution. The phrase “to live like a Corinthian” was synonymous with sexual immorality. Paul addresses this issue bluntly; he instructs them not to have fellowship with those brothers who engage in sexual immorality. He includes a few other activities as well.

1 Corinthians 5:11 NKJV 11 But now I have written to you not to keep company with anyone named a brother, who is sexually immoral, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or an extortioner--not even to eat with such a person.

But the Corinthians believers had another problem, what could they eat or not eat to avoid participating in worship of other gods. We saw in Numbers 15 that the worship of Baal of Peor included eating. Paul basically says it is all in how the believer views the meat or food. If he views it as a thing offered to an idol and, thus, in his mind he participates in the worship to the idol, then He is defiled.

1 Corinthians 8:4 NKJV 4 Therefore concerning the eating of things offered to idols, we know that an idol is nothing in the world, and that there is no other God but one… 7 However, there is not in everyone that knowledge; for some, with consciousness of the idol, until now eat it as a thing offered to an idol; and their conscience, being weak, is defiled.

Paul readdresses this problem in chapter 10. He begins by once again exhorting them to flee from idolatry but then goes on to tell them that eating meat sacrificed to an idol is not idolatry.

1 Corinthians 10:25-26 NKJV 25 Eat whatever is sold in the meat market, asking no questions for conscience' sake; 26 for "the earth is the LORD'S, and all its fullness."

He does make an exception to this. When a non-believer invites a believer to eat with him and states that the meat has been sacrificed to idols, the believer should reject that food. But, the reason to reject it is not because of the believer but for the good of the non-believer! He reiterates that all things belong to the LORD.

1 Corinthians 10:27-28 NKJV 27 If any of those who do not believe invites you to dinner, and you desire to go, eat whatever is set before you, asking no question for conscience' sake. 28 But if anyone says to you, "This was offered to idols," do not eat it for the sake of the one who told you, and for conscience' sake; for "the earth is the LORD'S, and all its fullness."

We have traveled far afield from our original question. Is the Star of David, or indeed any other symbol, inherently an instrument of idol worship? If we take the example of food sacrificed to idols, we can see that it was not merely the act of eating but the act of bowing down to the gods, of eating it as a thing offered to an idol. By doing so, one participates in the idolatry. So, whether or not the shape of the six-pointed star was ever used in a pagan ritual is not important. What is important is whether, when you observe it, you see it as an object of paganism. Paul concludes his discussion on eating food sacrificed to idols with these words:

1 Corinthians 10:31-33 NKJV 31 Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. 32 Give no offense, either to the Jews or to the Greeks or to the church of God, 33 just as I also please all men in all things, not seeking my own profit, but the profit of many, that they may be saved.

But what about these symbols? Lots of groups try to take over symbols for their own purposes. One of the most prominent symbols that have been taken over in today’s world is the rainbow, the sign of God’s covenant with man. The gay and lesbian community has adopted it as their symbol. The symbol we now associate with the Nazis used to be the sign of the thunderbird in Native American history. It is also prominent in ancient Chinese and Japanese cultures. Even the idea of the trinity was “stolen” by the ancient Babylonians with the mother Ishtar, the son Marduk (who marries the mother) and has an offspring, Tammuz. Some give the names as Nimrod and his mother Semiramus giving birth to Tammuz. Satan would love for us to reject the Father, Son and Spirit on the basis of this forgery. Satan has set it up so that the similarities would cause us to reject the trinity. But, similarity does not mean relationship. Satan is always trying to steal what belongs to God. He is a thief, a liar, and a murderer from the beginning. Everything he says and does has an element of truth in it; just twisted to make it all false. Just examine what he says to Eve in the Garden of Eden. Everything he says is ALMOST true.

The fish, long a symbol used for one Christian to recognize another in the dangerous world of Roman persecution, has been stolen by the Darwinists by adding feet to symbolize evolution over creation; atheism over Christianity; chance over God’s design. Should we then reject the fish because Darwinists have decided to take it over? Should we reject the rainbow since the gays and lesbians have taken it over? Satan has also stolen the signs in the heavens and re-packaged them as astrology. God has written His word in the skies. One of the most prominent of which is the star over Bethlehem that marked Yeshua’s birth.  But man has chosen to disregard God’s signs and allow Satan to replace them with personal horoscopes.

God is the creator of the universe including Geometry and geometric symbols. In fact, that is the message of Psalm 24 that Paul quotes when he said that, “the earth is the LORD’s and all its fullness.” Psalm 24 concludes with the words:

Psalms 24:10 NKJV 10 Who is this King of glory? The LORD of hosts, He is the King of glory. Selah

A word search for the LORD of hosts reveals that this name reveals the total authority of God over all of creation. He is the LORD of might and absolute authority. The signs in the heavens belong to Him; mathematics, physics and all the sciences belong to Him.

So what does the symbol of the Star of David represent?  The Star of David is two complete triangles, the simplest closed figure which represents the number three. Three is the number of spiritual completion. Two entwined triangles is an emphasis of the number 3. We have a double portion of divine completion in the Star of David. Our King Messiah is the Son of David. Zechariah actually calls the Messiah David when he writes about the time when David will sit on the throne forever. Is there anything inherently “good” or “bad” about the Star of David? It has no power or virtue in itself so there is no “good” inherent in having a Star of David. Unless one begins to attribute the power of God to the star itself, there is nothing “bad” about the star either. Some say that the Star of David is a mark of shame because of its use by the Nazis to identify and humiliate the Jewish people. It became a mark of shame because it was treated as a mark of shame, just like the Nazi symbol is now a mark of shame to the German people. But, the Dutch rejected the Star of David as a mark of shame, proudly wearing it with the Jews. The Jewish people today reject it as a mark of shame; instead it is a mark of triumph over evil and those who would kill them.

So the Star of David is nothing in itself. If you wear it, do so to the glory of God.  This is true of any other symbols associated with our faith when they are used to remind us of God, our relationship with Him, and as a public statement of our faith.

In our journey to seek to live a life pleasing to God, we need to ask ourselves, “What is pleasing to God?” Micah brings God’s complaints to the children of Israel about their continual idolatry, and then reminds the people of what the LORD requires.

Micah 6:8 NKJV 8 He has shown you, O man, what is good; And what does the LORD require of you But to do justly, To love mercy, And to walk humbly with your God?

Shalom and be blessed,
Dan and Brenda Cathcart
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