Tuesday, December 22, 2009

The Birth of Jesus (Yeshua)

By Brenda Cathcart.

It is at this time of year that Beleivers around the world celebrate the birth of Jesus whose Hebrew name is Yeshua which means He will save.

Matthew 1:21 MKJV 21 And she shall bear a son, and you shall call His name JESUS: for He shall save His people from their sins.

For Christians everywhere, it is a time of great joy. The words of the angels as they announce his birth convey that feeling of joy.

Luke 2:10-14 MKJV 10 And the angel said to them, Do not fear. For behold, I give to you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. 11 For to you is born today, in the city of David, a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 12 And this is a sign to you. You will find the babe wrapped, lying in a manger. 13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying, 14 Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.

The location of His birth has deep symbolic meaning. He was born in the City of David, Bethlehem, in the region called Ephratah. (Micah 5:2) Bethlehem means the house of bread and Ephratah means fruitfulness. Jesus was born in the house of bread in the region of fruitfulness. He is the Bread of Life.

John 6:33-35 MKJV 33 For the bread of God is He who comes down from Heaven and gives life to the world. 34 Then they said to him, Lord, evermore give us this bread. 35 And Jesus said to them, I am the bread of life. He who comes to Me shall never hunger, and he who believes on Me shall never thirst.

He tells His followers that those who remain in Him will be fruitful.

John 15:1-2 MKJV 1 I am the True Vine, and My Father is the Vinedresser. 2 Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away. And every one that bears fruit, He prunes it so that it may bring forth more fruit.

What else do we know about Bethlehem? Its first mention in scripture is in connection with Rachel. Rachel’s name means ewe lamb. Jesus is the Lamb of God.

John 1:29 MKJV 29 The next day John sees Jesus coming to him and says, Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!

Rachel, like Mary, gave birth at Bethlehem. Her son Benjamin was born as she died.

Genesis 35:16-20 MKJV 16 And they moved from Bethel. And there was only a length of land to come to Ephrath. And Rachel travailed, and she had hard labor in her bearing. 17 And it happened when she was in hard labor in her bearing, the midwife said to her, Do not fear, you shall have this son also. 18 And it happened as her soul was departing (for she died) that she called his name Benoni. But his father called him Benjamin. 19 And Rachel died and was buried in the way to Ephrath, which is Bethlehem. 20 And Jacob set up a pillar upon her grave. That is the pillar of Rachel's grave to this day.

Benjamin’s name whose birth is at Bethlehem is a foreshadow of Jesus. Rachel called him Benoni which means son of my sorrow referring to Jesus’ first coming as a man of sorrows.

Isaiah 53:3 MKJV 3 He is despised and rejected of men; a Man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as it were a hiding of faces from Him, He being despised, and we esteemed Him not.

Interestingly, it is the sorrow of Rachel that foreshadows the sorrow of Jesus. He expresses that sorrow over Jerusalem.

Jeremiah 31:15-17 MKJV 15 So says the LORD: A voice was heard in Ramah, wailing and bitter weeping; Rachel weeping for her sons; she refuses to be comforted for her sons, because they are not. 16 So says the LORD: Hold back your voice from weeping and your eyes from tears; for your work shall be rewarded, says the LORD. And they shall come again from the land of the enemy. 17 And there is hope for your future, says the LORD, that your sons shall come again to their own border.

Luke 13:34 MKJV 34 Jerusalem! Jerusalem! The one killing the prophets, and stoning those having been sent to her; how often I desired to gather your children in the way a hen gathers her brood under the wings, and you did not desire it.

Luke 19:41-42 MKJV 41 And as He drew near, He beheld the city and wept over it, 42 saying, If you had known, even you, even at least in this day of yours, the things for your peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes.

Jesus goes on to say that He will return when they can say “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the LORD.

Luke 13:35 MKJV 35 Behold, your house is left to you desolate. And truly I say to you, You will not see Me until it come when you say, Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord.

Jacob, also called Israel, named him Benjamin which means son of my right hand. This speaks of His resurrection and second coming. Jesus even now sits at God’s right hand waiting for His enemies to be put under His feet.

Hebrews 12:2 MKJV 2 looking to Jesus the Author and Finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and sat down at the right of the throne of God.

Rachel was buried just outside of Bethlehem. Her burial tomb is there to this day near the tower of Edar. The Tower of Edar is the “Tower of the Flock” built to watch over the sheep around Bethlehem. The flocks around Bethlehem were the temple flocks and the shepherds were all Levites. It was from these flocks that the sacrifices were chosen. Jesus, the lamb of God was born among the sheep of God’s pasture. It is to these shepherds that the announcement is made of the birth of a very special lamb.

Luke 2:8-9 NKJV 8 Now there were in the same country shepherds living out in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9 And behold, an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were greatly afraid.

Since the shepherds were living in the field, we know that this cannot be in the winter time. In the winter near Bethlehem and Jerusalem, the nights are too cold to keep the sheep out at night. When is the most likely time that Jesus was born? To answer that, we can look at His death. His death and resurrection were at the Feasts of Passover, Unleavened Bread, and Firstfruits. These Feasts commemorate the Israelites redemption from Egypt foreshadowing their redemption from sin accomplished by Jesus’ death and resurrection. If we look to the Feasts of the LORD for His birth, the Feast of Tabernacles in the fall is the most likely time He was born. The Feast is to be celebrated with great joy.

Leviticus 23:40 MKJV 40 And you shall take the fruit of majestic trees for yourselves on the first day, branches of palm trees, and the boughs of thick trees, and willows of the brook. And you shall rejoice before the LORD your God seven days.

Deuteronomy 16:14-15 NKJV 14 "And you shall rejoice in your feast, you and your son and your daughter, your male servant and your female servant and the Levite, the stranger and the fatherless and the widow, who are within your gates.

This Feast commemorates their time in the wilderness when God dwelt among them His shekinah glory visible over the Tabernacle for all to see. John speaks of the birth of Jesus as the Living Word of God dwelling with man.

John 1:14 NKJV 14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.

Rejoice in the birth of Jesus, Yeshua, who comes to save us from our sins. And next year, at the Feast of Tabernacles, take some time and learn about this feast which is one of God’s ordained times during which He promises to meet with His people. It has prophetic significance equal to that of Passover.

שלום ברוך
Shalom and Be Blessed
Dan & Brenda Cathcart

Dan and I are going “home” to Israel next June 19th to 29th and so can you. Join us in the land promised to Abraham for a special tour where you will see the promised Messiah of Israel like you have never seen Him before! We will visit places off the beaten path and follow in the foot steps of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Join us as we also explore the people, culture, politics and conflict that is today’s Israel and a special Sabbath day in Jerusalem. For details on the tour visit www.theheartofisrael.com .

Monday, December 21, 2009

Is Christmas really a “pagan” holiday?

This time of year, a lot of well meaning messianic believers have sent to me or posted videos and essays on the pagan origins of Christmas and other traditional Christian holidays. I find them all very interesting but not anything new or containing any earth shattering revelations. It is all a matter of public record as to the origins of Christian holidays such as Christmas and Easter. Most of these videos or essays are completely true. But I have come to believe that they are counter-productive to true discipleship and the great commission found in the Gospel of Matthew:

Matthew 28:19 NKJV 19 "Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,

A vast majority of Christians are totally unaware of the pagan connections to traditional Christian holidays and festivals. They have never practiced the associated pagan rituals. For most, these Christian holidays and festivals are traditions that have been passed down from generation to generation and have totally lost their pagan roots. They are holidays full of meaning and miracles. Lives have been changed for the better at Christmas and Easter.

I cannot deny the positive effect that these holidays and have had on me, my family, and the people around me over the years. The Christmas season has been a special time of joy for me from my early childhood. If Christmas, as it is practiced today by believing Christians, is truly evil because of its origin, as some of the posts and essay would have you believe, then why does the LORD honor our service through it? Does Yeshua (Jesus) care more about the origin of this holiday or about the spirit in which believers practice it today? How many lives have been touched by the Christmas story? How many have been saved through an Easter Passion Play? As Christians, remember where we came from! To deny the effectiveness of these holidays in reaching souls for God is to deny the roots of our own salvation!

There is no biblical record of a date for the birth of Yeshua. There is plenty of research on the subject, and it can be shown that it could not have been on December 25th. So what? What difference does it really make? A date was chosen, perhaps out of convenience or for political reasons originally, and His birth is now celebrated on December 25th. Because it also is the date of some evil pagan ritual from ancient Rome, does that fact diminish the celebration of our Savior’s birth?

I believe that an over emphasis on the part of many in the Messianic movement as to the pagan origins of centuries old Christian traditions, is counter-productive to the mission of taking the Torah of God to the nations. How are we to reach out to Christians when the first thing out of our mouths is an insult to their beliefs and traditions? We are to make disciples, not adversaries. Show them what the Torah says and represent it to them. Let God do the changing.

Judaism of Yeshua’s day had many manmade traditions and nearly 2000 years of pagan influence since the giving of the Torah in the wilderness. Yeshua did not always reject the traditions of men. Take the minor festival of Hanukkah as an example. We read in the Gospel of John chapter 10 that:

John 10:22 NKJV 22 Now it was the Feast of Dedication in Jerusalem, and it was winter.

This is Hanukkah. And Hanukkah was and is an entirely a manmade tradition. It is not to be found in the Bible among any of the appointed times spelled out in Leviticus 23 or anywhere else. Hanukkah is not even found in the Jewish scripture and yet Yeshua practiced it and taught His disciples about the deeper messianic meaning behind it.

There is nothing wrong with manmade traditions in the Church or Synagogue as long as they don’t contradict the Torah. Yeshua practiced many manmade traditions, but taught that salvation does not come from the practice of religion but by a faith in the saving grace from God. So during this Christmas season, let us remember who it is we are celebrating, not what we are celebrating. Let us join in the festival celebrating the birth of our Savior. Let us rejoice in the many new souls added to God’s kingdom through this time. It might really be the wrong date, and coincide with a long forgotten and dead pagan festival, but who really cares? Do you think Yeshua does?

שלום ברוך
Shalom and Be Blessed
Dan & Brenda Cathcart

Brenda and I are going to Israel next June 19th to 29th. You can join us in the land promised to Abraham for a special tour where you will see the promised Messiah of Israel like you have never seen Him before! We will visit places off the beaten path and follow in the foot steps of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Join us as we also explore the people, culture, politics and conflict that is today’s Israel and a special Sabbath day in Jerusalem. For details on the tour visit http://www.theheartofisrael.com/.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

The Watchmen

By Brenda Cathcart

As I was driving home from church today, an old praise song, “Come Bless the Lord,” popped into my head. It is from Psalm 134

Psalms 134:1-3 NKJV 1 Behold, bless the LORD, All you servants of the LORD, Who by night stand in the house of the LORD! 2 Lift up your hands in the sanctuary, And bless the LORD. 3 The LORD who made heaven and earth Bless you from Zion!

As I was singing it, the third line grabbed my attention, “Who by night stand in the house of the LORD.” Who is standing in the temple at night? The Psalm itself begins with the word “Behold.” The word behold is used to indicate that what follows is a deep mystery; it is especially important. The word is used ten times in Genesis chapter 37 about Joseph’s dreams and the actions leading to his being sold to slavery. The words of Psalm 134 contain a deeper meaning. That meaning will be revealed as we see two instances of people in the house of the LORD at night.

On a typical night, there are just two groups of people at the temple at night, the gate guards from the tribe of Levi and the priests who were on the night watch. These are the watchmen! Their duties are primarily honorary. Like an honor guard for a king, their presence is to bring honor to God and the house of God. There were 24 watch stations, three manned by young priests and the other 21 by Levites. The captain of the watch would make his rounds each night. The watchmen were to rise up before him. If they did not, the captain would call out, “Peace be unto you!” If the watchman did not rise, the captain knew the watchman was asleep. He would then rap the sleeping watchman with his rod or even light his covering on fire. The captain of the watch had a nickname; he was called the thief in the night!

Paul’s words in 1 Thessalonians read in the context of the night watch in the temple present a deeper meaning.

1 Thessalonians 5:1-6 NKJV 1 But concerning the times and the seasons, brethren, you have no need that I should write to you. 2 For you yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so comes as a thief in the night. 3 For when they say, "Peace and safety!" then sudden destruction comes upon them, as labor pains upon a pregnant woman. And they shall not escape. 4 But you, brethren, are not in darkness, so that this Day should overtake you as a thief. 5 You are all sons of light and sons of the day. We are not of the night nor of darkness. 6 Therefore let us not sleep, as others do, but let us watch and be sober.

The captain of the guard comes as a thief in the night to those who have fallen asleep. The Lord’s coming will come as a thief in the night to those who have fallen asleep. But to those who are standing their watch, that day will not come as the thief in the night. Jesus’ words to the dead church in Sardis is that He will come as a thief in the night if they don’t wake up and stand their watch.

Revelation 3:3 NKJV 3 "Remember therefore how you have received and heard; hold fast and repent. Therefore if you will not watch, I will come upon you as a thief, and you will not know what hour I will come upon you.

One of the things the captain of the guard did to those who were sleeping was to set their garments on fire. The guard whose garments were set on fire, stripped off the garments and ran naked to the guard station. It was shameful to appear before God naked. The altar was not even to have steps because going up the steps may show what the priests wore under their robes.

Exodus 20:26 NKJV 26 'Nor shall you go up by steps to My altar, that your nakedness may not be exposed on it.'

The guard’s goal was to remove himself from the presence of God. With this in mind, we see Jesus’ words to the lukewarm barely alive church of Laodicea.

Revelation 3:18 NKJV 18 "I counsel you to buy from Me gold refined in the fire, that you may be rich; and white garments, that you may be clothed, that the shame of your nakedness may not be revealed; and anoint your eyes with eye salve, that you may see.

There is additional depth of meaning here because Laodicea was a center for manufacturing textiles, as well as perfumes and ointments. The watchman is to buy spiritual garments from Jesus not the garments of the world made by the works of man. That man who buys from the world will be caught spiritually sleeping. His garments will be burned by the fire.

Jesus tells us that we are to be watchmen so that His arrival does not come upon us as the thief in the night.

Revelation 16:15 NKJV 15 "Behold, I am coming as a thief. Blessed is he who watches, and keeps his garments, lest he walk naked and they see his shame."

There is a special time of year when people are in the temple around the clock. This is during the seven day Feast of Tabernacles. This feast is to be celebrated with great joy! Ceremonies and celebration continue around the clock. One special group of Psalms called the Songs of Ascent is an integral part of this celebration. Psalm 134 is the last of these fifteen Psalms which begin with Psalm 129. The Levitical choir sings them each night as dawn is breaking during the Feast of Tabernacles.

The setting is the Nicanor Gate at the edge of the Court of Israel. Outside the gate, fifteen steps lead down to the Court of Women. The Eastern gate of the Temple is located at the east end of the Court of women. As dawn is breaking, the call is given to “Arise and stand to your duties.” Two priests blow silver trumpets and the Levitical choir begins singing the Psalms of Ascent one Psalm at each step as they descend to the Court of Women. All those present for the festivities proceed across the court and out the Eastern Gate. As the first rays of the sun begin to shine on the temple, they turn together and face back toward the west facing the temple of God. They recite these words:

Our fathers stood in this place with their backs towards the Sancturay of God, and their faces towards the east. They prostrated themselves to the sun in the east. But we—we are to God and to God our eyes turn. We bow to God and our eyes look to Him in hope.”

This is in response to the actions of the generation alive at the time of the destruction of Solomon’s temple as recorded by Ezekiel. It was at this time that God’s glory left the temple.

Ezekiel 8:16 MKJV 16 And He brought me into the inner court of the LORD's house, and behold, at the opening of the temple of the LORD, between the porch and the altar, were about twenty-five men with their backs toward the temple of the LORD and their faces toward the east; and they bowed themselves eastward to the sun.

At the Feast of Tabernacles, these actions are repudiated and the people look toward God’s Holy Temple and worship God. Ezekiel describes the return of the glory of God to the new Temple built after the defeat of Gog and Magog. Imagine this event occurring at a Feast of Tabernacles as all the people turn toward the Temple in worship.

Ezekiel 43:1-5 MKJV 1 And he led me to the gate, the gate that faces eastward. 2 And behold, the glory of the God of Israel came from the way of the east. And His voice was like the sound of many waters. And the earth shone with His glory. 3 And it looked the same as the vision which I saw, even according to the vision which I saw when I came to destroy the city. And the visions were like the vision that I saw by the river Chebar. And I fell on my face. 4 And the glory of the LORD came into the house by the way of the gate whose view is eastward. 5 And the Spirit took me up and brought me into the inner chamber. And behold, the glory of the LORD filled the house.

What will the people who see this event do? The words of Psalm 134, the last Psalm sung as they left the temple, again come to mind.

Behold, bless the LORD, All you servants of the LORD, Who by night stand in the house of the LORD! 2 Lift up your hands in the sanctuary, And bless the LORD. 3 The LORD who made heaven and earth Bless you from Zion!

שלום ברוך
Shalom and Be Blessed
Brenda Cathcart

Dan and I are going “home” to Israel next June 19th to 29th and so can you. Join us in the land promised to Abraham for a special tour where you will see the promised Messiah of Israel like you have never seen Him before! We will visit places off the beaten path and follow in the foot steps of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Join us as we also explore the people, culture, politics and conflict that is today’s Israel and a special Sabbath day in Jerusalem. For details on the tour visit www.theheartofisrael.com .

Monday, December 14, 2009

Reason Three for Christians to Celebrate Hanukkah

The third reason to celebrate Hanukkah is that the events commemorated by Hanukkah are spoken of by Jesus as having future prophetic significance. The words He speaks to His disciples telling them of the signs of His coming and the end of the world resound with Hanukkah language. First, Jesus speaks of another abomination of desolation. Then He goes on to invoke images of the horror inflicted on the Jewish people during the reign of Antiochus IV Epiphanes.

Matthew 24:15-21 MKJV 15 Therefore when you see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, stand in the holy place (whoever reads, let him understand). 16 Then let those in Judea flee into the mountains. 17 Let him on the housetop not come down to take anything out of his house; 18 nor let him in the field turn back to take his clothes. 19 And woe to those who are with child, and to those who give suck in those days! 20 But pray that your flight is not in the winter, nor on the sabbath day; 21 for then shall be great tribulation, such as has not been since the beginning of the world to this time; no, nor ever shall be.

Antiochus set up an altar to Zeus over the altar of God in the Temple.

I Maccabees 1:57-59, 62 On the fifteenth day of Chislev in the year one hundred and forty-five (December 8, 167 B.C.) the king erected the abomination of desolation above the altar; and artars were built in the surrounding towns of Judah and incense offered at the doors of houses and in the streets. On the twenty-fifth of the month sacrifice was offered on the altar erected over the altar of holocaust.

Those in Judea fled into the wilderness taking most of their possessions with them. They were pursued and attacked on the Sabbath.

1 Maccabees 2:29-30, 32, 38 At this many who were concerned for virtue and justice went down to the desert and stayed there, taking with them their sons, their wives and their cattle, for the burden of their wrongs had become unendurable. A strong detachment went after them, and when it came up with them ranged itself agaist them in battle formation, preparing to attack them on the Sabbath day. The attack was pressed home on the Sabbath itself, and they were slaughtered with their wives and children and cattle, to the number of one thousand persons.

Those in Jerusalem didn’t fare any better. In fact the slaughter there was even worse.

2 Maccabees 5:24-27 The king also sent the mysarch Appolonius at the head of an army twenty-two thousand strong, with orders to put to death all men in their prime and to sell the women and children. Arriving in Jerusalem and posing as a man of peace, this man waited until the holy day of the Sabbath and then, taking advantage of the Jews as they rested from work, ordered his men to parade fully armed; all those who came out to watch he put to the sword; then running through the city with his armed troops, he cut down an immense number of people.
Josephus writes that ten thousand women and children were sold into slavery on that day and the temple was totally plundered of all its wealth. Those who resisted by reading or even having a Torah scroll, by observing the Sabbath, or circumcising their sons died a horrific death. This was especially true of women who circumcised their babies. Josephus records in The Antiquities of the Jews, Book 12, Chapter 5, line 256:

“…for they were wipped with rods and their bodies were torn to pieces, and were crucified while they were till alive and breathed; they also strangled those women and their sons whom they had circumcised, as the king had appointed, hanging their sons about their necks as they were upon the crosses.”

The words of Jesus in Matthew 24 match that day in December exactly. The abomination of desolation was set up in the temple in the winter. The people were horrible attacked on the Sabbath more than once. And woe to the women! Those who circumcised their infant sons died grievous deaths. As horrible as those days were, Jesus said the days leading up to His return would be even worse. He warns them not to try to bring their possessions with them but to flee immediately. He says that THEN shall be great tribulation worse than has ever been seen before. The events December 167 B.C. foreshadow the events of the great tribulation. Antiochus IV Epiphanes is a shadow of the Antichrist. His reign name of Epiphanes means “God Manifest.” Paul tells us that the Antichrist will set himself up as God.

2 Thessalonians 2:3-4 MKJV 3 Let not anyone deceive you by any means. For that Day shall not come unless there first comes a falling away, and the man of sin shall be revealed, the son of perdition, 4 who opposes and exalts himself above all that is called God, or that is worshiped, so that he sits as God in the temple of God, setting himself forth, that he is God.

Judah Maccabeus is a shadow of Jesus. Jesus is of the line of David of the tribe of Judah. Jacob’s blessing over Judah includes describing him as a lion.

Genesis 49:9 MKJV 9 Judah is a lion's whelp. My son, you have gone up from the prey. He stooped, he crouched like a lion; and like a lioness, who shall rouse him?

Judah Maccabeus is described similarly in I Maccabees.

I Macabbees 3: 3-4 He extended the fame of his people. He put on the breastplate like a giant and girded on his war harness; he engaged in battle after battle, protecting the ranks with his sword. He was like a lion’s whelp roaring over its prey.

Jesus is a priest on the order of Melchizedek. Judah Maccabeus is a priest of the line of Aaron. Judah ruled over Israel at the time of the rededication of the temple. Jesus will rule over Israel and the whole world. He is the one who will build the third temple of God.

We can celebrate Hanukkah as we look forward to Jesus’ return, learning and watching so that we are not caught sleeping or unaware. We light the Hanukkiah to remind us that we are of the light and need to keep watch for the signs of His coming.

1 Thessalonians 5:4-6 MKJV 4 But you, brothers, are not in darkness, that the Day should overtake you like a thief. 5 You are all the sons of light and the sons of the day. We are not of the night, or of darkness. 6 Therefore let us not sleep as the rest do, but let us watch and be calm.

שלום ברוך
Shalom and Be Blessed
Dan and Brenda Cathcart

Brenda and I will be going “home” to Israel next June 19th to 29th. We will be teaching the “Shadows of Messiah in the Land.” Join us in the land promised to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob for a special tour where you will see the promised Messiah of Israel like you have never seen Him before! We will visit places off the beaten path and follow in the foot steps of the patriarchs. Come with us as we also explore the people, culture, politics and conflict that is today’s Israel and for a special Sabbath day in Jerusalem. For details on the tour visit http://www.theheartofisrael.com/