Christmas Tidbits

Well, it’s Christmas day for western Christianity.

There are many sites out there talking about one aspect of Christmas or another, and about its pagan roots.  (A very recent blog post that does a decent overall summary is by J.M.’s History Corner).  However, this blog isn’t about any of that.  This is just some fun tidbits taken out of the gospel accounts of Yeshua’s (Jesus’) birth.  I haven’t completely studied out all these points, but I mention them as they are good to ponder.

  • In the genealogy listed in Matthew 1, the wording is such that it is clear that Joseph is not the father of Yeshua (Jesus): “Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom Jesus (Yeshua) was born.” Matthew 1:16 (ESV)
  • We have no idea how many ‘wise’ men actually visited.  It is most likely, though, that it was, at least, a small entourage, as they were carrying some expensive gifts.
  • The priests and scribes were very learned in scripture, and knew immediately where the Messiah (Christ) was to be born.  But they were only interested in knowledge, and not experience, as shown by the fact that they never went down to Bethlehem after the wise men showed up.  Seems to me that such a monumenteous happening should illicit some sort of response.  Even King Herod had more belief then the priests as he acted on what he heard!
  • The wise men didn’t visit Yeshua (Jesus) as a baby.  Nor did they visit him when he was in the manger.  He was a child, living in a house, when they visited.  (Matthew 2:11)
  • Zechariah and Elizabeth, the parents of John the Baptist, were ‘blameless’ according to the Law of God, following all of it!  I thought that it was not possible to completely follow the Law!?!  (See this post.)
  • Though the words used to describe Mary do not have to mean ‘virgin’, her own words make it clear she was.  (Luke 1:34)
  • Most of Western Christianity holds that Mary had children after Yeshua (Jesus).  Orthodoxy holds that those referred to as Yeshua’s brothers and sisters were step siblings or even cousins.  The language of the texts is, unfortunately, not absolutely clear one way or the other.
  • Was Zechariah only mute?  If so, why did people have to make signs to him, asking what he wanted to name John?  see Luke 1:62.
  • A completely plausible (and in my opinion correct) understanding of the whole ‘manger’ scene is that Mary and Joseph were offered accommodations in the inn keeper’s Sukkah (booth), as the feast of Tabernacles (or feast of booths) was under way.
  • Western and Orthodox Christianity celebrate Christmas on different days.  Not because of debate as to when it really was, but because the two are following different calendars.
  • The angels announcing the birth of Yeshua (Luke 2:8-20) is the closest thing we have in scripture to a birthday party.

I don’t actually ‘do’ Christmas.  I do, however, celebrate His birth according to the calendar God gave us, which places it during the feast of Tabernacles.

No matter what, though, there are two very good reasons for celebrating, and Christmas does (or used to) emphasize them.

Get together and get closer as a family.  Be nice to one another!

One can’t go wrong with that as a goal.

Shalom! – Yosef

 

 

Zaphenath-paneah and the Christmas Tree

If you recognize the name of Zaphenath-paneah (as spelled in the ESV Bible) as being the name of a very well known Biblical character who lived roughly 1500 years before Yeshua (Jesus), then you should enter Bible trivia contests!

Zaphenath-paneah is the name Pharaoh gave to Joseph (the son of Jacob and Rachel) when he elevated him to 2nd in command over Egypt.  What did Joseph have to do with a Christmas tree?  Well, nothing really, but the title leads into the topic of this blog post.

The teaching where Joseph is presented as a shadow of Yeshua is fairly well known.  If you haven’t heard of such an idea, google something such as “Joseph as a type of Jesus”.  You’ll get many hits, some from some very good sources.  One source I see there is from the group Jews for Jesus.

This post is about one aspect of that idea.  After the famine hits Egypt, Joseph’s brothers travel to Egypt to buy food.  They appear before Joseph but don’t recognize him, and bow before him.  (It’s a really fun story – read it in Genesis 41 through 44).  Why don’t they recognize him?  Well, he looked and talked Egyptian!

One of the reasons today that Jews do not accept Yeshua (Jesus) as the promised Messiah is that he has been made over to look like a gentile.

(By the way, ‘gentile’ is not a bad word.  It simply means ‘of the nations’.)  All manner of lifestyle and traditions have been painted over him; so much so that he is no longer recognizable as the pork avoiding, Sabbath observing, Jew that he is.

The difference between Yeshua and Joseph, though, is that Joseph was truly dressed up and talked as an Egyptian, whereas Yeshua never actually wore the costume that is over him.  But it has been taught as tradition for so long that only the made up Jesus (Yeshua) is visible.

For this Christmas, then, I challenge you, the reader, to peel back some of the trappings that have been put around Yeshua (Jesus) and see if you can’t find the real man.  The one born to Jewish parents (see the next blog for a neat fact about them), and raised in Jewish surroundings.  One who never violated any of God’s Torah, and even observed some Jewish traditions! 

All of this can be discovered simply by reading the gospels and paying attention to what is really being said – not what traditionally has been put in his mouth!

Shalom!    – Yosef

Look out for One Another

“Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.  Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.” Philippians 2:3-4 (ESV)

These are fairly well known words from the apostle Paul.  But what does this look like in reality, especially in the western culture’s motto of ‘me first’?

I’ll illustrate with an example.  My last post mentioned that I had to move.  I was so busy with all the moving that I wasn’t paying much attention to the upcoming “appointed times” of Yehovah (God’s feasts).  I knew they were approaching and looked forward to them, but I forgot some of the preparation, specifically some for the time of Tabernacles (which, according to the Jewish Calendar, is going on this very week).

One of the commands of Yah (short for of Yehovah – the LORD), is that we wave some particular tree branches before Him during this holiday.  One can, in most places, go out and find the required items.  I like to purchase them as a set, called a “lulav” in Judaism.  However, the evening before Tabernacles started I realized I had forgotten.

The next day a brother stopped by as he and his family where on their way to the synagogue.  He had a spare lulav that he wanted to give me.  He couldn’t stay as they were on their way to synagogue (I can’t get out much, so I wasn’t going), but he took the time and effort to bring me the lulav.  I must admit I don’t remember telling him that I forgot to get mine (not even sure I did).  All I can say is that this was a huge blessing that touched me deeply.  He put my interests before his at that time.

That is what God wants of us, and what Paul meant with the words he penned in Philippians.  It may cost a bit of time.  It may cost us a bit of money.  But when we notice a brother or sister that needs or can use something, and we can fill that need – do so!  I didn’t ‘need’ the lulav but that was an act of love I’ll probably never forget.

So, whether the act be large or small, expensive or free, meaningful or not in your eyes, bless a brother or sister with a ‘random act of kindness‘ to put Paul’s words in today’s lingo.  Not to be seen by others, but by your Father in heaven, and possibly by the recipient of the act.

Shalom,

  • Yosef

 

 

God’s Calendar: Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement)

Well, the Feast of Trumpets (or Feast of Shouting) is over according the Jewish calendar and the next appointed time is quickly approaching.  It is yom Kippur (the day of atonement).  According to the Jewish calendar, the day of Atonement is from this coming Tuesday, Sept. 18th, after sundown, to Wednesday, Sept. 19th, after sundown.

The day of atonement is a very solemn day in the yearly cycle of God’s appointed times.  It is the day where we reflect on the past year and repent of sins that have crept in, both in our personal lives and our corporate lives (our family, our church or synagogue, and our country).  Yes, I said our ‘corporate’ lives.  Much of what God has to say to us is directed at the whole body of believers, not just individuals.  That concept can be seen throughout the scriptures.

God gives us a couple commands for this day.  And actually, those commands are rather forceful in their presentation compared to the commands for the other feasts.  Two of the commands stand out.  One is that the day is to be treated as a very strict sabbath – no work whatsoever.  Second is that we are to ‘afflict ourselves.’  So no work of any kind – a strict sabbath of rest, and ‘afflict’ ourselves.  The only definition for ‘afflict’ in this context is that which has been understood by the Jews for millennia.  And that is to fast.  All those that can should fast.

I’m looking forward to the day.  It is a chance to really look at oneself, and one’s country, honestly.  I like reading through the traditional Jewish prayer (the ‘al Chet’ prayer) for the day as it lists all manner of sin – both physical and thought related – and really gets me to think.  There exists such ‘lists’ also in Christianity (the catechism of Westminster – the 10 commandments section – comes to mind).  If you can, find such a prayer / list / sermon and read through it thoughtfully and prayerfully.

I think that the practice of deeply reflecting once a year is quite important and of great benefit, especially as God set it up for us to follow.  He made us and knows what we need.

So, take a day (or as much as you can – not as much as you are comfortable with, but as much as you can, up to the full 24 hours) and reflect.  And repent.  And pray.  And think about any changes that you need to make in your life, or how you can affect our culture for good.  And remember what Yeshua (Jesus) has done for us!

Shalom,

  • Yosef

 

God’s Calendar and the Feast of Trumpets!

Did you know that God has a calendar?  Did you know that He is still following it?  It really saddens me, though, that most of Christianity has thrown out His calendar, and in doing so, they miss out on some of the beauty and richness and grace of God and His word.

What is this calendar?  Well, it isn’t a secret.  It is written about quite a bit in both the ‘old’ and the ‘new’ testaments.  The calendar is marked by special occasions throughout the year.   They are often called the “Jewish Feasts” but that isn’t what God calls them.  He calls them His “appointed times” (this is the clear meaning of the Hebrew word used in the “old testament” when the ‘feasts’ are referred to.)

I know that many in Christianity will say that the feasts no longer apply as Jesus fulfilled them, but even the “new testament” proves that statement false.  Yeshua (Jesus) himself said,

“For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass away until all is accomplished.”  Matthew 5:18 (ESV)

“Do this in in remembrance of me.” Luke 22:19 (ESV) – in context of celebrating the Passover.

There are many more verses showing Yeshua (Jesus) and the apostles (even Paul) celebrating the feasts.  However, this article isn’t about that.  It’s about the next feast in the yearly cycle, the ‘Feast of Trumpets’!

God’s year begins with Passover in early spring.  Then there are a couple more, then a couple months pause.  The feasts start up again near fall time, with the first in a short series being the ‘feast of trumpets’!  For this feast we are told, among a couple other things, to blow trumpets (or shout)!

Now, considering the fact that Yeshua (Jesus) did something appropriate on each of the earlier feasts (died on Passover; gave the holy spirit on Pentecost; – are two examples), it easily follows that this is the next feast where something should happen.  I wonder, if Paul wasn’t thinking of this when he wrote,

“For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God.”  1 Thessalonians 4:16 (ESV)

The feasts are the markers of God’s calendar, and give God’s timeline for things He has done and is yet to do!

And I must say that I am really looking forward to this coming Sunday night to Monday night (Sept. 9 to 10, 2018), which is the feast of Trumpets!  I get to take the day off work and celebrate!   In Judaism, the day is celebrated as the “Jewish New Year” and, being Jewish, I’ll celebrate that also, but that is just tradition.

I look forward to meeting God at his next ‘appointed time’, the ‘feast of trumpets,’ and hearing the shofar (ram’s horn).  And I look forward to hearing that heavenly shofar calling, announcing the end of all things!

Shalom!   – Yosef