11 year-old Israeli says “Purim costumes – Not for me!”
- Give presents to poor people.
- Send food parcels.
- Read the book of Esther.
- Have a feast and be joyful.
Thomas is 11 years old and lives with his family in the northern Galilee region of Israel. He is in the 6th grade.
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I came to bring a sword
The prophets say that the Messiah will initiate an era of world peace during which “the wolf will dwell with the lamb” and the nations will hammer their swords into plowshares. “Nation will not lift up sword against nation, and never again will they learn war” (Isaiah 2:4). Therefore, the disciples could have reasonably expected that the Messiah came to deliver peace to the earth. Even the angels that announced His birth declared “on earth peace among men!” (Luke 2:14). If the nation had given heed to the good news of the kingdom and repented under the teaching of Yeshua, surely He would have ushered in that era of peace.
The same prophets who spoke about the coming era of peace, however, also predicted a time of trouble, conflict, tribulation, and warfare that would precede the advent of the kingdom. Zechariah says that, in that day, all the nations will gather against Jerusalem to make war on the holy people and the holy city. Our Master alluded to the exile and the wars of Messiah that precede the Messianic Era when He told His disciples, “Do not think that I came to bring peace on the earth; I did not come to bring peace, but a sword.”
In the Hebrew Scriptures, the word “sword” is a common Hebrew idiom for violence or destruction. This is especially common in contrast with peace (shalom). Leviticus describes the promises of covenant faithfulness by saying, “I will give peace in the land … and the sword shall not go through your land” (Leviticus 26:6). In other words, the land will not experience violence and destruction.
When the prophet Jeremiah was warned about the destruction of Jerusalem, he responded, “Ah, Lord GOD! Surely You have utterly deceived this people and Jerusalem, saying, ‘You will have peace’; whereas a sword touches the throat” (Jeremiah 4:10 NASB). Here, the “sword” that Jeremiah contrasts with peace is the coming destruction of the city.
The Master referred to the coming time of punishment, the detruction of Jerusalem, and the doom of exile that hung over his generation if they did not repent. When the Master said, “Do not think that I came to bring peace,” He was not referring to His incarnation or arrival from heaven. The expression “I came to …” functions idiomatically in Hebrew to express purpose or intention.
He has made My mouth like a sharp sword. (Isaiah 49:2)
Out of His mouth came a sharp two-edged sword. (Revelation 1:16)
Yeshua explained to His disciples that families were destined to divide and split over the sharp blade of the Messiah’s sword.
Do you suppose that I came to grant peace on earth? I tell you, no, but rather division; for from now on five members in one household will be divided, three against two and two against three. They will be divided, father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law. (Luke 12:52-53)
The prophets spoke of a season of refining and judgment that must fall upon Israel at the time of the Messiah’s coming. For example, Malachi says, “Who can endure the day of His coming? And who can stand when He appears? For He is like a refiner’s fire and like fullers’ soap. He will sit as a smelter and purifier of silver” (3:2-3). “Behold, this Child is appointed for the fall and rise of many in Israel, and for a sign to be opposed—and a sword will pierce even your own soul—to the end that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed” (Luke 2:34-35).
The Master’s words quote an important prophecy from Micah:
For son treats father contemptuously, daughter rises up against her mother, daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; a man’s enemies are the men of his own household. (Micah 7:6)
Rabbi Yeshua interpreted this prophecy to predict a breakdown of the family unit in the end of days, just before the final redemption. The rabbis and sages in the Talmud also read the same prophecy as a prediction about the last generation before Messiah:
With the footsteps of Messiah, impertinence increases and famine increases … Truth will be sealed away, children will shame elders, and elders will rise before children, as it says [in Micah 7:6], “For son treats father contemptuously, daughter rises up against her mother, daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; a man’s enemies are the men of his own household.” (m.Sotah 9:15)
This article originally appeared First Fruits of Zion and is reposted with permission.
First Fruits of Zion specializes in the study and teaching of Scripture from its historical, linguistic, and cultural context. Using the latest scholarship, ancient Jewish sources, and extra-biblical literature, we present a Messianic Jewish reading of the Bible and early Jewish-Christianity. We do this by publishing books, ebooks, magazines, journals, study programs, audio and audio-visual resources, and presenting new material through seminars, conferences, and guided Israel tours.
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The death of innocence
Arise and shine for your light has come- for behold, darkness will cover the Earth, and a fog (arafel) all the peoples. – Isaiah 60:1-2
The arts and music of a time can absorb the spirit of that epoch and transmit it to later times to experience. My childhood and youth in the 1950’s and early ‘60s produced such songs as Where are you Little Star, All I have to do is Dream, This Magic Moment, Up on the Roof, The Lion Sleeps Tonight, With a Hundred Pounds of Clay, There Was a Tall Oak Tree, Unchained Melody, For Everything There is a Season, My Girl and Blowin’ in the Wind- all melodious and romantic in the natural fragrance of innocence. That was before drugs began distorting the mind of youth. And before the youth of the USA began killing each other in mass school shootings. Yes, there were fights and black eyes, as there surely were in Tom and Huck’s day, but it owned the taste of innocence, and some honor.
On the television we watched models of happy families that were made up of a father and a mother and their children, like Ozzie and Harriet and Leave it to Beaver, and identified with heroes like Davy Crockett and the Lone Ranger and Hawkeye, who had the good sense of not bringing the curses of four-letter words to our ears. We laughed along with Amos and Andy and Groucho Marx and I love Lucy, who were actually funny. And sex was essentially at home in reality, not performed on the TV screen or movies for voyeurs. The thought of a man marrying a man could never have crossed our mind, unless contemplating Sodom.
But that was before the Revolution. Like the French Revolution, the ‘Progressive’ Left demanded the heads of the aforementioned, and in the name of equality, demanded that equal time be given to perversion and porno and, in the name of free speech, vile language. And they got what they demanded.
But that was only the first baby steps off the trail of innocence. In the years that followed every vile and rank beast has been set free from the cage of indecency, to the enthusiastic applause of the Liberal, and the dismay of the Conservative. And since then the morality of the nation has nose-dived, and much influenced the rest of the free world. Music has now devolved to the Rap of rape, murder, and sadism, with such edifying titles as Kill My Landlord , My Black Azz, Vagina Diner, Bulletproof Wallet and Doggystyle. Today our children and grandchildren face an electronic world on their Iphones laden with access to every form of porno and perversion, death games and music and movies that carry the virus of deceit and violence and cursing and perversion and sexual gender chaos. And God has become persona non grata, forbidden in schools or workplaces or public spaces. And we wonder why we see the young with no hope for the future, covered with tattoos and piercings and drugs, and even mass shooting their classmates at an alarmingly increasing rate?
We as servants of YHVH, unpopular like Noah in his day not so different from ours, speak across a widening chasm where understanding is diminished in the increasing distance. Today a thickening fog of electronic babble and blasphemy surrounds the Earth, clouding and numbing the minds of a generation absorbed and addicted. But we must continue the endeavor, for ultimately all will stand before the Judge, and there hear the verdict of either innocent or its opposite- guilty- and be rewarded accordingly. It is only the Lamb of God who can restore our corrupted minds miraculously back in the resurrection of innocence.
Elhanan ben-Avraham, born in 1945, is a professional artist, poet, writer and father of two, grandfather of four, living in Israel since 1979. He has served in the IDF, taught the Bible internationally, published two illustrated books of poetry, and painted two large Biblical murals in public buildings in Jerusalem, among many other works. He and his wife live in a quiet village in the Mountains of Judah.
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Billy Graham and the Baptism of the Holy Spirit
Several years ago I was preparing a message called, “A History of the Holy Spirit.” I came across this story about Billy Graham from a book called, A Personal Look at Billy Graham, the World’s Best-loved Evangelist, by Sherwood Eliot Wurt. It is one of the most powerful Billy Graham stories I have read. In 1946 he had an experience with the Holy Spirit that changed his life and ministry.
Here is an excerpt from that book:
During his visit to Britain in October 1946, a meeting was arranged at Hildenborough Hall in Kent where Billy was to be introduced to Christian leaders before his evangelistic tour of cities in England, Ireland, and Wales. He arrived in time for the closing service of a youth conference, at which the speaker was Stephen Olford.
Olford, born of missionary parents in Angola, had planned to be an engineer, but a motorcycle accident in England brought him face to face with God while he was recovering in a hospital. He attended St. Luke’s College and served as World War II chaplain to His Majesty’s Forces, who were leaving for the Dunkirk action. Later he became an itinerant evangelist.
At Hildenborough Hall Olford preached a fervent message on the text: “Be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the spirit.”1 When he had finished, he seated himself and rested his head in his hands. He became aware of someone nearby and looked up to see Billy Graham standing over him.
“Mr. Olford,” said Billy, “I just want to ask one question: Why didn’t you give an invitation? I would have been the first one to come forward. You’ve spoken of something that I don’t have. I want the fullness of the Holy Spirit in my life too.”
Billy told his biographer John Pollock, “I was seeking for more of God in my life, and I felt that here was a man who could help me. He had a dynamic, a thrill, an exhilaration about him I wanted to capture.”
They arranged to meet in Wales where Billy was scheduled to preach in a town named Pontypridd, eleven miles from the home of Olford’s parents . In a room in a stone hotel in Pontypridd, Stephen and Billy spent two days together. Billy told Stephen. “This is serious business. I have to learn what this is that the Lord has been teaching you.”
The first day was spent, according to Stephen, “on the Word and on what it really means to expose oneself to the Word in the quiet time.” They spent the hours turning the pages of the Bible, studying passages and verses. Billy prayed, “Lord, I don’t want to go on without knowing this anointing You’ve given my brother.”
That night Billy preached to a small crowd. The sermon was “ordinary,” according to Stephen, and “not the Welsh kind of preaching.” Billy gave an invitation, but the response was sparse.
The next day they met again, and Stephen began concentrating on the work of the Holy Spirit by declaring, “There is no Pentecost without Calvary,” and that we “must be broken” like the apostle Paul, who declared himself “crucified with Christ.” He then told Billy how God completely turned his life inside out. It was, he said, “an experience of the Holy Spirit in His fullness and anointing.” He explained that “where the Spirit is truly Lord over the life, there is liberty, there is release — the sublime freedom of complete submission of oneself in a continuous state of surrender to the indwelling of God’s Holy Spirit.”
According to Stephen, Billy cried, “Stephen, I see it. That’s what I want.” His eyes filled with tears — something rare with Billy. It seems he had no appetite that day, only taking a sip of water occasionally. Stephen continued to expound the meaning of the filling of the Spirit in the life of a believer. He said it meant “bowing daily and hourly to the sovereignty of Christ and to the authority of the Word.”
From talking and discussing, the two men went to their knees praying and praising. It was about midafternoon on the second day that Billy began pouring out his heart “in a prayer of total dedication to the Lord.” According to Stephen, “all heaven broke loose in that dreary little room. It was like Jacob laying hold of God and crying , ‘Lord, I will not let Thee go except Thou bless me.’ ”
They came to a time of rest from prayer. Billy exclaimed, “My heart is so flooded with the Holy Spirit!” They alternately wept and laughed, and Billy began walking back and forth across the room, saying, “I have it! I’m filled. I’m filled. This is the turning point of my life. This will revolutionize my ministry.”
Said Olford, “That night Billy was to speak at a large Baptist church nearby. When he rose to preach, he was a man absolutely anointed.” Billy’s Welsh audience seemed to sense it. They came forward to pray even before the invitation was given. Later when it was given, Olford said, “The Welsh listeners jammed the aisles. There was chaos. Practically the entire audience came rushing forward.”
Stephen drove back to his parents’ home that night, deeply moved by Billy’s new authority and strength. “When I came in the door,” he said later, “my father looked at my face and asked, ‘What on earth has happened?’
“I sat down at the kitchen table said, ‘Dad, something has happened to Billy Graham. The world is going to hear from his man. He is going to make his mark in history.’ ” The heavenly reservoir had overflowed.
A close colleague of Billy’s before Pontypridd, Chuck Templeton, heard the young preacher after that experience. Astonished, Templeton remarked that Billy’s preaching had taken on “a certain magnificence of effect…fascinating…really impressive.”
This article originally appeared on Messiah’s Mandate, February 24, 2018, and reposted with permission.
Ron and wife Elana make their home in Tel Aviv. He serves on the pastoral team of Tiferet Yeshua—the Glory of Yeshua—a Tel Aviv-based, Hebrew-speaking Messianic congregation. Ron is a published author with Destiny Image Publishers, having written books like “Identity Theft”, “Leave Me Alone, I’m Jewish” and “The Jerusalem Secret”. Ron is a sought-out conference speaker and shares passionately about the Jewish Roots of the New Testament and God’s broken heart for His ancient people Israel.
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The significance of the high priest’s breastplate
In the midst of the commandments for the building of the Mishkan (Tabernacle), we find the instructions for the making of the garments that the High Priest was to wear. The details for the High Priest’s clothing are detailed completely from head to foot in Exodus chapter 28. We also know that every detail provided in the Bible was given so that every person reading the Scriptures would in some way be directed or led to Yeshua (Jesus). Each word was framed precisely to make a pathway where, no matter where you start from, the end of the path leads to Yeshua. Every item, no matter how small, was, by design, entered into the text with specificity and is part of the elaborate spiritual GPS system that is always directing or redirecting the reader so that their journey continues toward Yeshua.
In my last blog, I pointed out a connection between the Ark of the Covenant and Yeshua. This week, I want to share just one of the of the ways that the High Priest’s clothing teaches us something about Yeshua.
The High Priest’s clothing contained both undergarments and outer-garments and even provided a miter, or hat, for him to wear. These clothes served very functional purposes, just as our normal clothes serve us today. Whether you are a mechanic or a lawyer, you wear the clothing of your trade.
The instructions for the Priest went beyond normal clothing and included a breastplate, which contained gold chains and precious gemstones. This breastplate was, for all intents and purposes, a beautiful piece of jewelry worn by the High Priest. The breastplate, like all jewelry, was worn to represent something, just as a wedding ring lets people know we are married, or a Star of David necklace would demonstrate a love or support of Israel.
The Breastplate was unique in that it had two focal points instead of one. There were the onyx stones on the shoulder and the gemstones on the chest piece. On each of these focal points were beautiful stones to draw one’s attention and they both included the names of all 12 tribes of Israel. I think we can all see without a lot of discussion that the High Priest represented Yeshua our Perfect High Priest. But why the breastplate? Why the stones? And why the two separate focal points?
Is it possible that the two onyx stones of Exodus 28:9 engraved with the names of Israel, which rested on the shoulders of the High Priest, represents the Priest carrying the sins of all Israel upon his shoulders as intercessor? These two stones were identical in size, shape, and color. They were engraved as a signet – an item used to seal contracts, covenants, or decrees. Showing us that in G-D’s view, all of us who have entered covenant with Him are viewed the same, or as Galatians 3:28 says:
There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female—for you are all one in Messiah Yeshua.
The High Priest, through intercession, carried our sins on his shoulders just as Yeshua would, years later, carry the burden of our cross on His shoulders.
The second focal point of the breastplate were the 12 gemstones of Exodus 28:17-21 that were on the front, which lay over the heart of the High Priest. Unlike the gems on the shoulder piece, these stones were different one from another. Different stones and different colors, but all placed together in unity. Could it be that these stones represent the individuality and diversity of the people that the High Priest would intercede for, just as Yeshua made intercession for all people of all cultures and backgrounds? These stones were not placed upon the shoulders, but rather upon the heart because it takes a work of the heart to truly intercede for diverse people. He didn’t just offer Himself for an entire nation (the onyx stones). He also offered Himself for each one of us individually and personally (the 12 individual stones). It wasn’t simply the strength (shoulder stones) of Yeshua that brought redemption to the world. Remember, He said in Matthew 26:53:
Or do you suppose that I cannot call on My Father, and at once He will place at My side twelve legions of angels?
No, it wasn’t strength and might alone that brought the covenant-promised redemption to Israel. It required a greater power than the Arm of the L-RD; it was the Heart of the L-RD (the heart stones).
It is important to note that the shoulder stones were connected to the heart stones by golden chains. The two groups of stones were connected and only complete when they were together. Just as we can only understand the fullness of the work of our High Priest Yeshua when we understand that the strength of His redemption was a combination of His carrying us upon His shoulders and His heart.
Eric Tokajer is author of With Me in Paradise, Transient Singularity, #ManWisdom, OY! How Did I Get Here?: Thirty-One Things I Wish Someone Had Told Me Before Entering Ministry, Jesus is to Christianity as Pasta is to Italians, and his most recent book God Has No Plan "B".