Patterns of Evidence: Exodus

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My most popular post on this blog has been, by far, Meshing Egyptian and Biblcal Timelines, which has prompted a lot of discussion in its comments section. The issue of Egptian chronology is one I had absolutely no knowledge of before a homeschool World History course I was teaching brought it to my attention. I did a little reading on it, not much, and learned the currently “accepted” chronology allows no evidence for Joseph, Hebrew slaves, or the Exodus within the centuries that line up with a biblical reckoning. I also learned that plenty of scholars, both secular and biblical, hotly debate the accuracy of the “accepted” chonology; there is simply too much they don’t know to put these dates so solidly in stone. And I learned that there happens to be a wealth of archeological evidence to support Joseph and the Israelite presence, as well as their sudden absence, that would fit perfectly with secular history if the “accepted” chronology shifted slightly.

Not long ago, I found a documentary on Netflix entitled Patterns of Evidence: Exodus. It’s well done, clear, concise, interesting, and shows how well the evidence really does line up with the bibilcal account. It also reveals the rigid resistance within the secular archeological community to take the Bible as a reliable historical document or adjust their dates. I thought this would be an excellent time to feature this documentary, as the Passover season and its celebration of the Exodus approaches.

If you don’t have Netflix, Paterns of Evidence: Exodus is also available to stream on Amazon for 3.99.

 

Hold a Seder in Your Home

You don’t have to be Jewish to celebrate Passover. The symbols in the Seder meal point directly to Jesus Christ, the Messiah. As Christians, this holiday takes on significant meaning. But undertaking a festival from a culture you didn’t grow up in can be daunting. So I’ll lay out the resources and recipes that have held me in good stead.

First, read up on the symbols and meanings. This is an excellent Messianic website explaining all the elements of the meal from a Jewish perspective so Christians might understand. Or check out my favorite reference, a book by Barney Kasdan that includes explanation of all the Jewish feasts, God’s Appointed Times. Here are a few of my blog posts you might find helpful, as well. (You can find similar posts covering other Jewish festivals in my “Holidays” category in my sidebar.)

Brush up on the Passover and Easter stories. Reread the Exodus story. Watch the old Ten Commandments  movie. My kids like to compare it to the biblical account. The animated movie Moses, Prince of Egypt is another great one for little guys. After the Exodus story, read the account of Christ’s triumphal entry, the last supper, the crucifixion. The Passion of the Christ is another excellent movie night choice for older kids. Then talk about how Jesus fulfilled the picture of the original Passover.

Plan a Seder dinner. It’s not hard. The downloadable documents below will give you a hand. Keep Kosher dietary rules in mind. Yeast is an important symbol in this meal and is completely avoided. Meijer and other big food stores will have boxes of Matzah (yeast-free bread like crackers) in their ethnic food sections. Milk combined with meat is another obscure rule for this meal that I usually ignore. We’re not really bound to the food rules, but I do follow the “no yeast” and the general “no pork” rules.

The Haggadah file below will be your best friend. Let me say that again. The Haggadah file below will be your best friend. This is the traditional “script” that is placed at every seat and followed the same way each year. It ties in the Exodus story and explains the symbols used during the meal. A Messianic script, which this is, also explains how each symbol points to Christ. It also explains all the symbols and items necessary and helps immensely with meal set up. Read it next. Take notes. I’ve posted it on my blog here, but the file below is formatted and printable (and updated from the blog post).

Seder Haggadah

You will also need a Seder Plate. The symbols used on the plate are explained in the Haggadah. Festive plates are available for purchase online but not necessary. Make your own using a nice platter and small bowls. (It calls for a lamb bone as one of the symbols. I use a chicken bone.)

Traditional recipes:

A few planning helps:

  • Seder checklist (Includes items mentioned in Haggadah.)
  • Food sign up list (This is the actual list I’m using this year. It might help you gauge numbers and dishes.)

Have fun! Hosting a Passover Seder is a great way to fellowship, teach Old Testament Jewish culture, and connect it to Christ’s death and resurrection. It gives a much deeper appreciation of Easter.

The Deliverer

I’ve been very lax at posting here lately. Mostly just plain busyness. But this month I want to share a story I wrote years ago. So long ago, in fact, that it took a good deal of editing before I was willing to post it here. I hope it turns your thoughts to the Savior. Have a blessed holiday season!

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The Deliverer

Rebecca collapsed into a chair and heaved a deep sigh. She tucked a few strands of graying hair behind her ears and mopped at the perspiration on her forehead with an edge of her garment. Never could she remember such a week! The town was bustling like a port city, and business was booming!

She allowed herself only a short break before hoisting her ample body from the chair. Supper preparations must begin for those guests taking a meal. She had barely begun when there came yet another knock on her door. Wiping her hands on her apron, she hustled to answer it but saw the stooped figure of her husband already there.

“I’m sorry,” he was saying, “we can’t help you,” and he started to close the door. But someone on the other side pushed it open again.

“Please,” spoke a desperate male voice. “Can’t you offer us anything? I have money. I’ll give you double your price.”

Curiosity piqued, Rebecca glanced around her husband. Before her stood a strong young man, very dark, and covered with dust. He looked like all the others. Then she saw his companion. A woman, a girl really, sat upon a donkey. Her brown hair hung in damp strands around her face, and her shoulders slumped in exhaustion over a very swollen belly. Rebecca clucked her tongue in motherly concern.

“I really am sorry, but I let out my last room days ago. You’ll have to look elsewhere,” her husband said and closed the door firmly.

As he turned to walk away, Rebecca placed the whole of her bulk directly in his path. With hands on her hips, she scowled at him. “Josiah, how could you send that girl away? You know very well there is nowhere else.”

Josiah stood a bit straighter and defended himself. “Where would we put them? We’ve been turning folks away for days.”

“We can at least make them comfortable in the stable. That poor girl is at her wit’s end. Didn’t you see her lip quivering?”

The man stooped again in resignation as his wife pushed past him. He’d grown accustomed to her headstrong ways.

Rebecca opened the door and called to the couple. “We have room in the stable if you don’t mind boarding with the animals.”

Relief flooded their weary faces, and the young man quickly accepted.

Rebecca led them to a small shelter at the rear of the inn, part brick and part rock. “There, there, dear,” she said and patted the girl’s hand. “We’ll soon have you comfortable. I’ll bring blankets and a bucket of water for bathing. Just let me know if you need anything else.”

The girl gave her a tired smile. “We’re very grateful.”

“It’s no bother, dear. No bother.”

Rebecca scurried around gathering the promised items and sent Josiah to the stable with them. Then she returned to her supper preparations, adding enough for two more. The evening passed in a bustle of activity. At last, with her kitchen spotless and all guests settled for the night, she put her feet up before an open window, enjoying the balmy breeze. She sat there long into the darkness, listening to the city put itself to bed, and just as she prepared to do the same, a knock sounded at the door.

“Not again,” she said. She hated turning so many people away. But behind the door stood the young man from the stable, looking extremely uncomfortable.

“I’m sorry to bother you this late, ma’am, but I think my wife’s time has come, and I don’t know the first thing about birthing.”

Rebecca responded instantly. “Don’t you worry, dear. I’ve had six babies myself and presided at more births than I can remember. Go make the girl as comfortable as possible. I’ll set some water on to boil and be along directly. Josiah,” she called, waking her husband. “Fetch some clean linens. Go, go, go,” she said, shooing both men on their way.

The stable was warm and fragrant. The animals made low sounds, and Joseph paced anxiously wherever he found room. Rebecca stayed with the laboring girl, encouraging her and wiping her sweating brow. At last, far into the night, she gave birth to a baby boy.

Rebecca wrapped him in a warm cloth and cradled him in her arms. As she gazed at the tiny face, she felt a familiar fluttering in her chest. “Babies bring such joy,” she smiled as she laid the child in his mother’s arms. “He’s beautiful. What will you call him?”

“His name is Jesus,” said the man hovering at the girl’s side. Love and relief mingled on his weary face.

Rebecca did what she could for the mother, then, with a final, “Don’t hesitate to ask if you need anything else,” she slipped from the stable, leaving the new family alone. Exhausted, she crawled into bed beside the snoring Josiah.

Some time later, Rebecca awoke with a start. Loud shouting drifted in the open window from the street below. Looking outside, she saw a handful of men running up the road. They hurried from building to building, pounding on doors and shouting through windows.

“Josiah,” she whispered anxiously. No response. “Josiah!” She poked him hard.

“Wha…?” The man awoke with a start.

“Did they wake you up too?” she asked sweetly. Now she could hear angry curses being thrown down at the men from bedroom windows. “Go see what’s going on.”

Josiah muttered under his breath as he crawled from under the covers. Rebecca waited only a moment before grabbing a wrap and joining him outside the front door. By now, the men were close enough that she could see their ragged clothes.

“It’s just a bunch of drunks who wandered away from their herds,” Josiah said and went back inside. But Rebecca remained.

One of the shepherds rushed forward. “The angels came!” he blurted. “Thousands of them. They told us the Messiah has been born tonight here in Bethlehem. Do you know where we can find him?”

Rebecca’s heart did a tremendous back flip. Could it be? But the notion was ridiculous. She’d seen the baby with her own eyes. There was nothing special about him.

The shepherd grabbed her by both arms. “You know something! Please tell me. The angel said we would find him in a manger.”

Rebecca’s eyes grew round as the moon. “Th-there is a baby…” she stuttered.

The shepherd let out a whoop. “Over here, boys!” he yelled. Suddenly, Rebecca was surrounded by stinking, jostling shepherds, all babbling at once. “Where’s the baby?” “Have you seen him?” “Where can we find him?”

She motioned for silence. “There was a baby born in the stable out back. We didn’t have any rooms available, so we had to—” but nobody was listening. With shouts of joy, the shepherds ran to the stable, leaving her talking to herself.

“Now just a minute!” she admonished, rushing after them as fast as her bulk would allow. “They don’t need you lot disturbing them.”

She entered the stable prepared to do battle, but the scene stopped her short. The baby snuggled on his mother’s lap, waving a tiny fist in the air. Every last one of the men were bowed in reverent silence. The girl wore a tired smile, and her husband laid a protective hand on her shoulder. Someone murmured, “The Messiah.”

The word bounced off the rocky walls, and Rebecca’s mouth dropped open. She gaped at the young mother who nodded with shining eyes.

The Messiah–born in her barn! With tears in her eyes, Rebecca sank to the stable floor and joined the band of ragged, dirty men celebrating the arrival of the One promised so long ago. What an honor God had granted her. She had helped deliver the One born to deliver her!

Peace on Earth: Reflections on Christmas, Newtown, and Heaven

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“Peace on Earth, goodwill toward men.”

Christmas is the season when our hearts resonate with these words. We long for wars to end, for humans to demonstrate love, friendship, and understanding toward one another. How many wistful songs are written about this? How many poems and greeting cards? Peace is one of our most basic desires. It’s what the angels promised. But this weekend, in the midst of our seasonal celebration of peace, I wept as a young man opened fire on a room full of first graders.

How do we reconcile such a promise with a world full of Adam Lanzas, Charles Mansons, Adolf Hitlers? We can’t. That promise hasn’t taken effect yet. It was given at the first coming of the Prince of Peace, but it’s fulfillment must wait for Christ’s second coming. When he returns, Jesus Christ will rein for a thousand years. It will be a period unlike any this earth has ever know. Imagine an absolutely perfect ruler with perfect judgement, perfect justice, perfect laws. Yet, the millennial kingdom is only a picture of heaven. There will still be a final rebellion. Only after it is put down, after the wicked are judged and the heavens and earth are renewed will the angel’s prophecy reach it’s complete fulfillment.

I’ve been reading a good deal about heaven lately, and the more I learn, the more I long for it. I’m excited to realize it will be here on earth! The earth was created as the perfect habitat for people, with its atmosphere, water supply, temperature, beauty, and seasons, and that plan has never been revoked. Because Christ inserted himself into his own creation and sacrificed himself for that creation, everything he made will be remade. That redemptive work is much more far reaching than we realize. Every effect of sin will be rectified. Every effect! Anything less would be a victory for Satan.

That means earth will again be “very good,” with no sickness, no death, no drought, with food enough for all and people who will no longer even be tempted to sin. Animals, once created as immortal companions to humanity, will be renewed, gentled, and perfected (yes, I believe that means the original animals). My garden will grow without weeds. Stars, mountains, plants, earth’s natural resources, the food chain, all will revert to God’s original plan. The earth will once again be given to humanity to govern–we won’t fail this time–and the New Jerusalem, God’s own city, will come down to us

That, perhaps, is the most thrilling to me. God will not require us to “go to heaven” as some disembodied spirit doing unfamiliar things in some alien realm. God can exist as such. We cannot. We were created as physical beings, we’ll be resurrected as physical beings, and we will do familiar, physical things in the familiar, physical world that was prepared for us. God will enter our world and make himself accessible to us forever. How absolutely amazing is that?!

Since we will be in bodily form on the renewed earth, I think our heavenly existence will be much like the one we now experience. There will be dining, travel, music, work, leisure, friends, outings, sports, and celebrations. But there will be no sin to mar any of it. No disease. No death. All our separations will be temporary. There will be no famine, no war, no school shootings, not even anger. And we will meet Jesus. Finally, the peace we long for will be realized.

I weep for those who lost children and loved ones this weekend. As a mom with a child the same age as the Newtown victims, my heart is heavy. This world sucks. I have not lost a child, but I live with Crohn’s disease. My son has dyslexia. Marriage is a constant struggle. And my dog just lost a leg to cancer. I’ve experienced the effects of sin firsthand, and I long for their removal. But the promise of heaven is only purchased through Christ’s death and resurrection, and only those who accept his sacrifice for the payment of their sin are eligible to experience it.

If you’ve encountered the Child of Bethlehem, this Christmas you can join me in anticipating the day when “Peace on Earth” will become a reality on earth.

Shalom

Passover is only two weeks away. I’ve fallen in love with this holiday in the three years we’ve been celebrating it. It completes Easter for me. It puts the crucifixion in context. And I anticipate the Seder dinner with friends and family nearly as much as Christmas.

Even if you don’t want to hassle with a Seder, I’d encourage you to consider the educational value of simply learning about Passover with your kids. The week of Easter, read the Exodus story together. Each year, my family watches the old Ten Commandments  movie.  (I found it new on ebay for two bucks.) My kids like comparing it with the actual Bible account.  The animated movie Moses, Prince of Egypt is another great one for little guys. After the Exodus story, read the account of Christ’s triumphal entry, the last supper, the crucifixion. The Passion of the Christ would be another excellent movie night choice for older kids. Then talk about how Jesus fulfilled the picture of the original Passover.  From a doctrinal standpoint, Easter is more important than Christmas. Take advantage of this season to teach it to your kids.

If you want more information, scan my categories for Jewish holidays. There’s some basic, interesting stuff in there to get you started.

Hanukkah Candles

Tonight, I am watching the flicker of five colored candles.  It’s the fourth night of Hanukkah.

I’m not Jewish, but I’ve claimed this beautiful holiday as my own.  The four candles on either side of center remind me of the awesome miracles God sometimes chooses to perform.  There is nothing too difficult for him, certainly not the simple task of stretching one day’s worth of oil to last eight days.  The victory he gave a small band of peasants over the greatest army in the world is far more amazing.  Yet, if He had allowed the Greeks to destroy the Jewish people, His promise to send a Deliverer would have been wiped out with them.  And God is a God of his word.

The middle candle reminds me that God did, indeed, fulfill his promise.  It is the candle that stands above the others, the one used to light the others.  The shamash, it is called.  The servant.

How approapriate that Hanukkah ushers in the celebration of the birth of the Promised One, the birth of the Servant.  How appropriate that the Light of the World is represented by a lit candle elevated above all others.  What beauty, what celebration fills a room with a lighted menorah.  What joy and gratitude wells within me.

Happy Hanukkah, everyone.  And a blessed season remembering Messiah’s birth.

Sukkot

We have reached the last Old Testament feast. Sukkot, also called the Feast of Tabernacles, is an eight-day holiday that begins five days after Yom Kippur. After the solemnity of the High Holy days, Sukkot is a light-hearted feast of Thanksgiving for the bounty of the harvest. In fact, it is widely believed that Sukkot was the template for the Pilgrim’s celebration.

But Sukkot has a second, more important theme. In Leviticus 23:33-44, God outlines the instructions for observing the Feast of Tabernacles, including the command to live in booths for seven days. This is done to commemorate the forty years Israel spent wandering in the desert, the years in which God dwelt among them.

Herein is the key to Sukkot’s prophetic fulfillment. As you recall, only the spring festivals have been completed with some important event in scripture. God has yet to bring about the rest of his plan. As the very last festival, Sukkot’s fulfillment will be the most distant, when all others have come to pass. Just as God dwelt with His people in the wilderness, so He has promised to dwell with them for all eternity. The second to the last chapter in the Bible, Rev. 21, begins, “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them (italics mine). They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God.’” What an awesome picture Sukkot is!

As with all the other feasts, Sukkot also points straight to Messiah. In fact, the apostle John paints Jesus’ birth in terms of Sukkot. “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14). This, along with other evidence, has led many to believe Christ may even have been born during Sukkot. (See my post “When was Jesus really born?” under the Christmas category.) Clearly, Sukkot points to the incarnation of Messiah.

While researching this holiday, I came to understand one other very interesting fact. Sukkot, in Bible times, included a pilgrimage to Jerusalem. On the last night of the festival, a priest would take a pitcher to the Pool of Siloam and carry water back to the temple. Jubilant crowds would form a parade behind him and snake through town, singing and praising. You can imagine the celebration! The priest would then dramatically pour the water out at the Temple alter and the crowds would go wild! Why? The symbolism was two-fold. First, it was a supplication to God for the winter rains on which their crops depended, an act of trust in his physical provision. But second, water was a symbol of salvation. Isaiah 12:3 reads, “With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation.” The pouring out of water was an acknowledgement of God’s promised spiritual provision of salvation.

This background information puts into context another event recorded in John’s gospel. “On the last and greatest day of the Feast (of Tabernacles), Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him” (John 7:37-38).

Imagine! Just as the priest is pouring out the water before a jubilant crowd, Jesus stood up and made a very bold claim. You better believe those in attendance knew exactly what he was telling them. “I am the Messiah! I am the way of salvation!” God has provided for His people. Knowing this, what Christian wouldn’t want to celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles?

Traditional Jewish observance begins with the building of a sukkah, a booth. It’s a temporary structure built out of whatever materials are handy and decorated with a harvest theme. Families eat at least one meal inside. Some live in it for the week. I hope to sleep at least one night in ours with my kids, depending on the weather.

Of course, the holiday kicks off at dusk with a special meal which features many harvest foods. Before eating, the candles are lit, the wine and the challah are blessed, then special blessings are said over a palm branch and a citron, a fruit from Israel. This comes from Leviticus 23:40 “On the first day (of the festival) you are to take choice fruit from the trees, and palm fronds, leafy branches and poplars, and rejoice before the LORD your God for seven days.” And, of course, participants remember the forty years in the desert when God dwelt among His people. My kids and I, as believers in Yeshua, on the eve of our first Sukkot, will also be looking ahead to the time we will dwell with Him forever.

Yom Kippur

Yom Kippur, or the Day of Atonement, is the second fall feast and considered the holiest day of the year. It’s the day the Jewish high priest entered the Holy of Holies in the temple and offered sacrifices for the sins of Israel. This regeneration completes the repentance begun during Rosh Hashanah ten days earlier. It is a time of joyful optimism that Israel has been made right in the eyes of God for another year.

Yet the system has some obvious flaws. Hebrews 10 explains that the old way could not take away guilt. “Just the opposite happened: those yearly sacrifices remind them of their disobedience and guilt instead of relieving their minds. For it is not possible for the blood of bulls and goats really to take away sins (TLB).” The old system illustrated the need for a perfect sacrifice, made once, to cover all sin. The Day of Atonement points out the need for Messiah, and Jesus Christ completed it on the cross. Now, “he cancels the first system in favor of a far better one. Under this new plan we have been forgiven and made clean by Christ’s dying for us once and for all…there is no need to offer more sacrifices to get rid of them…Now we may walk right into the Holy of Holies where God is, because of the blood of Jesus (TLB).”

Yet Yom Kippur is not a fully realized holiday. There remains prophecy that has not yet come to pass. Just as Rosh Hashanah predicts a future day when Israel will look in repentance to the one they have pierced (Zech. 12:10), so Yom Kippur looks to the day God will regenerate his chosen people. “Israel has experienced a hardening in part until the full number of the Gentiles has come in. And so all Israel will be saved, as it is written: ‘The deliverer will come from Zion; he will turn godlessness away from Jacob. And this is my covenant with them when I take away their sins’” (Rom. 11:25-27). I am thrilled that God has allowed for a time for Gentiles. He’s allowing me into the kingdom! But at the second coming, God will turn the hearts of Israel back to himself. That is the future fulfillment of Yom Kippur.

Since the temple was destroyed in 70 AD, this High Holy Day is no longer observed with the sacrifices of Bible times. Today its defining feature is a Biblically-prescribed fast (Lev. 23:26-32). The holiday begins with a festive meal similar to the one eaten at Rosh Hashanah. Sweet wine, honey cake and other sweet foods are eaten, again in hopes of a sweet new year. Challah is shaped as a ladder, hand, or bird with the hope that prayers and atonement will reach heaven. At sundown, a twenty-four hour fast begins, in which no food drink or luxuries may be partaken of. Jews spend much of the evening and the next day in synagogue services, seeking atonement for another year before breaking the fast at sundown with another sweet, light meal.

What an excellent time to pray for the salvation of Israel! May God’s chosen ones come to understand during these harvest days of thankfulness for God’s physical provision that he has provided spiritually as well. Atonement has already been made for them! That will be my own prayer this year as my kids and I participate in this ancient holiday for the very first time.

Rosh Hashanah

In my ongoing study of the Jewish feasts, I’ve learned that there are three fall holy days, all occurring within a three week period. Rosh Hashanah is the first. Also called the Feast of Trumpets, its name literally means “Head of the Year,” not because it is the beginning of the Hebrew calendar (it takes place in the seventh month) but because its message of repentance is so important it is considered the start of a new spiritual year. It marks the beginning of the Jewish High Holy days which conclude ten days later with Yom Kippur.

Rosh Hashanah is a time to take stock of the heart and turn it once again toward God. It’s a collective regathering of the people. Lev. 23:23-25 spells out God’s instructions. Specifically, a trumpet (a ram’s horn called a shofar) is to be sounded. In ancient times, the shofar was blown in anticipation of a king’s appearance. Each year on this holy day, the Jews spiritually “appear before God” in anticipation of judgment. The shofar is a reminder to prepare, to make sure their lives are aligned with God’s commands. This repentance is closely tied to Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. Traditionally, the forty days before Yom Kippur (thirty days before Rosh Hashanah) are an important time of preparation, and the shofar is sounded each morning.

Rosh Hashanah takes place just prior to the fall harvest and provides an excellent time to thank God for his provision. The symbol of the harvest is very significant when contemplating the prophetic nature of this feast. It is important to note that while all three of the spring festivals have been fulfilled, the fall feasts have not. In many places, scripture speaks of the harvest as the time God will bring about a new order. “Then another angel came out of the temple and called in a loud voice to him who was sitting on the cloud, ‘Take your sickle and reap, because the time to reap has come, for the harvest of the earth is ripe’’’ (Rev. 14:14). So we may assume these three fall festivals will be fulfilled during the end times. And as the spring festivals were fulfilled rapidly, within fifty days of each other, my guess is that once God brings the first fall feast to completion, the others will follow relatively soon.

So how will God fulfill Rosh Hashanah? The shofar may give us our best clue. It is often mentioned in reference to the gathering of the saints. “For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God (shofar), and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever” (I Th. 4:16-17). It seems Rosh Hashanah is a picture of the rapture. God says no man knows the day or the hour, so this could be dangerous speculation, but God orchestrated some powerful events on Passover, First Fruits and Shavuot. Could it be that the rapture will take place on Rosh Hashanah? What an exciting possibility!

There seems to be a second fulfillment to Rosh Hashanah that I don’t fully understand. Scripture indicates a gathering of the Jewish remnant in the later days that will be commenced with a shofar blast. Matthew 24:31 reads, “And he will send his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of the heavens to the other.” And Isaiah 27:12-13 says, “In that day the LORD will thresh from the flowing Euphrates to the Wadi of Egypt, and you, O Israelites, will be gathered up one by one. And in that day a great trumpet will sound. Those who were perishing in Assyria and those who were exiled in Egypt will come and worship the LORD on the holy mountain in Jerusalem.” Is this the same as the rapture? Or Christ’s second coming? It remains mysterious to me.

Until its fulfillment, however, the Feast of Trumpets will continue to be observed. Traditionally, this involves a special meal at sundown with slightly altered blessings. The customary candlesticks should be white this time, to signify the purity being sought through repentance. The wine is sweetened, and challah is round instead of braided and contains raisins, in anticipation of a full, sweet year. Several other sweet foods are eaten as well, like tzimmes (carrots and honey), honey cake and apples dipped in honey, all to signify the sweetness of life brought into accord with God.

Rosh Hashanah has one more interesting event. It is traditional for a family to visit a body of water and toss pebbles into it, illustrating how God removes our sin when we ask forgiveness. “You will hurl all our iniquities into the depths of the sea” (Micah 7:19). The New Testament tells us how God has already made provision for the forgiveness of sins through his Son, the Messiah. He has promised that “if we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” (I John 1:9). This ancient Tashlich service is a beautiful illustration of grace.

Rosh Hashanah is a sober time, a time of serious contemplation and repentance, but it is also a time of joy and hope, both for God’s provision (spiritually as well as physically) and for the assurance that God DOES forgive. Both themes, you will notice, point straight to the Messiah. What beautiful lessons God laid out in this holy day! How excited I am to be leading my family in their discovery this year!

The Summer in Between

Many of you know that my kids and I have been studying the Jewish holidays this year. We have already worked our way through the three spring feasts: Passover, First Fruits, and Shavuot. (You can read what we have learned so far in my “Jewish” category.) Three more occur in the fall: Rosh HaShanah, Yom Kippur and Sukkot. These mysterious holidays still feel strange on my tongue, but I’m looking forward to researching and experiencing them when the calendar rolls us closer. But right now we are in the summer months in between – a very interesting place to be.

You see, these six holidays were given to the Jewish people by God himself so they might know him. They are a revelation of his personhood. But they also serve as sort of a road map for his great plan. God knows exactly what he’s going to do before he brings Time to a close, and he has laid out many clues in these feasts. The first three, the spring festivals, have been fulfilled. (Again, see former posts.) The last three, which will take place in the fall, have not yet come to pass. So figuratively, we are in the long, hot summer before the harvest.

“Now learn this lesson from the fig tree: As soon as its twigs get tender and its leaves come out, you know that summer is near. Even so, when you see all these things, you know that it is near, right at the door.” (Matt. 24:32-33, NIV)

Are we ready for that harvest? Are we watching for the signs? I know I’m eager to gain a better understanding of it, and I’ll share my findings as the last three holidays grow nearer.