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 It also reveals the rigid resistance within the secular archeological community to take the Bible as a reliable historical document or adjust their dates.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.

 

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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.

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!