When I was a child, Good Friday was always a very serious day. Banks and some places of business were closed from noon until three, kids were supposed to be very quiet during these hours, and I was convinced that the sun never shone on Good Friday afternoon. It was a very serious religious day. The church service was always quiet, the cross was draped in black and sometimes the lights would grow more dim as the service progressed, ending the service in the dark. It was kind of scary. We didn’t understand everything, but we knew we had to be quiet AND serious.
The term Good Friday has evolved over the years. The English phrase “Good Friday” came from the Old German name Gottes Freytag which means “good” or “holy” Friday. In the present time the Germans call the day Karfreigta, which means “Care Friday” of “Friday of Mourning.” Other nicknames include “Black Friday,” (not to be confused with the day after Thanksgiving) or “Sorrowful Friday.” 1 Even when I was very young, I began to question why everyone was so sad about it. It was the day Jesus paid for my sins…a debt that I couldn’t begin to pay. He went to the cross so I didn’t have to go to hell. I thought this should be something to be happy about.
When it becomes a day of mourning instead of thanksgiving, the question comes up “Who is responsible for this death we are mourning?” There are two possible answers: the most common one is the Jews! The term “Christ killers” has been used against Jews for centuries. If you want to get it historically correct, the Jews had no power of crucifixion. It was the Romans who gave the death sentence. (I don’t see anyone blaming Italians.) The second response is more correct — my sin! However, that can cause a problem if Good Friday is a day of mourning for my sins, the focus can become my sin instead of my Savior! Focusing on sin allows the enemy to bring new accusations against us, even for old sins. Why should we spend time meditating on sins that have already been forgiven? In Isaiah 43:25 the Lord Himself says “I, I am he who blots out your transgressions for my own sake, and I will not remember your sins.” Now, if there are sins we haven’t repented of, mourning is still not the answer….repentance is.
Another problem was the math--I knew even as a child that Jesus said He would be in the grave for three days and three nights. No matter how I counted it out, Friday just didn’t work! Those who chose Good Friday negated the fact that the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus were all related to Passover! He couldn’t have died on a Friday.
You might ask, “What’s the difference when we celebrate the Lord’s crucifixion? After all, isn’t the important part the fact that it happened? And besides, we celebrate Christmas, and we know Jesus wasn’t born December 25.”
The connection with the Spring Feasts of the Lord is the answer: Passover, Unleavened Bread and First Fruits. The chart below shows the correct sequence of events regarding the death, burial, and resurrection of our Lord during the Biblical month of Nisan from the 14th – 18th.
Separating what has come to be known as Holy Week or Passion Week from the Spring Feasts of the Lord happened in 324 CE; the Council of Nicaea established that Easter would be held on the first Sunday after the first Full Moon occurring on or after the vernal equinox, which is usually March 21. This decision wasn’t made just to keep the date consistent; it was made to remove from the church anything connected to Jews. The basis for moving the date was anti-Semitism! The following is from an article which discusses the Council’s decision.
… And first of all, it appeared an unworthy thing that in the celebration of this most holy feast, we should follow the practice of the Jews, who have impiously defiled their hands with enormous sin, and are, therefore, deservedly afflicted with blindness of soul….Let us then have nothing in common with the detestable Jewish crowd, for we have received from our Savior a different way….and consequently, in unanimously adopting this mode, we desire, dearest brethren, to separate ourselves from the detestable company of the Jews, for it is truly shameful for us to hear them boast that without their direction we could not keep this feast… it is our duty not to have anything in common with the murderers of our Lord.2
Apparently the fourth century church forgot something that many today often forget: JESUS WAS A JEW! The Bible was written almost totally by Jewish people. God calls these feasts not the Jewish Feasts, but the Feasts of the Lord.
God was very specific in describing the dates and times of Jesus’ death. Why? He wanted us to see how Jesus fulfilled the Feasts that have been celebrated from the times of Moses. Understanding that Jesus fulfilled these ancient feasts to the exact day and time, would make it almost impossible to deny that Jesus is Messiah.
Passover was so important to God that He made the month in which it occurred the beginning of the year (Exodus 12:2). On the Jewish calendar, a month begins with the sighting of the new moon, so the months don’t directly match the months of our western calendar. The chart below shows the relationship of the calendars.
Overview of Spring Feasts
• The Feast of Passover comes first (Nisan 14) and is followed directly by the Feast of Unleavened Bread (on Nisan 15).
• The Feast of Unleavened Bread is the longest of the three Spring feasts, lasting for seven days.
• After the Feast of Unleavened Bread, comes the Feast of First Fruits, which is celebrated the Sunday following Passover.
• Sometimes all three feasts are collectively referred to as the Feast of Unleavened Bread and sometimes all three are called Passover (Acts 20:6; Luke 22:1).
Let’s look at the details set out in Exodus 12:1-14, 21-27
• On the tenth day each man is to take a year-old lamb without blemish for his household.
• They were to watch over the lamb until the 14th day. It became part of the family for those days.
• The whole congregation are to slaughter their lambs at twilight
• The blood was put on the two doorposts and the crossbeam of the house
• The meal had to be eaten that night (now it is the 15th) with matzot and bitter herbs
• If there were any leftovers, they must be burned in the morning.
• They were to eat it dressed and ready to travel
• This day must be a memorial throughout the generations
On Day 1 of the Feast of Unleavened Bread, Nisan 15, the Israelites left Egypt in haste. (Exodus 12:31 – 34, 39).
The Feast of Firstfruits was to take place when they entered the land; it was to occur on the first Sunday after Passover. On this Sunday the priest would wave a sheaf (omer) of green barley of the new harvest before the LORD (north, south, east, then west) as a symbolic gesture of dedicating the coming harvest to Him. As they returned to the Temple with the sheaves, the choir of Levites led the worship music with these words from Psalm 30:1-3– “I will extol You, O LORD, for You have lifted me up, and have not let my foes rejoice over me. O LORD my God, I cried out to You, and You healed me. O LORD, You brought my soul up from the grave; You have kept me alive…”
Jesus Fulfilled the Spring Feasts
Nisan 10, Lamb Selection Day was what we call Palm Sunday (which probably wasn’t Sunday, but Saturday), Jesus’ Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem. Up until that day, Jesus had avoided being called king, but on that day, He not only accepted the praise, He deliberately arranged for it to happen. “Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold your King is coming to you; He is just and having salvation. Lowly and riding on a donkey, a colt, the foal of a donkey.“ Zechariah 9:9
According to Exodus 12, the people kept their lambs for four days examining them to be sure they were without blemish. What was Jesus doing during those four days? After his triumphal entry on Nisan 10, Jesus spent the next four days in the temple area: the lamb was on display for all to examine. “And in the daytime, He was teaching in the temple, but at night He went out and stayed on the mountain called Olivet. Then early in the morning all the people came to Him in the temple to hear Him.” Luke 21:37-38
Jesus the Passover meal with His disciples the beginning of Nisan 14. (Remember, that the Jewish day begins in the evening —“the evening and the morning were the first day” from Genesis) The only thing is they didn’t have a lamb at that meal. It was there that Jesus presented Himself as the Lamb. “This is my body given for you; do this is remembrance of me.” Luke 22:19
We know Jesus was arrested after the Passover meal and condemned to die. He was on the cross on Nissan 14 from nine in the morning until three in afternoon, and at the exact time that the Passover lambs were being killed at the temple, Jesus said “It is finished.”
Jesus was buried on Unleavened Bread. Remember there was a rush to get the victims of crucifixion off the crosses before the high holy day…the special Sabbath being the first day of Unleavened Bread (Thursday). If the Sabbath referred to had been a regular Saturday Sabbath, when would the women have had time to prepare the spices they were bringing to the tomb before dawn on Sunday morning? They would have been forbidden to do that work on the Sabbath. The events of Jesus’ arrest and crucifixion happened in rapid succession; they couldn’t have planned for it. Friday was the only day they could have shopped for and prepared the spices.
Jesus rose from the dead on First Fruits. First Fruits is always the day after the regular Sabbath after Passover (always a Sunday). “But now Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who are asleep.” 1 Corinthians 15:20
Summary of the Spring Feasts
• Passover represents our salvation and deliverance by the sacrifice of the Lamb of God, Jesus the Messiah. We are justified by trusting in the sacrificial blood of the Lamb of God (Revelation 7:14; 2 Corinthians 5:21).
• Unleavened Bread represents our sanctification as we rid ourselves of the old leaven of “Egypt” and die to the carnal nature. This is represented by the burial of Jesus and our identification with Him.
• First Fruits represents the resurrection of Jesus our Messiah and our future glorified state as part of the coming harvest of God at the end of the age.
So, I stopped celebrating Good Friday because it doesn’t fit anywhere in the biblical story of Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection. So the question remains: Should we move Easter to line it up with First Fruits? That’s a hard one because it is so ingrained in our culture. I leave it at this–I am always very happy when Resurrection Sunday falls on the day of First Fruits, as it does this year (2022). Even though Passover doesn’t begin until Friday this year (2022), First Fruits is Sunday.
May you have a blessed Resurrection Sunday!
Romans 14:5-6a (NKJV) “One person esteems one day above another; another esteems every day alike. Let each be fully convinced in his own mind. He who observes the day, observes it to the Lord; and he who does not observe the day, to the Lord he does not observe it.”
2“Israel Betrayed: The History of Replacement Theology.” Published by Ariel Ministries in 2019.
Sue Priebe is the Pastor of City of Hope Church in Janesville, Wisconsin, and serves on the Board of Directors for Women of the Word. She is passionate about teaching the Word of God in ways that are relevant and applicable to daily life. She also has a deep love for Israel and travels there frequently connecting with believers there and teaching God’s Word on location.
I’m going to share today something of the mystery of the Bride, and it will surely touch upon the subject of Israel, because the mystery of the Bride includes so many things. And this is what we want really to understand today. The book of Revelation, which you can say is the consummation of the revelation of God from Genesis to the end of the Bible, focuses particularly on the mystery of the Bride who makes herself ready for the coming King. And if that’s the focus and that’s the high point of the book, which I do believe it is, then I believe that the Lord would have us give this subject great priority in our lives. And it is a subject that needs much time so I will try to focus on some of the points I think are essential for us to hear today.
I would like to say that the mystery of the Bride is both an inner and outer reality. An inner reality, because it firstly speaks about our individual and our collective relationship of love and intimacy with the Bridegroom, Yeshua. And of course, an outer reality, because it works in a process that God is working on the earth in connection to Israel, Jerusalem and the nations to bring forth finally the incarnation, one can say, of the finished work of redemption of Yeshua—which is seen at the end of the book of Revelation in the marriage supper of the Lamb, which is the great goal of redemption, that is the thing that we can say that is written of in Isaiah 53, “…He will see the travail of his soul and be pleased…” (vs 11). And there is nothing more for… than the Bride …who can really bring that great pleasure to the Lord, for she is the one who fully appreciates and yields herself to the Lord for the fulfillment of that mystery in her life.
So I would like to begin with some readings, we’ll begin with a reading from: Revelation chapter 10:7 “but in the days of the sounding of the seventh angel when he is about to sound, the mystery of God would be finished as he declared it to his servants the prophets.”
And then in Revelation 11:1-2 “Then I was given a reed like a measuring rod and the angel stood, saying, “Rise and measure the Temple of God”…(and I believe this is speaking of the Temple of Living Stones and not a temple on the temple mount as many and most think.)…..”measure the Temple of God, the altar, and those who worship there. 2) “But leave out the court which is outside the Temple, and do not measure it….”
And let’s read now: Revelation 19: 6-10 “And I heard, as it were, the voice of a great multitude, as the sound of many waters and as the sound of mighty thunderings, saying, “Alleluia! For the Lord God Omnipotent reigns!” 7 “Let us be glad and rejoice and give Him glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and His wife has made herself ready.” 8 And to her it was granted to be arrayed in fine linen, clean and bright, for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints. 9 Then he said to me, “Write!: ‘Blessed are those who are called to the marriage supper of the Lamb!” And he said to me, “These are the true sayings of God.” 10 And I fell at his feet to worship him. But he said to me, “See that you do not do that! I am your fellow servant, and of your brethren who have the testimony of Jesus. Worship God! For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.
And as I was saying, just a few moments ago, I believe that the bride of Messiah, though obviously the whole church of the Lord is called to be part of that Bride and that bridal company, if we look more closely even to the messages to the seven churches in the book of Revelation…and beyond that…we can understand that though the whole church is invited to be the Bride, the Bride is that part of the church that responds to the Lord in a very deep and real way. And understands, the admonitions of the Lord and the encouragements of the Lord the whole way long, that God would bring us finally to this great and wonderful marriage supper of the Lamb when we come into full union with the Lord. And this of course is a process and it’s a mystery. It’s a mystery because it expresses the ultimate reality of this love relationship between God and man. It expresses the ultimate fruit of what the Lord has finally laid down his life for, in perfect love and a perfect offering.
And so I believe it is the great fulfillment. And the marriage supper of the Lamb of course is the consummation, which is then the beginning of all that is to follow. It’s not the end in any way. In actuality, it’s the beginning.
And so if we have the vision of the Bride of Christ, which comes of course from the vision of the Bridegroom Himself, we submit ourself to a process of God, of yielding ourselves to Him in faith and love and giving God full access and authority over our lives to bring this fulfillment that HE so longs to bring forth in each one of our lives. But of course the Bride is not just a collection of individuals but the Bride very much is the answer to the prayer of Yeshua in John 17. And is a company of people who have really understood the heart of God, not just in a theological way, but in a walk of Life and in a vision that includes in every aspect of one’s walk with the Lord from morning to evening and through the night until the morning.
And so we can say that the Bride is truly the one who is the resting place of the Lord. The place where, the Ark of the Covenant, The Lord, can finally rest. And as we read in Revelation, it is that part of the church that God measures in the sense of those who are worshiping and living at the altar and the outer court is left out. And in order for the Bride to become the Bride there needs to be a deep correspondence between the nature of the Bridegroom and the nature of the Bride. And therefore, we can say that the Bride is the one who has the longing to behold the true image of the Bridegroom.
I think one of the main tactics of the devil throughout the centuries has been to distort the image of Jesus. And we know that He is the image of the invisible God. The book of Revelation ultimately is not just a series of prophetic events that take place, which of course it is as well, but it is ultimately the unveiling of the face of Yeshua. And the beholding of that face which reveals the fullness of the nature of God…it’s the glory of God in the face of Yeshua, as Paul says, that captivates us! It captivates us in a way that it becomes the central reality in our lives and all that we live no matter what the ministry is or the different aspects of the ministry. All become an offering up of our love to Him for His glorification.
And this is a continuous process in our lives of responding to the Living Word of God. Because, Yeshua, Jesus IS the Word of God and His word is Spirit and Life. And therefore, has the power to an abandoned heart to bring forth a transformation of mind and a transformation of heart. And as we all know, this is a process, a continuous process that God takes us through in our lives which ultimately leads to transfiguration. Which ultimately leads to our discovery of ourself in Him in the realm of His glory, because it’s in His glory that we find our true identity.
I remember many years ago I was battling with the whole question of my identity as a Jew who has found the Messiah. After I came to Israel there were very few believers at that time, it was 51 years ago and I met the gentile believers and coming from a religious Jewish background it was a little shocking for me that what the Lord was taking me through. And I was saying to the Lord, “Lord, where am I and why have you brought me to this country? And how do I find myself in You as a Jewish believer?” It was a very special day and I was actually in Germany, and one day the Holy Spirit came upon me in a very powerful way and God let me behold the face of Yeshua, actually it was more His eyes that I had seen. And the moment I looked into His eyes I found my complete identity, I found my complete identity. I realized it wasn’t an issue of outer things of putting on a tallit, or putting on a kippah. I had known that, I mean I had lived that way for many years and that’s the way I was raised. And when I saw His face, first of all I saw the perfect man, and I saw the God-Man. But I also saw the perfect Jew. I saw the incarnation of Israel in One Man and as it says in Isaiah 49. And when I looked into His face, into His eyes, for the first time in my life, I had an experience of such a similar experience when I met Him, but this was even more complete…I knew that my entire identity was in Him. And by seeing Him, I knew who I was and there was no other way for me to know who I was except to see that I was complete in Him as a Jew and as a man.
And that the whole destiny of Israel, because there’s always this struggle of Jewish identity in Israel, was Yeshua….Yeshua who was in the incarnation of Israel my servant. And also the longed for Bridegroom as God manifested Himself to Israel as the husband God Bridegroom who then comes in human flesh and is identified first by John the Baptist not only as the Lamb of God, but as the Bridegroom. And John the Baptist hears the voice of the Bridegroom. And I think this is very important in the hearing and in the seeing. Seeing the Bridegroom, not just seeing the Savior, of course, we need to see the Savior and the Savior is the Bridegroom. But we need to see the Bridegroom and we need to hear the voice, not only just the Voice of God, but the voice of the Bridegroom and to know His Voice.
I think of when we were children, there was that RCA Victor…I think probably some of you probably know what that is…there was this little dog, I think he was a terrier. And he was standing at a gramophone and he was listening to the gramophone…a very primitive thing in comparison to what we have, and it said on it, “his master’s voice.” And the voice that was heard through that gramophone was known to that little dog. And I think when we hear the voice of the Bridegroom it is always a call to go deeper, to leave the outer court, to realize that the veil has been torn from top to bottom, that we have access to live with God in the Holy of Holies and to come into ever increasing union with Him. And to allow Him to tear that veil over our mind and over our hearts, which is the deeper circumcision that we all need, and I know that I need it, and I continue to ask God to bring it forth in the whole process of life that we live… which is a process, that has, as we all know, suffering, tribulation….but surely not only that, but in these end times we experience that very much also within the body of Messiah and also in relation to the world around us which we see that we are more estranged as the time goes on from this world. And we sense more and more God’s love for this world and God’s desire to bring salvation to this world. But we are strangers and pilgrims on this earth though we are bringing at the same time the message of salvation and holding the Kingdom for the Lord during the time that we live on this earth.
And so the Bride makes herself ready. As it says in I John 3:1-3 as well that we will be like Him when we see Him. (vs. 2 Beloved, now we are the children of God, and it is not yet revealed what we will be, but we know that, when HE IS revealed, we will be like Him; for we will see Him as HE IS.) This is something enormous if we think about it, that we will be like Him when we see Him and everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself even as He is pure. (vs. 3)
So I can say that our walk with the Lord as bridal souls is an inner highway to Zion as has been spoken of in the Psalms. And we all have to go through the valley of Bacca (Ps. 84) so that God can bring forth that inner spring of life, those inner wells, that they can be released, to release the rivers, the rivers of Living Waters that the Lord prophesied about at the end of the Feast of Tabernacles. And in many ways that’s connected to our living out the reality of our baptism and entering with Him into His death, His burial, His resurrection, His ascension, and ultimately into His priesthood.
And so our intercession is not just a prayer that we offer up to God for different things, even with a deep burden of the Holy Spirit, but our intercession becomes an offering of our lives for the very things that we are praying for. Through the offering up our lives for those things, God begins to manifest those things in us so that we can become an expression of the Lord and even that people can eat from us the broken body and drink of the blood of Yeshua as we partake in His very life. In Revelation 19:10c we read..”Worship God, for the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.
Now I’d just like to speak about this and explain how I have come to understand this in the last years. First of all, the whole book of Revelation is a prophecy, as I said it’s the unveiling of Jesus Christ, of Yeshua Ha Mashiach. It’s the beholding of the true nature of the Lamb. And as we follow Him, wherever He goes and wherever HE leads us, HE reveals Himself to us from within. That’s part of the mystery, it’s not just a revelation that we receive, it’s a revelation that comes as we follow the Lamb wherever HE goes. He reveals Himself to us and He begins to manifest HIs Name and His Father’s Name upon our forehead which has to do with the whole way we think, the whole way we see, the whole way we live our lives which become an act of true worship. And as we all know, worship is not only through song, and what we call worship….but worship is really, again as I said of intercession, it’s the offering up of our lives to the Lord at the altar as an expression of our love and making a place for Him to live His life out more and more in us as He captivates us, as we yield to Him. The Lord begins to take deeper and deeper possession of our lives within and that taste is so sweet to us that it creates a deeper longing, a deeper desire to surrender to Him.
So the true testimony of Yeshua, of Jesus in our hearts is to live in the Spirit of prophecy. The testimony of Jesus is the Spirit of Prophecy. Not only through faith in the prophecy but that the prophecy which here, in Revelation 19, is the prophecy of the Bride making herself ready. That prophecy becomes our life vision. We live in that prophecy, we see through that prophecy, we relate to all things that are happening on the globe, in Israel, in the nations, in relation to that prophecy. When I live in Israel of course I see the various aspects of the prophecy speaking to Israel and the end times to the restoration of Jerusalem, but I see through that prophecy, I understand through that prophecy. My heart longs to see the first fruit from Israel and the nations that the prophecy becomes flesh and blood. That is we have dove’s eyes we see all things good and bad. The dealings of the nations, the dealings of Israel we see all in relation to the Lord summing up all things in the Messiah to bring the ultimate fulfillment of the mystery. Because when the Bridegroom will be married to His Bride, We know that the Kingdom age will follow and he will rule and reign with His Bride on this earth for a thousand years.
Jerusalem from above is actually the picture of the ultimate fulfillment first of all of the mystery of the Bride. That’s what John sees …the fulfillment of the mystery of the Bride. But the Jerusalem from above is also the ultimate fulfillment of the mystery of Israel who was called at first to be the Bride of the Lord. We know there is a whole chapter in the book of Ezekiel that speaks about God’s marriage covenant with Jerusalem and how God found Jerusalem and made her into His Bride and she became a terrible harlot and prostituted herself with other loves. God chasens her bitterly and finally brings her back to Himself and restores the covenant with Jerusalem. Jerusalem of course being the sign for the whole nation of Israel. So the Jerusalem from above we see the 12 foundations are the 12 apostles of Israel, the 12 gates are the 12 Tribes of Israel. And it’s a cube that is that the height, the length, the width it’s all the same measurement. Just like the Holy of Holies in the Sanctuary of God. It’s also a cube. And we see the transparency of the City, the glory of the City, and it shows how the mystery of Israel who is called to be the Bride of Messiah comes into her ultimate fulfillment in the word Yeshua. And of course as we know, the Gentile part of that community has been grafted in and has been received into the full citizenship of that commonwealth of Israel.
So the restoration of the earthly Jerusalem in our day, is leading to the return of the Lord to the establishment of His Kingdom. And so we believe that what God is doing in Jerusalem today to restore His House of Living Stones is to join together, ultimately…. It’s the heart that is to join together ultimately all the different parts of that remnant church, the remnant Bride who the book of Revelation says, are the called, the chosen, and the faithful. The called, the chosen and the faithful who are the overcomers in the end time battle. And so this united Bride, and I believe that…we know that the gospel has gone out for 2,000 years and the church over many centuries was known as the church of Rome. Of course after the protestant reformation we know the whole story of how many breakaways there were and how many denominations there are. But the mystery of the Bride is the answer of Yeshua when HE celebrates that evening of the New Covenant meal and beseeches the Father that the unity and the union that exists between Father and Son through the Holy Spirit would be manifested in His people and literally that we would come into that unity.
Now Jerusalem is the city where the Lord laid down His life. It’s the city of the altar. It’s the city where the redemption has taken place. It’s the city where the wall of partition was broken down between Jew and gentile. It’s the city where the New Covenant meal was celebrated as the clear sign of the union of Yeshua and His people. And so we believe that as we move more and more into the end time and we see a growing apostasy in all of the traditional churches which is spreading also into the evangelical churches, there is coming a calling as we read in Revelation 18: “Come out of her my people.” Come out of that part of the church which has become a prostitute and has married herself to the world system. And this is the great exodus of the end time. It’s the exodus of the church from Babylon, even the evangelical church, of all that which is Babylonian and it speaks of a homecoming….a homecoming out of Babylon to Zion, but to the true meaning of Zion in the Spirit. And it’s the time of exodus for Israel as well coming out of everything that is other than the true faith in Yeshua and a restoration of Israel to the true foundations of God in the end time.
So this Spirit of prophecy is bringing all things together into Yeshua the Bridegroom. That means that all the tribulations of the end time, the purification of the earth, the preparing of the earth for the Kingdom age, the tribulation that Israel will go through, whatever it is, it’s to work redemption. It’s the work salvation, but not only salvation, but salvation that will lead to transformation. Because the goal, the goal of course is that the Bride would be transformed into the very image of the Bridegroom. I mean that is the work of the new creation…we are a new creation. All the old things have passed away, all things have become new! But the work of God through the tribulations, through the sufferings, through His dealings, through His revelations, through our worship, through our prayers it’s all to bring forth this great reality. And of course it must take place in Israel and of course the Bridal company in Israel is very, very precious to God and has a very specific calling to fulfill in the end time just as the gentile remnant…..the Bridal remnant amongst the nations has a very key calling to fulfill in relation to the Jewish people through prayer, through intercession and all the other ways God works through gentile believers to provoke Israel deeply to jealousy….but a holy jealousy that will really allow Israel to taste this amazing thing that is taking place. Because for the Jew to really consider that God has put us aside for 2,000 years and has gone to the nations and that all that we have suffered from the side of the church, that now God is working redemptively and bringing forth a holy remnant that actually loves Israel….this is the wonder of wonders! This is the ultimate sign of the work of redemption amongst the gentile believers. And bringing us together into one in the humility of the spirit. And Each recognizing each other in the one new man not to dissolve identity, but to bring identity in Messiah into true focus. Because God is a god of tremendous, tremendous diversity and variety and ultimately everything has been created through the Word Yeshua and for the Word Yeshua. And redemption is to bring us all back into that which was in the heart of God from the beginning in the Word who is Yeshua.
And that is the process that we are going through in these end times. So prophecy has many workings. But this I believe must be the great reality that should be our main focus….preparing ourselves for the marriage supper of the Lamb. And it does not in any way make the other aspects of prophecy insignificant. It, I believe, it just brings all of the other aspects into their right correspondence to that which is ultimately in the heart of God for the end time.
And so the Lord is bringing us together to share that one, let us say that one covenant meal that He celebrated on that Passover eve when He made the New Covenant with His disciples. And of course we know that the Covenant meal, the Lord’s supper, has been something that rather than expressing the unity of Yeshua with His people and the covenantal relationship between the people of God, satan has used that specifically to divide the people of God over a period of 2,000 years. And that Covenant meal is the expression, ultimately, to manifest the reality that we are flesh of His flesh, bone of His bone that we share together in His life giving blood and that we partake as the early church did in the Lamb of God together as a community. And this is the reality that the Lord has been waiting for for 2,000 years….that only the Bride can manifest the manifold wisdom of God to the principalities and powers the joining of Jew and gentile. The true unity that Messiah prayed for. This is the ultimate destruction of the power of satan, because it’s the hidden mystery of God that is now being, not only revealed, but being made flesh on this earth as the testimony of Jesus, the spirit of prophecy, that is being complete as Jesus cried out on the cross, “It is finished!” And now God is completing and finishing that mystery.
And as I said, it’s only the beginning. After the marriage supper, comes the Kingdom Age where Israel will take up her place as a nation among the nations as the firstborn son. And after that we come into the eternal reality of all that which God has prepared for us. But we need to focus on what will be. And what will be, should also affect what is today. When the Lord celebrated the supper, He spoke of the supper, the supper speaks of what He has completed, what He has finished. It speaks of His Presence amongst us now and it speaks of the fact that He will not take it with us again until all is fulfilled in His Kingdom. So it’s past, it’s present, and it’s future and it’s that reality that we are to celebrate as a Bridal company. So this mystery continues in all eternity.
And just to conclude, I think it’s important with all that I said to remember Paul’s words to the Corinthian church that He was concerned that the enemy had led the church astray from the simplicity of devotion to Jesus Christ. There are so many things connected to the Kingdom of God. And they’re all, I mean the Bride is the Kingdom. If we look at the early Jerusalem church, it was already a very pure and beautiful expression of the Kingdom. That’s what the Lord spoke to them about for 40 days when the Spirit was poured out. The Kingdom came in their inner most person and they shared the Kingdom life, they lived that unity of the Bride. It was a reality of what God promised to do and what God will continue to do. But there was a simplicity, a simplicity of love, a simplicity of devotion and that’s why we need to get back to that simplicity and have those dove eyes and allow God to teach us to see all through those eyes of the Bridegroom who gave His life for this world, who is yearning for His Bride, who is calling us into intimacy who wants us to know Him in a very deep way in the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings and being conformed to it with Him in His death that we might come into that union of Life with Yeshua Ha Maschiach. And really know the deeper things that are in His heart.
And I think if we have this focus and come into this simplicity it will affect all of our other ministries in relationship to the Lord. I think one of the great challenges is to be so occupied and to be so busy to lose the focus, to lose the first love for the Lord. But not only to lose the first love, but to lose that deep reality of union with Messiah, which ultimately is the thing alone that can bring fulfillment into our lives. Even if we saw millions coming to the faith, even if we saw millions being healed and we did not have that inner life walk with the Messiah, we would rejoice for the things that we would see and experience, but there would be a vacuum and an emptiness which would just leave us in many ways unfulfilled. And so the Lord wants to conquer us….the Lord wants to take possession of us, like He wanted to take of the land of Canaan. And He wants to complete this mystery of the Bride of Jew and gentile. And Jerusalem and Israel and the Messianic community are key to this mystery. And therefore, we need to see again, and with this I’m concluding. The Lord wants us to see all through the focus of the eyes and the voice of the Bridegroom. And if we do that we will see all of the other things, all of the other things in the light that God wants them to have in relation to the bullseye focus of His heart as His heart was pierced and He poured out the water and the blood to give birth to that Bride…that Bride who was before but the actual birth came at the cross and that’s the bullseye that the Lord wants His Bride to focus upon. And as we come deeper and deeper into Him we find our unity with each other. That’s the message of John 17. As we abide in Him and He in us, He shares His glory with us and we experience the unity of the Godhead and we share it with Him and we share it with each other and we have His mind and His heart and His Spirit.
Reuven’s Closing prayer:
Lord we thank you, we thank you for that which is Your Heart for this time and Lord we ask you to open these things up unseal them to our hearts that we can find fulfillment, deep fulfillment in our walk, in our life with You. Not only as individuals, but collectively and wherever we are located. Lord that we can bring that fragrance, that fragrance of love, that fragrance of Bridal union, that fragrance of life which is the most attractive thing there is. Because once we lose that fragrance Lord, everything becomes black and white. And that fragrance, Lord, makes the Kingdom life technicolor because we behold the true face of, we behold the true image of God in the Face of Yeshua Ha Maschiach which draws us, which transforms us, O God, and which brings us into the true worship of God….which we all long for. So we bless you and we thank you for this time together, Father in Yeshua’s Name.
Reuven Berger, along with his brotherBenjamin pastor the Congregation of the Lambon Mt. Zion in the Old City of Jerusalem in Israel. Born into an Orthodox Jewish family they came to faith in Yeshua (Jesus) as Messiah over 50 years ago and were called of the LORD to move to Jerusalem. The Congregation is a Hebrew-speaking Congregation that meets at Christ Church inside the Jaffa Gate opposite the Tower of David.
Thanks to Beverly Doty for taking the time to transcribe the message!
Hanukkah took place around 165 B.C. and has something to say to us today. It should move us to prayer and action!
Should Christians even care about Hanukkah? The answer is “yes” because according to John 10:22 (NLT) Jesus was in Jerusalem at the Temple during “the Festival of Dedication” (Hanukkah). While Hanukkah is a celebration of the victory won during the Maccabean revolt it also points to Jesus because it is also known as the Festival of Lights and Jesus is the Light of the World. Most importantly if what happened during Hanukkah had not happened the Jewish people would have been wiped out and so our Savior would not have been born. Jesus was prophesied to be of the House of David and God’s promise would not have been fulfilled if His ancestral line had not continued.
God brought a victory to the Jewish people against all odds during the Maccabean revolt – the real Miracle. But there also had to be people for God to use that were willing to stand up to the injustices of an oppressive regimen. Enter the Maccabee family which were of the tribe of Levi and therefore had a divine calling to be priests of the Lord. Jerusalem and the Temple were under the control of Antiochus IV Epiphanes (means “God Manifest”- oh my!). He persecuted the Jews, decreeing that they could not keep the Sabbath, nor celebrate their Feasts, nor read their Bible. They were forced to participate in pagan practices. Antiochus went so far as to desecrate the altar in the Temple by sacrificing a pig on it to Zeus! Under the leadership of the Maccabees the Jews said “NO!”, revolted and ultimately succeeded.
The Legend of the Hanukkah menorah.
The legend that a one day supply of oil to light the menorah was found that lasted for eight days did not come into play until about 400 years after the Maccabean revolt and is probably a fake-news miracle!
An Eight Day Festival
It does seem that the reason that the Feast of Dedication (Hanukkah), which is a celebration of the rededication of the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem lasts for eight days is because the Jewish people were not able to celebrate the eight day Feast of Tabernacles (or Booths) that year because it was forbidden. So when victory was won and the Temple rededicated in the winter the people celebrated the Feast of Tabernacles. This is recorded in 2 Maccabees 10:5-8, written less than 100 years after the event and is more likely. Regardless, the tradition of lighting the Hanukkah menorah is over eight days and a beautiful symbol of how God empowered a people willing to stand against oppression and for HIS ways.
“Even if all the nations that live under the rule of the king obey him, and have chosen to obey his commandments, everyone of them abandoning the religion of their ancestors, I and my sons and my brothers will continue to live by the covenant of our ancestors. Far be it from us to desert the law and the ordinances. We will not obey the king’s words by turning aside from our religion to the right hand or to the left.” (Matthias Maccabee, 1 Maccabees 2:19-22)
God will bring deliverance to His people even in extremely dire circumstances!
That is the real miracle! But God is looking for people who will co-labor with Him in the working out of the victory. That’s what speaks to us today. The Hanukkah story is a source of inspiration and also a call to stand-up and not bow to a godless society! As never before believers in the Lord Jesus Christ must pray and stand together for righteousness and Biblical truth.
Jesus is the Light of the World
While Hanukkah is known as the Feast of Dedication (referring to the re-dedication of the desecrated Temple back to the God of Israel), it is also known as the Festival of Lights. Traditionally some Jewish people place their Hanukkiahs (a 9 branched menorah) in their front windows as a symbol of victory of light over darkness. When I light my Hanukkiah I think of the courageous Maccabees and the victory won against seemingly unsurmountable odds. Only God could have brought the victory! I also think of Yeshua (Jesus) who is the light of the world. Jesus said, “I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life.” (John 8:12 NKJV) When Jesus returns there will come a day of total victory over evil. Until then may we, His disciples, shine brightly in this dark world bringing hope and faith to others, “for everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world? Only the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God.” (1 John 3:4-5 NIV).
Maranatha – Come Lord Jesus Come!!
A Hanukkah Miracle
In December 2020 Karen Davis and Chaya Mizrachi joined us on Zoom from Israel for a special time of anointed worship, messages and prayerfor the US and Israel. Karen spoke powerfully on “A Hanukkah Miracle” about the ongoing struggle of the Sons (and Daughters) of Zion (those that believe in the One true God) against the Sons of Greece (the world). See Zechariah 9:13. This is where we are! God is rousing us to fight the good fight of faith!. Chaya told us a very moving, inspiring and personal family story regarding how Jews were saved in Bulgaria during WW2. They were saved because the King of Bulgaria and the Church rose up and said “NO!” to Jews being deported to the death camps! The King lost his life over it!
For more history on what happened in Bulgaria watch the 30 minute film put out by Frontier Alliance International entitled “The Fox and the Fuhrer”. Definitely worth the watch! For more understanding on Hanukkah read articles written by Avner Boskey, a Messianic believer who lives with his wife Rachel in Israel.
This blog was originally published in December 2020. It has been updated.
Betsy and her husband Jim lead the trips to Israel, which include visiting with local believers, both Messianic and Arab. Together they have 3 daughters and 4 grandchildren who are the delight of their hearts. God’s mercy endures from generation to generation.
The LORD spoke to Moses, saying, “Speak to the children of Israel, saying ‘In the seventh month, on the first day of the month, you shall have a sabbath rest, a memorial of blowing (of trumpets), a holy convocation.’” Leviticus 23:24
The Feast of Trumpets is the first of the three Fall Feasts of the LORD. These Feasts are “appointed times” when God called His people to gather. He spoke to them and met with them. They are celebrated according to the Hebrew calendar and so the dates vary from year to year on the Gregorian calendar. This year (2021) the Feast of Trumpets is celebrated from sundown on September 6 to sundown September 8.
God wants us to remember to celebrate His faithfulness with thanksgiving, praise and offerings. The Feasts also have prophetic meaning pointing to events yet to come. They also teach us important lessons of how we should live as disciples of Jesus in the here and now.
“The memorial of blowing of trumpets” was to remind Israel of the time God called them to Mt. Sinai during the Exodus when God spoke and His presence came down. (See Exodus 19:16-20). The sound of the trumpet was very loud!
A Shofar (type of trumpet) is made from a ram’s horn. Trumpets are used
Prophetically this Feast foreshadows Jesus’ return as King of Kings and Lord of Lords when He will rule in the Millennium. “When the last trumpet sounds an angel and loud voices in heaven will announce ‘The Kingdoms of this world have become the kingdoms of our God and of His Christ and He shall reign forever and ever.’” Revelation 11:15
How then should we live?
God spoke, making His presence known in ancient times. He also wants to do that today. Celebrating the Feasts helps us to remember what He did in days past. The Feasts also give us object lessons in how to live now. God wants us to hear (listen to) His voice now and live in obedience to Him. Jesus said, “My sheep hear (listen to) my voice; I know them and they follow me.” (John 10:27)
Let’s ask the LORD to sharpen our hearing so that we may live in accordance with His ways. He speaks in many ways: through His Word, through circumstances, by a still small voice, by the inner leading of the Holy Spirit, and sometimes through a loud sound! What is HE saying to us in this hour both individually and corporately as the Church so that our lives become a living sacrifice (Romans 12:1)? We must hear and know HIM and prepare for HIS return by living according to HIS ways!
Jewish traditions at Yom Teruah
The Feast of Trumpets is often times called Rosh Hashanah (“The Head of the Year”), celebrating the civil New Year. The biblical new year is in the spring on the first day of the biblical month of Nisan. Yom Teruah falls on the first day of the seventh biblical month of Tishri. It the time of the ending of one agricultural season and the start of another.
“Rosh Hashanah” is a rabbinical tradition which has been practiced for a long time. Israel adopted a secular reckoning of the months to align with the calendars of neighboring (and pagan) cultures. Even our Gregorian calendar is based on a pagan calendar.
Jewish people customarily greet one another with “Shana Tov” meaning good year. Among the foods eaten are apples with honey to signify a “sweet year”. Rosh Hashanah also begins the 10 days of Awe (or Repentance) leading up to Yom Kippur (The Day of Atonement) when Jewish people pray to be written in the “book of life”. Let’s pray that they awaken to their Messiah Yeshua (Jesus) – the Way, the Truth and the Life!
How can Christians participate in the Feasts?
As believers in Jesus we are not commanded to keep the Biblical Feasts. However since we are grafted into the rich, nourishing root of the olive tree (which represents the Jewish people), we can also partake in the joy and the blessings of the Feasts. As previously stated they teach us to commemorate what God has done, how to live as disciples of Jesus and point to future events such as the return of the LORD and the Millennial Reign of Christ as KING of Kings and LORD of Lords. Let’s also remember that Jesus himself celebrated these Biblical Feasts.
Women of the Word is blessed to host a special Zoom with Karen Davis, a messianic worship leader who lives in Israel. We invite you to join us on September 29, 2021 at 10:30 am Eastern Time. Karen will lead us in anointed worship and prayer and teach on the Fall Feasts. Find more information here.
Watch Karen here as she shares a song and blessing for Yom Teruah – the Feast of Trumpets.
I urge you to pray for the salvation of all the people of Israel, both Jew and Arab, and for a cessation of violence and peace within her borders. Come, Yeshua (Jesus) come we pray!! As a ministry we are also preparing ‘material blessings’ (Romans 15:27). Pentecost is a perfect time to give offerings. Please consider making a donation here which will be sent directly to help ministries that we have personal relationship with in Israel.
The Feast of Pentecost (Shavuot)
Many Christians have some familiarity with the Feast of Pentecost (Acts 2:1 – 4) mentioned in the New Testament and if you have been part of any organized church tradition you may have heard of it. Did you know that it’s roots are in the Old Testament and actually a Feast that the LORD God commanded the children of Israel to celebrate?
This year (2022) The Feast of “Shavuot” begins the evening of June 4th which is Sivan 6 on the Hebrew Calendar. It is one of the three “pilgrimage” feasts when Jewish males were commanded in the Old Testament to go up to Jerusalem to present offerings to the LORD. The other two are Passover and Tabernacles.
Because the Hebrew calendar is different from the Gregorian calendar the Biblical Feasts are on different days of the Gregorian calendar each year and coincide infrequently. This year (2022) however they do as June 5th is Pentecost Sunday on the Gregorian calendar and Shavuot begins at sundown on June 4th ending at sundown June 5th in Israel. It is a true convergence. Let’s be expectant that as the Gentile church joins with our believing Jewish brothers and sisters in this celebration a new unity and love will flow between us as we are joined into one Body in Messiah Yeshua. How beautiful and exciting!
Shavuot means “weeks” in Hebrew so it is also known as the Feast of Weeks because it occurs 7 weeks after the Feast of Firstfruits which today is included in the eight day Feast of Passover (also knows as Feast of Unleavened Bread). Because it starts on the 50th day following Firstfruits, we call Shavuot Pentecost. Pente means 50 in Greek. Since Christians follow the Gregorian calendar “Pentecost” this year is Sunday June 5th. (Read about the Feast of Firstfruits and Weeks in Leviticus 23:9 – 22).
In the Bible Shavuot is also known as the Feast of Harvest (Exodus 23:16) because it celebrates the beginning (first fruits) of the wheat harvest (Exodus 34:22).
The Wave Offerings
On the Feast of Firstfruits (after Passover), one sheaf of barley was waved as a celebration of the the barley harvest and one male lamb without blemish was offered as a sacrifice unto the LORD. Can you see how this relates to Jesus who is called a spotless lamb and sacrificed himself on the cross for our redemption and salvation? Christ is the first fruits! (1 Corinthians 15:23)
On Shavuot a new grain (wheat) offering is brought to the LORD in the form of two loaves that were waved by the priests(Leviticus 23:16 – 17). Animal sacrifice was also involved in this Feast. However animal sacrifice ceased when the Temple in Jerusalem was destroyed in 70AD. As Christians we believe Jesus is the perfect and final sacrifice for our sins. Animal sacrifice is no longer necessary for redemption.
The Two Loaves of Bread
What could the two loaves of bread symbolize? They could represent a double portion harvest. In Old Testament days it was the blessing of actual grain because Israel was an agricultural society. But in the New Testament Jesus said, “The fields are already white for harvest” (John 4:35), indicating a harvest of souls!! This is part of our mission as believers — to make disciples. While the Feast of Pentecost is about the Holy Spirit in the Book of Acts, it is also about 3,000 souls coming into the Kingdom! Who were these people? They were primarily Jews because Jews came up to the Temple at Shavuot from all over the known world. 3,000 souls came to know Jesus as Messiah that day and the “church” was born in power. (Read Acts Chapter 2). What an awesome “first fruits” offering and harvest! Many of these new believers empowered by the Holy Spirit would have returned to where they lived across Israel, Asia and even to Rome after Shavuot and spread the Gospel to their neighbors. Glory to God!!
The two loaves could also represent the “One New Man”, the coming together of Jew and Gentile, now one in Messiah Yeshua (Jesus). Together we make up the “church”. (Ephesians 2:11 – 22). God is not done with Israel and will keep His covenant promises to her. The Apostle Paul taught this in Romans Chapters 9 – 11.
The Book of Ruth
A Jewish tradition begun by the Rabbis is to read the Book of Ruth during Shavuot. The story of Ruth begins at the beginning of the barley harvest (Feast of Firstfruits) and continues through the wheat harvest beyond Shavuot. It is very meaningful!
The story of Ruth is of how she, a Moabites came alongside her Jewish mother-in law Naomi to care for her. Ruth emphatically states in Chapter 1, verse 16
“Entreat me not to leave you, Or to turn back from following after you; For wherever you go, I will go; And wherever you lodge, I will lodge; Your people shall be my people, And your God, my God.’
Here is the story in a nutshell! Ruth fully identifies with Naomi and returns with her to Bethlehem leaving her own country. Both Naomi’s husband and Ruth’s husband are dead. In that culture widowhood was extremely difficult. Additionally they had no children; Naomi’s sons have also died and Ruth is childless which was another difficulty within the culture.
Naomi’s purpose in returning to Bethlehem is to seek out a “kinsmen redeemer” among her relatives. One is found in Boaz, who foreshadows Jesus, and Ruth marries him. Together they had a son named Obed, who was the father of Jesse, the Father of King David and therefore in the lineage of Messiah Yeshua (Jesus)!!
Here we see a Gentile woman being accepted into the House of Israel. What a beautiful foreshadowing of how the Church is made up of both Jew and Gentile becoming “one new man” in Yeshua. Hallelujah! May we be like Ruth, coming alongside the Jewish people to love them, bless them, care for them and draw them to their Messiah Yeshua!
We need Torah (the Word) and the Spirit
While we can not prove it from the Scriptures, the Rabbis teach that the Ten Commandments (Torah – teaching) was given on Mt. Sinai to Moses at the time of Shavuot. Observant Jews believe this today. We can glean from this as we celebrate the bringing together of the celebration of Shavuot/Pentecost in the Old and New Testaments! As believers in Jesus we want the power of the Holy Spirit and His manifestations but they must be rooted in God’s Word. The Holy Spirit will never contradict what the Word says because He is One with the Father and the Son!
Can you see how it enriches our understanding of the Scriptures and our walk with the LORD when we understand the richness of our inheritance as demonstrated in the Feasts of the LORD and in the Old Testament? We pray this season of harvest is a blessing to you as you bless others in Yeshua’s name. Click here to make a donation which will be given to our brothers and sisters in Israel according to Romans 15:27.
In Matthew 11 we read the story of John the Baptist in prison.
John heard about the things Jesus was doing so the Bible tells us he sent two of his disciples to ask Jesus what may seem to us a very strange question. “Are you the Messiah we’ve been expecting or should we keep looking for someone else?” How could John ask such a question?
This is the same Johnwho is described in John 1:6-8 as the man sent by God “to tell about the light so that everyone might believe of his testimony. John himself was not the light; he was simply a witness to tell about the light.”
This was the same John who recognized the Messiah while they were both in their mothers’ wombs. Remember his mother Elizabeth proclaimed that the baby leapt within her.
This is the same Johnwhose father was given a prophetic word that “he will turn many Israelites to the Lord their God…He will prepare the people for the coming of the Lord.” (Luke 1:16-17)
This is the same Johnwho was confronted by the Jewish leaders about his identity. He replied quoting Isaiah in John 1:23, “I am a voice shouting in the wilderness, ‘clear the way for the Lord’s coming!’”
This is the same John who identified Jesus when he saw Him saying “Look! The Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world! He is the one I was talking about then I said, ‘A man is coming after me who is far greater than I am, for He existed long before me.’ I did not recognize him as Messiah, but I have been baptizing with water so that he might be revealed to Israel…I saw the Holy Spirit descending like a dove from heaven and resting upon him. I didn’t know he was the one, but when God sent me to baptize with water, he told me ‘The one on whom you see the Spirit descend and rest is the one who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.’ I saw this happen to Jesus, so I testify that He is the Chosen One of God.”
So, what happened that would make John send his disciples to Jesus to ask if He really was the One?
His entire ministry had been based on declaring that very revelation. What brought such doubt to his mind?
What expectations might he have had? Did he expect Jesus to work a miracle and get him our of prison? Surely Jesus would at least come to see him. I am sure his mind was working overtime …..”maybe Jesus really isn’t who I thought He was.” His circumstances may have been causing him to doubt what he absolutely knew to be true.
Historians tell us that John was in prison for about a year and a half. This man who lived outdoors was now imprisoned with very little light, very little fresh air, very little company. He was definitely in quarantine!
Science tells us that prolonged social isolation can actually change the shape and function of our brains. The region responsible for learning and memory can shrink in response to long-term isolation and the part that regulates fear and anxiety goes into overdrive.
Unexpected circumstances, isolation and distancing can cause us to doubt what we know to be true! This was definitely a time of isolation for John. Even though John said “He must increase and I must decrease,” I don’t think he had counted on ending his life in prison.
As we enter another month of isolation and distancing, we must not let our minds “shrink” away from what we know to be true. In times of isolation and stress, we too can begin to doubt. We can begin to wonder where God is in the midst of this pandemic when economies are shaking, when our whole world changed in a matter of days. We might ask, “Where are you God?” or “Why aren’t you doing something about this? We can’t even go to church! People are dying!”
Jesus’ answer to John might seem strange to us.
There is a message in it for us too. Did Jesus even answer the question? Jesus sent His answer, “Go back to John and tell him what you have heard and seen—the blind see, the lame walk, those with leprosy are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised to life, and the Good News is being preached to the poor.” And he added, “God blesses those who do not fall away because of me.”
It may seem to us that Jesus’ answer was obscure, but it would have been clear to John who would have recognized that Jesus was quoting Isaiah 35 and 61, prophetic scriptures describing the ministry of the Messiah. John also probably recognized the portion of the scripture that Jesus didn’t say: Jesus did NOT say the phrase from Isaiah 61 that “prisoners will be freed.” What was the message Jesus was sending? “Yes, I am the Messiah, but you will not be getting out of prison.”
Jesus also added, “God blesses those who do not fall away because of me.” Some versions say “those who are not offended by me.” Basically Jesus was saying to John—“Don’t turn away from me, don’t doubt what you know to be true because I don’t do what you expect me to do! You know who I am. Trust me even in your current difficult circumstance.”
I believe the Lord is saying the same thing to us today. Our desire is for Him to intervene and stop this virus. Perhaps we have an unmet need for which we have been praying. The message Jesus is sending us is, “Don’t fall away, or don’t be offended by me because I am not doing what you think I should be doing.” It is time for us to stand firm on what we know to be true!
An encouraging part of this story is that we shouldn’t be too hard on ourselves when we have some fear and doubt in these difficult times. In Luke 7: 28 Jesus said, “I tell you of all who have ever lived, none is greater than John.” If the greatest one who ever lived (besides Jesus, of course) can have moments of doubt, so can we.
We may have those moments, but the key is not to stay in that place of doubt or fear. Remember what the Word of God says. Remember who God is. Remember that He is a good God and His character has not changed. After hearing the report from Jesus, I think John faced his situation with confidence, and we can do the same. Jesus reminded John what the Bible said about the Messiah, and I believe Jesus’ response reminded John what he himself had seen and heard.
In times of difficulty, we must hang on to what we know to be true and not give in to doubt. God is still God, and He is working in ways that we may not yet see, but that does not mean He is not working. It is a time to stand firm in the Lord and the power of His Might!
“In conclusion, be strong in the Lord [draw your strength from Him and be empowered through your union with Him] and in the power of His [boundless] might. Put on the full armor of God [for His precepts are like the splendid armor of a heavily-armed soldier] so that you may be able to [successfully] stand up against all the schemes and the strategies and the deceits of the devil. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood [contending only with physical opponents], but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this [present] darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly (spiritual) places. Therefore, put on the complete armor of God, so that you will be able to [successfully] resist and stand your ground in the evil day [of danger], and having done everything [that the crisis demands], to stand firm [in your place, fully prepared, immovable, victorious]. So stand firm and hold your ground having tightened the wide band of truth (personal integrity, moral courage) around your waist and having put on the breastplate of righteousness (an upright heart), and having strapped on your feet the gospel of peace in preparation [to face the enemy with firm-footed stability and the readiness produced by the good news]. Above all, lift up the [protective]shield of faith with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit which is the Word of God. With all prayer and petition pray [with specific requests] at all times [on every occasion and in every season] in the Spirit, and with this in view, stay alert with all perseverance and petition [interceding in prayer] for all God’s people.” Ephesians 6:10-18 (AMP)
Sue Priebe is Associate Pastor at City of Hope Church in Janesville, Wisconsin, a Chaplain for Marketplace Chaplains and serves on the Board of Directors for Women of the Word. She is passionate about teaching the Word of God in ways that are relevant and applicable to daily life. She also has a deep love for Israel and travels there frequently connecting with believers there and teaching God’s Word on location.
It’s always an adventure to go to Israel and there is always more to learn.
This trip in January 2020 was no different! This was not a tour, but rather a trip to attend the Maranatha Conference in the Golan, visit and pray with believers in the land, and do some scouting for the upcoming Amazing Israel Adventure tour in 2021. Rose-Marie Slosek, a Women of the Word Board Member, Kathleen Annis of Thirsty Soul Ministries and I traveled together. We really had some adventures along the way. It rained a lot but this is a blessing. The Sea of Galilee is almost full. Israel has had more rain this year than in the past 50 years! Glory to God!
Everyone loves pictures so let me begin with that! You can find pictures of this trip on Flickr. To see pictures of past Israel tours click here.
We began by visiting with believers in Tel Aviv and having the blessing of attending Shabbat dinner with the wonderful Mizrachi family. Avi is an Israeli born Jewish believer in Yeshua (Jesus) as Messiah, Hallelujah! His beautiful daughters have all served in the IDF (Israeli Defense Forces). Chaya, his wife is a strong believer and we had a wonderful time of worship and prayer together in their beautiful ministry center (Dugit) overlooking Tel Aviv. Their daughter OrEl led us in anointed worship and she also has started street worship and ministry in a popular gathering place around a fountain in Tel Aviv. She is taking worship to the streets, Glory to God!
Then it was off to the Golan in northern Israel for the Maranatha Conferencewith FAI (Frontier Alliance International). The word “Maranatha” is an Aramaic word meaning “The Lord has come!” and can also be an expression for “The Lord is coming (back)!” It is a declaration of our faith! People of every age and from many nations including Israel attended this gathering. Rose-Marie had taken a year long online course with FAI and invited Kathleen and I to join her at the conference. Personally I felt this conference to be very authentic. There was a simple but beautiful love for the Lord exhibited. Speakers came from many different nations with the central theme being making disciples through personal relationships and around the table. In the USA we tend to “invite people to church”. We were challenged to “invite people to your home around the table” having open dialogue about Jesus’ teachings. I am still processing how to incorporate what I learned within our culture, which is not as hospitable as Middle Eastern Culture. FAI reaches previously unreached people groups primarily in the Middle East. There were also speakers from places like Tibet, Uganda, South America, Germany and Israel talking about making disciples. So what about the USA? Well, we have “unreached people” right here. Pray to the Lord about how to reach them beyond our traditional methods. I was very challenged to think outside the box. You can read more about this strategic event here.
After the conference we spent several days in the Mount Carmel region visiting with both Arab and Jewish believers, attending another Shabbat dinner in the home of beloved friends, and Saturday Shabbat service with the congregation at Kehilat Carmel where Karen Davis and Colin Mitchel spoke on “Pursuing God’s Presence”. While I felt the Lord minister to me personally, I also felt challenged to press into prayer and worship for the lost and the next generation. I received a promise from Isaiah 29: 22-24. While in context this verse is speaking to Israel, we as grafted-in believers, can also pray this promise over our households and our nation. Will you join me in believing the Lord to accomplish it?
A highlight of the trip was going with Renee of Ima’s Goodies to visit with IDF soldiers to give them goodies and let them know they are loved.
We drove deep into the heart of Samaria. Renee has an amazing way of lovingly relating with the soldiers. She is completely disarming and they love her. She goes out at least two nights a week, driving to bases around the country including along the borders. Young men and women are required to serve in the IDF! It is quite something to see 18 and 19 year olds carrying loaded machine guns ready to defend their nation. Currently Renee is preparing to give out 900 goodie bags to soldiers for Purim. She has an oven, donated by a church in Malaysia that can bake 280 cookies at one time. Most of what she gives out is home-made so this is a tremendous amount of work. And she doesn’t give out little bags. She gives out BIG amounts to each soldier. Her car trunk was completely filled up the night we went out and quickly emptied! If you’d like to give to this worthwhile cause please visit Ima’s Goodies
We spent some special time on the Sea of Galilee at Capernaum and at the beautiful Magdala site and hotel. While I have visited the amazing archeological
site of the First Century synagogue discovered there before, the hotel had just opened recently. What a lovely place! I’ve already reserved rooms there for the 2021 Amazing Israel Adventure so come on along! We had the opportunity to spend time with Hermana, an intercessor and we prayed and talked together about how the Lord is moving today. Hermana ignited my heart with some prayer strategies I am going to incorporate into Women of the Word. More on this to come so stayed tuned!
Our last days were spent in Jerusalem.Really there is no city like it !
We stayed in an apartment that overlooks the Mt. of Olives and Mt. Zion and spent one day driving down to the Beersheva area for prayer and worship at the home of Avner and Rachel Boskey. Rachel blessed us by taking us to the Fountain of Tears in Arad, and also to see some incredible views of the wilderness and the southern end of the Dead Sea. Amazing! We did spend a day in Jerusalem going to the Old City (of course) and the “Shuk” (marketplace) as well as praying at Succat Hallel. Jerusalem is a must experience for every believer in my opinion.
A hot topic of conversation was the “Deal of the Century”which was unveiled while we were in Jerusalem. I always love to get the perspective of believers in the land because they are the ones “living” it. Rachel Boskey gave us some background from years ago and this was very helpful. Also, this article, written by a leader in the Messianic community in Israel adds some perspective that we here in the US typically do not consider. Take the time to read it, especially ponder the last paragraph. Hmmm…
While we visited and prayed with Arab and Jewish believers, we were also able to bless them financially thanks to the generosity of many at Women of the Word.
As we have come to share in the spiritual blessings of Jewish believers, so we aught also to be of service to them in material blessings (Romans 16:27). Thank you ladies for obeying God’s Word — it was a joy to bless them on your behalf! While seeing the biblical sites is wonderful, spending time with fellow believers in the land is the best! We get to share in their joys and their struggles and learn how to pray and support them more effectively. God cares about Israel and so should we (Deuteronomy 11:12). Israel is about people and land. When I travel to Israel my desire is to touch both. More pictures of the trip here.
Betsy Roy is the Director of Women of the Word, an inter-generational ministry dedicated to helping women grow as disciples of Jesus by applying God’s Word through the power of the Holy Spirit. WOW holds conferences, retreats, Bible seminars and trips to Israel.
Betsy and her husband Jim lead the trips to Israel, which include visiting with local believers, both Messianic and Arab. Together they have 3 daughters and 4 grandchildren which are the delight of their hearts. God’s mercy endures from generation to generation.
On January 14, 2020 I will be departing again for Israel with one of our Women of the Word Board Members Rose-Marie Slosek. I would love for you to be part of this trip. We need your prayers and support to bless refugees, soldiers and believers in Israel.
Our first stop is in Tel Aviv where we will have time with our brothers and sisters at Dugit Ministries. We will be going to their new ministry center and prayer room and sharing a Shabbat meal together. Then it’s on to the Golan for a thee day conference with FAI Missions who minister to unreached people groups in Syria and amongst the Kurdish people. We are looking forward to hearing about the work the Lord is doing there, how to pray more effectively for the Middle East and how Women of the Word can come alongside in support of the region.
Along our way we have scheduled times to visit with both Jewish and Arab believers in various parts of Israel. We will spend time with our brothers and sisters at Carmel in worship and prayer and blessing the Women’s and Children’s Shelter there. We have a unique opportunity to be with Renee of Ima’s Goodies to visit Israeli soldiers and bless them with goodies. We are also doing some one-on-one visits with some Arab sisters, including Rania and Randa, and Messianic sisters like Carolyn Hyde and some others that live on a kibbutz.
Going to Beersheva to be a part of Avner and Rachel Boskey’s worship watch is also on our itinerary as well as time in Jerusalem to pray and bring blessings to brothers and sisters there.
I will be scouting out some places for the Amazing Israel Adventure tour scheduled for April 2021 where we read the Bible on location at sites, pray, worship and visit with believers in the land. Always more to learn in Israel. God’s eyes is always upon His land (Deuteronomy 11:12) and ours should be too!
Please pray for us and for Israel. You can give a donation towards blessing the refugees, soldiers, and believers and their ministries in Israel. Mark your donation “Israel” please. Together with your help we can be a blessing and share God’s love and care. Thank you and the Lord bless you with His peace.
“Who will have pity on you, O Jerusalem, or who will grieve for you? Who will turn aside to ask about your welfare?” ~ Jeremiah 15:15
by Jill Czelusta – Representative for Bridges for Peace
This is the fourth summer that the Lord has provided the funds for me to volunteer with Bridges for Peace in Jerusalem. Each summer has become more and more enjoyable because of the friendships that have formed while serving the Jewish people in His Land. Bridges for Peace (BFP) is an international organization with offices in at least eight different nations, so there are volunteers who come from all over the world. Since I have had the privilege to return each summer, I have made friends with several long term volunteers that I keep in contact with throughout the year, and I make new ones with each visit.
This past Shabbat the volunteers who are here by themselves, like me, decided to get together for dinner. As a short term volunteer, you are always invited to someone’s home for Shabbat, but this time we hosted ourselves at one of the volunteer’s apartment. With the 10 of us around the table, nine countries were represented: France, England, Northern Ireland, South Africa, Namibia, Russia, Japan, Canada and the United States. Ages ranged from early 20’s to 60 something. The evening was filled with questions about how each of us ended up volunteering with BFP. One by one, amazing stories were told of how God directed their steps and then faithfully provided for the call. Over and over I heard my story. First it was a dream to come and serve in Israel. Each one had heard of BFP and how you could volunteer. Each one did not think they would have the funds to come, but God miraculously provided. Three of them were young people who participated in the Zealous Project – an 11 month discipleship program for 18-30 year olds. When they completed that, they chose to return and serve some more. Some were in midlife and just wanted to serve here in Jerusalem. Some, like me, are spending their summer vacation here both serving and taking in the sights of Jerusalem and greater Israel on the weekends.
The other amazing thing that I have noticed is that when we go out on a delivery to bring food to the elderly Holocaust survivor, they always ask, “Where are you
from?” One time I am with someone from Japan. The next time I am with someone from New Zealand, then Canada, then England, then Ireland. Each time, the Jewish person is so surprised that people from all over the world love them enough to spend their time and resources to carry a bag of groceries to their small apartment and to sit down and visit with them. We listen to the stories – some very hard to hear – but necessary to hear, and remember. We cry together, and then laugh together as they tell of their children, grandchildren and great grand-children. Then there are the hugs…the best part!
I am so thankful that the Lord has chosen to use me for this amazing ministry to the poor, the elderly and new immigrants of Israel. I had the opportunity to deliver new school supplies and backpacks to a school in Bet Shemesh that BFP has been working with for 14 years. The parents and students arrived and immediately began to hug the BFP staff and those from the Jewish agency that we partner with for this project. I was surprised to see such appreciation for what I consider such a small gift – a backpack and assorted school supplies. I also learned that BFP helps to pay the book fees for some of these students. One of the parents thanked us because her son was one of those who received the help. She said that for the first time last year, he received his books on the first day of school like most of the other kids. He came home so happy that day and it made a difference for the whole year. She could not say thank you enough.
I will end with this. As a Food Floor Worker, I come in contact with the families that come in once a week to receive their food parcels of fresh fruit and vegetables, dairy, meat and canned goods. I have the opportunity to greet them and, if they speak English, get to talk with them a bit. Regardless, every one shakes my hand and says ‘Toda,’ or thank you. One couple came into the work area because they insisted on saying thank you to everyone there. They had ‘graduated,’ and this would be their last time to pick up food. They had been on the program for one year and it was enough to get them on their feet and to get a job to provide for themselves. They were so full of joy and so thankful. They had experienced the love of Jesus through perfect strangers and the generosity of Christians from around the world.
I know that I am there to be a blessing, but I know I receive way more than I give out! Thank you to Women of the Word for your prayers and support throughout the years!
About Jill Czelusta: Jill visited Israel for the first time on a Bridges for Peace tour in 1995, returned in 2004, and has had a love for the Land and a heart for the Jewish people ever since. Jill is a friend of Women of the Word and has also been to Israel with WOW. This is her fourth summer volunteering at the BFP Jerusalem Assistance Center. She is a graduate of Institute of Israel Studies and is currently enrolled at Master’s International University of Divinity pursuing a Master’s Degree in Judeo-Christian Synergism. During the school year, she teaches AP Chemistry, AP Physics, and pre-calculus at a private Christian school in northern Vermont. Her undergraduate degree is in Chemistry from Virginia Tech. Her other favorite pastime is visiting her 2 children and their families. Jill will be leading a tour of Israel in the summer of 2020.
As I was writing this recently it was very cold in New England, and very cold in other parts of the United States like Wisconsin, which had a wind child of -50 degrees last week. Brrrrr……that’s frigid! We had a “taste” of spring for a couple of days early this week, but now it’s back to that damp raw winter feeling.
We become inpatient in times like this, wondering if spring really will ever come this year! But,God is faithful! It will surely come!
In February I really start to think about walking in Israelbecause I have been there in late February and March when it is spring in God’s beautiful land! Almond trees, often blossoming in late January or early February, announce the arrival of spring in Israel! Just looking at this picture of almond blossoms lifts my heart and encourages me!
Almond blossoms are spoken of several times in theBible. Numbers 17 gives the account of Aaron’s rodproducing blossoms and bearing ripe almonds. Each Chief of each tribe of Israel also had a staff, but only Aaron’s blossomed. This was a sign from God thatAaron was God’s chosen man and it was also a sign against those rebelling against God at the time. They wereto make an end of their grumblings lest they die. Selah!
Remember, that Aaron’s rod was placed inside the Ark of the Covenant along with the Tablets of the 10Commandments and some shewbread (manna).
In Exodus 25 God directs Moses in the construction of the golden lampstand (menorah). The cups that hold the oil for lighting are made to look like almond blossoms! We find the lamp stand mentioned several times in the Bible. It is an important element in the Temple where it represents God’s presence and is also mentioned in the Revelation where there are seven golden lampstands representing seven churches. This lampstand (menorah) is Israel’s national emblem and a symbol of rebirth and restoration. There is a huge one standing in the Jewish Quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem which you can see when you go there.
In Jeremiah 1:11 the prophet saw an almond branch to which the Lord replied “You have seen well, for I am watching over my word to perform it.”What a beautiful reminder! So, when you see almond blossoms remember not to grumble, that God’s presence is with you, and that HE is watching over His Word and He will bring it to pass in your life, in your family, in our churches and yes even in our nation and the nations of the world. All may seem very dark and cold right now, but take heart! HE is forever faithful and His Word is true! HALLELUJAH!!
Betsy Roy is the Director of Women of the Word, an inter-generational ministry dedicated to helping women grow as disciples of Jesus by applying God’s Word through the power of the Holy Spirit. WOW holds conferences, retreats, Bible seminars and trips to Israel.
Betsy and her husband Jim lead the trips to Israel, which include visiting with local believers, both Messianic and Arab. Together they have 3 daughters and 3 grandchildren which are the delight of their hearts. God’s mercy endures from generation to generation.