Sunday, December 25, 2016

HANUKKAH - CHRISTMAS CONNECTION - PART TWO



Tonight we light the second candle of Hanukkah. It is also Christmas Day today. Merry Christmas! Let us learn more about the Hanukkah-Christmas connection. Hanukkah has great historical and spiritual importance, but its prophetic importance is even greater. Daniel’s prophecy was not only fulfilled in the days of Antiochus Ephiphanes and the Maccabees. It also has a future fulfillment. It points to events preceding the second coming of the Messiah. Jesus said, “When you see standing in the holy place ‘the abomination that causes desolation,’ spoken of through the prophet Daniel (9:27; 11:31; 12:11) - let the reader understand - then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains... Immediately after the distress of those days the sun will be darkened... all the nations of the earth will mourn. They will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky, with power and great glory” (Matt. 24:15, 29, 30).  Part of Jesus' prophecy was fulfilled in A.D. 70 in the destruction of Jerusalem by Rome.  The Jewish believers in Jesus, about 60,000, fled to Pella in the Judean mountains.  They heeded Jesus' admonition, and they were saved.  Prophecies in the Bible can have multi-level fulfillments.  This prophecy in Matthew 24 has many elements that clearly indicate the end times and are yet to be fulfilled.

“The abomination that causes desolation” that Daniel originally referred to was the statue of Zeus that Antiochus Ephiphanes placed in the temple, demanding that the people worship it. However, at the time Jesus quoted Daniel, he was referring to the anti-Christ that is to come, of which Antiochus was a type. Most of the Jews under Antiochus’ rule committed apostasy, forsaking the true God and worshiping idols. Only a remnant resisted this evil ruler, but God brought deliverance through them for the nation of Israel. As mentioned in Part One, these valiant warriors are referred to in Hebrews 11:36-40 - “persecuted and mistreated - the world was not worthy of them. They wandered in deserts and mountains, and in caves and holes in the ground.”

Jesus warned of a similar time of apostasy in the future: “Then you will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of me. At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other, and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people. Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, but he who stands firm to the end will be saved” (Matt. 24:9-13).

A revival like the world has never known will come forth out of these future troubled times. Jesus said, “And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come” (Matt. 24:14). The very next statement (vs. 15) is the warning about the “abomination of desolation” (anti-Christ) standing in the temple. Evidently, world-wide revival will be the grace of God poured out prior to the revealing of the anti-Christ.

Paul adds his warning about the “abomination of desolation” in the temple, saying, “Don’t let anyone deceive you in any way, for that day will not come until the rebellion (apostasy) occurs and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the man doomed to destruction. He opposes and exalts himself over everything that is called God or is worshiped, and even sets himself up in God’s temple, proclaiming himself to be God” (II Thess. 2:3-4).

The historical events that Hanukkah pictures indeed have meaning for the Christian today. That troubled time when God’s people were persecuted is a foreshadowing of the persecution of God’s people to come. In the days of the Maccabees, God wrought a mighty deliverance through a small band of faithful Jews. The temple was regained and dedicated, and the true worship of God was revived. As Christians celebrate Christmas, the first coming of the Messiah, may they also celebrate Hanukkah and prepare for the testing of their faith prior to the second coming of the Messiah, when their faith will be rewarded. There is a connection between Christmas and Hanukkah.


Primary sources
1. From Bondage to Freedom (A Survey of Jewish History from the Babylonian Captivity to the Coming of the Messiah) by Daniel Fuchs and Harold A. Sevener (Neptune, NJ: Loizeaux, 1995 by Chosen People Ministries).
2. The Feasts of the Lord by Kevin Howard and Marvin Rosenthal (Orlando: Zion's Hope, Inc., 1997), pp. 163-164.

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Hanukkah - Christmas Connection - Part 1

              

The celebration of the eight days of Hanukkah this year begins on Christmas Eve before sundown and lasts till sundown on New Year's Day.  Christians today can identify with this story in our struggle to walk out our faith in the midst of an increasingly dark and anti-Christian world.
In the events of Hanukkah, God ensured that Jesus would be born to Jewish parents in a Jewish nation, thus fulfilling over 300 prophecies in the Old Testament about the coming of the Messiah. It was this time in history between the Old and New Testaments, called the Maccabean period, that the very existence of the Jewish people was threatened. The victory of the Jews over their enemies and the regaining of their temple in Jerusalem led to the celebration of Hanukkah. Christmas is a celebration of the first coming of the Messiah. Hanukkah is a foreshadowing of the times preceding the second coming of the Messiah. There is a definite connection between Hanukkah and Christmas.
The Hebrew word Hanukkah means “to dedicate.” From 168 to 165 B.C. a faithful remnant of Jews were at war with the Syrians who had forced the Jews to abandon their God and His commandments in the Torah and worship idols. The Jews miraculously won the war and rededicated their temple in Jerusalem. They cleaned out all the filthy remains of idol worship and prepared to celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles, an eight-day feast. They found only enough holy oil to keep the menorah burning for one day, but, according to legend, the oil burned for eight days! The people rejoiced at this great miracle and have celebrated the event known as Hanukkah, beginning on the 25th of the Jewish month of Kislev, every year since then (Kislev corresponding to November-December). The Jews light a candle on their menorah every night for eight nights.
It may surprise some that Jesus celebrated Hanukkah in the Temple (Feast of Dedication - John 10:22). He used this occasion to proclaim to the Jews that He was the Messiah. It is also called the Festival of Lights and is prophetic of the Shekinah glory of God filling the temple that Jesus will build in Jerusalem at the beginning of the Millennium (Zech. 6: 12, 13; Ezek. 43: 4-7).
Much of the story of Hanukkah is a fulfillment of the prophecies of Daniel given about 400 years before (Dan. 9:27; 11:31; 12:11). The Jewish revolt started on the 15th of Kislev, 168 B.C. when the Syrian ruler, Antiochus Epiphanes demanded he be worshiped as God.  He erected an idol of Zeus (which bore the face of Antiochus) on the holy altar in the courtyard of the Temple.  On the 25th of Kislev, the birthday of Zeus, Antiochus offered a pig on the altar (an "abomination"), sprinkled its blood in the Holy of Holies and poured its broth over the holy scrolls before he cut them to pieces and burned them! What horror! Faithful Jews were outraged!
Before this Antiochus had wrought destruction and murder in Jerusalem and hacked and smashed the porches and gates of the Temple, stripping it of its golden vessels and treasures.
The Hasideans were a faithful remnant of Jews who fled to the mountains, carrying with them copies of the book of Daniel. As they prepared to war against the Syrians, they studied the Scriptures and learned when their exile and their suffering would end (Daniel 8:13-14).
Antiochus also had pigs sacrificed on altars all over Israel, and the people were forced to eat the sacrifices (against the Torah). In 167 B.C. his soldiers came to the town of Modi’in and demanded that Mattathias the priest sacrifice a pig on the altar they built. Mattathias refused. Another Jew stepped forward to do it. Mattathias was enraged and killed the apostate Jew and the Syrian captain, too. Then he took his five sons and ran to the hills from where they waged a war against the Syrians. Mattathias and his sons raised the war cry, “Let every one who is zealous for the law and supports the covenant come out with me” (Apocrypha, I Maccabees 2:27). Many Jews joined them in the wilderness hiding places. There were many courageous martyrs, including a woman named Hannah who had seven sons. Refusing to eat swine's flesh, they were tortured, then boiled alive! Their mother encouraged them, saying they would be resurrected.  She also refused to apostasize and was put to death. These faithful Jews are described in Hebrews 11:35-39 - "Others were tortured, not accepting deliverance, that they might obtain a better resurrection ... of whom the world was not worthy.  They wandered in deserts and mountains, in dens and caves of the earth.  And all these, having obtained a good testimony through faith, did not receive the promise."

Mattathias led the revolt for one year. On his death bed he passed the leadership on to his son Judah, who was surnamed Maccabeus (nickname meaning “hammer”). Before each battle the Maccabees fasted and prayed, and the Lord brought them through victorious. The valiant band of Maccabees defeated the Syrians and rededicated the temple in Jerusalem on the 25th of Kislev, 165 B.C., exactly three years after the desecration of the temple. This three years is symbolic of the three days in Jesus’ statement, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up” (John 2:19), meaning His body. The “resurrection” of the temple in 165 B.C. was a foreshadowing of the resurrection of the Messiah some 200 years later. In addition to this symbolism, the rededication of the temple has further significance for the Christian concerning his own body. The Apostle Paul taught, “And what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For you [Christians] are the temple of the living God...” (II Cor.6:16).
The Christmas story recorded in Luke shows an example of someone so totally dedicated to the purposes of God, no matter what the cost was to her own body, her reputation, that she willingly submitted to God's Word, saying, "Behold, the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to Thy word" (Luke 1:38).  Mary made the supreme act of dedication, offering her body as the temple of God, thereby giving birth to the Messiah!
Keep in mind that without the sacrifice and struggle of the faithful Jewish remnant against their wicked rulers in the time of the Maccabees, there would not be a Christmas to celebrate.  (PART TWO IS COMING SOON.)

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Final Blog on My 8th Trip to Israel: Mizpah Nancy and Jerusalem Friends


"Mizpah" means "watchman" and "witness." I pray I have been just that on this trip to Israel. Many wonderful things happened at Mizpah, and I actually visited the Mizpah (there are more than one Mizpah) that is seven miles northwest of Jerusalem in 1996. I tell all about it in my first book, Jewish Roots Journey: Memoirs of a Mizpah (see side bar). When God called me to be a Mizpah for Israel, He referred me to the story of Jacob and Laban making a covenant. They erected a pillar called "Mizpah," and Laban said, "May the Lord watch between you and me when we are absent one from another" (Gen. 31:44-49). I was so blessed to literally be a watchman on the walls of Jerusalem, as we walked the ramparts of the Old City and prayed! I felt that I was fulfilling the Lord's admonition: "I have set watchmen on your walls, O Jerusalem; they shall never hold their peace day or night. You who make mention of the Lord, do not keep silent, and give Him no rest till He establishes and till He makes Jerusalem a praise in the earth" (Isa. 62:6-7).

Here is another prophecy that we attendees at Lars Enarson's Jerusalem Sukkot Celebration were fulfilling: "For there shall be a day when the watchmen will cry on Mount Ephraim, 'Arise, and let us go up to Zion, to the Lord our God.' For thus says the Lord: "Sing with gladness for Jacob, and shout among the chief of the nations; proclaim, give praise, and say 'O Lord, save Your people, the remnant of Israel!'" (Jer. 31:6-7). Lars taught us that the word "watchman" in this prophecy is notzrim in Hebrew, which to the Israelis signifies, "Christians"! Wow! And we were there on Mount Ephraim on our bus trip to Samaria!

The Mizpah designation has been used in jewelry that is a gift for remembrance to a friend. I think of myself as a friend to Israel, the Lord's chosen people, and I am delighted to have made friendships with several choice Christian ministers in the land, both Jewish and Gentile.

Roy Kendall of School of Worship in Jerusalem (and also Atlanta) came to visit me in Jerusalem. He was just back from ministering in Japan. It has been such a blessing for Curtis and me to know Roy and Mary. On seven of my eight trips to Jerusalem, I have seen them and visited in their home (but Mary was in the U.S. this time, and the visit with Roy was in our hotel). Roy and Mary are known and loved all over the Land. He has recently led worship for MK Yehuda Glick on the southern steps to the Temple Mount, and he also led worship for Benny Hinn on his recent visit to Jerusalem. What a blessing to be friends with this dynamic couple in God's Holy City!
Roy visited me at the Prima Royale Hotel.

Roy on the Temple Mount

Roy led worship for MK Rabbi Yehuda Glick

Roy & Mary Kendall

Roy Kendall playing the keyboard for Benny Hinn

On a free day some of us visited the Jerusalem Prayer Center, directed by Larry & Gail Osbrink, a Baptist couple. My friends, Shmuel & Pamela Suran of Chazon Yerushalayim (Jerusalem Vision), met us there. This was very special for me, because I wanted my new friends from the conference - Olof Amkoff, Kathy Markward, and Doris Murdoch - to experience this awesome place (my third visit), especially the interactive prayer room, and to meet the Surans. I enjoyed getting to know the Osbrinks, and they are doing a marvelous job. Larry told the history and the ongoing story of the Spaffords and of the historic house, home of Anna and Horatio Spafford's daughter, Bertha Vester. I got to play her piano, and we all sang "It is Well With My Soul" composed by Horatio Spafford upon hearing of the drowning of his four daughters!

Jerusalem Prayer Center on Nablus Road (part of American Colony) 

 Larry telling the story of the Spaffords, the house, and the American Colony

 Larry & Gail Osbrink, Directors

Bertha Vester, daughter of Horatio & Anna Spafford

Horatio Spafford

What a joy to play Bertha's piano! And what a joy to hear all our voices singing 
"It is Well With My Soul"!

Pamela (artist and tour guide) & Shmumel (pastor) Suran
Shmuel and Pamela, Messianic Jews, have spoken in my church. God has used them to raise up strong ministers in the land of Israel. Also, they take aid to the Iraqi Christian refugees in Jordan. Pamela is in demand as an artist. She painted the beautiful mural of "The Harvest" in the chapel of the Jerusalem Prayer Center (photo above).


On another free day Kathy Markward, Doris Murdoch, Johanna Finskas, and I walked to the new Friends of Zion Museum. It told the story of the "biblical figures, academics, businessmen, and military officials who, through their faith, have forged an everlasting bond between the Jewish and Christian peoples." These Zionists did mighty exploits! Here we are - Johanna, Doris, me, and Kathy:


I had another Jerusalem friend visit me at the hotel. She does not want her name published, so she sends out email reports in the name of "Ema Home." She was on her way to work and stopped by to see me. I had visited her once before at her home in 2012. That day she fed me and gave me her testimony. Wow! She had an encounter with Jesus Christ in Alaska when she had barely even heard of him! He revealed Himself to her, and she has been a faithful follower. She found out how wonderful it is to be Jewish and no longer wanted to hide it. She and her husband made aliyah many years ago, and she works for a doctor. Her email reports are descriptive of her many observations of the people of Jerusalem and her spiritual interpretation of events there. 

Of course, I am friends with the Enarson family, Lars & Harriet, Johanna & Doron Keidar, and John & Sophie. Our history goes back to 1992, when they moved to Columbus, MS, where Curtis and I were pastoring. They live in a community close to Gaza, but Lars and Harriet go all over the world to bring the message of preparing the way of the Lord. To learn more about their ministries, you can visit The Watchman International and Cry for Zion. Doron & Johanna and their children will be speaking in the United States in January through March.

Finally, let me say that I took tracts to Jerusalem. We gave out a few along the way, but the bulk of them found a home at the Jerusalem Prayer Center. I got an email from Larry Osbrink, saying that visitors were picking them up! I was overjoyed and shared the good news with my Mississippi friend, Joyce Linton, who had commissioned me to make the tracts. A poem I had written so blessed her that she wanted it presented in a tract for my trip to Israel. These tracts and I were prayed over at my "send-off" at South Luverne Baptist Church. I am believing that they will bring about a harvest of souls for the Kingdom of God. May Yeshua be glorified and many saved! Please join me in this prayer.


I will end this series of blogs on my Jerusalem experience with this hopeful prayer:





Monday, December 5, 2016

Part Five: My Personal Experience in the Mountains of Samaria


We went on a tour bus to the mountains of Samaria up the Patriarchs Highway, which goes from Beersheba up to Shechem (Nablus today). We were heading for Shiloh, where the Tabernacle (with Ark of the Covenant) stood for 369 years and where Hannah prayed for a son (Samuel). This was where Joshua divided up the land. We would also see Elon Moreh where God first promised the land to Abraham. We went through the Judean wilderness in the area of the tribe of Benjamin.

Along the way we saw Jewish and Palestinian villages. As posted on the signs, the Palestinian villages were sponsored by the United Nations and the European Union (UN and EU). We could see the contrast of these villages with the less prosperous Jewish villages. We saw that Ramallah is large and flourishing despite media coverage to the contrary. The guide declared that the accusation against Israel of being "apartheid" is obviously untrue, because it's the Palestinian side that shows apartheid, At the entrance of Nablus (biblical Shechem) the sign says, "No Jews allowed." Former President Jimmy Carter declared these roads to be apartheid, but our guide pointed out that the green and white Palestinian car tags outnumber the Israeli yellow and black tags. Israelis build their own homes. Israel's government doesn't help, because it doesn't want Jews there! The guide said the Patriarchs Highway goes right through an Arab town, Hawara, and the United States paid for the road to be widened.

The "poor Palestinians" narrative from the media is not true, our guide said. He said they are wealthier than the Jews. They have a "welfare mentality," however. They don't have to work for their prosperity, but the Jews do. It surprised me to hear that the number one funder of Palestinians is the German government.

Since the Oslo Accords of 1993, this heartland of Israel, Judea and Samaria, is politically divided into three sections: Area A is under complete control of the Palestinian Authority. Area B is mixed control. Area C is Israeli governed. Jews live in this area which is 60% of Judea and Samaria.

There was a half-marathon taking place at Shiloh, so we were delayed getting to our destination. This was the Bible Marathon, and thousands of people had come. Participants retrace the path by the "man of Benjamin" who was running to Shiloh with the bad news that Israel was defeated by the Philistines, and the Ark of the Covenant was captured! (I Sam. 5:12)




As we were going up the hill to the ancient site of the Tabernacle, a man approached me and asked where I was from. I said, "Alabama." He exclaimed, "Sweet Home Alabama!" and began singing. He said he was the "Elvis of Israel," and then he sang an Elvis song. I tried to use my Hebrew in conversation. He said, "Don't trust anyone, just trust God." I answered in Hebrew that I loved HaShem, but I also love Yeshua from Bethlehem, my Messiah. As we walked away, Doris Murdoch said to me, "Didn't you tell me this morning that you dreamed about Elvis?" "Oh! Yes, I did!" I replied. So, evidently the Lord had set up this little encounter! 😀

We walked up the hill to the site of the ancient tabernacle at Shiloh. First we viewed a movie about Joshua's conquest of the Promised Land, dividing up the land, and the story of Hannah, Samuel, and Eli the Priest. Lars Enarson gave us some outstanding teaching at the overlook of the tabernacle. He said the prophetic ministry of Samuel came out of Hannah's prayer. Samuel was God's servant to prepare the way of King David, similar to Elijah (John the Baptist) preparing the way for the Messiah, at both His comings. The Jews pray Hannah's prayer first every day, then Genesis 22 (Abraham binding Isaac).





Next we drove up to the Mount of Blessing to visit a non-profit organization that brings Christian volunteers from all over the world to serve Jewish farmers, HaYovel (Jubilee). The Tommy Waller family from Nashville started this ministry in 2005. Can you imagine Christians being accepted by Orthodox Jews here? In ten years, they have had 1700 volunteers to harvest hundreds of tons of grapes and olives! They help the "settlers" to fulfill Bible prophecy of restoring the land! It was exciting to see so many young people. We had lunch in the communal tent and got to meet the volunteers. I sat by a lady from New Zealand. When I told her I had met a lady in Jerusalem in 2007 who was from New Zealand, I found out that very same person had been at HaYovel just four weeks before! Now that was a God-incidence for sure!



The last site of the day was on the mountains of Samaria at Elon Moreh, east of Shechem, overlooking Mt. Gerizim and Mt. Ebal. It is the place where God appeared to Abram when he first came into the Promised Land. There he built an altar (Gen. 12:5-7). We could also look out and see the place where Joshua built an altar upon coming into the Promised Land. We had another good teaching at this site.
I hope you keep reading my blogs and also comment on them. Shalom!






Saturday, December 3, 2016

Part Four: Thousands of Christians Join the Annual Jerusalem March


A highlight of my Jerusalem Sukkot Celebration was to participate in the 3-mile march in the heart of Jerusalem. It was estimated that 80 nations were represented in the thousands of Christians who marched. This yearly event originated in 1980 when a couple from Canada, Merv and Merla Watson, began the festive celebration of the Feast of Tabernacles (Sukkot) to show solidarity with the State of Israel. Thirteen countries had withdrawn their embassies in reaction to Israel's declaration of Jerusalem as their eternal capital that year. The International Christian Embassy was established in response to the hurt the Jewish people felt, and the Christian celebration of the Feast has become a yearly event.  I was blessed to meet the Watsons, who are outstanding professional musicians. Merla has written 500 songs, and I knew some of them, such as "Jehovah Jireh" and "Awake, O Israel." She plays the violin and viola beautifully, and they both have excellent voices, leading in worship. Our group was treated to a concert, and Merla gave her testimony of a miracle healing after a grand piano fell on her hand and crushed it! She showed me the scars.




Doris and I had come prepared to march in our American flag kimonos, but we decided it would be better to give the visibility to our Cry for Zion T-shirts. We gave out little American flags and candy to the children who clamored for them along the parade route. We soon gave out of our supply, but we still had our wide smiles, and we waved to the enthusiastic Israelis lining the streets, sometimes engaging them in quick conversation. I told them we were praying for them. They loved us, and we loved them. It was awesome!

Maybe we can wear our kimonas on the Fourth of July! Ha!

Waiting in the park to line up for the March - Nancy talking to an Israeli


The Asian nations were very well represented!











Yea! We completed the March!
"And it shall come to pass that everyone who is left of all the nations which came against Jerusalem (battle of Armageddon) shall go up from year to year to worship the King, the Lord of hosts, and to keep the Feast of Tabernacles" (Zech. 14:16). Here we are, rehearsing!