Thursday, December 18, 2014

And So This Is Christmas (repost)

Hello Grafted In Reader,

Today is December 18 in my corner of blogland and the second full day of Hanukkah which means dedication. I want to share a post with you from last December which I think expresses sentiments felt by many who share a Hebraic perspective on matters of faith and practice. This will be my final post in this series titled, And So This Is Christmas. Until January 2015, Kevod Yeheveh, His presence strengthen our journeys, thanks for reading my posts, and come back whenever you can do so!
Hello Grafted In Reader,

Gralan, Larry and Rebecca, thanks for your comments to my last post! I am listening to talk radio from the Canadian Broadcasting Company, CBC, as I spend this time with you. It is about 37 hours and 20 minutes before December 25 arrives here in my part of blogland.

And So This Is Christmas? What Have We Done?

Another Year Over, A New One Just Begun.

There are those of us who love the holiday music be it traditional church carols, or the ones by Andy Williams, Johnny Mathis, Karen Carpenter, and of course the Hallelujah Chorus.. I am sure there are scads more we could name but that is not my intention here.

Recently a Lutheran pastor was sporting his I-Pod which had a song on it by country singer Mearl Haggard who lumps Christmas together with the trimmings and the tradition. He is right on..

Year after year we mistakenly celebrate this time claiming it to be when the Messiah was born, our songs declare it was in winter, and look down our religious noses at those who would call for correction in our celebration of this time. No one wants to compromise and make it a celebration of the coming of winter. We must have our western Jesus born then.. It has always been done this way! We cannot never no way change it.

Short of a revival or awakening, it is unlikely to change. So may we be enabled to peacefully co-exist with those who make tradition their ultimate observance of this time of year, and may the traditionalist realize that there are some of us, who are fed up with something that seems errant from the very first paragraph.

Shalom and Kevud Yeheveh reader, His Presence be with us today and always.
Mellow Roc

Monday, December 15, 2014

And So This Is Christmas, Song lyric by John Lenin

Hello Grafted In Readers,
I have decided to re-post as a result of some extra unwanted stuff in my last post so this will hopefully be much cleaner.
Alfred Edersheim, is an 19th century believer in Messiah Yeshua who converted from Judaism and offered much scholarship to the beginnings of the Christian faith. I am posting his lengthy treatis on the celebration of December 25 as Christmas, to having custom in the Jewish celebration of Hanukkah which is characteristically dedication or re-dedication. A question each of us would do well to ask of ourselves, Do are passions seek to gratify ourselves or glorify our Messiah and LORD? I pray we all chose to glorify our Lord who found sin distateful and calls us out rather than wallow in it with us. Please enjoy the below offered by the late Alfred Edersheim.
Alfred Edersheim: "Christmas - A Festival of Jewish Origin"
[The following is an article from an old British magazine. I used to have a copy on my website, but it died years ago. My dad asked it I could re-post it to Facebook for him, but I wasn't sure it would be too large (3 1/2 typewritten pages). So I'm posting it here for reference.]


The Leisure Hour, London, England, No. 1147, December 20, 1873, pp. 810-812.

CHRISTMAS--A FESTIVAL OF JEWISH ORIGIN?
WHY DO WE KEEP IT ON THE 25TH DECEMBER, AND WHAT IS THE MEANING OF ITS OBSERVANCE?
BY THE REV DR. EDERSHEIM

Of the various questions debated in church history, scarcely one has been discussed with more partisan keenness, or ended in more decidedly unsatisfactory results, than that concerning the origin of our present Christmas date. Certain facts connected with it are, of course, universally admitted. We all know what is the meaning of Christmas; and, similarly, that at first the festival was celebrated in the East at a different from the present date, the latter being introduced from the West into the East, in the second half of the fourth century. But there our agreement ends. Why the change of the date was made, does not appear from the writings of that period, and has never since been satisfactorily settled. Coming from the West, the suggestion lay near, that it originated in a desire to utilise for the most solemn Christian purposes a series of Pagan Roman festivals, which took place in the month of December. But the latest, most learned, and most philosophical of church historians, Neander, has, after seemingly adopting this view, shown its inherent improbability. Not to speak of the incongruousness of adapting, say, the Roman Saturnalia to a feast of the Nativity of Christ, not a trace of such a suggestion can be found even in those writings of sectaries which controvert kindred points in church practice. Besides, as Neander remarks, “the prevailing mode of procedure in the Western Church was by no means to connect the celebration of Christian festivals with Pagan, but rather to set over against the Pagan festivals days of fasting and penitence.” And so the historian concludes by giving up as hopeless the search for the outward causes which led to the change of the date and the adoption of the 25th December. The admission invites and encourages fresh investigations. We propose, therefore, to reconsider the arguments first propounded by Dr. Cassel, of Germany, who connects Christmas with the Jewish festivity of the Dedication of the Temple. And even if the reader should not be prepared to adopt his conclusions, we may offer them as a new contribution towards the solution of this question, and as one possessing, at any rate, the merit of differing from all those commonly suggested.

At the outset, let us be clearly understood. It may be almost needless, and yet from another point of view it seems necessary, to say that our object is neither apologetic nor controversial. It does not fall within its range to plead either for or against the religious observance of Christmas. We assume the latter as a fact, and simply account for its occurrence on the 25th December, and for the various customs which we see associated with it. And in so doing we hope to meet the case of all, whatever their special views. For, mostly the whole of Christendom is agreed in bearing on that day a remembrance of the birth of our blessed Lord; and even they who from conscientious scruples abstain from the religious observance, are not proof against the special customs, the good cheer, and the joyousness which the season brings.

Somehow these customs are chiefly characteristic of the Teutonic race. The Roman Catholic Church celebrates the season with a Christmas Midnight Mass--the only time in the year when mass is celebrated at night. The Southern churches are plentifully bedizened with tawdry tinsel, and in Italy they introduce, besides the manger-cradle, a live ox and a donkey, partly to symbolise the supposed scene in Bethlehem, while a grotesque imitation of shepherds completes the representation. But the Christmas joy and the Christmas presents are transferred to New Year’s Day. It is not so among the Teutonic races. With them Christmas joy has, so to speak, become indigenous--it is not imported. Even our countrymen who sojourn in other lands can only long for an English Christmas. For here or in Germany all seem in accordance--the country, the season, the surroundings. When the white covering of snow lies deep on field and road, the merry tinkle of the sledge-bells is heard, where a sparser population has not yet secured the advantages of modern progress. Among ourselves the snorting of the great iron horse, as it slowly drags up its heavy Christmas load, performs the same service. So far as at all practicable, the long-broken ranks will now be serried again, and the long-severed members of families gathered once more around the Christmas board. With a sort of joyous sound the Christmas bells have clashed it out together, as if their very ringing were to carry the gladsomeness of Christmas tidings far into the winter scene. It is all dead around; but within it is warm and cheery. The Yule-log burns on the hearth, and the prickly holly and the evergreen decorate the home. In Germany, already the eve before, the children have hung up their stockings on their beds, that at night when they lie asleep “Sanct' Claus” (St. Nicolaus) may come with noiseless footsteps and leave the unknown gift. Quite in the North the same object of a sudden gift, the hand of the giver being untraced, is served by the so-called Yule-klapp. A knock at the door (a klapp at Yule), and some hand unknown flings in the gift. This specially for children and the poor- for they are the fittest recipients of Christmas gifts. Then we have the Christmas board with its plentiful spread. Even such an ascetic as St. Francis of Assissi would say, “I wish it were possible that the very walls could eat meat.”1 Scanderberg would not hurt even a Turk on that day. Theodoric the Great wished the poor, the sick, and the sorrowing attended to, while the warrior Emperor Charlemagne ordered indulgence to be extended to his captives. Then in the evening the Christmas tree is brilliantly lit up, and hung with gilded apples, and around it the Christmas gifts are spread for young and old. There are some who imagine that this Christmas tree is, so to speak, characteristically Protestant, and the manager-representation Popish. It is not so. These customs are neither Popish nor Protestant. The Christmas tree, with its golden apples, is much older than the Reformation, and indeed was objected to by some of the Reformers. And so far from the cradle-manager being exclusively Popish, till within the last fifty years they were church steeple every Christmas night at twelve o'clock, and to rock it for an hour, while the choir below sang the "Gloria in excelsis." But if these customs are neither Popish nor Protestant, far less are they heathen, be it Teutonic, Eastern, or Roman. I do not know what amount of assent the statement will obtain, but the object of this paper is to bring before the reader some arguments in support of the views advanced by Dr. Cassel, that Christmas with its date carries us back not to any heathen but to a Jewish festivity, and that its customs are significantly in accordance therewith. To speak plainly, Christmas on this showing is the Christian counterpart of an old Jewish Temple festival, and though its customs are in their form necessarily the outcome of our habits, views, and even of our climate, yet they are quite in agreement with the spirit of the festival itself.

It is not pleasant to deal in controversy, and yet for argument it is necessary to try and put aside certain preconceived opinions, to which frequent repetition has given a show of authority, and which are supposed by an appearance of learning. The most common and superficial of these is, that our Christmas has an old Teutonic origin, and that because we speak of burning the Yule-log, we are on the track of some ancient Pagan Yule-festival. This would scarcely accord with the spread of the observance southwards, in a direction the opposite from that in which ecclesiastical customs have been wont to flow. Far less would it account for the undoubted fact of the universal prevalence of the feast, and that on the 25th December, so early as the close of the fourth century. Another and more pretentious opinion is that which discovered in it the remnant of the old Persian Sun-Worship of Mithra. Unfortunately for the theory, there never was a feast of Mithra at that date, the Sun-festivals being in spring and in autumn. The story arose in this wise. Last century an old Roman Calendar was discovered, in which against the date of our present Christmas (viii. Cal. Jan.) were the words N. Invicti. The question who this "unconquered" was, led to the hypothesis that it was the Sun. The suggestion of Dr. Cassel, however, is much more likely to be true, that it referred not to the Sun, but to the Emperor Constantius, in whose reign the 25th December, 351, was a decisive day. It is quite true that that day marked the Astronomical Calendar the Equinox. But that could scarcely have led to a popular church festival; though, once appointed, the significance of the coincidence might be commented on by church teachers. There remains only one more theory to notice, which would make the date of our Christmas identical with the ancient Roman Saturnalia--though on what historical ground it is difficult to say, since their principal days were the 17th to the 19th December. And now, these preliminary objections removed, we can address ourselves the more freely to our special inquiry.

Christmas, as we all know, is the festival of the nativity of our blessed Lord--of His appearance in the flesh. But Scripture says nothing as to its precise date, and the circumstance of shepherds tending their flocks all night in the plains of Bethlehem, though certainly not decisive, speaks rather against that for its occurrence on the night of the 25th December. Even tradition, usually so loquacious, is silent on this occasion. In point of fact, we know that in the early church Christmas Day was observed, not on the 25th December, but on the 6th January, our present Epiphany. Indeed, the Epiphany, or "appearing" of our blessed Lord (Tit. ii. 11; iii. 4), was regarded as referring to the day of Christ's birth. This custom of keeping the Epiphany originated in the eastern branch of the church, where it had been introduced by Jewish Christians. The symbolical reason for fixing on the 6th of January as the day of Christ's birth is very clear, and distinctly mentioned in early writings. The first Adam had been created on a Friday, that is, on the sixth day of the first year; and the second Adam, the Lord Jesus, had suffered on a Friday, the sixth of the week. It would therefore naturally suggest itself, that as the first Adam had appeared on the sixth day of the new year, so the second Adam also, who had died on the sixth day, should have "appeared" on the sixth day of the new year, that is, on the 6th January. Accordingly, ancient Christian calendars, even in the fourth century, mention Friday as alike the day of our Lord's birth and of His death.2 Origen was the first to connect the "appearing" of Christ rather with His baptism than with His birth. But this was afterwards violently controverted by some, as tending to foster the heretical opinion that only at his baptism had the Divine Personality joined itself to the human nature of Jesus. Nevertheless the view continued to be held, though it gradually went into the background in favour of another opinion, that the "Epiphany" meant His first appearing to the Gentiles, and referred to the adoration of the Magi. Still later, the date was also regarded as that of the first "appearing" of His miraculous power at Cana in Galilee (John ii. 11), and (for some unknown reason) as that also of His miraculous feeding of the multitude.

About the same time that the observance of Epiphany in its new signification as the day of the adoration of the Magi, as Christ's baptismal day, and as the Epiphany of His miracles, passed from the Eastern into the Western branch of the church, the observance of Christmas as a separate festival on the 25th December spread from the West into the East. In his Christmas Homily, delivered at Antioch on the 25th December, 386, St. Chrysostom distinctly says that this observance, which had been long kept all throughout the West "from Thracia to Cadiz," had only been introduced in the East ten years previously, but had already been universally adopted. The only exception was that of the Armenian Church, which continued the observance of the 6th January as the birthday of Jesus. St. Chrysostom further insists that the Christmas festival of the 25th December rested on a very ancient tradition. With this statement so far agree the words of the so-called "Apostolical Constitutions," the first seven books of which belong, by universal consent, to a period prior to the Council of Nice, say, the end of the third century: "Brethren, observe the festival days; and first of all the birthday which you are to celebrate on the 25th of the ninth month" (Book V., sect. iii., 13). Which was meant by the ninth month we can have no difficulty in deciding. Reckoning after the Jewish and Roman Calendar we find that Nisan, the first Jewish month, corresponded to April, and hence the ninth month to December.

We have now verified this additional historical fact, that Christmas was henceforth celebrated on the twenty-fifth day of the ninth month in the Jewish Calendar, which corresponded to our December. But why was this special date fixed upon? The objection to the former date, and to the Epiphany, was, that it represented the "appearing" of Christ in the sense of His manifestation, rather than of His human birth. But the main object of Christmas was to exhibit that the Son of God had taken to Himself a true body. What was there in the old economy which had symbolised the body of Christ? Undoubtedly a most notable symbol of it existed, and our Lord Himself had indicated it in express language. "Destroy this Temple," said Jesus unto the Jews, "and in three days I will raise it up." "But He spake of the Temple of His body." And a most significant emblem it was. For as in the Temple all sacrifices were offered and reconciliation was made, and through it alone access could be had unto the Father, so it is to us in and through the body of Christ, in and through His taking unto Himself our human nature, that we can approach God, and offer unto Him acceptable sacrifice. Accordingly, it was in this sense also most significant, that when He yielded up the ghost, the Temple-veil "was rent in twain from the top to the bottom" (Matt. xxvii. 51), and that even the bodies of Christians are designated by the apostle as "the temple of God" (1 Cor. iii. 16, 17; vi. 19; 2 Cor. vi. 16). But if the body with which the divinity of Christ was united was like "the Temple," then the birth of Jesus Christ was like the Dedication of the Temple, and Christmas Day the feast of the true Dedication of the Temple.

We have now two things to guide us further: the date of the festival of the Dedication of the Temple, and even the name, as recording ancient traditions. We begin with the latter, as the simplest of the two. Our English word "Christmas," or Christ's mass, gives us no clue; neither does the French "Noel," and its cognate terms in Italian and Spanish, which are simply a contraction of dies natalis, "the birthday." It is otherwise with the German Weihnachten, which, without tracing it up through the ancient high Dutch, takes you straight to the meaning: "Night of the Dedication." Now as for this Dedication of the Temple, we know that our blessed Lord was at Jerusalem at "the feast of the dedication, and it was winter. And Jesus walked in the Temple in Solomon's porch" (John x. 22,23). It is very remarkable, that on that very occasion Christ for the first time told them "plainly" that His human nature was the Temple of the Divine, and finally in His own words, "that the Father is in Me, and I in Him" (v. 38). Indeed, this "lesson," spoken by the Lord on Christmas Day in the Temple, ought to form part of our Christmas reading. But to continue. We further know as a historical fact, that the feast of the Dedication of the Temple (hanukah), or "of candles," in remembrance of the restoration of the Temple, after the victory gained by Judas Maccabaeus in 148 B.C. over the Syrians, took place on the twenty-fifth of the ninth month, or Kislev. Nor had this date been accidentally chosen. It had been fixed from of old, when Haggai spoke (ii. 18): "Consider now from this day and upward, from the twenty-fourth day of the ninth month, even from the day that the foundation of the Lord's temple was laid, consider it.... From this day will I bless you." Alike the name, then (Weihnachten), as perpetuating a very ancient tradition; the date of the corresponding Temple-festival, as fixed in prophecy and in history; but, above all, the meaning and import of the Incarnation of Christ--His taking unto Himself a true body--all point to one conclusion.

We have thus stated the ground on which the arguments rests that Christmas Day was celebrated on the 25th December, because it was the fulfilment of what had been symbolised in the feast of the Dedication of the Temple, which took place on the 25th of the ninth month, corresponding to our December. It is not necessary for our present purpose to maintain that this reference was understood even in the latter half of the fourth century, when the Christmas observance of the 25th December became general. Suffice that already at that time it rested "on a very ancient tradition." The tradition may have been known, even while its origin had been forgotten. And yet it is singular how our Christmas customs are so thoroughly in accordance with it. Those tall, straight fir-trees, with their branches stretched out like arms, are like the candlestick in the Temple, and, as among Israel during that feast every home was lighted up, so the Christmas trees also are lighted to symbolise the same truth of light shining out into the darkness. The "gilded apples" with which they are hung were intended to convey a kindred meaning. According to Christian legend, the fruit of the tree which had caused our parents' fall was of the apple kind (malum a malo). But now the apple is gilded, and it hangs on the Christmas tree, which is lit up in joy for the Dedication of the true Temple, which is the body of the second Adam. As for the superstitious practice of introducing the manager-cradle, we cannot find too strong words to condemn its silliness and profanity. But it is a curious illustration alike of how, in the providence of God, whatever is false avenges itself, and of the origin of superstition, that the practice of placing an ox and an ass by the side of the manger-cradle arose from a false translation3 of Hab. iii.2: "Revive thy work in the midst of the years." The Septuagint renders it, "in the midst of two beasts shall he be known," and this, with further reference to Isaiah i. 3, led to the custom which now so shocks our sense of reverence!

But to us all, whatever our special views or conclusions may be, Christ is the true Temple, and His Incarnation the real Dedication of the Temple. God grant that from our homes the true Light of Christ, "a light to lighten the Gentiles," may shine forth into the wintry darkness of the heathen world, and also "so shine before men, that they may see our good works, and glorify our Father which is in heaven."

Mellow Roc

Thursday, December 11, 2014

D Minor For Tact, fictional story by David Russell

Hello Grafted In Reader,
I wanted to share a Scrooge-type story typical for the season. The idea is not original, but that of a mentor of an online story group in which I participate. The story is original, under 800 words, entertaining and reminds us to balance personal achievement with compassion for another. Names, places and entities are truly fictional. Please enjoy and may we live out the story's purpose today and always.
D Minor For Tact
Part 1
by David Russell
Copyright David Russell
"This morning we have Beatrice Walker as guest on the Open Line show, and are sure we will hear from several interested gracious callers. Ms. Walker is the resident conductor of the International Philharmonic and will be leading the 50-piece orchestra on a December tour through North America and throughout Ontareo," announced the host of the morning network talk show.
"I am pleased to be directing this orchestra as we will be performing piano concertos by Beethoven and the 5th symphony of Beethoven, likely his most famous work," she informed the listening public. Beatrice ran a tight ship and probably tended to micro-manage much of the orchestra's affairs.
*****
It was early December and Brad was the first chair viola player in the orchestra. His wife was about to give birth to their first child. After the morning rehearsal, he approached the conductor and asked for a private 2-minute meeting.
"I need the time off to be with my wife as we are expecting our first child. The other 5 viola players should be able to cover my absence and produce a full sound," he exclaimed. Pounding her fist on the table she flatly refused his request. Underneath she wanted to be known, noticed, and recognized as one of the leading conductors in this genre of music. Any weak links would threaten her end-goal.

The next week, a repeat meeting was attempted and she added, "I do not have time for such trivial matters. If you wanted to be a father and raise a family, then you should have been an educator not a performer."

The orchestra arrived at the airport near Deluth, Minnesota on the 15th where they would fly to their first performance stop, London, Ontareo Canada. The instruments were loaded on the charter 747 and the members of the orchestra boarded.
"I am going to call all names to make sure we are all numbered and counted for. If anyone is missing, they will be immediately fired and receive a series of bad press articles that I had crafted by the Devious Marketing Agency," announced Ms. Walker as she stood resolutely in front of the group. All names were heard. Everyone appeared to be in place.
*****
Six hours later the orchestra were on stage at the performance center in London. A tall Douglas Fur with plentious lights was on one side of the stage.
"For our first work, we are performing the "Fifth Symphony of Beethoven" Ms. Walker announced to the capacity crowd. Glancing over she noticed the bright lights, the smiling faces, the decoratively multi-colored auditorium, the padded plush velvatine seats, and that her first chair viola player was missing.
"Where the hell is my viola player," she sternly but softly inquired of the group. The show must go on and did.

At intermition a curier brought a telegram to the orchestra's temporary chambers. The note read, 'Stayed home, wife passed away due to serious medical complications during labor" Someone in the orchestra had recorded the viola player stating his name and covered for his absence. Ms. Walker was given a D Minor for tact by the press and after the tour released by the governing board of the International Philharmonic. The viola player was approached and assumed duties as temporary conductor for the remainder of the season. He received an A Minor for leadership, working under hardship, and compassion for his co-workers and all concerned.

Monday, December 8, 2014

And So This Is Christmas Part 3, song lyric by John Lenin

Hello Grafted in Reader,
This post will be rather lengthy, and one you might want to save for your own study, or study you may do with others where you encounter reading about the "offerings" "drawing near to God" that occurred in the first and second temple periods, respectively. People of faith commonly refer to this time as temple sacrifice, not an occult practice as this article from First Fruits of Zion Ministry will show.
-As we are figuratively returning to Israel, Bethlehem, or Nazareth, consider this a look at life and faith before 70 AD when the temple was destroyed by the Roman militia. Enjoy the reading below.
Category: Vayikra
The Offerings
Vayikra (Leviticus) 1:1–8:36
The book of Leviticus, often avoided due to the almost endless detail given to the various offerings, has much to "offer" us relating to the words and life of Mashiach and other Biblical concepts. This commentary could be your starting point on a journey of incredible discovery and understanding of a service that God instituted.
"…All things which are written about Me in the Torah of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled." (Luke 24:44)1
These words are both wonderful and mysterious. It is easy to see Messiah in Psalms 22 or Isaiah 53. Certainly we can comprehend other passages of the Torah that refer to the Messiah. Even the Jewish sages who did not recognize Yeshua as Redeemer acknowledge that Moses speaks of the Messiah in Deuteronomy 18.
But what about a book like Vayikra? Do its pages so clearly reveal the Redeemer? Can today’s parasha, so full of data and details about the offerings, help us understand who Messiah is? Luke 24:27 proclaims: "Then beginning with Moses and with all the prophets, [Yeshua] explained to them the things concerning Himself in all the Scriptures." It would appear that the Messiah—His work, His nature, and His mission—should be evident in such a difficult book as Leviticus. Our challenge is to find Him waiting for us there!
While we may not appreciate the concept of sacrifices in our modern age, they were the means by which our Creator chose to bring His plan of salvation and redemption into the world. He ‘sacrificed’ the first animal in Gan Eden in order to clothe Adam and Eve and to cover their shame. The God-ordained sacrificial rituals should never be confused with occult ritual. Such pagan practices war with the Kingdom of Life. Temple sacrifices always took place in daylight, ending at about three o’clock in the afternoon. The slaughter and smoke occurred in full view of witnesses, while the sun still shone—an act of the Kingdom of Light. This is in stark contrast to covert satanic practices, carried out under cover of night, amidst shadows, lost in the kingdom of darkness.
The Precedent
Our sidrah reveals five different offerings and five different characteristics of the sacrificial system. There is a great deal of commentary on how the offerings were to be made, what was acceptable and what was not. We want to focus on why. "Why have offerings? Couldn’t God find another way of making atonement?"
Ultimately He did, in the life, death, and resurrection of Yeshua. But like justice systems in most democratic countries, there must always be a precedent. Eloheinu, our God of justice, always builds His ‘case’ on previous Divine revelation. The Almighty magnifies, or builds upon, something already in place: whether in the Creation account where the Spirit is hovering over pre-existent waters, or when Yeshua takes a few loaves and fishes and feeds multitudes. God always starts with something and fashions more out of it—even us! This principle is paramount in most credible legal systems. In theological circles it is called ‘progressive revelation.’ By understanding the precedent (the foreshadowing) we can more easily appreciate the substance, which is Messiah (Colossians 2:17).
The English word ‘sacrifice’ is a weak and misleading translation of the original Hebrew word, which has powerful meaning. The term used in the Torah for ‘sacrifice’ or ‘offering’ is korban (קרבן), which means, ‘to draw near.’ Substitutionary sacrifice was instituted by the Judge of all the earth so that sinful man could ‘draw near,’ and enter into relationship with Him. This is the precedent upon which Yeshua would build:
"He is able to save forever those who draw near to God through Him since He always lives to make intercession for them." (Hebrews 7:25-28)
The Levitical sacrifices permitted God’s people to ‘draw near.’ Our korban, Yeshua, fulfilled this in a more complete way by permitting each of us, even from among the gentiles, to ‘draw near’ to the Creator. With these foundations in place—that God builds on what has gone on before, and that His desire is to draw near to His creation—let us examine the biblical offerings.
Burnt Offerings : The Olah — עלה
The first offering we encounter is often translated as ‘burnt offering.’ Once again English fails us. Certainly it is burnt. In fact, it is completely consumed in fire. The Hebrew name however, is olah and literally means ‘going up.’ The implication is that the smoke, the pleasing aroma, is ‘going up’ to the throne of the Most High. Some versions translate olah as ‘elevation offering,’ which is more accurate but still does not quite capture the essence.
The olah offering was a voluntary offering, made out of the convictions of one’s heart. Many renowned rabbis teach that if one entertained impure thoughts, the olah offering afforded him the opportunity to repent and give this freewill offering to signify his ‘newness of life.’
Yeshua addresses this same human tendency in Matthew 5:22: "But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother shall be guilty… and whoever shall say ‘You fool,’ shall be guilty enough to go into the fiery hell." Matthew 5:27–28 is likewise well known in regard to the sins of the imagination: "You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery;’ but I say to you, that everyone who looks on a woman to lust for her has committed adultery with her already in his heart." These are the types of sins for which the olah offering would be appropriate.
The olah offering was indicative of newness of life in another way. In Exodus 18:12, Moses’ father-in-law makes an elevation offering unto the LORD. Many rabbis teach that this was done because Yitro became a "convert." Until the destruction of the second Temple, the olah offering, which was voluntary and indicated "newness of life," was the required sacrifice for all those from the gentile nations who chose to draw near to the One true God of Israel.
Does this point to Messiah? Absolutely! Yeshua’s death and suffering were voluntary. "For this reason the Father loves Me, because I lay down My life that I may take it again. No one has taken it away from Me, but I lay it down on my own initiative" (John 10:17-18).
When we identify with Him, He takes even our sinful thoughts and covers them with His own blood. As new creations, "We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Messiah" (2 Corinthians 10:5).
Also, as an elevation offering, the olah offering was literally lifted up into the air. Yeshua said, "And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to Myself" (John 12:32). He is the only sacrifice suitable for gentile conversions into the faith—the only offering that brings newness of life.
Meal Offerings : The Minchah — מנחה
The next offering is the meal, or grain offering—minchah in the Hebrew. There are several unique characteristics in the minchah offerings. First, the ingredients—finely ground wheat flour, oil, and frankincense—were baked into ten loaves, the symbolic number of completeness. The bearer of this offering was acknowledging that the complete provision of his sustenance, joy and satisfaction were all from God’s hands.
The ‘loaves’ were baked without yeast, leaven being symbolic of sin. The finished dough was then ‘anointed’ with the purest olive oil. It should be obvious that Yeshua is the unleavened bread, ‘broken for us.’ Just as the ten minchah loaves represented completeness, ‘in Him you have been made complete’ (Colossians 2:10). And as the minchah loaves were anointed with olive oil, the term Messiah from the Hebrew, or Christ from the Greek, both mean ‘Anointed One.’ Our Anointed One was anointed to Kingship, to Priesthood, and like the minchah, as an Offering.
Peace Offerings : The Shlamim — שלמים
Some translations render this as ‘fellowship offering,’ which is relevant inasmuch as this is the outcome of the offering. However, the Hebrew, shlamim carries with it the root word shalom (שלום), which means ‘peace.’
This is the first sacrifice not burned entirely, as portions of the meat are shared and eaten. The relevance of "fellowship" is clear, as all who are in a right relationship are fellow partakers in the meal—an echo of the Passover. But as far as it reveals the character of the Messiah, we must look to the "peace" nomenclature. Paul reminds us, "Having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through the LORD Yeshua the Messiah" (Romans 8:1). This fulfills the very promise of Yeshua in John 14:27: "My peace I give you."
Prophetically, in Ezekiel chapters 45 and 46 we find the Messiah making the shlamim offering. This confuses some people, but it doesn’t need to. While, of course, it is deeply more significant than a barbecue, we can think of it as inviting close friends over for steaks on the grill. When Yeshua reigns in Yerushalayim, we may all sit down and share the roast shlamim offerings together with Him in fellowship! What a day that will be!
Sin Offerings : The Chatat —חטאת
In Leviticus chapter 4 we encounter the next offering, almost universally translated as the "sin offering." Referred to as the chatat, it is the first in our study that was required by God, as opposed to being voluntary.
A unique aspect of the sin offering is that it is an all-encompassing ritual designed to atone for sins committed in ignorance. In God’s desire for His people to draw near, He provided for all aspects of human failings—including those sins that they were ignorant of perpetrating. It is a true saying that ignorance of the law is no excuse. In His infinite mercy God covered even the minutia we so easily overlook. How much more so, then, with the perfect offering, Yeshua?
Another aspect of the chatat offering was that it rendered a person considered ceremonially unclean, clean. Any contamination acquired through contact with blood, a dead body, or other manifestation of the kingdom of death was rendered not merely inconsequential, but exactly the opposite: the unclean was transferred out of the kingdom of death into the Kingdom of Light and Life. We find this observance in Luke 2:22: "When the time of their purification according to the Law of Moses had been completed…" Because they were poor, Yosef and Miriam presented two pigeons to the priests in accordance with Torah. Did they do this because they had sinned? No. Considering this chatat offering exclusively a sin offering is too narrow in scope. The chatat, as already discussed, rendered clean that which, because of blood, was ritually unclean. Miriam had not sinned, but she had been exposed to blood in childbirth.
"If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness" (I John 1:9). Through the Messiah we are made ceremonially clean, even from unrighteousness we don’t even know about!
Kefa (Peter) states, "Brethren, you know that in the early days God made a choice among you, that by my mouth the Gentiles would hear the word of the gospel and believe. And God, who knows the heart, testified to them giving them the Holy Spirit, just as He also did to us; and He made no distinction between us and them, cleansing their hearts by faith" (Acts 15:7–9). In this Scripture the concrete was set. The legalism of the Judaizers2 would not, and could not, be allowed to undo what Messiah had done on the stake: "For He rescued us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son" (Colossians 1:13).
Guilt Offerings : The Asham — oat
The guilt offering, or asham, was God’s provision for sins of which we knew we were guilty. Guilt was on our heads, and symbolically blood was on our hands. At some point, though, we comprehended the weight of our sin and repented. Before Messiah’s sacrifice, the way to demonstrate repentance and have these sins covered was through the asham offering. The repentant came to the priest, pressed his hands on the sacrifice’s head symbolically transferring the blood of his hands—his sin—onto the innocent creature. For the sacrifice to be considered legitimate, the sinner had to personally identify with the substitute animal.
In this same fashion, we too identify with our offering, Yeshua. "Yet He has now reconciled you in His fleshly body through death, in order to present you before Him holy and blameless and beyond reproach" (Colossians 1:22). The guilt offering often came with a price. Many of the ‘don’ts’ in the Torah carry a price. If guilty then you had to bring an offering and pay recompense. We find a glimpse of this in Matthew 5:23–24: "If therefore you are presenting your offering at the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your offering there before the altar, and go your way; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and present your offering." Such reconciliation might require a settlement.
One thing that is easy to forget in our human experience is that there are always consequences to sin and those people affected by our offenses should be sought out and offered reconciliation. A neighbor might forgive a child for breaking his window, but the window still needs to be replaced. In a biblical society, the child (or his parents) would bear the responsibility and cost of replacing the pane. The consequences are just as real even though the sin is forgiven.
This characteristic of the asham offering is wonderfully illustrated through Messiah. Matthew 20:29 says: "The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many." He not only sought us, but He paid the price.
In Isaiah, we find that Messiah must, in fact, be the guilt offering. In 53:10, we read: "…if He would render Himself a guilt offering." The Hebrew word is none other than asham, which, according to Jewish form of interpretation, also implies all the previous sacrifices: the olah, shlamim, minchah, and chatat as well.3
That means that Yeshua would have to become the burnt, meal, peace, sin, and guilt offering, just as we have been examining here. The Guilt offering was the final sacrifice of the day. In the Second Temple period, the High Priest would complete the sacrifices at about the ninth hour (three o’clock in the afternoon) and say, "It is finished." The Bible tells us that Yeshua, our asham, died at the ninth hour; He uttered the same words, "It is finished" (Mark 15:34; John 19:30).
Thanksgiving Offerings : The Todah — תודה
The last in our list is the Thanksgiving offering. Like the olah and minchah offerings, the Thanksgiving offering, or todah, is voluntary, coming from the innermost desire of one’s heart. These were commonly brought to the temple when something wonderful had happened in someone’s life such as a betrothal, a birth, or a successful business venture. As believers in Yeshua, in the great work He has done on our behalf, we too should be before God with thanksgiving. As Colossians 2:6–7 says: "Therefore as you have received Messiah Yeshua the LORD, so walk…overflowing with thanksgiving."
The Need for Closure
Earlier we asked, "Why have sacrifices?" We humans have a need for "closure." There is something in the human psyche that requires a clean and absolute end to any given event.
Nearly every synagogue service ends with the Aaronic blessing, before we respond with the joyful song of praise, "Adon Olam." Why? Of course it is to be blessed, but also so we know that it is over. It is our cue to go home. Funerals are held for the living to bring as graceful an end as possible to an emotional passing. News broadcasts end with the commentator indicating the report is over now. Even movies signal the finalé when the credits roll. We are creatures that need to know it’s over. There is nothing else to watch, nothing else to do, and no more to be said. It is finished!
How often we feel like there is something more we should be doing? We find ourselves feeling guilty because we feel that God demands more of us. We work in the hopes of earning the LORD’s favor, but it never seems to be quite enough. We seek closure in our faith.
In the Temple era, if a person sinned, became unclean, or simply wanted to express their gratitude to God, there was the altar. You could bring in your offering and go through the ritual. At some point the sacrifice was made and there was closure. You could leave the Temple certain that your prayers had been heard and that you were forgiven, clean, or your thanksgiving received. Daily at the ninth hour, the High Priest would bring closure to the sacrifices with the words, "It is finished." He could retire to the Holy Place with the ketoret (incense) and place it on the altar. When those outside saw the smoke of the incense rising, they knew that the work was over. There was closure.
"It is Finished!"
We too must remember that the Messiah said, "It is finished" (John 19:30). The groundwork was laid, the foundation put in place, the building built year by year, prophecy by prophecy, until in the fullness of time, the Creator laid aside His glory and became man. He dwelt among us, as a Hebrew, in the synagogue, in the Temple, and among the children of Abraham. Then the Lamb of God was slain. The One who was without sin, took our sin and proclaimed, "It is finished!"
"But when Messiah appeared as a High Priest of the good things to come, He entered through a greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this creation; and not through the blood of goats and calves but through His own blood He entered the holy place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption. For if the blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer sprinkling those who have been defiled sanctify for the cleansing of the flesh, how much more will the blood of Messiah, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without blemish to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?" (Hebrews 9:11–14)
For you, for me, for all who believe, there is nothing left to do. There is nothing we can add to or take away from. The work has been accomplished. It is ­finished.
Endnotes
1 New American Standard throughout unless noted otherwise.
2 Acts 15:1 Judaizers were those Jewish believers who tried to enforce all the biblical mitzvoth (commands) on Gentile converts at once in order for them to be accepted into the faith.
3 One could not merely stroll into the Temple to make an asham sacrifice. If the asham was the goal, all the other, lower order (by comparison) sacrifices were a part of the process. The repentant would have to start with the Burnt offering and work his way up to the Guilt offering. The entire sequence of events was interconnected. The Guilt offering, therefore, assumed all the other offerings as well.
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