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December / Chanukah Edition 2010
Greetings to everyone!
Here it is already - the last month of 2010! I can’t believe how fast this year has gone by! It has been an excellent year in so many ways. New experiences and opportunities have opened doors for the ministry, as churches around this part of the diocese have welcomed the chance to learn about the roots of their faith. At the same time, new relationships are budding within the Messianic community and my heart is gladdened by this.
In just the last few days, with Chanukah upon us, we have celebrated its arrival within our chavarah, and together lit the first candle of the season. We also enjoyed fresh latkes with all the trimmings, and feasted on home made crèpes with lemon and sugar and peaches and maple syrup. We played the dreidel game, and ate the chocolate ‘winnings’. Joan and I attended a special Chanukah concert at “Gates of Zion” on Friday night and thoroughly enjoyed the talents of local youngsters and were treated to the music of singer / composer Deborah Kline and her husband Vince Iantorno (see photo and link on last page). Meanwhile, the
rest of the chavarah attended the Kabbalat Shabbat services at a local synagogue and the lighting of the Chanukiah then shared in a “Welcoming Shabbat” meal. On Shabbat morning we did our own welcoming of the season as we worshipped together and shared an ‘unscheduled’ meal with guests. Then on Sunday, Joan and I and some of our group attended the ‘ribbon cutting’ at the new location of Chosen People Ministries main building, near Yorkdale Mall. That night, I also attended a lecture given by Professor Dan Behat, an archeologist from Yerushalayim who spoke about the conditions of life during the Maccabean times.
Chanukah is a special and beautiful time of the year. The Festival of Dedication, sometimes called the Festival of Lights (because of the candles) brings joy as we witness (this year) the first snowfall which seems to be staying. As I reflect on the Advent wreathes used in so many churches at this time, I ponder the possibility of yet another connection with our Jewish roots. All around us the light is shining, and we echo the words of Isaiah the prophet: “Arise, Shine, for your Light has come. And the glory of the Lord has risen upon you…” and as the Lord speaks to Israel: “I am the Lord, I have called you in righteousness,… I will appoint you as a covenant to the people [and] as a light to the nations [Gentiles].”
THIS MONTH’S TEACHING: *More Connections Through Chanukah*
In past issues of this newsletter I have written about Chanukah and given a large part of its history. I think that most people are aware that Chanukah is connected with the re-dedication of the Yerushalayim Temple in 164 BCE under the Maccabees. Most people are also aware that it involves oil (olive, not petroleum) because the newly dedicated Menorah burned for eight days on a one day supply of fuel. But there is something of far greater import about this celebration which has been glossed over in the past and which is of utmost significance to the faithful of both Jewish and Christian traditions.
Some Quick Background:
History records that Alexander the Great began to lead his army in successful campaigns throughout the Eastern Mediterranean area as far as Persia (Babylon) in 363 BCE. His reign over the vast empire lasted only 12 years, however, as he died suddenly. His empire was divided among his four generals who became leaders in their respective areas and prolonged the influence of the Greek culture in these lands for many decades. Israel was to become a part of what was known as the Seleucid Empire, which eventually was ruled over by a man commonly known as Antiochus (IV) Epiphanes. He gained control of the Empire in 175 BCE.
To say that these were stressful years for Israel would be gross understatement. Not only was there pressure exerted by the Hellenization of the foreign rulers, but it came also from within the nation by way of those Jewish leaders who sided with the Hellenizers and from others who were corrupt and power-hungry. I would invite you to check out further information about this history through our BRT website – in our Archives and Past Teaching pages, found at http://www.beitroaytovministries.com/about-Chanukah-dec-2009.html
The four books of the Maccabees, found in the Apocrypha, relate the story of the revolt aimed at this invasion against Jewish culture and religion. The first book relates most of the detail of the anti-Semitic actions of the Greek invaders and the resulting revolt. The last straw came in 167 BCE, when Antiochus forbade the keeping of Sabbath and the Moedim (Festivals); he forbade the practice of circumcision; he outlawed sacrifice and declared the Temple out of bounds. To ensure this latter ruling was obeyed, his troops entered the Temple, stole its furnishings and desecrated the altar with forbidden animal sacrifice (likely swine) and declared the Temple a “shrine of Zeus” – the main god of Greece. The “Maccabees”, in response, developed an army of rebels and eventually gained victory over the Greek commander Lysias and, in 164 BCE recaptured the Temple and Yerushalayim. The first thing that was required was the cleansing of the Temple. Chapter 4 of 1st Maccabees reports: “He [Judas the Maccabee] chose blameless priests devoted to the law, and they cleansed the sanctuary and removed the defiled stones to an unclean place. They deliberated what to do about the altar of burnt offering, which had been profaned. They thought it best to tear it down, lest it bring reproach upon them, for the Gentiles had defiled it, so they tore down the altar, and stored the stones in a convenient place on the temple hill until there should come a prophet to tell what to do with them. Then they took unhewn stones, as the law directs, and built a new altar like the former one….” (4:42-47)
The Question is this? Why so much attention to the stone altar? Why bother to replace it with ‘new’ stones? Why rebuild the altar at all?
The altar which was rebuilt by the Maccabees existed for one purpose – the sacrifice of animals to God. There are many ‘forms’ of these offerings – for peace, for thanksgiving, for ‘fellowship’ and so on, but the key sacrifice was for sin, forgiveness and atonement. These offerings established (and re-established) the relationship between God and His people. The shedding of blood was of utmost importance in these sacrifices – without blood being shed, there was no hope of atonement. It is explained to us that the blood contains the life of the animal, and it is actually the life of the animal which brings atonement (Lev 17:11). While sacrifices probably pre-dated the time spent by the Jewish people in Egypt, they rise to prominence after the Exodus is begun. It is here, in particular, that we learn of the Passover lamb and the first example of “substitutionary sacrifice”. (Exodus 12:1-11). The instructions to make this an annual sacrifice come later (see Deuteronomy 16:1,2). Furthermore, and of primary importance for this discussion, the fall Moedim include the greatest of this form of sacrifice which was for the annual atonement of sin (Ex. 30:10; and Nu. 29:7-11). This festival is known as Yom Kippur – the Day of Atonement. On this day, two goats were chosen – and both are vital. The two goats are identical in appearance and so need to be identified. The first, chosen by lot, is the “Chatat” for Adonai. A red woolen strip was tied around the neck of this first goat. It would be the burnt offering for the sins of the people. The goat is slaughtered, his blood captured, and the body burnt on the altar. The blood is applied for the atonement of the temple, the priest and the people. Then the priest takes the second goat, which would have a red strip tied to its head. It was known as the “Azazel” [or was marked ‘for Azazel”] which means ‘complete removal’. The Kohen places his hands on him and pronounces on him all the sins of the people. Combining Scriptural accounts with those of Talmudic reference, recorded in the footnotes of the Stone Edition Art Scroll Chumash, (pg 639) the Azazel is then led out into the desert and set loose – thus carrying the nation’s sins out into the wilderness. The Goat was taken to a cliff and thrown over. Later, the red strip was inspected. If it had turned white, which it usually did, the people knew their sins were atoned for and removed. (If the ribbon was still red, it meant the sins were not forgiven.) (See all of Leviticus 16).
The point of this is that the altar was an absolute requirement in the Temple if forgiveness was to be granted by God. Leviticus 16:29 states unequivocally “this shall be a permanent statute for you; in the seventh month, on the tenth day of the month, you shall humble your soul…, whether the native, or the alien who sojourns among you; for it is on this day that atonement shall be made for you to cleanse you; you shall be clean from all your sins.” This had been the practice of the Jewish nation since the time of Exodus, some 1250-1300 years by many counts. It was therefore necessary to have the altar (and the Temple) in order to continue the practice of sacrifice, and be cleansed of sin.
Following the re-dedication of the Temple, the practice of sacrifice for atonement (and other things) was continued for another 230 odd years until the destruction of the Temple by the Romans in 70 CE. This means that during the time of Y’shua, the sacrifices were still being practiced. It should be clearly understood that this sacrifice was totally substitutionary. God had made it necessary, from the time of Adam’s fall (Gen 3:1-19), that those who sinned in their lives were deserving of death. This was the demand of justice, and God was a just God in every sense of the word. The purpose of the sacrifice (which God allowed) was that, by God’s mercy, (for God is also merciful) the death of the animal, and his life-blood, stood-in-for that of the sinner. Shaul [Paul] makes this point in his letter to the Romans 6:23 when he states: “The wages of sin is death…”. If the altar had not been replaced, Yom Kippur could not have been practiced for those ensuing years.
It was during the time of Y’shua, however, that something took place, (within the plan of God, determined from the beginning, and prophesied several times by Godly prophets) which would change the history of mankind. The action of God – through Y’shua – actually brings about a change in the practice of sacrifice for sin and atonement, and thus: the necessity of the altar. Shaul says in Romans 3: “But in our time, something new has been added. What Moshe and the prophets witnessed to all those years has happened. The God-setting-things-right that we read about, has become [God in]- Jesus-setting-things-right for us…. Since we’ve compiled this long and sorry record as sinners… and proved that we are utterly incapable of living the glorious lives God wills for us, God did it for us. Out of sheer generosity [Grace], He put us in right standing with Himself. A pure gift. He got us out of the mess we’re in, and restored us to where He always wanted us to be. And He did it by means of Y’shua HaMeshiach [the Christ]…
God sacrificed Y’shua [Himself]on the altar of the world to clear that world of sin. Having faith in Him sets us in the clear. God decided on this course of action in full view of the public – to set the world in the clear with Himself through the [all sufficient] sacrifice of Y’shua, finally [once-and-for-all] taking care of [our] sins He had so patiently endured.” (based on vss 21-25 of “the Message”) In reference to this passage, the footnote in the NASB also states this: “the word translated “passed over” … is the word paresis…from the verb pariemei which means to place on the side.” The inference, the author states, is that in the past God has placed our sins “to one side”, not forgiving them completely, but rather choosing simply to ignore them; but now, in the action of God in the Messiah, we see these sins, and their guilt and power, being completely removed from us, true forgiveness being gifted to us, and also the transformation of our ‘selves’ through the pure blood of the Kohen Gadol, the great high priest, Himself, freely offered, so that even our character is transformed, such that we “regain the image [we] formerly had with God before [our] fall…”
But how can I back this up? What proof is there that - while the altar was repaired so that the Temple sacrifices could continue - from the time of Y’shua’s self-sacrifice on his special altar, these man-made offerings were no longer necessary in God’s view?
Here I must return to the accounts related through Jewish folklore. I mentioned that on Yom Kippur, the Goat for Azazel was led out into the wilderness with a red woolen strip tied to him. I also stated that the belief was that if the ribbon turned white, the sins of the people were forgiven. The stories relate that for the last years of the Temple, from the time of Y’shua’s death to the Temple’s destruction, the strip of cloth never changed colour. The meaning of this is clear, in my mind. God, in His mercy, had made a substitute offering of Himself, which was clearly meant to replace the annual, imperfect sacrifices of animals. He was trying to point out that His offering superseded for all time those still being made in the Temple. For some forty years, however, the sacrifices continued. Finally, God determined that the Temple should be destroyed, and He used the invading Roman army to achieve this end.
Unfortunately, the destruction of the Temple has been misunderstood and misinterpreted throughout the ensuing centuries. In the years that followed its ruin, there were many uprisings and revolts which were aimed at crushing the still-present Roman power and influence, restoring the ‘former way of life’ and full Jewish authority, thus also restoring Yerushalayim’s Temple at the same time. Although decisive in many (unintended) ways, these insurrections were for the most part unsuccessful.
In fact, all ensuing insurrections have met with relatively little success. In my opinion, this is because, like the Tower of Babel incident, the people have been relied on human effort and strength rather that on truly waiting on god for direction and authorization. Not until 1948 has any degree of lasting authority been achieved. It is widely known that there is still a plan to take Yerushalayim and rebuild the Temple so as to re-establish blood sacrifice – but this will only lead to destruction again, which Scripture tells us will make the reign of Antiochus Epiphanes look like a walk in the park.
The more prominent and enduring decision made after the Temple’s destruction was to accept and declare that Blood Sacrifice was no longer required. Although correct in its assumption, the effect of this decision instead of leading to the acceptance of Y’shua’s sacrifice, was to turn the people to the words of the prophet Micah who wrote that what God now required was to “do justice, love kindness and to walk humbly with your God”. (Micah 6:8) Instead of seeing God’s hand in the redemption of the world by the sacrifice of Y’shua, the decision led to the understanding that blood sacrifice was simply replaced by a triplet of non-blood sacrificial acts: prayer, alms-giving and righteous / good deeds. These three actions are excellent approaches to living a life of faithfulness to God, but they can not replace the law of shed blood because they ignore the “wages of sin”.
This thinking does however tie right in with the modern, so-called sophisticated and enlightened point of view that anything involving blood and especially the killing of innocent animals is abhorrent. “How”, these people reason, “could God ask this of us?” Of course, what is missed by so many today is that God does NOT require blood sacrifice any longer – not because it is unpleasant, but because He has supplanted it by His own greatest sacrifice.
So, let us return to the original question. Why so much attention to the stone altar? Why bother to replace it with ‘new’ stones? Why rebuild the altar at all?
We have seen that the Altar in the temple was an absolute necessity. Attention had to be paid to its proper reconstruction, so that the sacrifices demanded by God could continue. It was not yet time for them to stop. New stones were used to replace the old ones because Antiochus and his troops had completely defiled the original stones and no sacrifice could be made on a defiled altar, for then the offering also would be tainted. Finally, while it is true that Chanukah serves as a reminder of the miracle of the victory over evil, and the miracle of ongoing light, this special celebration also reminds us of the centrality of sacrifice and the shedding of blood for forgiveness, and in this we realize that the altar was reconstructed because it’s purpose was to point to the coming Messiah, the Living Rock, on which the sins of the world for all time would be placed and through the shedding of His righteous blood on His unique altar, atonement with God would be established for ever, first for the Jew, and then for all who accepted the sacrifice made “In Him”.
One of the songs commonly sung at Chanukah by Messianics is simply called “Chanukah”. It was written by Marty Goetz (1997). It includes these verses: “Make my life Your Temple, Lord at this season start to pull down every idol I have raised up in my heart. Take my defilèd altar, come and cleanse and come repair, so every time I falter I can run to meet you there.” And the chorus runs: “On this Chanukah, On this Feast of Dedication, I dedicate myself to You.” It is a beautiful song which helps us recall the renewal of the Temple and then, in true Midrashic form, helps us to apply the concept of renewal to our hearts today. Let us pray for all humanity who do not yet know Y’shua as Messiah, that they will recognize again the need for blood sacrifice, and thus discover for themselves the gift of personal renewal in the gift of the Messiah’s sacrifice, and make their personal prayer for renewal in Him.
After a very busy summer and fall, I have returned to a more ‘normal’ schedule. With the year drawing to a close, we are setting the ministry eyes on next year’s calendar. I am presently booking engagements for Pesach/Passover demonstrations and talks for April. (Sorry, the 21st is gone already) There are still lots of openings however. Other opportunities for Pesach materials could be anytime during Holy Week for instance. Other times which may be interest to church groups might include Ash Wednesday (“Biblical Repentance”) or during Lent (“Preparation/Ten Days of Awe”), A Look at “Purim” (March 20, 2011); and we can even go forward to Shavuot/Pentecost (8th or 12th of June). As always, specific Bible study / Parsha study sessions can be scheduled anytime. Arrangements are always easy and reasonable in cost. Call us at 905 597 3485 or e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org anytime, but the sooner you contact us, the more likely we will be able to accommodate your wishes.
CHAVARAH NEWS & BIBLE STUDY NOTES
Our weekly study continues. We are presently in the midst of the story of Joseph. Have you ever stopped to consider what might have happened if the brothers of Joseph had taken a different approach? Have you ever thought about how the story would have changed if the caravan of Ishmaelites had been headed East instead of West? These are interesting points to ponder. Join us on Wednesday’s. Simply call for info re time and place.
BRT MEDIA NEWS
A new addition to our media services is that I am now on Facebook. If you are on the Facebook system, and would like to be “a friend” why not look me up? (facebook.com/brian parker and then do a search). Although I haven’t mastered the system by any stretch of the imagination, I do try to use it to update friends/sojourners with little bits of information, etc. a little more regularly than the Newsletter allows.
I have also been trying to keep the website currant, although admittedly, it proves to be challenging. I think it is a little better organized now, and makes more sense in how the pages are assembled. Eventually, a copy of this newsletter will make its way there – to the Archives area, so if you want to share this with friends you can point them in that direction.
The website is proving to be a good way to get our teachings out to the public. It has a broader scope and audience than our newsletter which goes only to sojourners (except of course when it gets passed along to others or when it is left on the bus – as some have reported doing). This past year has shown that it gets updated more often than I can produce the newsletter. I am sorry about this and hope to do a little better in 2011. I hope all of you who have access to the internet have checked out the website at least once.
As always, I covet your prayers for the ministry. May I ask you to pray earnestly for more speaking engagements in and around the area, in both Anglican and any other denomination which may have an interest in Our Jewish Roots, or who may want to learn more about our Christian traditions and practices. This would include Bible Study groups, clergy gatherings, and house churches as well. You can pass along our website address on our behalf if you find some interest amongst your church or your friends.
I mentioned above that I have noticed new stirrings within the Messianic Community’s leadership to get to know each other a little better. Both Ben Volman (CPM) and I are interested in seeing the various groups working with some unity amongst us – not combining, but rather ‘walking together’ the road to Emmaus, so to speak. Please pray that we might continue to foster interest in this unity with other Messianic leaders around us.
I know that many of our sojourners come from, or have ties with, the Anglican community. You may know that there is, once again, some very challenging issues arising right now. The issue of the blessing of same-sex unions and the ordination of individuals in open and ongoing homosexual unions is threatening to be the issue which will tear the community apart. This is an issue which, at its heart, has to do with the interpretation of Scriptures as well as the Biblically-obedient leading of the community of faith. It has bearings in our inter-denominational relationships as well. In short, there is much at stake around this very tender concern. I know many clergy, in particular, are being placed in very precarious positions – as I like to put it: “between The Rock and a hard place”. As a member of the community of faith first, and as an ordained Anglican second, I would ask all of you to continue to pray earnestly for the leadership of the Anglican communion, dioceses, and parishes, for wisdom, discernment, courage and the strength to stand up for Biblical truths which may not always be “politically correct”. Please pray also for the parishes which are being affected directly, and for those individuals who have felt it necessary to “Flee immorality” (1 Cor 6:18), so as to “work out [their] salvation with fear and trembling” (Phil 2:12) in a different setting.
There are several churches with which I have been associated and know from a personal point of view, that are in various stages of searching for new clergy leadership. Peter recently made an announcement at Emmanuel that he will be leaving to teach at Wycliffe College. The Parish of Minden-Kinmount where I served for 9 years has been searching for the better part of a year and continue to rely on interim ministry. Also, Tottenham, where I was asked to serve for 6 Sundays this past summer is looking for a new leader, as the recent incumbent there became too ill to continue her ministry. I ask you to pray for these parishes, for the search committees and for those who are, or will be, leading temporarily until they find the one person chosen by God to continue the ministry of each of the parishes. These times are of utmost importance; and the need for sound, Biblically oriented teaching (as opposed to the tickling of ears) and the presence of the heart of a shepherd along with obedience to the One Shepherd can not be under-stated in this process.
Please pray for Israel and its leadership, in the face of all the challenges they encounter, including the recent devastating fire in the Haifa / Carmel area. Pray with thanksgiving for our Prime Minister Harper, who maintains his standing up with Israel, “at any cost”. (love him or hate him – you have to admire his courage and integrity).
Finally, I ask that you would continue to pray for Joan and me as we go about our daily lives. Joan has moved to a new Bouclair location which she is finding much better and more conducive to pleasant working conditions and lower blood pressure. (We are both thankful for this.) I continue to deal with that old diagnosis from the doctor that I am “flirting with diabetes” and so I am struggling to get my weight down so that it can be managed without medication. Please pray also for our finances as Joan’s move has meant fewer hours of work each week and I am once again searching for outside employment and a more steady income. As always, my prayer request would be that, above all, “the will of God be done.”
At this time, may Joan and I wish you and yours the very best of the season. We hope you have had a Happy Chanukah and that Christmas will bring you all the Joy and Peace which is proclaimed so loudly at this time of year.
"Y'varehch'cha Adonai v'yeesh m'recha –
May the Lord Bless you and Keep you."
End Notes related to the Teaching Section:
 I am most thankful to Messianic Rabbi Jeff Forman for the inspiration to teach about this material. When I attended a recent special Chanukah event at Gates of Zion, he provided some insight into this area of the Maccabee’s story which sent me off to investigate it further and share with our readers what is, in truth, a most important connection with our Jewish roots.
 Actually, “Maccabees” is from a Hebrew word meaning “hammer”. The term is often used erroneously in place of the name of the family of brothers who led the rebellion against the Seleucids. More realistically it could be understood as the name of reference for those who joined in the armies, as it describes clearly the guerilla style tactics of the warriors. The actual name of the family would have been some form of “Hasmon”, as they gave their name to the ensuing “Hasmonean Kingdom” which lasted until 37 BCE.
 The temple altar was a large built up area of stone which contained a fire pit and had a great screen of bronze lying on its top on which the animals were laid for sacrifice. Instead of stairs up to the altar, there was a large earthen ramp which the Kohen climbed, carrying the animal to be offered up in sacrifice. (See Exodus 20:24-26. For reference to stones see Mark 13:1,2)
 While we generally refer to Y’shua as the Son of God, [fully human], we also know him to be fully God, therefore affirming the words of the Shema: “Adonai Elohaynu, Adonai Echad – The Lord is our God, the Lord is One.” Remember the words recorded in John’s Gospel and attributed to Y’shua: “I and the Father are one.” (10:30), where the word used means literally a unity or ‘one essence’ and also in 14:7 and 9 He says: “If you had known Me, you would have known My father also; from now on you know Him and have seen Him.” And “Have I been so long with you, and yet you have not come to know Me, Philip? He who has seen Me, has seen the Father…”
 Many authorities believe, for instance, that the Bar Kochba revolt of 135 CE was one of the greatest influences in the schism between Judaism and the newly forming Messianic community within Judaism, which would later become Christianity. The Messianic community reacted to the Jewish proclamation that Simon Bar Kosiba was renamed Bar Kochba (Son of a Star) and declared the awaited Messiah.