Building the Tabernacle Part 1 - March 2016 Yavoh

The book of Shemot (Names), commonly called Exodus, tells the story of the Exodus of the children of Israel, skipping a few generations after the fathers Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. It focuses on the story of Moses and how he came to be called by the LORD to help deliver the children of Israel out of Egypt. Remarkable events are detailed for us, from Moses at the burning bush learning God’s Name, to the ten different judgments that fell upon Pharaoh and Egypt. The Passover story is shown to us with the “cloud by day/fire by night” leading them, and the children of Israel crossing the Red Sea. Not to diminish any of the previous subjects in the least, the children of Israel find themselves at the base of Mount Sinai, and God comes down to the mountain, speaks to them, and gives Moses the Tablets and the Torah. Then the book shifts to the final topic of gathering materials and building the Tabernacle so the LORD can dwell with them in the camp.

This year, during the month of February, those who follow the annual Torah cycle found themselves immersed for several Sabbaths in the subject of the Tabernacle and its construction. Let’s step back for a moment and consider why Moses gave so much of the book of Exodus to its final topic. By way of comparison, the story of Moses at the burning bush until he arrives in Egypt covers five chapters. The death of the firstborn, leaving Egypt, and crossing the Red Sea covers ten chapters. Then God gives the Ten Commandments and the Torah in nine chapters, totaling the first 24 chapters. One wouldn’t think listing collected materials and detailing the furnishings and coverings for the Tabernacle would come anywhere near the importance of the redemption out of Egypt and the miraculous works that God performed there, let alone His speaking the Ten Commandments and giving the Torah. We would be mistaken, however, to diminish any part of the Tabernacle information. Moses uses the remaining 16 chapters to explain how the Tabernacle was built.  Why does Moses make the Tabernacle the dominant topic in the book of Exodus?

Let’s answer that question and understand why we must understand the Tabernacle—what it is made of, how it is assembled, and the various elements that constitute the sanctuary of the LORD, all the way to the garments of the High Priest. The Tabernacle is patterned after the temple of God in heaven. This same Tabernacle has been constructed in the heart of every believer of Yeshua the Messiah. The commandments of the LORD are written on the tablets of our heart. Those tablets are resting in the Ark of the Covenant with God’s Mercy Seat over them. The very presence of our Messiah—the True Bread from Heaven—is at the Table of Showbread while the Holy Spirit illuminates us by the light of the Menorah. Our prayers go up before God as a sweet fragrance like the incense on the Golden Altar before the Veil. The only persons who can enter this very holy place are the presence of Almighty God (the persons of our Heavenly Father, the Messiah as our High Priest, the Spirit of the LORD) and ourselves. No one else is permitted. The Laver and the Fire Altar sitting outside the sanctuary enable us to approach God in repentance and to daily offer our gifts to God. The Altar is always lit, and the benefit of the Lamb of God sacrifice remains just as the Temple altar has the evening and morning sacrifice every day.

If we are to go forward with the Redemption that the Lamb of God has given to us, we must learn to dwell with God and walk out our salvation daily with Him. If we want to understand how God can dwell with us in our hearts, how we are to approach Him, and how to worship Him, we must understand the Tabernacle and its pattern. Failing to understand the Tabernacle and its construction limits us in approaching the Lord and maturing in the faith.

The Apostle Paul said it this way:

Do you not know that you are a temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? 1 Corinthians 3:16

With that priority of understanding, let us consider the process of construction that Moses describes to us. The Tabernacle is constructed from the inside out. Normally, a structure has a foundation, then walls, and then a roof. The contents are not put in until the basic structure is in place. But this is not the case with the Tabernacle. First the materials are gathered, then the furnishings are made (the Ark, the Table, and the Menorah). What are we to understand about our faith here?

Our faith in God is built the same way. Every disciple begins with God’s presence in him, then the temple of God is built around the Lord’s presence in him. We literally work outward in building our spiritual life in God. The Apostle Paul referred to this directly.

So then, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your salvation with fear and trembling;  Philippians 2:12

The phrase “work out” is speaking of something within you that comes out of you and becomes visible. Paul gives us another expression of being built, comparing us to a plant that grows from its roots.

Therefore as you have received Messiah Yeshua the Lord, so walk in Him, having been firmly rooted and now being built up in Him and established in your faith, just as you were instructed, and overflowing with gratitude. Colossians 2:6-7

Consider this thought also: The Tabernacle does not focus on a foundation as a building that has a foundation. The Tabernacle is mobile. Its foundation is based on the Lord and His presence. The same is true of us. We have no foundation here on the earth; our foundation in the faith is built on the Rock of the presence of God.

Now let us focus on the details that Moses supplies in the book of Exodus.

The Materials of the Tabernacle

Then the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, Tell the sons of Israel to raise a contribution for Me; from every man whose heart moves him you shall raise My contribution. This is the contribution which you are to raise from them: gold, silver and bronze, blue, purple and scarlet material, fine linen, goat hair, rams’ skins dyed red, porpoise skins, acacia wood, oil for lighting, spices for the anointing oil and for the fragrant incense, onyx stones and setting stones for the ephod and for the breastpiece. Let them construct a sanctuary for Me, that I may dwell among them. According to all that I am going to show you, as the pattern of the tabernacle and the pattern of all its furniture, just so you shall construct it. Exodus 25:1-9

Gold, silver, and brass are well understood. Having lived in Egypt, the children of Israel had skills in smelting metals and molding them into objects. But we should make mention of brass a little bit more. Brass is formed by combining copper and zinc. Both of these elements were in the regions where Israel traveled. The reference to blue, purple, and scarlet could have been heavy canvas-like fabrics woven from hemp or cotton dyed to those colors. Egyptian cotton is a major product of Egypt even to this day. But more than likely, the material of dyed blue, purple, and scarlet was wool yarn (the hair from their sheep). (Other Bible versions guess the word should be thread or yarn because the word is not in the original text.) Fine linen was a product of flax fibers. Flax was a plant grown extensively in Egypt; the children of Israel were very familiar with using these fibers to make fine linen. They also had goats and goat’s hair was the primary material to make tents and large coverings. The wool was worked into yarn and goat hair was spun into a thread and then woven into the covering material. The skin of goats and badgers is self-explanatory with the exception of the badger or “porpoise,” (depending on which version one reads) which was an “unclean” animal. Apparently, God did not have a problem with the skin of the animals being used for another purpose even if they were not clean animals for purposes of food.

Now we come to the subject of acacia wood. Although the KJV lists it as shittim wood, most biblical scholars believe this to be a variety of acacia wood. Acacia trees grow extensively in the Middle East and the wilderness areas. Acacia is also a very strong wood, but the growth of the plant does not lend itself to long or straight pieces. Making a box out of acacia would have required a mosaic of pieces formed and glued together. But it would have been virtually impossible to make the staves (the poles) used to carry the Ark and the Table. They needed to be long and narrow with the strength of a single piece of wood. Some scholars think that “shittim” wood was instead cedar. Cedar was used in the Temple to make the structural parts. Cedar was even used in some temple rituals. Cedar grows in long and straight grains, making excellent planks and very stable poles and rafters. Have you ever heard of a cedar chest or cedar beams?

The oil for lighting was olive oil, but not just any olive oil. According to the sages, the olives for that purpose had to come from the very top of the olive tree where they would have absorbed the most sunlight and pressed only once (the first press of the olive). This oil is known today as “cold pressed” extra virgin oil. This was the fuel for the Menorah and the oil for anointing. By the way, there are up to four or five other presses of the olive, including for food, to keep the skin soft, for fuel, and even for soap.

The pressing and crushing of the olive reminds us of the Messiah when He suffered for us. He is the Anointed One: He anoints us, He is food for us, and He cleans us up.

The variety of spices for the anointing oil and the incense included frankincense and cinnamon, and other ingredients. Only the priests had the actual recipes and were permitted to blend the items.  This recipe was not to be replicated and used for other purposes.

They also collected gem stones used in the breastplate for the High Priest. These stones represented the tribes of the children of Israel being brought before the LORD by the High Priest.

You shall make a breastpiece of judgment, the work of a skillful workman; like the work of the ephod you shall make it: of gold, of blue and purple and scarlet material and fine twisted linen you shall make it. It shall be square and folded double, a span in length and a span in width. "You shall mount on it four rows of stones; the first row shall be a row of ruby, topaz and emerald; and the second row a turquoise, a sapphire and a diamond; and the third row a jacinth, an agate and an amethyst; and the fourth row a beryl and an onyx and a jasper; they shall be set in gold filigree. The stones shall be according to the names of the sons of Israel: twelve, according to their names; they shall be like the engravings of a seal, each according to his name for the twelve tribes. You shall make on the breastpiece chains of twisted cordage work in pure gold. You shall make on the breastpiece two rings of gold, and shall put the two rings on the two ends of the breastpiece. You shall put the two cords of gold on the two rings at the ends of the breastpiece. You shall put the other two ends of the two cords on the two filigree settings, and put them on the shoulder pieces of the ephod, at the front of it. You shall make two rings of gold and shall place them on the two ends of the breastpiece, on the edge of it, which is toward the inner side of the ephod. You shall make two rings of gold and put them on the bottom of the two shoulder pieces of the ephod, on the front of it close to the place where it is joined, above the skillfully woven band of the ephod. They shall bind the breastpiece by its rings to the rings of the ephod with a blue cord, so that it will be on the skillfully woven band of the ephod, and that the breastpiece will not come loose from the ephod. Aaron shall carry the names of the sons of Israel in the breastpiece of judgment over his heart when he enters the holy place, for a memorial before the LORD continually.  Exodus 28:15-29

According to the sages, each gem stone was specifically assigned to a tribe with the name of the tribe etched (engraved) in the stone. Here is a list of the tribes, the Hebrew names for the stones, what type of gemstone may have been used, and the likely color for each stone used in the breastplate.

Reuben, Odem, (Jasper or Ruby) red

Simeon, Pit’dah, (Topaz or Emerald) green

Levi, Barekes, (agate) white, black, and red

Judah, Nefech, (malachite or turquoise) sky blue

Issachar, Sapir, (lapis lazuli or sapphire) midnight blue

Zebulun, Yahalom, (zircon or diamond) white

Dan, Leshem, (amber or jacinth) midnight blue

Naphtali, Shevo, (agate or obsidian) black and white mixed

Gad, Achlamah, (amethyst or agate) blush

Asher, Tarshish, (Aquamarine or topaz) blue

Joseph, Shoham, (onyx) deep black

Benjamin, Yashfeh, (Opal or elements of other stones embedded together) multi-colored

There is another list of precious stones given to us in Scripture concerning the walls of the New Jerusalem that is similar. This list is translated from the Greek instead of the Hebrew, but you will notice the many similarities.

The material of the wall of it was jasper; and the city was pure gold, like clear glass. The foundation stones of the city wall were adorned with every kind of precious stone. The first foundation was jasper; the second, sapphire; the third, a chalcedony; the fourth, emerald; the fifth, sardonyx; the sixth, sardius; the seventh, chrysolite; the eighth, beryl; the ninth, topaz; the tenth, chrysoprase; the eleventh, jacinth; the twelfth, amethyst. Revelation 21:18-20

The Scripture often equates the saints to precious stones. In the breastplate, the tribes were symbolized; the walls of the future home of the saints (New Jerusalem) are also equated with them. There is an even more powerful picture that speaks to our redemption. Every gemstone begins as gravel and dirt. The gemstone must go through a transition of being cleaned, shaped, and polished to bring out the beauty that was always there. The same can be said of all saints. We too must be cleaned and polished for the true value in ourselves to come forth. The LORD sees us with this great value and considers all of us to be precious in His sight, no matter where we are in the cleaning and polishing process.

Next, Moses described the construction of three very important furnishings: the Ark, the Table of Showbread, and the Menorah. According to the sages of Israel, these particular items were shown to Moses in a 3D format of “Living Fire” (the very substance of God that Moses could see and understand).

The Ark (the Aron haBrit)

"They shall construct an ark of acacia wood two and a half cubits long, and one and a half cubits wide, and one and a half cubits high. "You shall overlay it with pure gold, inside and out you shall overlay it, and you shall make a gold molding around it. "You shall cast four gold rings for it and fasten them on its four feet, and two rings shall be on one side of it and two rings on the other side of it. "You shall make poles of acacia wood and overlay them with gold. "You shall put the poles into the rings on the sides of the ark, to carry the ark with them. "The poles shall remain in the rings of the ark; they shall not be removed from it. "You shall put into the ark the testimony which I shall give you. "You shall make a mercy seat of pure gold, two and a half cubits long and one and a half cubits wide. "You shall make two cherubim of gold, make them of hammered work at the two ends of the mercy seat. "Make one cherub at one end and one cherub at the other end; you shall make the cherubim of one piece with the mercy seat at its two ends. "The cherubim shall have their wings spread upward, covering the mercy seat with their wings and facing one another; the faces of the cherubim are to be turned toward the mercy seat. "You shall put the mercy seat on top of the ark, and in the ark you shall put the testimony which I will give to you. "There I will meet with you; and from above the mercy seat, from between the two cherubim which are upon the ark of the testimony, I will speak to you about all that I will give you in commandment for the sons of Israel. Exodus 25:10-22

The Ark (the Aron haBrit) was actually three boxes. It was a box of wood with a box of gold on the outside and a box of gold on the inside. Each of the three boxes had four walls and a bottom.  For purposes of measurements common to us, most scholars equate a cubit to approximately 18 inches. A cubit was the measurement from the point of the elbow to the tip of your fingers; therefore, the consensus of most scholars is that the Ark was 60 inches long, 36 inches wide, and 36 inches tall. The thickness of the walls was 2 inches and the bottom was 4 inches. The gold inside and out was not gold plating. Instead, a complete new gold box was made to fit inside and outside of the wooden box. Then a gold plate sat on top of the upper edges of the three boxes around the upper perimeter sealing the three boxes together as shown in the illustration.

The outer gold box added to the overall dimensions of the Ark, causing its height to be 44 inches high. This extra gold at the top of the box was formed into a diadem, an ornate crown shape all along the top rim of the Ark. It is unknown exactly what it looked like but may have appeared as gold filigree and would have been very decorative.

Two gold rings were also installed on two of the outer sides of the outer gold box. As you faced the Ark, you would see the rings left and right on either side with a total of four rings (two on each side). These rings were placed approximately one-third of the way down the box from the top (approximately 13 inches). The carrying poles would be inserted into the rings and the Ark could be carried by the priests holding the poles. When the Ark was resting with its poles in place you would have seen something strange. According to tradition, the poles were pushed forward to protrude forward of the front of the Ark rather than centered on either side of the box. The centered position of the poles was only during transport. The resting position had the poles pushed forward. If you entered the first chamber of the Tabernacle called the “Holy Place,” you would have seen the Veil separating the Holy Place from the Holy of Holies where the Ark was, and you would have seen two protruding points in the Veil about knee high. This was an indicator of the Ark’s presence and its location behind the Veil. See the illustration provided. The Holy of Holies was a space of 20 cubits by 20 cubits (30 feet by 30 feet). The poles of the Ark were 10 cubits (18 feet long). With the Ark centered in the space and the poles pushed forward, this is how the Ark would have rested with the poles slightly protruding into the Veil. A description of this is mentioned in 1 Kings 8:8.

When the Ark was being transported (carried) by the priests, each of the priests walked facing the Ark at all times. Therefore, the front priests walked backwards while carrying the Ark. This was in respect of God’s presence. You could only turn your back to the Ark if a veil was in place shielding you from the Ark. The High Priest on Yom Kippur also maintained this posture when entering and departing the Holy of Holies where the Ark stood. He could not turn his back to the Ark. This same custom remains today in approaching and departing from the Kotel (the Wailing Wall).  One must keep one’s face toward the Wall when leaving the Wall for several paces before turning and walking away from the Kotel.

As mentioned before, the poles or staves were probably made of cedar wood (even though modern translators say acacia wood), which is a strong, long grain wood excellent for making beams and poles. Cedar also has incredible natural properties for preservation, it is not prone to rotting due to heat and moisture as many woods are. It is also believed that the poles had knobs at either end. These knobs would have maintained the poles in the rings, not allowing the poles to slide out. It is very possible that the final overlaid gold work on these knobs was not completed until they had been first installed in the rings. The poles were never removed from the rings.

Consider this interesting piece of trivia: There were two Arks constructed. One was made by Moses which held the Tablets prior to the actual construction of the Ark in the Tabernacle.

At that time the LORD said to me, “Cut out for yourself two tablets of stone like the former ones, and come up to Me on the mountain, and make an ark of wood for yourself. I will write on the tablets the words that were on the former tablets which you shattered, and you shall put them in the ark. So I made an ark of acacia wood and cut out two tablets of stone like the former ones, and went up on the mountain with the two tablets in my hand. He wrote on the tablets, like the former writing, the Ten Commandments which the LORD had spoken to you on the mountain from the midst of the fire on the day of the assembly; and the LORD gave them to me. Then I turned and came down from the mountain and put the tablets in the ark which I had made; and there they are, as the LORD commanded me. Deuteronomy 10:1-5

This Ark is believed to have held the broken tablets as a result of the sin of the golden calf. According to tradition, the temporary Ark made by Moses was also carried into battle and it was said that a fire would come out of the Ark when Israel was battling her enemies. It is believed that the actual energy of this weapon came out of the end of the poles. The second Ark was constructed by Bezalel and installed in the Tabernacle. This second Ark held the intact second set of tablets, the broken pieces of the first set of tablets underneath, and the Scroll written by Moses and given to Joshua and the priests at the crossing of the Jordan. A jar of manna and Aaron’s rod were also kept with the Ark. No one knows what happened to the first Ark of Moses. It is never mentioned again. Only one Ark is mentioned after the Temple was built in Jerusalem.

The Mercy Seat above the lid of the Ark was also made to sit atop the box. The Lid of the Ark was two and a half cubits (four and a half feet) long and one and a half cubits (two feet three inches) wide. It was a handbreadth thick and fit snugly over the top of the two inner boxes on the gold plate covering the two inner boxes. The edge of the outer box held the lid in place. On either end of the lid there also was gold material that was formed into two cherubim angels. They were not made separate from the lid and then installed on the lid. Scripture says the cherubim were one part with the Mercy Seat. This was not a minor work to form this; it was a very serious undertaking and speaks to the craftsmanship ability of the those assigned to the task.

According to tradition, the cherubim were formed to appear almost as children, one male and one female, facing each other with their heads slightly turned down. The cherubim were approximately forty inches high above the lid. If a pair of their wings was pointing upward, then they would have been even higher.

The position, number, and shape of the wings is a matter of some controversy. Most depictions of the Ark, those given by Jewish sources, such as the Temple Institute, present two wings lifted up and then bending over to form a covering over the lid. Their depiction of the cherubim is with two wings each (one pair for each angel). The passage in Exodus does not tell us how many wings to make, just that the wings were to be designed to be spread upward, covering the mercy seat. However, cherubim as defined later in Ezekiel chapter 1 describes them as having four wings (two pairs). Ezekiel’s vision of the throne of God presents God’s presence as above the cherubim as a fiery chariot called the Merkavah. If this understanding is correct, then the cherubim would have had two wings covering the lid and two other wings upward. The actual Hebrew language instructing the construction of the cherubim calls for two wings covering the lid AND two wings upward (See the illustration below). This configuration would have formed the Mercy Seat in the wings of the cherubim rather than sitting on the lid of the Ark enclosed by the covering wings.

It was understood that the LORD’s presence was between the wings and sitting atop of the lid. When Moses would go to the Tent of Meeting and speak with the LORD, it was said that the voice of God originated from the Mercy Seat while Moses was standing before the Ark separated by the Veil.

As a side note, Seraphim were angels elevated above the God's Throne in Heaven with six wings each. In Isaiah chapter 6, the Prophet Isaiah describes them to us in his comparable vision of God’s throne.

The Table (the Shulchan)

"You shall make a table of acacia wood, two cubits long and one cubit wide and one and a half cubits high. "You shall overlay it with pure gold and make a gold border around it. "You shall make for it a rim of a handbreadth around it; and you shall make a gold border for the rim around it. "You shall make four gold rings for it and put rings on the four corners which are on its four feet. "The rings shall be close to the rim as holders for the poles to carry the table. "You shall make the poles of acacia wood and overlay them with gold, so that with them the table may be carried. "You shall make its dishes and its pans and its jars and its bowls with which to pour drink offerings; you shall make them of pure gold. "You shall set the bread of the Presence on the table before Me at all times.  Exodus 25:23-30

The Table of Showbread (Shulchan) was similar in construction to the Ark. It was made of wood and then overlaid from top to bottom (including its legs) with gold. It had an ornate crown rim just like the box of the Ark. What is not pictured many times was how the entire apparatus held the twelve loaves of bread on the table. Each loaf had a gold pan. According to Jewish tradition, the two stacks of six loaves and their pans were supported by a set of tubes that provided a shelf for each loaf of bread. Plus, there was a set of two gold spoons that held frankincense with the loaves.

Like the Ark, the Shulchan also had a set of four rings with poles to carry the table. But unlike the Ark with rings on its sides, the rings and poles on the Table were mounted and installed along the front and back.

How the actual bread loaves that were baked and placed on the table in their dishes were then arrayed in two stacks is a subject of some mystery. Another way of saying showbread is to say, “the bread of faces.” Some scholars offer an alternative and say it means “the bread of surfaces.” Those who say “faces” say that in the baking process one edge of the loaf was formed into the profile of a face (see above). Those who said “surfaces” think the bakers formed the loaf by folding a long rectangular lump of dough into a unique ‘U” shape for baking. These loaves were arrayed on the Table and its supports up to a height of 40 inches above the table. The spoons were mostly likely set on the top of the two stacks of bread or on the table surface between the two stacks. According to many Jewish sources, the bread was placed fresh each Sabbath day and the previous week’s bread was removed and eaten by the priests. The miracle was that the bread was as fresh when they ate it as on the day it was first placed.

In the days of David before he was king, David was given this bread while he was escaping from the tantrums of King Saul. David was not a priest, yet the priests of his day gave it to him, which speaks to the role of David and the Messiah. The Messiah is the Son of David, and He has the right to consume the showbread as our High Priest after the order of Melchizedek.

The Lampstand (the Menorah)

Then you shall make a lampstand of pure gold. The lampstand and its base and its shaft are to be made of hammered work; its cups, its bulbs and its flowers shall be of one piece with it. Six branches shall go out from its sides; three branches of the lampstand from its one side and three branches of the lampstand from its other side. Three cups shall be shaped like almond blossoms in the one branch, a bulb and a flower, and three cups shaped like almond blossoms in the other branch, a bulb and a flower--so for six branches going out from the lampstand; and in the lampstand four cups shaped like almond blossoms, its bulbs and its flowers. A bulb shall be under the first pair of branches coming out of it, and a bulb under the second pair of branches coming out of it, and a bulb under the third pair of branches coming out of it, for the six branches coming out of the lampstand. Their bulbs and their branches shall be of one piece with it; all of it shall be one piece of hammered work of pure gold. Then you shall make its lamps seven in number; and they shall mount its lamps so as to shed light on the space in front of it. Its snuffers and their trays shall be of pure gold. It shall be made from a talent of pure gold, with all these utensils. See that you make them after the pattern for them, which was shown to you on the mountain.  Exodus 25:31-40

The making of the Menorah for the Tabernacle was even more complicated than the construction of the Ark and the Shulchan. It was fashioned from a single solid piece of gold that was beaten into its shape with six branches and a stem in the center. The basic shape of the Menorah is also a controversial topic. Some say that the branches originated out from the stem on the sides and then curved upward forming a row of lights. This is the traditional image of the Menorah we most often see. However, some argue that the branches actually were straight, angling upward to form a row of lights. See illustrations. The base was believed to be a box with sufficient size and weight to keep the Menorah from toppling over.

The stem and the branches were also adorned with a set of goblets, knobs, and flowers. Each of these items was also adorned on its sides with the oval shape of an almond. The stem and the branches each had an array of these items leading to the cup at the top to hold the oil and its wick as a light.

The Temple Menorah that was in Jerusalem definitely had curved branches and a double hexagon base as depicted on the Arch of Titus as it was carried off by the Romans.

Only the priests were permitted to light the Menorah and trim its wicks. We have already discussed the oil, but the wicks were formed from the soiled and discarded priestly linen garments used in the altar service.

The priests would trim the wicks inward toward the center from each side. The center light was called the “western lamp” as it would face toward the west. There is a Messianic legend that says the western lamp would not stay lit during the days of Yeshua. They would light it in the evening and it would go out on its own. Some have said that “the true Light of the World” was with them in those days.

Back to our Menorah: there were also tongs and scoops made to service the Menorah (to clean each cup and prepare it with new fuel and wick).

Today, goldsmiths are perplexed as to how the Menorah and all of its elements were formed from a single solid piece of gold. Adding to this mystery, some rabbis argue that its formation was by God’s hand, with the single piece of gold melted into its basic shape first and then detailed by the hammer work of the artisans.

The Menorah stood five feet high. A set of steps was used by the priests when they serviced the lamps. (People tended to be shorter back then!)

Whenever you walked into the Holy Place (the first chamber) of the Tabernacle you would have seen the Menorah on your left facing the Shulchan. The Shulchan would have been on your right, and behind the Veil beyond them would have been the Ark. There is also another piece of furniture that would be seen in this first chamber that will be described in next month's article.

Let’s step back for a moment and consider God’s instructions for building the Tabernacle before we go further. If you were to plan to build a house, you probably would lay out a floor plan for the rooms and depicting the entrances and exits of the structure. Then you would show some elevation diagrams showing the front, sides, and back of the structure. Only after the complete design was done would you place furnishings or consider the décor. However, the opposite is true of the Tabernacle and God’s pattern for it. If we are to understand what God had really done here, we need to see His priorities in the construction.

The Ark is one of the most powerful, visible symbols given in Scripture for our Heavenly Father, Almighty God. The Father sits on the Mercy Seat and renders His righteous judgments. The Shulchan is also one of the most powerful symbols for the Messiah. He is the “true bread from Heaven” and serves us like Joseph did his brethren. Joseph’s title in Egypt was the “bread man of life.” Even further, the Messiah is likened to the manna that was given to the children of Israel—and they did not know what it was. The Messiah is the King of Israel and the Redeemer and was sent to preserve us and provide for us. The Menorah is one of the most powerful symbols of the Holy Spirit. Aside from the obvious comparisons of oil and light, the Menorah guides us into the presence of God and shows us the path. Altogether, the Ark/Aron haBrit, Shulchan, and the Menorah show us the Unity of God and how three parts are unified into One. The Tabernacle plan begins with these three furnishings to show that the most important part of the Tabernacle is God’s presence. The same is true of the Tabernacle built in our hearts. The presence of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit is all there. When you step into the Tabernacle and come before His Mercy seat separated by the Veil, you are surrounded by the presence of God – the Father is before you, the Son is to the right, and the Holy Spirit is to your left. The Son paid the price to remove your sins and the Holy Spirit led you to the Father.

In Part 2 of this article, we will examine the details of the remainder of the Tabernacle, including the construction of the chambers, the golden altar, the brazen altar, the veils, the curtains, and the priestly garments. We will examine even further the process of the construction and how it relates to our “working out our salvation.”

Sharing Your Faith - February 2016 Yavoh

Many Messianic brethren have experienced the joy of coming to the Messiah and the Torah only to face blanket rejection by family and friends. Many new Messianics are bewildered by those who urged them to seek the Lord and then have turned completely against them when they have done exactly that!

I have spoken with parents who have been cut off by children, pastors who have been cut off from their own congregations, and friends who have lost friends. They all ask me the same question: “How can I share my faith with them? How can I get them to understand? Do you have some materials that I could share with them?” They ask for an approach—a way to reach out to those they care for—and find vindication for themselves for their conscious decision to believe and do what the Scriptures actually say.

In recalling my own experience of rejection, I am reminded of the day that I led an adult Sunday school class. I did not initiate the topic; it was the prescribed lesson in the Baptist Quarterly for that Sunday. It was a lesson on the Ten Commandments (the Law).

I first asked the class if they agreed with the following statement: “We should obey the Lord.” I went around the room one by one asking for their responses. All agreed in the affirmative. I then asked the class: “Are the Ten Commandments the commandments of the Lord that we are to keep?” I also proceeded to read each commandment one at a time and ask for their responses.

You could see it coming. The fourth commandment, remember to keep the Sabbath holy, loomed before them. Before I could even get to it, one of the men in the class questioned me as to my purpose for asking the questions. He went on to accuse me of being underhanded with the class. “I understand what you are doing,” he complained. I responded by asking him what he thought I was doing. He said I was attempting to trick the class by getting them first to say that we should obey the Lord and then read the Ten Commandments one at a time asking whether it is the commandment of the Lord. He knew that the church and class did not keep the Sabbath as commanded. He backed up his claim by asserting that he had a B.S. degree from a Bible college. I responded to him with “I think theology is too important to B.S. about.” The lesson ended there. I was given the left foot of fellowship from the church.

Rejection is not something anyone enjoys. As new Messianics face rejection, they are truly perplexed and stunned to discover how family members and spiritual brethren can behave in such a manner. Our Master also faced rejection from His own brethren. When we follow in His footsteps, we should not be shocked or dismayed to receive the same behavior He experienced.

If you are going to share your Messianic faith, you should know up front that the conflict is not really with you. The conflict resides with others and whether they will submit to the Lord. If you project the testimony of willfully obeying the Lord, then you should expect others to reflect upon you their issues with the Lord. Another way to describe it is that God refers to the believers as sheep of the flock. One of the strongest characteristics of sheep is their need to conform to one another. Sheep feel safe when they have other sheep by them.

Many Christians today want you to stay “with the flock” out of the natural need to conform. Those who appear to be different or apart are often rejected at first. The average Messianic sharing his testimony definitely does not appear to be conforming to the typical church flock; therefore, there is hesitancy and concern when Messianics first share with them. The rejection you feel is not directed at you personally. It comes with walking with the Lord and at the same time drawing others to the Lord by your example. Let me explain.

It is generally rare, but occasionally you will discover a genuine truth-seeker, someone who has taken a step back and asked where he can learn more. Often, the Holy Spirit has already prepared his heart to receive the Torah he is truly seeking. He asks questions not asked in his previous experience. When you discover him, you don’t need to lay out an entire thesis nor do you need to be skilled in Messianic apologetics. Sharing your life and inviting him to hear the same teaching you are hearing and enjoy the same fellowship you are enjoying is all that necessary.

Let me answer the real how-to-share-your-Messianic-faith question up front and then we will address some specific issues and tips. Think back to your own awakening and interest in being Messianic. What was happening in your heart? There were probably two things happening at the same time to some degree.

1. You were disappointed, discouraged, or dissatisfied with how your faith was going. The church or fellowship you were in was not getting the job done, despite your contributions and service. You probably said something like, “I am not getting fed there.”

2. Something attracted your soul to the ancient Biblical stories about the Hebrew people and the Hebrew God. You suddenly saw that God was glorious and that the Messiah was that God.

So, a brief answer to how to share our Messianic faith with others is to share your experience with them and invite them to learn the same things you are learning. Following are some comments on stumbling blocks or misunderstandings about what Scripture says that I hope will be helpful to you.

I have discovered that many of the Messianic brethren whom I have invited in were simply waiting for the confirmation of another believer to present themselves to them. The Holy Spirit had been drawing them to this walk for some time. They were experiencing a true hunger for truth and righteousness, the same hunger that the Messiah said He would satisfy.

Not everyone jumps on board immediately. I have seen other brethren come to the Messianic walk after resolving some fundamental issues. They took their faith seriously and studied to know what they believed. However, some of what they learned about covenants was and is in disagreement with our Messianic faith. They deserve to have their questions answered and treated in an honest way. Messianics don’t say, “Well this is what we believe,” and dismiss the question. Messianics want to know the evidence (all of it) and they want to establish the truth by the witness of two or three. Asking questions and discovering the truth is the Hebrew way of learning.

Having the proper understanding to answer straightforward questions is important in sharing our faith with others. Understanding the differences that exist in observance between Christians and Messianics and being able to accurately present what is commandment and what is custom is necessary to be honest about the faith. Understanding what the Scriptures really do say and differentiating what religious men have done with them is essential to resolving long-standing issues. Let me say right now that not everyone is up to this task, which is okay. God has raised up many teachers and ministries who can address these issues. In the last ten years, more materials have been produced to support Messianic thinking than at any time since the Messiah had His own discussions with religious leaders.

Make no mistake about it. The Church fathers departed from the words of the Messiah just as quickly as the Pharisees and Sadducees departed from Moses. Messianics are seeking to know what Moses and the Messiah had to say for themselves devoid of religious doctrine and dogma.

In this article, I want to address the major arguments that Messianics face as they transition. These are the arguments that your family and friends will throw at you. They also are the very issues that a truth seeker will find as compelling vindication for deciding to become Messianic. Finally, I want to end with some simple but very practical ways to encourage your family and friends to be part of your Messianic fellowship.

I have grouped the arguments and issues into three broad categories: Replacement Theology (New Covenant vs. Old Covenant), The Law is done away with (the Law is bad), and Religion of the Heart (Grace vs. the Law).

Replacement Theology (New Covenant vs. Old Covenant)

Replacement theology is the primary teaching of the orthodox Christian faith, which basically states that God got fed up with Israel’s disobedience and kicked them out the land. As a result, God changed His plan to reach the world through Israel and replaced them with the Gentiles (the church) by the work of Jesus Christ. Instead of Israel, He started the Church.

Supporting this idea, Christians say that the New Covenant (New Testament) has replaced the Old Covenant (Old Testament), relegating the Old Covenant to history and declaring that the true instruction in righteousness is found in the pages of the New Testament. They cite the example of Jesus and the Apostles, particularly the Apostle Paul.

When Christian teachers are pinned down to prove this from the pages of the Bible, they explain how Jesus changed things. They argue that Christians get saved by believing in Jesus and the “Jews” got saved by keeping the Law. They say that the Church has replaced the temple in Jerusalem. They say that Jesus changed the Sabbath to Sunday. They say that only the “moral law” from the Torah is relevant today and the ceremonial law is not to be observed any longer. In the case of Passover (a ceremonial law), Jesus held the first Communion at the Passover table. The list goes on.

Simply said, they say that God had Plan A with Israel, but now He is on Plan B with the Church. Dispensationalists say that someday God will go back and finish Plan A after the church is raptured to heaven.

The problem with this theology is that Scripture doesn’t say this at all. It is the teaching of churchmen to justify their existence and set themselves apart from Israel (and the Jews).

It is usually stunning for Christians to learn that Moses predicted that Israel would eventually disobey to the point that God would scatter Israel to the nations, and that Moses said that God would not reject them when this happens, nor would the covenant made with them be broken. Instead, God would remember the covenant for them and eventually bring them back.

Yet if in spite of this you do not obey Me, but act with hostility against Me, then I will act with wrathful hostility against you, and I, even I, will punish you seven times for your sins. Further, you will eat the flesh of your sons and the flesh of your daughters you will eat. I then will destroy your high places, and cut down your incense altars, and heap your remains on the remains of your idols, for My soul shall abhor you. I will lay waste your cities as well and will make your sanctuaries desolate, and I will not smell your soothing aromas. I will make the land desolate so that your enemies who settle in it will be appalled over it. You, however, I will scatter among the nations and will draw out a sword after you, as your land becomes desolate and your cities become waste. Leviticus 26:27-33

Here Moses is warning Israel that there is a finite limit that the Lord will tolerate of Israel’s disobedience. The result would be removal from the Promised Land and be scattered in the nations. Historically, we saw the House of Israel go to Assyrian captivity and Judah to Roman captivity.

What did God say would happen to the Promised Land without the people of Israel living in it?

Then the land will enjoy its sabbaths all the days of the desolation, while you are in your enemies' land; then the land will rest and enjoy its sabbaths. All the days of its desolation it will observe the rest which it did not observe on your sabbaths, while you were living on it. As for those of you who may be left, I will also bring weakness into their hearts in the lands of their enemies. And the sound of a driven leaf will chase them, and even when no one is pursuing they will flee as though from the sword, and they will fall. They will therefore stumble over each other as if running from the sword, although no one is pursuing; and you will have no strength to stand up before your enemies. But you will perish among the nations, and your enemies' land will consume you. So those of you who may be left will rot away because of their iniquity in the lands of your enemies; and also because of the iniquities of their forefathers they will rot away with them. Leviticus 26:34-39

Doesn’t this sound like Israel has been rejected forever, that God has rejected Israel and they are no more? You could draw this conclusion if you stopped reading and had something else that you wanted to set up in place of Israel. However, Moses did not stop at this point in discussing this matter. He continued.

If they confess their iniquity and the iniquity of their forefathers, in their unfaithfulness which they committed against Me, and also in their acting with hostility against Me—I also was acting with hostility against them, to bring them into the land of their enemies—or if their uncircumcised heart becomes humbled so that they then make amends for their iniquity, then I will remember My covenant with Jacob, and I will remember also My covenant with Isaac, and My covenant with Abraham as well, and I will remember the land. For the land will be abandoned by them, and will make up for its sabbaths while it is made desolate without them. They, meanwhile, will be making amends for their iniquity, because they rejected My ordinances and their soul abhorred My statutes. Yet in spite of this, when they are in the land of their enemies, I will not reject them, nor will I so abhor them as to destroy them, breaking My covenant with them; for I am the Lord their God. But I will remember for them the covenant with their ancestors, whom I brought out of the land of Egypt in the sight of the nations, that I might be their God. I am the Lord. Leviticus 26:40-45

I was never shown these last verses when I was in the church. No one ever explained that God was so faithful to His covenant with Israel that He would remember and keep it forever. I was told that God changed His mind about Israel and chose the Church. The truth is that God is faithful to His promises and He KEEPS His covenants.

By the way, we should also address the misrepresentation of the covenants that God keeps for us. The church teaches they are lumped together and called the Old Covenant. This is not anywhere near Biblical truth. The truth is that God has made several covenants before the “New Covenant.” For example, God made a covenant with Adam. He made another one with Noah. The covenant with Noah did not replace the one made with Adam. Then He made a covenant with Abraham. This covenant was extended to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. This covenant did not replace the previous covenants made with Adam or Noah. Each of these covenants was still recognized for what they were. Then God made a covenant through Moses with the descendants of the fathers (the children of Israel). This covenant did not replace the one made with the fathers nor with Noah, nor with Adam. They all complemented each other, but each had its promises and signs. Then God made another covenant with King David and his son Solomon. The city of Jerusalem was established and the permanent altar (the temple service) was set. Again, this covenant did not replace the previous covenants. So, where did we get this idea that all of the previous covenants are lumped together and called the Old Covenant? You probably know this answer, but my question is more to why are they grouped together and referred to as Old.

The book of Hebrews in the New Testament is the source of all these definitions grouping the previous covenants of God together as the Old Covenant and establishing the New Covenant given to us by the Messiah. The book of Hebrews is a theological argument promoting the Messiah as above all previous religious authorities in Israel. The writer argues that the Messiah is higher than the Levites and the priesthood. There is no argument there, but then the writer attempts to explain the New Covenant and twists the prophecy of Jeremiah to suit his theological purpose.

Just as Moses prophesied that Israel would be scattered to the nations but not forgotten by God, so Jeremiah spoke of when God would “renew” the covenant God made with our fathers in the wilderness. This time God would write His commandments upon the tablets of our hearts instead of tablets of stone.

Does this mean that all of the previous covenants of God would be relegated to history because of this wonderful new covenant? According to the book of Hebrews – Yes. According to the rest of Scripture – No.

The book of Hebrews and the identity of its author have been a serious point of contention since its acceptance into Canon. I am not the only one to take issue with its Greek mindset. It appears that the book of Hebrews is not the product of a first century Apostle but is a product of a Greek churchman who wanted Hebrew believers to join him and leave Israel and the things of Israel.

Take a breath. The average church-going Christian cannot handle a serious discussion about the errors of the book of Hebrews. They have been trained to hold the Bible in utmost regard. Some believe in the Bible more than they believe in God. We are not going to be able to solve that problem; that is the work of God’s Spirit.

So, what am I suggesting here? By showing that God made clear and unequivocal promises to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, which extended to their descendants (the children of Israel), we prove the power of God to keep His word. Believing the promises of God is the faith that is counted for righteousness. By declaring and showing that God does not change His mind, that He is faithful to them and to us, we prove that the covenants of God are alive and with us today. This is faith that can hear God speaking from Mount Sinai giving His commandments. This is the same faith to see the Messiah giving those same commandments from Mount Sinai and explaining to us in the pages of the Gospels.

God promised that He would provide a Lamb of God for our sins and that He would send a Prophet that would explain these things to us. The Lamb was promised by Abraham, and Moses said the Messiah would come from the mountain (the very presence of God) to teach us. Since this is the plan given by the Old Covenant, how does that mean that Messiah would replace the very thing that it said He would do? If this seems confusing to you, it should. It is absurd to suggest or teach that the Messiah came to teach something different from Moses or to do away with the teaching of Moses.

In fact, the Messiah and New Testament pages address these very issues. The Messiah has said that His teaching is exactly what Moses taught.

For if you believed Moses, you would believe Me; for he wrote of Me. But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe My words?" John 5:46-47

Yeshua equated the writings of Moses directly to Himself. He went even further. He questioned how anyone could believe (understand) His words and teaching if they did not first believe what Moses wrote to begin with.

Today, replacement theology churchmen advocate that you only need to start with the book of John to understand the Christian faith. But according to the book of John and the words of the Messiah, you need to start with the words of Moses to understand the words of the Messiah.

Today, replacement theology churchmen advocate that Jesus came expressly to do away with Moses, the temple service, and the customs of Moses. There is a passage in the New Testament that makes this statement.

And they put forward false witnesses who said, “This man incessantly speaks against this holy place, and the Law; for we have heard him say that this Nazarene, Jesus, will destroy this place and alter the customs which Moses handed down to us.” Acts 6:13-14

There it is. There is the statement of replacement theology. However, this statement is also referred to as false testimony used to wrongfully convict Stephen. Saul of Tarsus (later to become the Apostle Paul) was in this crowd assisting in the death of Stephen.

According to Acts 6:13-14, any man who teaches that Jesus (Yeshua) came for the purpose of doing away with Israel, the covenants of God, the temple service and altar service, or change the customs of Moses including Sabbath and Festival is a FALSE WITNESS.

Thank goodness that God has given us a covenant with the Messiah that places His commandments in our hearts so we might obey Him from the heart!

The Law is done away with / the Law is bad

This argument is a further extension of replacement theology with the purpose of discrediting the very Word of God given by God at Mount Sinai and through the Torah given by Moses. Since the first four covenants are expressed in the pages of the Torah, dismissing the Torah would then dismiss those covenants. This may be the real rationale for calling all of them the Old Covenant. They want the Law (the Torah) to go away.

Just for the sake of argument, if the Torah does go away, what laws are we to follow as believers in the Messiah? The church has readily offered their answer; it says it is “church law.” Instead of following the commandments of God, they prefer the precepts of men. This is the same mistake made by the Pharisees and Sadducees in Yeshua’s day. By the way, the Pharisees don’t keep the Law of Moses either; they prefer the teachings of the rabbis (Talmud).

Yeshua the Messiah spoke directly to the issue of His coming and its impact on the Torah (the Law).

Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish, but to fulfill. For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass away from the Law, until all is accomplished. Whoever then annuls one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever keeps and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I say to you, that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you shall not enter the kingdom of heaven. Matthew 5:17-20

Yeshua was emphatic about not even thinking that He came to abolish the Law. His emphasis was direct and specific. He equated the existence of heaven and earth to the viability of the Law. As long as heaven and earth are with us, so will the Torah be with us. He could not have said it clearer.

The phrase used by churchmen to negate the entire sentence and thought of the Messiah is the words but to fulfill. They argue that Jesus fulfilled the Law and thus made it go away (become abolished).

The word fulfill used in this verse does not mean “bring to completion and get rid of” as suggested by churchmen. It means to “fill up full,” which means to make it even more meaningful. One of the greatest Messianic prophecies that has been grossly ignored by the Christian Church is the one given by the prophets Isaiah and Micah.

Now it will come about that in the last days the mountain of the house of the Lord will be established as the chief of the mountains, and will be raised above the hills; and all the nations will stream to it. And many peoples will come and say, “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; that He may teach us concerning His ways, and that we may walk in His paths.” For the law will go forth from Zion, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. And He will judge between the nations, and will render decisions for many peoples; and they will hammer their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not lift up sword against nation, and never again will they learn war. Isaiah 2:2-4 Micah 4:1-3

According to this prophecy, the whole world will eventually stream to Jerusalem to hear the Messiah teach the Law (the Torah). The Messiah is to become the greatest teacher of the Torah. Since we are to emulate the Messiah and follow His ways, why isn’t the Torah being taught by every Bible teacher of the Messiah?

Further, the Messiah talked about other teachers, warning that anyone who annuls any of the commandments, even the least of them, will be least in the coming Kingdom. He then reversed the logic and spoke of those who will follow in His ways and teach what He teaches, they will be great in the Kingdom.

Not winning the argument that the Messiah came to do away with the Law, some like to argue against the Law by quoting the Apostle Paul. Before we go further, let us ask a quick question. If the Messiah emphatically supports the Torah, then why would churchmen try to pit the Apostle Paul against the Messiah in this argument? I can assure you that the Apostle Paul is not above the Messiah and he would never agree to churchmen quoting him to undo the Torah. For the sake of discussion, let’s address some the specific passages that are quoted from Paul.

One of their favorites is from Romans where Paul expresses that we are not under the Law.

For sin shall not be master over you, for you are not under law, but under grace. Romans 6:14

Under the law is a jurisdictional term. I live in Oklahoma. I am not under Texas law, but if I travel to Texas I will then be under Texas law, because I am in that jurisdiction. The same is true of certain laws of God. The context of Paul’s argument in Roman 6 is about being under the power and influence of sin. If you are sinner, then you are under the law concerning sin and death. If, however, you have been redeemed, then you are no longer under the law or subject to its judgment. This is what Paul is teaching. He is not teaching that God’s law is no longer effective or appropriate. Using this verse to justify not keeping God’s commandments is probably the most blatant example of taking an expression out of context to teach something misleading to many.

Those who argue against the Law of Moses are those who are ignorant of what the Law actually teaches. Take the case of those who argue that Jesus was the final sacrifice. Sacrifices are part of the Law, so if sacrifices are no longer to be done, then the Law is no longer to be done. The problem is that Yeshua was NOT the final sacrifice. He is the Lamb of God sacrifice. The Law only specifies sacrifices brought by men as gifts to the Lord. They are for unintentional sins and sins by mistake. The Law says that a sin that is willful and defiant against God merits death. The wages of sin are death. There is no sacrifice that a man can bring for those sins. However, God can bring a sacrifice that is the work of the Messiah. Does that make sacrifices go away? Absolutely not. God’s definition of an acceptable substitute is still valid and binding to this day. In fact, every new believer accepting Yeshua’s sacrifice enforces and relies on God’s definition of acceptable sacrifices as defined by the Law of Moses. Yeshua did not make the Law of Sacrifices go away.

The book of Galatians is one of the most commonly used by those opposed to the Law. It seems that the Apostle Paul is perturbed that the Galatian believers have decided to start keeping the Pharisaic Law (precursor to rabbinic tradition today). Before we go further, let’s get the context of the book right.

Paul was trained as a Pharisee before he met the Messiah. After he came to know Him, Paul was in a constant battle with his former Pharisaic brethren. Acts 15 records a major dispute with the Pharisees and the Apostles. Part of Paul’s defense of Gentile believers was to keep them from being made subject to the Pharisaic leaders. The Pharisees are famous for making new rules for others to follow. The Galatian believers fell prey to the Pharisees and Paul was trying to get them to return to the Messiah. To accomplish this, Paul argued that the Law does not save; the Messiah saves. The Law does not give the gift of the Holy Spirit; the Messiah gives the gift of the Holy Spirit, etc.

For as many as are of the works of the Law are under a curse; for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who does not abide by all things written in the book of the law, to perform them.” Now that no one is justified by the Law before God is evident; for, “The righteous man shall live by faith.” However, the Law is not of faith; on the contrary, “He who practices them shall live by them.” Galatians 3:10-12

 

The Law is a curse. The Law is a blessing. In fact, twelve specific curses are listed in Deuteronomy 27. God instructed Israel to pronounce blessings and curses on themselves to understand and keep the Law. But they didn’t do it for salvation. They did it to choose the blessing! The Law also teaches that faith believes the promises of God. Righteousness is doing the right thing. You are accounted (given credit) for doing the right thing when you believe (have faith) in the promises of God. That is what Torah teaches and that is what Yeshua taught, but the Pharisees teach something different. They teach that righteousness comes from keeping commandments, that the more commandments you keep, the more righteous you are. This is not what Moses or the Messiah taught. Paul then explains the proper place for the Law in our Messianic faith.

Is the Law then contrary to the promises of God? May it never be! For if a law had been given which was able to impart life, then righteousness would indeed have been based on law. Galatians 3:21

Do we then nullify the Law through faith? May it never be! On the contrary, we establish the Law. Romans 3:31

The Law of God (the Torah) is the teaching of and the instructions in righteousness, as well as defining what is sin, what is holy, what is food, what is proper or improper, and so on. Without this foundation, we would not know why Yeshua would need to die for our willful sin or how to find grace. They are commandments on how we shall regard the Lord and honor Him. They are instructions and limits to our behavior on how we behave with one another.

As it turns out, there are different instructions based on your station of life. If you are a man, then there are specific commandments for you. If you are a husband or a father, then keep certain of the commandments. If you are a priest, keep commandments pertaining to priests. If you are the High Priest, then keep these specific commandments. If you are woman, keep these, etc. What it boils down to is this: for everyone, no matter who you are, there are ten specific commandments that all must keep. You can then summarize those ten down to two. “You shall love the Lord your God with all of your heart, your soul, and your strength.” The second one is to “love your neighbor as yourself.” These are the foundation of the whole law. This is the teaching of Yeshua.

The Law has not been done away with; it has been established by faith in the Messiah and brought to even greater meaning. There is no instance in the New Testament Scriptures ever saying that the Law is done away with or even diminished in any way.

In fact, the opposite is said.

All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work. 2 Timothy 3:16-17

When this verse was written there was no New Testament. The only Scriptures Paul was referring to were Moses (the Torah) and the Prophets.

Religion of the Heart (Grace vs. the Law)

This last category of arguments comes from those who try to pit the Holy Spirit (and being led by the Spirit) against the Law. Instead of learning to walk before the Lord in Spirit and in truth, they believe that they can ignore the truth and just follow the Spirit. Sadly, those are the same folks who get led astray by deceiving spirits, because they cannot discern the truth. I refer to this kind of argument as Greasy Grace and Sloppy Agape. They flaunt grace to the harm of God’s own word. I can assure you right now – that is not right. Paul said it this way.

What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? May it never be! Romans 6:15

Just because you are saved and not subject to the penalty of sin does not grant you the freedom to freely sin! May I remind everyone that we are not to test the Lord. Our ancestors did that in the wilderness and although they were saved, they did not make it to the Promised Land.

Some brethren believe that because of God’s grace they are free to participate in any religious expression (as long as they think their heart is right), eat any unclean thing (because Messiah makes it clean), and behave any way they like (because God will forgive them).

In the Acts 15 account of resolving what was expected of the new Gentile believers to the faith, the Pharisees argued that they can’t even be saved unless they keep the Torah according to their definition. That argument was summarily dismissed when it became clear that everyone is saved by faith, not by the works of the Law. But then the question of what they are to do with the Law remained. Is the Law just for Israel (just for the Jews as some might think) or is it for any and all people who come the Lord (the whole House of Israel and the Commonwealth of Israel). The answer is the latter.

Moses taught that the Torah was given to all people, whoever believes in the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

As for the assembly, there shall be one statute for you and for the alien who sojourns with you, a perpetual statute throughout your generations; as you are, so shall the alien be before the Lord. There is to be one law and one ordinance for you and for the alien who sojourns with you. Numbers 15:15-16

Clearly there is no distinction with regard the commandments of the Lord. By the way, the Hebrew word for “assembly” translated to Greek is “ecclesia.” Yet, the same word translated from Greek to English is “church.”

The New Covenant has placed these very commandments (that all are to keep) upon the hearts of every believer. Whenever I hear a well-meaning Christian say that the Lord has not yet put it upon his heart to keep the Torah, I cringe. He has just testified to the fact that He does not know the Messiah and has not yet received the New Covenant. The Apostle John addressed the same issue this way:

The one who says, "I have come to know Him," and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him; 1 John 2:4

At the conclusion of the Acts 15 conference, the Apostle James drafted a letter to all the Gentile believers and dispatched it by two witnesses. It stated that the Gentile believers should abstain from idolatry, from unclean food items that have blood or have been strangled, and to abstain from fornication (all forms of sexual perversion). Most Christians understand the last category without hesitation. So why do they dispute the first two?

They dispute the kosher requirement for foods because they have not been taught. The New Testament clearly and specifically teaches that there is one law for all of us when it comes to the definition of what is clean and unclean and what is food and what is not food.

I was once challenged on the food definition of kosher for all. “Are you saying that if I eat a BLT (bacon, lettuce, and tomato) sandwich that I will not go to heaven?” Since keeping the Law or not keeping it has nothing to with salvation, I responded, “If you eat that BLT, you will go to heaven faster!”

Idolatry is the real issue for us as Messianics today. Some consider idolatry to be a sin left behind in Biblical times, but it is rampant in our midst today by church folks in willful ignorance.

The observance of Christmas stands head and shoulders with Israel making the golden calf while Moses was on the mountain receiving the two tablets of the Law. Every reasonable Bible scholar knows that the birth of the Messiah was in the fall around the Feast of Trumpets and Tabernacles time frame. The December 25 date was the mixing of the birth of Mithra with Constantine’s convenient Christianity. The cutting down of an evergreen tree, attaching boards to the bottom, decorating it with gold and silver is the ancient Asherim (trees of praise) idolatry specifically forbidden by Jeremiah (see Jeremiah 10:2-4). The Santa Claus figure is right from King Neptune (Roman) and Poseidon (Greek) gods of the sea. Apparently, he also shares gifts with children in need. The Dutch brought him to us in America.

So what do Christians do? They claim this is the story of the birth of the Messiah and believe that because their hearts are near and dear to the Lord with love of family and seasonal blessing, that grace covers any minor indiscretion.

I had to address this issue between a Messianic believer and his family several years ago. The Messianic wanted to skip the tree part and just have family fellowship; however, the rest of family who attended church regularly insisted on the tree and the trimmings. I had the opportunity to address the matter directly with the family. I told them that I believed that they sincerely were not participating in an idolatrous act, that they only wished to love the Lord and enjoy His blessings. They agreed and stated that their hearts were pure in this regard. I said that they were correct except for that one little part. They asked, “What little part?” I said, “You know... that part where you get on your knees in front of the tree, you bow, and then you take the blessings from under the tree. That is the part where there is no doubt that you are an idolater bowing before another god.”

One of the commandments of the Lord says in effect that you are not to follow your eyes which go whoring after idols. We are instructed to listen and hear what the Lord has said. We are not to do it the way we see it. The religion of the heart allows every person to decide for themselves whether they will obey specific things the Lord has said. That is a false religion. The Lord has specifically said we are not to do any such thing. We are to hear His words and obey. Faith comes by hearing, not by when you see it that way.

You shall not do at all what we are doing here today, every man doing whatever is right in his own eyes; Deuteronomy 12:8

Be careful to listen to all these words which I command you, so that it may be well with you and your sons after you forever, for you will be doing what is good and right in the sight of the Lord your God. Deuteronomy 12:28

These are just a few of the common stumbling points that I hope will give you a clearer definition of what is the Messianic understanding. As you can see, there is no cultic activity at all within this movement, just a fuller understanding of Torah and the commandments Yeshua referred to.

How do we share our Messianic Faith?

Live it before them. Set the proper example by your good works, by your love, and your friendship. Should you point out their mistakes? NO. God is judge of us all. Demonstrate and testify to how God has been gracious and merciful with you and they too have received from Him freely.

Invite them to your home for a Sabbath dinner. Invite them to your Torah study. Invite them to the Feasts. Build on their testimony of the Messiah and show them that instructions in righteousness enrich their faith in the Messiah.

... and tell them they need to hurry a little bit. The Messiah is getting ready to return soon to establish His kingdom. The Torah will be the rules of that kingdom and we will be going to Jerusalem to see Him in His temple.

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Music in the Temple - January 2016 Yavoh

When we see images of the ancient Jewish temple in Jerusalem, they are generally devoid of the activities that would have taken place there. We see the walls of the courts, the sanctuary and the altar, but we generally do not see the priests and those visiting the Temple with their sacrifices to worship the Lord. Moreover, we neither smell the sweet fragrance of the sacrifices on the altar nor hear the sounds of psalms being sung, accompanied by the harp, timbrels, and cymbals.

The largest book in the Bible is the book of Psalms, which is a compilation of the music that was a part of the worship in the Temple. Certain psalms were featured each week, on specific days of the week. Other psalms were part of the formal worship in the Temple during the appointed times for Biblical holidays such as Pesach and Sukkot. Actually, the book of Psalms is made up of five books compiled as a single book in our Bibles, composed by famous musicians and authors, including King David, Moses, and the sons of Korah.

Consider this for a moment: every psalm in the Bible was probably part of the music of the Temple. Sadly for us, we don’t hear them as they were played, we only have the words. Given that the words are picturesque, prophetic, and full of truth, can you imagine hearing them set to music?

There are some who contend that music is primal to mankind, meaning that every living person can relate to it in his deepest soul. It is as if our souls have a place where music, with its beat, its harmony, and its melody resonate in us. Music certainly is a “force multiplier” for our emotions. Musical arrangements can influence us to feel joyful, sad, or even fearful. A dirge, for example, is music to assist the mourner to draw out emotions of sadness. Lullabies are comforting and help babies and children to fall sleep. David played music for King Saul to soothe his stressed times.

So it came about whenever the evil spirit from God came to Saul, David would take the harp and play it with his hand; and Saul would be refreshed and be well, and the evil spirit would depart from him. 1 Samuel 16:23

Therefore, music is a powerful element in worship offered by the faithful. Some even contend that music is the path to unite the soul and spirit in the worship of the Almighty, although, in my opinion, not ALL music helps us to worship Adonai.  Some music can be annoying, distracting, qualifying only as noise.

Here is another interesting thought concerning music. Along with developing tools for agriculture and hunting, early man discovered he could make a tool that made pleasing sounds. The making of instruments was an effort to make a beautiful sound beyond what the voice could produce, to join different sounds in a coordinated fashion that was pleasant and joyful.

Based on archaeological evidence of people playing instruments, even ancient peoples held music in high esteem, depicting it in their artwork. Further evidence suggests that the first cross-cultural sharing of different people groups usually included the types of instruments that had been developed and their music. The Bible also lends evidence relating to the use of music in ancient times, even prior to Temple worship.

The earliest archaeological evidence of musical instruments being depicted originated with Mesopotamia and the Egyptians and includes pictures of an ancient “psaltery.”

A psaltery was a stringed instrument like a harp or a lyre. The player’s fingers produced the sound; the structure of the harp and tension on the strings produced the tones and the notes. Consider what the strings would have been made of. There were several later technological developments before metal wire ever came into play. The first strings most likely used the sinew of animals or fibrous vegetable material to make cordage.

Along with the psalteries were wind instruments such as flutes or tubes. 

A tube with holes for the fingers is the ancient flute. If you have ever blown over a bottle or a narrow tube to produce a deep tone, you have the know-how to use ancient “tubes.” The modern instrument “tuba” is a refined form of the earlier. The earliest of these instruments would have been hollow tubes from vegetation such as a cane stalk or pieces of wood hollowed out before metallurgy could form the tubal structure. The earliest metal tubes were probably made of copper or tin. Silver and gold would have also been used.

It follows that the trumpets and horns were another group of instruments using the blowing of air. Trumpets were actually formed out of metal (tin or silver); horns were made from a horned animal. The shofar of today is the same as was it was in ancient times: a ram’s horn with a mouth piece formed at the tip. The multi-twist shofar is primarily from the ibex. I’m certain that you have heard of something called a “bull horn.” Bull horns made both an excellent horn for music and a container for other items. The modern hand-held amplifier used in crowd control still bears the same name. As a side note, the Hebrew people do not use “bull horns” as that would be a reminder of the sin of the “golden calf.” The trumpet and the horn were the first musical instruments used in warfare because the sound could be heard over—or distinguished from—the other sounds of battle. The bugle is the modern equivalent.

Making a metal trumpet was no small feat. It was probably formed by pouring molten metal into a cast and then shaping it into the desired form. Moses instructed the children of Israel to make two silver trumpets. They were used to call the leaders and to assemble the children of Israel for certain activities.

Make yourself two trumpets of silver, of hammered work you shall make them; and you shall use them for summoning the congregation and for having the camps set out. Numbers 10:2

There were also instruments to set a rhythm. We classify those instruments today as percussion. The earliest percussion instruments were probably hitting a stick on something to produce a distinct sound. A drum could be formed by stretching an animal hide tightly over a frame and thumping it with a stick or the hand. The ancients, however, primarily depicted the use of clappers and castanets instead of drums. Percussion instruments can be played with the fingers or the hands.

If you connect several castanets (small castanet type devices that rattled or jingled) within a drum frame, you have a timbrel/tambourine. The tambourine is one of the oldest instruments, allowing the player to operate many castanets in a drum structure to strike or shake. The ancient timbrel was named the tambourine when it was introduced in Europe. Castanets and timbrels led to all forms of bells. A bell emits a single tone and pitch. The high priest of Israel had small bells attached to the bottom of his garment that produced a timbrel sound as he walked about. We don’t know if there were different tones harmonizing together or whether it was a single tone, ringing out multiple times.

They also made bells of pure gold, and put the bells between the pomegranates all around on the hem of the robe, Exodus 39:25

We should also mention the louder version of the clappers and castanets: the cymbal. The sound from this instrument was the loudest and certainly commanded the moment in music. Cymbals were a significant part of temple worship. Consider these references.

So the singers, Heman, Asaph, and Ethan were appointed to sound aloud cymbals of bronze; 1 Chronicles 15:19

Praise Him with loud cymbals; Praise Him with resounding cymbals. Psalm 150:5

The Apostle Paul made reference to the sound of cymbals, comparing it to a person speaking without love. A clanging cymbal can actually be an obnoxious and disturbing sound if it is not part of a musical pattern (the love part).

If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but do not have love, I have become a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 1 Corinthians 13:1

Let’s summarize our list of ancient instruments that we can relate to today (basically, instruments for strummers, blowers, and bangers).

Stringed instruments included harps that ranged from 4 to 10 strings. Some of them were played upright or sideways—leading to our modern guitar.  Other stringed instruments were played flat and horizontal.  They may have led ultimately to what we know of today as a piano.

Give thanks to the Lord with the lyre; Sing praises to Him with a harp of ten strings. Psalm 33:2

I will sing a new song to You, O God; upon a harp of ten strings I will sing praises to You, Psalm 144:9

Wind instruments like the flutes and tubes of ancient times have become all manner of instruments today. Modern brass instruments are essentially tubes of various sizes and lengths with valves to change the notes. The entire line of modern woodwind instruments can trace their roots back to the flutes played by our ancestors.

Percussion instruments included instruments that were not strummed or blown; instead, they were struck or shaken, such as castanets and tambourines. The original tambourine was a hand drum with castanets to produce a distinct rhythmic sound. Other devices included the timbrel, bells, and cymbals.

All of these devices were the accompaniment for people who were singing words that were set to an agreed-upon series of tones, which is called music.

Most Christians are not aware that the actual Scriptures were rarely read aloud to the people. Instead, the people heard the Scriptures as they were “canted.” Canting the Scriptures is the singing of the Scriptures. In a traditional synagogue and in some Messianic assemblies, the traditional prayers and liturgy (repeated Scriptures and blessings) are all canted and are presented in musical form. The actual Torah portion is also “canted.” The reason: to make that which is heard by God to be pleasant and soothing to the souls of those worshipping. Most of our Messianic brethren are familiar with the Aaronic blessing of “The Lord bless you and keep you…” We usually hear it sung.

A codex is a book form of the content in a written scroll. Scripture was originally written in scroll form, but in the C.E. (Common Era) a codex of Scripture was formed. Some of the earliest codices of the Tanach (the acronym for the Torah, Prophets, and other Writings forming the Old Testament) also added the vowel markings in the Hebrew text. This was NOT done in the scroll form. The vowel markings were not inserted to clarify the pronunciation of the Hebrew text; they were inserted to assist a cantor in singing the text! This is why the Name of the Lord YHVH is written in a two-syllable form as “Yahweh” or “Yahveh” and as a three-syllable form as “Yehovah.” It was a way to direct the cantor in singing the Name! Orthodox Jews have inserted Adonai and HaShem in the cantorial so as not to speak the Holy Name. What is the correct pronunciation in straight speech? That is another discussion.

Before we leave the subject of ancient music and its instruments, we should not forget the element of dance that was a part of music and its celebration/worship form. Dance requires music, and music oftentimes results in dance because many times when the soul of a person is emotionally moved by the sound of music, it causes the body to move as well. Miriam, Moses’ sister, took a timbrel and led the Israelite women in a celebratory dance to worship the Lord after the crossing of the Red Sea and the destruction of the Egyptian chariots.

Miriam the prophetess, Aaron's sister, took the timbrel in her hand, and all the women went out after her with timbrels and with dancing. Miriam answered them, "Sing to the Lord, for He is highly exalted; the horse and his rider He has hurled into the sea." Exodus 15:20-21

Even the Psalms connect dancing with the use of musical instruments.

Let them praise His name with dancing; let them sing praises to Him with timbrel and lyre. Psalm 149:3

King David is one the most familiar dancers from Scripture, especially when He worshipped the Lord and escorted the procession of the Ark.  Today, many Messianics dance in the procession of the Torah Scroll in a Torah service.  On Simchat Torah, they actually dance with the scroll to joyous music.

5Meanwhile, David and all the house of Israel were celebrating before the Lord with all kinds of instruments made of fir wood, and with lyres, harps, tambourines, castanets and cymbals. 14And David was dancing before the Lord with all his might, and David was wearing a linen ephod. 2 Samuel 6:5, 14

King David was more into music than just playing a harp; he wrote some of the Psalms and danced in worship. David not only collected all of the materials for the construction of the Temple in Jerusalem (his son, Solomon, actually directed its building), but also materials for musical instruments and appointed the choir and the choir (musical director) leader.

Then David spoke to the chiefs of the Levites to appoint their relatives the singers, with instruments of music, harps, lyres, loud-sounding cymbals, to raise sounds of joy. 1 Chronicles 15:16

This was no small group, given that its task was to provide the music in the Temple. There is more evidence in this account:

…and all the Levitical singers, Asaph, Heman, Jeduthun, and their sons and kinsmen, clothed in fine linen, with cymbals, harps and lyres, standing east of the altar, and with them one hundred and twenty priests blowing trumpets in unison when the trumpeters and the singers were to make themselves heard with one voice to praise and to glorify the Lord, and when they lifted up their voice accompanied by trumpets and cymbals and instruments of music, and when they praised the Lord saying, "He indeed is good for His lovingkindness is everlasting," then the house, the house of the Lord, was filled with a cloud, 2 Chronicles 5:12-13

David also gathered others from the ranks of the army of Israel and assigned them the task of providing music to the army and in the worship of God.

Moreover, David and the commanders of the army set apart for the service some of the sons of Asaph and of Heman and of Jeduthun, who were to prophesy with lyres, harps and cymbals; and the number of those who performed their service was: Of the sons of Asaph: Zaccur, Joseph, Nethaniah, and Asharelah; the sons of Asaph were under the direction of Asaph, who prophesied under the direction of the king. Of Jeduthun, the sons of Jeduthun: Gedaliah, Zeri, Jeshaiah, Shimei, Hashabiah, and Mattithiah, six, under the direction of their father Jeduthun with the harp, who prophesied in giving thanks and praising the Lord. Of Heman, the sons of Heman: Bukkiah, Mattaniah, Uzziel, Shebuel and Jerimoth, Hananiah, Hanani, Eliathah, Giddalti and Romamti-ezer, Joshbekashah, Mallothi, Hothir, Mahazioth. All these were the sons of Heman the king's seer to exalt him according to the words of God, for God gave fourteen sons and three daughters to Heman. All these were under the direction of their father to sing in the house of the Lord, with cymbals, harps and lyres, for the service of the house of God. Asaph, Jeduthun and Heman were under the direction of the king. 1 Chronicle 25:1-6

Did you notice that this form of worship was actually referred to as “prophesying?” To prophesy is to “speak forth.” The Psalms many times are filled with profound and prophetic words.

In the second temple period, after the Babylonian destruction, Ezra the priest again re-established the music in the Temple following King David’s example.

Now when the builders had laid the foundation of the temple of the Lord, the priests stood in their apparel with trumpets, and the Levites, the sons of Asaph, with cymbals, to praise the Lord according to the directions of King David of Israel. Ezra 3:10

There is no question that there was music in the Temple and that it was a significant part of all worship before God. In our own expressions of faith today, we find music is a vital part of our public worship as well. It touches part of our soul and it assists us in making a connection of our spirits with the Spirit of the Lord.

I suppose it is ironic that I am writing this article about this subject. I have virtually no musical talent at all. I can’t sing on pitch or in the same octave with others. When I hear people harmonizing or singing the different parts for the alto, soprano, tenor, or bass I am utterly befuddled and confused. It is not that I don’t benefit from their effort; I just can’t join with them. I am also rhythm deficient. I can’t clap synchronously with the audience in worship or play a tambourine or percussion instrument with others. I’m so off-rhythm that I will share this “true” event from my congregational worship. I was at the back and picked up a tambourine to join the worship. I am not kidding about this… I am the only person who had the tambourine taken away from him and told to take a seat. And when it comes to dance, forget it! It is not “two left feet;” I get dizzy and feel like falling. And yet my daughter is as graceful as a gazelle and leads Davidic dance in the service! So here I am—I can’t sing, I can’t play, and I definitely can’t dance. This is why I teach about these things. They do, however, allow me to blow the shofar at the start of our services.

For those of you who have the talent to sing, play, and dance, please do so and help us all to worship the Lord in a joyful manner!

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The Status of the Temple Mount - December 2015 Yavoh

It is exciting to live in these days of prophecy being worked out and history being made! Israel and the Middle East remains a major world-wide focus, as what happens there affects everyone. For those of us looking for the signs of the end of the ages and the beginning of the Great Tribulation, we are watching for the construction of an altar on the Temple Mount. According to the prophecies, that altar is to be shut down, prohibiting the daily sacrifice of the morning and evening lambs. This is the sign that Yeshua told us to watch for (the prophecy of Daniel called the Abomination of Desolation in Matthew 24:15). Because there is no altar at the present time on the Temple Mount, the prophecy cannot be fulfilled. However, present day discussions about Jewish prayer on the Temple Mount do include the construction of an altar with priests presenting the daily sacrifice. This is why the controversy in Israel about the Temple Mount should be of great interest to us. This is also why the Palestinians are so hostile about the subject of the Temple Mount and any Jewish presence there.

Let me review for you the present status of the Temple Mount, including who is permitted to go there and what is permitted to happen there. Although Jerusalem has been under Israeli control since 1967, the Temple Mount itself is under the control of the Jordanian Waqf (an Islamic council). The controlling persons on the Temple Mount are the Palestinians and their religious leaders. Here is a short summary of the rules on the Mount itself.

1.      Only Muslim prayer is permitted on the Temple Mount. No other persons or religious groups, such as Christians or Jews, are permitted to conduct any type of worship. Muslims believe that praying by non-Muslims on the Mount is an effort to destroy their mosque.

2.      The Temple Mount cannot be displayed or be a part of any Israeli national observance in any manner. However, the Mount can display any other form of Arab identity, including hostile organizations such as al-Qaeda, Hamas, Islamic Jihad, ISIS, or any other enemy of Israel calling for the death of Jews and the destruction of Israel. Furthermore, the Temple Mount has become the staging area for the Palestinians to riot in Jerusalem and attack Jews in the Old City.

3.      Christian and Jewish groups can visit the Temple Mount only during weekdays for approximately 4 ½ hours in the morning in single groups not larger than 20 persons. Those groups are then escorted by Jerusalem police and Palestinian police to ensure that no one bows their heads, moves their lips, uttering any form of prayer or quoting of Scripture. Furthermore, they cannot make any form of demonstration, such as displaying any message on their persons, waving a banner, or holding a sign with a message. They cannot drink water nor eat any food (for fear of issuing a blessing). Furthermore, neither Jews nor Christians are permitted to bring their holy books onto the Temple Mount. These same groups can only access the Mount from one gate, while Palestinians may gain access through any of eleven gates.

4.      The Supreme Court of Israel has ruled that both Christians and Jews should be permitted access to the Temple Mount and be free to conduct religious services and to pray. However, this ruling has not been implemented for “security” reasons, and to keep the Palestinians from rioting.

This is what is called the “status quo” according to the government of Israel and in particular Prime Minister Netanyahu. However, even this status quo is no longer acceptable to the Palestinians, thus the hostile conflict in Israel we have seen in recent weeks and months.

The Palestinians want to keep Christians and Jews completely off of the Temple Mount forever. But it goes further—and this is the crux of the problem in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict for all of these years—they also want all Jews to be shipped back to the various countries where they came from and the state of Israel to no longer exist. They argue that they—the Palestinians—have been in the land of Palestine for thousands of years, and that there never was a Jewish presence in the land, including any previous Jewish temple. The Mufti of Jerusalem recently stated that there never was a Jewish temple on the Mount because the mosque was built by angels and was present in the days of Adam. Simply put, the Palestinians and their leaders are willfully ignorant of world history of that region, including the history of the Egyptians, Hittites, Canaanites, Persians, Greeks, Romans, and Christians. They refer all the way back to Abraham claiming that Ishmael—not Isaac—is the rightful heir to Abraham, and they try to present themselves as predating even Muhammad, the founder of Islam, who was born in 570 A.D. and died in 632 A.D.

Throughout the years there have been a multitude of official determinations made by Muslim scholars concerning the land of Israel, and Jerusalem in particular, affirming the true historical facts. Past Muslim scholars have declared Jerusalem to be Jewish and the Temple Mount to be the seat of Jewish identity. Even the Koran (the Muslim bible) affirms this and does NOT speak directly of the city of Jerusalem being a Muslim city. It is only a theological conclusion that Muhammad made his famous alleged ride to heaven starting at Jerusalem.  However, in this generation, since the PLO came to be, the Palestinians have argued that Jerusalem and the temple are a sacred element of Islam. Yasser Arafat pressed this point to garner Arab support in his fight against Israel. Only the Palestinians argue that there never was a Jewish presence in the city and on the Mount.

The world and the world leaders who know world history have continued to play along with this Palestinian myth and have allowed them to rewrite history in an effort to placate them into some kind of agreement. Since Israel is the only nation that the other nations can relate to in terms of history and sanity, the nations have put the burden on Israel to make repeated concessions in an effort to find agreement. It is like two persons having an argument: one is completely out of control while the other is reasonable. Negotiations, therefore, center on the reasonable one to make concessions toward an agreement. There is nothing balanced about this, nor is it fair. At the very core of any agreement in the Middle East is what happens to Jerusalem and in particular the 3.5 acres called the “Temple Mount.” The Palestinians want it primarily because they know it is central to Jewish identity in the land – the place of the ancient Jewish temple for the God of Israel.

When President Clinton was deep in negotiations with Yasser Arafat (the then president of the PLO) and Ehud Barack (the then prime minister of Israel) at Camp David in 2000, the final element of the negotiations was the Temple Mount. President Clinton, himself, attempted to negotiate this item by asking why the Palestinians would not consider Israel having a small portion of the Mount since they had mutually agreed to split the land and the city of Jerusalem. The Palestinians negotiators argued that President Clinton had fallen prey to Jewish propaganda. They asserted that there never was an historical Jewish temple on the Mount and that the Jews were not entitled to any part of it based on history, that it was the exclusive territory of only Muslims. President Clinton then went to his bookshelf and pulled down a book explaining the historical temple of Solomon on the same Mount. The negotiator then said it was all Jewish propaganda. Bill Clinton retorted that it was not: it was Roman history explaining how they, the Romans, destroyed Jerusalem and the Temple Mount in 70 A.D. He further explained that the land was called “Palestine” because it was given that name by the Romans. It was at that moment that the Camp David agreement, which was 95% complete, came to a screeching halt. The Palestinians claimed that they had been offended. Arafat packed his bags, returned to the West Bank, and called for the second Intifada (uprising).

If you have tracked the past Middle East Peace negotiations since 1993, you may have noticed that the subjects of Jerusalem and the Temple Mount have always been reserved as the last element for negotiation. But with the Middle East Peace Accord faltering, and now being annulled, the Temple Mount has risen to the top of the list of contentious subjects in the Middle East.

It is as the prophet Zechariah wrote: Jerusalem will become a burdensome stone, a poisonous cup for the nations to deal with.

Behold, I am going to make Jerusalem a cup that causes reeling to all the peoples around; and when the siege is against Jerusalem, it will also be against Judah. It will come about in that day that I will make Jerusalem a heavy stone for all the peoples; all who lift it will be severely injured. And all the nations of the earth will be gathered against it.  Zechariah 12:2-3

While this is what has been on the table for the governments of the world to deal with, something else has been brewing recently and increasing on the Jewish side of things. A small group of religious Jews has been calling again for the Temple Mount to be shared with the Jews for prayer. They have asserted that the Temple Mount is at the very core of national sovereignty of Israel and the faith of the Jewish people. The leader of this small group is a member of the Likud party, the political party of Prime Minister Netanyahu. For a while Netanyahu was empathetic to the argument originating from his own political party. He has, however, been under tremendous pressure from the United States and Europe to concede to Palestinian demands.

Since the early days of this October, the Palestinians have attacked Jewish citizens, primarily in Jerusalem, with the stoning of cars, running over people with their cars, and vicious knife attacks. Some of these attacks have resulted in people being killed. Social media, primarily Facebook, has been used by the Palestinians to incite these random attacks, with the full approval of Palestinian leaders. Israelis have taken to arming themselves and shooting back. Some 20,000 Israelis have joined in a lawsuit against Facebook for violating its own policy of not permitting any Facebook site or post to advocate violence. Netanyahu has significantly increased security personnel, posting additional police, border guards, and even army units around Jerusalem. The attacks have not decreased, but the Palestinians carrying out the attacks are being shot dead in the process.

The world, of course, has blamed Israel for “excessive force.” Here in the United States we consider a knife attacker who attacks a person deserving of being shot. In Israel, however, the same the knife-wielding guy is called a “martyr” and the victim of Israeli excessive force.

In recent days, Secretary of State John Kerry has traveled to Israel and Jordan to discuss the on-going terrorist attacks in an effort to bring calm again. He has called for a clearly defined “status quo” for the Temple Mount to be agreed upon by all parties. Still further, he has called for the installation of 24-hour video surveillance equipment on the Temple Mount. This equipment will then be the evidence of any misdeed on the Temple Mount to sort out the facts regarding any future conflict. Israel has complained that the Palestinians have been lying about Israelis causing the present uprising.

Most disturbing in watching these events is that Prime Minister Netanyahu has made a governmental declaration that is a “show-stopper” for us in anticipating the start of the Great Tribulation in 2016. He has stated that it is the Government of Israel’s position that only Muslims will pray on the temple and that Jews and Christians may only visit it. Yehuda Glick, the rabbi advocating Jewish prayer on the Temple Mount, who survived an assassination attempt by a Palestinian, has countered that the Prime Minister’s position is contrary to the Jewish Supreme Court and International law.

The Prime Minister has taken this position for “security” reasons, which in Israel seems to trump all other rules.

How long will this new status quo remain in place? No one knows. Something dramatic will probably have to happen to see the day when Israel will be on the Temple Mount with prayer and an operational altar.

In fact, it looks like it will take God’s divine intervention to change this status quo. This status quo, however, does explain a couple of things we have seen in the prophecy about the Temple Mount and the altar being shut down.

The very idea of the Temple Mount altar service being shut down is emphatically stated in the prophecy. In fact, it is the first event known as the Abomination of Desolation. The cessation of the altar service is referred to as abominable to God. Those who force the altar to be shut down will have world opinion on their side. But consider this scenario for a moment.

Let’s say that by some strange set of events Jews who want to pray on the Temple Mount suddenly have an opportunity to erect an altar there. The actual construction of the altar will only take one to two days. Once the eight-day dedication is complete, the prerequisite for the altar shutdown prophecy is complete. It does not require a great amount of time. But then, just as suddenly as the protests against the Jews began, the altar is shut down.

I don’t know what will bring this about the altar being set up, but the prophecy declares that the resulting shutdown will initiate the Great Tribulation. The prophecy in Revelation chapter 11 goes on to say that there will be a portion of the Temple Mount for the Jews and another part for the nations. The area for the Jews will also be the place where the two witnesses will prophesy. It also says that despite the conflict we see today, these two witnesses cannot be physically removed for 1,260 days. Let’s say that the altar is dedicated in seven days and on the eighth day the daily sacrifice is started.

Hypothetically, there is no question that pressure from the entire world will be brought to bear on the government of Israel to shut down that altar. The two witnesses then appear on either side of the cold altar, prophesying to the world as Palestinians on the Mount will attempt to kill them almost on a daily basis.

Read these prophecies about the future Temple Mount.

There was given me a measuring rod like a staff; and someone said, “Get up and measure the temple of God and the altar, and those who worship in it. Leave out the court which is outside the temple and do not measure it, for it has been given to the nations; and they will tread underfoot the holy city for forty-two months.” Revelation 11:1-2

According to this prophecy, we know that there will be a division of the Temple Mount. One part will be for the Jews, who will set a cornerstone to measure the court of Israel and will construct an earthen altar in that court. The prophecy calls for the measurement of these things and describes the people who will worship the God of Israel—the God of that altar. The prophecy describes what will happen after the altar is shut down and the Great Tribulation begins.

And I will grant authority to my two witnesses, and they will prophesy for twelve hundred and sixty days, clothed in sackcloth. These are the two olive trees and the two lampstands that stand before the Lord of the earth. And if anyone wants to harm them, fire flows out of their mouth and devours their enemies; so if anyone wants to harm them, he must be killed in this way.  Revelation 11:3-5

This prophecy was given earlier by Zechariah, and is a powerful prophecy of olive branches on either side of a temple menorah. The imagery from this prophecy makes up the very crest of the State of Israel today.

He said to me, "What do you see?" And I said, "I see, and behold, a lampstand all of gold with its bowl on the top of it, and its seven lamps on it with seven spouts belonging to each of the lamps which are on the top of it; also two olive trees by it, one on the right side of the bowl and the other on its left side.”  Zechariah 4:2-3

Given the hostility that exists today generated by the Palestinians for anything Jewish being on the Temple Mount, we can only imagine the hostility that will be shown to the two witnesses on the Mount. Apparently, the whole world will hear their prophesying and see the attempts to remove them, since the authorities are installing video equipment on the Mount today. For 1,260 days—the days of their ministry—they will neither be harmed nor removed. The prophecy says that many will die trying to remove them from the Mount (whatever “fire proceeding out of their mouths devouring their enemies” means).

The prophecy further states that the two witnesses will have a measure of power from God to judge the earth. These powers will be similar to what Moses and Elijah had. This is part of the reason why some believe that the two witnesses will be Moses and Elijah or men with the same spirit that they had.

These have the power to shut up the sky, so that rain will not fall during the days of their prophesying; and they have power over the waters to turn them into blood, and to strike the earth with every plague, as often as they desire. Revelation 11:6

The Book of Revelation details a series of judgments on the earth in the days of the Great Tribulation, including what are called seals, trumpets, and plagues. In the same manner that Moses and Aaron pronounced ten judgments on Pharaoh and Egypt, these witnesses will pronounce the Revelation judgments on the earth.

When they have finished their testimony, the beast that comes up out of the abyss will make war with them, and overcome them and kill them. And their dead bodies will lie in the street of the great city which mystically is called Sodom and Egypt, where also their Lord was crucified.  Revelation 11:7-8

Once the days of the Great Tribulation are complete, the ministry of the two witnesses will be complete as well. Someone will assassinate them and no one will remove their bodies for burial. The period of time that follows their death will last only 45 days and is called the “days immediately after the tribulation” by the Messiah; however, the first 3 ½ days into that period will have the bodies of the two witnesses lying dead in the streets of Jerusalem (not on the Temple Mount). In Israel, this will be extreme, because a dead person is usually immediately removed from the place of death. Why won’t they touch or remove their bodies?

I think the answer lies in the fact that the world will relish their deaths after enduring the judgmental prophesying for the 1,260 days.

Those from the peoples and tribes and tongues and nations will look at their dead bodies for three and a half days, and will not permit their dead bodies to be laid in a tomb. And those who dwell on the earth will rejoice over them and celebrate; and they will send gifts to one another, because these two prophets tormented those who dwell on the earth. Revelation 11:9-10

The world will begin to rejoice over the death of these two, but it will be short lived, because they don’t remain dead. The eyes of the world will see God resurrect their bodies.

But after the three and a half days, the breath of life from God came into them, and they stood on their feet; and great fear fell upon those who were watching them. And they heard a loud voice from heaven saying to them, "Come up here." Then they went up into heaven in the cloud, and their enemies watched them. And in that hour there was a great earthquake, and a tenth of the city fell; and seven thousand people were killed in the earthquake, and the rest were terrified and gave glory to the God of heaven. Revelation 11:11-13

Let’s move back from my possible scenario and see what the Scriptures have to say about for the future of the Temple Mount…

It should be clear to all of us that all this focus on the Temple Mount means that this is exactly where God plans to start the Great Tribulation. The beginning of the Great Tribulation will not be a hidden or a quiet event. In fact, it will be covered by the 24-hour video surveillance and will be the concern of every nation on the earth.

For us, we wait. We must wait on the Lord for His perfect timing to start the Great Tribulation that leads to His return and His kingdom. At this year’s Sukkot (Feast of Tabernacles) I shared with my brethren that I viewed the probability of the Great Tribulation beginning this winter at 70%. I won’t repeat all of the rationale for that judgment, but some of that probability was based on the months of November through January leading to an altar being erected on the Temple Mount. But with Netanyahu defining the “status quo” as limiting Jewish participation on Temple Mount to visits only with no chance of negotiating a split of the Mount, his policy blocks any chance to build an altar there. If no altar is built, there is no chance that the Tribulation begins this winter. My probability for this year has dropped appreciably to the single digits.

Could this change in the winter months? Well, anything is possible, but we are trying to see if it is probable. Therefore, we must be honest in our assessment and conclude that the present path does not lend itself to the Great Tribulation beginning this winter. We shall look out further in time.

In the meantime, the Lord has given us more time to prepare and to bring others into the fellowship we all enjoy. The Lord Himself has said that He is “long suffering” not wishing any to be lost. So, this gives us also a chance to check our own walks with the Lord, preparing ourselves for His kingdom.

At the same time, we need to be alert to what the world is doing and the growing hostility toward us as believers. We need to be sensitive to those around us to ensure that they do not succumb to the prophecy of the great falling away.

I am reminded of the story of Sodom and Gomorrah with Lot and his family fleeing the destruction that came. Lot’s wife really didn’t want to leave, and she had just enough time to look back. It cost her her life.

I am also reminded of the story of Noah and the great flood. Did you know that, after receiving God’s warning, Noah waited 100 years (building the ark) before the flood came? For that matter, did you know that Abraham waited 25 years before he received the fulfillment of the promise of his son Isaac?

I have come to understand that the Lord’s timetable is not always the same as that of men. God’s character is not impulsive, nor is He overtly spontaneous. He plans things and then follows His plan. That is particularly true at the end of the ages concerning His return. He has planned His return, and He will follow that plan.

Calling a bird of prey from the east, the man of My purpose from a far country. Truly I have spoken; truly I will bring it to pass. I have planned it, surely I will do it. ISA 46:11

Therefore, it behooves us to understand His plan and to order ourselves in parallel with that plan, not to be contrary to His plan. When the day finally comes that God carries out His plan, we will experience something unique and special in our faith. It will be similar to what happened when Yeshua taught at His hometown synagogue in Nazareth.

And He came to Nazareth, where He had been brought up; and as was His custom, He entered the synagogue on the Sabbath, and stood up to read. And the book of the prophet Isaiah was handed to Him. And He opened the book, and found the place where it was written,the Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor. He has sent Me to proclaim release to the captives, and recovery of sight to the blind, to set free those who are oppressed, to proclaim the favorable year of the Lord.’ And He closed the book, and gave it back to the attendant, and sat down; and the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed upon Him. Luke 4:16-20

The passage Yeshua read from is Isaiah chapter 61. He started with verse one and only read halfway through verse two. He only read a very short portion of Isaiah. It was expected that He would have read more and would have offered some kind of commentary on the passage for teaching. Instead, He waited for everyone’s attention and then …

And He began to say to them, "Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing." Luke 4:21

The passage He read is clearly about one person, the Messiah, and what He will do. It is the Messiah who announces the “good news” for the scattered of Israel to return, to establish the kingdom, to bring relief to those who are hurting and healing to the wounded. Yeshua had already been healing and teaching, but to hear Him proclaim that the prophecy was being fulfilled in their day and in their midst must have been stunning.

As we consider what it would have been like in that day and how we might have reacted, we need to know that our day is coming just like it. When that altar is set up and then shut down, we will be speak something similar to what Yeshua said after reading what Isaiah wrote concerning Him.

Read what Isaiah concerning us in last days:

…and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn, to grant those who mourn in Zion, giving them a garland instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the mantle of praise instead of a spirit of fainting. So they will be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that He may be glorified.  Isaiah 61:2-3

The day the altar is shut down, we and others will be proclaiming the Day of the Lord is coming and that the Great Tribulation has begun. We will be proclaiming that our God is going to pour out judgments and bring vengeance upon His enemies. We will also be ministering to each other, encouraging one another to escape, survive, and endure until the Lord returns. We will be, just as Isaiah 61:2-3 above, comforting, granting, and giving encouragement to the tribulation saints in a host of ways.

But before that, we will see the altar get built and then get shut down. On that day, just as Yeshua said, we will say together, “The Word of the Lord has been fulfilled today!”