Thanks for visiting OnceDelivered.net in 2013. The free resources available here are designed to equip you to earnestly contend for the faith once delivered to the saints (Jude 3). Following is a recap of the year, including the most popular posts. Read on, and come back often in 2014.
Here’s an excerpt:
The Louvre Museum has 8.5 million visitors per year. This blog was viewed about 86,000 times in 2013. If it were an exhibit at the Louvre Museum, it would take about 4 days for that many people to see it.
Where we are:
|Part 1: Judgment||Part 2: Historical Interlude||Part 3: Salvation|
|Chapters 1-35||Chapters 36-39||Chapters 40-66|
When this takes place:
Chapter 58 is part of the second major section of Isaiah and deals less with Judah’s immediate plight than with its future deliverance from Babylonian exile and ultimate glory.
Isa. 58:6-8 – Isn’t the fast I choose: To break the chains of wickedness, to untie the ropes of the yoke, to set the oppressed free, and to tear off every yoke? Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, to bring the poor and homeless into your house, to clothe the naked when you see him, and to not ignore your own flesh and blood? Then your light will appear like the dawn, and your recovery will come quickly. Your righteousness will go before you, and the Lord’s glory will be your rear guard.
Isaiah takes to task those who go through the motions of religious observance while at the same time committing sins and promoting corruption. The kind of worship pleasing to God includes a desire to live an upright life and to help the poor and oppressed. It also means setting aside the Sabbath as a time to worship God and delight in Him rather to pursue worldly pleasures.
The poor and oppressed are always close to the Lord’s heart. Consider these passages of Scripture:
- Deut. 24:14-15 – Do not oppress a hired hand who is poor and needy … You are to pay him his wages each day before the sun sets, because he is poor and depends on them. Otherwise he will cry out to the Lord against you, and you will be held guilty.
- Prov. 14:31 – The one who oppresses the poor insults their Maker, but one who is kind to the needy honors Him.
- Jer. 5:28 – They have become fat and sleek. They have also excelled in evil matters. They have not taken up cases, such as the case of orphans, so they might prosper, and they have not defended the rights of the needy.
- Amos 2:6-7 – The Lord says: I will not relent from punishing Israel for three crimes, even four, because they sell a righteous person for silver and a needy person for a pair of sandals. They trample the heads of the poor on the dust of the ground and block the path of the needy…
- Luke 1:52-53 – He has toppled the mighty from their thrones and exalted the lowly. He has satisfied the hungry with good things and sent the rich away empty.
Fruitless Fasting, Pointless Praying (Isa. 58:1-5)
The Lord instructs Isaiah to proclaim loudly (literally “with throat”) the sins of the nation. He is not to “hold back” but is to raise his voice “like a trumpet” so that all the people of Judah know that God sees and judges their transgressions. Verse 2 describes the outward righteousness of the people as they go to the temple, obey God’s laws, fast, and appear eager to serve the Holy One of Israel. But the Lord, who sees the heart (1 Sam. 16:7), is not impressed with the external trappings of religious rituals. Remember what He tells His people in chapter 1: “What are all your sacrifices to Me? … I have had enough of burnt offerings and rams and the fat of well–fed cattle; I have no desire for the blood of bulls, lambs, or male goats…. Stop bringing useless offerings. I despise [your] incense…. I hate your New Moons and prescribed festivals. They have become a burden to Me; I am tired of putting up with [them]. When you lift up your hands [in prayer], I will refuse to look at you; even if you offer countless prayers, I will not listen” (Isa. 1:11-15). Quoting Isa. 29:13, Jesus offers a similar rebuke to the religious leaders of His day: “These people honor Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me. They worship Me in vain, teaching as doctrines the commands of men” (Matt. 15:8-9).
These are important passages that speak to Christians today. Is our worship a humble response to God’s grace, or is it a self-centered effort to draw attention to us or to curry God’s favor? Warren Wiersbe notes, “When we worship because it is the popular thing to do, not because it is the right thing to do, then our worship becomes hypocritical” (Be Comforted: An Old Testament Study, S. Is 56:9). The Jews are commanded to observe only one fast per year, on the Day of Atonement (Lev. 16:29-31), but they are permitted to fast personally at other times. Somehow, the permission to fast devolved into a contest among God’s people to gain His attention. Now they complain that the Lord hasn’t “seen” or “noticed” their fasting. They are showing off their “piety” to God while engaged in pugilistic activities among themselves.
Wiersbe summarizes: “True fasting will lead to humility before God and ministry to others. We deprive ourselves so that we might share with others and do so to the glory of God. If we fast in order to get something for ourselves from God, instead of to become better people for the sake of others, then we have missed the meaning of worship. It delights the Lord when we delight in the Lord” (S. Is 56:9).
True Worship (Isa. 58:6-14)
Fasting is meant to encourage believers to respond positively to God’s commands. As they deprive themselves of certain physical needs – food, sleep, or sexual relations, for example – they are better able to see the weakness of their flesh and to hear God’s voice. Although the citizens of Judah are fasting, they are neglecting the clear instructions from the Lord to care for the less fortunate among them and to treat them as members of their own family who at one time had been slaves in Egypt. In others words, they are missing the point. Fasting should result in self-denial, not self-indulgence. When believers share with others it serves as a reminder that all they own ultimately belongs to God.
Fasting in the Old Testament normally lasts from sunrise to sunset. It is religious in purpose and is undertaken for a variety of reasons: to express grief (1 Sam. 31:13), to demonstrate one’s seriousness when appealing to God (Ezra 8:23), to indicate repentance (Jonah 3:5-10), and to honor the solemnity of the Day of Atonement (Lev. 16:29-31). Later generations will add commemorative days to the religious calendar and remember them with fasting (Zech. 8:19). In the days of Jesus, the Pharisees fast each Monday and Thursday (Luke 18:12). Jesus condemns the dirtying of the face to show others than one is fasting, but He does not denigrate the practice. In fact, Jesus appears to have fasted often, including the 40 days before His public ministry (Luke 4:1-2). “Isaiah’s point is that fasting as an expression of piety is of far less concern to God than a righteous lifestyle. Spirituality is shown by the loving quality of our personal relationships (Isa. 58:4) and by our commitment to social justice and to helping the poor and oppressed (Isa. 58:6–7), not by fasting” (Lawrence O. Richards, The Bible Readers Companion, electronic ed., S. 442).
If the people have an inner righteousness, as opposed to a hypocritical outer righteousness, it will be revealed in acts of charity and justice honored by God. The blessings promised to Israel for obedience are spelled out in Deut. 28:1-14 and include:
- Exaltation above the nations of the earth
- Blessings in the city and the country (the entire nation will be blessed)
- Blessings for descendents
- Productive soil, livestock and herds
- Abundant rain and food
- Victory over enemies
- Blessings in “everything you do”
- Establishment as God’s holy people
- Holding the surrounding nations in awe
- Many children and animals
- Being a lender to nations but not a borrower
In Isaiah 40, the Lord promises to reward obedience with light (often a picture of blessing), healing (spiritual restoration), righteousness (high standards), protection from trouble and answered prayer (vv. 8-10). Further, He will give His people guidance, satisfaction, strength, fertility and physical restoration. These are special blessings promised to Israel as God’s chosen people, who are to be a shining testimony of the one true God’s power, wisdom and grace.
For believers today, it’s important to avoid carrying these promises to Israel over into the church. Some Christian leaders today have adopted an entitlement mentality that says in effect, “Because I am a child of the King, and am a joint-heir with Jesus, I may claim my inheritance now – with health, wealth and worldly success.” While this is an attractive point of view to believers who live in a sinful and fallen world, the New Testament nowhere promises Christians a cushy life. Quite the contrary, the Apostles experienced intense persecution, and many suffered martyrs’ deaths. Further, Paul wrote in no uncertain terms that “all those who want to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (2 Tim. 3:12). Even so, believers should take heart because our treasure is in heaven and Jesus promises to compensate us for faithfulness with everlasting rewards (see Matt. 6:19-21; Rev. 22:12-14).
Trent C. Butler writes: “If ritual fasting was simply boosting one’s own religious ego, what was the key to divine blessing? What was acceptable to the Lord? God called for concrete action, helping others in need. Again the emphasis is on overcoming injustice with righteous acts. God does not want anyone under someone else’s yoke. Here is the beginning of the fight against slavery of every kind. God hates oppression. He wants his people to set oppressed people free. God’s people are dedicated to providing the basic needs of life to those who do not own them. We feed the hungry and provide shelter for the poor, homeless wanderer. We clothe those who cannot afford proper clothing, and we make sure we take care of our own flesh and blood” (Holman Old Testament Commentary: Isaiah, p. 334).
The idea of salvation in the Jewish mind — as written in Isa. 12:2 for example — is tied to the feast of tabernacles. The reference in verse 3 to joyfully drawing water from the springs of salvation reminds the people of the ceremony practiced each day of the feast in which water is drawn from the Pool of Siloam, and it foreshadows the day when Jesus would stand, on the final day of the feast, and proclaim, “If anyone is thirsty, he should come to Me and drink” (John 7:37).
“As the Jew was reminded by the feast of tabernacles of his wanderings in tents in the wilderness, so the Jew-Gentile Church to come shall call to mind, with thanksgiving, the various past ways whereby God has at last brought them to the heavenly “city of habitation” (Ps. 107. Robert Jamieson, A.R. Fausset, David Brown, A Commentary, Critical and Explanatory, on the Old and New Testaments, S. Is 12:2).
Everyone can see Jesus in the Feast of Tabernacles by noting the Messianic symbols God gave us — and Jesus fulfilled — in the feast, most notably:
1. The tabernacle.
2. The water.
3. The light.
4. The harvest.
|Name||Scriptures||Time / Date||Purpose||Fulfillment|
|Tabernacles||Lev. 23:33-43; Num. 29:12-39; Deut. 16:13-17, 31:10-13||15th – 21st of Tishri, with an 8th day added as a climax to all the feasts (September/October).||To commemorate God’s protection during the wilderness wanderings and to rejoice in the harvest.||Restoration: The peace and prosperity of God’s Kingdom on earth.|
The Feast of Tabernacles, or Sukkot, is the seventh and final feast God gave Israel. It is the most festive of all the feasts and is mentioned more often in scripture than any of the others. The word sukkot in Hebrew is translated “tabernacles” in English and means booths or huts. Throughout this seven-day feast, the Jews are required to live in temporary shelters to remind them of God’s provision during their 40 years of wilderness wandering. The holiday also is called the Feast of Ingathering (Ex. 23:16; 34:22) because it is observed after all the fall crops are harvested. This happy feast commemorates God’s past provision in the desert and His present goodness in providing the fall harvest.
The feast begins on the 15th day of Tishri (September/October), five days after the Day of Atonement. The first day of Tabernacles and the day after Tabernacles (known as Shemini Atzeret) are sacred assemblies, or Sabbaths. No work is permitted on these days. This is one of three pilgrim feasts, along with Unleavened Bread and Weeks (Pentecost), requiring all Jewish males to appear before the Lord in the Temple.
The Biblical Observance
Four passages of scripture outline the observance of Tabernacles: Lev. 23:33-43; Num. 29:12-39; Deut. 16:13-17, and Deut. 31:10-13. A great number of sacrifices are required each day: one goat, 14 lambs, two rams, and a number of bulls – 13 on the first day, then decreasing by one each day. In addition, the accompanying meal offerings and drink offerings are presented. The work is so intense that all 24 divisions of priests help carry out the sacrificial duties.
It is during the Feast of Tabernacles that Solomon dedicated Israel’s first Temple. The Shekinah glory of God descended from heaven to light the fire on the altar and to fill the Holy of Holies (2 Chron. 5:3; 7:1-4).
Jewish pilgrims from around the world travel to Jerusalem for this feast. They build booths, or huts, in which they live for one week – all carefully located within a Sabbath day’s journey (a little more than half a mile) of the Temple. At sundown, the ram’s horn (shofar) blasts and the celebration begins as fires from thousands of Jewish camps blaze in a half-mile radius around the Temple.
Water-libation ceremony. Israel’s rainy season is from November through March. Tabernacles gratefully acknowledges the harvest and, at least in part, beseeches God for the coming moisture necessary for future harvests. So each morning of the feast, the high priest pours a pitcher of water from the Pool of Siloam into a special basin in the inner court of the Temple as a visual prayer for rain. At the same time, a drink offering of wine is poured into another basin. Three blasts of a silver trumpet follow, and the people listen as the Levites sing the Hallel (Ps. 113-118). The congregation waves palm branches toward the altar and join in singing Psalm 118:25: “Lord, save us! Lord, please grant us success!”
Psalm 118 is a messianic psalm and gives the feast a messianic focus. Centuries after this Psalm was penned, the crowds in Jerusalem greet Jesus with shouts of Hosanna (“save now”) and wave palm branches as He enters the city triumphantly (Matt. 21:8-9; Luke 19:37-38; John 12:12-13). This imagery continues in heaven where the saints worship around the throne with palm branches in hand (Rev. 7:9-10).
Temple-lighting ceremony. On the second night of Tabernacles, the people gather in the spacious outer court of the Temple known as the Court of the Women. Four towering lamp stands are in the center of the court, each with four branches of oil lamps. The wicks are made from the worn-out linen garments of the priests, who ascend tall ladders to keep the lamps filled with olive oil. The elders of the Sanhedrin perform torch dances all night long. Levites stand at the top of the 15 steps leading down to the Court of Women. As flutes, trumpets, harps, and other stringed instruments accompany them, they sing the “Fifteen Psalms of Degrees” (Psalms 120-134). With each psalm, they descend one step.
This celebration is repeated every night from the second night to the final night of Tabernacles. The brilliant lights, bathing the Temple and flooding the streets of Jerusalem, remind the Jews of the descent of the Shekinah glory in King Solomon’s day as the people look forward to the return of the Shekinah in the days of the Messiah (Ez. 43:1-5).
It is the day after Tabernacles that Jesus proclaims in the Temple, “I am the light of the world. Anyone who follows Me will never walk in the darkness but will have the light of life” (John 8:12). Later that day, He heals a blind man and declares, “As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world” (John 9:5). The Pharisees bristle at both statements. The best they can do is to accuse Him of healing a man on the Sabbath. Incidentally, there are no Mosaic laws against healing on the Sabbath; the tradition of the Pharisees is the only thing Jesus violated.
Hoshana-Rabbah ceremony. On the seventh day of the feast, the Temple water-pouring ceremony, which is performed each morning throughout the week, takes on great importance. Jewish tradition holds that it is on this day that God decides whether there will be rain for the next year’s crops. Instead of three silver-trumpet blasts, there are seven sets of three blasts. Rather than one circuit around the altar, the priests make seven circuits. The day is known as the Hoshana Rabbah, or “Great Hosanna.”
It is during this ceremony that Jesus stands up and shouts, “If anyone is thirsty, he should come to Me and drink! The one who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, will have streams of living water flow from deep within” (John 7:37-38). The Jewish leaders are infuriated; some want to seize Him, but no one lays a hand on Him A debate ensues among the people, many of whom do not realize, or will not believe, He is the Son of David, born in Bethlehem, the Messiah (John 7:40-44). The chief priests and the Pharisees rebuke the Temple officers, who had the authority to arrest Jesus for disturbing the ceremony, but the officers reply, “No man ever spoke like this” (John 7:46).
The Modern Observance
The sukkah, or tabernacle, is the primary symbol of the feast today. As soon as Yom Kippur is past, observant Jews build rough booths in their yards or on their patios. The booths are three-sided and covered with branches. The roofs are thatched so that there is partial shade in the daytime, and so the stars can be seen through it at night. Throughout the feast, Jewish families eat their meals in the booths, and some even sleep there. These booths remind the Jews of their hastily built housing in the wilderness.
Leviticus 23:40 instructs the Jews to take fruit, palm branches, the boughs of leafy trees and willows of the brook and rejoice for seven days. Observant Jews may build their booths with these items, or carry them in their hands as they rejoice, or both.
At the synagogue, congregants circle the building and sing Psalm 118. The Torah scroll, rather than the ancient altar, is the center of the ceremony. Since the destruction of the Temple, the feast is more closely connected to Yom Kippur. Hashanah Rabbah, the last day of the feast, is seen as the last day on which the judgments God declared on Yom Kippur could be reversed, so observant Jews ceremonially beat willow branches on the synagogue pews to remove the leafs, symbolizing repentance and the removal of sin.
The Bible often compares the harvest with God’s judgment (Hos. 6:11; Joel 3:13; Matt. 13:39; Rev. 14:14-20). In keeping with this imagery, God designed the Feast of Tabernacles to foreshadow the day in which He will gather His people to Himself and send away the wicked (Mal. 4:1-3). When the Messiah returns and sets up His earthly kingdom, He will bring together Jew and Gentile to worship Him in Jerusalem (Zech. 14:16-17).
Further, the Lord Himself will tabernacle, or pitch His tent, with the redeemed (Ez. 37:27-28; Rev. 21:3). The Shekinah glory will be seen again (Isa. 60:1, 19; Zech. 2:5), covering Mount Zion with a cloud by day and a fire by night (Isa. 4:5-6). God’s people will enjoy intimate, face-to-face fellowship with their Savior.
An interesting observation: Some believe Jesus was born during the Feast of Tabernacles, based on scriptural information regarding the timing of John the Baptist’s birth. If that’s true, it more fully illustrates the truth that Jesus is the Tabernacle of God. John 1:14 says, “The Word became flesh and took up residence (lit. and tabernacled or and dwelt in a tent) with us.” Col. 2:9 states, “For in Him the entire fullness of God’s nature dwells bodily.” Jesus will again tabernacle with us when He returns in power and great glory.
In another way, the shelters that are built represent the physical bodies in which we temporarily live today – bodies that eagerly await their glorification at the return of Christ (Rom. 8:23; 1 Cor. 15:51-57; 2 Cor. 5:1-4).
The Old Testament visions of the coming of all nations to worship at Jerusalem refer to the Feast of Tabernacles on the occasion of their pilgrimage (Zech. 14:16-21). This feast speaks of Christ’s millennial reign – a new beginning without the ravages of sin. The earth gives bountifully, all animals are docile (Isa. 65:25), armies no long march against each other, every man sits under his own fig tree (Micah 4:4), and righteousness becomes a lasting reality on the earth. As the Apostle John wrote in Rev. 22:20b: “Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!”
This concludes our study of the Jesus in the Feasts of Israel.
The Day of Atonement foreshadows two significant events: Jesus’ sacrificial death, and Israel’s repentance at the Messiah’s return. “They will look at Me whom they pierced” and repent, the Lord declares in Zech. 12:10. God will deal with the nation’s sins and remember them no more (Isa. 43:25; Jer. 31:34). Isaiah prophesied that the nation would be born spiritually in a day (Isa. 66:8; Rom. 11:26-27). This will be the prophetic fulfillment of the Day of Atonement as Israel comes face to face with its Messiah at the end of Daniel’s “70th week” (Dan. 9:24-27), a seven-year tribulation period that begins with the rise of an evil world ruler known in Jewish theology as Armilus and in Christian theology as Antichrist. Throughout the tribulation, many Jews will turn to Christ in the midst of great persecution, acknowledge Him as Lord and receive Him as Savior. At the same time, God will pour out His wrath on a wicked and Godless world. At the end, perhaps on the very Day of Atonement, the Jews will receive their Messiah as He comes in power and great glory as King of kings and Lord of lords.
Note the similarities between the work of the high priest on the Day of Atonement and the work of Jesus in His sacrificial death:
- The high priest does all of the work – offering 15 blood sacrifices, lighting the candles, etc. Jesus, our “great high priest” (Heb. 4:14), did all the work of redemption so that salvation is by grace alone through faith (Eph. 2:8-9).
- The high priest humbles himself, wearing simple white linen clothing. Jesus humbled Himself by becoming a man (Phil. 2:5-8).
- The high priest must be spotless, having his sin atoned for before he may enter the presence of God behind the veil. Jesus was sinless (2 Cor. 5:21).
- The high priest enters the Holy of Holies only once a year, taking the atoning blood of bulls and goats behind the veil into the presence of God. Jesus offered His own blood once and for all, and the veil of the Temple – symbolizing the separation between holy God and sinful man as well as representing the body of Christ – was torn in two (Matt. 27:51).
- The blood the high priest takes into the Holy of Holies can only cover sin. Jesus’ death at Calvary took away sin (Heb. 7:27; 9:12, 25-28; 10:4; John 1:29).
In addition to the high priest, the goats also foreshadow the work of Messiah. Both goats have to be spotless, as Jesus was sinless. The goat “for YHWH,” whose blood is shed, symbolizes the substitutionary death of the Messiah. The goat “for azazel” symbolizes the finished work of Jesus in taking away our sins, never to be remembered again. Just as the high priest takes the blood of the goat “for YHWH” into the Holy of Holies to make atonement for the people, Jesus entered the heavenly Holy of Holies with His own blood as the once and final payment for our sins.
Finally, in Lev. 25:8-17, God gives instructions for the Year of Jubilee (every 50th year). He tells the Jews to sound the trumpet on the 10th day of the seventh month, which is the Day of Atonement. Why not the first day of the seventh month – or, for that matter, the first day of the first month to mark the beginning of this special year? The reason becomes clear when we see the results of the Day of Atonement. In the Year of Jubilee, land reverts to its original owner, slaves are set free, all debts are cancelled, and the land rests. What a marvelous picture of the results of Christ’s sacrificial death. Jesus cancelled our sin debt, redeemed us out of the slave market of sin and set us free, promised us a place in heaven, and gave us rest. The sorrowful self-denial of Atonement is turned to joy as Jesus, the Lamb of God, invites us to enter His rest.