A Passover Conversation Across Time

Passover across time

We sometimes wonder how our contemporary Jewish Brethren would fare up against those Israelites brought out of Egypt about 3,400 years ago.   

We can only imagine a dialogue between those two groups.  What would happen if they met up in some kind of imaginary time warp between the two ages.  Perhaps a fictional meeting between these two groups would go something like this….

Modern Jewish community:  ”Our Rabbis said you people walked across the Red Sea on a sandbar and Moses knew when it would be low tide.”

 Modern Israelies

Exodus Jewish people: ”Sandbar? Low tide? Is that what they’re teaching you about us now?  Well if that were true, then God did an even greater miracle for us.  All of our Egyptian taskmasters drowned in water only six inches deep.”

ancient israel

Modern: ”Are you trying to tell us that God really did part the Red Sea for you? Did you really did kill a lamb and put its blood on your door post?  Didn’t you guys ever hear about the anti-cruelty society?”

Exodus: ”We followed the exact directions of Moses who heard directly from God. Those special lambs died so that we might live.  Their blood protected us from judgment. We were protected that way. If we had not followed God’s way, we would be dead now too.”

Modern: ”Blood…. Doorpost… Yuck….  Listen, you guys are getting way to fanatical about this Passover stuff.  Sit down now and have a nice bowl of matzo ball soup.  Don’t you know that many of those Egyptians probably came from dysfunctional families. They couldn’t help themselves. You know those Gentiles.  My Rabbi says that…..”

Exodus: ”Wait a sundial minute!  We were there. We saw the plagues. Moses was our mediator before a Holy God.  If we had spoken to God directly we would most definitely have been slain by His Holy presence.”

Modern: ”Mediator, schmediator….. What, do you really have labor strikes in Egypt too?  They’re the only ones who need a mediator.  We are Jews and Jews don’t go need a mediator to go before God.”

Exodus:  ”And what are we? chicken soup?  We are Jews too, and we needed a mediator. In fact, Moses even told us himself that God would send another mediator, a prophet just like Moses, to a future generation.  He promised that to you in a chapter of the Bible you now call Deuteronomy 18.”

Modern: ”Well you can believe what you want. We Jews today are a tolerant and open-minded people.  There are many paths to God.  Astrology, yoga, cosmic oneness with the universe. Haven’t you heard about Jubu’s (Jewish Buddhists)? Don’t be so narrow-minded.”

Exodus: ”We follow Moses! You can be so open-minded that your brains are going to fall out one day.”

Well with that, we will close our little eavesdropping session on my Jewish brothers across time.   We wanted to give you an idea of how to pray for the Jewish people today – most of whom are not religious.  Most do not believe their Bible.   

Most are not even aware of the Holiness of God and their need for a mediator.  

As we are in this Passover season, we are thankful for the mediator Moses who God gave to the Jewish people back then.  But we are even more thankful for our mediator today, Yeshua (Jesus), who stands before a Holy God in heaven to plead our case.  

He is our  Passover Lamb who protects us from the execution of God’s righteous judgment on our sins. That is what the lamb did.  He took our placed and died for us.  Hallelujah.

Yeshua Passover Lamb

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So what is a Messianic Passover?

Messianic Passover Haggadah

What is a “Messianic Passover Haggadah”

What is a Passover Haggadah for Christians and Jews? 

And what does “Messianic” even mean?

To skip this and just order a Haggadah click here.

 

For a quick recap of why we even have a Haggadah, let’s start at the beginning….

passover beginning

 

About 1,450 years BCE (before the common era) the Israelites were held in Egyptian slavery.  The book of Exodus gives us details as to what it was like for the Israelites during that time.

 

So they [the Egyptians] put slave masters over them to oppress them with forced labor….” (Exodus 1:11)

 hebrew_slaves

It was not a very good situation for the Israelites.  They cry out for deliverance and ultimately Moses (Hebrew: Moshe) is sent by God to deliver His people from Egypt.

Pharaoh, at first, seems to think this is all a joke.  His own magicians can duplicate some of the things Moses is doing.  But as the miracles (think plagues) become bigger and bigger, Pharaoh’s magicians realize that this is “the finger of God” (Exodus 8:19), but Pharaoh’s heart is hard and he will not let them go free.

Plague after plague occurs over time and still, he will not let them go.

10 plagues

Finally, the last plague (and worst one) was slaying of the firstborn son. 

In one night, all the firstborn sons of Egypt were found dead.  The Israelites were protected, however, because they put the blood of a spotless lamb on their doorposts the evening before.  This made God “Passover” their houses and protect them from judgment.

passover

After this plague, the nation of Israel was told by Pharaoh to pack up and finally “Leave!”

Yet, when Pharaoh comes to his senses and realizes his work force has just vacated his land, his heart is hardened yet again and follows Israel to the Sea.

God does a miracle there and the sea opens after a powerful wind blows “all that night.”

Then Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and all that night the Lord drove the sea back with a strong east wind and turned it into dry land. The waters were divided, and the Israelites went through the sea on dry ground, with a wall of water on their right and on their left.” (Exodus 14:21-22)

 sea drown

Of course, when Pharaoh and his army try to follow, they are drown and that is the last Israel will see of their taskmasters.

And this is where the Haggadah comes in…. God told the Israelites to have a commemorative event each year on the anniversary date.

“This is a day you are to commemorate; for the generations to come you shall celebrate it as a festival to the Lord—a lasting ordinance.” (Exodus 12:14)

 seder

And the Haggadah is just that…  a booklet which takes you through the service remembering the above Exodus details with food and song!

 

So what is a “Messianic” Haggadah you may ask?

 

Well, a growing number of Jewish people believe that the Messiah has come to Israel and that His name in Hebrew was Yeshua.  (That is the Jewish name of Jesus. He was Jewish and lived in Israel after all.  You did know that, right?)

And as you might have guessed, the word “Messianic” comes from the word “Messiah.”  Therefore, a “Messianic Jew” is a Jewish person who believes that the Messiah has already arrived and His name is Yeshua (Jesus)!

 jesus jewish

Our “Messianic” Haggadah follows the same pattern as the traditional Jewish ones, however, we additionally show how Yeshua (Jesus) celebrated it with His disciples (Hebrew: talmidim – תלמידםtalmidim) at what is commonly called “The Last Supper”.

We also believe that Yeshua (Jesus) is the fulfillment of the lamb that was slain to protect people from judgment.

 door_crs.gif

One final note:  Notice the lamb’s blood was placed upon the Israelites doorposts and lintel.  Dripping from the top, in a very real sense – it would have formed a cross.  Today, it is the blood of the Lamb of God, Yeshua / Jesus, placed upon the doorposts of our hearts today that protects us from the judgment of God.  (And trust that God knows EVERYTHING about you and I that deserve judgment, but He would rather “Passover” you, than judge you.)

And that is why He sent the Messiah!

 

“He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter…” (Isaiah 53:7) 

Written seven centuries before Yeshua (Jesus).

lamb 2

So let’s recap – In Egypt, the “spotless” lamb died and its blood was placed on the door. Only then did no judgment enter.  And that, my friend, is why Jesus being the Messiah is so, so important.   The Messiah died so that we would not have to endure God’s judgment for our sins after death.  He was our substitute.

Do you believe this?  If not – then you are not saved from His judgment.

OR – Are you willing to let Yeshua (Jesus) be the servant He was foretold to be by Isaiah and let Him be your Passover lamb.

Just say this simple prayer from your heart and lips…  “God, I am living apart from You.  I am sorry for my sins.  I turn from them.  I need the Passover lamb – the Messiah in my life.  Yeshua (Jesus) I believe you are alive and I ask You to enter into my heart right now.  I trust in You to save me from my sins, both now and forever.  Amen.”

If you prayed that prayer – let us know so that we can rejoice with you!

————————————————————————————————————-

Here are a few sample pages from our Messianic Haggadah.  We have also included transliteration (Hebrew spelled in English letters) for the main blessings and songs for the Seder.

To order a Haggadah or visit our store click here

 Messianic Passover Haggada Frankel-frontpage

Hag 1

hagg 2

hagg 3

hagg 4

 

 

So there you have it.

We would be curious to know what you think.

Send us a note via the ”contact us” page or send an email to  info@rockofisrael.org

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Purim: God behind the scenes – defeats our foe

purim

Though not a major holiday, Purim is celebrated around the world by Jewish people as the time when they remember how God delivered them from annihilation at the hands of wicked Haman. The holiday has even been nicknamed the Jewish Mardi Gras because of all the celebrating done!

purim parade

The story of Purim is found in the book of Esther. And while God is not mentioned by name in the book, His hand is seen clearly working behind the scenes. The story takes place in ancient Persia (now known as Iran) and while it is too long to give all the details here, the basic overview of the story is this:

— God places a beautiful young Jewish girl on the throne of Persia through a series of unique events.

— ”Esther” (her actual Hebrew name was Hadassah) becomes the King’s favorite and secretly hides her nationality from the King.

— Her uncle ”Mordechai” is the one who raised her and still has connections with the Queen. He also is a devout person and refuses to bow before one of the King’s leading men – Haman. Haman is an Amalekite who are descendants of Esau. (Genesis 36:12; 1 Chronicles 1:36) As a people, the Amalekites are identified as a continual enemy of the Israelites.

— Haman cannot stand being around Mordechai – (the feelings were probably mutual), but it was not enough to let things be. Haman devises a plot to have Mordechai AND all his people killed in a violet day of rioting and looting!

haman evil

— Through another ”coincidence” (God working) Mordechai gains the favor of the King and is required to be honored by Haman – which is humiliating for Haman.

— Mordechai learns of this plot to destroy the Jewish people and convinces Esther to barge in on the King for such urgency of the matter. In that time period, barging in on the King was a capital offense.

–Esther does it, makes her eventual plea before the King at a dinner with Haman as a guest. (Haman has no idea Esther is among the people he requested to annihilate). The King wants to know who wants her killed? She point to ”This wicked Haman!”

This wicked man

–While the king steps out for a moment to process all this – Haman literally begs for his life at the foot of the Queen. The King returns in and sees this and you can guess what he thought Haman was trying to do.   The soldiers put a cover over his head and take him away – immediately.

Haman begs

–The King issues another decree that the Jewish people can now fight for their lives on that day with impunity and the King’s blessing!

Well they do and the day this all happens is called ”Purim” which means ”lots” because Haman had thrown ”lots” to determine the day he would destroy the Jews. Little did he realize it was the date THEY destroyed their enemies! And all this would never have happened if he just kept his big mouth shut.

Today – the entire book of Esther is read in Synagogues around the world. Jewish children dress up as the story characters. Like a costume day. Boys dress up as Mordechai and girls like Queen Esther. The carnival-like holiday is celebrated with parades and costume parties all over the world in Jewish communities.

purim play

purim fun

purim parade 2

On the basis of Exodus 17:14, where the Lord promised to ”blot out the name” of Amalek, it is customary for the audience to make noise and shout whenever ”Haman” is mentioned, in order to desecrate his name. Loud shouts of ”BOO’s!!!” will happen whenever Haman is mentioned. And loud cheers for our heroes Esther and Mordechai happen as well.

One of the traditional foods are called Hamantashen cookies. Three pointed cookies that hide the filling inside. ”Tash” in Hebrew means ”weaken.” Thus, the hamantash celebrates the weakening of Haman and our wish that God always save us by weakening our enemies. The filing inside is covered by the triangular tops. It is hidden, yet sweet – just as God is hidden in the story of Purim, but sweet to the taste.

hamantashen

This Purim, as we follow tradition and blot out the name of Amalek, Haman and their like, we might also consider the claims of the Messiah, Yeshua whose very name actually means ”salvation.” He offers life and peace to all, both Jews and gentiles, who trust in his name. And all who follow Yeshua (Jesus the Jewish Messiah), according to the New Covenant, will have their own names written in the book of life. 

Our ”Haman” called ”death” is a now defeated foe for all who trust in Yeshua. We will gain everlasting life on that day!

resurrection death defeated

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The Hanukkah and Jesus Connection

Hanukkah and Jesus

Jesus and Hanukkah?  Are you crazy?  (Nope, just read on….)

First of all the basics..  Hanukkah (alternately spelled Chanukah) is the Jewish celebration which remembers the military victory of the Maccabees over the armies of Syria in 165 B.C.E. and the subsequent rededication of the Temple in Jerusalem.  And that is what the word “Hanukkah” means – “Dedication”.

So to put it in more modern terms – Their armies took over and made life miserable for us.  We eventually kicked them out….  they left us a mess (oy!) and we cleaned up and relit the Temple Menorah.  Yeah!

That part is history.  But here is where a bit of a legend comes in.  The pure oil we found to relight the menorah was only enough to last one day.  But miraculously it lasted for eight!

 

And again, to put it in modern terms…..  You’re on a desert island, your cell phone (which you use as a flashlight at night) had only 4% power left on the battery, yet somehow it lasted for eight more nights until you are rescued!

Well – there is a lot more to Hanukkah than that, but you get the basic idea.

Today, Jewish families will light the Hanukiyah (a nine branch menorah) as a way to commemorate that event.   Eight candles are lit (one per night) with a “Shamash” or “servant/worker” candle being the first one lit each night. It, in turn, will be used to light all the others.

 

Hanukkah Traditions!

Food is a big one.  Since the miracle of Hanukkah centers on oil, foods fried in oil are a center piece.  Potato pancakes (called latkas in Yiddish and livivot in Hebrew) and fried doughnuts (sufganiyot in Hebrew) filled with jelly are traditional Hanukkah treats.

 

Children also play a game called “Drediel” where a top with four Hebrew letters is spun.  The Hebrew letters on it are: nun, gimmel, hey and shin.  These are an acronym for nes gadol hayah sham, “a great miracle happened there.”

 

The game is usually played for a pot of chocolate coins (called gelt), or peanuts, or maybe M&M’s, which are won or lost based on which letter the dreidel lands on when it is spun.  There is even a classic song about the dreidel that children everywhere sing.  The chorus goes like this, “Oh, dreidel, dreidel, dreidel, I made it out of clay, and when it’s dry and ready, then dreidel  I shall play.”  Of course there are variations of this tune….

But when you get right down to it, Hanukkah focuses on one thing…  Light.

Light is a good thing.  After all, living is darkness is usually frowned upon wherever you go in the world.

As Messianic Jews, Jewish people who believe that Jesus (Yeshua in Hebrew) is the Jewish Messiah, we love to celebrate Hanukkah as well.

We believe that the Messiah Himself is our “Light” and even the Jewish prophet Isaiah foretold this hundreds of years before the Messiah came to earth.

“And now the Lord says— he who formed me in the womb to be his servant to bring Jacob back to him and gather Israel to himself….. I will also make you a light for the Gentiles….” (Isaiah 49: 5 & 6 portions)

Notice this Servant has two jobs.  1) to bring the Jewish people back to God and 2) be a light to the Gentiles.  That is a fancy way of saying his job is to tell Israel and the rest of the world about the God of Light!

Funny, that was exactly the goal of Jesus (Yeshua) living and teaching in Israel.

When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” (John 8:12)

And did you know that Yeshua (Jesus) celebrated Hanukkah?  Yep.  It was written down by one of His Jewish followers named Yochanan…..

“The Festival of Dedication [ie. Hanukkah] then took place in Jerusalem. It was winter, and Jesus was walking in the temple in Solomon’s portico” (John 10:22-23).

So there you have it.  Hanukkah in Jerusalem with the Messiah of Israel.  This is what Messianic Jews believe happened.

Let us close asking you this…  Does your soul need light? 

Have you realized that apart from a relationship with God – through the Messiah of Israel, you are living in spiritual darkness.

But your iniquities have separated you from your God; your sins have hidden his face from you…” (Isaiah 59:2)

Are you willing to let Yeshua (Jesus) be the servant He was foretold to be by Isaiah and let Him bring light into your soul.

Just say this simple prayer from your heart and lips…  “God, I am living apart from You.  I am sorry for my sins.  I turn from them.  I need the light of the Messiah in my life.  Yeshua (Jesus) I believe you are alive and I ask You to enter into my heart right now.  I trust in You for light, both now and forever.  Amen.”

What are beautiful feet?

beautiful feet

Today we wanted to talk about feet and what the Scriptures say about feet. 

In the Bible days, there really was only two modes of transportation for most people.  Either ride on an animal (like a donkey) or put on your sandals and walk.

Messiahs feet

We believe that the Messiah and His disciples mostly walked everywhere they went.

This must have made for some rough looking feet.  Perhaps that is why the woman in Luke 7:37 washed Jesus’ (Yeshua’s) feet with her tears and dried them with her hair.

It was those feet that carried the message of the good news of the Kingdom of God to town after town in Israel for three years.

And physically, where did many people hear this message when Jesus sat down to teach in small groups?  At His feet… ”She had a sister called Mary (Miriam), who was seated at the Lord’s feet, listening to His word.” (Luke 10.39)

Being at the feet of a person meant you were in perfect submission to their authority.  Either:

Willingly:

”Let us go into His dwelling place; Let us worship at His footstool.” (Psalm 132.7)

Or unwillingly:

”For He must reign till He has put all enemies under His feet.” (1 Corinthians 15.25)

And today, as believers in Messiah, we are told that we have beautiful feet!

feet good news

How beautiful upon the mountains
Are the feet of him who brings good news,
Who proclaims peace….
Who says to Zion,
“Your God reigns!” (Isaiah 52:7)

Notice where the beautiful feet go.  They go to the Jewish people and tell them about ”Your God!”  Sadly most Jewish people today don’t even know about who their God is.

Even the Jewish apostle tells us about feet. ”….and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace;”  (Ephesians 6.15)

Moses knew feet were important…..

”Moses slaughtered it and took some of its blood and put it on the lobe of Aaron’s right ear, and on the thumb of his right hand and on the big toe of his right foot.” (Leviticus 8:23)

When Aaron was called into the priesthood – he had blood placed upon his ear, thumb and big toe!  God wants him (and us) to be consecrated in our hearing, doing and walking!

And there are also feet that God hates.  ”….feet that run to evil and they hasten to shed blood.” (Proverbs 1.16)

But the most important feet in the world were the two feet who took a long Roman nail in them for all the wrong places in life our feet went and our feet should have been punished.  These feet took our sin.

nail

”…they have pierced my hands and my feet.” (Psalm 22.16)

What is the Tanakh?

tanach

While most all of Christianity calls the first part of their Bible ”The Old Testament”, the Jewish people have never called it that.  Why?  Because that implies there is a ”New” Testament – and to the Jewish people, there never was a ”New” testament.

Additionally – the word ”Testament” itself is a misnomer.  ‘Testament’ is a Latin word used in English Bibles and the last time we checked, Jewish people do not speak Latin, nor did God ever write scripture in Latin. 

The word God uses in scripture for this concept is ”Covenant.”  He makes ”Covenants” with people.

So there is an ”Old” and ”New” Covenant that God made with Israel (see Jeremiah 31:31)

So why do the Jewish people call it the ”Tanakh” (also spelled Tanach).  Well, Tanakh is actually an acronym.    Ta-na-kh (also spelled Tanach) is the three parts to this acronym.  And that is because the Hebrew Bible is broken down into three parts….

tanach 2

”Ta” is short for…. Torah (the first five books of the Hebrew Bible) 

”Na” is short for…. Navi’im (the major Prophets of the Hebrew Bible – like Isaiah)

”Kh” is short for….Ketuvim (the Poetry books like Psalms)

Tanach 3

So the Jewish people have spoken of their Bible like this for over two thousand years. 

Even Jesus spoke of the Hebrew Bible this same way.

”Then he said to them, ”These are my words t hat I spoke to you while I was still with you—that everything written about me in the law of Moses, the prophets, and the psalms must be fulfilled.” (Luke 24:44)

Did you see that?  Jesus spoke about the Hebrew Bible as having three parts. 

1) The Law of Moses (Torah)

2) The Prophets (Navi’im)

3) The Psalms (Ketuvim) – meaning Psalms and all the poetry books like Proverbs, Song of Solomon, etc.

Jesus spoke about the ”Torah, Navi’im and Ketuvim.”

He just spoke the long version.  Today we use an acronym to save time.

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Kathy Lee Gifford’s New Book about the Messiah

Kathy Lee Gifford New Book

If you have ever watched the ”Today” Show, then you know how vibrant a host Kathy Lee Gifford is.  But did you also know she is half Jewish and a lover of the Bible, Yeshua and Israel.  Also, she has been to Israel four times with a Messianic Jewish Rabbi as a teaching host. 

Well, she has just written and chronicled her past four rabbinical study trips to Israel in a new book entitled “The Rock, The Road, and the Rabbi: My Journey into the Heart of the Scriptural Faith and the Land Where It All Began.”

the rock, the road and the rabbi

This is encouraging to the Messianic Jewish community as Messianic Jews are becoming more well known! 

The Feast of Tabernacles

Sukkot Tabernacles
The Biblical Feasts of Tabernacles (called Sukkot) begins the evening of October 4th.  There are seven total feasts in Leviticus chapter 23.  Four of them are in the spring.  Three of them are in the autumn. The Feast of Trumpets (Feast 5) and Yom Kippur (Feast 6) both occurred a few days ago in September.  Now the last feast – Tabernacles (Feast 7) will be the last major Feast until the cycle starts next year again with Passover. Since Yom Kippur (Feast 6)  focuses upon forgivness of sins…..  the last feast is a joyous one. After sins are forgiven – what do you do?  Celebrate of course! And they do this by building booths (huts) in their back yards that are up for seven days. They are richly decorated with fruit and things and are made of wood.  They will set a table inside and families will eat and eat under the stars!  This life we live in may be shaky like this tent, but God provided for us yet again! Sukkot Tabernacles 2 The tabernacle was temporary to remind us that this world is not our real home.  It is like a tent (2 Cor 5:4).   Our real joy should come from not the ‘tents’ of this world, but God alone. Sukkot Tabernacles 3 Did you know that part of the Feast of Tabernacles was a water drawing ceremony done by the priests called ‘Simchat Bet Ha-Shoevah’ (The rejoicing of the House of Drawing Water).  Based upon Isaiah 12:3, ‘With joy you shall draw water out of the wells of salvation.’ Did you know that Yeshua (Jesus) went to Jerusalem for this Feast?  ‘In the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried, saying, If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink.’    (John 7.37) Ultimately this feast points to the REAL Tabernacle with God!  ‘Behold, the tabernacle (sukkot) of God is with men, and He will dwell with them….’ (Revelation 21.3) As we approach this autumn – let us remember that the fall feasts teach us that the BEST is yet to come!  Messiah shall return.  Israel shall repent.  The Kingdom Shall come!
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What were cities of refuge?

What were cities of refuge?

    In real life – a man’s blood could be shed in two ways – on purpose or by accident.  In biblical times, if someone was killed on purpose, and there were witnesses, then it was murder.  They were put to death.  Case closed. But what about ”accidents?”  And who determined if it was an accident or not?  This is where the cities of refuge came into the picture. You see – in ancient near east culture, when a man died suddenly and the person with him was suspected of murdering him, it was the duty of the next-of-kin to ”avenge” his family members blood.  To track the killer down and make him pay for this. But what if it truly happened by accident?  After the event, with the heat of the moment strong and emotions running high, the next-of-kin might not be open to a rational explanation. Therefore, God set the terms for justice under these conditions.
”Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, ”Speak to the children of Israel, and say to them: ‘When you cross the Jordan into the land of Canaan, then you shall appoint cities to be cities of refuge for you, that the manslayer who kills any person accidentally may flee there.  They shall be cities of refuge for you from the avenger, that the manslayer may not die until he stands before the congregation in judgment.”  (Numbers 35: 9-12)
The Mosaic Law stated that anyone who committed a murder on purpose was to be put to death (Exodus 21:14). But for unintentional deaths, God set aside these cities to which the murderer could flee for refuge (Exodus 21:13). He would be safe from the avenger—the family member charged with avenging the victim’s death (Numbers 35:19)—until the case could go to trial. It is assumed that the Levites would be the most suitable and impartial judges and therefore, their cites were chosen as the place to run to for protection.   city of refuge entrance 2 If the avenger of blood were to defy the law and take the manslayer’s life anyway, either inside the city of refuge, or outside it after the high priest’s death, then he would himself become a murderer. The Cities of Refuge were six towns where the Levites lived where the perpetrators of manslaughter could claim the right of asylum. Outside of these cities, there was no protection from blood vengeance. The Torah names the six cities as being cities of refuge: On the eastern side of the Jordan: Golan, Ramoth, and Bosor. On the western side: Kedesh, Shechem, and Hebron. cities of refuge locations The Talmud states that the roads to these cities were not only marked by signposts saying “Refuge”, but the roads were twice the regulation width—and were particularly smooth and even, in order that fugitives were as unhindered as possible. cities of refuge well marked A chapter in the Book of Joshua (chapter 20) also reiterates the regulations for the cities of refuge, adding that when a perpetrator arrives at the city, he had to disclose the events that had occurred to the city elders, after which they had to find him a place to live within the city.  If he did, he would return to the city of refuge and live there safely UNTIL the death of the high priest who was in office at the time of the trial, at which point he could then safely return to his property. However, if the manslayer left the city of refuge BEFORE the death of the high priest, the avenger would have the right to kill him (Numbers 35:24-28). So what does this mean today?  What lesson is in it for us?  It represented, and still represents, the sinner who has broken the Divine law as pursued by an avenger, JUSTICE, following with drawn sword, exclaiming, ”The soul that sins—it must surely die!” (Ezekiel 18:4)  The cities of refuge are types of Messiah, in whom the sinner will find a refuge.  A place of safety. The manslayer was to stay within the city of refuge until the death of the high priest. This concept indicates that the high priest bore the iniquity of the spilled blood to his own grave. By doing this he released the manslayer from the burden of accountability. The manslayer could only leave the city of refuge after the death of the high priest. The believer today will never leave the city of refuge as the high priest will die no more.  But that city is a glorious one!  Why would we want to leave?  (Hebrews 11:1) Today we urge sinners to run to the city of refuge!  The high priest (Jesus) will protect us from Justice!  And we can live in His city forever as He will never die again! Jesus city of refuge

Doug’s Story

Doug bar mitzvah

A Jewish Young Man Meets His Messiah –
The Testimony of Douglas Carmel

Doug
Doug

I was born in New York City to a newly immigrated Israeli man and a first generation American Jewish woman. Their marriage lasted only two short years. My mother left and went back to her mother’s house. It was under the care of these two Jewish women that I received much of my traditional Jewish upbringing.  We also attended a Conservative “Shul” in New York City and I attended Hebrew School there preparing for my Bar-Mitzvah.

My mother had to find work to support us which meant that much of my time was spent with a dear Jewish immigrant from the old country affectionately known as my grandmother. She spoke fluent Yiddish and as a result I learned to understand much of the old country language.

My grandmother’s sense of traditionalism burned bright against the NYC gentile background I’d grown accustomed to in earlier years. We kept two sets of silverware: One for milk, and one for meat. We lit annual Yortzit candles in memory of her husband, my grandfather. We also observed special days the Jewish holidays in the Spring and Fall. We were a very typical Jewish home in New York City!

While most of my friends were allowed to play ball on the street almost every October day, however, there were two specific days during that month that I was not to participate. It was not under the threat of violence that I abstained, but rather from a sense of belonging to my people. On the Holy Days of Yom Kippur and Rosh HaShanna we simply did not act as the gentiles did. I was told that Yom Kippur was the day that we were to fast. God would forgive us of our sins on that day for the year. We were not to engage in any normal activities that day – not even turning on a light switch! You can imagine how difficult this must have been to this ten year old, but we were Jewish! And if this is what God wanted us to do…

As I entered my teens, however, I began to ponder the meaning and value of these and other traditional observances. This idea of just fasting one day a year for the forgiveness of my sins raised perplexing questions in my heart and mind. How could I fast just one day a year and the rest of the year do whatever I wished? And then the question of forgiveness began to loom greater and greater as time passed and I progressed into areas of life that I inherently knew were not pleasing to God.

I graduated from High School at the age of sixteen and went on to college, becoming fascinated by a lifestyle that would eventually shape all of my activities during that period the life of wine, women and song. Rock music and my large collection of albums and tapes became a kind of inner haven as the rock musicians seemed to strike chords deep within my soul. I was also lured by the beauty of women in different girlfriends – all the time trying to keep things hidden from my parents.

I recall one day noticing a button on a girl’s jacket which stated, “Sin now, pray later.”, the impact of that statement I will never forget, because I thought, “That’s me!” My religious upbringing was still there, buried deep under outer layers of sin. I still feared God, and in retrospect, I believe that by his Holy Spirit the button on that rebellious girl’s jacket was used gently by God to convict me of my sin.

I graduated from college in 1985 at the age of 21. In May of 1986, I was up in the late hours of the evening watching television (as was my habit then) when I heard a slight rumbling sound outside. I went to our seventh floor apartment window and stuck my head out, but saw nothing. A few moments later, the strange noise outside occurred again. I went over to the window once more but saw nothing in the sky… And then suddenly a thought crossed my mind…. “This is it! The Christians were right! JESUS IS COMING BACK and it’s tonight!!” For a few seconds, my eyes were riveted to the sky as I waited for the horses to appear through the nighttime clouds and for this Jesus to return as I knew the Christians said he would do one day.

Even though I was Jewish, I’d listened to TV evangelists growing up, and obviously something had stuck with me. The Lord obviously did not part the clouds that night, but His Spirit DID begin to penetrate through my clouded heart. I suddenly realized that night how afraid I was of dying (because I knew that was a sinner), and I told God that I would give up things that I knew were wrong. The fear eased, but…..

Forgiveness. How does one really get it? That was my question. Deep down I knew there had to be something more than just Yom Kippur (that one day of fasting a year) that involved forgiveness, but what was it? Somehow the TV evangelists had impressed me with the fact that forgiveness and Jesus went together, and that week I was very much passionately driven to understand how it all worked. There was no putting this off any longer. As the girl’s button had said, “Sin now, pray later,” but now I knew for certain that God had not promised me that there would be a ‘later’.  I sought out how to be forgiven with all my heart. The synagogue I attended had never spoken clearly of any afterlife and I didn’t want to walk into the foreign territory of a church – I was Jewish! But I remembered an organization in Manhattan that was made up of Messianic Jews (as I now know they are called.) Obviously there are other people who are Jewish and believed in Jesus…

I called their offices and told the man on the other end that basically, I wanted to be saved. He offered to meet me downtown. When we met, he answered some of my questions and gave me some good Bible literature to read. One of the pieces included a prayer on how to receive the Messiah, and I think I prayed it on the train while returning home. I also called “The 700 Club” and prayed with a phone counselor who assured me I was saved and heaven bound.

My behavior changed drastically after that, but needless to say my family was not pleased with me breaking up with my girlfriend, breaking all my rock albums, etc… I was ushered in to see our family Rabbi, a family counselor, and TWO trained anti-missionaries. Top men in the NYC area.  But even with all their words throwing me into confusion, God still had His hand on me. The more I studied their writings, the more I realized what they wrote was not in line with what the Hebrew Bible was saying.  One Friday, at a Shabbat Messianic service, I heard a tremendous message by a Jewish believer named J’han Moskowitz. God used that message and the man mightily in my life, and that night all my doubts and fears literally melted away. I knew for a fact that Jesus was indeed the Jewish Messiah, and I responded during the invitation / rededication. 

I began reading all that I could about the Lord and the Bible. The messianic prophecies in the Jewish scriptures (like Isaiah 53, Daniel 9:24-26, etc.- tons more) pointed to Yeshua (Jesus) so clearly! Each day I grew closer to Him, and eventually I was asked to leave my family’s apartment. It worked out for the best, however… I was able to move in with another Jewish believer, and began to read the scriptures like never before – without fear of having my Bible confiscated this time (like my mom used to do.)

Since then, the Lord has done marvelous things.  Married with five children and in ministry now for over 23 years.  I have shared and taught about Jesus in the Feasts of Israel and similar topics before over 900 congregations.  I have traveled to over half the United States teaching and have been a part of the Rock of Israel Ministries since 1995.

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