"Comfort, comfort my people says your God" Isaiah 40
  1. *Photo credit: Google Images*

    There is much we could say about the inseparable connection between the Jewish holiday of Passover and the Christian celebration of Easter, or what I prefer to call “Resurrection Day.”

    In the most basic terms, the physical deliverance of Israel from the bondage of slavery in Egypt was a foreshadowing of the spiritual deliverance we have in Christ, whose atoning death has set us free from the bondage of sin (Romans 6:17-18; Galatians 5:1; Colossians 1:13-14). Just as God spared the Israelites from the “destroyer” when He saw the blood of a lamb sprinkled on their doorposts, the shed blood of Jesus the Messiah allows God to “pass over” our sins completely (Romans 3:25; 1 Corinthians 5:7).

    The figure of Moses is so central to the Passover story, and he also serves as a type or foreshadow of the promised Messiah. Moses himself even said that one day “the Lord your God will raise up for you a Prophet like me from your midst, from your brethren. Him you shall hear” (Deuteronomy 18:15). Indeed, the parallels between Moses and Jesus are quite remarkable, and the first similarity is brought out in this very prophetic passage: that both would suffer rejection by their own people.

    Moses and the Rejection of Messiah
    Christians often look to Joseph or David as models of the coming Messiah because they were both scorned by their brothers. But when Stephen the Martyr is confronting his fellow Israelites in Acts chapter 7 concerning their rejection of Jesus, he uses Moses as his primary archetype for their repudiation of Messiah. This cut to the quick, because Moses was the most revered figure in the eyes of those he was addressing. Yet Stephen rightly pointed out that the Hebrew children had refused to accept his leadership over and over again.

    Stephen said that even though Moses was the “one who received the living oracles to give to us” at Sinai, he was still the one “whom our fathers would not obey, but rejected. And in their hearts they turned back to Egypt …” (Acts 7:38-39).

    This should not have been the case. Moses was the one who had warned them to put the blood over their doors, and every Israelite family who escaped the destroyer that night and made it out of Egypt did so because they had listened to him. They owed their lives to Moses, and yet they kept questioning his leadership and ability to hear from the Lord. In fact, it happened “ten times” and actually reflected their “testing” and rejection of God (Numbers 14:22). And eventually, Moses declared that another prophet would arise one day and this time they better listen to him. “And it shall be that whoever will not hear My words, which He speaks in My name, I will require it of him. (Deuteronomy 18:19).

    Now we know that the Jewish rejection of Jesus was for a redemptive reason – first it was necessary so that Christ might make it to the Cross, and secondly, so that the Gospel would go out to the nations (Acts 3:14-18, 13:46). Thus, we do not condemn them for it. This partial hardness of heart also was only for a season, and will lift one day once the “fullness of the Gentiles has come in” (Romans 11:25). Yet the point here is that the Moses of the Passover story suffered rejection even though He was chosen and used mightily by God, and he foretold that the Messiah would experience the same from his own people – which also occurred at Passover.

    Moses the Deliverer
    Moses was raised up by God to be a Deliverer for the Hebrew children from the bondage of slavery in Egypt. He spent 40 years in the courts of Pharaoh and then 40 years in the wilderness being prepared by God for this special mission. The Israelites also anticipated his coming because God had promised Abraham long before that after 400 years He would bring them out from hard service and affliction in a strange land (Genesis 15:13-14).

    Likewise, Christ was a promised Deliverer from the bondage of sin and death for all who call upon his name (Acts 2:21; Romans 10:13, 11:26). The Angel of the Lord told Joseph to name his son “Jesus” – meaning “salvation” – “for He will save His people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21). The Jewish people in his day knew it was time for the Messiah to arrive (Daniel 9:24-26; Galatians 4:4); and they even knew where he was to be born (Micah 5:2; Matthew 2:4-6). Jesus also spent 40 days in the wilderness being prepared for his ministry of deliverance ahead.

    Moses the Lawgiver
    Moses was the great Lawgiver, because he gave both Israel and the world the Ten Commandments. “Then the Lord said to Moses, ‘Come up to Me on the mountain and be there; and I will give you tablets of stone, and the law and commandments which I have written, that you may teach them’” (Exodus 24:12). Even the five Books of Moses are called the “Torah”, which means the “law” or “teachings.”

    Likewise, Christ was a great Lawgiver. Indeed, Jesus beautifully proclaimed the laws and virtues of his Kingdom in the Sermon on the Mount (see Matthew 5). In referring to the Lord Jesus, the Apostle James said: “There is one Lawgiver, who is able to save and to destroy” (James 4:12).

    The Apostle John said: “For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ” (John 1:17 - NIV). This actually means, “the law of grace and truth” came through Jesus.

    The great difference between these two great Lawgivers in the Bible is that Moses delivered to us a law which was written on tablets of stone, while Christ writes the law of God on hearts of flesh (2 Corinthians 3:3). Indeed, the prophet Jeremiah cites this as one of the great distinguishing characteristics of the promised new covenant, when the Lord said: “I will put My law in their minds, and write it on their hearts …” (Jeremiah 31:33; Hebrews 8:10, 10:16).

    Stay tuned for part 2...

    Join us in making this Passover an impactful one by sending your best gift to provide food for families in need during this Passover holiday.

  2. Why should Christians take great care in examining the traditions of the Jewish festivals?

    In Leviticus 23:4, it reads, “These are the appointed times of the Lord, holy convocations which you shall proclaim at the times appointed for them” (NASB). The Hebrew word here for “convocations” (or “assembly”) is Miqra. The word, Miqra, means rehearsal or recital. Wayne Blank explains it as “to ‘re-hear’ what has been taught, but the modern-day accepted meaning of rehearsal, a practice session for a later event.” The Miqra referenced in Leviticus 23 when referring to the Mow-’ed or feasts in their appointed seasons, are understood as both a looking back to an event as well as a rehearsal, or looking forward, to what the Lord will do during these appointed times. Thus, we as followers of Jesus (Yeshua) bear a responsibility to declare the truth of God’s Word during the Lord’s festivals at their appointed times.

    In regards to Passover, Jesus declares in Luke 22:14-16, “with fervent desire I have desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer” (NKJV). Jesus was about to reveal himself through the elements of this festival they had been partaking in for centuries. We understand the Passover as a looking back on the Israelites’ deliverance from Egypt and God’s provision for them. When Jesus arrives and partakes of the Passover with his disciples, he fulfills the Law established by God with the Israelites when they left Egypt which is represented in the ceremonial traditions of the Passover Seder, the traditional Passover meal. 

    Naturally, most Christians focus strictly upon the bread and the wine during Jesus’ Last Supper and acknowledge it in the ceremony of Communion. This is the most important element of the Last Supper as it is a representation of the sacrifice Jesus made for us on the cross. However, when we consider the declaration Jesus makes and the point at which he makes it in the Seder, the significance of this sacrifice takes on an even deeper meaning. Jesus does not take just any bread after the meal but rather he takes the Afikomen. Within a Passover Seder, in the element of the Afikomen, there are three pieces of Matzah (plural: Matzot). There are a variety of different interpretations as to why there are three pieces. Some believe them to represent the Levites, priests, and the people of Israel. Others believe them to represent Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. While still others believe them to represent the Triune character of God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The latter fits the following interpretation and understanding of the Seder in terms of what it means for Jesus when he takes the bread and breaks it. 

    At this point in the meal, the Seder leader takes the piece of Matzah from the centerfold of the Matzah Tosh, a white bag containing three pieces of Matzah. This piece of Matzah is then broken in half and the larger piece is wrapped in a white cloth and hidden away until the end of the meal as the Afikomen. When it is finally pulled out at the end of the meal, oftentimes considered the dessert of the meal, it is broken and shared among the Seder’s participants. Thus, according to the narrative in each of the four gospels, at the end of the meal, Jesus took the bread, the bread of affliction, wrapped in cloth and stowed it away until the time had come for the bread to be distributed among everyone. It was at this appointed time that Jesus takes the bread and breaks it saying, “This is MY body broken for you, do this in remembrance of me.” Just as Jesus’ body was broken, wrapped, and stowed away in a tomb for three days, so too was the Afikomen, the “bread of affliction”, he chose to illustrate as his body being sacrificed for the sin of the world. 

    In the same way, when Jesus took the cup, he took it after the meal (Luke 22:20). In a traditional Passover Seder, there are four specific cups. These cups represent the four acts of God that he declares concerning the deliverance of his people from Egypt. In Exodus 6:6-7, it is written, “I will bring you out from under the yoke of the Egyptians. I will free you from being slaves to them, and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with mighty acts of judgment. I will take you as my own people, and I will be your God…” (NIV). Thus, we have the four cups, the cup of deliverance, the cup of freedom, the cup of redemption and the cup of restoration. Just as Jesus took the bread after the meal, so too he took the wine. This specific cup was the cup of redemption. When Jesus took the cup and said, “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many,...” (NIV), he was referring to the Lord’s declaration of redemption in Exodus of redeeming the people with an outstretched arm and with the Blood of the Lamb. His death shortly after the Last Supper provides eternal redemption for the people of the world through His blood. Furthermore, He follows this statement with, “I tell you the truth, I will not drink again of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it anew in the kingdom of God” (NIV). Here, he refers to the fourth cup which is the cup of restoration. In Matthew, he says he will not drink of it again until he drinks it again with us in the kingdom of Heaven, referring to when we are reunited and restored with him in the kingdom (Matthew 26:29). 

    In light of these traditions and the representation of the Passover elements, Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection and the redemption we receive through the breaking of his body and the pouring out of His blood takes on even greater significance. We see Jesus fulfilling this festival when we look back to the promise of redemption in Exodus 6 and recognize how Jesus pointed to the redemption of his blood as well as his body broken, wrapped in linen, and hidden away until the appointed time or the Mow-’ed

    Let us, therefore, remember Jesus’ death and resurrection and his perfect fulfillment of the Torah as a first century Jewish man doing the work of His Father in eating the bread of affliction and drinking the cup of redemption. Thank you, Jesus, for pointing back to the narrative of the forefathers of our faith, sacrificing yourself for our redemption, and looking forward to being reunited with us in eternity. Let us never neglect your Miqra and your perfect fulfillment of the Torah.

  3. Israelis on Thursday were making last-minute preparations to celebrate the Biblical Feast of Pesach (Passover) which begins on Friday evening with the traditional Seder meal and continues for a week during which only unleavened bread (matza) is eaten. Israel’s Christian communities were also preparing to mark “Good Friday” the traditional day on which Jesus was crucified, followed by “Resurrection Sunday” to commemorate His rising from the dead.

    Today's Videos give a look at the Biblical Festival of Passover in Israel

    Netanyahu Formally Invited to Form Government
    Israeli President Reuven Rivlin issued the formal invitation to incumbent Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to form a governing coalition for the 21st Knesset at a ceremony at the President’s residence Wednesday evening, starting a process of negotiations which has a time limit of six weeks. “There is no bigger honor in a democracy,” Netanyahu said. “I am just as excited as the first time, if not more.” Rivlin said he hopes Netanyahu will form a “large and stable government that will reflect the will of the nation as much as possible.”

    Also on Wednesday, TIME magazine published an article naming Netanyahu as one of the world’s 100 most influential people.

    Israeli Air Force Practicing Missile Defence
    Israel’s Defence Forces (IDF) released a statement on Wednesday declaring that the Air Force had sucesfully carried out a series of tests of the air defense systems, which had included a large number of interceptions of live rockets fired at test ranges in the Negev. “Nowhere else in the world do you fire so many live missiles in one night during a drill,” the senior officer said. “We are challenging ourselves. Our enemy is learning, and is definitely getting better and is getting more challenging… but so are we.”

    Iranian President Attempts to Reassure Regional Neighbors
    Iranian President Hassan Rouhani announced Thursday that the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, recently designated as a terrorist organization by the US State Department, will never be used against Iran’s Sunni neighbours but only against "Zionists" and "American imperialists" insisting that "I want to tell the regional countries that the armed forces of the Islamic Republic of Iran are not against you and your national interests. They stand against invaders." Initial reactions from regional governments indicated they weren’t taking Rouhani’s words very seriously.

    Israel Blesses the World
    Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs reported on Wednesday that a 3D printing facility utilizing Israeli technology has been built in the West African country of Cameroon, with the assistance of the Israel-based company SELA Educational Initiatives Limited. The new facility was built at the Polytechnic National Advanced School of Engineering in Cameroon’s capital Yaoundé, and is the first of it’s kind on the African continent. Cameroon's Education Minister Jacques Fame Ndongo thanked Israel and praised "the product of its ingenuity known since ancient times."

    Here is a video about the wine industry in Israel

  4. The ICEJ recently sponsored two special children’s Aliyah seminars in Ukraine. The Naale Seminars are for young people who are preparing to make Aliyah to Israel without their parents. The seminars prepare them and their parents for the logistical and emotional challenges they will face. The youth will finish high school through the Naale program, and 96% of them will make Aliyah. At least 60% of their parents will make Aliyah later on, but initially the child must be prepared to make the journey home to Israel alone.

    Many of the youth will be in the same schools in Israel, and they will need to depend on each other for support without their parents. The seminars use several types of group cohesion activities to build a support system within their group. The picture on the cover of this Word From Jerusalem magazine shows the children in an exercise to increase trust with one another.

    The word “Naale” is an acronym in Hebrew for “Youth Coming Before Parents.” The official program started in St. Petersburg, Russia in 1992 in the tumultuous days following the fall of the Soviet Union, when public schools were dysfunctional and Jewish parents requested that Israel receive their kids for better schooling. It was inspired by the Youth Aliyah Movement, which developed during WWIIwhen parents who were concerned about the rise of Nazism sent their children to safety, hopeful they might be able to join them later.

    The program has continued and serves distressed communities such as the Jewish community in Ukraine. The situation is quite bad there, and many families want a better life for their children in Israel but do not feel the whole family can make the move at the moment.

    So far, more than 17,000 children have made Aliyah to Israel through the Naale program. The majority of them have come from Russia, Belarus, and Ukraine where the future today is uncertain and parents hope for a better life for their children in Israel. Israel’s future is bright, and many opportunities await them there.  

    —by Howard Flower, ICEJ Aliyah Director

  5. The Israel Defence Forces (IDF) submitted a request to the government for a NIS 10 billion budget supplement this week, according to Army Radio. Reasons for the request included unexpected costs from what is called the “war-between-wars” referring to air-strikes on Iranian targets in Syria and a variety of covert operations designed to prevent full-blown conflicts, as well as non-routine security-related expenses such as confronting rioters along the Gaza border. Other reasons cited was the need to beef up the IDF’s Order of Battle to counter increasingly sophisticated weapons and equipment provided to regional adversaries by Russia.

    In related news, US Envoy for Middle East negotiations Jason Greenblatt posted a Tweet Tuesday including a map of Israel which shows the Golan Heights as an integral part of Israeli territory, making the first time an official US document of any kind has included such a map. “Welcome to the newest addition of our international maps system,” wrote Greenblatt.

    Here is a video giving some analysis of recent developments between Israel and Syria

    Honey Production Bounces Back Following Wet Winter
    The Council of Production and Marketing of Honey in Israel published a report this week including statistics which paint a hopeful picture for production of the sweet substance in the coming year due to unusually large volumes of rain this past winter, leading to a bumper crop of pollen-producing flowers which the bees who produce honey need. "Last year, the production of honey was about 3,000 tons, and this year we expect a 25% increase in output, an additional 800 tons of honey. For the last five years, there has been never been such an increase in honey production," said Zeev Meidan, the director general of the council.

    Gal Gadot Spending Passover in Israel
    Israeli-born acrtress Gal Gadot, best known for portraying the superhero “Wonder Woman” landed in her homeland Monday with her husband and children to spend the Passover holiday with her extended family. There are also rumors she will be doing some work to prepare for the upcoming Eurovision song contest in Tel Aviv.

    Joint Venture Announced Between Israel and Finland
    The movement to Boycott, Divest and Sanction (BDS) Israel suffered another defeat on Tuesday when a joint venture was announced between Israeli and Finnish companies working in the area of digital health management. The announcement was made by the Israel Innovation Authority (IIA) and the Israel-Europe Research & Innovation Directorate (ISERD). "We are thrilled to provide this bridge between the pioneering innovation ecosystems of Israel and Finland in a field that impacts us all: digital health," said Aharon Aharon, CEO of the Israel Innovation Authority.

    Finnish Ambassador-designate to Israel Kirsikka Lehto-Asikainen said: "It is an important and exciting leap forward for the cooperation between Finland and Israel as leading innovative countries. We are truly happy to be part of that partnership and will continue promoting similar initiatives in the future – we can certainly see a great potential for that."

    Today's Video gives a look at the Biblical Festival of Passover in Israel