Day of Atonement, Passover, Epiphany

The Day of Atonement, Passover, and Epiphany may seem like three strange Feast to be linked together when talking about the birth of Jesus.  Bear with me as I explain their connection.  

I know it is a good thing that God is a “God Who hides Himself” and did not give us exact dates for everything that occurred.  “He concealed things” so we could search them out.  Luke or Matthew could have given us “better” time stamps but Holy Spirit stopped them.  But Luke did give us some very important timestamps.

Time

Jewish timekeeping is different than Western thought, it was started by God in the Garden.  (another post on time) The Biblical day starts in the evening and goes to daylight.  This thought is consistent in the Bible as there are many examples of things going from dark to light.  The Jewish religious month is lunar-based; they would add an extra month when needed to keep them in line with the revolution of the earth.   In the Book of Leviticus, the major feasts are set in this framework of months.

Day of Atonement

This important day, for the Jews, of fasting, prayer, and repentance is explained in Leviticus 16.  In Leviticus 23: 26 its time is given as the tenth day of the seventh month.  In Luke we find Zachariah, John’s father, doing the offering of incense behind the Veil in the Second Temple.  Luke 1: 23 had him finish “his time of service” before going home.  This possibly was until the end of the month, so he was with Elizabeth in the eighth month.  She stayed secluded for five months.  (I am not trying to do days or exact times, those belong to God!)

Passover

Luke 1:26 has the “sixth month” for Mary’s visit with Gabriel.  That should be the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, which makes it the first month of the Jewish year, the month of Passover!  The Father is a God of order.  It would seem fitting to “birth” Jesus in Mary at Passover. That would put Jesus’ “coming out party” with the angels and shepherds in the December/January time frame (Julian Calendar) of the month of Tevet.  (see the calendar below)

Epiphany 

From ancient times (before the fourth century) the 6th of January has carried special importance in the Church!  Dietrich Bonhoeffer in his Testament to Freedom, pgs. 504-5 talks about Epiphany.  I read it in a compilation called God is in the Manger.  On page 90, he talks about four events associated with that date – the birth of Jesus, His baptism, the wedding of Cana, and the arrival of the Magi. Traditions are frequently built on fact.  Some of these I will not try to defend or deny, but it sure is interesting.  (Again, I am not trying to be dogmatic in writing this.)

Tevet is the Jewish tenth month.  The root of the word comes from tov or nine.  The meaning of the word is “good”.  If you look in Psalm 119: 65 – 72, the ninth section of that acrostic psalm you will find the idea of good four times in the NIV. (I did an alternative to how Psalm 119 is written.)

Matthew, in his telling of the Christmas story, injects that the Wise Men had seen the star two years earlier (Herod killed the babies two and under.).  He gives no timestamp, but if it was on Jesus’ birthday (Passover) when they found Him, it would fit. 

Okay, I will go out on a limb here, because I know the Father is a God of order!  Jesus’ return with Mary and Joseph from Egypt should have been at the same time as the Exodus (Passover).  I will inch a little further out and say that Jesus’ baptism with John coincided with the anniversary of the “baptism” of the people in the Red Sea. 

The wedding at Cana – I am clueless!  John was writing about proofs of Jesus’ divinity when he wrote on the Seven Miracles (or the Plus One I added), not about dates and times.  

For you scholars out there, I have not researched any of these thoughts on Epiphany!  It may well be that someone else has already come up with the same ideas!  I like the way they fit together, and it gives me a reason to reflect on Epiphany.  One day in Heaven I will have to ask how close I was to being correct.   

The calendar is from https://en.wikipedia.org › wiki › Hebrew_calendar 

 

Holy Spirit and Four Births

Brian Houston in his 2019 Christmas message to Hillsong Church spoke on Holy Spirit’s role in the Christmas story.  It is something that is easily overlooked, yet is the very heart of the story as that is how a virgin became pregnant.  This made me think of the other times the Spirit was present at the birth of things.  Now, these births cause the world and secular thinkers’ great displeasure and they often have very unnecessary things to say about each of them!  

Genesis 1: 2 – The Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.  The Spirit was at Creation – the birth of this Age that tells the story of His people.  The “world” cannot accept that God created the world and oversees His planet.

Luke 1: 35 – The Holy Spirit and the Power of the Highest will come to you and hover over you.  The Holy Spirit supplied the “50%” of the DNA that Mary did not get from a man.  The “world” really has a hard time with this.  Joseph even had a “hard” time with this until God sent an angel to him.  This Story, the Christmas Story, is what sets Christianity apart.  This is no less a story of Creation as the one in Genesis and unless the Holy Spirit opens your heart to it you will not believe.

Acts 2: 2-4 – On the day of Pentecost the Holy Spirit blew into Jerusalem and hovered over the Upper Room and 120 praying believers and birthed the Church of Jesus Christ.  The “world” does not like this either!  All sorts of attacks have been launched against the Church, but the Holy Spirit has always reserved a believing “120” to pray and carry His message to the harvest fields.

John 3: 3 – Unless you are born again you will not see the Kingdom of God.  The Holy Spirit will hover over you to get you born again.  He will not make you accept Jesus and the Good News of the Kingdom.  But if YOU decide to leave the “world” behind and go the opposite direction from it (repentance); Holy Spirit will birth something in you and fill you with all the power needed to live a righteous life.  See Following Jesus at the top of the page and Happy Birthday!  

Featured pic is from http://www.LumoProject.com.   

The Root, The Branch, The Fruit – The Christmas Story

“I, Jesus, have sent my angel to give you this testimony for the churches. I am the Root and the Offspring of David, and the bright Morning Star.” Revelations 22:16 (NIV)

A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse; from his roots, a Branch will bear fruit. Isaiah 11:1 (NIV)

Yes, the Christmas story and the mission of Jesus is in those two verses.  In Matthew and Luke, the story is told and each writer includes a genealogy of Jesus.  Matthew uses David as a connection point for his Hebrew audience.  The number fourteen (symbolizes David) and his inclusion of women in the lists of names show Jesus to the people in many ways.  Luke speaks to his Gentile reader(s) by using a slightly different look in the family tree (probably Mary’s) and goes back to the Garden and the first Adam.  Luke’s genealogy includes the “common” members of the family, while Matthew has the Patriarchs, the Kings, and the “common” people. 

Using the picture of roots, stumps, and branches allow for interesting symbolism.

The Root

Our two verses show the root of David, which is Jesse and the root of Jesse, which is the tribe of Judah, and the root of Judah is Jesus.  The genealogies in Matthew and Luke help here!  But if you like the rest of the story turn to First Chronicles 2:3 – 17.  This really starts in Numbers 26:19 and Genesis 38 especially verses 27 – 30.  The story starts with Judah, who could hand out hard verdicts but did not do well in the receiving department.  Perez was the first one completely out but the second-born son, because stuck his arm “broke out” first.  (This is a strange picture of being the “first and the last”.)  It is his family line through Ram that produced the leaders of the Tribe of Judah.  Jesse was the “head man” of the tribe and should have been one of the “panicked elders” when Samuel showed up in their town.  (I wrote Cut Jesse Some Slack, BECAUSE!)  That would have put Eliab, by birth, as the next in line for the leadership of the tribe of Judah.  In reading 1 Samuel 16 and 1 Chronicles 2:13 – 17 you get a whole picture of Jesse’s family.  The two lists of sons don’t match and it may be that one died as David is #7 in Chronicles and #8 in 1 Samuel.  

A few thoughts as a teacher and a gardener to show the importance of the root.

  • It is the first part to show up when the Seed is covered with water.  It absorbs the water to convert the stored energy into the rest of the plant.
  • I have to include Genesis 1:2 – the Spirit was over the water, God did a lot with water in Genesis 1.  Baptism is also a must, you leave the old man under the surface and the new man comes out.
  • Roots anchor a plant.  It really is the biggest part of the plant as it spreads out in the soil working to take in water and other nutrients. 

The Branch 

Jonathan Cahn in his Book of Mysteries series talks about Matthew 2:23 where Jesus fulfills the prophecies that Jesus would be a Nazarene. (Video on YouTube) The root word for Nazareth/Nazarene is netzer which means branch.  So, Isaiah 11:1, Zechariah 3:8, and Jeremiah 23:5 are those prophetic announcements. 

I will not start “splitting hairs” about stems, trunks, etc. because I just have a feeling it is more about the foundation (roots) and what is growing above (branch).  Jesus in John 15 and Paul in Romans 11 also lean into this way of looking at a plant.

In John 15 Jesus calls Himself the vine and we are the branches – we have to be connected to Him.  Romans 11 has us as branches being grafted into “the olive tree” so we can grow.

Branches are for reproduction; the fruit will form on them.  So, if we look at Jesus as the Branch – He was to produce fruit.  If we consider ourselves as the branch, it is our duty to produce fruit!

Both 

Revelations 22:16 puts Jesus in two positions – The Root and the Branch.  The symbolism and its examples in this thought could go on for a while.  (You may have the privilege.)  If I focus on just plants I will give you this – Jesus is the alpha and omega, the beginning (roots) and the end (branch).  

Fruit Wheat or oak trees, a plant is about producing fruit (or seed).  Good fruit, bad fruit, or not producing fruit there are many parables about fruit in the Gospels.  We always tend to think of the fruit of the Spirit, but in context with my Kingdom series is Matthew 21:43 – the kingdom of God can be taken from you and given to people who will produce ITS fruit.

Christmas Characters – Bethlehem/Joseph


Okay, I do tend to label things that are not breathing (Light and Dark) as characters, but if you look past a small group of mud houses there is much to warrant Bethlehem’s inclusion as a character and not just a setting.  Go past the town to see Judah- the land and family.  Judah as a tribe is singled out by Jacob to be the ruler of his brothers in Genesis 49: 8-12.  Moses continues that thought in Deuteronomy 33: 7. (The inheritance of the tribe of Simeon is completely inside that of Judah.)  The first mention of Bethlehem is connected to the burial of Rachel after the birth of Benjamin – Genesis 35 + 48.

Bethlehem is mentioned in twelve Old Testament books and three in the New Testament.  It is used 52 times in the NIV – 44 and 8.  It is part of three stories in Judges – Chapters 12, 17, 19.  It is central in the story of Ruth and thus becomes the birthplace of King David.  

The prophet Micah (5: 2) delivers the message that ties Bethlehem to Christmas and that verse is used in Matthew 2 by the priest to direct the Wise Men.  That chapter is very prophetic, take some time and read it.  Micah did write this word of hope during a troubled time in Israel.

The song “O Little Town of Bethlehem” is a real Gospel praise song if you will read all four of its verses. The link below was a good site – history, quizzes, other carols.

I would like to treat Bethlehem, now as Joseph/the Tribe of Judah.  (Please bear with this strange study method.)  If we compare and contrast Joseph with Bethlehem and Judah/Israel/religion there are several things worth noting.

  • Judah had lost its prophetic position as a ruler. (True, King Jesus was coming, but Herod had questionable Jewish heritage; Rome was in charge; the Chief Priest may have been controlling things outside the Temple).  Zerubbabel (governor in Haggai and Zechariah), a type and ancestor of Jesus, may have been the last powerful governor in Judah. 
  • Bethlehem had no room except a stable, Joseph was going to put Mary away, Jerusalem was troubled when they found out about Jesus. Jesus was not welcomed!
  • An angel had to appear to Joseph to change his mind, angels appeared to shepherds to change the mind of Bethlehem to welcome the Family.  Jerusalem, not sure it ever changed its mind.

Other thoughts about the Christmas story:

  • We honor Mary because she was blessed and God did great things for her (Luke 1: 48, 49). But I wonder who God picked first – Joseph or Mary?  Father God tends to start with the man and then add the women to complete the work.  Even though the women may be introduced first in the story and is the central character who is considered first?  Okay to answer my own question – it seems the couples are paired to complement each other. Ruth is a role model but Boaz was the only one in the family willing to marry her!  Mary was the willing vessel but Joseph was needed to care and protect her and Jesus.
  • Considering travel and Mary’s condition after childbirth the circumcision of Jesus probably occurred at Bethlehem.  Then on the way back to Nazareth, they went to Jerusalem for the dedication of Jesus at the end of the forty days.  (The rule here is in Exodus 13, Numbers 8 and 18, the time was set in Leviticus 12: 8.) The other possibility is they stayed in Bethlehem for two years but that means Joseph still had a house and business in Nazareth.
  • When Herod searched for the baby Jesus I would have no doubt that Bethlehem would have given up the Family once they learned who the soldiers were looking for.  The shepherds and the possibility of the thirty to forty-day stay would have been mentioned to try and save their sons. It would also make sense that the “records” were searched and the death squad went to Nazareth. Herod was not just mean but crazy and jealous of his power.
  • Jeremiah 31 does not mention Bethlehem weeping for the children.  He prophesied Ramah and Rachel (yes, she was buried near there) which could extend the murders well past Bethlehem.  Rachel’s family was Ephraim, Manasseh, and Benjamin.  She was also the “loved” wife which could bring another level into this thought. 
  • I know that Joseph taking the Family to Egypt was necessary.  So, I am glad he was not like Simon Peter in his early days.  With all of the hype from the shepherds, they could have started a revolution.  That would not have been good for the Prince of Peace!

FURTHER THOUGHT – Compare Joseph (in Matthew and Luke) to Joseph in Genesis.

https://www.carols.org.uk/o_little_town_of_bethlehem.htm  a nice website covering Christmas carols  

Christmas Light


The Light, this year has been on my mind – the Star and the Light.

The Star– There is no end of ideas about the Star of Bethlehem. I have given one this year in the post Light and Dark.  Well, here is another thought.  I can get wrapped up in the time frame that Herod used when he killed the Innocents of Bethlehem, two years.  Since Herod was just mean he may have cushioned that number to make sure the Magi were not lying.  

We use Christmas Day for when the Star/Light appeared.  What if we have the Star appearing when Mary was told she would bear the Son (That was the actual birth.)!  I like to think that it was Gabriel standing guard over the Child.  If you are hung-up on time that would add nine months to the “great light” shining over the land of Galilee and those living in the “shadow of death”. This helps the travel time of the Wise Men since we do not know where they started from.   

The Light– JESUS, noh darkness no shadow, wants you to be part of the light.  He surrounds you, envelops you so there is no shadow or darkness.  I tend to think of light as having a point source, like the sun or a candle.  But if we are “found in Christ” why can’t we be completely enveloped in Light?  No part of us would make or cast a shadow.  The darkness that covered Egypt could be felt, it makes you wonder if light can be felt?  If darkness can cause fear and uncertainity, light surely would be the opposite and bring perfect peace!