Thursday, March 27, 2008

Why is sacrifice required?

Why is sacrifice required?

Recently a friend asked me a very good question, one that I expect most of us have asked at one time or another - Why didn't Adonai just save everyone?

Why did our ancestors wander in the desert for 40 years, with all adults over 20 perishing except Joshua & Caleb.

Why did Messiah have to die for us?

I think the answer to this question revolves around a couple of key thoughts: Free Will and Sanctifying G-D's name.

Free Will

Adonai chose to create man with free will, the ability to choose right from wrong. At first the test was simple; "don't eat of the fruit of the Tree of knowledge (or good and evil). Our fore-father failed this test.

In the Exodus from Egypt, our Fore-Fathers had visible proof of Adonai's provision; yet they had Free-will and chose to not trust G-D.

Likewise we today have the Torah, and the Words of the Master (Yeshua); we also have free-will and most choose not to follow G-D.

G-D had a choice, He could create robots to praise Him; but what would that mean? Isn't His way better? He created man to have a choice. While most will choose not to follow Him, some will choose to. Thus by their free will they have chosen to love Adonai and to follow him.

Which would you prefer, a slave who has no choice but to serve you, or someone who serves and worships you out of Love and Trust. I think the choice is clear.

Sanctifying G-D's name

So now lets address Part Two - why a sacrifice was required.

G-D is a perfect balance of many attributes, of which Mercy and Justice are paramount. If Adonai does not punish sin, He is not Just. Who amongst us wants to see a child-molester or rapist go unpunished? I suspect we all believe justice demands punishment.

On the Mercy side, who here does not want mercy from G-D when He examines our sins? I suspect we all want mercy.

Scripture is clear, all have sinned, some more, some less, but all are stained by sin. So how can Adonai maintain the Justice His Character requires, and display Mercy to those who cry out to Him. That is the purpose of the sacrifice. The sacrifice takes the punishment Justice demands, allowing the mercy of G-D to then act.

Sacrifice of Messiah

So where does the Messiah's death fit into this? The Passover Lamb and the Scape-goat are the perfect picture of this. Just as the Passover lamb had to die to ransom (redeem, buy back) the first born from death; the Messiah had to die to ransom us from death.

In Messiah, the function of Passover & Yom Kippur merge as a ransom was paid to the Adversary to ransom us from him, and a sin offering was made to Adonai to satisfy His justice and allow His mercy to flow down on us.

Likewise, just as the scape goat had all the sins of Israel placed on it, and was then lead outside the camp. So to the Messiah had to have all the sins placed on Him to be lead outside the camp to die in our place.

It is key to note, in both Yom Kippur and Passover, an action was required on the part of the person receiving the ransom or forgiveness. They had to participate and accept that the sacrifice was for them.

It hasn't changed, G-D's plan is the same, we have to accept the sacrifice and trust G-D for Salvation through that sacrifice.

In Summary

While I realize this is a simple explanation, I hope it helps. I stumble and struggle with these same issues that each of you do. So when I believe G-D has shown me a way to understand it, I like to pass it along hoping it helps someone else.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Celebrating Passover

Celebrating Passover

The importance of Passover is often lost on many believers. There seems to be a general misunderstanding of this celebration. Often it is classified as a "Jewish Holiday". Many grafted-in believers see no reason to celebrate this special season.

This attitude is sadly the majority view. Few realize this attitude grew out of history and unfortunately bad teachings & Antisemitism of the 1st-4th century. Let's look at the History and the reasons for keeping Passover.


Passover was celebrated by the Messiah during His earthly life. His followers continued observing Passover for decades with many continuing several centuries. With the influx of large numbers of Gentiles and the Jewish revolts, most Congregations became Gentile lead by the second century. Gentile Bishops like Ignatius advocated moving Gentiles away from any Jewish Practices (including Shabbat).

By the mid to late second century, men like Marcion actively tried to separate the Faith in Messiah from the G-d of the "Old Testament" (Tanakh). While he was later declared a heretic, neo-Marcionism is still influencing the Church today. Gentile leaders, facing persecution from Rome, moved practices away from Judaism in an effort to avoid persecution being experienced by the Jews. This practice and separation culminated in 325 CE with Constantine forever altering the celebration of the resurrection from aligning with Passover. Additionally ordnances were passed in the Church forbidding believers from celebrating Passover.

The Joy and reason for Passover:

Passover is a celebration of G-d's deliverance of Israel from slavery. For a grafted-in believer Passover is not only deliverance from Egypt (through our spiritual father Abraham and his descendants), but also deliverance from the Slavery of Sin and Death. We have every reason to celebrate Passover: because Messiah did, because He commands us to, because we are grafted into Israel, and because of the freedom from sin that was brought forth on that day.

In Summary

People rejoice of Resurrection Day, as they should, for He is risen, thus proving Adonai accepted the perfect sacrifice. We should also celebrate on Passover, for on that day our people were redeemed from Egypt; but even more importantly, we were freed from sin.

There is no Resurrection Day without Passover. It was on Passover that His blood was shed, it was on Passover that we where redeemed.

For Passover is even greater than Resurrection day, for it was on Passover that we became reconciled to G-d and the Adversary lost his claim to us.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Celebrating the Resurrection

Celebrating the Resurrection

With our Sunday brothers concentrating on celebrating Resurrection Day in 2 weeks, it may not be clear as to why we do not celebrate Resurrection day on the same day, and why we do not call it "Easter".

First let's discuss the timing so we as a Synagogue can better explain to those who ask.

Just as we believe the Shabbat is important; we believe all of Adonai's Moed'im (appointed times) are important. The Resurrection occurred on Nissan 17 the year our Messiah died for our sins. This Day, exactly 3 days after Passover, was forever linked to the Passover. For at Passover our Messiah died for us, and on Nissan 17, He was resurrected to show G-d had accepted the perfect sacrifice.

Furthermore, Nissan 17 is the Feast of First Fruits by one of the 2 traditions held on when First Fruits is to be celebrated (we follow this interpretation). Thus G-d chose First Fruits to bring forth His First Fruits of the promised resurrection.

That being the case, we feel very strongly that just as man does not have the authority to change Shabbat; man does not have the authority to change Passover or First Fruits. Thus we celebrate these 2 critical events according to G-d's calendar as stated in scripture.

As for using the term Resurrection Day vs Easter. Many today are switching to the term Resurrection Day to better identify the reason for the celebration. The origins of the word Easter have nothing to do with our Messiah and may have pagan meanings. We believe this is a very positive move as we are to have nothing to do with any form or practice which distracts from the Messiah.

So what about Easter Eggs & Bunnies. Each person must decide for themselves. We do not subscribe to those as a Synagogue as they have a mixed history and clearly do not point to the Messiah.

In Summary

We are called to follow G-d and His Messiah. We believe that includes following His appointed times and seasons. So if your friends ask about Easter, explain lovingly we celebrate Resurrection Day on the day G-d appointed it to happen over 3500 years ago.