Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.
There is a tradition of hospitality for the Feast of Tabernacles. The idea is to entertain a distinguished guest each night of the Festival. These guests include in order: Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses Aaron, King David and Messiah. Of course, the patriarchs do not actually physically come in the sukkah, but their presence is invited through reading, talking and learning about them.
Hospitality was a fundamental virtue to workings of M.E. society in the days of the patriarch Abraham. When a guest was in your house, he was under your wings and protection. If an enemy came to hurt him, you were to use all your resources to protect your visitor; no matter what the cost, your company could find total sanctuary in your house.. A very good example of that is found in the story of Lot even offering his daughters to the sodomites in order to protect his angelic guests.
In traditional writings, Abraham is the gold standard for hospitality. To be invited to the table and tent of Abraham was a great honor. He would treat you to the best of his flock, as if you were a high dignitary. Tradition describes that the patriarch would send his servant Eliezer to the highways and byways (and we are talking great distances in the desert) to compel people to honor him by finding restoration and rest in his tent. Again, in M.E. tradition, guests didn’t just stay for a cup of coffee and cookies to quickly be on their way. They got their feet washed, maybe stayed several days at the host’s expense while they, their host and their animals were tended to. Aside from Melchizedek, Abraham seemed to have been one of the rare persons acquainted with the God who made Heaven and earth. This act of hospitality from Abraham was his outreach program in the midst of an idolatrous world. He would invite people and treat them like God would. Abraham wanted to show people God’s favor!
Come to think of it, as we invite Abraham to our sukkah for this first day of tabernacles, we also have all been invited to his table. The tent of Abraham represents God’s favor and an invitation to come to the Messiah, his descendant. Abraham was God’s representative and prophet, and through him, all the families of the earth are blessed (Genesis 28:14). The whole world is blessed as they come to the table of Abraham to have a foretaste of the World to Come. That is why in the synagogues of Paul’s day, those of the gentiles who joined themselves to the God of Israel were called ‘those of the family of Abraham’ (Acts 13:26).
May those that meet us on our daily path, may those who get to know us as the Children and representatives of the Almighty Creator of Heaven and earth also find in us, and through us, the bounty, beauty, and restoration Messiah would give them. May all those who come in touch with us get a foretaste, however small, of the World to Come, of what God has prepared for them. Like with Abraham, may this be our witness, our sharing of His favor and Light in this sad and dark world.
He considered that God was able even to raise him from the dead, from which, figuratively speaking, he did receive him back.
Of all the patriarchs Isaac may be the most mysterious. It is a miracle that he even lived at all. He was born out of time from a sterile womb; his life was challenged by his step mother, by his step brother; and if that was not enough, God asked for his life. The big question though is: what happened to him after Mt. Moriah?
When he goes to Mt. Moriah, the text constantly reminds us of Isaac’s presence alongside Abraham. Abraham even mentions to the servants waiting at the foot of the mountain, that he and the lad will return to them. But after the offering scene, all we are told is that Abraham returned to the servant and went to live in Beersheba (Genesis 22:19). But what happened to Isaac? We do not hear of him until Abraham decides to marry his son off over twenty years later (Genesis 24:3; 25:20), and then when Rebecca falls off her camel when she sees him (Genesis 24:64: I know that some Bibles write that she ‘dismounted’ her camel, but the Hebrew says ‘fall’).
Many Jewish sages have pondered the question and came up with various answers and parables about it. Here is what I find to be the most amazing ones. The hope of every Jewish father is for his son to become a Torah scholar, so a jewsih scholar supposed that Abraham may have sent Isaac to learn at the feet of Melchizedec, or even went to Heaven to learn at the feet of Messiah. Of all of them, I like the one about Isaac going to learn at the feet of Messiah in Heaven. The parable tells us that at the offering scene, Isaac did die but revived right away and went to Heaven to learn Torah. He would only return later to marry the bride brought to him from Babylon, by Eliezer (the name means: my God is my help), Abraham’s servant.
In Jewish literature, Isaac is often represented as a foreshadow of Messiah. We see it each year in the Passover Afikomen. Paul must have known about the parable of this old rabbi because he said: He (Abraham) considered that God was able even to raise him (Isaac) from the dead, from which, figuratively speaking, he did receive him back (Hebrews 11:19).The Greek text from which this verse is taken doesn’t say ‘figuratively speaking’ but, ‘as in a parable'. Abraham must have had mixed feelings; he knew his son was a ‘goner’, but he still told the people at the foot of the mountain that he would return with him.
What sounds amazing to me is that as a foreshadow of Messiah, the picture in this parable fits perfectly. Hasn’t Messiah died on the wood, resurrected right away, disappeared from the scene as He went to the Father, and he will return solely to marry His Bride brought to Him from Babylon (this world) by the Ruach HaKodesh (the Holy Spirit/ God’s Helper)?
Wasn’t the old rabbi who figured that out from the question: ‘What happened to Isaac?’ on to something?
"Your name shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel, for you have striven with God and with men, and have prevailed."
Jacob has been honored in so many ways. The name given to him became the very name by which God would later be identified: the God of Israel.
As his latter name indicates, the life of Jacob merges with the destiny of the country bearing his name. His very birth springs out of potential annihilation and all throughout his lifetime, he has to contend in order to inherit, and keep what God has rightfully given him. Later on, under the threats of his brother Esau, Jacob leaves his birth place of Canaan for Babylon. There he finds employment at his uncle's as a shepherd. He marries the two daughters of that same uncle and secretly leaves twenty-one years later to return to Canaan. As Jacob arrives, he is met by an angelic host before hearing of his brother who stills seeks his life. It is then that a mysterious powerful ‘Messenger’ meets Jacob, changes his name, and thereby his heart (Genesis 32).
How is it possible not to see the birth of the nation of Israel in Jacob’s life’s story: sprung out of Egyptian slavery and persecution; pursued by Pharaoh and fought by the Amalekites. Throughout its History, Israel always struggled to preserve its independence and autonomy, and that only to be expelled from its own country not for twenty-one years, but as of now, twenty-one centuries. Now Israel is returning to its land. There Esau meets and wants to kill him. This battle will end in a bloody war with all the countries in the world gathered against Israel (Zechariah 12). At that time the Messiah, God’s Messianic Messenger will return and …
The rest of Jacob’s story tells us the end from the beginning. Jacob’s Messianic Messenger fights against him and Jacob prevails. Jacob does not let Him go; he hangs on to Messiah at any cost until he gets the blessing causing him a deep wound in his thigh. When Jacob now Israel meets Esau, they make up and Israel enters Canaan, the Land of his future, the Land promised to his grand-father Abraham.
In the distance, we already hear the Messenger, the galloping hooves of His horse. He comes in greatness and strength from Bozrah in a garment dipped in blood (Isaiah 63:1). He will fight, wound and bless Israel; change his heart as that of his brother, and carry him to his country with an angelic welcoming committee.
That my friend: is Messiah’s roadmap to peace in the Middle-East. May it come soon, even in our days!
And he said, "I am your brother, Joseph, whom you sold into Egypt.”
Just as the life of Jacob merges with the destiny of Israel, the life of Joseph, Jacob’s son, merges with that of Yeshua.
Joseph was born of a barren womb and His brothers rejected his God-appointed leadership over them. At the time appointed, because of jealousy they threw him in a pit where according to Jewish literature Joseph stayed three days and three nights. Later, They sold him for the price of a slave and brought the blood of a goat to his father as a substitute to his own. Joseph then spent time in a prison where he became steward, to eventually rule over the entire gentile world.
Doesn’t that tell us of the story of Yeshua who: was born of a barren womb, whose God-appointed leadership was rejected by his brothers because of jealousy; who spent three days and three nights in a pit; was sold for the price of a slave, spent time in the prison ministering to the disobedient spirits and who later became the ruler over most the gentile world?
Since the life story of Joseph tell us of the beginning of Yeshua’s life, could the end of it reveal to us the future? Wise King Solomon said, What has been is what will be, and what has been done is what will be done, and there is nothing new under the sun (Ecclesiastes 1:9).
We must not fail to mention that not all of Joseph’s brothers were against him. Benjamin was not part of the plot against his brother. Benjamin loved and believed in his big brother Joseph! When Egypt faced a famine so dire that it threatened the very life of the Empire, God raised Joseph to save Egypt. Egyptians looked to Joseph as he who saved them. Canaan also suffered so Joseph’s brothers came to buy grain from the 'Egyptian' Viceroy, who of course was Joseph. The brothers didn’t recognize their brother. Joseph looked, acted, and spoke like an Egyptian. On the other hand, Joseph recognized his brothers and proceeded to test them by creating a situation where Benjamin would be enslaved. At that moment, Judah offered his own self as ransom for the life of Benjamin, which showed Joseph the change of heart in his brother Judah. Whereas before, they gave their brother to save their lives, now they were ready to give their lives to save their brother. At that time, Joseph revealed himself to them and said: ”I am your brother: Joseph!”
What does this tell us? Who is Benjamin today? Would he be the Jew who did not reject Yeshua? Will then there be a time in the soon future when God will test ‘Judah’ with ‘Benjamin’? In present-day Israel the conflict between Orthodox and Messianic Jews is fierce. It is a 2,000 year old conflict. Will Judah pass the test so that eventually, Yeshua reveals Himself to them and say: “I am your brother: Yeshua!” The Hebrew Scriptures say he does. May it come quickly, even in our day!
And he will go before him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready for the Lord a people prepared."
As Moses foresees the rebellious future of the nation he helped birth, he speaks to the generation that will see the most tragic punishment and the longest exile: the generation that hosted the Word made flesh, the generation of the Master (Deuteronomy 32:5; Matthew 16:4). He tells them, Remember the days of old; consider the years of many generations; ask your father, and he will show you, your elders, and they will tell you (Deuteronomy 32:7).
The Scriptures devote whole chapters to genealogies. People used to memorize them. It was their main education, their link with the past. As these texts unfold, they teach us lessons. They help us peer into the past and discover our personal fiber so to speak. It tells us who we are and where we’re from, which in turn helps us know where we are going and how to get there. Very important lessons are imbedded in the genealogies.
Today many people have an ‘identity crisis’. This is the epitome of silliness, but even more: of rebelliousness. We live in a generation that desperately tries to disconnects itself from its past. Since the 60’s it seems, every generation defines itself as an antithesis to the one that birthed it. This creates a very unhealthy and unstable cultural environment.
Every generation stands on the shoulders of the former ones. Cars would never have filled streets, appliances never found our homes, and computers never been on our desks if it were not for the ancients who gave us the wheel, mathematics, and taught us how to harness electricity.
Come to think of it, this rebelliousness goes back much farther, especially when it comes to our faith. Already in the second century C.E. the messianic movement among the gentiles defined itself against the Jewish matrix that birthed it, which eventually created a religion with no legs and feet: a house with no foundation (Luke 6:47-49). As always though, as depressing as looking into the past can be, the Scriptures offer us the hope of a more connected future when in the Messianic Age generations will be reconnected (Malachi 4:6; Luke 1:17).
May we hear today Moses’ cry, Remember the days of old; consider the years of many generations; ask your father, and he will show you, your elders, and they will tell you (Deuteronomy 32:7), and learn!
And no one takes this honor for himself, but only when called by God, just as Aaron was.
Aaron and Moses may have been brothers but they each had a very different childhood. Aaron was raised by father Amram and mother Jochebed, who was also Amram’s aunt (Exodus 6:20). Aaron escaped Pharaoh’s edict by little and learned to live as a slave making bricks in the hot sun for Pharaoh’s building projects. Moses was raised in the cool shade of Pharaoh’s palace; he was educated, and became an army officer and a skillful international diplomat.
Through the story of Moses’ and Aaron we are given the definition of a prophet. Moses felt inadequate to speak to the people of God, so Hashem said of Moses’ brother, He shall speak for you to the people, and he shall be your mouth, and you shall be as God to him (Exodus 4:16). Aaron’s job was to be Moses’ mouth not only to Hashem’s children, but also to the incredulous world of his day, And the LORD said to Moses, "See, I have made you like God to Pharaoh, and your brother Aaron shall be your prophet (Exodus 7:1). According to these statements, the definition of a prophet is someone who has the ability to effectively communicate God’s messages to a desired audience.
Later Aaron was given another function to execute for the people of Hashem. He became High-Priest. As a High-Priest, he continued his function as Moses’ mouth-piece and executive, but people came to him to find the will of God, which Aaron communicated using the Urim and Thummim. These were the stones on Aaron’s breastplate by which he judged Israel, And in the breastpiece of judgment you shall put the Urim and the Thummim, and they shall be on Aaron's heart, when he goes in before the LORD. Thus Aaron shall bear the judgment of the people of Israel on his heart before the LORD regularly (Exodus 28:30). When Aaron was speaking by the Spirit the right one lit. For the Hebrews, prophecy was a very pragmatic matter. The Children of Israel didn’t always obey the Word they heard, but there was very little doubt as to who said it.
As a High-Priest, Aaron led the priest-hood. The priesthood dealt with the sins of Israel. Though punishments and restitutions were to be executed as a result of sinful acts, offerings also had to be brought to the Temple for the restitution of fellowship with Adonai which was broken because of sin. The sinful person killed the animal, not the priest. The priest only brought the blood to the altar. Once a year also, Aaron the High-Priest brought an offering for the whole nation on Israel in the Holy of Holies. In a certain sense, the function of the priesthood served to remind us of our sinful state; it convicted of sin. In Talmudic writings, Aaron is also known as the peace maker (Psalms 133).
Aaron’s role was therefore that of a communication medium between us and Hashem, one that also reminded us of our sin. How like the Ruach-HaKodesh, the Holy Spirit Aaron was!
“And one of the elders said to me, "Weep no more; behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has conquered, so that he can open the scroll and its seven seals."
King David is our penultimate guest for this season of Tabernacles. The ruddy looking David became the standard by which all ensuing Judean king would be measured.
King David finished the job started by Joshua. He is the one who finally completed the conquest of the Land, subjugated Israel’s neighbors, brought Jerusalem under Jewish control, and got rid of idolatry. These were his greatest accomplishments along with planning and financing the building of the Temple, and organizing its priesthood and liturgy.
A careful study of David’s life teaches us about Messiah. As Yeshua, David was despised by his older brothers; when Samuel visited Father Jesse in search for a King, David was even passed up. His brothers shamed him for his indignation about Goliath’s challenge until the young shepherd boy showed them that the spirit of Hashem was with him. After he killed Israel’s main enemy, David had to flee the country, even spend time living with the gentile Philistines until such a day when he made a triumphal entry in Jerusalem. He also orchestrated the bringing of the Ark to Jerusalem. All this speaks to us about Messiah who after slaying the devil fled the scene and even until today lives in exile alongside with His people even though they ignore Him. One day He will make a triumphal entry in Jerusalem where he will rebuild the temple. The ensuing period will be one resembling the Solomonic era. Israel will live in peace and prosperity and all the nations of the earth will come to bring it their glory as well as to hear the Words of God. The prophet Zachariah tells us that at that time, all the nations will be required to come to Jerusalem for the Feast of Booths, and that under the threat of impending drought (Zechariah 14:16-19)!
David has been accused of having been a lenient father, that he didn’t discipline his sons and therefore brought trouble to Israel. It could be so, but one must not forget that when he started making a family, the prophet Nathan gave David a prophecy. This prophecy stated that David’s son would build the Temple and become the Messiah. How did he know which son? To kill one of his sons could have been disastrous and thwarted God’s plan. David felt responsible for his family, for the Jerusalem that God had given him, but also for the glorious future of the Jewish nation and its Messianic role of teaching about the one true God to the world.
Solomon may have built a temporary temple, but Yeshua, David’s Messianic son is now building the final Messianic Temple. He is doing it the same way He did it before. First He gathers His congregation out of Egypt, brings to His Place, then builds the Temple. For over 2,000 years now Messiah has been gathering a congregation of Jews and gentiles to eventually bring them unto His Place: Jerusalem, and at the end of this Messianic era, He will rebuild the Jerusalem Temple which will then truly become a House of Prayer for the whole world. May come speedily even in our days!
And at the end of eight days, when he was circumcised, he was called Yeshua.
We are now drawing to the last day of the Feast of Tabernacles. The traditional guest to receive in our midst on this day is Messiah. A Messianic tradition holds that this eighth day of the Feast of Tabernacles is the day of Yeshua’s circumcision (Luke 2:21). Ritual circumcision is an outward sign of belonging to God’s people. One of the ideas of circumcision is make an outward sign in our flesh of our belonging to God. We alter our body in order to literally become a new creature. This is quite an idea. People couldn’t say that they were believers in the God of Heaven in a solely ethereal fashion. They couldn’t just quote a statement of faith. They had to show a sign in their flesh that proved and showed that they were a different person from the rest of the world.
In his letters to the Messianic congregation in Diaspora, Paul told the gentiles that joined themselves to the Jewish Messianic movement that Yeshua was the circumcision that allowed them to enter the covenant of Israel, that they joined God through the circumcision of Yeshua, the Jewish Messiah. Paul did not enforced physical circumcision on these gentiles who turned to the God of Israel through Yeshua, but he did nevertheless expect the proof of their commitment through an outward change of lifestyle. They could not get away by just quoting an ethereal creed as a proof of their faith. It had to show in the fact that they drew away from their idolatrous lifestyles. In first century ethics, to turn away from idols unto the God of Israel was as dangerous as today a Muslim becoming a Christian. Paul made no mention of these things to Jewish believers on Messiah. He didn’t need to as there was no issue to address since Jews already circumcised their children on the eighth day.
Jewish traditional circumcisions are usually followed by festivities among relatives and friends. When after her purification Miriam came to present her first-born to God in the Temple, an old man called Simeon, took him up in his arms and blessed God and said, "Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace, according to your word; for my eyes have seen your salvation that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to your people Israel" (Luke 2:28-32). On this day therefore of Yeshua’s circumcision, on this day that His flesh enters the Covenant of Israel as a Jew, it is not incumbent for just Jews to rejoice, but on the whole world as Simeon said that He will be a light for revelation to the gentiles. Yeshua is the Jew mentioned by the prophet Zechariah of whom the nation grab the side fringes because they heard that God was with Him (Zechariah 8:23).
Hear O nations this lone baby cry in the Temple. Hear O nations the groaning of He who brings all people into Covenant with the Almighty. From the very beginning of His life the cut in His body, the drawing of His blood, these signs in His flesh are His invitation at the table of the Almighty. Will you come to Him? Will you change your lives and your habits so you can be found sitting at the table of the God of Israel? Will you follow Him, live like Him, and be found worthy of the high calling whereby He has called you?
Then he led them out as far as Bethany, and lifting up his hands he blessed them.
In all things Yeshua was a ‘prophet’ like Moses. Before ascending the mountain where God would bury him, Moses blessed the people of Israel (Deuteronomy 33:1); he offers a personal blessing for each one of the tribes. In the same manner, before ascending to the Father Yeshua lifted up His hands and blessed His disciples. We do not know what He said but the language of the text gives a clue.
In the Book of Numbers God gives instructions on how His people should be blessed. Aaron and the Levites (Moses was also a Levite) were to lift their two hands up in the air in the form of the Hebrew letter ‘Shin’ to represent one of the Names of God: El Shaddai and they were to say, the LORD bless you and keep you; the LORD make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; the LORD lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace (Numbers 6:23-26). In Mishnaic writings, this became known as the Aaronic blessing, but also, the blessing of the ‘lifting of the Hands’. So every time the Bible text mentions that the priests lifted up their hands to bless the people, we know what they did and said. It is therefore very likely that this is also the very blessing wherewith Yeshua blessed His disciples as He lifted up His hands before ascending to His Father.
We are used to mean ‘LORD’ as Yeshua, but in the Hebrew text, the word used is the tetragrammaton signifying the Name of God. Therefore when Yeshua prayed this prayer, He was praying for God to bless and keep us, for God to shine upon us, for God to be gracious unto us, to lift His countenance upon us, and give us peace. This is really the whole reason why Messiah came: to put us back in good standing with the Father through the agency of His righteousness. The Aaronic blessing therefore can only be fulfilled through the agency of Messiah. When we pray it on people we pray that they find Messiah.
As it is now, so it was then. From creation’s days, the Messiah has been the Father’s Executive Agent (John 1:1-3). Even before the days when He came ‘to tabernacle/ to sukkah’ with us (John 1:14) the Messiah was alive, well and active. It is He who appeared to Abram in the Plain of Mamre; He that spoke to Moses on the Mount; He who fought with Jacob; who appeared to many people and did mighty acts even before the time of His sojourn on earth. Forever and always, He has been the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power (Hebrews 1:3).
As Messiah prays this blessing over us before ascending to His Father just as Moses did unto the Children of Israel before he left them, may we receive the imprint of Messiah; may we be formed, and conformed according to His will by the work of His righteousness. May we be yielded clay that we may become like Him.