The Lights Converge in 2016
The holiday season for Jews and Christians is special this year. The first night of Hanukkah, the Festival of Lights, is December 24th, 2016: Christmas Eve. Each year as we light the middle of nine candles (the shammash or servant candle), we reaffirm our dedication to the Divine Servant, Yeshua the Messiah, who has called us out of darkness into His marvelous light (1 Peter 2:9). He is the source of our light, encouraging us to shine for Him, that God might be glorified (Matthew 5:16).
In previous newsletters, we have said that if there had been no first Hanukkah, there would never have been a Christmas. This refers to the fact that the victory over the Syrian-Greeks under Antiochus Epiphanes in 160 B.C. saved the Jewish nation from extinction. If Antiochus had been victorious, there would have been no baby born under the law who would redeem those who were under the law. (See Galatians 4:4-5.) There also would have been no temple to bring the infant Yeshua to so He could be dedicated to the Lord.
The connection goes much deeper, however. We believe that Yeshua, the Light of the World, was born during the Feast of Tabernacles, or Sukkot. We personally celebrated His coming into the world— the incarnation—this past October. During that Season of our Rejoicing, we praised our Father for sending His Son into the world in an earthly tabernacle (sukkah), a human body, God clothed in human flesh. The King of Glory was born in a manger, rather than a palace. (The Hebrew word for manger, like the ones that Jacob built for his cattle in Genesis 33:17, is sukkah.) It was during Sukkot, also known as The Feast, that Yeshua proclaimed to the throngs of pilgrims in Jerusalem, “I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life” (John 8:12).
The LIGHT Conceived
If Yeshua was born at Sukkot, He would have been conceived nine months earlier at Hanukkah. The first day of Hanukkah is always Kislev 25 on the Hebrew calendar (also December 25th this year). While we don’t focus much on biblical numerology, it bears mentioning this month that the number 25 stands for “grace upon grace.” (5 is the number of grace, 5 x 5 = 25, i.e., “grace upon grace”). The underlying idea is that God’s grace is without end.
The grace poured out upon a young Jewish virgin resulted in the birth, nine months later, of the divine Son of God. “And the Word became flesh…full of GRACE and truth…And of His fullness we have all received, and GRACE FOR GRACE. For the law was given through Moses, but GRACE and truth came through Yeshua HaMashiach” (John 1:14, 16-17).
The LIGHT Prophesied
Over 700 years before the Light of the World was supernaturally implanted in the womb of a young Jewish virgin, the prophet Isaiah had proclaimed the event. The prophecy of Isaiah 7:14,
the major prophecy of the Doctrine of the Virgin Birth, is the most controversial of all the messianic prophecies: “Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His Name Immanuel.”
The context of Isaiah 7:14 was an assurance by God of the messianic hope of the House of David. God was saying that, in spite of any present or future threats to the kingdom of Judah, God’s will and plan for the House of David would prevail. That included a future king who would be both earthly and heavenly. This King would enter the world in extraordinary fashion—as a baby with no human father. This would be an ot (oat), a sign, that would come “from the depths of Sheol to the heights of heaven” (Isaiah 7:11). This expression is a “merism,” according to Michael Rydelnick, professor of Jewish Studies at the Moody Bible Institute in Chicago. A merism is a gure of speech in which “the totality or whole is substituted by two contrasting or opposite parts.” It is used in Isaiah 7:14 to show how stupendous and extraordinary the sign would be. Although the Hebrew word ot does not necessarily require a miracle, it does include the supernatural within its range of meaning (as seen also in Isaiah 38:7-8, where the shadow of a sundial turned 10° backwards).
In a supernatural encounter with an angel, Joseph, Miriam’s ancé, was encouraged to take her as his wife since the child conceived in her was of the Holy Spirit, the Ruach HaKodesh. The Angel then said to Joseph, “And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name YESHUA, for He will save (yeh-shu-AH) His people from their sins. So all this was done that it might be ful lled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying: ‘Behold , the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,’ which is translated, ‘God with us‘” (Matthew 1:21-23).
An infant, with a name given by an angel, would be the direct fulfillment of a 700-year-old prophecy. He would be Israel’s Messiah. At least one Talmudic source (Rabbi Huni in the name of Rabbi Ide and Rabbi Joshua) equates Isaiah 7:14 with the Messiah: “This man is the King Messiah, of whom it is said in Psalm 2:7, ‘This day I have begotten thee.'”
The English word “virgin” in the Isaiah 7:14 prophecy has been at the center of the controversy over this verse since the second century. The Hebrew word used for virgin in 7:14 is alma (ahl- MAH). This word can also mean “young woman,” so the objection is that since alma is used instead of betulah, (another Hebrew word that speci cally means a virgin), the woman in question was not necessarily a woman who had never been with a man. Of course, what kind of miraculous sign would it be if an ordinary young woman had a child?
A modern Hebrew dictionary with an analytical concordance of the Old Testament, showing every word in every one of the forms in which it appears, explains that alma means primarily a young girl “before marriage.” With this in mind, 200 years before Messiah came, the translators of the Septuagint translated Isaiah 7:14 with the Greek word parthenos, which means virgin. (In other words, the Jewish scribes were looking for a virgin-born Messiah.) Both alma and betulah (beh-too-LAH) were used for marriageable young women, from whom chastity was expected, even demanded, as a condition of marriage. There is little doubt that in the pre-Christian era, the word alma was understood as referring to virginity.
Throughout the Hebrew Bible, the word alma is used to refer to a virgin, or has a neutral sense, but never to a non-virgin. The same can be said of the plural of alma, alamot (ah-la-MOAT). A good example of this is found in Song of Songs 6:8, “There are 60 queens and 80 concubines, and virgins (alamot) without number.” This is referring to Solomon’s harem. The queens and concubines had known man. The virgins had not.
In The Messianic Hope, Michael Rydelnick points out that while the Hebrew betulah could refer to a virgin of any age, alma would refer to a virgin that has just arrived at puberty. Isaac’s bride Rebecca (Genesis 24:16) was an alma. She was also a betulah. No man had ever been with her.
The LIGHT Received
We can see in the reaction of Miriam to her angelic visitation that she was shocked at the concept of being harah (hah-RAH), pregnant. Nevertheless, she believed.
“Then in the sixth month, the angel Gabriel was sent by Adonai into a town in the Galilee named Natzeret and to a virgin engaged to a man named Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Miriam. And coming to her, the angel said, ‘Shalom, favored one! Adonai is with you.’ But at the message, she was perplexed and kept wondering what kind of greeting this might be. The angel spoke to her, ‘Do not be afraid, Miriam, for you have found favor with God. Behold, you will become pregnant and give birth to a son, and you shall call His name Yeshua. He will be great and will be called Ben- Elyon. Adonai Elohim will give Him the throne of David, His father. He shall reign over the house of Jacob for all eternity, and His kingdom will be without end.’ Miriam said to the angel, ‘HOW CAN THIS BE, SINCE I AM NOT INTIMATE WITH A MAN?’ And responding, the angel said to her, ‘The Ruach ha-Kodesh will come upon you, and the power of Elyon will overshadow you. Therefore, the Holy One being born will be called Ben-Elohim.‘” (Luke 1:26-35 TLV, emphasis ours)
The Angel Gabriel proceeded to tell Miriam that her cousin Elizabeth was pregnant in her old age. When the angel said, “For nothing will be impossible with God, Miriam replied, ‘Behold the servant of ADONAI. Let it be done to me according to your word‘” (Luke 1:37-38, TLV).
When Miriam said to the angel, “How can this be since I am not intimate with a man?” the Greek word for “know” is used, suggesting the Hebrew word yadah (yah-DAH), which means both knowing and sexual intercourse. “Now Adam knew his wife, and she conceived and bore Cain…” (Genesis 4:1).
A child supernaturally conceived. A real Hanukkah “nes gadol“—big miracle!
The question has also been raised, “If Isaiah 7:14 really applies to Yeshua, why isn’t He called Immanuel?” Immanuel was not to be Messiah’s actual name, but rather one of His titles. He had other titles as well, e.g., Wonderful, Prince of Peace, Almighty God, as prophesied in Isaiah 9:6. These were all intended to describe His character. His mother, Miriam, would be the one to call Him Immanuel, according to the prophecy of Isaiah 7:14. She, more than anyone else, knew that her supernaturally conceived baby would signify, “God with us!” A Savior who would be God in the flesh.
The LIGHT in Creation
Michael Brown, foremost messianic Jewish apologist, has said that the Doctrine of the Virgin Birth explains how the eternal Son of God could enter our world as a “divine human.” His origins were both earthly and heavenly. The Messiah Yeshua is both David’s son and God’s Son. His preexistence is spoken of in many verses in the Brit Hadasha (e.g., John 1:2-3, Ephesians 3:9, Colossians 1:16).
An ancient rabbinic tradition speaks of a light, Nehorah (ne-hoe-RAH), that was present at creation. The rabbis considered this Aramaic word to be one of the secret names of the Messiah. This is based primarily on Daniel 2:22, “He reveals deep and secret things; He knows what is in the darkness, and light (nehorah) dwells with Him.” The Nehorah was before the sun, moon, and the course of the stars, and was called by the name El, which means “God.”
The older, uncensored Jewish source texts also hint at some type of miraculous birth of Messiah, who, according to Micah 5:2, would be born in Bethlehem, “…out of you shall come forth to Me the One to be Ruler in Israel, whose goings forth are from old, from everlasting.”
It makes perfect sense that a Messiah who was present at creation, of divine supernatural origin, would also enter the world in a supernatural manner. Targum Jonathan, in the Talmud, even indicates that the idea of conception by the Ruach HaKodesh was not something totally foreign to the Jews at one time in history: “God will one day raise up a second Moses ‘through the Holy Spirit.'”
We really appreciate Michael Rydelnick’s summary statement on the Doctrine of the Virgin Birth: “God became a man in order to redeem us. Without the virgin birth, we deny the doctrine of Messiah’s deity and lose the truth of His atonement.” AMEN.
The LIGHT in the Stars
The late Dr. James Kennedy, who pastored Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church in Fort Lauderdale for 48 years, was the author of 70 books. His most popular book has an unusual title: The Real Meaning of the Zodiac. Genesis 1:14 says that God created the lights in the firmament “for signs” (otot, plural of ot). According to Dr. Kennedy, “God gave to all the world a proclamation of the Gospel in the stars.” Dr. Kennedy explains in his book how the first evangel—the message that the Seed of the woman would destroy the seed of the serpent—is revealed in the names and order of the stars in the “mazarot” (mah-zar-OAT, Hebrew for constellations of the zodiac).
Space only allows us to give you a portion of what Dr. Kennedy wrote concerning Virgo, the Virgin. Virgo is depicted as a woman and is called betulah. This is a reference to the virgin of Isaiah 7:14. The branch that she holds in her right hand recalls Zechariah 6:12, Zechariah 3:8, and Isaiah 4:2, in which the Messiah is prophesied as The BRANCH. He is the God-man who would come. The sheaves of corn in the virgin’s left hand remind us of both the seed of the woman, and the seed of corn spoken of by Yeshua in John 12:24. Virgo includes “Coma”— depicting a woman sitting in a chair holding a child in her arms. This “Coma” means the “Desired One.” Yeshua is the “Desire of all nations” (Haggai 2:7).
Dr. Kennedy mentions that the zodiac signs have largely been corrupted from what they were prior to the third century B.C. He traces the origin of this corruption back to the Tower of Babel, where astrology took over, and instead of the constellations being signs of God and His salvation by which we should worship God, they were changed into deities, and people began to worship the sun, the moon, the planets, and the stars. But God’s original intent was heavenly proclamation of the Gospel. The Real Meaning of the Zodiac is a fascinating read. Order one for yourself, and one to give to a pre-believing friend.
The LIGHT has come!
Jamie wrote a song by this title in 1980, the year we began the Jewish Jewels TV ministry. It is our proclamation and prayer this holiday season.
“The LIGHT has come!
The promise of the Lord was born one day in Bethlehem as prophesied of old.
The LIGHT has come, and opened up my eyes to see the Lord’s Salvation and the Hope of Israel. Come to the LIGHT, Israel. Come to the LIGHT, Israel.
Let it warm you, and then adorn you.
O, Come to the LIGHT, Israel.”
Love in The LIGHT of the World, Yeshua,
P.S We will share our 2016 Mercy Mission report next month.