Hag Sameach B’shem Yeshua, (Joyous Feast in the name of Yeshua)
One in the Messiah
The final of the Fall Feasts of the Lord, Sukkot (sue-COAT), or the Feast of Tabernacles of Booths, takes place from October 8, 2014 PM, until October 15, 2014 PM, ending with Simcha Torah, the Feast of Rejoicing in the Law. Sukkot is known in traditional Judaism as Zeman Simchateinu, the Season of our Rejoicing. Just as God gives Israel seven festival days to set aside all worldly cares and thank and praise Him for an abundant harvest, we want to do the same. God has been Good. He has given us many reasons to rejoice, especially as it concerns His love reaching out to a new generation—Jews and non-Jews—who are receiving a vision of what it means to be “one in the Messiah.”
Jew and Gentile Together
When the Messiah Yeshua said, “And other sheep I have which are not of this fold; them also I must bring, and they will hear My voice; and there will be one flock and one shepherd” (Jn. 10:16), He was speaking to Jewish men, referring to the Gentiles. His Father’s heart has always been to gather the nations into the Jewish fold (not the other way around)! In Romans chapter 11 with the metaphor of the olive tree, God makes it clear that He has not cast away His people. Verse 11 tells us that salvation has come to the Gentiles to provoke the Jews to jealousy. Consider verse 15: “For if their being cast away is the reconciling of the world, what will their acceptance be but life from the dead?” The appropriate Gentile response to these verses should be the passionate pursuit of Israel’s salvation. Jewish people receiving Yeshua means revival and resurrection life for the Gentiles.
If we follow God’s order—”…for the Jew first…” (Rom 1:16), blessing is destined to follow both Jews and Gentiles. What about the olive tree? Israel is the olive tree. Some of its branches were broken off due to unbelief. Gentiles, being a wild olive tree, were grafted in (through faith) among those branches, becoming partakers of the root and fatness of the olive tree (Rom. 11:17). In other words, Gentiles become spiritual Jews. Jews do not become spiritual Gentiles. Note: We are saying “spiritual,” not physical. Twice in 1 Corinthians chapter seven we are told that a person should remain in the same state (calling) in which he was called. However, the Jewish root of the faith is to provide a great blessing (richness), and a special anointing (fatness).
God’s plan is for Jew and Gentile together to be a beautiful, fruitful olive tree. Jews who believe in Yeshua have an important role in this prophetic blending. “Thus says the LORD of Hosts: ‘In those days ten men from every language of the nations shall grasp the sleeve of a Jewish man, saying, “Let us go with you, for we have heard that God is with you” ‘” (Zech. 8:23).
Sukkot: Include the Gentiles!
Yes, God loves Gentiles (the nations). The Feast of Sukkot specifically includes the nations of the world. It is the all-inclusive feast of Israel. When our condominium board approved our building a sukkah on the public second floor patio, Jamie was told: “You can build it, as long as you don’t exclude the Gentiles.” Jamie responded, “No problem. We love Gentiles !” “In fact, I’ll make up a flyer with both Old and New Testament references and teachings on the holiday so that everyone is included.” We are really looking forward to our 2014 Sukkot celebration, which includes more people each year.
At the time of Yeshua, there were large numbers of sacrifices in the Temple during each day of the Feast, more than during any other time of the Jewish year. Seventy bullocks were even offered up as an atonement for the seventy nations of the world (the Gentiles)! Talmudic writings attribute this to God’s concern for the Gentiles, and Israel’s role in world redemption. Israel, in connection with Sukkot, is considered a nation of intercessors for the sins of the Gentiles. This is true in one sense: Salvation is of the Jews. Yeshua said to a woman of Samaria, “You worship what you do not know; we know what we worship, for salvation (ye-shu-AH) is of the Jews” (Jn. 4:22). Israel gave the world its Savior: Yeshua!
The traditional Bible reading on the second day of Sukkot is taken from the fourteenth chapter of the book of Zechariah. This Jewish prophet wrote of a future day when all the Gentile nations, not only the Jewish people, will be commanded by the Lord to celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles. “And it shall come to pass that everyone who is left of all the nations which came against Jerusalem shall go up from year to year to worship the King, the LORD of hosts, and to keep the Feast of Tabernacles.” (Zech. 14:16) The prophet continues by saying that the punishment of nations that do not come up to keep the Feast is not only withholding rain (blessings), but also a plague.
Since it appears from Scripture that all Gentiles will one day keep the Feast of Sukkot and receive a blessing, thousands of Christian pilgrims from all over the world already go up to Jerusalem to celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles. We have been among them and it is glorious!
The Dance of Mahanaim
Sukkot is also known as Hag HaSukkot. Hag is Hebrew for “feast.” It comes from a root meaning “to dance or to be joyous.” There is a verse in the Song of Songs which is considered by many students of the Bible to be a particularly difficult, obscure verse: “Return, return, O Shulamite; return, return, that we may look upon you! What would you see in the Shulamite—as it were, the dance of the two camps?” (Song 6:13).
The verse is only obscure because the “dance of two camps” is just beginning! In the previous verse, the Shulamite (representative of the bride of Messiah), had experienced some kind of transformation in which she was connected with some form of “Ammi” [This is God’s word for His people Israel. In the Holy Scriptures, the world is divided into two groups: Ammi (My People) and L’Goyim (The Gentiles).] Now, in verse thirteen, there is a “dance of two camps.” Since dance is mentioned, there is joy. Two groups. The bride is one. Who is the other? We believe it is Ammi, the Jewish people. Israel and the Church. Jew and Gentile dancing together. Joy in the Father’s heart!
God has a plan, and His plan may not be our plan. We were amazed recently as we listened to a traditional Orthodox Jew, who is the official representative of the Israeli government to the Church, speak about the Holy Spirit at a church service! He told the congregation that morning that he believes God plans to bond the Church and the Jewish people together via the Holy Spirit. He is so convinced of this, that he is studying to get a Masters Degree at Oral Roberts University, writing a thesis on the Holy Spirit. Is this part of the Dance of Mahanaim?
There may be an element of repentance indicated by the word “shuvi” (return) in verse thirteen, as the bride returns to “Ammi”—perhaps to her Jewish roots, and away from Replacement Theology, with resulting joy in the manifest presence of the Lord. The fact that the bride in this verse is called the “Shulamite” for the first and only time in the Song, testifies to the significance of the “dance.” The Shulamite literally means the peaceable one, the complete, whole perfect one. Yeshua’s bride is only complete when Jew and Gentile are dancing together as one, echad, to the glory of the Father!
A New Thing!
“Behold, I will do a new thing, now it shall spring forth; shall you not know it?…” (Is. 43:19) We rejoice during this Sukkot season as we witness God doing a new thing with the younger generation. Our son Jonathan and his wife Nancy have embarked on an adventure with college-age and young adults. This age group, whether Jew or Gentile, is for the most part turned off to organized religion. They are “millennials,” born between 1982-2000. They are unique and have their own ways of thinking.
The University of Florida, in Gainesville, Florida, has the largest Jewish student population of any state university in the nation. The students are bright and “connected” through the use of technology. They network with friends. They must be met where they are at. We can’t think of two better people than our son Jon and his wife Nancy to be able to help “connect” people with God and with each other. They are both “social” to the core! They love people and have the gift of hospitality. Jonathan has begun a “kesher” (connections) core group of passionate followers of Yeshua who long to see their peers experience the same abundant life that they have found—through their Rabbi and Messiah Jesus. They call Him Jesus as well as Yeshua, since this works best within their community.
Many of the young people who celebrate Shabbat on Friday evenings at their apartment are couples who are dating—one Jewish, one Gentile—which is defined today as “inter-faith” (not the same as “co-exist,” or the “old inter-faith,” where all religions lead to God). No! To make sure there is no confusion: Jonathan and Nancy are presenting Jesus as the only way to a personal relationship with the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. But—they present the Gospel in such a way that people are allowed to ask questions, search the Scriptures for themselves, explore the Jewish root, and then make a quality decision concerning the Messiah. Most are unaffiliated with any church or synagogue.
After dinner and fellowship on Erev Shabbat, a group of 10-20 young people listen as Jonathan gives a short darash (teaching) on the weekly Torah portion. Then he goes to the New Covenant Scriptures and makes connections. He speaks to both groups present—pre-believing Jews and Gentiles, as well as the few believers present—then opens for discussion. No one feels threatened, and the discussion is lively and often profound. Students keep inviting their friends, and contacts continue into the week. Jonathan and Nancy and their core group recently decided that Sukkot will have a special emphasis this year.
The Millennials are also known as Generation Y, Generation We, the “Net” Generation and more! We really didn’t know much about this segment of our population, numbering over 80 million, until a conference in Phoenix, Arizona in Nov. 2013, in which Messianic leaders from all over the U.S. got together to discuss how to reach millennials for the Lord. Most leaders present confessed that they had not been very successful in reaching them for the Messiah. Our two sons are millennials [Jonathan, age 29, and Jesse, age 25], but we had never focused on their unique characteristics as “millennials.”
We believe that the Lord wants all of us to understand this age group, so that we can pray for them, and touch their hearts for Yeshua. Following are some “general” characteristics of millennials—They are:
- Confident, self-expressive, have a sense of entitlement, often see themselves as “special” because they were “trophy kids”—everyone should get a reward for participating
- Technologically savvy; first generation to grow up with social media
- Civic-minded; strong sense of community, with a deep desire to make the world a better place
- Team players; want coaching relationships with managers; want feedback
- Increasingly liberal attitudes with regard to social and cultural issues
- 1 in 4 are religiously unaffiliated. Many pray, but are skeptical of religious institutions
- More optimistic about the future of U.S. than Generation X is
- Desire a good work / life balance (not necessarily a 9-5 job); open to change
- Family is very important. The majority placed “being a good parent” as their #1 priority (above #2 having a successful marriage, #3 helping others in need, #4 owning a home, #5 living a very religious life and #6 having a high-paying career. (Pew Survey of adults 18-29)
- More racially tolerant than previous generations
- Not as interested in political affairs as previous generations
- Comprise 40% of the unemployed in the U.S. YET optimistic
- Not rushing to the altar (in spite of having parenthood and marriage as high priorities)
- Respect their elders as superior in moral values and work ethic
A Beautiful Millennial
God is doing a quick work in the millennials that are coming to Yeshua in our day! Samara is a perfect example. She is the “first fruits” of Jonathan and Nancy’s Kesher group, a Jewish girl who struggled to find her niche in college, until in Samara’s own words to Jon and Nancy—”But ever since meeting you two at that lunch, I’ve found a group where I truly feel connected, comfortable and on the same page and it makes me hungry for so much more.”
That was in March 2014. As of last month, Samara, now a passionate follower of Yeshua, is off to spend the next year of her life actively participating in the World Race, reaching out to help others less fortunate than herself. In Samara’s words: “On the World Race, I will be taking part in not only a mission trip, but also an intensive discipleship program that’s designed to disconnect my generation from the distractions of our time and launch us into our specific calling from God. As we travel for 11 months to 11 different countries, my team and I will be working closely in partnerships with churches and ministries in local communities, to preach the Gospel, plant churches, work in orphanages, and minister to women and children trapped in prostitution and human trafficking. Above all we will strive to bring the restorative hope of God’s love to the many tribes and nations.”
We have met and prayed with Samara, and are in awe of her growth in the Lord in such a short time. In her testimony (found here) she explains her struggle accepting Jesus because of her Jewish background, and her love of her ancestry, traditions, prayers, and holidays. It was when she went to the Greenhouse Church with her Gentile boyfriend and heard the guest preacher, Jon Lash, that the Lord connected Samara with Jonathan and Nancy (a whole story in itself), and their relationship went from lunch, to Friday night at the Lash apartment, to Samara’s totally transformed life, serving the risen Messiah Yeshua.
Jonathan and Nancy are now an outreach of Jewish Jewels. Jon also supports his family as a social media consultant. We are very proud of him, and thank the Lord that God’s love for His Jewish people is extended L’dor V’dor, from generation to generation. You can send support for Jon and Nancy directly to Jewish Jewels. They will appreciate it very much!
P.S. Jew in the Pew is a book that we, and Samara, love–the memoir of Jenny Chandler, another Jewish believer in Yeshua. A great read–funny, insightful, highly recommended.