A few years ago, back in the 2012–13 range, I distinctly recall asking the Lord for further confirmation of the Pre-Trib Rapture, specifically in passages of the Old Testament. Afterwards, I remember landing on Isaiah 26:19–21 one day and was overwhelmed with excitement. Maybe you know the feeling—that sudden burst of joy springing up from your innermost being the moment you discover a precious gem hidden deep in the minefields of Scripture.
For example, Gary posted an article back on September 12, 2017 entitled “Blood Moons, Births, and Babies.” Toward the end of that post, he cited one of the lesser-known OT prophets, Zephaniah, and highlighted the possible future fulfillment of Zephaniah 2:1–3 as applicable to the Church—the male-child of Revelation 12:5who is born [resurrected to glory] and snatched up to God’s throne.
While the timing of the Rapture of the Church in Revelation 12 as it relates to the onset of the Tribulation period isn’t all that clear, other passages such as Isaiah 66:7–8 make the timing as clear as day (for a more detailed analysis, see my previous post “The Birth of a Nation: Part I“).
The Pre-Trib timing is made crystal clear in Isaiah 66:7, most notably, because of the repetitive use of the temporal preposition “before.” Likewise, Zephaniah 2:1-3 appears to be yet another confirmation of the timing of our deliverance in relation to the start of the 70th week.
Here’s a quote from Gary’s article mentioned above that I’ll use as a launching pad for this post:
Most importantly, according to Zephaniah 2:1–3, this group who seeks righteousness is gathered together before a certain decree takes effect (the 7-year covenant of Daniel 9:27?) and is hidden away before ‘the day of the anger of the Lord.’ These ancient Old Testament prophecies are coming to light like never before and they seem to be painting an increasingly pre-trib picture” (emphasis his).
Indeed, the picture is coming into focus. It’s not just one text or passage in isolation that illuminates the portrait of a Pre-Trib deliverance for the Church. Like a mosaic or impressionist painting, it’s the composite pieces and individual brush-strokes seen together that reveal the whole.
So, put your fine-art glasses on [i.e. Holy Spirit lenses] and walk with me through the gallery of Scripture to view the bigger picture. As I hope you’ll see, Zephaniah 2:1–3 is an integral piece of the Pre-Trib portrait. Therefore, the aim of this study will be to shore-up Gary’s initial hunch about the relevance of this passage for the Church today.
Seeking Shelter Before the Storm (Hiding in Yahweh’s Doomsday Bunker)
Zephaniah had a tough message to deliver to the people of his day. Most likely, he was not a favorite guest preacher in the synagogue circuit, and he definitely would not be first on the list to speak in the preeminent pulpits of our churches today.
It’s not that he’s a false prophet or anything like that. No, far from it. It’s just, well…he’s all doom and gloom, and nobody wants to hear that. Most people want to hear about how great tomorrow will be. Tell me something good. Tell me that God’s going to prosper me and keep me healthy, wealthy, and happy. Ah, but that’s not reality, and the truth is a hard pill to swallow.
The truth is that the Day of the LORD is near and rapidly approaching (Zeph. 1:14). It’s a day of darkness and gloom, destruction and desolation (Zeph. 1:15). This isn’t merely a local judgment, either. It’s global and worldwide in scope (Zeph. 1:2–3; 3:8).
Ok, ok, so do I need to build a bunker in the ground? Gather supplies to outlast my neighbor through the Tribulation? No, listen to Zephaniah. He offers a glimmer of hope to a specific nation, a people who are living in the days right before God executes His judgment on earth:
Gather yourselves together; gather together, undesirable nation, before the decree takes effect and the day passes like chaff, before the burning of the LORD’s anger overtakes you, before the day of the LORD’s anger overtakes you. Seek the LORD, all you humble of the earth, who carry out what He commands. Seek righteousness, seek humility; perhaps you will be concealed on the day of the LORD’s anger” (Zeph. 2:1–3, HCSB, emphasis mine).
A play on the prophet’s name embedded in 2:3 underscores the opportunity for a certain, humble nation to be hidden away and concealed before God’s judgments take effect. Clarifying the connection between the prophet’s name and his message, Old Testament scholar, Ronald B. Allen, writes in his book, A Shelter in the Fury:
The name Zephaniah…is built on two Hebrew words, a verb meaning ‘to hide’ and the proper name of God, Yahweh. Zephaniah means ‘Hidden by Yahweh” (pgs. 19–20, emphasis mine).
Thus, for those with eyes to see and ears to hear, this passage in Zephaniah is truly a hidden gem. Amidst all the “doom and gloom” in the surrounding context, this window of opportunity is a welcome sight for anyone in right standing with Yahweh who is living on earth before the final judgment begins.
To really grasp the full effect of this passage, however, we need to examine the original Hebrew text. Paraphrased translations have their place, but there is a reason why a more literal translation such as the KJV should be consulted in this instance.
For example, a survey of the English translations for Zephaniah 2:1–3 shows a couple of minor discrepancies that are relevant to our study, especially verses 1 and 2:
First, is the gathered nation of verse 1 shameless, or undesirable/unwanted? Does the answer help us to further identify these people who are hidden “on the day of the LORD’s anger”?
Second, is “decree” the right word choice in verse 2? If so, what is this decree that is linked so closely with the Day of the Lord and its horrific judgments?
We’ll address these questions next.
Which Nation? What Decree?
By now, many of you who have studied the Bible for some time know that the Hebrew language is really flexible. Certain words like ruach have a wide semantic range with possible meanings of “wind,” “breath,” or “spirit.” Therefore, not only is the immediate Old Testament context crucial for interpretation and understanding, but we must also consider the New Testament’s use of the Old to see how prophecy functions in God’s economy.
In many instances, we discover that Old Testament prophecy can have multiple fulfillments as time and revelation progress. Perhaps the most striking and surprising example comes from Matthew’s use of Hosea 11:1 (see Matt. 2:15). The historical context of Hosea 11:1 reveals God’s son to be the nation, Israel, who is called out of Egypt during the Exodus. However, as time and revelation progress, Matthew is later moved by the Holy Spirit to latch on to this particular text. As a result, the referent shifts from the nation of Israel to Jesus, God’s Son, who is protected in Egypt until it is safe to go back to Israel again. Wow!
Old Testament prophecies regarding the coming “Day of the LORD” are similar in that they establish a pattern, or template, which the Holy Spirit can later appropriate to another time and place for fulfillment. Dr. Darrell Bock confirms this critical point on the New Testament’s use of the Old:
Although ‘day of the Lord imagery’ is fulfilled in certain events within the OT (e.g. parts of Joel 2), the nature of that fulfillment looks forward to the decisive period of such fulfillment (the ‘day par excellence’). In all these examples, the imagery is such that an aspect of the passage demands fulfillment beyond the short-term event and thus points to the presence of pattern. The prophetic character of the text resides in this ‘needs to be fulfilled’ feature in the pattern” (“Scripture Citing Scripture,” in Interpreting the New Testament Text, pg. 272, emphasis mine).
After marinating on Zephaniah 2:1–3 for a while, I now strongly believe that this passage fits the bill for the prophetic pattern previously described. For some, you will have no problem with this because you rightly discern the distinctions between Israel and the Church (for a study on an OT precedent for the continuity and discontinuity of Israel and the Church, see my previous post “Birthday Break-away“).
For others who wish to blur the lines where they should not be blurred, I pray that you understand that the “nation” in Zeph. 2:1 isn’t limited to ethnic Israel. In fact, as I will demonstrate below, the nation who fulfills Zeph. 2:1–3 in the future cannot be national Israel.
First, a word about the nation of Zeph. 2:1—are they shameless, or undesirable? The Hebrew text reads literally, “…gather together nation who is not longed for [Heb. kasaph].” For various reasons, rather than translating kasaph in its usual sense of “to long for; seek after,” some scholars have decided that “shameless” fits the context better and justify their decision by pointing to a related Arabic root word.
Given that kasaph is never translated this way in the four other OT usages (see here), it seems best to keep the sense of “longed for” in Zephaniah as well.
All right, so a nation not longed for is told to gather together—and this is when we are hit with a barrage of before’s:
1) Before the decree takes effect…
2) Before the burning of the LORD’s anger…
3) Before the Day of the LORD’s anger…
There is a minor textual issue in that the Septuagint (LXX) reads very differently in 2:2 and does not have the word “decree.” The weight of evidence, however, favors the Hebrew (MT) and the other ancient versions that all contain “decree” (the Latin Vulgate has a solid translation of our passage too, see here).
Since this is a critical juncture of our study, we need to examine this “decree” [Heb. choq] and its implications (see the nuanced meaning of this term especially in Ps. 2:7 and Isa. 24:5, here). The King James Version renders 2:2 quite well, “[gather together]…before the decree bring forth…” This is how the Hebrew reads literally and could even be translated, “…before the decree gives birth [Heb. yalad, a word also found in our major “woman in labor” passages such as Mic. 5:3 and Isa. 66:7].
When you survey the English versions, you’ll find that most have paraphrased the Hebrew to read something like, “…before the decree takes effect…,” or as the NLT renders it, “Gather before judgment begins…” These are all faithful translations that communicate the message of God’s prophetic word: The call goes out for a nation not wanted (not desired) to gather together before the the Day of the Lord strikes—before the decreed judgments of the end-times take effect. This nation who seeks the LORD at this time will also have the opportunity to be hidden and concealed while judgments from above rain down on the earth below (2:3; cf. Isa. 26:19–21).
At this point you should take note of the intentional ambiguity (or flexibility) of Zeph. 2:1. This prophetic offer from the LORD was available to the nation, Israel, right before the Babylonian invasion and exile (Zeph. 1:1; cf. 2 Kgs. 23:24–27). However, as we near the final Day of the LORD, Jacob’s trouble, and the 70th week of Daniel (7-year Tribulation period), this offer of a “Pre-Decree” escape is not for Israel anymore—it’s for the Church.
In the next section, I’ll demonstrate from key parallel passages how Zephaniah 2:1–3 applies to the Church (who was once an undesired nation: Deut. 32:21, Rom. 9:24–26; 1 Pet. 2:9) and cannot be fulfilled by national Israel (or Tribulation saints, to cover the bases).
Before the Decree Takes Effect (The Pre-Decree Resurrection/Rapture of the Church)
Are there other passages in the Bible that speak of a “decree” and also confirm its connection to the end-time judgments of the 7-year Tribulation period? Overwhelmingly, yes!
Let’s check ’em out:
So now, do not mock [Israel], or your shackles will become stronger. Indeed, I have heard from the Lord GOD of Hosts a decree of destruction for the whole land” (HCSB, emphasis mine).
He will make a firm covenant with many for one week [7 years], but in the middle of the week he will put a stop to sacrifice and offering. And the abomination of desolation will be on a wing of the temple until the decreed destruction is poured out on the desolator” (HCSB, emphasis mine).
But one may object: The “decree” of destructive judgments from God [His wrath] may only apply to the latter half of the Trib, so the Church is not guaranteed an escape from the entire 70th week, perhaps only the trumpet or bowl judgments.
Hopefully, these next two passages will seal the deal for you. As the prophecy in Zeph. 2:1–3 clearly states, it’s a “Pre-Decree” gathering and hiding away for the Church. Daniel 9:24 informs us that specific periods of time are “decreed” for Israel alone, and 9:27 reveals that a certain end-time covenant signals the start of the last seven years—these are reserved judgments for the nation of Israel and the rest of the world that are allotted by divine decree!
So, here’s the last question to be answered: Does the New Testament confirm the 7-year duration of the “decree” in Zeph. 2:2 ?
For you yourselves know very well that the Day of the Lord will come just like a thief in the night. When they say, ‘Peace and security,’ then sudden destruction comes on themlike labor pains on a pregnant woman, and they will not escape. But you, brothers, are not in the dark, so that this day would overtake you like a thief” (HCSB, emphasis mine).
This decree of destruction [Isa. 28:22] is the same as the Seven-Sealed Scroll of Revelation five…with the breaking of the seals, there is massive destruction of the earth. But this decree of destruction will be issued only when the covenant [Dan. 9:27] is signed. So then, the same point made in Daniel 9:27 is made by Isaiah. The Tribulation begins with the signing of the Seven-Year Covenant between the leaders of Israel and the Antichrist. Once that covenant is signed, the Tribulation begins and a decree of destruction is issued by God Himself” (Footsteps of the Messiah, pgs. 200–201, emphasis mine).
Then I saw the Lamb open one of the seven seals, and I heard one of the four living creatures say with a voice like thunder, ‘Come!’ I looked, and there was a white horse. The horseman on it had a bow; a crown was given to him, and he went out as a victor to conquer” (HCSB, emphasis mine).
The opening of the first seal coincides with Israel proclaiming “peace and security” after covenanting with the Antichrist, “…by peace [he] shall destroy many” (Dan. 8:25); and the rider on a white horse (counterfeit Christ) carries a “bow” and is given authority to conquer (the “bow” here could represent a counterfeit of God’s own peace treaty that He created in the days of Noah; see Gen. 9:12–17 for God’s “bow,” a sign of the covenant).
The Day of the Decree is Drawing Near
According to God’s word, the Church will not spend one nano-second in the coming 7-year Tribulation period. This time of trouble for Jacob (Jer. 30:7) is just that—the time of Israel’s darkest hour. Rather than getting the anticipated peace and security from their covenant with the nations, the woman [Israel] will instead go into labor and be chastised with covenant curses (Lev. 26; Deut. 31:17; cf. Rev. 6:3–8). The flood of the end will continue unabated until Israel comes under the everlasting protection of the New Covenant, and, instead of saying “peace and security,” the Prince of Peace will come when they say, “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the LORD” (Ps. 118:26; Matt. 23:39).
All Israel will be saved, but it will first be wittled-down to a purged remnant (Isa. 10:20–23; Zech. 13:8–9; Rom. 11:25–27). Israel will be given a hiding place, but not before the “decree” of destruction takes effect (Rev. 12:6, 14).
In this study we affirmed the prophetic principle of an OT prophecy applying to more than the original, historical referent (e.g. Hosea 11:1 and Matt. 2:15). The text of Zeph. 2:1–3 was established, key issues were examined, and overall, the prophecy was shown to be flexible enough to apply to a future “nation” other than Israel. Finally, we traced the thread of the “decree” in Zeph. 2:2 to other key passages that cemented the doctrine of a Pre-Decree [Pre-Trib] Resurrection and Rapture of the Church.
Be encouraged, brothers and sisters in Christ! We are not appointed to wrath (1 Thess. 5:9), and that “wrath” includes the full seven years of the seven-sealed scroll! Let’s keep watch and eagerly wait for our rescue and escape. It won’t be long now. Before the decree takes effect, you and I will effectively be gathered and hidden.
In closing, I’ve got three, nay four, words for you: Pre. Trib. Rapture. Amen!
Throughout the Bible there are many places where, as believers, we read the text and immediately grieve in our hearts. One of the saddest dialogs is found in the book of Exodus, yet this same dialog takes place today and, unfortunately, too often we respond in exactly the same way without realizing what we are saying and doing.
In Exodus chapter 6:6-9, we find one of the most powerful promises Scripture contains.
Therefore say to Bnei-Yisrael: I am Adonai, and I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians. I will deliver you from their bondage, and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with great judgments. I will take you to Myself as a people, and I will be your God. You will know that I am Adonai your God, who brought you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians. So I will bring you into the land that I swore to give to Abraham, to Isaac and to Jacob, and give it to you as an inheritance. I am Adonai.” Moses spoke this way to Bnei-Yisrael, but they did not listen to him because of their broken spirit and cruel bondage.
According to verse 9, when Moses spoke these words to the Children of Israel, they did not listen to him because of their spiritual and physical condition. They looked at themselves and their circumstance and then judged G-D’s ability to fulfill His promises based upon their situation. Here, we see the Creator of the Universe reminding His people that He still loved them and remembered them and was going to redeem them and fulfill His promises. Yet, because the Children of Israel based G-D’s power and sovereignty on their current state of affairs, knowing how bad their spiritual and physical conditions were, they could not believe that G-D’s good could overcome their bad.
Reading these verses today, I know that some of you are in difficult circumstances right now. You know the promises G-D made and the redemption that was brought to you in Messiah Yeshua. You know who G-D is and can quote John 3:16, Romans 8:28, and Romans 9:9, as well as many other verses filled with promises from G-D by memory. Yet, you are looking at your situation in the same way that the Children of Israel viewed theirs. You may not be proclaiming your response vocally as the Children of Israel did to Moses, but your response is heard by G-D just as loudly. You are allowing your heart to believe that your problems, your Egypt, is more powerful than G-D’s promises.
So, let me remind you today that when G-D said these words to Moses to speak to the Children of Israel, they were at the lowest point in their lives physically and spiritually. Yet, none of their predicaments kept G-D from promising them that He would deliver them, He would restore their relationship with Him, and that He would bring them to the land of prosperity.
With this in mind, please remember this absolute truth: Your bad, no matter how large it appears to your heart and mind, will never, ever become larger or more powerful than G-D’s good. (Click to Source)
This article is a brief summary of the evidence supporting God’s existence.
The Bible says that light can be divided (Job 38:24). Sir Isaac Newton studied light and discovered that white light is made of seven colors, which can be “parted” and then recombined. Science confirmed this four centuries ago – God declared this four millennia ago!
The Pleiades and Orion star clusters described (Job 38:31). The Pleiades star cluster is gravitationally bound, while the Orion star cluster is loose and disintegrating because the gravity of the cluster is not enough to bind the group together. 4,000 years ago God asked Job, “Can you bind the cluster of the Pleiades, or loose the belt of Orion?” Yet, it is only recently that we realized that the Pleiades is gravitationally bound, but Orion’s stars are flying apart. See more: 101 Scientific Facts & Foreknowledge
15. Specific Bible verses have numbers and themes in the text of the Bible that seem to line up with the locations where the verses are found. This requires a supernatural author. For example, Matthew 24:42 is about the Day of the Lord. It is the 24th chapter, it’s about the DAY (24 hours) of the Lord; and the 42nd verse (reverse of 24) is the key verse to watch out for we don’t know when this DAY will occur. These three references to things related to 24 are all found in the 24,000th verse of the Bible (now that really sets it apart)! Mathematics shows it’s statistically impossible for this to be chance occurrence (calculated at billions to one could not be coincidence). See over 35 more examples here.
- If the average-sized manuscript were two and one-half inches thick, all the copies of the works of an average Greek author would stack up four feet high, while the copies of the New Testament would stack up to over a mile high!
- 40 authors wrote the Bible over a period of 1,500 years, yet when the 66 books of the Bible with their 1,189 chapters made up of 31,173 verses are brought together (KJV), we find perfect harmony in the message they convey.
See more here.
Just as the first chapters of Genesis relate that it is in a nonphysical form (invisible) that the Creator was present during the time of creation: It was “the spirit of YHWH” that first moved over the face of the earth. (Genesis 1:2). The one letter that sets us apart from YHWH is also the element that makes us “real” in our world – carbon. Evidence of God’s hand in creation!
There are numerous other evidences for God’s existence. If you know of greater evidence for God, than the top 30 shared in this article, let us know in the comments below! (Click to Source)
Then came Hanukkah;[c] it was winter in Jerusalem. 23 Yeshua was walking in the Temple around Solomon’s Colonnade. 24 Then the Judean leaders surrounded Him, saying, “How long will You hold us in suspense? If You are the Messiah, tell us outright!”
25 Yeshua answered them, “I told you, but you don’t believe! The works I do in My Father’s name testify concerning Me. 26 But you don’t believe, because you are not My sheep. 27 My sheep hear My voice. I know them, and they follow Me. 28 I give them eternal life! They will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of My hand. 29 My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all. And no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. 30 I and the Father are one.”
31 Again the Judean leaders picked up stones to stone Him. 32 Yeshua answered them, “I’ve shown you many good works from the Father. For which of these are you going to stone Me?”
33 The Judean leaders answered, “We aren’t stoning you for a good work, but for blasphemy. Though You are a man, You make Yourself God!”
34 Yeshua answered them, “Isn’t it written in your Writings,[d] ‘I have said you are gods’? 35 If he called them ‘gods,’ to whom the Word of God came (and the Scripture cannot be broken), 36 do you say of Him, the One the Father set apart and sent into the world, ‘You speak blasphemy,’ because I said, ‘I am Ben-Elohim’?
37 “If I don’t do the works of My Father, don’t believe Me! 38 But if I do, even if you don’t trust Me, trust the deeds. Then you may come to know and continue to understand that the Father is in Me, and I am in the Father.” 39 Therefore they tried to capture Him again, but He escaped from their hand.
40 Again He went back across the Jordan to the place where John first started immersing, and He stayed there. 41 Many people came to Him and were saying, “John performed no sign, but all John said about this man was true.” 42 And many trusted in Him there.
- John 10:22 Lit. Rededication.
- John 10:34 Lit. Law, here applied to the Torah, Prophets, and Writings; quote is from Ps. 82:6.
My family has been involved in the Messianic movement for 22 years, now, since 1995. Like many people within the Messianic movement, I find myself not looking to the month of December with great enthusiasm.
Huge controversies can and do erupt during the month of December, regarding how Messianic people are to approach the Christian holiday of Christmas, on December 25. Many Messianic Jews simply do not see Christmas as something Jewish, they do not see it as something for them, but if Christians observe it, they are not going to oppose them. Many Messianic people, particularly intermarried couples, often keep both Chanukah and Christmas. Many other Messianic people, oppose Christmas, although for different reasons and with different levels of opposition. Some of this may simply come from December 25 not being a specified holiday in the Bible, or established by the Apostles. Others see Christmas on December 25 as a clear result of syncretism practiced by Christians of the Second-Fourth Centuries, where pagan holidays were reinterpreted and “Christianized” with Biblical themes. Many see Christmas on December 25 as outright paganism, Christmas trees directly prohibited in Scripture (i.e., Jeremiah 10:2-5), and most Christians serving the Kingdom of Darkness. And, a few others, noting some early opposition to Christmas by a number of the Protestant Reformers, see Christmas on December 25 as a symbol of corrupt Roman popery. Those who hold to all of these positions, are likely to be found at your local Messianic congregation during the month of December.
When I attended Asbury Theological Seminary (2005-2008) and took Church History I, the subject of Christmas on December 25 did come up in various classes. One of the textbooks we were assigned, had this to say:
“The earliest feast day in connection with the birth of Jesus was January 6, Epiphany, the day of his manifestation. This was originally the celebration of the birth itself. Later, particularly in some areas of the Latin West, December 25 began to take its place. This latter date was actually a pagan festival which, after the time of Constantine, was preempted by the celebration of Christmas”
Justo L. González, The Story of Christianity, Vol. 1 (San Francisco: Harper Collins, 1984), 96.
As you can imagine, some of my fellow students were a bit shocked when they saw–in our assigned textbook, no less–that Christmas on December 25 had some less-than-Biblical origins. I remember once of my professors adding to this that the Christmas tree was adapted from Teutonic and Nordic religion, with obviously no connection to the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem–and then only added that Easter eggs likewise had no connection to the resurrection, but instead ancient fertility rites. “So, why do Christians participate in this?”, was the blunt response. The answer was: “The Christian Church has reinterpreted and redeemed these once pagan holidays and festivities.” What this actually was, was a seminary instructor saying that it was acceptable for Believers to practice syncretism, that is, take pagan religious customs, reinvent them, and superimpose Biblical themes onto them. This is precisely what Ancient Israel was told not to do, before entering into the Promised Land:
“When you enter the land that the LORD your God is giving you, you shall not learn to imitate the abhorrent practices of those nations” (Deuteronomy 18:9, NJPS).
Yet unlike much of today’s evangelicalism, which will equivocate on the value of Christmas on December 25–a number of prominent comic voices recognize the syncretism in Christmas, and have no problem using it in their various routines!
At the 2002 White House Correspondents Dinner, Drew Carey made note of how Christmas, Easter, and most especially Halloween–were all holidays with origins outside of the Bible:
Last year, the College Humor sketch, “Adam Ruins Everything,” came out with a piece on “The Drunken, Pagan History of Christmas”:
Many of us who once observed Christmas, did not participate in frivolity, drunkenness, and hedonism. Many of us observed Christmas in a pious and holy manner, going to church, focusing on the birth of the Messiah, singing hymns, and fellowshipping with family and close friends. This is actually what makes giving up Christmas difficult for many people in today’s Messianic movement. Their attachment to Christmas, is not so much with the Christmas tree; their attachment to Christmas is with memories of being with those they cared about, some of whom are no longer living.
All of us should be mature enough as adults to recognize that during the month of December, due to all of the nativity scenes and different Christmas carols, that more people are going to be presented with hearing about Jesus and some form of the gospel, than at any other time during the year. In spite of many of the questionable practices and origins surrounding Christmas, God has brought people to Himself during this time of year. Yet Messianic people should also be wise enough to recognize that the Savior declared today during the month of December, is broadly not the Messiah of Israel, who is returning to reign over Planet Earth from Jerusalem—but is instead a universal Christ of tolerance (for human sin). While many sincere Christian people have honored God in ignorance on December 25, Christmas on December 25 is not a God-honoring activity.
I do not encourage any of you to be odious to Christian people during this month, creating unnecessary scenes. Wishing “Happy Holidays” when being told “Merry Christmas,” is entirely legitimate. (Click to Source)
Behold, the lamb of God. The manger in Migdal Eder
Jesus Birth Foretold
The story of Jesus birth was first foretold in Genesis three verse fifteen. God told Adam and Eve that a child would be born. This Child would crush the head of the old Serpent who tempted Eve to sin and resulted in the curse that leads to man’s extinction. Many others would foretell the coming of this Savior of man.
God Chose Jacob
I suppose God could have chosen a million different ways to bring about a remedy to mankind’s disease. But He chose Jacob, a very flawed man and his wildly dysfunctional family to bring forth the antidote. This Christmas story begins with a man, Jacob, and his family spanning 53 generations.
Beyond a brief telling of Jacob’s story, our focus will be on two of his future grandsons David and Jesus. All three men had one thing in common. The importance the little town of Bethlehem played in their life. The reason our Christmas story ends with the birth of Jesus, is because in his blood is the antidote for the curse.
Hundreds of years pass from God’s promise in Genesis, but slowly and painstakingly God, or Yahweh as He is known to the Hebrews, moves mankind closer and closer to a solution to his death problem. Yahweh makes covenants with famous men like Noah and Abraham, edging ever closer, till one day Abraham has a grandson named Jacob. Yahweh changed Jacob’s name to Israel, and transferred to him God’s promise to Abraham that the Messiah, who would save mankind from the curse of death, would come through one of his sons.
Jacob’s journey through life was a painful one and he was not a sinless man. He had many hardships and struggles, most of which he brought on himself by his poor choices. But Yahweh had a plan for Jacob to bring forth the Messiah through his seed.
Jacob Meets Rachel
While Jacob is still a young man, he cheats his brother out of his inheritance, and consequently his brother threatens to kill him. So Jacob finds himself on the run, fleeing the wrath of his brother, away from home for the first time, lonely, broke and in a strange land. He runs to his mother’s relatives in Haran. When he arrives in Haran, he goes to a well where Sheppard’s are waiting to water their flocks, and He asks them if they know his Uncle Laban. They say, “Yes, and there comes his daughter Rachel with the sheep.”
Jacob is so ecstatic to meet his beautiful cousin Rachel, that he sobbed on her between kisses. It was love at first sight for Jacob and for Rachel too.
Jacob marries the beautiful Rachel, who he adored, but he is also tricked into marrying her sister Leah. Though he did not love Leah, Leah gave Jacob six sons. Rachel however, could not conceive, and her ache for a child, throbbed throughout the camp. Jacob then had two sons from the handmaid of Rachel, and two more sons from the handmaid of Leah, but Rachel still could not become pregnant, and her despair was almost unbearable.
Jacob’s Heart Broken in Bethlehem
Finally, with great joy, Rachel becomes pregnant and has a son named Joseph, who will become a famous character in the Bible. After Joseph’s birth, Jacob decides to move his family back to Canaan, the land of his father Isaac and grandfather Abraham. Along the way, Rachel conceives again, and by the time they get to a little town that becomes known as Bethlehem, Rachel’s birth pains begin, and she delivers her second son Benjamin. The labor was too much for Rachel, and she dies soon after Benjamin is born.
Jacob’s heart is broken. He mourns that he will never again hold her face in his hands, gaze upon her, feel her embrace or inhale her fragrance. He will miss her sweet words and shattered are the dreams of growing old together. His darling has died and the loving mother of his two youngest sons. He ceases his journey there, because his sorrow is too great. The Bible tells this part of the story like this.
And they journeyed from Bethel; and there was but a little way to come to Ephrath: and Rachel travailed, and she had hard labor. And it came to pass, when she was in hard labor, that the midwife said to her, Fear not; you shall have this son also. And it came to pass, as her soul was departing, (for she died) that she called his name Benoni: (Which means son of my sorrow) but his father called him Benjamin. (Which means son of my right hand) And Rachel died, and was buried in the way to Ephrath, which is Bethlehem. And Jacob set a pillar on her grave: that is the pillar of Rachel’s grave to this day. And Israel journeyed, and spread his tent beyond the tower of Edar.
Rachel’s body was laid to rest in Bethlehem. It remains one of the Jews most holy places, and a beautiful shrine to Rachel is there today.
Ephrath means fruitful place, which is an ironic name for a burial-place. However, it was not only the place of Rachel’s departing, as the scripture puts it, but it was also a place of new life, because Benjamin began his life there.
The prophet Micah, who appeared a few generations after King David, spoke for Yahweh, and prophesied the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem. “But as for you, Bethlehem Ephrathah. Too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you, One will go forth for Me, to be ruler in Israel. His goings forth are from long ago, from the days of eternity.”
For Jacob though, this was the place of his mourning for beloved Rachel.
We know that Jacob was becoming a wealthy and prosperous man having much livestock. The Bible tells us that when Rachel died he went beyond the tower of Edar and spread his tent. Migdal Edar, as it is known, was only a 1000 paces from Bethlehem, and was a place of elevation, where Shepherd’s would go to watch over their sheep that grazed in the valley’s meadow below. It was a good vantage point, and ideal for watching over the sheep and keeping an eye on what might come down the road from Jerusalem. Several generations later, it became the place where they raised the unblemished and unspotted sheep used for Temple sacrifice.
David is Born in Bethlehem
Eleven generations would come and go till Jacob’s descendant David is born in the little town of Bethlehem. He is quite possibly born near this very spot where Jacob pitched his tent to mourn. One day David would become King of Israel, but as a young man, David was a Priestly Sheppard in the hills and valleys of Bethlehem. It was the sacred duty of a Priestly Shepherd to watch over the sacrificial sheep used in the temple worship.
A priestly Shepherd was not just any Shepherd, but a priest who knew the scriptures, for while David watched the sheep his delight was in the law of the LORD;and in his law he meditated day and night.( Psa. 1:2) Oh, how I love your law! I meditate on it all day long. (Psa 119:97) Later David references his thoughts of Yahweh while watching the sheep through the night: On my bed I remember you; I think of you through the watches of the night. (Psa. 63:6)
The little lambs of God
David must have had a true sense of sacrifice, knowing the fate of the little sheep he came to love and risk his life to protect. The daily Temple sacrifice required two unblemished sheep from Bethlehem. One sacrificed in the morning and one in the evening as a continual sacrifice before the Lord.
The Passover was an annual sacred feast that Yahweh himself instituted for Israel to commemorate their deliverance out of Egypt. During Passover in Israel, the feast required literally thousands of sheep. One lamb needed for each household in all of Israel. During the time of David’s census there were 1,300,000 men beyond age 20. This would suggest a population nearing 5 million. This demand required an estimated 250,000 sheep to accommodate the Passover annually.
Jesus born in Bethlehem
Now let’s fast forward 900 years from the days of David to see what is happening in our little village of Bethlehem. The apostle Luke writes this account.
And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be taxed. (And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.) And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:) To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child. And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered. And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.
And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.
And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even to Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord has made known to us. And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger.
The fields around Bethlehem were valuable grazing lands. The Priestly Shepherds were still charged with watching over the Temple flock both day and night. They were vigilant to protect them from their natural enemies, the robber, the wolf, the bear and the lion. Migdal Edar or Tower of the Flock was constructed as a place for watching over the sheep. A room on the ground floor was designated for the delivery and protection of these special lambs. Here they kept a manger ceremonially clean due to the sacred role of these little lambs.
The Shepherd’s find the prophesied Lamb of God
And the Shepherds did find the babe, for they understood what the sign meant. They knew to look for the Messiah in the manger at the watch tower in Bethlehem. The Shepherd’s knew the prophecy of the Prophet Micah, who foretold that the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem. They also knew Micah foretold where to look in Bethlehem. The Messiah King would come to the “the tower of the flock.”
Micah 4:8 “And thou, O tower of the flock the strong hold of the daughter of Zion, unto thee shall it come, even the first dominion; the kingdom shall come to the daughter of Jerusalem.”
The Messiah, the sacrificial Lamb of God would be born in the same place all unspotted lambs designated for Temple sacrifice were born.
John the Baptist, grew up knowing the stories and prophecies of his cousin Jesus. I expect they were friends and playmates like most cousins who grow up together. I like what may have been John’s nickname for Jesus for we have recorded in John 1:29 when John saw Jesus he said, “Behold the Lamb of God.”
This Lamb, Jesus, who was once born at Migdal Eder, the tower of the flock, became the sacrificial Lamb of God for Israel. One day He will return to Jacob’s troubled land and miraculously deliver his descendants. Jeremiah called this future time the day of Jacob’s trouble when Jerusalem’s enemies besiege her.
In the nick of time, The Lamb will reveal his true identity and take His rightful place, seated on His throne as the glorious Son of David, the greatest King of Israel. He will tend the sheep of the house of Jacob and all of those from the nations who have come to dwell in that house. Finally, Jacob’s heartache and troubles are comforted. No more tears will flow from Migdal Edar. The lowly Lamb, who became incarnate there, will be Jacob’s Comforter, King, Shepherd and Messiah forever and ever.
And the angel Gabriel said unto her, Fear not, Mary: for you have found favor with God. And, behold, you shall conceive in your womb, and bring forth a son, and shall call his name JESUS. He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David: And he shall reign over the house of Jacob forever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end.
Praise be the name of the LORD. (Click to Source)
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