January 2012


I was listening to a sharing from a friend and he was commenting about us the Chinese having 2 significant new years.

To the Chinese, they celebrated the News Years Day (quite recently) and now the Lunar New Year had just arrived.

It such joyous occasions, it is actually a good period for us to feast and be happy, its a time for us to reflect on the year and to plan for the new. It is joyous, that I remember when the stroke of midnight came, there were loud sounds of fireworks and fire crackers.

But in the sharing, my friend was saying that similar to the Chinese, the Jews had 2 new years that are significant in their lives as well.  The Jews generally celebrate their new years very differently from the rest of the world.

To Illustrate it, I have created a chart that identifies the feast and festivals of the Israelites as describe in the bible, (I have left out the other nationalistic festivals as I would like to highlight those that are written in the bible)

A Typical Jewish Calendar Vs Our Calendar

1.Passover (Feast Of The Unleavened Bread)

The Jews begin their new year doing something that is very different from our usual feasting and enjoyment. They begin by purging their house of all leaven. It was said that as a training to young Jewish children, the parents will deliberately leave some leaven behind and see if their children can find it.

After that comes the feast of the Passover, while we would have a feeling that it is as sumptuous as our reunion dinner of the Chinese. But these are the things that were eaten.

1. Unleavened Bread

These are plain bread made without yeast, also known as “Bread of Affliction”. It is a    very tasteless and hard bread. It is called Matzo by the Jews

2. Bitter Herbs
The Passover lamb has to be eaten with bitter herbs, the typical herbs use are horse-radish and romaine lettuce,  It is called Maror by the Jews

3. Roasted Lamb

Interestingly, the bible records that God instructed them to eat this meal in a haste, with belt on the waist, sandals in the feet and staff in the hand (Ex 12:11)

The purpose of the Passover is to remember the deliverance of God to the Israelites in Egypt where he sent the angel and killed the firstborns of all Egypt. The angel will pass over any of the Israelite houses as they have smeared their doorpost with the blood of the lamb.

 

1.1 Significance Of This New Year Celebration

The Passover sacrificial lamb is a Jesus, (1 Cor 5:7) and when Jesus had the last Passover meal with his disciples, he instituted the Holy Communion one that day (Mattt 26:26-29) . He told his disciples do this in remembrance of him (1 Cor 11:23-26)

Although a Christian can hold holy communion at any time of the year, but there are a few spirits of this old testament festival that we must take note.

a. Removing Of Leaven

Jesus once said
“Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy. For there is nothing covered that will not be revealed, nor hidden that will not be known. Therefore whatever you have spoken in the dark will be heard in the light, and what you have spoken in the ear in inner rooms will be proclaimed on the housetops.” – Jesus (Lk 12:1-3)

Let us be careful how we live our lives as Christians, let us not be hypocritical in what we do, let us learn to be sincere and truthful in whatever we do. For we must remember that eventually God will judge us for everything we do.  Let us take note of what King Solomon said

“Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter:

Fear God and keep His commandments,
For this is man’s all.
  For God will bring every work into judgment,
Including every secret thing,
Whether good or evil.” – Solomon (Ecc 12:13-14)

b.  Eat in Haste, Belts On The Waist, Sandals on the feet, Staff In The Hand

If Egypt symbolises the world and everything that is in it, then we must be prepared not to long for things in the world. The night of the Passover is the night where God will save his people out of Egypt.

The bible depicts our Christians walk as like “Days in the wilderness” On that night the Israelites has to be prepared to leave Egypt immediately.

This is a solid reminder to us that we are not of this world, and that we are only a pilgrim waiting for our heavenly home. So like the ancient Israelites, let us be willing to start our journey with God and not to carry our cross daily to follow God.

Let us remember that the words of Jesus

““If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily,and follow Me. 24 For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will save it. 25 For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and is himself destroyed or lost?” – Jesus (Lk 9:23-25)

But we know that that generation did not managed to get into the promise land because of their unbelief (Heb 3:16-19)

Therefore, let us also bear that in mind and to believe in the words of Jesus. Following all his commands in faith, just like the how the first Israelites believed and kept the Passover while in Egypt.

2. Feast Of The Tabernacles

The beginning of the Jewish civil year is the second new year that is significant to the Jews. It started out with the feast of the trumpets, the day of atonement and the feast of the tabernacles.

It is pretty interesting to see that the first new year celebration is about the salvation of God in Israel and now its about atonement for sins. In general, the Jews will do the following

1. Blow the shofar (trumpet) to announce the new year.

2. Gather together on the day of Atonement to sacrifice for the sins of the nations

3. Stay in tents for 7 days.

It is hardly what the rest of the world will do on a new year isn’t it?

2.1 Significance Of This New Year Celebration

This new year celebration is one that is very different from ours, it tells us of many important things we ought to do in the new year.

a. Reflection and Repentance.

Generally at the Rosh Hashanah (Feast of the trumpets) The Jews and Samaritans alike would reflect on the sins, this is to prepare for yom kippur (the day of atonement) . While as Christians we know that we have a compassionate high priest, which is Jesus (Heb 4:14-16)

We must still repent and come before him for forgiveness. How often have we failed to do so, so I will say that this is a very good practice for all of us to do to constantly examine ourselves to see if we have fall short of Gods mark.

If we find that we have strayed from God, it is a good time to realign ourselves and to have a change of heart. To return to God as God is just like the father of the prodigal son who waited staring at the horizon for the sons return.

b. Staying in Tents

The staying in booths down during the feast of the tabernacles serves as a reminder to the Jews about their wanderings in the wilderness. It serves likewise to us as a reminder that we are on our way to a better world.

Though the modern Christians no longer needs to follow these feasts, we ought to keep the spirit of the festival, as they hold good teachings for us to learn from.

The modern wilderness is one where we withdraw from the daily rush of the world and to study the word of God.  They can also mean the church camps where we give up the comforts of our home to concentrate on prayers and learning the word of God

Staying in tents reminded us of that building that we would eventually receive from God

Just as what Paul tells the Corinthians

“For we know that if our earthly house, this tent, is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For in this we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed with our habitation which is from heaven, if indeed, having been clothed, we shall not be found naked. For we who are in this tent groan, being burdened, not because we want to be unclothed, but further clothed, that mortality may be swallowed up by life.  Now He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who also has given us the Spirit as a guarantee.” – Paul (2 Cor 5:1-6)

 

Therefore, let us be constantly reminded of that permanent home God is given us, and may we all have a blessed new year.

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As shared on our previous post, we will be looking at the following characters

1. King Saul (1 Sam 15, 1618)
2. Judas Iscariot (Jn 12,13, Matt 26,27)
3. Ananias And Sapphira (Acts 5)

The Background of Saul

Saul started out as the first king of Israel, God chose Saul because he is handsome in apparence and at the same time he is very humble, it could be seen in his conversation between himself and Samuel

Am I not a Benjamite, of the smallest of the tribes of Israel, and my family the least of all the families of the tribe of Benjamin? Why then do you speak like this to me?” – Saul (1 Sam 9:21)

On the day of his coronation, he was so embarrassed that he was hiding among the equipment, it was God who told Samuel where to find him, this was what happened as narrated by Samuel

“Therefore they inquired of the LORD further, “Has the man come here yet?”
And the LORD answered, “There he is, hidden among the equipment.”  – Samuel (1 Sam 10:22)

It is very interesting to see someone taller than all Israelites, yet can go hiding unnoticed (1 Sam 10:23-24)

Saul was famous for his battle at Jabesh Gilead where he lead the Israelite armies to save Jabesh Gilead.

In the beginning of his reign, Saul was on the right track, he also did things that are right in the eyes of God , he put chase out mediums and spiritist(1 Sam 28:3 ).

Yet at the last part of his life, the bible painted a very sad picture of him

“But the Spirit of the LORD departed from Saul, and a distressing spirit from the LORD troubled him” – Samuel (1 Sam 16:14)

Before we proceed, let us not go off with an impression that God sends a evil spirit to trouble Saul. In fact, the evil spirit is not send by God, but rather when Gods spirit departed from Saul, the evil spirit now has free hold over him.

How did Saul allow the devil to work within him? Let us take a look at a few incidents

Battle Against The Amalekites  (1 Sam 15)

Initially God sent King Saul on a mission, to punish the Amalekites, for the sins they have committed against Israel during the time of Moses,  they set up ambushes and killed the weak and staggering Israelites lagging behind (1 Sam 15:1-3 )

God gave a specific instruction to Saul to not spare anything from the Amalekites, they are to spare no woman and children and they must utterly destroy all that they have, every animal and every thing that breaths.

Saul went out with an army of 210 000 soldiers and God granted him victory, He did most of his command but he decided to do the following  (1 Sam 15:7-9)

1. He killed everybody except for Agag the king of the Amalekites
2. He destroyed everything that are worthless, but kept the best of the animals

Understanding Saul’s Sins 

It is noted that the decision to do so is a consensus between the armies and him (1 Sam 15:9 )

While many people will claimed that to love riches and to conserve resources is a virtue of thriftiness, but our virtues should not supersede the command of God.  Especially when Saul is suppose to execute the judgement of God in this battle. Therefore to disobey the order of God is despising the words of God in his face.

Though its a matter of debate to see whether Saul was keeping the good things for himself or if he indeed wanted to sacrifice to God in Gilgal (1 Sam 15:15) If he indeed wanted to offer these animals before God , he is committing a greater evil before God.

Can you imagine taking something which God tells you specifically to destroy, and yet offer them up as a burnt offering to God. Wouldn’t that notion be mockery to the command of God? Gods command was specific, to kill and destroy every thing that is alive but yet Saul decides to disobey and still wanted to take the things God hates t and sacrifice them to God.

It is no wonder that God is grieved badly over the actions of Saul and it especially grieved Samuel, who was the one who anointed him over Israel

God told Samuel

“I greatly regret that I have set up Saul as king, for he has turned back from following Me, and has not performed My commandments.”  -YHWH (1 Sam 15:11)

Therefore he sent Samuel to counsel him, in his last attempt to bring Saul back to him.

The Defence Of Saul

When Samuel first visited Saul, he first enquired about the bleating of the sheep he heard . When Samuel told Saul that he had committed a great evil for stooping down for the plunder, this is Sauls response

“ But I have obeyed the voice of the LORD, and gone on the mission on which the LORD sent me, and brought back Agag king of Amalek; I have utterly destroyed the Amalekites.  But the people took of the plunder, sheep and oxen, the best of the things which should have been utterly destroyed, to sacrifice to the LORD your God in Gilgal.” – Saul (1 Sam 15:20-21)

Then Samuel gave Saul his charges which are namely

“For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft,
And stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry.” – Samuel (1 Sam 15:23)

Saul defended himself once again

“I have sinned, for I have transgressed the commandment of the LORD and your words, because I feared the people and obeyed their voice.  Now therefore, please pardon my sin, and return with me, that I may worship the LORD.”  – Saul (1 Sam 15:24-25)

Saul started to hold on to Samuel so tight that it torn his robe, it is at that point of time when God judged Saul once and for all

“The LORD has torn the kingdom of Israel from you today, and has given it to a neighbor of yours, who is better than you.” – Samuel (1 Sam 15:27)

It is only at this point of time did God decided to give up on him

Yet he made one desperate plea

“I have sinned; yet honor me now, please, before the elders of my people and before Israel, and return with me, that I may worship the LORD your God.” – Saul (1 Sam 15:30)

He was still concern about his honour more than the fact that he had sin against God.

It is only after the incident, the devil started to distress him (1 Sam 16:14)

The Failure of Saul

From here we can see a very insightful lesson on why the devils can have a chance to bring harm to a the Christians.

Saul repeatedly pushes the blames to someone else for his own disobedience to others  and was unwilling to repent before God. Only when he did that, the devil started to gain a foothold into his life.

The devil will only have a chance to hit us when

1. We are unwilling to follow the commands of God (the Sin of Rebellion)
2. We are unwilling to repent despite Gods repeated attempts to counsel and advice. (the Sin of Stubbornness)

Later on his situation got worse as the chapters process

“And it happened on the next day that the distressing spirit from God came upon Saul, and he prophesied inside the house” – Samuel (1 Sam 18:10)

At this point of time, he started to be speaking uncontrollably and is no longer making sense. Let us look at what happened that clause this to happen

Saul’s Anger Against David

The bible recorded that Saul started to target David after his victory over goliath .  When the Woman sang

“Saul has slain his thousands,
And David his ten thousands.” (1 Sam 18:7 )

Saul was angry and did not control his anger , he was mindful that his glory is taken, it was at that opportunity, the devil managed to gain a greater foothold into his life. This is the time the devil was able to control his action and clause him to hurl his javelin at David

It is at this point of time the words of Paul continue sound out loud ““Be angry, and do not sin”: do not let the sun go down on your wrath, nor give place to the devil.” – Paul ( Eph 4:26)

This is a very practical example of that.

The final act that killed Saul

Saul’s last actions, led him to the point of no return, he started to consult Mediums. which is written in 1 Sam 28.

While we are looking at this end, let us be mindful that the fall of Saul is not a sudden affair. It started with Saul allowing Satan to find the foothold in his life. As the result, when the sin is fully conceived. Death was brought forth.

Sometimes we are surrounded with many temptations, where we run into trouble and we were hoping that we can resolve our issues based on the occult. The New age religions now turns Ouija board to be something that is cool, and Geomancy tells us how we can change our fate by rearranging the house, we can even change our fortune by buy special stones that had magnetic properties.

There are times in my life when i met with severe issue and I almost wanted to adopt a wait and see attitude by trying out numerology and palmistry. While i will not be surprised that the devil will work very mightily through this to deceive us, but what is scary is the idea that we may be opening up a huge hole for the devil to attack us.

Therefore we should be mindful not to allow the devil opportunity to mislead us. and by so doing slowly disqualifying us from salvation.

 

As A Conclusion

As you can see the points of failure on Saul how he

1. Started out being disobedience to God
2. Being stubborn and unrepentant of his sins
3. Allowing anger to go unchecked into his life
4. Relied on the occult when all fails

You can see the devil like a lion, slowly going close to his prey, and slowly entrapping him until he reach the point of no return.

Let the story of Saul serves as a reminder that we should always be diligent not to give a foothold to the devil.

When Paul wrote the Epistle to the Ephesus, he gave many exhortation and encouragement to the church. Among the verse, read a very short verse

“nor give place to the devil” – Paul (Eph 4:27)

Resisting the devil seems to be the lifelong work of every Christian in his daily walk with God. In fact, Apostle Peter once said

“Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour” – Peter (1 Pet 5:8)

Sometimes we may be wondering, why does the devil need to walks about among us in order to devour Christians. Do you know that when you come under the protection of Christ the devils are not allowed to touch you?

Let us see what Apostle John had to say about it,

“We know that whoever is born of God does not sin; but he who has been born of God keeps himself,and the wicked one does not touch him.” – John (1 Jn 5:18)

This is the reason why whenever satan wanted to harm the believers, he needs the permission of God, just like in the case of Job .

It is because satan is unable to harm us on the spot, which is why he needs to look at us from the distance, and observe us to see if he can detect our witness and tempt us.

This is the reason why Elder James said this

“Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am tempted by God”; for God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He Himself tempt anyone. 14But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. 15 Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death.” – James (Jas 1:13-15)

Very often than not, the process of sin is one which takes times, James used the term “conceive” to describe this.  Every doctor will tell you that a pregnancy process take about 10 months from conception before the baby is born.

There is a similarity to the process of sinning, because it started up small and it slowly grow bg. The difference is that when sin is full grown, it will lead to death.

The process of conceiving sin, started by members giving a foothold for the devil to work. As the days go by the sin gets greater and greater.. and finally the person will make a great mistake and sin against God. Falling out of his protection.

Therefore we should study the battle plan of satan as a warning to all of us not to give place for the devil to work. 

we will look at 3 bible characters in the bible to learn from their mistakes, and to understand the circumstances in which they gave place for the devil.

The three characters that we would be looking at the next few blog post are.

1. King Saul (1 Sam 15, 1618)
2. Judas Iscariot (Jn 12,13, Matt 26,27)
3. Ananias And Sapphira (Acts  5)