Monday, September 25, 2017

READ IT! - Introduction to Acts 8-14

Readings for this week

Monday: Acts 8
Tuesday: Acts 9
Wednesday: Acts 10
Thursday: Acts 11
Friday: Acts 12
Saturday: Acts 13
Sunday: Acts 14

Introduction to Acts 8-14

Chapter 8

After the murder of Stephen, a great persecution broke out against the church in Jerusalem, and all except the apostles were scattered throughout Judea and Samaria. Saul began to destroy the church, and went from house to house dragging people to prison. 

Those who had been scattered preached the word wherever they went. 

Philip (one the table-waiters) went down to a city in Samaria and proclaimed the Messiah there. When the crowds heard Philip and saw the signs he performed, they all paid close attention to what he said. Now for some time a man named Simon had practiced sorcery in the city and amazed all the people of Samaria. But when they heard Philip, they believed him instead, and everyone was baptized… even Simon the Sorcerer. 

When the apostles in Jerusalem heard that Samaria had accepted the word of God, they sent Peter and John to Samaria. When they arrived, Peter and John placed their hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit. Simon then offers Peter money in exchange for the power to fill people with the Spirit, but Peter says, “You and your money be damned! …Repent of this wickedness… for I see that you are full of bitterness and captive to sin.” Then Simon asked Peter to pray for him. 

Peter and John returned to Jerusalem, after preaching the gospel in many Samaritan villages. 

Philip was later told by an angel to go to the road from Jerusalem to Gaza, and there he met the Ethiopian eunuch. He had been to Jerusalem to worship, and was returning home. The eunuch was sitting in his chariot reading the Book of Isaiah, and had come to Isaiah 53:7-8, the passage about the suffering servant who was punished for the sin of his people and led like a sheep to the slaughter. Philip asked the Ethiopian, "Do you understand what you are reading?" He said, "How can I understand unless I have a teacher to teach me?"

So Philip became his teacher, and told him the Gospel of Jesus, and the Ethiopian asked to be baptized. They went down into some water and Philip baptized him. Some later manuscripts also have the Ethiopian say, “I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God" (verse 37), but this is absent in the earlier versions. After this, Philip is suddenly taken away by the Spirit of the Lord (almost like God tele-ported him away), and the eunuch “went on his way rejoicing.” According to tradition, the eunuch returned to Ethiopia, where he converted Queen Candace, and founded what would later become the Ethiopian Orthodox Church.

Chapter 9

Saul was on his way from Jerusalem for Syrian Damascus to arrest followers of Jesus, with the intention of returning them to Jerusalem as prisoners for questioning and possible execution. The journey is interrupted when Saul sees a blinding light, and communicates directly with a divine voice, which says to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?” Saul asks, “Who are you, Lord?” And the voice says, "I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.”

The men traveling with Saul heard the sound but did not see anyone. Saul got up from the ground, but when he opened his eyes he could see nothing. So they led him by the hand into Damascus. For three days he was blind, and did not eat or drink anything.

The account continues with a description of Ananias of Damascus receiving a divine revelation instructing him to visit Saul at the house of Judas on Straight Street and there lay hands on him to restore his sight. Ananias is initially reluctant, having heard about Saul's persecution, but obeys the divine command. He places his hands on Saul and immediately, Saul receives the Holy Spirit, and something like scales fall from Saul’s eyes, and he can see again, and he is baptized. 

Saul spent several days with the disciples in Damascus and he began to preach in the synagogues that Jesus is the Son of God, and he grew more and more powerful and baffled the Jews living in Damascus by proving that Jesus is the Messiah. Later, the Jews plotted to kill him, but Saul learned of their plan. They waited at the city gates in order to kill him, but his followers took him by night and lowered him in a basket through an opening in the wall. 

When he came to Jerusalem, he tried to join the disciples, but they were all afraid of him, not believing that he really was a disciple. But Barnabas took him and brought him to the apostles. So Saul stayed with them and moved about freely in Jerusalem, speaking boldly in the name of the Lord. He talked and debated with the Hellenistic Jews, but they tried to kill him. When the believers learned of this, they sent him off to Tarsus. Then the church throughout Judea, Galilee and Samaria enjoyed a time of peace and was strengthened.

Later, Peter visits the believers in Lydda. He finds a man named Aeneas, who had been paralyzed for eight years. Peter says to him, “Jesus Christ heals you. Get up and roll up your mat.” Immediately Aeneas got up, and all those who lived in Lydda and Sharon saw him and turned to the Lord. 

In Joppa there was a disciple named Tabitha who was always doing good and helping the poor. About that time she became sick and died, and her body was washed and placed in an upstairs room. Lydda was near Joppa; so when the disciples heard that Peter was in Lydda, they sent two men to get him.

All the widows stood around him, crying and showing him the robes and other clothing that she had made. Peter sent them all out of the room; then he got down on his knees and prayed. Turning toward the dead woman, he said, “Tabitha, get up.” She opened her eyes, and seeing Peter she sat up. He took her by the hand and helped her to her feet. Then he called for the believers, especially the widows, and presented her to them alive. This became known all over Joppa, and many people believed in the Lord. Peter stayed in Joppa for some time with a tanner named Simon. 

Chapter 10

Cornelius was a centurion who was stationed in Caesarea. He is depicted as a God-fearing man who always prayed and was full of good works and deeds of alms. Cornelius receives a vision in which an angel of God tells him that his prayers have been heard. The angel then instructs Cornelius to send the men of his household to Joppa, where they will find Simon Peter, who is residing with a tanner by the name of Simon. 

The conversion of Cornelius comes after a separate vision given to Simon Peter himself. In the vision, Simon Peter sees all manner of beasts and fowl being lowered from Heaven in a sheet. A voice commands Simon Peter to eat. When he objects to eating those animals that are unclean according to Mosaic Law, the voice tells him not to call unclean that which God has cleansed. When Cornelius' men arrive, Simon Peter understands that through this vision the Lord commanded the Apostle to preach the Word of God to the Gentiles.

Peter accompanies Cornelius' men back to Caesarea. When Cornelius meets Simon Peter, he falls at Peter's feet. Simon Peter raises the centurion and the two men share their visions. Simon Peter tells of Jesus' ministry and the Resurrection, and the Holy Spirit descends on everyone at the gathering. The Jews among the group are amazed that Cornelius and other uncircumcised should begin speaking in tongues, praising God. Thereupon Simon Peter commands that Cornelius and his followers be baptized. And Peter presents the Gospel Message to them. 

Gospel Message Topics Mentioned: 

Hell: 0 
Heaven: 0 
Sin: 1 
Jesus’ life: 1 
Jesus’ death: 1 
Jesus’ resurrection: 2 
Jesus’ lordship: 2 

Chapter 11

When Peter went back to Jerusalem, the circumcised believers criticized him and said, “You went into the house of uncircumcised men and ate with them.” Starting from the beginning, Peter told them the whole story. He ends the story by saying, “So if God gave them the same gift he gave us who believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I to think that I could stand in God’s way?” When they heard this, they had no further objections and praised God, saying, “So then, even to Gentiles God has granted repentance that leads to life.” 

Those who had been scattered after the death of Stephen had been spreading the word of Jesus to the Jews who lived throughout the Roman Empire, but now, some of them went to Antioch and began to speak to the Greeks as well. When the Jerusalem church learned about the Greek believers in Antioch, they sent a man named Barnabas to go check out what was going on and to encourage the new believers to continue with their faith. Barnabas’s name means “son of encouragement.” 

After this, Barnabas goes to Tarsus to pick up Saul, and Saul goes with him back to Antioch where they begin working together. The text says that Antioch was the first place where the believers were called “Christians.” During this time some prophets came down from Jerusalem to Antioch. One of them, named Agabus, stood up and through the Spirit predicted that a severe famine would spread over the entire Roman world. Luke then tells his reader that this happened during the reign of Claudius. The disciples decided to provide help for the brothers and sisters living in Judea. They had Barnabas and Saul take donations back to the elders at the Jerusalem church.

Chapter 12

King Herod had James executed by sword. He is the only apostle whose martyrdom is recorded in the New Testament and is traditionally believed to be the first of the twelve apostles martyred for his faith. 

Also, Peter was put into prison by King Herod, but the night before his trial an angel appeared to him, and told him to leave. Peter's chains fell off, and he followed the angel out of prison, thinking it was a vision. The prison doors opened of their own accord, and the angel led Peter into the city. When the angel suddenly left him, Peter came to himself and returned to the house of Mary, the mother of John Mark. A servant girl called Rhoda came to answer the door, and when she heard Peter's voice she was so overjoyed that she rushed to tell the others, and forgot to open the door for Peter. Eventually Peter is let in and describes "how the Lord had brought him out of prison." When his escape is discovered, Herod orders the guards put to death.

Then Herod went to Caesarea to meet with the people of Tyre and Sidon because he had been quarreling with them. They asked for peace, because they depended on the king’s country for their food supply. Herod, wearing his royal robes, sat on his throne and delivered a public address to the people, and the people worshiped him. But suddenly, an angel struck him down, and he was eaten by worms and died. 

But the word of God continued to spread and flourish. 

When Barnabas and Saul had finished their mission, they returned from Jerusalem, taking with them John Mark.

Chapter 13

Now in the church at Antioch there were prophets and teachers: Barnabas, Simeon, Lucius, Manaen, and Saul. While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” So after they had fasted and prayed, they placed their hands on them and sent them off. 

Saul and Barnabas take a ship from Seleucia to the island of Cyprus. They went to the city of Salamis and proclaimed the word of God the Jews at the synagogue. The text says that John Mark was there with them as their helper.

They traveled through the whole island until they came to the city of Paphos. They met a Jewish sorcerer named Bar-Jesus who worked for the Roman governor Sergius Paulus. Sergius Paulus wanted to hear the Gospel from Saul and Barnabas, but the sorcerer tried to turn him against the message. But Saul calls him a child of the devil and immediately, Bar-Jesus goes blind, and Sergius Paulus becomes a believer. Saul also renames himself to Paul, or “Paulus” in Greek, after the surname of his very first convert.

Paul and Barnabas then set sail and head to Pisidian Antioch, which was the place where Sergius Paulus was originally from. On the way, John Mark left them to go back to Jerusalem. Also, this area produced many high ranking Roman officials over the years, including emperors like Nero. So it would seem that Paul from the very beginning was trying to see the big man, Caesar himself. They went into the synagogue and sat down. At the end of the service, the people wanted to hear if they had anything to say. So Paul stood up and made a speech, summing up Israel’s history, and ending with a proclamation that Jesus was the Messiah they had all been waiting for. No one was offended by this and instead wanted to hear more, and so Paul presents the Gospel message to them.

Gospel Message Topics Mentioned: 

Hell: 0 
Heaven: 0 
Sin: 2 
Jesus’ life: 1 
Jesus’ death: 1 
Jesus’ resurrection: 4 
Jesus’ lordship: 2 

But eventually the Jews became jealous when they saw that all of the Gentiles were flocking to hear what Paul had to say, so they stirred up trouble and started slandering them. The Jews kicked Paul and Barnabas out of town, but not before many Gentiles had become followers of Jesus.

Chapter 14

Paul and Barnabas go to Iconium and teach in the Jewish synagogue, and many Jews and Greeks become believers. But there were others who plotted to stone them, so they fled to Lystra and Derbe and spread the Gospel there. 

Paul preached the gospel in Lystra. Paul also healed a man lame from birth. The man leaped up and began to walk and thus so impressed the crowd that they took Paul for the god Hermes, because he was the "chief speaker," and his companion Barnabas for the god Zeus. The crowd spoke in the local Lycaonian language and wanted to offer sacrifices to them, but Paul and Barnabas tore their clothes in dismay and shouted that they were merely men. They used this opportunity to tell the Lystrans of the Creator God. Soon, however, through the influence of the Jewish leaders from Antioch, Pisidia and Iconium, they stoned Paul and left him for dead. As the disciples gathered around him, Paul stood on his feet and went back into the town. 

The next day, he and Barnabas left for Derbe; but on the return part of their journey, they stopped once more at Lystra, encouraging the disciples there to steadfastness. As they traveled through Lystra, Iconium and Antioch, they said to the believers “We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God.” Paul and Barnabas appointed elders for them in each church. 

After going through Pisidia, they came into Pamphylia, and when they had preached the word in Perga, they went down to Attalia. From Attalia they sailed back to Antioch. On arriving there, they gathered the church together and reported all that God had done through them and how he had opened a door of faith to the Gentiles. And they stayed there a long time with the disciples. 

Monday, September 18, 2017

READ IT! - Introduction to Acts 1-7

Readings for this week 

Monday: Acts 1
Tuesday: Acts 2
Wednesday: Acts 3
Thursday: Acts 4
Friday: Acts 5
Saturday: Acts 6
Sunday: Acts 7

Introduction to Acts 1-7

Context of Acts


Traditionally Luke, companion of Paul. The same person who wrote the Gospel ascribed to Luke, name unknown.


About A.D. 90.

Place of composition:

Unknown, perhaps Antioch or Ephesus


Addressed, like Luke’s Gospel, to Theophilus, representing Gentile Christians scattered throughout the Roman Empire.

Themes of Acts

The continuation of Luke’s Gospel 

An attempt to answer a theological problem, namely how the Messiah promised to the Jews came to have an overwhelmingly non-Jewish church

The Holy Spirit is the driving force behind the spread of the Christian message 

Chapter 1

Luke reminds his reader of where he left off in his former book. After the resurrection, Jesus appeared to his disciples many times over a period of forty days. At a meal, Jesus tells them not to leave Jerusalem until they receive the gift of the Holy Spirit they have been promised to give them power to be his witnesses to the world. 

After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight. They stood there staring, and two men in white clothes showed up and told them to stop staring because Jesus would come back in the same way he left. After the ascension, the eleven disciples return to the upper room where they had been staying, and they spend most of their time praying there, along with Jesus’ female disciples and his brothers and his mother Mary. 

Eventually, Peter tells everyone that they need to choose a new apostle to replace Judas Iscariot who had fulfilled the Scriptures by betraying Jesus and was now dead. Luke gives us some more information about Judas’ death here, saying that a field was bought with the blood-money he’d received, and that this field was the very place Judas had died. Luke adds that when Judas died, his body fell and burst open, and all of his intestines spilled out. 

The disciples nominated two men who had been with them from the time of John’s baptizing at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry – Joseph (aka Barsabbas or Justus) and Matthias. They prayed and cast lots and Matthias was chosen. 

Chapter 2

The Day of Pentecost was part of the Jewish system of festivals, and fell fifty days after the Passover. When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them. 

Luke says that Jerusalem was filled with Jews from all over the world – Jews that spoke in different languages – but when they heard the disciples speaking to them in their own languages they were amazed and listened to what they had to say. But some made fun and said they were drunk.

Peter stands up and tells the gathering crowd that there’s no way they’re drunk since it’s only nine in the morning, but what is happening to them is the fulfillment of what God had promised through the prophet Joel, when he said that in the last days “your sons and daughters will prophesy” and later the sky will be filled with wonders and the sun will turn black and the moon to blood before the coming of the great and glorious Day of the Lord. And everyone who calls on the Name of the Lord will be saved." 

We then see a presentation of The Gospel according to Peter 

Gospel Message Topics Mentioned: 

Hell: 0 
Heaven: 0 
Sin: one half (an addendum to the message) 
Jesus’ life: 1 
Jesus’ death: 3 
Jesus’ resurrection: 6 
Jesus’ lordship: 2 

Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles.

Luke tells us that all the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved. 

Chapter 3

One day, Peter and John are walking into the Temple when they see a crippled man begging for money. Peter tells the man to look him in the face, and the man does, thinking he’s about to get a donation. And he commands the man to stand up on his feet and walk in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth. He jumped to his feet and began to walk. Then he went with them into the temple courts, walking and jumping, and praising God. The people there who saw this were amazed. 

Peter then presents the Gospel message to the onlookers.

Gospel Message Topics Mentioned: 

Hell: 0 
Heaven: 0 
Sin: 2 
Jesus’ life: 1 
Jesus’ death: 2 
Jesus’ resurrection: 1 
Jesus’ lordship: 2 

Chapter 4

The priests and Sadducees got mad because the apostles were proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection of the dead. So they put Peter and John in jail overnight. But many who heard believed - about five thousand men. The next day, they questioned Peter and John about their power. Luke says that Peter was filled with the Holy Spirit and he presented the Gospel message to them… and he concludes:

Jesus is
“‘the stone you builders rejected,
    which has become the cornerstone.’

Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.”

Gospel Message Topics Mentioned: 

Hell: 0 
Heaven: 0 
Sin: 0 
Jesus’ life: 0 
Jesus’ death: 1 
Jesus’ resurrection: 1 
Jesus’ lordship: 1 

The elders were amazed at the courage and knowledge of the two disciples since they were not highly educated, and they took note that they had learned everything they knew from Jesus. But they didn’t know what to do with them because it was obvious that they had performed a legitimate miracle in Jesus’ name. So they told them not to speak in the name of Jesus anymore, but Peter and John say, “Which is better in God’s eyes: to listen to Him or to listen to you?” So the elders threaten them some more and let them go.

Peter and John returned to the others and they all pray for boldness and miracles in Jesus’ name. After they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly.

Luke then says that the first followers of Jesus did not consider their possessions to be their own but rather held them in common, in order to use what they had on behalf of those in want. For example, Barnabas, a Levite from Cyprus, sold a plot of land and donated the proceeds to the apostles. 

Chapter 5

Ananias and Sapphira, following Barnabas' example, also sold their land but secretly withheld a portion of the proceeds. But Peter calls Ananias out, asking him why he let Satan fill his heart with lies against the Holy Spirit. Peter points out that Ananias was in control of the money and could give or keep it as he saw fit, but had withheld a portion of it. Peter states that Ananias hadn’t lied to men, but to God, and then Ananias dies on the spot and is carried out, and everyone who hears about the incident is afraid. 

Three hours after Ananias' death his wife arrived, unaware of what had happened. Peter asked her the price of the land that she and Ananias had sold, and she stated the same untruthful price that Ananias had given. She also fell dead, apparently a punishment for deceiving God. 

What’s going on here? 

"Ananias and Sapphira" is a strange and disturbing story, but we must remember that all who belonged to the church both donated to the church and took a share of the donations made to the church for their own needs. These two were trying to rip everybody off by claiming to have less than what they really had in order to gain a bigger share to take from the church at the expense of the poor people who really needed help from the church. This story shows just how serious God is about the role of the church in looking out for the poor, and that those in the church who take advantage of the poor just to make themselves richer are as good as dead to him. 

Luke then says that the apostles performed many signs and wonders among the people. Even Peter’s shadow healed people. They used to meet together in Solomon’s Colonnade, but no one else dared join them, even though they were highly regarded by the people and more and more came to believe.

The High Priest and the Sadducees were very jealous of the disciples, so they arrested them and put them in the public jail. But during the night an angel of the Lord opened the doors of the jail and brought them out and told them to proclaim new life in the temple courts. The Sadducees eventually find them out of jail and back to preaching in the Temple… and they’re like “huh?”

So the captain of the guard summons the disciples, nervous that the people would riot if he forced them to come with him, but the disciples go willingly. The elders lecture them, saying, “We told you not to teach in Jesus’ name again! You’re determined to make us look bad for having him killed!” Peter and the other apostles replied: “We must obey God rather than human beings!” When they heard this, they were furious and wanted to put them to death. 

But a Pharisee named Gamaliel, a teacher of the law, who was honored by all the people, stood up in the Sanhedrin and ordered that the men be put outside for a little while. Later, the Apostle Paul makes the claim that he was originally one of Gamaliel’s disciples. Gamaliel tells the Sanhedrin that they should leave the disciples of Jesus alone, because if Jesus was nobody special, then his disciples will eventually all fall away like every other movement, but if this movement is from God, they will not be able to stop these men and they will only find themselves fighting against God. 

So they flog them, order them not to speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go. But day after day, in the temple courts and from house to house, they never stopped teaching and proclaiming the good news that Jesus is the Messiah. 

Chapter 6

Time goes by, and the church grows. Eventually, the Greek-speaking Jewish widows complain that they are being overlooked in favor of Aramaic-speaking Jewish widows during the food distribution process. So the Twelve disciples decide that they need help with this “waiting tables” ministry so they can focus on preaching the Gospel, and they appoint seven people to take their place here. They chose seven men who were wise and filled with the Spirit (they also spoke Greek) named: Stephen, Philip, Procorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolas. 

Stephen performed miraculous signs and wonders among the people, but there was a group of Jews who saw him as competition – the Synagogue of the Freedmen. So they plotted against him and spread a rumor that Stephen had committed blasphemy. So the Jewish elders arrested Stephen and brought him in for questioning, and false witnesses accused him of teaching that Jesus would return to destroy the Temple and the traditions of Moses. The text says that all “who were sitting in the Sanhedrin looked intently at Stephen, and they saw that his face was like the face of an angel.” 

Chapter 7

The High Priest asks Stephen if the charges against him are true, and Stephen responds by giving everyone a history lesson… 

He starts with the History of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob… and then the History of Joseph… followed by the History of Moses… and then the History of the Exodus… and then the History of the Law… followed by the Temple history. But then he suddenly stops, and he begins accusing his accusers… calling them stiff-necked, uncircumcised, Spirit-resisting, law-breaking, prophet-persecuting, Messiah-murderers.

When they heard this, they were furious and gnashed their teeth at him. But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. They covered their ears and, yelling at the top of their voices, they all rushed at him, dragged him out of the city and began to stone him. 

Meanwhile, the text states that the witnesses laid their coats at the feet of a young man named Saul… we’ll hear more about him later. 

While they were stoning him, Stephen prayed, like Jesus, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” Then he fell on his knees and cried out, like Jesus, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.”

And Saul approved of his death.

Monday, September 11, 2017

READ IT! - Introduction to Leviticus 21-27

Readings for this week:

Monday: Leviticus 21
Tuesday: Leviticus 22
Wednesday: Leviticus 23
Thursday: Leviticus 24
Friday: Leviticus 25
Saturday: Leviticus 26
Sunday: Leviticus 27

Introduction to Leviticus 21-27

The name “Leviticus” refers to the tribe of the Levites, who were given special commands to follow as a part of the Sinai Covenant. The Levites became Israel’s priests and were entrusted with the task of offering different atoning sacrifices to God on behalf of the people as well as making sure the people followed the Law. The last section of the book, is addressed specifically to the levitical priests.

Chapters 21-22

First we have some general Rules for Priests, such as…

Don’t shave your heads.
Don’t cut yourselves.
Don’t marry prostitutes.
Don’t have messy hair.
Stay away from dead bodies.
Don’t disrespect the offerings people give to God.

We’re then given a list of people who cannot become Israelite priests, including…

Blind people
Lame people
Deformed people
People with crippled hands or feet
People with poor eyesight
People with festering or running sores
People with damaged testicles

That’s then followed by a list of what is considered to be unacceptable sacrifices, which includes…

Blind animals
Injured animals
Maimed animals
Animals with warts
Animals with festering or running sores
Animals with bruised, crushed, torn, or cut testicles (blech...)

Animals that are younger than eight days old

Chapter 23

At this point, the book switches over to the topic of holidays… or… holy days. There are seven appointed festivals the priests are to lead the people in celebrating every year.

The Passover
The Festival of Unleavened Bread
Offering the Firstfruits
The Festival of Weeks (aka Pentecost)
The Festival of Trumpets (aka Rosh Hashanah)
The Day of Atonement (aka Yom Kippur)
The Festival of Tabernacles (aka Feast of Booths, Feast of Ingathering, Sukkot)

Now… what’s interesting about these festivals is that when you compare the details of these festivals from the Old Testament with the events of the life of Jesus that occurred during these festivals, you find some unusual patterns.

In ancient Israel, The Passover was a celebration of Israel’s redemption from Egypt. Five days before Passover, the sacrificial lamb was picked. And on Passover, the lamb was killed.

Then when we compare that to the life of Jesus, we learn that Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday happens five days before Passover and the people choose him to be king. And on Passover night, Jesus is arrested and sentenced to death.

In ancient Israel, we see The Festival of Unleavened Bread in which the people are commanded to eat bread made without yeast, and so they eat bread without leaven or “life” and the people pray, “give us life out of the earth.”

Then when we compare that to the life of Jesus, we learn that during this same festival, Jesus is buried… without life… in the earth.

In ancient Israel, we see the Offering of the Firstfruits, in which the people would give the priest the first grain of their harvest and then the priest would present it to the lord.

Then when we compare that to the life of Jesus, we learn that Jesus rose from his earthly grave at the beginning of this feast. Jesus came to be known as the firstfruits of the resurrection. Jesus also ascended into heaven near the end of this feast.

In ancient Israel, the Festival of Weeks (aka Pentecost) comes exactly fifty days after the Passover. It is the celebration of the giving of the Law at Mount Sinai. At which time Moses put to death 3000 rebels.

Then when we compare that to the life of Jesus, we learn that the Holy Spirit comes exactly fifty days after Jesus’ death. The Holy Spirit is known as the “law written on our hearts” and the spirit filled 3000 new believers with life on that day.

In ancient Israel, we also see the Festival of Trumpets (aka Rosh Hashanah)… where on the first day of the seventh month, the people are to have a day of Sabbath rest, “a sacred assembly commemorated with trumpet blasts.”

Now… when we compare that to the life of Jesus, we don’t see much of anything… other than the fact that we are told that Christ will return at the sound of a trumpet blast… leading some scholars to speculate that the second coming of Christ will occur on this holiday… but again, that’s just speculation.

In ancient Israel, we see the Day of Atonement (aka Yom Kippur)… which was the one day of the year that the priest would enter the Holy of Holies to offer atonement for the entire nation.

In the life of Jesus, the obvious correlation would be the crucifixion. However, the crucifixion didn’t happen on Yom Kippur, which has led some scholars to speculate that a better correlation to the Day of Atonement would be the Day of Judgment.

And finally, in ancient Israel, we see the The Festival of Tabernacles (aka Feast of Booths, Feast of Ingathering, Sukkot) …which was a week-long festival that came five days after the Day of Atonement. Everyone would stay in tents for the week to remind them of their wilderness wanderings and they would present food offerings to God on the eighth day. It was a time of rejoicing and a celebration of entry into the promised land.

When we compare that to the life of Jesus, we learn that the birth of Jesus took place during this festival. We know this from Luke’s chronology which has Jesus being born a year after Zechariah entered the temple on the Day of Atonement.
So yeah, sorry folks, but Walmart may be on to something… since Jesus was actually born in late September. The Gospel of John says that Jesus came and “made his tent” among us, like in the festival of booths. Also, the angels sang the song of this festival the night of Jesus’ birth. Jesus lived in a stable for a week. Jesus was offered to God on the eighth day. And in Jesus, the kingdom of heaven… the promised land… comes to earth.

Chapter 24

In this chapter, Aaron is appointed to tend the lamps of the Tabernacle and set out the bread before the LORD. Later, an Israelite blasphemed God so the people took him outside and stoned him.

Chapter 25

After all this, the text goes on to talk about The Sabbath Year, in which every seven years, the land was to have a rest from planting and harvesting; as well as The Year of Jubilee, in which after seven cycles of the Sabbath Year, came the Year of Jubilee in the 50th year.

Everyone was commanded to celebrate, and all debts were to be forgiven because all debts belong to God and He has forgiven them. All slaves were to be set free because all people belong to God and he sets all people free. All property would be returned to its original owners because all the land belongs to God. And everyone was commanded to look out for poor people because God looked out for Israel when they themselves were poor in Egypt.

Chapter 26

God then lays out the consequences for his people’s actions, letting them know they will be rewarded for their obedience and punished for their disobedience.

If they obey, God says…

“I will send you rain in its season, and the ground will yield its crops and the trees their fruit.”
“I will grant peace in the land, and you will lie down and no one will make you afraid.”
“I will look on you with favor and make you fruitful and increase your numbers, and I will keep my covenant with you.”

But if they disobey, God says…

“I will bring on you sudden terror, wasting diseases and fever that will destroy your sight and sap your strength.”
“You will be defeated by your enemies…”
“I will turn your cities into ruins and lay waste your sanctuaries, and I will take no delight in the pleasing aroma of your offerings.”
“I will scatter you among the nations…”
“…the land will have the rest it did not have during the Sabbaths you lived in it.”

But God also says…

“But if they will confess their sins…I will remember my covenant with Jacob and my covenant with Isaac and my covenant with Abraham.”

Chapter 27

And the book closes by saying, “If anyone dedicates a person or land to the LORD you shall make a valuation. A tithe of everything from the land belongs to the LORD.”