Category Archives: Jesus Ministry

One of the Prophetic Promises of 2016 - #Divineprotection

HOW TO UNDERSTAND THE BIBLE PROPHETS

Malachi (מַלְאָכִיMal’akhiy) meaning my messenger or my angel is one of the most mysterious Bible prophets.  Though a revered spokesperson of God, there are few details about him outside of Scripture.
He is the last of the Minor Prophets in the Tanakh (Jewish Bible), placed in that position because Judaism traditionally believes that prophecy ceased with him and will only be renewed in the Messianic age.

Continue reading HOW TO UNDERSTAND THE BIBLE PROPHETS

RESURRECTION OF JESUS

Blessings to you on this day as we celebrate Yeshua’s (Jesus)

resurrection and victory over the power of sin and death on Passover!

The resurrection of Jesus is the Christian religious belief that, after being to death, Jesus rose again from the dead. it is the central tenet of Christian theology and past of the Nicene creed

Rev Samuel F Sarpong

THE SIGNIFICANCE OF PASSOVER

“For I know that my redeemer liveth, and that He shall stand at the latter day upon the earth: And . . . in my flesh shall I see God.”  (Job 19:25–26)
On Monday night, we celebrated the Passover Seder recounting how the Angel of Death passed over the homes of the Israelites and all those in Egypt who applied the blood of the Passover lamb to their lintels and doorposts.
Two thousand years ago, 12 men celebrating the Passover Seder in Jerusalem were told by their rabbi and master, Yeshua (Jesus), that this would be their last Seder together. 

Continue reading THE SIGNIFICANCE OF PASSOVER

WHAT IS PROPHECY

Hebrew Scriptures that Yeshua (Jesus) is the Messiah.

Ancient Rabbis and Christians agree on many things about the Messiah.

They This week we are bringing you the prophecy of Genesis 49, that again proves from the agree that he will be an offspring of Eve, whom God promised would defeat evil (Genesis 3:15), and that he will be from the line of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Judah and King David.

Judah, however, had been specially favored.

In Genesis 49:8–12, Jacob blesses Judah and his descendants with much more than the physical seed of the Messiah.

“Judah, your brothers will praise you. … You are a lion’s cub, Judah. … The scepter will not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, until Shiloh comes and the obedience of the nations shall be his.”

This prophecy presents a mystery of sorts, and as with any good mystery, there are clues to solve it.  The three clues of this prophecy are:

  • Scepter
  • Ruler’s staff
  • ShilohAs you discover the truth, you will be specially blessed!
  • In this article, we’ll look at what Rabbis and Christians tell us about these clues and the Messiah in the blessing of Judah.  We’ll also learn more about God’s plan for the nation of Israel and the world.

The Messiah in Judah’s Blessing

“You will not be called Jacob any longer,” God says.”From now on your name will be Israel.”  (Genesis 35:10)

From Israel, the twelve tribes and the Messiah would be born.

One of Israel’s sons, Joseph, seems especially suited to carry the seed of the Messiah.

Joseph’s brothers despised him and sold him into slavery in Egypt where he rose to power as the second in command and saved the lives of his family and many of the nations surrounding Egypt.

In this and many other ways, Joseph’s life is thought to foreshadow the life of Yeshua (Jesus).

The Glory of Joseph (c. 1900), by James Tissot

Rabbis through the ages have written about and are expecting a Messiah who will be the son of Joseph. They call him Messiah ben Joseph.  But in Judaism, there is also a Messiah who will be the son of David (Messiah ben David).

1 Chronicles 5:2 speaks about these two Messiahs: “Because Judah was the strongest of his brothers a ruler came from him, but the rights of the firstborn belonged to Joseph.”

We’ll look at this expected “first Messiah” in another article.

When referring to the Messiah who ushers in the End-Time Messianic Kingdom, we are speaking about Messiah ben David (Messiah son of David), who is from the tribe of Judah.

Let us now turn our attention back to Judah (from whom the scepter will not depart).

After living a long and eventful life, Israel (whose name was originally Jacob) realizes he is nearing the end of his life and desires to reveal a mystery to his twelve sons that no man of God had yet spoken:

“Come together,” Israel says to his sons, “that I may tell you what is to befall you in the end of days [acharit hayamim].”  (Genesis 49:1)

Father blesses his sons.  (Photo by Lilach Daniel)

Jacob reveals this mystery in verses 8–12 as he rests his hand on his fourth son Judah and prophesies:

The SCEPTER (shevet, שבט) will not depart from Judah.

The Hebrew word Shevet (שבט) means different things in different passages.

In most passages in the Tanakh (Old Testament), shevet means tribe.  But it can mean much more.  For example, Numbers 24:17 prophesies that “a star shall rise out of Jacob and a scepter (shevet) out of Israel.”

Our prophecy in Genesis also speaks of a ruler’s staff or scepter that will rule the nations.

What is a scepter?

In Hebrew, shevet is a rod used for chastisement or the staff a shepherd uses to guide his sheep (Psalm 23:4).  But when written in this context, this rod or staff represents the royal authority of a king, as we see in this psalm:

“Your throne, O God, is forever and ever.  The scepter of your kingdom is a scepter of uprightness.”  (Psalm 45:6)

Judah will serve as ruler in Israel with this scepter.

Genesis 38: Judah gives his scepter to Tamar (1728), by Gerard Hoet (1648–1733), and others.  (Photo courtesy of Bizzell Bible Collection at the University of Oklahoma)

The ruler’s staff (mekhokek in Hebrew) will not depart from between Judah’s feet.

In ancient Israel, legislators would speak among the feet of the people as they sat on the ground in semicircles (Luke 23:1).

Judah’s line will carry this responsibility, possessing the ruler’s staff (mekhokek וּמְחֹקֵ֖ק), and the authority to inscribe laws among the people of Israel.

The ruler’s staff is another way of saying scepter.

Judah will be seen as a lion’s cub

Though Judah and his offspring will hold the scepter of rule and law over God’s chosen people, their reign will remain limited to Israel.

Yet, one will come from Judah as a mature lion who will rule and judge the whole world.

What does all this have to do with the end of days (acharit hayamim)?

Judah will hold this ruling authority until Shiloh comes, to whom belongs the scepter, the rule of law, the one we obey.

Judah would only be a shadow or placeholder until the true ruler arrives.

And the obedience of the nation’s (amim) shall be his.

The word in Hebrew for nations here is amim, which includes much more than merely the word for people (am); it means all people in all nations (amim) will obey the new scepter holder.

If we are supposed to give our full obedience to Shiloh, we surely need to know who or where is Shiloh.

Jewish man worships at the Western (Wailing) Wall.

 

Who or Where Is SHILOH?

The Hebrew word Shiloh (שלה) is often written in Christian Bibles as belonging to him.  We can say, then, that Shiloh is the one to whom belongs the scepter.

Rabbis, however, have found another meaning for Shiloh embedded within Psalm 76:11:

“Vow and pay to the Lord your God; all those around Him will bring a gift to Him Who is to be feared.”

Looking at the Hebrew in this psalm, Rabbinic writings tell us that Shiloh (שלה) was thought to come from these two words:

  • a gift (שַׁי) pronounced shi
  • to him (לוֹ) pronounced lo.What better gift could we give the new scepter holder than our obedience?However, this is not the only Hebraic reference to Shiloh as the Messiah. Here are two excerpts:“He who exercised dominion shall not pass away from the house of Judah, nor the scribe from his children’s children forever, until Messiah shall come.  Whose is the kingdom, and whom the peoples shall obey.”  (Targum Onkelos, AD 35–120)Ancient commentaries written down by Rabbis from AD 200–500 (known as the Midrash and Talmud) also tell us Shiloh is the Messiah, such as this one:Rabbis have commonly held several names and roles for Mashiach (Messiah), and Shiloh was one of them:Prominent Medieval Rabbis also agree that Shiloh refers to Messiah.Rabbi David Kimhi (1160–1235) known as Radak points out that the word Shiloh (שילו) is related to the word shilyat (שלית), which means the placenta after a child is born known as the afterbirth.These are only a handful of references in Rabbinic writings telling the Jewish People that Shiloh is the Messiah, and to him belongs the scepter.Tel Shiloh, located in southern Samaria, is the site of ancient Shilo and part of the modern Jewish settlement of Shiloh.  (Photo: wikicommons)“The entire assembly of the Israelis gathered together at Shiloh and set up the Tent of Meeting there, where the land lay conquered before them.”  (Joshua 18:1)If the blessing is referring to this town, then Judah held the scepter of rulership only until the Hebrews conquered the Promised Land and moved the tabernacle to Shiloh.“The scepter will not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, until Shiloh comes [until they come to Shiloh] and the obedience of the nations shall be his.”Shilo and Jerusalem in ancient Israel. As a result of Solomon’s disobedience, the nation of Israel split in two. Benjamin and Judah became the Kingdom of Judea.  The other ten tribes became the Kingdom of Israel to the north.The Scepter Departs from JudahIn Scripture, the prophecy is reinforced (or strengthened) by God making a covenant with King David to ensure that a seed of his will be on the throne forevermore:The uninterrupted line of the kings of Judah spanned from BC 1010–587, some 423 years.Kings in the line of David stayed on the throne even in exile when Nebuchadnezzar placed the last Jewish king, Zedekiah, as his “puppet king” over Judea.And no descendant of Judah and David has arrived to take their place as king on the throne to hold the scepter.To answer that, we must understand the conditions placed on the scepter by God Himself.The privilege given to Judah in holding the scepter depended on Israel’s obedience.There were good kings who followed God and bad kings who led the people astray.For these reasons, the descending lineage of Judah and David lost the throne.
  • Flight of the Prisoners (c. 1900), by James Tissot.  After decades of disobedience, the people of Judea are taken captive into Babylon.  After King Zedekiah’s reign ended (586 BC), never again did a king from the line of Judah sit on a throne in Israel or Judea.
  • The wicked kings of Israel and Judea blatantly followed pagan gods; some even sacrificed their babies to Molech and took advantage of people without repentance.
  • “If your sons keep my covenant and my testimonies that I shall teach them, their sons also forever shall sit on your throne.’”  (Psalm 132:12; 2 Chronicles 6:16)
  • Western Wall stones dropped by the Romans from the Temple Mount as they destroyed the Second Temple in AD 70.
  • So how could the prophecy of Genesis 49 be fulfilled, since there have been no more potential kings of Israel to fulfill it?
  • After Zedekiah, never again did a king or ruler come from the line of Judah and David.
  • (Source: Wikicommons)
  • “I will be to him a father, and he shall be to me a son. I will not take my steadfast love from him, as I took it from him who was before you [Saul], but I will confirm him in my house and in my kingdom forever, and his throne shall be established forever.’”  (1 Chronicles 17:13–14)
  • Though Judah was given the king’s scepter, Rabbis through the millennia have taught that the prophecy starts with David the shepherd boy, son of Jesse who was the first king from the tribe of Judah.
  • The majority of rabbis disagree with this interpretation, as they interpret Shiloh as the Messiah.
  • These few rabbis interpret Judah’s blessing in Genesis 49:10 to say “until they come to Shiloh [the town]” instead of “until Shiloh comes.”
  • A few rabbis have believed that this place is the Shiloh in Judah’s blessing.
  • About 25 miles north of Jerusalem is a town called Shiloh, where the priests of Israel were instructed to set up the Tabernacle of Moses.
  • In the Bible and today in modern times Shiloh is also a town.
  • He concludes that the scepter and ruling staff belong to Shiloh, a descendant of David (see Deuteronomy 28:57).
  • Rabbi Shlomo Itzhaki (1040–1105) known as Rashi wrote that Shiloh refers to “The King Messiah, to whom the kingdom belongs [שלו]” pronounced shelo.
  • “The Messiah has been given seven names, and they are: Yinnon, Our Righteousness, Shoot, Comforter, David, Shiloh, Elijah.”  (Midrash on Proverbs 19 and 21, quoting Rabbi Huna (AD 216296) a scholar of the Talmud in Babylon).
  • “The rulership abideth with the tribe of Judah until the arrival of Shiloh i.e. Messiah.”  (Midrash Rabbah)
  • These Bible translations were read in synagogues to the common people in Aramaic after the Scriptures were read in Hebrew.  The people were taught in these Aramaic Bibles that Shiloh is Messiah.
  • “Kings shall not cease, nor rulers from the house of Judah, nor sopherim teaching the law from his seed, till the time that King Messiah shall come, who will arise from Judah.”  (Targum Jonathan Ben Uzziel, 50 BC–present)
  • Written before and after the time of Yeshua, several Aramaic translations of the Bible (the Targumim written between 100 BC and AD 200) portray Shiloh from Genesis 49:10 as the Messiah.
  • Aramaic was the common language of the day in Israel.
  • Orthodox Jewish man delivers gifts on Purim in the Mea Shearim neighborhood of Jerusalem.
  • Based on this understanding, the words “UNTIL SHILOH COME … indicates that all the nations of the world will bring a gift to Messiah the son of David,” as is written in the Midrash Rabbah Genesis.  (see Psalm 76:11, verse 12 in Hebrew Bible)

If there is no throne to rule from, then there is no king to hold the scepter.

According to Rabbi Moses ben Nachman (c. 1194–1280), known as Ramban, there is another good explanation for this.

Ramban said that God was angry at the northern kingdom of Israel for having kings on the throne from other tribes—and so the prophet Achiyah said, “I will afflict the seed of David for this, but not forever.”  (1 Kings 11:39)

Even though David’s line would suffer a break in their kingly rule, God’s covenant with David still stands: God alone will raise up an everlasting King from David’s seed to sit on an everlasting throne.  (2 Samuel 7:12–17)

White Horseman (1918), by Nicholas Roerich may depict Daniel 7:13:  “In my vision at night I looked, and there before me was one like a son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into His presence.”

 

The Scepter of Righteousness Belongs to Yeshua

When we consider all the details of the scepter holder, as first prophesied over Judah, they lead us to Yeshua (Jesus) who meets the requirements:

The scepter holder must be the King whom all peoples of all nations will one day obey:

“Judah, your brothers will praise you. … You are a lion’s cub. … The scepter will not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, until Shiloh comes and the obedience of the nations shall be his.”  (Genesis 49:8–12)

In addition to receiving the obedience of the nations, kings will see what they were not told and understand what they had not heard (Isaiah 52:15).

The Prophet Isaiah also tells us that “In his teaching the islands will put their hope” and he will be “a light for the Gentiles” so that “salvation may reach to the ends of the earth.”  (Isaiah 42:4, 49:6)

Two billion people today, including Jewish Believers, have accepted Yeshua HaMashiach (Jesus the Messiah) as their Lord, their Savior, and their hope.

Flag of Jerusalem, which is in the territory of Judea, features the Lion of the Tribe of Judah over Western Wall stones designed on a prayer shawl motif.   The Hebrew letters above the emblem spell Yerushalayim (Jerusalem).

 

The Scepter of Judgement and Rule Belongs to the Lion of the Tribe of Judah

While we now enjoy our Messiah Yeshua as our Lord in the heavenlies, He will come down as the Lion of the tribe of Judah at the very end of days (acharit hayamim).

“Behold, the Lion of the tribe of Juda, the Root of David, hath prevailed to open the book, and to loose the seven seals thereof. …”  (Revelation 5:5)

Here, in the Book of Revelation, as prophecy comes to a close for all humanity, the Lion of the Tribe of Judah is revealed as the Lamb who had been slain to claim the final victory over death and reign on earth forevermore:

“In the midst of the elders, stood a Lamb as it had been slain . . . . And they sung a new song, saying, Thou art worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof: for thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation; And hast made us unto our God kings and priests: and we shall reign on the earth.”  (Revelation 5:6–10)

The seventh and final shofar in the Book of Revelation will sound when Yeshua returns to Jerusalem, hailing Him as King Messiah (Revelation 11:15).

 

Yeshua Is Returning Very Soon

Since the rebirth of Israel as a nation in 1948, prophecy is being fulfilled with Jews returning en masse.  Almost half of the world’s Jewish population now lives in Israel!

The plans to rebuild the Temple in Jerusalem are taking place even as you are reading this article!

The Jewish Priesthood has been identified through DNA testing and other records, and these men have been trained for Temple Service.

The blueprints for the rebuilding of the Temple have already been drafted and approved by Israeli politicians.

Only the Dome of the Rock and the Al-Aqsa mosque stand in the way of the rebuilding of the Jewish Temple in which King Messiah will one day take His rightful place.

The Golden Gate to the Old City of Jerusalem was last sealed in the early 12th century by the Ottomon Turks, who also placed a Muslim cemetery in front of it to (it is thought) prevent Elijah and the Messiah from entering.

In the Book of Acts, the disciples stood with Jesus on the Mount of Olives, just across the valley from where the Temple stood, when they saw Him ascend into heaven.

Two men dressed in white (angels) explained to them that Yeshua will come back to this same place.

In Jewish tradition the Messiah will enter through the Golden Gate.  This is the only gate directly across from the Mount of Olives.

The Messiah (Shiloh) will then take His rightful place that belongs to Him (shelo / shiloh) in the new rebuilt Temple in Jerusalem.

Samuel, we are living in the most exciting times of history, right in the cusp of seeing Yeshua return to Jerusalem, hopefully in our lifetimes!

“Look, I am coming soon! My reward is with Me, and I will give to each person according to what they have done.”  (Revelation 22:12)

Rev Samuel F Sarpong

The amazing grace

DELIVERANCE

Tonight and tomorrow, we celebrate one of the most joyous and fun-filled holidays on the Jewish calendarPurim (Feast of Lots).
This festive day commemorates God’s victory and deliverance of the Jewish People from their enemies in ancient Persia.

Continue reading DELIVERANCE

Jesus is the restoration of your family :)

JESUS

Does Yeshua (Jesus) pass the first test of Messiahship?

Rabbis have taught us through the millennia that Messiah would come as the Son of David.  God personally made that promise to David in the Scriptures, such as 1 Chronicles 17:11:

“And it shall come to pass, when your days be expired that you must go to be with your fathers, that I will raise up your seed after you, which shall be of your sons; and I will establish his kingdom.”

Continue reading JESUS

MINITRY

As a Ministry, Bible For Israel believes that Yeshua (Jesus) is the Messiah.  
We have such assurance because of prophecies like Micah 5:2 (5:1 in the Hebrew Bible), which seems to clearly identify Bethlehem as the birthplace of the Messiah.
For 2,000 years, Christians have pointed to and relied on this prophecy as one piece of evidence to prove Yeshua’s true spiritual identity.

Continue reading MINITRY

THE LORD SAID

This is the portion of Torah that will be read in synagogues around the world during the Shabbat (Saturday) service.  Please read it along with us.  We know you will be blessed!
Parasha Bo (Come!)
Exodus 10:1–13:16; Jeremiah 46:13–28; Revelation 9:1–21
“Then the LORD said to Moses, ‘Go [Bo / come] to Pharaoh, for I have hardened his heart and the hearts of his officials so that I may perform these signs of mine among them.’”  (Exodus 10:1)

Moses and Aaron with Pharaoh, by Marc Chagall
In last week’s Parasha, we read of the first seven calamities (makot) that God inflicted upon Egypt to persuade Pharaoh to release the Israelites from slavery.
This week in Parasha Bo, God sends the most devastating and final three plagues:  locust, darkness and death of the firstborn.
After the final plague, Pharaoh finally acquiesces, triggering the Exodus of the Hebrews.
But what were the purposes of the Ten Plagues?  To pressure Pharaoh to let the Israelites go free?  Perhaps, but God is fully capable of setting His people free without a king’s permission.
We see in this Parasha and the last that God does not see the Egyptians simply as an enemy to be overcome; rather, He is committed to communicating something vital to them:
“I will bring judgment on all the gods of Egypt.  I am the LORD.”  (Exodus 12:12)

A 13-year-old Jewish boy gets a little help carrying the Torah scroll.  The
average weight of a Torah scroll is 20 to 25 pounds, not including the
protective case called a Torah tik.
The plagues demonstrate God’s supremacy over and judgment on all the false gods of Egypt.
When Moses first asked Pharaoh to let the Israelites go, he responded, ”Who is YHVH, that I should obey His voice to let Israel go?”  (Exodus 5:2)
The God of Israel wants everyone to know who He is.  And He wanted to make sure that Pharaoh and all of Egypt knew Him, too.
He even told Pharaoh that He was sending the powerful plague of hail, “so that you [Pharaoh] may know that there is none like Me in all the earth.”  (Exodus 9:14)
Pharaoh Notes the Importance of the Jewish People, by James Tissot
In the end, Pharaoh did come to realize the power of the God of Israel.
But God was not only concerned about the beliefs of the Egyptians.  The Torah indicates that God hardened Pharaoh’s heart in order to demonstrate His power to all the nations as well as the powerlessness of their false gods.
God does not want to be known only to this one nation of Israel, either.  He wants His name to be proclaimed in every nation on earth:
“For this purpose I have raised you [Pharaoh] up, that I may show My power in you, and that My name may be declared in all the earth.”  (Exodus 9:16)
And God certainly did make Himself known to Pharaoh through the final three plagues.

An Orthodox Jewish man prays at the Western (Wailing)
Wall in Jerusalem.
The Eighth Plague: Locusts (Arbeh אַרְבֶּה)
“If you refuse to let My people go, behold, tomorrow I will bring locusts into your territory.  And they shall cover the face of the earth, so that no one will be able to see the earth; and they shall eat the residue of what is left, which remains to you from the hail, and they shall eat every tree which grows up for you out of the field.”  (Exodus 10:4–5)
Parasha Bo begins with the eighth plague upon Egypt—locusts.  They devoured all the crops and vegetation of Egypt that remained after the hail.
Even though locusts are driven by the wind, a plague of locusts is so devastating that it cuts off the light of the sun and wipes out the food supply of the affected area.
In the Book of Joel, this plague makes another appearance, ravaging the land.  The Prophet Joel links it to sin and the Last Days, exhorting Israel to repent and return to the Lord.
God promises Israel that He will make up for all the years that the swarming locusts have devoured:
“I will repay you for the years the locusts have eaten—the great locust and the young locust, the other locusts and the locust swarm—My great army that I sent among you.  You will have plenty to eat, until you are full, and you will praise the name of the Lord your God, who has worked wonders for you; never again will My people be shamed.”  (Joel 2:25–26)

Swarm of locusts in Madagascar
Locusts are also mentioned in the Brit Chadashah (New Testament) as one of the end-time plagues upon the earth.
With the sounding of the fifth shofar in the Last Days, locusts emerge from the bottomless pit.
They will not harm the vegetation, but they will have the power to sting like a scorpion and torment men who do not have the seal of God on their foreheads.
“Then out of the smoke locusts came upon the earth.  And to them was given power, as the scorpions of the earth have power.  They were commanded not to harm the grass of the earth, or any green thing, or any tree, but only those men who do not have the seal of God on their foreheads.”  (Revelation 9:3–4)

In the ninth plague, God revealed to the Egyptians that
their sun god Ra was nothing but stone and that the God
of Israel is the One True God.
The Ninth Plague: Darkness (Hosek חוֹשֶך)
“Then the LORD said to Moses, ‘Stretch out your hand toward the sky so that darkness will spread over Egypt—darkness that can be felt.’  So Moses stretched out his hand toward the sky, and total darkness covered all Egypt for three days.  No one could see anyone else or leave his place for three days.”  (Exodus 10:21–23)
With the ninth plague of darkness, Adonai delivered a crushing blow to the worship of the Egyptian sun god, Ra, demonstrating the folly of believing in idols and mythical deities.
Although the Egyptians were plunged into total darkness, the Israelites enjoyed light in their dwellings in the land of Goshen.
While everyone outside the shelter of God’s covenant live in ever deepening darkness, especially as the end of the age approaches, the light of Believers in Yeshua shines ever more brightly.  (Proverbs 4:18)
Today, there are so many reports of evil, and many are fearful of what may come upon us.  Nevertheless, even when there is total, paralyzing darkness in the world, we can still have light in our dwellings, just as the Israelites had in Goshen.

Shabbat candles
It is time for us to stop cursing the darkness and, instead, start living in the light.
Instead of complaining, murmuring and fault finding over the darkness of “Egypt” (the world), we can be all that God has made us to be, shining as lights in the midst of a dark and perverse generation.  (Philippians 2:14–15)
And if we think that we do not know the Word enough to be a bright light, we must remember that even the smallest of lights shine brilliantly in the darkest of places.
The Bible says that the wicked stumble in the darkness and do not even know what makes them trip.  (Proverbs 4:19)
When people are in complete darkness, they cannot perceive anything outside of themselves.  In this state of darkness, it is easy to live in a completely self-centered, miserable world.  Often a symptom of this darkness is using people for self-benefit.
But God’s presence in our lives promotes a kind of love that is giving, not self-seeking.  (1 Corinthians 13:5)

Torah scroll and yad (Torah pointer)
We need Yeshua, the Light of the World to set us free from our own preoccupation with ourselves so that we may truly love our neighbor.
Sadly, far too many of us who have been set free from darkness to live in the light still willfully stumble in the darkness of unforgiveness, bitterness, and resentment.  We must determine to let these go and walk in God’s holy Light.
Just as paralyzing darkness fell on Egypt, many in the world will one day experience a great, devastating darkness, which is one of the end-time plagues mentioned in the Book of Revelation.
When the angel pours out the fifth bowl of God’s wrath, the kingdom of the beast will be plunged into total darkness.  This foreshadows the state of people who descend into Sheol (hell), where there is a complete absence of all light.  Revelation tells us that even this will not convince the servants of Satan to repent and turn to the Maker of All.
“Then the fifth angel poured out his bowl on the throne of the beast, and his kingdom became full of darkness; and they gnawed their tongues because of the pain.  They blasphemed the God of heaven because of their pains and their sores, and did not repent of their deeds.”  (Revelation 16:10–11)

Ultra-Orthodox teens walk together at the Kotel (Western Wall) Plaza
in Jerusalem.
The Tenth Plague: The Striking of the Firstborn (Macat B’Chorot מַכַּת בְּכוֹרוֹת)
“This is what the LORD says: ‘About midnight I will go throughout Egypt.  Every firstborn in Egypt will die, from the firstborn son of Pharaoh, who sits on the throne, to the firstborn of the slave girl, who is at her hand mill, and all the firstborn of the cattle as well.  There will be loud wailing throughout Egypt—worse than there has ever been or ever will be again.”  (Exodus 11:4–6)
When Pharaoh still refused to repent and relent after the Plague of Darkness, God sent the tenth and most devastating plague—the Striking of the Firstborn of Egypt.
Egypt’s king refused to let God’s firstborn (Israel) go, so God took Pharaoh’s firstborn and those of his loyal subjects.  The word is clear—God will treat the nations (and individuals) as they have treated Israel!
God acts on behalf of His people and judgment will fall on the enemies of Israel.
While Pharaoh was perhaps unmoved, remaining stubborn and proud as the rest of the land suffered under God’s hand, when God struck down his firstborn son, the hardness of his heart was broken through.
How tragic that it took the death of Pharaoh’s own child to bring him to the place of humility and submission where he was willing to let God’s people go.

Women pray at the Western (Wailing) Wall in Jerusalem.
May our hearts be soft toward the leading of the Ruach HaKodesh (Holy Spirit) so that God will never need to use ever increasingly painful disciplinary measures to break through our stubborn and willful pride and bring us into a holy place before Him.
Moses prepared the people of Israel for this final judgment on Egypt by instructing them to sacrifice a lamb and to put its blood on the tops and sides of their doors.
“And they shall take some of the blood and put it on the two doorposts and on the lintel of the houses where they eat it.”  (Exodus 12:7)
The blood of the Passover lamb served as the sign that caused the judgment to “pass over” the Israelites, sparing them from suffering the wrath of God that fell upon the Egyptians.
“Now the blood shall be a sign for you on the houses where you are.  And when I see the blood, I will pass over you; and the plague shall not be on you to destroy you when I strike the land of Egypt.”  (Exodus 12:13)

Lamb
At the conclusion of this Parasha, Moses leads the children of Israel out of Egypt, and the Lord gives them the ordinances of the Passover.
Thus the Lord did all He had promised; not one Word that the Lord had spoken was left unfulfilled.  Reminding ourselves of this helps us to also trust in God’s faithfulness, power and mercy now and in the days to come.
Today, the Jewish People still celebrate this miraculous Passover each year.
“So this day shall be to you a memorial; and you shall keep it as a feast to the LORD throughout your generations.  You shall keep it as a feast by an everlasting ordinance.”  (Exodus 12:14)
Individual Believers and entire churches are increasingly commemorating Passover as well, since it foreshadows Yeshua the Messiah, the Lamb of God who was sacrificed in order to spare us from the judgment of God.
A man reads from the Passover Haggadah (Telling / Order) as everyone
raises a glass of wine, a custom during the Passover Seder (traditional dinner). 
Redeeming the Firstborn
Because God spared the firstborn Jewish sons from the 10th plague, we find in this Torah portion the command to consecrate or set apart for Him every firstborn male.  (Exodus 13:1–2)
As well, because they were spared, the firstborn traditionally fasts on the day before Passover to commemorate this miracle.
However, the firstborn sons ended up worshiping the Golden Calf along with most of Israel, so they forfeited their right to serve God in the Temple.
God, instead, gave that right to the tribe who did not worship the Calf—the Levites.
Jewish parents, therefore, redeem their firstborn sons in a special ceremony called the Pidyon HaBen (Redemption of the Firstborn Son).  (Numbers 3:45–47)
In this ceremony the firstborn is fully absolved from the duty to perform Temple Service.

The Pidyon HaBen (redemption of the firstborn son) is a
traditional Jewish ritual that has been practiced since
ancient times.
This symbolic ritual of redeeming the firstborn son out of Temple Service continues today with the payment of five silver shekels (or about 4.4 ounces of pure silver) to a man of Cohen descent, according to the command given by Moses:
“Take the Levites in place of all the firstborn of Israel, and the livestock of the Levites in place of their livestock.  The Levites are to be mine.  I am the Lord.  To redeem the 273 firstborn Israelites who exceed the number of the Levites, collect five shekels for each one, according to the sanctuary shekel, which weighs twenty gerahs.  Give the money for the redemption of the additional Israelites to Aaron and his sons.”  (Numbers 3:45–48)
The Israeli Mint has created special edition silver commemorative coins
for Pidyon HaBen (Redemption of the Firstborn) services.  The weight of
the five coins corresponds to the weight of the five silver sheqalim given
to the Cohen in Temple times for the Redemption of the Firstborn.
Another custom in Judaism arises from the Exodus story—the custom of wearing tefillin.
Tefillin (phylacteries) are a set of little black boxes containing Scriptures connected by straps.  The boxes are worn on the forehead and arm, and straps are wound around the arm and fingers.  This custom serves as a reminder to submit one’s head (thoughts), heart (feelings) and hands (actions) to the Lord.
This practice arises from the following command:
“This observance will be for you like a sign on your hand and a reminder on your forehead that this law of the Lord is to be on your lips.  For the Lord brought you out of Egypt with his mighty hand.”  (Exodus 13:9, see also verse 16)
A Jewish man at the Western (Wailing) Wall helps a young man, perhaps
his son, to wrap tefillin (phylacteries).
According to Scripture, in the last days, the anti-Messiah will attempt to force all people to put his mark, rather than the Word of God, on their hand or foreheads, thereby usurping the mark of the rightful place of God in our lives.  (Revelation 13:16–17)
Nevertheless, those who love God will resist evil and glorify His name till the end.
It is because of God’s enduring mercy that He brought each one of us out of the darkness that held us captive.  Baruch HaShem (Praise the Lord)!
Samuel, you can help Bibles For Israel shine the Light of Yeshua into the darkness and proclaim freedom to the captives!
“To Him who struck down the firstborn in Egypt
    His love endures forever
and brought Israel out from among them
    His love endures forever;
With a mighty hand and an outstretched arm
    His love endures forever.”  (Psalm 136:10–12)Rev Samuel F Sarpong

JESUS

Then Yeshua came from Galilee to the Yarden (Jordan) to be baptized by Yohannan.”  (Matthew 3:13)

Many Believers seeking to deepen their understanding of the Bible and follow in the footsteps of Yeshua (Jesus) visit Israel’s Jordan River, a river of rich historical and spiritual significance for both Jews and Christians.
Nehar haYarden (הירדן נהר, Jordan River) played a central role in the ministry of Yeshua (Jesus).
Luke 3:23 reveals that at about the age of 30, Yeshua began His public ministry here by being mikvahed (immersed) by Yohannan (John).
Upon Yeshua’s immersion, Yohannan witnessed a physical manifestation of the Ruach haKodesh (Holy Spirit) descend on Him:
“As soon as Yeshua was immersed, He went up out of the water.  At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on Him.  And a voice from heaven said, ‘This is My Son, whom I love; with Him I am well pleased.’”  (Matthew 3:16–17)

The Mikvah of Yeshua (Bapteme de Jesus),
by James Tissot
While the word “baptism” is the term commonly used today, mikvah is the Jewish term for what Yohannan was performing on the banks of the Jordan, or Yarden in Hebrew.  In fact, the practice of the mikvah was instituted by God through Moses in the Torah, so this was a necessary and regular part of the Biblical Jewish lifestyle.
“The whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem went out to him [Yohannan].  Confessing their sins, they were baptized by him in the Jordan River.”  (Mark 1:5)
Yeshua, as God’s Son, had nothing to confess of His own.  Yet, He bore our sins in Himself and carried them all the way to His execution.  (Isaiah 53:4; 1 Peter 2:24)
For Believers in Yeshua who are miikvahed, the event represents much more than a symbolic cleansing of sins.
Being totally immersed under the water is a symbol of death to one’s old life, and rising up from the water symbolizes the birth of a brand new life in Yeshua:
“We were therefore buried with Him through baptism into death in order that, just as Messiah was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.”  (Romans 6:4)

A Christian pilgrim wearing a robe dips into the
banks of the Jordan River at Qasr el Yahud.

Samuel, Bless the Jewish People with New Life, click here

Ritual Purity in the Tanakh
Many Believers are surprised to learn that God instituted the practice of the mikvah in the Torah.  It is the specified means for restoring ritual purity, and it was regularly performed in natural bodies of water, such as springs or rivers.
The Torah mandated ritual cleansing through the mikvah for the following:
  • After tzaraat (certain skin conditions), commonly translated today as leprosy (Leviticus 14:69)
  • After the discharge of abnormal body fluids (Leviticus 15:13)
  • After seminal emissions following sex or related to nocturnal emissions (Leviticus 15:16)
  • Following the monthly menstrual cycle by a woman to regain her purity
  • After contact with a dead body (Numbers 19:19)


Second Temple era mikvah

  • After the ritual of the Red Heifer by the kohen (priest) who performs the ritual (Numbers 19:7–8)
  • By the kohanim (priests) during consecration (Exodus 29:4, 40:12)
  • After the scapegoat (Azazel) has been sent away on Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement) by the High Priest and by the one who leads the goat away (Leviticus 16:24, 16:26, 16:28)
Today the waters of the mikvah pools throughout the world still cleanse women after menstruation or childbirth and men after emission of bodily fluids.
It is also traditional for a bride and groom to use it before their wedding and for men to visit it on Erev or Eve of Yom Kippur and Erev Rosh HaShanah (New Year’s Eve).
The mikvah is also part of the conversion to Judaism process.

Taking the Bride to the Mikvah, by Shalom Koboshvili
Qasr el Yahud
The traditional location of the spot where Yeshua was mikvahed is Qasr el Yahud or Kasser Al Yahud, Arabic for the Castle of the Jews.
The local ruins of a 4th–5th century Byzantine monastery and church are evidence that this location has been a place of Christian pilgrimages for centuries.
The stability and safety of the British Mandate period from 1920–1948 allowed for the construction of many churches, chapels, and monasteries, which stretch about three kilometers (two miles) south of the site.
However, an earthquake in 1956 seriously damaged the buildings.  More importantly, Jordan, whose border runs along the east bank of the river, attacked Israel after it became a nation in 1948 and occupied the west bank of the Jordan—Israel’s ancient heartland of Judea and Samaria—where Qasr el Yahud is located.

Christian pilgrims visit Qasr el Yahud.
After Arab forces gathered against Israel again in 1967, Israel captured the territory back from Jordan.  Although Jordan has since renounced its claim to the land, the Palestinians now demand this land for an independent Palestinian state.
Security with our neighbor to the east, Jordan, continued to be problematic until Israel and Jordan signed a peace treaty in 1994.  Over those tenuous years before the treaty, the monks gradually abandoned the churches and monasteries and, today, these ruins are inaccessible due to risk of landmines that Israel laid during that period.
Qasr el Yehud, however, has been recently rehabilitated and the immediate area has been cleared of mines.
After 44 years of essentially being closed, this historic site reopened to the public in 2011 and is now administered by the Israeli Civil Administration and the Israeli Ministry of Tourism.
Located in the wilderness of the Jordan River Valley, east of Jericho and north of the Dead Sea, it isn’t easy to get here; but once you arrive, it offers parking, wheelchair access, showers, and prayer facilities, as well as decking and marble stairs leading into the Jordan.

The Ark Passes Over the Jordan, by James Tissot
The Rich History of the Jordan
The excitement and significance of this special place is amplified by other historical events that tradition says took place here at Qasr el Yahud.
After 40 years of wandering in the wilderness, Joshua led the Israelites over the Jordan into the Promised Land, presumably in this spot.  This would be the place then that the waters parted as the priests carrying the Ark stepped into the Jordan, and the Israelites crossed on dry ground.  (Joshua 3)
This spot may also be where Elijah rolled up his cloak and struck the waters so that they parted.  He crossed with Elisha before ascending to heaven on a fiery chariot (2 Kings 2).  After this, Elisha took Elijah’s cloak and crossed the Jordan, once again striking it so that the waters parted.
Because this traditional site was closed for so long, a second site called Yardenit (Little Jordan) was opened in 1981 further north on the southern tip of the Sea of Galilee.  This location may have been used by Yeshua to mikvah His talmidim (disciples).
Many Believers come to Israel especially to be baptized in the Jordan, and Yardenit’s location gives visitors safe and easy access.
Each year, it is visited by hundreds of thousands of pilgrims, and many of them either get baptized for the first time or they rededicate their lives to Adonai here.

Christian pilgrims are baptized at Yardenit (Little Jordan).
The Jordan: A Source of Life
“It is as if the dew of Hermon were falling on Mount Zion.  For there the LORD bestows His blessing, even life forevermore.”  (Psalm 133:3)
The Jordan (Yarden), which means descender, is Israel’s prime source of water for drinking and agriculture.
Most of its water originates approximately 200 meters (650 feet) above sea level in the rain and snow that fall on Mount Hermon in the far north.
From Mount Hermon, the river flows south into the Sea of Galilee (also called Kinneret, Lake of Gennesaret, and Lake Tiberias), but it doesn’t stop there.  At the southern tip of the Galilee, the Jordan exits and descends south to 420 meters (1,378 feet) below sea level where it empties into the Dead Sea.
Upstream of the Sea of Galilee, three main tributaries form the head of the Jordan River:
  • The Hermon or Banias, which begins as a spring at the foot of Mount Hermon;
  • The Dan, whose source is also at the base of Mount Hermon; and
  • The Snir or Hasbani, which also flows from Mount Lebanon.
Below the Sea of Galilee are other tributaries:
  • The Jalud in the Beth Shean valley;
  • The Yarmouk River;
  • The Zarqa River, the Biblical Jabbok; and
  • Jabesh (Wadi Yabis) named after Jabesh-Gilead, a town mentioned in the Torah.
As the river flows through the Jordan valley below the Galilee, it becomes progressively more saline, picking up about 850,000 tons of salt, as well as debris, so that by the time it empties into the Dead Sea, there is no life left in the water, at least not for drinking or agriculture.
Some environmentalists say that the river itself is in danger of dying in the Jordan Valley.

The Yarmouk River, which originates on the south-eastern slopes of
Mount Hermon and the Hauran Plateau, flows into the Jordan River.
It forms the southern limit of the Golan Heights in Israel’s north and
also defines a short portion of the border between Jordan and Israel.
The Jordan Valley
“In the future He will honor Galilee of the nations, by the Way of the Sea, beyond the Jordan.  The people walking in darkness have seen a great light.”  (Isaiah 9:1–2)
The Tanakh (Old Testament) mentions this important river about 175 times.  The Brit Chadashah (New Testament) mentions it 15 times.
It first appears in Genesis 13:10 when Abraham told Lot to choose which land he would inhabit.
“Lot looked around and saw that the whole plain of the Jordan toward Zoar was well watered, like the garden of the Lord, like the land of Egypt.”
The entire valley between the Sea of Galilee and the Dead Sea along the Jordan River seemed to Lot like the Garden of Eden, or at least a lush oasis.
So, Lot chose the fertile cities of Sodom and Gomorrah in the southern Jordan Valley as his new homeland.

The Jordan Valley overlooking the Sea of Galilee
Today, the Jordan Valley still attracts people.  The northern part of the valley, which includes the Jordan River, is several degrees warmer than adjacent areas.  It has a year-round agricultural climate, fertile soils and water supply that make it a key agricultural area.
Yet we know from Scripture that a section of the lush, southern region that Lot chose was devastated when, due to sin, God “overthrew those cities and the entire plain, destroying all those living in the cities—and also the vegetation in the land.”  (Genesis 19:25)
A land that once thrived from the river’s pure, life-giving water, now cried out for it, and still does.  This perhaps is a visible reminder of what unrepentant sin does to our own life, spiritually and physically.
But God is a God of restoration, and He does not only renew spiritually, He also renews physically.
The Destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, by John Martin
Healing Waters from the Temple
Although the Jordan is polluted, and its resources severely stretched and fought over by the nations in its vicinity, the prophet Ezekiel describes a new river of life that will begin at the Temple threshold, flowing into and restoring the Dead Sea, which is fed by the Jordan.
“When it empties into the sea, the salty water there becomes fresh.  Swarms of living creatures will live wherever the river flows. … Fishermen will stand along the shore; from En Gedi to En Eglaim there will be places for spreading nets. …  Fruit trees of all kinds will grow on both banks of the river. …  Every month they will bear fruit, because the water from the sanctuary flows to them.  Their fruit will serve for food and their leaves for healing.”  (Ezekiel 47:8–12)
The Book of Revelation describes it as a new river of life “clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb down the middle of the great street of the city.”  (Revelation 22:1–2)

Accumulations of salt in the Dead Sea.

The Talmud (Jewish Oral tradition) teaches that these waters will heal not only the Dead Sea, but presumably the waters that flow into it from the Sea of Galilee, which would also include the connecting Jordan River.

“To where do they flow?  To the Sea of Tiberias [Sea of Galilee, Kinnereth] and then to the Sea of Sodom [Dead Sea], and then to the Great Sea [Mediterranean] to heal the salty waters and to sweeten them.”  (Jerusalem Talmud 3:9)

This restoration of the River Jordan and the bodies of water it feeds is exactly what Yeshua does with our own spirits.
Yeshua says to all of us, “Let anyone who is thirsty come to Me and drink.  Whoever believes in Me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.”  (John 7:37)

Jacob Wrestles with the Angel, by Gustav Dore
The River of Miracles
“Consecrate yourselves, for tomorrow the Lord will do amazing things among you.”  (Joshua 3:5)
In Genesis 32:11, Jacob crossed the Jordan and its eastern tributary, the Jabbok River (Zarqa River) situated east of Shechem, which is in present-day Samaria.
Here, Jacob wrestled with the angel of the Lord to receive a blessing, which he received along with a new name—Israel (Genesis 32:23–24).
Perhaps the most dramatic moment on the Jordan occurred when Joshua redeemed Israel from their desert existence by leading them across the Jordan to the Promised Land.  Miraculously, the river dammed up even though it was flood season, and the people crossed a dry riverbed (Joshua 3).
Although all of Israel entered the Promised Land, not everyone lived on the west side of the Jordan.  The river became the demarcation line between two groups of the tribes of Israel, with “nine tribes and the half tribe of Manasseh” settling on the west side.  The tribes of Reuben, Gad, and the half tribe of Manasseh settled on the east side (Numbers 34:13–15; Joshua 13:7–8).

Naaman cleanses in the Jordan River to be healed of tzaraat, a Biblical
skin disease that is traditionally thought to be caused by gossip, murder,
perjury, forbidden sexual relationships, arrogance, theft, and envy.
In 2 Kings 5:14, Elisha sent Naaman the Aramean to bathe in the Jordan’s waters, and he was miraculously healed of leprosy.
In yet another miracle in 2 Kings 6:6, Elisha reclaimed a borrowed axe head that had sunk in the waters by causing it to float to the surface.
At the Jordan, Yohannan the Immerser announced the identity of Yeshua as “the lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.”
The Jordan is also mentioned in connection with the coming of the Messiah “by the way of the sea, beyond Jordan, in Galilee of the nations.”  (Isaiah 9:1–2)

The Sea of Galilee, which is located in the Jordan Valley, is 19 kilometers
(12 miles) long and from 5–10 kilometers (3–6 miles) wide.
Yeshua is soon coming again and, in the meantime, He has given His followers a spiritual source of water that wells up within them.
“Whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst.  Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” (John 4:14)
This spring of spiritual renewal brings everlasting life and is available now by believing in the One the Hebrew prophets spoke of—Yeshua haMashiach (Jesus the Messiah).
If you wish to drink of His waters of life, or wish to rededicate your life to Him, why not follow in His footsteps and be mikvahed in Israel’s Jordan River.
Samuel, the fact that Israel has once again become an independent nation and the Jewish People are being drawn back to their ancient land is evidence that God’s Spirit is moving in the midst of His people.
You can be a part of this end-time move of God by helping us bring Yeshua to Israel and the World.
Time is short.  He is soon returning.
“For I am ready to set things right, not in the distant future, but right now!  I am ready to save Jerusalem and show My glory to Israel.”  (Isaiah 46:13)
Rev Samuel F Sarpong