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The Watchnight of Passover

The Watchnight of Passover


In September of 1862, United States President Abraham Lincoln declared the Emancipation Proclamation, effectively announcing the end of slavery in America. The law went into effect January 1, 1863, but on December 31, 1862, many African Americans held an all-night vigil waiting for freedom. They called it a watchnight. To this day, some African Americans still observe it every New Year's Eve.

Maybe you have joined other evangelical churches for “watchnight services” to bring in the New Year. It is fairly common among churches. They do not keep it for the same reason as African Americans do. They are seeking spiritual renewal and trying to pray in the New Year.

Despite the various reasons mentioned, most Christian believers do not know that the practice of a watchnight originates from the ancient Passover in Egypt and the annual memorialization of Passover. Yeshua the Messiah observed the watchnight with His disciples. In fact, all of Israel was up and about that night. This explains the background activity surrounding His arrest and trial at night by the High Priest Caiaphas and King Herod.

The Passover festival is expressly commanded to remember the past, to remember how God delivered us with His outstretched arm and mighty deeds. It is to teach our children about God's redemption and the Lamb of God. It was about midnight, in the middle of the night, that the Angel of the Lord went throughout all of Egypt. Those houses with the blood of the lamb covering were passed over. Those homes without the blood suffered the death of the first born, both man and beast. As believers of Yeshua, not only are we to remember the story of the Lamb, we are to be reminded of His death, burial, and resurrection. It is the same story.

Keeping the Passover is more than a commandment; it is a crash course and annual review of God's great plan for our salvation and deliverance. God has not only heard the cry of bondage due to our taskmasters, He has come down to do something about it. God also knows of our slavery to sin and He has provided a covering for us. Moses led our ancestors out of the land of Egypt and the house of slavery, but Yeshua has led us out of the house of slavery to sin.

Passover has been observed and is observed still to this day by way of a seder (order) service. A Haggadah is a booklet used at Passover to follow the seder. The Haggadah leads the participants through several symbolic elements, four cups of wine, and unleavened bread. But there is an aspect to Passover that overshadows the meal and its elements. It is the watchnight of Passover. Each person is to see themselves back in Egypt being passed over by the Angel of the Lord. We are instructed to tell our children that we were there at the real Passover and the Lord passed over us. Passover night is to be different from all other nights. In fact, all of Israel is to remain awake for the night speaking of God's redemption. This is why the children are to ask, “Why is this night different from all other nights?”

There is a very old Jewish expression concerning the Passover, “There is no greater joy than to speak of God's redemption until the dawn of the day.” This expression is about the watchnight of Passover. It is my hope that this article will move you to keep the Passover anew this year and join all Israel and the Messiah in a watchnight.


Passover In Egypt

In the movie The Ten Commandments, the Angel of the Lord is depicted as a green mist skulking across the sky past the moon forming a skeleton hand of death upon Egypt. Joshua is seen putting the blood of the lamb on the door posts and then watching the green mist moving through the city streets. Joshua finally enters the house with Moses and announces that death is all around them. The movie was not able to truly display the Passover scenario. Simply said, you don't see anything passing over them. Instead, you see death seeping in and around everything. That's not Passover. Passover is really about being passed from death to life as the Messiah said.


Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears My word, and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life, and does not come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life.


John 5:24

Passover is about life. Passover is about freedom. Listen to how Moses tells us to describe the Passover.


…You shall say, “It is a Passover sacrifice to the Lord who passed over the houses of the sons of Israel in Egypt when He smote the Egyptians, but spared our homes.”


Exodus 12:27a

Let's go back to the original Passover that took place in Egypt and clear up some misconceptions.

First, they began to prepare for Passover four days earlier. Moses instructed them to bring the lamb into their homes to ensure that it had no defect and that it wasn’t sickly. The lamb was befriended and was played with by the children. When the Passover came, there may well have been some trauma in the house since the lamb had become a new pet. People gathered in a particular home based upon the ability of the lamb to feed them the feast. Not every Israelite home had a lamb. The lamb was shared together. See how Moses instructed this.


Speak to all the congregation of Israel, saying, “On the tenth of this month they are each one to take a lamb for themselves, according to their fathers' households, a lamb for each household. Now if the household is too small for a lamb, then he and his neighbor nearest to his house are to take one according to the number of persons in them; according to what each man should eat, you are to divide the lamb. Your lamb shall be an unblemished male a year old; you may take it from the sheep or from the goats. And you shall keep it until the fourteenth day of the same month, then the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel is to kill it at twilight. Moreover, they shall take some of the blood and put it on the two doorposts and on the lintel of the houses in which they eat it.”


Exodus 12:3-7

With regard to the watchnight, this was the instruction of Moses.


For I will go through the land of Egypt on that night, and will strike down all the first-born in the land of Egypt, both man and beast; and against all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgments-- I am the Lord. And the blood shall be a sign for you on the houses where you live; and when I see the blood I will pass over you, and no plague will befall you to destroy you when I strike the land of Egypt. Now this day will be a memorial to you, and you shall celebrate it as a feast to the Lord; throughout your generations you are to celebrate it as a permanent ordinance.


Exodus 12:12-14

Passover is not a daytime observance; it is a nighttime observance. It is to remember what happened on a particular night. All other feasts of the Lord are observed in the daytime. Passover is kept in a home at night with guests of the home. Did the Messiah keep the Passover in the temple with all Israel? No, He kept it in a private room (home) and garden with His friends. Peter and John had prepared a lamb just for Yeshua and the disciples.

Moses, in recounting the ordinance, speaks again of a single house and a single lamb.


It is to be eaten in a single house; you are not to bring forth any of the flesh outside of the house, nor are you to break any bone of it.


Exodus 12:46


This is how you keep the Passover feast and watchnight to the Lord – in a private, rather than corporate way. The Lamb takes precedence; you spend time with the Lord that night.

When the Angel of the Lord passed through Egypt, even Pharaoh arose that night.


Now it came about at midnight that the Lord struck all the first-born in the land of Egypt, from the first-born of Pharaoh who sat on his throne to the first-born of the captive who was in the dungeon, and all the first-born of cattle. And Pharaoh arose in the night, he and all his servants and all the Egyptians; and there was a great cry in Egypt, for there was no home where there was not someone dead.


Exodus 12:29-30

Passover with the Messiah

Before we can address the specifics of how the Messiah and the disciples kept the Passover, we need to review an ancient controversy between the Pharisees and the Sadducees. The Pharisees and Sadducees didn't observe Passover the same way. The Gospels clearly show that Yeshua and His disciples observed the Passover before the Pharisees did.

Pharisees and modern day Judaism do not believe that the 14th of Nisan is the Passover, even though Moses clearly says it is.


And you shall keep it until the fourteenth day of the same month, then the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel is to kill it at twilight.


Exodus 12:6


In the first month, on the fourteenth day of the month at evening, you shall eat unleavened bread, until the twenty-first day of the month at evening.


Exodus 12:18


In the first month, on the fourteenth day of the month at twilight is the Lord's Passover. Then on the fifteenth day of the same month there is the Feast of Unleavened Bread to the Lord; for seven days you shall eat unleavened bread. On the first day you shall have a holy convocation; you shall not do any laborious work. But for seven days you shall present an offering by fire to the Lord. On the seventh day is a holy convocation; you shall not do any laborious work.


Leviticus 23:5-8

According to Moses, Passover is on the 14th of Nisan. The Feast of Unleavened Bread is kept for seven days beginning on the 15th of Nisan. High Sabbaths are on the 15th and the 21st of Nisan. Passover lasts for one day and The Feast of Unleavened Bread lasts for seven days.

But what did the Pharisees do then and what does modern Judaism do today? According to them, the 14th of Nisan is the day before Passover and at the conclusion of the day (the eve of the 15th) they observe Passover. They make Passover a high Sabbath. Then they add another day (the 22nd of Nisan) to the end of Unleavened Bread to make an eight day total. Most calendars call the entire eight-day festival Passover and do not use the title The Feast of Unleavened Bread. You can verify everything I have said here with a standard Hebrew calendar. This controversy goes way back.

This is part of the reason why Yeshua warned His disciples to “beware the leaven of the Pharisees.” The Pharisees added leaven to the instruction of Moses. They even added a day to the feast of unleavened bread – thus, the leaven of the Pharisees.

As followers of Yeshua, I believe we should follow Yeshua's counsel and stick with what Moses said. Following the traditional Jewish calendar for Passover, First Fruits, Unleavened Bread, and the Counting of the Omer to the Feast of Weeks is error. It is the instruction of the Torah leavened by the Pharisees.

Yeshua kept the Passover specified by Moses with many others in the land. He instructed Peter and John to prepare the Passover Lamb for them to feast. They went to the temple on the afternoon of the 13th and sat down to the meal in a prepared room on the eve (the beginning) of the 14th. This is how Matthew describes the event.


Now on the first day of Unleavened Bread the disciples came to Yeshua, saying, “Where do You want us to prepare for You to eat the Passover?” And He said, “Go into the city to a certain man, and say to him, ‘The Teacher says, “My time is at hand; I am to keep the Passover at your house with My disciples.”’” And the disciples did as Yeshua had directed them; and they prepared the Passover. Now when evening had come, He was reclining at the table with the twelve disciples.


Matthew 26:17-20

Moses commanded the children of Israel to eat the Unleavened Bread eight days (the eve of the 14th through the 21st of Nisan). The Passover is the Lamb meal on the eve of the 14th that is slain at the temple prior to the eve of the 14th. This was the preparation of the Passover in conjunction with locating a place to eat it privately.

Here is Mark's account of the Passover.


And on the first day of Unleavened Bread, when the Passover lamb was being sacrificed, His disciples said to Him, “Where do You want us to go and prepare for You to eat the Passover?” And He sent two of His disciples, and said to them, “Go into the city, and a man will meet you carrying a pitcher of water; follow him; and wherever he enters, say to the owner of the house, ‘The Teacher says, “Where is My guest room in which I may eat the Passover with My disciples?”’ And he himself will show you a large upper room furnished and ready; and prepare for us there.” And the disciples went out, and came to the city, and found it just as He had told them; and they prepared the Passover. And when it was evening He came with the twelve.


Mark 14:12-17

Mark's account is virtually the same as Matthew. The preparation for Passover is about preparing the lamb and the room. Here is Luke's account.


Then came the first day of Unleavened Bread on which the Passover lamb had to be sacrificed. And He sent Peter and John, saying, “Go and prepare the Passover for us, that we may eat it.” And they said to Him, “Where do You want us to prepare it?” And He said to them, “Behold, when you have entered the city, a man will meet you carrying a pitcher of water; follow him into the house that he enters. And you shall say to the owner of the house, ‘The Teacher says to you, “Where is the guest room in which I may eat the Passover with My disciples?’ And he will show you a large, furnished, upper room; prepare it there.” And they departed and found everything just as He had told them; and they prepared the Passover. And when the hour had come He reclined at the table, and the apostles with Him. And He said to them, “I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer; for I say to you, I shall never again eat it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.”


Luke 22:7-15

Again, Luke recounts the same details: preparation for the lamb and the room.

By the way, here is side-note that is worthy of mention. Why was the man carrying a water pitcher a significant sign for them to follow? According to the custom of Yeshua's day, only women carried water pitchers. It was part of their daily tasks. Seeing a man carrying a water pitcher would have definitely stood out as unusual.

John's Gospel does not repeat the preparation instructions. He concentrates on what Yeshua shared at the Passover meal beginning in John chapter 13 through chapter 17.

Having eaten the meal, they went to the garden of Gethsemane for the watchnight until Yeshua was arrested. John's Gospel says it this way.


When Yeshua had spoken these words, He went forth with His disciples over the ravine of the Kidron, where there was a garden, into which He Himself entered, and His disciples.


John 18:1

Luke, Mark, and Matthew describe the garden location as well.


And He came out and proceeded as was His custom to the Mount of Olives; and the disciples also followed Him.


Luke 22:39


And they came to a place named Gethsemane; and He said to His disciples, “Sit here until I have prayed.”


Mark 14:32


Then Yeshua came with them to a place called Gethsemane, and said to His disciples, “Sit here while I go over there and pray.” And He took with Him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and began to be grieved and distressed. Then He said to them, “My soul is deeply grieved, to the point of death; remain here and keep watch with Me.”


Matthew 26:36-38

The garden of Gethsemane is located on the Kidron Valley side of the Mount of Olives. Gethsemane means the place where olives are crushed. When Yeshua went out to observe the watchnight of Israel, He went to a place where olives are squeezed and crushed. The first squeeze of olives is for anointing oil. Yeshua was the Anointed One, the Messiah. Therefore, it was more than appropriate that He chose that place to begin the work of redemption with His arrest.

If you will recall, the Gospels also speak of Yeshua finding the disciples sleeping instead of remaining awake. He was even annoyed with them to some extent.


And He came and found them sleeping, and said to Peter, “Simon, are you asleep? Could you not keep watch for one hour?”


Mark 14:37

Why did Yeshua expect them to remain awake? Wasn't it late? Didn't they eat a fine meal with four cups of wine? If you or I had been there we would have wanted to sleep too. The reason Yeshua wanted His disciples to be awake, the reason that all Israel was up and about that night was that it was the watchnight of Passover. It was expected of everyone observing the Passover to observe the watchnight.

Passover with our Brethren

For most Messianics today, Passover is a gathering for all their local brethren in a fellowship or banquet facility. They eat unleavened bread with horse radish and the sweet mixture of apple and honey. They might even have wine to drink. But most have not prepared lamb nor are they eating in a private place (such as a home) as Moses said or as Yeshua did. Still further, they do not hold a watchnight. After the seder meal, everyone goes home to bed. This is far short of what Moses instructed and Yeshua did.

Some Messianic brethren today are not familiar with the issues of the Passover and the eve of the 14th. Even more so, they have never heard of a watchnight on the Passover. They blindly follow the rabbinical tradition (the Pharisaic tradition). Don't get me wrong here. There are many traditional elements of Passover that are good and very worthwhile.

For example, the basic seder contains a sequence of elements and the four cups:

 ·  Kaddesh (prayer of sanctification)

 ·  The Cup of Sanctification

 ·  U'Rechatz (washing of hands)

 ·  Karpas (parsley/celery dipped in salt water)

 ·  Yachatz (breaking of the middle matzah bread and burial of the Afikoman)

 ·  Maggid (telling the ancient story beginning with Joseph being sent)

 ·  The Cup of Instruction

 ·  Rachtzah (washing of hands)

 ·  Motzie Matzah (eating the matzah – unleavened bread)

 ·  Maror (eating the bitter herbs)

 ·  Korech (eating the matzah, herbs, and sweetness)

 ·  Shulchan Orekh (setting the table for the meal – eating the meal)

 ·  Tzafun (resurrection of the Afikoman)

 ·  The Cup of Redemption

 ·  Barekh (blessing after the meal)

 ·  The Cup of Elijah

 ·  Hallel (Psalms of Praise)

 ·  The Cup of Praise

 ·  Nirtzah (conclusion)


There is nothing wrong with this order of the Passover seder. Even Yeshua followed this basic order. He too washed the disciples, ate bitter herbs with His betrayer, and served the Afikoman bread and cup after the meal. He concluded His own Passover with songs of praise. But He also remained awake for what was to happen later that night.

I understand the zeal of many Messianics to get back to the Torah, to escape the traditions of the church fathers. But, blindly following the traditions of the Pharisees is not the answer. They too have departed from Moses (and the Messiah) as much as the church fathers have. Instead, we need to return to the commandments of the Lord and join His table of fellowship.

Some have justified themselves in keeping the Pharisaic (Judaism's) tradition by saying that they were joining with “greater Israel” all over the world by being in unity with the majority. I believe in being unified with my brethren as well, but that unity should be with the “remnant of Israel” not “unbelieving Israel.” Passover is not a custom or tradition; it is a commandment of the Lord given to us even before the Ten Commandments were given. Taking liberties with God's commandments never works correctly. Keeping the commandments even as Yeshua kept them works to everyone's benefit.

Passover is one of the most powerful bridges there is in our faith to show how Moses was speaking of the Messiah. Just as the children of Israel kept the Passover prior to being made free, so many church Christians attend a Passover and gain their freedom from religious captivity to pursue the Messiah – the real Passover Lamb.

Church tradition has taken the Afikoman (broken bread) and the cup of Redemption from the Passover to create their “communion” service. Despite Yeshua's stated desire and future hope to eat the Passover with His brethren, churchmen replace it with church sacrament (the teaching and tradition of men). When Christians discover that the communion elements are really misappropriated Passover elements, they are stunned. When they find out that even they are invited to the Passover table, they are genuinely grateful. I have discovered that Christians really want to eat the bread so they will never be hungry again. They want to drink from the cup so they will never be thirsty again. Yeshua offers that bread and cup at the Passover table.

Therefore it is important that we as Messianics accurately portray and keep the Passover as Moses and the Messiah did. Substituting one set of customs and traditions of religious men with another set is not right. Leading our Christian brethren to keep the instructions of the Pharisees as a replacement for church tradition is not right.

But what should we do for ourselves to keep the Passover as best as we can?

Here is what Moses said.

 1.  Make your observance of Passover to be a commandment of the home, not a banquet setting. Eat it with friends, not unbelievers and strangers.

 2.  Eat lamb with the unleavened bread, bitter herbs, and the apple/honey mixture. Judaism forbids you to eat lamb on Passover. What is wrong with that picture?

 3.  Gather with your brethren after the Passover meal and hold a “watchnight” at least past midnight. See yourself being passed over there in Egypt. See yourself there with the disciples in the Garden of Gethsemane.

If you do these things Passover will take on a whole new dimension. Truly, you will be able to instruct your son, “The Lord passed over my house.” Even further, you will be able to say to yourself, “I remained awake while the Lord agonized to prepare Himself to be the Lamb of God for me.”


Paul Tells Us Christians Don't Need to Keep the Torah? Or Does He?

There is a rumor that the Apostle Paul was not an observant Jew. It is also said that he spoke against the Law and called upon Jewish believers to abandon the customs of Moses. This rumor originated in the first century and is still with us over 1900 years later.

The New Testament tells a different story............

What Most Christians Believe

Most Christians have been brought up with the notion that God dealt with Israel in the past through the Law, but for the last two thousand years, a new system called grace has been in place. They argue that Saul, the observant Jew, changed his name to Paul and taught us about grace, instead of keeping the Law.

They teach that the Law of Moses is no longer valid as the authoritative source for godly living. In fact, they go further and say that the keeping of commandments given by Moses and his customs are contrary to grace and are an offense to God. They quote the Apostle Paul.

The Question of Paul

But what if it can be proven that Paul never spoke for abolishing the Law and was in fact a very observant Jew, even when serving as the Apostle to the Gentiles? What if our church fathers simply exploited a rumor against him for their own reasons? It is a fact in orthodox Christianity that keeping the Law of Moses is scorned and disregarded. These same leaders advocate that keeping the commandments is falling from grace and worse yet, legalism. They believe that any attempt to keep particular commandments is an affront to the sacrifice of Jesus. They believe and teach that the Law of Moses is not for believers of Jesus today.

When did the Law Go Away?

For the sake of discussion, let's say that Church leaders are correct in their conclusions. When exactly did the Law go away and this grace come into effect? You will get different answers from churchmen including the death on the cross, the resurrection, and the giving of the Holy Spirit. There may be consensus out there somewhere, but it is pretty vague. Suffice it to say that most agree that the New Testament was in effect by the day of Pentecost and the Law was no longer valid for New Covenant believers. However, the written New Testament, in particular Paul's letters, was not written for approximately 30 years after all said events. During this time, the temple was still standing with Paul and other believing Jews going to worship God there. If the Law is no more, then why were they so observant? The book of Acts is filled with evidence showing their observance.

And when they heard it [Paul's testimony of the Gentiles coming to faith] they began glorifying God; and they said to him, You see, brother, how many thousands there are among the Jews of those who have believed, and they are all zealous for the Law;
Acts 21:20

Believing Jews were Observant

The book of Acts says that the number of believing Jews was tens of thousands and that they were all zealous for the Law. On several occasions, Paul asserted his Hebrew heritage and his Torah background. Paul was a Torah trained disciple of Gamaliel, a devout Pharisee. He was very knowledgeable in the Scriptures and was being groomed to be a religious leader in Jerusalem. Up until Paul came on the scene, the leadership of the Nazarene movement, the belief of Yeshua as Messiah, and His resurrection seems to have been common everyday folks. There were some exceptions. Some priests were believers and we know of Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea. When Paul came on the scene as a believer, his testimony was very significant. He was a highly respected scholar and devout man of the Law. This may have been the reason for the vicious rumors against him. His testimony was that powerful.

Again, according to church fathers, Paul turned from the Torah to Christ and opposed keeping the Law. They advocate that he wrote his epistles guiding us with the Spirit of God toward grace, the replacement for the Law; however, his own statements betray and are opposite of this conclusion. So, where was Paul in all this and what does his observance or non-observance have to do with us?

Questions for Us

Is it possible that we, the modern peoples who are trusting our teachers, have been misled as to the very nature and substance of our faith? Is it possible that the preacher you are being instructed by is himself misinformed as to the covenant we now have with God? Is it possible that there are many things that we have wrong about God and His purposes? I'm sure that you have heard the expression, We have met the enemy and it is us! Consider the life of Paul, the Apostle to the Gentiles. What if we have been misled about Paul and Paul actually advocated the proper use of the Law, not its abolishment?

The Rumor Against Paul

The latter half of the book of Acts details much of Paul's ministry as a believer. When he began to preach among the Gentiles, many Gentiles came to faith. Some of the Jewish leaders began to argue that these Gentiles needed to become proselytes, they needed to be circumcised, keep all the commandments, and recognize their leadership from Jerusalem. Even some of the Pharisees who had become believers subscribed to this thought and began arguing that the Gentile believers weren't really saved because they weren't circumcised. There was a meeting in Jerusalem with James, Peter, Paul and those arguing these points. The results of the meeting were clear. Gentiles get saved the same way we Jews are saved by faith. No one gets saved by keeping the Law. A letter was dispatched with further instruction on the matter to the Gentile believers. Everything was fine until the rumor rose up that Paul was not only telling the Gentile believers that they didn't need circumcision, but that he was telling Jewish believers not to circumcise their sons. Listen to the complaint against Paul when he returned to Jerusalem and to meet with James again.

and they have been told about you [Paul], that you are teaching all the Jews who are among the Gentiles to forsake Moses, telling them not to circumcise their children nor to walk according to the customs.
Acts 21:21

Trying to Stop the Rumor

This rumor was false, but to this day church leaders say this is what Paul was teaching. In the meeting with James, it is clear that James does not believe the rumor. In fact, James offers specific counsel to Paul on how to dismiss the rumor, how to prove that it is not right.

What, then, is to be done? They will certainly hear that you have come. Therefore do this that we tell you. We have four men who are under a vow; take them and purify yourself along with them, and pay their expenses in order that they may shave their heads; and all will know that there is nothing to the things which they have been told about you, but that you yourself also walk orderly, keeping the Law.
Acts 21:22-24

Paul was asked to pay the expenses of four other Messianic Jews who were under the Nazarite vow, a specific part of the Law. By participating in this temple service of seven days and paying their expenses, all the Jews would see that Paul was observant and obedient to the teaching of Moses, that he kept the Law.

Was Paul Deceiving Us?

Wait a minute! Why is Paul trying to convince believing Jews that he too keeps the Law? I thought he was the guy who told us not to keep the Law in the New Testament.

As hard as it may seem, there are Christian teachers to this day who claim that Paul and James were conspiring to deceive the believing Jews. They claim that Paul was avoiding the controversy by going along with this deception and keeping peace among the brethren. Furthermore, they insinuate that the Messianic Jews of the first century were misinformed about the New Covenant faith and were still practicing old ways that were done away by the cross. However, the New Testament speaks strongly not only of the number of those Messianic Jews, but also of their observance.

There were many Jewish believers and they were very observant, having repented of their sins. If Paul was telling Jewish parents not to circumcise their sons amongst the nations, then he clearly was departing from the teaching Moses. This was a very serious rumor. However, the book of Acts written by Luke, a companion of Paul's, clearly presents the rumor as false. James' counsel on how to answer the rumor is sound and reasonable. Further, it would be a clear demonstration to the Jewish believers that Paul was as observant as they were. The complaint against Paul was false. Paul was proving that it was false.

Paul willingly went to the temple service and participated just as James counseled him. It was there that Paul was arrested in the temple after the seven day procedure. If the complaint was true, if Paul was in fact trying to teach us that keeping the Law was wrong, then why would he try to deceive his own brethren and risk arrest by his enemies? Paul was not trying to deceive the believing Jews in Jerusalem; he was proving the fact that he was an observant Jew just like the tens of thousands who believed and were zealous for the Law?

How the Rumor Began

How did this conflict begin? What caused this rumor? Rumors begin in strange ways and this one against Paul probably originated with those Pharisees against Paul. The rumor was fueled by the suspicions of those former believers persecuted by Paul. Whatever the reasons were, the first discussion was among believing Jews.

And some men came down from Judea and began teaching the brethren, unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved. And when Paul and Barnabas had great dissension and debate with them, the brethren determined that Paul and Barnabas and certain others of them should go up to Jerusalem to the apostles and elders concerning this issue.
Acts 15:1-2

Paul knew that this argument was not about spiritual truth. It was an attempt on the part of certain men in Judea to control the new Gentile believers. By making them subject to their rulings and definitions, all Gentile believers would be subject to them. Paul speaks of this motivation when answering the Galatians.

For those who are circumcised do not even keep the Law themselves, but they desire to have you circumcised, that they may boast in your flesh.
Galatians 6:13

The Jerusalem Council

The first meeting in Jerusalem involved Paul, Barnabas, Peter, James, and men from Judea (believing Pharisees) concerning the doctrine of salvation. Like many others who have followed, these men were wrestling with the argument that salvation is based on Yeshua plus something else. In their day, the argument was Yeshua and circumcision. Today, the argument is Yeshua and something else. As they met, Paul made a defense for Gentiles who were saved without circumcision by bringing Titus. The argument began to shift and the believing Pharisees expanded their requirement to include all of the teaching of Moses, not limited to just circumcision.

But certain ones of the sect of the Pharisees who had believed, stood up, saying, It is necessary to circumcise them, and to direct them to observe the Law of Moses.
Acts 15:5

Peter finally weighed in on the argument recounting his own experience of seeing a vision and then preaching to the first Gentile believers.

And after there had been much debate, Peter stood up and said to them, Brethren, you know that in the early days God made a choice among you, that by my mouth the Gentiles should hear the word of the gospel and believe. And God, who knows the heart, bore witness to them, giving them the Holy Spirit, just as He also did to us; and He made no distinction between us and them, cleansing their hearts by faith. Now therefore why do you put God to the test by placing upon the neck of the disciples a yoke which neither our fathers nor we have been able to bear? But we believe that we are saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, in the same way as they also are.
Acts 15:7-11

Peter's argument was clear and based upon experience. If God gave the Holy Spirit to the Gentiles without circumcision or keeping the Law, then salvation is only based on faith. Peter then argues that we Jews are saved the same way, by faith. Circumcision and the Law are not required for salvation. Does that mean the Law is done away with? No.

Jerusalem Council Conclusion

At that point, James, who was overseeing the matter, made his ruling. James quotes from the prophets and confirms that God's plan of salvation is to be extended to the Gentile nations, that God is calling other peoples to be His people. Paul's ministry to the Gentiles was confirmed by both the Scripture and the testimony of Peter. James concludes the matter by giving the following instruction.

Therefore it is my [James] judgment that we do not trouble those who are turning to God from among the Gentiles, but that we write to them that they abstain from things contaminated by idols and from fornication and from what is strangled and from blood.
Acts 15:19-20

There are two aspects to James' instruction. One, the issue of salvation is clear; it does not require circumcision and it is God's plan to save Gentiles. The second instruction is direct and specific. With regard to the Law of Moses, apart from salvation, these Gentiles are to keep a particular part of the Law. They are called essentials. The letter to the Gentiles that follows addresses the very center portion of the teaching, which is called the  heart of the Law.  Leviticus 17 and 18 define meat sacrificed to idols, abstaining from unclean foods, and abstaining from all sexual perversion.

This portion of the Law tells Jewish people not to associate with nor have fellowship with such individuals who would do these things. If the believing Gentiles were to have fellowship with believing Jews, then these things must be observed by the Gentiles. To solidify this teaching, James makes reference to all of the teaching of Moses and refers believers, Jews and Gentiles, to the Torah. The fact is the whole teaching of Moses and the Prophets is profitable to every man of God (Jew or Gentile).

For Moses from ancient generations has in every city those who preach him, since he is read in the synagogues every Sabbath.
Acts 15:21

Torah vs. Law

Why would James refer us to the teaching of the Torah to understand his instruction? To this day, most Gentile Christians have no idea what these three commandments are about. Furthermore, when Gentile Christian teachers study this area, they avoid sharing anything about it because the church is in direct conflict with its instruction. Quite simply, James said that Gentile Christians were to observe several specific commandments on methods of worship, foods we eat, and sexual behaviors just as taught by the Torah. Paul agreed with this instruction and carried it to the Gentiles.

The Torah is the teaching that Yeshua came to fill full of meaning. It is the Torah that the believers of Yeshua were zealous about. The Torah is more than just the Law of Moses. Yes, it contains the commandments, but it also tells us about our fathers, the covenants, and the character of our God. It tells who God is, His Name, and His promises to all of us. It is the basis of our faith in Yeshua, God's Son, and His great work of Salvation. Paul never spoke against the Torah; he quoted it and taught from its examples.

Paul's Enemies

But Paul's enemies twisted this issue. While Paul taught that Jews were to continue circumcising their sons, he told the Gentiles not to do so. It was bound to happen. Somewhere along the line the story was changed to say that Paul was also telling Jews that they should not circumcise their sons either. From the moment of Paul's arrest in the temple, the rumor was enlarged to include speaking against the Jewish people, the entire Torah, the temple, and everything sacred.

Men of Israel, come to our aid! This is the man [Paul] who preaches to all men everywhere against our people, and the Law, and this place; and besides he has even brought Greeks into the temple and has defiled this holy place.
Acts 21:28

The first charges against Paul in Jerusalem were extremely inflated, all this from a rumor.

For we have found this man a real pest and a fellow who stirs up dissension among all the Jews throughout the world, and a ringleader of the sect of the Nazarenes. And he even tried to desecrate the temple; and then we arrested him.
Acts 24:5-6

Dealing with the Accusations

The accusations against Paul are false and without basis. Paul didn't take Gentiles into the temple; they were believing Jews. Paul was not stirring up riots, he was preaching the Gospel. In other cities, non-believing Jews caused some riots and attempted to have Paul arrested, but here in Jerusalem, none of that had happened. Paul's accusers were trying to bring any charge they could against him. Listen to Paul's answer at the moment of his arrest in the temple.

I [Paul] am a Jew, born in Tarsus of Cilicia, but brought up in this city, educated under Gamaliel, strictly according to the law of our fathers, being zealous for God, just as you all are today.
Acts 22:3

This is the Christian Paul, Apostle to the Gentiles, proclaiming that he is an observant Jew just like those in the temple.

Paul had to be moved from Jerusalem to Caesarea when the Roman Tribune learned of an assassination plot against Paul. Paul's accusers didn't want to prove Paul wrong, they wanted to kill him. At his trial before Festus, the Roman governor, Paul repeats the same defense.

And neither in the temple, nor in the synagogues, nor in the city itself did they [Paul's accusers] find me [Paul] carrying on a discussion with anyone or causing a riot. Nor can they prove to you the charges of which they now accuse me. But this I admit to you, that according to the Way which they call a sect I do serve the God of our fathers, believing everything that is in accordance with the Law, and that is written in the Prophets; having a hope in God, which these men cherish themselves, that there shall certainly be a resurrection of both the righteous and the wicked. In view of this, I also do my best to maintain always a blameless conscience both before God and before men.
Acts 24:12-16

According to Paul's defense, he stated that his belief in Yeshua and Yeshua's resurrection was not in conflict with his belief in the God of his fathers nor the Law and the Prophets. He said he was blameless before God and men. He said that he had not offended God's Law nor man's law. The book of Hebrews says that anyone setting aside the Law of Moses is guilty of death (Hebrews 10:28). Paul said he was blameless; therefore, Paul had not set aside the Law of Moses.

while Paul said in his own defense, I have committed no offense either against the Law of the Jews or against the temple or against Caesar.
Acts 25:8

Was Paul's Defense the Truth?

Is Paul telling the truth here? Remember, these statements are being made on the record in a legal proceeding, subject to perjury. Is Paul lying to protect himself? If you take the Gentile point of view, Festus agreed that there was no evidence against him, that the charges were false.

Finally Paul was brought before King Herod. Herod was the Jewish King, as permitted by the Romans, and able to understand the nuances of the religious argument. Paul's testimony again proclaims his agreement with the Law of Moses and the Prophets.

And now I am standing trial for the hope of the promise made by God to our fathers; the promise to which our twelve tribes hope to attain, as they earnestly serve God night and day. And for this hope, O King, I am being accused by Jews. And so, having obtained help from God, I stand to this day testifying both to small and great, stating nothing but what the Prophets and Moses said was going to take place; that the Christ was to suffer, and that by reason of His resurrection from the dead He should be the first to proclaim light both to the Jewish people and to the Gentiles.
Acts 26:6-7,22-23

If Paul was truly opposed to the Law of Moses and proclaiming that Yeshua was a replacement, then why didn't he say it? If Paul was teaching that we should not hold to Moses any longer, that the grace of God had replaced the Law, why didn't he give that testimony? Two choices remain. Either Paul was a liar, deceiving his brethren and he was lying at his trial; or, what he said was true. If he is speaking the truth, then every preacher since quoting Paul has misrepresented him in advocating Paul's opposition to the Torah, Moses and the Prophets.

Paul's Background

If we look deeper into the background of Paul, we find a man who had no trouble acting on his deepest beliefs. Prior to his faith in Yeshua, he participated in the effort to discredit, arrest, and punish believing Jews. His own testimony explains his role in Stephen's death.

And when the blood of Thy witness Stephen was being shed, I also was standing by approving, and watching out for the cloaks of those who were slaying him.
Acts 22:20

Paul was very familiar with the trial of Stephen, the first martyr, and the charges he faced. Paul is the source of testimony for Luke to write about the story in Acts 6. The accusation against Stephen was similar to Paul's own rumor and accusations. It was false.

Then they [Paul and his friends] secretly induced men to say, We have heard him speak blasphemous words against Moses and against God.  And they [Paul and his friends] stirred up the people, the elders and the scribes, and they came upon him and dragged him away, and brought him before the Council. And they put forward false witnesses who said,  This man incessantly speaks against this holy place, and the Law; for we have heard him say that this Nazarene, Jesus, will destroy this place and alter the customs which Moses handed down to us.
Acts 6:11-14

Stephen had not spoken against the temple and the Law. He had not said that Yeshua would destroy the temple and do away with the customs of Moses. These were lies and trumped up charges in an effort to do harm to Stephen, and Paul is part of it.

Clearly, Paul as a believer is telling the truth, even admitting his own misdeeds. Paul is clearly separating himself from his past of accusing Stephen of speaking against the temple and the customs of Moses. Any man today who makes a similar statement against Moses is speaking a lie as defined by the New Testament and the Apostle Paul. Quite simply, if you believe that Yeshua came to do away with the temple service and the Law of Moses, then you are believing the word of false witnesses. Paul was one of them and calls himself a false witness in this matter.

What about the Galatians?

Let's say Paul is being truthful and that he is an observant Jew, but what about Paul's instruction in the book of Galatians? Doesn't it say they were not to keep the Law? Doesn't it say that keeping the commandments causes you to fall from grace? Yes, it does. But, let's be clear about the facts. Whatever Paul is saying, he is not speaking against the Torah. He is not speaking against the Jewish people, Jerusalem, or the temple. He is not speaking against the teaching. He is speaking against something else.

Remember the Jerusalem Council meeting, when believing Jews were trying to compel the Gentiles to be circumcised? Now in Galatia, some Gentiles are trying to compel the Gentiles to be circumcised. They, too, have told everyone that you must do it to be saved. They are presenting a new Gospel. This is no different from Acts 15 where they debated the merits of salvation and it being separate from circumcision and the Law. The Galatians started believing that they should keep the Law of Moses for salvation. They believed that their faith was not counted for righteousness; they believed that righteousness came from keeping commandments. Paul recounts those days in Jerusalem and how they resisted. He clearly says that the motivation of the advocates was not to seek truth or understand the great work of salvation. It was an effort to subject the new Gentile believers to Jewish thinking in Jerusalem.

But not even Titus who was with me, though he was a Greek, was compelled to be circumcised. But it was because of the false brethren who had sneaked in to spy out our liberty which we have in Christ Jesus, in order to bring us into bondage. But we did not yield in subjection to them for even an hour, so that the truth of the gospel might remain with you.
Galatians 2:3-5

The Galatian Conclusion

This Galatian conclusion is exactly the same as from the meeting in Jerusalem. Paul argued that righteousness does not come from keeping commandments; it comes from believing the promises of God. In particular, he advocates the promise of God concerning His Son. This is called having faith in God. Paul repeats the story of Abraham and how his faith in a son to come was counted for righteousness. Nothing, including all the works of the Law, can do what Yeshua has done for us.

nevertheless knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the Law but through faith in Christ Jesus, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, that we may be justified by faith in Christ, and not by the works of the Law; since by the works of the Law shall no flesh be justified.
Galatians 2:16

Old Lies are Hard to Overcome

Paul's words are in agreement with Peter's words in Jerusalem. But old lies are hard to overcome. Paul confronted the Galatians with the same question posed by them in Jerusalem. Did the Holy Spirit come from keeping circumcision or keeping all the Law?

This is the only thing I want to find out from you: did you receive the Spirit by the works of the Law, or by hearing with faith? Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?
Galatians 3:2-3

This lesson had been learned much earlier. Did Cornelius, the first Gentile believer, after receiving the Holy Spirit go on to circumcision or keeping the Law to gain his salvation? The obvious answer is No. The book of Galatians is not a new teaching about disregarding the Law or doing away with the Mosaic Covenant. It is consistent with the teaching of Peter, James, and the results of the Jerusalem Council meeting. Paul goes on to say that this behavior, additional requirements beyond Yeshua, proves a lack of faith in Yeshua's sacrifice.

Behold I, Paul, say to you that if you receive circumcision, Christ will be of no benefit to you. And I testify again to every man who receives circumcision, that he is under obligation to keep the whole Law. You have been severed from Christ, you who are seeking to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace.
Galatians 5:2-4

It was Paul's testimony that no one is justified (saved) by keeping the Law. Paul was not trying to justify himself by keeping the Law.

Why was Paul Observant?

Then why is Paul an observant Jew? Why does Paul continue to keep the commandments? The answer is simple. Paul was an observant Jew because he loved the Lord his God with all his heart, with all his might, and with all his strength and … he loved his neighbor as himself. The Law (Torah) is summed up in these commandments. These are the same words of Yeshua. First, we are saved by faith, and then we obey His commandments because we love Him. Keeping commandments for salvation disqualifies your faith in the promises of salvation. Keeping commandments after salvation, however, enables you to know God and thus perfect your faith. The Apostle John says it this way.

The one who says, I have come to know Him, and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him; but whoever keeps His word, in him the love of God has truly been perfected. By this we know that we are in Him: the one who says he abides in Him ought himself to walk in the same manner as He walked.
I John 2:4-6

The Law of Moses was not done away with by Yeshua. It is not the teaching of the Apostles to do away with the Law. This controversy has more to do with rumors than with facts. Paul loved the Torah, the living Word of God, Yeshua the Messiah. To say otherwise is to prefer rumor and falsehood rather than the truth.

Why Do People Go to Church?

Why do people go to church? The church I'm referring to is the Protestant Evangelical church. You know, the one that has the modest building with seating for 250, fellowship hall and kitchen, Pastor's office, classrooms with children's art on the walls, paved parking lot and the old school bus parked under the light at night. Or how about this church? The one with seating for three thousand, an outside foyer with stained glass and stone tile. The classrooms rival the public school system. The Pastors are each given their own office with an adjoining conference room and an outside secretary who handles everything. It has a stage in the sanctuary that will support a small rock concert with lighting and sound equipment to match. Then there is the 75 person choir loft and the small orchestra pit. Outside are play areas, landscaping, and a day care. Don't forget the adjoining gymnasium and activity center, banquet tables and chairs for wedding receptions and the full commercial grade kitchen. There's more but I think you get the picture.

So, let's ask the question. Regardless of the size why do people like you and me go to church?

The Righteous Reasons

Before we go any further, let's get rid of the obvious answers and dismiss the righteous reasons why people go to church. We all know that they don't go for those reasons.

The first and most obvious is Jesus the Christ. C'mon let's get honest. People don't go to church week in and week out, every week for that. Maybe that's why they should be going, but we are trying to understand why they really go at all. Seeking forgiveness from God can also be ruled out. Everyone knows you can just ask God for forgiveness anytime, so going to church has nothing to do with that. You don't have to go to church to be saved!

Let's rule out spiritual instruction. The basic instruction that is given in a church is simply learning the party line. The majority of people don't really study the Bible at church. It's more like instruction with qualifications. "It's our way or the highway." We are still looking for the real reasons why people go to church.

Most Americans go to a variety of two or three churches in the course of their lives. Baptist, Presbyterian, Lutheran, Independent non-denominational, Assembly of God, Charismatic and Pentecostal types are like suits of playing cards (clubs, diamonds, spades, and hearts). They all play pretty much the same way. Each claims to have the spiritual edge. It's pretty much a personal preference as to where people go. That might answer why they go to a particular church. But, it doesn't answer why they go to church on a continuing basis.

I ask the question to understand the truth. Oh No! I went and used that scary word. We'll talk about truth later. Let's answer the first question before us. Why do people really go to church?

The Real Reasons

A good lawyer never asks a question he doesn't have the answer to and the same goes for a good teacher. Consider my answers based upon observations of my grandmother (God bless her soul) and as a former Baptist minister, a church builder and congregational pastor.

Monte's TOP TEN reasons people go to church.

10. Holidays: (the Christmas decorations/music and the Easter Pageant)

9. Group Activities: (the ski trip, youth camping, couples retreats, etc.)

8. Counseling: (emotional support for pending/past divorce)

7. The Music Program: (Sunday morning choir, and special performances)

6. The Youth Program: (teen religious activities along with sports and video games)

5. The Dynamic Preacher: (handsome and dignified)

4. The Children's Program: (just like school)

3. Program Involvement (member of the choir or a particular class)

2. Friendship, Companionship, or Networking (looking for their next spouse or customer)

And the number 1 reason why people go to church-

1. HABIT (they don't want to change anything).

Church leaders know these are the real reasons that people come to church and they plan to these expectations. They know there are more important reasons but in their noble way of thinking they justify all these things by saying, "Get 'em in then we'll get 'em saved!"

I want to share with you what really goes into the planning and thinking of church growth. I think you'll be surprised to discover the real reasons for successful churches. By successful, I'm referring to those described earlier with growing numbers of attendance. Remember, successful churches are based on how many people attend (and their resulting contributions). The more people; the more money; the more successful the church.

The Three Models of Church Growth

Church growth is based upon three progressive models: the Field of Dreams model, the Entertainment model, and the Goods and Services model. A large, several thousand person church has all the models going at the same time. This is the goal for all big time pastors to build a B-I-G church with all three models of church growth.

Field of Dreams Model

The Field of Dreams model is the famous "If you build it, they will come" model. People like to have a little space around them when they are seated and unless you provide a lot of seating, then don't expect a lot of people. This is where bigger is better. Besides, church building funds bond the congregation together. It gives the people a shared purpose. Of course, it's more material than spiritual bonding. The color of new carpet will dominate the business meeting.

Entertainment Model

The Entertainment Model is both the music and preaching service. The service needs to begin on time with stirring music and presenters. It also needs to end on time to support Sunday lunch, the football schedule, etc. Sunday dinner after church is one of the most important events of the week. Ask any local sit-down restaurant. Choir specials and music solos are excellent crowd pleasers. You move into the big time when you host concerts with professional artists accompanied by your own musicians. If by chance you can get a very dynamic speaker with the music, this flushes out the entertainment model. If the speaker is famous, has written books, and doesn't appear to read his speech, then people will come just for the 25 minute devotional. Stirring music and a stimulating speaker will always keep the faithful in line and they have a reason to invite a friend to church.

Goods and Services Model

However, the Goods and Services Model is the really B-I-G one when it come to church growth. If a church really wants to have the big numbers of people coming then it has to have the goods and services model. You have to have something for everybody in the family. From nursery to day care, big church to children's church, activities and programs galore. Then, … you make it a package deal. It's set up a lot like the country club or the health spa. In fact, this kind of model is really a poor man's country club. With your one tithe, you can come to any or all of the varied activities. This is what really brings people to church.

The Three Principles of Sustaining Church Growth

Once you start getting the numbers up for attendance, then there's the problem of keeping them. This is a little like the act of juggling. Church people are high maintenance items and the Pastor and his staff will have to stay on their toes to keep everything calm, cool and collected.

Keeping everything Calm

The first principle of sustaining church growth is keeping everything calm. This is done by asserting unity of the church over any principle. Sometimes keeping everything calm is confused with compassion or love of the brethren. Unity of the church is paramount. If an individual begins to question authority or a small group emerges, pastors will try to soften the issues and preserve unity. Ignoring the problem completely and acting like it is not happening is best. When all else fails, send them packing and accuse them with attempting to steal the church or better yet, "Sowing discord among brethren."

Keeping the Cool

The second principle for sustained church growth is keeping the cool. This principle is all about the grace of God. Grace covers a multitude of mistakes. Whenever a mistake is made by key personnel, then keep the fires of judgment nice and cool by asserting good ole grace. This is especially important when the worship leader has an affair with piano player. Remember, that God forgives all. God also says that we ourselves are forgiven even as we forgive others. So, the Pastor, staff, and large tithing members of the church should also expect forgiveness from other members of the church since grace covers it. If key people object, just tell them to "Cool it." Of course, there are exceptions when righteous indignation has its day. That would be when the person is not part of the church council, staff, or a prominent tithing family. That person, should be silently judged guilty and smiled at like they are a leper. This works very well on newly divorced people. You're just being cool towards them.

Keeping Everything Collected

The third principle of sustaining church growth is the most important. Keeping things collected means passing the offering plate every time the church doors are open. It means pledge cards are distributed and collected each year. It means impassioned teachings on stewardship. It means heartfelt prayers immediately prior to and after the collection plate is passed. It measn playing of melodic music to enhance check writing over cash contributions. It means teaching the people to believe that the blessing comes as they bless the church. It's about "seed faith" money and "prosperity teachings." It's about measuring God's blessings by the amount of dollars that come your way. It's about collections. It's about money.

Soap Operas, Women's Magazines and Sliced Bread

Large churches are based on these models and principles with Jesus being the overall marketing theme. Think about it. Isn't church more like watching a favorite soap opera. You can get into the program for awhile, leave, and come back anytime. Everything will be the same. Oh sure, some of the characters will be different, but there will be the same interpersonal conflicts and social events happening. Or consider this parallel. Churches are like back issues of a women's magazine. No matter the year or month, you can expect to find articles on better make-up and health, how to help your husband to be more romantic, and another recipe using canned soup. Church is set up like sliced bread; it comes in a package.

People with Needs

Before we leave this discussion completely, I should also tell you that not everyone is welcome in the church. People with real needs should not plan on placing their membership in a church. Churches are not set up to help that kind of thing, especially if you need a lot of help. Churches are for nice people that smell good. Have you ever noticed the smell in a church. It's a collage of perfumes and after shaves that makes for its own kind of incense. Church people tend to look at people with needs like they smell funny. Plus, it's hard to join into the social fabric of a church when you can't afford the ski trip garb or the Sunday dinner at the restaurant.

Seeking the Truth

Also, you should not go to church if you're looking for the truth. Looking for the truth in a church will get you into a lot of trouble. It's like barbecuing a sacred cow. People will be insulted and offended if you are caught asking or sharing the truth. Churches are not institutions set up to seek and find the truth; they are set up to promote and sustain themselves. Churches don't like raw truth. The church recipe for truth is tenderize well, season with other flavors, and fry to a crisp. If you bring up raw truth too much, they will use you as garnish when they serve up their version.

The First B-I-G Church

Okay, so where's the beef (bread)!?! What is the point of this article? Do I have some deep hidden resentment against church and church brethren? Of course not. We needed to ask why people go to church so we could ask this next question. If Yeshua came to build the CHURCH, then why didn't he build a CHURCH up in Galilee or in Jerusalem? Why didn't Yeshua build the first CHURCH to "get �em in and get �em saved?"

Actually, Yeshua almost did have one of these B-I-G churches up in Galilee. In fact, He had one that had 5,000 people. The funny thing is, He shut it down and said they were coming for the wrong reasons. Let's examine that story a little closer. You will discover that it has a lot to do with the church today.

The Feeding of the Five Thousand

Yeshua was teaching in the Tiberias Galilee area and large numbers of people came to hear him. This was a great location for a church. Jews and Gentiles lived there. In fact, there is a church there today (nobody goes to it, but it is there just the same).

Yeshua therefore lifting up His eyes, and seeing that a great multitude was coming to Him, said to Philip, "Where are we to buy bread, that these may eat?" And this He was saying to test him; for He Himself knew what He was intending to do. Philip answered Him, "Two hundred denarii worth of bread is not sufficient for them, for everyone to receive a little."
John 6:5-7

The problem was that it was lunch time and the people were hungry. The disciples were trying to figure out how the crowd and they could have lunch. Remember, this is was a test. It was a test by Yeshua.

One of His disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter's brother, said to Him, "There is a lad here who has five barley loaves and two fish, but what are these for so many people?" Yeshua said, "Have the people sit down." Now there was much grass in the place. So the men sat down, in number about five thousand.
John 6:8-10

Can you imagine a church with 5,000 men (with wives and children this was a very large group). So, Yeshua had the B-I-G church there in Galilee. Yeshua then proceeded to serve them lunch.

Yeshua therefore took the loaves; and having given thanks, He distributed to those who were seated; likewise also of the fish as much as they wanted. And when they were filled, He said to His disciples, "Gather up the leftover fragments that nothing may be lost." And so they gathered them up, and filled twelve baskets with fragments from the five barley loaves, which were left over by those who had eaten.
John 6:11-13

Based upon the evidence of the twelve baskets afterward, this was not a mass hypnosis of making the people think they had eaten. He really gave them abundant food and there was more after than when they began. The response of the people was overwhelming.

When therefore the people saw the sign which He had performed, they said, "This is of a truth the Prophet who is to come into the world." Yeshua therefore perceiving that they were intending to come and take Him by force, to make Him king, withdrew again to the mountain by Himself alone.
John 6:14-15

What sign had they seen? What is it about providing food to a large number of people that signifies that Yeshua is "the Prophet who is to come into the world?" The answers have to do with Moses. Moses led a large multitude into the wilderness and God provided meat and bread for them. Moses prophesied that God would raise up another from among their countrymen who would be like Moses (Deut 18:18-19). He is referred to as the Prophet who is to come into the world. Yeshua gave them the sign just like Moses did and they wanted to make Him king.

Now when evening came, His disciples went down to the sea, and after getting into a boat, they started to cross the sea to Capernaum. And it had already become dark, and Yeshua had not yet come to them. And the sea began to be stirred up because a strong wind was blowing. When therefore they had rowed about three or four miles, they beheld Yeshua walking on the sea and drawing near to the boat; and they were frightened. But He said to them, "It is I; do not be afraid." They were willing therefore to receive Him into the boat; and immediately the boat was at the land to which they were going.
John 6:16-21

The Apostle John isn't so much trying to describe the miracle of walking on water as much as he is trying to describe how the disciples and Yeshua got to Capernaum. Remember, the people chased Yeshua into the mountains. The disciples, however, loaded up the twelve baskets of bread , themselves and proceeded to Capernaum by boat. Yeshua then met them at sea during the night in a storm before they all arrived in Capernaum.

The next day the multitude that stood on the other side of the sea saw that there was no other small boat there, except one, and that Yeshua had not entered with His disciples into the boat, but that His disciples had gone away alone. There came other small boats from Tiberias near to the place where they ate the bread after the Lord had given thanks. When the multitude therefore saw that Yeshua was not there, nor His disciples, they themselves got into the small boats, and came to Capernaum, seeking Yeshua. And when they found Him on the other side of the sea, they said to Him, "Rabbi, when did You get here?"
John 6:22-25

The Apostle John gives us a certain amount of detail about how the people were searching for Yeshua. First, they looked in their area, then they got into boats themselves and headed for Capernaum. Ask yourself something, "Why did they go after the disciples when they knew Yeshua did not leave with them and was somewhere else?" Did they think that they would eventually see Yeshua by finding the disciples? Why were they stunned to find Yeshua there? Why did they really go to Capernaum?

Remember the original question in this article? Why do people really go to church? Wait till you hear Yeshua's answer to them.

Yeshua answered them and said, "Truly, truly, I say to you, you seek Me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate of the loaves, and were filled. Do not work for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man shall give to you, for on Him the Father, even God, has set His seal."
John 6:26-27

The people weren't really seeking Yeshua, nor were they looking to confirm the truth of who He was. They were following the trail of the twelve baskets of bread. I sincerely believe that if Yeshua were to show up in one of those churches we have been talking about, the people would ask the same question, "When did You get here?" I believe that Yeshua would say the same thing to them. "You are not seeking Me or the truth; you're here for the bread [goods and services]."

Yeshua has taught us that life is more than bread (goods and services). This was the same lesson for Israel in the wilderness. Man does not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God does a man live. The problem is that church people still don't believe the words. Let me give you the opportunity to think about this a little deeper and consider this truth. People, including professing believers in the church, are more interested in the baskets of bread than the true bread from heaven. They're using the assembly of Yeshua to organize and conduct the business of bread distribution. But Yeshua said it very straightforward and profoundly.

Yeshua said to them, "I am the bread of life; he who comes to Me shall not hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst."
John 6:35
Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes has eternal life. I am the bread of life.
John 6:47-48

Churches hear these words but they don't believe them. They are a metaphor at best and serve as part of the church decorum along with stained glass and communion cups. I submit that the words of Yeshua are worth more than being the engraved text on a dust collecting artifact. Believing them means living life with the Spirit of God. Not believing His words means that you're following a trail of bread crumbs never to be satisfied.

Whenever I hear a believer speak of their church and say, "I'm not getting fed there," I remember what Yeshua said of Himself. Either Yeshua overstated when He said that He is the bread that is truly satisfying, or those believers have never eaten the bread. I am convinced that churches don't serve the bread of Yeshua; they're following the bread in the twelve baskets. They are looking for a field of dreams, to be entertained, and for the goods and services in a package deal. They want to be calm, cool and collected.

Even in Yeshua's day, those of the five thousand didn't accept His words. They couldn't make the transition from earthly bread to manna from heaven. They want that which satisfies but they follow their eyes. But don't get down on yourself or others too much. Even His disciples struggled with what Yeshua said.

Many therefore of His disciples, when they heard this said, "This is a difficult statement; who can listen to it?" But Yeshua, conscious that His disciples grumbled at this, said to them, "Does this cause you to stumble?
John 6:60-61

I am sure that this article has described the church of many. It may be the church that you love and respect. My comments may well have offended you. Questioning why you go to church and exposing those realities may be difficult for you. But, it can't be anymore difficult for you than it was for those looking for the baskets of bread, or for the disciples who carried the baskets. Remember, this was a test. It is a test that many don't pass the first time.

The fact is that Yeshua wants our following to be about Him and the truth, not about great numbers, entertainment, nor goods and services. Yeshua is not interested in how many show up for the assembly. He is much more interested in you showing up and being reconciled to Him and the truth.

As a result of this many of His disciples withdrew, and were not walking with Him anymore. Yeshua said therefore to the twelve, "You do not want to go away also, do you?"
John 6:66-67

The growth that Yeshua wants in us spiritually is qualitative not quantitative. Yeshua wants us to believe in Him. Yeshua described the church of today in His last letter to the churches. Specifically, He said of us.

Because you say, "I am rich, and have become wealthy, and have need of nothing," and you do not know that you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked,
Revelation 3:17

A Final Question

Maybe you don't go to church for the same reasons as others do. Maybe you go to church for the right reasons. Maybe you truly believe in the Messiah and have eaten of His bread. If so, I have a final question for you. Why are you not in fellowship with like minded believers? Why are you still going to church knowing their purpose differs from Yeshua? You need to be in the assembly of the twelve with Yeshua, the true bread, not with the five thousand out to lunch.

So, where is the bread? It's not where you expect. It's not in a basket; it comes from the hands of the Messiah. It won't look like other breads that are leavened and puffed up; it's unleavened bread and crushed flat. You won't be able to buy it; it's given to you. It's not sliced; it's broken. It's not served with butter; it's the dessert. It does not come in a package; its served at the feast of the Lord. It's found at the Passover table wrapped in a linen cloth with the cup of Redemption. It has the taste of eternal life.

How to Deal with Pharisees in Your Life

Yeshua's ministry was filled with inspired teaching, new sight for the blind, healing for the lame, cleansing for lepers, and hope for the poor. It also had something else – great conflict. In the midst of doing so much good, there were those who were opposed to all the good being done. Was it Satan incarnate who was so adamantly opposed? Was it evil forces filled with hatred that opposed Yeshua as He went about doing good? No. For the most part, it was the religious people, specifically it was the religious leaders who were pledged and committed to the good of the community and the people. Within this group were Sadducees, scribes, priests, and the elders of the land, but it was the Pharisees that gave Yeshua the most grief. Unlike the other leaders, the Pharisees had built local synagogues and ministered directly to where the people were. They were the spiritual leaders of the people. Why then would they be so opposed to the ministry of Yeshua? Why would any religious leaders be opposed to Yeshua's ministry? Why did they disregard the good things done for the people? What in particular bothered them so much to cause such opposition? The reasons are going to surprise you. But what will surprise you even more is that these same reasons are used today by religious leaders that are opposed to one another.

Why would any religious leader today be opposed to the good works of any ministry? Whether it be the local pastor or a regional/national leader, why would any religious man be opposed to another man ministering. Let's examine Yeshua's example as He dealt with opposition in His day.

The charges against Yeshua.

If you were to stop and ask a Pharisee why he was opposed to Yeshua, he wouldn't answer that he was opposed to good works, but for other reasons. Here is a summary list of the six charges against Yeshua as recorded in the Gospels and how Yeshua addressed them.

1. He breaks God's word.

The first complaint against Yeshua was nothing less than absurd. The Pharisees charged Him with breaking their rules for Sabbath.

Therefore some of the Pharisees were saying, "This man is not from God, because He does not keep the Sabbath."
John 9:16a

Actually, they charged Yeshua with breaking Sabbath because He was healing on the Sabbath. First, it was the lame man at the Pool of Bethesda when He told him to take his pallet home.

Therefore the Jews were saying to him who was cured, "It is the Sabbath, and it is not permissible for you to carry your pallet." And for this reason the Jews were persecuting Yeshua, because He was doing these things on the Sabbath.
John 5:10, 16

Yeshua answered these charges with the words of Moses. Yeshua pointed out that Moses instructed Israel to circumcise their sons on the eighth day, even if it was a Sabbath. Yeshua questioned them with the Torah. If Moses says that you should circumcise on a Sabbath, then what is the fault with healing the whole man on Sabbath?

On this account Moses has given you circumcision (not because it is from Moses, but from the fathers), and on the Sabbath you circumcise a man. If a man receives circumcision on the Sabbath that the Law of Moses may not be broken, are you angry with Me because I made an entire man well on the Sabbath?
John 7:22-23

This is a well known teaching in the Torah for Torah teachers today. Rabbi Elazar was one of the great sages of Judaism and very profound in many of his teachings. He said it this way, "If circumcision, which involves only one of the 248 limbs of a man, overrides Sabbath, then the whole body certainly overrides the Sabbath." According to the teachings of Judaism, Yeshua spoke and did correctly. Please take note that Yeshua (the Greatest Torah Teacher) said it first.

Yeshua did not keep the commandments of the Pharisees; He kept the commandments of His Father handed down by Moses. This event served noticed to the Pharisees that debating Scripture with Yeshua would not work to bring Him down. They would need to find something more to defeat Him.

2. He is not sent from God.

Yeshua said that He was sent by His Father, our Heavenly Father. A lot of people are sent by God for a variety of reasons. Prophets are sent by God. Moses was sent to the children of Israel by God. Pastors are called of God. In fact, all spiritual teachers lay claim to the call or authority of God to teach. Israel was familiar with hearing people say that they were sent by God. They even had a procedure to determine if the person was from God. They examined the words and deeds. They looked for signs. Moses instructed them that truth was confirmed by the evidence of two or three. Yeshua, Himself, said that we were to examine the fruit from the tree to determine the type of tree. So why was this a charge against Yeshua? Why didn't they see Him as sent from God? It can't be because people are not sent by God. The answer is somewhat shocking. They simply refused to consider His words or deeds and signs. They said He was not from God and offered only their opinion against Him. This was a great source of conflict even among themselves.

But others were saying, "How can a man who is a sinner perform such signs?" And there was a division among them.
John 9:16b

Some of the specific signs that assuredly proved that Yeshua was sent from God included giving sight to the man born blind. Even the blind man gave this testimony when questioned by the Pharisees.

Since the beginning of time it has never been heard that anyone opened the eyes of a person born blind. If this man were not from God, He could do nothing.
John 9:32-33

If He wasn't sent from God, then the Pharisees had to contend that He was doing things of His own will for the purpose of falsehoods.

The Pharisees therefore said to Him, "You are bearing witness of Yourself; Your witness is not true."
John 8:13

Yeshua answered this point directly on several occasions. First, He stated His position clearly and showed the signs of God's hand, His Father. Then, He reminded them of John the Baptist and his personal endorsement of Yeshua. He reminded them of His specific deeds and works. Finally, He offered the Scriptures (Moses and the Prophets) as a witness of Himself.

Even in your law it has been written, that the testimony of two men is true. I am He who bears witness of Myself, and the Father who sent Me bears witness of Me.
John 8:17-18

If I alone bear witness of Myself, My testimony is not true. There is another who bears witness of Me, and I know that the testimony which He bears of Me is true. John 5:31-32

But the witness which I have is greater than that of John [the Baptist]; for the works which the Father has given Me to accomplish, the very works that I do, bear witness of Me, that the Father has sent Me.
John 5:36
You search the Scriptures, because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is these that bear witness of Me;
John 5:39

3. He misleads many people.

When the Pharisees could not contend with Him by Scripture or deny His signs, they accused Him of doing harm to the people of Israel. They accused Him of misleading the people. "Sure, He is doing this right now, but later He will harm the people." The fact that the people are listening and paying close attention to a speaker does not mean that they are being misled. Truth is truth. Only when error is mixed with truth is there opportunity for deception. The reason the Pharisees said Yeshua was misleading the people was because the people were no longer listening to and paying close attention to them. Thus, they concluded that He was going to mislead the people.

And there was much grumbling among the multitudes concerning Him; some were saying, "He is a good man"; others were saying, "No, on the contrary, He leads the multitude astray."
John 7:12

Religious leaders do not like it when their people go to hear another. When the Pharisees saw that even more people were going to Yeshua than went to John the Baptist, this became a real complaint on their part. Yeshua was forced to leave the region.

When therefore the Lord knew that the Pharisees had heard that Jesus was making and baptizing more disciples than John (although Yeshua Himself was not baptizing, but His disciples were), He departed Judea and went again into Galilee.
John 4:1-3

Later, the Pharisees wanted to have Him arrested when they saw the people responding favorably to Him.

But many of the multitude believed in Him; and they were saying, "When the Messiah shall come, He will not perform more signs than those which this man has, will He?" The Pharisees heard the multitude muttering these things about Him; and the chief priests and the Pharisees sent officers to seize Him.
John 7:31-32

Since the Pharisees couldn't contend directly with Yeshua, they began to attack the people who were willing to hear Him. They even attacked the guards who didn't bring Him back under arrest.

The officers therefore came to the chief priests and Pharisees, and they said to them, "Why did you not bring Him?" The officers answered, "Never did a man speak the way this man speaks." The Pharisees therefore answered them, "You have not also been led astray, have you?"
John 7:45-47

It is one thing for the officers that work for the chief priests not to understand properly, but Nicodemus was one of the elders of the priests. He was one of the rulers of the people. When he gave argument for why Yeshua should at least be heard, he was argued against by the Pharisees.

Our Law does not judge a man, unless it first hears from him and knows what he is doing, does it? They answered and said to him, "You are not also from Galilee, are you? Search, and see that no prophet arises out of Galilee."
John 7:51-52

The truth is that the Scripture does say that the Messiah is to come out of Galilee; however, there was no sense in arguing Scripture with them. They had already departed from the Scripture on the commandments. Why should they hold to Scripture on the prophecies? They were going to just argue something else if you pointed it out; and that is exactly what they did do. They began to argue about where Yeshua came from.

4. It is not known where He is from.

One of the most complaints of people who are determined to complain is to question the source of a person or teaching. Where are you from? What school did you go to? Where did you get this from? These are only a few of the questions that people wishing to take issue ask. The whole question of where the Messiah is to come from and where Yeshua was from, was a major topic of contention for Him raised by the Pharisees. First, they argued that no one knows where the Messiah comes from but they knew where Yeshua was from.

However, we know where this man is from; but whenever the Messiah may come, no one knows where He is from. Yeshua therefore cried out in the temple, teaching and saying, "You both know Me and know where I am from; and I have not come of Myself, but He who sent Me is true, whom you do not know. I know Him; because I am from Him, and He sent Me."
John 7:27-29

Then the argument shifted to "Okay, we know the Messiah is the son of David and is to come from Bethlehem, but Yeshua is from Galilee."

Others were saying, "This is the Messiah." Still others were saying, "Surely the Messiah is not going to come from Galilee, is He? Has not the Scripture said that the Messiah comes from the offspring of David, and from Bethlehem, the village where David was?" So there arose a division in the multitude because of Him.
John 7:41-43

When both of those arguments couldn't hold up, they denied that they even knew where Yeshua was from. When the man born blind heard that, he offered his own wisdom in the matter.

We know that God has spoken to Moses; but as for this man [Yeshua], we do not know where He is from. The man [born blind, now seeing] answered and said to them, "Well, here is an amazing thing, that you do not know where He is from, and yet He opened my eyes."
John 9:29-30

5. None of the leaders believe in Him.

The Pharisees had a pretty high opinion of themselves. They held themselves up as a standard of proper behavior and decorum. If they didn't believe that Yeshua was the Messiah, then He simply wasn't the Messiah. It's as simple as that. They reasoned that the people were in error in the Scripture because they didn't have their interpretation. Obviously, the interpretation of the Pharisees and their consensus agreement proved that they were right and any differing opinion was wrong

No one of the rulers or Pharisees has believed in Him, has he? But this multitude which does not know the Torah is accursed.
John 7:48-49

The real problem here with Yeshua was that He did not confirm the Pharisees in their leadership positions. Had He simply checked in with the Pharisees there in Jerusalem, let them announce who He was and in so doing, bolster and endorse their leadership, everything would have been fine. But Yeshua didn't do that. Yeshua didn't authenticate the Pharisaic authority and grant them their first share in His kingdom. Therefore, the Pharisees decided to be opposed to him and hang onto whatever ego and power they had.

6. He has a demon and is crazy.

When all else failed, when they couldn't contend with Him by Scripture or directly, when they couldn't convince the crowd not to listen, and the argument fell through that He was from the wrong side of the tracks, they went for the bottom of the barrel. They reached in and got out some really slimy, ugly stuff to find fault with Him. "Let's just slander Him and say He has a demon and is crazy!"

The Jews answered and said to Him, "Do we not say rightly that You are a Samaritan and have a demon?" Yeshua answered, "I do not have a demon; but I honor My Father, and you dishonor Me."
John 8:48-49
And many of them were saying, "He has a demon and is insane. Why do you listen to Him?"
John 10:20

I guess this shows how desperate the Pharisees were getting. When you have to stoop to accusing someone of having a demon (doing Satan's work) and say they are crazy, then who needs facts, truth, signs from God, or anything else. There is only one more step you can do to stop Him then – kill Him. So, that is what the Pharisees decided to do.

The real reason why the Pharisees were against Yeshua.

So, why did the Pharisees really take issue with Yeshua? It wasn't about Scripture. It wasn't about doing good deeds or Godly signs. It wasn't about misleading the poor people or disputes about whether He was born in the right place. It wasn't about the majority opinion of the rulers or having a demon and being crazy. It was about something much more insidious. It was about POWER.

Yeshua had a different kind of POWER than the Pharisees had, and they knew Yeshua had it. What kind of power are we talking about? Before, we answer, let's cover some basics about power and what it really is.

In its simplest form, power is about your hand and what it can do. Power comes from a variety of sources. Your ability to tap into those sources (gaining authority) and how you use your hand determines how much power you have.

Let me give you some examples:

When you go to college and get a degree, you get a certain amount of knowledge with some authority. "He is an authority on that subject." Knowledge is a form of power. A bachelor's degree does not have as much power as a doctorate degree has. This is why people put their degrees after their name; it gives notice that they have a certain level of knowledge (power).

Another example is titles. In the work place, a President of a company or organization is more powerful than a Department Manager. It doesn't mean that the President has more knowledge than the Department Manager. This is what is called positional authority. Pharisees were way up there in position and knowledge.

Power also comes with wealth. Are you familiar with the world's version of the Golden Rule: Whoever has the gold has the rule.

Today, religious men use titles and exert positional authority over the brethren. Regardless of their motives this is their authority base. Reverend, Pastor, Deacon, Messianic Rabbi are but a few examples that send the signal to us that the titled person has authority and power. Failure to recognize this power or submit to it can spell real conflict for you.

What did Yeshua think about the power of position, the use of titles and ruling by positional authority?

But do not be called Rabbi; for One is your Teacher, and you are all brother. And do not call anyone on earth your father; for One is your Father, He who is in heaven. And do not be called leaders; for One is your Leader, that is, Messiah. But the greatest among you shall be your servant. And whoever exalts himself shall be humbled; and whoever humbles himself shall be exalted.
Matthew 23:8-12

Is Yeshua saying that all titles are inappropriate? If He is, then every religious leader past, present and future is in big trouble. No, He isn't. What He is saying is the power to minister comes from God not from a title or position. Pastor is not a title; it's a work. Rabbi is not supposed to be a title; it is a work and a ministry. Minister means servant. Power (the greatest) comes from God's ministry and service. God has all the power. Therefore, Yeshua is saying that the servant of God, one who humbles himself, will have the real source of power (God). How do you get this power? It comes by God's anointing. That is why the Messiah is the Anointed One.

Yeshua was questioned by the leaders about this.

And it came about on one of the days while He was teaching the people in the temple and preaching the gospel, that the chief priests and the scribes with the elders confronted Him,

and they spoke, saying to Him, "Tell us by what authority You are doing these things, or who is the one who gave You this authority?"
Luke 20:1-2

Yeshua turned the tables on them and asked about the authority of John the Baptist. He asked if John's baptism was of men or of Heaven. He was asking them by what authority John had ministered. They refused to answer so Yeshua did the same with them.

Yeshua did not assert His title as Messiah or positional authority. He did not ask anyone to believe Him or follow Him because he was the Messiah by title. Instead, He did the work of the Messiah. He fulfilled the prophecies. He paid the price as the Lamb of God.

Religious men, like the Pharisees hand out titles to one another, then expect everyone else to do the work. They assert their position and their learned degrees (power of knowledge). Yeshua said it this way.

And they tie up heavy loads, and lay them on men's shoulders; but they themselves are unwilling to move them with so much as a finger. But they do all their deeds to be noticed by men; for they broaden their phylacteries, and lengthen the tassels of their garments. And they love the place of honor at banquets, and the chief seats in the synagogues, and respectful greetings in the market places, and being called by men, Rabbi.
Matthew 23:4-7

Here is a spiritual law that you can take to your heavenly bank and deposit like gold. All power belongs to God; He is the only source of real power. Trying to acquire power on your own, by others giving you power, by knowledge, title, wealth, or position is temporary at best and will not remain.

At Yeshua's trial, Pilate asserted his authority as a Roman Governor saying that he had the power of life and death. What was Yeshua's response to Pilate's assertion?

Pilate therefore said to Him, "You do not speak to me? Do You not know that I have authority to release You, and I have authority to crucify You?" Yeshua answered, "You would have no authority over Me, unless it had been given you from above; for this reason he who delivered Me up to you has the greater sin."
John 19:10-11

Yeshua said that Pilate's authority was temporary and was granted by His Father. Even the power of Pharaoh with Moses was temporary and for God's purpose.

For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, "For this very purpose I raised you up, to demonstrate My power in you, and that My name might be proclaimed throughout the whole earth."
Romans 9:17

Pharaoh didn't have the power and Pilate didn't have the power. Neither do other men no matter what their title. Any authority they have has been given by God.

Have you ever heard this expression? Power corrupts; absolute power corrupts absolutely. Even the heathen world knows that men can not handle power very well. History is filled with examples of this truth. Just because a man is religious does not negate this truth. This is why Yeshua insists that HUMILITY is essential for effective leadership. Yeshua showed us this kind of humility while using the power of God to heal, calm the storm, speak with wisdom, and teach.

However, there is one very important part of the lesson we must learn about God's power. When you minister with the power and authority of God, anyone using any other power will be opposed and in conflict with you. Take the example of the Pharisees. Better yet, take the example of our own modern day brethren in leadership. Why is there so much conflict? It is all about power and who has it.

The power and authority of God does not come from title or knowledge. It comes from the anointing of God. God's power works best when it is not mixed with the power of men. This is why Paul says to us.

And He has said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness." Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, that the power of Messiah may dwell in me.
II Corinthians 12:9

Many years ago, I was challenged by my own brethren just as the leaders of Israel challenged Yeshua. "Who are you submitted to? And by what authority do you do the things you do?" This is a question that every minister and servant of God should answer. An organization can't give you the right authority or power. A title, a certificate, a wall full of degrees will never carry the day for what God wants done. The authority of men will never accomplish the work of God.

My answer stunned the questioner. "I am submitted to any man who is submitted to the Lord. Can you show such a man? If you can, then he will be submitted unto me just as I am to him in the Lord. We will be submitted one to another in the Lord."

Until all men realize that we are under God's power and authority, we are going to have conflict. It is a power conflict, but they won't call it that. First, they will argue with you about what the Scripture says. They will try to take the power, the sword of the Scripture away from you. Then they try to confront you directly concerning your relationship with God. They don't want you to using God's authority that He has given you. They will accuse you of misleading and being misled.

They will say that you are using the God's power incorrectly. They will question where your learning is from and where you are from. They will try to confuse and befuddle you, anything to get you to question who you are. Then they will try to show you that there are more of them than there are of you (they have more power).

They will try to diminish your power with numbers, knowledge or with pedigree. Finally, they will just say you are a heretic, demon possessed, and crazy. They will even threaten you. All of it is to get you to use your own power, instead of God's power, or to not believe that God's power will work.

And Jesus said to them, "Watch out and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees." Then they understood that He did not say to beware of the leaven of bread, but of the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees.
Matthew 16:6, 12

Yeshua's warning to His disciples and us is about power. Power puffs and leavens leaders with ego and pride of position. Knowledge is said to do the same thing. Knowledge puffs up. When to come into contact with puffed up leaders you will experience these things, the same things that Yeshua encountered.

But consider this brethren, if they accuse you with the same accusations Yeshua faced, you are in pretty good company. Didn't Yeshua say they would hate us because they hated Him first. Didn't He say we would be hated without a cause. Think about this for a moment. Didn't we say we wanted God's power to work in us. Didn't we say we wanted to drink from the same cup as the Master drinks from? We should be surprised then when these things happen.

There is a day coming when there won't be anymore Pharisees or power struggles. That will be when all power will be in the hands of God and no longer misappropriated by men. This is what the Scripture means when it says:

Then comes the end, when He delivers up the kingdom to the God and Father, when He has abolished all rule and all authority and power.
I Corinthians 15:24



Shavuot: Counting the Omer

Shavuot by Monte Judah

We are in the midst of God’s instruction of counting of the Omer begun in April with the Feast of First Fruits. On Sunday, May 24, we will count the fiftieth day (the day after seven complete Sabbaths) and observe the feast day called Shavuot, the Feast of Weeks. What significance is there for us today about this one-day festival? Does it have future significance? There is much we can learn from the command to count the Omer to the celebration of the day itself, as we shall see ahead.

Moses instructed us to perform this count and observe this festival.

You shall also count for yourselves from the day after the sabbath, from the day when you brought in the sheaf of the wave offering; there shall be seven complete sabbaths. You shall count fifty days to the day after the seventh sabbath; then you shall present a new grain offering to the Lord. On this same day you shall make a proclamation as well; you are to have a holy convocation. You shall do no laborious work. It is to be a perpetual statute in all your dwelling places throughout your generations.
Leviticus 23:15-16,21

Although the exercise is called counting the omer, we are actually counting the days between the Feast of First Fruits (grain) and Shavuot. An omer is a Biblical measure of two quarts of grain given as a temple offering. Counting the omer each day for fifty days creates anticipation for the culminating feast day when the offering of the new crop of grain was given.

Shavuot has other names, such as Pentecost (the fiftieth day), the Day of Proclamation, and the Feast of Weeks. It is generally believed that the reference to the Day of Proclamation on Shavuot has to do with God giving Israel the Torah. On this day, God proclaimed the Ten Commandments, so it does not come as a surprise that this is the same day after Yeshua’s resurrection that the Holy Spirit was breathed on the disciples and they began to “proclaim the Gospel” in Jerusalem. The name Feast of Weeks came about because to determine the correct observance we count seven complete weeks.

For us today, Shavuot is an excellent time to enter the waters of the mikvah (immersion) and to proclaim our faith in God and our redemption by Messiah Yeshua. Although a mikvah is not commanded in Scripture, making a proclamation is. In Acts 2 we see them combined. What does counting the Omer and observing the Day of Proclamation say of our future? Why do we count the seven weeks (fifty days)?

Before we answer that directly, let us note some interesting observations about Shavuot and counting up to the fiftieth day. God uses repeating number sets to lay out all of His appointed times. For example, the basic week is six days of labor plus one day of rest (the Sabbath /Shabbat): six plus one equals seven. There are seven commanded annual appointed times: Passover (Pesach), Feast of Unleavened Bread (Matzah), Feast of First Fruits (Hag HaBikkurim), Shavuot (Feast of Weeks), Feast of Trumpets (Yom Teruah), Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur), and Feast of Tabernacles (Sukkot).

The annual cycle is as follows: Passover is a one-day observance, whereas Unleavened Bread is a seven-day event with a high Sabbath on the first and seventh days. Shavuot is a one-day event precluded by the counting of seven weekly Sabbaths in a row, celebrating on the next day, totaling fifty days. The Feast of Trumpets is a one-day observance held on the first day of the month of Tishri, the only day set on a Rosh Chodesh (a new moon), thus the beginning of a new month. Yom Kippur is a one-day observance set on the tenth of Tishri. The Feast of Tabernacles is observed for seven days beginning on 15 Tishri with a high Sabbath on the first day, an eighth day is attached to the seven, called “the Great Day of the Feast,” making the entire feast eight days concluding with a high Sabbath. Therefore, the combination of Passover and Unleavened Bread produces an eight-day event at the head of months and Feast of Tabernacles with the Great Day of the Feast concludes the festival year with an eight-day event.

Notice God also calls upon us to count the years in a similar fashion as the appointed festivals. Like the weekly Sabbath, we are to count six years and the seventh year is to be a sabbatical year (6 + 1 = 7). In the land of Israel, farmers were forbidden to cultivate the land in the seventh year so that the land could rest. God then told us to count the number of sabbatical years until we had completed seven of them, and the following year was to be a Jubilee year (a Yovel), thus 7 × 7 + 1 = 50. In addition, God commanded that all debts were to be released and the land was returned to the original members of the twelve tribes. Therefore, in every generation there came a time when everyone was released from debt and the inheritance of the tribal lands, first allocated in the days of Joshua, were returned to the tribal descendants and heirs.

These patterns also speak to future things at the end of the ages. God’s plan for the earth is six days of work (6,000 years) and one day (1,000 years) of rest. 2 Peter 3:8 illustrates that the Jews understood that with God a thousand years is as one day. The Bible lays out this plan in the six days of creation and the weekly Sabbath in Genesis Chapter 1. Each weekly Sabbath and each sabbatical year are reminders of the creation and a foretaste of the Messianic kingdom.

Now back to counting the Omer. It is like counting the sabbatical years leading to the Jubilee (7 × 7 + 1 = 50). Therefore, the fiftieth year of Jubilee and the Feast of Weeks (Shavuot) are reminders of the first year in the Messianic kingdom in which the Master has returned and we are just beginning to live our eternal lives with Him!

Shavuot is of particular importance to those who are eagerly anticipating the return of our Messiah. The world is changing before our very eyes and the end-time prophecies appear more visibly to us each year. Shavuot has been overlooked for the most part as lacking substantial prophetic significance. The spring feasts of Passover and Unleavened Bread speak of the Messiah’s first coming. The fall feasts of Trumpets, Atonement, and Tabernacles speak of the Messiah’s second coming, yet Shavuot stands between them and seems insignificant. However, we shall see that it has greater prophetic value for us than previously understood.

Shavuot launched the proclamation of the Gospel by the disciples as recorded in the Book of Acts. In the future, Shavuot will initiate the proclamation of God’s vengeance. Consider this prophecy from Isaiah.

The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the afflicted; He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to captives, and freedom to prisoners; to proclaim the favorable year of the Lord
Isaiah 61:1-2a

I am sure you are familiar with this prophecy. Yeshua quoted this, directly attributing its fulfillment to Himself and His ministry when He began His earthly teaching; but He stopped mid-sentence! There is more to Isaiah’s prophecy of what will be proclaimed.

… And the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn, to grant those who mourn in Zion, giving them a garland instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the mantle of praise instead of a spirit of fainting. So they will be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that He may be glorified.
Isaiah 61:2b-3

Who proclaims “the day of vengeance of our God?” It is not the Messiah because He proclaimed “the favorable year of the Lord.” Shavuot, as the Day of Proclamation, has a very important role in the end-time scenario. It is the time for God to make the final proclamation of this age—the warning of His vengeance and judgment—the day of His reckoning is coming soon.

Consider the prophet Isaiah’s proclamation for the end.

For the Lord of hosts will have a day of reckoning against everyone who is proud and lofty, and against everyone who is lifted up, that he may be abased.
Isaiah 2:12

The enemies of our God have already made numerous proclamations against Him and against us; but there is a Shavuot coming when God will make His own proclamations concerning His enemies.

For the Lord has a day of vengeance, a year of recompense for the cause of Zion.
Isaiah 34:8

As I write this article, the world is doing its best to force a peace agreement on Israel, re-define its borders, divide Jerusalem, and make the land of Israel subject to its enemies. God has stated that these are the very reasons for the Day of the Lord.

I will gather all the nations, and bring them down to the valley of Jehoshaphat. Then I will enter into judgment with them there on behalf of My people and My inheritance, Israel, whom they have scattered among the nations; and they have divided up My land.
Joel 3:2

Israel has rejected President Obama’s forced peace, insisting that Jerusalem is their eternal capital city and is not to be divided, but Israel’s resistance will not stop President Obama’s plan for the Middle East. The prophesied “agreement” will somehow happen, yet God will reverse it. When God makes His move, we will be the people who stand and proclaim God’s vengeance and justice to the world.

These are frightening days, and many believers will hesitate, preferring to avoid any confrontation; however, we who proclaim God’s vengeance are to offer words of consolation to those who are afraid.

Say to those with anxious heart, “Take courage, fear not. Behold, your God will come with vengeance; the recompense of God will come, but He will save you.”
Isaiah 35:4

I do not believe in fate, but I do believe that God has a plan that will be carried out regardless of what we do.

There are many things prophesied concerning the end of the ages, many of them ominous. I believe that God does not want to execute all that will happen, but if God says that such things will happen, then the Word of God will be fulfilled. This is the very essence of what Yeshua told His disciples concerning the destruction of Jerusalem. No one wanted to see Jerusalem destroyed, but it happened in 70 A.D. That warning also applies to us at the end of the ages.

But when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then recognize that her desolation is at hand. Then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains, and let those who are in the midst of the city depart, and let not those who are in the country enter the city; because these are days of vengeance, in order that all things which are written may be fulfilled.
Luke 21:20-22

Shavuot has another dimension to it that plays an important role in the end-time scenario – the outpouring of the Holy Spirit.

There was a time in Numbers 11:16-25 when God took of the Spirit that was upon Moses and placed Him upon seventy elders to enable them to help Moses govern Israel. In Acts 2, on the day of Shavuot after the resurrection of Yeshua, 120 believers assembled in Jerusalem were anointed with the Holy Spirit. The prophets Ezekiel and Joel spoke of a future time when God’s Spirit would be poured out, that the outpouring would occur in the aftermath of a regional war involving Israel and certain northern enemies.

The War

And you, son of man, prophesy against Gog, and say, 'Thus says the Lord God," Behold, I am against you, O Gog, prince of Rosh, Meshech, and Tubal; and I shall turn you around, drive you on, take you up from the remotest parts of the north, and bring you against the mountains of Israel. And I shall strike your bow from your left hand, and dash down your arrows from your right hand. You shall fall on the mountains of Israel, you and all your troops, and the peoples who are with you; I shall give you as food to every kind of predatory bird and beast of the field. You will fall on the open field; for it is I who have spoken," declares the Lord God. And I shall send fire upon Magog and those who inhabit the coastlands in safety; and they will know that I am the Lord.
Ezekiel 39:1-6
But I will remove the northern army far from you, and I will drive it into a parched and desolate land, and its vanguard into the eastern sea, and its rear guard into the western sea. And its stench will arise and its foul smell will come up, for it has done great things.
Joel 2:20

The Aftermath

And I will not hide My face from them any longer, for I shall have poured out My Spirit on the house of Israel," declares the Lord God.
Ezekiel 39:29
And it will come about after this that I will pour out My Spirit on all mankind; and your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions.
Joel 2:28

When God poured out His Holy Spirit on Shavuot as described in Acts 2, several things were apparent. The experience was most likely exhilarating with the rushing wind, the appearance of fire above their heads, and everyone was excited and speaking in strange languages. One of the gifts of the Spirit, speaking in different languages, was evident to others present.

And when the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. And suddenly there came from heaven a noise like a violent, rushing wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. And there appeared to them tongues as of fire distributing themselves, and they rested on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit was giving them utterance.
Acts 2:1-4

There were others celebrating Shavuot in Jerusalem at the same time and they too heard the wind and observed the disciples speaking in the visitors’ native languages.

Now there were Jews living in Jerusalem, devout men, from every nation under heaven. And when this sound occurred, the multitude came together, and were bewildered, because they were each one hearing them speak in his own language. And they were amazed and marveled, saying, "Why, are not all these who are speaking Galileans? And how is it that we each hear them in our own language to which we were born? Parthians and Medes and Elamites, and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the districts of Libya around Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabs-- we hear them in our own tongues speaking of the mighty deeds of God.
Acts 2:5-11

Since Shavuot is the second of the three pilgrimage feasts (Pesach, Shavuot, and Sukkot), many devout believers had traveled to the temple in Jerusalem to worship the Lord. There was a variety of languages being spoken by these visitors. This particular manifestation of the Holy Spirit seems to have been planned by God to immediately spread the Gospel to all of these different nations by those faithfully attending Shavuot in Jerusalem.

Peter’s proclamation to the people that day was simple and straightforward, that Yeshua was resurrected and had taken His seat at the right hand of God and has given us the promise of the Holy Spirit.

This Yeshua God raised up again, to which we are all witnesses. Therefore having been exalted to the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, He has poured forth this which you both see and hear. Therefore let all the house of Israel know for certain that God has made Him both Lord and Messiah – this Yeshua whom you crucified.
Acts 2:32-33,36

It was a powerful proclamation with the evidence the Holy Spirit poured out. The world was never the same. The Gospel message began there at Shavuot and the worldwide spread of Christianity is the result.

Now let’s bring this event up to our day. If we are looking for the true fulfillment of Ezekiel’s and Joel’s prophecies to happen at the end of the ages prior to the coming of the Lord, what should we expect? What sort of manifestation of the Holy Spirit will occur with us? Will there be a rushing wind? Will we see tongues of fire on our heads? Will we manifest the gift of speaking in tongues as they did? The answers will come soon since we are at the end of the ages and anticipating fulfillment.

Let us consider a couple of things that may shape our days. We are looking for a future Shavuot when a regional war with Israel will result in this great outpouring. From that we will know that we are within seven years of the Messiah’s return and kingdom here on the earth. The outpouring will be upon those who worship the God of Israel and keep His appointed times. It could have the rushing wind and the tongues of fire, but I think there will a be a different manifestation of the Holy Spirit than “speaking in tongues.” I think there will be other spiritual gifts specifically empowering us to proclaim the message of God’s judgment and vengeance.

Daniel says that at the end of the ages there will those who have insight in the prophecies who give understanding to many others.

And those who have insight will shine brightly like the brightness of the expanse of heaven, and those who lead the many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever. Many will be purged, purified and refined; but the wicked will act wickedly, and none of the wicked will understand, but those who have insight will understand.
Daniel 12:3,10

Those who have insight and understanding will probably be those who received this last-day outpouring of the Holy Spirit. The insight and understanding are apparently the prophecies provided by Daniel that he himself did not fully understand, including the host of end-time related prophecies. Whatever is given by the Holy Spirit will be used to lead many to righteousness and be part of the purging, purifying, and refining process that God will perform.

If we step back for moment and try to anticipate this outpouring in the days we live, there are other thoughts that come to mind. The prophet Joel distinctly speaks of how different age groups will be part of this outpouring.

And it will come about after this that I will pour out My Spirit on all mankind; and your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions.
Joel 2:28

This seems to suggest that numbers of the recipients will be prolific in spiritual exercises and all ages of believers will experience this.

This will be exhilarating; I am sure we will all be filled with wonder. This outpouring of the Holy Spirit will strengthen the believers as they face the challenges ahead. The world will never be the same. The stage will be set for the world to receive God’s judgment and it will also be time to prepare for the Great Tribulation.

I hope that as you read this that you count the Omer with me, that you will prepare your heart in anticipation of the soon coming events of Shavuot. Prepare your heart to receive God’s understanding and His Holy Spirit to transform you. These are exciting times. I don’t want you to miss out on any part of His blessings.

I desire to see God show His power in this world. I want the decision about God to be clear for everyone. I want to see God’s people empowered as never before. I want to experience the rushing wind, the fire, and the Glory of God in our midst. I want everyone to see the day approaching, to know God’s plan for the end, believe His words, and trust in His deliverance.

The disciples saw God’s work of redemption, resurrection, and His ascension before the Holy Spirit was given. I for one can't wait to see the outpouring of the Holy Spirit first then God’s work of restoring the whole house of Israel, the resurrection of all saints, the Day of the Lord, and His triumphant return to the earth.

DVD by Daniel Musson



Sabbath and Biblical Feasts by Monte Judah

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