If you remember from last time we discussed the Wedding up to the Seven Blessings. Blessings are very important in Jewish life and they are very significant in Scripture. If stands to reason that the Wedding ceremony would include a complete number of Blessings. The themes of the Blessings include: Creation, Eden, Zion, Redemption, Bridegroom, and Jerusalem.
The first Blessing: Blessed are you, Adonai or God, King of the Universe who created the fruit of the vine. (The fruit of the vine represents the blood of Christ, the blood of the Lamb, the blood of redemption. The redemption cup was planned before Creation.)
The second Blessing: Blessed are You, Adonai our God, King of the Universe, who created everything for Your glory. (Creation! The idea of the blood came first, then the creation.)
The third Blessing: Blessed are You, Adonai our God, King of the Universe, shaper of humanity. (Basically we have here the creation of humanity with the first wedding because you can’t have humanity with just the man, you have to have the wife too.)
The forth Blessing: Blessed are You, Adonai our God, King of the Universe, who has shaped humanity in Your image, patterned after Your image and likeness, and enabled them to perpetuate this image out of their own being. Blessed are You, Adonai, shaper of humanity. (Again we see the creation of humanity, but this time specifically spoken of in terms of being created in His image. That image is still within us today. Only it’s been twisted and marred. Therefore, we need a Kiddushin, we need sanctification, we need to be made holy and set apart because our sin has corrupted the image. You see that sanctification puts us back into the likeness of the Son, unmarres that image. Isn’t that a beautiful picture, unmarres that image, until we become more and more, with ever increasing glory, more and more like our Husband.)
The fifth Blessing: May the barren one exult and be glad as her children are joyfully gathered to her. Blessed are You, Adonai, who gladden Zion with her children. (This comes right out of Isaiah 54 through 56. It’s the future glory of Zion with many children. Does Zion have many children? Does Israel have many children? We a members of the nation of Israel. We are her children. Then one day the borders of Zion will expand to cover the whole earth.)
The sixth Blessing: Grant great joy to these loving companions as You once gladdened your creations in the Garden of Eden. Blessed are You, Adonai, who gladden the bridegroom and the bride. (The final wedding leads to the wedding feast. It leads to the ultimate wedding celebration.)
The seventh Blessing: Blessed are You, Adonai our God, King of the Universe, who created joy and gladness, groom and bride, merriment, song, dance and delight, love and harmony, peace and companionship. Adonai our God, may there soon be heard in the cities of Judah and the streets of Jerusalem the voice of joy and the voice of gladness, the voice of the bridegroom and the voice of the bride, the rapturous voices of the wedded from their bridal chambers, and of young people feasting and singing. Blessed are You, Adonai, who gladden the bridegroom together with the bride.
The blessings begin and end with the wine. You see it is at this point in a Jewish wedding once the blessings are spoken that the wine is taken in. Remember this is the cup of the wedding, not the Kiddushin. Remember at the Passover meal He said to His disciples that He would not drink of the fruit of the vine again until when? Until it finds fulfillment in His Father’s Kingdom. The next cup is the cup of Praise. The Blessings begin and end with the wine, which represents the blood of Christ.
It says in Isaiah 62:1-5 & 11-12, “For Zion’s sake I will not keep silent, for Jerusalem’s sake I will not remain quiet, till her righteousness shines out like the dawn, her salvation like a blazing torch. The nations will see your righteousness, and all kings your glory; you will be called by a new name that the mouth of the LORD will bestow. You will be a crown of splendor in the LORD’s hand, a royal diadem in the hand of your God. No longer will they call you Deserted, or name your land Desolate. But you will be called Hephzibah, and your land Beulah; for the LORD will take delight in you, and your land will be married. As a young man marries a maiden, so will your sons marry you; as a bridegroom rejoices over his bride, so will your God rejoice over you…The LORD has made proclamation to the ends of the earth: Say to the Daughter of Zion, ‘See, your Savior comes! See, his reward is with him, and his recompense accompanies him.’ They will be called the Holy People, the Redeemed of the LORD; and you will be called Sought After, the City No Longer Deserted.”(NIV)
Along with the bride, the body, and the temple there is also the picture of the bride as the New Jerusalem or Zion. When you got married did you get a new name? I did. When you get married you get a new name. Now my NIV translates that word “Builder” as “sons”, “builder” comes from the text note. But it makes much more sense because the “young man” is the “builder” and the “young man” whose the “builder” is the “bridegroom” and the “young man” whose the “builder” whose the “bridegroom” is “God” the Son. You see this is Jewish poetry and they do not rhyme there poetry by sound, but with thought. Because of that I think it is appropriate to use the word ‘builder”. Is the redeemed of the earth not us? Jerusalem’s builder will marry her, Israel’s builder will marry her. He will give His Son in marriage to the one He has prepared for Him, the pure spotless Bride.
Then comes the time of the Yichud, it is the time of isolation. That time when traditionally bride and bridegroom spend some time alone together for the first time as husband and wife. This is just my opinion, but I truly believe this is when the Day of Atonement begins. Because it is going to begin with us at the Judgment Seat of Christ. Remember the wedding is the Feast of Trumpets. Next comes the Day of Atonement when the judgements are meeted out and I do believe it will begin with us at the Judgment Seat of Christ when all is laid bare between us, everything. And nothing ever again will divide us. We have to go to that Judgment Seat of Christ, don’t we? It must be. We must see what acts were righteous and what acts burn away. When all is laid bare, when we have that time, just us, as husband and wife. That time of consummation. Consummation means bringing to completion. We will be made complete. We will then return with Him dressed in white linen robes. Only righteousness is left.
Yichud is when the symbolic act of Huppah is brought to completion. We cannot side step the Judgment Seat of Christ and then, of course, there is the rest of the Day of Atonement and the rest is called Armaggeden when God judges this world, when Christ comes and judges this world. When judgment is made and judgment is passed and the books are closed, that is the Day of Atonement. That old Jewish question of why do the wicked prosper will be answered on that day. Scripture also calls it the Day of the Lord, when all is made right. Then we get to start our Wedding Feast.
We have been to the Judgment Seat of Christ, the Day of Atonement has come, judgment has been passed and the Feast begins. The Feast of Tabernacles is the Wedding Feast. It is also known as the Feast of Ingathering, Feast of Booths, or simply The Feast. Now if you and I were asked which is the most significant feast on the Jewish calendar we who come from a Christian background would probably say the Feast of Passover. Not so. The largest feast on the Jewish calendar is the Feast of Tabernacles. It’s the final harvest. It’s their time of Thanksgiving that’s why it’s known as “The Feast”. That’s what they call it, “The Feast”. In Deuteronomy 16:13-15 13 “Celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles for seven days after you have gathered the produce of your threshing floor and your winepress. Be joyful at your Feast–you, your sons and daughters, your menservants and maidservants, and the Levites, the aliens, the fatherless and the widows who live in your towns. For seven days celebrate the Feast to the LORD your God at the place the LORD will choose. For the LORD your God will bless you in all your harvest and in all the work of your hands, and your joy will be complete.”(NIV)
Did you catch it that the final harvest is that of the threshing floor and the winepress. That is the wedding feast, the Feast of Tabernacles, the time when our joy is made complete after the final ingathering of the threshing floor and the winepress and, of course, you know what that represents, the wine and the bread or the blood and body of Christ. We are that harvest. And at the celebration of that harvest our joy will be made complete. Now you may say to yourself, “Now Vicky, how do you know this is the final feast?” Look at Zechariah 14:16-19, “Then the survivors from all the nations that have attacked Jerusalem will go up year after year to worship the King, the LORD Almighty, and to celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles. If any of the peoples of the earth do not go up to Jerusalem to worship the King, the LORD Almighty, they will have no rain. If the Egyptian people do not go up and take part, they will have no rain. The LORD will bring on them the plague he inflicts on the nations that do not go up to celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles. This will be the punishment of Egypt and the punishment of all the nations that do not go up to celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles.”(NIV)
This is when Christ is on His thrown on this planet. It is the millennial reign of Christ. Do you get the feeling that the Feast of Tabernacles is important. Do you get the feeling that we should know a little bit about this Feast because it’s coming, right at us. We are running smack into it. Nice to know it’s coming. Yes, this is the wedding feast. This is the time when our joy will be made complete.
After the wedding feast comes the New Heaven, the New Earth, and the New Jerusalem, adorned as a bride for her Husband. That’s our new home. We mentioned the intention of a husband and wife to have a new home and life together. The new Heaven and New Earth, the New Jerusalem, that is our new home. And we will dwell together with our Husband as Husband and wife with our God. He will be the Temple. God Almighty and the Lamb will be the Temple. And we will be at His right Hand (Psalm 45), His wife. He will be our God and we will be His people.
God set out to make Himself a people, but not just a people, He wanted a wife for His Son. Us in Christ, Christ in God, the covenant of peace, the covenant of oneness, the everlasting covenant. And so we shall ever be with the Lord. There will be oneness in that garden, in that city for eternity. That oneness ended in the first garden because of sin. It will never end in the final garden. From wedding to wedding that is our story. I don’t know of a greater story God could tell to the heart of a believer. One day we will all stand together at the right side of our Husband and we will be made one and our joy will be made complete. We will be His people and He will be our God!
There is a reason that I gave you information on the Jewish feasts because we are headed for a Jewish Feast. You see, Passover, was when our Lord died and paid the Mohar. He was offered as a guilt offering. Then we had the feast of Unleavened Bread, He is the unleavened bread and that bread was buried. It was on First Fruits that He rose from the dead. He is the first fruit. The day of Pentacost was the first official harvest on the Jewish calendar and the day of Pentacost we had the first official harvest. Next, on the Jewish calendar comes the feast of Trumpets.
Let’s look again at John 14:1-3 1 “”Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. 2 In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.”(NIV)
He’s coming back. Hallelujah! And He is not just coming back; He’s coming back with fanfare. It’s going to be a really big deal when He comes back. Let’s look at I Thessalonians 4:16-18 16 “For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. 18 Therefore encourage each other with these words.”(NIV)
These are encouraging words. He’s coming back with a shout, the voice of the arch angel and the trumpet call of God. As you can see Paul believed He was in the last days and I don’t think there has been a generation since who hasn’t believed the same thing. It is that eager anticipation, that eagerness that aches for our husband.
That brings us to the Jewish wedding, to Nissuin which is derived from the verb nasa, and it means to carry or lift. We are going to get carried away and lifted off our feet. Nissuin can also mean elevation and connects husband and wife to God Almighty. We will be elevated as husband and wife to God. The legal ceremony has already occurred, it’s the Kiddushin. The wedding is the lifting away. All that’s left is for Him to come get His precious wife. Remember Jacob said, “Give me my wife” and when Yeshuah comes for His we’ll be gone.
I Corinthians 15:51-53 51 “Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed– 52 in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. 53 For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality.”(NIV)
Paul likes mystery, have you noticed that? Did you know that our husband and our oneness to Him is the greatest mystery this world has ever seen? That moment when we are lifted up off this earth, we’ll be changed. Why? We are going to see Him in all His glory. He will transform us to be like Him in an immortal body.
In Revelation 19:6-9 It says, “Then I heard what sounded like a great multitude, like the roar of rushing waters and like loud peals of thunder, shouting: “Hallelujah! For our Lord God Almighty reigns. 7 Let us rejoice and be glad and give him glory! For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready. 8 Fine linen, bright and clean, was given her to wear.” (Fine linen stands for the righteous acts of the saints.) 9 Then the angel said to me, “Write: `Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding supper of the Lamb!’ ” And he added, “These are the true words of God.””(NIV)
The word we translate bride in our translations is actually “wife” in the Greek. I think we translate it “bride” because of how we think of a wedding, it has to have a bride. The day will finally come when the wife has made herself ready and our place in heaven is prepared and the Father says to the Son, “Go get your wife”. He’ll come down with a shout at the last trumpet call of God and He is going to lift us away and we’re not only going to get a new body, we’re going to get a beautiful robe. This robe stands for the righteous acts of the saints. We must be about His work, Amen.
I keep going back to how we started and what He said at His mikvah, “We must do this to fulfill all righteousness.”(NIV) He started the pursuit first, we didn’t. He had a desire for a wife, we had no desire for a husband. This was all His idea.
Isaiah 61:8b-10 says, “In my faithfulness I will reward them and make an everlasting covenant with them. 9 Their descendants will be known among the nations and their offspring among the peoples. All who see them will acknowledge that they are a people the LORD has blessed. 10 I delight greatly in the LORD; my soul rejoices in my God. For he has clothed me with garments of salvation and arrayed me in a robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom adorns his head like a priest, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.”
I love that verse. Do you believe you will be beautiful on that day. How’s your robe coming together. You see when a Jewish man and woman would go through the Kiddushin, He would leave and go prepare a place, but guess what she set about doing? She began to make her wedding dress. She began to make her robe. How’s your robe coming together? How’s that wedding dressing looking? Are you about done? You ready for Him? Of course, He gets to put the finishing touches on it, we understand that. I want to look a passage that became very dear to me when I was leading an Esther study.
It is Psalm 45, it’s a wedding Psalm. Beginning in verse 2 it states, 2 “You are the most excellent of men and your lips have been anointed with grace, since God has blessed you forever. 3 Gird your sword upon your side, O mighty one; clothe yourself with splendor and majesty. 4 In your majesty ride forth victoriously in behalf of truth, humility and righteousness; let your right hand display awesome deeds. 5 Let your sharp arrows pierce the hearts of the king’s enemies; let the nations fall beneath your feet. 6 Your throne, O God, will last for ever and ever; a scepter of justice will be the scepter of your kingdom. 7 You love righteousness and hate wickedness; therefore God, your God, has set you above your companions by anointing you with the oil of joy. 8 All your robes are fragrant with myrrh and aloes and cassia; from palaces adorned with ivory the music of the strings makes you glad. 9 Daughters of kings are among your honored women; at your right hand is the royal bride in gold of Ophir. 10 Listen, O daughter, consider and give ear: Forget your people and your father’s house. 11 The king is enthralled by your beauty; honor him, for he is your lord. 12 The Daughter of Tyre will come with a gift, men of wealth will seek your favor. 13 All glorious is the princess within her chamber; her gown is interwoven with gold. 14 In embroidered garments she is led to the king; her virgin companions follow her and are brought to you. 15 They are led in with joy and gladness; they enter the palace of the king. 16 Your sons will take the place of your fathers; you will make them princes throughout the land. 17 I will perpetuate your memory through all generations; therefore the nations will praise you for ever and ever.”(NIV)
Did you catch where we are? We are at His right hand as He is on the right hand of the Father. We are going to marry the King.
Nissuin came to be called within Jewish culture, Huppah. Huppah means to cover. It can be translated canopy, chamber, or closet. It is the bridal chamber where the marriage is consummated or made complete. You see we have the legal documents and now we are waiting for that completion when those documents are going to be made fact. Scripture says, “Our faith will be sight.” We are waiting for that completion.
In Joel 2:16 we see, “Gather the people, consecrate the assembly; bring together the elders, gather the children, those nursing at the breast. Let the bridegroom leave his room and the bride her chamber.”(NIV) The word “chamber” here is the word Huppah.
Another example of this is found in the book of Isaiah where it says in Isaiah 4:5, “Then the LORD will create over all of Mount Zion and over those who assemble there a cloud of smoke by day and a glow of flaming fire by night; over all the glory will be a canopy.”(NIV) Where will is this? It is over all of Mount Zion, which is in Jerusalem. The center piece of Jerusalem is the Temple and the greatest place there was the Holy of Holies. The Holy of Holies, His chamber, is where we will come together under the Huppah of God’s Glory as husband and wife before God the Father. And because we are lifted up with Him in the Nissuin this is the Holy of Holies in Heaven the one true Tabernacle.
Nissuin is accomplished by a means of a symbolic act of intimacy that demonstrates the couples’ intention to create a new home and new life. It’s far less tangible than Kiddushin, it’s sealed not with documents, but with actions. It literally gives the Bride and the Bridegroom to each other. Nissuin consists of the Sheva Birkat or the Seven Blessings and the Yichud or time of seclusion. The major themes of the blessings are Creation, Eden, Zion, Redemption, Bridegroom, and Jerusalem. From beginning to end. We will look at these next time.
There is another symbol in Scripture for the bride, we have already talked about it some, and that’s the Temple. Ephesians 2:19-22 says, “Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God’s people and members of God’s household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.”(NIV)
Jesus is our chief cornerstone, that first stone, the main stone, without that stone there would be no foundation. The temple raising up off the chief cornerstone and the foundation of the apostles and prophets.
How many temples is He making? One. Only One. Not the Baptist Temple, not the Methodist Temple, Not the Presbyterian or Luthern Temple or the Church of Christ Temple or the Catholic Temple or the Messianic Temple, I don’t care what you call it, there’s just one. One Temple and that is all.
I Peter 2:4-10 states, “As you come to him, the living Stone–rejected by men but chosen by God and precious to him– you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. For in Scripture it says: “See, I lay a stone in Zion, a chosen and precious cornerstone, and the one who trusts in him will never be put to shame.” Now to you who believe, this stone is precious. But to those who do not believe, “The stone the builders rejected has become the capstone,” and, “A stone that causes men to stumble and a rock that makes them fall.” They stumble because they disobey the message–which is also what they were destined for. But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.”(NIV)
We have received mercy, but when we argue with our brothers and sisters in Christ, even over doctrine we are not giving them mercy. We are a precious, precious Temple to Him. In Solomon’s Temple there were walls, doors, courtyard, and pillars, yet only one Temple. If we were to pull out a pillar and let it stand by itself it could not be the Temple, instead we would call that a ruin. We need each other. We have to have each other because we are one Temple and we must all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God.
Here is my next question. Do you believe the time is coming near for our husband, our bridegroom to return for His bride? Do you believe that? We are built on the cornerstone and foundation and if He is about to come that means He is about to put in the final piece. He is the final piece. He is not only the cornerstone, but also the capstone. The capstone was the final piece that held the arch in place. He is the beginning and the end, the Alpha and the Omega. So if we are close to being done shouldn’t it be obvious as to what we are? Shouldn’t it be more and more obvious as to what we are? Or are we still a wall over here and a pillar over there and you can’t really tell what it is yet? But if we are getting close to being done shouldn’t it be obvious as to what we are?
Let’s go back to I Corinthians 3:9-11, 16-23 where is says, “For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, God’s building. By the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation as an expert builder, and someone else is building on it. But each one should be careful how he builds. For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ… Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit lives in you? If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him; for God’s temple is sacred, and you are that temple. Do not deceive yourselves. If any one of you thinks he is wise by the standards of this age, he should become a “fool” so that he may become wise. For the wisdom of this world is foolishness in God’s sight. As it is written: “He catches the wise in their craftiness”; and again, “The Lord knows that the thoughts of the wise are futile.” So then, no more boasting about men! All things are yours, whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or the present or the future–all are yours, and you are of Christ, and Christ is of God.”(NIV)
From God the Father, to God the Son, to His precious Bride. All are yours.
I think we are seeing some improvement in the body of Christ in the sense that we don’t mind getting together with other believers from other denominations as much as we did 30, 40, or 50 years ago. We are also seeing more and more Jews believing in Messiah and therefore more believers are coming to understand the Jewish Roots of the faith. But there is still need for improvement, isn’t there? We have come far, but we must keep pressing on.
In II Corinthians 6:16b Paul says, “For we are the temple of the living God. As God has said: “I will live with them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they will be my people.”(NIV) He so desires to be our God and for us to be His people, for us to be able to walk hand and hand with His beloved Son. However, we can’t do that if we don’t even take the hand of one another, across whatever lines you want to draw within orthodoxy. We must realize that all are ours.
You see my Methodist sisters, you’re my sisters. My Presbyterian sisters, you’re my sisters. My Lutheran sisters, you’re my sisters. My Catholic sisters, you’re my sisters. My Messianic sisters, you’re my sisters. We are supposed to be one together. Even in thought. Isn’t that what Paul says in verse one of I Corinthians? “Perfectly united in mind and thought.”(NIV) Hard words to hear since we have become so divided and comfortable in that division. Again, we have come a long way, but still have a long way to go.
But let’s face it we have to have walls, we have to have pillars. Each part has to do it’s work. I did not come to Christ in the Southern Baptist Convention. God brought me into this convention to use me where He wants me in the time He wants me here. Period. Nothing else matters except living the life He has called me to live. Living the life He has called each and every one of us to live. This is our period of sanctification when we must completely set ourselves apart.
I have another question for you. What is the single most said complaint by people outside the church about the church? Too many hypocrites in the church, I don’t want to go there. They’re no different from me. What do they have that I don’t? That’s what they see, isn’t it? Because unfortunately, we talk the oneness talk, but we don’t live the oneness life. Yet our unity would speak volumes to the world that is lost apart from our beloved Bridegroom.
Our next post will be about how we become one. It really isn’t as hard as our minds try to make it. Remember we are not to think and act as mere men, but as His Bride! In the mean time, let’s be more mindful of building up each others walls as part of the one temple rather than tearing them down.
In the ten months that followed the issuing of the second edict there was a great time of rejoicing within the Jewish community. It was such an outward expression of joy that it was clearly seen by their friends and neighbors, even by those who had before wanted to attack them. After the second edict came a time of gladness a time when their light of that joy shined onto those around them. They became a witness to the power of God, a light to the Gentiles.
I believe this to be an initial fulfillment (the ultimate fulfillment of the following passage I believe will be fulfilled in the end) of Zechariah 8:23 which says, “This is what the Lord almighty says: “In those days ten men from all languages and nations will take firm hold of one Jew by the hem of his robe and say, ‘ Let us go with you, because we have heard that God is with you.'””(NIV) It is interesting to note that Zechariah was written in the time of Xerxes father Darius and even in the early part of Xerxes reign.
This is what the ancient world was seeing. Many peoples were coming to the Jews and following their God. God had made it obvious that He was with His people and the Gentiles did not want to be caught on the wrong side.
Remember that the first edict was sealed with the king’s signet ring, but so was the second. The people now had a choice as to which edict they would follow. Before the second edict came out there was but one choice and it had to be obeyed. Now, however, there was hope. Hope in the God of the Jews.
Here is where most people miss the blessing of the book of Esther. It is not just that God rescued his people through Mordecai and Esther, but that He used them to also start a chain reaction, so to speak, that overflowed to the rest of the peoples of the kingdom. It is clear that because of the fear of the Jews many became Jews. Yes, it does take looking beyond the surface to see the object of that fear. It is God Himself.
Remember that even Haman’s wife knew that his downfall began with parading Mordecai, a Jew, through the streets of Susa. Because the King’s honor went to a Jew, she knew he would surely come to ruin. She knew who truly lead the Jews, it was their God. It was their God that caused her to predict the ruin of her own husband.
Here too, we see the peoples of the kingdom understanding that the fear of the Jews is God. Their only hope was in trusting in this God of the Jews and thereby becoming Jews themselves. We must not think that becoming a Jew was a casual thing. It was not and is not. It involves, and did then as well, a public ceremony declaring your allegiance to the God of the Jews, immersion (called mikvah) for both men and women, and circumcision for the men. It is and was no small thing to become a Jew.
What we see at the end of chapter eight is a mass revival. We see people from different tongues, tribes and nations coming to God through the joyful witness of His people. We see the heart of God giving us a glimpse of what he would one day do.
Why do I say it like that? Because this was a short lived revival, it only lasted one generation. After the death of Xerxes, his son, Artaxerxes would declare Zoroastrianism the official religion of the kingdom. It is important to remember here that it was the Zoroastrian priests who helped conspire against Xerxes and largely gave direction to the coup against him that put Artaxerxes on the throne. One must ask the question why? Why would the priests feel the need to do that? Perhaps Xerxes himself turned and followed the God of his new adopted family. He had publically aligned himself to that family and perhaps, we can hope, to their God.
Either way, God had moved among the nations and given His invitation to the peoples of the Persian Empire just as He had with Egypt (The Exodus), Assyria (Jonah), and Babylon (Nebuchadnezzar’s turning to God). God’s heart has always been that His people, Israel, be a light to those far away so that they can be brought near.
Let us also not forget that the Northern Kingdom of Israel was dispersed into this area by the Assyrians. They may very well be a part of this revival. We think of them as lost, but God never lost them and never stopped wanting them back. We see in Ezekiel 37 that God would once again bring the house of Israel and the house of Judah back together to be one. This event in Esther may very well be that event or at least a part of that process. Remember Ezekiel was a prophet during the time of the Babylonian exile about 100 years before the account of Esther.
We also know that by the time of the first century that the Jews once again saw themselves as the twelve tribes. We see this in the opening verse of James where he addresses his letter “To the twelve tribes scattered among the nations”(NIV). The scattering James is referring to is not the exile but the diaspora in the first century after the stoning of Stephen.
Here in Esther we see God once again drawing people to Himself. This is the heart of our Father. We should never neglect to see the working of His might Hand.
Esther is first introduced to us in chapter 2:7 as Hadassah the adopted daughter of Mordecai. We are told according to the NIV that she “was lovely in form and features”. What does that mean? These are two separate Hebrew words here that can both be translated “beautiful” and therefore emphasizing her physical beauty, however, the first can also be translated “pleasant” and the second translated “favored”. Both definitions are very important because it points out that not only was she beautiful in form but also in character. These second definitions are also ones repeated often in our story and so must be taken seriously.
When the edict of Xerxes went out many young women were brought to the citadel in Susa, but if you remember Esther already lived there with Mordecai. Therefore, Esther was one of the closest and therefore first to be brought to the harem within the actual palace of the king. She along with many others were entrusted to Hegai the eunuch in charge of the harem and the one responsible for preparing the girls to go into the king. This was a long process that would take a year to accomplish.
It was Esther who first caught the eye of Hegai. She “pleased him and won his favor” and so he immediately began to put her through the purification rites and to provide her with the best food. What is interesting about these two words her is that not only do they mean “pleasing” and “favor”, which they do and you remember these words are important, but both of these words can mean either “pleasing” or “favor” and they can also both mean “best”.
In other words, Hegai thought Esther to be pleasing, pleasing and the best, best and so he showed her favor, favor. I am emphasizing these words because of their importance and also to remind you that when a thought is repeated in Hebrew, either with the exact same word or not, it is done to add weight to the point.
Hegai not only began her purification, but also gave her seven maids from the king’s palace and moved her to the “best” accommodations within the harem. This again is emphasizing what he thought of her and her chances for being the one selected.
Then we find out that she has been commanded by her father, Mordecai, not to reveal who her people are or her homeland. The text makes it clear that she followed this command showing her to be obedient to her father and loyal to her people. She is a young women of character and distinction. She knows who she is and what that means.
We also see the love her father has for her as he goes everyday to inquire of her at the harem courtyard. These two, father and daughter, are very close and loyal to one another. It is not until verse 15 of chapter 2 that we learn that they are actually cousins.
This part of Esther’s biography reminds me of one of my favorite Psalms, Psalm 45. It is found it verses 10 and 11 where it says, “Listen, daughter, and pay careful attention: Forget your people and your father’s house. Let the king be enthralled by your beauty; honor him, for he is your lord.” This is the Psalm of a wedding that foreshadows the great wedding in Revelation 19. We are to forget our past focus only on our Lord, our Bridegroom. Here Esther is to do just that, she is to focus on her potential bridegroom. The difference is that Esther is doing it to protect herself and her people. She is also from God’s family, Israel, and it is the king in this case who will be joining through marriage, even though he does not yet know it. Remember, I said in an earlier post he is looking for a home for his heart.
Esther underwent her required twelve months of purification, no doubt having some religious significance within Zoroastrianism. When it was her turn to go to Xerxes, presumably one of the first, she asked for only what Hegai suggested she take.
It is at this point I find the statement in verse 15 quite interesting that states, “Esther won the favor of everyone who saw her.”(NIV) I find this interesting because it seems to be out of place or at the least unexpected at this point. We already know she has won the favor of Hegai and it is yet to speak of the favor of Xerxes so who might the text be referring to when it says “everyone”? Possibly, Shaashgaz, the eunuch in charge of the concubines, perhaps the other young women, perhaps her maids,
I can’t help but wonder if there is another important person this may be referring to. My thoughts go to Xerxes mother, Atossa. Remember she is still alive at this point and I find it hard to believe she had nothing to do with the selection process of the next queen, at least in her own mind anyway. If that is the case, this is a huge statement and not one so out of place. Notice though we are once again hearing how Esther won the “favor” of people.
Finally, she is taken to the king in December of 479 B.C. or January of 478 B.C. She would only return to the king if he called for her by name, until then she would remain in the part of the harem where the concubines dwelt under the protection of Shaashgaz.
Yes, this does imply that their night together was a physical one, an intimate one and Scripture gives us no indication that it was not. Regardless, she is now waiting to see if he will call for her again or if the rest of her life will be spent alone in the harem.
Scripture does not leave the reader to the suspense that Esther must have felt at first. Rather, it lets us know very quickly that Xerxes loved Esther more than the others. This love he felt for her was not purely physical, but much deeper than that; even to the point of friendship.
They liked each other in a genuine way that makes for a strong bond and marriage. It is obvious that he not only loved her for her beauty, but that they also enjoyed each others company as well. Esther won the favor of Xerxes, this word “favor” can also be translated “grace”, she found grace with him. She also won his approval, the word “approval” can also be translated “mercy”.
Therefore, with Xerxes, Esther found grace and mercy. He was pleased with her so he made her is wife and queen by setting a crown on her head presumably at their wedding.
Xerxes then throws a banquet and calls it, “Esther’s Banquet”. He is not showing off his own glory, but that of his Queen. She has become a reflection of him and his glory or majesty. He does not keep his bride hidden, but shows her off and once again the officials and nobles of the kingdom, i.e., family, are there. He doesn’t stop there, but declares a holiday in the provinces, which would have included Israel, and lavishly gave out gifts.
The symbolism in this portion of the account is breathtaking.
Remember in an earlier post I said that Xerxes is a type of Christ. Well, here it is obvious and shines through with abundance.
Yeshua our King has found his bride and paid for it all. He paid the bridal price, He paid the cost of the wedding and the banquet. He gives out gifts through His Holy Spirit. He has chosen us to be blameless and holy and made us so through the sanctification or purification of the Holy Spirit. He has made us a part of His family according to His good pleasure and will, by His grace and mercy. He has lavishly poured out His favor or grace upon us.
What an awesome picture of the wedding that is to come. What a glimpse of the fulfillment of the mystery of the Bridegroom and His Bride. It becomes so obvious doesn’t it? Now do you see why I said this book was also prophetic?
Today I want to talk about the armor of God in Ephesians 6. Everything up to this point in Ephesians has been about unity and what that is, what that looks like and to some extent how do we do this, but beginning in the passage we are going to discuss today Paul gets down to the brass tax so to speak on how to administrate the unity of the body. Here is the passage:
Ephesians 6:10 Finally, be strengthened by the Lord and by His vast strength. 11 Put on the full armor of God so that you can stand against the tactics of the Devil. 12 For our battle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the world powers of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavens. 13 This is why you must take up the full armor of God, so that you may be able to resist in the evil day, and having prepared everything, to take your stand. 14 Stand, therefore, with truth like a belt around your waist, righteousness like armor on your chest, 15 and your feet sandaled with readiness for the gospel of peace. 16 In every situation take the shield of faith, and with it you will be able to extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 Take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is God’s word. 18 Pray at all times in the Spirit with every prayer and request, and stay alert in this with all perseverance and intercession for all the saints. 19 Pray also for me, that the message may be given to me when I open my mouth to make known with boldness the mystery of the gospel. 20 For this I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I might be bold enough in Him to speak as I should.(HCSB)
We are to be empowered by the Lord and by His awesome power, the two words here for “vast strength” are two different words that could both be translated “power”. Paul is trying to remind us of the power he described to us earlier in the letter when he referred to the resurrection power. In fact, the two Greek words used here are the exact same words. This is power power, awesome power, resurrection power, from God Himself. This is the only power in the universe that is capable of changing and transforming lives. Only the resurrection power can resurrect in us what is dead in sin, yet created, created in His image, to be alive in Him.
Not only does God equip us with His power for the task, but He also gives us the tools we need to wield that power. To be sure this task will take the full armor of God, not just a part of it. We are in a battle against the realm of darkness itself, not mere flesh and blood men and women, but the original liar himself and his demons. They are crafty and we must be alert and on guard every moment so that in the end we will be left standing.
So, what is this armor? Obviously, Paul is using the Roman armor as a template, but is that all? If we look closely at this armor we will find its pieces referred to in the Old Testament as well. Remember, this gospel is about the mystery that makes us one with God and each other. The Old and New Testament are not two disconnected pieces, but two parts of a whole. One will always refer and define the other. The Old Testament, will define the New Testament for us and the New Testament explains much about the Old Testament that was hidden, yet right there. God is the God and author of both. Both of them together tell His story. So let’s look at what the Old Testament has to say about this awesome armor.
The first part of the armor is the belt of truth. We see that the Messiah is clothed in the belt of righteousness in Isaiah 11 where He is judging for the poor and needy and slaying the wicked. He will do that in righteousness, but notice the section before that when the Spirit rests on Him — the Spirit of wisdom, understanding, counsel, power, knowledge and the fear of the Lord — in fact the fear of the Lord would be His delight. In following the Messiah we can only do what is right and properly discern when we are listen to the Spirit of the Lord and the fear of the Lord is our delight. This belt holds the inner garments in place. For us only the truth can hold our inner being in place. He, the Messiah, is the truth. As we follow Him and strive to live righteous lives He and His truth holds us in place to continue the fight. We cannot fight the good fight in ignorance or falsehood.
Next, we put on the breastplate of righteousness. You see after knowing and believing the truth and in the Truth we must put on the breastplate of righteousness to protect our hearts from deception that leads us in the paths of death, not life. We are to strive in the fruit of the Spirit, part of which is self-control, to do the right that God calls us to do. In addition, the Messiah not only wore a belt of righteousness that held His inner part in place (remember He is the truth – John 14:6). He was always alert and clear minded, never distracted by His own thoughts or thoughts from the enemy. Can you imagine your prayer life like this and how awesome that would be?
The Messiah also wore a breastplate of righteousness. He covered His heart with doing what pleases God. Never did He waver. In Isaiah 59 15a-18a it says, “The Lord looked and was displeased that there was no justice. He saw that there was no one, he was appalled that there was no one to intervene; so his own arm worked salvation for him, and his own righteousness sustained him. He put on righteousness as his breastplate, and the helmet of salvation on his head; he put on the garments of vengeance and wrapped himself in zeal as in a cloak. According to what they have done, so will he repay wrath to his enemies and retribution to his foes.”(NIV) In this passage we see that His own righteousness sustained Him and was His breastplate as He did the work of salvation and He will be wearing that same breastplate when He repays wrath to His enemies.
In Psalm 132:9 we read the statement about Israel, “May your priests be clothed in righteousness..”(NIV) You see He is the High Priest with His breastplate in place, remember the High Priest of Israel wore a breastplate with all the jewels of the tribes of Israel on it, and we are called a royal priesthood in I Peter 2:9. Our breastplate reflects His – our righteousness reflects His righteousness. We will never win the battles in life without it. We cannot do our own thing and expect Him to bless it. We cannot follow the deceptions of our heart and expect to win the battle against the enemy, at that point we are following darkness and not the light and we will fall.
Thirdly, we put on the sandals of “readiness that comes from the gospel of peace”(NIV). Remember the gospel of peace is the good news of oneness with God, the mystery. We get to proclaim that to others, which is what Jesus called us to in the Great Commission. We are to take His message to the ends of the earth. In Isaiah 52:7(NIV) it says, “How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace, who bring good tidings, who proclaim salvation, who say to Zion, “Your God reigns!”” That is the awesome blessing He allows us to be a part of and at the same time being a part of that is also a protection for us in the fight. The more we proclaim it and live it the more we come to understand what He did for us and grow closer and closer to Him and farther and farther from the arrows of the enemy.
Then we see the shield of faith with which we can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the enemy that do come our way. We must hold it up, hold it up high. It does us no good by our side. We can be holding the shield and still get hit if we keep it down. We must use His strength, the strength that we spoke of earlier. It is only with His strength that we can hold up the shield and keep it up.
It reminds me of when Aaron and Hur held up Moses arms while Joshua and the Israelites were fighting the Amalekites. As long as Moses’ arms were up the Israelites were winning and when they were down they were being defeated. That is why Hur, from the tribe of Judah, and Aaron, the High Priest, held them up for him. He did not have the strength on his own and neither do we.
Yeshua, the lion of Judah and our High Priest, is the one who holds our arms up, He is our faith, our strength and our shield. It is when we humble ourselves that in due time He lifts us up. Let Him lift you up with His strength and power. We cannot be defeated if we use His strength to hold up that shield of faith. Hold it up, hold it up high.
After all of this is in place we can put on the helmet of salvation. This helmet not only protects the head, but keeps the head attached to the body. He is the head, we are the body. Just as in our discussion of the Bridegroom and the Bride we must stay with Him and do what is best for Him and He does what is best for us. As we have a helmet so does He. Back to Isaiah 59 we not only see the Messiah in a breastplate of righteousness as He works salvation, but also the helmet of salvation itself. He wants to stay connected to us and so we should want to stay connected to Him. So make sure that helmet is on. How can we fight the battle if we are cut off from the head. Protect your connection to Him. That is why the helmet and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, are spoken of together.
The word of God is one of the main things that protects that connection. Just as the body receives its instructions from the head so the body of Christ receives our instructions from His word. It is our offensive weapon as it was His when He met Satan in the wilderness. We must take this weapon and defend what He has given us, what He has entrusted to us.
The enemy wants to make us believe we are not secure, but if we know our weapon and we are attached to the head, if we hold up the shield of faith and wear the breastplate of righteousness, the sandals of readiness, and the belt of truth, then this lie cannot enter into our hearts and deceive us. We are His and He is ours. Just as the master promised the slave to never leave him or forsake him, to abandon him, to pay his own debt on his own, our Master has promised to never leave or forsake us either.
With all of this equipment on we are to pray in the Spirit on all occasions. Remember the passage we mentioned in speaking about Yeshua wearing the belt of righteousness. He had the Spirit of God on Him and so must we. We must pray in the Spirit for the saints to be able to fight the good fight along side of us. We are in this together. We are not alone. He took those who were far and those who were near and made us one nation in Jesus the Messiah. We must stay alert to this fact and the fact that the enemy will also stay alert for any weakness in our armor. We must not let Him find one.
Finally, Paul asked for prayer for himself. Not to be released from his chains, but for boldness to proclaim the mystery for which he is in chains. Would you, would I, be willing to be in chains to proclaim the mystery, nonetheless, desiring to proclaim that mystery while in those chains. No matter our circumstances we must put on His armor in His resurrection power and pray in the Spirit. If we do we will be more than conquerors.
I want to first apologize for it being so long since I have written. We have been getting used to the new school year and then on top of it all we began to have computer issues. However, it did give me time to really think about this post. I am going to be discussing things in ways I have never really thought of them before and so for the extra time I am thankful.
Ephesians 6:1 Children, obey your parents as you would the Lord, because this is right. 2 Honor your father and mother, which is the first commandment with a promise, 3 so that it may go well with you and that you may have a long life in the land. 4 Fathers, don’t stir up anger in your children, but bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.
5Slaves, obey your human masters with fear and trembling, in the sincerity of your heart, as to Christ. 6 Don’t work only while being watched, in order to please men, but as slaves of Christ, do God’s will from your heart. 7 Serve with a good attitude, as to the Lord and not to men, 8 knowing that whatever good each one does, slave or free, he will receive this back from the Lord. 9 And masters, treat your slaves the same way, without threatening them, because you know that both their Master and yours is in heaven, and there is no favoritism with Him.(HCSB)
Let’s begin with the children. This command to the children is really a repeat of the fifth commandment that tells children to honor their father and their mother. That is what it is referring back to when it talks about being the first commandment with promise. In honoring them they are to obey, paying careful attention to them as they would the Lord and in doing so they are honoring the Lord who gave the command.
Then the fathers are to be careful in how they treat their children. Notice they are not given permission to do as they please to their children. They too are given instructions on how to bring up their children. They are to bring them up to love and obey the Lord, training them and instructing them in the ways of the Lord. This is a heavy task and one that bears total responsibility and purposefulness. Fathers cannot do this half-heartedly, it must be with the whole heart and with precise direction – toward the Lord.
Remember we are talking about unity in the home. If the Father or the children do not get their parts correct their is a break down in that unity. A father needs his children to obey him and to honor him and their mother. The children need to be loved and understood. They are not yet adults and do not do things the way an adult would. They also do not have the understanding of an adult yet long to be understood by their fathers. This is to be done with compassion and joy as they watch their children grow in the love and instruction of the Lord.
Here is where the mystery hits this passage. Scripture talks about us being the adopted children of God. As His children we are to obey Him without question, He is our Father. The Father looks on us with compassion as Jesus did the crowds. He understands us and knows how hard it is to avoid sin. As Hebrews 2 tells us, Jesus was tempted in every way as we are, yet without sin. You see He also knows the way to avoid the sin and if we are close to the Father, listening and obeying the Father, He will guide us through the temptation so that we can escape its grasp. This relationship is all important if we even hope to say no to sin. It works in unity, perfect unity. We are the children listening, obeying and thinking the world of our Father, standing in awe of Him and He is the loving Father beaming down in love and delight in His children.
As for the slaves and the masters I have often heard this passage preached from the perspective of employee and employer. I do not think this is accurate and here is why. This is not an example of an interpersonal relationship outside the home, but one within it. The home is the entire focus of these three examples in Ephesians. In Paul’s day slaves in the home were a reality and one that contributed to the unity of the home. Therefore it had to be dealt with as part of his conversation. He was not attempting to address the rightness or wrongness of slavery, but the behavior of both masters and slaves who have become voluntary slaves of Christ, knowing that how they act reflected on their Savior. Paul was effective in reaching both slaves and masters with the Good News of Freedom in Christ.
Slaves were to obey their masters as if they were serving the Lord. They were to do this in love for their master, not resentment. The Lord sees the heart and holds even the servant responsible for his own motives and attitude in his work. Slaves were an important part of many homes. If they did not do their work in a timely manner and well the home was not a good place to be. It reminds me of Joseph when he was the slave of Potipher in Egypt. God blessed the household of Potipher because of the efforts of Joseph who loved Him.
Likewise, masters are to deal with their slaves with respect as another human being. They are to treat them fair, knowing that they too have a Master in Heaven who is watching them. Yes, watching even the way they treat their slaves. Masters are not to leave or desert their slaves, they are part of their family, and thus, the masters are responsible for their care (keeping in mind the status of a slave was often the result of debts). This is the true meaning when it says, “without threatening them”, the threat is the threat to leave them alone. God holds each of us responsible for how we treat each other no matter our station in life. In Christ we are all brothers and sisters called to love and serve one another.
Now for the mystery within this example. We are the servants of God called to follow His commands. Jesus said, “If you love me, you will obey my commands.” You see He is the Master. He is our Lord. He has every right to give the commands and we have no right to disobey them. As for His part, in love He has promised never to leave us or forsake us as a good master, our good shepherd, would.
Yes, Jesus does calls us His friends as well, but that does not negate our role as servants. Paul calls himself a bond-servant of the Lord, a servant by choice, following the commands of His Master. Let us never forget that Lord means Master. So when we call God our Lord and Savior we are really calling Him our Master and Savior and declaring ourselves His bond-servant bound to obey His commands.
God desires unity in every part of the relationship He has with us. Unity between the Bridegroom and Bride, between the Father and His Children, between the Master and His Bond-Servants. Is not our God awesome in what He desires with us? Truly His ways are above our ways and His thoughts above our thoughts.
Let us obey our Bridegroom, Father and Master as we love one another.