Experience your Bible come alive with simple, clear, and powerful insights “Out of Zion.” After decades of travel and study in Israel, Susan Michael will answer many questions about the Bible, Jesus, Israel, and your walk of faith! Journey with her to where it all began and be inspired to greater levels of faith. You will never be the same!
We serve a God who loves to bless His people. The Bible is full of examples of this going all the way back to Abraham. God so wanted His people blessed that he instructed the High Priest Aaron how to pronounce blessing over them. Known as the Aaronic or Priestly Blessing, these verses are some of the most popular in the Hebrew Bible. They are also the oldest-known biblical text found in Israel, attesting to their popularity throughout time.
The Feast of Weeks (Shavuot in Hebrew) occurs exactly 50 days after the first Sabbath after Passover and is largely associated with the wheat harvest. However, there is a strong rabbinic tradition that this holiday also commemorates the giving of the law which occurred 50 days after the exodus from Egypt. Why did the Lord choose this day to pour out the Holy Spirit in Acts 2? Listen in for the exciting answers.
This week we begin the book of Numbers—named after two different numberings of the children of Israel contained in its pages. While God is numbering and preparing His children to take possession of their promised land, He also positions them for access to His presence. Each tribe is positioned an equal distance from the tabernacle—except for one tribe. The Levites are numbered and consecrated for service in the tabernacle.
The book of Leviticus comes to an end this week with one of the most amazing passages in the entire Bible. It explains the last 2,000 years of history and the miraculous return of the Jewish people to their ancient land that was promised to Abraham. It proves the faithfulness of the God of Israel to remember the covenant with Abraham and the Land promise in that covenant.
God has a calendar, and it is full of appointed times to meet with Him and remember events of the past, while thanking Him for the present and anticipating the fulfillment of all His promises in the future. These appointed times—called “feasts”—are rich in meaning and are as valid today as they were the day He instructed the children of Israel to observe them.
If we don't understand Leviticus and this week's reading about the Day of Atonement and the sanctity of blood, we will never understand what Jesus came to do and what He accomplished through His death. The need for atonement is everlasting, but we can be thankful that Jesus paid the price with His blood—once and for all time.
Little boys love to terrorize little girls with things most girls find disgusting like bugs, snakes, mice, and … Well, this week you may feel squeamish reading God's rules regarding several very disgusting things! But the point is to define those things that made His people unclean. Then we learn how they were to remedy it so they could freely enter His holy presence.
The ICEJ is hosting two gala dinners to celebrate Israel's 75th Anniversary in May 2023, and today we want to discuss why. When commemorating this anniversary, we are celebrating a miracle of God. Israel's birth was against all odds in 1948. Her survival throughout 75 years of war and terrorism has been astounding. However, Israel has not just survived—she is thriving and emerging as a world leader. In addition to Israel's miraculous story, millions of Christians will celebrate because they visited Israel and had the life-changing experience of their Bible come alive, and their faith ignited. For these two reasons alone, there is great cause for Christians to join the Jewish community in marking this historic occasion.
As children we all learn the difference between being dirty and being clean! It is drilled into us by our mothers who make sure we take our baths and wash our hands. The lesson of cleanliness helps us learn the spiritual difference between the holy and the unholy. Many of the laws in the Torah were purposed to teach the people how to differentiate between the two so they would live lives of holiness in fellowship with their holy God.
We have been busy at work building new resources and tools for you as well as planning two exciting events to celebrate Israel's 75th anniversary. I hope you will listen in to learn about these resources and opportunities to be inspired and involved.
This week is the Feast of Passover and the beginning of the Feast of Unleavened Bread. These two feasts may overlap in their commemoration of the Exodus, but there is deeper meaning found in each and their respective observances.
This week we are going to learn about the purpose of the laws and regulations found in Leviticus. God took a people out of Egypt who knew next to nothing about Him—nor how to approach Him—and began to lovingly reveal Himself to them. We can learn so much from some of the smallest of details in this book.
We are starting the fun book of Leviticus this week! Yahoo! It is a tedious book to read through, but together we will highlight the importance of this book and what God was revealing to His people in it—namely, how they were to approach this Holy God and make restitution for their sins. If we don't understand Leviticus, we cannot understand what Jesus came to do for us.
We can learn many wonderful lessons from the design and construction of the tabernacle in the book of Exodus. But overarching them all is the fact the tabernacle is not a permanent monument as seen in Egypt but a temporary dwelling that could be packed up and carried when God began to move. The lesson for us today is to be a mobile people. If you want to experience all God has for you, be ready to move when He says go.
To understand the feast of Purim and the story of Esther, we must first understand the story in Exodus of the unprovoked attack by Amalek upon the children of Israel. It helps to explain how, centuries later, a descendant of Amalek devises a plan to annihilate the Jewish people. The story outlines the choice facing all of us.
One biblical character we don't hear that much about is Aaron. It sounds like Aaron was a wonderful person and one we would all like to know. In fact, the Bible hints that God knew Aaron's humble heart and intentionally chose Him to carry the burden of the tribes of Israel into the Holy of Holies and make atonement for the people.
Once the children of Israel agreed to be God's covenant people, God instructed them to build Him a house to dwell in. Why would the God of the Universe choose to limit Himself to a particular place to meet with a particular people? It was all for the benefit of the world. And when God designed the place where He would meet with His people, it was a place of love and mercy.
As we read through the Torah this year, we will be wading through many rules and laws! To twenty-first-century ears, those rules and regulations seem antiquated and restrictive—even harsh. But how did they sound to the ears of the children of Israel some 3,500 years ago? They sounded so good the people quickly agreed to follow them! Maybe we need to take a second look at those laws!
Jethro provides a beautiful example of gentile support for the people of Israel. He was not Israelite nor Hebrew, yet he rejoiced in the miracle of the deliverance of the children of Israel. He then gave Moses wise advice on how to lead the people better. This story is followed by God's revelation on Sinai of the high calling given to the Jewish people. Once we understand that calling, we should all want to follow Jethro's example of praise for the God of Israel and the desire to assist His people.
We have all encountered problems that looked to be insurmountable. We may have felt boxed in and that there was no way out. But that is exactly when God can perform a miracle. If the situation is not impossible, it does not require a miracle. This week we read about the miraculous deliverance of the Israelites from Pharoah and the crossing of the Red Sea—and how God set the whole thing up! He also wants to use your impossible situation. All you need to do is raise your hands in faith and surrender all to Him.
This week we read about the tenth and final plague in Egypt: death of the firstborn, a plague that seems horribly cruel. Many skeptics have used this story to disavow the Bible—and the God of the Bible. But we find the mercy of God (and his judgment) at work in the plagues. He wanted the people of Egypt to know He was the true God and mightier than all their false gods. He also was faithful to His word and promised Abraham that his descendants would become a great nation and be a blessing to the entire world. God's plan would offer redemption to the entire pagan world, but His people had to be freed to get on with it.
The story of the Exodus is preceded by ten plagues that just about destroy the country of Egypt. At first glance the plagues seem to be too harsh and vindictive. But there is much more to this story! The God of Israel was exposing the impotency not only of Pharoah but of the gods he supposedly represented and that the people thought were ruling Egypt bringing them protection and prosperity. He was showing the people of Egypt who is the one true God! That may be why many of them left along with the Israelites.
When God spoke to Moses from the burning bush it was to begin answering a question that Moses obviously had burning in his heart. Moses had an identity crisis. Once he understood who he was he understood what he was to do. If you struggle with various pieces of your life and wonder how it all fits together – just ask God to show you. God wants to use your unique background and call you to do something that no one else can do.
We all have plenty of opportunities to be jealous of others—even in church life or ministry. True peace is when we are content with God's will for our life or ministry and do not strive to be someone else. Ishmael and Isaac, Esau and Jacob, and Joseph and his brothers all struggled with jealousy and rivalry. But both Jacob and Joseph bring it to an end by learning an important principle. We all need to learn to accept God's will for our life and bloom where we are planted!
As we assess our lives and make new year's resolutions, let's learn an important lesson found in this week's Torah reading. God used Joseph to save his family from famine, but it meant moving them to Egypt. Joseph knew the dangers of the paganism of Egypt, so he ensured Pharoah would look down upon his family and thereby be separated from Egyptian society. This wise move guaranteed the survival of the children of Israel as a people. The message is clear not to look for affirmation or inclusion from a godless society but be set apart for His purposes.
Have you ever gone through a time when you wondered where is God? I can assure you that if you have invited Him into your life, He is busy at work in the details, but we often don't recognize His handiwork until later. The Christmas story is a perfect example of God at work in the details! It is a story that began long before Christmas but prepared the way for it. The Almighty God who orchestrated every detail of the birth of Jesus is still at work today. So this Christmas take time to recognize God at work in the details!
Many Christians are not familiar with the significance of the Hannukah story because the story is not told in the Bible. It occurred inbetween the Old and New Testaments. But the Maccabean defeat of the Seluecid forces allowed them to take back the temple and rededicate it to the God of Israel. This helped to set the stage for the beginning of the New Testament story of Jesus which begins in that same temple with the priest Zachariah – the father of John the Baptist. So Happy Hannukah to everyone!
Jacob is now returning from Padam Aram and needs to reconcile with Esau. As he travels south along the eastern side of the Jordan River he sends for Esau who lives in Edom. Once he makes peace with Esau Jacob then crosses the Jordan and enters the Land God had promised to Abraham. God appears to him and changes his name from Jacob to Israel. He then tells Jacob that the land God had given to Abraham and then to Isaac, would be given to him and to his descendants.
The biblical accounts of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob come alive when we study them in Israel – the very land in which they occurred. When viewing a 4,000-year-old mud brick gate to a city Abraham was said to have visited, we understand how accurate these stories are. Another indication of the trustworthiness of the biblical accounts is found in their raw honesty. The stories of the patriarchs have not been white washed nor do they try to cover up mistakes or failures. They are true and we can find great encouragement from them.
Abraham, Isaac and Jacob all encountered famine in the Promised Land. It was a difficult land that required faith to enter and faith to remain. It was also a land set aside for a specific people and only when they took possession of it would it flourish. The good news is the Jewish people are back in their land and the desert is blooming, the vineyards are becoming world renown, and an abundance of food is being sold abroad. The Land and people are united again!
We need to learn how to do things God's way. Even when trying to discern His will we need to be sensitive to the leading of the Holy Spirit in how to pray and what to look for. We also need to accept when God may say “no” or we think we have been wronged. Walking in victimhood and unforgiveness will destroy us. It is far better to trust God and accept His plan for our life with gratitude.
The one thing Abraham and Sarah had to do to see God's promise become reality was to have a baby—something the laws of nature said they could not do. But God is not bound by the laws of the very universe he created, and He can do anything He wants. His choice of Abraham to father a nation required a miracle and that is exactly how God liked it! He created the very lineage that would become His “chosen” people.
When God told Abraham to leave his family and homeland to follow Him, the patriarch packed up and left. Obviously, Abraham believed that God was who He said He was and He was able to do what He promised. As a consequence of this great faith, Abraham received the promises—a land, a nation of descendants, and a mission to bless the world. You and I are called to walk in the same faith of Abraham. It is a faith that not just believes but responds with a packed suitcase.
Do you love God and serve Him with your whole heart? Noah did and God used Him in an amazing way. If you want God to use you then walk with God whole-heartedly like Noah. Once He knows you will get the job done—the job is yours! God wants to use you in our days as He did Noah in his.
Do you or someone you know express doubts about the Bible being true? You might have heard someone ask “you really think it is God's Word?” or “You really think God said that?” Sometimes a person expressing these doubt thinks they are much more intelligent and wiser than all those previous generations who believed the Bible. When in reality, they are the ones expressing archaic and outdated ideas going back to the garden of Eden.
The biblical day Shemini Atzeret (Eighth Day Assembly) brought the Feast of Tabernacles to a close with a day of Sabbath rest and prayer. Over time this day became known as Simchat Torah (Rejoicing of the Torah) because it was the day of the year when the annual reading through the Torah was completed and then began again with Genesis 1. On this day, when the Torah scrolls are taken out for reading, the entire congregation dances and rejoices—sometimes for hours. When was the last time you danced through the aisles of your church, rejoicing over the Word of God? The apostle Paul said that a chief responsibility of the Jewish people was to be the custodians or keepers of the Word; because of their love for Torah, we all have a Bible to read today. We should at least say thank you and rejoice with them.
After a period of repentance and the Day of Atonement, the Feast of Tabernacles begins. God commanded the children of Israel to rejoice for the full seven days and celebrate His provision for the Israelites during their wilderness wanderings and of rain for an abundant harvest. During the water libation ceremony the people prayed for rain for the coming year's harvest—and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit and the Messianic era. It was in this context that Jesus proclaimed He was the source of living waters. According to the prophet Zechariah, the gentiles would one day celebrate this feast.
The biblical Day of Atonement is when the High Priest entered the very presence of God in the Holy of Holies and made atonement for the sins of the people of Israel. This solemn day of prayer and fasting is Judaism's most holy day of the year. This day has tremendous meaning for Christians and helps us understand all that Jesus did for us on the day of His ultimate sacrifice for our sins and how He entered the very presence of God in heaven from where He makes intercession for us.
The first of the fall feasts in the Bible begin with Yom Teruah – the day of shouting or loud noise on which trumpets were blown. This Feast of Trumpets was used to call the people to attention and begin a 10 day period of introspection and repentance in preparation for the great Day of Atonement. While we should live our lives in a state of introspection and be quick to ask forgiveness for our mistakes and sins it is a beautiful annual tradition to stop our busy lives and take an accounting. One day that great heavenly trumpet with sound and we all want to be ready.
Jesus enjoyed a special relationship with God the Father, even addressing Him with the loving term of endearment, Abba. The children of Israel always understood God was their father, and He called them His children—even His firstborn. But through Jesus the veil of our sin is removed, and we are invited to enter into a level of relationship where we, too, cry out “Abba, Father!”
One of the more curious names of God in the Bible is “The Lord My Banner.” A banner was a sign of victory, and as such, it was a rallying point for Israel's troops to celebrate the greatness of their God. Isaiah prophesied that one day a descendant of David would come and be a banner not just to the people of Israel but to the gentiles who would seek him. What a perfect description of Jesus, who was born into the lineage of David but died for the salvation of the world. Gentiles still seek Him today!
The Hebrew prophets Jeremiah and Isaiah encouraged their people with the message that one day a descendant of King David would come to reign as King and execute judgment and righteousness. Jeremiah said this King would be called the “Lord our Righteousness.” Jesus was born into the lineage of David and came to execute righteousness—but when He returns, it will be to execute judgment and establish the kingdom. In the meantime, He taught His disciples to pray for that day when the kingdom would come and the Lord's will be done on earth.