Why Fast for Gedaliah?

On the third day of the 7th biblical month, the Jewish people observe a day of fasting. The observance is known as the Fast of Gedaliah. Who was Gedaliah, and why is his name associated with a day of fasting down to this day?Jeremiah_lamenting

In the aftermath of the destruction of the First Temple by the Babylonians in 586 BCE, a few of the poorest of the land were left to be vine dressers and plowmen (II Kings 25:12; Jeremiah 39:10). The majority of the people were taken captive, their cities were left in shambles and their hope was gone. The King of Babylon appointed Gedaliah as Governor over the land and the small remnant of Judeans. The Governor tried to reassure his people that all would be well if they would but serve the King of Babylon and live in the land. He encouraged them to dwell in the cities and go about their lives without fear. He told them to gather wine and summer fruits and oil, and store them in vessels and to live without fear. Judeans began to return and inhabit the cities left vacant in the wake of Babylonian aggression. Gedaliah made his home in Mizpah (Jeremiah 40:7-12).

During these dark days, Nebuchadnezzar gave special instruction concerning the prophet Jeremiah. He ordered Nebuzaradan, the captain of the guard to, “take him, look after him well, and do him no harm, but deal with him as he tells you.” Nebuzaradan released Jeremiah from his chains and offered him the choice of going to Babylon or returning to his own land to dwell with the appointed Governor of the land among the people. Jeremiah chose to live among his people in the land, in the home of the Governor (Jeremiah 39:11-14, 40:1-6). As it turns out, the two most likely knew each other quite well. Gedaliah’s father, Ahikam, had come to Jeremiah’s aid when he was accused of prophesying against the Temple and the city, pronouncing their ruin (II Kings 26:24). Gedaliah’s grandfather, and Ahikam’s father, also played into the story of Jeremiah. His name was Shaphan. It was Shaphan, who in the days of Josiah was part of an incredible discovery story. The High Priest Hilkiah discovered a scroll of the Torah in the Temple and he told Shaphan about it. Shaphan reported the discovery to King Josiah and read the scroll to him. King Josiah sent Shaphan, his son Ahikam, the priest Hilkiah (Jeremiah’s father? cf. Jeremiah 1:1), and two others to go inquire of YHVH about the words of the scroll. They all went together to a prophetess by the name of Huldah who told them of all that was to come (II Kings 22:8-20).

So why do we fast for Gedaliah? What happened to the Governor whose family plays so prominent a role in the life of Jeremiah? He was assassinated by a member of the royal family (Jeremiah 41:1)! Gedaliah had been warned of the plot but refused to believe it, but the warning was true. At a meal in Mizpah, eleven men rose up and struck down the Governor and those that were with him (II Kings 25:25; Jeremiah 40:13-41:3). The murder of Gedaliah seemed to mark the end of the Judean commonwealth. According to the biblical record, the murder of Gedaliah occurred in the seventh month (II Kings 25:25, Jeremiah 41:1, 2) and the people of Judah held a fast to commemorate his death. According to tradition, this is believed to be the fast to which Zechariah makes reference (Zechariah 7:5; 8:19). The fast of the seventh month is known as the Fast of Gedaliah. It has been kept since the days of Zechariah it would seem!

So on this day I am thinking of Gedaliah. He was a good man who had high hopes and best wishes for the restoration of his people and their land in a very dark period of history. He didn’t want to believe that one of his own people would seek his harm. I sit here today as I write this and wonder what conversations took place between Gedaliah and the prophet Jeremiah in his home. Gedaliah’s father had once defended and saved the life of Jeremiah (Jeremiah 26:24). His father and his grandfather had been part of a discovery that led to one of the greatest revivals in all of biblical history. Should we not on this day honor Gedaliah? I say we should. One day, the fast of the seventh month will be among the seasons of joy and gladness and cheerful feasts (Zechariah 8:19). Therefore love truth and peace. Gedaliah certainly did.

 

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A Silent Message for the Day of Shouting

IMG_4364The teaching today is an important, and yet silent message for a day that is most often associated with making noise. This class is on the biblical instructions concerning a day that is called Yom Teruah. This ancient festival is mentioned two times in Scripture (Leviticus 23:23-25 & Numbers 29:1-6). It is mentioned nowhere else in the Bible. Ross sets forth to uncover insights into the meaning of this Festival of YHVH. He seeks to answer several questions related to this first day of the seventh month. What is Yom Teruah? When is it celebrated, and finally how is it to be kept? In this teaching, Ross carefully works through the two passages from the Torah that mention this festival and then he shares a message that is rarely discussed on what many have come to call the Festival of Trumpets. What is the silent message the Ross proclaimed on the day of “shouting?” You will not want to miss this teaching.

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Yom Teruah – A Day Holy to Yehovah!

This is my favorite time of the year. We are entering into the 7th biblical month, a month called sacred by the first century Jewish historian Josephus.

The Bible refers to this season as the “turn of the year” in Exodus 34:22. It is a time to reflect on our deeds and to turn to God.

There is something quite moving about being in sync with God’s appointed times (moedim). They are listed in Leviticus 23. In the very first verse we learn that these are the “festivals of Yehovah.”

The Jewish people have kept these festivals since antiquity and have developed their own rich traditions around each of these. Christians are beginning to see the great value in studying them and incorporating them into their walk often as a way to be more like Jesus (Yeshua). These moedim clearly have meaning for anyone that seeks to adopt the ways of the Creator.

Beginning at sundown this evening, according to the Jewish calendar, we enter the 7th biblical month. The first day of the 7th month is known in the Bible as Yom Teruah, (a day of blasting, shouting), more commonly known as the Feast of Trumpets, and traditionally as Rosh HaShanah (or New Year’s day).

Anciently, the new month was determined based upon the sighting of the new moon (a thin crescent), while the modern Jewish calendar is determined by calculation. The subject of the Hebrew Calendar is a very interesting and hotly debated subject – but one that is quite rewarding. So whether you follow the Jewish calendar or prefer to spot the thin crescent moon in the sky with your own eyes, the time is fast approaching!

An Ancient Sermon delivered on Yom Teruah

The 8th chapter of Nehemiah contains a sermon that was preached on this very day (Yom Teruah) nearly 2,500 years ago!  It is there referred to as “a day Holy to Yehovah.” The Torah has two main references to this Festival (Leviticus 23:23-25 and Numbers 29:1-6). The key word for this particular holy day is the Hebrew word Teruah. It is from the root “rua’” which means to “raise a shout” and is often associated with a battle cry or with making a loud noise. The ram’s horn trumpet or shofar is often connected to this day of noise.

See the following passages for other examples of the word – Psalm 47, Psalm 66:1; Psalm 81:2; Psalm 100:1, and Joshua 6:5.

This coming Sabbath is called Shabbat Shuvah – the Sabbath of Repentance. From the 1st day of the 7th month, we enter a 10-day countdown towards Yom Kippur – the Day of Atonement. I would encourage all of you to examine yourself and seek to make mends. The gates of repentance are always open.

I pray that each of you will meditate on these things as we enter this Holy 7th month. Look for the new moon and when you see it, make some noise!

Shalom as we anxiously await Yom Teruah – the Day of Shouting!

Photo of the crescent moon was taken by my friend Glenn Judah.

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Hear and Do!

900px-Cirrocumulus_to_AltocumulusThis week, Ross covers material contained within Torah readings Nitzavim and VaYelech – the two shortest readings in the entire cycle. He begins with the words of Israel’s ancient prophet Amos concerning a famine in the land; not a famine of bread and water, but a famine of hearing the words of God. Ross works through various passages in Deuteronomy related to the covenant and its relevance for hearers today. He stresses the importance of “hearing” and of “doing” the words of the covenant and points out that living a Torah life is possible today, contrary to teachings that suggest otherwise. The Torah is NOT in heaven, nor is it beyond the sea. It is in your mouth and in your heart to do it!

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The Commanded Way

10wordsThis week’s teaching is from Torah Reading Ki Tetzay. It contains more commandments than any other Torah portion. The more than 70 commandments in this Torah reading cover a wide range of subjects, but Ross focuses his teaching on the underlying theme of keeping the commandments. He begins the class by speaking of an age old enemy known as Amalek and then relates that this enemy is fighting against the very Kingdom of God, a kingdom based upon justice and righteousness. Today, the enemies of the kingdom oppose “the way” of that holy kingdom, a way summed up in the commandments. They express this opposition by declaring that living by the commandments is legalistic, archaic, according to the flesh, etc. But this is in direct contradiction to the plain teaching of Scripture. Living the commanded way brings life, blessing and good. Ross shows that Torah living is a challenge, that it is not easy, but neither is it too difficult. You will not want to miss this teaching.

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