Welcome to the Mountjoy Ministries Blog

This blog was authored by Bryan W. Sheldon, author and Bible teacher. His books are listed below. The studies in the blog are offered in the desire that they may be helpful in directing readers to the truths contained in the Bible.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

The Death of the Messiah (Continued)

Sacrifices and Offerings (Continued)

The Feasts of YHWH (Continued)

The Passover (Continued)

At the time of the incarnation, the Rabbis taught that there were three things included in the command to appear before the Lord.

(1) Every male had to come up to Jerusalem.

(2) Every male had to offer a peace offering (chagigah).

(3) All Israel had to offer with a joyous heart.

The chagigah (peace offering) was to be in two parts.

(1) The first was offered on the evening of the Passover and could be included in the Passover meal where the lamb was insufficient for the whole company.

i. It could not be taken from anything already earmarked for the Lord, that is, tithes, offerings or things devoted.

(2) The second was offered on the first day of the feast of unleavened bread,

a. It could be taken from those things already devoted to the Lord.

At the time of the Messiah, the usual practice required a representative from each group to attend at the Temple with the receipt for a lamb previously purchased or brought. They would join the queue of celebrants in the court of prayer, and gradually climb the fifteen steps of ascent that led to the platform in front of the great Nicanor doors that separated the court of prayer from the court of priests. In groups of between thirty and fifty they were allowed into the court of priests.

Each of them received a lamb in exchange for their receipt, and when instructed by the priest, killed this lamb while the priest caught its blood in a vessel without a base and without a brim. The vessel containing the blood of the lamb was passed along a line of priests until it reached the priest at the altar who would dash the blood below the crimson line. There were two rows of priests engaged in this duty. One row had golden vessels, and the other row had silver vessels. Gold symbolized the glory of God (the furniture in the Holy Place and the Holiest of all was either cast in gold or covered in gold); while silver symbolized redemption (atonement) (the redemption money was silver).

Each gutted his lamb, disposed of the entrails and placed the sacrificial portions on a tray for the priest to burn them on the altar fire. They then hung the carcass on one of the hooks set into the walls and pillars and skinned the lamb. Where there were not enough hooks, the Temple authorities provided smooth wooden staffs, which could be used on the shoulders of two, to hang the dead lamb, or if the celebrant had no partner, he could stand it on end to flay the animal.

While this was going on, the Levitical choir led the singing of the Hallel (Psalms113 to 118). Those that were engaged in the ritual, sang the responses. They sang the Hallelujahs (Praise ye the Lord); the Hosannas (Save now, I beseech thee), and most significantly, ‘Blessed be He that cometh in the name of the LORD’. If the ceremony was not concluded by the time the choir had completed the Hallel, they began again at Psalm 113.

Each took the lamb and fleece to the place that had been prepared for the feast. Those that provided a room for visiting pilgrims were not allowed to charge, but custom allowed for the fleece to be set aside as a gift to them in gratitude for their hospitality. All over Jerusalem, and in front of a multitude of tents erected on the Mount of Olives, lambs were roasted on wooden spits of pomegranate wood, the spit passing through from mouth to buttocks.

In addition to the lamb there were other items needed for the meal.

(1) First unleavened bread, symbol of their redemption from Egypt. To qualify the bread had to fulfill three conditions.

(a) It had to be unleavened (obviously). Biblically, leaven represents sin or in some instances, error.

Present day Matzos
 (b) It had to be striped ) These conditions were to demonstrate that

(c) It had to be pierced) the bread was truly unleavened.

(2) Next they needed bitter herbs, to remind them of the bitterness of the slavery in Egypt. They would use lettuce, chicory, pepperwort, endives, and dandelion.

(3) In addition, they needed haroset (a relish made of fruits and spices with vinegar or wine, used to sweeten the bitter herb at the meal) (it should have the appearance and consistency of mortar reminding them of the brick making in Egypt).

(4) They also needed wine that had been mingled with water. If the wine was not mingled with water, the responsibility of the company was not discharged.

There were four cups of wine required.

(1) The first was the cup of thanksgiving. The leader at the feast pronounced a thanksgiving for the day, and a thanksgiving for the fruit of the vine. The Mishnah instructs, ‘When they have mixed the first cup of wine— “He says a blessing over the day, and afterward he says a blessing over the wine.”

(2) The second was the cup of redemption signifying their redemption from Egypt.

(3) The third was the cup of blessing, for a special blessing was said for the food.

(4) The fourth was the cup of praise for it was associated with the singing of the Hallel (Praise).

While there was some liberty to add other traditional customs, the central elements of the meal were inviolate.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

The Death of the Messiah (Continued)

The blood of a lamb was applied to the doorposts and lintel
The Feasts of the Lord

The Passover (Continued)

YHWH ordered the nation, through Moses, to incorporate the festival into the annual celebrations of Israel as the first event of their religious year. This festival immortalized the birth of the nation, and established for Israel the principles of substitution and consecration. In light of the loss of the firstborn of Egypt and the deliverance of the firstborn of Israel, God claimed Israel’s firstborn for His own. Thus, the Egyptian Passover began the process of making Israel a unique and separate nation.

At the Passover, they were separated:

by His Word (which they obeyed) and
by the blood of the lamb (which they applied).

Then as they continued to follow YHWH, they were separated:

by the pillar of fire (which protected them).
by the sea (through which they passed), and
by the Mosaic covenant (to which they consented).

Naturally, the character of the Passover changed once the nation had been rescued. In the first month of the second year after the exodus, the Tabernacle was erected, and since instructions had already been issued that the blood of all sacrifices had to be sprinkled on the altar it can be safely assumed that the blood of the Paschal lamb was also sprinkled on the altar. Furthermore, in the Promised Land, the Passover meal was to be eaten in a designated location. “Therefore you shall sacrifice the Passover to the LORD your God, from the flock and the herd, in the place where the LORD chooses to put His name.” (Deut. 16:2) It became a celebration of the nationhood of the people, with the telling and retelling of their history, beginning with Abraham and giving particular and detailed consideration to the story of their redemption from Egyptian slavery.

The building of the Temple added greatly to the festival for it provided the focal point for the assembling of the nation. The Passover, abutting as it did the Feast of Unleavened Bread, became a great pilgrim festival where all the males of Israel presented themselves before the Lord. Naturally, being a family festival they brought their wives and children with them. With the gathering of the nation’s families at the beginning of the religious year, this great educational tool of YHWH could accomplish its purpose.

The priesthood and sacrificial system established, other elements were added to the festival, notably the priestly offering of a lamb for the nation. While the lamb for the household was killed on the evening of the Passover, the priest would sacrifice a separate lamb for the Passover on the morning of the Passover (in the Jewish day evening comes before morning). The lamb of the morning sacrifice then became part of the priests’ sacramental meal. No young goat was permitted now; it was to be a Passover lamb only. Other animals could be used as peace offerings at the festival, and even eaten in addition to the lamb at the Passover meal, but only a lamb could be used as the principal dish at the Passover meal, and for the Passover sacrifice.

By the time the Messiah commenced His ministry, the numbers making the pilgrimage to Jerusalem for the feast were considerable. Certain administrative arrangements had been put in place.

(1) They whitened sepulchers, tombs and graves to prevent accidental contact and contamination. This activity began some four weeks before Passover.

(2) Two weeks before Passover, they tithed herds and flocks.

(3) Pilgrims came early to Jerusalem to bathe in the Temple miqwehs to purify themselves.

(4) Because of the great numbers, it was required that each lamb killed in the Temple should serve for not less than ten people but not more than twenty. Each group or association had to be registered for the ritual.

(5) The Sanhedrin reset the boundaries of Jerusalem to include some of the nearby villages as well as the Mount of Olives. This was needed to accommodate the large number of visitors, for the Passover had to be eaten ‘within’ Jerusalem.

(6) Lambs could be bought on the Temple mount.

(7) Those that bought a lamb from the Temple flocks could attend at the priest’s gate, pay the money and obtain a receipt. This receipt would be exchanged for the lamb at the time of the ritual killing.

(8) For the Passover festival they put three courses of priests on duty.

(9) At Passover, they brought forward the time of the evening sacrifice to allow more time for the ritual.

(10) Those that attended the court of priests for the ritual were divided into three groups to satisfy the Scripture, “Then the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel shall kill it at twilight”. (Exod. 12:6) A text which yields (1) assembly, (2) congregation, and (3) Israel. Each group would be brought in through the Nicanor doors separately, while the others waited outside.

It was in this fashion that the great numbers of residents and visitors were accommodated for the national celebration of Pesach.

More Next Time

Thursday, January 13, 2011

The Death of the Messiah (Continued)

Sacrifices and Offerings (Continued)

The Feasts of the Lord

Introduced by the phrase, “these are My feasts” (Lev. 23:2) they are listed in Leviticus chapter 23. The weekly feast is the Sabbath; separated from the annual feasts by a fresh identifying phrase, “These are the feasts of the LORD”. (Lev. 23:4) Of the annual feasts, four are in the spring cycle and three in the autumn cycle. The first four are the Feast of Passover (Hag HaPesach), the Feast of Unleavened Bread (Hag HaMatzoth), the Feast of First Fruits (Hag HaBikkurim) and the Feast of Weeks (Hag HaShavu’ot). The autumn cycle contains the Feast of Trumpets (better known as Rosh HaShanah), the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur) and the Feast of Tabernacles (Hag HaSukkot). These feasts observed by the Jewish nation, were God’s fingerposts to future events, which would have implications for both the nation of Israel and the whole of humankind. That which was foreshadowed in the spring cycle has already happened, while that which was foreshadowed in the autumn cycle is yet to come. The Sabbath, while of a different character (a weekly feast celebrated in the home), also has implications for the future.

Some of the annual feasts were for one day – Passover, the Feast of Firstfruits, the Feast of Weeks, the Feast of Trumpets, and the Day of Atonement. These identify single great acts of God. Other feasts, that were of seven or eight days’ duration, characterize longer periods in the unfolding purposes of God.

Three of the annual feasts were pilgrim feasts; Unleavened Bread, the Feast of Weeks and the Feast of Tabernacles. All Jewish males were required to attend at a place appointed by the LORD and bring a gift to reflect how they had been blessed of the LORD. While the men were absent from their homes during the festivals, God promised to protect their land and possessions. “Three times in the year all your men shall appear before the Lord, the LORD God of Israel. For I will cast out the nations before you and enlarge your borders; neither will any man covet your land when you go up to appear before the LORD your God three times in the year.” (Exod. 34:23,24)

Jesus of Nazareth, Israel’s Messiah, was a Law abiding Jew who kept the festivals in accordance with the Mosaic covenant, always observing the Sabbath and journeying to Jerusalem to celebrate the compulsory pilgrim feasts. As laid down in the Mosaic code, He afflicted His soul on the Day of Atonement, and rejoiced during the Feast of Tabernacles.

It is intended to consider how Israel celebrated the feasts of YHWH, and then how they impacted on the life the Messiah, and note the special significances of Passover when He died, the Feast of Unleavened Bread when He was buried, the Feast of First Fruits when He rose and the Feast of Weeks when He sent the Spirit of God. The Messianic significance of the autumn feasts, the fulfillment of which still lies ahead, will also be identified and considered.

Passover Haggadah


Israel, from the dark womb of Egypt, was brought to birth as a nation, and called the firstborn of YHWH. ‘Thus says the Lord: “Israel is My son, My firstborn”. (Exod. 4:22) But crisis is inevitably followed by process, and for Israel, they were not only to be delivered from the land of Egypt, but from everything Egyptian. As a birth is followed by growth, so the separation from Egypt was to be followed by a separation to God. A consecrated walk with YHWH, growing in the knowledge of Him and His purposes, was to be the process. But the process proved to be more difficult than the crisis. To repeat an old adage, ‘you can get Israel out of Egypt, but it is more difficult to get Egypt out of Israel’.

The deliverance of the nation was to be so momentous that YHWH re-ordered the calendar. “This month shall be your beginning of months; it shall be the first month of the year to you.” (Exod. 12:2) Their religious year was to begin with the month of Abib.

YHWH memorialized the deliverance of the nation with a festival, a festival that was to commemorate Israel’s birth as a nation, and to celebrate their subsequent new life in His care. This first festival of the spring cycle was the Passover. “On the fourteenth day of the first month at twilight is the LORD’s Passover”. (Lev. 23:5) The requirements imposed on Israelite households on the night they began their escape from their Egyptian prison, are given in Exodus chapter twelve. God’s instructions through Moses were very particular. Each household was to kill, roast and eat a lamb or kid as their last meal in Egypt. The animal had to be a male, one year old, in good health, with no visible defects – only a healthy animal would be suitable as a sacrifice to YHWH and only such an animal could be the substitute for someone who was to be consecrated to the Lord. Though they did not know it at the time, only such an animal could foreshadow the Messiah, the true Lamb of God, who is holy, harmless, undefiled and separate from sinners.

They were to daub the blood of the animal on the door surround, as evidence that the household had obeyed God’s instructions and fulfilled the necessary conditions for salvation. Then when God visited Egypt with judgment, the blood of the substitute protected the Israelite homes, while Egyptian homes, that had no such protection, suffered the death of their firstborn. The Hebrew word for Passover (pesach) comes from a verb meaning ‘to pass over’, and clearly refers to the means by which they escaped the judgment that fell on Egypt. They were to eat the meal dressed for their journey, and be prepared to leave at a moment’s notice.

The animal, chosen on the 10th of the month Abib or Nisan as it was later known, was to be slain on the 14th. The head of each household was to slay the lamb at twilight. These men would occupy the office of priest, and thereby constitute Israel as a nation of priests.

The commandment required the use of hyssop to paint some of the animal’s blood on the side posts and lintels of the door of each residence, as part of an act of expiation. Hyssop, an insignificant flower with spaced whirls around the stem was eminently suitable to use as a brush, and would often be used in such rites. There would be no blood on the threshold. Already the imagery is important – the blood covered the firstborn of Israel but it was not to be trampled underfoot. The application of the blood to the entrance of each Jewish residence was relinquished after Moses transferred the slaying of the lambs to the Sanctuary. From then on, the blood was dashed against the altar.

The lamb or kid was to be cooked in one way only, roasted over the fire. No bone of it was to be broken. Furthermore, they were instructed to have unleavened bread and bitter herbs as accompaniments to the lamb. Nothing of the lamb should remain until morning – what was not eaten had to be burned – none of the lamb was allowed to see corruption. In addition, only those covered by the Abrahamic covenant could be admitted to the Passover meal.

To be continued

Thursday, January 6, 2011

The Death of the Messiah (Continued)

Sacrifices and Offerings (Continued)

The Sweet Savor Offerings

The Primary Levitical Offerings also included three sweet savor offerings, of which one was bloodless (an offering of grain). The other two were the Peace Offering and the whole Burnt Offering. The Peace Offering was subdivided into praise offerings, vow offerings and free-will offerings. The purpose of the sweet savor offerings was to bring that to the Lord which testified of the thankfulness of the offerer for God’s provision, and to express praise and worship. They were particularly effective in fulfilling the divine requirement, “none shall appear before Me empty-handed” (Exod. 23:15, NAS).

It has already been remarked on that one aspect of the ministry of the priests in service for the Lord was to act as hosts at His House and minister to those who came as His guests to share a meal. This is best seen in the Peace Offering. After the offerer had been made acceptable through the expiatory offerings he was invited to bring a peace offering. This offering was to be divided between the three parties – the offerer, the priest and the Lord – each was to have a share – most clearly speaking of fellowship, in particular table fellowship. Described as a peace offering it reminds us of Paul’s assertion - “Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ”. (Rom. 5:1, NKJV)

One of the sweet savor offerings was bloodless, that which is the grain offering, perhaps better described as the ‘Gift Offering’ since the word applied to it is ‘minchah’ which is derived from a root signifying ‘to give’. It could signify a present by which an inferior would seek to obtain the favor of a superior. It is used in this way by Jacob when seeking to obtain the favor of Joseph (who unknown to him was the ruler he was trying to impress). “And their father Israel said to them, “If it must be so, then do this: Take some of the best fruits of the land in your vessels and carry down a present for the man—a little balm and a little honey, spices and myrrh, pistachio nuts and almonds.” (Gen. 43:11) This offering was a way in which an Israelite could acknowledge that he owed everything to the Lord his God, as well as demonstrating his gratitude for the benefits and blessings provided by the God of Israel. The sacrifice consisted of fine flour to which had been added oil and salt and incense. Some was burned on the altar but most was to be presented to the priest as a thing ‘most holy’ to the Lord.

Since the fruit of the ground was given to man, that is, it is man’s portion, then this offering reflects something of a man’s duty to man, and man’s duty to God. In both these areas humanity has failed – but Christ, the Son of Man not only did His duty by man (He went about doing good), but also His duty on behalf of man to God. His sacrifice on Golgotha was the presentation of a life of infinite worth back to the Father in total and complete obedience. This was in contrast to, and compensation for, the multitude of lives that had been lived in disobedience and independence from God. Jesus is the only one to fully fulfill the obligation placed on those whose lives are a gift from God. Paul expressed it: “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service.” (Rom. 12:1) Calvary was the culmination of a perfect life of obedience and the most accurate expression of a complete and perfect ‘living sacrifice’.

This aspect is more completely seen in the ‘whole burnt offering’ or the ‘ascending offering’. This sacrifice was wholly for God – no portion for the priest, no portion for the priest’s family, no portion for the offerer – it was all for God. And this offering, as with all offerings, had to be without blemish. Nothing but the best was to be offered to the Lord. That Jesus of Nazareth, the Son of Abraham, the Son of David, the Son of Man and the Son of God perfectly fulfilled this aspect is evident. Conception produced by the Holy Spirit in a virgin’s womb ensured that no taint of Adam’s imputed or imparted sin marred the Holy Child. His physical perfection was confirmed when Joseph paid the redemption money for no child that was defective in any of his parts could be redeemed in the Temple. While those who were disabled or defective in some way could still perform the duties of the first-born and receive the first-born portion of the inheritance, it barred him from the redemption ceremony since he would not have been fit for the priesthood (had he been born with the appropriate credentials). The priest, in offering the prayer of dedication at the ceremony, confirmed that Jesus, as an infant, was without blemish. His life was also lived under scrutiny and received the highest praise from friend and foe, obtaining the highest accolade from heaven, “This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased”.

These sacrifices designated under the main descriptor as ‘offerings’ were gifts to be brought by the Israelites to the Lord who had redeemed them, protected them and blessed them. In this manner, communion with God was sustained, the sin and trespass offerings bringing about reconciliation, and the sweet savor offerings providing a vehicle for worship, communion and praise. The offerings were at the heart of the national life of the nation and without them they would have been adrift among the nations with no discernable means of reconciliation with the One who was pleased to be known as the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

Next Time - The Feasts of the Lord