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"I Desire Relationship Not Sacrifice"

By GARY ALLEY

This past week we ended the holiday of Hanukkah or “Dedication” that commemorates when Judah Maccabee restored the purity of Jerusalem’s temple after having been desecrated by Gentiles with their pagan sacrifices.  Among other things, Judah’s forces tore down the altar that had borne the blood of pigs, and rebuilt a new one in its place.  Having completed the remodeling, Judah celebrated this rededication for eight days at the end of 164 BC.  At the heart of Hanukkah is restoration of pure sacrifice.

We also know according to John 10:22 that Jesus was in the temple courts during at least one celebration of Hanukkah almost 2000 years ago.  Reading the gospels, we know that the Temple was at the center of Jesus’ visits to Jerusalem.[1]  He likely would have taught on the southern steps of the Temple as other Jewish sages of the first century would have, like Gamaliel, Paul’s teacher.[2] 

Jesus’ frequenting of the House of the Lord should not be surprising, because as a Jew, Jesus was obedient to God and His Torah which commanded the Jewish people to bring sacrifices only to Jerusalem.  Jesus’ interpretation of scripture may have been creative and provocative at times, but his reading of the holy text was always faithful to its intent and spirit.  In fact, his challenging teachings in the gospels often betray an affinity for the biblical prophets and their call to repentance and restoration.

One time, Jesus was eating a meal with some people who were considered unclean.  Some of the religious leaders asked Jesus disciples,

“Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?”
 When Jesus heard this, he said,
“It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick.
But go and learn what this means:
‘I desire hesed, not sacrifice.’
For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”         Mt 9:10-13

At first glance, one could think that Jesus was negating the temple and its sacrifices.  But if we look deeper, we notice that Jesus was quoting the Prophet Hosea who had called the people of northern Israel 700 years prior to remember their eternal covenant with God.  The book of Hosea is a prolonged plea for restoring the relationship between the Lord and His people who had sought and sacrificed to other gods.

“Come, let us return to the Lord.
He has torn us to pieces, but he will heal us;
he has injured us, but he will bind up our wounds.
After two days he will revive us;
on the third day he will restore us,
that we may live in his presence.
Let us acknowledge the Lord;
let us press on to acknowledge him.
As surely as the sun rises, he will appear;
he will come to us like the winter rains,
like the spring rains that water the earth.”

“What can I do with you, Ephraim?
What can I do with you, Judah?
Your love is like the morning mist,
like the early dew that disappears.
Therefore I cut you in pieces with my prophets,
I killed you with the words of my mouth—
then my judgments go forth like the sun.

For I desire hesed, not sacrifice,
and acknowledgment of God rather than burnt offerings.”     Hos 6:1-6

The verse that Jesus quotes, is often translated as “For I desire mercy, not sacrifice,” but mercy is not a sufficient translation here for the Hebrew word, hesed.  The semantic range for hesed is wide, with possible translations of different occurrences in the Hebrew Bible:

lovingkindness, mercy, kindness, loyalty, faithfulness, faithful love, covenant faithfulness, allegiance, constant love, love that lasts, or loyal love. 

Put simply, hesed is the “glue of a relationship”—it is what sticks two parties together, whether a marriage, a family, a political alliance, and especially God’s relationship with Israel.  Hesed is that faithfulness and loyalty found in any true relationship.

Thus, Jesus affirmed the words of Hosea.  Sacrifice without loyalty, or faith without faithfulness, is not acceptable in the eyes of God.  God wants a real relationship with us.  Or you could idiomatically say, “For I desire relationship, not just sacrifice.”

A generation after Jesus, the temple was destroyed by Titus and the Romans in 70 AD.  Jesus had spoken about that coming day and how one stone would not be left upon another stone.[3]  He had even spoken about another desecration of the temple.[4]  With the temple’s destruction, the religious authority of the temple was transferred to the coastal city of Yavne by the Jewish leadership under Rabbi Yohanan ben Zakkai.  With sacrifice no longer available, the future of the Jewish people’s relationship with God would require fresh application of scripture.  One rabbinic story recounts this turning point in Jewish practice. 

Once, when Rabbi Yohanan ben Zakkai and Rabbi Joshua passed by Jerusalem [after its fall], they were looking upon the city and the ruins of the Temple and Rabbi Joshua exclaimed, “Woe unto us, that the holy place is destroyed which atoned for our sins!”

Rabbi Yohanan replied, 'My son, do not grieve on this account, for we have another atonement for our sins; it is hesed, as is said, I desired hesed, and not sacrifice.[5]

Jerusalem’s temple had been the sacred bridge between God and His people for a thousand years.  Moving forward, with or without a temple, God’s bond with Israel was ultimately not based on Israel’s sacrifice but on God’s hesed—his faithfulness and loyalty towards them.  

Sacrifice was and is important, but the cart must not go before the horse.  While it may be easy to assume our sacrifice merits God’s response, it’s the “obedience” of our sacrifice that draws His attention.[6]  God’s purpose is relationship.  Hanukkah’s hope is that restoration of relationship for the Jewish people.  Even greater, we know God seeks to restore His relationship with all nations and peoples through the “grace of the Lord Jesus.”[7]

“After this I will return and rebuild David’s fallen tent.
Its ruins I will rebuild, and I will restore it,
that the rest of mankind may seek the Lord,
even all the Nations who bear my name,
says the Lord.”                                Acts 15:16-18 (LXX Amos 9:11-12)


[1] Lk 19:47; 21:37; Mt 26:55

[2] Tosefta Sanhedrin 2:2; Acts 22:3

[3] Mt 24:1-2,

[4] Mt 24:15

[5] Avot de Rabbi Natan 4.  Within Rabbinic Jewish tradition, this story was used to explain how prayer and personal piety replaced temple sacrifice.

[6] “Has the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the Lord?  Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to listen than the fat of rams.” 1 Sam 15:22

[7] Acts 15:11-21

Charity Report: 2017 Year in Review

Jerusalem Cornerstone is not a large organization. We are a handful of people that love God, His people, and His land. While there are many other non-profit groups working in Israel and the Palestinian Territories with a greater financial support and human resource base, at JCF we believe that God has given us a special calling despite our limited assets.

We believe that God has called us to help those who are struggling, those who have fallen through the cracks. Every day we come across people that have been rejected by the world, those forgotten by their families, friends, neighbors, and governments.

JCF does not have a brick and mortar building. We have a simple staff in Israel that receives modest stipends. Our workers embody your prayers and gifts.

This year, 106 different people have given towards the work and staff of JCF, and we are honored to serve as God’s ministers of those funds entrusted to us. Thank you for your faithfulness towards the Lord’s work and His Word.

Beit El is a Messianic Jewish Ethiopian Congregation in Jerusalem with more than 100 members. They struggle to make ends meet, while standing as faithful witnesses for the Gospel within Israeli society. JCF’s funds typically go towards the needs of their families, single mothers, sick, elderly, new immigrants, youth, and children. JCF’s average monthly support: $500

Club for the Blind is an Israeli social service to the blind residents of Tiberias which was dormant before JCF’s involvement. The club has around 25 members and meets three times a week for classes and trips. They host art and cooking activities led by professionals.  And they have started a long-term theater workshop.  JCF’s average monthly support: $500

House of Light (HOL) is an Israeli Arab Christian ministry led by Anis and Nawal Barhoum that provides spiritual and social aid to both Jewish and Arab residents. JCF specifically aids House of Light’s prison work, which visits and disciples current and former prisoners. In the future they hope to have a half-way house to disciple former inmates who accepted the Lord while in prison.  HOL owns farming land and is hoping to grow their own food for those in need and, perhaps, one day, build a Christian Center on the property.  JCF’s average monthly support: $500

Israeli Social Services.  JCF partners with an Israeli social worker in Jerusalem who refers cases of families in difficult financial, emotional, and medical situations. Many of these are individuals from broken homes with very little income and unable to work due to health reasons. We’ve been able to help more than 15 families this year.  JCF’s average monthly support: $959

Little Hearts Preschool is a unique preschool where Jews, Arabs, and the nations come together to form a unified community in Messiah. It also strives to provide a quality trilingual (English, Hebrew, Arabic), faith-based education at an affordable cost for locals.  JCF’s donation is helping fund scholarships for needy families.  JCF’s average monthly support: $500

Refugees from Iraq and Syria. An estimated 400,000 Syrians have died since the outbreak of the civil war in March 2011. Now, in the 7th year of war, more than 5 million Syrians have fled the country and 6.3 million people are displaced internally. Among those escaping the conflict, the majority have sought refuge in neighbouring countries, like Lebanon, Jordan, and Turkey, or within Syria itself.

In November 2014, JCF began to pursue open doors in aiding some of these refugees who had fled.  Since then, JCF has partnered with the Nazarene Church’s work among Syrian and Iraqi refugees in Jordan.  During 2015 JCF gave $52,150 towards refugee needs like food, clothes, blankets, heaters, school tuition, medicine, rent, and transportation costs. During 2016 JCF gave $35,600 in aid.  In particular, JCF has recently begun to focus its efforts on aiding refugees who have started immigrating to the West.  In 2017, JCF gave $16,080 towards emigration flights of refugee families.

Holocaust Survivors Fund: Around 200,000 Holocaust survivors live in Israel, of whom a significant percentage struggle with poverty.  $1297 was given this year through JCF towards helping Holocaust Survivors.

Lifegate Development School is a special needs educational institute for Christian and Muslim Arabs in the Bethlehem area. It provides education, medical care, therapy, and home care programs for 350 to 400 children and adults.  JCF gave $2585 towards Lifegate's work.

Eritrean Women's Center, located in Tel Aviv, is symbol of safety for Eritrean women who are refugees from their oppressive homeland and now living on the fringes of Israeli society.  At the center the women are provided with vocational, health, enrichment, and support programs. JCF contributed $2000 towards the work of the center.

JCF has covered some of the hospital fees ($1300) for a little Palestinian girl who suffers from the painful genetic disease, Epidermolysis Bullosa, that causes blisters between the dermis and the epidermis. 

News in Israel

  • U.S. President, Donald Trump, recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital while at the same time endorsing, for the first time, a “two-state solution” for Israel and the Palestinian people.  By recognizing Jerusalem as the Israeli capital, the United States will begin the years-long process of moving their embassy from Tel Aviv.  In the wake of the announcement, the United Nations recently voted overwhelmingly against Trump’s decision.  According to UN Watch, a Geneva-based non-governmental organization whose stated mission is "to monitor the performance of the United Nations by the yardstick of its own Charter," between 2012-2015, the UN has adopted 97 resolutions criticizing an individual country.  86% of those resolutions have condemned Israel.  More. 
  • Archaeologists have discovered that Jerusalem’s Church of the Holy Sepulchre stands on the site of a Jewish cemetery dating to the time of Jesus.  More.  Also.
  • 100 Years Ago on Hanukkah: Turkey No Longer Rules Jerusalem after 400 Years.  In the last JCF Newsletter, we shared an article by Kelvin Crombie about the decisive Battle of Beersheba 100 years ago that began the end of Turkish rule in the Holy Land.  British forces, led by Field Marshal Edmund Allenby, completed their invasion by entering Jerusalem on the first day of Hanukkah, December 11, 1917.  The great-great nephew of Allenby was in Jerusalem this month to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the capture of the Holy City from the Ottoman Turks.
  • Mother and Daughter Discover 2,200-year-old Hanukkah Era Lamp in Porcupine Nest.  More.
  • Jewish extremist arsonist of the July 2015 attack on the Church of the Multiplication of the Loaves and Fishes on the Sea of Galilee was sentenced to four years in prison.  More.

 

Come Learn Biblical Hebrew in Israel this Summer

Randall Buth and the Biblical Language Center (BLC) will be offering a 4 week beginners course in Israel this summer June 17-July 13.  Learn to read your Bible the way Jesus read his--in Hebrew!  The beginners class is designed specifically for students with little or no background in Biblical Hebrew.  BLC's classroom is a fun and interactive environment with instruction and activities all conducted in Hebrew.  For more information, here.

 

Last Chance to Join a January JCF Study Tour with Yoni Gerrish

  • Israel Tour including Petra with Pastor David Tarkington (Jan 26-Feb 10, 2018)

 For more information on how you can join one of these tours, here.

 
There are approximately twelve needy and very lonely Holocaust survivors in Jerusalem who have been receiving loving care and companionship from an aid organization with whom we partner.   These Survivors receive monthly checks to support them economically and receive regular volunteer visitors, which is also very important to them.  A very nice program was begun to link boys from a local institution for disadvantaged children and youth, to some of these Holocaust Survivors.  This has greatly benefited both the teenage boys and the elderly survivors.
 
Loneliness is a huge problem to people who have lost all their family and often their spouse.  Visiting some of these Jerusalem Survivors regularly ourselves, we know how important this program is which supplies both financial and emotional support.  
 
The donations of JCF have been used in part with help to maintain the ongoing expense of supporting these survivors in Jerusalem with monthly help in form of coupons for food items.  The other part has been used to cover maintenance problems in their homes. For example, when our staff visited a 90 year old Survivor, her small, modest apartment was quite dark owing to a broken slatted shutter which could not be raised and had been like this for more than a week.   Having received the gift from JCF, we were in a position to immediately arrange its replacement.  One of hermost  terrible memories is from her home town of Yasi in Romania where she suffered terribly from violence and terror.  She lost most of her family and witnessed people being pulled out of their homes and killed.  She finds it very difficult to talk about those memories. She is suffering from many health problems, does not have children, and lost her husband many years ago.  Visits from Christians like us mean the world to her.