Is Jesus everything?

Is Jesus everything? by David Brickner, executive director
God told Abraham, “Also I give to
specific promises that are being
hat is grey and furry
“
spiritualized: the promised preservation you and your descendants after you
and has a long bushy tail
W
and beady little eyes?” A
long pause in the Sunday school
class was finally broken as one child
volunteered, “I know the answer is
supposed to be Jesus, but it sure
sounds like a squirrel to me.”
of the Jewish people (ethnic Israel) as
God’s chosen people, and the promise
of a specific land as an inheritance for
the people of Israel. You may have
heard that the promise to preserve
ethnic Israel is fulfilled because Jesus is
That child’s answer illustrates an
important truth. Jesus is central to all
of God’s purposes in our world today.
He is the fulfillment of all of God’s
promises concerning the coming of
Messiah. In Him all the typology of
the Feasts of the Lord come together.
Without the coming of Christ, God’s
salvation story would have no
beginning, middle or end. As Paul
tells us: “For it pleased the Father
that in Him all the fullness should
dwell” (Colossians 1:19). All these
things are true. And yet.
ALSO I GIVE TO
YOU AND YOUR
DESCENDANTS
AFTER YOU THE
LAND IN WHICH
YOU ARE A
STRANGER, ALL
THE LAND OF
CANAAN, AS AN
EVERLASTING
POSSESSION;
AND I WILL BE
THEIR GOD.
The all-important reality of Jesus does
not make Him “everything.” That is to
say, a squirrel is a squirrel. The point?
Israel is Israel, and the promises made
to Israel pertain to Israel.
I say this because some Bible
teachers, theologians and pastors
teach that God’s specific promises
regarding physical places and physical
people should now be seen as
spiritual promises that have been
fulfilled in Jesus.
This view is increasingly popular
concerning two important and very
GENESIS 17:8
the true Israel. Likewise, the promise of
a specific land inheritance for Israel is
completely fulfilled because Jesus is
also the Land of Israel. I beg to differ
and I want to point out that when it
comes to God’s promises to Israel, “it
sure sounds like a squirrel to me.”
the land in which you are a stranger,
all the land of Canaan, as an
everlasting possession; and I will be
their God” (Genesis 17:8). This is one
of numerous times God promised the
biblical land of Canaan, Israel, to
Abraham and his descendants as “an
everlasting possession.” Yet one
popular New Testament professor at
Wheaton College teaches:
“The New Testament locates in Christ
all the expectations once held for
Sinai and Zion, Bethel and Jerusalem.
For a Christian to return to a Jewish
territoriality is to deny fundamentally
what has transpired in the
incarnation.”(Gary M. Burge:
Jesus and the Land, p.129)
I find it incredible that God’s
everlasting promises to Abraham,
Isaac and Jacob are herein reduced to
“Jewish territoriality.” This is not only
dismissive toward Jewish people, but
more importantly it implies that God
never intended to fulfill His original
promises. Burge’s reinterpretation
shifts the goal posts entirely with the
coming of Christ, as though this had
been God’s purpose all along.
It bothers me that many of my own
Jewish people attribute Israel’s return
to the ancient homeland to human
effort rather than divine intervention.
I’m even more troubled that many of
my brothers and sisters in Christ see
modern Israel as nothing more than
“Jewish territoriality” and no
testimony at all to God’s faithfulness.
By denying the viability of modern
Israel as a fulfillment of God’s
promises, they unknowingly rob God
of His glory and undermine
confidence in His faithfulness.
And yet one of the most prolific and
popular Christian theologians today,
N.T. Wright, has done just that in his
book Paul and the Faithfulness of God.
It is difficult to summarize an
argument that N.T. Wright takes
literally a thousand pages to make,
but in the end he is saying that Jesus
has replaced the people of Israel by
fulfilling the task God gave to the
nation, hence only those who follow
Jesus are the true Jews and
collectively the new Israel in Him.
Wright may argue that this approach
is not the same thing as
supersessionism or “replacement
theology,” but he winds up in exactly
the same place: there is no longer a
place in God’s plan for ethnic Israel.
Wright relies heavily on Paul’s
statement: “For he is not a Jew who
is one outwardly, nor is circumcision
that which is outward in the flesh;
but he is a Jew who is one inwardly;
and circumcision is that of the heart,
in the Spirit, not in the letter; whose
praise is not from men but from
God” (Romans 2:28–9). But as
theologian Ben Witherington states
in response to Wright’s argument:
“To my view, when Paul refers to
Jews he means Jews, and when he
refers to “Israel” he means his fellow
Jews in their identity before God.”
(j.mp/wrightbk)
In other words, Paul isn’t announcing
a change in God’s promise or plan; He
is saying that his own Jewish people’s
ethnicity is not enough to make them
true followers of God. To see it
otherwise is to ignore verses such as
Romans 9:3–4: “For I could wish that
I myself were accursed from Christ for
my brethren, my countrymen
according to the flesh, who are
Israelites, to whom pertain the
adoption, the glory, the covenants,
the giving of the law, the service of
God, and the promises.”
Those promises Paul refers to include
the following:
“Thus says the LORD,
Who gives the sun for a light by day,
The ordinances of the moon and the
stars for a light by night,
Who disturbs the sea,
And its waves roar.”
(The Lord of hosts is His name):
“If those ordinances depart
From before Me, says the LORD,
Then the seed of Israel
shall also cease
From being a nation
before Me forever.”
Thus says the Lord:
“If heaven above can be measured,
And the foundations of the earth
searched out beneath,
I will also cast off all the seed of Israel
For all that they have done,
says the LORD.”
(Jeremiah 31:35–7).
God’s promises are not and will not be
circumvented or reinterpreted
regarding Jews and Israel any more
than the sun, the moon and the stars
will cease to exist. Only when we get
this straight in our minds and hearts
can we all be certain that His promises
to each of us are yes and amen. If we
accept the reinterpretations of God’s
promises, we undermine the very basis
for our confidence in the faithfulness
of God.*
The Scriptures never identify the
Messiah as replacing the people
of Israel, but rather as fulfilling
the task God gave His people to
be a light to the nations. There
is a big difference. This is so
extremely important.
Despite dark clouds that loom on
the horizon, despite efforts of evil
men who lead Hamas and ISIS,
God’s promises for a future and a
hope for Israel and for all of us will
be fulfilled. Let us redouble our
confidence and faith in Him and in
His Scriptures. No, Jesus isn’t
everything, but because of Him,
everything God has promised us will
surely come to pass.
David Brickner is also an author,
public speaker and avid hiker. For
more about David, his writings,
speaking schedule and possible
availability to speak at your church,
see jewsforjesus.org/david-brickner
*Please see David’s article, “Trading
Spouses” to dig deeper into
this reality: j4j.co/spouses
We exist to make the messiahship of Jesus an unavoidable issue to our Jewish people worldwide.
Jews for Jesus international headquarters: 60 Haight Street, San Francisco, CA 94102-5895; phone: (415) 864-2600;
email: [email protected]org; web: jewsforjesus.org; also working in: Australia, Brazil, Canada, France, Germany, Hungary, Israel, Russia,
South Africa, Switzerland, Ukraine and the United Kingdom; editor: Ruth Rosen; art director: Paige Saunders;
design and illustration: David Yapp; ISSN 0740-5901 Volume 3:5775, November 2014; ©2014
onlinextras
This month’s online edition at j4j.co/extras1114 includes:
• downloadable gospel literature to share in November
and December
• videos and fun facts about our new trainees
• hyperlink to take advantage of free shipping on Future Israel:
Why Christian Anti-Judaism Must Be Challenged
• our regular bonus features, “Hello Israel” and “So What”
RECOMMENDED
R E ADI N G
We highly
recommend
Barry Horner’s
Future Israel:
Why Christian
Anti-Judaism Must
Be Challenged; it’s an important
work on this critical topic.
This month we are offering free
shipping (through November 30,
2014); go to j4j.co/israelbook
From all of us at
Jews for Jesus, have a
Happy Thanksgiving
and please know that
we are thanking God
for you and your part in
our ministry!
A time sensitive
opportunity!
Invite your church congregation
to experience the powerful
redemption story of Christ within
the Jewish tradition of Passover!
We are currently filling calendar
dates for our missionary speakers
to deliver “Christ in the
Passover” demonstrations in
our annual nationwide tour
beginning in March. Share this
wonderful experience with your
church family and start your
own Passover tradition!
Call us to schedule a missionary
speaker (800) 366-5521
(M–F 8 A.M.–5 P.M. PST) or email:
[email protected]
prayer
prompters
Please pray for:
salvation for Lynn, Jerry and
Tina in Long Island; Shlomie in
Sydney; Sandy and the others in
David’s meet-up group in
Washington, DC; Nelya, Arkady
and Mila in Essen (pp. 4–5)
grace and strength for new
Jewish believer Meir in Tel Aviv,
and that God enables the unnamed young man from the
Orthodox community to believe
and follow Yeshua as he has
prayed to do, despite the
certain opposition he will face
(pp. 4–5)
our new missionary trainees
(pp. 6–7)
a fruitful time of extra street
outreach between Thanksgiving
and the New Year
God’s blessing as we invest
in the next generation of
Jews for Jesus
wisdom in planning the next
Behold Your God Israel outreach
This month's banner photo is associate staff member Shmuel Abramson, who works part time with us while attending
Bible school. (Photo by Karen Myers)
“We are looking into the possibility
of forming our own Meet-Up as well.
Pray for God’s guidance as we
continue to look into this avenue.
Most of all, pray for many
opportunities to share Messiah.”
Long Island
Susan Mendelson reports, “A
Jewish-Gentile couple stopped
by my literature table at a
concert series called ‘Music
Under the Stars.’ Neither was
born again, though the Jewish
husband has been playing
gospel music in a band. When I
asked him what he thought
about Jesus, he admitted, ‘I
don’t know’—and it sounded
like he’s been thinking about it!
The three of us spoke about getting
together for coffee.
PHOTO ©JEWS FOR JESUS/RACHEL FRIEDLANDER
“As part of our exploration of the
‘Meet-Up’ world, I attended a
group that is going through
Amy Jill Levine’s book titled, The
Misunderstood Jew. Levine, a Jewish
New Testament scholar (from a
non-Messianic perspective), attempts
to help both Christians and Jews
understand the Jewishness of Jesus.
When I arrived, four others were in
attendance, two of whom were
Jewish non-believers. Sandy* (the
“The nature of the Meet-Up made
it quite natural to share my
perspective on Jesus’ role in
fulfilling the Jewish faith. Initially,
my connection with Jews for Jesus
stirred up a bit of controversy, but I
had good opportunities to share
with the group. Please keep these
sessions in your prayers, and pray
that God grant me discernment and
boldness. Pray also that Sandy and
the others would be drawn to the
truth of Messiah as we read, and
discuss Levine’s The Misunderstood
Jew, along with her annotated
version of the New Testament.
May all those in attendance who
do not yet understand come to
know the One who has for so long
been misunderstood.
David
moderator) explained that though
Jewish, she has been fascinated with
Jesus for a long time and was quite
interested to read Levine’s work. It
was exciting to be present as the
group is focusing in on the person
of Jesus.
4
“That same night a Jewish woman
named Lynn stopped to take some
literature and give me her phone
number. Please pray that I can meet
bits from the
BRANCHES
with her as well, and that she, Jerry and
Tina all will continue to journey toward
Him and come to a saving faith.”
Editor’s note: Did you know that we
have a website as a resource especially
for Jewish-Gentile couples? If you or
someone you know is interested, go
to: jewishgentilecouples.com
Sydney
Jesse Townsend (who schedules our
missionary speakers in Australia)
reports, “Today a young man named
Shlomie walked into our bookshop
and remarked, ‘I’ve walked past your
shop a thousand times and just felt
like checking it out today.’ He was
telling me about serving in the Israeli
army, and how he and his partner
were saved from enemy forces by a
vision in the desert. Just then, a
passing cyclist spat at the Israeli flag
hanging in our window. Shlomie
finished his story and was willing to
hear about Yeshua (though he is not a
believer . . . yet).
Please be praying for both Shlomie
and the cyclist, that the Lord will lead
them to salvation.”
Essen
Dina Markova reports, “I called Nelya,
a Jewish woman who said she didn’t
want to talk about Jesus or the New
Testament. But when I asked if she
was interested in a Jewish calendar
with weekly Torah portions, she said
yes, and agreed to meet with me.
“On Saturday we read Exodus 15:1–2,
‘The Lord is my strength and my
song; he has become my salvation,’
I explained the connection between
the Hebrew word “salvation” and the
person of Yeshua (Jesus). I asked Nelya
who she thought Yeshua was. She
answered, ‘I can’t tell you exactly who
he is, but maybe he’s the Messiah.’
By the end of our get-together,
Nelya’s distrust of the New Testament
was gone.
“At another visit I sat down and read
Exodus 10:1–13, 16 with Arkady, a
Jewish man, and his wife, Mila. We
agreed that the passage talked about
the salvation of the Jewish first-born
sons, and of the Jewish people’s
redemption from Egypt—thanks to
the sacrificial lamb’s blood on the
doorposts. I pointed out that salvation
takes place through sacrifice. I also
mentioned that there is a “secret”
haftorah portion, Isaiah 53, which
used to be read in synagogues during
the three-year reading cycle. Now
there is only a one-year cycle and this
passage has been cut from it.
“I suggested Mila read Isaiah 53
aloud and asked who they thought
it was describing. Mila said, ‘Do
you want to say that this is Jesus?’
I answered, ‘There were rabbis,
who didn’t doubt that it was about
the Messiah.’
“Arkady said, ‘If something is
“secret,” it is something they don’t
want to talk about, and if that’s the
case, I want to know about that
“secret.”’ He didn’t have questions
before, but now he wondered,
‘Maybe Yeshua is really the Messiah
of Israel?’
“Please pray that God would
continue to open the hearts of Nelya,
Arkady, and Mila.”
old, called and asked: “Do you
believe that Yeshua is only Messiah,
or also God?” I explained our faith
and he said that he’s been reading
the New Testament. He wanted
more information but he couldn’t
give an email address, so I directed
him to our website.
“A few hours later he called back to
thank me. He had been to our website
and read a lot of the information
there. He added that he believes that
Yeshua is the Messiah, and that He is
Tel Aviv
Igal Vender (one of our interns)
reports, “I sent Meir the New
Testament and the book, Y’shua,
the Jewish way to say Jesus.
When I called back and asked if
he’d read them, he said that
he’d read a few books from the
New Testament. He also
confessed that he and his
neighbor had an argument that
Avigail
turned into a fight that resulted
in him going to the hospital. I told him
God. ‘What should I do?’ he asked,
that when we call on Jesus and
but was afraid even to tell me his
surrender our hearts to Him, Jesus
full name because of his religious
gives us new life and new heart. I told
background. I asked if he had prayed
him that Jesus gives us inner peace
to receive Jesus as his personal Savior
and a relationship with God. It
and Lord. He answered no, and was
touched his heart and when I asked if
eager to do so. I led him in prayer and
he would like to receive Jesus, he
then explained the importance of
agreed and we prayed together.
attending a believing congregation,
Please pray for Meir, that our Lord will
prayer, and Bible reading. I gave him
bless and strengthen him.”
my phone number and invited him to
our congregation, but again he
Avigail Rantanen reports, “I was
answered that it is difficult to come on
making phone calls and had tried
Shabbat since he lived in a religious
many people, but either people
neighborhood. Please pray for this
were not home or did not want to
young man to become completely free
talk. A bit discouraged, I asked my
to have fellowship with believers and
husband Markus to pray for me to
to follow Yeshua.”
have good conversations. Then
*not their real names
suddenly a religious man, 23 years
PHOTO ©JEWS FOR JESUS
Washington, DC
David Liebman reports, “All of us here
at the DC branch have been praying
for renewed boldness and creativity in
reaching the Jewish community of
the greater Washington area. We
have been participating in Jewish
community centers, Hebrew language
courses, Jewish learning classes and
more. It seems that momentum is
building, especially as we participate in
Meet-Up groups. Meet-Up is an online
networking group that brings people
with common interests together.
55
We are excited about this year’s
class of missionary trainees! This is
your opportunity to meet them . . .
and to hear how they’d like you to
be praying for them.
Melissa Weinisch
You may remember,
we introduced
Melissa in January
2012 as an
associate staff
member . . . she
was attending San Francisco State
University at the time, and now that
she’s graduated with a bachelor’s
degree in communications she’s joining
us full-time!
Melissa grew up in a Messianic
Jewish home (her parents, Stewart
and Shoshannah, serve with our New
York branch) and came to faith in
Yeshua (Jesus) at the age of five.
After high school, she toured with
the Liberated Wailing Wall; she wrote
as well as performed some of the
songs on our Never Forget recording.
Not long after her tour, Melissa
moved to Los Angeles to work with
the Jews for Jesus young adult
ministry. There Melissa realized that
her real passion was to see younger
children experience God’s heart and
love. “When I was little, my dad was
a camp director, so I went with him
to camp as early as I can remember. I
LOVED camp. Literally, I believe I was
made for camp. As I got older, I had
the thought, ‘Oh I could do this for a
living. I love it! But who does that?
Whose job is it to do camp? That’s
not real life.’”
6
But in November of 2010, Melissa
was offered a position as a Children’s
and Youth Worker, overseeing our
West Coast Camp Gilgal
program. She says,
“It was like God placed my dream job
in my lap! I am a second-generation
believer who has a strong Jewish
identity and has had to figure out
what that means and doesn’t mean in
relation to my faith in Jesus. I have a
heart for these kids as they go
through these things because I have
been there. Please pray as I go
through our missionary training, that
whatever I gain I’ll be able to invest in
the kids and families God has called
me to serve.”
Doug Drake
Doug grew up in
Grand Rapids,
Minnesota, the son
of a pastor. He was
very involved in the
Christian education
classes at his father’s church and also
in the church’s youth group. He
attended Christian Life College in Mt.
Prospect, IL and earned a degree in
pastoral studies. Doug served as a
youth pastor for a time, and also
worked in hotel management.
Heather Blecher, then a missionary with
our Chicago branch, came into Doug’s
life in the fall of 2011; they met at an
arts festival in Rogers Park. Through
Heather, Doug was introduced to the
Messianic Jewish community and the
mission of reaching Jewish people with
the news of Messiah Yeshua.
Doug and Heather were married in
April of 2012. Doug began to help
with the local Jews for Jesus young
adult ministry and was accepted as a
vocational missionary with Jews for
Jesus in May of 2014. The Drakes are
part of our South Florida branch, as
Doug is receiving general missionary
training from branch leader Robyn
Wilk and Heather is ministering to
Jewish college students from Miami
to Palm Beach.
Doug says, “I’m very excited about
what Jesus has done in my life. His
commission to us all is to be
witnesses to His glory and that is
why I am so glad to be a missionary
with Jews for Jesus. Since I’m not
Jewish, I have much to learn and
retain over the next several months.
It would be great if you would pray
with me for perseverance and
endurance as I learn all I can to
fulfill my calling.”
Eryn and
Elizabeth Black
Eryn grew up in a
believing home
near Baltimore,
MD, with a Gentile
father and Jewish
mother. He was saved at an early age,
and his family became very involved in
local Messianic congregations. He grew
up confident in his Jewish heritage and
his faith in Jesus.
In high school, Eryn was very active
in his youth group. He went on to
study film at the University of
Maryland. After his first year, Eryn
realized that the Lord was leading
him elsewhere; after much prayer,
he started attending Washington
Bible College, where he graduated
with a BA in theology. There he met
Elizabeth who, while not Jewish,
was absolutely passionate about
Jewish evangelism.
Elizabeth has also known the Lord
since childhood; she grew up with
many Jewish friends and so
frequented synagogues, Bar and Bat
Mitzvahs, and other traditional
events. She made it a priority to
share the news of the Messiah with
her Jewish friends, and learned a
great deal about Jewish culture and
religion. In college, she attended
Friday night services at a local
synagogue and also went on mission
trips to Israel. It was Elizabeth who
challenged Eryn to consider a career
in Jewish ministry. They graduated in
2008 and were married in 2009.
They served with another Jewish
ministry for three years before they
applied and were both accepted on
our staff in 2014.
Eryn says, “For years, I was so sure that
I wanted to be a director. I wanted to
make movies. In just a few months, the
Lord completely changed the desires of
my heart. I’ve always felt a real concern
for the spiritual well-being of my
Jewish brothers and sisters, but it took
time for me to truly connect this with
God’s will for my life. Over the past
decade, God has impressed upon me a
deep desire to see my people come to
know their Messiah. The situation is
dire. The need is urgent.
“As new missionary trainees with
Jews for Jesus, my wife and I have
entered a wonderful and challenging
new part of our lives and ministries.
Having worked in Jewish evangelism
for three years, I am already meeting
with several unsaved Jewish people
on a regular basis. Please keep these
young men in your prayers.
“I would also greatly appreciate your
prayers for our family. Our son, Jude,
is almost three. Thank you for your
prayers: they are the fuel that helps
run the engine of evangelism!”
Elizabeth adds, “I am extremely
excited to be serving with Jews for
Jesus. The undeniable need for
Jewish people to know their Messiah
has fueled a passion to do whatever
it takes to tell every Jewish person I
can about Jesus. As a missionary in
training, I pray that the Lord will
continue to grow that calling He has
placed in my life, and equip me to
become a better minister of the
gospel. Please pray that He will give
me grace as I balance my training
with caring for our son.”
Jen Gage
Like many of her
friends, both Jen’s
parents were
believers in Jesus;
unlike most of her
Christian friends,
Jen’s mother was Jewish. Jen grew up
attending a Messianic congregation,
celebrating Shabbat, keeping the
holidays, and she had a Messianic Bat
Mitzvah. She loved her culture and the
traditions that came with it, but Jen
always knew that Jesus was the
completion of her Jewishness. And she
always felt a little bit different for it.
Jen started attending Camp Gilgal,
part of the Children and Youth
Ministry of Jews for Jesus, when she
was ten years old. When she grew
too old to be a camper, she served as
staff. Jen says, “Camp Gilgal played a
huge role in my development as a
believer and overall, as a person.”
Jen graduated from SUNY Oswego
where she majored in childhood
education and received her NY State
teaching certification. She loves
children and teaching, but never saw
herself as a classroom teacher.
Following an internship in Jews for
Jesus’ Children and Youth work in
New York, Jen became a full-time
Children and Youth worker.
Jen says, “I’ve always felt a burden to
work with children at a time in life
when ideas, values and identity are
being formed. If kids’ roots in Messiah
are deep, they’re less likely to fall over
when a storm comes. I’m very excited
to have the privilege of speaking into
the lives of the next generation. Please
join me in praying that I can prioritize
my time and have joy in all of the new
things that I will be learning.”
Find out more about our new trainees
and see videos of their testimonies, using
our onlinextras link on p. 3.
Banner photos (excluding second from
the left) by Rachel Freidlander. Inset
photos left to right by Rachel Freidlander,
David Yapp and Paige Saunders.
7
How and why
Where and when
For what?
Words in Scripture
Old Testament
New Testament
todah* Hebrew for thanksgiving or a
thank offering
eucharisteo, Greek verb, to thank
eucharistia, Greek noun, thanksgiving
l’hodot, Hebrew verb, to thank
eucharistos, Greek adjective, thankful
Note the similarity to Eucharist, the word
many churches use for communion or the
Lord’s Supper.**
Thanks is offered for God Himself and
His character (1 Chron. 16:34; 2 Chron.
7:3, 6; 20:21); or for His deliverance
(1 Chr. 16:35). Certain psalms especially
focus on thanksgiving. Many thank God
for His righteousness (7:17; 106:1; 107
and 136 throughout) and for His great
deeds (9:1; 26:7; 75:1).
Jesus and especially Paul thank God for a
wide variety of things, including God’s
revelation (Mt. 11:25, Lk. 10:21); God’s
hearing Jesus at the raising of Lazarus
(John 11:41); God’s provision of fellow
believers (Acts 28:15; Rom. 16:4); God’s work
in the lives of believers in many churches
(Rom. 1:8, among many others); leaders,
including the secular rulers (1 Tim. 2:1). We
also see numerous examples of giving
thanks at meals, for example, Luke 22:19,
John 6:23 and Acts 27:35.
Most thanksgiving takes place in the
context of communal worship, though
sometimes it takes place individually
(Jonah 2:9—Jonah could hardly have
had community in the belly of a fish!).
The Psalms include examples of both.
Worship included the thank offering
(Leviticus 7:12; 22:29–30), which ended
with a meal for family and friends.
Israelites continued to bring thank
offerings to the Temple until its
destruction in 70 A.D. Paul mentions
thanksgiving within the worship service,
1 Cor. 14:16–17.
Thanking God is a part of worship and reminds His people of why we can trust Him
and rejoice. Thanksgiving in the Old Testament is shown by example and by
exhortation, while the New Testament rounds out a “theology of thanks.” In Paul’s
letters, thanksgiving is closely connected with peace rather than anxiety (Phil. 4:6,
Col. 3:15), with living in all we do for the Lord (Col. 3:17) and with godly behavior
(Eph. 5:4). Ephesians 6:18 encourages prayer “at all times,” whereby we are meant to
cultivate a spirit of thanks in all situations, rather than a spirit of criticism or despair.
Hebrews 13:15 describes thanksgiving as a sacrifice, perhaps because to properly
thank God we need to give up something, be it time, convenience, or focus on
ourselves and our problems.
In Jewish tradition
Before meals, we bless and thank God
for His good gifts with set blessings for
certain foods, and a catch-all for the rest.
Want to bless God before eating an
omelette or Reese’s Pieces? Say,
“Blessed are You, O Lord our God, King of
the Universe, by Whose word everything
came into being.”
A prayer called the Birkat Hamazon is
recited after meals; after all, how much
more thankful can we be once we know
how good the meal was? Actually the
practice is in accordance with
Deuteronomy 8:10: “When you have
eaten and are full, then you shall bless
the LORD your God for the good land
which He has given you.” This reminder
when we are full and content, prevents
us from forgetting that the food comes
from God (see Deuteronomy 8:11–14).
Upon arising in the morning, traditional
Jews recite a prayer called Modeh Ani,
“I give thanks.” This simple prayer thanks
God for restoring our lives for yet another
day and is one of the first prayers that
young children are taught.
A prayer called the Shehecheyanu is
often recited when a Jewish holiday
begins or when someone observes a
Jewish ritual for the first time: “Blessed
are You, O Lord our God, King of the
Universe, who has kept us alive, and has
sustained us, and has enabled us to
reach this season.”
* Todah also means “thank you” in modern Hebrew.
**The term thereby emphasizes that the congregation is giving thanks for what God has done in Christ.
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