2 Timothy 4:6-8, 16-18
The twelfth hour was upon him with the sun setting behind the western clouds over the Great Sea. Josiah, anxious that he not still be beyond the allotted distance for a Shabbat walk, hurried his way home. The dark clouds to the east cleared away and, as he stepped through a clearing, he saw the top sliver of the rising moon. It was in full eclipse as it rose, what astrologers called a blood moon. The vision held him. He stood engulfed in the revelation. The blood red reminded him of the words of the prophet Yo’el.
“I will show wonders in the sky and on earth–
blood, fire and columns of smoke.
The sun will be turned into darkness
and the moon into blood
before the coming of the great
and terrible Day of Adonai.”
Visions of the past two days passed through his mind. All the blood of the sacrifices at the Temple, the fires and smoke of the Altar, the arrest of the rabbi Yeshua, his execution on the cross, the strange darkness, the quake, and now this. He actually shivered. He stood rooted, unthinking, staring at the moon. He tried to break the spell. It could not mean the Day was upon them.
He chastised himself for thinking like a peasant! He was a properly educated businessman. He knew the Mashiach would overthrow the existing powers and reestablish the Kingdom of David. Where were the signs for that? There were none! This Yeshua was dead. It was all talk.
He carefully made his way home.
Let’s get the blood moon out of the way first. Joel is giving us a specific prophecy about the Messiah. It deals with the time of the coming of the Son of Man to establish the Kingdom of God on earth.
There are dozens, perhaps thousands, of web sites right now talking about the coming blood moons of 2014 and 2015. The excitement is that there will be a total eclipse of the moon on Passover and Sukkot in both years, so some are saying that this heralds the Second Coming.
There are a number of problems with the 4 eclipse idea. The technical issues are dealt with quite well in the following post.
To summarize his points: a total eclipse occurs almost every year; few of them are seen as red; most are just dark; clouds often cover them; and a more Biblical point, it should be seen from Jerusalem if it heralds the coming of the Messiah.
I prefer to take the teachings of Jesus to heart on this issue; I will not know the time; it will come like a thief in the night. In the Book of the Acts of the Apostles, chapter 2, Peter began his great sermon by quoting this passage from Joel. Peter makes it clear that Joel refers to what had happened to the man Jesus and that the sudden ability of the Apostles and disciples to preach boldly was part of Joel’s message. Remember that Pentecost occurred 50 days after Passover without a blood moon (the moon would have been about 10 days shy of being full).
What is the rest of Joel’s message? The context is important here. The land of Judah has experienced a massive plague of grasshoppers that ate everything and Joel reminded the people that they had been unfaithful to God (yet again). Repent and trust in God. When the nation does return, Joel goes on, they can expect good rains and good harvests. Stay right with God and good things will come.
Psalm 65 carries on with that message. You care for the earth and water it, you enrich it greatly; with the river of God, full of water, you provide them grain and prepare the ground. The idea of the river of God brings to mind the words of Jesus to the woman at the well, “Everyone who drinks this water will get thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I will give him will never be thirsty again!” Later in John we read, Now on the last day of the festival, Hoshana Rabbah, Yeshua stood and cried out, “If anyone is thirsty, let him keep coming to me and drinking! This image of Jesus the Messiah as the living water comes from the Exodus account of God bringing water from the rock for the people, not for a day, but for 40 years. Jesus is that Rock of our Salvation.
Hoshana Rabbah, the day of judgment, is the seventh and last day of Sukkot, generally called the Feast of Tabernacles. Occurring in the fall, it culminates a series of important events beginning with Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. The judgment written on Yom Kippur is not delivered until the end of Hoshana Rabbah. Therefore, Jesus was inviting everyone to receive the living water before the judgment was issued. There is powerful symbolism in the timing of Jesus’ words.
For Paul in writing to Timothy, judgment is at hand. He has finished the race and expects to receive his reward. He knows the living water. He has tasted it. He is ready to be poured out on the altar. He has made his own sacrifice as did the Lamb of God. He expects to take his own imitation of Jesus all the way to death. Jesus lived in him so it is proper that his blood also be poured on the altar, symbolically at least.
Luke gives us a short parable of the Pharisee and tax collector sandwiched between the unjust judge and Jesus calling the children to his side. At first glance, it seems to have no connection to the other readings for today. Let’s see.
The stage-set for this little drama is huge. The Pharisee goes up to the Temple and finds a safe place where the dirty common folk can’t touch him. The tax collector quietly slips unseen to a solitary spot well away from the other men. It is important to note that they are both removed from other people.
The priest, chosen by lot, has gone inside the Holy Place to offer incense on the Golden Altar, add oil to the Menorah, and tend the Golden Table of the Bread of the Presence. That was the signal for the men in attendance to begin offering their prayers to God. In Jesus day, it was done out loud, by everyone at once. They could and did pray throughout the day right up to the time in the evening sacrifice when the chosen priest entered the Holy Place again.
In the Parable, we can hear the prayers of both the Pharisee and of the tax collector and Jesus tells us whose prayer is to be answered. But we should notice some other important details.
The Pharisee was preaching to his neighbors, but the tax collector was talking to God. He alone crossed his arms over his chest and beat himself for being unworthy to approach God. Only women did that, as is still the case today in the Middle East. This man was serious. He wanted God to hear him and forgive him.
When the priest entered the Holy Place, it was the most important act of the morning and evening sacrifices of atonement for the nation. Once atonement had been achieved, it was safe and proper to petition God. So, every day hundreds of men stood before the Temple and prayed, sang, worshiped, or just stood and felt the Holy Presence.
All four of these readings deal with atonement. Atonement can only happen if a perfect lamb, or Lamb, is killed. The blood of the lamb is collected and sprinkled on the four corners of the altar, and the remainder poured out at the base of the altar. By that process, the living waters are released by God and God’s people can live good lives.
The blood moon is a part of the sign that the pure and Holy Lamb of God has made the final Atonement. His blood has been given for the whole world. The moon reflects that sacrifice back to the whole earth. The sacrifice was made once. There is need for only one blood moon.
Bible quotes used are from the Complete Jewish Bible.
Be righteous and do good.