Friday, November 14, 2008

The Old Testament Ritual Immersion

I normally don't like to quote an entire article from elsewhere, but I'm afraid you won't go read it if I just post the link, and the following is something I believe is good for Christians to know. From

The Old Testament Ritual Immersion

The Way Back To G-d Through the Mikvah

The Hebrew word Mikvah refers to the gathered waters, the pool used for immersion. The ritual of immersion in a Mikvah is called baptism in English, or baptisma in Greek and means: to make fully wet; to cover wholly with a fluid; to overwhelm or saturate.

The Hebrew sages taught that the Temple of G-d was a miniature Garden of Eden. When G-d created the Garden, He formed four head waters that flowed from Eden to all the earth. It is believed that the waters of Eden are the spiritual source of all waters. It is through the waters of the Mikvah whose spiritual source is Eden, that man can find his way back to G-d. The main rule for building a Mikvah pool is that the waters must be from a natural source, that is, rain water or a moving stream, etc.­­it must be living water. G-d identifies Himself as the fountain of living water:

"They have forsaken Me, the fountain of living waters" (Jeremiah 2:13b and 17:13)

The sages teach that everything in the physical world has a spiritual counterpart. Consequently, when a person immerses his physical body in the Mikvah, his soul is immersed as well. The prophet Jeremiah calls G-d the Mikvah ["hope" - kent] of Israel (14:8; 17:13; 50:7), leading to the belief that the spiritual counterpart for the Mikvah waters is the Spirit of G-d. Thus, immersion is the equivalent of being overwhelmed by or saturated in the Spirit of G-d.

The ritual immersion originated at the creation, according to the sages. The Book of Genesis records that the earth was submersed in water before G-d gathered the waters (Genesis 1:10). The Hebrew word used for gathered waters in this passage is Mikvah. When G-d gathered the waters into seas, the earth was resurrected from its watery grave. In Jewish thought, the waters that covered the earth, the Mikvah waters, symbolize the womb of creation. Thus, when a person immerses in the waters of the Mikvah, he is placing himself in a state of being unborn­­subjecting himself totally to G-d's creative power.

The Mikvah (pool) itself represents both the grave and the womb. First the individual enters the world of the non-living­­the grave­­since he ceases to breathe under the water. Then he emerges from the womb, his soul having been saturated or overwhelmed by the Spirit of G-d, resurrected from the watery grave as G-d's new creation. The rabbis say that emerging from the Mikvah is very much like a process of rebirth.

It is said that a seed must be planted in the ground or buried in death before it emerges in new life. When it appears, it is nothing like its former state. It gradually grows and becomes the plant G-d intended it to be. So is the person who is immersed in the Mikvah. When the person emerges from the Mikvah waters of G-d's creation, he is reborn, a new creation­­entering into an elevated state of life.

Observant Jews enter the Mikvah many times during their lives. For instance, some enter the Mikvah before every Sabbath in anticipation that the Messiah will come when they will enter the elevated state of the Messiah's reign. They enter the Mikvah before their Bar Mitzvah to enter the elevated state of becoming a son of the commandment; they enter the Mikvah before marriage to enter the elevated state of being joined as one; they enter the Mikvah before becoming a rabbi, to indicate their elevated state as a teacher of the Law, etc.

Both the grave and the womb are end points in the cycles of life. Both mark a new beginning as well. The person passing through either cycle is about to enter a new elevated state. The dead person's soul enters the elevated state of returning to his Maker: (Ecclesiastes 12:7b). The fetus enters the elevated state of becoming a breathing baby, ready to become a son or daughter of the Covenant. It is said that the Hebrew word for truth, emmet, is a constant reminder of the cycle of life from birth to death through the Mikvah immersion

The Hebrew word for truth is emmet. It said to be a joining of two words­­em meaning mother, implying birth, and met meaning death. The word emmet is spelled with only three Hebrew letters: aleph, mem, tav. Aleph, representing the beginning of one's life, is the first letter of the Hebrew alphabet. Tav, representing the end of one's life, is the last letter of the Hebrew alphabet. Mem is the exact middle. Each Hebrew letter has a meaning of its own and mem stands for water. Therefore, truth teaches that it is through water that a person receives birth and through the living water of the Mikvah during one's life that man finds his way back to G-d in death.

The New Testament Ritual Immersion

Jesus (Yeshua) Points the Way Back to G-d Through Baptism

In the Garden of Eden there was eternal life. Through sin, man was forced to leave Eden. In so doing, they departed from eternal life. Jesus (Yeshua) came to show mankind the way back to Eden, to once again possess eternal life. Jesus' (Yeshua's) body is the Temple of G-d, a miniature Garden of Eden, the source of eternal life.

"Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up...But He was speaking of the temple of His body." (John 2:19, 21)

In the New Testament as in the Old, the living waters are identified as the Spirit of G-d. Jesus (Yeshua), who is filled with the Spirit of G-d, is the spiritual source of the living water's of Eden.

"He who believes in Me [Jesus (Yeshua)], as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water. But this He spoke concerning the Spirit, whom those believing in Him would receive...." (John 7:38, 39)

At the beginning of Jesus' (Yeshua's) ministry on earth, John (the baptizer) was found immersing people in the Jordan River during the Hebrew calendar's season of repentance (Elul). John was immersing the multitudes who came to him in preparation for the Feast of Trumpets. It was believed that the Messiah would come either on a regular Sabbath (i.e.Saturday) or on a Special Sabbath (i.e. a Festival day).

The Phrisees sent priests and Levites to question John as to whether he was the Messiah, the Prophet (Deut. 18:15) or Elijah (John 1:19-26) because the Israelites had a tradition that no one could perform immersion in the Jordan River except one of those individuals. Immersion in the Jordan was a sign of the coming of the Messiah.

The Israelites had crossed over into the Promised Land on dry ground when G-d parted the waters of the Jordan for Joshua. The tradition held that the Promised Land would not be fully occupied and enjoyed by the Israelites until the Messiah came to rule and reign in the earth. They believed that the precursor to the Messiah's arrival would be immersion in the Jordan mikvah by the Prophet, Elijah, or the Messiah himself before the beginning of the Messiah's Sabbath Day of Rest.

The people were immersing in preparation for the possible coming of Messiah during this Festival. John was teaching that man had to immerse in the Mikvah of repentance in order to prepare for the coming Kingdom of G-d that would begin when the Messiah appeared.

"...when He was asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of G-d would come, [Jesus/Yeshua] answered them and said, 'The kingdom of G-d does not come with observation.....For indeed, the kingdom of G-d is within you.'" (Luke 17:20, 21)

John's Mikvah immersion was an outward sign of a mysterious inward change that would enable repentant individuals to enter an elevated state. The one immersed would be ready to receive the Spirit of G-d so that he could enter the Kingdom of G-d:

"Jesus (Yeshua) answered, 'Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of G-d." (John 3:5)

While Jesus (Yeshua) needed no repentance because He was without sin, He entered John's Mikvah waters to be immersed in the Spirit of G-d. He told John that it was "to fulfill all righteousness". As our example in all things, Jesus (Yeshua) was saying that it was necessary to enter the Mikvah of repentance to fulfill all righteousness.

"When He had been baptized, Jesus (Yeshua) came up immediately from the water; and behold, the heavens were opened to Him, and he saw the Spirit of G-d descending like a dove and alighting upon Him." (Matthew 3:16)

  • Jesus (Yeshua), the Mikvah of Israel, existed from the Creation:

"All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made." (John 1:3)

  • Jesus' (Yeshua's) spiritual counterpart is the Spirit of G-d:

"And the Spirit of G-d was hovering over the face of the waters." (Genesis 1:2b)

Immersion in the Mikvah is like dying and being reborn as a new creation of G-d. The New Testament teaches:

"...we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life." (Romans 6:4)

"...if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation..." (2 Corinthians 5:17)

"...the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life." (John 4:14b)

Jesus (Yeshua) is the Temple of Living G-d, THE LIFE everlasting in the Garden of Eden; He is THE TRUTH (emmet), the beginning and the end; He is the Living Water, the Mikvah of Israel. Jesus (Yeshua) is THE WAY back to G-d.

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