On Friday afternoon, just before we ate our last meal before Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, I was doing something that I rarely do: Watching Christian TV. Don’t get me wrong, I love the word of God, but I have come to the place where I can rarely get through a Christian Television program without feeling like I am being manipulated.
Far be it from me to throw out the baby with the bathwater. I know there are many godly men and women using television and media to advance the kingdom of God. But there are also many who abuse their audience, twisting God’s word, offering false promises of blessing in exchange for sending in a financial offering.
I sat there dumbfounded as the host interviewed a mega-church pastor on the meaning of the Day of Atonement. He was about to make a case that giving them money on the Day of Atonement would guarantee a 7-Fold, Double Portion Blessing! Where did he get this idea? He concludes, with revelatory flair, that because there is the mention of Trumpets and Fasting in Joel 2, the prophet was referring to the Day of Atonement.
To be clear, it is not my calling to police ministries around the world. It is enough to keep our own house in order. But as a Messianic Israeli ministry, I felt that this was one case in which I had to speak up—a case where the most sacred day of the Hebrew calendar has been turned into a Madison Avenue, money-making scheme.
Not in the Bible!
The guest teacher opens up to Joel 2:1 and says it refers to the Feast of Tabernacles. He begins to read the passage, “Blow the trumpet in Zion,” but quickly continues as if he is still reading, but he is not. He merely implies that the Prophet is saying, “Repent for 10 days.”
He is referring to the non-Biblical, rabbinic tradition that did not exist in the time of Joel, of the 10 Days of Awe. These are the 10 days between Yom Teruah (Rosh Hashana or russiahashana, as this teacher calls it) and Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. As he continues to pretend that this passage actually teaches that those who honor Yom Teruah will receive a 7-fold blessing in 10 more days, the host is visibly overwhelmed by the revelation—which is nowhere in the Bible!
The preacher then says that the believer can rejoice for eight days after Yom Kippur. I can only assume he means the eight days of the Feast of Tabernacles, but it only begins five days after Yom Kippur on the 15th. I hate to be nitpicky, but the Ph.D. teaches with such authority on this new revelation, I would assume that he would know his dates better. But it gets worse!
Get your Months Right
Next, he then quotes Joel 2:23 to prove his point:
Be glad then, you children of Zion, And rejoice in the Lord your God; For He has given you the former rain faithfully, And He will cause the rain to come down for you— The former rain, And the latter rain in the first month.
He claims that the meaning of this prophetic passage is that you will receive a double blessing (former and latter rains together) on the Day of Atonement. There is only one problem, the Day of Atonement is on the tenth day of the seventh month and this prophecy is referring to the first month!
He assumes that Yom Teruah comes in the first month, because it is now referred to in Jewish tradition as the New Year. However the Bible clearly states:
“Speak to the children of Israel, saying: ‘In theseventh month, on the first day of the month, you shall have a sabbath-rest, a memorial of blowing of trumpets, a holy convocation… Also the tenth day of this seventh month shall be the Day of Atonement. (Lev. 23:24, 26)
After butchering the Scriptures he gets to his main point. The key to getting this non-existent 7-fold, double portion is to give to the television ministry upon which he is appearing!
What Year is it?
What’s more, after giving this extensive teaching about the significance of the Hebrew calendar, he then suggests that you give a gift, like he is, based on the Western calendar, of $213 because it is 2013.
It is not 2013 in the Hebrew calendar, but 5,774 (or in his terms, $5,774)
Q: But why not ask then for $2,013, as it is not 213, but 2013? A: Because they know that the average viewer could not afford it (I can guarantee you that it was discussed beforehand!).
This particular preacher, after doing a few Internet searches, has asked for similar gifts in 2008 and 2009 and probably other years.
I would be far more inclined to give, if the gift didn’t have to go to their television ministry. Why not encourage people to give to missions? Or local outreach? Or their local congregation? I think you know the answer.
God Needs your Agreement!
At this point the host jumps in—after all, it is his show and this is the climax. He shares that all God’s blessings are conditional. “God says, ‘I will do this, if you will do that.’” He says that the toupee-wearing Ph.D is about to lead them through the doorway into the double blessing. “God needs your agreement. He needs a signal that it is alright for Him to do what He has said in his Word, because He forever surrendered His right to act independently in your life.”
Whattttt? He needs my agreement. He has surrendered his right?
Again, I am a Spirit-filled, faith-preaching believer in all the miracles of God—including His abundant blessings. But this, my friends, is just good old fashioned manipulation to get your money.
Such a Deal!
The preacher goes on to say over and over again, “This could be your last offering on earth” meaning the Rapture could take place on Yom Kippur, as he says, “Reach for your credit card or checkbook.” Now I can’t tell you what his heart’s motivation was, but it sure felt like he was saying, Make a big donation because even if you can’t afford it, you might get raptured and therefore never have to pay it, or God will bless you with his double portion, 7-fold blessing…”
I decided to watch the five-minute Internet bonus clip (Bonus for who?). In it, the wig-wearing pastor tells the story of Marsha of his church who gave him her Atonement offering in hopes that doctors would find her eligible to give her husband, Kevin, a kidney. When the doctors at the Mayo Clinic opened her up, they found three kidneys in Marsha!
Now I love the supernatural. I believe in healing and miracles. In Africa, I have seen blind eyes opened. But after hearing his teaching, I was not inclined to believe this. I searched for Marsha and her three kidneys and found out that the same preacher told the same story on a famous Christian network, only it was Passover—because he was encouraging people to give their Passover gifts (in the Spring), not their Atonement gifts (in the fall). (I have scoured the Internet and can find no conformation of this three-kidney miracle.)
Next, with deep emotion and conviction, he PROMISES that by September 15th, midnight, when the pastor places all the gifts on the altar, God will have restored “what has been stolen from you.” I was stunned at the lack of fear of God in making this promise.
They are not Alone—Sadly
As I searched the Internet I found two more high profile ministries begging for money on the Jewish Day of Atonement. One plea was from two years ago
Here is what I am asking you to do:
Pray about what seed-offering God is directing you to give toward the many outreaches of this worldwide ministry.
Plant your best seed-gift, then begin trusting God for a double blessing during this sacred season.
Send us your most important prayer needs. As the Day of Atonement (October 7–8) approaches, my staff, mighty prayer warriors around the globe, and I will be standing in agreement with you. The season that occurs in October 2011 (the Jewish year 5772) is extremely significant and can be life changing for you and your loved ones. Whether or not you have observed this season in the past, look toward this New Year on God’s calendar by joining with other believers.
Again, you have to give to his ministry and it is not a New Year in the Bible, only in Jewish tradition (but let’s not let a good ruse go to waste!)
The next appeal came from the divorced leader of one of the largest ministries in the country. Although, she added a blessing, totaling eight! (So, if you are debating, I would go with her!)
I want you to give your very Best Day of Atonement offering, along with your prayer request right away. Just like the high priest did once a year, I will take your offering and needs before the Lord as a sweet savor, believing for a release of HIS EIGHT PROMISES OF ATONEMENT into your life.
The problem is I can’t give both of them my “very best” offering.
She has the audacity to compare herself (though she has been involved in numerous scandals) to the High Priest. There are no eight (or seven) promises of atonement. This is a scam.
What is saddest about this to me, as a Jewish believer, living in Israel, trying to reach my people, is that this garbage will do far more harm then good. Paul said that to the Romans, “because of [Israel’s] transgression, salvation has come to the Gentiles to make Israel envious.”
This con will do nothing to provoke Israel to jealousy, but if unbelieving Jews see it, they will be further convinced that the Jesus these people preach is not for them. Sad.
Footnote: One reader pointed out to me something worth adding. In all of these appeals for money regarding the Day of Atonement, it does not appear that any of these TV Preachers are concerned about actually celebrating the Feasts, but only about giving an offering in order to get a blessing.