Saturday, March 30, 2013

A Tale of Two Passovers

I know this post is lengthy. I wanted to give the background of the Jewish celebration of Passover since we are approaching the culmination of this Feast of the Lord. I hope you will take the time to read this post and see the significance of Jesus as our Passover Lamb. I haven't re-read it so excuse the errors. 

This is a re-post written April 2011. Jesus, the Bread of Life, was without sin and became sin for sinners. The Feast of Unleavened Bread was celebrated after Passover and it was the feast celebrated where God commanded the children of Israel to eat only pure unleavened bread (made without yeast). Jesus often referred to Himself as the Bread of Life. Leaven or yeast represented sin. The parables of Jesus and the warnings given by Jesus often referred to this symbolism, and so Jesus, the pure unleavened bread, took on our sin or leaven and rendered us pure. Not only was Jesus our Passover Lamb who was worthy to be slain, He was also the Bread of Life, pure and undefiled by sin.

For this reason the Father loves Me, because I lay down my life so that I may take it again. No one has taken it away from Me, but I lay it down on My own initiative. I have authority to lay it down, I have the authority to take it up again. This commandment I received from My Father. Jesus words found in John 10:17-18

A Tale of Two Passovers
The Israelites were about to be set free from the heavy yoke of slavery. For 400 years Pharaoh, the king of Egypt, oppressed them. Exodus opens up with the king's order to throw all the baby boys into the Nile river. This he used as a form of genocide. Moses spared from death and rescued by the Princess was pulled from a basket in the Nile River. He was raised in the household of Pharaoh. He was God's chosen servant to set the people free and lead them out of Egypt. God sent 10 plagues to Egypt. With each plague, Pharaoh's heart was hardened.
1445BC, Egypt

Stephen's account of Moses documented in Acts 7
There arose another king over Egypt who knew nothing about Joseph. It was he who took shrewd advantage of our race and mistreated our fathers so that they would expose their infants and they would not survive. It was at this time that Moses was born; and he was lovely in the sight of God, and he was nurtured three months in his father's home. And after he had been set outside, Pharaoh's dauther took him away and nurtured him as her own son. Moses was educated in all the learning of the Egyptians, and he was a man of power in words and deeds. But when he was approaching the age of forty, it entered His mind to visit his brethren, the sons of Israel. And when he saw one of them being treated unjustly, he defended him and took vengeance for the oppressed by striking down the Egyptian. And he supposed that his brethren understood that God was granting them deliverance through him, but they did not understand. On the following day he appeared to them as they were fighting together and he tried to reconcile them in peace saying, ' Men, you are brethren, why do you injure one another?' But the one who was injuring this neighbor pushed him away, saying ' Who made you ruler and judge over us? You do not mean to kill me as you killed the Egyptian yesterday, do you?' At this remark, Moses fled and became an alien in the land of Midian, where he became the father of two sons.
After fourty years had passed, an angel of the LORD appeared to him in the wilderness of Mount Sinai, in the flame of a burning thorn bush. When Moses saw it, he marveled at the sight; and as he approached to look more closely, there came the voice of the Lord: 'I am the GOD of your fathers, the God of Abraham, and Isaac and Jacob.' Moses shook with fear and would not venture to look. But the LORD said to him, 'Take off the sandals from your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground. I have certainly see the oppression of my people in Egypt and have heard their groans, and I have come down to rescue them; come now, and I will send you to Egypt. Acts 7:17-34

Then Moses summoned all the elders of Israel and said to them, "Go at once and select the animals for your families and slaughter the Passover lamb. Take a bunch of hyssop, dip it into the blood in the basin and put some of the blood on the top and on both sides of the doorframe. Not one of you shall go out the door of his house until morning. When the LORD goes through the land to strike down the Egyptians he will see the blood on the top and sides of the doorframe and will pass over that doorway, and he will not permit the destroyer to enter your houses and strike you down. Obey these instructions as a lasting ordinance for you and your descendants. When you enter the land that the LORD will give you as he promised, observe this ceremony. And when your children ask you, 'What does this ceremony mean to you?' then tell them, ' It is the Passover sacrifice to the LORD, who passed over the houses of the Israelites in Egypt and spared our homes when he struck down the Egyptians.'At Midnight the LORD struck down all the firstborn in Egypt. Exodus 12:21-28,29. During the night Pharaoh summoned Moses and Aaron and said, "Up! Leave my people, you and the Israelites! So the people took their dough before the yeast was added, and carried it on their shoulders in kneading troughs wrapped in clothing.
Passover is the annual remembrance of this divine deliverance. It was also a celebration commemorating the passing over of the angel of death. The blood on the door kept the destroyer from entering the home of the Israelites, sparing their firstborn. The Feast of Unleavened Bread commemorated the Israelites sudden departure and was to last 7 days.
What was Israel's response to the deliverance? " This Moses whom they disowned, saying, ' Who made you ruler and a judge' is it the one whom God sent to be both ruler and a deliverer with the help of the angel who appeared to him in the thorn bush. This man led them out, performing wonders and signs in the land of Egypt and in the Red Sea and in the wilderness for 40 years. This is the Moses who said to the sons of Israel, ' God will raise up for you a prophet like me from your brethren.' This is the one who was in the congregation in the wilderness together with the angel who was speaking to him on Mount Sinai, and who was with our fathers; and he received the living oracles to pass on to you. Our fathers were unwilling to be obedient to him, but repudiated him and in their hearts turned back to Egypt. Acts 7:35-39.

AD33, Jerusalem During the feast of Unleavened Bread
The Triumphal Entry, When the crowd heard that Jesus was coming into Jerusalem to celebrate the feast, they took the branches of the palm trees and went out to meet Him, and began to shout, Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel. Jesus, finding a young donkey, sat on it; as it is written, Fear not, Daughter of Zion; Behold, your King is coming, seated on a donkey's colt. John 12:12-15.
The statement above is a fulfillment to the prophesy found in Zechariah, Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout in triumph, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you; He is just and endowed with salvation, humble, and mounted on a donkey, even on a colt, the foal of a donkey. Zechariah 9:9
When He approached Jerusalem, he saw the city and wept over it. Luke 20:41. Jesus spent his final week teaching in Jerusalem. The final four days became known as His inspection period.
Then came Preparation Day, the day before the Passover lamb had to be sacrificed. Jesus tells his disciples to go and prepare the Passover Feast. When the hour came, Jesus and his apostles reclined at the table . And he said to them, "I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. For I tell you, I will not eat again until it finds fulfillment in the kingdom of God." And when He had taken a cup and given thanks, He said, "Take this and share it among yourselves, for I say to you, I will not drink of the fruit of the vine from now on until the kingdom of God comes." And when He had taken some bread and given thanks, He broke it and gave it to them, saying, "This is My body which is given for you; do this in remembrance of Me." And in the same way He took the cup after they had eaten, saying "This cup which is poured out for you is the new covenant in My blood. Luke 22:7,13-21.
After singing a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives and then to the Garden of Gethsemane, which literally means "oil press", Matthew 26:30,36. When he arrived at the place, He said to them, " Pray that you may not enter into temptation." And He withdrew from them about a stone's throw, and He knelt down and began to pray, saying, "Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from Me; yet not My will, but Yours be done." Now an angel from heaven appeared to Him, strengthening Him. And being in agony He was praying very fervently; and His sweat became like drops of blood, falling upon the ground. When He rose from prayer, he came to the disciples and found them sleeping from sorrow, and said to them, "Why are you sleeping? Get up and pray that you may not enter into temptation." While He was still speaking, behold, a crowd came, and the one called Judas, one of the twelve, was preceding them; and he approached Jesus to kiss Him. But Jesus said to him, " Judas, are you betraying the Son of Man with a kiss? Having arrested Him, they led Him away and brought Him to the house of the high priest. Luke 22:40-48,54
Now the chief priests and the whole Council kept trying to obtain false testimony against Jesus, so that they might put Him to death. They did not find any, even though many false witnesses came forward. But later on two came forward and said, " This man stated, ' I am able to destroy the temple of God and to rebuild it in three days.' The high priest stood up and said to Him, "Do you not answer What is it that these men are testifying against you?" But Jesus kept silent. And the high priest said to Him, " I adjure You by the Living God, to tell us whether You are the Christ, the Son of the God." Jesus said to him, " You have said it yourself; nevertheless I tell you, hereafter you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of power and coming on the clouds of Heaven." Then the high priest tore his robes and said, " he has blasphemed! What further need do we have of witnesses? Behold, you have now heard the blasphemy; what do you think?" They answered, "He deserves death!" Then they spat on His face and beat Him with their fists; and others slapped Him, and said, "Prophesy to us, You Christ; who is the the one who hit you?"

Isaiah 53 The Suffering Servant, written sometime between 739-686BC
Who has believed our message? And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?For He grew up before Him like a tender shoot, And like a root out of parched ground; he has no stately form or majesty that we should look upon Him, nor appearance that we should be attracted to Him. He was despised and forsaken of men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief; and like one from whom men hide their face He was despised, and we did not esteem Him. Surely our griefs He Himself bore, and our sorrows He carried; yet we ourselves esteemed Him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the chastening for our well-being fell upon Him, and by His scourging we are healed. All of us like sheep have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; But the LORD has caused the inequity of us all to fall on Him. He was oppressed and afflicted, yet He did not open His mouth; like a lamb that is led to slaughter, and like a sheep before its shearers, so He did not open His mouth. By oppression and judgement He was taken away; and as for His generation, who considered that He was cut off out of the land of the living for the transgressions of my people, to whom the stroke was due? His grave assigned with wicked me, yet He was a rich man in His death, because He had done no violence, nor was there any deceit in His mouth.
But the LORD was pleased to crush Him, putting Him to grief; if He would render Himself as a guilt offering, He will see offspring, He will prolong His days, and the good pleasure of the LORD will prosper in His hand. As a result of the anguish of His soul, He will see it and be satisfied; BY His knowledge the Righteous One, My Servant, will justify the many, as He will bear their iniquities. Therefore, I will allot Him a portion with the great, and he will divide the booty with the strong; because He poured out Himself to death, and was numbered with transgressor; yet He Himself bore the sins of many, and interceded for the transgressors.

Prophesy Revealed in Revelation, written by John sometime between 81-96AD
I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no one could count, from every nation and all tribes and peoples and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, and palm branches were in their hands; and they cry out with a loud voice saying, "Salvation to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb." And all the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures; and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, saying, "Amen, blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might, be to our God forever and ever. Amen."Revelation 7:9-12

Friday, March 15, 2013

How Have You Loved Us?

Do you know that you are intimately known and loved by your Creator and Sustainer?
He is Not Here-1
I have four beautiful girls, ages ranging from 10-2. A couple of years ago, God gave me this illustration as I was pouring out my heart to Him and my inability to receive His unconditional love for me. He tenderly asked me, "What if Hollen, who is my oldest, questioned your love for her. What if she thought your love for her was dependent on her obedience to you? What if she believed her acceptance in the family was based on her ability to perform for you? What if, she thought you loved her less when she was disobeying you and more when she obeyed perfectly. What if she only obeyed you out of fear and not love? Wouldn't it break your heart to think that no matter what you did for her and how much you loved her, she still questioned your love and in turn rejected it? Daughter, receive my perfect love, knowing that although your love is imperfect, my love is perfect." You see, I obeyed God out of fear, not love, thinking that by my service and performance, I was loved. 

The book of Malachi opens up with God declaring to His people, “ I have loved you”, but His beloved’s response to His lavish declaration was, “How have you loved us?” The same people He chose as the recipients of His divine and perfect love doubted His love and refused to receive it. 
The same God who spoke to His beloved through the Prophets and promised redemption even before judgement, spoke restoration before exile. Throughout the Old Testament, God exhorts His people to return to Him. Malachi, being the last book of the Old Testament was written 400 years before Christ and shows us the condition of His beloved after they were brought back into the land and their worship restored in Jerusalem. Even after restoration and deliverance, His people still refused to believe and trust in God's love for them. In their failure to believe in God’s love for them they bowed down to many idols and walked in disobedience to God’s commands. 

All sin is rooted in unbelief. God has declared His love for sinners, for you and for me, by sending His Son, Jesus, in whom all the fullness of God dwells in bodily form. Colossians 1:19. We fail to believe in two ways, the first one is obvious, we try to secure for ourselves love, acceptance, validation and justification from the world. Most of the time, this involves us looking to the world to satisfy the cravings within us that only Christ can satisfy. The second way unbelief shows itself is by having a form of godliness but denying it's power- 2 Timothy 3: 5. Colossians 2:23 says that self-made religion, thinking we are saved by what we do, on the outside has the appearance of wisdom but in God's eyes are elementary principles of the world and have no value. Only Christ is of value. We are not better versions of ourselves, we are a new creation.

Colossians also tells us, He is the image of the invisible God and the Creator, Sustainer of all things. Colossians 1:15

John tells us that the Word became flesh and dwelled among us. John 1:14. The same God who created the universe wrapped HImself in the robe of humanity so that we could wear His robe of righteousness. He came and revealed to His people the love of the Father. He obeyed perfectly the Law because we couldn’t. God is infinitely Holy - Revelation 4:8, Isaiah 6:3, and without Christ’s performance for us, we stand condemned. Only when we see God in all His glory, will we begin to see ourselves in our total depravity. Christ not only died for our sins but was found to be without sin. The perfect, Holy undefiled Lamb of God, who came to take away the sins of the world. John 1:29
God made Him, who knew no sin to be sin for us, so that IN HIM we might become the righteousness of God. 2 Corinthians 5:21

The Gospel is the glorious announcement that He created, He came, He did, He died, He rose. He performed and accomplished by His perfect life and death on the cross. The original Greek word for Gospel literally means, “Good News”. It was used when declaring victory. It is fundamentally about Christ not about us. It's about His perfect life, His scandalous death, His glorious resurrection, ascension and constant intercession to God on our behalf. 
The Gospel is the catalyst of inner change. It’s Christ’s love for us IN Christ that compels our daily obedience to Him. 2 Corinthians 5:14
Empty Tomb-1
Because, the Bible tells us that everything we need we already have in Christ, we don’t need to secure for ourselves anything because in Him, we already have everything we need. We are free. Free to serve one another, free to give and not take, free to love and not expect anything in return. You see, God doesn’t just care about what we do, He cares about why we do what we do. Are we serving Him fully assured of His love for us and out of the abundance that we have been given or are we serving Him thinking that by our service we are loved? If we are serving HIm, thinking that by our service we are loved then our works are dead and nothing but filthy rags in the eyes of God. Out of the abundance we have been given, we serve. It’s Christ’s love that compels us to serve Him. His love within us is the transforming power and the catalyst to change. Change that begins on the inside of us and then pours out from a new heart and transformed life. 

Everything we do, we do for the praise and glory of another. Our lives should be about making Christ of first importance. Each of us find ourselves on different journeys and in different seasons of life. We serve and love the same God and yet each of our stories look different. Each of our journey’s are unique and Christ who is intimately acquainted with all our ways has prepared our path and hems us in. We are to walk in obedience to His word, trusting Him to guide us in our journey toward righteousness. We are in the process of becoming practically what we already are positionally. We live between the now and the not yet....