"Be joyful at your festival," it says in Deuteronomy 16:14 about the Feast of Tabernacles or Sukkot. How could we not celebrate this festival that is a picture of the Lord sitting at our table of rejoicing with us? Some prefer to say that the Lord will tabernacle or dwell with us. I find the details of all that happens during Sukkot particularly fascinating this year, because it is a Shemitah year—a year of rest. Leviticus 25 shares how God's people are to live during the seventh year. "When you enter the land, I am going to give you, the land itself must observe a sabbath to the Lord. For six years sow your fields, and for six years prune your vineyards and gather their crops. But in the seventh year the land is to have a year of sabbath rest, a sabbath to the Lord," (Verses 2-4) "You may ask, 'What will we eat in the seventh year if we do not plant or harvest our crops?' I will send you such a blessing in the sixth year that the land will yield enough for three years." (Verses 20-21) Here we have God's promise to be faithful to us as we are faithful to His Word.
A report written by Adam Eliyahu Berkowitz in Biblical News on March 16 explains an interesting application of this requirement as it pertains to the Pool of Siloam, the Feast of Tabernacles, and the water libation ceremony (Nisuch Hamayim) performed in the Temples in Israel. The water libation ceremony is part of the oral tradition handed down from Moses. Water was collected daily from the Pool of Siloam in golden vessels and brought to the Temple. This ceremony was one of extraordinary joy as those who escorted the priests to the Pool would sing and play musical instruments. When all the people returned to the Temple, water and wine were poured on the altar as a sacrifice that accompanied their worship of God. When the libation ceremony was repeated by the worshipers every day, the excitement built until the seventh day when the joy and celebration was at its height.
It is significant that Tabernacles is celebrated at the end of the dry season. Israel has no rain for approximately six months. The pouring out of the water on the altar is a significant sacrifice every year. Prayers asking for the rains to come during the next six months are part of the libation ceremony. Those prayers were answered by God in a dramatic way this past year. It is reported that two years ago a contingent of Kohanim (priests), Levites, and Jews descended to the Pool of Siloam in the Old City of Jerusalem to collect water for the libation ceremony. They were shocked that there was barely enough water to fill their golden vessels. The good news is that after six years of drought, God blessed Israel with such an abundant rainy season that the Pool of Siloam is overflowing. The Sea of Galilee was also at its lowest level in many years and has recovered to such an extent that it is within 12 centimeters of being full.
Bountiful crops cannot occur in the sixth year without bountiful amounts of water. Here is where God made good on His promise: "I will send such a blessing in the sixth year that the land will yield enough for three years." (Leviticus 25:21) We can count on the faithfulness of God. He is a promise keeper who loves to bless us with "immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine." (Ephesians 3:20)
God is beyond understanding! He is faithful to His promises and made that clear to His people when He was teaching them not to worry. "Consider the ravens: They do not sow or reap; they have no storeroom or barn; yet God feeds them. And how much more valuable you are than birds." (Luke 12:24) Our world is in turmoil with cataclysmic and destructive events, evil agendas to destroy our families and our nation, and increases in sickness and death. Israel is in the thick of a battle for her life, and yet God provided rain for the Pool of Siloam. How much more does He care about us? Be joyful! One of the Hallel Psalms read at the Feast of Tabernacles is Psalm 118. The end of this Psalm is so encouraging: "The Lord is God, and He has made His light shine on us. With boughs in hand, join in the festal procession up to the horns of the altar...Give thanks to the Lord, for He is Good; His love endures forever." (Verses 27 and 29)
Yom Kippur (The Day of Atonement) is considered the holiest day on God's calendar and begins this year on the eve of September 15. It is called a Mo'edim or divine appointment with God. There is no day like it, and it is celebrated by the Jewish people with fasting and prayer. On the first day of the seventh month (Tishrei) on the Hebrew calendar, the shofar is blown to signify the beginning of the new year and the "Ten Days of Awe," a time of remembrance, contemplation, and repentance that culminates on Yom Kippur.
God initiated this special day to be one like no other. It was the only day when He allowed the High Priest of Israel to enter the Most Holy Place in the Temple by rending the veil. It was on Mt. Sinai that God gave Moses instruction on how to live by giving him the ten commandments, the laws concerning servants, personal injuries, property protection, justice and mercy, the Sabbath, and the annual festivals. After a covenant was made between God and the Israelites, He gave them instructions on how to make a sanctuary for Him. The Ark of the Covenant was to be placed in the Most Holy Place and was protected from everyone with a barrier or thick veil. It was constructed of acacia wood overlaid with pure gold. Two cherubim were made with hammered gold and connected to the cover of the ark at either end. The wings of the cherubim spread upward so that they overshadowed the cover. (Exodus 25:10-22)
Leviticus 23:26-28 gives instructions on how to live on Yom Kippur. "Then the Lord said to Moses, 'Be careful to celebrate the Day of Atonement on the tenth day of the same month—nine days after the Festival of Trumpets. You must observe it as an official day for holy assembly, a day to deny yourselves and present special gifts to the Lord. Do not work during the entire day because it is the Day of Atonement, when offerings of purification are made for you, making you right with the Lord your God.’” (NLT) The Lord made it clear to Moses that his brother, Aaron the high priest, could not go into the Most Holy Place behind the curtain at any time or he would die. He could only enter once a year, and first he had to bring a sin and burnt offering. He had to bathe with water before putting on his garments made of pure linen. He had to take with him a censer of burning coals from the altar, two handfuls of finely ground, fragrant incense, and blood from the sacrificial bull and goat to sprinkle on the front of the atonement cover. The blood was to cleanse the Israelites from their sin. (See Leviticus 16)
Did you ever wonder how this blood sacrifice on the mercy seat between the wings of the cherubim came about? We must look back to original sin that came from Adam and Eve. Genesis 3:24 tells us this: "After He drove them out, He placed on the east side of the Garden of Eden cherubim and a flaming sword flashing back and forth to guard the way to the tree of life." The cherubim of the ark were patterned after those placed at the entrance of the Garden of Eden. God would not be content to leave things this way, however. He has always desired face-to-face communion with all His children. God had a plan to remove the veil or barrier between us and Him. It was the shed blood of Jesus that permanently overcame the barrier.
Today we look at the blood of our Messiah as the sacrifice that makes the way for us to go behind the veil. His sacrifice gives us permission to go there anytime and as often as we desire. Hebrews 10:19-22 confirms our position of favor. "Therefore, brothers and sisters, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain that is His body, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings..." On Yom Kippur let us remember the invitation that God gives to us all year long through the blood of His Son. Let us honor the sacrifice that has been made for us by pursuing a relationship with the Lord.
Can you imagine asking God to give you a son year after year? That is what Abraham and Sarah did. And it was not until Abraham was 100 and Sarah was 90 years old that their desires were fulfilled. What a test of faith and perseverance they endured! But God had a plan and a perfect time for the birth of Isaac. Abraham and Sarah would know for sure that only God's power and love brought about the birth of their son Isaac. As God was announcing His plans, He said, "But my covenant I will establish with Isaac, whom Sarah will bear to you by this time next year." (Genesis 17:21)
Now imagine how much Abraham and Sarah loved Isaac and how they protected him from difficulties and controversies because he was their only child. Is it possible that Abraham loved Isaac more than he loved God? We do not know, but we do know that God tested Abraham's faith. "Take your son, your only son—Yes, Isaac, whom you love so much—and go to the land of Moriah. Go and sacrifice him as a burnt offering on one of the mountains which I will show you." (Genesis 22:2 - NLT) Scripture tells us that Abraham got up early the next morning to prepare for the journey in immediate obedience to God. The trip from Beersheba to Moriah was about 50-60 miles and took three days. When they arrived, Abraham instructed his servants to remain a distance from their final destination. He said, "I will worship and then we will come back to you." (Genesis 22:5) Abraham placed the wood on his son while he carried the fire and knife.
At their destination, Abraham built an altar, tied his son, and laid him on the wood. As Abraham lifted his knife to kill Isaac, an angel of the Lord called to him and told him to stop because He could see Abraham feared God. God had provided the ram in the thicket. It was caught by its horns. The ram was sacrificed instead of Isaac, and Abraham called the place, "The Lord Will Provide," (Jehovah Jireh). Genesis 22:14 tells us, "And to this day it is said, 'On the mountain of the Lord it will be provided.'"
The story is of particular interest to the Jews at the beginning of the New Year (Rosh Hashanah). Genesis 22, called the Akedah in Hebrew, or the "Binding of Isaac," is read. They link the blowing of the ram's horn to the ram that was provided to Abraham for sacrifice in place of Isaac. As the shofar is blown, it reminds them of Abraham's obedience. The Jews believe that Abraham's descendants are pardoned based on his merit.
God's promise to Abraham that his descendants would come through Isaac may have helped Abraham go through with the binding of Isaac and raising of his knife to kill him. Hebrews 1:19 suggests this: "Abraham reasoned that God could even raise the dead, and so in a manner of speaking he did receive Isaac back from death." In any event, the story of Isaac reminds us of God's mercy, grace, and provision for sin. We see continuity between the Old and New Testament. Father Abraham was willing to sacrifice Isaac in obedience to Father God, and Father God was willing to sacrifice His only son Jesus to redeem us from our sins. The story of the sacrifice of Isaac is a prophetic picture of the death and resurrection of Jesus.
May I suggest that we reread the story of the Binding of Isaac in Genesis 22 during the Jewish New Year. As we do, let us remember how the Lord taught Abraham that forgiveness of sin does not come through our sacrifice but through that of the Lord, Yeshua, Jesus. Let us also repent for our sins, bless the Lord for His provision, and pray that the Jewish people will come to know the truth of their Messiah in this New Year.
God's three main feasts--Passover Pentecost, and Tabernacles--are shadows of Messiah. The Fall Feasts prophecy the Lord's second coming and paint a picture of Christ's return to bring His Bride unto Himself. Each feast has a specific spiritual transaction for us that draws us closer to God. Passover brought redemption, Pentecost brought the Holy Spirit, and Tabernacles looks forward to the second coming of the Lord.
The cycles ordained by God are for rest and refreshment and increasing intimacy with the Lord. All of them are wrapped around the number seven and occur weekly, monthly, and yearly. As we align ourselves with God's cycles of life, His blessings are poured out upon us. When we keep God's divine appointments we will walk in a blessed lifestyle. Let us keep in mind that God's intent is for His church to celebrate His feasts forever. Leviticus 23:37 talks about the fall feasts and says, "This is to be a lasting ordinance for the generations to come, wherever you live." Sadly, many Christian churches today have moved far away from God's appointed times of rest and celebration except for the weekly one. Is it not time for us to change our mindset? Paul gives us advice in Romans 12:2. "Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind..."
Just as the Church has Advent, a time of preparation to celebrate the birth of Messiah, the high holy days of the Fall Feasts begin in the sixth month on the Hebrew calendar, called Elul. From the beginning of Elul until the 10th day (Yom Kippur or The Day of Atonement) in the seventh month called Tishrei, there is a time of preparation for meeting the King. Preparation includes repentance, forgiveness, and submission to the Lord. The first day of Tishrei begins the Jewish New Year (Rosh Hashanah) or "The Head of the Year." At the beginning of this New Year the shofar will be blown to announce the year 5782 and the beginning of the Sabbatical year called The Shemitah.
The importance of the number seven in God's world is demonstrated by the times of rest that He appoints for His people. Like our rest on the seventh day of the week, we are also to rest and celebrate during the Fall Feasts in the seventh month of the year. Once every seven years a Sabbatical year occurs where God directs His people and their land to rest. There is a dual purpose in this year to improve the condition of the land and to increase the faith of those who follow God. It is so appropriate that the meaning of the seventh year of rest, Shemitah, is release. Here are some of the benefits of releasing the land and our care to the Lord: When the farmer "fallows" (leaves bare) his field, he is setting it up to produce a healthier and larger crop in the season to come by increasing the nutrients in the soil, increasing moisture in the sub-soil, and disrupting the life cycle of pathogens. As we follow God's directions in Scripture by resting at His designated times, we also set ourselves up for an increase in faith and trust in the Lord. I find it interesting that Genesis 22, the story of Abraham's obedience to God when he was asked to sacrifice his son, Isaac, is read at the celebration of Rosh Hashanah. This story introduces us to the concept of substitutionary atonement for those who trust in God to provide for every need.
The Jews will be celebrating the New Year 5782 beginning at sunset on September 6. They will rest from their daily work to celebrate the faithfulness of God in their lives and in the lives of their ancestors. Their time will be spent in contemplation, repentance, and prayer. Through the grace of God, Gentiles have been grafted into "The Vine," God's family. Romans 11:17 confirms this: "...Though a wild olive shoot, you have been grafted in among the others and now share in the nourishing sap from the olive root…” Joining in this celebration could only be a blessing for us. If we position ourselves before the Lord to follow HIs times and seasons listed in the Old Testament, there will be an increase in intimacy with Him, and He will help us determine a direction for the year to come.
God still calls us to remember what He has already done through His Son, Jesus, and to rehearse for what is yet promised. We have an opportunity to prepare for the Jewish New Year and pray for the fulfillment of God's promises that all Israel will be saved, and that the world will come to know our Messiah as Savior.
There is no question that America's origins are rooted in a passion to recover and live out the Christianity of the New Testament." So writes Eddie Hyatt in his book, America's Revival Heritage. He continues: "The first generation of immigrants to America were normally vibrant in their faith and passionate in their vision for a revival of New Testament Christianity. Their children and grandchildren, however, while retaining many of the outward forms of worship and doctrine, tended to lose the vitality and vision of their parents and grandparents. As former generations passed from the scene, the original passion for Christian reform and renewal passed away with them, and succeeding generations were left "having a form of godliness but denying its power.'" (2 Timothy 3:5)
As we celebrate the 245th anniversary of the birth of our nation, we can see that the concerns raised by Eddie Hyatt about the vitality of our faith continue. The activity of many of our churches confirms Hyatt's assertion that passion for the Lord and His ways is waning. A segment of our society is attacking anything that interferes with their liberal point of view. Their agenda includes erasing the truth of how our nation was founded. They find faith in Jesus and His Word offensive. They seem to know that if they rewrite history, they can control the future.
Here is the truth: America was founded for the glory of God. Public education was instituted to teach our children the fear of the Lord and the ways of the Word of God. Our mandate from the Lord is to grow in our relationship with Him and our understanding of His ways so that we can spread the Gospel around the world and bring light to the darkness. Those who wrote the Declaration of Independence got their words and ideas from the Bible. This document has impacted human rights around the world according to Mr. Hyatt. We should note that 27 of the 56 founding fathers were trained as ministers. And, the motto of the American Revolution—"No King but King Jesus"—had an obvious spiritual emphasis.
John Adams, one of our founding fathers, left no doubt where the ideas for our Declaration of Independence came from. He said, "The general principles on which the founding fathers achieved independence were the general principles of Christianity." We, as the people of God, must be at the forefront of the movement to protect our history and to acknowledge that the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob was active in intervening on our behalf. He used Bible-believing people to fight for the independence of our nation and established a godly way of life that would spread the Good News of His love and care for us.
I grew up in the 1960s and remember when prayer and Bible reading were outlawed in public schools. The Church let it happen, and it continued unchallenged. Those who initiated the fight against Christian practice in schools through the Supreme Court were not satisfied with their judicial win. Hyatt writes, "...These radical secularists now seek to remove any vestige of Christian influence from the public square. An undeniable part of their strategy is to rewrite and reinterpret America's past and to disseminate their revisions through a government-run educational system."
Psalm 33:12 tells us this: "Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord, the people He chose as His inheritance." We must do what we can to be sure that our history is not rewritten and that our future in America is secured through prayers and living godly lives. Here is how Eddie Hyatt summarizes this: "A government that is of the people, by the people, and for the people, can only be sustained by a people who are continually revitalized in their faith and in their commitment to moral principles. This means that a nation that was birthed out of Spiritual awakening can only be sustained by a people who are continually awakened and revitalized in their faith...We will either have revival or we will have revolution; we will either have Spiritual awakening or we will have societal chaos. Both history and Scripture teach us that the future of America rests squarely on the shoulders of the professing Christians of this nation." There is no doubt that we are in a battle for the soul of our nation. We must renew our passion for the Lord and cry out for a Spiritual awakening that will transform America back to its intended purpose!
First known as Decoration Day, Memorial Day originated three years after the end of the Civil War. It became an official federal holiday in 1971. An organization of veterans established the day as a time for our nation to decorate the graves of the war dead with flowers and flags. Gradually the holiday evolved into a day of remember and honoring military individuals who died in all the wars. Throughout the United States, parades are held, red poppies are worn in remembrance of fallen soldiers (started during WWI), gatherings with picnics are organized, and trips are taken because of the long weekend.
I read that at times Memorial Day has been used as a day to remember fallen heroes who did not die on a traditional battlefield. So, I would like to use this letter to remember and honor a man who I consider a hero of America. The Reverend Robert Hunt, a clergyman of the Church of England, was appointed as chaplain for 105 men and boys who sailed from England to Cape Henry, Virginia. After 144 days at sea, the crew landed on the southern edge of the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay. The landing spot was named Cape Henry in honor of the Prince of Wales, Henry Frederick.
After landing on April 26, 1607, Rev. Hunt gathered the band of men together to give God glory for their successful trip and to pray to Him as they established a settlement in the New World. Bob Long, of Rally Call Ministries, researched Rev. Hunt's prayer which was an offering of covenant to God. He says of the prayer, "It was heartfelt, deliberate, and offered with appropriate spiritual protocol. The embryonic nation was now in true covenant with God. The wooden cross, planted in the sand beside their kneeling prayer, witnessed their dedication of the land to God and the covenant oath with which they did it."
Here is Rev. Hunt's prayer of Covenant with God: "We do hereby dedicate this Land, and ourselves, to reach the People within these shores with the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and to raise up Godly generations after us, and with these generations take the Kingdom of God to all the earth. May this Covenant of Dedication remain to all generations, as long as this earth remains, and may this Land, along with England, be Evangelists to the World. May all who see this Cross remember what we have done here, and may those who come here to inhabit, join us in this Covenant and in this most noble work that the Holy Scriptures may be fulfilled."
What a prayer! What a legacy for us to remember! The Church must make known the foundation upon which our nation was established. We must not allow the agenda of those who want to take hold of our nation for their own agenda to expand any further. It is time for the Church to take a stand to agree with God and the covenant that we made with Him. Bob Long reminds us that God is a covenant-keeping God, He remembers how and why America was established. "The foundational prophetic prayer is actually not well known, but its significance cannot be overstated. God has not forgotten this original covenant entered into with Him! Is He heartbroken with America? Yes. Angry? Perhaps. Is it too late for America to be saved? ABSOLUTELY NOT! Will there be an awakening in the hearts of the American people and a return to our original Covenant with God? YES!"
While prophesizing at a leadership meeting, Bob declared this statement from the Lord: "I have not turned away from the covenant this nation made with Me, but this nation has turned away from it. The cry of a remnant in this generation has been heard, and I am raising up a new wave of prophets to call this nation back to America's original covenant...I am shaking all things. I am raising up more who will join the remnant. I am raising up more who will increase the volume of My call to your nation to return to Covenant. I am raising up more of those who will reveal My Son to the multitudes, that hearts may turn to Me. A remnant shall be strengthened, and a nation shall be shaken, that it may be awakened!"
The Psalmist reminds us that God "remembers His covenant forever, the promise He made, for a thousand generations." (Psalm 105:8) This should give us comfort. Yet, we must also remember our roots and the covenant our nation made with God in 1607. It is time for us to cooperate with the work of the Holy Spirit in our nation. Revival is beginning and will grow. God wants American to return to our roots and to be a blessing to all the nations of the earth. From the beginning, our nation was to be a place for people to worship the one true God, to teach our children and generations to come of the worthiness of the Lord, and to spread the gospel through the world. Let us embrace this worthy call!
People from many nations gathered in Jerusalem for what was called "The Festival of First Harvest," or "The Festival of Weeks," or "Shavuot." This is one of three festivals where God told the Jews to come to Jerusalem. Offerings to the Lord were to be abundant, starting with an offering of new grain. Where yeast was forbidden at Passover, it was to be used in baking for the Feast of Weeks. "From wherever you live, bring two loaves made of two-tenths of an ephah of the finest flour, baked with yeast, as a wave offering of firstfruits to the Lord." (Leviticus 23:17)
Those who gathered to celebrate the Feast took the first and best of their harvest to bake two yeast-filled loaves to present as an offering to the Lord. Those two loaves, the Jews believe, represent the two tablets given to Moses on Mt. Sinai and the two loaves of bread offered in the Temple. There is more to the picture, in my opinion. Leaven, or yeast, represent sin so the loaves with yeast are a picture of both Jew and Gentile who are sinners in His sight. However, this changes when we accept the Son of God as our Savior through faith in Him. Our confession and belief open the Kingdom of God to all of us.
It took the Israelites 50 days to walk from Egypt to Mt. Sinai where they would receive the Word of God. Once entering the Promised Land, they harvested their crop of wheat 50 days after Passover. It was on the same day that the Jews would have been celebrating "The Festival of Weeks" (seven weeks and one day) that God ordained that He would pour His Spirit on those who waited for His perfect time. Indeed, as the Lord's followers waited in Jerusalem on this special day, another harvest was about to begin. The Word given at Mt. Sinai was to nurture obedience in His people for He was looking for a harvest of souls. The Holy Spirit poured out "on the crop" was the catalyst needed for the harvest of souls. Peter addressed the crowd of people who waited, and Acts 2:41 tells us, "Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about 3,000 were added to their number that day."
The Church calls the day when the Holy Spirit was poured out "Pentecost" which means 50. I do believe that it would be wise for us to also remember that the Jews call this day "Shavuot." Rabbi Jonathan Cahn gives us some insight on the origin of this word. He directs our attention to Song of Songs 8:4 where it says, "Daughters of Jerusalem, I charge you..." Charge, in Hebrew, is the word "Shaba" which is the root of Shavuot. Consequently, Shavuot or Pentecost is to be the "day of charging." Rabbi Cahn says, "When God gave the Spirit, He was giving us a charge of entrustment, responsibility, and to live a Spirit-filled life...The Spirit in your life is a sign of God's commitment to you, and by the Spirit you are called and anointed to live a life of your commitment to God. The Lord has charged you, by the Spirit, to live a life of victory, praise, joy, and triumph. You have the power. Now go out and live a life worthy of the one who has so been charged."
Beginning at sunset, Shavuot or Pentecost will be celebrated. We can honor this significant day by asking the Lord to fan the flames of the Holy Spirit within us. We can remember and thank the Lord for His indescribable gift because without the sacrifice of Jesus there would be no Holy Spirit. And we can activate our call to go out into the world to share the love of God because we have been charged to bring the Kingdom of Heaven to earth.
When the Israelites had traveled through the wilderness and were preparing to enter the Promised Land, God gave them reminders of their journey, instructions on how to live their lives, and promises for the future. The book of Deuteronomy is filled with these. We can read what God told them about the Promised Land in Deuteronomy 11:10-12. "The land you are entering to take over is not like the land of Egypt, from which you have come, where you planted your seed and irrigated it by foot as in a vegetable garden. But the land you are crossing the Jordan to take possession of is a land of mountains and valleys that drinks rain from heaven. It is a land the Lord your God cares for; the eyes of the Lord your God are continually on it from the beginning of the year to its end."
Throughout the time that they were moving toward Mt. Sinai God was drawing His people to Himself by revealing who He is and what He had in store for them. He told them, "Now, if you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then out of all nations you will be my treasured possession. Although the whole earth is mine, you will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation." (Exodus 19:5-6) He wanted a people who were set apart and formed in His identity. One of the concepts that was introduced to the Israelites was that of firstfruits. It required them to be dedicated to celebrating it at the beginning of the grain harvests and was an act of worship. They needed to go into their fields to select the first and best stalk of grain to present to the priests as an offering to the Lord. The firstfruits offerings were brought to the priests during the three primary feasts and at the beginning of each new month. The principle is that the first of everything belongs to the Lord—crops, livestock, and children. By giving the first part of their blessing to God, they were dedicating and sanctifying the rest.
The Israelites learned much as they spent 50 days traveling to Mt. Sinai where God would give them the law and a new identity as a people. On the Jewish calendar they moved during the end of the month of Nisan and the entire month of Iyar. The second month, Iyar, became a time of transition for them as they were led into a new level of relationship with the Lord. He introduced them to His nature. First, God showed them that He is Jehovah Rapha, the God who Heals. Then He introduced them to His names Jehovah Jaira, the God who Provides, and Jehovah Nissi, the Lord, my Banner of Victory. As they moved from Passover redemption to the place of praise and giving the Lord a firstfruits offering, they learned about keeping covenant.
God was indeed faithful to His children and eventually demonstrated to them that He was willing to give everything in an act of sacrifice that reverberates through the ages. God gave His Son, Jesus, as an offering of redemption. He was crucified, but resurrected, and became a firstfruits offering Himself. First Corinthians 15:20 says, "But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep." It is no coincidence that Jesus, our Passover Lamb, was resurrected on the day of firstfruits, when the children of Israel would have been presenting their Passover barley sheaf to the priests who lifted it up before God as an offering to Him.
How does this relate to us today? God has given us His very best in the sacrifice of His Son. Just as the children of Israel brought their first and best to God, we can use this time up until Pentecost to present a daily offering to the Lord. A way for counting God's goodness was introduced to the Israelites. We can read about it in Leviticus 23:15-16. From the first day of a firstfruits offering, they were to count 50 days and then present God with another firstfruits offering during Shavuot, called Pentecost by the Church. Today this is called counting the Omer. As they counted, it was important for God’s people to remember the goodness of God. Like the children of Israel, let's be dedicated to giving the Lord a daily thanksgiving for His goodness and love between now and Pentecost.
A question is posed at the beginning of the song "Wonderful, Merciful Savior." "Who would have thought that a Lamb could rescue the souls of men?" But that is what was done by the Lamb of God! We see foreshadows of the Lamb of God throughout the Old Testament beginning in Genesis when Adam and Eve sinned. By eating the forbidden fruit their eyes were opened and "they realized that they were naked." (Genesis 3:7) Another way to say this is that they experienced shame, so much so that they tried to cover their nakedness with fig leaves. But man could not cover his own sin. God had to provide them with "garments of skin." (Genesis 3:21)
Specific instructions were given to the Israelites in Egypt when God was going to deliver them from bondage and death. "...On the 10th day of the month each man is to take a lamb for his family...The animals you choose must be year-old males without defect...Take care of them until the 14th day of the month when all the members of the community of Israel must slaughter them at twilight. Then they are to take some of the blood and put it on the sides and tops of the doorframes of the houses where they eat the lambs." (Genesis 12:3, 5-7) The blood of the lamb was the covering that was needed to protect the children of Israel from the plague of death.
It was on Mt. Moriah that Abraham took his son, his only son, whom he loved, and offered him as a burnt offering at the request of God. (Genesis 22:2) At the moment he was about to slay him, God provided a ram for the sacrifice. The binding of Isaac is called "the Akedah" in Hebrew and the story is retold in synagogues across the world on Rosh Hashanah.
In Isaiah 53 we read the foretelling of the substitutionary atoning sacrifice of the Messiah. Verse 7 compares him to the sacrificial lamb: "He was oppressed and afflicted, yet He did not open His mouth; He was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before its shearers is silent, so He did not open His mouth."
When asked by the priests and Levites who he was, John the Baptist told them, "I am the voice of one calling in the wilderness, 'Make straight the way for the Lord.'" (John 1:23) John was the one who prepared the way for Jesus and identified Him so that all the world would know the call of God on His life. "Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world." (John 1:29) Those who practiced animal sacrifice so that those who violated the Mosaic law could approach God must have been shocked by the statement of John the Baptist. How could John compare Jesus to the sacrificial lambs?
The Passover season is upon us. The Jewish people will be remembering how each Israelite household in Egypt brought a perfect lamb into their homes from Nisan 10 to 14. Imagine how each family must have become attached to their lamb as they lived with him, only to turn around and kill him as a sacrifice to protect them. Christians are remembering the triumphant entry of Jesus into Jerusalem this weekend. To fulfill what was spoken by the prophets, He entered riding on a colt of a donkey. Crowds followed Jesus shouting, "Hosanna to the Son of David!" (Matthew 21:9) Afterward, Jesus entered the temple where He would be questioned and scrutinized. For four days, "The Lamb of God" was examined. He was then chosen as the Sacrificial Lamb.
It is the love of God that nailed Jesus to the Cross. He was the sacrifice that purchased our souls. He is our Redemption. The Lamb of God is described in Revelation 5:6, 9-10. "Then I saw a Lamb, looking as if it had been slain, standing at the center of the throne, encircled by the four living creatures and the elders...And they sang a new song, saying: 'You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because You were slain, and with Your blood You purchased for God persons from every tribe and language and people and nation. You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God, and they will reign on the earth." We are those that Jesus purchased for Father God. We are part of God's Kingdom and priests to serve Him. It is ordained that we shall reign in victory. How can we not praise Him?
Yearly the Jews commemorate the time when God freed the Jewish people from slavery in Egypt. They tell the story at a Passover Seder which means "order." Today's Seder has changed from the original Passover meal. As families and friends gather together, they use a guide called the Haggadah which means "The Telling." To help us remember the events of the children of Israel in Egypt and on their way to cross into the Promised Land, the Seder uses symbols.
Many Christians do not realize that when Jesus broke bread and shared it and the wine with the disciples at the Last Supper, he used the same elements shared at the Passover feast. There is an interesting mystery concerning the matzah (bread with no leaven) that is used in the service. At the beginning of the Seder, the leader lifts up three pieces of matzah. Why three? Could it be that they represent the Trinity? (Father, Son and Holy Ghost)
The matzah itself is striped and pierced like Jesus at the crucifixion. Think about this interesting part of the ceremony: The middle piece of matzah is removed and lifted up to be broken in half. This piece is called the "Afikomen," a Greek word meaning, "that which comes after." The larger piece of broken matzah is wrapped in a white linen napkin and hidden. So too, the body of Jesus was wrapped in white linen and hidden away in a tomb.
At the end of the Seder the young ones search for the hidden matzah so they can bring it back to those at the table. The Seder cannot be completed without the Afikomen. When it is found it is unwrapped and passed around so that all may partake of it. Can we assume that the Afikomen represents Jesus? I think so! The Messiah, Jesus, is the One who must still come to His people. He comes to everyone. He is the one who who led His disciples in the Passover feast at the last supper before His death. "While they were eating, Jesus took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to His disciples, saying, 'Take it; this is my body.' Then He took a cup, and when He had given thanks, he gave it to them, and they all drank from it. 'This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many,' He said to them. " (Mark 14:22-24)
Romans 11:25-26 gives us insight into God's plan to reveal Himself to all mankind. "...Israel has experienced a hardening in part until the full number of the Gentiles has come in, and in this way all Israel will be saved. As it is written, 'The deliverer will come from Zion; He will turn godlessness away from Jacob.'"
None of us can be complete without our Messiah, Jesus. He is revealing Himself to many through signs, wonders, and miracles. Let us pray for the eyes of the Jewish people to be opened as they celebrate their Passover Seders next week. The Lord is not willing for anyone to perish. “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life." (John 3:16)
Joan E. Mathias