For 40 days after His resurrection, Jesus spent time teaching His disciples truths from the Kingdom of God. Before He ascended into heaven, "Jesus instructed them, "Don't leave Jerusalem, but wait here until you receive the gift I told you about, the gift the Father has promised. For John baptized you in water, but in a few days from now you will be baptized in the Holy Spirit." (Acts 1:4-5) Two words stand out to me in this passage: wait and baptized. Acts 1:4-5 is saying, "If you wait (remain or tarry), then you will be baptized (immersed or drenched) in the Holy Spirit." The instructions require an action on the part of the hearer. The disciples were required to wait for 10 days after Jesus left them, and before the promise hit. Today we call the time when the Holy Spirit poured out in power Pentecost because it was 50 days from the day of the resurrection of Jesus. Those who waited had no idea how long they would be in the same place. God blessed those who persevered.
Waiting is an action word as explained in Proverbs 8:34-35. "Blessed is the man who listens to me, watching daily at my doors, waiting at my doorway. For whoever finds me finds life and receives favor from the Lord." The disciples were waiting in an upper room in Jerusalem for the pouring out of the Holy Spirit. They had to listen to and obey what Jesus told them. They were also watching for the appearing of His Spirit. This is what waiting looks like.
Jesus wants His disciples to make themselves available to Him. While we wait the Lord awakens our senses and prepares us for what is to come. The more we wait, the more we cultivate a deeper understanding of Him, the Source of Life. This enable the Lord to enlarge our spiritual capacity. He wants to take us from the natural realm to the supernatural realm. Psalm 27:14 gives us great encouragement. "...Don't give up; don't be impatient; be entwined as one with the Lord. Be brave and courageous, and never lose hope. Yes, keep on waiting--for He will never disappoint you!" (TPT)
Because they waited and obeyed what Jesus told them, the reward for the disciples was their baptism in the Holy Spirit. If you have ever been to a baptism service, you will recall that the person being baptized is completely immersed into the water. Every part of their body is saturated with water. The symbolism of the ceremony is rich. Going under the water is symbolic of dying to the old life and coming up in newness of life in the Holy Spirit.
When the Holy Spirit came on the day of Pentecost everyone who had waited in the upper room was transformed. In Acts 2:4 it says, "They were filled and equipped with the Holy Spirit and were inspired to speak in tongues—empowered by the Spirit to speak in languages they had never learned." (TPT) The wind of the Spirit overtook those who waited so that they became more like Jesus—God's intended outcome for this encounter. The writer of Acts describes the new community of Believers: "...Their hearts were mutually linked to one another, sharing communion, and coming together regularly for prayer. A deep sense of holy awe swept over everyone, and the apostles performed many miraculous signs and wonders. All the Believers were in fellowship as one body, and they shared with one another whatever they had. Out of generosity, they even sold their assets to distribute the proceeds to those who were in need among them." (Acts 2:42-45 - TPT)
The prophetic community of our day has been declaring that this year we will have a Pentecost like none we have experienced before. We have anticipated that God is doing something new. We are being called to arise and awaken. It is time to move from fear to faith. Since today is Pentecost Sunday, the day celebrated by the Church, let's open our hearts to the new thing God wants to do in us. We are beginning to move out from our places of quarantine into the world around us. We must be aware of the opportunities God is giving us to share His Kingdom with others. It will take boldness and courage to move out into new territories. Perhaps we will see the manifestation of the Holy Spirit in power.
As we pulled into the parking area of the Newtown Township park on Rt. 413, memories of childhood visits to Stone Harbor, New Jersey flooded my mind. A distinctive smell of salt water was present from the marshes along the waterways at the entrance to the resort. The marshes are prime territory for unique types of birds. In particular, I remember seeing red-winged blackbirds flitting between the cattails in the marshes. Our Newtown park has fresh-water marshes that are thick with cattails and the home of a small flock of red-winged blackbirds. To quote a web site on blackbirds: "A cattail marsh is the quintessential red-winged blackbird habitat." We were greeted by several male birds that flew from a small oak tree to a perch at the top of the cattails. When the male sings he expands his wings so that one can see his entire brilliant, red and yellow shoulder area. In this way, he shows off to the females. Females stay out of sight as much as possible, especially during nesting season. Their bodies look somewhat like a sparrow with heavily streaked brown. Their cone-shaped bills have short yellow feathers around them, and above their eyes is a patch of white.
Female red-winged blackbirds try to remain at the base of the vegetation where they can find insects and seeds to feed on and to guard their nests. However, if a larger bird or human comes too close to the marsh, both male and female come to the top of the cattails to protest loudly. The birds' nests are weaved together of grass, reeds, and leaves. After they are completed, the birds attached their nests to standing vegetation. They have two or three broods a season, each with three to four eggs that are incubated by the female. The young stay in the nest for 11 to 14 days while both parents feed them.
Watching the blackbirds in their favorite habitat, I began to think about all the creatures on the earth and the multitude of unique ecosystems that the Lord created. In the seven days of creation written about in Genesis, we read that God made a myriad of land forms, water bodies and vegetation and then filled the earth with a plethora of birds, fish, sea creatures, and animals. It is obvious that God loves diversity and variety and provides a perfect environment for every creature on the earth. A place called the Garden of Eden was created by God for mankind, who was made in His image. "In the image of God He created them; male and female He created them." (Genesis 1:27) God created man with a mission. "The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it." (Genesis 2:15)
Although Adam and Eve had to be taken from the Garden because of their sin, God's plans for mankind moved forward. "From one man He made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and He marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands. God did this so that they would seek Him and perhaps reach out for Him and find Him, though He is not far from any one of us. For in Him we live and move and have our being." (Acts 17:26-28) God has created everyone and everything uniquely for a special purpose and all of this was done out of love. "For we are God's handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” (Ephesians 2:10)
God declares that "His eternal power and divine nature have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made..." (Romans 1:20) When we take time to look and see God's handiwork, can there be any doubt that His glory is visible in all creation? In the book of Nehemiah, we are told how the Levites led the Israelites in adoration of the Lord. "Stand up and praise the Lord your God, who is from everlasting to everlasting. Blessed be your glorious name...You give life to everything, and the multitudes of heaven worship You." (Nehemiah 9:5-6) Psalm 104 is a declaration of praise to God for all He has created. I want to make the end of this psalm my declaration and hope that you will join me in this. "May God's glorious splendor endure forever! May the Lord take joy and pleasure in all that He has made...I will sing my song to the Lord as long as I live! Every day I will sing my praises to God. May you be pleased with every sweet thought I have about You, for You are the source of my joy and gladness...I will keep on praising You, my Lord, with all that is within me. My joyous, blissful shouts of 'Hallelujah' are all because of You!" (Psalm 104:31-35 - TPT)
Did you ever wonder why the second month on the Hebrew calendar is linked with light—light that signifies revelation? If we look back to the journey the Israelites made from Egypt to Mt. Sinai, we can see that God was teaching them His names and nature by physical manifestations of healing, provision of water and food, and victory in battle. He wanted them to learn to trust Him.
The revelations that came were a part of a covenant that God was making with them. He promised to help them when they did their part. "He said, 'If you listen carefully to the Lord your God and do what is right in His eyes, if you pay attention to His commands and keep all His decrees, then...'" (Exodus 15:26) From the mountain of Sinai, God gave Moses more details to the covenant: "You yourselves have seen what I did to Egypt, and how I carried you on eagles' wings and brought you to Myself. 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 19:4-6) When we look at Deuteronomy 29:29 we see how important this revelation was to our ancestors and is to us. "The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but those revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may follow all the words of this law."
During the same period we are in now (the 2nd month), Jesus walked the earth and gave more revelation. "After His suffering, He showed Himself to these men and gave many convincing proofs that He was alive. He appeared to them over a period of 40 days and spoke about the kingdom of God. On one occasion, while He was eating with them, He gave them this command: 'Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.'" (Acts 1:4-5 - TPT)
For 40 days after the resurrection Jesus would appear to His disciples. Paul records, "He also appeared to more than 500 of His followers at the same time, most of whom are still alive as I write this, though a few have passed away. Then He appeared to Jacob and to all the apostles." (1 Corinthians 15:6-7 - TPT) He met two of the disciples walking from Jerusalem to Emmaus. The Bible says, "He carefully unveiled to them the revelation of Himself throughout the Scripture. He started at the beginning...and revealed the truth about Himself." (Luke 24:27 - TPT) The men did not recognize Jesus until He sat at the table with them and "took bread and blessed it and broke it, and then gave it to them." (V. 30) After Jesus vanished, they said of Him, "He unveiled for us such profound revelation from Scripture." (Luke 24:32 - TPT) Jesus commissioned His disciples before He returned to heaven to be seated at the right hand of Father God. "All authority of the universe has been given to me. Now wherever you go, make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. And teach them to faithfully follow all that I have commanded you, and never forget that I am with you every day, even to the completion of this age." (Matthew 28:18-20 - TPT)
With all the revelation that Jesus gave to His disciples during His lifetime and the 40-day period after His resurrection, there was still more for them to receive. Luke 24:49 tells what Jesus said about this: "And I will send the fulfillment of the Father's promise to you. So stay here in the city until the mighty power of heaven falls upon you and wraps around you." (TPT) He was talking about the Holy Spirit who is still the one who gives us wisdom and revelation.
Our time set apart from the rest of the world comes during the anniversary of the 40 days that Jesus taught the disciples about the Kingdom of Heaven before He ascended to His Father. This is the perfect time for us to seek the Holy Spirit for increasing understanding of the secrets of heaven and revelation of our part in bringing the gospel and the love of Jesus to the world around us. This is Paul's prayer for the church at Ephesus. "I pray that the Father of glory, the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, would impart to you the riches of the Spirit of wisdom and the Spirit of revelation to know Him through your deepening intimacy with Him." (Ephesians 1:17 - TPT) We must pray this prayer over ourselves as we pursue more intimacy with the Lord
A partnership was forged with God and man/woman at God's behest. It seems that when the Lord wants something to happen, He looks for agreement with His plan from someone on earth. Consequently, prayer was birthed. Knowing that the people of the world would sin and that His holiness demands that sin be punished, He set up a channel through which His mercy could be poured out in place of judgment. What pushes the flow of God's mercy is intercession that agrees with and prevails upon His heart of love.
It is my contention that the Lord desires to bring transformation and revival to the United States of America. The revivals that have already manifest throughout the world were birthed by prayer movements. In recognition of the power of prayer for our nation, President Harry Truman signed legislation on April 17, 1952, establishing the National Day of Prayer into the law of the United States. Each year, on the first Thursday of May, we are encouraged "to turn to God in prayer and meditation." Our country is in desperate need of prayer right now. Our National Day of Prayer occurred this past Thursday and gave us the opportunity to join with others to stop and listen to the heart of God for our nation so that we could pray in agreement with Him.
As I consider what part I can play in joining the prayer movement and in crying out for God to revive our nation, I remember some of the powerful prayer warriors that I know and respect. My most admired and loved warrior is my mother. We have a saying in our family when someone needs powerful prayer: "Call Grandmom!" My mother has been a faithful intercessor for as long as I can remember. She has seen many of her prayers answered by the Living God. I believe this is because she hears His heartbeat and prays in harmony with it. At the age of 97, she still prays without ceasing. (1 Thess. 5:17)
Several of my friends tell me that their mothers are or were also prayer warriors. Francis Frangipane shares an interesting insight about the Charismatic movement. The Lord told him that this was birthed from the "cries of a million praying mothers--women who refused to surrender their children to drugs and the devil." Mothers have been at the forefront of the battle for their children and for our nation. Their persistent prayers have birthed blessings for all of us.
In the Bible we see a powerful example of how life was birthed through the prayers of Esther. She led her people in three days of prayer and fasting so that she could go before the king to plead for mercy. In so doing, an edict calling for the annihilation of the Jews was changed and life prevailed. Eve was made by God as a helpmate for Adam. Her name means "mother of all the living." (Genesis 3:20) Women were made to bring forth life--life in many forms. A woman with the heart of a mother, who dedicates herself to prayer, can release God's life into the world. New beginnings for families, the church, and our nation can be brought about through intercessors with a oneness with Christ.
Women have a special place in God's heart. He delights in partnering with them as they intercede in agreement with the mercy and love He carries in His heart. Their persistence in prayer prevails upon God's love and births His plans to release blessings and revival on the earth. If you are a prayer warrior sitting at the feet of Jesus, I bless you. I also encourage everyone to join in the intercession to birth new life and revival.
Look outside and observe the beautiful display that nature is showing us! It emerges from its winter rest with strength and vitality to produce flowers, leaves and fruit. This is a season that can produce hope for the future if we allow God to speak to us through creation. It is His desire for us to walk in blessings because of His love for us. He also wants us to demonstrate His Kingdom to others. To accomplish the pouring out of these benefits, the Lord set up cycles of blessings and rest that are meant to lead us to our destinies. True rest, brought about through trusting in the Lord, will propel us into our futures like an arrow released from a bow. It is interesting that the prophet Isaiah compares the children of Israel to an arrow. "...He made me into a polished arrow and concealed me in His quiver.’ He said to me, ‘You are my servant Israel, in whom I will display my splendor.'" (Isaiah 49:2-3)
God's Word explains His cycles of blessing. The weekly cycle is patterned after the seven days of creation. The seventh day of the week is for rest where we celebrate Him, meditate on His blessings, and become strengthened physically and spiritually. (Genesis 2:2-3) The monthly cycle, Rosh Chodesh or the New Moon Festival, is a "firstfruits celebration." It falls on the first day of each month on the Hebrew calendar and is a time of joyful celebration when God's people gather together to gain revelation for the month ahead. It is also a time to present the Lord with a firstfruits gift to honor Him by giving Him the first and best of all He has given to us. (Numbers 28:11-15) As we participate in this festival, we honor God with the first of our time and receive a day of rest somewhat like the Sabbath. The third cycle of blessing is yearly and includes three key appointed times to set aside our routines and meet Him. (Exodus 23:14-17) The three feasts are Passover (Pesach), Pentecost (Shavuot) and Tabernacles (Sukkot). God chose them as a time to reveal Himself to us and to demonstrate His greatest works. These feasts align our lives with God's timing. Passover is a time to remember God's redemption, Pentecost His physical provision and power through the outpouring of His Spirit, and Tabernacles to receive joy by dwelling in God's presence and celebrating His glory.
Since rest is an integral part of all God's blessings, let's look at what it includes and why it is critical for a healthy life. Moses said to the Lord, "'If you are pleased with me, teach me your ways so I may know you...' The Lord replied, 'My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.'" That promise of rest was key to receiving God's blessings and is meant for all of God's children. Under the leadership of Joshua, the promise to Moses was fulfilled. "The Lord gave them rest on every side, just as He had sworn to their ancestors..." (Joshua 21:44) The writer of Psalm 91 explains how important it is to dwell in the presence of the Lord. "Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty."
The core of rest is trust in the Lord! The writer of Hebrews explains this in Chapter 4. Those with unbelieving hearts have not entered faith's rest. "For those of us who believe, faith activates the promise, and we experience the realm of confident rest!" (Hebrews 4:3 - TPT) The whole world is in a season of rest now. As all of us are quarantined to protect us from the virus, we are in a season of waiting, and we have more time to reflect on our lives. We are being prepared for the season of breakout. If the truth be admitted, our lives before the virus were too busy, and seasons of rest were ignored. This gift of time has allowed us to refocus on what is important. Rest and relaxation lead to refreshing, rejuvenation and renewal.
Have you ever wondered why an archer unstrings his bow? Before the archer shoots, he tightens the strings, creating tension. When the shot is released some of this tension is released but not all of it. The tension on the limbs of the bow weakens them over time and produces what is called fatigue. Unstringing the bow releases the tension, prolongs the bows longevity, and gives it power to propel an arrow to hit its target.
We must use this season of rest to unstring our bows. We are in a time of preparation for the next season. Rest comes by trusting the Lord to accomplish all that He intends for us. As we wait on Him and allow Him to transform us, we become more like Him and will break forth in beauty and power. Read the word of the Psalmist and let it inspire you: "I cried out to the Lord. 'God, come and save me!'...He answered me and came to my rescue! Now I can say to myself and to all, 'Relax and rest, be confident and serene, for the Lord rewards those who simply trust in Him.'" (Psalm 116:4, 6-7 - TPT)
It was in the desert that God gave the children of Israel revelation of who He is. The revelation was meant to bring more intimacy with Him. Thus, the second month on the Hebrew calendar, which we entered on Friday, is linked with light. It is called Iyar or Ziv, which means radiance. The Israelites were transitioning from slavery to daughter and sonship. Their knowledge of God was only from a few stories handed down from Abraham through the generations to them. The Lord's plan was to give them several powerful demonstrations of His nature. These would reveal the secrets of His covenant with them.
God has multiple names that describe His nature. I find it significant that the first name He introduced to the Israelites was Yahweh Rapha. The introduction would take care of a current problem and unveil a plan for the future. From the Red Sea, all of Israel traveled into the Desert of Shur. They found no water until they reached Marah. But the water was undrinkable because it was bitter. When Moses cried out to the Lord, he was shown a piece of wood/tree and instructed to throw it into the water to make the water drinkable. Then the Lord explained His covenant: "If you listen carefully to the Lord your God and do what is right in His eyes, if you pay attention to His commands and keep all His decrees, I will not bring on you any of the diseases I brought on the Egyptians, for I am the Lord, who heals you." (Exodus 15:26)
The Lord brought the children of Israel out of Egypt with a mighty hand. Exodus 12:37 records this: "There were about 600,000 men on foot besides women and children." Psalm 105:37 tells us, "There was not one feeble person among their tribes." (KJV) When the Israelites looked at their healthy ranks, do you think they understood that it was God who healed and strengthened them for their journey? Perhaps not, otherwise why would God need to show them that He is Yahweh Rapha, Hebrew for “The Lord Who Heals”? Rapha encompasses body, mind and soul. The word is also used to mean healing of water, land and nations. The bitter waters of Marah were completely healed after Moses threw the wood into it. In the King James Bible, the word tree is used in place of wood. The sign of the tree/wood has significance. We see that God was demonstrating His healing plan for the present and future. The Son of God would come to earth to be nailed to a tree. He would enter the waters of death, overcome them, and rise to become Living Water for us. He was "pierced for our transgressions; He was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon Him, and by His wounds we are healed.” (Isaiah 53:5)
We do not have to look far to see the hand of the enemy at work. When sin entered the world the kingdom of darkness began to manifest. Diseases spread in the bodies of humankind and in the surrounding world. Romans 8:20 says, "For the creation was subjected to frustration…” Scripture explains that "creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed" because when freedom and the glory of God come to them, all creation will be liberated from its bondage to decay.
There is such a need for all humankind to have a re-introduction to Yahweh Rapha. Power for healing was demonstrated to the Israelites. It was followed by the spoken Word--"I am the Lord, who heals you!" Bitter waters were made sweet by the Lord who is the one who dispenses living water. He told the Samaritan woman at Jacob's well, "Whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life." (John 4:14) After His encounter with the Samaritan woman, on the third day, Jesus went to Cana in Galilee where He had turned the water into wine. He met a royal official whose son was sick in Capernaum. This man begged Jesus to heal his son. Jesus said, "Go, your son will live. The man took Jesus at his word…” (John 4:50) Sure enough, the boy was healed at the exact moment that Jesus made the declaration of healing!
Are we taking Jesus at His word? Do we believe in our hearts the words He has spoken? God loves His creation—all aspects of it! Jesus was sent to earth to heal us. He knew what we would need in this season of quarantine, sickness and chaos. He promises to "work for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purposes." (Romans 8:28) Let us use this time to reacquaint ourselves with the Lord who heals. I believe He desires to demonstrate His healing power just as He did at Marah, especially during this month of the anniversary of the introduction of His name. Let us also be like our father, Abraham, who "did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God..." (Romans 4:20) "After he had patiently endured, he obtained the promise." (Hebrew 6:20)
After leaving Egypt, the children of Israel walked by the desert road to the Red Sea. "By day the Lord went ahead of them in a pillar of cloud to guide them on their way and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light..." (Exodus 13:21) In the meantime, the Lord hardened Pharaoh's heart so that he decided to pursue the Israelites. There was great fear in the Israelite camp when the Egyptian armies arrived. But the angel of the Lord, along with the pillar of cloud, stood between the Egyptians and the Israelites. During the night "Moses stretched out his hand over the sea; and all that night the Lord drove the sea back with a strong east wind and turned it into dry land. The waters were divided, and the Israelites went through the sea on dry ground, with a wall of water on their right and on their left." (Exodus 14:21-22)
According to Chuck Pierce of Glory of Zion Ministries, the Israelites crossed the Red Sea on the eighth day after Passover. Fascinating! Prophetically, the number eight stands for death and resurrection/ new beginnings and sanctification. Remember how God required that every male baby boy be circumcised on the eighth day as part of His covenant? There was a cutting open of the foreskin as a sign of covenant. Doesn't opening the sea and separating it remind you that God was confirming the covenant that He made with Abraham over 400 years before? When that covenant was made, Abraham brought the Lord a heifer, goat and ram and cut them in two so that the halves could be arranged opposite each other as a sign of "cutting a covenant." (Genesis 15:10-15)
God was always faithful to His covenant with His people. As they walked through the Red Sea, it was as though they were dying a death to be resurrected on the other side. They were headed toward the Promised Land and a new life where the Lord would provide everything they needed in the way of food, clothes, shelter, protection, and victory in battle. However, they would learn that God provided for them in His way—one day at a time. Every morning there was manna for the day. The Israelites needed to learn how to trust the Lord. We need to do the same thing. Fear and uncertainty have arisen as we are in the middle of a pandemic. Restrictions on the way we live are in place. Yet, we must not let the news of the Coronavirus stop us from praising the Lord for His unfailing love and compassion. Two Scriptures come to mind: Proverbs 3:26 in The Passion Translation declares, "God is your confidence in times of crisis, keeping your heart at rest in every situation." My "go to" verse in times of difficulty comes from Lamentations 3:22-23. "Because of the Lord's great love, we are not consumed, for His compassions never fail, they are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness."
Hymn writer Thomas Chisholm understood about the faithfulness of God. He saw it in the day in and day out circumstances of his life. He knew that God's presence was the premier sign of His faithfulness. He is Emmanuel—God with us. God showed Himself to the Israelites in different manifestations just as He does today. The greatest manifestation of His faithfulness, however, was shown when the Son of God, Jesus, came to live on earth. Thomas Chisholm was inspired to write a classic hymn that has been consistently sung from the time it was written. Shortly before his death he explained the inspiration for his song, Great Is Thy Faithfulness: "I must not fail to record here the unfailing faithfulness of a covenant-keeping God and that He has given me many wonderful displays of His providing care which have filled me with astonishing gratefulness.”
During this season, let us remember that we have a faithful, covenant-keeping God. Singing the words of Chisholm's inspired hymn will help us walk through the Red Sea of our lives to get through to the other side:
Great is Thy faithfulness, O God my Father! There is no shadow of turning with Thee; Thou changest not; Thy compassions, they fail not: As Thou hast been Thou forever wilt be.
Summer and winter, and springtime and harvest, sun, moon, and stars in their courses above, join with all nature in manifold witness to Thy great faithfulness, mercy, and love.
Pardon for sin and a peace that endureth, thine own dear presence to cheer and to guide. Strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow—blessings all mine with ten thousand beside.
Chorus: Great is Thy faithfulness! Great is Thy faithfulness! Morning by morning new mercies I see; all I have needed Thy hand hath provided. Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me.
"Keep on giving your thanks to God, for He is so good! His constant tender love lasts forever!" (Psalm 118:1 - TPT) The theme expressed here is a common one in "The Passover Hallels." (Psalm 113-118 and Psalm 136) In these Psalms, God's people give Him praise and thanksgiving for the way they were saved from their enemies and given provision for life and victory in their battles. The ultimate battle is the one against the sin that separates us from God. But God thought of everything. He sent His Son, Jesus, to earth to become the sacrificial Lamb. His death on the Cross brings freedom to all who embrace what He did to restore intimacy with Father God.
Psalm 118 goes on to say this: "The very stone the masons rejected as flawed has turned out to be the most important capstone of the arch, holding up the very house of God. The Lord Himself is the one who has done this, and it's so amazing, so marvelous to see!" (Verses 22-23 - TPT) "The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; The Lord has done this, and it is marvelous in our eyes." (Verses 22-23 - NIV) Comparing these translations of the Bible, their seems to be a difference in what Jesus is called. Is it Capstone or Cornerstone? Jonathan Cahn provides us with an answer to these differences in his Book of Mysteries.
The Hebrew word for cornerstone (the foundation stone that holds a structure together) is Rosh Pinah. But this Hebrew word has two meanings; the second one being capstone. (the finishing stone or top stone that protects what is below it) Both translations are correct yet incomplete. Jesus became both. He referred to Himself as the Rosh Pinah in Matthew 21:42, Mark 12:10-11, and Luke 20:17. In these Scriptures we read how Jesus just finished telling the people the parable of the tenants, which describes how a landowner planted a vineyard and then rented it to some farmers. When the owner sent his servants to collect some of the fruit at harvest time, the farmers beat and/or killed the servants. Eventually, the owner sent his beloved son, who was killed. Jesus quotes Psalm 118. "The stone the builders rejected has become the Rosh Pinah." Jesus continues to give an expanded explanation: "Everyone who falls on that stone will be broken to pieces; anyone on whom it falls will be crushed."
Today we can see, as we read Psalm 118 at Passover, that in His death, Jesus became the Capstone, the stone that brings completion. He is the Capstone for all of us who come to Him. And, His resurrection is our Cornerstone. He is what begins our life as Christians and what holds us together. Death and resurrection—Capstone and Cornerstone!
In the book of Ephesians, the apostle Paul reminds us that we are "no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God's people and also members of His household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus Himself as the chief cornerstone." (Ephesians 2:20) Peter the disciple calls us living stones, like our Messiah: "As you come to Him, the living Stone—rejected by humans but chosen by God and precious to Him—you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. For in Scripture it says: 'See, I lay a stone in Zion, a chosen and precious cornerstone, and the one who trusts in Him will never be put to shame.' Now to you who believe, this stone is precious. But to those who do not believe, 'The stone the builders rejected has become the Rosh Pinah,’ and 'A stone that causes people to stumble and a rock that makes them fall.' …But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God's special possession, that you may declare the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His wonderful light." (1 Peter 2:4-9)
As we celebrate the death and resurrection of our Savior, let us give Him thanks and praise. "Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; His love endures forever...The Lord is my strength and my defense; He has become my salvation. Shouts of joy and victory resound in the tents of the righteous. 'The Lord has done mighty things!' …I will give thanks, for You answer me; You have become my salvation." (Psalm 118:1, 14-15, 21 - NIV)
Bible preacher, Derek Prince once said that the most important faith declaration for deliverance is this: "When we keep the Feast of Passover, we are making this faith declaration that we have been redeemed by the blood of the Lamb." The power of Yeshua is in His blood! This is why Satan hates our declaration: He is helpless when we are under the cover of Yeshua's blood.
The enemy has been waging a battle against the celebration of Passover for centuries. We can read how Passover was lost even in Biblical days. When the children of Israel and Judah were unfaithful to the Lord, they stopped celebrating the Passover. When a king who did "what was right in the eyes of the Lord" came to power he would oversee the purification of the temple, re-establish sacrifices and worship and begin the celebration of Passover anew. Such was the case during the reign of Hezekiah (2 Chronicles 30:2-5) and Josiah. (2 Kings 23:21-23) The restoration of Passover celebrations brought the power of the blood back to the people and restored their relationship with God and blessings from Him.
Sadly, the church also gave up the celebration of Passover. Look back to the 4th century and see how Emperor Constantine made it illegal to celebrate Passover and changed the date for the celebration of the Lord's resurrection to the Sunday following the first full moon after the vernal equinox. The Roman church was pressured by the government to discontinue celebrating Passover, and they followed the mandate. I believe that is why many churches have lost their power in the world today. God delivered His people from bondage in Egypt and said to them: "The blood will be a sign for you on the houses where you are, and when I see the blood, I will pass over you...This is a day you are to commemorate; for generations to come you shall celebrate it as a festival to the Lord—a lasting ordinance." (Exodus 12:13-14)
It was the blood of the Passover lamb that protected the children of Israel from the destroyer. Each family selected a spotless lamb on the 10th of Nisan. Only lambs from Bethlehem could serve as Passover lambs. After obtaining their lamb, a family would come down the Mount of Olives and enter Jerusalem through the Sheep Gate. How appropriate it is that on the 10th of Nisan Jesus, born in Bethlehem, came down the Mount of Olives and entered Jerusalem through the Sheep Gate! Today we call this Palm Sunday and remember how the crowds of people shouted "Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord. Blessed is the King of Israel." (John 12:13) Just as the lambs for Passover had to be inspected for any imperfections, Jesus was examined by the Pharisees and Sadducees at the temple. They could find no fault with Him as they attempted to trap Him with their questions.
When Jesus arrived at the Temple, He cast out the money changers to cleanse His Father's house. Today, part of the Passover preparation includes removing all leaven (representing sin) from the home. A candle is used to search for any impurities. On the 14th of Nisan the lambs were taken to the altar for public display and then bound to it at 9:00 am. As the lambs were being bound, Jesus, our Passover Lamb, was nailed to the Cross at Calvary. At 3:00 pm the high priest cut the throat of the sacrificial lamb and declared, "It is finished!" Both the sacrificial lambs and our Passover Lamb poured out their blood at the same time. And Jesus also declared at 3:00 pm, "It is finished!" The Greek meaning for this is, "The debt has been paid in full."
At the beginning of the ministry of Jesus, when He approached John the Baptist, John said, "Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world." (John 1:29) The blood shed by our Passover Lamb was placed across the doorposts of our hearts to stop judgment and death and provide redemption. As it says in Leviticus 17:11, "Without the shedding of blood, there is no atonement." We should meditate on the truth that the blood of the lamb that protected the Israelites from the destroyer was a precursor to the blood of our Passover Lamb, Yeshua, that continuously protects us from the destroyer of our souls. (1 John 1:7) Let us declare, “I am redeemed by the blood of the Lamb out of the hand of the enemy."
When a new year is about to take place, do you look to the past to see what has happened and then to the future to determine what you could accomplish? I think the practice of setting informed goals helps us in being able to chart the course for our lives. Perhaps this is what God was thinking when He established a yearly cycle for His people beginning with Nisan. This first month was planned for the deliverance of the children of Israel from slavery to the Egyptians and victory in taking the Promised Land where freedom would be theirs.
Presently, we are at the beginning of the month of Nisan. If we look at the book of Exodus during this time period, we see how God was showing the Israelites His power by sending plagues and natural disasters upon Pharaoh and the Egyptians. We can relate to some of those plagues. East Africa and South Asia are battling billions of locusts that are destroying their crops and livelihoods. And, of course, thousands have died around the world from Coronavirus. The disease is taking its toll on our physical bodies, our economies and our way of living life.
When God was about to send the plague of the death of the firstborn throughout Egypt, He told His people to begin a new cycle of life. Nisan was to be the first month of the year for them. He told Moses the following: "Tell the whole community of Israel that on the 10th day of this month each man is to take a lamb for his family, one for each household...The animals you choose must be year-old males without defect, and you may take them from the sheep or the goats. Take care of them until the 14th day of the month, when all 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 door frames of the houses where they eat the lambs… This is how you are to eat it: with your cloak tucked into your belt, your sandals on your feet and your staff in your hand. Eat it in haste; it is the Lord's Passover." (Exodus 12:3, 5-7, 11)
After the Isralites selected their lamb, slaughtered it on the 14th of Nisan and spread the blood on the door frames, they were to stay in their homes until morning. They would be protected by the blood of the lamb. The destroyer would pass over the doorways covered by the blood; the Lord would protect them. After 430 years of bondage in Egypt, the children of Israel were set free to begin their journey to the Promised Land. A Passover meal has been celebrated ever since this first one. Jesus celebrated it with His disciples before His crucifixion. Today Christians call this meal communion.
I would like to suggest that the quarantine that we are now experiencing may have the unexpected outcome of bringing us freedom from the bondages of our age. God's people are meant to be different from the rest of the world. This time alone is a time of rest where we can repent of our worldly lives, remember the Lord's deeds for all humankind, and look to Him, our Redeemer, to lead us on paths of righteousness and to a life filled with purpose. When we accepted Jesus as our Lord, the blood of the Passover Lamb (Jesus) was placed over our hearts. And Jesus demonstrated and admonished us to practice taking the meal called communion so that we remember Him.
My husband and I have come to understand how important our daily practice of taking communion is to our relationship with the Lord and for our protection and healing. Daily we remember the Lord's benefits by declaring the beginning of Psalm 103. "Praise the Lord, my soul, and forget not all His benefits—who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion, who satisfies your desires with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagle's." Then we remember that Jesus is our Passover Lamb and that "He was pierced for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on Him, and by His wounds we are healed." (Isaiah 53:5) The Lord wants to set us free from the bondage of this world and lead us into our promised lands. Let's use this time of seclusion to draw closer to Him and watch as He leads us triumphantly out of bondage and into a life of victory and Kingdom authority.
Joan E. Mathias