God was intentional in the way He led the Israelites out of Egypt. Initially, he took them away from the Philistine country so that they would not have to face battle and "perhaps change their minds and return to Egypt." (Exodus 13:17) He led them by a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night. He deliberately led them to a place opposite Baal Zephon (The Lord of the North) between Migdol and the sea. He told Moses, "And I will harden Pharaoh's heart, and he will pursue them. But I will gain glory for myself through Pharaoh and all his army, and the Egyptians will know that I am the Lord." (Exodus 14:4)
Verse 9 of Chapter 14 tells us, "The Egyptians—all Pharaoh's horses and chariots, horsemen, and troops—pursued the Israelites and overtook them as they camped by the sea near Pi Hahiroth (Mouth of wrath) opposite Baal Zephon." Imagine how the Israelites felt as they looked up and saw the entire Egyptian army marching toward them! They found a scapegoat for their difficulties in Moses and proclaimed, "It would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the desert!" (Verse 12)
Moses responded to the people's cry as the Lord instructed: "Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the Lord will bring you today. The Egyptians you see today you will never see again. The Lord will fight for you; you need only be still." (Verses 13-14) I am reminded of Psalm 46:10-11. "'Be still and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.' The Lord Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress." God was introducing Himself to the Egyptians and the Israelites. He was teaching them that there is only one true God. Again, the Lord tells Moses, "And I will gain glory through Pharaoh and all his army, through his chariots and his horsemen. The Egyptians will know that I am the Lord when I gain glory through Pharaoh, his chariots, and horsemen." (Verses 17-18)
All through the day, Scripture tells us, the Lord separated the children of Israel from the armies of Pharaoh through the pillar of cloud. All through the night, as Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, the Lord drove it back and prepared a path through the sea. The Israelites walked right through on dry ground. They were pursued by the Egyptian army who became defenseless against the Lord. He threw them into confusion, jammed the wheels of their chariots, and then pushed the waters back into place, drowning all of them. "And when the Israelites saw the mighty hand of the Lord displayed against the Egyptians, the people feared the Lord and put their trust in Him and in Moses His servant." (Verse 31)
A song was written by Moses and Miriam to glorify the Lord and to help the Israelites remember the awe and majesty of the one true God. Here are parts of it as written in Exodus 15: "I will sing to the Lord, for He is exalted...the Lord is my strength and my defense; He has become my salvation. He is my God, and I will praise Him, my father's God, and I will exalt Him...In the greatness of Your majesty You threw down those who opposed You...Who is like You—majestic in holiness, awesome in glory, working wonders? You stretched out Your right hand, and the earth swallows Your enemies. In Your unfailing love You will lead the people you have redeemed. In Your strength You will guide them to Your holy dwelling...You will bring them in and plant them on the mountain of Your inheritance—the place, Lord, You made for Your dwelling, the sanctuary, Lord, Your hands established. The Lord reigns for ever and ever."
Indeed, this song that gives glory to the Lord is meant for us as well as the Israelites. The testimony of the Lord's power and love is to encourage us and remind us that we can take the mountain of our inheritance as we stand still and know that He is God! He tells us through the prophet Isaiah, "'...My purpose will stand, and I will do all that I please...What I have said, that I will bring about; what I have planned, that I will do.'" (Isaiah 46:10-11) The Lord is with us. He can and will move heaven and earth to accomplish His purposes in us. Let us take encouragement, rejoice, and give glory to the King of kings and Lord of lords.
In the center of the Garden of Eden there were two trees called the tree of life and the tree of knowledge of good and evil. When God placed Adam in the Garden, He warned him not to eat of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. (Genesis 2:9, 17) Because Adam and Eve ate from this tree their close relationship with God changed. God made a covering for them from animal skins. Then an interesting conversation took place in heaven: "And the LORD God said, 'The man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil. He must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat and live forever.' So, the LORD God banished him from the Garden of Eden to work the ground from which he had been taken." (Genesis 3:22-23)
It is not until the book of Revelation that we read again about the tree of life. The Lord sent a message to the church at Ephesus that said, "To the one who is victorious, I will give the right to eat from the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God." (Revelation 2:4) Adam and Eve were barred from eating of the tree of life because of their sin. They tried to hide from Him, but God, in His mercy, kept them from eating of the tree of life so that they would not have to spend eternity hiding from Him. God cannot be in the presence of evil and so He had to make a way to redeem what had happened in the Garden of Eden.
Another tree was brought into the picture. The "seed" of this tree was planted before time began on earth. God makes refences to its shape throughout the Old Testament—the shape of a cross. The pattern of the cross was shown to His people in the construction of the tabernacle, in the bronze snake on the pole, and in the pattern that the Israelites camped. Jesus spoke about it to those who followed Him. When He was explaining to His disciples that He would be killed and raised from the dead on the third day, He spoke about the cross: "Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it." (Matthew 16:24-25) Every one of us has a cross to bear. However, as we die to self, we come alive; as we surrender, we win.
Jesus knew that the cross He was to die on would be a tree of life for all of us. By partaking of this Cross, we are partaking of the fruit of the tree of life, which includes new and everlasting life with Him. The fruit of the covering of the blood of Jesus over our sin is what allows us to partake of eternal life with Him.
The final chapter of the Bible, Revelation 22, describes the tree of life in heaven. A river flows from the throne of God. "...On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations. No longer will there be any curse..." (Verses 2-3) "Blessed are those who wash their robes, that they may have the right to the tree of life and may go through the gates into the city." (Verse 14) The tree of life waits for those who have been made righteous through the blood of the Cross of Jesus. In essence, this Cross is the Tree of Life.
We are celebrating what Jesus did for us in going to the Cross. We are in awe of the power of God to raise Jesus from the dead. What else can we do but worship and praise Him for the Tree of Life waiting for us in heaven?
More than five hundred years before Christ was born the prophet Zechariah wrote about the triumphant, yet humble entry of Jesus into Jerusalem. "Rejoice, O people of Zion! Shout in triumph, O people of Jerusalem! Look, your king is coming to you. He is righteous and victorious, yet he is humble, riding on a donkey—riding on a donkey's colt." (Zechariah 9:9 - NLT) This description of the Triumphal Entry of Jesus into Jerusalem should have helped the Pharisees see what was happening. However, their own agenda made them blind to the truth. They watched the Son of God ride into Jerusalem to shouts and songs of praise. They knew this was the man who had raised Lazarus from the dead and performed many miracles. Yet, they plotted to destroy Jesus, because they saw him as a threat to their religious order.
The Pharisees were not the only ones who were blind. Jesus' own disciples lacked understanding of what was happening before their eyes. John writes, "His disciples didn't understand at the time that this was a fulfillment of prophecy. But after Jesus entered into His glory, they remembered what had happened and realized that these things had been written about Him." (John 12:16 - NLT) After spending three years with Jesus, one would think that they would have realized the prophetic fulfillment that was happening. Perhaps they were caught up in the excitement of the crowd.
Many people had traveled to Jerusalem for the Passover as this was one of the "pilgrim" feasts. The crowd missed what Jesus was telling them by riding into Jerusalem on a donkey's colt. They were looking for the Messiah, one who would overthrow the Romans who oppressed them. They threw their prayer shawls and cloaks on the ground along with cut palm branches. They shouted "Hosanna!" which means "O save or bring the victory, Lord." This repeated call came directly from Psalm 118:25-26. "O God, please come and save us again; bring us your breakthrough victory! Blessed is this one who comes to us, the sent one of the Lord. And from within the temple we cry, 'We bless you!'" (TPT) Palm branches were a symbol of triumph and victory over death. When kings returned to their homeland after winning a battle, his people would wave palm branches as a symbol of victory.
Jesus is a King; He is the King of kings! But His kingdom is not of this world. Earthly kings rode in chariots or on a stunning horse, not a donkey. A donkey is known as an animal of peace. Jesus entered on one because He was triumphant without the spilling of blood. Also, the common person would have been more able to connect to this symbol. God came to serve and save the oppressed. Scholars point out that one of the reasons Jesus rode on a colt never ridden before is because of the prophecies in Zechariah 9:9 and Genesis 49:11. Jacob gave the Genesis prophecy to Judah, the family line from whom Jesus came: "Binding his donkey to the vine, and his donkey's colt to the choice vine." (NKJV) Here is another interesting sign: Jesus came into Jerusalem alone. Most victorious kings come with an entourage. However, we know that Jesus had to go to the Cross for us alone. His accomplishment would be victory for all of creation!
I learned an unfamiliar word this week. “Pareidolia” is the tendency to impose an interpretation onto what one sees according to the way they want to see it. It is a preconceived notion and drawing conclusions based on it. I think we could say that the Pharisees, the disciples, and the crowd could be identified with this word. The Pharisees failed to see their Scriptures fulfilled and so plotted to kill the Son of God. The disciples did not understand the nature and mission of their King but would be transformed after Christ's crucifixion and resurrection. The crowd would quickly turn from crying "Hosanna!" to shouting "Crucify Him!" when they learned that Christ's mission was different from what they expected. Jesus came armed with love even though He was given dominion, power, and majesty over all creation. He came to bring the Kingdom of God to earth. Let us open our eyes to see the truth and worship our amazing King who came in humility and love to give us life with Him forever.
One of the most significant months on the Hebrew calendar is Nisan. We are in it now. It is the first month on the Biblical and seventh month on the civil calendar. God told Moses that he was to create a calendar based on the cycle of the moon. "While they were still in the land of Egypt, the Lord gave the following instructions to Moses and Aaron: 'From now on, this month will be the first month of the year for you.” (Exodus 12:1-2) There are many celebrations in the month of Nisan, so it is known as one of repentance, redemption, and miracles. Rose Chodesh (Head of the Month) began when the sliver of the new moon was visible and was commemorated in every month. The new moon was a symbol of new beginnings and of rejoicing in the truth that God would provide for the needs of His people for the entire month. To demonstrate their trust in God, the Jews brought a "first fruits" offering to the Temple which was the first and best of their crops, orchards, or flocks. Rose Chodesh is still celebrated today. Festivals that were initiated during the month of Nisan were Passover, Unleavened Bread, and Firstfruits.
Excitement wells up in me when I see that the 2022 Jewish and Gregorian calendar coincide. Passover Eve and Good Friday both occur on April 15 so that means Resurrection Sunday and Firstfruits also coincide. A long time ago, Satan put it in the heart of man to separate the commemoration of the death and resurrection of Jesus from Passover. Satan hates Passover because it truly is the celebration of Jesus and the covering of His blood. During the fourth century, Emperor Constantine decided to merge Christianity with paganism, and he made it illegal for Christians to celebrate Passover. This was done by The Council of Nicea in A.D. 325. Constantine removed Jesus from the context of Passover and changed the date for the celebration of Resurrection Sunday to the spring festival of the pagan fertility goddess Ishtar, also known as Eastre.
Through the centuries the church councils continued to make celebrating Passover illegal and in A.D. 345 they even pronounced a curse on Christians who dared to commemorate Passover. Satan continues to place evil thoughts toward Jews and Passover through the hearts of humankind. Why? Because there is power in the shed blood of Jesus, and when we connect with God through Passover remembrances, He blesses us. There is a connection in the events of Passover and the One whose life was sacrificed for our deliverance. God intended for the events before and during Passover to be a foreshadow of the events of His Son's last days on earth.
Jesus is aptly called our Passover Lamb. On the 10th of Nisan each family would bring a spotless lamb into their home. During the days of Jesus, only a lamb from Bethlehem was acceptable for the Passover sacrifice in Jerusalem. The lamb was carefully examined for four days to be sure there were no defects. Jesus would have been at the Temple during these four days, being endlessly questioned by the teachers of the Law. However, they found Him faultless and without blemish. Part of the tradition after the Israelites were delivered from Egypt, was that their homes had to be cleansed of any leaven (Impurity) as a remembrance that during the first Passover the children of Israel left Egypt in such hast that their bread did not have time to rise. Jesus was filled with zeal for His Father's House. Before Passover He entered the Temple and cast out the moneychangers (leaven). On the 14th of Nisan, the lambs were led to the altar and bound for everyone to see. Jesus was led to Calvary and bound to the Cross at this same time. It was 3 p.m. when the throats of the sacrificial lambs were cut by the high priest. After completing his job, the priest would cry out, "It is finished!" Jesus, our Passover Lamb and High Priest, crucified with common criminals, likewise called out at 3 p.m., "It is finished!" In Greek it would be "tetelistai" or "The debt has been paid in full!"
There is such a strong bond between Passover and Easter that one must wonder how the Church buckled in allowing the dates to change. Perhaps in this year, where the two celebrations occur during the same time frame, the blinders will be removed from our eyes, and we will be able to see God's plans in demonstrating the details of the sacrifice of Jesus to take away our sins so that we may have eternal life with Him.
Joan E. Mathias