“Resolution One: I will live for God. Resolution Two: If no one else does, I still will.” - Jonathan Edwards -

Friday, March 31, 2006

Checking In

Folks,

I have not fallen off the face of the earth -- I have been working way too many hours lately... :-)

And I am currently struggling with some vision impairment, which I hope will be rectified soon... I will continue my posting (hopefully) today... Thanks for all the encouragement!

Ray

Friday, March 17, 2006

Passover II - The Cups

In my last post I examined the role of leaven in the Passover Feast. I will now continue to work through the seder and attempt to bring to light certain aspects of the seder that may be new to some folks.

First, we must understand that each and every person who partakes in the Passover should partake AS IF they were actually part of the nation when it was released from slavery. In other words, we are to reflect and remember our slavery and then as we progress through the seder, to rejoice in our freedom. As a matter of fact, it is brought out in the Seder that we now eat reclining, which is the way free men and women ate in that day, lying back on pillows and enjoying their dinner.

We first light the Passover candles,and say a br'kah, or blessing. We then reflect on the fact that , during the seder, we drink four cups of wine. Each cup has a significance: Cup of Sanctification, Cup of Judgement, Cup of Redemption, and Cup of Praise.

The first cup -- the cup of sanctification, represents the first 'I Will' of God; the promise to bring the people out from under the harsh salvery of the Egyptians. Imagine the Messiah in that Upper Room -- lifting the cup and bringing to remembrance the promise of God the Father to deliver the nation of Israel from slavery. Every mind in the room would have been focused on that time so long ago, recorded in Exodus, when God freed His people, just as He promised.

The second cup -- the cup of judgement is filled and then we dip a finger into the cup, allowing a drop of liquid to fall onto our saucer ten times, reducing the fullness of our cup of joy this night. Why? Because our redemption cost! What did it cost in the first Passover -- the ten plagues that afflicvted Egypt. What did it cost in the fulfillment of Passover? The death of Messiah! Again, let your mind go back to the Upper Room -- imagine the emotion as Messiah dipped his finger in the cup and allowed a drop to spill onto the table... Within hours, his blood would spill onto the ground of Calvary.

We drink the second cup only after we have gone through a section of the seder whereby we recognize that it was God who affected the salvation of the people of Israel and no one else!

The third cup -- the cup of redemption is filled after the supper. This is the one that Messiah lifted and said "This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood." How do we know that this is the cup? It is stated in several places that it was the cup after the supper, which is the cup of redemption. As we drink this cup we reflect on Isaiah 59:16 - "He saw that there was no man, and wondered that there was no one to intercede; then his own arm brought him salvation, and his righteousness upheld him."

So imagine this -- first He fills the cup of sanctification and the disciples reflect on God's selection of His people, and their deliverance from slavery -- then the second cup comes around, and the disciples again reflect on the terrible cost at which the nation of Israel was given it's freedom. Now, Messiah breaks into the normal seder with the injection that it is HIS BLOOD which will bring ultimate redemption. WHAT A SHOCK to the system of the disciples. In our day and age no one thinks it strange (in the Christian community) that we speak of the redemption bought with the blood of Messiah, but in that Upper Room the tension was probably so thick you could cut it with a knife!

And the final cup -- the one that Messiah said He would not drink until that day when He will drink it new in the kingdom of God. This is the cup of Praise! I can imagine that, at the wedding feast of the Lamb, Messiah will lift this fourth cup and complete the seder that begun over two thousand years ago in that small room in Israel!

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Passover I

Passover is a story of miraculous transitions – from slavery to freedom, from despair to hope, from darkness to light. Its greatness is the greatness of God. Its timelessness comes from the eternal truth of his involvement with His people. As God cared for the children of Israel in ancient times, He cares for all who are His today.

One of Messiah's last earthly acts was the celebration of the Passover. Gathering His disciples in a small room in Jerusalem, he led them in the Seder. "I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer." (Luke 22:15). He passed the foods among them, and it was there, in the context of the Passover celebration that Yeshua (Jesus) revealed to them the mystery of God's plan of redemption. He spoke to them of His body and blood. He explained to them that He would have to die.

It was no coincidence that Messiah chose the Passover for the setting of what is now celebrated as communion, the Lord's Supper. For in the story of the Passover lamb, Yeshua (Jesus) could best communicate the course He would be taking over the confusing hours that were to follow. As we participate together in the Passover Seder, we experience once again God's great redemption.

OK, first the basics, a definition of terms:

1. Haggadah - Order of Service - a book which leads us through the order of the service.
2. Pesach - This is actually the name of the feast.
3. Seder - The Passover meal
4. The Seder Plate, which consists of: (a) Shank Bone – This is representative of the Paschal Lamb. As believers in Yeshua Ha-Mashiach, Jesus the Messiah, we know that our Paschal Lamb stated 'It is Finished' at his sacrifice. We now have this on the plate as a reminder; (b) Maror – Bitter Herbs represent the bitterness of slavery that the Israelites experienced in Egypt. We, like the Israelites were once in bondage. Karpas – The parsley represents the hyssop used to put the blood over the lintel and doorposts of the Israelites. Yeshua Ha-Mashiach, when He was hanging upon the cross was also given drink from a hyssop branch. Kharoset – This is a mixture made from apples, honey, nuts and juice. It represents the brick and clay with which the Israelites built the cities of Pharaoh. We eat this with the maror, showing that no matter how bitter the circumstances, they can be sweetened by God. Likewise, Yeshua Ha-Mashiach promised the disciples tribulation, but also told them to be of good cheer as He had overcome the world! (John 16:33) Egg – This, like the shank bone, represents the sacrifice at the temple. The egg represents the burned offering that was offered up the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread. Saltwater – We dip the karpas in this to symbolize the salt of the Red Sea where the Egyptians met their end, as well as the tears of the Israelites while in slavery. As stated above, Yeshua Ha-Mashiach was given drink from a stalk of hyssop, and we can only imagine the tears He shed for us! The Cup of Elijah – This is the cup that is poured for the prophet Elijah. Each year, in a traditional service, we await the return of the prophet Elijah, going so far as to have one of the children open the outside door to check and see if he has arrived! Matzoh – This is the unleavened bread, or 'bread of affliction', that is eaten during the Passover, and the Feast of Unleavened Bread.

In the days leading up to Passover, leavened items are removed from the home. These include all bread and cakes that contain yeast. Preparation for Passover includes a thorough cleansing, of the entire home, culminating in a ceremonial search for leaven, called bedikat khameytz. Tradition teaches that in each generation, we must consider ourselves as having been personally freed from Egypt. As we prepare for the experience of personal redemption, we put far from us the leaven of sin hidden within our hearts.

Even though our house has been thoroughly cleansed because of the approaching Feast of Passover, all rooms of the house must be clear of chametz (leaven). The master of the house, according to Jewish tradition, must personally inspect the house to be sure that all chametz is removed and none remains in his possession. On the eve before erev Pesach, the evening of Passover, the master of the house gathers his family about him and with the light of a wax candle goes from room to room searching for leaven. With a large feather, the father collects in a wooden spoon or other receptacle those crumbs of bread previously placed where they might easily be found, in corners and on windowsills. This search has to be made following Ma-Ariv prayer immediately after nightfall and before the commencement of any work. The master of the house washes his hands and makes the following blessing before beginning the search, "Blessed are you, O Lord our God, King of the Universe, who sanctified us by your commandments and commanded us to remove the leaven."

On erev Pesach (the evening of Passover), all chametz found during the search, and the chametz that was left over from any meals, is wrapped together with the wooden spoon and burned. The following prayer is recited:

"All manner of leaven which is in my possession, that which I have seen as well as that which I have not seen, that which I have removed as well as that which I have not removed, is hereby annulled and accounted as the dust of the earth."

Typically in the Bible, leaven is a symbol for sin. With the destruction of the temple, the unleavened bread became a substitute for the Passover Lamb, which was to be perfect, without spot or blemish. Our Messiah, Yeshua (Jesus), made the unleavened bread a symbol of His own sacrifice for our sins.

There is much more to be said about this; I will leave you with these thoughts for part I, I hope to do several parts laying out the complete seder celebration...

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Purim

As we approach Purim (next week), I thought I would briefly post on this holiday. Yes, it is not a 'feast', but there is still much to be learned from Purim.

First and foremost, this holiday allows us to read a little book that is often overlooked by many Christians (Esther); then there is the sheer joy of this holiday. We do many things during Purim -- dress up, put on skits about Esther and Haman, laugh and enjoy. Some might find this a bit disconcerting, to be so 'glib' about something so profound. However that would be missing one of the most important points of Purim; we are enjoying PRECISELY because it is such a profound story, one that continues to this day: that is the attempted destruction of God's People by the enemy. Again and again, he has tried to destroy God's people, and again and again, the faithful One has thwarted his plans!

Francis Shaeffer wrote a book called 'The God Who Is There' -- and that is precisely what we find in the book of Esther; the God who is there. Esther has not always been universally accepted in historic Christianity, partly because of the fact that God is not explicitly mentioned anywhere in the book, but there is a tremendous comfort to Purim, and the book of Esther.

While God is not specifically mentioned, His fingerprints are all over the story. It is exciting every year to read the book of Esther aloud during the service, and feel the excitement mount as we read about the king that was unable to sleep during a key night in the life of the Jewish nation, and how he had his servants bring out the book of records and read them aloud to him during that uneasy night. As they read, they come across a record about a Jew named Mordecai, who had once saved the life of the king. Just as they read this record, the evil Haman approaches the court and well.... I will let you read the rest on your own...

As we read, we boo Haman; cheer Mordecai, and gush over Queen Esther. Every person in the church gets involved in the story, reliving the faithfulness of God to His people.

Yes, Purim is not the solemn assembly that some of the other celebrations are, but it is one of joy and laughter -- one that reminds us all again, that we serve a God who is THERE!

This year, read through the book of Esther for Purim -- read it aloud to your children, getting them involved in the story by having them boo Haman, and cheer Mordecai, and of course "AHHHHH" over Queen Esther. Prepare some hamantashen for the kids, give some gifts (traditionally fruit or some goodies) to friends and family, and give a special gift to the less fortunate in your town. Make this lesser known holiday a time of joy and laughter in your family by reminding them again of God's faithfulness to his people.