Sunday, April 26 2020
“The band of soldiers and their captain and the officers of the Jews arrested Jesus and bound him” (John 18:12 ESV). Soldiers arrested Jesus of Nazareth under a full moon in the Garden of Gethsemane. Every Passover feast began on a full moon. The nation of Israel followed a lunar calendar starting each month with no light of a new moon and marking each week by a quarter moon so that the 14th day of each month was a full moon. The Jewish Scriptures commanded that the Passover take place on the 14th day of the first month, which is Abib (Exodus 12:2).
The smell of roasted lamb would have drifted throughout Jerusalem on the night of Jesus’s arrest. A few days earlier, Jesus entered Jerusalem near the 10th day of the month when God commanded Israel to select a first-year male lamb for the Passover feast (Exodus 12:3–5; cf. John 12:1, 12). They killed the lamb on twilight on the 14th day and put its blood on the doorpost and its crossbeam (Exodus 12:6–7, 21–23). This was lamb was a sacrifice to the Lord (Deuteronomy 16:2). They roasted the lamb and ate all of it with unleavened bread and bitter herbs (Exodus 12:8). They ate it quickly with belt and sandals on and staff in hand (12:11). The description of “Passover” comes from the LORD passing over Israel, but the LORD did pass through Egypt striking the firstborn by "the destroyer" (12:12, 23). God established this feast upon delivering Israel from Egypt by the tenth plague, which was the death of the firstborn of Egypt.
The Passover foreshadowed the coming of Christ. God saved Israel by the blood of the lamb and by water as they passed through the waters of the Red Sea (1 Corinthians 10:1–4). God already knew that Israel’s Passover would allude to the coming of Christ and His sacrifice. John the Baptist declared Jesus as the Lamb of God (John 1:29, 36). Just as the Passover lamb was to have no broken bones so Jesus did not break a bone in His death (Exodus 12:46; cf. John 19:31–37). The apostle Paul observed, “For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed” (1 Corinthians 5:7). Jesus made peace by giving His blood for one to receive by faith (Romans 3:25a). Paul noted, “This was to show God's righteousness because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins” (Romans 3:25b).
Before the night of Jesus’s arrest, Jesus commanded Peter and John to go prepare the Passover meal (Luke 22:7–8). On that Passover, Jesus spoke, “I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. For I tell you I will not eat it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God” (Luke 22:15–16). Following this, Jesus blessed the bread, broke it, and blessed the cup to institute the Lord’s Supper (22:19–22). After Jesus’s resurrection, followers of Christ assembled on the first day of the week to break this bread (Acts 20:7; cf. 1 Cor 11:17–34).
Moses had specified that seven days following the Passover lamb was the Feast of Unleavened Bread (Exodus 12:14–20). Followers of Christ eat unleavened bread every first day of the week because Jesus instituted the communion meal during the Passover just before His death (Acts 20:7). The Scriptures set the precedent for unleavened although without a direct command for unleavened bread in the Lord’s Supper. However, the Bible is specific about Christians partaking of bread in the supper (1 Corinthians 10:16; 11:23–26).
The Lord’s Supper is not all that remains of Passover for Christians. The apostle Paul specified that to live a holy life removed from evil is to celebrate the Passover. This includes not associating with anyone named a brother who is living in sin (1 Corinthians 5:6–12). Paul declared, “Let us therefore celebrate the festival, not with the old leaven, the leaven of malice and evil, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth” (5:8). The apostle also noted that the congregation is to assemble “in the name of the Lord Jesus” to disassociate from a believer practicing sin to restore them. They did this to remove the sin like leaven to celebrate Passover with sincerity and truth (5:5, 13).
Jesus’s death without the resurrection would be like the Passover sacrifice without Israel exiting Egypt. Therefore, assembling on the first day of the week to break the bread of communion makes sense also to recognize Jesus's resurrection. Jesus paid the price on the cross and was victorious by His resurrection to bring eternal life to the faithful. This time of the year was for the Passover that is another reminder to the world of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ and encouragement for struggling believers to assemble every first day of the week to break bread together (Acts 20:7). Thank God every day of the year that Christ arose.
Sunday, April 19 2020
Christians know that we are to gather others to Jesus or we will scatter (Matt 12:30). When Christians think of sharing the gospel with others, we often reflect on Jesus's parable of sowing the seed and the types of soil. Some ground was hard, rocky, or thorny and so not ready to receive the seed that is God’s Word. Jesus taught, "As for that in the good soil, they are those who, hearing the word, hold it fast in an honest and good heart, and bear fruit with patience" (Luke 8:15 ESV). However, we either are surrounded by hard hearts, restricted by social expectations and, or have limited connections. We are wise to get more info and ask others what they think.
An effective approach to evangelizing is to ask questions in a restrictive environment or a difficult circumstance to get others thinking. Anytime that someone comments on a current event whether you agree or not, you can ask, "Why do you think that?" to gather information about how they support their position. Another way to say this is: "How did you come to that conclusion?" If someone says that she does not believe in talking about religion, you can ask her, “How did you arrive at that conclusion?” Then you can start a conversation by asking her to clarify why she does not talk about religion and that can lead to a friendly discussion about faith.
The question that Christians should constantly ask those who differ is "Why?" to draw out the person’s thinking and reasoning (if they have thought about why they believe what they believe). Whatever the discussion in any environment even if others expect you not to talk about your faith in God and Christ, you can sincerely ask this question of others and then listen without being confrontational.
Immediately after Jesus fed the 4,000, some Pharisees came testing Jesus asking for a sign from heaven. Jesus replied, "Why does this generation seek a sign? Truly, I say to you, no sign will be given to this generation." What fruit would come from Jesus asking that question? They did not understand that they just missed a sign from God. After this occasion, Jesus's disciples were discussing not having bread other than one loaf while traveling on the sea (Mark 8:14–16). To get them to think, Jesus asked, "Why are you discussing the fact that you have no bread? Do you not yet perceive or understand? Are your hearts hardened? Having eyes do you not see, and having ears do you not hear? And do you not remember? When I broke the five loaves for the five thousand, how many baskets full of broken pieces did you take up?" (Mark 8:17–19). A simple goal is to get others thinking about God, Christ, and their actions.
Jesus was always asking challenging questions turning the tables over on those challenging His authority. Likewise, Christians can follow His example and ask others to explain their position. Jesus responded to unbelievers, “For if you believed Moses, you would believe me; for he wrote of me. But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe my words?” (John 5:46–47; cf. John 8:43; 14:9).
You can also start a conversation about salvation with a believer by asking, "How were you saved?" and listen. Then, you can respond if there is disagreement, "I wasn't saved that way," and most likely open the door to tell them how God saved you by raising you from baptism. If someone claims that baptism is not the essential moment of salvation, then we can ask, "Why do you believe that?" They may assert that baptism is a work. Again, we can ask, "How did you come to conclude that […baptism is a work]?" This is really repeating the same question. The Christian can follow this with "Can you clarify what you mean by that?" and eventually come to ask an ultimatum like, "You say baptism does not save, but Jesus and Peter say baptism does save. Who is right?" When the chief priests demanded an account of authority for Jesus cleansing the temple, and Jesus responded, "I also will ask you a question. Now tell me, was the baptism of John from heaven or from man?” (Luke 20:3–4). A question as an ultimatum is a good conclusion to leave someone thinking.
As the church, we can imitate Jesus by asking questions that will draw out the thinking of others or cause them to pause and reconsider. Furthermore, Christians should sincerely ask for the reasons for what others believe and listen so that we all honestly seek and find the truth that God has revealed.
Friday, April 17 2020
Actions have consequences. Deuteronomy may make that more clear than any other text of the Bible. After Moses delivered God’s Law to Israel, the prophet continued by God’s guidance to warn of Israel of the blessings and the curses that await those who do not obey God. The conclusion of God’s Law to Israel is the conclusion of a brief study of observations about the nature of God from Deuteronomy.
God promised to set Israel high above all nations of the earth if they obey God’s voice and carefully did all that God commanded (Deut 28:1–2). Moses described in the details of blessings for obeying God in this life and in the God-given land granted to Israel (28:1–6). Moses relayed that God will bless Israel on the battlefield, in the farmland, and give great prosperity (28:7–14). The prophet revealed, “And the LORD will make you abound in prosperity, in the fruit of your womb and in the fruit of your livestock and in the fruit of your ground, within the land that the Lord swore to your fathers to give you” (Deut 28:11 ESV).
In contrast, God warned that if Israel did not obey God’s voice, then all the curses will overtake them (Deut 28:15–18). God promised the coming of curses, frustration, and confusion on those who do not obey His words (28:20). God would allow pestilences, diseases, and droughts (28:20–24). Moses described maddening curses as the people become helpless with no one to saved them because they abandoned God (28:25–35). Israel will become a horror among the nations for rejecting their God (28:45–47). The events become so appallingly disastrous that another nation will besiege this wicked Israel and they will survive by eating the fruit of the womb — their sons and daughters (28:51–57).
In the Book of Revelation, the apostle John revealed, “I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book, and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away his share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book” (Rev 22:18–19). In the Christian Testament, God is still the God of just wrath. Paul taught, “For those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, there will be wrath and fury” (Rom 2:8; cf. Eph 5:6). Furthermore, Jesus taught, “The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will gather out of his kingdom all causes of sin and all law-breakers, and throw them into the fiery furnace. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Matt 13:41–42).
The actions of many parents today devour their own children. Blessings of prosperity exist for married parents for their children (2 Cor 12:14b). Obeying God’s commands keep profanity out of the home and words of hate out of the ears of children. The apostle Paul taught, “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear” (Eph 4:29). Believers who diligently follow God do not provoke their children to wrath by passing on prejudice (Eph 6:4). Children need homes filled with a father’s love for the children’s mother, and the mother’s respect for her husband (Eph 5:33).
God’s commands are not arbitrary. God’s commands are for the good of everyone. When God gives His people commands, they should do everything they can to obey Him. Thank God for His instructions that are for our own good! Great blessings come by submitting to the One who created you.
Moses concluded, “I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse. Therefore choose life, that you and your offspring may live, loving the Lord your God, obeying his voice and holding fast to him, for he is your life and length of days,” (Deut 30:19–20b).
Thursday, April 16 2020
You will remember what you give to support. God wants His people to give and remember the source of blessings. Moses commanded Israelites to give their first fruits from the ground to God, because they harvested it from the land that God gave them (Deut 26:1–2). The Israelites were to take a basket of their first fruits to a priest in the place bearing God’s name — the altar — and declared to God that they have come to the land that God promised (26:2–4). Furthermore, the Israelite was to declare briefly the history of Israel from Abraham through Egypt to entering the land (26:5–9).
Furthermore, by giving their first fruits, faithful Israelites remembered to worship God. Moses instructed, “And you shall set it [offering of first fruits] down before the Lord your God and worship before the Lord your God. And you shall rejoice in all the good that the Lord your God has given to you and to your house, you, and the Levite, and the sojourner who is among you” (Deut 26:10b–11). The tithe, one tenth, for giving went to help those teaching the Law, the traveler, the orphan, and the needy widow. The tenth was a “sacred portion” that one had to remove from one’s house (26:14). Knowing the curses on those who did not obey God’s commands, the faithful Israelite is very wise to remove the tenth that was to be given in remembrance and worship of God’s blessings.
Giving in worship to God declares that Yahweh is your God and that you are obedient to God’s voice with all your heart and soul (26:16–17). God treasures His people who are those who keep His commands to be a people holy to the Lord (26:18–19). Today, giving a tenth is not commanded in the New Testament but a tenth is a precedent in the New Testament of giving by faith as Abraham gave to Melchizedek before Moses delivered the Law (Heb 7:1–10).
Giving is an act of faith as the faithful believe God will give back to more in this life and the next. Jesus taught, “Give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you” (Luke 6:38). Those who give will receive. The apostle Paul wrote, “The point is this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. […] And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work” (2 Cor 9:6, 8). Do you believe that God will give you more?
When believers remember what God has done, then we remind ourselves of why we worship God. The writer of Hebrews expressed, “We have an altar from which those who serve the tent have no right to eat” (Heb 13:10). When Christians partake of the communion supper, we remember what God has given to us through Jesus Christ. Jesus commanded, “Do this in remembrance of me” (1 Cor 11:23–26).
God gives over those who do not honor and thank Him to sin and its consequences (Rom 1:18–34). Remembering God and Christ is essential. How else can someone take the cross daily (Luke 9:23–24)? Giving reminds us of the Creator and the Christ. Jesus taught, “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35b).
The Book of Deuteronomy is rich in wisdom and only the fool would ignore God’s words to the nation of Israel. No follower of Jesus should neglect to give and keep back what belongs in offering to God. Give to spread the gospel, to encourage teaching, and relieve the Christians who are in distress. When you do it, thank God for His blessings. “Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God” (Heb 13:16).
Wednesday, April 15 2020
“The law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good” are the words of Paul (Rom 7:12 ESV). Principles of wisdom fill the Law of Moses. The Law of Moses anticipated abuses of customs, institutions, and laws. Christians should consider and apply God’s wisdom to their life, home, business, and politics. Consider the wisdom from Deuteronomy 24:
Military Benefits — Moses instructed that man in his first year of marriage or betrothed should not go out with the army and be liable to public duty but to remain free at home with his wife (Deut 20:7; 24:5). However, this is a humanitarian law giving the man time to start a family. Men did not have to go to war if they built a house that they have not dedicated or planted a vineyard that they have not enjoyed (Deut 20:5–6). These are simple benefits that the military should have today.
Marriage and Divorce — Moses commanded that any man who gives his wife a certificate of divorce because she does not find favor in his eyes, and she marries another man who divorces her or dies, then the former husband cannot marry her again (Deut 24:1–4). One can foresee the abuse of the marriage institution especially if a man divorced his wife so that she would marry another and he would take her back to receive the second husband’s inheritance. The Pharisees used this passage of a certificate of divorce to justify divorce for any reason in the time of Jesus of Nazareth. Jesus taught that God’s creation of the institution began when God created one man and one woman to become one flesh and no one should separate what God has joined together (Matt 19:4–6). For this reason, Jesus concluded, “And I say to you: whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality [extramarital sex], and marries another, commits adultery” (Matt 19:9).
Justice — The Law of Moses took a hard stance against the evil of human trafficking. God commanded through Moses, “If a man is found stealing one of his brothers of the people of Israel, and if he treats him as a slave or sells him, then that thief shall die. So you shall purge the evil from your midst” (Deut 24:7). Furthermore, the Law stated, “Whoever steals a man and sells him, and anyone found in possession of him, shall be put to death” (Exod 21:16). The consequence of enslaving others should still be death.
Ethics — Moses also taught not to take a millstone or upper millstone as a pledge from a man because such is the same as taking his life (Deut 24:6). In other words, the poor may pledge their millstones that they needed to grind their grain to eat. The bottom millstone was flat and curved inward and about 100 pounds and the top stone by about 5 pounds that fit in one’s hand (IVPBBCOT, 198). Furthermore, Moses commanded that no one give a loan and go into someone’s house to take a pledge or to sleep in a man’s cloak given as a pledge (Deut 24:10–13). God commanded employers to pay their needy workers on the day of their labor (Deut 24:14–15). The Law of Moses protected the rights of those in need.
What would happen if these rules existed in societies of today’s world? Many people think of modern humanity as more civil and just than were ancient people. However, Moses’s Law was not perfect although God authored the Law. God wrote the Law specifically for the people of Israel. Israel was lacking and certainly not God. Jesus declared, “Because of your hardness of heart Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so” (Matt 19:8). The Pauline writer of Hebrews affirmed, “For if that first covenant had been faultless, there would have been no occasion to look for a second” (Heb 8:7). Thank God that we have Christ and His eternal covenant (Heb 13:20–21).