Tuesday, November 10, 2009
Understanding God’s grace, God’s holiness - Part 1 : Linked to Festival of Unleavened Bread
I am at the stage of rediscovering the bible and marveling at how powerfully God works throughout history, the parallels taken place, the significance of the things God demands and that He is always in control. The parallel that can be seen in the old testament and the same sacrifice that God commands shows how holy and perfect God He is. Alas, because no one on earth has the same holiness as He does, it is difficult for us to imagine. Holiness cannot be explained and cannot be defined. It can only be revealed. Many Christians then end up with a set of do’s and don’ts. But God is not holy because He has a set of rules to follow but because in essence everything about God is holy. So the only way to understand God’s holiness is to rediscover who our God is and what He is like in the bible.
Do you recall in Exodus 12:1-28, God commanded His people (the Israelites) to remember that He was the one that spared their firstborn in Egypt. Today the “Festival of Unleavened Bread/ Passover/Peschal” is still celebrated annually in Jewish households. Even Jesus in his time celebrated the Passover with His disciples.
It was only after I saw Mike Fulmer of New Roads, LA speaking on the significance of the 4 cups of wine during Passover that he helped me put two and two together and made me appreciate more about what Jesus had done for me on the cross.
Truly, if we understand God’s grace, we would really be taking communion everyday at home like how the disciples did during their time and be really thankful of Jesus’ death on the cross. Like how little Ethan thanked Jesus for dying on the cross last Sunday night. These days while taking my liquid nutrients I actually imagine it as the blood of Jesus as I thank Him for His blood shed for me that set me free, His blood shed for me that healed me and His death on the cross that gave me right standing with God again. I haven’t figured out the breaking of bread yet since I don’t take biscuits usually but I am sure I will get there when I find some healthy biscuits. So, I normally just use the liquid to represent the breaking of his body and the shedding of His blood. But then, if we just do it as a routine then it becomes legalism and back to works and not grace!
So here goes my little adventure through the bible:
1. What God did at the Passover in Egypt:
The first Passover is described in Exodus chapter 12:1-28: one lamb was slain for every household and the blood painted onto the lintels and doorposts. This was done in order that the angel of Death would not slay the first-born son of the Jewish households, but only those of Pharoah's people, whom God had warned He would judge. "When I see the blood, I will pass over you" the Lord told the children of Israel (Exodus 12:13). They were to eat the lamb, with unleavened bread and bitter herbs, in haste prior to their departure from Egypt. The eating of unleavened bread was to continue for seven days, as their sustenance to exit Egypt and escape Pharoah's slavery.
2. God’s commandment to hold the Passover as a reminder:
In Exodus 13:14 it is written, "And it shall be when your son asks you in time to come, saying, 'What is this?' then you shall say to him, 'With a powerful hand the LORD brought us out of Egypt, from the house of slavery".
God commanded that the children of Israel would commemorate the Passover every year to remember their deliverance, almost 3,450 years ago.
3. The significance of 4 cups of wine drank during the Passover/Pesach referenced to Exodus 6:6-7:
The passover meal and the four cups of wine primarily symbolizes the four distinct redemptions promised by God to the community of Israel as told in Exodus 6:6-7.
(1) "I will take you out of Egypt",
(2) "I will deliver you from Egyptian slavery",
(3) "I will redeem you with a demonstration of my power", and
(4) "I will acquire you as a nation".
During the Passover meal celebrated by the Jewish household, the 4 cups of wine symbolises:
1. Festival Blessing - Drink from 1st cup of wine
2. Passover Narrative and Little Hallel (Psalm 113) - Drink from 2nd cup of wine
3. Main Meal: Eat the roasted lamb, unleavened bread, and the bitter herbs and spices - Drink from the 3rd cup of wine (Cup of Blessing)
4. The Passover is completed with the singing of the Great Hallel (PSALMS 114-118), the drinking of the 4th cup of wine, and closed when the presiding priest or host says the phrase, “TEL TELESTI” which is interpreted as “IT IS FINISHED” or “IT IS CONSUMATED”.
Cool eh? I didn’t know all this!
4. Significance of not drinking 4th cup of wine linked to completion of passover
In the bible, after the breaking of bread (3rd cup i.e. cup of Blessing – see above Jewish custom), Jesus told His disciples in Mark 14:24-26 24 "He said to them, "This is my blood of the covenant, which will be shed for many. 25 Amen, I say to you, I shall not drink again the fruit of the vine until the day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God." 26 Then, after singing a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives."
He did not drink the fourth cup of wine (to signify that the Passover is complete) until at the cross. In John 19:28-30 it is written: 28 After this, aware that everything was now finished, in order that the scripture might be fulfilled, Jesus said, "I thirst." 29 There was a vessel filled with common wine. So they put a sponge soaked in wine on a sprig of hyssop and put it up to his mouth. 30When Jesus had taken the wine, he said, "It is finished." And bowing his head, he handed over the spirit.
The sprig of hyssop itself has its significance. In Exodus 12:22-24 it is written:
“22 Then take a bunch of hyssop, and dipping it in the blood that is in the basin, sprinkle the lintel and the two doorposts with this blood. But none of you shall go outdoors until morning. 23 For the LORD will go by, striking down the Egyptians. Seeing the blood on the lintel and the two doorposts, the LORD will pass over that door and not let the destroyer come into your houses to strike you down.”
Amazing how the sacrifice of Jesus’ on the cross followed what was written in Exodus 12. Even the type of sacrifice that God commands and timing of Jesus’ death. It was not just a passing event of a time in history but God’s command for a perfect sacrifice and fulfillment of prophecy.
In Exodus 12:5-8 5, it is written, " The lamb must be a year-old male and without blemish. You may take it from either the sheep or the goats. 6 You shall keep it until the fourteenth day of this month, and then, with the whole assembly of Israel present, it shall be slaughtered during the evening twilight."
Jesus was male and without blemish. He was sacrificed at 3pm which is twilight.
"22 Pilate addressed them a third time, "What evil has this man done? I found him guilty of no capital crime. Therefore I shall have him flogged and then release him.""
Luke 23:47 47
"The centurion who witnessed what had happened glorified God and said, "This man was innocent beyond doubt.""
Matthew 27:3-4 3
Then Judas, his betrayer, seeing that Jesus had been condemned, deeply regretted what he had done. He returned the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and elders, 4 saying, "I have sinned in betraying innocent blood."
Luke 23:44 44
It was now about noon and darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon.
And most importantly, the significance of the blood of Jesus. As the blood of an unblemished male lamb covered the door, God’s wrath passed the Jewish community and spared their first born. So it is, when we believe what Jesus has done on the cross for us, His unblemished blood covers us, and we are spared of God’s wrath.
Amazing how the Jews can say “TEL TELESTI” which is interpreted as “IT IS FINISHED” after drinking the 4th cup of wine during Passover and miss God’s grace when Jesus himself said “It is finished” on the cross. Check out on youtube and hear for yourself that God is real by Jews themselves http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XSz8ght497Y It brings a tear to my eye.
30When Jesus had taken the wine, he said, "It is finished." And bowing his head, he handed over the spirit.
By that one act, Jesus has reconciled all of us back to God and God’s wrath over us is spared, eternal life is ours for all those who believe. I pray that the Jews can see this great parallel and God’s action throughout history. It wasn’t a myth, it wasn’t just a story..it is history for all to see and believe that He was always there for us since the beginning of time. Despite our disobedience, He made a way out for us. Thank you Lord for your amazing grace, a perfect lamb slain for us. Thank you Father God for your amazing love for us and thank you for reminding me that you are a holy God and demanded a perfect sacrifice so that your wrath passes over us. Thank you Jesus for paying the price and took away our sins, our infirmities and our sorrows. Thank you Lord for everything.