Monthly Archives: April 2014

Because of the Blood of the Lamb

A Passover Devotional:

            Lessons on the Lamb of God Part 2

            Rev. Dennis Keating, Pastor,  Emmanuel Faith Community Church, Escondido, California

Today is Good Friday and I thought you might enjoy these thoughts on the Lamb of God from my friend Dennis Keating. Have a joy-filled end of Passover, Good Friday and Resurrection Day!

I hope these six outcomes will encourage you to give praise to the Lord today and prepare your heart for the celebrations that are coming next weekend.

Because of the blood of God’s Lamb we are:

            1. Released from sins penalty

            Remember what John the Baptist said when he was preaching in the wilderness and Jesus first appeared on the scene? John 1:29, “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!”

John said, “There He is. God’s Passover ‘Lamb’ who [airo] ‘takes away’ (or literally) ‘lifts and carries away’ the penalty of the world’s sin.”

2. Redeemed from sin’s slavery

Not only has the penalty of sin been lifted from us, but its addictive power that binds us in slavery to sin has also been broken. That’s what the biblical term “redemption” is all about. Peter said it this way in 1 Peter 1:18-19,  “You were not redeemed with perishable things like silver or gold from your futile way of life inherited from your forefathers, (19) but with precious blood, as of a lamb unblemished and spotless, the blood of Messiah.”

The original word (lutroo) translated “redeemed” means to purchase release by paying a price. The Greeks used it as a technical term for the spending of money to buy back a prisoner of war.

In the yearly, historic Passover celebration, the innocent lamb’s blood reminded us of the price paid to purchase and free the lives of Israel’s firstborn sons.

That was a divinely ordained illustration of what the blood of Yeshua would do for you and me at the moment of our salvation. It “redeems” us from the sinful “futilities” of life that paralyze us in our unregenerate state.

3. Rescued from God’s wrath

            According to the biblical account of the original Passover, God was offended by Pharaoh’s idolatry. The result was that the Lord poured out His righteous and justified anger against Pharaoh through the plagues. God experienced the same anger against our my/your/our sin as well, as according to Ephesians 2:3, in our unregenerate state, we were all “children of wrath even as the rest.”

But the shedding of Jesus’ blood on Calvary as our “Passover Lamb” rescued us for that well-deserved wrath. Paul said it this way in Romans 5:9, “Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him.”

4. Revel in heavenly worship

            According to the book of Revelation, the Apostle John saw an uncountable number of angels and people around God’s throne in heaven. Do you know what they were all exclaiming in worship? Revelation 5:11 tells us they were saying…“Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power and riches and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing.”

5. Relieved of Satan’s accusations

            It may come as a surprise to you that, according to Revelation 12, the devil spends much of his time up in heaven “accusing” you before God the Father of being “unworthy” of salvation. See how he’s described in Revelation 12:10-11. The devil is…“he who accuses them before our God day and night. (11) And they overcame him because of the blood of the Lamb…”

Beloved, the devil can accuse a believer all he wants, but is powerless to bring a condemning judgment against any of us! Why? Because the fundamental basis for our spiritual victory over sin is “the blood of the Lamb.” It’s what allows us to victoriously overcome all accusations.

It’s why Paul asked in Romans 8:33, “Who will bring a charge against God’s elect?”

6. Restored Under a New Covenant

            If you read through your Hebrew Scriptures you will see that the agreement God made with mankind to forgive their sins by the shedding of innocent animal blood was an intentionally designed, imperfect system in that the blood sacrifices had to be repeated over and over again each year. Animal blood only provided a temporary covering.

Well, according to the New Testament, when Yeshua’s blood was shed, a “new covenant” or agreement was established by God with humankind because it was based upon the sacrifice of His Son’s perfect blood that cleanses the sinner permanently. That changed everything. Now the cleansing occurs within and not just without. It’s not based upon “law” but upon “love.” The “heart of stone” is replaced with a “heart of “flesh.” This is why at our communion services we read from 1 Corinthians 11:25, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood…”

The Lamb’s provision must be accepted BY FAITH. That was certainly true for the Hebrew people when the Passover ceremony was first revealed. Every Hebrew household had to decide, “Do we believe what God has said or don’t we?” It was even true of Moses. This is why the author of Hebrews wrote, “By faith he kept the Passover and the sprinkling of the blood, so that he who destroyed the firstborn would not touch them.” (Hebrews 11:28)

Beloved, that is true for believers and unbelievers alike. As a believer, I/you/we must accept these biblical truths as our own or their impact will be diminished. When doubts enter in, when faith is weak, our experience with these six realities will be muted. But when we study them, we are assured that our “Passover Lamb” has paid for our sin in full. To prove it true, after He died, He was buried; and after He was buried, He arose and is alive today.

If you have not yet responded to Him, you should, and by doing so you will experience His grace and overflowing goodness…and have life more abundantly. (John 10:10)

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The Lamb of God Who Takes Away the Sin of the World!

A Passover Devotional:

Lessons on the Lamb of God Part 1

The Hebrew Scriptures conclude with two prophecies in the Book of Malachi describing a Messenger (also the meaning of the prophets name!) who would prepare the way for the Lord.  The first of these prophecies is found in Malachi 3:1,

Behold, I am going to send My messenger, and he will clear the way before Me. And the Lord, whom you seek, will suddenly come to His temple; and the messenger of the covenant, in whom you delight, behold, He is coming,” says the Lord of hosts.

This Messenger would purify the priests so they might once again offer sacrifices on behalf of the Jewish people.  As the prophet writes, Then the offering of Judah and Jerusalem will be pleasing to the Lord as in the days of old and as in former years.(Malachi 3:3)

The Jewish people would be judged because of disobedience, but also left with hope. In fact the very last words recorded in the Old Testament (Malachi 4:5-6), predict that this messenger identified as the prophet Elijah would call the Jewish people to back to God and reconcile both fathers and sons.

“Behold, I am going to send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and terrible day of the Lord. He will restore the hearts of the fathers to their children and the hearts of the children to their fathers, so that I will not come and smite the land with a curse.

This call to repentance was God’s way of preparing the Jewish people for the One whom Elijah would introduce to the Jewish people. Jesus believed that John the Baptist fulfilled these prophecies and that He was the Elijah like messenger who came to turn the Jewish people back to the Lord.  Jesus affirms this in the Gospel of Matthew,

As these men were going away, Jesus began to speak to the crowds about John, “What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken by the wind? But what did you go out to see? A man dressed in soft clothing? Those who wear soft clothing are in kings’ palaces! But what did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and one who is more than a prophet. This is the one about whom it is written, ‘Behold, I send MY messenger ahead of You, Who will prepare Your way before You.’ (Mt. 11:7-10)

John repeatedly denies that he is the Messiah and tells those gathered that the One they have really been waiting for is coming and it is simply his job to introduce Him.

Now they had been sent from the Pharisees. They asked him, and said to him, “Why then are you baptizing, if you are not the Christ, nor Elijah, nor the Prophet?” John answered them saying, “ I baptize in water, but among you stands One whom you do not know. It is He who comes after me, the thong of whose sandal I am not worthy to untie. (John 1:24-27)

The earth shattering moment comes when John’s introduces this One place at Bethany beyond the Jordan. (John 1:28). He was immersing Jewish people in water as a symbol of their desire to be cleansed from sin. But now he declares that the One who was to come – had come! John describes Jesus as the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.  The Jewish people on the banks of the Jordan would have understood this to be a reference to the Passover lamb in Exodus 12 with additional information provided by Isaiah in chapter 53.

John declares,

The next day he *saw Jesus coming to him and *said, “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! This is He on behalf of whom I said, ‘ After me comes a Man who has a higher rank than I, for He existed before me (John 1:29-30)

John mentions this again a moment later to two future disciples when he said,

Again the next day John was standing with two of his disciples, and he looked at Jesus as He walked, and *said, “Behold, the Lamb of God!” The two disciples heard him speak, and they followed Jesus. (John 1:35-37)

This theme of Jesus as the Lamb of God would become a major teaching theme by the writers of the New Testament. Peter, also establishes this link, as he was the brother of Andrew, one of the two disciples who heard John’s statement about Yeshua.

Peter writes,

…knowing that you were not redeemed with perishable things like silver or gold from your futile way of life inherited from your forefathers, but with precious blood, as of a lamb unblemished and spotless, the blood of Messiah.(1 Peter 1:18-19)

This link between Yeshua and the Lamb had already made by Luke in the Book of Acts in reference to the encounter between Phillip and the Ethiopian eunuch. Luke records,

Now the passage of Scripture which he was reading was this: HE was led as A sheep to slaughter; And as A lamb before its shearer is silent, SO HE does not open His mouth. (Acts 8:32), which is our first indication that Jesus was not only compared to the lamb in the Book of Exodus, but the Lamb as well in Isaiah 53.

Rabbi Saul, the Apostle Paul takes this link one step further and declares,

Your boasting is not good. Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump of dough? Clean out the old leaven so that you may be a new lump, just as you are in fact unleavened. For Messiah our Passover also has been sacrificed. Therefore let us celebrate the feast, not with old leaven, nor with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth. (1 Cor. 5:6-8)

The links between Jesus and the Passover Lamb are overwhelming. In describing the crucifixion of Yeshua John adds,

For these things came to pass to fulfill the Scripture, “ Not A bone of Him shall be broken.”(John 19:36), looking back to Exodus when Moses tells the Israelites how the lamb was to be sacrificed,

It is to be eaten in a single house; you are not to bring forth any of the flesh outside of the house, nor are you to break any bone of it. (Exodus 12:46)

The Lamb in Exodus 12 is a prophetic portrait of the One who would come and shed His blood for the sins of the world.

The Lamb of Isaiah 53

The prophet Isaiah develops the significance of the lamb as an atoning sacrifice.

There are two key passages in Isaiah 53 which conjoin the idea of the Messiah with the Passover lamb…

He was oppressed and He was afflicted, Yet He did not open His mouth; Like a lamb that is led to slaughter, And like a sheep that is silent before its shearers, So He did not open His mouth. (Isaiah 53:7)

Admittedly, this can be a reference to the lambs that were regularly sacrifice at the temple and especially on some of the holidays. Yet, when you look at the entire passage it does seem that the prophet had the Passover lamb specifically in mind.

And additionally in Isaiah 53:1,

Who has believed our message? And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?

The key link in this passage is that the term for arm is zeroah,which refers to the arm or forearm, but is more often used in passages which refer to God’s saving power and intervention in human history.  This idea easily brought the mind of an Israelite back to the deliverance from Egypt as a picture of God’s redemptive work on behalf of His people.

Exodus chapter 6, quoted in the Hagaddah teaches this very clearly,

Say therefore to the people of Israel, ‘I am the Lord, and I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians, and I will deliver you from slavery to them, and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with great acts of judgment. (Ex. 6:6)

Jesus is the saving zeroah of God who intervened in Egypt and into this world to deliver Israel and the nations from spiritual bondage.  And when a man or woman, Jew or Gentile, boy or girl, by faith “smear” the doorposts of their hearts with His shed blood with blood of the Lamb that the wrath of God passes over us and pass from death into life.

This is the way to begin the Passover season and Holy Week – knowing that God’s promises are true and that He has provided the Lamb of God to be the Savior for us all.

Happy Passover.

 

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Focusing on what Unites Jews and Evangelicals

A few nights ago, a dialogue between best-selling evangelical author Joel C. Rosenberg and Orthodox Rabbi Shlomo Riskin took place in an Orthodox Synagogue on the Upper East Side of Manhattan.

I attended the dialogue and am convinced that it was a significant event! I have been a believer for forty-two years, I come from a traditional Jewish background, and I never thought I would hear a clear testimony for Jesus in a modern Orthodox synagogue (the type of synagogue in which I was raised!)

Joel did a wonderful job of explaining the Gospel and was winsome and generous in his approach. Rabbi Riskin is an Orthodox Jew who has a better-than-average understanding of evangelical Christians; he started an organization, based in Israel, which engages Evangelicals, Catholics, Orthodox and others in dialogue. I am sure he understands that believers, like Joel, will not shy away from making the Gospel message clear when dialoguing.

One of our long-term staff members, Olivier Melnick, who watched the event online wrote a commentary that I wanted to pass along to you as I believe he really captures the heart of the dialogue and the issues that are on the table between born-again believers – both Jewish and Gentile – and the Jewish community.

Olivier’s comments primarily reflect the positive side of this dialogue, and next week I will try to point out some of the problems I see ahead of us as the discussions continue.

Enjoy Olivier’s comments!

Focusing on what Unites Jews and Evangelicals

For as long as Jews and Christians have existed, there has been an obvious tension between both groups too often resulting in the ostracizing, force conversions, expulsions and deaths. Both sides have become very good at itemizing what divides them and dwelling on the differences.  Over the years, finger pointing and blame shifting has almost become an art form in Judeo/Christian relations.

To be perfectly honest, I regularly find myself on the forefront of a constant battle to defend Israel and the Jewish people, and I do my own share of finger pointing. Don’t get me wrong, I still believe that there is much to be learned about Christian anti-Semitism through the ages, and even today if we want to successfully defeat the beast. But I often wish that we could focus on what unites evangelicals and Jews more that what divides us.

On April 1st (no joke here!) a dialogue between Rabbi Shlomo Riskin, Chancellor of Ohr Torah Stone and Joel C. Rosenberg, New York Times bestselling author, took place at an orthodox Jewish synagogue in New York. The theme for the evening was “Are We Still Alone?” and was based on Rosenberg’s new novel The Auschwitz Escape.

I resonate with Rosenberg who after visiting Auschwitz in 2011 and reading a book on the few who escaped the death camp, wanted to write a book about those who helped the Jews. That process led him to discover the incredible story of the small French village of Le Chambon sur/Lignon and how all the villagers went out of their ways to save Jewish people from the Nazi furnace. They risked their own lives and many even lost their lives as they were also taken to the camps with Jewish people. But to the villagers, saving the Jews was “the most natural thing to do!” like this elderly woman says in the book by Philip Hallié about le Chambon titled “Lest Innocent Blood be Shed”.

I haven’t yet read The Auschwitz Escape but I can tell you that we can learn a few things from the dialogue that just took place in New York. While I tend to side with Joel Rosenberg theologically, I am also very aware that as a Jew I am a constant target for many different people today. Yet, some of them have never met a Jew in person.

The fear expressed by Rosenberg and Rabbi Riskin, is that a second Holocaust would take place today, especially if or when Iran finishes building the bomb. It is a real fear because Iran wants the eradication of Israel more than anything. Even though President Rouhani sugarcoats his anti-Semitism to the West, his goal is the total annihilation of Israel. Disagree with him all you want (and I do), but at least Ahmadinejad was very clear about his desire to destroy Israel. So the question remains: Will there be Christians to stand for Israel?

Rosenberg made an excellent point when he defined who was an evangelical Christian based on what the Bible has to say. It can be very easy to succumb to some sort of corporate character assassination and put all Christians who didn’t help Jews in the same shameful category. I can even justify it by quoting passages like Psalm 83.

If a Christian is defined by a commitment to follow Yeshua’s teaching based on the Bible, then the boundaries are clear. Christians are forgiven not perfected (at least not yet). Christians can and will make mistakes, wrong judgments and even biased decisions. Yet, in Leviticus 19:18 we read: “You shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the sons of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself; I am the Lord”. It is then repeated by Yeshua in Matthew 5:43-44 and even taken one step further: “You have heard that it was said, ‘ You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy. ’ But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you”.

Have Christians fallen short over the centuries? Yes! Are some giving a bad rep to the rest of the Christian community? Yes! Should we then paint with broad strokes? NO!

On one hand, Rosenberg claimed that while some Christians might have made mistakes about the Jews and even some that lead to the death of some, this cannot disqualify them as born-again Evangelicals, and as much as I dislike the divide and its tragic results, I must agree.

On the other hand, I also agree with Rosenberg who stated that if you are characterized by a chronic hatred leading to a constant desire to destroy the Jews or any other human being for that matter, you are not a genuine Bible believing follower of the Jewish Messiah.

One of the most important aspects of true Christianity is the ability to love unconditionally. Christians who love Jews–and they still exist–ought to love them regardless of their ability or willingness to embrace Yeshua (Jesus) and His teaching. Anything short of that kind of love falls short of what Christian love is. Period!

Rabbi Riskin obviously didn’t share Rosenberg’s belief in Yeshua of Nazareth being the Messiah but recognized the common obligation of biblical Jews and Christians. Followers of the one true God must be driven not only by their convictions but also by a constant desire for human decency and justice.

Rabbi Riskin and Joel Rosenberg see the need for Jews and Christian Zionist (a disappearing breed) to unite, and I join them in their honorable effort. Christians failed the test of unconditional love in the 1930’s and 40s. The day might be coming when there will be a retake. Will they fail again? I pray that they don’t.

Christians and Jews are UNITED by the Jewish Scriptures!

Christians and Jews should be UNITED by their love for Israel!

Christians and Jews can be UNITED by Yeshua the Jewish Messiah!

Olivier Melnick is the Northwest Regional Director of Chosen People Ministries. He and his wife Ellen serve in Seattle, Washington.

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