Tuesday, Aug. 23
While focusing on the Feast of Tabernacles I mentioned the three greatest festivals. The first of the three was the Passover. It was to celebrate how God spared the Israelites from the Death Angel as God delivered the nation from Egyptian bondage. It was no coincident that Jesus died on the cross on that day. There is a lot of interesting data concerning Passover. Bethlehem was where lambs were selected for sacrificing. It was no accident that Jesus was born in Bethlehem, nor that he was called the Lamb of God. The Passover was so important in God’s eyes that he gave the Jews a new calendar based on it. Ex. 12;1 ff. The calendar was also changed after the cross, although it was a belated change—by Gregory XIII in 1582. We still use the Gregorian Calendar today. The entire Passover is an analogy, a picture of Christ, the Lamb of God, being slain in our place. He would not only spare us from the Death Angel, but would put Death to death—then replace it with Life, eternal life—not just unending life, but a quality of life that supersedes anything we know in this world. All of this at a cost. Blood was shed and death took place. But of even greater importance than the physical death was the spiritual death, which came when the Father had to turn away from his son, who was carrying the load of sin for all mankind. This cost would have to be the most expensive gift anyone has ever given to anyone. That was the measure of God’s love, not just for the Jews, but for all who would receive the gift and acknowledge the Giver as Lord and Savior. This meaning of the Passover would have to be the one most important event of all history, infinitely more important than a new calendar, Jewish or Gregorian! Passover is rightfully the most important Festival of all time. Remember that when Easter comes up on your Gregorian calendar.
Monday, Aug. 22
“On the last and greatest day of the Feast, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, ‘If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him.’ By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive.” John 7:37-39. The term “living water” deserves some attention. Living water is moving water, a stream of water, as opposed to a pond, a well, or a lake. Moving water will keep purifying itself. Stagnant water does not. Jesus is offering living water that will satisfy and last forever. It represents eternal life. It has the same meaning in John 4:10-12, when Jesus told the Samaritan woman “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” John 7:39, however, makes it clear that Jesus was speaking of the Holy Spirit that was to come later (Acts 2). There is no conflict here. The living water is eternal life, and the Holy Spirit is the divine agent to implement it. God doesn’t do things half way. Note the words “streams” and “a spring of water welling up.” Other renditions are “rivers of water,” “gushing” and “overflowing.” We won’t lack for life giving water. The whole thing is set in motion by belief—belief that Jesus paid for sin—with the result that real life, eternal life, will overflow in the believer to benefit others. You might have noticed that Jesus’ call was for those that are thirsty. He was looking for men like Peter and John, who were excited about the Messiah when he appeared. There is no record here of how many of those present became believers, but I believe many did respond, if not that very day, later on. When Jesus was beaten and pierced and eventually put to death on the cross, these people celebrating the Feast of Tabernacles would have remembered this occasion. Many of them must have been included in those thousands that were part of the early church. Yes, Jesus knew what he was doing.
Sunday, Aug. 21
“On the last and greatest day of the Feast, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, ‘If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him.’ By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive.” John 7:37-39. The eighth and last day was the most important day of all. A priest would lead a procession from the Temple down ancient steps to the Gihon Spring. This was the original water supply for Jerusalem, and which met a critical need when Jerusalem was under siege. At the spring, the priest would fill a gold pitcher with water and they would all return to the Temple, where the water would be poured out on the altar. This would remind the people of how God had provided for them throughout their history, including Moses striking the rock to provide water during the desert wanderings. At this point in the ritual, Jesus stood up and invited people to the water of life that he was providing. It must have been a total shock for all those people participating in this ritual. In effect, he was claiming to be God. The response is very interesting. One man said he must be a prophet. Another said he must be the Messiah. Why did they respond that way to this radical interruption of the sacred ritual? The answer is found in Zech. 12-14, a prophetic passage describing the second coming of Christ. Amidst all the events of the second coming as described here is this key verse, Zech. 12: 10. “And I will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of grace and supplication. They will look on me, the one they have pierced, and they will mourn for him as one mourns for an only child, and grieve bitterly for him as one grieves for a first born son.” And Zech. 13:7. “If someone asks him ‘What are these wounds on your body?’ he will answer ‘The wounds I was given at the house of my friends.’” The people who heard Jesus would have been very familiar with this passage. Jesus was claiming to be the Messiah, and all those people knew it. The wounds and the piercing had not taken place yet, but they all knew that Jesus was being rejected by the Jewish leaders and by the nation as a whole. Jesus knew exactly what he was doing and would not have been surprised at the responses.
Saturday, Aug. 20
“On the last and greatest day of the Feast, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, ‘If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him.’ By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive.” John 7:37-39. These three verses are loaded with truth. But we can only understand it by understanding some Jewish history. The Jews have a number of special days to commemorate pivotal points in their history. But three of them are considered crucial (2 Chron, 8:12-13)—the Passover, Unleavened Bread and Tabernacles. Every one of these was a type or analogy of a significant event, some during the incarnation, some later, some still future. The Feast of Tabernacles is also known as the Feast of Booths. Both of these terms are a bit misleading. They refer to small, crude, temporary structures that the Jews lived in for the eight days of the Festival. We might call them shacks or huts. They were a graphic reminder of the hardships that Israel endured during their 40 years in the desert. The Festival doesn’t just focus on the hardships; it is a reminder that God never failed to provide them with food and water. There is no record of any Israelite dying of hunger or thirst while they suffered the wrath of God for their constant rebellion. The Feast of Tabernacles commemorates the wilderness experience, but it also was a harvest festival, commemorating the bountiful harvests that God gave them each year after they occupied the promised land. So it is really two concurrent celebrations. This is the background for the John 7:37-39 passage. Tomorrow I will fill you in on how Jesus identified with it and why he said what he did.
Friday, May 20
Death historically has been a dreaded reality. All men of all time have cherished life and tried to avoid death. People are willing to suffer a lot in their declining years to hang on to life as long as they can. A few people in history have deliberately sacrificed their lives for another person or for a cause. We call them heroes. What happens after death has been a mystery. Greek philosophers made it a major topic for reflection, with little chance of any realistic conclusions. The pantheon of Greek gods testify to that. Different cultures have dealt with death in different ways. Many cultures have sent their loved ones on to the “great beyond” with food or utensils that they will need in the next life. Some have even killed a wife or a slave to accompany the departed one. It was a dismal picture until God stepped into the picture. It came by special revelation—the Bible. For those who have had access to the Bible, it is good news. Dan Schaeffer in his book “A Better Country” has put it this way. “We think we are in the land of the living going to the land of dying when in reality we are in the land of the dying going to the land of the living.” All this is because a hero came into the picture. Like the heroes mentioned above, Christ died for a cause. It was the greatest “cause” of all time. It was to deal with the sin problem for anyone who would accept it. For the Christian, death is no longer a mystery. Rather than dreading death, we look forward to it with great anticipation. Sadly, there are millions of people on earth today that have yet to hear the good news—which has been available for centuries. Are you ready to do something about that?
Saturday, Mar. 19
The contrast between the Pharisee and the Tax Collector reveals the value of knowledge. Here was a Pharisee who was well versed in Scripture (our Old Testament). He no doubt knew far more than the tax collector in terms of revealed truth. But he missed the key message of the Old Testament: sinners need a redeemer. The tax collector was so aware of his sin problem and the inability to do anything about it that he simply cried out to God for mercy. That’s where the good news comes in. Knowing about sin and judgment from the Old Testament is a start. Knowing about God’s provision in the New Testament is the second part. The Old testament reveals the problem. The New Testament reveals the solution. But knowledge per se is still not enough. How one responds to knowledge is crucial. It’s a thing of the heart. When the heart is right, there is humility and honesty. When the heart is not right, it is selfish and will skew the truth. The Pharisee and the tax collector both had knowledge. The tax collector took advantage of it; the Pharisee defaulted to maintaining his pride. The tax collector exhibited wisdom; the Pharisee did not.
Thursday, Aug. 18
“Marriage is to make us holy, not happy.”—Tom Thieme. This really caught my attention, and as I thought about it, I’m not sure I totally agree with him. I don’t think it’s either/or. I think the holiness and happiness go together. I’ve lived long enough to know that despite the claims of a few couples, there has never been a perfect marriage. There are always bumps in the road. It’s par for the course. Obviously some couples have more bumps than others, and some of the bumps are more like ravines. Big bumps will send a car into the ditch, and some marriage bumps will send couples to marriage counselors or to divorce lawyers. But back to Tom’s quotation. Most weddings are joyous occasions. Love birds expect a life of happiness, and often are disillusioned. It doesn’t take long to conclude that there is more to marriage than unending bliss. When the bumps come, the Christian traits of love, patience, tolerance, and forgiveness should take over. The bumpy situation provides the opportunity to exercise those traits. When that happens, holiness prevails. And that, in turn, produces happiness. In short, holiness produces happiness and lack of holiness produces just the opposite.