Category Archives: Daily Devotions

Easter Sunday: Passover–Deliverance

EasterIllustration:  “Easter,” by Marc Chagall, oil on canvas, 1968.

“But the angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified.  He is not here, for he has risen, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay” (Matthew 28:5-6).

He is risen, He is risen, indeed! We can imagine the shouts of both women as they ran throughout the city. Jesus the Messiah has risen from the grave and is alive today! Because of this, we have the promise of eternal life. Hallelujah!

This should be the final message of the Passover meal. It is for this that the entire story of God’s deliverance is passed on from generation to generation. It is for the coming of the Messiah that God’s people pray in this meal. This meal should end with shouts of joy.  Our redemption is won!  He is risen indeed!

Sadly, that truth is still hidden from the hearts of most of those who share this meal. Every year they set a place for Elijah, and pour a cup of wine for him. The door is left ajar, and the children are sent out to see if he is coming. God’s Word tells us that Elijah will be back and announce that Messiah is come. But every year, the wine is untouched, the children are disappointed and the meal is finished on a note of empty hope. Maybe next year? Next year in Jerusalem?

What a joy that you can announce to them, “Elijah HAS come!”  Jesus declared that John the Baptist was “he of whom it is written, ‘Behold, I send my messenger before your face, who will prepare your way before you…and if you are willing to accept it, he is Elijah who is to come'” (Matthew 11:10,14).  That “Elijah” came to do one thing:  Point us to the Messiah, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.

It is my prayer that this series, and the artwork of Marc Chagall, has given you some things to meditate on and has blessed you.  I pray that through you many will be blessed.

Prayer:  Our Father in Heaven, thank You for this journey. Guard my steps as I walk on, and help me to be your witness to Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and to the ends of the earth. In Y’shua’s name, Amen.

Ponder the path: Pray with me that the families who share this meal tonight and tomorrow will come to know that Elijah has come and that all people will believe in Y’shua our Messiah. For Jesus has made you His witness. Our journey is not yet at the end, for there are many on the path ahead of us.

If you would like some help in sharing your faith, call us at Burning Bush Ministries (or Congregation Chai v’Shalom) at (314) 645-4456. We have a gospel tract written especially for Jewish people who are celebrating Passover and other resources that you can use on your journey.

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Good Friday: Passover–Deliverance

CrucifixionIllustration:  “Crucifixion,” by Marc Chagall, lithography on paper, 1964.

“Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his stripes we are healed” (Isaiah 53:4-5).

You have heard me say that God has deposited His truth in the traditions of His people. And there is much more to the unleavened bread than we have seen already.

Before the Passover, the bread is prepared in a very special way. It is rolled out into flat sheets and pierced by a large wooden wheel with pins in it. The bread has no yeast and therefore will not rise. It is pierced to allow the heat from the baking to rise through the bread and avoid burning.  It is only baked for 18 minutes, the numerical equivalent of the Hebrew word Chai, which means Life.  The baking process gives it dark stripes between the rows of holes.

Prior to the Passover Seder, three sheets of matzoh are placed in a special linen which has three compartments. This matzoh tosh is a tradition for which no one has an explanation.   Some say it represents the patriarchy, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Some say it represents the temple, at which worship the Israelites, the priests and the Levites. Neither of these explains the source of the tradition, but the ritual itself is very clear.

As the Seder begins, the head of the house takes out the middle matzoh from the tosh and breaks it, puts half back in the middle compartment of the matzoh tosh, and wraps the other half in linen and and hides it away.

When Jesus says of this bread, “this is my body,” He is being very literal. His body is sinless, and on Good Friday is striped and pierced as He is whipped and crucified.   Dead now, He is wrapped in linen, and laid away in a tomb. Is the matzoh tosh somehow a picture of the Trinity, showing the second part, the Son, taken and sacrificed? Is God trying to teach His people even in this man-made tradition?

Prayer:  Lord of truth, You teach us by Your Word and open our eyes to the truths “hidden” in the traditions of men. May our eyes be clear to see, and our tongues be strong to teach others. In Y’shua’s name, Amen.

Ponder the path:  As we grieve the death of our Messiah, even as we look forward to His resurrection, we also grieve the death of those who die without faith in Him.

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Maundy Thursday: Passover–The Lord’s Supper

The Israelites, which have gone from Egypt with angel of death, are eating the Easter lambIllustration:  “The Israelites, which have gone from Egypt with angel of death, are eating the Easter lamb (Exodus, XII, 11-14),” by Marc Chagall, etching on paper, c. 1934.

“Now as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and after blessing it broke it and gave it to the disciples, and said, ‘Take, eat; this is my body.’  And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, ‘Drink of it, all of you, for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.'” (Matthew 26:26-28).

This is an account that we have heard many times in our walk. Let’s examine it through the eyes of Jesus at the Passover Seder.

Jesus sends His disciples ahead of Him to prepare the Passover, probably to check the house for any signs of leaven. Presumably, the person to whose house Jesus is going has already cleaned it and removed the leavened bread, but the disciples must be sure.

That night, Jesus is reclining. We recline at Passover to show that we are no longer slaves in Egypt, but freed men. He then began the meal. When he remarked about Judas “dipping his hand in the bowl” with Him, He is probably referring to either the karpas, which is dipped in salt water, or the horseradish with is sometimes dipped into the charoseth.

He then took bread, broke it and gave it to His disciples. Jesus declared this bread, the matzoh, free of leaven, free of sin to be His body. Then he took wine. The Apostle Paul remarks that it is the cup “after supper” (1 Corinthians 11:17-26). This would be the third cup of four cups of wine taken during the Seder. This cup is called the cup of redemption, and Jesus declared it the new covenant in His blood. Then the disciples knew that the covenant prophesied by Jeremiah 600 years before has come to pass (Jeremiah 31:31-34). Through this same meal, God offers us forgiveness for our wickedness, and remembers our sins no more. The cup of redemption has redeemed us all.

Prayer:  God of our fathers, thank You for this gift of Your blood and body, which You have given to redeem me. May it always strengthen me in faith for works of service in Your kingdom. Guard my heart that I may never take this meal for granted. In Y’shua’s name, Amen.

Ponder the path:  Tonight as you come for worship, go back in time to the upper room and see this meal the way that it was given. Pray that through Jesus’ eyes, this meal will have new meaning for you in the context of Passover.

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Passover–Deliverance

Multicolor clown

Illustration:  “Multicolor Clown” by Marc Chagall, oil on canvas, 1974.  (Shades of Godspell?–ed.)

“… you do not believe because you are not part of my flock” (John 10:26).

“For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles” (1 Corinthians 1:22-23).

Sometimes the path we are on is lonely.  We see many on other paths.  They call out to us, urge us to turn from the foolishness we are following and join them.  They tell us to stop, don’t go on, that we are chasing a fool.  The closer we get to the cross, the more foolish this journey seems.

Jesus speaks to those who see the miracles of God and still do not believe. They say that Jesus is a fool, and that those who follow Him are even bigger fools. And they are right, because,  “God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise” (1 Corinthians 1:27).

How often do we see miracles and not believe? There are many who witness daily the miracle of creation, and yet still believe in evolution. They say that we are fools to believe that this world could be created in six days. They would say that we are fools to believe that God could part the waters of the Red Sea so His children could pass through on dry land. They would say we are fools to believe that God would sacrifice His Son for us, and raise Him again so that we can be forgiven and have eternal life.

Yes, the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are dying, but to us who are being saved, it is the power of God.

Prayer:  Dear God, if it is foolish to believe in You, then thank You for making me a fool. In Y’shua’s name, Amen.

Ponder the path:  Use today as an opportunity to show your own foolishness. Michael Card wrote a song called “God’s Own Fool.” The refrain is “And so we follow God’s own fool; For only the foolish can tell. Believe the unbelievable; Come be a fool as well.” Share this message with those today who would believe you a fool.

Here’s a youtube video for you to enjoy…

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d2sdeBWZ8bs

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Palm Sunday: Passover–Deliverance

Christ familyIllustration:  “Christ family,” by Marc Chagall, lithography on paper, 1959.

“Tell all the congregation of Israel that on the tenth day of this month every man shall take a lamb according to their fathers’ houses, a lamb for a household” (Exodus 12:3).

We take a break in our preparation for Passover to look again at the path we are walking. There is a great crowd gathered, and palm branches have been cut down and laid on the road. Jesus is coming into Jerusalem, preparing to celebrate the Passover. The crowd is jubilant, shouting their faith in Him as the Messiah, He looks at the crowd and knows that they will fall away. He is not their brand of Messiah. They are expecting a warrior king, a messiah who will bring earthly victory.

Jesus’ triumphal entry is reminiscent of the procession that took place at the first Passover. God sent fathers, husbands and sons out to find a perfect, unblemished lamb for the sacrifice. The blood of the lamb protected them from the death God had planned for Egypt. Now God himself brings in His own perfect and unblemished Lamb for the sacrifice. When this blood is shed, it will be painted on the doorposts of human hearts. As we look out onto the crowd, it seems appropriate for them to be joyful. They may not know it, but God is bring in His Lamb for them.

We turn back to our Passover preparations. On the Jewish Passover table today is a roasted lamb shank and a roasted egg. Both of these remind us of the lamb sacrificed to save the firstborn children of the Israelites in Egypt. The lamb shank reminds us that the temple has been destroyed and no more sacrifices are made there. Believers in Christ know that the perfect sacrifice, Jesus Christ, has been made.  He is sufficient, and no more sacrifices are necessary!

The shell of the egg is darkened by fire, just as the lamb was roasted. The shell is removed to eat the egg, and the pure and unblemished white inside reminds us to praise God that our pure, unblemished Lamb is alive again.

Prayer:  Father in Heaven, You are our Provider. Thank You for bringing Your Son, the Lamb, into Your house and covering our hearts with His blood. In Y’shua’s name, Amen.

Ponder the path:  As you celebrate this Palm Sunday, remember that there are some who see the procession and do not understand its meaning. God’s Lamb was brought into His house for them too. Share this truth.

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Passover–Deliverance

The Israelites are eating the Passover LambIllustration:  “The Israelites are eating the Passover Lamb,” by Marc Chagall, gouache and oil on paper, 1931.

“Then Moses called all the elders of Israel and said to them, ‘Go and select lambs for yourselves according to your clans, and kill the Passover lamb. Take a bunch of hyssop and dip it in the blood that is in the basin, and touch the lintel and the two doorposts with the blood that is in the basin. None of you shall go out of the door of his house until the morning. For the LORD will pass through to strike the Egyptians, and when he sees the blood on the lintel and on the two doorposts, the LORD will pass over the door and will not allow the destroyer to enter your houses to strike you” (Exodus 12:21-23).

“Nothing is certain in this world except death and taxes.” Surely you’ve heard that saying. In just a couple of weeks, all across the United States, we are reminded that taxes are still pretty certain!  But at Passover we learn that death is not so certain.

The Haggadah picks up the story when Moses is grown.  He has heard God’s call and presented himself to Pharaoh with God’s demand:  “Let My people go!”  But Pharaoh’s heart is hardened, he did not free the Israelites, and plague after plague was visited on Egypt.  Finally, God Himself would pass through the land and slay all the first-born.  But first, He instructed His people to mark their homes with the blood of the lamb so that He would “pass over” and spare their children.

One of the elements of Seder is called karpas, usually a piece of parsley.  This represents hyssop, which was a leafy plant on a long stalk. The karpas is dipped in salt water, which represents blood, and is eaten. This tells the story of God’s instruction to dip hyssop into the blood of the Lamb and spread the blood on the “top and both sides of the doorframe.” God used this sign to pass over the homes of His children and spare them from death.

But death still followed us after that night, until the day on Mt. Calvary when hyssop diipped in wine vinegar, hyssop was raised again to a beam of wood on which blood was flowing. This was the blood of God’s Lamb.  By our faith in this Sacrifice, God has passed over us forever and given us eternal life.

Prayer:  My Lord, thank you for giving me the gift of life. Give me peace today knowing that all things are gifts from you. In Y’shua’s name, Amen.

Ponder the path:  As we get ready for April 15, it is easy to moan about taxes and the government, and forget about the real issues of life and death that happen around us every day. Thank God for His gifts to you, even in his provision to pay taxes.

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Passover–Deliverance

Mother by the ovenIllustration:  “Mother by the oven,” by Marc Chagall, oil on canvas, 1914.

“In the first month, from the fourteenth day of the month at evening, you shall eat unleavened bread until the twenty-first day of the month at evening.  For seven days no leaven is to be found in your houses. If anyone eats what is leavened, that person will be cut off from the congregation of Israel, whether he is a sojourner or a native of the land. You shall eat nothing leavened; in all your dwelling places you shall eat unleavened bread” (Exodus 12:18-20).

This path we are on reminds me of the story of Hansel and Gretl. It is strewn with breadcrumbs–breadcrumbs thrown out of Jewish houses as they prepare for Passover.

Each element of the Seder meal is used to tell this story of the Israelites’ escape from Egypt, but first homes must be prepared. No yeast can be found in the home during Passover. For 40 days, Jewish homes are cleaned and the leaven is removed. Today, a little leaven is often taken to the synagogue and burned as a symbol that the home is free of yeast.

The time of preparing the Jewish home is akin to the season of Lent. As they prepare by scouring the house and searching every corner for yeast, during the season of Lent we scour our hearts, searching every corner for the yeast of sin. Physical yeast is removed from Jewish homes, and spiritual yeast is removed from our hearts. Unleavened bread, or matzoh, is the bread of affliction, a bread baked in haste as the Israelites fled from bondage in Egypt. But it is also the bread that brings deliverance. Jesus, born in Bethlehem (which means “house of bread”), will also be both. For our sakes, He will be afflicted and we will be delivered.

Prayer:  Our Father, You know my heart. Forgive me for the things I harbor and do not readily give to You. Thank You for the pictures You have given in the Passover, and thank You for sparing me the death I deserve. In Y’shua’s name, Amen.

Ponder the path:  Take advantage of this time to examine your heart and give to God anything that burdens you. He will assure you of forgiveness through Jesus, the Bread of Life.

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Passover–Deliverance

Moses is saved from the water by Pharaoh's daughterIllustration: “Moses is saved from the water by Pharaoh’s daughter,” by Marc Chagall, gouache and oil on paper, 1931.

“Now the daughter of Pharaoh came down to bathe at the river, while her young women walked beside the river. She saw the basket among the reeds and sent her servant woman, and she took it. When she opened it, she saw the child, and behold, the baby was crying. She took pity on him and said, ‘This is one of the Hebrews’ children.’ Then his sister said to Pharaoh’s daughter, ‘Shall I go and call you a nurse from the Hebrew women to nurse the child for you?’ And Pharaoh’s daughter said to her, ‘Go.’ So the girl went and called the child’s mother. And Pharaoh’s daughter said to her, ‘Take this child away and nurse him for me, and I will give you your wages.’ So the woman took the child and nursed him. When the child grew up, she brought him to Pharaoh’s daughter, and he became her son. She named him Moses, ‘Because,’ she said, ‘I drew him out of the water'” (Exodus 2:5-10).

At Passover, there is a dramatic retelling of God’s faithfulness in the deliverance of His people. To tell this story, Jewish homes will use a Haggadah. The Hebrew word Haggadah simply means “the telling” and it is the “order of service” for the Passover meal (the Seder).  This meal will tell the story of the Passover.

God raised up a deliverer named Moses, whose ministry started at a very young age and in persecution. Moses was hidden because Pharaoh, the king, was trying to destroy the Jewish people. Pharaoh had grown wary of the Jews and sought to destroy them by having all baby boys killed. Moses was hidden in a reed basket and sent floating down the Nile river. Pharaoh’s daughter found him and named him Moses, which means “I drew him out of the water.”  Moses would grow to be the man to deliver his people from the bondage of their slavery to Pharaoh.

Is it any surprise that God has chosen water as the element that brings deliverance to His people? He would bring another Deliverer, draw Him out of the waters of His baptism, and through His ministry deliver you and me from the bondage of our slavery to sin. When Jesus was baptized, His public ministry began, and it will end soon with his death and resurrection. Because of that God has drawn us out of the waters of our baptism and could rightly call us by the name “Moses.” We are delivered, and are also used by God, through the teaching of His Word, to deliver others from their own bondage.

Prayer:  Lord God in Heaven, thank You for drawing me up from the waters of baptism and delivering me from sin. Show me today a person who needs to hear about this miracle. In Y’shua’s name, Amen.

Ponder the path:  Your baptism is a wonderful miracle of deliverance by God. Tell the story of your deliverance to someone who is in need of this miracle, and pray for his or her deliverance.

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Passover–Deliverance

The Israelites crossing the Red SeaIllustration:  “The Israelites crossing the Red Sea,” by Marc Chagall, gouache and oil on paper, 1931.

“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. I will take you to be my people, and I will be your God, and you shall know that I am the LORD your God, who has brought you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians'” (Exodus 6:6-7).

Our journey is coming to the end. We can see in the distance a hill at a crossroad outside Jerusalem’s walls.  We have seen much along the way but have much yet to see.  The next festival will be Jesus’ last. The preparation has been long, but this festival promises deliverance.

Pesach, or Passover is often considered the greatest of the Jewish festivals. It has been the defining event of the lives of the Jewish people, and is often used by God to describe Himself as the One who has “brought you by the hand out of the land of Egypt.” This festival is probably the best known of all Jewish festivals, and has been the subject of many popular movies. The events leading up to this festival are dramatic indeed. All of them point to the deliverance of God’s people from bondage and the promise of a new home.

This is the last part of Jesus’ journey to redeem you. He comes to deliver you from the bondage of sin. He comes with the promise of a new home, a home in heaven with many rooms. You are nearing the end of the Lenten journey, but much must happen before you come to the empty tomb. You must prepare for the Passover feast.

Prayer:  Dear Lord, give me new vision to stay on the path and walk daily with You to the empty tomb. In Y’shua’s name, Amen.

Ponder the path:  Often toward the end of the journey, our weariness tempts us to stop even when we are so close. We have walked together for 36 days. Press on to the goal. It is at hand.

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Purim–Persecution

Abraham and three AngelsIllustration:  “Abraham and three angels,” by Marc Chagall, sketch and study, 1964.

“In every province and in every city, wherever the king’s command and his edict reached, there was gladness and joy among the Jews, a feast and a holiday. And many from the peoples of the country declared themselves Jews, for fear of the Jews had fallen on them” (Esther 8:17).

The rest of the story, while a continuing story of persecution indeed, is also laced with wonderful ironic twists.  Human cast the pur, or “lots,” to determine a day to carry out his plan and he builds a gallows upon which to hang Mordecai.  He ends up leading Mordecai through town in a procession of honor ordered by the king.  Finally, Haman himself is hanged from the gallows he built in rage against Mordecai..  A prophecy spoken by Haman’s wife came to pass, and remains in the air for future generations:  “If Mordecai, before whom you have begun to fall, is of the Jewish people, you will not overcome him but will surely fall before him” (Esther 6:13b).

Someone should have told him that a lot earlier.  Perhaps Haman’s wife understood the covenant that God gave His people through Abraham, “I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed” (Genesis 12:3).

Even though Satan leads the persecution of God’s people, you can know that God’s promise still holds true.  Even though Jesus hung on the gallows built by the are of human sin and died, it was no victory for Satan.  It was his end.  Jesus rose from the dead.  Human and Satan both are destroyed through Jesus Christ, the blessing God promised to Abraham.

Prayer:  Dear Lord, thank You for Your blessing.  In Y’shua’s name, Amen.

Ponder the path:  How are you likely to react to those who curse you for your faith?  Rest in the assurance that God’s blessing is for you and those who curse you will be accountable to God.

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