Tag Archives: Chagall

Passover–Deliverance

ExodusIllustration:  “Exodus,” by Marc Chagall, oil on canvas.  This work was begun in 1952, and completed in 1966 .

“And if a stranger sojourns among you and would keep the Passover to the LORD, according to the statute of the Passover and according to its rule, so shall he do. You shall have one statute, both for the sojourner and for the native” (Numbers 9:14).

God’s Word never limits deliverance to the Jewish people. His works of grace bring salvation to all who believe–whether alien or native born; wild or natural olive branch.  God chose the Jewish people to be a blessing to the gentiles, bringing forth the One who would be sacrificed for all people.

It is clear from Scripture that there were aliens living among the Jews who celebrated the Passover.  This has led to another tradition in Jewish homes. As a child, my family often invited a non-Jewish friend to share the Passover Seder with us. It was our attempt to include the “alien among us.” Often this friend was a Christian. Many who ate with us said they were blessed by the meal and the remembrance. When we finished the meal saying, “next year in Jerusalem,” that was a prayer of hope for the coming of Messiah. And yet, not one of these believers ever shared with us that He had indeed already come.

The first evening of Passover falls on Good Friday this year.  But we will remember that meal Thursday night as we  remember Jesus’ “new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another” (John 13:34).  As we come closer in our walk to this festival meal, we come closer to the truth that the Passover story also foretells the truth of Jesus as the Messiah. He is the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.  How much more could we love people than to share that truth with them?

Prayer:  Father in Heaven, as we prepare for the last Passover your Son will eat, prepare our hearts to come to the table and receive his gifts. In Y’shua’s name, Amen.

Ponder the path:  Are you perhaps the alien who has been invited to a friend’s Seder? If so, find ways to share the rest of the story. If not, how about inviting them to a Seder of your own.

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Passover–Deliverance

The MartyrIllustration:  “The martyr,” by Marc Chagall, lithography on paper, 1970.

“Then they shall take some of the blood and put it on the two doorposts and the lintel of the houses in which they eat it. They shall eat the flesh that night, roasted on the fire; with unleavened bread and bitter herbs they shall eat it”  (Exodus 12:7-8).

As we continue to prepare for our Passover Seder, there is a very strange looking root on the table. God commanded us to eat this meal with bitter herbs, and these days the horseradish root has gotten the job. Freshly grated, horseradish will really clear your sinuses (we call it Jewish Dristan) and bring tears to your eyes.

It is appropriate to cry tears of bitterness at Passover. With tears we remember our people who slaved under a yoke of oppression for 430 years. And all that time, they cried out for a deliverer. And we sit here today, free from oppression, the blessed recipients of deliverance. It’s hard to cry when you are so blessed. So, the horseradish. Properly eaten as a nice big bite on a piece of matzoh, trust me, you’ll cry.

It is much the same with Jesus. We know the gospel so well that when we contemplate the pain and suffering that Jesus experienced for us, we should cry, but often can’t. We know the ending and have become immune to the pain. We risk taking His sacrifice for granted. Perhaps a nice big bite of horseradish will remind us of the tears that are shed over death.

But while we are crying those tears, we notice another odd-looking but very tasty mixture on the table before us. After unleavened bread, parsley and horseradish, this food is a delightful surprise. Called charoseth, it is a mixture of apples, honey, nuts and cinnamon ground together almost into a paste. Though not a food commanded to be on the table in Scripture, it is part of the Jewish Passover celebration nevertheless.

It is another reminder of bondage. The charoseth is to remind us of the mortar that the Israelites used to build Pharaoh’s cities. The question is often asked, “Why do we use something so sweet to remind us of something so bitter?” In the words of Tevya, the Jewish father trying to preserve tradition in the musical Fiddler on the Roof, “I’ll tell you. I don’t know. But its a tradition.” The charoseth is eaten together with the horseradish during the Seder, and perhaps it was done first to make the horseradish more palatable. Rabbi Hillel, a great Jewish teacher who died in 10 A.D., instructed his students to make a “Hillel sandwich” out of the horseradish, the charoseth and the matzoh. Rabbi Hillel would say that “even though life is bitter, with the promise of deliverance, it is also sweet indeed.”  I think the Hillel sandwich is a picture of life. Even life following Jesus.

On the path we have walked together, there have been sweet times and there have been bitter times. Life is like that. During the bitter times we are comforted by the sweetness of the Gospel as we are assured that we are children of God, saved by faith, and that Jesus carries our burdens. During the sweet times, we thank God and are reminded that there are many who do not know the sweetness of God’s love and live bitter lives apart from His love and salvation.

Prayer:   My Lord, I praise you for carrying me in those times that I am most challenged to see the good you have for me. Help me to learn from bitter times, and praise you for sweet times.  And in those times, so often I take the death of your Son for granted, as I go about my blessed life. Forgive me Lord, and make me truly thankful for the gift you have given me. In Y’shua’s name, Amen.

Ponder the path:  As this Holy Week goes on, focus on the real pain that Jesus suffered for you, that you will truly appreciate the cost he paid to deliver you. As we take the bitter with the sweet, let it teach us to thank God at all times.

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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

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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Fifth Sunday in Lent: Purim–Persecution

DeathIllustration:  “The deceased (The Death),” by Marc Chagall, oil on canvas, 1908.

“All the king’s servants and the people of the king’s provinces know that if any man or woman goes to the king inside the inner court without being called, there is but one law–to be put to death, except the one to whom the king holds out the golden scepter so that he may live. But as for me, I have not been called to come in to the king these thirty days” (Esther 4:11).

Haman is certainly an evil man to devise such a plan to kill all the Jewish people in the Persian kingdom. It is traditional during Purim that as the book of Esther is read, when Haman’s name is mentioned, the people listening yell loudly, shake noisemakers and stamp their feet to cover the sound of the name. Often we will even put an H on the bottom of our shoes as we stamp our feet, symbolically stomping the memory of Haman away. While this makes the reading of the story more fun, it truly does nothing to combat the persecution that Haman plots, nor does it do much to remove his name from history. Action must be taken. Mordecai knows this too.

Mordecai put on sackcloth and ashes and walked throughout the city mourning very loudly to draw Esther’s attention. When she noticed him, he was prepared. He laid the whole plot out for her, even to the point of having a copy of the king’s edict delivered to her with a request to intercede with the king. But to intercede put Esther’s life in danger. No one approached the king without being summoned–the penalty was death! Mordecai’s response to Esther’s fear was concise. “Do not think to yourself that in the king’s palace you will escape any more than all the other Jews. For if you keep silent at this time, relief and deliverance will rise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father’s house will perish. And who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” (Esther 4:13-14).

Mordecai knew the promise of God:  the Deliverer will come regardless of our actions. But God desires to use us, and puts us in the right place to be used. Esther did intercede for the Jewish people and they were spared. But death will still claim them if they do not have faith in the Deliverer. Jesus came to deliver all people once and for all from the threat of death.

Prayer:  Dear God, thank you for placing me in the right place to share Your Truth.  Give me courage today to be your servant. In Y’shua’s name, Amen.

Ponder the path:   Has God placed you in a position to share the truth of God’s deliverance with someone today? Please do not remain silent.

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Tish B’Av and Unfaithfulness

189094_3296672This year Tish B’Av falls during the month of August.  This is a day of mourning to commemorate many historic tragedies that have befallen the Jewish people.  While it is hard to call this a holiday, by the traditional meaning of the word, it is . . . a holy day to remember primarily the destruction of the two temples in Jerusalem.

It is a day of fasting and is the culmination of a three week period of time that begins with the fast of the 17th of Tammuz, which commemorates the first breach of the wall of Jerusalem in 587 B.C.

Tish B’Av literally means the 9th day of the month of Av, which falls this year on the 13th day of August.  Though not observed by most Jews, it is considered the saddest day in the Jewish calendar, and believed by many to be destined to be a day of tragedy.  Interestingly, on the 9th day of Av, many calamities have occurred.  The first of which, according to Rabbinic tradition is the night the people cried out after having received the spies report about Canaan in Numbers 13–14.  Because of the lack of faith the people showed that night, God decreed that the 9th of Av would become a day of mourning and tragedy for all their descendants.

And that date has certainly been a date of mourning.  On the 9th of Av, 3175 (587 BC), the First Temple was destroyed by the Babylonians and burned through the night until the 10th of Av.  On the 9th of Av 3830 (70 AD), the Second Temple was destroyed by the Romans.  On the 9th of Av 3892 (135 AD), the Bar Kochba Rebellion was crushed and the Temple site in Jerusalem was subsequently plowed under by the Romans.  So, during the 9th of Av, Lamentations is read as the people lament the destruction of the Temple.

But there is more.  On the 9th of Av 5050 (1290 AD) the Jews were expelled from England; on the 9th of Av 5066 (1306 AD) the Jews were expelled from France; on the 9th of Av 5674 (1914) Germany entered WWI, which ultimately led to the Holocaust; on the 9th of Av 5701 (1941), Himmler received approval for the “Final Solution;” and on the 9th of Av 5702 (1942 AD), began the mass deportation of Jews from the Warsaw Ghetto to Treblinka.  There is so much more that happened during this time on the 7th and the 10th but you get the idea.  This time of year is a calamitous time for the Jewish people, all beginning with a lack of faith.

We received a note the other day from someone passing by our building.  Anonymously, they wrote:  “You people are an abomination.  How dare you defile Judaism?  If you believe Jesus was the son of god (sic), you are a Christian!  Leave us out of it!  As a Jew, I find you offensive.”  It is so sad.  They are expressing their anger, distrust, and fear, and I wrote my own note expressing the love of Jesus, and encouraging them to not allow culture and history to keep them so unfaithful that they would not see God’s consolation where God “will rejoice in Jerusalem and be glad in my people; no more shall be heard in it the sound of weeping and the cry of distress” (Isaiah 65:19).  Isaiah 64 and 66 are the “little Bible’s” Revelation, and all the Law and the Prophets testify to Him who brings such consolation, Jesus.  Pray they come and see to the end that they might believe in Him.

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The Temple is Dedicated

White CrucifixionIllustration:  “White Crucifixion” by Marc Chagall, 1938.  Oil on canvas.

“At that time the Feast of Dedication took place at Jerusalem. It was winter, and Jesus was walking in the temple, in the colonnade of Solomon.  So the Jews gathered around him and said to him, ‘How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the [Messiah], tell us plainly.’ Jesus answered them, ‘I told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in my Father’s name bear witness about me'”(John 10:22-25).

Today is the first day of Chanukkah.   So let’s hop out of our timeline a bit and celebrate Chanukkah together.  The Temple that is being rebuilt during Zechariah’s prophecy is finished.

Chanukkah is all about the promise of Messiah and the waiting for its fulfillment.  It is a wonderful celebration during Advent and echoes Advent’s theme.

It is the story of a miracle.  But not the miracle that you may be thinking of.  The miracle of the oil and the “Festival of Lights” wasn’t told until about the 4th century.  In fact, the story of Chanukkah is only found in 1 Maccabees, a history written during the time between Malachi and Matthew.  The only mention of Chanukkah in the Bible is in the New Testament, in John 10:22:  “At that time the Feast of Dedication took place at Jerusalem. It was winter.”  Before it was called the “Festival of Lights,” Chanukkah was the Feast of Dedication.  (Chanukkah means “Dedication.”)

It is the story of waiting.  Malachi has spoken… “Surely the day is coming…”  Elijah is coming, Messiah is coming, the Day of the Lord is coming.  And while we wait, our land is taken over by pagans and a king who, knowing the prophecy, claims that mantle.  Daniel (chapter 11) has prophesied the rise of Antiochus, king of Syria, who calls himself Epiphanus, the manifestation.  He forces God’s people to worship him, he profanes the Temple, he oppresses the people.  So the people revolt.  The High Priest, his sons and a small army flee to the hills above Jerusalem, and lead a revolt against the mighty Syrian army, driving them from Israel, taking back this same Temple and rededicating it to the service of God.

Some thought then that Judah, the leader of the Israelite army, was the one who was promised, but he was only a shadow of the one to come.  In John 10, Jesus is celebrating Chanukkah at the Temple when “the Jews gathered around him, saying, ‘How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the [Messiah], tell us plainly.’”  And so, Jesus did, and at Chanukkah He declared that our waiting is over.

The incarnation that we are preparing for is the building of a temple that can never be destroyed.  The manmade Temple is gone, but the Temple that is Jesus (John 2) is eternal.

Prayer:  Abba Father, thank you so much for your eternal faithfulness and calling us to Your Temple, Jesus. Amen.

As We Wait:  Jesus’ death and resurrection paid the price for the sins of all mankind, even and especially those committed by men against one another.  The history of the Jewish people is a history of oppression and hope.  The illustration above is a picture of hope, even amidst the oppression of the Jewish people.  This Chanukkah, share the story, and especially the hope with someone you know.