Monday, April 22, 2019

The Gospel In the Lion’s Den

I was doing my daily reading the other day, which included Daniel 6.

Daniel in the Lion's Den... it's a story that many of us have heard since before we could walk, and usually it is ripped out of the context of a righteous man living in pagan Babylon.

As I was reading through it this time, new insights flew off the page for me that I had never noticed before.

The chapter opens with King Darius elevating Daniel to a high position.  This is the third time Daniel was promoted; it happened with Nebuchadnezzer after interpreting the king's dream, and then with Belshazzar after interpreting the writing on the wall.  (Granted, the second promotion only lasted an hour or two).  I wonder what Daniel did to impress Darius?  Maybe Darius just heard testimonies about Daniel, his God, and his steadfastness.  Who knows?

Anyway, Daniel's promotion irritated his fellow governors and satraps.   They knew Daniel was a righteous and faithful man, filled with integrity - so they declared that they would have to trip him up in regard to his God's law.

So these schmucks approached Darius with a piece of legislation that they knew Daniel would disobey.  They appealed to Darius' ego, suggesting that for 30 days, nobody be allowed to worship any man or god but Darius himself.

Darius fell for the ploy, and signed the bill into law.  The unchangeable Law of the Medes and Persians.  It was a ridiculous law that Daniel rightfully refused to obey.

Daniel prayed toward Jerusalem

I have often had this fleeting thought while reading about the Law of the Medes and Persians:  why exactly were the laws unchangeable?  Why then, at that point in history?  Many despotic rulers have come and gone and have had no problem changing laws.  Several modern guys come to mind - Stalin, Mao, Kim Jung Un, Hitler.

King Darius was the head honcho.  Why  could he not reverse the law with a kingly declaration?  (This happens again later in the Persian Empire, under King Artaxerxes in the Esther story).

Maybe God is showing us something with the Law of the Medes and Persians.  Maybe it is to demonstrate how His own law is set in stone and unchangeable.

When evil comes, another route must be taken because of the unchangeable law.

C. S. Lewis speaks of this immutable law and the way around it in the Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.  The White Witch declared, "You know that every traitor belongs to me as my lawful prey and that for every treachery I have a right to a kill … that human creature is mine. … His blood is my property."

The Witch in the story was quite right. She had legal claim to Edmund's soul because of his treachery. But Edmund would not die for his sins. Instead, Aslan offered to lay down his life in place of the boy.  In the story, the unchangeable law is called the Deep Magic From the Dawn of Time.  Aslan had to take a different route.

Daniel was condemned by an unchangeable law. The king was forced to obey his own law, even though he liked and respected Daniel. Against his wishes, he had to toss Daniel into the lion's den, because the law required it.  Verse 17 says that a stone was put in front of what looked to be Daniel's tomb, and sealed. (Where have we heard that before?)

Daniel in the cave with lions
Thankfully, YHVH intervened and closed the mouth of the hungry felines.  Daniel was spared.

God has made a law that declares the penalty for sin is death. It is immutable. It cannot be changed. And unless we still happen to be on earth when Yeshua returns, we will pay that penalty through the first death.

But, God did provide a means to get around the immutable law. He provided Himself. He came to earth in the flesh as Yeshua, the Son of Man,  and He paid the penalty for the broken law for us, so that by accepting His payment, we will be raised to life immortal.  We will not suffer the second (and permanent) death.  Yeshua came as the sacrificial Lamb of God. in order to circumvent God's unchangeable law for us.

But Yeshua is no longer the meek Lamb.  Someday soon, He will return to earth as the mighty Lion of Judah, and He will destroy His enemies - just as the enemies of Daniel were destroyed by the lions in Babylon.  He will then rule and reign from Jerusalem, and those who belong to Him will rule and reign with Him.

Friday, April 19, 2019

12 Passovers Later

This past weekend, I was privileged to share a Passover Seder with my congregation, most of whom had never experienced one before.  It was an awesome and humbling experience, because I love these dear brothers and sisters in the Lord.  Through Him, they are my family!

I celebrated my own first Passover meal years ago, in 2008.  A couple years prior to that, a thought had popped into my head, "Where does the word Easter come from?  Isn't Jesus supposed to be our Passover Lamb or something?" 

To say I was surprised  by the answer is an understatement.  It was positively life changing.  I am not going to elaborate on that now... you can Google it if you want to.

The question led me to discover God's appointed times and how they all point to Yeshua, our Messiah.  It also gave me a deep, deep love for the Word of God.  I had been a committed follower of Jesus since 1994, but I confess that it took awhile to fall in love with His Word.

That first attempt of mine at hosting a Passover Seder was just that, an attempt.  But I kept at it, learning new things every year and sharing what I was learning with small groups of people who wanted to know more.

Twelve Seders later, I continue to uncover jewels from God's Word.  I marvel at the depth!  I love that He continues to reveal new insights.

This year, during the weeks leading up to Passover, I had been learning more about temple sacrifices.  I knew there was a morning and evening sacrifice during temple times, but I didn't know that they were called the Tamim - the burnt offerings.

The burnt offering was completely offered up.  The priests did not get to eat of this sacrifice; it was consumed entirely on the altar.  The morning sacrifice took place at 9:00 am and was placed on the altar to burn all day.  The evening sacrifice took place at 3:00 pm, and was placed on the altar to burn all night long.

In other words, the burnt offering was a perpetual and total sacrifice.

All those other sacrifices that are detailed in Leviticus - the peace offering, the thank offering, the sin offering, and so on were offered daily by worshippers between the hours of 9:00 am and 3:00 pm.  The priests would receive their share, and the remains would be placed on top of the morning sacrifice.

I had known that the Passover lamb was offered at 3:00 pm, but I didn't know the timing of all the other sacrifices.

Yeshua was nailed to the tree at 9:00 am, and He took His last breath at 3:00 pm.  Not only was He the fulfillment of the Passover lamb, but He fulfilled every other sacrifice as well!

The busiest time at the temple during Passover was 3:00 pm, when the evening Tamim would be offered, immediately followed by the Passover lamb.

I try to imagine the scene the moment Yeshua took His last breath.  Scripture records darkness, earthquakes, and the tearing of the temple veil at the moment of Messiah's death - right in the midst of the evening sacrifice and the Passover sacrifice.

The Roman centurion, observing all that was happening, was the first to call it:  "Truly this was the Son of God."

The Holy of Holies in the temple was considered to be God’s dwelling place on earth, and was only accessible once a year on Yom Kippur, and only by the high priest.

I’ve written previously on the significance of the torn veil: we now have access to the Holy of Holies through Yeshua our High Priest.

But wait, there’s more.

Biblically, the act of tearing one’s garment was an act of deep mourning, especially when a loved one died. Jewish people still symbolically tear a garment when sitting shiva (observing a seven-day mourning period) for a loved one.

Can you see the prophetic picture of YHWH tearing His own garment in deep agony at the moment of Yeshua’s death?


Another insight the Lord gave me this year happened as I was preparing the lamb for the Seder - braised lamb shanks.

Even though lamb is one of the three commanded foods of the Passover celebration, Jews do not eat it for their Seders today due to the absence of the temple, which was destroyed in 70 AD. It occurred to me that Israel as a nation has been without the Lamb for nearly 2000 years.

I believe that is about to change.

As I was cleaning and drying 21 shank bones for my Seder plates, I thought of Ezekiel 37. As I was arranging those dry bones, I pondered how they are symbolic of Israel are coming to life!

Out of the ashes of the Holocaust, the state of Israel was born in 1948, after 1,878 years. Nineteen years later in 1967, Jerusalem was reunified and under Jewish control again for the first time in over 2000 years.

The hand of God is moving and something big is about to happen.  Are you paying attention?