Rock Solid

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And the Lord said to Moses, “Pass on before the people, taking with you some of the elders of Israel, and take in your hand the staff with which you struck the Nile, and go. Behold, I will stand before you there on the rock at Horeb, and you shall strike the rock, and water shall come out of it, and the people will drink.” And Moses did so, in the sight of the elders of Israel.

Exodus 17:5-6 (ESV)

A quick reading of this passage may not give the reader any indication that it’s a picture of the role that the Messiah would play for future generations. But the rock gave up water. A ROCK gave up WATER! That doesn’t happen short of a miracle. A miracle of provision. They were roaming through a dry and weary desert. The people were thirsty. And what did God do? He provided for their deepest needs. God rescued them in a desperate hour. That’s exactly what the Messiah would do. Not necessarily in a physical sense, but for a far greater need.

Check out what God said to Moses when He was giving him instruction. God said, “Behold, I will stand before you there on the rock at Horeb.” God was in their midst. God was on the rock. In fact, God was pictured in the rock itself because that rock was a picture of the Christ. 

For I do not want you to be unaware, brothers, that our fathers were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea,and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea,and all ate the same spiritual food,and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank from the spiritual Rock that followed them, and the Rock was Christ.

1 Corinthians 10:1-4 (ESV)

The rock from this passage is the same rock from the book of Exodus. If you were thinking that I was stretching it by claiming that a rock pictured the Christ, scripture itself states it. It’s actually a beautiful picture. A rock that gives forth water to a people desperate for it. Have you ever been dreadfully thirsty, like to the point of going crazy and feeling like your mouth is full of sand? That first drink of water is one of the most refreshing and life-giving experiences. That’s a great way to think about the Messiah. His mission is to give life and to refresh the soul. That’s why the Rock of Horeb is such a powerful image of the Messiah. That’s why Jesus Christ is called the Rock that Israel drank from in the desert.

This prophecy is about more than just the rock. It’s about the flowing water. The imagery of water is used repeatedly throughout the Bible to describe the Messiah and a relationship between Him and His followers. Jesus showed this in His conversation with the Samaritan woman at the well. During the course of Jesus’ discussion with her, He pointed out her need for what He came into the world to offer. He did that by helping her to see that where she was looking for meaning was a dead end. Because they were at a well, Jesus used it as a powerful illustration of His purpose and mission.

Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water [from the well] will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”

John 4:13-14 (ESV) [my emphasis/addition]

Physical water can only sustain a person for so long, just like the waters from the rock in the wilderness. But that water pointed to a greater water that satisfies an eternal and spiritual thirst. Not only does it satisfy the believer, but it also changes the way they interact in life.

Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’”

John 7:38 (ESV)

The Messiah is an oasis in a dry and wasted land. He is the source of a miracle, the provision we all need. And that’s exactly the climate that Yeshua stepped into. Most of the world was controlled by despotic regimes. Persecution was rampant. True religion had been distorted by human constructs. Corruption was a commonality among all people groups. The world was arid and thirsty for living water. Sounds like our world today doesn’t it?

Many people don’t even realize what they’re thirsty for. We all have an inclination that something is missing. We all have a basic awareness of a need but we are quite sure how to meet it. Just like the woman from the well that we talked about earlier. She looked for it in the opposite sex. Failed relationship after failed relationship couldn’t quench her thirst. It wasn’t until Jesus met her and led her into the discovery of the underlying problem. We need the life-giving water from the Rock. This world is a desert, with nothing to offer for our deepest needs. The Messiah appears in our desert to offer springs of living water, as a gift of God’s grace.

God stood on the Rock of Horeb as a symbol that He was the source and the life-giver. It wasn’t until the rock was struck that the water poured forth for the people to drink. Yeshua, our Rock in the desert, was also struck as He hung upon a cross. It was blood and water that poured out of His body. That death is what provided the spiritual life we all need. The Messiah was God’s gift our the desert. Come and drink!

And he said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give from the spring of the water of life without payment.

Revelation 21:6 (ESV)

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Broken Over Brokenness

A few days ago I was driving home, like any other day, and spotted a man up ahead. As I got closer I noticed that he was begging for assistance. His sign said, “Anything Helps”. His clothes were haggard, equally matched by his warn, wrinkled, and sun-scorched skin. His appearance told a story and it must have been far from a fairytale. It was hard to tell the man’s age but I’m sure it was well past mine. Life plays tricks on a person’s age. Our experiences can make us look beyond or behind of our actual age. For this man, I have no doubt it was the first.

I’ve had a high level of empathy for the downtrodden for most of my adult life, especially since developing a deeper relationship with Jesus. But for some reason, this particular occasion made me want to burst into tears. This man appeared broken by life. I know, I know, some readers may be thinking that we can rise above life’s circumstances and don’t have to allow them to break us. I would agree that we always have a choice on how we react to everything in life. But I also believe that we don’t all have the same resources to help in the time of need. I’ve been very fortunate to have the life that I’ve had. I had a good home life with two parents who were present in my life. I’ve always had a handful of friends. I have a great church family now. My wife and kids are amazing. Life, while difficult at times, is pretty easy to make my way through because I’m surrounded by so many great people.  That’s not the case for many people in this world. I’ve never known poverty, except for when I was in college. But that wasn’t actually poverty as most of the world experiences it. Yes, I’ve faced some of the worst things that life can deal a person, but I’ve always had those loving people help walk with me. I’m guessing, for this man, that was not the case.

I don’t know the man’s story. I wish I would have had a chance to talk to him. Caught in the wave of fast-moving traffic in a crazy busy thoroughfare, I had no opportunity to pull over. I only wish that he had been in different part of town. He’s been on my mind ever since that day and I’m hoping that I get another chance to run into him. I can’t help but think of the fact that he has to have a mom and dad somewhere. If not now, then at some point he did. Who knows if that too isn’t a sad story. Being a father of two little girls, I can’t help but think of them being in this man’s shoes. How could any father allow his child to grow up and become homeless? What has gone wrong in this man’s relationships? Does he have anyone who loves him? Does anyone know that his life has come to this? Have people tried to help him but at no avail? I was heartbroken.

Many people look at the homeless and see nothing but dirty clothes and a begar who will probably waste their money on alcohol. Sadly, I think that’s how most people see them. Coming from someone who has spent a lot of time with homeless people over the last six years, I can tell you that they are so much more than that. They are the culmination of a sad tale. I am fully aware that many of them choose to remain where they are but a lot plays into that. Things like fear, rejections, not knowing a way out, being surrounded by apathy, accepting a view of themselves that many portray to them, and being caught in a downward cycle. I’ve seen some come out of it, but sadly, most do not.

A few months ago at one of the local parks, I spotted a new sign that read, “don’t help the homeless”. It’s part of a new city campaign aimed at stopping individuals from giving handouts to homeless people. I understand the motive. They want people to push them to go to assistance organizations rather than depend on aid at the micro level. That sounds great, except, it won’t work, and in essence, it’s absolutely heartless. These are broken people…very broken people. They need help now. Immediate, short-term, and long-term help. Ever hear the slogan, “Give a man a fish, feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, feed him for a lifetime”? Well, to teach a man to fish, you have to buy him a fishing pole, tackle, bait, and invest the time in their life to help them learn. Most people I know want to pass the buck along to someone else. They want to complain about “those people loitering in the park” yet they won’t go out of their way to show them some love. If there’s one thing that broken people need, it’s love. Judgment never helped anyone break free from anything.

I will be quick to admit that most of the time the homeless reek of booze and tobacco. They can also be very crude. Some of the people I meet with today, I’ve been hanging out with in parks for the last six years. But they are created in God’s image just the same as I am. For that reason alone, they deserve the same love as anyone else. They don’t deserve to be overlooked and cast aside. They’ve probably been treated that way most of their lives. We can either be one more voice of love and truth, or we can add to the resounding negativity and hate that gets thrown at them day after day.

This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person?Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.

1 John 3:16-18 (NIV)

I want to be more broken for the broken in this world. Homeless or not, there are so many people around me that need my love and compassion. I don’t want the people in my life to have the same story as the man on the side of the road in the busy intersection. I want to do everything I can to speak life and hope into the lives of my family, my friends, my students, and my community. I don’t know what happened in this man’s story but I do know the stories of well over a hundred homeless people I’ve met over the last six years, and they are not filled with life and hope. If a third of the world claims to be followers of Jesus, how could that be? How can there be so many desperate hurting people filling our parks and intersections with cardboard signs? Lord, forgive us for all the times we’ve scowled and turned our heads. Lord, forgive us for ever thinking we were better than them. Lord, forgive us for not acting out the love we say is inside us. I count myself among the multitudes who need to do more, love more, and give more because my King gave everything.

If I speak with human eloquence and angelic ecstasy but don’t love, I’m nothing but the creaking of a rusty gate. If I speak God’s Word with power, revealing all his mysteries and making everything plain as day, and if I have faith that says to a mountain, “Jump,” and it jumps, but I don’t love, I’m nothing. If I give everything I own to the poor and even go to the stake to be burned as a martyr, but I don’t love, I’ve gotten nowhere. So, no matter what I say, what I believe, and what I do, I’m bankrupt without love.

1 Corinthians 13:1-3 (The Message)

To be Among Us

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The book of Exodus is so rich in Messianic prophecy. Already we looked at the identity of the Messiah through the title of the “I Am” and an ancient celebration that God established to be a picture of the purpose and power of the Messiah. I feel like we’ve only skimmed the surface. So much more is left to discover, even with the topics already covered.

A couple posts ago I shared my experience during the Feast of Tabernacles this year while sitting in my backyard. It was an awakening of sorts…a major redirect…because it was an encounter with the very Messiah we’ve been studying in this series. The Feast of Tabernacles is one of seven High Holy Feasts that are laden with prophetic meaning about our Messiah. I’ll cover more about it when we get to the book of Leviticus in the next month or so. For now, I want to talk simply about the Tabernacle itself.

The Tabernacle is also referred to as the Tent of Meeting. The instructions for this building project were given by God, to Moses, during the period they met on the mountaintop after crossing the Red Sea. These instructions were among many that Moses received during the Exilic phase of Israel. Many people just read over these chapters in Exodus because they don’t understand them or see the importance. I admit a blueprint isn’t the most invigorating read. But we can’t disregard the fact that six full chapters are devoted to the layout of this building. SIX. That’s more than the 10 commandments which would’ve been given at the same time. I’m not saying that the Tabernacle is more important than the 10 commandments, but they should not be tossed aside as unimportant either. They tell us as much about who God is and who the Messiah is as any of the 10 commandments and any of the other laws given by God. Exodus 25-31 are not just a blueprint for a building, they are a blueprint for the Gospel.

We could easily spend a year studying the significance of the tabernacle in God’s redemptive plan but my hope is that today’s post gives you a desire to dig in more on your own. For now, I want to show you seven features about the tabernacle and what they mean for identifying who the Messiah is and what his role would be in God’s grand story. Keep in mind, as we go through these seven things, that the objective of the tabernacle was for the people to be in God’s presence.

  1. You had to approach the tabernacle through the tribe of Judah. Back in a Genesis post, we looked at how the lineage of the Messiah would come through the tribe of Judah. The entrance to the outer courtyard of the tabernacle was in the east. Each tribe was laid out in specific places when Israel stopped and encamped. Judah’s place was in the east. To get to God, you had to go through Judah. To get to God, you have to go through the Messiah and the Messiah is from the tribe of Judah. In the book of Revelation, Jesus is referred to as the Lion of the Tribe of Judah.
  2. There was only one entrance to the tabernacle. There was one door to access both the outer courtyard, the holy place, and the holy of holies. The theme of one point to the one way to access God…the Messiah. This feature builds on the last. Jesus told the crowds that He is the way, the truth, and the life, and no one comes to the Father except through Him. The Messiah, Jesus, is the door, the only door, to access God.
  3. You enter by the way of sacrifice. The first thing you’d see when you entered the outer gate would be the altar of sacrifice. This is where all the animal sacrifices were made to atone for the sins of the people. Sacrifice was necessary for sinful people to enter a Holy God’s presence. This meant that the Messiah would have to be sacrificed to clear the path for us to access God. Romans 5 talks about how the blood of Jesus justifies us and makes a way for us to escape God’s wrath. Ephesians 1 reinforces that concept by talking about how we’ve been redeemed and forgiven because of the sacrifice of Jesus.
  4. The never-ending light. Once in the holy place, you would see several objects. One of them was the lampstand that would be tended to by the priests and would never be allowed to go out. It would light the holy place. That light would allow the priests to worship the Lord correctly and serve in their priestly duties. The Messiah’s role would be to light the way to the Lord and allow us to worship God in the way we were created to. In John 8 Jesus announced that He is the Light of the World. In John 1 Jesus is called the Light of Life. The only way to see our way to God and to worship correctly is to do so through Yeshua the Messiah.
  5. The Bread of Life. Another element of worship in the holy place was the table of the showbread. The bread was used in the worship process to symbolize the sustenance provided by God to all His people. It reflected the manna that was given in the Exodus journey so that Israel would not go hungry. In John 6 Jesus tells the people that he is the Bread of Life…the greater bread than that of the manna. He is the bread from heaven given to satisfy our deepest hunger.
  6. Aroma of Prayer. Right before the vail, which divided the Holy and Most Holy place, stood the altar of incense. This is where incense burned day and night as a symbol of prayers going up before the Lord on behalf of the people. One of the roles of the Messiah is to make intercession on our behalf, for our sins before a Holy God. Romans 8 says that Yeshua lives forever to make intercession on our behalf. He is the prayer that never goes out.
  7. The Mercy Seat. There are so many more items and unique qualities about the tabernacle that we could link to the Messiah but, in my opinion, there’s no better way to wrap it up than with the symbol of God’s deep desire to show us grace. The mercy seat was located in the heart of the Holy of Holies. In a way, it was the symbol of God’s heart…and it represented mercy. The Messiah was the greatest reflection of God’s mercy. Someone who would step into our place, die on our behalf, and remove our sin, so that we could be with God. The most well-known verse in the whole of the bible is John 3:16. It’s that verse that puts into words God’s love for His creation. The next verse states the motive.

For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.

John 3:17 (NIV)

Take heart brothers and sisters. God’s desire for you has always been to save you because He loves you with an endless love. And through the Messiah, Yeshua, He has made a way for us all.

Peace in Christ