The Unlikely Prophecy

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Most of the prophecies of the Bible were made by godly men and women. Not so in the case of the prophecy we will be looking at in this post. The man known as Balaam, the son of Beor, was a diviner who’s story begins in Chapter 22 of the Book of Numbers. He was not an Israelite and is often reviled as a “wicked man” in both the Torah and the New Testament.

Forsaking the right way, they have gone astray. They have followed the way of Balaam, the son of Beor, who loved gain from wrongdoing…

2 Peter 2:15 ESV

Other New Testament references to Balaam include Jude 1:11 and Revelation 2:14. On a positive note, Balaam refused to speak what God did not speak and would not curse the Israelites, even though King Balak of Moab offered him money to do so (Numbers 22–24). Doesn’t sound like a bad guy right? Balaam’s error and the source of his wickedness came after the prophecies, from him sabotaging the Israelites as they entered the Promised Land. According to Revelation (Revelation 2:14), Balaam told King Balak how to get the Israelites to commit sin by enticing them with sexual immorality and food sacrificed to idols. The Israelites fell into transgression because of these traps and God sent a deadly plague to them as a result (Numbers 31:16). And it was this unlikely man that God chose to use to make a prophecy about the coming Messiah.

Balaam gave seven prophecies within his four oracles about the nation of Israel. All the prophecies which Balaam makes take the form of Hebrew poems between Numbers 23 and 24. It is the fourth prophecy that I’d like to focus on.

And he took up his discourse and said,

The oracle of Balaam the son of Beor,
the oracle of the man whose eye is opened,
the oracle of him who hears the words of God,
and knows the knowledge of the Most High,
who sees the vision of the Almighty,
falling down with his eyes uncovered:
I see him, but not now;
I behold him, but not near:
a star shall come out of Jacob,
and a scepter shall rise out of Israel;
it shall crush the forehead of Moab
and break down all the sons of Sheth.

Numbers 24:15-17 ESV

The Star out of Jacob

This is a reference to that lines up with so many other Messianic prophecies establishing the lineage. Jacob, of course, is another way of referring to Israel. The Messiah would not be a gentile or from any other nation. The Messiah of the world had to come out of the nation of Israel. We’ve already talked extensively about the Messianic lineage how that lines up with Jesus in the post Lineage Speaks Loudly. The use of the star illustration carries some importance as well. A star is both a sign for people to look for and an allusion to power. Remember, it was a star that was used by God to highlight the arrival of Jesus on the world stage.

After listening to the king, they went on their way. And behold, the star that they had seen when it rose went before them until it came to rest over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy. And going into the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh.

Matthew 2:9-11 ESV

The Scepter Shall Rise out of Israel

A scepter has long been regarded as a symbol or royalty and authority. A ruling monarch would use his scepter when making edicts as an act of sovereignty. The Messiah is described as the highest authority that everyone will one-day bow before. He is both royalty and sovereign.

Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name,so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth,and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Philippians 2:5-11 ESV

One to Come

Balaam saw the one to come, “I see him, but not now; I behold him, but not near.” That’s an obvious prophecy of something yet to happen…a Messiah yet to come. Jesus is mentioned multiple times in the New Testament as the one is was said to come, by Balaam and others.

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.

John 1:14 ESV

When the people saw the sign that he had done, they said, “This is indeed the Prophet who is to come into the world!”

John 6:14 ESV

Jesus is the one who was to come. He is the Messiah of the world who came out of Israel. And there is no other name under heaven by which we may be saved. Every knee will bow before Him for He is sovereign. And it was a very unlikely person that God chose to use to proclaim it to the world.

Peace in Christ brothers and sisters!

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The Bronze Serpent

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We are now in our fourth book of the Bible on our journey through the Old Testament looking at prophecies of the Messiah and how Jesus fulfilled them. For previous posts on this series look back at the Messiah tab on my home screen or click the hyperlink. This is post 14 in the series and it begins the book of Numbers. We aren’t starting from the beginning, however. We’ll jump in at chapter 21, with a peculiar story with poisonous snakes.

During the conquest of the promised land, the Israelites faced many challenges. But, the Lord was faithful at every step of the journey. He defeated enemy after enemy as He promised He would. Israel, on the other hand, was anything but faithful. Yes, they had their bright moments. But as a whole, Israel was a very stubborn, impatient, and discontent people. Sound familiar? Looking at Israel is like looking in the mirror. Israel’s sin is often our own.

And the people spoke against God and against Moses, “Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? For there is no food and no water, and we loathe this worthless food.”

Numbers 21:5 (ESV)

After all that God had done for the nation of Israel, they spoke against Him. God had just won a decisive battle for the people of Israel not long before this scene took place. God’s victory on their behalf had less weight on their mindset than their own selfish wants. I’m convinced, that one of the things that displease God the most is being ungrateful and selfish. One reason I believe that is because of how God responded to their lack of faith and contentment.

Then the Lord sent fiery serpents among the people, and they bit the people, so that many people of Israel died.

Numbers 21:6 (ESV)

Pretty extreme right? The apostle Paul would later warn Christ’s followers about repeating the same mistakes as the people of Israel. In 1 Corinthians chapter 10, Paul says that the people put Christ to the test in the wilderness by grumbling and indulging in selfish behaviors. Because of that, they faced very severe punishment.

We must not put Christ to the test, as some of them did and were destroyed by serpents, nor grumble, as some of them did and were destroyed by the Destroyer. Now these things happened to them as an example, but they were written down for our instruction, on whom the end of the ages has come.

1 Corinthians 10:9-11 ESV

Christ in this sense is used interchangeably with God. Remember back to the rock that gave forth water for the people to drink? The rock was both God and Christ. The role of the Christ is to save the people. God continually operated in that role throughout the Bible as a picture of when He would do that in human form in the person of Jesus. This story in Numbers 21 is one of those examples. Along with the wrath, God also provided a way to escape. That’s exactly what the Messiah’s mission is all about. The Messiah is God’s loving way of escape.

And the people came to Moses and said, “We have sinned, for we have spoken against the Lord and against you. Pray to the Lord, that he take away the serpents from us.” So Moses prayed for the people. And the Lord said to Moses, “Make a fiery serpent and set it on a pole, and everyone who is bitten, when he sees it, shall live.” So Moses made a bronze serpent and set it on a pole. And if a serpent bit anyone, he would look at the bronze serpent and live.

Numbers 21:7-9 ESV

Humility is always met with grace. Once the people repented of their sin, they received mercy. This mercy was in the form of a bronze serpent lifted up on a pole for all of the people to see and live. Now of course, this serpent didn’t actually save anyone. Faith in what God did is what saved the people. And this act of God would be a powerful picture of what the Messiah came to do. Jesus Himself used this event in Numbers 21 to tell us why He came.

And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life. “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.

John 3:14-17 ESV

Where there is wrath, God has made a way for mercy. His name is Jesus.

Peace in Christ brothers and sisters

Celebrate Bible-Style

1888931_origSeven Feasts

Year-long Celebration

God’s Redemption

One Messiah

 

This is the fourth and last post looking at how God chose to paint a picture of the Messiah through the book of Leviticus. In the three previous posts, I talked about the process of cleansing lepers, the Day of Atonement, and the significance of blood in the Old Testament system. This post will be a little different. In Leviticus, chapter 23 appears an outline of the Biblical feasts. Instead of doing seven separate posts about each one, I’m going to lay out simple historical, prophetic, and spiritual connections to all seven in this one post. For that reason, this post will be quite lengthy but also concise and organized. Let’s begin!

Some of these feasts I’ve already posted about like Tabernacles, TrumpetsPassover and the Day of Atonement. But before I go more into each feast I’d like to make a few statements as to why I believe this is important for all Christians to know. Not only is it my opinion as a follower of Christ, but the Bible itself provides some powerful reasons for studying, understanding, and celebrating the Seven Festivals. Here are twelve of those reasons:

  1.  The Feasts are in the Bible, and all the Bible is inspired by God. (2 Timothy 3:16-17)
  2.  The Feasts are a shadow of things to come that teach us about the Messiah. (Colossians 2:16-17, Hebrews 10:1)
  3. God gave the Feasts so we could learn and understand God’s plan of redemption for the world and our personal relationship to Him. (Romans 15:4)
  4. All of the Festivals are, at the same time, both historical and prophetic, and mean more to Christians than Jews.
  5. All of the Festivals teach about the Messiah (Jesus Christ).
  6. All of the Festivals teach about your personal relationship with God and how you are to walk with Him as you grow in the knowledge of Him, from being a baby believer to a mature believer.
  7. We are “grafted in” as God’s people through Christ, called to follow God’s word. (Romans 11:19)
  8. These are God’s Feasts, not the Jewish feasts. (Leviticus 23:1)
  9. Christ himself celebrated all of them as well as the 1st-century church. (Gospels and Acts)
  10. The feasts bring about knowledge of what God has called His people (not just Jews) to do to celebrate and worship Him.
  11. God’s Holy Feasts can take you deeper in your relationship with God. They have such significant meaning and unlock the meaning of scripture in an incredible way.
  12. God is a “calendaring” God, which is demonstrated by major events in Biblical History occurring on or around Feasts and how they reveal God’s redemptive plan for mankind.

The Festivals of the Lord found in Leviticus, chapter 23, were given to us by God so His people could understand the coming of the Messiah and the role that the Messiah would play in redeeming and restoring both man and the earth back to God following the fall of Man in the Garden of Eden. The Festivals are divided into two major portions, depending upon whether they occur in the spring or the fall.  The Spring Festivals teach about the First Coming of the Messiah, and the Fall Festivals teach about the Second Coming of the Messiah.

The Apostle Paul, in Colossians 2:16-17 refers to the Feasts as a “shadow of things to come.”  The first four Feasts or Festivals, which are Passover, Unleavened Bread, First Fruits, and Pentecost, primarily teach about the significant events in the First Coming of the Messiah and why these events were an important part of God’s redemption of man. Pentecost marked the beginning of the Church (body of Christ).

The last three Feasts, which are the Feast of Trumpets, also known as Rosh Hashanah, the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur), and the Feast of Tabernacles or Booths (Sukkot), give us a fascinating insight concerning important events that surround the Second Coming of the Messiah.  God gave the Festivals to teach about the death, burial, and resurrection of the Messiah, the empowering of the believers by the Holy Spirit, the resurrection of the dead, the coronation of the Messiah, the wedding of the Messiah, the Millennium, and much more.

I want to demonstrate the incredible relevance of these feasts in three ways. First, I’d like to give a simple (and I mean simple) quick reference chart showing the meanings of all seven feasts. Second, I’ll provide some more scripture references for your own personal study if you so wish to join the journey. And third, I’ll break down three Hebrew words connected to the feasts.

Feast Historical meaning Messianic meaning Spiritual meaning
Passover Israel’s deliverance out of Egyptian bondage Death of Christ on the Cross Repent and trust by faith in the shed blood of Jesus. Saved by the blood
Unleavened Bread The going out of Egypt in haste after the tenth plague The burial of Jesus along with our sin Sanctification and separation from evil
First Fruits Crossing the Red Sea and crossing into the Promised Land. The resurrection of Jesus and ascension to heaven Walking in newness of life
Pentecost Giving the Commandments at Mount Sinai (Commissioning Israel) Pouring out of the Holy Spirit and birth of the Church (Commissioning followers of Jesus) Immersion (baptism) in the Holy Spirit and faith in God
Trumpets Jewish New Year The resurrection of the dead and Rapture of the believers Hear the calling of God for our lives just as Jesus’ sheep hear His voice
Day of Atonement The priest entered the Holy of Holies and Cleansing of the people’s sins The day of Christ’s Second Coming Surrendering ourselves to God so that we may live in His Presence
Tabernacle Entering the Promised Land/Great Rejoicing and when Jesus became the tabernacle of God’s fullness here on earth The Messianic Era/Millennium where we will live in the presence of Christ again after He returns A daily and eternal rest in the Messiah.

So that you don’t take my word for anything in the first chart, I’d like to provide you with another chart with scripture references from the Old and New Testaments. Bear in mind that this is not an exhaustive study and there are so many more verses and stories in the Bible that unlock the importance of these feast days. But this will get you started.

Feast Scripture…Old and New Testament
Passover Exodus 12:14, 28-50                                 John 2:23 and 3:1-17

Leviticus 23:4-8                                         Luke 22:7-20

Joshua 5:10-11                                          Mark 14

Ezra 6:14-22                                               Matthew 26

Numbers 9:1-2, 15-23

2 Chronicles 30 and 35

Unleavened Bread Leviticus 23:4-8                                         Romans 6:1-23

Exodus 12, 13, 23:15, 34                         1 Corinthians 5:1-8

Numbers 28:16-18

Deuteronomy 16

 

First Fruit Leviticus 23:9-14                                       1 Corinthians 15

James 1:18

Pentecost Exodus 12:6,12 and 19:1, 11                   Acts 2:1-4

Leviticus 23:15-22                                     1 Corinthians 16:7-8

Acts 20:16

John 14:15-26

Trumpet Leviticus 23:23-25                                     Revelation 8:6-11:19

1 Thessalonians 4:15-17

Yom Kippur Leviticus 23:26-32                                     Revelation 17-20

Leviticus 16

Tabernacles Zechariah 14:16                                        Revelation 7:9-10 (Lev 23:40)

Leviticus 23:33-44                                    John 7:2-11

1 King 8:2,65                                             Revelation 20-22

Nehemiah 8:1-3

Ezra 3:1-5

General Bible Verses 1 Kings 19:18                                             Mark 7:6-9

Ezekiel 8:13-14                                         Colossians 2:8

Deuteronomy 12:3-4                               1 Corinthians 10:21

Ezekiel 20:18-21                                       Matthew 5:17, 18

The third and last thing I’d like to give you is a word study. Below are three important Hebrew words and what they say about these Holy Feasts.

Translating the word “FEAST” in Leviticus 23

MO’ED

In verse 2, the word for feast is the Hebrew word ‘mo’ed‘- “Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them, concerning the feasts (mo’ed) of the Lord…” The word ‘mo’ed‘ means an appointment, a fixed time or season, a cycle or year, an assembly, an appointed time, a set time or exact time.  By understanding the Hebrew meaning of the English word “feast”, we can see that God is telling us that He is ordaining a “set time or exact time or an appointed time” when He has an appointment with humanity to fulfill certain events in the redemption.

CHAG

In verse 6 is another Hebrew word translated as “feast”- “And on the fifteenth day of the same month is the feast (chag) of unleavened bread…”  The Hebrew word ‘chag‘, which means a “festival”, is derived from the Hebrew root word ‘chagag‘, which means to move in a circle, to march in a sacred procession, to celebrate, dance, to hold a solemn feast or holiday.  God gave the Festivals as cycles to be observed yearly so that, by doing them, we can understand God’s redemptive plan for the world, the role that the Messiah would play in that redemption, and our personal relationship to God concerning how we grow from a baby Bible believer to a mature Bible believer.

MIQRA

In Leviticus 23:2 it is written, “…the feasts of the Lord, which ye shall proclaim to be holy convocations…”  The Hebrew term translated as convocation in Leviticus 23:2,4 is ‘miqra‘, which means “a rehearsal“.  God gave the Festivals to be yearly “rehearsals” of the future events in the redemption.  Because God gave the “rehearsals” to teach us about the major events in the redemption, if we want to understand those events, then we need to understand what God was teaching us by these rehearsals.

God is so awesome to tell us the full story of His redemptive plan! Through the feasts, we get to celebrate grace, redemption, God’s goodness, and the Messiah all year long! What a great New Year’s resolution. To go deeper with Jesus through His feasts.

Peace in Christ brothers and sisters

 

Sanctity of Blood

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For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it for you on the altar to make atonement for your souls, for it is the blood that makes atonement by the life.

Leviticus 17:11 (ESV)

Some people get squeamish around blood but its importance cannot be overstated. It is the most vital substance to human life. While most of us go day to day without a thought about the blood in our bodies, it’s working to keep our entire system functioning. Thousands of years before modern science discovered the importance of blood, the Bible clearly outlined just how significant it is. Our blood is the foundation for how every cell in the human body gets the nutrients they need. All the ‘food’ that our cells need to grow, reproduce and repair is transported in the blood. Since our bodies also have multiple sophisticated organs they need the blood to transport and communicate between them.

Our blood provides and regulates the pH levels by supplying oxygen and filtering our CO2 and other wasteful things. It also carries essential vitamins and minerals. In terms of communication between organs, our blood carries regulatory messages through hormones. Blood also plays a major role in protecting our bodies. It is an integral component of the immune system involving antibodies and white blood cells. Our blood is highly sophisticated too. When cut, our blood initiates the clotting process to prevents its own loss. Our blood also tries to fight against internal clotting through thrombosis.

When people read statements like the one in Leviticus 17, they can figuratively scratch their heads out of not understanding the meaning, or they can discount it as gross or even weird. But the truth is, when the Bible speaks of blood, it speaks of life. Blood is powerful, amazing, and should be greatly valued. One of the easiest ways to give life-changing help to others is to donate blood and/or plasma. It is one of the most vital tools our hospitals have to keep people alive. It’s no wonder that God would choose blood as a life-giving source in a spiritual sense.

Leviticus isn’t the first place we see mention of the importance of blood. Back in Genesis chapter nine, following the flood, God told Noah two things about blood. One, don’t eat it, and two, the shedding of someone’s blood requires your blood being shed.

Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you. And as I gave you the green plants, I give you everything. But you shall not eat flesh with its life, that is, its blood. And for your lifeblood I will require a reckoning: from every beast I will require it and from man. From his fellow man I will require a reckoning for the life of man.“Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed for God made man in his own image.”

Genesis 9:3-6 (ESV)

Some will be tempted to jump into a debate over the ‘eye for an eye’ issue and how the death penalty is inhumane. However, this concept is the fundamental reason behind the death penalty both in the Bible and in modern society. God values life, everyone’s life. When life is taken, life is required. No one’s life is more important than another. When man brings death a reckoning for life has to be wrought. Hence, the Levitical system of sacrifice. The blood of animals could never remove the sin from humanity but it could train people in dedication to God and increase awareness of their need for forgiveness. The sacrificial system created a method that would draw people towards God despite their frailty and imperfection. The Levitical system required personal sacrifice towards God. Sin always has a price to pay. Most importantly, the Old Testament system pointed toward the greater work of the Messiah.

Christ’s Passover

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 26:27-28 (ESV)

In churches across America and the world, followers of Jesus take part in communion. This is a brief portion of the greater Passover meal that Jesus celebrated with His disciples the night before His crucifixion. In a previous post, I went in-depth about how relevant that meal is in pointing to Jesus and His mission as the Christ. One of the things Jesus did was to use a cup of wine to symbolize His blood which He would shed for humanity.

Christ’s Ransom

For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.

Mark 10:45 (ESV)

The purpose of the Messiah is to be a ransom. A ransom is a payment for someone held captive. In this sense, those in captivity are humanity. The payment is the blood of Christ.  Our captivity is spiritual death and the blood of Christ gives us life!

Christ’s Justification

…for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus,whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins.It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.

Romans 3:23-26 (ESV)

To be justified means to be made right. Just like we’ve all tried to justify our actions in defense so that others may view that right. In this case, we needed to be made right with God because our actions can in no way justify us. When standing before a Holy God, nothing we’ve done can make us right or good. That’s where the blood of Jesus comes in. In shedding His blood for us we’ve been given new life, His life.

Christ’s Cleansing Power

But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.

1 John 1:7 (ESV)

Perhaps one of the most difficult things for me to wrap my brain around is the fact that I’m clean, as in holy and spotless. I make far too many mistakes, say too many things I shouldn’t, and think too many things to be considered ‘clean’. But that’s exactly what the life-giving blood of Jesus does. It doesn’t just bleach our stains, it completely removes them. To be cleansed with His blood is a very odd term for those outside the realm of Christianity. It doesn’t sound appealing at all until you understand the relevance of it. Once you do, there’s nothing greater.

Now that we are set right with God by means of this sacrificial death, the consummate blood sacrifice, there is no longer a question of being at odds with God in any way. If, when we were at our worst, we were put on friendly terms with God by the sacrificial death of his Son, now that we’re at our best, just think of how our lives will expand and deepen by means of his resurrection life! Now that we have actually received this amazing friendship with God, we are no longer content to simply say it in plodding prose. We sing and shout our praises to God through Jesus, the Messiah!

Eugene Peterson, The Message (Romans 5:9-11)

Don’t forget to sing today brothers and sisters

Once and for All

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On the Biblical calendar exists one of the most distinguished days of the year. It’s called the Yom Kippur, or Day of Atonement. This day falls on the tenth day of the seventh month (Tishrei not July). The Bible doesn’t operate on the Gregorian calendar that most of the world uses today because of the Roman Empire.  That’s why Yom Kippur can be in September or October depending on the year. This day is packed full of significance in terms of the Messiah. This is post number two from the book of Leviticus showing how the Messiah is revealed in the Old Testament. The first post looked at the process established for cleansing leprosy in chapter 14. Feel free to scroll back through my site for the posts out of Genesis and Exodus as well. If you’re joining us for the first time, welcome!

Sabbath

The Day of Atonement is regarded as the “Sabbath of Sabbaths”. The word sabbath means “rest” in it’s simplest terms. Sabbath was first practiced by God in the process of creation and then humanity was invited to follow suit. Yom Kippur would be a day unlike any other, where the people of God poured out their hearts, sang worship songs, praised, lamented, and more. Basically, anything that had nothing to do with a person’s relationship with God would be set aside in pure devotion. It was also seen as the day that people’s souls could find rest with God as the Atonement and repentance were done. The Messiah and Sabbath are incredibly connected. It is the Messiah who provides the ultimate rest for our souls and mends our relationship with God. That’s exactly what Jesus came to do.

Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

Matthew 11:28-30 (ESV)

Atonement

The act of atonement is the idea of making full reparations for a wrong or injury. The wrong in this context is sin. The sins of the people needed to be paid for. The injury was dealt to God since sin is an offense towards Him as well as others who are hurt by our selfishness. While sin carries with it, often heavy consequences, every sinner has the hope of escaping the full wrath that their sin deserves. We can’t always escape the temporal effects of our sin, which makes it all that more important to try to live a God-honoring life. And a good Father would never spare us from all of the consequences of our bad choices. That’s how we grow. But a good Father does spare us from His wrath because His love is so much greater. In God’s economy, payment for sin would only be fully made through the Messiah.

He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly. He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed.

1 Peter 2:22-24 (ESV)

High Priest

It was the responsibility of the High Priest to carry out the service on the Day of Atonement. He made the sacrifice. He got blood on his hands. He prayed for the people. In a sense, the High Priest acted as a mediator between God and His people. The Messiah would step into this role upon His arrival. Only the Messiah would have to be a greater-than the high priest. Jesus Christ is called the Great High Priest because the sacrifice He made was greater than all of the sacrifice of the sacrificial system combined.

These preparations having thus been made, the priests go regularly into the first section, performing their ritual duties, but into the second only the high priest goes, and he but once a year, and not without taking blood, which he offers for himself and for the unintentional sins of the people. By this the Holy Spirit indicates that the way into the holy places is not yet opened as long as the first section is still standing (which is symbolic for the present age). According to this arrangement, gifts and sacrifices are offered that cannot perfect the conscience of the worshiper, but deal only with food and drink and various washings, regulations for the body imposed until the time of reformation. But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things that have come, then through the greater and more perfect tent (not made with hands, that is, not of this creation) he entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption. For if the blood of goats and bulls, and the sprinkling of defiled persons with the ashes of a heifer, sanctify for the purification of the flesh, how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God.

Hebrews 9:7-14 (ESV)

Scapegoat

While one goat was sacrificed, the other was taken outside the gate and released into the wilderness. Before this was done, all of the sins of Israel were confessed and figuratively laid on this animal. Of course, the goat couldn’t carry the sins of anyone. But this was a powerful image of innocence carrying the sins of the guilty. The Messiah would be someone without guilt but would be treated and punished as someone who was sinful. A scapegoat is an innocent person who takes the blame and punishment for the guilty party on themselves. That’s exactly what Yeshua (Jesus) did for humanity.

For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

2 Corinthians 5:21 (ESV)

It is Finished

This day atoned for the sins of the people for the year. It would have to be repeated each year at the same time. The nation of Israel would spend an entire day repenting for sins known and unknown, for themselves and for those they knew. It was a day that many would both dread and rejoice over. It is a day to remember the price for sin as well as the goodness of God to make a way for our sins to be atoned for. The Messiah’s atoning sacrifice resembles that in all ways but one. His death on the cross should be both a dreadful moment for Christians, as well as a sacrifice that causes rejoicing. Remembering our Savior on the cross should lead every Christian into heartfelt repentance. Because it was our sin that put the Messiah there. Hebrews chapter 10 is a great description of the Messiah’s sacrifice in comparison with that of the Day of Atonement.

 …we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.

Hebrews 10:10 (ESV)

Cleansing Lepers

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The entire system of Judaism was the gospel veiled.”

Stephen Haskell (The Cross and It’s Shadow)

We’ve moved into the third book of the bible on our journey to see how the entire Old Testament revealed the Messiah. The book of Leviticus is jam-packed with laws and regulations. This leads many people to avoid it all together. I admit, I was one of those people for many years. It wasn’t until I started to spend a lot of time studying the significance of the unfamiliar Old Testament passages that I began to appreciate all the little details.

One of the most incredible images of sin in the bible is seen in the leper. There is something about this disease, and the frequent alluding to it in the bible, that stands out. A leper was often treated with contempt and judgement, especially in the time of Jesus. They were separated from society and considered unclean. Their uncleanness made them social, and quite possibly, spiritual outcasts. Occasionally, people were struck with leprosy due to their rebellion against God. Like in the case of Miriam (Moses’ sister) for her actions against Moses. Or when King Uzziah was got it after doing what he was forbidden to do in the temple. But that is not the main point behind this disease. Many people got it, and many still do today. And it did make people unclean, but in a ceremonial sense, not in a moral sense. However, leprosy is a good outward picture of humanity’s inward sickness.

The nation of Israel had to experience cases of leprosy regularly, which I believe is why God created a method of cleansing them. In Leviticus chapter 14, God lays out specific steps for the leper to go through to be reinstated as ceremonially clean. That’s extremely important so that the individual can return to certain methods of worship that they would have to abstain from while unclean. I would suggest reading through all of Leviticus 14 on your own because I am going to be selecting only about 10 of the verses for this post. The verses I have picked all show some aspect of the Messiah’s purpose (verses 5-14), as well as the impact that He has on His followers’ lives (verses 15-18). Here we go…

#1- Birds and Pots

And the priest shall command them to kill one of the birds in an earthenware vessel over fresh water. (v.5)

The earthenware vessel of this ceremony is a picture of Christ’s dwelling in a human body which would eventually be used in the sacrifice. The bird being slain over flowing water alludes to the Messiah’s ever-flowing and ever-cleansing efficacy of His blood in the redeeming process.

#2- More birds, wood, hyssop, and blood

He shall take the live bird with the cedarwood and the scarlet yarn and the hyssop, and dip them and the live bird in the blood of the bird that was killed over the fresh water. (v.6)

The cedarwood tree represents the cross on which the Messiah hung and a small reed of hyssop supported the sponge that was dipped in vinegar wine and given to Him to quench His thirst as He hung there. The blood and the water were reflected by the blood and water that flowed from the side of Yeshua when the spear was jammed into His side (John 19). The live bird in this scene gained it’s freedom only after it was dipped in the blood of the slain bird. The Messiah, being that slain bird, who’s blood paid for our release.

#3- One last mention of birds

And he shall sprinkle it seven times on him who is to be cleansed of the leprous disease. Then he shall pronounce him clean and shall let the living bird go into the open field. (v. 7)

Seven is the number of completion in the bible. The blood being sprinkled seven times shows the completeness of the Messiah’s sacrifice in cleansing the leper, the sinner, you and me. We are said to have been sprinkled clean by the blood of Christ (1 Peter 1).

#4- The blood of the Lamb

“And on the eighth day he shall take two male lambs without blemish, and one ewe lamb a year old without blemish, and a grain offering of three tenths of an ephah of fine flour mixed with oil, and one log of oil.And the priest who cleanses him shall set the man who is to be cleansed and these things before the Lord, at the entrance of the tent of meeting. And the priest shall take one of the male lambs and offer it for a guilt offering, along with the log of oil, and wave them for a wave offering before the Lord.And he shall kill the lamb in the place where they kill the sin offering and the burnt offering, in the place of the sanctuary. For the guilt offering, like the sin offering, belongs to the priest; it is most holy.The priest shall take some of the blood of the guilt offering, and the priest shall put it on the lobe of the right ear of him who is to be cleansed and on the thumb of his right hand and on the big toe of his right foot. (v.10-14)

A lamb without blemish, just like in the Passover celebration, is the image of the sinless one who was the Messiah. The blood was placed on the ear, thumb, and toe of the leper covering his body to signify he was wholly clean. Once the leper was deemed clean through the process described, he was then anointed for service.

Then the priest shall take some of the log of oil and pour it into the palm of his own left hand and dip his right finger in the oil that is in his left hand and sprinkle some oil with his finger seven times before the LordAnd some of the oil that remains in his hand the priest shall put on the lobe of the right ear of him who is to be cleansed and on the thumb of his right hand and on the big toe of his right foot, on top of the blood of the guilt offering.And the rest of the oil that is in the priest’s hand he shall put on the head of him who is to be cleansed. Then the priest shall make atonement for him before the Lord. (v.15-18)

After the sprinkling of blood, the newly cleansed person’s hands and feet were anointed with oil for service. His head was then anointed with oil which was often used in the method of commissioning people for service (like King David being anointed by Solomon). This is exactly what the effect of the Messiah would have on those who believe in Him. To accept His cleansing sacrifice is to also accept His anointing on our lives.

The leper was cleansed from a loathsome living death. He must have felt so thankful to God for the freedom and healing that he would have consecrated his life to the service of the Lord. His worship would have been amplified. His heart would have been open. No doubt, grace would have filled his life like never before. Another story of leprosy in the bible brings this to life even more.

On the way to Jerusalem he was passing along between Samaria and Galilee.And as he entered a village, he was met by ten lepers, who stood at a distance and lifted up their voices, saying, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us.” When he saw them he said to them, “Go and show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went they were cleansed. Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice; and he fell on his face at Jesus’ feet, giving him thanks. Now he was a Samaritan.Then Jesus answered, “Were not ten cleansed? Where are the nine?Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?”And he said to him, “Rise and go your way; your faith has made you well.”

Luke 17:11-19 (ESV)

Jesus cleanses ten lepers but only makes one well. The reaction of the one is the response of the truly humble. All ten received physical healing. The leprosy was gone. But when it says that the one was made well, it uses the same word (sozo in greek) that means saved from perishing. Wow! And the response of the one who was saved was humility, thankfulness, and straight up falling at the feet of Jesus. That was a man who recognized how desperate his situation was and how miraculous his encounter with Jesus was. That reminds me of yet another story in the bible.

One of the Pharisees asked him to eat with him, and he went into the Pharisee’s house and reclined at table.And behold, a woman of the city, who was a sinner, when she learned that he was reclining at table in the Pharisee’s house, brought an alabaster flask of ointment,and standing behind him at his feet, weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears and wiped them with the hair of her head and kissed his feet and anointed them with the ointment.Now when the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would have known who and what sort of woman this is who is touching him, for she is a sinner.”And Jesus answering said to him, “Simon, I have something to say to you.” And he answered, “Say it, Teacher.”

“A certain moneylender had two debtors. One owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty.When they could not pay, he cancelled the debt of both. Now which of them will love him more?”Simon answered, “The one, I suppose, for whom he cancelled the larger debt.” And he said to him, “You have judged rightly.”Then turning toward the woman he said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave me no water for my feet, but she has wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair.You gave me no kiss, but from the time I came in she has not ceased to kiss my feet.You did not anoint my head with oil, but she has anointed my feet with ointment.Therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven—for she loved much. But he who is forgiven little, loves little.”And he said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.” Then those who were at table with him began to say among themselves, “Who is this, who even forgives sins?”And he said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”

Luke 7:36-50 (ESV)

Throughout the bible the condition of humanity is made very clear. We are all spiritually dead and separated from God because of our sin. God created a means, a process by which we can be in His presence. All of the old testament ceremonies were foreshadowings of what the Messiah would ultimately do once and for all. The Messiah’s mission was to heal the common leprosy that all of humanity suffers from. Yeshua did that for you and me. And His sacrifice comes with a calling. The oil of anointing is an emblem of the Holy Spirit, which is often symbolized by oil, preparing the follower of Christ for service. The Holy Spirit enables us to live the new life of freedom that Christ’s sacrifice made possible.

Here in a book written 1400 years before the Messiah would make His appearance and give His life to cleanse the world, God was giving us a picture of what to look for. The relationship between sacrifice and service was inextricably linked. To be cleansed means to be called.

I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

Galatians 2:20 (ESV)

Be at peace my fellow cleansed and called ones!

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)