The Burial of Jesus:

Paul summarizes the Gospel in three points in 1 Corinthians 15. Jesus died, was buried and rose from the dead. The Gospel is good news, and the best news for all of us is if we are willing to place our burdens on the shoulders of Jesus, we are rewarded for the life He lived, just as He was punished for our lives.  It is the greatest gift imaginable!  This video emphasizes the second part of the Gospel, the burial of Jesus. On Good Friday, we remember that event, but what does it mean to us today? It certainly meant everything to Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus on that day, many years ago. Are we so far removed that it means nothing? There has been nothing like this–God dying in place of man. This should change us to the core! Thank You, Jesus!

 

Advertisements

LIGHT

Light is an interesting subject in the Bible, and occurs early and often. Starting in Genesis 1 on the first day of creation, we see light’s opposite of darkness in Genesis 1:2, followed by the first mention of light in Genesis 1:3:

1 In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.2 The earth was formless and void, and darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was moving over the surface of the waters.3 Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light.4 God saw that the light was good; and God separated the light from the darkness.5 God called the light day, and the darkness He called night. And there was evening and there was morning, one day.

Genesis 1:1-5 (NKJV)

 This is the Hebrew word “or” (אוֹר ), and similar to English, can be used as a noun or as a verb, as “to become light, become lighted up, to give light or to cause light to shine.” Without vision, light cannot be perceived, and understand that this perception has both physical and spiritual implications. A blind man reacts the same whether he is in the darkest cave or outside on the brightest day. Interestingly, blindness does not just affect waking hours, but even dreams, as a blind man cannot see even in a dream unless born with vision and sight was lost afterward. Physically, we take sight for granted, yet we likely put more emphasis on physical sight than spiritual sight. Let’s contrast the first usage of light in the Old Testament with the first occurrence in the New Testament:

The people who sat in darkness have seen a great light, And upon those who sat in the region and shadow of death Light has dawned.”

Matthew 4:16 (NKJV)

In the New Testament, light is the Greek word “phos” ( φω̂ς ), though we know this word has exactly the same meaning as it did in Hebrew, as this verse in Matthew quotes Isaiah 9:1-2. What is the light that both verses point to? Jesus! Let’s look a bit closer at the accompanying verses in Isaiah:

1 Nevertheless the gloom will not be upon her who is distressed, As when at first He lightly esteemed The land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, And afterward more heavily oppressed her, By the way of the sea, beyond the Jordan, In Galilee of the Gentiles.2 The people who walked in darkness Have seen a great light; Those who dwelt in the land of the shadow of death, Upon them a light has shined.

Isaiah 9:1-2 (NKJV)

This mentions two regions of the Promised Land specifically, Zebulun and Napthali. The first thing to do is to grasp where these two regions are. Both of these regions are in the north, as we would expect, being that the prophecy in Isaiah concerns the “House of Israel.” Naphtali actually is located along the western bank of the Sea of Galilee. Going west, where Naphtali ends, Zebulon begins. To those who have been blessed by God with a trip to the Holy Land, this might make sense already. But simply by mentioning a few towns in each region, it all will become clear. The childhood home of Jesus, Nazareth, is in Zebulon, while Capernaum, a prominent town in the ministry of Jesus, is in Naphtali. How did God “lightly esteem” the land of Zebulon and Naphtali? By sending His Son to live and minister in those areas of the world! To find the best interpretation of any verse in the Bible, the best first step is always to use other verses in the Bible. Let’s look more closely at the surrounding passage in Matthew to get the context of those verses, and connect the dots:

12 Now when Jesus heard that John had been put in prison, He departed to Galilee. 13 And leaving Nazareth, He came and dwelt in Capernaum, which is by the sea, in the regions of Zebulun and Naphtali, 14 that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Isaiah the prophet, saying: 15“The land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, By the way of the sea, beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles: 16 The people who sat in darkness have seen a great light, And upon those who sat in the region and shadow of death Light has dawned.” 17 From that time Jesus began to preach and to say, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”

Matthew 4:12-17 (NKJV)

When we reflect upon the time of Jesus when He walked as a man on this earth, one painfully obvious observation is that those Jesus came to save did not receive Him. They could not see His Light, even in darkness. Think of the darkest cave. When someone turns on a bright flashlight, that light can be offensive when introduced into the darkness. Light exposes darkness, just as good exposes evil. Jesus was despised and rejected, yet His death and resurrection continues to bring light to a dark world today. Without the Holy Spirit drawing us to Jesus, we are limited by our physical sight, and cannot see Him with the necessary spiritual eyes. Yet the Holy Spirit removes those scales of spiritual blindness.

Interestingly, in the Gospel of John, we see a beginning, just as much as Genesis offers a beginning. John’s “beginning” titles Jesus as the Word, and then offers us the gem that the Word was with God and was God. In the following verses, starting in verse 4, we see many mentions of light:

In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. This man came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light, that all through him might believe. He was not that Light, but was sent to bear witness of that LightThat was the true Light which gives light to every man coming into the world.

John 1:4-9 (NKJV)

 In this short passage, we see the word “light” appear seven times, and seven is a special number in the Bible, pointing to completeness. In addition to John identifying Jesus with the title the “Word,” John also hangs this title on Jesus, the “Light.” Jesus came into the darkness of the world and illuminated everything. Even His announcement came as a great light, with the Star of Bethlehem. Yet only a handful of people were aware, even on that first night, shepherds, keeping watch over their flocks. Soon, Simon and Anna were also privy to His birth, having waited their entire lives for that moment. And additionally, the magi were also aware. Even in the prime of Jesus’ three-year ministry, there were not many followers, though the crowd did acknowledge Him as King on Palm Sunday, a week before the crucifixion. But with Jesus on the cross, only a few stood as His followers. Certainly, we still cannot judge the power of a ministry simply by the number of followers! Jesus died on the cross that day, but His light was not extinguished. His Light continues to draw people today. Without an eye, light is useless, yet the presence of a physical eye does not take precedence over the presence of a spiritual eye. How can we keenly develop that spiritual sight?

Your word is a lamp to my feet And a light to my path.

Psalm 119:105 (NKJV)

 We also know that faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God. Isn’t it interesting how many verses or sections of verses seem to join “word” and “light?” If we have trouble connecting Jesus with light, all we need to do is proceed to His claim, His “I AM” statement:

Then Jesus spoke to them again, saying, “I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life.”

John 8:12 (NKJV)

As believers, Jesus dwells inside of us, and with His presence, we have spiritual sight. He lights our path, and sadly, we carry Jesus into some dark passages and sinful places. Yet because of Jesus, we don’t remain there. He reminds us of His presence, and our calling to shine His light upon a dark and dying world:

22  “The lamp of the body is the eye. If therefore your eye is good, your whole body will be full of light. 23 But if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in you is darkness, how great is that darkness!

Matthew 6:22-23 (NKJV)

 Let your light shine, instead of hiding it beneath a bushel basket! Jesus is the only answer!

“Blood Brothers” by Elias Chacour, with David Hazard

A dear friend who knows my interest in Israel gave me a book to read called “Blood Brothers.” As a Christian Palestinian who lived through the Jewish return to the land in 1948 and having been displaced by that return, Elias Chacour’s perspective is certainly not identical to most others. With the amount of emotional trauma he endured because of this event, to criticize this best-selling book would seem hard-hearted, especially toward a fellow Christian and his ministry. Yet to accept his perspective as “Gospel truth” is equally incorrect, as Chacour’s limited perspective seems to block out much truth, including of a biblical nature. Whether or not you have read this book, there is much information about the history of this crisis in the Middle East.

“Blood Brothers” is a book written by David Hazard, chronicling the life of a Palestinian Christian named Elias Chacour. Chacour describes his life in the land, which includes the Zionist occupation prior to 1948, as well as the post-1948 struggles. He refers to the land as Palestine, not Israel. As Christians, we need to understand the root of that word, Palestine. It comes from Philistine, meaning “immigrants.” These are the people God told the Jews to rid from the Promised Land. In fear or complacence, the Jews disobeyed God on that directive, and hence, this struggle continues today. Does that mean that God hates the Palestinians? No, but it is simple to see many differences in God’s promises to both groups. God’s blessing to Ishmael certainly differs from God’s blessing to Abraham! There are many unfulfilled biblical prophecies concerning Israel. To name a few, there are the promise of a remnant, a time of the Jews that will occur after the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled (Luke 21:24), and God’s promise that once He has placed the Jews in their land, they will not be uprooted out of it again (Amos 9:15). Let’s begin with that third promise:

“I will also plant them on their land,
And they will not again be rooted out from their land
Which I have given them,”
Says the Lord your God.
Amos 9:15 (NASB)

“Again” is an interesting word in this verse. The Jews were uprooted from the land previously, by the Assyrians and Babylonians, but a remnant returned, which was a small number according to the Book of Ezra. In AD 70, just as Jesus prophesied, the Romans uprooted the Jews in the diaspora, and sent the survivors to the four corners of the world.  1948 and 1967 became significant dates, with 1948 pointing to the Jews’ return to the Promised Land and 1967 pointing to the Jews’ return to Jerusalem, God’s holy city.  Demonstrating that God has a plan, World War I prepared the land for the people and World War II prepared the people for the land! God loves the Palestinians, just as He loves us, though be careful not to intermingle His promises, as those who believe the doctrine of “replacement theology.”

Let me explain this belief. With Israel, the Promised Land, no longer populated by God’s chosen people, many Bible scholars began to apply the Bible’s unfulfilled prophecies concerning Israel to the Church. This made sense in many ways as Israel was no longer Israel. But then in 1948, a miracle occurred. Israel once again became Israel! Some Bible scholars saw their egregious error, understanding that God meant what He said and said what He meant. Just because Israel was not populated by Jews did not take away the land deed God had granted them. Other scholars, though, were so rigid in their belief that they were unwilling to change that belief, holding tightly to promises not made to them! Let’s say that I really want a bicycle for Christmas, and on Christmas morning, there is a bicycle under the tree. But the bicycle has your name on it. No matter how badly I want that bicycle, my desire for it does not make it mine! I can grab the bike and go for a ride, but chances are good that my father is going to let me know it is your bike! This is “replacement theology,” believing that God’s promise to Israel and the Jews has become God’s promise to the Church! Sadly, it is the belief of most Christian denominations today.

Instead of desiring to steal God’s blessings to Israel and the Jews, we should see God’s love for the Jews with joy. Notice how many times in the Bible that God forgave the Jews. An ongoing cycle occurred: the Jews would disobey, God would punish them, the Jews would repent and return to Him, God would bless the Jews and they would live in peace, and then the cycle would begin again when the Jews disobeyed Him again. This is grace, getting something we have not earned. God continued to love them, continued to forgive them and made promises for their future. God loves us the same way, but His promises to us do not include that Promised Land, but instead, a promised eternal home. In fact, by studying the Old Testament, we see many promises of earthly blessings to the Jews, His chosen people. But to the New Testament Christian, instead, we see promises of heavenly blessings and earthly trials!

Another subject to understand when looking at Israel is the difference between a promise of land and a promise of the usage of that land. The best analogy I have heard of this difference involves a new car that a father buys for his 16-year-old son. The car is in the son’s name, but the father makes a promise. He tells his son that if the son gets a speeding ticket, the car will be locked up. No surprise, the son gets a ticket, and the father locks the car in the garage for a time. The son does not lose ownership of the car, as the title is still in his name, but the son certainly loses usage of the car. That is exactly what God did with the Jews and Israel. There are at least 170 biblical references to God giving this land to the Jews. It begins in Genesis 12.

1 Now the Lord had said to Abram:
“Get out of your country,
From your family
And from your father’s house,
To a land that I will show you.
2 I will make you a great nation;
I will bless you
And make your name great;
And you shall be a blessing.
3 I will bless those who bless you,
And I will curse him who curses you;
And in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”
Genesis 12:1-3 (NKJV)

This was not a conditional covenant, with the Jews’ ownership of the land conditional upon their behavior. But usage of the land was conditional. Again, this does not mean that God did not also bless the descendants of Ishmael, the Philistines:

20 And as for Ishmael, I have heard you. Behold, I have blessed him, and will make him fruitful, and will multiply him exceedingly. He shall beget twelve princes, and I will make him a great nation. 21 But My covenant I will establish with Isaac, whom Sarah shall bear to you at this set time next year.” 22 Then He finished talking with him, and God went up from Abraham.
Genesis 17:20-22 (NKJV)

The promises to Ishmael and Isaac differed immensely. Let’s look closer at God’s covenant with Ishmael (in Genesis 16-17) and we see five aspects of that promise. God said:

  1. I will multiply your descendants exceedingly
  2. I will make your descendants a great nation
  3. I will give your descendants all the land east of Canaan
  4. I will give your descendants the personality of a wild donkey
  5. Your descendants will have a war-like spirit. Their hands will be against everyone

God has honored that covenant! Today, there are 200 million Arabs and around 13 million Jews. The Arabs have 5.3 million square miles of land, and it is oil-rich land! Israel, on the other hand, has 10,000 square miles, about the size of Maryland. The Arabs have 22 countries. Instead, the land of Israel is the only Jewish land. God did not promise to give the Arabs Canaan, but instead, the land east of Canaan and that is exactly what occurred (see Genesis 25:5-6). Let’s look a little further on in Genesis:

14 And the Lord said to Abram, after Lot had separated from him: “Lift your eyes now and look from the place where you are—northward, southward, eastward, and westward; 15 for all the land which you see I give to you and your descendants forever. 16 And I will make your descendants as the dust of the earth; so that if a man could number the dust of the earth, then your descendants also could be numbered. 17 Arise, walk in the land through its length and its width, for I give it to you.”
Genesis 13:14-17

Once again, notice that there are no conditions God places on this covenant, but also notice the word “forever.” This ownership would not expire based on time, behavior or another person’s desire to own the land. The media certainly sides with the Palestinians. I wonder if that same media would desire for us to give the land of the United States back to the Indians and the Mexicans? Certainly, we were not the first people to inhabit the United States, but we dwell in it now, by might or by right! Rather than listening to the words of CNN, I think it is probably best to listen to the words of God concerning that land!

Before going into Hazard’s book, it is probably worth the effort of understanding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict from more of an historical perspective. From AD 70 until 1948, Palestinians lived in the land, but the land was never called “Palestine.” Nor was there a different Palestinian language, culture or identity. Instead, Palestinians identified as Syrians. And that Arab war-like spirit that God referred to in His promise to Ishmael began fighting with Israel the day after the United Nations’ announcement of the vote passing for Israel to become a nation. This was the War of Independence in 1948. Then there was the Suez War of 1956, the Six-Day War in 1967, the Yom Kippur War in 1973, the Lebanese War in 1981, the Gulf War in 1991, and starting in September of 2000, the Arab uprising, the Arab Intifada. “Land for Peace” is a common phrase heard in this peace process, but the Arabs do not want some of the land; they want all of the land!

In 1993, the first segment of the Oslo Accords was signed at Camp David, by Yassir Arafat of the Palestinian Liberation Organization and Yitzhak Rabin, Israel’s Prime Minister. Arafat agreed to give the Israeli’s peace if Israel would give up their heartland to the Palestinians. In most of the peace talks, the land in question typically involves the West Bank, the Golan Heights, the Gaza Strip and the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. Historically, three different Israeli leaders, Prime Ministers Yitzhak Rabin, Ehud Barak, and Ehud Olmert have each stated that they were willing to exchange the Golan Heights for peace. Six months after signing the Oslo Accord, Arafat gave a speech in Johannesburg, South Africa, saying this was a phase to give the Palestinians time to retake Jerusalem. Arafat repeated that speech at other times around the world. To anyone who disagreed with him, Arafat said he was copying the actions of Mohammed, stating that the “Oslo Accords were like the Treaty of Quraysh.” The Quraysh Tribe existed in Saudi Arabia, and when Mohammed and his followers were small in number, he made this laissez-faire style agreement in AD 628 to live and let live. But as soon as Mohammed had the numbers militarily, he slaughtered the entire Quraysh tribe. Similarly, this was the plan of Arafat, and had been for years, as Arabs wanted the complete destruction of Israel. Look at the PLO website. The map of the Middle East does not even show Israel! This slow assault began with the Phase Plan of 1974, written by Mahmoud Abbas during the reign of Arafat. This plan acknowledged that because the Arabs had no chance in defeating Israel militarily (after all, Israel is one of the few nations with nuclear capability), instead, they would attempt to win on another battleground, in stages. This would begin by encouraging diplomatic pressure on Israel through the United States, the Vatican, Europe and the United Nations, to return some land to the Arabs. This pressure would continue, attempting to acquire a little more land each time, and continue until the Arabs had enough land to launch a final strike, and defeat Israel. In 1948, after the events of Nazi Germany, public opinion sided with the Jews, but now, we can see that this Phase Plan has had an effect, as most seem to side with the Palestinians.

Arabs created this Palestinian claim on the land just after the 6-Day War of 1967, and it is nothing more than propaganda and trickery to achieve their goals. For example, think of their claim of Jerusalem as a holy city. Interestingly, Jerusalem is mentioned 670 times in the Old Testament and never mentioned in the Qur’an! Instead, that desire for Jerusalem is tied to the Qur’an. In the Qur’an, not surprisingly, lying is not a sin, but a requirement when dealing with an enemy. Remember, Arafat’s speech followed that same deceitful strategy by Mohammed. Another verse in the Qur’an is a driving force, as well. The verse states that Muslims have a responsibility to return a land to Allah if that land has been conquered and lost. Once a land has been conquered for Allah, it becomes Allah’s possession. (see Al-Hashr 59:10).

As this peace process continued during the tenure of U.S. President Bill Clinton, it came to a crossroads at Camp David in 2000. If anyone questions the Arab desire for peace, Arafat’s rejection of the offer by Prime Minister Ehud Barak in 2000 is proof. Barak offered the Arabs everything they had asked for:
96% of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, 4% of Israel adjacent to the Gaza Strip, 75% of the Old City of Jerusalem, and sovereignty over the Temple Mount. Arafat declined, went home and launched the Intifada. This event revealed so much. First of all, most Jews today are secular humanists. They are more Jewish by culture than Jewish by religion. Many are atheists or agnostic, ritually, knowing exactly how to worship the God they do not believe in! Most Jews believe that if they treat an enemy humanely, the enemy will treat them the same way. Yet, Moslems see this as weakness. Barak attempted to give land for peace, and it appears that God disallowed that from happening, protecting the land He had given to the Jews with Arafat’s prideful denial. Yet it makes it perfectly clear that the Arabs want all, not some, of the land of Israel. Now let’s address Chacour’s perspective in the book.

In “Blood Brothers,” Hazard attempts to wade the murky waters between two Christian views of Israel. One view is that, “the modern state of Israel constitutes a divinely mandated return of ancient Israel to the Promised Land and it is directly connected to the return of Christ.” The second view believes that, “Jesus is the fulfillment of God’s promises to the Jewish people. This view emphasizes that God’s kingdom is a spiritual kingdom.” And certainly, there is a third, more prevalent, non-Christian worldview. That view is strongly anti-semitic, pro-Palestinian. This most prevalent view criticizes every Jewish attempt at defending themselves and their land. If nationals from Mexico were lobbing rockets into San Diego on a daily basis, how many think that the United States would not retaliate? This worldview should not surprise any Christian, as we know who has been granted dominion over this earth for a time—Satan! Satan hates the Jews. He hates them because Jesus was a Jew, He hates them because the Bible came from Jews. He hates them because he knows that the Bible states that someday, a great remnant of Jews will come to know Jesus as Lord and Savior.

It is easy to see how Elias Chacour, even as a Christian, may have a different point of view. After all, his family lost their homes, regardless of their Christian beliefs, when the Jews returned to the land in 1948. Chacour seems to fault what he sees as an erroneous action by the United Nations, forgetting that the Bible states that God appoints countries and kings. Chacour explains that his family were Melkite Christians. Frankly, that was not a term I was familiar with, but Chacour said that Melkite Christians began in the first century, and were the peacemakers when a gnostic sect entered Christianity. He says that the gnostics, ”claimed Jesus was a mystical being and not a man at all.” The Melkites helped to right this wrong, according to what Chacour’s father explained to him. (page 37 of Blood Brothers) The Hebrew word and Arabic word for “king” are similar, pronounced MEH-lech, and that is the root for Melkites. Chacour’s father explained that this group of Palestinian Christians went to the kings and made sure that Christianity did not follow these gnostic beliefs. Two points to ponder here. First, who were the kings in first-century Israel? Is Chacour referring to the Roman rulers, who were not Christians? There certainly were no Jewish kings there at the time. Secondly, doesn’t that explanation of a gnostic belief in a spiritual Jesus instead of a physical one sound all too familiar to those who believe in a spiritual Israel rather than a physical one?

Perhaps the biggest logical misstep of Chacour’s belief occurs on page 40 of the book. His father is explaining to Elias a “fact:”

“The Jews and Palestinians are brothers—blood brothers. We share the same father, Abraham, and the same God.”

He states this as if it is irrefutable, but it is not only problematic, but completely wrong. Read the Qur’an and quickly notice that Allah is capricious, yet the God of the Bible, is unchanging. In the Qur’an, one statement frequently conflicts a previous one, and a stipulation exists that whatever Mohammed wrote last is the correct statement in case of those conflicts. But we know that Jehovah, YAHWEH, יהוה, does not conflict Himself in any way. Another huge difference between the two is how to obtain forgiveness. As Christians, we simply ask God for that forgiveness. It is a gift He gives freely. But for Moslems, one mistake can cancel the good already done, as salvation must be earned through rituals and deeds. Interestingly, Chacour seems to side with his Arabic brothers, the descendants of Ishmael, rather than siding with his Christian brothers. Only 2.7% of Palestinians are Christians, while most of the remainder practice Islam. Melkites, according to Wikipedia, are a sect of Catholicism. As a Catholic, it is probable that Chacour prays to the same God as other Christians, but to believe that Christians and Muslims pray to the same God is to believe that the teachings of Christianity and Islam are similar, or the same. It is interesting that the title of this book comes from this statement, “Blood Brothers,” as Chacour certainly believes that because the Arabs and Jews came from Abraham that they served the same God. Don’t forget the northern tribes of Israel who created two golden calves, and worshipped those calves instead of God. At that time of the split kingdom in the Promised Land, those idols were certainly not the same God being worshipped in Jerusalem, regardless of the blood ties of the Jews! Those northern tribes came from Abraham as well, but also fell into idolatry! Frankly, I could write a book on the differences between Islam and Christianity, but for now, I will just say this premise that Chacour presents as fact is enough for me to question everything else he says! If your foundation is shaky, the rest of the house is not likely to stand, and it does not sound like his foundation is the Rock, at least in this belief! It makes me think of blindspots in our mirrors when we are driving down the road. Rather than relying completely on our rearview and sideview mirrors, we either need to consult a friend with a better angle or look over our shoulders to get a better view, before changing lanes. Each of us as Christians have blindspots, and maybe this is Chacour’s. It would make sense, for blindspots usually occur in the areas too close to us that cause the most issues.

In Chapter Three, the author describes a horrible event. All of the Palestinian men of the village are taken away by soldiers, and the author makes a comment that the Jews did not look upon the “dirty Palestinians” as brothers. Chacour was left behind, with his brother, as they were still boys, not young men or men. It sounds cold and callous, and certainly, there could have been coldness and callousness in the event. But what is not mentioned is the timing of this event. It occurred after the declaration on May 14, 1948 by the United Nations that Israel was officially a nation. David Ben-Gurion made an announcement after each UN vote had been tallied. Imagine the weeping that occurred that day, especially after the events of the ovens and gas chambers of the Third Reich. The next day, without any chance to prepare, the re-birthed Jewish nation of Israel was attacked by the surrounding Arab nations. Notice that the word “nations” is plural. Those Arab nations told the Palestinians that after the war, the Arab nations would return that land and more to the Palestinians. God had another plan as the new nation of Israel swiftly won the war. So the event Chacour describes in this chapter can also be seen as a move of intelligence by the Jews. It is much more difficult to fight an enemy when there is a second enemy within, also fighting against you. Isn’t that what terrorism is all about? The Jews did not kill the Palestinians, but held them, until the brief war was over. While this must have been incredibly painful to the wives and children left behind, Chacour also describes his father and brother returning. They were not killed! Certainly, there is a balance here. Chacour explains this event in a later chapter, when in seminary in Paris. He reminds others that he and his family were “good Palestinians,” not terrorists. Yet when the nation of Israel was under attack on the second day of its existence, time was of the essence and certainly, those new citizens did not have time to ascertain which Arabs were friends or foes.

Chacour’s statements and feelings make it clear that he considers himself an Arab first. That connection seems to take precedence over his identity as a Christian. In Romans 11:2, Paul writes eloquently that “God has not cast away the Israelites, whom He foreknew.” Yet temporarily, the Jews are blinded. Clearly, there are two covenants here, discussed thoroughly by Paul in Galatians:

21 Tell me, you who desire to be under the law, do you not hear the law? 22 For it is written that Abraham had two sons: the one by a bondwoman, the other by a freewoman. 23 But he who was of the bondwoman was born according to the flesh, and he of the freewoman through promise, 24 which things are symbolic. For these are the two covenants: the one from Mount Sinai which gives birth to bondage, which is Hagar—25 for this Hagar is Mount Sinai in Arabia, and corresponds to Jerusalem which now is, and is in bondage with her children—26 but the Jerusalem above is free, which is the mother of us all. 27 For it is written:
“Rejoice, O barren,
You who do not bear!
Break forth and shout,
You who are not in labor!
For the desolate has many more children
Than she who has a husband.”
28 Now we, brethren, as Isaac was, are children of promise. 29 But, as he who was born according to the flesh then persecuted him who was born according to the Spirit, even so it is now. 30 Nevertheless what does the Scripture say? “Cast out the bondwoman and her son, for the son of the bondwoman shall not be heir with the son of the freewoman.” 31 So then, brethren, we are not children of the bondwoman but of the free.
Galatians 4:21-31 (NKJV)

It almost seems that Chacour wants to accept the Ishmaelic side of this covenant, under the Law, rather than the Abrahamic side of the covenant, under grace. To emphasize the Arab brotherhood first, as Chacour seems to be doing, is to emphasize the flesh. Think about it. As Christians, we are sons of Abraham just as Isaac was, sons of the promise! Paul emphasizes this in Galatians, as well:

26 For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. 27 For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. 28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.
Galatians 3:26-29 (NKJV)

I would much rather have the promise of the Promised Land!

In Chapter 7 (page 117), we finally see a change in Chacour’s heart. While on a trip to Germany, he has a vision or revelation into the suffering of the Jews at the hands of the Nazis only a few years earlier. In that segment, for the first time we see compassion. Certainly, this event will have a huge impact on Chacour’s future ministry, as he desired to be a peacemaker. It is difficult to find yourself in that role of peacemaker without compassion for both sides of the table!

We also need to understand the difference between Anti-Zionism and Anti-Semitism. With Anti-Semitism, people seek to drive the Jews out from the lands where they lived and with Anti-Zionism, people seek to refuse them the right to live in the land that God gave them. Both include a hatred of Jews, but only the second has to do with the land of Israel. Even after this vision, and the seeds planted of Chacour’s compassion, he seems to differentiate between the Zionists (the new residents of Israel) and the Jews (the handful of Jewish neighbors he had known as a boy). Could the Zionists have been less heavy-handed? Yes, but remember, they are not Christians, and for most, their identity is in their culture, not their God. Chacour’s identity is in his God, and consequently, he cannot, would not, should not expect the response of the Jews to resemble the response of a Christian, just as trying to follow the Law is much different than following Jesus.

As Chapter 8 begins, Chacour continues to focus on his compassion for the Jews, but at that same time emphasizes that the typical worldview of Israel is not the full story, forgetting that the Palestinians had lived in the land for many years and had been severely mistreated by the entering Zionists. It should be pointed out that Chacour’s viewpoint is not the full story, either. At least so far, it is completely missing God’s viewpoint, as there are many, many Bible verses that specifically point to this event. I wonder if the Hittites, Amorites, Canaanites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites felt mistreated by the Jews entering the Promised Land, with a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night leading the Jewish army? On page 120, Chacour discusses the birth of Zionism under Theodore Herzl, and specifically points to a meeting in Switzerland in 1897 in which Zionists could only agree upon a flag and an anthem. Chacour states, “By what right could Zionists expect to create a state in Palestine?” (page 120) Well, emphatically, by God’s right, who promised to give them that land “forever.” It is difficult for me to understand the point of view of a Christian man who places his own perspective over the perspective of God! Does Chacour spiritualize the entire Bible, or only the verses that apply to Chacour and his people? I realize that this subject must be painful for Chacour, but simply ignoring these verses is not the best approach. Possibly, at this time, Chacour never had read those verses, though prior to this chapter, he has entered seminary and soon finishes, after 10 years of preparation.

Interestingly, in Chapter 9, “Grafted In,” Chacour addresses questions of others who raise many of the same views that I have stated above. Didn’t God give this land to the Jews? Wasn’t this an eternal promise to Abraham, restated to Isaac, and restated to Jacob? Chacour makes excuses to answer these questions, with his viewpoint that Abraham did not mistreat others like the Zionists did! Again, this points out again that all of us have blindspots. A Bible verse can specifically point to each of us in a given situation, and our own delusion can apply that verse so incorrectly! In this chapter (page 145), for the first time, we actually see Bible verses. Here is one Chacour quotes:

And He will lift up a standard for the nations
And assemble the banished ones of Israel,
And will gather the dispersed of Judah
From the four corners of the earth.
Isaiah 11:12 (NKJV)

Chacour argues that this does state that God will bring the Jews back, but it does not mention the location. But let’s read this verse in context:

11 Then it will happen on that day that the Lord
Will again recover the second time with His hand
The remnant of His people, who will remain,
From Assyria, Egypt, Pathros, Cush, Elam, Shinar, Hamath,
And from the islands of the sea.
12 And He will lift up a standard for the nations
And assemble the banished ones of Israel,
And will gather the dispersed of Judah
From the four corners of the earth.
13 Then the jealousy of Ephraim will depart,
And those who harass Judah will be cut off;
Ephraim will not be jealous of Judah,
And Judah will not harass Ephraim.
14 They will swoop down on the slopes of the Philistines on the west;
Together they will plunder the sons of the east;
They will possess Edom and Moab,
And the sons of Ammon will be subject to them.
Isaiah 11:11-14 (NKJV)

In verse 11, we see that the Lord will bring the Jews back “a second time.” This lets us know it is not referring to the return from Babylonian and Assyrian captivity, as that was the first time. Additionally, in the list of places that God will restore them from, it mentions, “and from the islands of the sea.” This is a Hebrew colloquialism for “distant lands.” Notice the other lands cited at the end of the verses: Edom, Moab, Judah, Ephraim, Ammon. These are specific locations in the Promised Land. And in verse 14, we see that, 
“They will swoop down on the slopes of the Philistines on the west.”
Philistines. There is that word again. Palestine. It is the same word in Hebrew, identical. It’s like being hit over the head with a shovel, and seeing it coming, then having the imprint of the shovel on your face. Then you wake up, saying, “I wonder what hit me?”

From that point, Chacour cites Bible verses that point him in the direction of his ministry, binding the terms justice and righteousness together, being a peacemaker and discussing reconciliation. Before that time, it would seem that he is going to have to deal with his anger and bitterness toward the Zionists, whom Chacour feels have treated him and his people very unfairly. Again, I can only imagine what it must have felt like from his perspective, but it certainly seems like the first half of this book is written from an entirely anti-Zionist perspective, if not an anti-semitic one. On page 172, Chacour begins to address his own anger and hatred for the first time. Up to this point, he always pointed at what others had done to him, and finally, in this chapter, begins to acknowledge that he was in need of forgiveness just as much as the others he had been complaining about.

His ministry began in a small Galilean village, Ibillin, and Chacour is dismayed that the Palestinian church members are more complacent than he is about getting along with the Zionists. The church is dead, and after spending some time there, there is finally a breakthrough of forgiveness with most of the people attending the church. Almost immediately, Chacour becomes the first Palestinian priest to attend Hebrew University in Jerusalem, and his first days there coincide with the Six-Day War of 1967. Chacour still feels anger about the violence of the Zionists, and expects similar behavior by his Jewish teacher and fellow students at the Hebrew University. Yet almost instantly, one teacher shows love and acceptance. After one conversation, Chacour states his thoughts at the time,

“If only the whole nation of Israel—and the whole world—could understand that Jews and Palestinians can get along when they begin to treat each other with dignity.”

We often hear of a two-state solution, splitting the land into parts and giving one part to the Jews and another part to the Palestinians. But God has given provisions for “strangers in a strange land.” Think of Joseph in Egypt, and because of Joseph and a famine, the nation of Israel lived in Egypt at one time. Certainly, they were strangers, but God provided. In a similar way, God opened the door for the Jews to return to the Promised Land, then and in 1948. Yet when we look at the external pressures, the surrounding Arabic nations supplying bombs and arms to the Palestinians, this land is a melting pot at the boiling point. As Christians, we are called to follow Jesus. Isn’t that what it means to be a disciple? But if we look at the people involved in this struggle even today, once again, they are mostly secular humanistic Jews and Muslim Arabs, given “personalities like wild donkeys” and whose “hands will be against everyone,” to once again cite God’s prophetic words. This does not sound like two groups willing to treat each other with dignity! Chacour’s hopes of reconciliation and peacemaking are godly, but not likely to occur.

Elias Chacour rose from an impoverished village in what is now the land of Israel. He was Arab, has identified himself as Palestinian Melkite Christian, and certainly is not in any majority, as most Palestinians identify as Muslim. He attended seminary in Paris, was the first Palestinian to attend the prestigious Hebrew University in Jerusalem, and is certainly highly educated. In his life, he has deeply affected many people. This book attempts to give new perspective to the conflict of the Middle East, and it definitely is a new perspective. But carefully walk through that perspective and mingle it with others, as it is not “THE TRUTH.” We know that the only real truth comes from God, as He is the only one who sees all and knows all. If a man’s perspective contradicts a statement from the Bible, that perspective is not based on truth. That being said, it does not mean we should throw Chacour’s opinion away as lies. He has suffered mightily in the midst of this conflict, and somehow, come through with a heart for all involved, though I would argue that his heart is much more softened when it comes to the Palestinians, his people. Chacour rose to archbishop, and recently retired with ill health and allegations of sexual harassment.

The Garden

The Bible has a lot to do with gardens. What a wonderful analogy of new life, new growth and new beauty, reflected in God’s desire in each Christian. This resurrection morning, we are surrounded by that life, growth and beauty. Think back to what it must have looked like for Adam and Even in that original garden, the Garden of Eden:

7 Then the Lord God formed man of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being.

8 The Lord God planted a garden toward the east, in Eden; and there He placed the man whom He had formed.

9 Out of the ground the Lord God caused to grow every tree that is pleasing to the sight and good for food; the tree of life also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.

Genesis 1:7-9 (NASB)

After the LORD created man, He also had prepared a garden to provide food and beauty to the man He had created. In addition to the trees being “pleasing to the sight,” those same trees were also “good for food.”

15 Then the Lord God took the man and put him into the garden of Eden to cultivate it and keep it.

16 The Lord God commanded the man, saying, “From any tree of the garden you may eat freely;

17 but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat from it you will surely die.”

Genesis 1:15-17 (NASB)

Man’s first job was as a gardener! God gave Adam the calling of cultivating that garden. Remember, the Garden of Eden was without sin, before sin, and consequently, it was more perfect than any garden we could ever imagine. Yet sin came to that garden, and through Adam, that sin has been passed down to every man. Without God’s miracle of forgiveness in each of our lives, we would still be slaves to that sin. Instead, He has removed our slavery to sin and replaced it. We are now slaves to righteousness!

This journey continued in another garden, the Garden of Gethsemane.

gethsemane

In the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus often went to pray, and that’s where He was the night before His crucifixion:

39 And He came out and proceeded as was His custom to the Mount of Olives; and the disciples also followed Him.

40 When He arrived at the place, He said to them, “Pray that you may not enter into temptation.”

41 And He withdrew from them about a stone’s throw, and He knelt down and began to pray,

42 saying, “Father, if You are willing, remove this cup from Me; yet not My will, but Yours be done.”

43 Now an angel from heaven appeared to Him, strengthening Him.

44 And being in agony He was praying very fervently; and His sweat became like drops of blood, falling down upon the ground.

45 When He rose from prayer, He came to the disciples and found them sleeping from sorrow,

46 and said to them, “Why are you sleeping? Get up and pray that you may not enter into temptation.”

Luke 22:39-46 (NASB)

Part of life on this earth is to know the pain of being in what appears to be a hopeless situation. Hopelessness could be the loss of a job, the death of a loved one, or even homelessness. Even Christians can be in situations that seem hopeless, but they only seem hopeless for God is our hope! On that night, Jesus found Himself in a situation that seemed to offer no way of escape. When Jesus felt the weight of the world dropping onto His shoulders, He went to His Father in prayer, in that garden, located in Jerusalem at the base of the Mount of Olives.

It was the same garden where Jesus reminded His disciples to join Him in prayer, saying, “Rise and pray, lest you enter into temptation.” (Luke 22:46) In fact, it was in this same garden where Judas brought the guards when he betrayed Jesus with a kiss. (Luke 22:47-53)

We know that Jesus prayed three separate times that if it was the Father’s will, to let this cup pass from Him. Anticipating the events to come, our Lord sweated blood. It is difficult to imagine that kind of stress or anxiety.

In Hebrew, Gethsemane means “oil press.” In the Bible, olive oil is emblematic of the Holy Spirit. We are to keep oil in our lamps to keep those lamps lit (Matthew 25). Even the process of making olive oil points to our Lord, as when the olive is crushed, the oil remains. When Jesus was crushed, beaten and bruised, He left the Holy Spirit in His place. We never should lose sight of what our Savior endured for us, accepting His Father’s will to suffer in our places by becoming a man, for God cannot suffer. Though the physical pain was great, it was the separation from His Father that pained Jesus the most. He did not only carry our sins, He became sin for us.

For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.

2 Corinthians 5:21 (NKJV)

 

After His crucifixion, the next part of that story occurred in another garden nearby:

41 Now in the place where He was crucified there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb in which no one had yet been laid.

42 Therefore because of the Jewish day of preparation, since the tomb was nearby, they laid Jesus there.

John 19:41-42 (NASB)

 

Jesus was laid in that Garden Tomb. Some have stated that it could have been a time share, for Jesus did not need it for long. On the third day, He rose from the dead. When His followers came to the tomb, the stone had been rolled away and Jesus was gone! He is risen!

 

Part of the issue we are facing in times of trial is faith. Do we truly believe what God has told us in His Word? If we do, then we will realize that every trial that He allows in our lives, He already has handled by making two promises. We can handle the trial and there is a way of escape. Jesus prayed for a way of escape before He went to the cross. The fact that the Father did not offer a way of escape confirmed to Jesus, and should remind us, that there was no other way for us to have a relationship with the Father apart from the events of the cross. The Father loved Jesus so much, yet Isaiah 53 reminds us,

“Yet it pleased the Lord to bruise Him.” It pleased the Father, for through that bruising, He opened the door for us to know His love.  While on the cross, Jesus endured physical pain, ridicule and shame, but what grieved Him most was the loss of relationship with His Father.  We see this pain reflected in His words, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?”  Notice that Jesus did not refer to God as Father in that statement.  Also notice that God is mentioned twice.  Jesus was speaking to the Father and the Holy Spirit!  Jesus endured that loss of relationship while on the cross and it was overwhelming.  It is the same loss of relationship that each person in hell will feel, though they will feel that pain for all of eternity.  The Bible teaches us that “every knee shall bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is LORD.”  It is difficult to imagine what it will be like for those who failed to acknowledge His LORDSHIP while on earth, and for eternity, after having seen Him, will know that chance at relationship has passed!

When we find ourselves in troublesome situations and feel alone, know Jesus will join us in our Garden of Gethsemane. He never will leave us, or forsake us. How much oil is in your lamp?

sunrise1

REDEMPTION!

The Old Testament is the New Testament concealed and the New Testament is the Old Testament revealed?

Though Jesus is not mentioned by name in the Old Testament, we can find Him on every single page, though much of the time, He is concealed!

Let’s begin our study on redemption. Redemption is one of the most important concepts to understand. It is closely related to salvation, forgiveness, reconciliation, and other biblical terms and themes. Because the Old Testament is the New Testament concealed and the New Testament is the Old Testament revealed, we will begin this study in the Old Testament. Though Jesus is not mentioned by name in the Old Testament, we can find Him on every single page, though much of the time, He is concealed!

When reading the Bible, we begin to learn about forgiveness and redemption in Genesis, just before God banished Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden:

The Lord God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife, and clothed them.

Genesis 3:21 (NASB)

What do you suppose those coverings were made of? I am not a betting man, but I would wager a guess that they came from a male, unblemished ram! And it is highly doubtful that the animal lived after its skin was removed! Adam and Eve brought death into the world with their sin, but this was the first example of physical death.

The Law teaches us:

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

Leviticus 17:11 (NASB)

The New Testament hammers this point home:

And according to the Law, one may almost say, all things are cleansed with blood, and without shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.

Hebrews 9:22 (NASB)

 

The pastor of the church I am attending used to work as a meat cutter. He reminded me that blood is a cleansing agent. In fact, if a man works on the engine of his car and his hands are caked with oil and grease, if he places his hands in a bucket of blood and pulls those hands out 10 minutes later, there will not even be dirt under the fingernails! Physically, that blood is a cleansing agent, but spiritually, it is even more important.

This symbolism of the spilling of innocent blood to cover sin continues with the story of Abraham and Isaac. Remember what miraculously appeared just before Abraham sacrificed his son:

Then Abraham raised his eyes and looked, and behold, behind him a ram caught in the thicket by his horns; and Abraham went and took the ram and offered him up for a burnt offering in the place of his son.

Genesis 22:13 (NASB)

Another example occurred on that first Passover night, commemorated in numerous Passover nights afterward.

5 ‘Your lamb shall be an unblemished male a year old; you may take it from the sheep or from the goats. 6‘You shall keep it until the fourteenth day of the same month, then the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel is to kill it at twilight. 7‘Moreover, they shall take some of the blood and put it on the two doorposts and on the lintel of the houses in which they eat it. 8‘They shall eat the flesh that same night, roasted with fire, and they shall eat it with unleavened bread and bitter herbs. 9‘Do not eat any of it raw or boiled at all with water, but rather roasted with fire, both its head and its legs along with its entrails. 10‘And you shall not leave any of it over until morning, but whatever is left of it until morning, you shall burn with fire. 11‘Now you shall eat it in this manner: with your loins girded, your sandals on your feet, and your staff in your hand; and you shall eat it in haste—it is the LORD’S Passover. 12‘For I will go through the land of Egypt on that night, and will strike down all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both man and beast; and against all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgments—I am the LORD. 13‘The blood shall be a sign for you on the houses where you live; and when I see the blood I will pass over you, and no plague will befall you to destroy you when I strike the land of Egypt.

Exodus 12:5-13 (NASB)

That spilling of innocent blood to cover sin then continued in the sacrificial system. God gave the Jews a rigid and difficult system to obtain forgiveness. As we have studied, this was the Law. It was not imperfect, but it revealed sin more than it covered sin.

Again, this all pointed forward to the a statement made by John the Baptist:

The next day he saw Jesus coming to him and said, “Behold the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.

John 1:29 (NASB)

The Law of Redemption dates back to the Old Testament. The first time I ever heard the term “redeem,” it had to do with S & H green stamps. (Anyone remember those? They came from a company called Sperry and Hutchinson, founded in 1889. These stamps started in the 1930’s. When purchasing groceries, gasoline or something at certain department stores, people would get these stamps, paste them in a book, and trade them in for goods.

Jesus used His own precious blood instead of green stamps to purchase our sinful lives. Let’s read the first passage about this Law of Redemption. While reading it, think of how difficult it must have been to adhere to the Law:

The Law of Redemption

23 ‘The land, moreover, shall not be sold permanently, for the land is Mine; for you are but aliens and sojourners with Me.

24 ‘Thus for every piece of your property, you are to provide for the redemption of the land.

25 ‘If a fellow countryman of yours becomes so poor he has to sell part of his property, then his nearest kinsman is to come and buy back what his relative has sold.

26 ‘Or in case a man has no kinsman, but so recovers his means as to find sufficient for its redemption,

27 then he shall calculate the years since its sale and refund the balance to the man to whom he sold it, and so return to his property.

28 ‘But if he has not found sufficient means to get it back for himself, then what he has sold shall remain in the hands of its purchaser until the year of jubilee; but at the jubilee it shall revert, that he may return to his property.

29 ‘Likewise, if a man sells a dwelling house in a walled city, then his redemption right remains valid until a full year from its sale; his right of redemption lasts a full year.

30 ‘But if it is not bought back for him within the space of a full year, then the house that is in the walled city passes permanently to its purchaser throughout his generations; it does not revert in the jubilee.

31‘The houses of the villages, however, which have no surrounding wall shall be considered as open fields; they have redemption rights and revert in the jubilee.

32‘As for cities of the Levites, the Levites have a permanent right of redemption for the houses of the cities which are their possession.

33 ‘What, therefore, belongs to the Levites may be redeemed and a house sale in the city of this possession reverts in the jubilee, for the houses of the cities of the Levites are their possession among the sons of Israel.

34 ‘But pasture fields of their cities shall not be sold, for that is their perpetual possession.

Of Poor Countrymen

35 ‘Now in case a countryman of yours becomes poor and his means with regard to you falter, then you are to sustain him, like a stranger or a sojourner, that he may live with you.

36 ‘Do not take usurious interest from him, but revere your God, that your countryman may live with you.

37 ‘You shall not give him your silver at interest, nor your food for gain.

38 ‘I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt to give you the land of Canaan and to be your God.

39 ‘If a countryman of yours becomes so poor with regard to you that he sells himself to you, you shall not subject him to a slave’s service.

40 ‘He shall be with you as a hired man, as if he were a sojourner; he shall serve with you until the year of jubilee.

41 ‘He shall then go out from you, he and his sons with him, and shall go back to his family, that he may return to the property of his forefathers.

42 ‘For they are My servants whom I brought out from the land of Egypt; they are not to be sold in a slave sale.

43 ‘You shall not rule over him with severity, but are to revere your God.

44 ‘As for your male and female slaves whom you may have—you may acquire male and female slaves from the pagan nations that are around you.

45 ‘Then, too, it is out of the sons of the sojourners who live as aliens among you that you may gain acquisition, and out of their families who are with you, whom they will have produced in your land; they also may become your possession.

46 ‘You may even bequeath them to your sons after you, to receive as a possession; you can use them as permanent slaves. But in respect to your countrymen, the sons of Israel, you shall not rule with severity over one another.

 

Of Redeeming a Poor Man

47 ‘Now if the means of a stranger or of a sojourner with you becomes sufficient, and a countryman of yours becomes so poor with regard to him as to sell himself to a stranger who is sojourning with you, or to the descendants of a stranger’s family,

48 then he shall have redemption right after he has been sold. One of his brothers may redeem him,

49 or his uncle, or his uncle’s son, may redeem him, or one of his blood relatives from his family may redeem him; or aif he prospers, he may redeem himself.

50 ‘He then with his purchaser shall calculate from the year when he sold himself to him up to the year of jubilee; and the price of his sale shall correspond to the number of years. It is like the days of a hired man that he shall be with him.

51 ‘If there are still many years, he shall refund part of his purchase price in proportion to them for his own redemption;

52 and if few years remain until the year of jubilee, he shall so calculate with him. In proportion to his years he is to refund the amount for his redemption.

53 ‘Like a man hired year by year he shall be with him; he shall not rule over him with severity in your sight.

54 ‘Even if he is not redeemed by these means, he shall still go out in the year of jubilee, he and his sons with him.

55 ‘For the sons of Israel are My servants; they are My servants whom I brought out from the land of Egypt. I am the Lord your God.

Leviticus 25:23-55 (NASB)

In Hebrew, the word for redemption is ge˒ullah גְּאֻלָּה

Interestingly, redemption has to do with:

PEOPLE

LAND

When the children of Israel reached the Promised Land, Joshua gave the land of Israel to the various tribes and families. But we need to understand the difference between LAND OWNERSHIP and LAND USAGE.

Let’s say a father gives a new car to his 16-year-old son, with the stipulation that if the son gets a ticket, the son will not be able to drive the car. It will have to sit in the garage for a specified time period. The title will remain in the son’s name, but he will lose the right to use the car. That is similar to what God did with the Jews in Israel. Because of idol worship and not honoring the Law and the land Sabbath, the children of Israel lost usage of the land. Whose land is it, anyway? God’s! He loves that land so much that the Bible tells us He cannot take His eyes off of it.

For thus says the Lord of hosts, “After glory He has sent me against the nations which plunder you, for he who touches you, touches the apple of His eye.

Zechariah 2:8 (NASB)

God redeems land and He redeems people. The word redemption, specifically means “to buy out,” and was used specifically in the purchase of a slave’s freedom. We were slaves to sin, so this points directly to each of us!

and having been freed from sin, you became slaves of righteousness.

Romans 6:18 (NASB)

God created two different ways to obtain redemption. The first was the year of Jubilee and the second was redemption via the kinsman redeemer that only would occur in years other than the Jubilee. The Jubilee occurred every 50 years, and in that year, all debts were forgiven. Remember the Biblical significance of the number 7. It stood for divine completeness. Think of the seventh day during creation, seven churches in Revelation, seven Feasts of Moses, or seven “I AM” statements in John. Sometimes, though, multiplication creates a more emphatic statement. We are called to forgive how many times? 70 TIMES 7. Here we see that the 50th year, the Jubilee, occurs after 7 periods of 7 years!

It was a long time from one year of Jubilee to the next. If a man lost his property shortly after a Jubilee, there was the possibility he would not be alive to enjoy that property the next time a year of Jubilee came around. So God made another provision for the recovery of the land. If there was a rich relative, that kinsman was able to redeem the property if he was willing and able to do so, and then the land could be restored to the original owner. Again, this depended on the willingness of the kinsman. This is the law of the Kinsman–Redeemer, which we will see in operation in the Book of Ruth.

Here is a synopsis:

Elimelech, Naomi and two sons, Mahlon and Chilion, departed Bethlehem, Judah for the land of Moab. The sons both married women of Moab, Orpah and Ruth. While in Moab, Elimelech died, and then both Mahlon and Chilion died, too. In this agrarian economy of farming, Naomi was left with only her daughters-in-law. She encouraged them to both return to their people, the Moabites, but they both chose to go with Naomi. On Ruth’s second attempt to convince them, Orpah decided to return to her people, (possibly to become a talk show hostess) but Ruth chose journey with Naomi back to Bethlehem.

Both hungry upon their arrival, Naomi encouraged Ruth to glean the fields. The Law of Gleaning was one of the systems God designed to feed the poor. A wealthy farmer would not harvest the corners of his field. Those corners remained for the poor. This gave the poor people food along with the ability to work for that food!

Ruth began working in the field of Boaz, a wealthy farmer, and immediately, he instructed his unnamed foreman to look after Ruth. Then the night came at the end of the harvest. All the workers slept with their crops and had a celebration. By that time, Naomi had figured out that Boaz was a close relative of her deceased husband, and could possibly redeem them. Naomi encouraged Ruth to let Boaz know that fact, and Ruth did so by “uncovering his feet,” while Boaz was sleeping.

But Boaz needed to be more than a close relative. By Law, he had to be:

  • The closest relative (the request to be a kinsman redeemer went to the closest relative first, the next closest second, etc.)
  • Willing (Maybe he had his eyes on another woman?)
  • Able (Was he single? Did he have the financial resources?)

In the case of Boaz, he was not the closest relative, but Boaz knew the closest relative. By God’s Law, Ruth was supposed to approach the closest relative, but instead, Boaz made the request. The closest relative was not willing! So the duty passed to Boaz, and he married Ruth. They had a child together, Obed. Obed was the father of Jesse, who was the father of King David! Lest we forget, Jesus came from that lineage. Naomi remained in their house as the nurse of Obed.

But this is not just a quaint little story. Each of the people in our story are significant — prophetically.

  • Naomi is symbolic of the nation of Israel, under the Law. She needed redemption, but the covering of her husband was gone.
  • On the other hand, Ruth is symbolic of the Gentile bride. She had learned of the Law from Naomi, and chose to follow the God of the Jews. Ruth was redeemed by the grace of the Kinsman Redeemer, Boaz.
  • Boaz is symbolic of the Kinsman Redeemer, and for us, that is Jesus. He paid all of our debts and bought our freedom from our slavery to sin! Yes, that means our past sins, our present sins and our future sins. All we need to do is to ask Him to redeem us. He paid with His blood!
  • The closest relative who could not redeem Ruth is the Law, which cannot redeem us. The Law reveals sin, but only Jesus can cover that sin.
  • Even Orpah, the daughter-in-law who returned home, is represented, by anyone who hears the message and does not heed that message, like when the Word is sown on rocky ground. Orpah returned to her people and their gods.
  • Finally, the unnamed servant, the foreman of the fields of Boaz, points to the Holy Spirit. Just as the foreman was instructed to protect Ruth, Jesus has instructed the Holy Spirit to protect us as believers.

Salvation and redemption may be free, but never forget that they came at the greatest cost!

To tie this little story together, it is interesting to look at the meaning of their names in Hebrew:

Elimelech   husband of Naomi                 My God is King

Naomi        wife of Elimelech                  Pleasure

Mahlon       Son of Elimelech/Naomi        Sickly

Chilion       Son of Elimelech/Naomi        Wasting away

Ruth           Daughter in law of Naomi     Beauty

Boaz           Husband of Ruth, Kinsman    Strength

Obed          Son of Ruth and Boaz           Worship

When beauty is married to strength, the house is filled with worship!

But the story doesn’t end there! Now we need to move forward to the New Testament to see it revealed in Jesus! His last words on the cross were, “It is finished.” In Greek, that is tetelestai. According to some historical records of the day, when prisoners of biblical times had served their sentences, they were given a parchment to prove their sentence had been completed. It said,

Tetelestai,” and one interpretation of that phrase is “paid in full.” When Jesus redeemed us, He paid for all of our sins! It is finished! There is nothing we can add to that equation, not our works or our lives will add to His redemption. We can, however, demonstrate our love for Him with our lives and works!

Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law, having become a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree”—

Galatians 3:13 (NASB)

When Jesus died on the cross, He was punished for our sins.

“He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.”

2 Corinthians 5:21 (NKJV)

Jesus didn’t just bear our sin. He became our sin. And took our places. Now, the Father looks at us and sees the righteousness of Jesus. Now, that’s just amazing! Jesus became our redemption:

30 But by His doing you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption,

31 so that, just as it is written, “Let him who boasts, boast in the Lord.”

1 Corinthians 5:30-31 (NASB)

The Father rescued us:

13 For He rescued us from the adomain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of bHis beloved Son,

14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.

Colossians 1:13-14

11 For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men,

12 instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age,

13 looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus,

14 who gave Himself for us to redeem us from every lawless deed, and to purify for Himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good deeds.

15 These things speak and exhort and reprove with all authority. Let no one disregard you.

Titus 2:11-15 (NASB)

It doesn’t really matter how much we read and study the Bible if these verses do not change our lives. Remember, it is the Living, breathing Word of God. “Breath” is the same Greek word as the word for the Holy Spirit, pneuma!

How can we apply this lesson of redemption to our lives?

APPLICATION 1:

Therefore I, the prisoner of the Lord, implore you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called,

Ephesians 4:1 (NASB)

We are not worthy by our lives, worthy by our actions or certainly worthy by our hearts to be called by His name! But by His grace, we are His. How can we walk in a more worthy manner of His gracious calling? We need to understand the enormity of the cross on our behalves. Though we never can earn what Jesus did for us, we can work for our lives to reflect His love.

One example would be to see others as God sees them. Look at others through spiritual eyes, not through physical eyes. If we see an addict struggling in their sin, we should see ourselves before we met the LORD. Regardless of what addiction we had, we know that all of us have a sin addiction.

APPLICATION 2:

Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves;

Philippians 2:3 (NASB)

We often speak of our rights. We have no rights! Jesus purchased us with His blood, and now, we are His bondservants. God is not telling us to place ourselves lower on the list of importance. He is telling us to take ourselves off the list. We don’t need to worry about our rights, because He is going to take care of those rights for us! That frees us up to focus on how we can glorify God, and love others!

APPLICATION 3:

27 but God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong,

28 and the base things of the world and the despised God has chosen, the things that are not, so that He may nullify the things that are,

29 so that no man may boast before God.

1 Corinthians 1:27-29

Everyone is redeemable! It is more likely for God to redeem an imbecile than a genius, a weakling than a body builder, an anonymous person walking down the street than a Hollywood superstar, a poor person than a rich person. Why? It points to God’s grace and God’s power, rather than the power of man. And think of people who could be described as “the despised.” They are typically alone. And often, they know exactly what brokenness means. In that brokenness, so many come to know the God they desperately need.

Corrie Ten Boom, who endured the Nazi concentration camps and lost her sister there, said,

“You can never learn that Christ is all you need, until Christ is all you have!”

Search for the broken and lost, and love them the way Jesus does!

The Shoes of the Jews: a 7-week Bible study on enduring trials.

smashcoverfrontAll Christians endure trials, with God as the Potter, molding, stretching and shaping the clay. Without stretching, we have no strength. To a person who never has experienced pain, a pinprick seems deadly. Experience gives us compassion for others enduring similar issues. “Shoes of the Jews” includes seven, sequential Bible studies designed to develop a deeper understanding of the meaning of trials as well as how to endure with contentment. God uses trials to complete His work in us. “Shoes of the Jews” is perfect for home-group studies or for individuals. Each chapter culminates with five discussion questions to increase self-awareness, with the greatest goal in mind, a closer relationship with Jesus.

The book begins with a word study differentiating the Biblical meaning of the words “test,” “trial,” “temptation,” and “tribulation.” Chapter 2 discusses a great promise from God in the Book of Deuteronomy — that in the 40-year exodus of the Jews in the wilderness, He did not allow their sandals or clothing to wear out! He offers that same protection to His followers today, as each of us live in a wilderness of sin. Chapter 3 looks at trials through the perspective of Job, while Chapter 4 discusses King David’s approach. In Chapter 5, Paul gives us his viewpoint on trials, and that continues in Chapter 6 with a discussion on the time wasted in worry when we serve a God who loves us and cares for us. Finally, Chapter 7 brings it all back to faith and standing on God’s promises. All of us endure trials, but with that faith, we can stand on the Rock of our faith, rather than standing unsteadily on our own two feet!

Walk with Jesus in the shoes of the Jews through your wilderness!