Since we now know who the Antichrist shall be, I hope you don’t miss the rapture!
Done as a spoof. Please listen to the end 🙂
Since we now know who the Antichrist shall be, I hope you don’t miss the rapture!
Done as a spoof. Please listen to the end 🙂
Hey guys! I know, long time no post. There are a couple reasons for that.
This year has been quite the interesting year for my wife and I. We visited South Dakota four times (which is a 20 hour drive from our apartment in Ohio), and attempted to move out there. It didn’t happen. We’re still in Ohio, but we did move to a house in September.
I worked part time at Lowes for a while, made enough money to travel to South Dakota four times and move our stuff to the house, and thats about it. Hopefully now that we’re moved in (kinda), I’ll have the ability (and time?) to write a bit more on here. It’s been one of those years where I haven’t had a whole lot of chance to put much up. I’m still planning on finishing Exodus and Matthew, and eventually Revelation (when I get the courage to attempt the last few chapters). I just have the question of what you guys want to read? I’m not one who can simply go topic by topic through some thoughts. It seems when I do that I end up writing a book on accident.
For those of you who are also following along with my YouTube stuff, I’ll be posting more on there soon too. We’re going through Biblical Theology I, End Times 101, and Apostolicity. Hopefully I’ll have one of those done before the end of the year, and then we can look forward to something else (give me some recommendations and we’ll see where it goes :)).
Grace and peace to you who follow along with this. I’ll get back into it soon, I promise. Keep searching for the deeper truth, and the questions behind the questions.
“For who has stood in the counsel of the LORD, and has perceived His word? Who has marked it and heard it?” Jeremiah 23:18 – the very question demands the answer: not many… “I have not sent these prophets, and yet they ran. I have not spoken to them, and yet they prophesied. But if they had stood in my counsel, and had caused my people to hear my words, then they would have turned them from their evil way and from the evil of their doings…” Jeremiah 23:21-22
There I was well adjust to my thirties…far from high school, and yet…feeling exactly like I was in middle school again. In the middle of the camp dining room, a room full of adults, just moments ago talking to friends, but the dinner bell rang (so to speak) and everyone literally turned away from where I was sitting to sit with someone else. It was just my husband and I sitting in the middle of the room…alone.
We both felt the sudden turn. What happened? We looked at one another. That was odd. We were just talking with people, and now that it was lunch time, everyone wanted someone else to talk to? No one else came to sit with us. It was too coincidental. Was God portraying something with our lives?
It was fine. My husband was still there. We had each other. I was fine with that…
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In this passage, it’s nice to know that it isn’t simply about Israel. While the obvious is true, there is the less than obvious that this is about that. Our story isn’t simply “our story”, is it? Have you ever noticed that you can tell someone of something that has happened to you, or that you experienced, and it brings hope or encouragement to the person you’re talking to? It isn’t about you in that moment, is it? It’s not like your story is the epitome of freedom. No, in that moment there is now a connection being made. They realize that your story is their story, and they are at some point in that timeline that you were expressing to them. Right now, they are in the place where they’re not sure where the end is, but here you come with the conclusion, telling them things of hope and things of chivalry.
The Bible is like that.
Just when you think you’re only reading about an historical account of Israel’s exodus, suddenly you realize it isn’t simply about them. It’s about all of us, both personally and corporately. We’re wandering through this seemingly God-forsaken dessert, where the mountains erupt out of the ground, to block our view and we can’t tell what’s around that corner. Let me show you a couple pictures:
Can you see from these how there is a certain distance that you can see, but beyond that in all directions is only one of these infuriating mountains? And can you see how they almost just come up out of the ground? When God says that no one can touch the base of the mountain, I assume that there was a certain point where it was obvious, like you see in that second picture.
I think this applies to all of us, doesn’t it? We have a certain amount of foresight, where I can tell by certain circumstances what the outcome will be, but we never know what exactly is around that corner. Sure, I know that I’m supposed to talk to that person about such and such, because that’s what I’m required to do according to Jesus’ words. But I don’t know their reaction, and I don’t know what will happen after I say something. Almost everything about our lives are walking through these wildernesses.
It’s agonizing, I know.
But what doe the text tell us? We have this strange thought that the people Israel were “wandering” through the wilderness, as if they were lost and didn’t know where they were going. The first verse of this passage tells us that God did not let them go by the way of the Philistines, though that was closer. The second verse tells us that God led them around the Red Sea. It ends with telling us that God directed their path as a pillar of cloud by day, and a pillar of fire by night. What more do we need to see that God is all and all in this?
I suppose that there are many different ways of viewing it, but whichever we choose to pick, or if we decide to allow for a plethora of various meanings, I pray that this short post can at least give you some encouragement that you shall indeed reach your Red Sea, and shall cross it. And beyond that, finding freedom from your Egypt, I pray that you can be led like a bride through the wilderness (Jer 2:2) to come unto that Jordan, and cross into your inheritance at the end of the age.
There are a few things going on here that are cultural references, and a few things that are Scriptural. So, first lets deal with this first section. When the Pharisees and Sadducees come to John, he calls them a brood of vipers and asks them who told them to flee from the wrath to come. What’s happening here?
Go back to Genesis 3:15. There are two seeds. There is the seed of the woman, who shall be the deliverer, later expressed in the term Messiah. Then there is the seed of the serpent. When you read through Genesis, you have two seeds presented at all times. There is Cain, and Abel/Seth. There is the wicked generation, and Noah. There is the nations at Babel, and Abraham. There is Ishmael, and Isaac. There is Esau, and Jacob. The seed of the serpent isn’t specific to a people group, but rather a concept. There are a people who consistently oppress and persecute the people of God, and it doesn’t matter if they are called Philistines, Egyptians, Assyrians, or Chaldeans.
Something begins to shift in the history of Israel, though. Solomon uses slave labor to build his palace and some military bases. But God said to not have slaves, because you were once a slave in Egypt. Here is the topsy-turvy kingdom: Israel, the new Egypt. Under Rehoboam it gets worse. The northern kingdom of Israel doesn’t ever have one good king. The southern kingdom of Judah has a handful. Over and over again in the prophets, what we read is that they are in outrage over the fact that the leaders are mistreating the people. In fact, such strong language is used in certain places (Jer 10:25, Mic 3:1-3, Zeph 3:3, etc) that it says the leaders of Israel are actually eating and devouring the people.
The leaders have become the seed of the serpent, at enmity with the seed of the woman and with God. Therefore, they are a “brood of vipers”.
But let’s not be hasty. It is easy to point fingers. What exactly were the Pharisees, anyway? In the first century, you could call the Pharisees the conservatives, and the Sadducees were the liberals. They were the leaders of the people. The Pharisees, in their great learning and understanding, were the ones who helped the people to understand the Law, so that Israel might follow it and obey. According to the Pharisees’ belief, if they could only reform the people of God back unto holiness and righteousness, then the Messiah would come. The Sadducees, on the other hand, were hired Roman officials – Jews who betrayed their own people. Therefore, the high priests, priests, and the scribes were often Sadducees hired by Rome to keep the people in check.
I’m not going to point out what I find to be obvious. In our Christianity today, there are Pharisees and Sadducees. There is no point in me putting names with those titles, because the truth is that if you can’t discern it, then you probably fall into one of those two camps. And John the Baptist calls them a brood of vipers. The difference between much of what is called Christianity today and the Sadducees/Pharisees is that at least the Pharisees/Sadducees understood that John and Jesus were talking about them…
What about this wrath to come?
Again, when you read the prophets, any “wrath to come” that is mentioned is associated with the Day of the Lord. There might be prophecies against certain nations (I’m thinking of Isaiah 37-39 currently) that had an immediate expectation, but the vast majority were beyond the immediate. It’s as though the prophet was beholding the seed of the serpent within these rebellious nations, and wasn’t merely prophesying concerning Assyria, Babylon, or Moab (or any other nation), but beyond them to an ultimate “seed of the serpent”, which is the mystery of iniquity, which the New Testament calls “Antichrist”. It is this one, the Antichrist/False Prophet, that we read Jesus will destroy with the brightness of His coming.
What is the coming wrath? It is the return of Jesus, and the outpoured fury upon the nations who have gathered against Israel at Har Meggido (Armegeddon). We read in passages like Ezekiel 38-39, Zechariah 14, and Revelation 19:11-21 about the destruction of this army that gathers. We read in other passages, such as Zechariah 14:16-17, Isaiah 19:21, and Daniel 7:11-14, about how there are nations who are judged, but not condemned and cast into the pits of hell with Jesus’ return.
Thus, to get back to what John is saying to the Pharisees, I think that we need to be keen on the understanding of the apostles in that first century. Peter calls Jerusalem “Babylon” at the end of his first epistle. When you read Revelation 17, the language used in regard to the 10 nations attacking the woman comes straight from the prophets in regard to Israel and Judah’s judgment. In Zechariah 14:14, there is a subtle hint that even Jerusalem/Judah itself will fight with the Antichrist against the coming of the Lord. God alone knows, but what we can be truly certain of is that God has consistently spoken that the wicked of Israel shall not endure unto the end, but shall taste of the wrath of God during that final expulsion and sifting through the nations.
We can ask the question of why this is being said here. It makes sense to say it if we’re dealing with the Day of the Lord, but this is Jesus’ first coming. I would challenge you to go to Malachi 3 and read it. Couple that with Matthew 21:33-43. Even though this isn’t the final last days dealing of God, it is quite clear that Jesus has indeed taken the Kingdom from the leaders of Israel and given it to they who will produce it’s fruit (the tax collectors and sinners of Israel, and later in Acts even the Gentiles).
“Therefore bear fruit to repentance…” Again, the concept of bearing fruit is not foreign in the consciousness of the Jewish people. John isn’t being clever and inventing something new. Even Isaiah the prophet calls Israel God’s “vineyard” (Isaiah 5) – the Hebrew word gan. God planted Israel, He cultivated Israel, and yet He only found bad fruit. Tell Me, O Israel, what I did wrong! The answer, of course, is that God did nothing wrong. Therefore, John is telling these people, “Bear fruit to repentance.” You who have consistently been that barren vineyard, or, even worse, been the ones producing bad fruit, repent of your wickedness, and turn unto the Lord. They know what tshuva means (Hebrew word/concept of repentance).
In the book of John, Jesus is speaking to the Jews round about Him. And in chapter 8, the Jews respond that they have Abraham as their father. It’s as if being genetically Jewish is all they think they need to inherit the Kingdom. They don’t even realize that Abraham was called to be the father of many nations because of his character, and not simply because of God’s sovereign choosing. Certainly God’s sovereign choosing played into it, but don’t think that God would have chosen Nimrod instead. There is a character, a certain mindset and lifestyle that reflects who God is, and it was that very thing that was being chosen.
God can raise children of Abraham from the stones.
It wouldn’t be too much for God to do so, but I think we should understand that John was pointing to that hill outside Jerusalem, where it says that the Messiah will step foot upon (Zech 14:5).
What stones are upon that hill?
They are graves.
God can raise them up out of the graves, and you will completely miss it, because you have hardened yourself, and have refused to consider that God is an actual person, and not some concept that we fiddle with.
We come back to the concept of agriculture and producing fruit. What do you do when a tree refuses to bear fruit? You cut it down and use it as firewood. Therefore, John has no hesitation or timidity in pointing out that the ax is already at the root, just like it’s always been, and the fire of God is already upon you. This is the vision of the prophets. Everything is immanent; everything is life and death; everything is now, even while it yet might be millennia in the future. Eternity has no concept of time. Time cannot contain eternity. Eternal moments break the constraints of time, so that they who are eternal can perceive the reality of past, present, and future in a manner that affects all of past, present, and future. We’re affected by our past, and we also effect the past. We’re affected by the future, and we also effect the future.
In verse 11, John again brings up the issue of repentance. He says, “I baptize you with the water of repentance…” Baptism itself, as far as I can tell, comes from the concept of mikveh. A mikveh was the ritual of washing yourself with water to make yourself clean. You find this in Exodus 19, that God says to Moses that the people need to wash their clothes and be made clean before Him. You find it again in Psalm 51:2, that David asks to be washed in order to be made clean. Ezekiel 36:25 speaks of clean water being poured out upon the House of Israel to make it clean – again, a reference to mikvah. In Leviticus 17:15, we have the mikvah prescribed in regard of becoming clean again after eating something that has died of natural causes or by beasts (that which you didn’t kill).
For a mikveh, you would immerse yourself in moving water. The rabbis talk about how this takes you out of your regular mode (in the air), and puts you in a state less familiar (floating submerged in water). It’s like birth, and has deep significance tied to it from a baby that leaves the womb, and now therefore is coming forth into the air for the first time. You are no longer unclean, but now as clean as a baby, you enter again into the air and society in right standing with HaShem (God).
In this last segment, when John begins to express what the Messiah shall do, again we find that much of it goes back to the prophets. He isn’t saying anything new. John is building upon what has already been said, and what is already being believed. For example, look up these verses: Psalm 1:4, Isaiah 1:31, 27:4, Jeremiah 7:20, 15:7, Malachi 4:1, and Amos 9:8-10.
I think the “Holy Spirit and fire” is not two separate things, but one. It’s like when you say it is raining cats and dogs. It doesn’t mean that it rains cats in one spot, but dogs further up the street. It’s just a saying, for one, but we all understand that they go together. In fact, the whole point of the outpouring of the Spirit in the prophets (Jeremiah 31:31-37, Ezekiel 36:21-27, Joel 2:25-32, etc) was that there was both the outpouring of the Spirit and the cleansing of the House of Israel, but also the judgment and recompense upon the nations in the Day of the Lord. You cannot escape it. This outpouring is always placed at the end of the Time of Jacob’s Trouble, at the threshold of the coming of Messiah, the Day of the Lord, when there shall be signs in the heavens, and fire and devastation. The Spirit of supplication and grace poured out upon Israel in Zechariah 12 is the same timeframe as the previous verses:
“And the governors of Judah shall say in their heart, ‘The inhabitants of Jerusalem are my strength in the Lord of hosts, their God.’ In that day I will make the governors of Judah like a firepan in the woodpile, and like a fiery torch in the sheaves; they shall devour all the surrounding peoples on the right hand and on the left, but Jerusalem shall be inhabited again in her one place – Jerusalem. The LORD will save the tents of Judah first, so that the glory of the House of David and the glory of the inhabitants of Jerusalem shall not become greater than that of Judah. In that day the LORD will defend the inhabitants of Jerusalem; the one who is feeble among them in that day shall be like David, and the house of David shall be like God, like the Angel of the LORD before them. It shall be in that day that I will seek to destroy all the nations that come against Jerusalem.”
Let us conclude, then. This passage is incredibly suggestive of end times events. That which John is speaking of cannot simply be constrained to the first coming of Jesus. And yet, there is a reality in which they were exactly constrained to the first coming of Jesus. The leaders really were cast off of their own tree – the ax already being at the root. They were cast off and wild branches were grafted in. But that isn’t for you to boast, but for you to tremble. Behold the goodness and severity of God. Goodness to you, should you continue in the ways that you have been taught by Christ, yet severity to those who harden themselves to become full of bad fruit. This is a now word, because many do neglect the most basic principles of the faith, and yet it is also a future word, because the King shall come, and when He does, we shall again see the outpouring of the Spirit and fire.
When we read this whole segment, you’ll notice that it begins and ends with regulations regarding the firstborn. However, sandwiched between this are verses regarding the first fruits. This has significance for a couple reasons. First, after Passover comes First Fruits, which is celebrated three days after the Passover – the day that Israel crossed the Red Sea, and that Jesus would have resurrected. Second, this is the season. It is early spring, when the flowers are blooming, the winter crops are being harvested, the animals are giving birth, and nature itself shows the reality of resurrection.
Therefore, I don’t see the consecration of the firstborn as something altogether separate and distinct from the rituals mentioned regarding first fruits and Unleavened Bread. The consecration mentioned in Exodus 13:2 is later expanded in Numbers 3:12, 8:16, and 18. The firstborn are seen at the Tabernacle performing Levitical duties. Here in verse 2, that which is consecrated is specifically that which was dealt with in the plague. Men were affected, and therefore they must be consecrated. Beasts were affected, and therefore they must be consecrated. God has spared the firstborn of Israel, and therefore the firstborn is considered holy unto the Lord.
Therefore, with verse 3, we have “Remember this day…” Why? It isn’t just the date that is commemorated, as if this event is a single event. This event is eternal. It is a pattern by which we can comprehend the glory of God, and His intentions throughout all generations. It is a prophetic perception, and not merely something that we “believe” that gives this kind of testimony. Passover is seen throughout the whole Scripture, and not just the actual event, but the eternal pattern of pesach.
Passover represents the coming out of darkness and into light, the coming out of “the house of bondage” (a phrase Moses uses frequently in Deuteronomy as well) and into the beautiful freedom of God’s House. Therefore the unleavened bread is more than just a sing of remembrance. It is more than a matter of leaven meaning “sin”. “Beware the leaven of the Pharisees” was a warning regarding their doctrine, and not simply their practices. There is a spirit behind the words, and an attitude that conveys whether they are truth or only factual.
“For seven days you shall eat unleavened bread…” Seven is the number of perfection, and not simply completion. Yes, I know that that the creation was completed in seven days, but it was also made perfect. There were seven nations “greater and stronger than” Israel that they must dispossess from the land. Why? Because there was completion? No, because the Land is perfect, and from it the glory of the LORD is to go forth, but the enemy has desired to take hold of that Land. This is a perfecting of the saints. We hold the feast of Unleavened Bread through the bread of sincerity and truth (1 Cor 5:6-8) – that is, from living, speaking, doing, and having all of our life governed by authenticity in Christ.
Notice the rest of that verse. it isn’t merely that we are forced to eat without leaven, and oh what a burden that is. We celebrate with a feast on the seventh day. It isn’t like God is trying to make us eat the bread of affliction (Deut 16:3), or that we’re required to eat the bread of adversity (Isaiah 30:20), or the bread of tears (Psalm 80:5), but that we’re to have a massive party and celebrate that God is not causing us to live in that any longer. The point isn’t oppression, but freedom.
In regard to explaining to the children, this particular verse is not directed at when the children ask. This is spoken to the parents to simply explain it, whether the child initiates the conversation or not. In the following verse (9), the wearing of tefillin is mentioned. The Jews have translated this verse as wrapping a leather cord around your arm (traditionally, the left arm, but it’s not specified), and a box upon your forehead. In the box are four verses, and this is one of them. Personally, I don’t quibble against the phylacteries (tefillin), but I believe that the command has to make sense in the context.
What is it about unleavened bread that has to do with the arm or forehead? It makes sense that in our mouth the command of God shall be – for we’re eating it in observance. When we’re released from bondage, it is a release from that which constrains. Therefore, the sign is upon our hand/arm because we are no longer held back, and upon our head because it takes the mindset of freedom to recognize freedom. If you hold an animal in captivity from its youth, even when you let it free, it won’t realize that it can move beyond whatever leash it was given in captivity. There must be more than a breaking of chains, but also a mental recognition and ascension unto freedom. And let us not forget the last bit of the verse, that it was “by the strong hand of the LORD” that we were let out.
In our final section (verse 11-16), we deal again with the firstborns. Here we have God again speaking regarding how the firstborn is His, not only now, but also when they inherit the Land. The means by which you can have your firstborn back is through what is called “redemption”. Redemption is not merely being free from sin, or being “saved”, or making it to heaven, or whatever other silly things we typically think. Redemption is deeply rooted in the patriarchal system. When a family member is injured, stolen, or lost, it is up to the patriarch of the family to “redeem” them – to bring them back into the family safely, whatever the cost, and whatever the need.
When we’re dealing with redemption from the Lord, we’re speaking specifically in flesh and blood manner. If you want to keep your firstborn son to continue your family name, then you must purchase him back from the priests/Levites for an allotted price. Once again, this isn’t to be “Ra ra fury fury”, but rather to in the Hebrew culture, this was an honor. It was a living means by which they could perpetuate the remembrance of what God has done for them, and such demand is a grace that should reveal to us that God is not an elitist. Yes, the Levites and priests are the only ones allowed to be near the tabernacle… except for the firstborns who are consecrated unto God.
I confess that I have not the sufficient insight to understanding why certain things are the redemption of certain animals. Nor do I fully grasp why you must break the neck of the donkey if you don’t redeem it. If any of you have some suggestions, I would be honored to hear them.
Matthew writes in a manner that packs a ton of information and references in just a few sentences. Remember, he’s writing to people who would have probably either met, or would have heard from second hand sources about this John the baptist fellow. First, we find that this man is in the wilderness of Judea preaching. This is important for two reasons.
We can notice verse 3, that Matthew quotes Isaiah 40. What do you find when you go back to Isaiah 40? This is the first chapter after speaking about Hezekiah being threatened by Assyria, becoming sick, getting well, and then entertaining Babylon. Isaiah prophesied to Hezekiah in chapter 39 that during the time of his children the Babylonians would come into Judah and ransack the land, the palace, and the Temple. Because this man showed them everything, they will come and devastate in order to take everything. Isaiah 40 starts by prophesying, “Comfort, yes, comfort my people…”
When we read the context of Isaiah 40, we find another one of those Matthew moments when he is saying that something is being fulfilled, but then the context of Isaiah 40 doesn’t grant this. We continue through Isaiah 40 to find that God redeems Israel, and that God comes and rules over Israel Himself. We find that the glory of God is revealed, and the nations are counted as nothing.
This is not a passage about Jesus’ first coming. This is a passage about the second coming. Yet, Matthew is saying that John the Baptist is the one preparing the way…
How can we explain this?
I would like to use timelines, charts, and other drawings to employ, but for this kind of revelation, it must be revealed by the Holy Spirit. It almost seems diminished to attempt another way of expressing it.
Time in the prophetic and apostolic mind is not linear. It cycles, and each cycle results in a deeper progression of God’s plan of cosmic redemption. So, for example, you have from the beginning the Kingdom established. When Adam and Eve took of the forbidden fruit, they were exiled from Eden, which we can liken unto that Kingdom. However, God didn’t cast them away without hope. There are progressions throughout history of how it is that God is bringing it all back together. You have two seeds spoken of in Genesis 3:15. Cain builds a city, but there is no mention of such a thing with the sons of Seth. It is with Seth’s birth that men started to call upon the name of the LORD. With Noah and the flood, we begin a new cycle, with an ‘everlasting covenant’. It is Shem who is most highly blessed at the end of Genesis 9, and Canaan/Ham that is least. Yet, when we read Genesis 10, it is the descendants of Japheth that brought about the second city mentioned in the Bible: Babel.
From Babel comes Babylon. Notice the peoples associated with this in Genesis 10:10-12. We have Assyria also mentioned, which is why in Isaiah the Assyrian often sounds like the Antichrist. As we progress in the narrative, we find Abraham being chosen. From Abraham we find Isaac is chosen. It continues to narrow down who this “seed of the woman” is, until you have twelve chosen – the twelve sons of Jacob. Israel is the firstborn son of God (Exodus 4:22), and is the seed of the woman. Egypt in Exodus represents the kingdom of darkness in flesh. Israel represents the Kingdom of God. God delivers Israel, thus establishing His Kingdom upon the earth with the conquest of Canaan.
There is the same story repeating over and over again. Enoch (the city) is destroyed through the flood, when God delivers a people for Himself (Noah and his sons). Babel is destroyed, and God chooses a people for Himself (Abraham and descendants). Egypt collapses, and God chooses a people for Himself (Israel). Canaan is conquered, and God establishes Israel and the Land as His physical Kingdom on this earth. Jerusalem is conquered, and God chooses David to rule from there. Here it is another step in the progression. Each time the Kingdom of God is revealed more deeply and exactly.
It is no longer a foreshadowing that is spoken of here. Now we have Christ Jesus, the physical incarnate God. With John the baptist, he is preparing the way for the Kingdom of God, because the actual, physical, real, tangible Kingdom is to be established through Jesus. Now, what many commentators miss is that this is not the final progression. There still will come a deeper expression of the Kingdom with the return of Jesus, and therefore another moment when this verse in Isaiah is applicable. The establishment of the Kingdom of God is progressing in deeper and deeper expressions, until you finally come to the end of the age, with the Millennial Kingdom, and God’s glory is beheld unto all the earth, the nations themselves are coming up to Jerusalem to behold that glory, and Jesus rules – God in the flesh – over all peoples.
Many times the New Testament writers show how with Jesus’ first coming there is a fulfillment of these Old Testament prophecies. But that doesn’t mean that those prophecies are now done away with and thrown to the side. There is a pattern in the Bible, which the prophecies are reiterating and expecting to continue. These patterns are not just there for us to call “dispensations”, but are instead cycles to help express the ultimate climax. There shall be an ultimate climax where history comes to a pinnacle. It won’t always be that we’ll find cycle after cycle, world without end. Time will come to a close, and there is “an age to come”. Matthew is pointing out that with Jesus’ first coming, we do have the actual Kingdom of God being manifest, a deeper expression than before, and yet at the same time it is the exact same expression as before.
Which brings me to another point.
There is this idea that what we have in the ‘new covenant’ (New Testament) is better than what they had in the ‘old covenant’ (Old Testament), and therefore the old is obsolete. What is not understood is that the old is an expression of the eternal, one progression further than where Abraham was, but not to the point where God Himself ruled over Israel and all nations. Here is why that is important: The same Spirit that has been poured out upon us is the same Spirit that the prophets had. What you see expressed throughout the Old Testament in the saints is the exact same thing that you and I have. Saul was converted after leaving Samuel to go back home, and it says that he “became another person”. That is the exact same conversion that Paul speaks of in 2 Corinthians 5:17. The prophets did say that the Spirit came upon them, but it also says that the Spirit was in them (Daniel 4:8, Genesis 41:38, Numbers 27:18, etc).
The second reason that the wilderness is important in verse 1 is for the sake of verse 4. To many Christians who are not familiar with their Old Testament, this seems like just an abnormal description of John the Baptist. However, when you cross reference 2 Kings 1:8, you find that this was the exact dress of Elijah. Why is that important? Malachi 3:1 says that before the Messiah comes, God shall send Elijah as the forerunner. Once again, this is the pattern being revealed, and Matthew is showing John the baptist to be Elijah. We don’t find Malachi 3:1 quoted here (unlike in Mark 1:2-3), but we do find Jesus insert this later in Matthew 11:10.
In Matthew’s Gospel, John’s message was, “Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand!” Matthew stresses the issue of repentance to enter the Kingdom of Heaven, where Mark stresses repentance for the remission of sins. Both Mark and Luke speak of that remission, but in Matthew’s Gospel, such words are strangely absent. Later in the passage, Matthew explains to us what “entering the Kingdom” is, by revealing that all Jerusalem (go back again to Matt 2:3), all Judea, and all the region around the Jordan went out to John, confessing their sins. We then progress from that into verse 7, to speak on the unrepentant Pharisees, and verse 10 signifying the uprooting (casting off – Matt 2:6, Micah 5:2-3) of the of those without repentance.
This “all the region around the Jordan” practically quotes the same phrase from Genesis 13:10-11. This is the region that Sodom and Gomorrah was in. This only shows one more time the pattern of redemption, not only for individuals, nor even for nations, but for the land itself. The place that was inhabited by wickedness, and was left desolate through judgment, is the very place God chooses, and the very place of whose inhabitants come out in repentance before God through confession and the baptism of John the baptist. All the strings tie together somehow – even the strings we weren’t looking for.
Here it is, folks. The moment we’ve all been waiting for: freedom. The exodus from Egypt marks the moment when Israel is finally permitted to leave the land of bondage, a moment when they are finally able to find hope and release. We all probably already know the story, that there will come another attack from Egypt before they cross the Red Sea, however, let us take a moment to live in their shoes. Can you imagine what it must have been to take that trek from Ramses to Succoth (probably Tjeku, a day’s journey)?
It’s finally happening. My children aren’t going to have to suffer the same enslavement that I’ve faced.
And could you imagine what it must have been to see a mixed multitude go with you? According to verse 38, there were actually Egyptians that joined themselves with Israel in the exodus. The only mention of this later in the Bible is Leviticus 24, where a half-Egyptian man blasphemes the name of God. Even in this story, the point isn’t to show that he isn’t entirely Hebrew, but to show that he hasn’t truly separated himself from Egypt. There is a long history of people in the Old Testament who join themselves unto Israel, Gentiles being ‘grafted in’ to the commonwealth of Israel. Here is one of those moments.
What was displayed unto the Egyptians was so powerful that some of the Egyptians flat out rejected their own nation, religion, and people in order to follow the one true God. There was such a breaking in of the Kingdom of God that even pagans recognized it, much like the soldier who claimed at Jesus’ death, “Surely he was the son of God!”The powers of darkness have been defeated, and now we find the Kingdom of God being expressed.
It’s interesting to me that in every moment when the Kingdom of God is being established in a drastic way that there is a slaughter of children. Exodus begins with the slaughter of the Hebrew male children. Matthew begins his Gospel with Herod killing the male children of Bethlehem. Revelation 12 speaks of the dragon desiring to devour the male-child, and when the male-child is taken up to heaven, it then results in the dragon being cast down so that “Now salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of His Christ have come…”
It’s also fascinating to me that we have the number 600,000 men are recorded as the number that left Egypt. This could make the number of total Israelites who left upwards at 2 million people! This is not a small herd of slaves, just like the beginning of Exodus proclaimed.
There is a question of integrity with the statement that Israel dwelt in Egypt for 430 years. Abraham was told that his offspring would dwell in a foreign land for 400 years. How do we solve this discrepancy? It’s actually quite simple when you read the text. Genesis 15:13 says, “Know certainly that your descendants will be strangers in a land that is not theirs, and will serve them, and they will afflict them 400 years.” Notice there are three things required in that “400 years”: strangers in the land, serving the foreign peoples, and being afflicted. When Joseph came down into Egypt, he was a servant of Potiphar. However, when the whole of the children of Israel came into Egypt, they were not servants. It wasn’t until a few generations passed, and there arose a Pharaoh who didn’t know of Joseph that they were servants and afflicted.
So, we can assume that the Israelites dwelt in Egypt for 30 years before they were put into slavery. And then, on the very same day that they entered, now only 430 years later, the Israelites were leaving. This night that they left is Pesach – Passover. Therefore, this is one of the required feasts, and therefore all of Israel is to honor it, and if anyone does not honor the Passover, they shall be cut off from the children of Israel. God was so intentional with the dates that He separated this day as a day of redemption.
In the regulations for this holy night, God prescribes several details that are important to note. First, notice that foreigners are not allowed to eat this. For we who claim Christ as our Passover Lamb, how is it that we can embrace that Gentiles are permitted in this holy feasting of the Table of the Lord? Well, notice the next verse, where any man’s servant bought for money and circumcised is permitted to eat. You, as Gentiles in Christ, have been bought for something more precious than money – bought by the very blood of Messiah. We’ve been circumcised of heart, which is the true circumcision of which the flesh only reflected the reality of. Therefore, we’re permitted to eat, but only through Christ Jesus.
Second, notice that it says you shall not carry the flesh outside of your house, nor shall you break one of its bones. John actually takes that statement about not breaking the bones of the Passover Lamb and uses it for Jesus, that the reason the soldiers didn’t break His legs was to fulfill this verse. This verse isn’t a prophecy, though. It’s for this reason we need to be eternally minded. Such an eternal moment as this reverberates outward into all time. The Passover is not something that we should expect as just one moment, but an eternal reality. Therefore, we find Lot offering the two angels unleavened bread, in order to celebrate the Feast (Genesis 19:3).
It was on Passover that Joshua crossed the Jordan with all of Israel. I’ve heard some rabbis claim that Abraham even offered Isaac on Passover, though there is no Scriptural support for this. The point, however, is to show that this day is significant eternally, because God has eternally fixed that the earthly shall reflect the heavenly. There is an interconnection through the eternality of God.
With this, we finish our segment on the Ten Plagues.
Within this passage of Scripture, we have the word coming that Herod has passed away, and therefore it is safe to return to Judea. We also have what seems to be the human decision to go to Nazareth, where Luke claims that Jesus was for His whole life, and yet it is according to the word of God, for the prophets declared that He shall be a Nazarene. This last part has caused a lot of confusion, because you won’t find that verse anywhere in the Old Testament. It isn’t even prophesied in the apocrypha or pseudepigrapha (books outside the canon). Let’s look at the text as a whole, and then we’ll address the confusion at the end.
In the time of Herod (the one who slaughtered the children at Bethlehem), taxes were an average of about 80-90% of your income. Between Herod, Rome, and the Temple, you payed from a quarter to almost a third of your wages to each one. The Temple demanded a tithe, which was 10%, plus the money required for sacrifices, plus your first fruits, plus whatever else that you have vowed or that the feasts require. Ultimately, this would result in about 30-35% of your annual income. Herod sent out telones, which is translated ‘tax collector’, to bring in the political tax to ‘King’ Herod. As a worker for Herod, you were also allowed to take whatever allotment for yourself. So, between the Herod tax and ‘telones’ tax, you would be giving somewhere around 25-30% of your annual income to your government. Yet, remember that you government (Judea) was ruled by Rome. Therefore, there is a Roman tribute tax that you are required to give, as well as incense when it is periodically demanded throughout the year. Whether they were Roman or under Herod, the marketplaces also would require payment to buy, sell, or trade in.
Because there was so much taxation under Herod (according to Roman historians, this wasn’t the average case in all of the Roman Empire), many of the Jews were losing their land and homes. The property inherited with Joshua was being stripped from families and given to the workers of Herod. You can’t pay your taxes, and therefore you owe the government what is rightfully yours (after all, they didn’t give you that land…). It is here that we find something interesting. What do you do if you’re one of the people during this time who loses your family land? You can’t live off of your inheritance anymore, so how do you feed your family?
In our modern society, we find the answer. You get a job somewhere. Jobs in this period of time were much different than now, but the idea is still the same. You know that in a larger city, there will be people who need to buy metal products, there will be people who need to buy clothing, need their shoes repaired, buy food for their families, etc. All of the normal everyday things that people spend their money on today was also applicable for that day and age. There are only slight differences (mostly within technology).
So, in order to feed your family, you would move to the city to find your place as a blacksmith, a carpenter, a butcher, a tailor, or some other occupation/trade that you could make income with. Joseph doesn’t take his family back to Bethlehem, which is quite obviously where he was born because that is where he went for the census and where Jesus was born (see Luke 1 and previous verses in Matthew 1-2). Joseph doesn’t go back to his family land. Instead, he dwells in Nazareth as a carpenter.
Can you see how immediately the Gospel is bringing hope to the poor?
Herod claimed to be king of the Jews, but the Magi asked where the one to be born King of the Jews had been born. This means something very important: Herod isn’t the true king. Herod’s kingdom, which has up to this point brought poverty and oppression, is going down. Maybe for the rich living in Jerusalem Herod’s kingdom is security, but for the guy who moves to Nazareth in order to become a carpenter and feed his family – the blue collar guy, or maybe even less – Herod’s kingdom resembles oppression and guilt.
Imagine what you would feel if you lost your family land… It has been in your family for millennia, over 150 generations by this point, and now that you’ve inherited it, you’ve lost it. That is a kingdom of guilt, and not freedom.
Matthew is setting the stage quite quickly as to what His Gospel is about. I said at the beginning of this study that it is about Kingdom. Yet, it is important to note that with it being about Kingdom, there are very political statements being made. Someone in the first century who would have been found with this Gospel probably would have been murdered. That kind of political outcry, of speaking that there is a Kingdom and King who has come and has been established that surpasses Herod in glory and in righteousness is impossible to tolerate if you are ascribing to Herod and the system is working for you.
And so now let us deal with the prophecy regarding Nazareth.
It is true what the Jews say. They are right in pointing out that Matthew makes a massive blunder – at least, if we give them that this is a quotation of something. If we put these words in quotes, as my NKJV has done, but which the original Greek did not have, then it is true that Matthew is absolutely deceived or a deceiver. Nowhere does it say anything about the Messiah being a Nazarene. Such words aren’t ever spoken. At best you have the prophecy of Isaiah 9:1-2, when it speaks of Galilee receiving a great light (which Matthew will quote in the next chapter of his Gospel).
So, what is going on here? Matthew is not putting something in quotes. He is exercising a hermeneutic principle that the rabbis are familiar with, which our Christian exegetes are very uncomfortable with. One of the talmudic principles of interpretation is to find other words in Hebrew that are similar, and to interpret the passage according to what it would say if we used other Hebrew words. For example, the word for ‘man’ is ish (pronounced EESH), and the word for ‘woman’ is ishah (pronounced ish-UH). Ish has a yod, and ishah has a hey. Ishah does not have a yod, and ish does not have a hey. Yod and hey together is yah, the condensed form of God’s name. When man and woman come together, the man donates his yod, and the woman donates her hey, and together they worship/represent Yah. But, if the man and/or woman does not have their yod or hey, then you have esh (pronounced AYSH). Esh means fire. When the man and/or woman has forsaken God, they bring fire into the relationship. Therefore, when it says that they shall be one flesh, it is speaking of the man or woman who bear the image of God.
Matthew uses this same kind of principle in his Gospel. Matthew is not saying that the Old Testament strictly declares the Messiah is supposed to be a Nazarene. He is using a word play. Over and over again, the Messiah is called “the branch” in the prophets. This “branch” is the Hebrew word netser (pronounced net-SEHR). The word Nazareth comes from this root. What Matthew is pointing out is that to be a “Nazarene” could have two meanings. First, it meant that you are from Nazareth. This is actually the only usage of the word. Second, and this is where the word play comes in, it could be used in the sense of calling someone “of the branch”.
I think it is this secondary usage that Matthew is striking at. He is pointing out that Nazareth is from the root netser, which is over and over again a term given to the Messiah. What does it mean for Jesus to be “Nazarene”, or (extremely loosely translated) “of the branch”? It stems from Isaiah 11:1 and other similar passages: “A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse; from his roots a Branch will bear fruit.” This points back to the first verse of Matthew, that Jesus descended from David, and is therefore “the branch” of David.
For other verses about the branch to consider:
In these two verses are many thoughts that stir within me. First, I see that this plague comes at midnight, and think about how the ten virgins are all sleeping, but at midnight the groom comes (we know that five of them don’t make it in, but the point is connecting the two midnights here). Then I also have another end time consideration of how when Babylon falls, in Revelation 18, all the nations mourn for that fall. This is reflected in the prophets as well.
Typically the way that we read this passage is to see the death of the firstborn as the climactic end of Egypt. Finally Israel is set free and permitted leave. I have a different view, however. It isn’t that this isn’t a climax, for it is indeed the final plague upon Egypt. Yet, when we’re reading Exodus, we find that at the Red Sea is another conflict, and one of epic proportion. God is not yet finished, because Pharaoh is not yet finished. When we conclude the 15th chapter, it is finally at that point where Israel is truly free.
It does so happen in this passage, though, that Israel is liberated, and finally outside of the land of Egypt, headed toward that glorious Promised Land. As the LORD had spoken, she despoiled the Egyptians, asking her neighbors for silver and gold and articles of value. In Pharaoh’s response (verse 31), it is the first time that he addresses the people as “Israelites”. Every other time, if he even addresses them, it is “people”, which sounds much lower and lesser than an actual people. In the first verse of Exodus, the oppression was beginning to be explained with this term, and now finally at it’s close it is being used again. They are Israelites, and not merely slaves.
Because of the death of the firstborn, which will later be contrasted in chapter 13 by the blessing of the firstborn, all of Egypt fears for their lives. All the plagues up to this point have damaged property, killed animals, and caused bodily harm, but nothing has been so devastating as to kill in a moment a mass part of the Egyptians. With fear, the Egyptians send Israel out hastily. For this reason, in Deuteronomy 16:3 the unleavened bread is called “the bread of affliction”, which is contrasted later with the bread of heaven (manna) that Israel receives in the wilderness. These contrasts that are made show the vicissitude of the Exodus, just as much as the ecstatic ascent unto Sinai.
There is a melancholy, because they are leaving the land that provided much luxury for them, but at the same time a rejoicing at finally being rid of the slavery and oppression. Within the next few chapters, we’ll find the Israelites complaining and grumbling over and over again. Think of it this way, if you were forcefully uprooted from your home, sent into the heat and intensity of a desert, and not given the proper rations for food and water to make the journey, not knowing where you’re going or how to get out, and all that you have leading you is this Moses fellow who might or might not have been this way before, would you grumble? I would.
But this is Passover. We haven’t yet come to that.
Here we find emphasis being put upon the Israelites following the word of Moses. Why? What is so important about that?
Moses is the prophet, which in this case is more than just a man. He is the mouthpiece of God, and beyond that, he is God unto the people. Later we’re going to see that he has horns (like a crown) and a staff (like a ruler). Moses is the ‘king’ of Israel, which was a title for God alone. Yet, back in Exodus 4, God told Moses that he shall be “Elohim” unto Pharaoh. Here it is as well, that even unto the children of Israel, Moses is likened unto God. To follow the words of Moses is to follow the word of God, for the two have become one. So it is with the apostle and prophet, that when we follow their words, we follow the words of God. It is established by word and deed, for Paul confesses often that he didn’t just speak idle words, but gave demonstrations of power. If you think those demonstrations consisted of miracles and healings, then you have sadly mistaken what Paul is saying. It might well have, but let us not forget that with the anointing, the words themselves are demonstrations and events.
To hear the word of the apostle or prophet is to hear God. That kind of hearing, coupled with faith, will bring about salvation to the uttermost. It strikes life into the heart, and causes the listener to be quickened by the very same Spirit that is enabling the speaker. For Israel to obey the words of Moses is more than a statement of their disposition. This shows their obedience unto God, and the receiving of the same quickening that has come upon Moses at this point. We’ll see later that there is something greater imparted unto Moses, which will then be prayed over the elders and imparted.