The Empty Cup

At every Passover Seder, no matter how full or limited the space available, there sits an empty cup. Yet, not just an empty cup, but according to some traditions, a chair, or even a full place setting. The cup is poured just before the reading of the Hallel, focusing on praise and the future redemption. When the cup is poured, the door is opened, a paragraph is read, and the Seder continues. This cup remains undisturbed, full, to the end of the Seder. It is then cleaned, and stored for another year.


This the Cup of Elijah, כּוֹסוֹ שֶׁל אֵלִיָּהוּ. Unlike Moses, who makes no appearance in the Seder, Elijah has a place of prominence. Why? He is the herald of Messiah. As the prophet writes, “He will turn the hearts of fathers to the children, and the hearts of children to their fathers” (Mal. 4:5-6).

It is often said that when the door is opened, we are opening the door for Elijah. It is, however, slightly different. We are opening the door so we can go out to greet him. We fill a cup, at a yet empty seat. We then leave the feast, the set table, go to the door in order to exit and meet the hoped for forerunner of the Messiah.

Have you ever looked over at someone’s seat, wishing they were there, that they were coming, or that they would return? Elijah never died. He will return at the set time before the return of the Messiah. Still, we hope for the promise of Elijah to go before him: the joy of reconciliation. That the empty cup, filled in anticipation, would be drank, and the seat occupied. That the one or ones we are yet missing, due to strained circumstances, would enter, and share in the cup of hope and joy.

In the parable of the prodigal son, the father does not wait for the son to arrive at his feet in order to receive him. No, the father gets up, opens the door, exits and runs to the son, and embraces the one who had cut him so deeply. This is the turning of hearts that goes before Elijah.

This is why an empty cup is set, a seat prepared, and a door opened: we are rehearsing our own prodigal moment. We then drink in the joy and peace of that hopeful cup.

Why wait?

There is no better time then the present to usher in the promise of the messianic herald, and turn our renewed hearts in faith to those we love and miss. Then our cups will be full, even running over, as we await the final redemption Elijah’s coming announces.

Be well. Shalom.

Why Elijah?

On Passover night we invite the children to open the door for and to Elijah. Why? The Passover is a family event. It brings together the generations, who, at times, do not want to be together. Still, the promise connected to Elijah is: “He will turn the hearts of fathers to the children, and the hearts of children to their fathers – else I will come and strike the land with utter destruction” (Mal. 4:5-6).

Sending the children to open the door for Elijah is an act of faith on the part of parents for continual relationship with their children, or for restoration in the family. Maybe it’s not the children sent, or the parents sending, but a hope for restoration in general. Once the door is opened for Elijah, the door is opened for the One he was heralding, Yeshua/Jesus, Who stands at the door, knocks (Rev. 3:20), and once He enters, He makes all things, even tense and broken relationships, new (Rev. 21:5).


Be well. Shalom.

The Cleft, and Hanukkah

At the season of Hanukkah, Judean leaders approach Messiah Yeshua at the Holy Temple in Jerusalem, and ask Him plainly whether or not He is the Messiah: “Then came Hanukkah (Feast of Dedication), it was winter in Jerusalem. Yeshua/Jesus was walking in the Temple around Solomon’s Colonnade. Then the Judean leaders surrounded Him, saying, ‘How long will You hold us in suspense? If you are the Messiah, tell us outright!” (Jn. 10:22-24).

His answer reveals their problem, “I have already told you, but you don’t trust me.” Hanukkah memorializes several miracles: 1) the military victory of the Jewish people over the Greeks; 2) the renewal of covenant faith; 3) the rededication of the Temple (the very one that Messiah is standing in); 4) the miracle of the oil. Three of the four miracles are outwardly recognizable. One miracle requires pause, and close attention. The Judean leaders were not focused on a subtle miracle. They wanted a military miracle, as they wanted a military leader. This was the focus of their question. It was as if they were saying, “If you are the Messiah, lead us to victory.” Yeshua was telling them to stop, and look closer.

The miracle of the oil is that the supply did not diminish until the eighth day. It is as if the oil was suspended in time: burning, yet not being consumed. The miracle, נס, was that the oil was elevated above regular time, until they were ready for the new beginning on the eighth day, as the fresh, kosher oil had been prepared.

Why then did Messiah desire that they look closer? The victory is found in the relationship, and the miracle of Hanukkah sounds very similar to an earlier miracle.

I would like to briefly turn your attention to two past leaders of Israel, and the relational revelations that the Lord gives us, through them.

Moses, in Exodus 3:1-7, is shepherding the sheep of His father in law on the mountain of God, when he turns, and notices a burning bush that is not being consumed. The miracle here is subtle, and the sages suggest that if Moses had not turned to see, he would have passed it by, and the Lord would not have called him at that time. Yet, he turned and walked toward, and the Lord spoke to him, revealing Moses’ calling, and in whose name the mission will be.

Years later, Moses, who has spent a tremendous amount of time in the Presence of the Lord, asks to see His glory, a deeper revelation of who He is. He has seen signs, wonders and miracles, but he desires closeness. In Exodus 33:17-23, the Lord agrees with one condition – He will place Moses in the “cleft of the rock,” because no one can see the face of God the Father and live (Ex 33:22). Then the glory passes before him, while he is tucked away safely in the cleft of the rock.

Years later, another leader of Israel, called the “troubler of Israel” (I Kgs. 18:17), will demonstrate and take part in tremendous miracles, signs, and wonders, but will flee at the voice of a woman. Elijah was a prophet. He defeated the priests of Ba’al by an outpouring of the power of God – yet he flees, and not only flees, he quits ministry all together. The text in I Kings 19:3 provides a clue, when it records that “he left his servant there.” As a prophet, he had a servant to tend to his needs, and eventually take his place. Later Elisha will be servant and successor to Elijah.

He fled to the Lord, to a place called Horeb, is confronted by the Lord with a question, “What are you doing here Elijah?” His answer is a tale of woe. But where is Elijah? Elijah actually fled from the Promised Land to Mt. Horeb, also called Mt. Sinai. He fled there, into a cave, and had a revelation of God. Still, this was not just any cave.

The cave in I Kings 19:9, is identified as a cleft in Exodus 33:22. Some commentators, and rabbinic authorities, agree that Elijah fled to the very place where Moses once stood on the Mt. of God. The Lord then sends wind, an earthquake, and fire, but He is in none of those. He is in the “still small voice.”

While Elijah is in the cleft, the Rock takes the damage of the wind, earthquake and fire. The typological meaning of the “cleft of the Rock” is simple: Messiah. Moses has spoken face to face with the Lord (Ex. 33:11), but it is only in the “cleft” that he can experience the glory of God.

Elijah experiences, not the glory of God, but the protection of God in the form of personal relationship, as He speaks to him. The wind, earthquake, and fire were sent by the Father, but the Father was not in them. Moses is first placed in the “cleft of the Rock”; and under great pressure for his life, Elijah flees to the very place where he knows Moses was safe: the “cleft.”

Generations later, Messiah will bring Moses and Elijah down from heaven (Matt. 17:1-9), as He is transformed before their eyes. The disciples Peter, James and John watch from a short distance away; but are frightened by the glory that descends, and the voice of the Father from heaven. Moses and Elijah are at peace, as this time they are with the cleft of the rock: Yeshua/Jesus.

Peter, James and John have not yet been hidden in the cleft of the Rock, Yeshua; as Paul writes, “For you have died, and your life is hidden with the Messiah in God” (Col. 3:3). In each of these events, and many others like them, the power of God was demonstrated, but relationship was desired.

In Greek the word miracle is δύναμις/dynamis, meaning power, might, strength, or miraculous power, “For I am not ashamed of the Gospel, for it is the miraculous power of God unto salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first, but also the Greeks” (Ro. 1:16). It is the power to change you.

In Hebrew a word rich in meaning at this season of Hanukkah is: נֵס/nas; meaning raised up, or elevated, elevated or elevating event, banner, pole, sign. Two beautiful expressions of remembrance are often spoken: נס גדול היה שם, “a great miracle happened there,” meaning there, in Israel; and נס גדול היה פה, spoken from the perspective of standing in Israel, “a great miracle happened here.”

The greatest miracle you will ever experience is His transformative power working in you that raises you up as His sign that He is still working in this world. Messiah’s answer to the Judean leaders diverted them away from a military leader, to the relationship of the Shepherd to His sheep.

He explains that His sheep do not have to worry about such things, as He says, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me,is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. I and the Father are one” (Jn. 10:27-30).

Dear reader, when you are His, you are hidden away in the cleft of the Rock, in the hands of Yeshua, where no one can steal you away. In Him your supply will endure, burning yet not being consumed, in a time outside of time, until the new beginning, the eighth day has been prepared.

Be well. Shalom.