Hope Alive

“Moses spoke this way to the children of Israel, but they did not listen to him because of their broken spirit and cruel bondage” (Ex. 6:9).

The children of Israel have endured in slavery for generations since the death of Joseph. The Lord raises up a redeemer, Moses, at the appointed time to fulfill his promise to Abraham, and rather than the redeemer immediately delivering the children of Israel – the darkness of slavery grows even darker.

At the conclusion of Exodus chapter 5 Moses begs the Lord to reveal why he has brought such misery upon the children of Israel when he promises deliverance. The Lord says, “Now see what I do to Pharaoh.”

Still, the children of Israel do not receive the words of encouragement given by Moses in Exodus 6:9, they do not listen because they are “short of spirit,” רוּחַ מִקֹּצֶר, literally, “shortness or anguish of breath.”

It is, at the point of their greatest exhaustion that the Lord begins to move mightily. CS Lewis once wrote, “We are not necessarily doubting that God will do the best for us; we are wondering how painful the best will turn out to be.”

Just when it seems that the Lord is about to unleash fury on Egypt in order to fulfill his promise to Abraham, and to deliver his people, there is a parenthesis in the narrative, an insertion that does not advance the dialog, it’s just a dry genealogy. Why would the Lord include a genealogy in Exodus 6:14-26? The genealogy is there for a purpose, not only to record family histories, but also to establish a link to an earlier promise.

The Lord recorded for future generations the genealogy of Moses and Aaron, establishing a legal, ancestral link to the promises of spoken of Israel. They will lead a people in the hope of God’s Word.

Matthew opens his gospel account with the genealogy of Messiah Yeshua/Jesus in 1:1-6. Genealogies are often overlooked when it comes to source material for preaching an inspiring sermon. However, this genealogy, and many others, are included for very important reasons concerning inheritance, legitimacy, and covenant connection. The genealogies in Scripture preserved the history and the story of the family line of Messiah; as not only must the Messiah’s lineage be traced to David, it must also lead to Abraham.

However, there are lessons important for us, as His disciples, apart from the historical and covenant meanings of the genealogies. Remember, the genealogies are the record of real people. They had struggles, imperfections, and real sin in their lives that affects how they, and those around them, lived.

In Genesis, we read that Abraham had a child with Sarah’s maidservant Hagar, attempting to help the Lord fulfill His promise.

Jacob, the grandson of Abraham, seemed to be in constant struggle with Esau his brother, swindling him, fleeing from him, but ultimately reconciling with him.

Judah, the son of Jacob, bore twin sons with Tamar, his daughter in law, whom he had mistaken as a prostitute, bringing her into the messianic line.

Rehab, who hid the Israelite spies in Jericho, was a prostitute, but she would ultimately become the great-grandmother of King David.

David, וּנְעִים זְמִרוֹת יִשְׂרָאֵֽל, “the sweet singer of Israel” (II Sam. 23:1), as recorded in the Psalms, had Uriah killed in battle to cover up the adulterous affair, and resulting pregnancy, he had with Uriah’s wife.

Dear reader, these are real accounts of real lives. The Bible did not whitewash them, or make them more socially acceptable. It just recorded who they were, all, incidentally, ancestors of Messiah Yeshua/Jesus. Each one under the law of sin. Some were outside of God’s covenant community: gentiles. Yet, forgiveness and reconciliation took their sin and renewed it for God’s purpose, and His glory.

People often struggle with the idea that they cannot be used by God because of their past. These boring genealogies say otherwise.

Contrary to what we believe, they say the Lord can take a prostitute and make her the grandmother of King David. They say He can take David and make him the grandfather of the Savior.

What we discover as we read through Messiah’s genealogy is the evidence that hope was kept alive for 2,000 years by the Lord, until hope arrived in the flesh.

Friends, you, with your past, your present and your future are helping to keep hope alive until he returns. Tamar had to act the prostitute, Rehab was the prostitute, David was the murdering adulterer, and the list could go on.

Redemptive history is the record of the covenant Lord using imperfect people for his perfect plan until Yeshua returns. You never know how your words of wisdom, reflecting on a renewed past, will be the source of hope for someone who only sees a hopeless end (Ro. 8:28-29).

Give those seeking this hope for tomorrow, to the horizon and again, and let them see the power of redemption in the face of the pharaohs of this world. How will He demonstrate this hope? You. Moses and Aaron led because they were part of the family. In Him, you are part of the family as well, and will help lead others out of their darkness, into His marvelous light.

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.