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Thanksgiving Day: The Reenactment of Israel’s First Passover in Canaan (Part Two)

Posted on November 21, 2012 at 4:13 PM Comments comments (1)

Text: Joshua 5:10-12

In Part One of this sermon, I proposed that the Thanksgiving Day in the United States of America is the reenactment of Israel’s first Passover celebration in Canaan.  My conviction stems from the fact that Israel and America have lots in common.  Both were delivered from slavery: Through Moses and Aaron God saved Israel from slavery in Egypt to freedom in the Promised Land. America was founded as a result of Christian men and women who were enslaved by a new law enacted in England. The law required every subject of the kingdom to be a member of the Church of England. Those who were opposed to this unbiblical law became enemies to the kingdom.

The bulk of the population acceded to Elizabeth's religious settlement with varying degrees of enthusiasm or resignation. It was imposed by law, and secured Parliamentary approval only by a narrow vote in which all the Roman Catholic bishops who were not imprisoned voted against. As well as those who continued to recognize papal supremacy, the more militant Protestants, or Puritans as they became known, opposed it. Both groups were punished and disenfranchised in various ways and cracks in the facade of religious unity in England appeared.

The militant Protestants/Puritans were in complete religious slavery. Like Moses, God raised up William Bradford, and others, who became leaders and lead them to the new Land of Liberty via Holland. Having discussed the commonality with regard to slavery and possession of the land in Part One, the next and final point is that both celebrated a feast with the first produce of the land.

Third, both celebrated a feast with the first produce of the land praising God for His provisions and blessings upon them.  The people of Israel had never previously farmed the land.  During the warfare, many people of Canaan, in fear of the Israelites, took refuge in Jericho. They left their barns and fields, and all that was in them.  These served for the subsistence of this great army headed by Joshua, son of Nun. M. Henry affirms,[2]

But now they found old corn, enough in the barns of the Canaanites to supply them plentifully for that occasion; thus, the wealth of the sinner is laid up for the just, and little did those who laid it up think whose all these things should be which they had provided… On the morrow after the Passover-Sabbath they were to wave the sheaf of first-fruits before the Lord, Lev. 23:10, 11. And this they were particularly ordered to do when they came into the land which God would vice them: and they were furnished with the fruit of the land that year (v. 12), which was then growing and beginning to be ripe.

Verses 11-12 read, “The day after the Passover, that very day, they ate some of the produce of the land: unleavened bread and roasted grain.  The manna stopped the day after they ate this food from the land; ....” It was now time for them to return to the curse of Adam and his descendants: “… It [that is the ground] will produce thorns and thistles for you, and you will eat the plants of the field.  By the sweat of your brow, you will eat your food until you return to the ground…” (Gen 3:17-19).

Initially those who escaped the religious persecution in England did not enter the new land with warfare like the Israelites, though it developed later.  They were trained by some of the indigenous people how to farm the land and hunt, and how to do successful fishing on the river for their subsistence.  History tells us that during the harvest, a great Thanksgiving feast was held (-click on this link http://www.history.com/topics/thanksgiving/videos for details). Probably not all the staples we use in America for Thanksgiving basket were the very food items they used then. However, I understand that Thanksgiving food varies from country to country.  For example, in Liberia, 95 percent of the people prepare special food from their regular produce of the land. Five percent of Liberians that have traveled in America do purchase turkeys and use a traditional Thanksgiving meal as is done in the United States. 

I believe this unique celebration was the reenactment of Israel’s first Passover in the Promised Land. These men knew their Scripture and reflected on this fact. They remembered that, in the same way God guided the Israelites, in spite of their stubbornness, He also guided them through the storms of the sea, gave them favor with some of the indigenous people, and were now in their new home with religious freedom, with Liberty and Justice for all. In the Congress, July 4, 1776, the unanimous declaration of the thirteen United States of America declared, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

As we celebrate the Thanksgiving Day this week, I have something to thank God for.  I praise God for:

  • All our partners and friends who have and are praying daily and supporting this ministry with their financial resources.
  • The volunteers at the Community Outreach of Boynton Beach who are working weekly in serving the needy people of Boynton Beach and its environs.
  • The continual prayers, financial support, and supervision of the Board of Directors of this ministry since its founding in 2000.
  • My beautiful wife, Esther and our children who are standing by me for the Great Commission.

I believe Israel, and the Pilgrims had something to thank God for: They praised Him for delivering them from slaveries: For Israel, from Egypt to the Promised Land, and the Pilgrims, from England to this land of Liberty. In some part of Africa, the people believe that having a meal is a form of worship.  Therefore, a man would invite a friend thus: “Come and join me in talking with God.” Who are you inviting at your Thanksgiving table?  Happy Thanksgivings!  


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[2] M.  Henry. (1994). Matthew Henry’s commentary on the whole Bible: Complete and unabridged in one volume (Peabody: Hendrickson, 1994) Josh 5:10–12.

Thanksgiving Day: The Reenactment of Israel's First Passover in Canaan (Part One)

Posted on November 18, 2012 at 9:40 PM Comments comments (1)
 “On the evening of the fourteenth day of the month, while camped at Gilgal on the plains of Jericho, the Israelites celebrated the Passover. The day after the Passover, that very day, they ate some of the produce of the land: unleavened bread and roasted grain.  The manna stopped the day after they ate this food from the land; ... “(Josh 5:10-12).

The first Passover celebrated when Israel entered the Promised Land was a Thanksgiving week to God for His faithfulness to them. The Passover initially was a kind of covering or substitution that God required of them so that He would pass over every first born of the Israelites and their cattle. The final miracle God performed in Egypt was the death of all the first born of both men and animals: Exodus 12: 13 reads, “The blood will be a sign for you on the houses where you are; and when I see the blood, I will pass over you. No destructive plague will touch you when I strike Egypt.” This was the origin of the Passover.  God ordered that they are to celebrate this historic deliverance at a given time yearly.

As you may know, the Community Outreach of Boynton Beach celebrates Thanksgiving on the last Thursday before the Thanksgiving Day. We thank our partners and friends who had generously provided over 200 baskets and 100 gift cards for $10 each for a turkey.   We pray that you will enjoy your Thanksgiving next week Thursday (November 22, 2012). Thanksgiving celebration as a whole reminds me about the first Passover celebrated when Israel reached and began to possess the Promised Land.  One may ask, “What does the United States Thanksgiving Day have to do with the Hebrews’ Passover?” Because both have lots in common:

First, the Israelites were in slavery in Egypt. They were suppressed by their slave masters.  A slave is considered a property for his master.  As you may know, a slave’s will is dominated by his master and therefore cannot exercise his will or right. The true Christians that were in England were in religious slavery. While the Puritans and other Christians were combating what they termed Roman Catholicism as heresy, England broke away from the Roman Catholic Church and created a new church called the Church of England or Anglican Church in the 1500s.  A new law was also enacted that required everyone in England have to belong to the Church of England.  Anyone who did not conform to the law would face the full weight of the law.  I believe this was the reenactment of the slavery in Egypt.  It was a time of severe sufferings for the Christians who opposed this law. Their freewill was ceased by the new law, and the Christian community prayed and fought for their freedom. Like Moses, God raised up William Bradford, and many others, who became leaders of the Separatists. They moved to Holland for some times; finally, they left Holland and came to this land of Liberty. Their objective was to start a settlement of their own so that they could practice their religion freely. Other groups left England and followed Bradford in search for a land of liberty. Hence, the Pilgrims set sail on the Mayflower (with 102 pilgrims and thirty sailors) in September 1620 toward Virginia. Additional group immigrated to America on the Fortune (1621), the Anne and the Little James (1623) and the second Mayflower (1629).[1]

The first group (1620), headed by William Bradford, had a long and difficult journey across the Atlantic Ocean for sixty-six days. A storm blew them off course, so instead of landing in Virginia, they landed farther north in Cape Cod. This also paralleled with the Children of Israel; they also had a difficult trip because of their disobedience to God’s will. Instead of the three-day journey, they were in the desert for forty years! The Pilgrims and Israelites went to a land wherein they could wholeheartedly serve the God of heaven. The major difference between them was, for the Israelites, God gave them their constitution while the Pilgrims wrote their own constitution.

Second, through the providence of God, both possessed the land: Joshua conquered all the kings of Canaan through warfare. The book of Joshua gives details of the how the Promised Land was conquered. In the same way, those who left the suppressive regime of the King of England went through several warfares and finally possessed this land of Liberty.

The truth is freedom is really not free because it cause the lives of many.  Christians believe that the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Christian faith. We can also conclude that the blood of those who died for this great nation, in building it to this day, is the seed of the American democracy. To be continued.

Happy Thanksgiving  to you from all of us at AICM.


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Missions in Crisis: Paul to Rome (Part Two)

Posted on November 4, 2012 at 10:58 PM Comments comments (0)

Text: Acts 23:11-35  (A Sermon Preached at Calvary Chapel Delray Beach 10/21/12)

Scene Four: The Conspiracy Exposed

      In part two of this Journal, we discussed Scenes One, Two, and Three.  In Scene One, we learned that there is no mission without crisis, but God will always fulfill His promise, and victory is certain for those who God called and sent to the field for His work.  Dr. Luke introduced Saul/Paul in Acts 7:60, described his conversion in Acts 9:1ff, and recorded the several visits he made to Jerusalem.  Paul was arrested, in Jerusalem, during his fourth visit.  The Jews almost killed him, but the Roman commander rescued him.

      Scene Two says God comforted and promised Paul that he would testify in Rome for Him.  Scene Three gives us the details of the conspiracy against Paul’s life and God using their ignorance to send Paul to Rome.  The Jews had planned to kill Paul by deceiving the Roman authority who had rescued Paul.The Sanhedrin would ask the Tribune/Commander to send for Paul for further interrogation. The men, who had taken an oath to kill Paul, had promised to ambush him between the barracks and their religious chamber. 

      In Scenes Four and Five, Luke recorded that Paul’s nephew exposed this plot to Paul and to the Roman authority, and Claudius Lysias, the Tribune/Commander secretly sent Paul to Caesarea.

      The plot to kill Paul was exposed.  Luke continues the narrative. Verses 16-22 read:
But the son of Paul’s sister heard of their ambush, and he came and entered the barracks and told Paul. Paul called one of the centurions to him and said, ‘Lead this young man to the commander, for he has something to report to him.’ So he took him and led him to the commander and said, ‘Paul the prisoner called me to him and asked me to lead this young man to you since he has something to tell you.’ The commander took him by the hand and stepping aside, began to inquire of him privately, ‘What is it that you have to report to me?’ And he said, ‘The Jews have agreed to ask you to bring Paul down tomorrow to the Council, as though they were going to inquire somewhat more thoroughly about him.’ So do not listen to them, for more than forty of them are lying in wait for him who have bound themselves under a curse not to eat or drink until they slay him; and now they are ready and waiting for the promise from you. So the commander let the young man go, instructing him, ‘Tell no one that you have notified me of these things.’

Let’s talk about the characters Luke mentioned in the text:

  • Paul:  The man on God’s missions.       
  • Paul’s nephew: Little is known of Paul’s family.  Here, his sister and nephew are mentioned, not by name. This nephew becomes part of God’s divine plan for Paul’s missions.  He was allowed to see Paul and exposed this plot to him; Paul then sent him to one of the centurions and the centurions, in turn, took Paul’s nephew to the Commander.          
  • Centurion:  A commander of 100 men in the Roman army.
  • Commander/Tribune: The Commander mentioned is Claudius Lysias. He commanded the Roman garrison in Jerusalem with 1,000 troops.

      Luke records that the solution to the Jerusalem conflict was by transferring Paul to Caesarea secretly.

Scene Five:  Resolutions: Paul was secretly transferred to Caesarea 

      Transferring Paul to Caesarea was the solution to the Jerusalem conflict and God’s will.   Luke writes, “And he called to him two of the centurions and said, “Get two hundred soldiers ready by the third hour of the night to proceed to Caesarea, with seventy horsemen and two hundred spearmen. They were also to provide mounts to put Paul on and bring him safely to Felix the governor” (Acts 23:23-24italics mine).  Taking Paul to Caesarea was God’s plan for Paul’s missions to Rome.The threat to Paul’s life was of utmost importance that the whole matter be kept strictly secret.  Hence, the Tribune acted to save Paul’s life by transferring him to Governor Felix. Those that accompany Paul to Caesarea at night were: (1)Two hundred soldiers, (2) seventy horsemen, and (3) two hundred spearmen.  Claudius was prepared to repel any attack on Paul while en-route to Caesarea.

      Luke gives a detail of the letter that Claudius Lysias wrote to Governor Felix. Verses 26-30 read:            

He wrote a letter as follows:

Claudius Lysias, To His Excellency, Governor Felix:  

Greetings.  

This man was seized by the Jews and they were about to kill him, but I came with my troops and rescued him, for I had learned that he is a Roman citizen. I wanted to know why they were accusing him, so I brought him to their Sanhedrin. I found that the accusation had to do with questions about their law, but there was no charge against him that deserved death or imprisonment. When I was informed of a plot to be carried out against the man, I sent him to you at once. I also ordered his accusers to present to you their case against him.            

      The key points mentioned in the letter are as follows: (1) Paul was introduced to the Governor as a Roman citizen; (2) that he rescued Paul from the Jews; (3)Paul did not violate any Roman law to deserve death, but rather the law regarding the Jewish faith; and (4) to defuse the crisis, having learned about the plot, he sent Paul immediately to Caesarea.

      In a careful analysis of this letter, we can conclude that Paul did not commit any crime.  But the Jews vowed to kill him without trial as was required by the Roman law. Typologically, Pilate declared that he found no fault in Jesus (John 19:4). However, the Jews “… shouted, ‘Crucify! Crucify!’ Him (John 19:6). What the Jews meant for evil, God meant it for the good of mankind on the Cross of Cavalry (Lk 23:26-49). Salvation is available in Christ alone for those who believe in Him (John 3:16).  Jesus’ mission went through crisis, and His victory was achieved through the cross. On the other hand, Paul’s mission was also refined through crisis. However, God accomplished His purpose through his crisis: That Paul would preach the Gospel from Jerusalem to Rome through his imprisonment, and he did.  

      We are also called to missions.  The missions, to which we are called, are also in crises.  But God who had commissioned us had already given us victory on the Cross of Cavalry.  The road from Jerusalem to Rome was rocky for Paul, but he made it in Christ even through a ship wreck (Acts 27:27ff). Though Paul was in prison, but the Gospel was not bound: He testifies about Christ during his trial to Governor Felix, Festus, King Agrippa, and also in Rome. “… God who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion... (Phil 1:6 italics mine). Sometimes the road is rocky through:   
  • Marital disharmony        
  • Our children’s negative behavior        
  • The job you have – the boss is a pain in the neck       
  • Sickness
  • Church split without any genuine reason,       
  • Addiction – you don’t like what you are doing, but you do it anyway with regret 
  • Financial crisis, not knowing how you’re going to pay your bills, and where the next meal will come from
      
      In the last verses of Acts 28, Luke tells Theophilus (the recipient of Luke’s letter) that, in spite of all the problems, Paul went through, and God was up to His Word. Verses 11-16 read, “The brothers there [in Rome] had heard that we were coming, and they traveled as far as the Forum of Appius and the Three Taverns to meet us.  At the sight of these men Paul thanked God and was encouraged.  When we got to Rome, Paul was allowed to live by himself, with a soldier to guard him.” In your crisis, God will lead you through the storm as he did for Paul.

Special appeal:  

If my weekly Journal has been a blessing to you, please forward it to those in your e-mail as well as your social media contacts with your personal recommendation for them to subscribe to this informative Journal at no cost below.  New subscriber(s) will also receive one of my books in an E-book:  A Journey of Faith: A Call to Missions without a Purse at no cost. The subscriber(s) will have free access to my Journal’s achieve which contains some scholarly articles. 


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Missions in Crisis: Paul to Rome (Part One)

Posted on November 4, 2012 at 9:47 PM Comments comments (3)

Text: Acts 23:11-35 (A Sermon  Preached at Calvary Chapel Delray Beach 10/21/12)

Scene One: Text and Context

      There is absolutely no Christian Mission without crisis, but victory is certain in Jesus Christ. Some Christians think that Christianity is a “cake walk” and that faith in Christ is an antidote to crises in this life. God can use a crisis at times to accomplish His purpose. Peter writes in his first letter (chapter 1:7) thus: “These [sufferings] have come so that your faith ─ of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire ― may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.” James encouraged  Christians who were suffering for the sake of Christ, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance” (James 1:2-3). Isaiah presents the Messiah as a suffering Anointed Servant (Isa 53:1ff).  There is no mission without crisis.  God assures Paul that he would preach His Word in Rome as he had done in Jerusalem (Acts 23:11).  At this time, the Roman Empire ruled Jerusalem and several other countries. The text reveals that God works in a mysterious way through the crisis in Jerusalem to send Paul to Rome. 

       Scenes One and Two discuss Paul’s missions as God prepares him through the storm to go to Rome.  Luke gives us a true biblical story.  He wrote this historical account of the church to one Theophilus (meaning “lover of God”). We’ll begin with the setting of the biblical account; it will lead us to the various scenes as were told by Luke. Moreover, each passage will unfold its own characters following Luke’s logical narration.

       Luke introduced Saul (his Jewish name, and Paul his Roman name), a Jewish scholar and zealot, who also approved of Stephen’s death. Stephen became the first Martyr for the sake of Jesus (Acts 7:60).  Luke mentioned Paul again in Acts 9:1ff regarding his conversion to Christ:  Paul got authority from the priests to go to Damascus to persecute Christians in that city. But instead, God called and commissioned him to be an apostle to the Gentiles (Gal 2:8).  His dramatic conversion tosses the ball in his court. Instead of persecuting the Christians, his own people wanted to kill him for preaching Christ. However, the saints of Damascus helped him escape in a basket through a hole in a wall (Acts 9:23-24). 

      In obedience to the divine commission, Paul planted several churches, and suffered rejections from the Jews in every city as he went about preaching Christ. Luke records that Paul visited Jerusalem three times safely, but the fourth visit resulted in his arrest: 

  • He writes about his first visit in Acts 9:26-30 purposely to be acquainted with Cephas (Peter), and other believers in Jerusalem for fifteen days.  Paul also mentioned this visit in Galatians 1:18-19. During this visit Luke records that the saints were afraid of him, but Barnabas confirmed Paul’s conversion experience on his way to Damascus, and he was given the right hand of fellowship by the saints.
  • Paul’s second visit was around AD 44 to AD 45 when he and Barnabas were sent with relief to help the elders survive the famine that occurred during the reign of Claudius Caesar (Act. 11:25-30).
  • The third visit was his participation in the Jerusalem Conference recorded in Acts 15:1ff where he and Peter spoke out, in the power of the Holy Spirit, for Gentiles Missions.
  • His fourth and final visit in occurred about the year AD 57.  Luke writes about this trip in Acts 21:15-19. It is during this visit that the situation that led to his arrest was stirred. Because the Jews wanted to kill him, the commander ordered that Paul be taken from them to safety in the barracks. This order was implemented immediately.
     
      Luke narrates that God appears to Paul in a vision, assuring him of His presence with a promise that Paul will also testify for Him in Rome as he had done in Jerusalem.

Scene Two:  God Comforted and Promised Paul: You will “testify in Rome”

      In the midst of chaos while in His will, God can choose to encourage you through His Word: Luke records: “The following night the Lord stood near Paul and said, ‘Take courage! As you have testified about me in Jerusalem, so you must also testify in Rome”’ (Acts 23:11).  This is the key verse and it maps the rest of the book of Acts.  I believe when Paul woke up that morning, he praised his God for such an encouragement. In spite of the pressure and threat on his life, God is in control. 

      Luke says more than forty men vowed not to eat or drink water until they killed Paul. What makes this oath so threatening was the involvement of the Sanhedrin―the highest Jewish Council.

Scene Three:  Religious Conspiracy and God’s Will

       Luke also narrates the plot against Paul’s life: “The next morning the Jews formed a conspiracy and bound themselves with an oath not to eat or drink until they had killed Paul. More than forty men were involved in this plot. They went to the chief priests and elders and said, ‘We have taken a solemn oath not to eat anything until we have killed Paul. Now then, you and the Sanhedrin petition the commander to bring him before you on the pretext of wanting more accurate information about his case. We are ready to kill him before he gets here.”’ They had planned to kill Paul without trial as was required by the Roman law. In the midst of such a plot against Paul, God was also accomplishing His purpose through the religious conspiracy.

      Characters involved in this text: (1) More than forty men with an oath to kill Paul. The wording of verse 14 is important: They went to the chief priests and elders. Avoiding the minority Pharisees who had spoken in Paul’s behalf, they approached Ananias and his cohorts to involve them in this “pretext.” Though Luke does not specifically say so, the passage strongly suggests that the Sanhedrin hierarchy agreed, and thereby entered into a murder conspiracy with anarchists. (2) The chief priests – high-ranking priests in Judaism who ruled from a religious point of view.  For example: Caiaphas, Annas, etc. were chief priests during the trial of Jesus. (3) The elders: Persons by virtue of position in the family, clan, or tribe. A clan was ruled by the heads of the families constituting it, and forming a council of elders.  (4) The Sanhedrin is the highest Jewish council, exercising jurisdiction in civil and religious matters, but having no power over life and death or over military actions or taxation.

      The Jews planned to kill Paul by deceiving the Roman authority. The Sanhedrin would ask the Tribune/Commander to send for Paul for further interrogation.  The men who had taken the oath to kill Paul had promised to ambush him between the barracks and their religious chamber: Verses 15 reads, “Now then, you and the Sanhedrin petition the commander to bring him before you on the pretext of wanting more accurate information about his case. We are ready to kill him before he gets here.”

To be continued .  


Special appeal:  

If my weekly Journal has been a blessing to you, please forward it to those in your e-mail as well as your social media contacts with your personal recommendation for them to subscribe to this informative Journal at no cost below.  New subscriber(s) will also receive one of my books in an E-book:  A Journey of Faith: A Call to Missions without a Purse at no cost. The subscriber(s) will have free access to my Journal’s achieve which contains some scholarly articles. 

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