- 2018May 03
Today, many across our nation will observe the National Day of Prayer. As we pray for our nation, I am drawn to consider the origin of this day, and why it came about in the first place.
The National Day of Prayer was instituted in 1863 in the midst of the Civil War, the bloodiest war in American history. In the midst of this conflict, a resolution was put through Congress asking President Lincoln to proclaim a National Day of Prayer. Some of the excerpts from this proclamation are stunning in that they so directly relate to our nation today:
"may we not justly fear that the awful calamity of civil war, which now desolates the land, may be but a punishment, inflicted upon us, for our presumptuous sins, to the needful end of our national reformation as a whole People?"
Lincoln regularly expressed this belief that the Civil War was a result of national sins and taking God's blessing for granted.
"We have been the recipients of the choicest bounties of Heaven. We have been preserved, these many years, in peace and prosperity. We have grown in numbers, wealth and power, as no other nation has ever grown. But we have forgotten God."
Today, as a nation, it certainly feels as if we have forgotten God and taken His blessings for granted. As we pray today, let us pray not only for our nation, but for ourselves and our families, that we would not forget God, but honor him for who he is, and remember His blessings so graciously given to us.
- 2018Apr 01
If there is an encouragement to be drawn from the events of the Holy Week, it stems from the fact that the entire thing is so horrendously unfair and unjust. Jesus spoke only truth, yet he was murdered by those who should have already known the truth.
There are times in life when truth seems lost. Seems buried, hidden, and forever trapped behind an unmovable stone. Times when even those who should readily support the truth prefer to shut it down, and we don't know why.
Even for Jesus Himself, this was true.
Yet, Hell has no victory and Death has lost its sting. Mercy, Love, Truth and Justice will not and can not remain trapped in a tomb. These will always have the greater victory in the end. What appeared to be a stunning defeat at the cross was a necessary path to glorious, eternity changing Resurrection.
#Easter reminds us of this, and that in this world we will have troubles.
But take heart.
Jesus is alive.
And He has overcome the world.
- 2018Mar 25
(Originally published by Erik Yates at Vinyl Theology Reprinted with permission)
Today is the day people celebrate "Palm Sunday". This is when Jesus entered Jerusalem riding on a donkey as the Jews welcomed him with waving Palm Branches shouting "Hosanna, Blessed is He who comes in the Name of the Lord, even the King of Israel" (John 12:13 NASB). But what is the significance for us?
To answer that, you have to go back a bit to what was happening politically when this event took place. The Roman Empire was the occupying force of this region of the world. For centuries the Jewish population who had been in captivity under the Assyrian Empire, the Babylonian Empire, the Persian Empire, and Greek Empire, had waited eagerly for a Messiah. This would be a deliverer from the lineage of one of the ancient kings, David. It's like Gondor waiting for Aragon to take his rightful place on the throne (if this reference is lost on you, please immediately read "The Lord of the Rings" or watch the films).
There is a group of people who are so committed to following the ways of God and resisting Roman occupation, that they will commit any act of violence to fight Rome and usher in the kingdom of God led by a warrior messiah who will vanquish the evil-empire and bring in a reign of peace. They were called the zealots. Today they would be seen as religious terrorists. They were known to use a curved dagger called a sica to assassinate Romans and Jewish collaborators with Rome. They were brutal. Interestingly enough Jesus had possibly two of them as a part of his 12 disciples, or followers (Simon the Zealot and Judas Iscariot).
The symbol of the zealot movement was the Palm Branch. Waving Palm Branches in the view of Rome was a capital offense as it was seen as a symbol of insurrection against the Empire. So as Jesus enters, what is taking place is rebellion against the empire at the highest order.
But something else was taking place as well. It was the Jewish holy week for Passover. Four days before Passover, Jews would select a lamb. The lamb was a symbol of God's deliverance from Egypt. The family would bring the lamb into their house and raise it before sacrificing it four days later and finding salvation through its shed blood, as was depicted in their deliverance from Egypt thousands of years before.
So simultaneously you have two events clashing together. An ancient holiday about deliverance, and a political insurrection ready to welcome the coming deliverer who will free the Jews from the oppression of Roman occupation. All on Lamb Selection Day!
Rome was very aware of Messianic prophesies. They knew that the coming Messiah was to enter Jerusalem riding on a donkey, or colt. (Zechariah 9:9). Other pretend Messiah's had ridden on a donkey through a gate in Jerusalem called the "Sheep's Gate". Rome had killed them all.
Now, the occupied population is waving Palm Branches as a symbol of a coming insurrection. A man is being welcomed by them riding on a donkey according to ancient prophesy and is entering the city through the "Sheep's Gate" while these zealot masses chant "Hosanna" which literally means "Save us Now".
Rome is nervous. The people are hungry for a war. They can taste freedom from Rome. This is against the backdrop of their oldest feast which was a symbol of deliverance, and now they chose their symbol of this victory, their lamb. On Lamb Selection Day.
The religious leaders of the Jews call for this to stop. Jesus responds that if they do stop, that even the stones will cry out (Luke 19:38-40). This is alluding to either real stones or the graveyard (i.e. tombstones) that sits just to the East of Jerusalem where Jesus is entering the city at. But while everyone is shouting "Hosanna" and celebrating insurrection, joining the zealots in their desire for a conquering Messiah, Jesus weeps.
His tears are for the whole city (Luke 19:41-44) because He understands that the peace they desire won't come from conquering the occupying empire. It will come from the sacrifice of a lamb that brought deliverance thousands of years before. It will come through the shed blood of one who will lay down his life so that the whole household will be delivered.
This was the teaching of the Exodus. It is what was celebrated at Passover. The crowd was cheering for their conquering Messiah. But on Lamb Selection Day, they had really just chosen their sacrificial lamb. They welcomed this lamb into their home and 4 days later they would participate in its slaughter.