Tree of Knowledge – East

The first cardinal direction mentioned in the Bible is East. Genesis 2:8 has God in the east planting a garden, so He must have come from the west.  I know this is a simple thought but directions come in pairs – west and east, and north and south.  This simple thought is also important – where is the east?  You can face the east, something can come from the east, go to the east, or be of the east.  

Many important things in the Bible face east – the Temple (especially the one in Ezekiel), the Tabernacle, and I believe the throne of God.  The etymology of the word east deals with where the light comes from and how we orient our position on earth.  Like many other things in the Bible “modern man” picks and chooses why something is important by current standards.  My example here is the direction north – we choose that to be the top of the map or the best/positive direction to go, and it gets the biggest letter on the compass.  A study of “east” in the Bible will include many things, with each bring a different significance to the table for discussion. Several examples are:

  • In Exodus, the children of Israel went east from Egypt to the Promised Land, and the east wind blew in locust, and the east wind parted the Red Sea. The locust became a plague while at the Red Sea the wind provided deliverance. 
  •  In Israel, east winds are a problem, they come in from the desert and dry the land out.
  • The camp around the Tabernacle was laid out with an east/west axis as its prominent feature.  The position of a tribe around the Ark showed birthrights and importance.  I started a study of that in the post – Marching Order.
  • The Christmas star and the Magi also bring east into the discussion.  The star “was in” or “it rose in” the east which joins it to Jesus in many ways.  The Magi came from the east to worship the newborn King.
  • Scripture shows several west to east movements – God to the Garden, Israel leaving Egypt going to the Promised Land, and Jesus, as a young boy, returning to Nazareth. 

An important feature of the east/west axis is the light.  Starting with Genesis 2 we see the metaphor of west (darkness) and going to the east (light).  (No, there is not a problem with the west and it is not a negative “area”.  The little cloud that Elijah’s servant saw would have come from the west – it ended the drought.  In Israel most rain showers come from west or northwest.)  God started in the west heading to the light to plant the Garden.  The two trees in the center of that Garden can carry a dark/light context.  Knowledge of good and evil led to darkness while the tree of life would have led to the light.  Like the study of numbers, the study of directions can add much to your Bible reading, but be sure you are looking EAST.  

Day of Atonement, Passover, Epiphany

The Day of Atonement, Passover, and Epiphany may seem like three strange Feast to be linked together when talking about the birth of Jesus.  Bear with me as I explain their connection.  

I know it is a good thing that God is a “God Who hides Himself” and did not give us exact dates for everything that occurred.  “He concealed things” so we could search them out.  Luke or Matthew could have given us “better” timestamps but Holy Spirit stopped them.  But Luke did give us some very important calendar dates.

Time

Jewish timekeeping is different than Western thought, it was started by God in the Garden.  (another post on time) The Biblical day starts in the evening and goes to daylight.  This thought is consistent in the Bible as there are many examples of things going from dark to light.  The Jewish religious month is lunar-based; they would add an extra month when needed to keep them in line with the revolution of the earth.   In the Book of Leviticus, the major feasts are set in this framework of months.

Day of Atonement

This important day, for the Jews, of fasting, prayer, and repentance is explained in Leviticus 16.  In Leviticus 23: 26 its time is given as the tenth day of the seventh month.  In Luke we find Zachariah, John’s father, doing the offering of incense behind the Veil in the Second Temple.  Luke 1: 23 had him finish “his time of service” before going home.  This possibly was until the end of the month, so he was with Elizabeth in the eighth month.  She stayed secluded for five months.  (I am not trying to do days or exact times, those belong to God!)

Passover

Luke 1:26 has the “sixth month” for Mary’s visit with Gabriel.  That should be the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, which makes it the first month of the Jewish year, the month of Passover!  The Father is a God of order.  It would seem fitting to “birth” Jesus in Mary at Passover. That would put Jesus’ “coming out party” with the angels and shepherds in the December/January time frame (Julian Calendar) of the month of Tevet.  (see the calendar below)

Epiphany 

From ancient times (before the fourth century) the 6th of January has carried special importance in the Church!  Dietrich Bonhoeffer in his Testament to Freedom, pgs. 504-5 talks about Epiphany.  I read it in a compilation called God is in the Manger.  On page 90, he talks about four events associated with that date – the birth of Jesus, His baptism, the wedding of Cana, and the arrival of the Magi. Traditions are frequently built on fact.  Some of these I will not try to defend or deny, but it sure is interesting.  (Again, I am not trying to be dogmatic in writing this.)

Tevet is the Jewish tenth month.  The root of the word comes from tov or nine.  The meaning of the word is “good”.  If you look in Psalm 119: 65 – 72, the ninth section of that acrostic psalm you will find the idea of good four times in the NIV. (I did an alternative to how Psalm 119 is written.)

Matthew, in his telling of the Christmas story, injects that the Wise Men had seen the star two years earlier (Herod killed the babies two and under.).  He gives no timestamp, but if it was on Jesus’ birthday (Passover) when they found Him, it would fit. 

Okay, I will go out on a limb here, because I know the Father is a God of order!  Jesus’ return with Mary and Joseph from Egypt should have been at the same time as the Exodus (Passover).  I will inch a little further out and say that Jesus’ baptism with John coincided with the anniversary of the “baptism” of the people in the Red Sea. 

The wedding at Cana – I am clueless!  John was writing about proofs of Jesus’ divinity when he wrote on the Seven Miracles (or the Plus One I added), not about dates and times.

For you scholars out there, in Joy To The World by Scott Hahn on page 162, he has a small discussion about Epiphany and gives references. To be honest, I have read his book several times and do not remember ever seeing this discussion.  (Rereading is never a problem.)  I like the way the times and feast fit together, and it gives me a reason to reflect on Epiphany.  One day in Heaven I will have to ask how close I was to being correct.   

 

Light and Dark – Reflections

In the series that started with Light and Dark – A Pattern to Explore we studied the idea that God may start with darkness and then reveal light. There is much written in the Bible on the topic of light and dark, I will do several more studies on specific books. At times it is clear that God is purposely hiding Himself from people for a reason. (I did crossover from darkness to hiding oneself.)  Then there are times when He uses darkness, not in anger but to get His children to seek Him out in the darkness.  The old saying “every cloud has a silver lining” holds true here – God is there right behind the darkness waiting for you. 

Deuteronomy 32: 20, Jeremiah 33: 5, and Micah 3:4 are references to times when God hides Himself because the people have sinned.  On the other side of that thought is Ezekiel 39: 29 when He says he will no longer hide Himself from those people.  Psalmist also used/complained/realized that God hides Himself – 10: 1; 13: 1; 27: 9; 102: 2; 104: 29 are just a few examples that I found using Bible Gateways’ search engine on “Hide”.

Psalm 97: 2 brings together clouds and thick darkness with the foundation of His throne and righteousness and justice.  I am going to slip back in the idea that God wants us to seek Him.  This leads me to another “dark to light” idea that Jesus did many times in Scripture – He would tell people to not talk about what He did for them.  This does not cover Jesus telling demons to be quiet and to not speak – He did not need their acknowledgments.  In part, I believe this was to maintain a layer of “darkness” about Himself so that others would seek Him out.

TAKE AWAY – No matter how dark it is, seek Him.  Maybe all you can do is raise your hands and say the name of JESUS!

Light and Dark – Jesus in the Tomb

There are several dark to light elements in this story that will be discussed.  Jesus was sealed in a cave in the evening (Mark 15: 42).  On Passover, the women rested but were out while it was dark the next day (John 20:1).  The sun was rising on the first day of the week as they found the empty tomb. I wanted to leave off “of the week” because it was the first day of a new era for mankind.  The light of grace had rolled away and an earthly barrier and had come out to start things anew!

It really is not right to say Jesus stayed in a dark tomb for three days.  Saturday of Holy Week is often overlooked in its importance. Jesus did not come out, He went “down” to retrieve the keys that no longer could stay in Hell.  Death had a job to do on the first Passover but Jesus had ended the old, so ownership of the keys was restored to Him.  (Please click on Jesus Preached– it is a poem.  These link with Saturdayand Holy Weekfor previous studies.) The references are Matthew 27: 67, Revelations 1:18, Ephesians 4:8, and 1 Peter 3:19, 4:6. 

Another darkness that became light was the cloud on the minds of all of the followers of Jesus. The dark cloud that had covered the understanding of all the followers of Jesus was replaced with the light of understanding the Scriptures.  This dawn took most of the first day, as the womensaw Him first, then Peter, the disciples on the road to Emmaus, and finally the remainingApostles.  The darkness that started at the cross was replaced with the light of a risen Jesus!

Three– Jesus predicted the three days in the tomb by using Jonah’s stay in the great fish.

End and Start – The First Adam had given up a lot when he ate the fruit in the Garden.  The Second Adam (Jesus) reclaimed the keys to death and Hades.  

Jesus in the darkness coming into the light had been played out many times before.  All of them pointed to this moment.  Creation, the first Passover, God filling the Temple all gave us pictures of what was to come!  He now came from the tomb to start a new picture – Jesus returning for His Bride.  

The next fifty days speak to many things.  Jesus stayed with the disciples for forty days (showing Himself to many).  Then a ten-day period where the disciples prepared themselves and sought the coming of the Spirit.  

The Spirit arriving on Pentecost shares things with Israel meeting God on the Mountain.  A notable part is missing – the darkness.  The Spirit arrives with fire (light) and the sound of a mighty wind.  (Think about the Second Coming of Jesus.)  The Church/Bride has her birthday, and Jews and Gentiles become one new creation.

FURTHER THOUGHT – Reflect on the Book of Revelations by comparing it with the Book of Acts and the time of the Church under the Caesars.

http://www.freebibleimages.org/illustrations/gnpi-101-jesus-resurrection/

Light and Dark – Jesus on the Cross

Matthew 27: 45, Mark 15: 33, Luke 22: 53 + 23: 44, John 19: 28 – 31(NIV)

From the sixth to the ninth hour there was darkness over the land!  Matthew, Mark, and Luke record this event (see references above).  John does not mention this part of the scene at the cross but adds other details that help to form the picture. (There is a difference in John on the “hours”. Probably due to Jewish vs. Roman timekeeping practices. It is a shame great minds have to pick the minor things and ignore the important.)

Let’s shift back to the first Passover to offer an explanation for the darkness.  The lambs were to be killed at twilight.  The “sixth to the ninth hour” was the timeframe for the killing of the lambs in Jesus’s day, that should have been three to six p.m. modern time, so it needed to be dark.  John adds the phrase “the day of Preparation” for the Passover.  I have heard many powerful sermons that included the “darkness” but, today, I will go with this more practical explanation.  

Okay, going a little dramatic.  Could this darkness be felt, like the darkness in the ninth plague?  Can you imagine the panic even if it was just as dark as a moonless night!  But to toy with my own question, I have to wonder who “sent” the darkness?  God or Satan?  In Luke 22: 53 Jesus tells the mob that “darkness” is reigning!  This is the only place that I could find like that in the Bible.  So, was it dark to complete the picture from Exodus, or because the Father was mourning, or because Satan truly was clueless to the fact he was losing and that was his poor attempt at domination, or was it to prepare for the light?  How do you read it?

Now to the Light!  (This is not in the Bible, but I hope it happened this way!  It would look good in a movie.)  Jesus had said several of His “last words” in the dark.  John said He knew “all things were completed” when He asked for a drink.  Then He said, “It is Finished” and gave up His spirit.  When Jesus said it is finished, I can see a beam of light punching through the darkness as He bowed His head.  At first, the light was just on Jesus.  Then it started to spread out from Him until it covered the land that had been in darkness.  That light shook the ground, when it spread over tombs it reversed death, and when it hit the Temple one really thick curtain tore in two pieces and light up an empty room. Oh well, nothing that dramatic is recorded but at that time of year, there should have been several more hours of daylight.   

Three– There are several (probably more):

  1. From the first Passover – three sides of the door painted with blood.  Foretells the cross.
  2. Three hours of darkness as the Lamb was dying.
  3. Three men on crosses – the thieves could represent the sheep and goats at the Judgment; the arrogant thief = Law and the repentant thief = Grace, Jesus is in the middle of all of these.
  4. Three groups of on-lookers
  5. Passersby– People hurrying to get to Jerusalem for the Feast; Priest who came just to torment and mock Jesus.  They saw but learned nothing.
  6. Soldiers– They had to be there.  The centurion, at least, learned that Jesus was the Son of God.  You have to wonder if his name was Cornelius?  They probably learned the most, simply because they knew the least.
  7. The Women and John– They choose to be there.  Grief, horror, and questions filled their minds overwhelming their understanding of what was happening.  Who could not be affected by the moment?  They knew Jesus had told them, but they did not comprehend in the trial.  Did they learn?  I am sure they did, but this took time to process.  The effects of the lesson developed over the next fifty days. It prepared them for Pentecost.  

End and Start –The Law ended/was fulfilled and Grace took center stage. No matter what I thought to write it always came back to that thought. FURTHER THOUGHT –  Our redemption from sin is finished because Jesus paid the price on the cross! In our lives, there are “things” that we need to offer to God so that we can follow Jesus more completely. We refer to this as crucifying them! Sometimes we freely offer them, sometimes God starts the process, in both cases, we have to let the things die. What is one thing you were in the “dark” about as it died and what was the “light” as the result?