Welcome to "Expound," our verse-by-verse study of God's word. Our goal is to expand your knowledge of the truth of God by explaining the word of God in a way that is interactive, enjoyable, and congregational.
Father, I am reminded of the words of Paul to the Corinthians, who was referring to the very era of time that Moses preached and spoke in, the very period of time when the children of Israel were in the wilderness and crossing over, and referring to this very section, this very time period. Paul said these things were written before for our admonition, upon whom the end of the age has come.
Lord, we who are living in these days, as we're looking at perhaps the edge, at least, of history on this planet, as the days in which we live seem to be darker and darker with more and more challenges, where things seem to be getting unhinged, Lord, we rest upon solid ground. We rest upon a firm foundation, an unshakable foundation. And we thank you, Lord, that we look forward to what is coming, because we know ultimately where it leads, and we know who wins, and we know which side we're on.
So with great confidence, Lord, we look forward. But tonight, we look backward and apply it to the present time to get us through the future time. Lord, these things were written for us. These are admonitions for us. Thank you for brothers and sisters committed to studying the scriptures. Would you please, Lord, be a rewarder of these who diligently seek you? In Jesus' name, amen.
Well, a few years ago, there was a book that was published by an author named Michael Shapiro, a Jewish author. The book was entitled, The Jewish 100, or the subtitle, The 100 Most Influential Jews of All of History. Let me give you a sampling. I'm not going to begin at 100. I'm going to begin at number six and work my way to number one.
And the book is numbered. I have the book, and then a little biography is written about them. Number six on the list of the most influential Jews of all time, number six is Paul the Apostle, Saul of Tarsus, who had a dramatic conversion.
Moving up closer to number one, at number five on his list is Abraham. At number four is Sigmund Freud. At number three is Albert Einstein. At number two is Jesus. And at number one, because he is the lawgiver of the Jews, he is like the one that all of the Jewish people of all times look to, number one on the list was Moses.
Moses is considered, not only by Shapiro but by many, to be the most influential Jewish person of all history. Now, I suppose that if you were to interview someone in the New Testament who hadn't yet come to grips with Jesus, they would also say, oh, hands down Moses is the most important as well as most influential Jewish person of all history. And that would be evidenced by how many times he is quoted in the New Testament. Am I right? He's quoted a lot.
In fact, Moses is quoted more than any other author of the Old Testament in the New Testament. Of all the authors, of all the prophets of any of the Old Testament books, the most often-quoted author is Moses. And when he is quoted, the bulk of his quotes come from his sermons. And Deuteronomy is essentially his sermons. It's the last few sermons Moses gives to the children of Israel before crossing over into the land.
When we look at the life of Jesus, we know that the life of Jesus was saturated with the book of Deuteronomy. The quotes that our Lord gives from the Old Testament, from the law, from the Torah, often come from Deuteronomy. When our Lord Jesus is tempted by the devil, when he's out in the wilderness, He will say, "Man does not live by bread alone, but by every word of God," a quote from Deuteronomy. "You shall not tempt the Lord thy God," a quote from Deuteronomy.
Still to this day, Deuteronomy is quoted every single day, morning and evening, by pious Jews around the world. "Sh'ma Yis'ra'eil Adonai Eloheinu Adonai echad." "Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one," Deuteronomy 6. Every morning when you rise, every evening when you retire to bed, because Moses said that in the law, that prayer, the Sh'ma, is quoted. And when Jewish parents tuck their children into bed at night, usually that prayer is quoted-- Deuteronomy.
But there is a section of Deuteronomy that has caused a stir, a little bit of a commotion of late. And it's found in our text. In the very first verse of chapter 15, there is an interesting word in Hebrew that a lot of people didn't even know existed until recently. Now everybody has known about this word. It's called the shemitah. Some of you have heard of it-- if you prefer the American pronunciation, the "shemeeta." But it's the shemitah.
And a book was written by an author by the name of Jonathan Cahn. And it's an interesting name, by the way, Cahn. But Jonathan Cahn wrote a book called The Harbinger. Some of you have read it. Some of you are familiar with it. Some of you have gotten very, very excited about the book and told me that I need to not only read the book but sort of use the book as a warning to people.
And Jonathan Cahn in his book The Harbinger has a chapter that is called "The Shemitah" about the year of release. You'll notice in verse 1, "At the end of every seven years, there shall be a shemitah, a release, of debts." It is Jonathan Cahn's opinion that this directive in the Bible, which is, by the way, directed to an ethnicity, the ethnic Jewish people, and it has to do with a very specific thing called the land covenant, the covenant of the land of Israel promised to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
So the whole idea in the scripture of that shemitah, or the release, is what the word means, is that we're dealing with a specific covenant for a specific people of a specific land. But Jonathan Cahn is convinced that it somehow now has to do with the United States of America, even though there is no scriptural evidence whatsoever to impose the United States into the interpretation of the scripture. Nowhere is it mentioned. But he feels the liberty to do so.
Now, for the life of me, and I've gone through it and studied it a little bit, I don't know why the United States. Everybody wants to pick on us. Why not Brazil? I mean, there's a lot of countries to choose from, but for some reason he's making it about the United States and that bad things are going to happen to the United States in the year of release, in a year of shemitah.
Now, if you add to that something else that is stirring in the minds of people-- and with great anticipation, people were waiting for September 28 when the blood moon occurred. And it got some people really, really excited. And some people got really, really wacky with this. Because last year and this year, starting in April of last year and ending in September 28 of this year, there was what is called a tetrad of blood moons, a cluster of four blood moons on four different times.
And so a little bit of research has been done by a few different authors, some are more notable than others, that the blood moons in conjunction with the shemitah at the Feast of Tabernacles is going to herald the end of the world. And so people said, you have to warn people. I said, look, I've been warning people and Jesus has been warning people that he's coming, and no man knows the day or the hour. I'm as ready as I can be. And you ought to be as ready as you can be. But these things and sell lots of books.
So people were really, really looking at the blood moon thinking, this is it. It's going to be the second coming. Some authors said it's going to herald this big earthquake, because the Book of Revelation says that when the seal was opened, an earthquake came and the sun became black like sackcloth and the moon became red like blood. So that must mean, they say, that a blood moon is the fulfillment of that scripture, even though that scripture has to do with the future tribulation period, which last I checked, hasn't happened yet.
By the way, if you wonder why the red color, what happens is that the shadow of the Earth interposes itself, shadows itself over the moon so that the sun's rays don't reflect on the moon. They're reflecting on the other side of the Earth when you look up at night, and the shadow of the Earth is cast upon the moon. The reddish hue comes from the fact that on the electromagnetic spectrum, the red light is less affected by the shadow than the colder rays like blue. And also, red light is refracted, or bent, in the Earth's atmosphere, so it just gives the visual look of a reddish color.
It's fascinating. It was beautiful. I love looking at it. But to say that because the Feast of Tabernacles and the shemitah and all of that happened, it's the end of the age, well, September 28 has come and gone. And some of these people, you can't find them when you want to get an interview now with them. Before, you could, because their books were selling. Now, well, some of them are just sort of hidden, or they say, well, I didn't really mean that. What I meant was there's a possibility that-- and so forth and so on.
So anyway, I wanted to bring that up, because that has created a lot of stir, and I haven't said anything. First of all, it's been fun to watch. And second, I always like to wait until after it didn't come to pass. Because I've been through this for numbers of years with numbers of books that have been written, and every time somebody does this and it doesn't happen like they say, it puts a black guy on the Christian witness in the world. And everybody who's in the world goes, it's another kooky, Christian, crazy idea.
And so I'm always hesitant when these things come out, but because it is in the scripture and we're reading it in context, it's good for you to see. And when somebody says, have you ever heard of the shemitah, I say, I've been teaching it for 30 years. Come to Wednesday night Bible studies. You'll know all about it, the year of release.
So here it is in Deuteronmy, chapter 15, verse 1. "At the end of every seven years, you shall grant a release, a shemitah of debts." And this is the form of the release. "Every creditor who has lent anything to his neighbor shall release it. He shall not require it of his neighbor or his brother, because it is the Lord's shemitah." It is the Lord's release.
So for six years, if you're a farmer, you plant, you sow, you reap the land. But on the seventh year, the land is fallow. Now, this isn't mentioned here. It's mentioned in other texts. But it's all part of the six-and-one pattern, seven years. So six years, you plant and you reap and you work the land, and the seventh year, you let the land regenerate.
And also, it is a year of release. You let the land lay fallow, and you release debts that people owe you or mortgages that are intact. You release people from those obligations. So what that meant is 1/7 of the time, the poorest of the poor and the wealthy landowners were on the same level. Debts were released, nothing was owed, and on the 50th year, called the jubilee year, that is, seven sets of these seven release years, shemitah years, on the 50th year the land would revert back to its original owners. So it would be kept in the tribal allotments.
Then you would just go out to the fields and whatever grew of itself, that's what you would do. That's what you would take. It was one way for God to bring the community together. It was one way for God to take care of the poor. They didn't have a welfare system like is intact today in our country. So to care for the poor and to rejuvenate the land, this was instituted.
Six and one-- the pattern of six and let it go rest, it's part of the Sabbath laws, just like you have six days of work and the day of rest on the seventh day. That six-and-one pattern is carried out also in years.
Now, why do I mention all of this? Well, partly because every now and then, I will meet some very zealous, well-meaning person, believer, even, who will be very zealous toward keeping the Sabbath-- I keep the Sabbath. And it's like, well, that's good. I'm glad you do. That's great.
Are you Jewish? Well, no, but I'm a believer, and I should keep the Sabbath day. It's part of the commandments. I said, that's true, but it's the only commandment that is not reiterated in the New Testament as part of the covenant. That's an Old Testament directive for a group of people at that time.
But we're to keep the Sabbath. I say, really? Are you really into keeping the Sabbath? Oh, yes. Do you keep all the--? Oh, I keep all of the Sabbath. So I said, so what that means is every seven years, you stop working and you just trust the Lord, right? Dead silence-- this is always fun to have fun with people this way.
You trust the Lord, right? Whatever the Lord brings your way, that's His provision, because that really is the pattern here. That subsidy would be a year of just sort of trusting and waiting and seeing what the Lord would provide in the land. So there's the shemitah. There's the every seven years.
Now, have you noticed something in the Bible? There is a number that keeps appearing over and over again. And it's this number seven, right? And that people have asked me, so what does seven mean? And it's all over the scripture. Jacob worked for his uncle Laban and for seven years to get one of his daughters to be his bribe, and then he worked for another seven years.
And then pharaoh had a dream of seven lean cattle swallowing up seven fat, well-fed cattle. Then he had another dream of seven plump ears of grain being eaten up by seven withered and blighted-by-the-east-wind ears of grain. We find it all throughout the scriptures, the menorah, the candlestick in the Tabernacle, had seven branches on it, a pattern of six and one. We come to the Book of Revelation. We find seven all over the place-- seven churches, seven stars, seven spirits of God, seven seals, seven trumpets, seven bowl judgments.
And it would seem that seven is a number that represents completeness or completion-- not perfection, but completion. So when seven runs its course, eight is the new beginning. So eight is a number of new beginning. And so that is why students and scholars alike will assign a typical meaning two numbers like seven.
Now, some get really crazy in their numerology, but seven is obvious enough in the Bible that it just makes you stop and wonder about it because it's so frequent. So it seems best to think of seven as representing completion, just like there are seven days in a week, there are seven notes on a scale and you have a complete scale, seven colors. You can see it as a representation of something whole and complete.
Verse 3, "Of a foreigner, you may require it, but you shall give up your claim to what is owed by your brother except when there be maybe no poor among you." Now, watch this. This is interesting, because it's going to read almost the opposite in a few verses. "Except when there may be no poor among you," so if you can get to a place where you eradicate poor people from your society.
"For the Lord will greatly bless you in the land which the Lord your God has given you to possess as an inheritance only if you carefully obey the voice of the Lord your God, to observe with care all these commandments which I command you today, for the Lord your God will bless you just as He promised. And you will lend to many nations, but you shall not borrow. You shall reign over many nations, but they shall not reign over you."
Seven cycles of seven years, and then after year 49 was the 50th year, the jubilee. This pattern is six and one, seven, this notion of keeping the sabbatic year, so the debts were released and land went back to the original owner of the 50th year and all this stuff, how important was it to God? Well, it was so important to God that when they did not keep that, God took it so seriously that He removed the children of Israel from the land allotment and kicked them out of it to give the land a rest.
It is estimated that the children of Israel did not keep this law of six and one when it came to their land, sowing and reaping, releasing debts, et cetera. They didn't keep it. And they didn't keep it for 490 years, or how many Sabbath years? 70 years.
So when they didn't keep 70 Sabbath years-- 490 years went by-- eventually the Lord allowed the Babylonians to come in, 586 BC. 605 it started, 586 BC was the captivity with Daniel and the others. But 605 is really where it begins. And then they were released 70 years later.
Now, I tell you why I say this is important. You don't have to turn there. I'm reading to you now out of Second Chronicles, which is the end of the historical section in that book. It says this in chapter 36, "The Lord God of their Father sent warnings to them by His messengers, rising up early, sending them because He had compassion on His people and upon His dwelling place.
But they mocked the messengers of God. They despised His words. They scoffed at His prophets until the wrath of the Lord arose against His people and there was no remedy. And then they burned the house of God." That's Solomon's temple.
"And they broke down the wall of Jerusalem and burned all of its palaces with fire and destroyed all of its precious possessions. And those who escaped from the sword, he carried away to Babylon, where they became servants to him and his sons until the rule of the kingdom of Persia," he being Nebuchadnezzar, the Babylonian monarch.
Listen to this. Listen to why. Here's the money verse, so to speak. "To fulfill the word of the Lord by the mouth of Jeremiah until the land had enjoyed her Sabbaths. As long as she lay desolate, she kept the Sabbath to fulfill 70 years."
So 490 years went by. They were loose and lax about keeping the commandment. God says, you owe me 70 years. So He brought them out of the land, gave the land its rest, and then brought them back. That's how seriously God takes it.
But here's the verse. We read it in verse 6. I know I'm moving slowly, but you know me by now. "For the Lord your God will bless you just as He promised you. You shall lend to many nations, but you shall not borrow. You shall reign over many nations, but they shall not reign over you."
That's a very, very unique promise, and it is one that I will contend has not yet been fulfilled. When has Israel ever reigned over all of the nations? There were periods of strength under Solomon and David, but reigning over all of the nations? I believe that promise will be fulfilled yet future, in the millennial kingdom when our Lord rules and reigns locally, geographically, may I even say geopolitically from Jerusalem for 1,000 years.
Now, while I think that is ultimately fulfilled in the future, I will say, and I think we've all noticed-- I think it's pretty common knowledge-- that when it comes to the banking industry and the financiers of the world, the Jews have done a very good job at garnering wealth. The Rothschild family and the foundation for years financed nations, could lend to nations. Do you realize that in our country, the United States, only 2% of our population is Jewish? And yet 20% of the top 400 wealthiest people in our country are Jewish. It's just like God has given a gift with this. I don't dispute it. I marvel at it, and I praise God for it.
"If there is among you a poor man of your brethren," verse 7, "within any of the gates of your land, which the Lord your God is giving you, you shall not harden your heart nor shut your hand from your poor brother. But you shall open your hand wide to him and willingly lend him sufficient for his need, whatever he needs." So you can think of somebody going, I don't want to lend money to him. It's year six, and year seven the debts are going to be averaged out, and he'll never pay it back by then. He may, but he might not. I'm not going to do that. Don't harden your heart. Be open-handed, not close-hearted.
"Beware, lest there be a wicked thought in your heart, saying, the seventh year, the year of release is at hand, and your eye be evil against your poor brother, and you give him nothing, and he cry out to the Lord against you, and it becomes sin among you. You shall surely give to him, and your heart should not be grieved when you give to him. Because for this thing, the Lord your God will bless you in all your works and it all to which you put your hand. For the poor will never cease from the land."
Now stop there and go back to verse 4 and compare those two. Verse 4, "except when there may be no poor among you," verse 11, "for the poor will never cease from the land." Is there a discrepancy? No. There's full disclosure. There's the ideal, and then there's the real. There's the idealistic. It's possible, God said, if you obey all my commands, that you'll even be able to eradicate poverty from your very society.
But at the same time, I, being the Lord, know you. And I know that you won't be completely obedient. And I therefore, knowing the heart of man, will say, you will always have the poor with you. Jesus said the same thing, did He not? John 12 and also Matthew, "For the poor you have with you always, but me you do not always have."
So simply is the difference between verse 4 and 11, the idealistic and the realistic. And the Lord predicts they will never cease. "You shall open wide to your brother, to the poor, to your needy in your land. If your brother, a Hebrew man or a Hebrew woman, is sold to you and serves you six years, then in the seventh year, you shall let him go free from you.
And when you send them away free from you, you shall not let him go away empty-handed. You shall supply him liberally from your flock, from your threshing floor, from your wine press. From what the Lord has blessed you with, you shall give to him. You shall remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt and the Lord your God redeemed you, therefore I command you this thing today."
There was a possibility that in owing a debt, in trying to pay off a debt that you just couldn't manage it, and so you went into default mode on your loan. And so as a creative repayment plan, you could become an indentured servant to the one you owed the money to. In other words, you will now work for him for a period of time for up to six years to pay that off. You can't go beyond six even if you still owe more. Remember, the year of seven is the shemitah. It's the year of release. You clear away the debt.
But this creative way to repay debt was simply you work for the person. It's sort of like if you don't pay your check at the restaurant. You know the old joke, we're going to go back and wash dishes tonight? I forgot my checkbook. I don't know if that has ever literally happened, but I'm sure afterwards I'll hear a story from one of you that it literally did happen.
Verse 16, "And if it happens that he says to you, I will not go away from you, because he loves you and your house, since he prospers with you," in other words, here you have an indentured slave situation. This person has become your servant. He works for you because he has to. His poverty has driven him to that. He serves you out of poverty, but in serving you out of poverty, out of necessity, he comes to a place where he now wants to serve you out of loyalty.
Before it was, I have to do this. Now it's, I want to do this. I really like you as a boss. I want to work for you. So if you have a situation where it goes from need to love and he loves your family and a relationship has been built and he prospers with you, verse 17, "then you shall take in awl"-- an awl is like an ice pick, a sharp, pointed, thick needle, an awl-- "and thrust it through his ear to the door."
I know you're going, that's gross. That's gnarly. Well, most of you gals have had it done, right? And some of you guys have had it done, where they've opened your ear up, put a hole in it, and put and an earring through it.
So that's the idea. You go to the house, to the door post, and you shove the awl through, and you put a hole in it. And that is where the term earmarked comes from. That person is now earmarked.
You look at the mark on the ear. The hole in the ear gives it away. Ah, this person works for that guy out of love, out of loyalty, not out of necessity, not out of poverty, but out of loyalty. "And he shall be your servant forever. Also to your female servant, you shall do likewise."
Now, I'm going to read a text of scripture to you. You can mark it down. Don't turn to it. I'll just tell you what it is. It's Psalm 40. Now, as I read this, I think some of you for the first time, it's going to make sense. Because you've read Psalm 40 on your own for comfort.
But listen to this. "Sacrifice and offering you did not desire. My ears you have opened. Burnt offering and sin offering you did not require. Then I said, behold, I come in the scroll of the book. It is written of me. I delight to do your will, oh, my God. And your law is within my heart."
"My ears you have opened" is a reference to going to the door posts and having an awl run through and putting a hole in the ear, being earmarked. It's not like you've opened my ears so I can hear you. The idea is you've opened my ear because I now "delight to do your will, oh, my God." By the way, in the book of Hebrews, this is quoted as being fulfilled in the Lord Jesus Christ, who came from heaven to Earth, delighting to do the will of the Father, a willing servant, a loyal, loving subject of the Father.
Now, when we get to the New Testament, we'll discover that another form of slavery is present in the New Testament. The Old Testament, we're talking about a Hebrew servitude, an indentured servant that could turn into a love. When you get to the New Testament, you have the Roman Empire, right? The Roman Empire is in control of the world.
And at that time, some estimates is that upwards to almost half of all the people in the Roman Empire were slaves, 60 million slaves. Some of them came to Christ. Some of the slaves and some of the slave owners came to Christ. And what I find fascinating is Paul, rather than saying, get placards and march around Rome and saying, eradicate slavery, you know what he does? He writes letters to the slaves and says, be the best slave your master ever had and glorify Christ in your position.
I remember reading that, and I tell you why that was encouraging to me. Because I didn't have slave owners, but I had bosses who reminded me of slave owners. And so when I read that, I thought, OK, I have it much better than being in a Roman household as a slave to somebody else. And so in the very least, I can be the best worker that this company has ever seen.
And I remember after reading that verse, I actually went looking for a job. And I knew that they were hiring for my position. And I walked in, and I said, I'm hiring. Here's my resume.
They gave me an interview. They said, thank you very much, we'll call you, which means I'll not get the job. We have others to interview. And I said, OK.
But then I walked out, went down the hall, turned right around, went back in his office and said, I wanted to come back to tell you this. If you hire me, I will be the best worker in this department you can imagine. Now, I knew that was a tall order, but I made that promise to him. I will work better than anyone in this department. You'll not regret it. He looked at me and said, you are hired.
So we come to the New Testament, and though slavery is rampant and it was eradicated, the idea is that I'm not going to be able to change the whole system, nor are you as Christians called to politically change the system, but you can change the hearts of people by working so diligently, so thoroughly, so a wholesomely that that witness for Christ could win them over. And it won some of the slave owners over and so forth.
Also, you can't read the New Testament without picking up this imagery of Paul the Apostle for the believers. And Paul writes a letter. He says, Paul, a servant of the Lord, or of Christ. That's how he introduces every letter, a servant, a bondslave, literally, a doulos. Doulos is the Greek word for a slave, a bondservant, an indentured servant. I'm a bondslave of Christ.
And then he tells us, "for you are not your own." Do you remember that verse of scripture? "You are not your own. You've been bought with a price." That's all slavery language.
You were a slave of the world. You were a slave of the devil, but Jesus redeemed you. That's slavery language. He took you to the auction block, and there He redeemed you. He bought you back. And now you are His. You are His slave.
Now certainly, Jesus said, I don't call you servants anymore. I call you my friends. Remember that promise? I love that. So He says, I love you so much I don't think of you, I don't refer to you as just my slaves, like do this, do that. I want a relationship of friendship. So I'm not calling you servants. I'm calling you my friends. And yet, even after that Paul called himself a slave, a slave, a slave, a slave. He found some great satisfaction in taking the very lowest position in serving the King of Kings.
Now, I do believe that we come to Christ as a slave, and we end up as a friend. Let me explain. Just like an indentured servant in the Old Testament, you would be going to work for a slave owner out of poverty, right? You can't pay your debts, so creatively you can now work for this slave owner or this landowner.
So you become a slave, a servant. You're moved out of your poverty. So, too, we, the Bible says, come to Christ poor in spirit. "Blessed are the poor in spirit," poverty-stricken spiritually. You have nothing in and of yourself. You come poor in spirit.
But then he's always after that second relationship, where He could say to you, I don't want just to call you my servant. I want you to be my friend. I want you to grow in this relationship where you're following not because you have to, not because, well, I got to follow Jesus. It's gonna keep me out of hell. True, a good motivation-- I'm not gonna lie, good motivation-- but not the best motivation.
You want to get from I gotta follow Jesus, it's gonna keep me out of hell, to, I want to follow Jesus, there's nobody like Him. I'm so in love with Him and so in love with His family, it's now out of sheer loyalty. So that's the law of the slave in the sermon of Moses in Deuteronomy.
And if it happens, verse 16-- I already read that. Verse 19, "All the firstborn males that come from you herd and your flocks, you shall sanctify to the Lord your God. You shall do no work with the firstborn of your herd nor sheer the firstborn of your flock."
Now, this is the law of the firstborn. We've gone through it before. But God just knows us. It's like, OK, I gotta give my firstborn sheep to God, but you know what? I could get one good coat out of that baby before I give it to God. And that would make a nice coat for the winter. So I'm going to sheer the sheep, then I'll dedicate it to God.
Or, I'm going to get something out of that animal before I sacrifice it to God. So God knows our heart. And the firstborn were off limits because God redeemed them from Egypt with the death of the firstborn. That was the 10th and final plague in Egypt. So there was the law the firstborn. We've been through it before. God knows they're hard.
And he says, "You and your household shall eat it before the Lord your God, year by year in the place which the Lord chooses." Now, that's a very key phrase. And I'll tell you what I mean by that. From verse 19 of chapter 15 all the way to chapter 16 is all about activities to be done at the place that God chooses. There's going to be a special place, whereas before, they were going from place to place wandering around the desert, they're now going to go settle down in the land of Canaan, and there's going to be the law of the central sanctuary.
They're going to put the Tabernacle in a certain place. They're going to build a temple in that certain place. And all the activities of corporate worship take place in that place.
So there were certain activities that had to be done in that place. Number one, the selection and sacrifice of the firstborn, all to be done at that place. The festival of Passover was at that place. The Festival of Weeks, or Pentacost, was at that place and the Festival of Tabernacles was at that place, the three pilgrim feasts that are mentioned in chapter 16. So that's what that's all about.
But verse 21, "If there is a defect in it, if it is lame or blind or has any serious defect, you shall not sacrifice it to the Lord your God." God doesn't want our cast-offs. And yet it is a tendency, well, what are you gonna do with that old thing? Well, let's give it to the church. It's broken. We've used it up. It's out of tune or whatever. It's now really no good for our consumption. Let's give it to God.
Oh, I have to give an animal to the Lord? Hm, where's the lame ones? Oh, there's a few ones I don't like. Let's give those to God. It's like the old joke about the farmer who had two cows, and he knew he had to give one to the Lord. He promised that he would, but he didn't know which one.
And finally one got sick, and he was out there all night in the barn and nursing it back to health. And finally it died. And he walked into the house. He goes, sweetheart, I have bad news. God's cow just died.
You may eat it within your gates. The clean and the unclean person may eat it as if I were a gazelle or a deer. You shall not eat its blood. You shall pour it on the ground like water. Observe the month of Abib." Abib is the first month of the Jewish calendar. Nisan, like the car, but not, is the first month of the Jewish calendar-- March, April.
"Observe the month," the first month of Abib, "and keep the Passover to the Lord your God. In the month of Abib, Lord your God brought you out of Egypt by night. Therefore, you shall sacrifice the Passover to the Lord your God from the flock and the herd in the place where the Lord chooses to put His name."
There are three feasts mentioned in this chapter. I told you what they were-- Passover, Pentacost, Tabernacle, which was just celebrated recently in the Jewish calendar-- or Pesach-- that's the Hebrew name for Passover-- Shavu-ot-- that means weeks; that's the feast of Pentecost-- and Sukkot is the Feast of Tabernacles, for booths. It just means booths, or shelters. So those are the pilgrim feasts.
These feasts were kept, interestingly, revolved around agriculture-- agriculture and the agricultural calendar. I like this. It shows me that God wants your work to become a place of your worship. His worship is introduced into the workplace. He doesn't separate sacred and secular. It's all His. It's all part of the worship and the walk with God.
And so what they would do with their land for a living was also part of their very worship system. So they were to keep the Passover. In a sense, we're to keep the Passover, communion. There's only one thing in the New Testament we're told to do often in remembrance of Him, and that is to keep the Lord's table, the Lord's supper together.
"You shall eat no leavened bread with it," verse 3. "Seven days you shall eat unleavened bread with it, that is, the bread of affliction, for you came out of the land of Egypt in a hurry, in haste, that you may remember the day in which you came out of the land of Egypt all the days of your life. No leaven shall be seen among you in all of the territory for seven days, nor shall any of the meal which you sacrifice the first day of twilight remain overnight until morning.
You may not sacrifice the Passover within any of your gates, which the Lord your God gives you, but at the place where the Lord your God chooses to make His name abide. There, you shall sacrifice the Passover at twilight, the going down of the sun, at the time you came out of Egypt. You shall roast it in the place which the Lord your God chooses. In the morning, you shall turn and go to your tent.
Six days you shall eat unleavened bread. On the seventh day, there should be a sacred assembly to the Lord your God. You shall do no work." Passover, of course, Exodus 12, they came out of Egypt, the 10th plague, putting blood on the door post and lintels, the deliverance from Egypt.
They followed an interesting pattern. On the 10th today of the month, the 10th day of first month of Abib, on the 10th today, you would select a lamb, a little baby, beautiful lamb. You would bring it home until the 14th day of the month. So you had it at home for a few days. Now, that would make it difficult to sacrifice.
It would be like bringing a puppy home for a few days. And the kids get used to it, and the lamb runs around. You pet it. It's so beautiful. It's like now you have to take it on the 14th, and has to be killed, drained, roasted, and eaten. I mean, that would be very tough. I would not want to eat my little doggy. But it brought the idea of a sacrifice home to them.
Now originally, the Passover was two festivals. And I don't have the time to explain it all, but there was, first of all, the Passover day. And then after that was the Feast of Unleavened Bread, two separate feasts. But they really were seen by Israel as one, because right after Passover, the next feast began. So there was a period of seven days altogether of unleavened bread and the Passover together.
"Then," verse 9, "you shall count seven weeks for yourself. Begin to count seven weeks from the time you begin to put the sickle to the grain, and you shall keep the feast of weeks to the Lord your God with the tribute of the free-will offering from your hand, which you shall give as the Lord your God blesses you." So at the end of the wheat harvest and the beginning of the barley harvest, which was 50 days-- that's where the term "Pentacost" comes from, 50 days after Passover-- we're now in the summer months. That's when you celebrate this next agricultural feast, the Feast of Pentecost, or the Feast of Weeks, Shavu'ot is the Hebrew word.
According to Jewish tradition, Moses received the law from God on Mount Sinai on the day of Pentacost. That's just a tradition. We don't know if it's true or not. It's a legend. It's nice to think that way, but we're not sure.
What we are sure of is the church was born on the day of Pentacost. 50 days after Passover, or 50 days after Jesus died on the cross, since He died on Passover, the church was born. A new work of God was established on the Jewish feast of Passover and the Jewish feast of Pentacost. So there is a typical tie-in that takes place.
Look at verse 11. "You shall rejoice." It's sounds like a command, doesn't it? "You shall rejoice before the Lord your God, you, your son, your daughter, your male servant, your female servant, the Levite who is within your gates, the stranger, the fatherless, the widow who are among you at the place where the Lord your God chooses to make His name abide. And you shall remember that you were a slave in Egypt, and you shall be careful to observe the statute."
God is commanding for a celebration. Now, He's not commanding them to put on a smile or to feel good. Don't feel like you're in a celebratory mood, because sometimes, frankly, you can imagine people will go through a number of things when they got together on Pentacost. I've had a bad day, I've had a bad week, somebody in my family died, I lost my job-- all that stuff could happen.
But God gives a command that when there is a public gathering, it has a celebratory note to it, not like a funeral march, but like a wedding march. You it. You make a joyful noise.
And I've always loved that God commands us. But we celebrate holidays and festivals in our culture, but take one of the most famous ones, Christmas. This coming Christmas season, study the faces of people and see if they're celebrating, if they're happy, if they're joyful that it's Christmastime. Are you kidding? They're filled with anxiety and stress and I've got to buy this gift and the roads and the stores are crowded. And people's anxiety level goes up.
God says, when you gather together for my feast, no anxiety, no stress-- celebration. I've always been intrigued with how bars have happy hour. You've heard me say this before. It's happy hour! And yet look at the people coming out of happy hour.
Should be renamed. Am I right? But when we gather together like this for the Lord's table or a Bible study or church on the weekend, that ought to be happy hour. We ought to be the happiest people. Oh, but I don't feel like it. That's OK. You shall rejoice.
And sometimes when you put the action before the feeling, you'll change the feeling. When you put the engine, as I'm doing this active rejoicing even though I don't feel like it, it just might change the way you feel, because now you're obeying God's directive. You shall rejoice. Make a joyful noise.
And then finally, we'll finish this up. Verse 13, "You shall observe the Feast of Tabernacles," also called Sukkot, which means little shelters-- seven days. "When you have gathered from the threshing floor from your wine press," again an agricultural feast, "you shall rejoice"-- here it is again-- "in your feast, you and your son and your daughter, your male servant, your female servant, and the Levite stranger, the fatherless, the widow that are within your gates. Seven days you shall keep a sacred feast of the Lord your God in the place which the Lord your God chooses, because the Lord your God will bless you in all of the produce and in all of the work of your hands. So you surely rejoice."
This is how it worked, and by the way, works. If you go to Israel during late September, early October, and you happen to be in the Feast of Tabernacles, you see everywhere, in homes, in hotels, on streets, little shacks built, little lean-tos. And Jewish law requires that you build the roof out of a thatch material, and the thatches are wide enough for you to look through them and see the stars. The idea is that you take your family out, and you either have a meal at night in that little lean-to, that little shack, that little tabernacle, or you spend the night. You camp out.
Now, parents will probably will probably want option number one. Kids will want option number two. They love the idea of camping out in the backyard. Yeah, I'll do that. This is cool. Parents might say, I'm not committed to seven days outside, but we'll have a meal together.
But the idea was that for seven days originally, you would actually move outside of the shelter. Why? It was a reminder of God's provision. Passover is God's pardon. Pentacost is God's participation. You're participating with God and coming together.
And now God's provision in the wilderness. Our forefathers wandered around in tents for 40 years, and God still took care of all their needs. Don't forget that. And so one little celebration so as not to forget that is this little festival of booths.
When the temple was built by the time of the New Testament, there was a ritual during the Feast of Tabernacles in the temple area. People would gather. Crowds would gather in the temple, thousands of people. And the priest would get a silver pitcher. And he would walk down to the Pool of Siloam, which, if you go with us to Israel, we'll walk you down to the Pool of Siloam. You will see it.
And he fills the pitcher with water, walks back up to the temple, pours it on the stones at the altar, and all of the people, on seeing this, sing a quote out of Isaiah, chapter 12. The quote is, "With joy you will bring waters and drink them from the wells of salvation."
The feast lasted a total of eight days. The first day and the eighth day were special Sabbaths. The last day of the feast, the eighth day, which was called the Great Day of the Feast, the priest would do it seven times. He would go down to the Pool of Siloam, fill up his pitcher with water, go up, pour it, go down again, pour it 7 times.
Why seven times? Because they march seven times around Jericho, and the siege lasted for seven days. So reminiscent of that, he would do it seven times. So it was the highlight of the feast, pouring the water in the altar, the people singing, with joy you'll draw water from the well of salvation."
When we come to John, chapter 7, we discover that Jesus Christ attended this feast and was in the temple courts during the Feast of Tabernacles. And it was on not any day, but it was on the last day, the great day of the feast, where Jesus was in the temple. And it says He stood up and He cried with a loud voice. Why? Because there was a lot of people, and He needed to get their attention. And He preached a very short but poignant sermon as the priest is pouring that water. And they're reminiscing how God cared for us in the desert and brought water from the rock and gave us refreshment.
Jesus stood up and said, if any man thirst, let them come to me and drink. For out of his heart, as the scripture says, will flow rivers of living water. And John says, this He spoke, concerning His Holy Spirit, which was not yet given.
But now it is given. Now the Holy Spirit resides in you in an eye. And my question as we close this chapter-- we'll read just a few verses and close-- is that a true experience of your life, where there's like that bubbling forth of life that motivates you? It's like torrents of living water. Not only are you satisfied, but it comes forth from you so that others around you are satisfied.
If any man thirsts, let him come to me and drink. That's being satisfied. For whoever believes in me, as the scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water. That's the second part of satisfying others. Are you satisfied? And are you helping to satisfy and quench the thirst of others? It's all based upon this festival.
"Three times a year, all your males shall appear before the Lord your God in the place which He chooses, at the feast of unleavened bread," or Passover, "the Feast of Weeks," or Pentacost, "the Feast of Tabernacles. And they shall not appear before the Lord empty-handed. Every man shall give as he is able according to the blessing of the Lord your God, which He has given you.
You shall appoint judges and officers and all of your gates, which the Lord your God gives you according to your tribes. And they shall judge the people with just judgment. You shall not pervert justice. You shall not show partiality nor take a bribe, for a bribe blinds the eyes of the wise and twists the words of the righteous. You shall follow what is altogether just, that you may live and inherit the land which the Lord your God is giving you.
You shall not plant for yourself any tree as a wooden image for worship, an ash or a pole, near to the altar, which you build for yourself to the Lord your God. You shall not set up a sacred pillar, breaking the second commandment, which the Lord your God hates."
In closing, do you notice where the judgment takes place in ancient times? The courthouse wasn't in the center of town. In American towns where my wife was raised in Ludington, Michigan, right in the middle of town is like this cool, old-- I couldn't believe it when I saw it-- piece-of-Americana courthouse.
It's just so cool. It's so classic. That's the pattern of American cities. Church is in the middle. Courthouse is usually somewhere next to it. And then the town builds around it.
In ancient times, the courthouse was the edge of town. The gate, where everybody comes in and comes out, that's where all of the adjudication took place. That's where contracts were signed. That's where marriage contracts were affirmed. And that's where the judgment took place, in the gates. And again, if you come with us to Israel, we'll sit you down in one of the ancient gates and go through how it all works together.
What we have in this chapter is pardon. That's Passover, the blood of the lamb, Jesus Christ our lamb-- pardon. Participation-- that's Pentacost, the coming together of Jew and Gentile, Acts, Chapter 2. And then provision-- tabernacles. All three are yours in Christ. You are pardoned, you participate in the divine nature and with other believers, and God gives you his provision. He promises you His provision. All are yours in Christ.
My question as we close is, have you begun with the first feast? You have to be pardoned in order to participate and to enjoy provision. If the blood of the Lamb, Jesus Christ, hasn't forgiven you, hasn't pardoned your sins, that's where you need to begin. John said, concerning Jesus, behold the lamb of God, which takes away the sin of the world.
And when I gave my life to Christ, I could say, behold the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of Skip. Can you say that of you? Has He done that for you? Have you personalized it? Have you received Jesus as your Savior?
If not, you don't need more information. You just need transformation, change of the heart. That could happen right now. Father, as we close this service and we consider our lives before God, we consider the words of scripture and the principles, the overarching principles above the words of the scripture, the principle of pardon, of forgiveness, a lamb shedding its innocent blood for the sin of the people.
We understand that either we die or a lamb dies. Either we are judged for our sin, or somebody takes the judgment. How blessed we are that Jesus, the Lamb of God, can take away the sin of the world if that world will turn to Him. Thank you, Lord, that you've forgiven us. And for those who have not yet been pardoned, they don't know Jesus personally, I pray they would come to that faith tonight.
Right now, right where you're seated, if you don't know Jesus personally, if you haven't asked Him to come into your life as your savior, as your Lord, as your master, if you haven't abdicated the throne of your life to Him, now's the time to do that. It's simple, really. He's done all the work for you. He paid the price for you.
If you trust in Him, if you believe in Him, and you ask Him to forgive you of your sin, and you come to Him, He'll do it. If you need to do that for the first time, or maybe you've walked away from the Lord and you need to come back to Him, as our heads are bowed, mine are open. My eyes are open. You raise your hand up and let me see who you are if you want to pray to receive Christ. Just raise your hand up in the air right now as we close this service and let me pray for you to receive Jesus into your heart.
God bless you, sir, to my left. Anyone else? Raise it up high so I can see it. God bless you and you, toward the back, yes, sir. Who else? Anyone else? Anyone else? To my right, yes, sir.
Father, thank you for these who have said yes to the Savior. I pray that this would begin something new. You said if any man is in Christ, he is a new creation. Old things have passed away, and all things become new. We want to rejoice with these in Jesus' name. Amen.
Hey, let's all stand to our feet. As we sing this final song, please do me a favor. If you raise your hand as we sing this song, would you get up from where you're standing and walk to the nearest isle aisle and stand right up here? I'm going to lead you in a prayer right now to receive Christ as your Savior.
Our counselors are coming. They're going to wait for you. If you're on the side, in the back, in the middle, just come on up. Let this be the night you remember that you said yes to Him, that you came to Him or you came back to Him.
Come right on up. Stand right here.
Come right on up. You're all welcome. You may be thinking, well, I know I need to do this, and I will. When I get my life cleaned up a little bit more, I know that I'll do it then. You don't ever have to do that.
And by the way, you can't do that. You can't ever make yourself lovable or good enough for God to love you. He loves you just the way you are, warts and all, sins and all.
He'll clean you up. You don't clean yourself up. You come just as you are. No matter what you've done, He loves you. Anyone else? God bless you.
That's right. That's right.
Those of you who have waled forward, now we're going to do business with God. And I hope and I pray that you will always remember this night, when you said yes to Him or you came back to Him. This is you turning your life over to Jesus, asking Him to live in you and live His life through you, realizing you can't do anything on your own.
You can't earn heaven, that it's a free gift. Salvation is a gift. You're receiving the gift. It's like Christmas. You're taking the package and opening the package.
So I'm going to lead you in a prayer. I'm going to ask you to pray this after me out loud, asking Jesus to come in and bee your Lord. Let's pray. Say, Lord, I give you my life.
Lord, I give you my life.
I know that I am a sinner.
I know that I am a sinner.
Please forgive me.
Please forgive me.
I believe in Jesus Christ.
I believe in Jesus Christ.
I believe that he died on a cross for me.
I believe that he died on a cross for me.
That he shed His blood for my sins but that he rose again from the dead and that He is alive right now. I turn from my past, and I turn to Jesus as my Savior. I want to live for Him as my Lord. In Jesus' name, amen!
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