Teaching at the Tree is communicated in a practical, easy to understand way that is relevant to your everyday life. It’s not religious jargon, just the truth of God’s word presented in a loving and challenging way.
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Jeremiah 23:5-6 (ESV)
“Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch, and he shall reign as king and deal wisely, and shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. In his days Judah will be saved, and Israel will dwell securely. And this is the name by which he will be called: ‘The Lord is our righteousness.’
The nation of Israel has a tumultuous history. It was patterned by rescue, rejection of God the rescuer, and then a period of discipline. It starts in Egypt. God hears the cries of His people as slaves, so He rescues them. They reject His provision and His ways, and they face consequences. Even in the good moments, there is always the tinge of the moment when Israel would fall again. Time after time, generation after generation, they give up on God, and God finally brings them to the place where we find Jeremiah speaking the above verses.
He is addressing a nation about to go into exile. They would be conquered by the Babylonians, taken from their homes, and driven to a land that wasn’t theirs. Their rejection of God should have left them lost forever. But on the heels of the sentence of exile and discipline was the promise of a rescuer. One who would come, much like Moses, and free the people from their oppressors. One who would restore what was right and good in the land. The promised one, called “the Lord’s Anointed,” or better said “Messiah,” was the hope Israel held to in the darkness of their consequence for sin. One day, God would rescue them again, one from the line of David (Israel’s greatest king) would restore all that God promised to His people.
Today’s passage is one of the few times Jeremiah spoke of the Messiah. But as he points Israel to their redeemer, little did he know it would be the promise and hope for our lives as well. One day, the Messiah came and rescued His people, and one day, He will return again to free us, once and for all, from the greatest captor we face…death itself.
Micah 5:2-5a (ESV)
But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, who are too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel, whose coming forth is from of old, from ancient days. Therefore, he shall give them up until the time when she who is in labor has given birth; then the rest of his brothers shall return to the people of Israel. And he shall stand and shepherd his flock in the strength of the Lord, in the majesty of the name of the Lord his God. And they shall dwell secure, for now he shall be great to the ends of the earth. And he shall be their peace.
Jesus was exactly who God said He would be. The very words that were spoken through the prophet (someone chosen to speak for God) Micah came 700 years before Jesus. Yes, that’s right, 700 years. These words were clearly from God, because Jesus came in the exact manner in which Micah said He would come, and fulfilled every part of this prophesy exactly as Micah said it would be fulfilled. This was a great promise that the people of Israel received because it spoke to their very needs. As a result of their disobedience to God, Israel spent many years relationally separated from Him, and this was even the case right up to when Jesus arrived. They hadn’t even heard from Him for hundreds of years. No prophet, no leader, no judge, no word directly spoken from God had pierced their ears. Those who did remain faithful to God through this drought of not hearing from Him held firmly to this hope, that a “ruler in Israel” would come and dwell among them, bringing security and peace for them.
After hundreds of years of waiting, that ruler finally came. However, He did not come as they had imagined. They truly desired a ruler with physical power and dominance who would establish them once again as a powerful nation. As we know from the gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, John) and the letters in the New Testament, Jesus did not come in that form of power. He came with the ultimate power that would enable them to be connected relationally with the Father once again. This was the better of the two powers, because it saved them from a spiritual depravity that forever condemned them from ever connecting with Almighty God again.
Isaiah 9:1-7 (ESV)
But there will be no gloom for her who was in anguish. In the former time he brought into contempt the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, but in the latter time he has made glorious the way of the sea, the land beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the nations.
The people who walked in darkness
have seen a great light;
those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness,
on them has light shone.
You have multiplied the nation;
you have increased its joy;
they rejoice before you
as with joy at the harvest,
as they are glad when they divide the spoil.
For the yoke of his burden,
and the staff for his shoulder,
the rod of his oppressor,
you have broken as on the day of Midian.
For every boot of the tramping warrior in battle tumult
and every garment rolled in blood
will be burned as fuel for the fire.
For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given;
and the government shall be upon his shoulder,
and his name shall be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Of the increase of his government and of peace
there will be no end,
on the throne of David and over his kingdom,
to establish it and to uphold it
with justice and with righteousness
from this time forth and forevermore.
The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this.
In this passage, we are given a prophecy spoken through the prophet Isaiah. Things were hard for the people of Israel, but this prophecy would bring them hope. Israel had suffered, but things were going to change. God was going to step in and claim the victory for them.
The world was walking in darkness, but One would come who would be a source of light. God had kept His promise to Abraham…He had built a people, the nation of Israel. The people of Israel had long suffered, had struggled with their sin, had struggled against many nations. But God was about to give them hope, another promise. He would send a Savior, who would bring light into the darkness, hope to the hopeless, peace to the restless, and joy to those in sorrow. He would claim a victory over the battle like no one before Him. The Messiah’s Kingdom would be greater than any kingdom here on the earth. He would be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. His Kingdom is the only one that will stand in the end.
This message would have brought so much hope to Israel. Even though those who heard it would never experience the coming Messiah, even though they wouldn’t know exactly how it would play out, this was the assurance they needed. God’s story of redemption was still playing out. He was still working, He was still moving, and for now they could rest, knowing that God would continue to be faithful. He would come through…He would send the long-awaited Savior.
Leviticus 16:15-19 (ESV)
“Then he shall kill the goat of the sin offering that is for the people and bring its blood inside the veil and do with its blood as he did with the blood of the bull, sprinkling it over the mercy seat and in front of the mercy seat. Thus he shall make atonement for the Holy Place, because of the uncleannesses of the people of Israel and because of their transgressions, all their sins. And so he shall do for the tent of meeting, which dwells with them in the midst of their uncleannesses. No one may be in the tent of meeting from the time he enters to make atonement in the Holy Place until he comes out and has made atonement for himself and for his house and for all the assembly of Israel. Then he shall go out to the altar that is before the Lord and make atonement for it, and shall take some of the blood of the bull and some of the blood of the goat, and put it on the horns of the altar all around. And he shall sprinkle some of the blood on it with his finger seven times, and cleanse it and consecrate it from the uncleannesses of the people of Israel.”
When an offense happens between two people, there is often a repair that needs to take place in the relationship. Whether it’s an emotional repair because the offense damaged a person’s feelings, or a physical repair because there was actual damage to the other party’s property, restitution and repayment is needed to rectify a torn relationship. This repair is what the Bible called atonement. Specifically, the Day of Atonement was the Jewish festival where they collectively remembered that they had broken the covenant with God, and for things to be right, a repair needed to be made. This is where the sacrificial system came into play. It was put into place to remind Israel that breaking the covenant with God was a serious offense, and the most extreme reparations had to be made to make things right. The blood, the symbol of life…and more importantly, the spilled blood, the symbol of a spent life…was always before Israel to remind them that their sin was grave, the cost of repair was great, yet God still made a way to forgive their sin and repair the relationship. This sacrificial practice stands as the model and foreshadowing of all of our redemption.
We see in Jesus the greater reality of the Day of Atonement. The book of Hebrews says that Israel celebrated the day every year, yet Christ, once and for all, atoned for the sins of the people.
Exodus 12:12-13; 21-23 (ESV)
For I will pass through the land of Egypt that night, and I will strike all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both man and beast; and on all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgments: I am the Lord. The blood shall be a sign for you, on the houses where you are. And when I see the blood, I will pass over you, and no plague will befall you to destroy you, when I strike the land of Egypt.
Then Moses called all the elders of Israel and said to them, “Go and select lambs for yourselves according to your clans, and kill the Passover lamb. Take a bunch of hyssop and dip it in the blood that is in the basin, and touch the lintel and the two doorposts with the blood that is in the basin. None of you shall go out of the door of his house until the morning. For the Lord will pass through to strike the Egyptians, and when he sees the blood on the lintel and on the two doorposts, the Lord will pass over the door and will not allow the destroyer to enter your houses to strike you.
God’s wrath against sin and God’s rescuing of sinners always goes hand in hand. We have the promise of God that He is going to take care of His people. His promise to Abraham is that He would give them a land, make them a people, and bless the nations through them. But when we come upon the people of God in this moment of their story, they are slaves in Egypt in need of salvation. A reluctant and hard-hearted Pharaoh has doubled down on every request Moses (God’s spokesman) has put in front of him. Along with Moses’s requests comes signs, wonders, and judgments against the Egyptian people and their gods.
In today’s passage, we see the final judgment God is going to levee against Egypt, the death of all the first born. It is intriguing the way God commanded His people to weather this judgment. For all the previous judgments, the Hebrew people were left unaffected. But for this one…they would not escape this judgment, unless they sacrificed a lamb and placed the blood over the door and down the sides of the door. This judgment coming on Egypt would be a judgment levied against them as well, unless the Angel of Death would view the blood and “pass over” their house. The death was still demanded. But God gave the Hebrew people an atonement, a sacrifice, a way out of the judgment, so they would be saved from the Angel and from their slave master.
The Exodus story is a foreshadowing of what God was going to do for all people through Jesus’s death on the cross. We were an enslaved people, both entrapped by sin but also guilty of it. We were desperate and lost. God’s judgment was going to come against sin. Our guilt from sin would lump us with those who should be judged, yet God gave us a way out. But instead of a lamb, it was Jesus, and instead of a door, His blood was spread out on a cross. And the promise of God is for all those who put themselves under the blood of Jesus…the same Angel of Death who passed over the Israelites in Egypt also will pass over us, and we will be ushered into the “promised land” with God.