We all have these moments when the realization of our sin-sickness dawns on us in shocking ways. We realize the finery we wear simply covers a diseased self and no matter how much of this world we’ve gained, our soul is still lost. We look to our right and left, and find ourselves surrounded by fellow sinners and realize: we’re who they’re looking at too, just as broken, just as sick, and just as much in need of Jesus. Most of us in those moments, try to find something else to cover us, fig leaves like the first man and woman after their original sin, a boat in the other direction like Jonah, a cave like Elijah—anything to get away from the stigma of sin-sickness. Anything to spare us from the hospital of the broken. But Jesus, sweet Jesus, pulls back the veil and reveals just how sick we are and in the same moment says, “Yes. This is why I have come.”
If you remember from Jesus’s birth account, John the Baptist was Jesus’s cousin, filled with the Holy Spirit from the womb and set apart for the Lord. God called John the Baptist to be the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy, a voice crying out “in the wilderness prepare the way of the LORD; make straight in the desert a highway for our God!” (Isaiah 40:3-5).
When a king traveled the desert, workmen preceded him to clear the debris and smooth out the roads to make his trip easier. In the same way, God called John the Baptist to pave the road and clear the debris, to prepare the way for the Messiah, this new King who would bring salvation.
Isaiah 40 prophecies that a voice will cry out: “In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord; make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Every valley shall be lifted up, & every mountain and hill be made low; the uneven ground shall become level, & the rough places a plain.” As I read these verses, I was captured by the word picture here: a seismic shifting of mountains & valleys into a level plain.
So, repentance is like the asphalt we pour on a rough road to make it smooth. Let no pride or sin obstruct the King from coming & reigning in our lives. We want the gates flung wide open (Psalm 24:7) for the King of glory!
…In Psalm 16, David reminds us of two powerful truths that speak directly to our pursuit of pleasure and protection: every false god will fail us, but the true God fulfills us…. Every false god will fail us. In verse 4, David tells us that those who run excitedly and urgently after any god other than God Himself will be met by sorrows. While these false gods promise joy, what they truly deliver are sorrows. These sorrows are similar to the painful spots found on Job’s body while he was afflicted. The gods allure us by claiming they will satisfy us, but the truth is they eventually will inflict pain on us! False gods always over-promise and under-deliver.
This song was originally written for Hope Mommies, an organization that ministers to moms grieving infant loss. I was asked to lead worship for their retreat, and to write a song from Psalm 16, the text they would be studying that weekend.
In Psalm 16, David says to his God: "In your presence, there is fullness of joy! At your right hand, there are pleasures forevermore." I had loved this Psalm for a long time, but usually had thought of it as a happy Psalm. I had never thought of singing it from the place of grief and loss. As I wrote, I had these women - women who had lost their babies to stillbirth, SIDS, miscarriage, leukemia - in mind, and the Psalm took on a whole new meaning.
So, why? Why do we get up every day? Are we brave enough to ask that question? Brave enough to explore the boundaries of life and the point of it all?
The writer of Ecclesiastes was. But his findings weren’t that encouraging. In the end, he says, it’s all pointless. It’s futile! All is vanity. Generations come and go, but nothing changes. All of the rivers flow into the sea but the sea is never full. The rivers just keep flowing to the same place, over and over. And there is nothing we can do to change that. Lest we disagree, remember this was written by a guy known for having in abundance the two things that usually are able to bring about change: wisdom and wealth. But the writer of Ecclesiastes is ultimately tearing down to build up. He is demolishing our man-centered worldview and rebuilding a God-centered worldview...
I started "All is Vanity" way back in 2011, the first year I began intentionally writing songs from scripture. But, when I went into the studio to record the Blood + the Breath, the song didn’t exactly fit thematically. Years later, I began to see that the new album - what would eventually become a Home & a Hunger - would center on themes of ache and homesickness. So, I circled back to this song and added two things: a last line to the chorus that says “you feel eternity, and it’s beating in your chest. So you know in your soul it’s not all meaningless.” I also added the bridge speaking of restlessness and rest, hunger and fullness....
When I was reading through Exodus, I was so struck by the story of God’s people “stranded” at the edge of the Red Sea. These are the same people that had just witnessed God’s power on display in the form of the plagues. They had been miraculously rescued from a 400-year slavery in Egypt. And they were being led by a pillar of fire by night and a cloud by day. But suddenly, their faith is put to the test: they were squeezed between an impassable sea and a fast- approaching army of Egyptians and they didn't see any good way out.
This devotional comes from Tim Keesee's journal when he was at the Red Sea. For the past twenty years, Tim has reported on the Church in the world’s difficult places and how the gospel is at work across the world through a ministry called Dispatches from the Front. Our prayer is that in reading Tim's journal, you would be encouraged by the boldness of our brothers & sisters in the Middle East. Our God is still the great deliverer, setting slaves free and making a way to His Good Land when there seems to be no way through.
“Finished out my last day here with a swim in the Red Sea. The water is bracing, and after a week in the Jordanian desert, it is like a long, cool drink. From the Egyptian side of the waters, the sun is swift and brilliant, covering the Red Sea in amethyst light and burning above the mountains of Sinai like a pillar of fire..."
One thing I love to do when I write a song from scripture is to take an old, familiar story and try to see and feel it from a specific character’s perspective. "Eve's Lament" is the story of the fall in Genesis 3, written from Eve’s point of view.
Eve and Adam were surrounded by the beauty of God's creation, untainted by death and decay. Their relationship with God and with each other was perfect, unaffected by the poison of sin. And then a snake slithers into the picture, twisting the truth and playing on their pride.
I'm not sure about you, but whenever I see a snake on TV, I physically feel a creeping, eery sense of danger. So, as I wrote, I tried to include as much "serpentine" language as possible in the lyrics. The melody and instrumentation is also purposefully "creepy" and aching. My hope in this song is that the listener would not only intellectually understand the storyline of the fall, but would feel that prowling menace and the consequent ache.
"The first hiss of doubt tricked the woman’s soul. Perhaps God’s words cannot be trusted. Perhaps there is a better word than God’s. Perhaps we should be the judge of God.
In Eve’s reply, we hear the arrogance of a legalist. She minimized the freedom God had given them to freely eat and answered the Serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden” (Gen. 3:2). Next, she made up her own rule about not touching the fruit, and then she minimized God’s judgment from “You shall surely die,” to “Lest you shall die” (Gen. 3:3). Satan affirmed Eve’s doubts by saying, “You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil” (Gen. 3:4–5)..."
Having young kids exposed my sin patterns and selfishness again and again. It felt impossible to “perform” well in this role, to not lose my temper, to hit my “good mom” standard. I would yo-yo between beating myself up and then pulling up my bootstraps, determined to do better. I hit a rock-bottom several times; I was so frustrated. Why did I have to keep struggling with the same things - losing my patience, raising my voice, and just not being the mom I wanted to be moment to moment? Why, oh why, was I such a sinner?
God mercifully used this season to help me realize - again and again - the truth of the gospel. I had always said "I'm a sinner," but now I keenly felt the weight of my sin. And as I came to terms with it's weight, I continued to realize just how good the gospel really is...
While the world’s economy rewards those who trust their own goodness, God’s economy of grace rewards those who recognize their spiritual poverty. God honors the poor in spirit, the spiritual beggars with open hands, acknowledging their need for salvation. He invites the hungry, the thirsty, and the one without money to His feast, saying “come, buy wine and milk without money and without price (Isaiah 55:1).”
Only those who realize their brokenness rejoice when He comes to bind the brokenhearted. Only those who realize their captivity rejoice when the prison door swings open.
Now through Christmas (while supplies last!)... tell them they are remembered: Send an overseas missionary or someone in full-time ministry the Blood + The Breath album for FREE! It's on me!
Being in full-time ministry can be lonely and hard, especially during the holidays. Is there a pastor, a missionary, a worship leader, a YoungLife or Cru friend, a church staff member, etc. that you could remember and honor this Christmas season? Who comes to mind? I'd be glad to send them a digital copy of the album, plus a note from you! Just fill out the form below, or complete these four steps:
- E-mail me at email@example.com
- Include their name, location (if not secure) and e-mail
- Include an optional personal note
- I'll e-mail them their unique download and your note, as a gift from you.
I've done this giveaway twice in years past, and it has been such a joy to see you remember these folks. I have a limited number of downloads I can give away, so act fast!
a Home & a Hunger: Songs of Kingdom Hope is a journey through scripture, beginning with the Fall and the first “hunger pangs” in Genesis 3, and ending in Revelation, when God will make His home with us forever. It tells of exile and Eden, of restlessness and rest, and of God’s beautifully “upside-down” kingdom.
As I prepare to record a new album, I am planning to publish devotionals and song stories for each of the songs from my last album, the Blood + the Breath. This post is the fifth in that series.
SCRIPTURE READING: 1 Corinthians 15
Devotional by Nick Smith, Family Pastor at White Rock Fellowship in Dallas, Texas
Few Christians today, if any, would deny the resurrection of Christ like some were doing in Paul’s day – Paul pretty well put that debate to rest with this passage. Our lives, though, oftentimes tell a different story. Even though we give mental and verbal assent to the resurrection of Christ as a propositional truth, we often live more like Epicureans focused on present pleasure than like Christians focused on eternal rewards secured by the resurrection of Christ. We are distracted by the pursuit of comfort and material blessing in this life instead of fixing our gaze upon the eternal glory that awaits us and far outweighs anything this life can offer.
But let’s back up for a second. As Paul says, if this life is the end of the story, then pursuing happiness in this life is exactly what we should do. Instead of following Christ, we should “eat, drink, and be merry for tomorrow we die.” In fact, Christians should be pitied. Why? Because following Christ is a call to death that makes no sense without the promise of a greater reward in eternity. And, as Paul’s logic lays out for us, if there is no resurrection, then there is no eternal life and no reason to live for anything beyond the present. Our faith is worthless. There is no Gospel. So, we may as well, like the Epicureans, live it up now, seeking as much pleasure and comfort as we can get. (See vv. 12-19, 32).
But, if Christ was resurrected, then everything changes. Our faith is not futile. Sin is abolished. The curse is removed. Life eternal is procured. And, living for Christ makes all the sense in the world! As a result, no longer do we need to seek ultimate comfort in this life. Instead, we are empowered to seek first the kingdom of God (Mt. 6:33). Our gaze can shift towards that day when Christ will return and the kingdom of God will be consummated. We do not have to waver in our work for the Lord because we know it is not in vain. No matter what discomfort or suffering or tribulation comes our way as we “work” for the Lord, we know a far better day awaits us than this temporary prelude. We deny ourselves comfort in the present because - in the twinkling of an eye - the trumpet will sound and all things will be made new! (See vv. 20-26, 51-58).
We do not know exactly what the resurrection will be like, but Paul tells us that what is currently perishing will be raised imperishable; what is currently sown in dishonor will be raised in glory; what is currently sown in weakness will be raised in power. Paul is not implying that our spiritual souls will fly away to some ethereal heaven as a non-physical, Platonic sort of being. Rather, our physical bodies will be perfected, raised in glory and power. (See vv. 35-49). Until that day comes, we will undoubtedly struggle in our flesh and be tempted to get distracted by the concerns of this world. We must wage war against these desires, but we need not despair when we stumble. We can rest in the grace of God and pray that the Holy Spirit will continue to sanctify us, waking us up more and more to the glorious truth we find in 1 Corinthians 15.
So, as we wait for that glorious day, to my slumbering soul that is so quick to wander, I say...Wake up, wake up, listen for the trumpet sound! Live right now in light of the resurrection! For, as Jim Elliot said, “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose.”
What concerns or fears in the present hold you back from living with reckless abandon for God?
Meditate on the truth that one day we will be raised immortal with Christ to live eternally. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain. How does that change the way you look at your current life?
Through one man death it came
Running like a virus through our veins
Sin it comes and takes the reigns
Builds its kingdom on the backs of slaves
Through a second man Adam’s better son
Death it dies, and life it comes
Every power under his feet
Death is dyin’ in defeat
Wake up, wake up
And listen for the trumpet sound
For a dead man rose up from the ground!
Rise up, rise up you dry bones in the dirt
For the Son of God has risen up first!
I tell you this mystery
Death itself will lose its sting
When the dying dress in the deathless life
And we are changed in the twinkle of an eye
Sown in weakness, raised in power
Sown in dust, death and dishonor
Raised immortal, never again to die
Death is swallowed by life
As I prepare to record a new album, I am planning to publish devotionals and song stories for each of the songs from my last album, the Blood + the Breath. This post is the fourth in that series.
John 20, Romans 3:23-26, 1 Corinthians 15, Hebrews 10:19-22, 1 Peter 1:3-5.
Devotional by Jonathan Hicks, Pastor of Groups at Highland Park Pres in Dallas, TX
As Christians, we often take Jesus’ resurrection for granted. We have heard about it so many times that we repeat the words “Jesus is risen” mindlessly. They glide through our minds so often that maybe they don’t sink into our hearts.
Today our everyday language has become so full of hyperbole we are left scrambling for superlatives when we finally come across something worthy of them. Surely, we must start by saying the Resurrection is truly miraculous. Jesus was crucified. He died painfully and fully (this was not a Princess Bride case of being “mostly dead”). We can only imagine the despair, fear, and confusion that Jesus’ followers felt at his death. “How could he die?” “He was supposed to be the Messiah.” “Has God’s plan been thwarted?” The Church now celebrates the days when Jesus lay in the grave as “Good Friday” and “Holy Saturday,” but as the disciples lived them they were dark and hopeless days.
I once attended an Episcopal Holy Saturday service. For the first hour and a half of the service, the church was dimly lit and the mood was somber. We heard readings from the Old Testament about how God would deliver His people and send a Savior. And we waited (not always patiently). Finally, the moment came when the priest stood up and boomed, “Alleluia! Christ is Risen!” Even with no microphone, these words echoed forth. The congregation responded back, “The Lord is risen indeed! Alleluia!” Then, all the people in the congregation pulled out bells and rang them loudly exclaiming “Alleluia!” (meaning “Praise God”) as if they were hearing for the first time the news that Jesus has risen. The sudden noise of shouts and bells surprised my wife and I. It was a vivid reminder of the amazing truth that Jesus is indeed risen.
That whole service had been building in anticipation to the moment where we rejoiced at Jesus’ resurrection. Because if we do not remember the hopelessness of when Jesus lay in the grave, we will not understand the indescribable joy and hope of His resurrection. God’s plan was not thwarted, quite the opposite. Instead once and for all Jesus struck down sin and death, and secured new life for us.
The Resurrection is essential to what we believe as Christians. Paul says in 1 Corinthians 15 that if Christ has not been raised, then we are still in our sins and our faith is futile. Jesus’ resurrection testifies that Jesus was God and that He was able to pay the infinite penalty that our sins deserved. It is also the testament to Jesus’ ultimate victory of death. And if Jesus has been raised, then all of us who are in Christ will one day also be raised with him. Death does not have the last word. Jesus has spoken and said that he is coming back and we will one day see him face to face. Come quickly Lord Jesus!
Why is the Resurrection of Christ essential to Gospel and therefore to the hope that we share as Christians?
Read through John 19-20 as if you were there with the disciples. What would you have felt when at the news of Jesus’ death? What about when you heard (and then saw) that Jesus had risen from the grave?
He is risen, He is risen,
And the stone is rolled away
He is risen, He is risen,
Proven by the empty grave
Touch his wounds, his hands, his sides,
And leave all your doubts behind
He is risen, He is risen, He is risen and alive!
Death is beaten, sin is vanquished,
God’s just wrath is satisfied
Christ is risen, Christ exalted,
Seated at the Father’s side
His body torn, our living way,
Our living hope, His body raised
He is risen, He is risen,
He is risen from the grave!
He is risen, He is risen,
This is all my hope and stay
He is risen, He is risen,
He is risen from the grave!
Jesus risen is returning,
We are longing for the day
When the King will bring the kingdom,
For this blessed hope we wait
The trumpet sounds and we are changed,
And we will see him face to face
Jesus risen, Jesus risen,
Jesus risen from the grave
The trumpet sounds and we are changed,
And death itself will pass away
We are risen, with him risen,
Fully risen from the grave
We are risen, with him risen,
We are risen from the grave
Written March 29, 2012
Words and music by Caroline Cobb
I wrote this song when I was 7 months pregnant with Harrison. I was literally “barefoot and pregnant in the kitchen” when I nailed down the first version of this song, which I think is pretty hilarious. I also posted a video of myself singing this song - huge pregnant - on YouTube. Bad idea?
At this point, the Kickstarter campaign had finished up, and I was whittling down the songs that would go on the album. I knew that the album would tell the story of redemption, but I was missing a song about the resurrection (kind of a key event, right!?). I had written one other song about it, but didn’t feel like it was strong enough.
Most of the songs for this album come from a specific passage of scripture or a specific story, but for this one I had to bring in several passages. The resurrection has so many beautiful facets - it has affected us in so many ways - and I wanted to include as many as I could.
John 20, Romans 3:23-26, 1 Corinthians 15, Hebrews 10:19-22, 1 Peter 1:3-5
As I prepare to record a new album, I am planning to publish devotionals and song stories for each of the songs from my last album, the Blood + the Breath. This post is the third in that series.
Scripture Reading: Isaiah 52:13-53:12
Devotional by Derek Baker, associate pastor of First Presbyterian in Ipswich, MA
Kelly noticed as she pulled out of the gas station there was an 18-wheeler on her bumper. At first, she thought she was imagining being followed. She tried to slow down and let him pass, and speed up and create distance, but he stayed right behind her. The truck’s headlights flooded the car. Her heart raced as her fear grew. She pulled off the highway at the next exit into another gas station, but the trucker followed her still. Slamming on her brakes, she jumped out of her car, and ran toward the store. Simultaneously, the back door of her car flew open, and out leapt a man who had been crouching in the back seat since she had filled up only minutes before. As the carjacker ran toward a nearby field for cover, the trucker tackled him and called the police. When the truck driver approached Kelly he said, “I saw him sneak into your car back there, but there was no time for me to warn you before you drove off. I had to stay close behind you with my high beams in your car so he’d know I’d see him if he tried anything. I did it to save you. It was the only way.”
When we read this passage, we should feel like Kelly did on that night: scared... confused, but wonderfully grateful. This is an unexpected way to save. But it was the only way. All of Israel’s history had been pointing to a coming Savior. The Jews called him “Messiah, Anointed One.” Isaiah and others expected a king. We find a kingly description of the Savior in the first verse of this section: “Behold, my servant shall...be high and lifted up, and shall be exalted.” But then for the next 13 verses, we are left confused, even scared. This Savior-king has an appearance that is “marred beyond human semblance” (52:14). He is compared to a young, tender plant in your garden that seems so tiny and weak you wonder if fruit will ever come from it; a root growing out of dried ground that you only notice when you stumble over it (53:2). He’s despised and rejected by men (53:3). This is the exalted Savior-king? Exalted by God, but dismissed by us humans. How many in our day find Jesus insignificant--paying no attention to him until moments of trial or near death? But for the Christian, we dismiss him: too busy to read and pray; forgetting that our every moment is dependent upon Him; failing to see Him working even now.
When C.S. Lewis’ wife was died of cancer he reflected that we may at times wish we could bear another’s pain for them, but we never know if we really mean it, since it is never allowed. He then wrote, “It was allowed to One we are told, and I find I can now believe again that He has done vicariously whatever can be so done. He replies to our babble, ‘You can not and you dare not. I could and I dared.’” Do you believe and marvel that he was diseased for you? It is the only way.
But in the middle of our confusion and fear, as in the middle of Isaiah’s horrifically beautiful description, we should be left wondering in gratitude, because this was the only way to save us. We notice from Isaiah 53:4-6 that there is an unfair exchange taking place between us and Him. It is our sickness He carried, our pains He bore, He was pierced for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities and by His wounds we are healed. He was diseased for us.
But Isaiah doesn’t finish there. In the end, this suffering Savior-king is exalted because he makes many righteous as he bears their sins. He is seen as a conquering king, but doesn’t keep the spoils for Himself. He shares them with those whom He saved (53:11-12). Do you believe this? It’s His wounds, our healing; His stripes, our peace; His suffering, our hope. If you already trust in Him, will you stop and marvel anew? Allow yourself to be confused, scared, grateful......saved. It was the only way.
Oh man of sorrows, Hated and despised
So marred, so ugly, We all turned our eyes
Like sheep we’ve wandered, Going our own way
It pleased the Father, To crush You in our place
Your wounds, our healing,
Your stripes, our peace
You carried our sorrows, You carried our griefs
Your suffering, our hope
You poured out your soul, Unto death
So we could be counted, Righteous
Sinless one who takes our sins
Dying one our death condemns
Bearing our guilt though innocent
But the grave can’t hold you in
Written August 11, 2011 for The Scripture to Music Project.
Words and music by Caroline Cobb. From Isaiah 52:13-53:12.
Hello! My name is Caroline Cobb, and I'm a singer-songwriter that loves to tell God's stories from scripture through music. I am so excited to let you know that a new album is coming soon, thanks to a successful Kickstarter, backed by many of you. We are calling the new album A HOME + A HUNGER, and it's centered around the theme of kingdom hope.
It all started in 2011 when I began to work on crazy goal to write a song from every book of the Bible in a year. And wow, what an incredibly transforming and rewarding season of writing. In 2013, I released the Blood + the Breath using many of those songs. That album traced the big story of redemption from creation to Christ's return, by parachuting into biblical scenes like the Passover, or Isaiah's description of the suffering servant, or the story of Jesus's agony in the Garden of Gethsemane. Since 2013, I've played concerts and led worship with the hope that my songs could help people journey through the redemption narrative in scripture and walk away wanting more of Him and His Word. His big Story anchors my small story, and it's filled with incredibly good news. I love to get to share it through music; it's a privilege.
THE NEW ALBUM.... A HOME + A HUNGER: SONGS OF KINGDOM HOPE!
While the last album looked back at the "climax" of the Story and what we are redeemed from (Jesus's death and resurrection redeems us from sin and death!), the songs for the new album seem to look forward to the end of the Story and how we are redeemed to a certain kind of kingdom and King. Beginning with the fall into sin and ending with a song from the last chapters of Revelation, the album touches on several themes under the umbrella of "kingdom hope": the hunger we feel as "sojourners and exiles" (1 Peter 2:11, Heb 11:13), the hope we have in the future kingdom when He makes His home with us forever, the humility with which Jesus made His home with us, and the "upside-downness" of God's economy of grace. Here is the song list so far, to give you an idea:
Song List (listen to clips on Instagram at #ahomeandahunger)
(1) There is a Mountain (Intro song drawing from Isaiah) / (2) Eve's Lament (Genesis, the fall) / (3) He Has Made a Way (Red Sea story in Exodus) / (4) All is Vanity (Ecclesiastes) / (6) Fullness of Joy (Psalm 16) / (7) Pave Every Road (John the Baptist & Isaiah) / (8) Emmanuel (Every Promise Yes in Him) / (9) Only the Sick Need a Physician (gospels) / (10) The Two Lost Sons (gospels) / (11) We Draw Near (Hebrews) / (12) Behold, God Makes His Home with Us (Revelation 21-22).
WHY IT MATTERS:
First, my hope for this new album (and the last album too), is that it would help you rehearse God's Story of redemption and hope in your everyday lives - while you're washing dishes, working at your desk, driving carpool - and that it would be a tool for you to tell others about this Story.
Second, I pray these songs give hope. I pray they give hope to those who are suffering, as it reminds them of their true, eternal home. I pray it gives hope to those who are feeling condemned under the weight of their sin, as it reminds them of what kind of King Jesus really was, and who will inherit His kingdom. In the past 3.5 years of writing, I think I was drawn to these passages because I personally needed to be reminded of the hope of the gospel in both of these areas.
THE FUN DETAILS!
This spring, I'll be recording in Nashville with producer Gabe Scott (Andrew Peterson, Jenny & Tyler). I know Gabe will stretch me, understand the vision and ideas behind the album, and help these songs become better than I could even imagine on my own. We will be working together in March, April and May, and I hope to release the album by the end of June.
THANK YOU & HOW TO STAY CONNECTED
If you were part of the Kickstarter campaign, THANK YOU! I can't wait to send you the pre-release and all of your other rewards. It is such a gift to have community around me as I step into this process, and I will do my best to make an album worthy of your patronage! If you would like to stay up-to-date on the album release, sign up for my newsletter via the form below and I'll keep you in the loop.
Here we go!!!
As I prepare to record a new album, I am planning to publish devotionals and song stories for each of the songs from my last album, the Blood + the Breath. This post is second in a series of many.
Devotional written by Greg and Ginger O'Brien
READ: EXODUS 12
Hundreds of years passed while Israel was under Egypt’s heavy yoke of oppression and slavery. They groaned and cried out for help. Could this unbearable burden be relieved? The LORD God heard their cries and He acted. In mercy He remembered His covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (v 24). God raised up Moses to deliver his people. God sent the signs, the wonders, and finally the plagues so that Israel’s oppressor might know that the Lord is God. The final plague was the death of the firstborn in every house in Egypt. This great plague of God’s judgment would set the Israelites free from slavery’s grip.
There was one thing Israelites were to do: God instructed each Israelite household to take a spotless lamb, kill it, and take its blood and smear it on the door frames of their houses. The blood would be a sign and would cause the LORD to “pass over” them, not allowing death to come to their firstborns.
The people of Israel obeyed and did everything God instructed them. Were they full of faith that the blood on their door frames would cause God to pass them by, or did some of them lack faith and fear that death would come to them as well? Full of faith or wavering, they obeyed. And God spared them from the curse of the plague that night. Israel’s hope was not in the measure of their faith, but in the greatness of their God who keeps His covenant with His people. But, death did come to Israel that night, yet not in the same way it came to the Egyptians. That night every house in Egypt was a house of death and judgment – either of a lamb, or a firstborn. The blood of the lamb absorbed that judgment for the Israelite households.
God did indeed pass through the land that night. But, while passing through in judgment he did more than simply pass over the houses with blood on the doorposts. Two Hebrew words in Exodus 12 have been translated as “passover:” ābar and pāsah. The first is the action of God passing over the land to bring judgment. The latter is used to describe God’s action in preventing the destroyer from entering homes with blood on the doorposts. “For the LORD will pass through (ābar) to strike the Egyptians, and when he sees the blood on the lintel and on the two doorposts, the LORD will pass over (pāsah) the door and will not allow the destroyer to enter your houses to strike you,” (Ex. 12:23).
From consideration of the use of pāsah in other places in the Old Testament, it seems the word would be best translated as ‘hover over, or cover over' (Meredith Kline, The Feast of the Cover-Over). Why is this significant? God did not simply see the blood of the lamb smeared on the doorway and harmlessly pass over their homes. Instead, he shielded them from death. When he saw the blood of the lamb He Himself “covered over” the house, interposing Himself between the destroyer and those inside. So, “the lamb was their covering and the LORD was their covering. Both are true because the LORD became the lamb (Kline).”
Thousands of years later, we find ourselves in the exact same story. We are slaves not to Egypt, but to sin. We, like Egypt and Israel, all deserve death because of our rejection of God, our choosing of our own way. That first passover lamb did not bring the Israelites ulimate salvation – it did not cleanse them of sin. It was a shadow, a type, of the fulness of which would come in the true Passover Lamb.
Jesus, the Son of God, is the Lamb of God, providing the cover-over for the sin of His people. Jesus himself received death’s inflicting blow on the cross, absorbing God’s judgment. Thereby, he covered over those who trust in Him, shielding them from the dark night of God’s final judgment. The cross of Christ became the doorposts on which the blood of the Lamb was painted. The Lamb is our covering and God is our covering. Both are true because, in Jesus, God became the Lamb.
Questions for Reflection:
1. Do you trust that the blood of Jesus is sufficient to save you from your sin? Do you feel like God will not be merciful to you because your faith seems wavering or small? In light of the meaning of Jesus being the Passover Lamb, how should this apply to your fears and thoughts?
2. Read Revelation 5-7. How does the Passover help you to know Jesus more?
THE PASSOVER SONG LYRICS
Words + Music by Sean Carter + Caroline Cobb
There’s a promise in our veins
But it’s faded by all these years in chains
Send a prophet, send the plagues
That by sunrise we will no more be slaves
Take the lamb, take the blood
And paint it on our doorways
At night death will come but pass us by
This is all our hope and peace
In the morning we will rise
Taste the freedom we thought we’d never find
We will dance now in the streets
Once held captive now we shall live as kings
Lift your head, your voice
And sing of your salvation
Of the blood of the lamb that gave us life
Now by this we’ll overcome
Now by this we’ll reach our home
There’s a poison in our veins
And it leads to death we cannot escape
Send a ransom a perfect Son
Remedy the curse with His precious blood
And the Lamb that will come
His cross will be our doorway
And the red of His blood ill make us white
And daughters and sons
Rejoice in resurrection
And death swallowed up in endless life
Glory, glory this I sing
All my praise for this I bring
Naught of good that I have done
Nothing but the blood of Jesus