A Gentile Passover

The Lord gave Moses and Aaron further instructions in regard to strangers and servants desiring to keep the Passover, that all males must be circumcised. This is why circumcision was such a hot topic in the early church discussion in regards to expectations placed upon gentile believers.

And when a stranger dwells with you and wants to keep the Passover to the Lord, let all his males be circumcised, and then let him come near and keep it; and he shall be as a native of the land. For no uncircumcised person shall eat it.   Exodus 12:48.

Paul resolved the issue:  for he is not a Jew which is one outwardly, nor is circumcision that is outward in the flesh. But he is a Jew which is one inwardly, and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit and not in the letter, whose praise is not of men, but of God.     Romans 2:28 & 29.

Note the clear symmetry between the two verses right up to “in the spirit and not in the letter”.  But then Paul adds this final clarification; whose praise is not of men, but of God.

When our heart is circumcised, we can say like Paul: 

For do I now persuade men or God? Or do I seek to please men? For if I yet pleased men, I should not be the servant of Christ.                                  Galatians 1:10.

But as we were allowed of God to be put in trust with the gospel, even so we speak; not as pleasing men but God, which tries our hearts.                   1 Thessalonians 2:4.

Some translations change this to “God, who tries our hearts.” Granted, He certainly does try us, but the point Paul is making is that the test of a circumcised heart is to put ourselves to this question, am I pleasing men or God.  This is the issue which tries our hearts.

Twice Paul makes an interesting statement in 1 Co 1:31 and 2 Co 10:17, “let them that glory, glory in the Lord.”  The statement suggests that he is quoting a verse from the Old Testament. In actuality, he is  paraphrasing a passage from the prophet Jeremiah. Paul is attempting to remind them of instructions he gave while he was with them. 

Paul’s stay in Corinth is chronicled in Acts 18.  He reasoned in the synagogue every Sabbath and persuaded the Jews and the Greeks…then he continued there for 18 months! “teaching the Word of God among them”.   v.11.   

So let’s look at the text from Jeremiah that Paul would have been teaching from to apply this paraphrase he uses “to glory in the Lord.”

Thus saith the Lord, let not the wise glory in his wisdom, neither let the mighty glory in his might, let not the rich glory in his riches: but let him that glories glory in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the Lord which exercise loving-kindness, judgment and righteousness in the earth; for in these things I delight, saith the Lord.                     Jeremiah 9:23 & 24.

Now let’s jump back over to 1 Corinthians: for you see your calling brethren how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble are called; but God has chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty, and base things of the world and things which are despised God has chosen, yes and the things which are not to bring to naught things that are; that no flesh shall glory in His presence.                                                                                                        1 Corinthians 1:26-29.

Try to set aside the obvious inference that the church is made up of foolish, weak, base and despised members and hear the echo of Jeremiah 9 in this passage. So what was Paul teaching on by using Jeremiah 9 as his text?   Let’s continue through the final two verses:

Behold, the days come says the Lord, that I will punish all of them which are circumcised with the uncircumcised, and all that are in the utmost corners, that dwell in the wilderness: for all these nations are uncircumcised, and all the house of Israel are uncircumcised in the heart.   Jeremiah 9:25&26.

In the time of Jeremiah, all the people of Israel had become blind to God’s Word.  Even as Paul wrote to the Corinthians:

For unto this day when Moses is read, the veil is upon their heart. Nevertheless when it (the heart) shall turn to the Lord, the veil shall be taken away. Now the Lord is that Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.         2  Corinthians 3:15-17.

The blindness of the uncircumcised heart is a paramount issue. For the Lord has set a day when the veil will be lifted from the hearts of Israel. This an opportunity to look at the first of the mysteries of God revealed in Christ that Paul speaks of:

Let a man so account of us as ministers of Christ, and stewards of the mysteries of God. Moreover, it is required in stewards that a man be found faithful.                                               1 Corinthians 4:1&2

In order to be a faithful steward, a saint must know what these mysteries are of which Paul speaks.

For I would not brethren that you should be ignorant of this mystery, less you should be wise in your own conceits, that blindness in part has happened to Israel, until the fullness of the Gentiles be come in.                  Romans 11:25.

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Visitation: Memorial and Remembrance

You have granted me life and favor, and your visitation has preserved my spirit.           Job 10:12.

The word visitation-pekuddah (H6486) from pakad (H6485)-to visit, provides a basis for understanding the nature of covenant promises and the hope of prophecy. The Israelites for 400 years in Egypt clung to this prophetic word from Joseph:

And Joseph took an oath of the children of Israel saying God will surely visit you and you shall carry up my bones from here.                                  Genesis 50:25.

This covenant oath and promise between Joseph and his descendants continued as a memorial and became the words used by God to introduce Moses as their deliverer. The fulfillment of this promise becomes a remembrance of God and is prominent in the narrative.

Go and gather the elders of Israel together and say unto them….”I have surely visited you and that which is done to you in Egypt.”                 Exodus 3:16.

And the people believed and when they heard that the Lord had visited the children of Israel and that he had looked upon their affliction, then they bowed their heads and worshiped.                                                     Exodus 4:31.

And Moses took the bones of Joseph with him for he had placed the children of Israel under solemn oath saying “God will surely visit you and you shall carry up my bones from here with you.”                        Exodus 13:19.

A deeper understanding of this word is necessary to grasp the statement “your visitation has preserved my spirit” in Job 10:12.

Pakad appears 90 times in the book Numbers, and is the basis for the title. The first four chapters of Numbers recounts a series of censuses that God commanded Moses and Aaron to make of the congregation of Israel.

Take the sum of all the congregation of the children of Israel after their families, by the house of their fathers, with the number of names, every male by their polls. From twenty years old and upward, all that were able to go forth to war in Israel you and Aaron shall number them by their armies.         Numbers 1:2 & 3.

Verse two describes a numerical count (take the sum) and means a head count; “by their polls” literally means “by their skulls”. Verse three uses the word pakad “number them by their armies”. So what is the relationship between “to visit” and “to number” when the word pakad appears? Pakad actually means to make an assessment, to observe to determine your physical, mental and spiritual state.

The key here is the phrase “that are able to go forth to war”. This is more than a head count, but also an assessment. And so in Exodus 4:31 “He looked upon their affliction”, the visitation is concerned with the state of being.

This correct understanding of “to number or to visit” forms the basis for both ministry and fellowship.

Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this: to visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction to remain unspotted from the world.    James 1:27.

This verse doesn’t limit ministry to widows and orphans, the emphasis is upon all who are afflicted with these two as prominent examples. Visitation also defines the role of leadership in the church.

Who then is a faithful and wise servant whom his lord has made ruler (more correct is caretaker) over his household (congregation) to give them meat (spiritual sustenance, “I have meat you know not of, my meat is to do the will of the one who sent me” John 4:32-34.) in due season (as the need arises). Matthew 24:45.

Ministering to the saints is a visitation to preserve the spirit of the church.

This Persuasion

When we consider the words believe and faith, we sense intuitively that a relationship exists between them. For a belief to operate in the power of faith there must be trust, without doubt.

And whatever things you ask in prayer believing, you will receive.
Matthew 21:22.

The very thing that you put your trust in will in the end stand in judgement of you.

Do not think that I will accuse you to the Father: there is one that accuses you, even Moses in whom you trust.
John 5:45.

Where you place your trust defines your hope for the future and eternity. The Greek translated trust is also almost equally translated as hope.

For in hope we were saved. Now hope that sees for itself is not hope. For who hopes for what one sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait with endurance.
Romans 8:24 & 25.

To express this from a negative form, faith is belief without doubt.

For assuredly, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, ‘Be removed and be cast into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that those things he says will be done, he will have whatever he says.
Mark 11:23.

In this is our blessing:
Jesus said to him, Have you come to believe because you have seen me?
Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed.
John 20:29.

So then what is the common root for both faith and believing? The answer is the primary verb “to persuade”. This word appears 17 times in the book of Acts alone.

Here are two examples of Paul converting souls by the faith of Jesus Christ.

And he was debating every Shabbat in the synagogue, trying to persuade both Jewish and Greek people.
Acts 18:4

He entered the synagogue, and for three months debated boldly with persuasive arguments about the kingdom of God.
Acts 19:8

This is why the Gospel must be presented in the pure, original form, that those who hear are persuaded by Grace from the God of Love, as expressed through His Son Jesus Christ.

Paul expressed his intentions clearly:
And I, brethren, when I came to you, did not come with excellence of speech or of wisdom declaring to you the testimony of God. For I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified. I was with you in weakness, in fear, and in much trembling. And my speech and my preaching were not with persuasive words of human wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith should not be in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.
1 Corinthians 2:1-5.

There are many other ways to persuade someone, such as this first time the word appears in the Gospel.

The chief priests and the elders persuaded the crowds to ask for Barabbas, but to destroy Jesus.
Matthew 27:20.

This persuasion was probably accomplished through intimidation, as the people would not want to oppose the leaders who accused the Lord before Pilate. Barabbas was a thief, a murderer, and an insurrectionist who was set free on the occasion of Christ’s trial before a Gentile. This is to say that a common way for people to be persuaded is through some claim to authority. The Apostolic teachings were constantly being opposed by false teachers who claimed to have authority from Jerusalem.

In Galatia and many other Greek locations, new believers were being told that they must be circumcised and follow the Law of Moses.  Here Paul opposes this doctrine in his letter to the Galatians.

Who hindered you from obeying the truth? This persuasion does not come from Him who calls you. A little leaven leavens the whole lump.
Galatians 5:7-9.

After insisting that they not be persuaded by these instructions from those who claim authority to add to the Message, he uses the analogy of leaven.  Even as Jesus warned His disciples to beware of “the leaven of the Pharisees”.   Paul instructs us using the same imagery.

Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump? Therefore purge out the old leaven, that you may be a new lump, since you truly are unleavened. For indeed Christ, our Passover, was sacrificed for us. Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, nor with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.
1 Corinthians 5:6-8.

To walk by faith is to trust exclusively in the Grace of God, without the need for the leaven of scientific proof.

And we have such trust through Christ toward God. Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think of anything as from ourselves, but our sufficiency is from God.
2 Corinthians 3:5.

And God is able to make all grace abound toward you; that you always having all sufficiency in all things, may abound to every good work.
2 Corinthians 9:8.

The First Memorial

So this day shall be to you a memorial; and you shall keep it as a feast to the Lord throughout your generations. You shall keep it as a feast by an everlasting ordinance.     Exodus 12:14.

The first memorial found in the Law of Moses is to perpetuate the memory of the night The Lord struck down all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, while ‘passing over’ the houses of Israel having the blood of the lamb on the doorposts and lintel.

The intent and purpose of this memorial feast is given as an answer to a question anticipated from the children of the household.

And it shall be, when your children say to you, ‘What do you mean by this service?’ that you shall say, ‘It is the Passover sacrifice of the Lord, who passed over the houses of the children of Israel in Egypt when He struck the Egyptians and delivered our households.’ So the people bowed their heads and worshiped.  Exodus 12:26&27.

In passing over the firstborn of man and beast among the people of Israel, a special relationship was established between the Lord and the firstborn, and the consideration of this fact carries over to the feast of unleavened bread.

Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, Consecrate to Me all the firstborn, whatever opens the womb among the children of Israel, both of man and beast; it is Mine. 

And it shall be, when the Lord brings you into the land of the Canaanites, as He swore to you and your fathers, and gives it to you, that you shall set apart to the Lord all that open the womb, that is, every firstborn that comes from an animal which you have; the males shall be the Lord’s.              Exodus 13:1, 12,13.

Thus, the firstborn males who open the womb became the purchased possession of the Lord. This also was established as a memorial for every generation.  The Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread are linked for this purpose, to perpetuate this memory. 

And you shall tell your son in that day, saying, This is done because of what the Lord did for me when I came up from Egypt.  It shall be as a sign to you on your hand and as a memorial between your eyes, that the Lord’s law may be in your mouth; for with a strong hand the Lord has brought you out of Egypt.  You shall therefore keep this ordinance in its season from year to year.  Exodus 13:8-10.

Many consider the observance of the Passover to commemorate the children of Israel coming out from Egypt and the deliverance from the bondage of slavery. This is actually given as the basis for keeping the Sabbath.

Observe the Sabbath day, to keep it holy, as the Lord your God commanded you.  And remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the Lord your God brought you out from there by a mighty hand and by an outstretched arm; therefore the Lord your God commanded you to keep the Sabbath day.   Deuteronomy 5:12-15.

The feasts include special Sabbath Days for this observance. This makes the following exchange between Jesus Christ and the Jewish citizens of Jerusalem all the more fascinating.

The Truth Shall Make You Free

Then Jesus said to those Jews who believed Him, If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed.  And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free. They answered Him, “We are Abraham’s descendants, and have never been in bondage to anyone. How can You say, ‘You will be made free’?  Jesus answered them, “Most assuredly, I say to you,whoever commits sin is a slave of sin.  And a slave does not abide in the house forever, but a son abides forever. Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed.   John 8:31-36.

The intended memory to perpetuate in the keeping of the Sabbath failed to produce the desired remembrance!