New Creation, Exodus, and Kingdom

Scripture Focus: John 1.4, 29
4 In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

29 The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!

Joel 2.12, 30-32a
12 “Even now,” declares the Lord, 
“return to me with all your heart, 
with fasting and weeping and mourning.” 

30 I will show wonders in the heavens 
and on the earth, 
blood and fire and billows of smoke. 
31 The sun will be turned to darkness 
and the moon to blood 
before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord. 
32 And everyone who calls 
on the name of the Lord will be saved; 
for on Mount Zion and in Jerusalem 
there will be deliverance

Reflection: New Creation, Exodus, and Kingdom
By John Tillman

The gospels are uniquely marked by the character and style of their authors. 

Mark is like an on-the-scene reporter, chasing down the action and describing what just happened. Matthew is like a measured legal commentator, stating Jesus’ legal case as the Messiah in the Sunday New York Times. Luke, together with Acts, is like a Ken Burns documentary with investigative rigor and long, revealing conversations with experts. John is like an art-house film with heavy symbolism, strange camera angles, and asynchronous storytelling.

John carefully connects the beginning of his gospel with the beginning of Genesis and the story of the Exodus. He poetically quotes or imitates words, thoughts, and ideas from these texts. If these texts were songs, John would be singing his lyrics to the same melody. 

John’s gospel tells us that a new creation is beginning with light being spoken into the darkness. He tells us that a new exodus is beginning with a crushing defeat for the empire of death and a stunning escape through the depths of the sea—a common symbol of the grave.

The New Testament, and particularly the gospels, do not erase the Old Testament. If anything they turn up the volume and remix the message in a new way. Jesus said he came to “complete” not abolish the scriptures.

Today, called Good Friday in the church calendar, is a day when Jesus partly completed many Old Testament prophecies, including portions of Joel’s account of the Day of the Lord. 

Darkness, blood, earthquakes, resurrections, and the tearing of the curtain of the Temple all occurred during the crucifixion. These wonders upon the earth caught the attention of even the jaded executioners of Jesus. One centurion stood in front of Jesus when he died and seeing all that happened, proclaimed Jesus the righteous Son of God. (Matthew 27.54; Mark 15.39; Luke 23.47)

The darkness of Good Friday catches our attention, pulling our eyes off of anything that might distract us from the coming explosion of light that the resurrection will be. Joel says, “Everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord will be saved…on Mount Zion and in Jerusalem there will be deliverance…”

Let us stand, awestruck, before the cross today and say, “This is the righteous Son of God.” This is the beginning of the new creation, the new exodus, and the establishment of the kingdom of Heaven.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Refrain for the Morning Lessons
My God, my God, why have you forsaken me and are so far from my cry and from the words of my distress? — Psalm 22.1

Today’s Readings
Joel 2 (Listen – 1:39)
John 1 (Listen -6:18)

This Weekend’s Readings
Joel 3 (Listen – 3:20)John 2 (Listen -3:02)
Amos 1 (Listen – 2:38)John 3 (Listen -4:41)

Read more about Unprecedented Spirit
The very Spirit promised in Joel and poured out in Acts is a deposit, a guarantee, of the inheritance God has for each of us in Christ.

Read more about Love in His Name
Jesus enters a world rightly his, a world he lovingly created, and a world he now prepares, lovingly, to save.

All That Has Breath

Scripture Focus: Psalm 150.1-6
1 Praise the Lord.
Praise God in his sanctuary; 
praise him in his mighty heavens. 
2 Praise him for his acts of power; 
praise him for his surpassing greatness. 
3 Praise him with the sounding of the trumpet, 
praise him with the harp and lyre, 
4 praise him with timbrel and dancing, 
praise him with the strings and pipe, 
5 praise him with the clash of cymbals, 
praise him with resounding cymbals. 
6 Let everything that has breath praise the Lord. 
Praise the Lord.

Reflection: All That Has Breath
By John Tillman

Jesus referred to the scripture as, “the law, the prophets, and the psalms” (Luke 24.44) and taught that all scripture was centered on him. Psalms contains many prophecies about Christ and it closes with praise that is due to him in a repetitive, poetic crescendo. 

R.E.O. White (in the Evangelical Commentary) compares Psalm 150’s repetition to the “Hallelujah Chorus” from Messiah, by George Frideric Handel. It is an apt comparison. The chorus repeats, on one note, “King of Kings…and Lord of Lords.” Then answering voices call back energetically, “Hallelujah” and “forever and ever.” This repetition rises, note after note, chord after chord, higher and higher until it seems it can go no farther.

In Psalm 150, more and more instruments and individuals are commanded to join in praise. Imagine the building sound as you read…First trumpets of ram’s horn. Then plucked instruments such as lyres and harps. Next, drums and percussive instruments accompanied by dancers, perhaps stomping out the same rhythm. Next are more stringed instruments as well as flutes or pipes. Then, finally, clashing and resounding cymbals make their entrance.

“Hallelujah” concludes the second of three sections of Messiah. Charles Jennens, who wrote the libretto, titled the section “God’s Triumph.” Jennens specifically wrote Messiah to confront a rising trend of deism that denied Jesus’ divinity. The actual conclusion of Messiah is a section with text from Revelation, titled “Worthy is the Lamb that was Slain.”

Messiah is often performed at Christmas, but its message suits Easter better. It takes pains to present what Christ taught the Emmaus-bound disciples, “Did not the Messiah have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?” (Luke 24.26)

Let us celebrate Jesus’ triumph through his crucifixion and resurrection. Like the Emmaus disciples, Jesus is revealed to us in scripture. Are not our hearts burning within us? (Luke 24.32

Let everything that has breath praise the one who surrendered his breath on the cross, yet lives and breathes again. May he breathe on us. (John 20.22) May his Holy Spirit lift us to our feet in praise to dance, sing, play, and serve our communities and our world.

Let there be praise.
In the sanctuary, in the heavens, let there be praise. 
For his power, for his greatness, let there be praise. 
With every instrument of word, deed, music, art, dancing, speech, writing, and labor, let there be praise.

Music: Handel’s ‘Hallelujah!’ Chorus live at the Sydney Opera House; Full performance of Messiah: Handel’s Messiah Live from the Sydney Opera House

Divine Hours Prayer: The Greeting
Remember your word to your servant, because you have given me hope.
This is my comfort in my trouble, that your promise gives me life. — Psalm 119.49-50

Today’s Readings

Joel 1Listen – 1:39)
Psalm 149-150(Listen -1:36)

Read more about Jesus Concealed and Revealed
Disciples don’t always seem to recognize the resurrected Jesus. Do we?

Read more about Unprecedented
In response to unprecedented times, Joel encourages…unprecedented prayer and repentance

The First “Last Supper”

Scripture Focus: Hosea 14.2, 4
2 Take words with you
    and return to the Lord.
Say to him:
    “Forgive all our sins
and receive us graciously,
    that we may offer the fruit of our lips.

4 “I will heal their waywardness
    and love them freely,
    for my anger has turned away from them.

Reflection: The First “Last Supper”
By Erin Newton

Each year, my dad texts me to say The Ten Commandments is on TV. A 1956 classic (although flawed in many ways), this movie was my favorite. Many Christians know of the story of Moses and the plagues but forget how that relates to the New Testament story of the death of Jesus.

The Hebrews were connected to God in a special way, covenanted to him through their lineage from Abraham. They were God’s chosen people, promised a blessing of land, progeny, and honor. But as time tends to reveal, the errors of a few people created ripple effects among the whole. Despite the promise of blessing, they became slaves to a brutal nation.

From Egyptian oppression, God heard their prayers for help. He raised up Moses to lead the people. Plagues tormented the land. With each plague, the Pharaoh continued to harden his heart until he became an immovable force. The final plague would cost the life of each firstborn child. It was to be the greatest tragedy of their day, “There will be loud wailing throughout Egypt—worse than there has ever been or ever will be again” (Exodus 11.6).

But there was hope for the Israelites. Despite the edict that death would visit every family, a way of salvation was given. God told the people to sacrifice an unblemished lamb spreading the blood on their doors. The lamb would die so they could live. This day was to be remembered for generations. “And when your children ask you, ‘What does this ceremony mean to you?’ then tell them, ‘It is the Passover sacrifice to the Lord, who passed over the houses of the Israelites in Egypt and spared our homes when he struck down the Egyptians’” (Exodus 12.26-27a).

The Feast of Unleavened Bread and Passover honored the day which God looked upon the blood of an innocent lamb and averted his wrathful judgment. This same meal is what Jesus and his disciples celebrated at the Last Supper.

As Good Friday approaches, remember Passover. This celebration was given as a picture of atonement that would one day be fulfilled in the death of Jesus Christ. Because of his death, judgment passes over us. We are safe, veiled behind the blood of the Lamb.

Let us pray just as the book of Hosea ends, taking words of praise to God. He loves us freely and his wrath has turned away.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Greeting
Let them know that this is your hand, that you, O Lord, have done it. — Psalm 109.26

Today’s Readings

Hosea 14  Listen – 1:39)
Psalm 148  (Listen -1:28)

Read more about Fasting and Feasting
The one biblical feast most Christians know about is Passover or Pesach. This celebration is a combination of fasting and feasting.

Read more about Names of Jesus—Priest, Lamb, and Vine
He is called lamb, because of his perfect innocence; a sheep, to symbolize his Passion.

The Broken Power of Death

Scripture Focus: Hosea 13.14
14 “I will deliver this people from the power of the grave; 
I will redeem them from death. 
Where, O death, are your plagues? 
Where, O grave, is your destruction? 

Psalm 146.3-5
3 Do not put your trust in princes, 
in human beings, who cannot save. 
4 When their spirit departs, they return to the ground; 
on that very day their plans come to nothing. 
5 Blessed are those whose help is the God of Jacob, 
whose hope is in the Lord their God. 

Isaiah 25.8
8 he will swallow up death forever. The Sovereign LORD will wipe away the tears from all faces; he will remove his people’s disgrace from all the earth. The LORD has spoken. 

1 Corinthians 15.54-56
54 When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: “Death has been swallowed up in victory.” 

     55 “Where, O death, is your victory?
         Where, O death, is your sting?” 

56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

Reflection: The Broken Power of Death

By John Tillman

Hosea and Isaiah’s ministries overlapped and their writing echoes each other. Paul paraphrases their promises of resurrection into one of his brightest, most hopeful refrains. This chorus of hope comes most directly from one of the darkest chapters of Hosea.Rather than rely upon God, Israel and Judah had turned to political alliances and the gods those allies worshiped. But these “princes” would soon commit atrocities. These sound eerily familiar to ones committed by today’s powerful countries who bomb maternity wards and civilian evacuation corridors.

Death is not only dispensed at the whim of greedy empires but is carried on the wings of disease and aging. What hope can we have against death? This question is common to the people of Israel and Judah in Isaiah and Hosea’s day, to downtrodden outcasts under Rome’s rule, and to those targeted by empires and dictators today.

The poor and the powerless are overrun by death. They have no defenses and little strength to resist or slow its advance. They are helpless.

Wealth and power do much to extend life. The wealthy can easily flee conflict and the powerful are welcomed to new countries rather than crammed into inhumane camps. Experimental and expensive life-saving and life-extending medical treatments are common among the powerful. Absent these extreme examples, even simple, quality of life differences add years to the lives of the wealthy. However, in the end, the rich, the powerful, and the poor all die. The teacher of Ecclesiastes would call these efforts meaningless or absurd. (Ecclesiastes 3:19)

To the unbelieving world, for whom mortal life is all there is, death is ultimate. It is the worst thing that can happen to a person and there is no remedy.

Death is not the worst thing that can happen to us and it does not have the final word in our lives but that does not mean we should not grieve it. Lazarus was only four days in the grave, yet Jesus wept. (John 11.35) We weep and mourn death, but not without hope. (1 Thessalonians 4.13)

While we flee or delay death, scripture describes death’s defeat. God promises the grave will not be our final destination. We will only pass through and when we leave, we will be led by Christ himself. For those in Christ, death is a toothless predator, a limbless wrestler, who cannot hold us down for long.

Death which swallows all, will be swallowed up.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Short Verse
“I am the Alpha and the Omega” says the Lord God, “who is, who was, and who is to come, the Almighty.” — Revelation 1.8

Today’s Readings
Hosea 13  Listen – 2:26)
Psalm 146-147  (Listen -3:09)

Read more about Too Much to Hold
In Christ, we’re made to be like him
Too much for Death to hold
Grasped by him for a moment
But he cannot hold our souls

Read more about Stealing Death’s Sting
Untie our grave clothes and strip us of the trappings of this world.
Let us walk into the light and follow your loving voice.

Daughters of Saul and Sons of Moses

Scripture Focus: Psalm 145.1-4
1 I will exalt you, my God the King; 
I will praise your name for ever and ever. 
2 Every day I will praise you 
and extol your name for ever and ever. 
3 Great is the Lord and most worthy of praise; 
his greatness no one can fathom. 
4 One generation commends your works to another; 
they tell of your mighty acts.

1 Chronicles 15.29
29 As the ark of the covenant of the Lord was entering the City of David, Michal daughter of Saul watched from a window. And when she saw King David dancing and celebrating, she despised him in her heart.

Luke 19.39-40
39 Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Jesus, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples!”
40 “I tell you,” he replied, “if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.”

Reflection: Daughters of Saul and Sons of Moses
By John Tillman

Yesterday, Palm Sunday, we celebrated Jesus’ arrival into Jerusalem and the week leading to the crucifixion and resurrection. (Matthew 21.1–11; Mark 11.1–11; Luke 19.28–44; John 12.12–19)

Like David’s procession of the Ark of the Covenant entering Jerusalem, Jesus’ processional was met by a joyous crowd. In both cases, there were those who wanted to steal the joy of the moment.

Michal, daughter of Saul and wife of David, critiqued the celebration. (1 Chronicles 15.29) She claimed to be concerned about propriety and modesty, but David’s response implied that her moralizing concealed a concern about power. (2 Samuel 6.20-23) The daughter of Saul despised this lowly king.

Likewise, religious leaders objected to crowds singing about Jesus “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” (Psalm 118:25,26) They publicly voiced concerns about blasphemy but privately they were concerned about power. They didn’t want to upset Rome. (John 11.48) The sons of Moses despised this lowly teacher.

Psalm 105
is the Psalm listed in Chronicles as one David (or Asaph at David’s direction) sang on the occasion of the Ark’s entry. (1 Chronicles 16.7-11) However, despite Psalm 145 not having a date or event attached, one could certainly imagine its celebratory tone going well with the procession David led or the procession of Jesus the Son of David.

Those traveling up to Jerusalem would sing psalms on their ascent, preparing for and celebrating being in the presence of God. We can pray and sing these psalms with the same sense of anticipation. Jesus comes to us as he came to Jerusalem, humble and lowly. We can welcome him with shouts, cries, and joyous abandon that some will not understand.

Welcome him this week and every week as the only rightful king of our hearts. We must depose our affection for other Saul-like kings. We must abandon vestiges of religion which grasp at power rather than righteousness.

Do not let daughters of Saul or sons of Moses steal your joy in the lowly king, the humble teacher. Let us exalt him with pure praise and abandon. Let us ensure the next generation joins in with us.

“I will exalt you, my God the King; 
I will praise your name for ever and ever. 
Every day I will praise you 
and extol your name for ever and ever. 
Great is the Lord and most worthy of praise; 
his greatness no one can fathom. 
One generation commends your works to another; 
they tell of your mighty acts.”

Divine Hours Prayer: A Reading
…They cried out: “Blessed is he who is coming as King in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest heavens!” Some Pharisees in the crowd said to him, “Master, reprove your disciples,” but he answered, “I tell you, if these keep silence, the stones will cry out.” — Luke 19.37-40


Today’s Readings
Hosea 12  Listen – 1:51)
Psalm 145  (Listen -2:19)

Read more about A Way Back for Strivers
If we wrestle with you God, you will bless…If we will return to you, God, you will heal

Read more On Psalm 145: Praying as Music
If music is a universal language, prayer can be similarly described.