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He Steadfastly Set His Face To Go To Jerusalem

Mount Everest from Kalapatthar.

Mount Everest (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

         There are times in our lives when we have to make tough decisions.

         We must decide to obey God.

         I remember hearing a relatively well known preacher several years ago make a statement regarding such tough decisions. In all honesty he said, “I’ve rebuked the Holy Ghost so many times…”

         What he meant, of course, is that there was no way what he was hearing was from God. It was too hard. Too difficult. Impossible, even. No way could it be God. He would never ask (command) me to do such a thing.

         But, of course,  it actually WAS the voice of God…

         Not only does the Lord have “hard sayings,” He also has very hard things for us to do at times. And this portends the theme of this article, that God, in all His grace and love, commands us to do impossible things that put our lives in peril and sometimes destroy our comfort zones.

         A lazy, lolling river suddenly becomes fast and filled with white water and giant boulders. But instead of simply getting over to the bank ASAP, the Lord directs us to enter headlong into the churning, violent rapids and commands us to ride the wave of the future.

         Right.

         These are some of the stepping off points in one’s walk with God. How many Christians are there in this world who are no longer real Christians because they refused such commands? How many are merely playing games, fooling themselves and almost everyone else in an attempt to live for God in disobedience?

         It can’t happen, you know. Would that you were hot or cold…

         You get the picture. Refusing God’s commands while claiming to be right makes one a veritable dab of spit at best and pool of vomit at worst.

         Yes, the Word of God actually says that. As Yogi Berra would say, “You could look it up.”

         The title of this post illustrates such tough obedient choices. The Lord knew all along He would make that fateful trip to Jerusalem one day and enter into the mouth of the dragon. He would drop His defenses, lose all protection, and become the object of not only the wrath of mankind, but the wrath of God.

         But how is that possible? Jesus IS God.

         And again, that’s the point. The strong must support the weak. The strong must do very difficult things on behalf of the weak. The strong must carry the day.

         Now, in English, the phrase Set His Face To Go makes no sense. We think it makes sense but only because we have discovered what it means. This phrase is an obvious example of a Hebrew idiom that found its way into the literal translation. It comes to us from the KJV translators and is over 400 years old. However, it is based on the earlier English translation of William Tyndale which is going on 500 years old. I do not think those people had any clear understanding of Hebrew idioms. Later translations give a clearer understanding in English. The following is from the NASV:

         He was determined to go to Jerusalem… [1] 

         Young’s Literal Translation states, that he fixed his face to go on to Jerusalem.

         The Hebrew idiom, from an original Hebrew Gospel, means that the Lord Jesus could not possibly be swayed from facing His fate. He was resolutely determined to complete His mission. He set His face like a flinty rock to enter the belly of the beast. This was not only sheer determination and willpower to do the job He was called to do; it was also the determination to face the greatest physical, emotional, and mental torture ever suffered by anyone in taking on the massive burden of our sins, and actually become sin on our behalf.

         He had every reason, in the natural, to reject such a trip. How could it be God’s will for me to face such a horrible fate? Anyone else would have found a way out, and would have justified his disobedient behavior.

         But not the Lord Jesus.

         He wasn’t thinking of Himself.

         He was thinking of you.

         So, we must set our minds at ease in that whatever difficult circumstances He is commanding us to undertake, He will never ask us to go to the cross the way He went to the cross.

         But we must go to the cross. We must be crucified. We must destroy our sinful and selfish human nature through real repentance and allow His life to course through our born again veins and arteries, and allow our hearts of stone to be transformed into living hearts of spiritual love and mercy.

         He made it relatively easy for us, you know. There is a place in each of us reserved for His Holy Living Spirit. The key to being like Christ, therefore, is not to engage in some ascetic attempt to be “holy” and Christlike through our own power and religious methods, but to unlock the door of our hearts, open the door wide, greet the Lord who waits patiently on our doorstep with a gracious smile and a loving hug, invite Him in, and give Him the best room in the house.

         Whatever price we must pay to get us to the point of accepting such a visitation is worth it, don’t you think? And so is anything else He asks us to do, no matter how scary or difficult.

         We must all Set Our Face to do the will of God. We must go to our own version of Jerusalem. We must swim across the ocean and ford every stream and climb every mountain (including Everest) and dream the impossible dream.

         We must sacrifice our lives in the greatest act of giving for the sake of His abundant life.

         It’s what people do when they’re in love.

         © 2012 by RJ Dawson. All Rights Reserved.


[1] Unless otherwise noted all Scriptures are taken from the New American Standard Bible, © 1960, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.

The Hebrew Month of Nisan 2012: Atonement and Resurrection (Part 3)

Nisan 14 / April 6, 2012 (Began at sunset on April 5):

         Four days after crossing the Jordan River, and exactly forty years after the first Passover in Egypt, the nation of Israel celebrated its first Passover in their new land:

         While the sons of Israel camped at Gilgal they observed the Passover on the evening of the fourteenth day of the month on the desert plains of Jericho. [Joshua 5:10]

         They had received this teaching from Moses:

         “Your lamb shall be an unblemished male a year old; you may take it from the sheep or from the goats. You shall keep it until the fourteenth day of the same month, then the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel is to kill it at twilight.” [Exodus 12:5-6]

         Also on this date, the Lord Jesus became our Sacrifice Lamb:

         So he then handed Him over to them to be crucified. They took Jesus, therefore, and He went out, bearing His own cross, to the place called the Place of a Skull, which is called in Hebrew, Golgotha. There they crucified Him, and with Him two other men, one on either side, and Jesus in between. Pilate also wrote an inscription and put it on the cross. It was written, “JESUS THE NAZARENE, THE KING OF THE JEWS.” [John 19:16-19]

         We know that the Lord Jesus died on the cross at some point after the ninth hour[1]—about 3:30PM. The time was according to the Hebrew manner of reckoning the hours in the day, which began at sunrise. On that particular day, there were actually about 12.5 hours between sunrise and sunset, and sunrise took place sometime between 6:00 and 6:30AM. However, the gospel accounts do not say the Lord died at exactly the ninth hour, because other events took place after the ninth hour and before His death. It is safe to say He died somewhere between just after the ninth hour and with enough time remaining to bury His body before sunset.

         Also, this particular Nisan 14 was a Thursday, not a Friday. It was the fifth day of the week. Five is the Biblical number of Grace. The Lord did not die on a Friday. He died on a Thursday.  

         On the equivalent of Wednesday evening, the Lord and His disciples ate the Passover meal. He then suffered the trauma of Gethsemane. After being up all night, shuttled around to various false trials, and beaten severely, our Lord Jesus had been stripped of His clothes and nailed to the cross at the exact time of the Temple morning sacrifice, which was at the third hour of the day. This was somewhere between 9:00 and 9:30AM.

         Over six hours of excruciating pain and suffering later, the Lord died. His body continued hanging on the cross until it was taken down at the request of Joseph of Arimathea.[2]

         If the Last Supper was a Passover Seder, it meant the sacrificial lambs were slaughtered a day before the Sacrifice Lamb. The Lord must have partaken of the Passover since it was commanded in the Torah, and it was during which that He instituted the New Covenant by introducing His broken body and shed blood as a memorial.

         Could it be that the Lord’s death was progressive? It certainly appears that the “death angel” passed over the Garden of Gethsemane the night the Lord made His final surrender. At some point the sins of the world were placed upon Him. This was a legitimate form of death. There was no protection for the Sacrifice Lamb. It would have cancelled out His purpose. Once sin was placed upon Him, the spotless Lamb became sin on our behalf.[3] He continued “dying” until the next late afternoon when He breathed His last, when full payment was made, and when all was finished.

         Theoriginal Passover in Egypt took place in the middle of the night, when the death angel “Passed Over” each house while looking for the shed blood of lambs upon the door posts and lintels of the dwellings. Whichever family’s house did not display the blood of a perfect lamb suffered the loss of its firstborn son.

         Those families whose houses displayed the blood were representative of having the blood of Jesus displayed on their hearts as a substitute sacrificial firstborn Son, who died in place of their actual firstborns, and thus suffered no loss.

Nisan 15 / April 7, 2012 (Begins at sunset on April 6):

         After crossing the Jordan, the nation of Israel ate the produce of the Promised Land for the very first time:

         On the day after the Passover, on that very day, they ate some of the produce of the land, unleavened cakes and parched grain. [Joshua 5:11]

         This was the first day of the seven-day Feast of Unleavened Bread, Pesach 1, a day of holy assembly, which concluded with Pesach 7, another high holy day on Nisan 21.[4] It was the day after the Lord was slain, the sixth day of the week, and equivalent to our Friday.

Nisan 16 / April 8, 2012 (Begins at sunset on April 7):

         It was on this day that the manna which God provided for forty years during the wilderness wanderings ceased. From that point forward, Israel would only eat the food of their new land.

         The manna ceased on the day after they had eaten some of the produce of the land, so that the sons of Israel no longer had manna, but they ate some of the yield of the land of Canaan during that year. [Joshua 5:12]

         This was a Sabbath day. Manna never fell on a Sabbath, but a double portion always fell on the day before—the sixth day of the week (Friday morning). Therefore, there was still manna left over from Friday to eat on this day, but it never fell again. In the week of the Lord’s passion and death, this day was also the seventh day Sabbath, which always fell on a Saturday.

Nisan 17 / April 9, 2012 (Begins at sunset on April 8):

         The Captain of the Lord’s host appeared to Joshua:

         Now it came about when Joshua was by Jericho, that he lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, a man was standing opposite him with his sword drawn in his hand, and Joshua went to him and said to him, “Are you for us or for our adversaries?” He said, “No; rather I indeed come now as captain of the host of the LORD.” And Joshua fell on his face to the earth, and bowed down, and said to him, “What has my lord to say to his servant?” The captain of the LORD’S host said to Joshua, “Remove your sandals from your feet, for the place where you are standing is holy.” And Joshua did so. [Joshua 5:13-15]

         It was also on Nisan 17 that the events of the week culminated in the glorious resurrection of our Lord Jesus.

         Scripture says that the Lord was resurrected on the first day of the week, which would have been equivalent to our Sunday. This means He was actually crucified, as stated previously, on Thursday, Nisan 14. That evening at sunset, after Joseph and the others had taken the Lord’s body off the cross, prepared His body for burial, and encased Him in the tomb, it become Nisan 15. This was not only the high holy day of Pesach 1, the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread, it was also the day before the Sabbath.

         Then, after the Sabbath was over and the night had passed, Sunday morning dawned. This was Nisan 17, or the day of First Fruits, which took place after the Passover Sabbath each year.[5] On the agricultural calendar, it was the beginning of the barley harvest, and our Lord Jesus was the first fruits, the choicest portion. Imagine the scene, then, as all these days and prophetic events played out perfectly, and imagine the shock and delight of Mary Magdalene at the tomb that morning: 

         But Mary was standing outside the tomb weeping; and so, as she wept, she stooped and looked into the tomb; and she saw two angels in white sitting, one at the head and one at the feet, where the body of Jesus had been lying. And they said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She said to them, “Because they have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid Him.”

         When she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, and did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?” Supposing Him to be the gardener, she said to Him, “Sir, if you have carried Him away, tell me where you have laid Him, and I will take Him away.”

         Jesus said to her, “Mary!” She turned and said to Him in Hebrew, “Rabboni!” [John 20:11-16]

         He had been physically dead, just as He said He would be, for three days and three nights:

         “For just as JONAH WAS THREE DAYS AND THREE NIGHTS IN THE BELLY OF THE SEA MONSTER, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.” [Matthew 12:40]

         But on that resurrection morning of Nisan 17, also in keeping with another prophecy, a new Temple was raised by the Lord Jesus Himself that will never be destroyed again:

         “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” [John 2:19][6]

         This is the hope that every real Christian has, that one day he or she will also be resurrected bodily just as the Lord was, to spend eternity with Him and one another forever!

         © 2012 by RJ Dawson. All Rights Reserved. [Part 3 of 3]


[1] Matthew 27:45-50, Mark 15:33-37, Luke 23:44-46

[2] Mark 15:42-47

[3] 2 Corinthians 5:21

[4] Exodus 12:18

[5] Leviticus 23:11, 1 Corinthians 15:20-23

[6] Unless otherwise noted all Scriptures are taken from the New American Standard Bible, © 1960, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.