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When Jesus Reached My Heart with His Birth

My wife and I grew up in Herbert Armstrong’s Worldwide Church of God (WCG) for nearly 30 years. I am 55 years old now. WCG considered itself “God’s one true church” (for a great message about how to avoid the arrogance of claiming exclusivity by balancing those claims like Jesus did with grace, love, and mercy, click the link to hear Christian apologist, Michael Ramsden). I met my wife in 1983 at WCG’s Ambassador College in Pasadena, CA.

Ambassador Auditorium and Ambassador College Campus, Pasadena, CA

WCG leadership changed between 1986 and into the mid-1990’s. New leadership had asked area Christian leaders why WCG was considered by some Christians to be a cult. Their answers resulted in significant and dramatic WCG doctrinal changes in the early-to-mid-1990’s.

During the mid-1990’s, my wife and I’s lives were in an upheaval. Seven people we knew had died in an 18-month period, and we almost lost one of our twin daughters, Brittany. Many theological questions and much searching to see where God was, resulted in what I realized later was the empty, broken place I had heard in Christian testimonies. John MacArthur’s and Greg Laurie’s ministries on WMIT in Black Mountain, NC really helped us discover the truth of God’s word during that turbulent time. Because WCG considered itself the exclusive church with God’s truth, I discovered that the foundation of my faith was in a set of religious beliefs rather than fully resting in Jesus Christ.

WCG adamantly taught that Christmas and Easter were pagan holidays not to be observed by true Christians. To do so was considered mixing pagan worship with worship of God, and therefore sin (a bit about that later). Too many WCG families allowed those beliefs to tear Christian families and friends apart during WCG’s history. WCG observed God’s annual holy days in Leviticus 23, including the 8-day Feast of Tabernacles.

After exiting WCG, my wife and I saw things very differently about Christmas. My wife wanted to run as far away from the legalism in WCG and yet I did not want to put up a Christmas tree in our house. I knew the passages about the golden calf (Exodus 32), the Gentile Christmas tree (Jeremiah 10:1-5), and the warning of mixing of paganism into the worship of God (2 Kings 17). My mother-in-law visited during this time and warned me that leaving WCG would mean we would soon be putting up a Christmas tree. I adamantly disagreed. I was not going to put up a pagan Christmas tree. That much, I knew WCG had right.

In 1995 we were blessed with twin girls and in 1999, a son. Eventually with the children, there was inevitable conflict in our house every December. I am thankful that it was my wife who finally decided to turn me over to the Lord with the issue of Christmas and yield in submission with humility as 1 Peter 3 describes.

Isaiah 55:12-13

Through this time, God was calling us to serve in overseas missions. In early 2013, my sister, D’Etta, called me excitedly and said that she had been reading Isaiah 55 and she felt strongly that we would be leaving for the mission field with great joy. She was so impacted by this insight, I noted what she said and recorded the passage (in the picture to the left) and her comments in my journal.

That year there was no significant joy. We moved our family to Uganda that year, but often while there, God seemed silent, distant, and Michelle and I continued to experience conflict and argue. We returned to America in mid-2014 due to lack of funding. The Isaiah 55 Scripture passage had long left my memory.

In 2015 we sold our house, Michelle and I went into marriage counseling due to conflict, and our daughter, Alexis, got married. As we waited for God to move, in November 2016 I happened across Isaiah 55 and began studying the part about the word of God going throughout the earth like rain producing seed and bread. A phrase caught my attention, “all the trees of the field” are clapping their hands (55:12). What did that mean? The context speaks of the Creator’s magnificent power and work, which are much higher than the understanding and work of men. That power and work results in the creation glorifying and praising God, just as the shepherds went away from meeting the Christ child in Luke 2:20 glorifying and praising God (but I’m getting ahead of myself).

The two trees mentioned there (Isaiah 55:13), the myrtle and the cypress (or juniper) replace the thorn and the brier. As I studied this passage in depth, I discovered the myrtle tree, a fragrant deciduous tree, was used in worship by Israel at the Feast of Tabernacles (an 8-day joyous feast of celebration, Nehemiah 8:15). The cypress is an evergreen fir tree used by Gentiles in pagan worship, but Gentile worship when converted in the New Testament turns to love, serve, obey, and worship the one true God and away from idolatry (Acts 28:28; 1 Corinthians 10:31). It dawned on me that the Gentiles (a few centuries after Jesus was resurrected) began using the evergreen tree for celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ! When coming to faith in Jesus Christ, Gentiles stopped worshiping the creation and began worshiping the Creator. Certainly these Gentiles used trees in their worship of Jesus just as Israel had done at the Feast of Tabernacles. For them, Jesus was very much like the evergreen tree (Hosea 14:8). This passage in Isaiah 55:12-13 was prophetic: one tree represents the Jews (the myrtle, Neh. 8:15); and the other tree the Gentiles (the evergreen fir, Hosea 14:8) as a prophecy of the coming unity in the new covenant of Jew and Gentile under the Lordship of Jesus Christ (Ephesians 2:14). The glory then goes to the LORD for a name (Psalm 96:12; Isa. 55:13). Wow!

My Girls in Front of Our Christmas Tree 2016

After this insight around Thanksgiving in November, I agreed to put up a Christmas tree in our house. What happened after that yielding was incredible. I caught a deeper glimpse of the gospel. Every Christmas song I heard in December that year which spoke of the coming of Christ as a baby, literally brought me to tears – sometimes sobbing with amazement that a holy God would enter a sinful world so that sinners could have light and life with Him forever. Jesus came for pagan Gentiles in their sin.

After 30 years of legalism, I certainly understand Christians are to repent of sin and not stay in it. Yet now I see this issue as one of Christian freedom and conscience (Col. 2:16-17). God’s holiness hates paganism and false idolatrous worship. God’s amazing love in Christ pleases Him to bruise Him for our sake that we may be sons of the living God. I hope and trust I will never get over that love and His mercy. For mercy triumphs over judgment (James 2:13). There was great healing and finally *PEACE* in our family as we together worshipped Jesus’ coming to save the world.

But God was not finished. In the summer of 2017, I planned to go with our youth to a Christian summer camp. We were to leave for the beach on an early Monday morning in July. The preceding Sunday our pastor gave a sermon on Psalm 90. He said that this psalm was always read by the Jews the night before the Feast of Tabernacles started – a feast where celebration and rejoicing was commanded. It is a psalm of repentance, God’s presence, God’s sovereignty and ending with joy and His beauty. The sermon impacted me greatly.

Driving to Youth Summer Camp

On the next day, we left for the beach with the youth. As we made the 5-hour drive, I began to talk to our pastor’s wife and a mutual friend in the van about our history in WCG and observing the Feast of Tabernacles for more than 25 years. We talked about how I finally put up a Christmas tree the previous December in 2016. When we arrived at the youth camp, the camp opened that evening at 7 PM to my shock and surprise with Christmas carols in July! Their theme that year (in the summer) was the coming of Jesus Christ. Seven Christmas trees lined the stage! As we sang Christmas carols in July, those leading the singing on stage asked everyone to raise their hands in clapping, joyful singing, and shouts of praise to God. No one in the auditorium but the two people in the van with me knew what God was doing.

The Crown of Thorns which was twisted by Roman soldiers (John 19: 2) and placed on His head as a mockery, Christians recognize as His glory as the Son of Man and Son of God. The thorns represent the result of humanity’s work (Gen. 3:18), which brought pain, suffering, and killed Him. The thorns were twisted just as humanity’s perverse ways are (Deut. 32:5; Prov. 2:15). Jesus was then nailed to a tree to die. What men meant for death, actually like a seed (Isa. 55:11) produced living trees (both Jew and Gentile) united under Him for His praise and glory.

I broke into tears of joy as I realized this was the fulfillment of the Scripture in Isaiah 55:12-13 my sister, D’Etta, had shared in 2013. As we saw in yesterday’s post, the Bible uses trees as a symbol of people. Because of the cross (a tree, 1 Peter 2:24 ESV) we were leaving for the mission field in Uganda in September with peace in our marriage and “trees” (the people) on stage were rejoicing and clapping their hands before the LORD. We truly went out with peace and joy. The thorn and brier (Genesis 3:18, the thorn and brier are symbolic of what the work and toil of humanity produces; that is, personal and relational pain and suffering by symbolically cutting and drawing blood because those thorns are a result of humanity’s carnal sin nature) in Isaiah 55 are being replaced with trees of worship (blown by the winds of the Spirit). Jesus used the metaphor of wheat in John 12, but a tree metaphor is similar, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit” (John 12:24). He dies by bearing the sin and “work of men” and the result is life and reproduction. “And it SHALL be to the LORD for a name, for an everlasting sign that shall not be cut off” (Isa. 55:13).

One final note. Today, some people argue that observance of Christmas is not commanded in the Bible. That is true. I just want to leave you with this: the shepherds received no command of God in the story to go see the Christ-child. They simply received a “good news” (a spiritual insight about Jesus’ birth) invitation which was joyous. And because of the invitation and revelation (insight) about Jesus, they decide to go see Jesus (2:15). The great joy is brighter than the duty of a commandment. God does not force people to come to Him for salvation or to worship. Motivation from an invitation and revelation of good news is greater than motivation by duty (Luke 17:5-10). It is always your choice.

What was the result of receiving the good news and making the decision to spend time with Jesus? “Glorifying and praising God” (Luke 2:1-20). That is what happens when a poor person meets the living Jesus Christ. They know they are now rich beyond measure. Their life has radically changed (2 Cor 5:17). This is where the gospel has impact in a sinful, pagan, and worldly setting. When followers and believers in Jesus Christ announce the “good news” (gospel) like the angels did, those with a right heart will respond and glorify the One, true God. All these days – whether Christmas, Easter, or the “appointed days” from Leviticus 23 – are not nearly as powerful as the proclaiming of the gospel of Jesus Christ (1 Cor. 2:2). When we yield and submit to the gospel, and learn that principle, there is great power to radically and fully change lives as God brings people to repentance. May we all continue to learn the depths of His love and motivation (this is what Paul prayed for the mature churches in Ephesus, Eph. 3:18-19).

So, my mother-in-law was right – we did eventually put up a Christmas tree. But, wow! What a journey Jesus took us through. My love for Him has deepened, and I would never have thought in 10,000 years that would have happened. “But God…” (Eph. 2:4)!!! This time of year listen for those stories (some people call them testimonies) which praise and glorify Jesus and God, not out of a sense of duty and cold observance like a slave or servant, but one out of simple love and joy for revelation of Jesus. That is what good news from God can do to a person – create a life story of radical change which results in glorifying and praising God for His work, His gifts and His love. Your choice.

Seek and pursue passionately for the peace and joy in the unity of the Holy Spirit under Jesus Christ. For that PEACE in Christ, for that JOY and celebration, I thank God for sending His one and only Son in humility as a baby born to grow, take on our sin, die, and be resurrected for our salvation – all unearned! Wow! My heart is drawn more to Him and His love for Gentile pagans like myself. I cannot wait to see Him and worship Him face-to-face.

Merry Christmas!

Biblical Worship Includes Trees for Both Israel & Gentiles

Tree of Life

Through our series this week, we have seen some pagan and sinful things. No doubt, when God became flesh, He often taught in figures of speech (John 16:25). One of those methods was parables, which we saw in a previous post. Jesus did this so much that the disciples seem to become a bit frustrated with Him and asked Him to speak plainly (John 16:29).

While the Bible is filled with real, literal stories, it is also full of beautiful and perfect symbolism. One of those symbols threaded throughout God’s word is the tree. Consider:

Genesis begins with two trees (Gen. 2:9):

1. The tree of life;

2. The tree of the knowledge of good and evil.

Revelation closes the Bible with the tree of life bearing 12 fruits in the new earth (Rev. 22:2).

Biblical trees symbolize humanity

1. The righteous

  • A. As trees planted by the riverside (Psm. 1); and
  • B. As trees that bear fruit (Matt. 7:16-20)

2. Israel as a cultivated olive tree (Rom. 11:17-20)

3. Gentiles

  • A. As a wild olive tree (Rom. 11:17)
  • B. Evergreen trees (Psm. 37:35)

Amid the biblical story is the greatest tree – the centrality of the rugged tree to which our Savior was nailed (1 Pet. 2:24).

Trees of celebration and worship

LuLav Branches Consisting of Four Species: Myrtle, Willow, Date Palm, and Citron (Leviticus 23:40)

1. Israel was commanded to rejoice for 8 days at the Feast of Tabernacles and use boughs of various trees in their worship! (Lev. 23:40). These boughs are known as “LuLav” branches (pictured below) and were waved during the reading of the Hallel (Psm. 113-118) at the Feast of Tabernacles.

2. Gentiles used evergreen trees in their pagan worship (Jer. 10:1-5; 17:2).

So, what do evergreen trees have to do with Jesus Christ in worship? The somewhat surprising answer is found in that prophet’s writings who married a prostitute, Hosea. Surely, God’s people would have condemned such a marriage of a prophet of God. Yet God commanded Hosea to marry a prostitute.

In Hosea’s incredible oracles we find that God turns away from Israel because of their incessant prostitution. He promises sovereignly and insistently to cause *all* of Israel’s joy (mirth) to cease, as well as all of Israel’s appointed feasts and sabbaths” to cease (Hos. 2:11). Appointed feasts (God’s commanded set times) were called both “His feasts” (Lev. 23) and “your feasts” or “your appointed feasts” (Num. 10:10; 15:3; 29:39; Hos. 9:5; Amos 5:21; 8:10; Nah. 1:15; Mal. 2:3) and John called these feasts, “Jewish” (John 5:1; 6:4; 19:42). These appointed and commanded feasts cease while God turns to the pagan Gentiles.

An Artist’s Rendering of Hosea Buying Back His Wife, the Prostitute Gomer

The eleven disciples were joyfully commissioned (Matt. 28:19-20; Luke 24:46-49) to take the gospel message to the world (Acts 1:8), which eventually became the work and ministry of Gentile believers because of Jewish confusion, arguing and rejection (Acts 28:23-29).

And as a prophetic sign and symbol of that truth of God’s people welcoming the entire world into the presence of God, Solomon’s second temple was constructed with cypress (evergreen) doors (1 Kings 6:34) a symbol of the Gentile believers, with olive wood as the posts, like a tree (1 Kings 6:33; Rom. 11:17)! In fact, Solomon hired Hiram, king of Tyre, who was mixed race (mother from the tribe of Naphtali and father a Gentile man of Tyre – 1 Kings 7:14) to construct the temple (1 Kings 5:1-8).

These “appointed feasts and Sabbaths” would “cease” or “be forgotten” in Zion, i.e., “the church” (Lamentations 2:6) since Israel had prostituted herself to the nations (Isa. 1:13-14). Now, with the coming of Jesus, God would turn away from a command-motivation (duty) and move to the heart-motivation (love and joy).

Hosea describes this incredible love like a marriage, not commandment-keeping, “And it shall be, in that day, says the LORD, That you will call Me, My Husband, And no longer call Me, My Master” (Hos. 2:16). Hosea continues, “For I (God) will take from her (His bride’s) mouth the names of the Baals…I will betroth you to Me forever in righteousness and justice, in lovingkindness and mercy; I will betroth you to Me in faithfulness” (Hos. 2:17, 19-20) because from their hearts Jesus will come from their lips and mouths.

God will do this! This is why if you believe the celebrating or not celebrating of Christmas entitles or earns you salvation, you have missed the message of the gospel. God performs heart surgery on those who search for Him, find Him and believe in Him. As a result, He accomplishes their salvation. This is why Christians refer people to Christ and the gospel (the power and wisdom of God, 1 Cor. 1:24) rather than to the 10 commandments, Sabbath, or the Bible’s appointed holy days. Notice how Paul does this in his biblical letters. He normally emphasizes Jesus Christ first and foremost, and then by the end of his letter calls people in that power to obedience.

In God’s beautiful story of grace, God turns to the Gentiles as He promised He would (Psm. 9:9-10; 86:9-10; 138:4-5; Jer. 16:19; 23:20; Heb. 1:2; Mal. 1:11) and seems to hint at a promise that He will revive Israel again in the future and possibly with God’s original feasts (Rom. 11: Zech. 12:10; 14:16). But Jesus tells His people, He is like “the green cypress” (an evergreen) tree (Hosea 14:8).

Shepherds in the field at night are visited by an angel proclaiming “good news” of great joy.

Just as Luke 2 describes, when the shepherds on that night were met by an angel proclaiming good news (gospel) of joy of the birth of Jesus, the shepherds were not commanded to go to Jesus. The communication of good news was simply proclaimed, and they in turn chose to go find Jesus. Similarly today, Christmas is not commanded. It is a story with an invitation, like a parable. The true story of Jesus’ birth contains a jewel, a nugget, a treasure that is more valuable than the entire temporary world. The Christmas story is one of a relational, resurrected and undying connection between a holy and righteous God (who has nothing to do with pagans, sin, Gentiles or any unholy people), yet in the midst of our deep darkness, spiritual death, selfish, idolatrous, pagan, sinful hearts God’s Light and Life of the world comes to rescue, secure, and save those in need. And those who go to Him receive life, healing, light, and radical change. They cannot help but speak and tell of Jesus, proclaiming the good news of His coming to rescue sinners.

This is the message of Christmas, which is the New Testament gospel message in the form of a true story, except the date of Jesus’ birth as no one knows exactly what day or date Jesus was born. There is nothing wrong with using fictional elements of a story to get a point across, especially when the celebration is not commanded. The gospel is that pagans and sinners are turned by the power of God’s grace in Jesus Christ into righteous saints who will live and abide forever in the Son of God. Humbled by the imputed righteousness of Jesus Christ, they seek to live for Him and serve Him in great joy by His strength and motivation.

Merry Christmas! Praise to Jesus Christ throughout the entire world! May He be your joy and reason you worship the One true God in Him and in His name.

The OT Third Day Motif

“For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures…” [1]

Thus wrote the apostle Paul, using the phrase, “according to the Scriptures” twice. The Scriptures alone are our guide and rule for daily living. Paul was clearly referring to the Old Testament (OT) Scriptures which were the only “Scriptures” the earliest church read. Today, ask almost any mature Christian for OT references to Jesus dying for our sins, and it may result in answers such as Isaiah 53, Psalm 22, the sacrificial system, Passover, etc. However, ask the same individuals for OT references which support Jesus rising on the third day, and perhaps some may answer with only one passage, Jesus’ sign of His resurrection – that of Jonah being in the belly of the fish for three days and three nights (Matt. 12:40).  While that is true, there are numerous other Scriptures to which Paul is referring when he writes in 1 Cor 15, “(Messiah) rose again the third day according to the Scriptures.”

While it is impossible to know with certainty what exact Scriptures Paul was referencing in the OT, it will be demonstrated in this essay that the anticipation and prediction of Messiah’s third day resurrection occurs in at least four OT passages:  Gen. 3:15; Gen. 22:1-18; Hosea 6:1-3; and Exod. 19:1-24.  This third-day motif begins in Genesis and continues in the law and the prophets. The motif seems to be mystically connected to these and other passages of Scripture in which the Messiah is anticipated, prefigured or suggested. So, what do the OT Scriptures reveal about Jesus being resurrected on the third day?

Prior to going through these passages, it would be helpful to provide some essential background. To begin, understanding what a motif is will be beneficial before proceeding further.  A simple definition of motif can be, a recurring idea, feature, dominant theme, pattern or design especially in an artistic or literary work. Thus, in the OT, the reader should see a pattern or dominant theme running through the Old Testament.  Next, does the OT even make references to bodily resurrections after physical death?  For a list of these passages, see the endnote below. [2] Also as further background, it is significant to understand that the third day motif in the OT was even recognized by early second century Jewish scholars.  C. Marvin Pate writes, “Jewish interpreters as far back as the Midrashim (second century AD in written texts but probably earlier in oral form) have claimed that the third day motif is used in the Old Testament for God’s deliverance of Israel or a righteous person.” [3] Another crucial factor to consider is Biblical interpretation.  To respect the text and what God through His Spirit is saying, the reader must conform to the text, not force the text to conform to what the reader desires the text to mean.  A trustworthy method of hermeneutics (the word, hermeneutics simply means a method of interpreting the Bible) is to interpret the OT the way Jesus instructed others to interpret it.  Utilizing the method Jesus gave will be a reliable and trustworthy method for OT interpretation.  His primary method as revealed in Scripture is that the OT reader must (absolutely must) read those OT Scriptures as they speak of Him.  In fact, He said that plainly and clearly on at least three occasions (see Luke 24:25-27, 44-45; John 5:39). To further emphasize this point, after His resurrection, Jesus tells the two people on the road to Emmaus in Luke 24 that to fail to interpret the OT without understanding all those Scriptures were written about Him, is to be: 1. Foolish; and 2. Slow to believe (Luke 24:25). Finally for our background sketch, Jesus Himself regularly made references to His life-giving, third day resurrection, both directly and mnemonically, that is, using language in an intentionally illustrative way of communication to help the listener remember. For example, He clearly and directly identified the sign of the OT prophet Jonah being in the belly of the fish for “three days and three nights” as a sign of His resurrection. [4]  That phrase helps the listener (in a world where writing was used less than today) remember or memorize the point Jesus is getting across.  Another example Jesus used was that He also referred to His body as a temple, claiming to raise it up in three days. [5] So convincingly did He speak this way, that even the Pharisees and chief priests were concerned something was going to happen after the third day (Matt. 27:63).  One reference in particular Jesus made about death will help us transition to the goal of our purview of the OT Scriptures.  Jesus strongly implied about Himself, if “a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies…it produces much grain.” [6] The inference here is clear – His coming death He vividly described as a seed, which would produce much fruit or life.

Genesis 3:15 & 1:11-13

Accordingly, where might one find a reference to seed, death and life in the OT?  Certainly, one place to start is the beginning, in the Garden of Eden.  After the fall of Adam and Eve into sin (and death), when God pronounces judgment on the serpent, a promise of a coming “Seed” [7] is made by our LORD. This reference is commonly accepted as a Messianic prophecy (the protoevangelium – the first declaration of the gospel in the Bible) which instills hope and life for humanity in the midst of a statement of God’s judgment against the serpent.

Both the seed reference which Jesus gives in John 12:24 and the Seed reference in Gen. 3:15 may not initially connect directly to a third day reference for the reader until one realizes the fact that in the creation narrative, this cycle of reproduction itself (death and life in a seed) begins with seed-bearing plants and trees which bear fruit originating on the third day of creation. [8] The significance of this third day is further magnified and contrasted in the broader context of Genesis 1.  For God divides on Days 1 and 2 (i.e., light from darkness and the firmament from the waters).  God does not call the first two days, “good.”  On Day 3, rather than dividing, God gathers water, sets up a reproductive cycle and calls both “good.” This statement of “good” is significant. Prior to this reference, the only “good” thing was the light (1:4).  So, Day 3 contains the next two references to God’s declaration, “it was good.”  Thus far, the reader understands what is “good” is light (1:4), gathering the water (1:10) and the seed cycle of reproduction (1:12).  This is simply remarkable.  When read carefully along with Jesus’ statement in John 12:24, the learner can begin to see that the Creator is communicating a design and pattern that is “good,” and includes some intricate detail into His creation and literary work.  Fresh new life begins on day three when the Spirit inspires Moses to introduce and emphasize seed-bearing plants which produce life after entering the ground and dying. Thus, Jesus’ statement about Him being a seed which will produce much grain and fruit takes on deeper meaning in the context of the creative day 3.

If the reader only had that piece of information, it would not be sufficient to directly connect to a third day resurrection.  It is simply mystical.  In other words, there seems to be, perhaps, some connection with Messiah and the gospel illustration of a Seed or seed entering the ground and bringing forth resurrected life and new fruit.  Does the “goodness” of the third day hold significance?

Genesis 22

Thinking about the promise of the Seed, the question then arises, from where will this promised “Seed” come? Later, in Genesis 15:1-4, the LORD God reveals Himself to childless Abraham and promises a son.  While this son is not the promised Seed, a miracle does happen with this child’s birth after a long period of waiting.  After Isaac is born (Gen. 21), God tells Abraham to sacrifice his “only son Isaac, whom you love” on a mountain in Moriah. [9] Abraham takes his son, Isaac, and others on a journey to Moriah.  They arrive on the third day (Gen. 22:4).  When the boy Isaac asks his father where the lamb is for sacrifice, Abraham in faith answers, “God will provide for Himself the lamb.” [10] Because of the statement in Hebrews 11, we know Messiah was prefigured in this text. Abraham believed “God was able to raise him [Isaac, the son of promise] up, even from the dead, from which he also received him in a figurative sense.” [11] The author of Genesis tells us that Abraham sees and presumably arrives at the place of sacrifice on the third day of his journey. As Abraham is about to slay Isaac, God intervenes and provides a ram [12] for the sacrifice instead.

Surely this would have been a deeply emotional event since as a father, Abraham had waited years for his son of promise. He is so deeply impacted by the substitutionary sacrifice that verse 14 records that he names the place, Yahweh Yireh (The-LORD-Will-Provide). God provided a ram in Isaac’s place on the third day, and Abraham called the name of the place, “The-Lord-Will-Provide.” Again, the third day motif is clearly connected with an anticipation and prediction of the future Lamb of God which God will provide, Messiah.

Adam Clarke in his commentary quotes Henry Ainsworth on this passage about the third day, “’As the number Seven,’ says Mr. Ainsworth, ‘is of especial use in Scripture because of the Sabbath day, Genesis 2:2, so Three is a mystical number because of Christ’s rising from the dead the third day…’” [13] The point here being that the passage in Genesis 22 is Messianic, and that passage is joined with a third day motif – both Isaac and Jesus would arise to life, “on the third day.” [14]

Hosea 6:1-3

A third passage from the OT anticipating and predicting Messiah is found in the prophecy of Hosea. He writes insightfully, “Come, and let us return to the LORD; For He has torn, but He will heal us; He has stricken, but He will bind us up, (2) After two days He will revive us; On the third day He will raise us up, That we may live in His sight!” [15] Scholars debate whether this passage is a direct prophetic reference to Messiah’s resurrection. In the last paragraph of chapter 27, Mark F. Rooker in The World and the Word writes that Hosea 6:2 “may possibly be a reference to Jesus’ resurrection if in fact the nation is a type of the Messiah and represented by Him (1 Cor 15:4).” [16] C. Marvin Pate quotes Craig A. Evans who is more definitive, “The allusion of this passage [Hos. 6:2] in all probability derives from Jesus himself and not from the evangelist or early tradents searching for a scriptural warrant [for Jesus’ resurrection].” [17] Pate states, “we concur” with Evans’ conclusion. The references to healing us, reviving us, raising us up on the third day in order to live with Him (eternal life) certainly seems (in our present hindsight view of history) to point to our Lord’s resurrection with a third day reference. Additionally in 6:3, the prophet alludes to His “going forth” being established “as the morning” which is indicative of a morning resurrection.

Exodus 19

While there are other third day motif passages in the OT, [18] the final Scripture this essay will highlight is Exodus 19 where the law was given to Moses and Israel at Mount Sinai.  The contextual message of this chapter is rich in symbolism, comparisons and contrasts with Jesus’ resurrection and carries significant weight for the gospel. Tim Keller, when preaching a message on Exodus 19, establishes a very good argument that the gospel is found here at the giving of the law: 1. God’s undeserved grace (saving acts of the Lord – verse 4); 2. Response of obedience (v. 5a); and 3. Blessing of obedience (v. 5b-6a). [19] Keller quotes commentator, J. Alec Motyer, as writing, “The sequence of these central elements (in verses 4, 5 and 6) is extremely important for understanding the whole Bible. Nothing must ever be allowed to upset this formula.” [20] So, a crucial hermeneutical point should be made here:  in light of Jesus being full of grace and truth (John 1:14, 17), at the very giving of the law which came through Moses, the gospel of grace is firmly established first (19:4).

Later in chapter 19, the third day motif appears four times in three verses (11, 15 and 16). The emphasis of the first three references is a warning to the people to “be ready” for the LORD who will “come down” upon Mount Sinai on the third day. The final third day reference (verse 16) begins a description of the glorious phenomena preceding the LORD’s appearance in verse 18. Amazingly, most commentators researched make no connection with a third day resurrection. [21] Yet on the third day God clearly demonstrated to both Israel in the OT and to His disciples in the NT a visible and powerful display of His glory – the holy untouchable God in a theophany warning His people to stay away when first coming down on the mountain, and then His incarnate Son arising out of the grave in glorious display to be seen while encouraging His people (like Thomas) to touch Him in faith. The similarities seem to be an amazing representation of the shared message of God’s grace and holiness contrasted between the two covenants. There are other mystical, glorious contrasts and similarities Matthew describes, which are a bit beyond our purview. [22] Whether the passage specifically points to a third day resurrection might be questioned.  However, it greatly encourages this writer to see a glorious display in both testaments anticipating Messiah in the Old Testament and especially in connection with a third-day motif.

Even the writer of Hebrews follows the pattern of Jesus’ hermeneutical principle by exhorting “the Hebrews” (as well as any reader) with contrasts between Mount Sinai (which represents fear, darkness and death) and Mount Zion (which represents a festal gathering or assembly, heavenly descriptions, and “the city of the living God”) (Heb. 12:18-25).

The third day, Sunday, when Jesus was resurrected, was a Hebrew holy day, the Day of Firstfruits [23]. What significance does this have? Well, when the Bible begins in Genesis, the first word in Genesis 1:1-3 reads, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. (2) The earth was without form, and void; and darkness was on the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters. (3) Then God said, ‘Let there be light’; and there was light.”

In Hebrew the first word of Genesis 1:1 is (בְּרֵאשִׁ֖ית) B’Resheet (or another English spelling is B’reshith) [24]. The B is simply a preposition which means, “In.” The Hebrew word, Resheet, means “genesis” or “beginning.” So, in English we read B’Resheet as, “In genesis,” or “In the beginning.” So, what is the Day of Firstfruits called in Hebrew? Answer: Yom Resheet. Yom in Hebrew means “Day.” So, the Day of Firstfruits is literally translated as, “Day of Beginning.” That was the day that Jesus rose from the dead. Think about it – just like Genesis, God said, “Let there be light!” And from the dark, cold and void grave, the Light of the World (Jesus) came breaking forth from the tomb. He was the new beginning, the firstfruit – the power of both light and life. The resurrected Jesus is the first new creation, being completely and fully born again on the first day (Sunday), which is also ironically the eighth day.

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The number 7 is symbolic for perfection or completion. So, the number eight then, is a new beginning. Combine the above reality with the number 8 (eighth day) in the Old Testament where 8 represents “new beginnings.” For example, in Leviticus 9:1 on the 8th day the LORD appeared to Moses and Aaron (9:4) and He began the priestly ministry – just as Jesus begins His High Priestly ministry as the resurrected intercessor for mankind.

The first time eighth day is used is in Exodus 22:30 (also Lev. 22:27) when your young “oxen and your sheep” are to be given to the LORD on the eighth day after remaining with its mother for seven days. This act is a symbolic foreshadowing of Jesus being raised from the dead to the Father on Sunday. One might ask about why the animal was to be burned on the 8th day as Jesus certainly was not burned. This concept comes from Genesis 22 (mentioned earlier) when God asked Abraham on the third day to sacrifice His one and only son (see endnote 12-14).

A Hebrew boy was circumcised on the eighth day (Lev 12:3). Lepers, after cleansing, were to offer a sacrifice on the 8th day (Lev 14:10, 23), symbolizing the unclean leper being cleansed at the door of the tabernacle through Jesus. Thus, the church – the true spiritual tabernacle – would be ready to be birthed on Pentecost (Sunday) as a “new beginning” for the unity of the firstfruits. For these reasons and more, Christians today gather for worship on Sunday. It is representative of Jesus’ resurrection and our new beginnings or being a new creation in Christ (2 Cor. 5:17-19).

The number significance does not end there. Early church fathers knew of this significance and wrote about it, but rarely have people today researched it. Most people would rather remain with their old traditions that they were taught than really study what God’s word teaches. In one of his devotions, Jonathan Cahn draws a special comparison between the sixth day (Friday), when the first Adam was created. The day of man. That first Adam sinned. His works from the curse would result in the ground producing thorns and thistles – which bring pain, suffering, division, broken relationships and blood. How many churches suffer from divisions? Paul says that is a work of the flesh and those people who have a pattern of division within their churches cannot enter the kingdom of God (Gal. 5:20-21). The good news is that on what is today referred to as “Good Friday” (“good” because Jesus was reconciling the world to Himself), Jesus accepted our sin. It is the day the Son of Man was scourged, rejected and cursed and a twisted crown of thorns (symbolic of man’s twisted and perverted works of sin) was placed as a mockery on the head of the Creator who created the first Adam. Jesus wore it as His glory. He died for you.

Crown of Thorns were twisted (see Proverbs 19:3 NKJV) by the Roman soldiers and put it upon His head (John 19:2) to make a mockery of His claim to be a king. Jesus wore it as a crown of glory representative of being the 2nd Adam, paying for the curse of man’s works, which were thorns and thistles (see Genesis 3:17-18)

Jonathan Cahn also tells us about the curtain in the temple. In Exodus 26:31 God tells Moses to make veil (6-inch thick curtain in the 2nd temple) “woven of blue and purple and scarlet (red) yarn and fine linen thread. It shall be woven with an artistic design of cherubim” (type of angel which guarded the tree of life – Genesis 3:24). The colors are always mentioned in that order: blue, purple, red. When we look to heavens on a clear day we see bright blue. The Hebrew word Adam (man) comes from the Hebrew word for “red.” Scarlet red is also symbolic of sin and guilt. It is fascinating that purple is not a thread by itself, but made up of both blue and scarlet threads tightly woven together. God (in heaven, blue) and man (red clay on earth with sin) combined together in Christ who wore along with the crown of thorns, the purple robe. Blue, Purple, Scarlet was the temple curtain until it was torn into from top to bottom when Jesus died on the cross (Matthew 27:51). His resurrection combines within us, the temple of God – Man (Day 6), Jesus (our rest on the Sabbath, Day 7) and Jesus resurrected as God (Day 8). Blue, Purple, Red. We now are that temple of God. The colors are combined in us through the power of the resurrection – Blue (God in heaven), Purple (Jesus – the God man), Crimson or Scarlet (Sin of Man). Some interesting symbolism with the numbers:
Friday + Saturday + Sunday 6+7+8 = 21, which is also 7×3 (i.e, Perfection x 3 = Trinity)
The numbers for Sunday (1+3+8) = 12, which is the numbers 2 and 1 reversed, as well as the number of the disciples, the tribes of Israel and pillars in the new Jerusalem.

Jesus said He did this for the joy which was set before Him.  What kind of love and joy is this? To die for the worst of us? He bore our sin and shame for pagan, sinful humanity, for you. This Friday was the day the 2nd Adam is cursed so that Jesus can bring reconciliation (that is the heart of the cross) with joy, peace, unity, love and eternal life to all who will put their faith and trust in Him. The greatest news ever! That reconciliation is a gathering through the death of the Seed to reproduce life and fruit. That act is beautiful, perfect, pure love, and it demands a reciprocal response – believe Him completely, die to self and let those past beliefs go.  Fully put your trust in Jesus and you will find peace, joy and security, along with eternal life.  Jesus says He who believes in Me has passed from death to life! How can we ignore such a sacrifice? By His power in us we can love! By His power in us we can be conformed to Him to lay down our lives for others!


[1] 1 Cor. 15:3-4 (NKJV). It should be noted that some scholars point to certain phrases in 1 Corinthians 15 as evidence that the letter was written by Paul less than 20 years after the resurrection. For example, some of the “over five hundred brethren” who had seen the risen Christ at one time were still alive and could be inquired for their testimony (1 Cor. 15:6).

[2] Some reference the sparing of Isaac, Abraham’s son, from his sacrifice as a “resurrection” from certain death had God not intervened. This passage will be considered later in this essay.

“For I know that my Redeemer lives, and He shall stand at last on the earth; And after my skin is destroyed, this I know, that in my flesh shall I see God” (Job 19:25-26).

One reference about Messiah: Ps. 16:10 (NKJV). “For You (God) will not leave my soul in Sheol [the abode of the dead], Nor will You allow Your Holy One [Messiah] to see [undergo] corruption.”

“But God will redeem my soul from the power of the grave (Sheol), For He shall receive me.  Selah (Ps. 49:15).

Two references about resurrection in general: Isa. 26:19 (NKJV). “Your dead shall live…they shall arise…the earth shall cast out the dead.” Dan. 12:2 (NKJV). “…many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, some to shame and everlasting contempt.”

“For man goes to his eternal home.  Then the dust will return to the earth as it was, And the spirit shall return to God who gave it” (Eccles. 12:5e, 7).

The prophet Ezekiel’s vision of the dry bones coming to life (Ezek. 37:1-10).

“I will ransom them from the power of the grave (Sheol);  I will redeem them from death. O Death, I will be your plagues!  O Grave, I will be your destruction…” (Hosea 13:14).

Additionally, both Elijah (1 Kings 17:17-22) and Elisha (2 Kings 4:32-35; 13:20-21) miraculously raise dead bodies.

Finally, some see Jonah’s release from the large fish to be a type of a resurrection to which Jesus also refers (Jonah 2:6).

[3] C. Marvin Pate, 40 Questions About the Historical Jesus (Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, 2015), 343. See for example, “Palestinian Sandhedrin” 97A; “Babylonian Rosh Hashanah” 31A; “Palestinian Berakoth” 5.2; “Palestinian Sanhedrin” 11.6; “Midrash Rabbah” Esther 9.2 (on Esther 5:1); Genesis 56.1 (on Gen 22:4); Deuteronomy 7.6 (on Deut 26:12); Pirke de Rabbi Eleizer 51 (73b-74a).

[4] Matt. 12:39-40 (NKJV). It is worthy to note that Biblical scholars strongly debate whether Jesus was in the grave for 72 hours (i.e., a literal three days and three nights). C. Marvin Pate posits his answer in Question #38 in his book, 40 Questions. Additionally, Jonathan Cahn (a Messianic Jew and thus a believer in Christ who is from the tribe of Levi) provides various Biblical devotional insight in his popular book, The Book of Mysteries (see Day 47 and Day 124 amongst others). The three days / three nights controversy is addressed in Appendix 1 of this essay.

[5] John 2:19 (NKJV).

[6] John 12:24 (NKJV).

[7] Gen. 3:15 (NKJV).

[8] Gen. 1:11-13 (NKJV).

[9] Gen. 22:2 (NKJV). Jonathan Cahn in his insightful devotional book mentions that this is the first occurrence of the word “love” in the Bible. He also compares the requested sacrifice of Isaac, “whom you love” with the NT passage of God’s sacrifice of His Son, “God so loved the world that He gave His only Son” in John 3:16.  Interestingly, the word, “love” is not used in the Garden of Eden, but first used in relation to the child of promise.

Jonathan Cahn, The Book of Mysteries (Charisma House Book Group: Lake Mary, FL, 2016), Day 79.

[10] Gen. 22:8 (NKJV).

[11] Heb. 11:19 (NKJV).

[12] It is important to note that to Abraham God provided a “ram” (Heb, “ʹayil” #H352), not a lamb.  But in the future He would provide a “Lamb” for the sins of the world. This is significant as Abraham responded to Isaac’s question, “father…where is the lamb (or goat; Heb, “śey śȇy” #H7716) for a burnt offering?” Additionally, after the event happened on the third day, Abraham named the mountain, “The-Lord-Will-Provide,” not, “The-Lord-Has-(or Did) Provide” (past tense). Clearly, there was verbalized hope in yet a coming “lamb” to be a perfect sacrifice. Whether Abraham realized the significance or not of his naming of the mountain is inconsequential. The name he gave it became prophetic, as Mount Moriah eventually becomes Jerusalem where the “Lamb of God” was slain and sacrificed and then rose again the third day. In contrast, Abraham burned with fire the ram, perhaps prophetically picturing the ultimate conclusion of man’s imperfect offerings compared to God’s perfect Lamb which would give eternal life. In the Bible this is the beginning of the hell doctrine since the ram, caught in a thicket (symbolic of the entanglement and result of man’s works – see Genesis 3:17-18) was burned in fire. When Jesus is raised to life, wicked men who do not believe and trust in Him (representative of the ram caught in the thicket of his works) will be eternally separated from God through burning in hell as a just judgment for their sin and rejection of God’s sacrifice of His Son.

[13] Adam Clarke, “Genesis 22:4,” in Adam Clarke’s Commentary on the Old Testament (Parson’s Technology, Inc., Electronic Edition STEP Files, 1999). Clarke includes additional significant comments by Ainsworth about the third day motif throughout the OT. Ainsworth’s entire comments are attached in Appendix 4 of this essay (below).

[14] There are other Messianic comparisons in the story of Genesis 22 including the fact that Abraham saddled a donkey, the very same animal on which Jesus rode into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday.  Additionally, Abraham lays the wood for the sacrifice upon his son, Isaac, just as Jesus bore His own wooden cross on His back and carried it to His place of sacrifice.  Surely, as Abraham raises the knife to kill his son, Isaac must be thinking why his father would forsake him like this.  Similarly, as Jesus was nailed to the wooden cross, He cries out, “My God, my God, why have You forsaken Me?” Finally, it is this place where Abraham offers Isaac that both Jews and Muslims claim is where the temple mount is today in Jerusalem.

[15] Hosea 6:1-2 (NKJV).

[16] Eugene Merrill, Mark F. Rooker and Michael A. Grisanti, The World and the Word: An Introduction to the Old Testament (B&H Publishing Group: Nashville, TN, 2011), Chapter 27, Kindle location 14845.

[17] Pate, 40 Questions, 345.

[18] Other interesting Messianic references also occur about the resurrection and the third day. A search for the phrase, “third day” in the Old Testament reveals more than thirty references each in the KJV and NKJV. New Testament references are listed in Appendix 2 and Appendix 3 of this essay.  OT examples of this include:

Genesis 42:18 Joseph releases his brothers from prison on the third day.

Joshua 1:11 “Pass through the camp and command the people, saying, ‘Prepare provisions for yourselves, for within three days you will cross over this Jordan, to go in to possess the land which the Lord your God is giving you to possess.’”

2 Kings 20:5 “Return and tell Hezekiah the leader of My people, ‘Thus says the Lord, the God of David your father: “I have heard your prayer, I have seen your tears; surely I will heal you. On the third day you shall go up to the house of the Lord.”

Esther 4:16; 5:1 “Go, gather all the Jews who are present in Shusan and fast for me; nether eat nor drink for three days, night or day. My maids and I will fast likewise. And so I will go to the king which is against the law; and if I perish, I perish.” (5:1) “Now it happened on the third day that Esther put on her royal robes and stood in the inner court of the king’s palace, across from the king’s house, while the king sat on his royal throne in the royal house, facing the entrance of the house.” Esther is requesting corporate fasting for three days – either night OR day. This is not 72 hours. Additionally, she went in to the king on the third day. In other words, she didn’t wait until 72 hours was complete.

[19] Tim Keller, On the Mountain: The Terrifying and Beckoning God 2012 TGC Women’s Conference. Published March 24, 2014., (accessed March 3, 2019).

[20] Keller, On the Mountain, 13:35 min mark.

[21] Richard Patterson, in a paper on the third day motif, categorizes the third day phrase in Exodus 19 under the heading, “Special Spiritual Activity.” He describes the motif as pointing to “actions and matters that take place on a spiritual dimension,” as well as “distinctive” and “unique” things pointing to “important things to follow.”

Richard Patterson and Michael Travers, The Third Day Motif, (accessed April 16, 2019), Article 3, under heading “Special Spiritual Activity.”

[22] These are listed in Appendix 5 in this essay (below).

[23] I am indebted again to Jonathan Cahn for his beautiful insight into “The Day of Neogenesis” taken again from The Book of Mysteries, Day 300. The comparisons between Creation Day 1 and Resurrection Day are entirely his.

[24] The custom of the Near East, according to my Old Testament professor, Dr. Alan Moseley, was to title a book by the first word of the book. Thus, the book of Exodus in Hebrew is not “Exodus,” but in Hebrew it is, ve-eleh shemoth, translated into English would be “And These Are the Names” because that is the first words of that book in Hebrew. The book of “Exodus” was given its current name as we know it by today when the Septuagint (the Greek translation of the OT) was translated. Exodus means “exit” or “departure.”


Cahn, Jonathan. The Book of Mysteries. Lake Mary, FL: Charisma House Book Group. 2016.

Clarke, Adam. “Genesis 22:4.” Adam Clarke’s Commentary on the Old Testament, Electronic Ed. STEP Files, for Parsons Technology, Inc., QuickVerse, 1999.

Craig, William Lane. Jonah & Jesus: Three Days and Nights? YouTube Channel: drcraigvideos published March 24, 2017. Accessed April 21, 2019.

The Holy Bible, New King James Version. Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1983.

Keller, Tim. On the Mountain: The Terrifying and Beckoning God. 2012 TGC Women’s Conference. Published March 24, 2014. Accessed March 3, 2019.

Kostenberger, Andreas J. and Patterson, Richard D. For the Love of God’s Word, Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications. 2015.

Merrill, Eugene; Rooker, Mark F.; Grisanti, Michael A. The World and the Word: An Introduction to the Old Testament. B&H Publishing Group. Kindle Edition, 2011.

Pate, C. Marvin. 40 Questions About the Historical Jesus. Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, 2015.

Patterson, Richard, and Travers, Michael. “Article 3.” The Third Day Motif. Accessed April 16, 2019.

Appendix 1

Are the “Three Days and Three Nights” Referred to by Jesus to be Understood as 72 Hours?

There are a few significant factors we need to consider when interpreting any Scripture:

1. We must approach God’s word carefully, humbly and respectfully. Kostenberger and Patterson explain it this way, “There is therefore an important ethical dimension in [Biblical] interpretation. We should engage in interpretation responsibly, displaying respect for the text and its author. The ‘golden rule’ of interpretation requires that we extend the same courtesy to any text or author that we would want others to extend to our statements or writings (Matt 7:21). This calls for respect not only for the intentions of the human authors of Scripture but ultimately for God who chose to reveal himself through the Bible by his Holy Spirit.”

2. We need to know (at least a little) something about “the third day” as presented in both the Old and New Testaments (see Scriptures in Appendices 2 and 3).

3. We need to know something about the Jewish mindset and Hebrew language before interpreting the passage.

4. We need to utilize a literal hermeneutic interpretation of Scripture. A “literal hermeneutic” simply means, “that a biblical text is to be interpreted according to the ‘plain meaning’ conveyed by its grammatical construction and historical context. The literal meaning is held to correspond to the intention of the authors.” This interpretation seeks to respect the author’s and Spirit’s intent of the passage under review.

5. Finally, there is a blessing when utilizing these steps. Jesus clearly stated that truth sets a person free (John 8:32). Will we permit and submit to allowing the Bible interpreting the Bible? Or will we put our own western, American or 21st century views and reckoning into the Scripture as we read it?  We must read it as the Spirit intended it.

Let’s first look at the language Jesus used in the New Testament. Jesus used various literary devices to get His point across or to make things easy to remember for an oral audience. Only a few examples of these literary devices are listed below:

A. Similie (uses “like” or “as”): Matt 24:27 “For as the lightning comes from the east to the west…”

B. Metaphor – Matt 5:13 “You are the salt of the earth…” The 7 “I AM” statements in John.

C. Synecdoche – part is substituted for the whole. For example, Matt 6:11 “Give us this day, our daily bread.” We’re not praying just for bread, but our daily provisions of food or other things. In Rom 10:15 Paul wrote, “how beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news…” It is not just the evangelists’ literal feet that are beautiful.

D. Idioms – are a group of words established by usage as having a meaning not deducible from those of the individual words. For example, “sleep” is an idiom used in the Bible for death; “breathing his last” is used as an idiom for dying in Acts 5:5. Another example is Malachi 1:2-3 God “hates” Esau, but loves Jacob. Perhaps the idea of “hate” here is an idiom. It is difficult to say with 100% accuracy in this example. Idioms are not to be interpreted literally.

E. Exaggeration – Jesus often used exaggeration to make a teaching point – “gouging out” your eye for lusting. Matt 26:52 “all (see next paragraph for a brief discussion on the word, “all”) who take up the sword will perish by the sword.” Is that 100%? It is exaggerated for effect. It helps people remember. Jesus says, for example, in Mark 13:1-2 “…not one stone will be left on another” (referring to the coming destruction of the temple), does that literally mean not one stone? It probably means “utter destruction.” How else would you say it? “99.6% of this temple will be destroyed.” Jesus seems to be using exaggeration to get His point across.

Another more challenging reference is when the word, “all” is used. Does the word “all” always literally mean 100% all? Luke 2:1 “all the world be registered.” That simply could not be taken literally – “all” the world? It was a literary device used by Luke to refer to only the Roman world. Or, Matt 2:3; 3:5 “all of Jerusalem was troubled…” does not mean every last citizen in Jerusalem was troubled. On the other hand, the word, “all” certainly can literally mean in some contexts, 100% all.

There are other literary devices used not only in the gospels but throughout the Bible. The parables themselves are a fascinating study.

Second, let’s consider how the Old Testament Hebrew language uses the third day. There is a clear pattern of God’s victory and release for His people on the third day. In this paper we have been reviewing a third day motif in the Old Testament. An interpreter should look at all the phrases in the Old Testament where “third day” is found. How is the motif and language used? As stated above in the paper (prior to footnote #3) Jewish interpreters are aware of a third day motif. It is clear that on the third day freedom, healing, release from prison, and victory are part of God’s story. According to Jewish writing and thought, a rigid 72 hours did not need to be completed prior to God’s deliverance, healing or victory. That assumption of third day continues into the New Testament.

Finally, Christian apologist, William Lane Craig, follows these steps above. He has a concise but sufficient answer for this question. His answer can be found at Points are summarized below. I have added words for clarity and set my words off with brackets [  ].

“Obviously, there were not 3 days and 3 nights between Friday and Sunday morning [as we reckon time]. This [phrase, “three days and three nights] is an idiom in Jewish language that is variously expressed. Sometimes [the Bible] will say, “Jesus rose after three days.” More often it will say that Jesus rose, “on the third day.” And in Jewish reckoning the day begins at sundown at 6 o’clock. So, if Jesus is placed in the tomb on Friday afternoon before sundown, before 6, and then He was in the grave on Saturday. Then rose sometime after 6 pm on Saturday or Sunday morning, that [resurrection] is on the third day according to Jewish reckoning. Indeed, if Jesus were interred at 4 o’clock on Friday and raised at 7 o’clock Saturday night, the Jew would say He was raised on the third day.”

“So, these expressions are simply Jewish idioms which are drawn from the Old Testament expressing the time of Jesus’ resurrection. I think it is an indirect reference to the time of the women’s visit. It was on the third day, after the crucifixion, that the women came and found the tomb empty. So, naturally, the resurrection itself came to be dated on the third day [Luke 24:21 clarifies Sunday as “the third day”]. It’s simply an idiom to pick up the Jonah story, that Jesus like Jonah was in the ground for three days and three nights. It shouldn’t be pressed for literality. It’s an idiom. The use of the third day motif is a theologically significant motif. When you look at how that phrase is used in the OT, again and again, it’s on the third day that God delivers Israel from distress. The third day is God’s deliverance and victor. So, calling the date of the resurrection “on the third day” is a way of saying this is God’s day of deliverance and victory.

In conclusion, it is difficult to see how the “three days and three nights” can be taken literally with the overwhelming evidence of the third day motif in the OT, as well as the overwhelming descriptors carrying over into the New Testament,  “on the third day,” “within three days,” “in three days” or similar language, and finally, the abundance of literary devices Jesus used in the gospels. Jesus often spoke in such language that even the disciples grew weary of it and asked Him to speak plainly (Matt. 13:10; John 16:25, 29). So, the “three days and three nights” in Matt 12 does not literally mean 72 hours. Given our research, not only does the phrase mean parts of three days, but that one phrase interpreted literally as 72 hours makes numerous other passages difficult to interpret (Luke 24:21 and any passage which states “on the third day” or “the third day”).

Regardless of these notes, literary devices do NOTHING to compromise the validity and truth of the Bible as God-inspired. In fact, God’s creativity and poetic use of language in places in the Bible accentuates His abilities to hide truth, create a literary masterpiece, and sovereignly bring His words to pass, all while glorifying Himself.

Appendix 2

New Testament References to “Three Days

The phrase “three days” occurs 17 times in these verses in the NKJV and 19 times in KJV (KJV adds two passages in Revelation chapter 11:9, 11 which refer to the two witnesses).

1. Matt 12:40 “For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.”
2. Matt 15:32 referring to the multitudes being without food.
3. Matt 26:61 “…and said, “This fellow said, ‘I am able to destroy the temple of God and to build it in three days.’””
4. Matt 27:40 “…and saying, “You who destroy the temple and build it in three days, save Yourself! If You are the Son of God, come down from the cross.””
5. Matt 27:63 “saying [to Pilate], “Sir, we remember, while He was still alive, how that deceiver said, ‘After three days I will rise.’”
6. Mark 8:2 referring to the multitudes being without food.
7. Mark 8:31 “And He began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things, and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again.”
8. Mark 14:58 “We heard Him say, ‘I will destroy this temple made with hands, and within three days I will build another made without hands.’””
9. Mark 15:29 “And those who passed by blasphemed Him, wagging their heads and saying, “Aha! You who destroy the temple and build it in three days,”
10. Luke 2:46 after three days Jesus as a child was in the temple.
11. John 2:19 “Jesus answered and said to them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.””
12. John 2:20 “Then the Jews said, “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and will You raise it up in three days?”
13. – 17. The remaining five references are in Acts and have nothing to do with the resurrection.

Appendix 3

New Testament References to the “Third Day

“The third day” is a phrase used in the New Testament especially of Jesus’ death and resurrection. A search of the New Testament for the phrase, “third day” reveals 16 passages each in KJV and NKJV. All but two of the 16 passages in the NT refer to Jesus’ resurrection on the third day. One other one (John 2:1) refers to a wedding day in Cana of Galilee where Jesus’ first miracle occurred, turning the water into wine. It can be argued that this specific “third day” miracle was also a precursor to His third day resurrection when joy would be brought to the full and Jesus would inaugurate His wedding with the Church body.

1. Matt 16:21 “From that time Jesus began to show to His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised the third day.”

2. Matt 17:23 “…and they will kill Him, and the third day He will be raised up.” And they were exceedingly sorrowful.”

3. Matt 20:19 “…and deliver Him to the Gentiles to mock and to scourge and to crucify. And the third day He will rise again.”

4. Matt 27:64 “Therefore command that the tomb be made secure until the third day, lest His disciples come by night and steal Him away, and say to the people, ‘He has risen from the dead.’ So the last deception will be worse than the first.”

5. Mark 9:31 “For He taught His disciples and said to them, “The Son of Man is being betrayed into the hands of men, and they will kill Him. And after He is killed, He will rise the third day.””

6. Mark 10:34 ““…and they will mock Him, and scourge Him, and spit on Him, and kill Him. And the third day He will rise again.””

7. Luke 9:22 “…saying, “The Son of Man must suffer many things, and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised the third day.”

8. Luke 13:32 “And He said to them, “Go, tell that fox [Herod], ‘Behold, I cast out demons and perform cures today and tomorrow, and the third day I shall be perfected.’”

9. Luke 18:33 “They will scourge Him and kill Him. And the third day He will rise again.”

10. Luke 24:7 “…saying, ‘The Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again.’”

11. Luke 24:21 “But we were hoping that it was He who was going to redeem Israel. Indeed, besides all this, today (Sunday) is the third day since these things happened.”

12. Luke 24:46 “Then He said to them, “Thus it is written, and thus it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead the third day,

13. John 2:1-4On the third day there was a wedding in Cana of Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. 2 Now both Jesus and His disciples were invited to the wedding. 3 And when they ran out of wine, the mother of Jesus said to Him, “They have no wine.””

14. Acts (written by Luke) 10:40 “Him God raised up on the third day, and showed Him openly,”

15. Acts 27:19 refers to Paul’s shipwreck.

16. 1 Cor 15:4 “…and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures,”

Appendix 4

The Third Day

“As the number Seven,” says Mr. Ainsworth, “is of especial use in Scripture because of the Sabbath day, Genesis 2:2, so Three is a mystical number because of Christ’s rising from the dead the third day, Matthew 17:23; 1 Corinthians 15:4; as he was crucified the third hour after noon, Mark 15:25: and Isaac, as he was a figure of Christ, in being the only son of his father, and not spared but offered for a sacrifice, Romans 8:32, so in sundry particulars he resembled our Lord: the third day Isaac was to be offered up, so it was the third day in which Christ also was to be perfected, Luke 13:32; Isaac carried the wood for the burnt-offering, Genesis 22:6, so Christ carried the tree whereon he died, John 19:17; the binding of Isaac, Genesis 21:9, was also typical, so Christ was bound, Matthew 27:2. “In the following remarkable cases this number also occurs. Moses desired to go three days’ journey in the wilderness to sacrifice, Exodus 5:3; and they traveled three days in it before they found water, Exodus 15:22; and three days’ journey the ark of the covenant went before them, to search out a resting place, Numbers 10:33; by the third day the people were to be ready to receive God’s law, Exodus 19:11; and after three days to pass over Jordan into Canaan, Joshua 1:14; the third day Esther put on the apparel of the kingdom, Esther 5:1; on the third day Hezekiah, being recovered from his illness, went up to the house of the Lord, 2 Kings 20:5; on the third day, the prophet said, God will raise us up and we shall live before him, Hosea 6:2; and on the third day, as well as on the seventh, the unclean person was to purify himself, Numbers 19:12: with many other memorable things which the Scripture speaks concerning the third day, and not without mystery. See Genesis 40:12, 13; 42:17, 18; Jonah 1:17; Joshua 2:16; unto which we may add a Jew’s testimony in Bereshith Rabba, in a comment on this place: There are many Three Days mentioned in the Holy Scripture, of which one is the resurrection of the Messiah.”—Ainsworth.

Appendix 5

The Gospel Writer, Matthew, Contrasts and Compares Similar Events Between the Giving of the Law and the Resurrection

Matthew intentionally uses various descriptions throughout his gospel to show that Jesus is fulfilling Moses as “the new Moses.” These descriptions between Matthew’s gospel account of the resurrection and the giving of the law are not accidental, but rather are part of Matthew’s intention to support his idea that Jesus is the new Moses. This subject is better covered in, 40 Questions about The Historical Jesus by C. Marvin Pate, p.267 (see question #28 – “What Is the Main Message of Matthew about Jesus?”). Below are some the comparisons between Exodus 19 and Matthew’s resurrection account.

Exodus 19:11 “And let them be ready for the third day. For on the third day the LORD will come down upon Mt Sinai in the sight of all the people.” Now this was strange because in the Ancient Near East (ANE) every city of significant size had a ziggurat (pyramids with steps) in the city in which the pagan priest would climb the stairs to the top of the ziggurat to offer sacrifices and earn favor with the gods. A demonstration of the works of man to sacrifice, appease and call out to pagan gods.

Mt. Sinai is a ziggurat in the wilderness where Moses went up, but God came down. In all other religions, mankind goes up to earn favor with pagan gods, but here the one true God warns Moses and the people He is coming down.

1. A. Giving of the Law – Exodus 19:11, 20 Then the LORD came down upon Mount Sinai, on the top of the mountain on the third day in the sight of all the people.
1.B. Resurrection – the LORD was crucified and seen by all and then arose and was seen by people on the third day (Luke 24:19, 21).

2.A. Law – Exodus 19:12, 23 “You shall set bounds for the people all around, saying, ‘Take heed to yourselves that you do not go up to the mountain or touch its base. Whoever touches the mountain shall surely be put to death.'” When the law came down, it set boundaries and brought death with it. “Set bounds around the mountain!”
2.B. Resurrection – Before Jesus was raised from the dead, men made the tomb secure, sealed the stone (setting boundaries) and set the guard (Matt 27:66). When Jesus arose, He conquered our enemy (death) once and for all! It was Roman guards who became like dead men (Matt 28:4). After Jesus arose, dead people arose from their graves (Matt 27:52) and liberty and freedom from death and sin came (Gal 5:1, 13).

3.A. Law – Exodus 19:13 “Not a hand shall touch him (the person that touches the mountain in any way), but he shall surely be stoned or shot with an arrow, whether man or beast, he shall not live.”

3.B. Resurrection – When Mary was crying in the garden at the tomb, the risen Jesus spoke to her!!! When considering the holiness of God contrasted through the lens of the law, this is amazing! “Mary!” She had such an intimate relationship with Jesus, she recognized His voice immediately! “Rabboni!” She saw the risen Christ in the Garden by the tomb when Jesus (probably politely and gently) told Mary not to cling to Him for He had not yet ascended to His Father. (John 20:15-16) “And as they went to tell His disciples, behold, Jesus met them, saying, ‘Rejoice!’ [which is contrasted to the natural fear in Exodus and when seeing a risen Jesus] And they came and held Him by the feet (contrast that to not touching the base of the mountain) and worshiped Him” (Matt 28:9). Jesus allowed the touching (He told Thomas to put his hand in His side and do it while believing). We can now approach God! What great, awesome and joyful news!

4.A. Law – Exodus 19:10, 14 “Then the LORD said Moses, ‘Go to the people and sanctify them today and tomorrow, and let them wash their clothes.'” v. 14 “Then Moses went down from the mountain to the people and sanctified the people, and they washed their clothes.”
4. B. Resurrection – At the resurrection, the clothing of the descended angel was “as white as snow” (Matt 28:3). The fine linen (clean and bright) is given (a gift) to the saints. “The linen is the righteous acts of the saints” (Rev 19:8). This linen is imputed righteous works (“which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them” – Eph 2:10b) as a result of grace through faith for the saints, not our own doing. It’s one reason the church at Sardis has filthy garments, because their works were not perfect (i.e. they trusted in their own works and obedience to the law), thus dirtying the clean and bright (righteous robes) of Jesus Christ. Jesus warns these people in His church who “defile their garments” with self-effort law and obedience instead of obeying from a heart of love from Him (1 John 4:19-21) to, “Repent! and you shall walk with Me in white, for they are worthy.” The only way to be worthy is to be counted worthy by God. These in Sardis have a name that they’re alive, but they are about to die because they trust their obedience more than trusting Jesus Christ. Repent! He who overcomes (the self and its Pharisaical works of the law which Paul said was like dung – Phil 3:7-8), that overcomer SHALL (no stronger legal term than that) be clothed in white garments.” (Rev 3:1-5)

5.A. Law – Exodus 19:16 “Then it came to pass on the third day in the morning, that there were thunderings and lightnings, and a thick cloud on the mountain; and the sound of the trumpet was very loud, so that all the people who were in the camp trembled.”
5.B. Resurrection – The giving of the law brought death and FEAR. While there was fear by the disciples at the tomb, the perfect love of Jesus Christ casts out fear (1 John 4:18). The angels and Jesus commanded the women and disciples to REJOICE!!! Matthew describes the descended angel’s countenance as “like lightning.”

When I Don’t Desire God (Part 2)

Too many people here in Uganda want to come to America – land of opportunity – to solve their problems.  It’s their answer to their problems.  I am like my Ugandan brothers, I desired an experience. I desired God’s blessings.  I desired God’s gifts.  I desired means of grace.  Yet those were not satisfying.  Only God satisfies.  Experience, blessings, obedience only satisfy for a moment.  I was not desiring God.

One of my most pressing questions for years has been, “How much prayer is enough?”  I saw in Scripture where people prayed for a long time – Jesus prayed all night when choosing His disciples, but Elijah prayed a simple prayer and it didn’t rain for 3 ½ years.

So I was looking for the right amount of prayer for _______ (fill in the blank).  If it took X number of hours, that’s OK.  If I wanted the thing badly enough, I just needed to put the time in.  We saw in the last post, we still have to put that time in, but how God answers is up to Him (for example, Psm 127:1).  Relationships really do not have formulas – just ask my wife.

So my experience with God was one like a store owner (God) and a shopper (me).  My job was put the work in to find out the right currency the store owner requires (that could be sacrifice, offerings, obedience, hard work, prayer, Bible study, faith, etc.), then find out the right amount required for my need (blessing, assurance of some protection, healing, gift, etc.).  That’s where I had the problem – how much was enough?

From what I can tell from Scripture God wants more than just to give us blessings or gifts, He desires to give Himself to us.  Is that not what He did when He saved us?  Sure He provides blessings, assurances, healings, gifts, etc., but more than anything else, He desires that we know and receive His Son.

So all of life’s problems: marriage problems, financial pressures, loss and grief, frustrations, addictions, failure, mistakes, sin, etc. He wants us to turn to Him. Depend upon Him.  Trust Him.  Not just for the blessings, not just for the release of the difficulty, but so that we, through the difficulties of taking up our cross may yield to Him; experience what He experienced and live in faith as He lived so that He is strong in our weakness.

While we desire to be released from the troubles, He may want to reveal His glory through those troubles.  This is easier said than done.  In fact, we can’t do it, but the best news of all is that Jesus can!  Run to Him.  Invite Him for a coffee and just chat.  Keep spending time with Him and He will change your life.

What Depth of Intimacy Is Desired?

What type relationship do we desire to have with God?  The Bible describes various relationships that God has with His creation, the relationship corresponds to a level of intimacy with God.  These should not be viewed as complete or authoritative – it’s just my thoughts.  At which level of intimacy do we desire most with God?  Our answers are revealed in how we respond and relate to God.

God as Creator – this relationship is foundational, but not salvational.  This relationship acknowledges God as Creator.  It seems many people in the world are at this level, but God calls us to a deeper intimacy with Him.  Some agnostics perhaps are here, admitting a Creator, but not relating to Him.  They may have been wounded by God and are upset with Him.  A Biblical example is Adam & Eve or Cain.  Other religious people are here, too – acknowledging there is a Creator.  James writes, “You believe there is One God. You do well.  Even the demons believe – and tremble” (James 2:19).  Focus here may be on the moral law (10 commandments) and sometimes religious and/or political activity far outweighs any deeper relationship with God.  Saved people certainly recognize God at this level and relate to Him, but their on-going relationship is much deeper.

God as Provider – this relationship is based on God meeting our basic needs as His creation.  God relates to people at this level by what some Christians call “common grace.”  God provides His common grace to all men and women; things such as rain, growing food, etc.  God clothes the lilies of the field and feeds the birds of the air.  To relate to God at this level is just to receive His common blessings.  The Creation is at this level as the creation depends on God’s provisions.  Thus those who turn from the Lord are confused.   If these people do not move to Jesus as Savior, they will not be saved and will know God in the final sense as a Righteous Judge (Gen 18:25; Psm 50:6; 75:7; Acts 10:42).

Slave or Servant / Master – this relationship varies in the Bible and seems a bit complex.  It seems to include both general believers in “God” (not saved) and saved believers – those trusting Jesus for salvation.  Jesus says about this relationship that a slave does not abide in the master’s house forever, but a son abides forever (John 8:35).  The parable of the talents describes a lord and his servants.  One was lazy and was cast out.  When the disciples desired to have Jesus increase their faith, Jesus gave a parable (Matt 17:5-10) that related to their level of intimacy at the time – a servant does what his Master tells him to do and then he is considered an unprofitable servant. Later, just before the cross, the disciples would be called “friends” (John 15:15).  Paul muddies the waters of my thoughts on this a bit when he writes in Romans about salvation that we are no longer slaves to sin, but slaves to God (Rom 6:19).  Sometimes legalism (letter of the law obedience, which Paul says results in death 2 Cor 3:6) can rule a person’s relationship with God at this level.  Whether that person is saved or not depends on God’s working, which will produce fruit.

Sheep / Shepherd – Welcome to the flock.  The very basic relationship where a new creation in Christ seems to “normally” begin – if that makes sense.  Sheep are not very smart animals and need lots of care.  They are spiritually immature and tend to stray.  They are almost totally dependent upon the Shepherd.  Jesus assures the sheep that if one goes astray, He as the good Shepherd will leave the 99 to go search out the one lost sheep.  He also offers assurance to the sheep, which are easily spooked and scared, that He gives them eternal life, they shall never perish, and no one can snatch one of these from His hand (John 10:28).

God as Friend – James challenges the worldly, immature believer to the level of friend by stating, “friendship with the world is enmity with God.”  At the friend level is where a real relationship is started.  Trust is established and built.  The individual gains confidence in his walk with God.  He talks to God, not just when in trouble, but relates on a more intimate level.  God also relates to His friend on a more intimate level, and provides more revelation.  Jesus said, “No longer do I call you servants, for a servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things I heard from My Father I have made known to you” (John 15:15).  Communication amongst friends is intimate.  Abraham was a friend of God (Genesis 18:17; James 2:23).  Friendships are sometimes tested by challenges that arise.

Child / Father – “Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us that we should be called the children of God” (1 John 3:1).  This relationship is one of much deeper intimacy than all the others prior.  Jesus draws analogies of son and Father: in asking for help in Matt 7:7-11; prodigal son in Luke 15; as well as heirs.  Paul does the same by writing, we cry “Abba, Father.” (Rom 8:15).  The term “born again” can be applied here.  Peter describes this relationship as “born (past tense) of incorruptible seed” (1 Peter 1:23).  So following the level of intimacy and analogy, a child is “in.”  While their salvation is secure, discipline and pain will be a reality, too for misbehaving children (Heb 12:5-12).  There can be tendencies at this level of intimacy for the child toward legalism as the child matures.  The child should seek to mature to a much deeper level of intimacy, confidence and trust with the Father.

Wife / Husband – The church in general is referred to as the “bride of Christ.”  The bride has made herself ready.  Hosea.  Paul tells husbands to love their wives as Christ loved the church (Eph 5).  Jesus came to earth to marry His church / bride, but was cut off.  There will be a wedding supper in heaven for his bride called “The Marriage Supper of the Lamb” (Rev 19:9) where Jesus will drink the final cup of the Passover meal with His bride (Luke 22:17-18).  A bride follows her husband’s lead out of love and focuses on the love her husband has for her (Eph 5:25-27).  The relationship, though founded on legal terms, is not lived out day to day from obedience and the perspective of a legal relationship.  Mutual love and respect make a marriage.  Obedience and legalism destroy a marriage.

God as Intimate Lover – seeing God face to face (Psm 27:8; 17:15; 41:12; 105:4; 1 John 3:2-3).  Intimacy (SS 1:1-4); A betrothed virgin waiting for her husband to return. The rose of Sharon; the lily of the valley (SS 2:1); being filled with the Spirit (Eph 5:18); Rejoicing in the Lord (Isa 61:10; Psm 33:1; Phil 4:4); Gladness in the Heart; Getting to know Jesus very intimately and sharing in His suffering (Matt 5:12) – He becomes treasured above everything else.  His voice is easily recognized (SS 5:2); His features well known (SS 5:10-16 & Rev 1:13-18).  Perhaps some of these won’t be attained until we’re glorified.

These are created from my own thoughts, although years ago I read something that vaguely referenced some of these levels of intimacy, but I honestly do not remember where.  I’m sure these levels are different and do not match what I read.  Theologically, I’m sure it’s quite scattered and dangerous, but might provide a bit of insight.  All the best!


Police Sergeant Polhaus:  “Heavy.  What is it?”

Detective Sam Spade:  “The, uh, stuff that dreams are made of.”

Police Sergeant Polhaus:  “Huh?”

Last lines of the 1941 film, The Maltese Falcon

In the movie, The Maltese Falcon, which Roger Ebert names as one of the greatest films of all time, Humphrey Bogart plays cold, hard detective Sam Spade who is suspected by police of murder.  It is difficult to miss how Spade’s name fittingly describes his character.

As the movie opens, the falcon is shown by light angled from a corner casting the bird’s dark shadow on a wall.  The movie begins by giving a brief history of the figurine and describing it as “a Golden Falcon encrusted from beak to claw with rarest jewels.”

In the movie, the falcon serves as a MacGuffin.  MacGuffins are used in fictional writing as an object that acts as a plot device and motivator for the characters throughout the story.  When a fictional story contains a MacGuffin, the protagonist and other characters in the story are willing to do almost anything to pursue, protect, sacrifice or control the object.

The MacGuffin causes the characters to be consumed by their passions.  MacGuffins can also be more abstract as in an idea, belief or philosophy, but that is beyond the scope of this post.  Two famous tangible MacGuffins include the Ark of the Covenant in Raiders of the Lost Ark and the one ring in the trilogy, Lord of the Rings.

As Michelle and I pack up, store, sell, trash and get rid of much of our “stuff” (see photo) I am reminded that our “stuff” is what dreams are made of.  I remember one day in Pasadena, CA where Michelle and I met and dated, that we looked into one another’s eyes and Michelle told me that I was the one she wanted to grow old with.  After marriage we began building our dreams with “stuff” – little things that reminded us of our lives together, which grew into larger stuff such as pictures, collections, furniture, vehicles, a mobile

home and a house. [Continued below picture]

Mark standing with some of his "stuff."

Mark standing with some of his and Michelle’s “stuff.”

That “stuff” holds power over us.  We cannot let “stuff” (material things) control our lives – yet if you are like us, we do it all too often.  What is it we would have difficulty parting with?  Is it a memento?  A collectible?  A treasure?  A person?

If you’ve watched the television show, “Hoarders” you have seen “stuff” on steroids to the point it becomes a form of mental illness.  It is sad to watch people desperately hold on to things and fear letting go of it.  Our tendency is to claim, “I’m not that bad.”  Yet when we start to part with something, a little voice goes off in our heads, “I need that.”  Or “It means so much to me.”

As in life, in the last scene of The Maltese Falcon the iconic falcon turns out to be a fake.  Yet the figurine was used by the writers to illuminate the hearts of the characters in the story.  Through the entire movie the characters pursued what they thought would bring happiness and security to their lives, while in reality it was only a fake, not genuine, a hoax and a deceitful glimmer.

In the closing scene, police sergeant Polhaus picks up the heavy Maltese falcon, turns to Bogart and says, “Heavy.  What is it?”  Bogart responds with a line that according to some websites he actually came up with on the set that is borrowed from Scene IV of Shakespeare’s The Tempest, “The, uh, stuff that dreams are made of.”

The movie teaches a great lesson.  In life we need to search for the truth and not chase illusive dreams that hold no value or substance, and in the end are fraudulent fakes.  Webster’s online dictionary defines Truth as “in accordance with the actual state of things, real, genuine, pure, faithful, unwavering, conformable to fact.”

An amazing statement was made one time, “I am the way, the truth and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through Me.” (John 14:6)  Jesus was saying in our language today, “I AM the real deal.  I am genuine.  You can trust me.  I am faithful and unwavering.  I am not a fake or fairy tale like the Tooth Fairy or Santa Claus.”

God did not leave His creation with some intangible, abstract teachings found in religion or philosophy.  He went well beyond that – He sent His son.  Truth became a person – tangible and real.

The “stuff” that reality is made of is Jesus, the Rock of Salvation upon Whom you can put your trust and rest from the stuff in the world.  He loves you and desires a relationship with you.  He will change your life and your world.


Weakness Is Strength


I think most people realize the plight of Uganda – the country where we will be moving soon.  Uganda faces incredible challenges such as sickness, disease, poverty and squalor.  In Uganda the United States is recognized as a strong economic country where good health, opportunity, success, pleasure, food and fun exist.  Some of the Ugandan people believe, “If we could only get to the United States, our lives would be much better, much happier.”

But is that belief true?  During the time of the prophet Isaiah, it was Egypt that was the Land of Opportunity, the Land of Success, the Land of Security.  God warns Israel through the prophet Isaiah in chapter 30 of depending upon and trusting in other nations (Egypt, in Israel’s case) for their strength, defense and hope. 

Like modern day Ugandans, have we trusted in the values and principles of the United States to solve our problems?  Have we trusted in the values of our own “land” and society to bring us happiness, comfort and peace?  Just as God warned Israel then, He warns us (Ugandans, Americans and others) today about that false sense of security and peace found in trusting other things, other countries, other religions, other values and institutions, instead of Him.

God promises in Isaiah when we turn and come to see the reality of God’s love and care for us, “Then you will destroy all your silver idols and your precious gold images.  You will throw them out like filthy rags, saying to them, “Good riddance!” (Isaiah 30:22 NLT)

When God’s love is fully realized and accepted, He becomes our everything.  He is our source of strength, no matter where we live.  No matter our plight or situation.

God’s Kingdom is about our weakness finding His strength.  If you have about 10 minutes, click on this link to watch a video about God’s “upside down Kingdom” – a Kingdom where God’s strength (no ours, not our nation’s) is exalted.


In all the hustle and bustle of preparing to leave for Uganda, I am reminded that we are going to a nation where 1/2 of it’s citizens are under the age of 16.  Many fatherless and motherless.  My Dad took a few moments this morning to gently remind me of Who He is through scores of His promises written in His Word.  Remember your Dad loves you deeply! 

If you have 12 minutes to hear scores of promises from your heavenly Father to you, I think you will be encouraged.  Take a few minutes in your quiet time today or this weekend to reflect on the promises and love of your heavenly Father.

Faith Is Taking One Day at a Time

Not too long ago I had the privilege of talking to “Faith.”  Faith is a forty-something single mom and former addict. When I arrived in the room where Faith was, she was sitting in the corner and remained quiet. I actually walked past her, not noticing her. I’ve known Faith now for about 4 years. Her life before that time was not the most desirable. She struggled and scrapped by day by day, while she resisted the pleas and harassment of her grown children who have their own set of serious problems and issues – seeking the pleasures and material things of life while struggling with habitual sins that bring only frustration, discouragement, jail time and lack of peace.

When I originally met Faith, years of abuse and hard living had been indelibly etched into her countenance.  Yet it was around this time that she had recognized her bad decisions and wanted to leave her past behind her. I didn’t know Faith very well, but she said the right words – that she was trusting in Jesus as her Savior and asked our pastor to baptize her. Our pastor, encouraged to see the light of the Gospel and a glimmer of faith, gladly performed the baptism. In fact, he asked Faith if she would share her story, which she nervously did in front of the congregation one Sunday.

I couldn’t help but question in the back of my mind about the sincerity of Faith’s situation. Having volunteered and worked in the prison environment for years, I have been hardened to numerous jailhouse confessions, lies and recommitments of addicts and habitual offenders.  I pitied Faith because her situation was so bad, and I had little hope for her.  She was like many addicts – desperately trying to get out of a desperate situation. And who could help her?  Although I was happy for her, her words seemed a bit artificial to me.

About a year after being baptized I ran into Faith again.  I asked her how she was doing and she mentioned that she had been experiencing some pain in her abdominal area. She was hurting. She was afraid of going to the doctor, but ultimately had to surrender. I found out later, after a few visits she was given the bad news – cancer. Years of hard living had taken its toll on her body.  I remember leaving that conversation sobered by the reality of what it must be like to have a doctor give you that news.  Thoughts like this had troubled me for years when working at Hospice.

Faith was told her situation and her treatment options. She said she thought God wanted her to fight the cancer. After years of working in Hospice, my outlook on Faith’s future was not good.  I am too ashamed to write about the specific words that crossed my mind that day – a confusing dark and jumbled portrait filled with monochrome grays of pity, despair, doubt, and grief.  Yet somewhere behind all that Faith was communicating that there was a sprinkled hue of hope.  I failed miserably at seeing it.

Faith started her treatment plan. She even continued working and volunteering during this time. It was not pretty. When I saw her, the look on her face would not hide the pain. When she stood talking, she would hold her arm over her stomach area and occasionally a small grimace would cross her face. Yet she rarely complained. I am sure she loathed the nausea, the vomiting and the humiliation of losing her hair.  Like most cancer patients she wore a scarf, and persisted with the treatments.

Over the next months Faith fell from my radar.  I would get occasional updates through others that she needed prayer.  Requests for help during the nausea and pain were the most frequent petitions.

Fast forward to my most recent encounter with Faith.  It was the first one in quite some time.  I was immediately struck by Faith’s countenance.  She looks so much better. Her face is fuller and her hair has started to return. When I walked over to her, a weak smile crossed her face and she arose to give me a hug. Her weakness was evident as she had to immediately sit back down. As she chatted about her situation, she told me she was in the third and final round of chemo. She’s hopeful this will do it.

This week will be the fourth of about 12 chemo treatments in this third and final round. Faith said Mondays are her best days. Tuesdays are chemo days so Tuesdays and Wednesdays are her worst. She usually feels a bit better by Thursday.  Through all this Faith still insists on working.  The person she works for is fine with her continuing to work.  Faith says she works because she cannot afford to be without a job. In her words, she’s used and abused people for so long she has no one else to turn to and has to work to provide her simple, daily needs.  She also quickly praises her brother, whom she says has filled her refrigerator with food, although he denies doing it, and helps her with traveling and other needs at times.

A few minutes into the conversation Faith’s comments struck me. Not only was she looking better, but something miraculous has happened to her in the last two years. Her conversations about God now have so much depth to them. I was further shocked and surprised to hear that during this entire health crisis, Faith has refused pain medication. I think because of her previous addictions. I was astounded. After working for 15 years in Hospice, we always offered drugs for comfort. Faith would not touch them. “The Lord helps me through the pain. When it gets bad, I talk to Him and He helps me through it,” her words sure, steady and convincing.

I asked Faith what she has learned about God through this process and ordeal. She responded, He just wants me to take things one day at a time. Don’t rush things.

Hmmmm, I thought. Patience. I verbalized the thought, “it sounds to me like patience. You’ve learned God is patient.”

“Yes,” Faith responded. “One day at a time.” The question occurred to me, wasn’t it Jesus who said not to worry about tomorrow?

“What else have you learned?” I asked.

“I can give Him everything,” she quickly responded. “I try to hold on to so much, but He has told me I need to give Him everything.”

Hmmmm, I thought. Jesus said, “Come to Me all you who are weary and heavy laden and I will give you rest.”  His disciple, Peter writes, “Cast all your cares on Him, for He cares for you.”

Faith is getting to know Jesus intimately. The apostle Paul wrote that he wanted to know the fellowship of His sufferings.  Faith’s conversation, her demeanor, her words only praised the One who had helped her through this suffering and affliction. She confidently and sincerely spoke of the peace she has through it all. Then she said something that really pierced to my soul. “When I read the Bible, I can connect with Mary Magdalene.”

Mary Magdalene.  My thoughts rushed through the characters of the Bible to remind myself of Mary’s situation.  Mary Magdalene, the lady from whom Jesus cast seven demons. Drug and alcohol addiction are definitely spiritually dark demons. Wasn’t it Mary who was at Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection?  Yes.  In fact she remained closer to Jesus through all His suffering, while the disciples were in hiding. It was Mary to whom Jesus first revealed Himself after the resurrection. She knew the voice of Jesus, when He called her name.

As Faith spoke, I couldn’t help but review some of the fruits of the Holy Spirit.  I was hearing them clearly – patience, love, peace, gentleness, self control, meekness, joy and others.

Faith sincerely desires to help other people now. She has a love for them, when in the past she only wanted to use and abuse them. Jesus is ministering directly to Faith and Faith ministered to me that day. It was the highlight of my day and my week, and maybe my month and year. It was that encouraging.

I encountered an outcast whom Jesus sought out, and has led her through extreme pain and suffering.  Yet this lady’s faith, though starting out so weak is coming through this trial as fine as gold tried in the fire. And she will tell you clearly, it’s only due to Jesus.

Faith is not out of the trial yet.  She still has a long way to go, and she is still facing the reality of the limit of her life.  But I experienced a person who has a love for Jesus that only few know and can testify to.  Can you imagine seeing the embrace and look on the face of Faith and on the face of Jesus when she finally gets home.  Until then her Master is there by Faith.

I think Faith’s advice to take one day at a time is wise.  I only hope I can heed it. Doesn’t her advice describe Faith?  Her best Friend said it best, “Don’t worry about tomorrow. Tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.”