We are sojourners in this lifetime. We are supposed to remember who we are and where we came from. As the Days of Unleavened Bread come to a close it can be easy for us to forget what God has done for us. We go back into the world our normal routines and we don’t remember that God has taken down the walls of separation of us from Him so that we come together as a Holy people and there are no walls between us as the assembly of spiritual Israel on a journey of a lifetime.
[Gary Petty] Every year we come together – the Passover, the First Day of Unleavened Bread, the Last Day of Unleavened Bread – there is so much to cram into and talk about in this time period. We haven’t even had time to talk about the wave sheaf offering, other aspects of the Days of Unleavened Bread, Jesus Christ as the Passover. There are so many things that we haven’t covered this past week. It takes two or three years of planning, really, to cover everything in terms of the lessons that God is teaching us through this holy day season.
I want to zero in on something today that I covered a little bit in different sermons throughout the last year, but I want to wrap it up into a package. I’ve talked a lot, in the last year, about the continuity between the Old and New Covenants and the discontinuity between the Old and New Covenants – the things that were the same, the things that are different. And we talked a lot about the church. What is the church? How does the Bible describe the church? How is the church supposed to function? How is the congregation supposed to function? We talked about Jesus Christ as the head of the church.
I’m going to talk about how, during this time of year, the ancient Israelites were reminded – they were reminded through these observances that they had been sojourners and strangers n the land of Egypt. And, because of that, they were given very specific laws. And the reason for the law was “so that you will remember that you are a sojourner and a stranger.” And we’re going to look at some of those laws. In fact, we’re only going to look at a few of them. If you do a study on your own, you’re going to be surprised at how many laws there are in the Torah that reference back to the fact that they had been strangers. And then we’re going to talk about some perspectives that they learned from that, and then what it means to us, as part of the church – some perspectives that we should have.
When we look at what the Torah tells them – what the first five books of the Bible tells them – in those various laws concerning being sojourners – that they had been slaves – and that God had taken them out, and then they had crossed the desert, before they ever got to the Land. And generation after generation was told, “Remember where you came from” – one of the great messages we’re going to talk about today. To fully have God involved in your life, there are times when you’re supposed to remember where you came from and how you got to where you are.
When we look at these commands that are given to them – to remember where they came from – we get three perspectives that God gave to ancient Israel.
The first one is that Israel was to remember that they had been sojourners in Egypt. It was a very simple concept. Remember that you were a sojourner in Egypt. Remember, you lived in a state of slavery that you could not get out of and that it was a place that you did not belong, but only God could come and get you out of it.
You know what’s very interesting is, when you look at the Ten Commandments, when you look at the first time the Ten Commandments were given in Exodus, when He gives the Sabbath command, He gives a specific reason why. They were to keep the Sabbath because it commemorates God as Creator. It commemorates when He created, in six days, everything that we know and rested on the seventh day. And so, when the commandments were given the first time, the specific viewpoint of the Sabbath was to remember God as Creator. But did you know, when the commandments were given the second time – because they were given twice – there was a different emphasis placed on them? Both are very valid. Both were given by God. Let’s go to Deuteronomy 5 – Deuteronomy, chapter 5, verse 12 – we’re breaking in here to the giving of the Ten Commandments the second time.
Deuteronomy 5:12 Deuteronomy 5:12Keep the sabbath day to sanctify it, as the LORD your God has commanded you.
American King James Version×– Observe the Sabbath day to keep it holy, as the LORD your God commanded you. Six days you shall labor and do all your work. Verse 14 explains how this would include your children and your manservants, your maidservants, even your animals.
Now verse 15 – here’s why:
V-15 – And remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the LORD your God brought you out from there by a mighty hand and by an outstretched arm. Therefore, the LORD your God commanded you to keep the Sabbath day.
Every Sabbath the Israelites were to remember they had been slaves. Now we don’t have time to go through this, but you know what really ties in with this? The fact that Jesus was actually resurrected at the end of a Sabbath, and in that death and resurrection, we are freed, as Paul writes in Romans 6, we are freed from sin! We are free from – and he uses the word – slavery there. We are freed from slavery! That’s a whole other subject that ties in to the Days of Unleavened Bread – the freedom comes on the Sabbath. And every Sabbath we come together to be reminded where we came from and how we got to where we are. And so, they were told to remember that, and they were given specific laws and instructions, both on the holy days, but concerning the Sabbath itself – to remember where they had been.
The second perspective that ancient Israel was supposed to receive from being sojourners, and the lessons of that, was that God was the protector for the weak, the outcasts and the stranger. The God of Israel was the protector of the poor, the weak, the outcasts and the strangers.
We heard in the sermonette that we get all caught up in our pursuit for status, or fame, or money, or things. You know, it’s interesting, God doesn’t reveal himself as the protector of those with status and fame and money and things. But the God of Israel does reveal Himself as the Protector of those who need protection.
Let’s look at a couple of laws that are given by God and then the specific reason for keeping this law that was given. Let’s look at Deuteronomy 10 – just go over a few more pages to Deuteronomy 10 – verse 17. I find it interesting how God introduces what He’s about to say. Verse 17:
Deuteronomy 10:17 Deuteronomy 10:17For the LORD your God is God of gods, and Lord of lords, a great God, a mighty, and a terrible, which regards not persons, nor takes reward:
American King James Version×– For the LORD your God is God of gods and LORD of lords – the great God – mighty and awesome – who shows no partiality nor takes bribes. So, He introduces what He’s about to say next with the awesomeness of God and that God shows no partiality – that God loves all – and God can’t be bribed, God can’t be, somehow, negotiated with. And then notice verse 18:
V-18 – He administers justice for the fatherless, for the widow, and loves the stranger, giving him food and clothing. God protects the weak, the outcast, and He loves the stranger.
Now, in the context of these laws – you have to understand – no Israelite was a stranger. This is really important – where we’re going to go here, because there are a number of misconceptions about the Old Covenant and even about the New Covenant and how it applies to what we’re going to talk about today with the spring holy days. No Israelite was a stranger. He’s talking here about Gentiles. Now remember, the word Gentile just means nations. In the context of what God is doing here, there are the physical descendants of Abraham and the non-physical descendants of Abraham – no, people that weren’t descended from Abraham. You have the people who were descended from Abraham and those who weren’t. That’s the only differential here. And, if you were an Israelite, you weren’t a stranger. And God said, “I love the strangers.” Now, this is supposed to do something in the lives of the ancient Israelites, because notice what He says:
V-19 – Therefore – if this awesome God loves widows, takes care of the fatherless, loves strangers, therefore, love the stranger – why? – for you were strangers in the land of Egypt. Remember where you came from. And when you come across strangers, remember, you were a stranger. There was a time when you did not know God. There was a time when you did not have God’s blessing in your life – God’s graciousness in your life. He says, “You remember that.”
Look at Deuteronomy 24. In Deuteronomy 24, we have a whole list of laws that are being given. And it’s interesting, out of the set of laws here that I’m breaking into, how many of them have a reason why they were to do it. Here’s the reason why – Deuteronomy 24:14 Deuteronomy 24:14You shall not oppress an hired servant that is poor and needy, whether he be of your brothers, or of your strangers that are in your land within your gates:
American King James Version×:
Deuteronomy 24:14 Deuteronomy 24:14You shall not oppress an hired servant that is poor and needy, whether he be of your brothers, or of your strangers that are in your land within your gates:
American King James Version×– You shall not oppress a hired servant who is poor and needy – God takes it very personally, and we’re going to see here how personally He takes it when an employer takes an advantage of an employee – whether – now listen to this – whether he’s one of the brethren or one of the aliens who is in your land within your gates. Sometimes they’re called aliens, sometimes they’re called sojourners, sometimes they’re called strangers. And we’ll see, as we go along, some of these people were people passing through and some of these were strangers who decided to stay. In fact, in some translations, you’ll see the words resident aliens – that translate this. Usually it just says, “The strangers who choose to dwell with you,” okay?
Now you have to understand: Israel was a place of multitudes of Gentiles passing through it all the time. Egypt is at one end of the fertile crescent, Babylon, Assyria and the Hittites are at the other end of the fertile crescent. And guess what runs right through the middle. There’s only one way to get all the trade from that part of the Mediterranean – which was the population center, basically, of the known world at that time – and Egypt was the population center of the known world at that time. There was only way to get goods – well, you could go by sea – the Mediterranean Sea – but they didn’t have the shipping. It was pretty dangerous to take things through the Mediterranean at the time, plus there were pirates. So guess what you did. You followed a trade route that didn’t take you through the desert. Guess where that trade route ran through. Israel. They were the biggest middle men in history. The wealth of the world – I’m not saying China – they existed at the time – but in the biblical picture of the world, the wealth of the world passed back and forth through Israel. That’s why people fought over it all the time. Gentiles were passing through constantly – caravans going back and forth – the wealth of the world went back and forth through Israel and made them a wealthy people. And then, some people decided to stay.
So he tells them here that you can’t oppress somebody just because they’re not an Israelite – just because they’re either passing through or they’re deciding to stay. He would go on and make this even more specific as we go through. Verse 15:
V-15 – Each day you shall give him his wages. Let not the sun go down on it, for he is poor and has his heart set on it, lest he cry out against you to the LORD and it be sin unto you. So he says, “If you oppress someone who you’ve hired” – and it does not matter whether he’s an Israelite or a stranger – in the context of the Old Testament here – in the Old Covenant – he tells these people – “it is a sin against God.”
So, as people came into Israel who were non-Israelites, they had rights under Israelite law. They had rights. Verse 17:
V-17 – You shall not pervert justice due the stranger – due the stranger! – the stranger is due justice! Now remember, as people passed through Israel, they didn’t have borders as we have borders. We live in a totally different world in those ways. There were open borders throughout the world. People just passed through countries. There were no passports. People just travelled. There was some kind of marker – “Oh, I just went from one country into the next.” But, someone who came into Israel had due process under the law. ...due the stranger or the fatherless, nor take a widow’s garment as a pledge. And here’s why – verse 18:
V-18 – But you shall remember that you were a slave in Egypt and the LORD your God redeemed you from there. Therefore, I command you to do this. That is a pretty strong statement. “I command you that you cannot take advantage of the widow, or the fatherless, or the stranger.” He goes on and tells them that they are to leave the corners of their fields, to leave some of the grapes from their harvest – some of the fruit – so that widows, and orphans and strangers can come and have something to eat. And here’s why – verse 22:
V-22 – You shall remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt. Therefore I command you to do this.
There are an awful lot of laws in the Old Testament that are to remind them that they were sojourners and slaves in Egypt, and two, that God – the God of Israel – is the protector of the poor, the weak, the outcast and the strangers.
The third thing that we find through this set of laws that tie into the Sabbath and, eventually, holy days is that the people of Israel were called to be a holy people dedicated to God. Okay? They were called to be a holy people dedicated to God. Therefore, God made a covenant with them. Now there’s a belief that that covenant excluded anybody that wasn’t a native-born Israelite. And you know, that’s not true. It was made with them, but what happened when someone came along who was an Egyptian, or a Cushite, or an Arab, or a Hittite – now every group of people that I just mentioned, by the way – you will find in 1 and 2 Samuel, 1 and 2 Kings as members of Israel – Cushites, Hittites, Egyptians, sons of Ishmael.
So how does that work? Leviticus 24 and 22. We’re going to look at the Passover. I’m just sort of cherry-picking these laws. Just look up the words stranger, sojourner, aliens, resident aliens and do a study – just in Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy. Leviticus 24:22 Leviticus 24:22You shall have one manner of law, as well for the stranger, as for one of your own country: for I am the LORD your God.
American King James Version×– whoops, I’m in Numbers – verse 22:
Leviticus 24:22 Leviticus 24:22You shall have one manner of law, as well for the stranger, as for one of your own country: for I am the LORD your God.
American King James Version×– You shall have the same law for the stranger and one from your own country, for I am the LORD your God.
Now, when these strangers would come into the land of Israel, they were afforded law. They had to live under the laws or they would be exported or, you murder somebody in Israel, you would get stoned, too! And you could yell, “I’m a Hittite,” all you want, and it wouldn’t make any difference. The thing with the rule of law is the rule of law. So, as these people came in, they came under the rule of law, which gave them rights – property rights.
But some people would come in, and they would decide, “I wish to become part of the covenant.” Now, we’ve got to go clear back to the Passover – the first Passover – to begin to see how God was going to deal with that. So, let’s go back to Exodus 12 – Exodus 12. So, you’re a Babylonian – and you’re a rich Babylonian – and you have caravans, and you’re passing through Israel, and when you go through Israel, you know something – people aren’t going to steal from you, because, if they do, guess what will happen: they’ll get in trouble for it. It’s not like other parts of the world, where you could be raided – you know, raiders could come and take what you have – and there is no law. Whole parts of the world were lawless. Israel – you could go through and you weren’t going to be attacked, because they had a law that says, “Thou shalt not steal.” So the Babylonians could bring their goods through, on the way to Egypt, and, of course, the Israelites would tax them as they went through.
Exodus 12, verse 43 – we come, now, to this very first Passover.
Exodus 12:43 Exodus 12:43And the LORD said to Moses and Aaron, This is the ordinance of the passover: There shall no stranger eat thereof:
American King James Version×– And the LORD said to Moses and Aaron, “This is the ordinance of the Passover. No foreigner shall eat it. Now this is very important. This is being given as a covenant between God and the children of Abraham. So, if we just stop there, and say, “Well, nobody else can participate in it….” But let’s read on. But every man’s servant, who is bought for money, when you have circumcised him, then he may eat it. You say, “Well, wait a minute, wait a minute. You’re going to have some slaves along the way and those slaves are part of your family, so you have to circumcise the males, and they, then, partake of the Passover.” He didn’t say, “Unless…well, unless they are sons of Ishmael, or unless they are people from Lebanon, or unless they are people from Assyria.” Did you notice that? He didn’t say that. Now, let’s go on. He says:
V-45 – A sojourner and a hired servant shall not eat it. Okay, so sojourners, strangers can’t eat it. Verse 47:
V-47 – All the congregation of Israel shall keep it. So you had to be part of the congregation of Israel. Verse 48:
V-48 – And when a stranger dwells with you – some translations will say, “a resident alien,” okay? – when this person decides, “I want to be part of the covenant, I wish to be part of Israel” – when a stranger dwell with you, and wants to keep the Passover – in other words, he’s now accepted Yahweh as God – he now has come and said, “I wish to be part of this people” – and he wants to keep the Passover to the LORD, let all his males be circumcised, and then let him come keep it, and he shall be as a native of the land, for no uncircumcised person shall eat it. Verse 49:
V-49 – One law shall be for the native born and for the stranger who dwells among you. Now, the stranger who dwells among you isn’t just a stranger who is passing through. This is someone who says, “I wish to be part of this covenant.”
Now, notice it didn’t say, “Well, nobody can do that. We wouldn’t let the Ethiopians do this. We wouldn’t let any Amorites do this.” Actually, the Amorites…I’m trying to remember who it was…you’d have to look it up…I think it’s the Egyptians, the Amorites and the Moabites…there were some stipulations. Because of the way they treated Israel, they couldn’t partake of the Passover until a couple of generations were circumcised. Okay? In other words, remember what the thing here is – remember where you came from. And if Egyptians wanted to become part of the covenant, they could, but they had to wait a couple of generations before they could do certain things, because they had to remember where they came from. So, when they sat down on the Passover evening, their children would say, “Father, why are we not keeping the Passover like all the other little children are in our neighborhood?” And they’d say, “Because we are Egyptians and we must remember where we came from.” This is a fascinating thing here, okay? So, there are a few stipulations, but it always has to do with where we came from. And then, eventually, they were allowed to do it. But anybody could come and join themselves to Israel by accepting the God of Israel. And so, they were told they could keep the Passover.
What’s very interesting is when they built the tabernacle. The original tabernacle, in the wilderness, wasn’t very complicated. It was a tent. And there were two rooms in the tent. Now we talked about that on the Day of Atonement. Remember, I had slides where we showed the tent, and we had the Holy of Holies…. We had the Holy Place, where they would go in and they would do their work as priests, and then the Holy of Holies that only the high priest would go into once a year on the Day of Atonement. Around that was a fence, and there was a courtyard. It was in that courtyard that they did the sacrifices. So, if you were bringing a sacrifice up to be sacrificed, you would come up to this courtyard, and they would open the curtains, and you would walk into the courtyard with your sheep, and there these Levitical priests would sacrifice that animal. You didn’t get to go into the other parts. Okay? But what’s interesting is, there’s only one courtyard. And everybody brings their animal in. And there it’s sacrificed.
In Numbers 15, we have instructions on sacrifices – bringing those sacrifices in to be killed. So let’s go to Numbers 15. I’m jumping around a little, because I want you to get the overview of what the Old Covenant says about this and why over and over and over again, they’re told, “Remember where you came from and this should motivate you on how you treat others – how you treat the strangers – even how you treat the widows in your own people.” But the emphasis here is on those that aren’t your people – but those who come and want to be part of this covenant that God made with the physical descendants of Abraham.
So we know Numbers 15 is about sacrifices, but let’s look at verse 13:
Numbers 15:13 Numbers 15:13All that are born of the country shall do these things after this manner, in offering an offering made by fire, of a sweet smell to the LORD.
American King James Version×– All who are native born shall do these things in this manner in presenting an offering made by fire, a sweet aroma to the LORD. And if a stranger dwells with you – in other words, it’s not just someone passing through again. This is someone who has accepted the covenant, who lives with them as an Israelite. If a stranger dwells with you, or whoever is among you throughout your generations, and would present an offering made of fire, a sweet aroma to the LORD, just as you do, so shall he do. One ordinance shall be for you of the assembly – the word assembly is very important there. You know, if you were looking at the Septuagint – the Greek translation of the Hebrew scriptures that was translated way back – hundreds of years before Christ – the word assembly there would be ekklesia – church – called out ones. He says, “…whether it’s the called out ones and for the stranger who dwells with the called out ones” – right? ...the assembly and for the stranger who dwells with you, an ordinance forever throughout your generations. As you are, so shall the stranger – he makes this point over and over again. “These people are My people. They’ve become part of the covenant, even though they are not physical descendants of Abraham.” There’s a misunderstanding sometimes, that nobody except the physical descendants of Abraham could become part of the Old Covenant. That’s just not true. They just had to accept the covenant with all of its stipulations. They had to be circumcised. They could bring their animal into the tabernacle – one ordinance for both. As you are, so shall the stranger be before the LORD. One law and one custom shall be for you and for the stranger who dwells with you. Boy, He’s sure making a point here, isn’t He? – over and over again. They had become part of the covenant. And they could come into…they could bring their animal into the tabernacle itself. Outside that courtyard, everybody mingled together – men, women, children – descendants of Abraham and non-descendants of Abraham – all mingled together outside that yard – and they would open the gate – well, actually, it was a curtain – and people would bring in animals.
In fact, we have a very interesting prophecy that ties in the Old and New Covenants in discussion with these non-Israelites. Isaiah 56. You think, “Well, okay, this is interesting, but what’s that have to do with us – and me?” Okay, hold on here. We’re going to go someplace, okay? Isaiah 56 – because we’re actually going to look at a New Testament passage that isn’t understood by most people – and it has to do with this whole concept. Once you understand this, that passage will make sense. Isaiah 56, verse 6 – here’s a prophecy:
Isaiah 56:6 Isaiah 56:6Also the sons of the stranger, that join themselves to the LORD, to serve him, and to love the name of the LORD, to be his servants, every one that keeps the sabbath from polluting it, and takes hold of my covenant;
American King James Version×– Also the sons of the foreigner, who join themselves to the LORD – who become true followers of the Almighty God – now Isaiah is writing while the Old Covenant was still in effect – to serve Him, and to love the name of the LORD, to be His servants, everyone who keeps from defiling the Sabbath, and holds fast My covenant – now what covenant is He talking about? There is no covenant outside the covenants God made with Israel at this time. I mean, there’s the covenant God made with Noah, and there’s the covenant God made with Abraham, but Isaiah is talking about the context of the covenant God made with Israel at Sinai. He says, “These people now become part of the covenant people.” …even them I will bring to My holy mountain. Now this prophecy starts with those people and then jumps ahead to the time when God’s holy mountain – the Kingdom of God – is on this earth. …even them I will bring to My holy mountain, and make them joyful in My house of prayer. Their burnt offerings and their sacrifices will be accepted on My altar, for My house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations. Now that is profound. Understand, as we run through these things, God says, “My house – My house will be a house of prayer for all nations – not just Israel – all nations.”
Now we come to the time of the first century AD – the time of Jesus. At this time, the Jews had basically separated Gentiles into three groups. There were the nations – the Gentiles – who were outside of the covenants of God – and most of them…well, they were pagans. They did not worship God. There were some Arab peoples that worshipped the God of Israel in one form or another, but most peoples were outside of any worship of the true God.
Then there were God-fearers. Now, you’ve heard me talk about this. The God-fearers, you’ll see in the scripture, were people that had come into a relationship with the God of Israel, but they had not become circumcised. They didn’t go into the temple. These people were excluded even, sometimes, from the synagogue. But they worshipped God and they kept the basic moral laws of God. But they were second-class citizens in Jewish society. Cornelius – remember? – was Italian. Remember? Peter told him, “I’m not even supposed to come into your house.” Now you can’t find that in Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy, but I can understand why it became part of the Jewish world. “We don’t want to go into their house because they’re pagans.” Well, this man wasn’t a pagan. He worshipped the true God, but he wasn’t a full participant in the covenant, although, if you read through the story, he suddenly became a full participant in the New Covenant. That’s another story. He, all of a sudden, when Peter is there, becomes a full participant in the New Covenant.
Then you had the proselytes. Proselytes were Gentiles who had converted entirely to Judaism. They were circumcised. They did ritual washings. They did sacrifices. But they still weren’t accepted completely. It’s interesting, when you read Jewish literature from that time period, proselytes were sort of accepted in some places, not accepted in others. Sometimes you would teach them the law, but you wouldn’t teach them the oral law, because the oral law was a secret thing given to Israel. There’s a whole branch of Jewish Gnosticism that begins with the secret things God gave to them and, you know, “We can’t give this to anybody else.” They created sort of a mystery religion, which is kabbalah today. It’s a mystery religion. So, these proselytes now really don’t receive the full that they’re told to get by the Old Covenant. They’re sort of half-citizens.
So, you’ve got the proselytes – they’re sort of accepted. You’ve got the God-fearers – “I can say ‘Hi’ to you when I walk down the street, but I can’t come into your house.” Then you have the rest of the Gentiles, which you can’t even touch, because you’d become unclean. So that’s the world of the early New Testament church. Jesus comes and says, on the Passover, “I’m starting the New Covenant.” Now they’ve heard about the New Covenant all their lives. In fact, in Jeremiah 31, which is quoted in Hebrews – it’s the longest Old Testament passage quoted in the New Testament – we have a prophecy that “I am going to come” – God says – “I am going to establish a New Covenant with Israel.” But there’s something about this covenant that is different than the Old Covenant. The Old Covenant was, “I make this covenant with Israel and Gentiles can come join themselves to it.” The New Covenant is made with Israel, but it’s promise, from the very beginning, “This covenant will be made with all peoples.” This is really important, okay, especially when we get to the passage where you look in Ephesians.
Look at Isaiah 42 – Isaiah 42. Are you all with me so far? If you’re not with me, raise your hand. No! (And then if you do, I’ll say, “Deacons, would you please usher that person out.” [Chuckles]) So you’re with me…just give me a headshake if you get it. Okay, most of you seem to be with me. Okay? You see where we are. You see what the Old Covenant actually taught. Gentiles became part of the covenant. It’s that simple. Then, in the time of Jesus, it was, sort of maybe, sort of not, depending on where you were and what rabbis were teaching at the time – and what various degrees they were. Isaiah 42 – one of the great Messianic prophecies. We’re going to only look at a couple of verses here. You can read the whole thing. Verses 1 through 9 is a remarkable messianic prophecy. Verse 1 says:
Isaiah 42:1 Isaiah 42:1Behold my servant, whom I uphold; my elect, in whom my soul delights; I have put my spirit on him: he shall bring forth judgment to the Gentiles.
American King James Version×– Behold my servant, whom I uphold – my elect one in whom My soul delights. I put My Spirit upon Him and He will bring forth justice to what? everybody – everyone. The Messiah isn’t coming just for the Jews. Now He happens to be Jewish – at least, half-Jewish. He’s half divine, half Jewish. He happens to be half-Jewish, but He’s not just coming for the Jews! And He’s not just coming for the Israelites. He’s coming to bring justice. He’s coming to bring righteousness. He’s coming to bring goodness to the Gentiles. Notice what it says in verse 6:
V-6 – I the LORD have called you in righteousness and will hold your hand. And I will keep you and give you as a covenant to the people. This is why, during the Passover, we talk about how, for the New Covenant to happen, the blood of an animal is shed as the sealing of a covenant and what blood can cover the sins of humanity? No animal. No human being. Only the Son of God – He became the covenant. We celebrate Christ as that covenant. And then it says: …as a light to the Gentiles – to the nations, to everybody. They knew that this covenant was beyond just them, but because they expected an entirely Jewish Messiah, they expected, “Well, God’s going to come instead of a covenant and we get to run it. We get to run everything.” I understand why they came to that conclusion. And God still has a plan for the physical descendants of Abraham. We’re not putting that down. We’re just saying the New Covenant is a lot bigger than that.
So we have the Passover – Jesus slain as our covenant. And now the New Testament church has to begin to deal with, “How do we interpret this?” Now think about their problems. “Go to all the world.” Now you look at what they did for the first few years. They went to every synagogue they could go to. “Go to the world.” “Okay, we’ll go to wherever there are Jews.” That’s the world to them. Plus, it was the only place where people would even listen to them at the beginning. What’s interesting…if you search to see, as Paul travels throughout the world, who are the people that respond to him the most? The God-fearers and the proselytes. It’s the Gentiles in the synagogues that, many times, start saying, “Oh, we get that. We get that.”
At one place, it says they went and got all the pagans and brought them back the next Sabbath. Now that was very awkward for everybody, I’m sure, to have that many pagans in the synagogue. You know, “We’re going to go out here tomorrow and we’re going to bring in everybody that kept Easter in San Antonio this week.” You see, they didn’t know how to work this out. They didn’t know how to solve all the problems.
“Okay, what do we do? Well, we’ve got to circumcise all these people and make them proselytes.” They fought over that for decades. “Well, we’ll just make them all proselytes.” Okay, now a proselyte, remember, they were circumcised, but they did all the Jewish customs. They did everything – the written law, the oral law – they did everything.
“Okay, now we just make them God-fearers.” They keep the Ten Commandments. You say, “How do you know the God-fearers kept the Ten Commandments?” Because they were in the synagogue. If you’re keeping the Sabbath, you’re keeping the other Ten Commandments. They were in the synagogue. Okay, well what do we do them? How do we…? And Paul here is not making it easier, because every place Paul goes, he just keeps saying, “Repent, repent, repent,” and he doesn’t always tell them what you do next. So churches are forming and you have two dichotomies happening.
One, you have the conservative Jews saying, “We’ve got to make them Jewish.” I mean, not just the law, “We’ve got to make them fully Jews.” Then you have another group that’s coming in and saying, “Ah, nah, we’re accepted now – the way we are – as Gentiles. We’re not under the Old Covenant.” And so, read 1 Corinthians. You’ve got people worshipping idols. You’ve got people going to the temple prostitutes. It’s a mess! You’ve got two dichotomies going on at the same time in the church. (Oh yeah, maybe, Paul, it would have been a good idea to explain all of this first.) But you know what? When you read Paul, he didn’t understand it all either. Finally, he figured out, wait a minute, baptism – baptism is the new circumcision – you’re circumcised of the heart. Finally, in Colossians he explains it. Well, it’s a little late by then! They’re starting to realize that the whole temple is going to be wiped out. God’s not going to use the temple – Herod’s temple – anymore as the center of His religion. That’s all the book of Hebrews is about. He’s not going to use that anymore. That’s not going to be the center of religion. And he begins to explain what that’s going to be. We’ll get to that in a minute, too.
Now, if you went to Herod’s temple at this time, you have to understand something. Herod’s temple is not Solomon’s temple. Solomon’s temple had been destroyed long, long before this. And God used Zerubbabel to build another temple. But this is not Zerubbabel’s temple. Herod came along and greatly remodeled Zerubbabel’s temple – to make it bigger than Solomon’s. So this temple is built as much on pride as anything else. Now, remember when I said the tabernacle had a little tent and a courtyard around it? Herod’s temple had various courtyards around it. Both Josephus and Philo – first century writers – talk about how there’s a huge – outside these various courtyards – there’s a huge courtyard with walls getting into it and walls getting out of it. When you come into this…now today it’s called the Court of the Gentiles. I’m not sure we could prove it was called the Court of the Gentiles then. We just know the Gentiles were allowed to go there. This would be the area where they were selling sheep and goats – a big area. Everybody could go in there. Now, according to Josephus, this inner wall had signs on it that said, “Any Gentile that goes past this point will be killed,” and that the Romans gave the Jews special permission to kill anybody that went past that point that was a Gentile. You know, they’ve actually proven that’s true. They’ve actually found some of the signs – archeologists – and they’re written in Greek, Latin, and I want to say, Aramaic – there was a third language on it. So they know…anybody comes up there can speak one of those three languages. (This morning I said, “It was written in Hebrew.” Why would they write it in Hebrew? The Jews knew Hebrew, so I think it was Aramaic.) And they’ve found some of the signs. And it said, “No Gentile goes past this point or you will die!” It was a wall of partition.
There was also another set of walls inside. There was another court. It was the Women’s Court. The women could only go so far, then they had to stop. Only the men could go farther. Okay?
So you have people separated by these walls inside Herod’s temple. But you’ve got to remember something. Herod’s temple is not Solomon’s temple. Herod’s temple was not built on the specifications that God gave. Herod’s temple wasn’t built on the specifications that God gave. He built it. That’s important to understand.
So now you have this two-edged sword in the church. Conservative Jews say that new people coming in must be totally Jewish first, then Christian. And then, some people were coming in and saying, “No, we can be sort of half-pagan, half-Christian.” And Paul has to deal with this. And he does in the book of Ephesians.
But wait a minute, before we go there, let me tell you a story. Let me show you something. How strict was it if a Gentile walked inside the wall of partition? We know from a story in the Bible. Paul had gone on a journey, and, of course he was always being accused of throwing out all the laws of the Bible, and he wanted to show…he was telling people that, “No, the Gentiles don’t have to do some of these things, but they’re not evil. I’ll do them myself.” He goes through a vow, and at the end of the vow – because he was traveling into Jerusalem – and it may have been a Nazarite vow, where he went a period of time where he would let his hair grow, he would have not had any wine, he would not have touched a dead body - it was a vow like that – and when he gets to Jerusalem, and he goes to the temple, he has to go through a purification ceremony, and then he goes in and he brings a sacrifice. Okay? Paul, and some of the other Jews that were with him, had done this. And they come to the temple. Let’s go to Acts 21, here, before I go on. I want to just show how important this wall of partition was – Acts 21:26 Acts 21:26Then Paul took the men, and the next day purifying himself with them entered into the temple, to signify the accomplishment of the days of purification, until that an offering should be offered for every one of them.
American King James Version×. So they’re at the temple now.
Acts 21:26 Acts 21:26Then Paul took the men, and the next day purifying himself with them entered into the temple, to signify the accomplishment of the days of purification, until that an offering should be offered for every one of them.
American King James Version×– They Paul took the men, and the next, having been purified with them, entered the temple to announce the expiration of the days of purification, at which time an offering should be made for each one of them. So they’re carrying out all these rituals and customs in the temple. Now when the seven days were almost ended, the Jews from Asia, seeing him in the temple, stirred up the whole crowd and laid hands on him. Now this wasn’t to anoint him because he was sick, okay? This is a mob action. …crying out, “Men of Israel, Help! This is the man who teaches all men everywhere against the people, the law, and this place, and – here is the killer! He teaches against the law, he teaches against the temple, but here’s what he’s done – the most horrifying teaching you can imagine – he has brought Greeks into the temple and has defiled this holy place!” Because they had actually seen him with a Greek, as it says in verse 29, they thought that he had brought him in. Well, he hadn’t brought this Gentile in. All the men with him were Jews. Paul was a Jew. But notice the uproar – verse 30:
V-30 – And all the city – this rumor went through the entire city of Jerusalem – all the city was disturbed, and the people ran together, seized Paul, dragged him out of the temple, and immediately the doors were shut. Now they were seeking to kill him. And as I said this morning, you have to realize, connected to the temple was a Roman castle – a fortress. This morning I said, “There was some Roman….” Of course, they didn’t have binoculars, okay? The Roman guards see what’s happening, the people come running in, saying, “There’s a riot going on,” they send troops out, and it’s only because Roman troops run into the crowd, separate them, grab Paul and drag him back to the fortress that he’s not killed. And why are they killing him? “How dare him bring a Gentile!” He had taken him beyond the wall.” Because, if he was in this outer Court of the Gentiles, they could be there. He and these other people had gone inside the wall. And they were trying to kill him. Now, as it comes out, he didn’t take any Gentile in there. They were all fellow Jews. See how important it was? A mob action. These people were there worshipping God at the temple and they turn into a bitter, angry, frenzied mob! Why? “How dare him bring a non-Jew inside that wall!” It was an important issue. You really have to understand the history of the Bible to understand these issues.
So now let’s go to Ephesians 2. Ephesians 2 is used by many people to say, “The Ten Commandments are done away with.” Let’s see what it says. What’s Paul dealing with? He writing to Ephesus – a city of Asia Minor – and at least a large part of the Christians at Ephesus are not Jews. Asia Minor is what is Turkey today. And I don’t even know what the indigenous people…they weren’t Turks…I don’t know what they were that lived there at the time. There were various indigenous people at the time that lived in Turkey. The ancient Hittites have lived there and there are remnants, I know, of them there. There were different people, so I have no idea who these people were. And he says:
Ephesians 2:11 Ephesians 2:11Why remember, that you being in time past Gentiles in the flesh, who are called Uncircumcision by that which is called the Circumcision in the flesh made by hands;
American King James Version×– Therefore – okay, he’s writing to these people who are debating, “How do we participate in the New Covenant? Do we become fully Jewish? Do we stay half-pagan? I mean, what do we do here?” Therefore, remember – oh, we’re back to remember where you came from. But this time he’s not telling Israelites. He’s telling the non-Israelites who are in the church. Therefore, remember that you, once Gentiles in the flesh, were called Uncircumcism by what is called the Circumcision, made by in the flesh by hands, that at that time, you were without Christ…. He says, “I want you to go back to remember before you found out and understood who the true God is, and before you understood who the true Messiah is.” …being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. He says, “Remember where you came from. You were strangers to the covenants. You didn’t even know God made covenants with people. You didn’t even know who God was. You didn’t know who Christ was. Remember where you came from.” Now, that’s an interesting place to start – just like ancient Israel was always told, “Do you really want to know how you treat people? Remember where you came from.” Think about how that would change your life – if every time you were going to interact with somebody, the first thing on your mind was, “Remember, I was in Egypt. Remember where I came from.” It would change things, wouldn’t it? And he tells these Gentiles, “Okay, we’re going to talk about covenants, but remember, you didn’t even know what the meant at one time. You didn’t even know who God was.” Verse 13:
V-13 – But now, in Christ Jesus, you who were once afar off, have been brought near by the blood of Christ, for He Himself is our peace, who has made both one, and has broken down the middle wall of separation. Now, the next verse, lends to people saying, “The middle wall of separation was the Ten Commandments.” Well, let’s look at what it says here: having abolished in His flesh the enmity – the enemy, the anger…. You know, when you read first century writings, there are two things that become very prominent: one, the Jewish people…of course, they were persecuted and persecuted people are easy to become this way – but they really believed – because of the covenant God made with them – they were superior to everybody else. And they thought everybody else hated them because they thought they were superior. They were enemies with the world, and the world was enemies with them. I’m not saying every person was like that, but there’s a lot of enmity between Jews and non-Jews in the world that he’s writing to. …having abolished in His flesh the enmity – that is the law of commandments contained in ordinances so as to create in Himself one new man from the two, thus making peace, and that He might reconcile them both to God in one body through the cross, thereby putting to death the enmity.
What is the subject? The subject is what divides Jew from Gentile - that is the subject. Now let me ask you something. Thou shalt not steal. Does that separate Jew and Gentile? Or do we have two different laws? Jews can’t still. Gentiles can. Sorry, there’s no enmity between people because of those laws. What is the enmity between people? Two things: one is the physical temple as a requirement to where God dwells and everything that has to do with that – physical sacrifices. As long as the emphasis is on that temple – and especially Herod’s temple, which wasn’t even one designed by God – what you have is an emphasis on that place as where God is. So He is always the God Israel. He is not the God of the world. He’s always the God of Israel! You’ve got Him trapped in Israel. Now, He is the God of Israel. He’s the God of all nations, right? So you have that problem. And secondly, you have a problem that all the Jewish laws – oral laws – I’m not talking about the ones in the Bible – all the Jewish oral laws kept separating these people – to the point where, if a Gentile walked too close to the temple, they killed him. They had armed guards at the temple, and if a Gentile got too close, they ran out and killed him! So, first of all, you’ve got the temple itself as a problem and the rituals that go along with it.
So, Paul’s going to redefine what God, now, is using as His temple. This is really important – what God now is using as His temple. We also have to do away with the core issues of oral Judaism. Sometimes people think, “If we could get closer to Judaism, we’d get closer to the originality of the Bible.” Not necessarily. Judaism has many wrong things in it as does Protestantism – and some good things, but so does Protestantism. Right?
And so the issue here is what creates enmity. Have no other gods before Me. “Yep, got to do away with that. That’s creates enmity.” Well, now you just have pure paganism, don’t you? If you can worship any god you want, you have pure paganism. I’m sorry, the moral doesn’t stack up as causing enmity between Jew and Gentile. But when you go through the 613 laws in the Torah, you know what a lot of them are about? Sacrifices and ceremonies and the temple. And here you have a system, now, that won’t even let them come in. The wall – here’s the important thing here – the middle wall of separation. Every synagogue had a place where the Gentiles could sit, where the male Jews could sit, and the female Jews could sit – and they were separated. And there was an entire wall around the temple of Herod that would not let them come in under penalty of death.
And he says to the Gentiles, “Remember when you didn’t even know about God? Start with where you came from” – huge message about the Days of Unleavened Bread. Remember when you were slaves in Egypt. Remember where you came from. Remember where you came from? But that wall that separated people is now down. And then he goes on and he expands this out.
V-17 – And He came – Christ – and preached – this is verse 17 – and preached peace to you who were afar off and to those who were near – Gentile, Jew – for through Him, we both have access by one Spirit to the Father. Now – now this is really…listen to what he’s going to say here – now – to these Gentiles – the church – you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens – 100% fellow citizens under the New Covenant – with the saints, and members of the household of God. We cannot have walls – manmade walls – that separate us in the Church of God. We cannot have that, because Christ died to tear them down. Verse 20:
V-20 - …having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets – apostles – new; prophets – old – Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone, in whom the whole building being fitted together grows into a holy temple unto the Lord. What is the emphasis of the temple today? It’s not Herod’s ruins. It’s not Solomon’s ruins. You know what it is? It’s the people who have received God’s Spirit, who are, brick by brick, being made into the temple of God. It’s so clear what Paul’s saying. This is what it’s all about. This is the temple God is working in. This is the temple God is building. …a holy temple unto the Lord, in whom you also are being built together for – for what? – a dwelling place of God in the Spirit. The Shekinah no longer comes down and fills the Holy of Holies in Jerusalem. It will someday, but it doesn’t now. It does not now. You know what it fills? It fills you! It fills us.
And how can we – if we are the temple of God – then how can we build walls between us? Interesting question, isn’t it? Now, we’re not talking about…I’m not talking about sin. Sin creates walls. False doctrine creates walls. You can’t help that. It does. I’m talking about walls based on economic status, walls based on culture, walls based on race. They can’t happen. If nothing else, the fallacy of Herod’s temple should teach us that. It can’t happen.
Look how Paul puts this. And remember, the Old Covenant was made with the physical descendants of Abraham and then people came into it. The New Covenant, He says, “Okay, I’m starting with physical descendants of Abraham, but immediately it is to go to the world.” It took them a long time to figure out He actually meant the world. “Oh? You don’t mean Assyrians.” “Yes.” “Oh, you don’t mean Ethiopians.” “Yes.” “Oh, surely you don’t mean Italians!” – the people they hated the most. “Yes.” “You mean people from Gaul and Germania?” “Yes.” “But they don’t even have synagogues in India!” If tradition is right, that’s where Thomas was killed – in India. “That’s right.” “Oh, my!” It would have been interesting to be in Ephesus when this letter was written to the church, and have a Jewish man and a Greek, or some Gentile – whatever he would have been – there, sitting next to each other as he would have read this, and they looked at each other, and said, “Ohhh…” This is a whole lot bigger than we realize. We are the temple. This is the emphasis of the Almighty God today. It’s His people. And, in doing so, we – as those people who come together from all backgrounds, from all different economic strata, with all different cultures, from all different races – we all come together for one thing: to become the household of God. That’s why we come together. It’s what it’s all about.
Look what Paul said in Galatians 3. I wasn’t going to read this, but hey…you can complain to me later. Galatians 3, verse 26. Paul’s dealing with some of the same problems in Galatians – how to figure out, “Okay, how do we all come together now? This New Covenant – we don’t know how all of this stuff fits – if parts of the Old Covenant don’t fit anymore and parts of it do fit? And how do we put this together?” And he says:
Galatians 3:26 Galatians 3:26For you are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus.
American King James Version×– For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ to put on Christ – later in Colossians, he’d say, “This is why baptism is so important.” He’d say it in Romans 6 – baptism is the sign of the covenant – the New Covenant. If we refuse baptism, we refuse to be participants in the New Covenant – just like, if you refuse circumcision, you refuse to be a participant. Verse 28:
V-28 – There is neither Jew nor Greek…. Well, of course there was Jew or Greek, right? A guy from Athens would say, “Yeah, I’m Greek.” A guy from Jerusalem would say, “Well, yeah, I’m a Jew.” What he’s saying here is, “There is no wall between us anymore. We are brought together through Christ, through the common teachings of the scriptures, through a common relationship with God and with Jesus Christ. We find a common relationship with each other.” There is neither Jew nor Greek. There is neither slave nor free. Boy, he just did away with slavery. It would take a few decades, but…. Slavery would actually disappear from the Christian world long before it did in the rest of the world, in terms of the Christian church. Eventually it was reinstituted back into the Christian world, but it was removed from the early church very quickly. “Well, wait a minute, if my slave has to be treated the same, he’s not my slave.” There you go. …neither male nor female. Ladies, there is no wall. There is no Court of the Women in the temple. Your relationship with God is just as personal and just as equitable as the relationship between God and your husband, or any other man. There is no Court of the Women inside this temple of God. This temple is quite different than the other one. Your relationship with God is directly as a daughter. He relates to you directly as a daughter, which scares me sometimes, because I had daughters and I know I’m a little softer on my daughters than my son. I figure God is too. He says: For you are all one in Christ Jesus, and, if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s seed and heirs according to the promise. He said, “You all now become heirs of the promise – the inheritance of the Kingdom of God.
When you put this all together, you begin to realize that one of the things we’re dealing with here – under the New Covenant – is, God is creating a new nation. In the Old Covenant, He created Israel – a nation – to be His people. But He’s creating a new nation – a new nation in which none of us are sojourners and strangers to the covenant, but we are still sojourners and strangers, because none of us have received the inheritance yet. And that’s one of the great lessons of the Days of Unleavened Bread. We’re still in the wilderness. We haven’t reached the Promised Land yet. We’re still in the wilderness.
And remember the three points I gave at the beginning? Let’s think about those three points. Ancient Israel, through the laws given in the Torah, were constantly reminded that they had been slaves in Egypt. You and I are to remember that we were slaves in our Egypt and that we are sojourners still today, living in a rebellious land. The second thing – that God is the protector of the poor, the weak, the outcasts and the stranger. We have something beyond that. God is the protector of the poor, the weak, the outcasts, the strangers and He has broken down those barriers inside the church. He has broken down those barriers, where poor and rich can sit and eat together, and it doesn’t matter – or it shouldn’t – where old and young can get together and it doesn’t matter – it shouldn’t. And three, they were called to be a holy people dedicated to God. You and I are called to be a holy people dedicated to God. Let’s go to 1 Peter – and this is where we’ll end – 1 Peter 2, verse 9 – we’ve read this scripture many times, but now I want to zero in on this scripture in the context of what we’ve gone through. We’ve looked at the Old Covenant and the fact that people weren’t excluded from it. They just had to become part of it. Go read 1 and 2 Samuel, 1 and 2 Kings and look at how many people that were part of the Israel that were not native-born Israelites. How about Uriah, the Hittite? How about the Ethiopian eunuch? That was in the book of Acts. And he became a member of the New Covenant. There were Cushites and Hittites, Babylonians, Assyrians, and lots of children of Ishmael. There are even some Moabites – they had to hang around for a while before they could go do a sacrifice – Egyptians. They became a nation with the native-born.
All of us are native-born here. When you receive God’s Spirit, you became a native-born member of spiritual Israel. Remember what we just read. It said, “Full citizens – no sojourners, no pilgrims.” We’re all native-born. 1 Peter 2:9 1 Peter 2:9But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that you should show forth the praises of him who has called you out of darkness into his marvelous light;
American King James Version×:
1 Peter 2:9 1 Peter 2:9But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that you should show forth the praises of him who has called you out of darkness into his marvelous light;
American King James Version×– But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation – speaking to the church – His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness to this marvelous light – who once were not a people – of course, we weren’t – we didn’t even know each other – God brought us together – you were not a people, but now are the people of God , who had not obtained mercy, but now have obtained mercy. As I said before, this is from the book of Hosea. He’s playing on words. He’s playing on words. Verse 11:
V-11 – Beloved, I beg you – now Paul just said we’re no longer pilgrims or sojourners, but that’s in context of the covenant, okay? But in the world…Beloved, I beg you, as sojourners and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts, which war against the soul. We have just been rehearsing, last week, the fact that we are forgiven from our sins because of the Passover of Jesus Christ, who became a covenant for us. And we have spent a whole week commemorating the fact that we take in Jesus Christ and the sin comes out. We slip, we fall, we still struggle. He says here, “Abstain from these things.” We are still pilgrims and sojourners in the world. Verse 12:
V-12 – …having your conduct honorable among the Gentiles – among peoples. The word Gentiles here doesn’t really mean anything in terms of Jews or non-Jews, because he’s talking about the church. He just means anybody that’s outside the church. …having your conduct honorable among the Gentiles, that when they speak against you as evil doers, they may by your good works which they observe, they may glorify God in the day of visitation. When Christ returns, people can say, “Oh, this is a great God. I remember that person. Boy, did I treat them badly. I remember that person. I remember how they treated me. I remember how they always put God first. I remember how…boy, they did some crazy stuff. They lost good jobs keeping this Sabbath thing. I remember how they stayed together 40 years and never got divorced. I remember how that person, you knew they would never lie to you. I remember how you could trust that person. I remember how that person was always honest in business. I remember how one day I went over and game them a little statue…you know, crucifix, and they gave it back.” I’ve had to do that. They bring a little idol. They think they’re doing something nice. “Sorry, I can’t accept this.” “I remember that.”
Tomorrow we return to eating bread – well, actually, in a couple of hours. You can go get a pizza in a couple of hours. But as we do it, it will be easy to slip back into forgetting what the these days are all about – what God has done for us by taking us out of our Egypt, by what God has done for us by opening our Red Sea and baptizing us, what God has done for us by tearing down those walls, so that we come together as a holy people, and there are no walls between us – there are no walls between us – there should not be – as the holy people of God – the holy people He has called, the assembly of spiritual Israel.