Rabbi’s Reflections – Sunday, April 4, 2021
Today is the first day of the counting of the Omer. The “Omer” is a measure of barley that was brought into the Temple and presented before the Lord each day for 49 days. This is done in accordance with these instructions from the Torah.
Leviticus 23:9 Adonai spoke to Moses saying: 10 “Speak to Bnei-Yisrael and tell them: When you have come into the land which I give to you, and reap its harvest, then you are to bring the omer of the firstfruits of your harvest to the kohen. 11 He is to wave the omer before Adonai, to be accepted for you. On the morrow after the Shabbat, the kohen is to wave it.
This phrase, “On the morrow after the Shabbat” gives us the start of today. Yesterday was the first Shabbat after the start of Pesach. This is clarified in verse 15 when we are told to do this for 7 complete “Shabbatot.”
Leviticus 23:15 “Then you are to count from the morrow after the Shabbat, from the day that you brought the omer of the wave offering, seven complete Shabbatot.
Our sages of old decided on starting to count on the second day of Passover. Our friend Lars Enarson pointed out that their practice is based on Joshua 5:11,12 because that is the day manna ceased and the children of Israel began to eat the grain of the land. It is not permissible to respectfully disagree with our sages, but I do anyway. I disagree with them about much more than that, including the deity of Yeshua.
Also, notice that it is permissible to carry (the Omer of barley) on the Sabbath. The rabbis have an explanation for that too. They simply say that many things were permitted in the Temple that are forbidden outside the Temple. To which I reply that the Temple is long gone and we’re still counting on Shabbat. We also know Yeshua allowed many things (such as healing and picking corn to eat) on the Shabbat that were prohibited by the rabbis.
Like everything in Judaism, there is a proper blessing for counting the Omer. It is how we make our counting kosher.
בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה יְיָ אֱלֹהֵֽינוּ מֶֽלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם, אֲשֶׁר קִדְּשָֽׁנוּ בְּמִצְוֹתָיו, וְצִוָּֽנוּ עַל סְפִירַת הָעֹֽמֶר
Baruch Atah Adonai Elohenu Melech Ha-Olam, Asher Kid’shanu B’mitzvotav, Vitzivanu Al Sefirat Ha-Omer.
Blessed are You O Lord our God, King of the universe, who has sanctified us by his commandments and commanded us about counting the counting of the Omer. Today is one day and no weeks of the counting of the omer.
This year I’m going to write 49 times about the 2 Volume Set on the Attributes of God by A. W. Tozer. Tozer lists 20 attributes, 10 in each volume. I don’t know how to make that work evenly in 49 or 50 (I might write something on the 50th day, Shavuot), so I’ll have to improvise. It’s what I do.
Then again, there are the 13 attributes of grace which are taken from these 2 verses of Scripture. Moses was in the presence of God with the second set of Tablets when he heard these words.
Exodus 34:6 Then Adonai passed before him, and proclaimed, “Adonai, Adonai, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, and abundant in lovingkindness and truth, 7 showing mercy to a thousand generations, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, yet by no means leaving the guilty unpunished, but bringing the iniquity of the fathers upon the children, and upon the children’s children, to the third and fourth generation.”
I want to recognize today as Resurrection Sunday (Easter is not a biblical name). On the 3rd day after His Crucifixion, Yeshua rose from the dead. He conquered the grave and ascended on high to be seated at the right hand of the Father. God extends His grace toward us because He has mercy for our lost condition. Today is a day to be grateful for His mercy and grace.
Daily Bread, reading plan by Lars Enarson (https://www.thewatchman.org/)
Sun 4 April-2021 22nd of Nisan, 5781
Pesach VIII (for those in the diaspora or who celebrate an 8th day)
De 15:19-16:17Nu 28:19-25Isa 10:32-12:6Ro 6:1-11
He Is Risen! Part 3 by Dr. Raymond Finney
Rabbi’s note: I made a few notes as Raymond has graciously allowed me to do. This is a great RR submission by Dr. Finney. Please enjoy his effort to make this Resurrection Sunday special. End RN.
INTRODUCTION: In 2021, most Believers in our area will celebrate “Easter” on April 4 (today). Is “Resurrection Day” a better name than “Easter,” which was named after a pagan goddess of fertility, Ishtar? Most persons observe this day as the anniversary of Yeshua’s resurrection from the dead nearly two millennia ago. I continue to discuss a few of the mysteries of this holiest day of our faith in this RR.
“IT IS FINISHED! IT IS PAID IN FULL!” Most scholars believe Yeshua was crucified on Passover. At the end of the Passover sacrifices (3:00 pm), the Jewish High Priest made the sign of the Hebrew letter shin with his hands. Shin resembles the hand sign– the Vulcan salute– of Mr. Spock (actor Leonard Nimoy of the television series “Star Trek”). Nimoy, a Jew, revealed that he learned this hand gesture as a young boy participating in synagogue worship.
Shin was the first letter in a name for God– El Shaddai (“The All-sufficient God,” or “God Almighty”).
Rabbi Trail from Rabbi Michael: I read all of Raymond’s submission and he gives me free reign to comment. Of course, there is usually no need, but I want to add this note here. A “Shad” is a breast. “Shaddai” is plural (many, more than 2). The breast is the source of sustenance. The breast sustains life. We take our next breath by the grace of God, Who is the Life Giver. End RT.
The Jewish High Priest raised his hands to form the letter shin (representing El Shaddai) and emphatically announced, “It is finished!” That is, the Passover sacrifices were completed for that year. As Yeshua died, He made the same announcement (John 19:30): When Yeshua tasted the sour wine, He said, “It is finished!” And He bowed His head and gave up His spirit. Other Gospel Scriptures tell us that Yeshua died at the ninth hour (3:00 pm). Thus, the Jewish High Priest, dressed in the splendor of bejeweled priestly robes, announced that the Passover sacrifices in the magnificent Temple were finished at the same time Yeshua, our eternal High Priest, stripped naked of all clothing, announced along a dusty roadside at Golgotha outside of Jerusalem that the one and only acceptable Passover sacrifice was finished.
Never again would God require or accept the blood sacrifice of animals (see Hebrews, chapters 9 and 10), because the perfect sacrifice of our Passover Lamb, Yeshua, paid the price for our sins. Yeshua’s sacrifice for us is finished! (Protestants never show a crucifix with Yeshua’s body because His crucifixion was a one-time act. His cross is as empty as His tomb.) The debt for our sins is paid in full! All we need to do is accept Yeshua’s vicarious [vicarious = in our place] sacrifice to atone for our sins.
Rabbi’s note: When something sounds too good to be true, it usually is. In this case “All we need to do is accept Yehsua’s vicarious sacrifice” sounds too good, but it is true. End RN.
The Gospels record Yeshua’s seven statements on the cross. “It is finished” was Yeshua’s last recorded utterance on the cross. Although Yeshua may have spoken Aramaic on the cross, the Apostle John recorded Yeshua’s last word as the Greek tetelestai. Tetelestai is translated as a phrase, “It is finished” (or, “It is completed”). Yeshua did not announce His death (the end of His life), as some suppose. Rather, He announced that the mission entrusted to Him by God the Father had been finished. No other sacrifice would ever be required for the remission of the sins of mankind.
God established His New Covenant for man through Yeshua’s death. Sins are now forgiven through: (1) God the Father’s grace, (2) the blood shed by Yeshua, and (3) a person’s acceptance of that sacrifice as his/ her own sacrifice through faith. God made salvation simple in order that even a small child could understand. Children understand faith and love.
Understand that a first century merchant wrote tetelestai on a sales bill or contract to show that any outstanding debt had been paid in full, and the merchant required no additional payment. (Rabbi’s note: This is also the meaning of Shalem, from which we get the word Shalom.) Yeshua’s death redeemed us (bought us back from sins) and paid in full the debt for our sins. (Rabbi’s note: He gave us His Shalom in John 14:27.)
DARKNESS AT NOON: The Gospels record a most unusual– a supernatural– event (Matthew 27:45): Now from the sixth hour [12:00 pm– noon], darkness fell upon all the land until the ninth hour. [3:00 pm]. See also Mark 15:33 and Luke 23:4.
This noontime darkness was not caused by a solar eclipse. Yeshua was crucified on Passover, which is the time of a full moon. A solar eclipse cannot occur when there is a full moon. (The sun and moon are opposite each other at this time. For a solar eclipse to occur, the moon’s orbit must pass between the orbits of the sun and earth.) Also, darkness due to a solar eclipse lasts only a few minutes, not three hours.
There is evidence outside of the Gospels to corroborate this extraordinary claim:
● The Syrian Greek historian Thallus, a pagan, wrote in his book of history, Third History, in AD 52 (approximately twenty years after Yeshua’s crucifixion) that darkness totally covered the land at the time of Passover in the year Yeshua was crucified.
● A little later, Julius Africanus quoted Thallus’ historical account, providing contemporaneous evidence that Thallus’ manuscript was authentic.
● A Greek pagan historian, Phlegon, wrote in the Olympiades (AD 138) about the “great and extraordinary” darkness of the sun that occurred at the time of Yeshua’s death.
● The Christian historian Tertullian (AD 160-220) consulted official Roman government archives available in his day, and found that official documents recorded an unusual darkness that occurred at noon at the time of Yeshua’s crucifixion.
● The Christian teacher Lucian of Antioch wrote about reading the account of darkness during the reign of Pilate in official Roman archives, before his death as a martyr in AD 312.
● Early Christians knew about this unexplained darkness because they experienced it. Later Christians read about the darkness in official Roman records, before the records were lost when the barbarians destroyed Rome. This darkness was known and discussed throughout the Roman Empire, but not one person wrote that this event, claimed by Christians and pagans alike, did not occur.
Amos, who wrote his prophecies nearly eight centuries before Yeshua’s crucifixion, prophesied this darkness (Amos 8:9-10): “It will be in that day” – declares my Lord Adonai– “I will make the sun go down at noon, yes, I will darken the earth in daylight. I will turn your festivals into mourning and all your songs into a dirge. I will pull up sackcloth on every waist and baldness on every head. I will make it like the mourning for an only son– its end a bitter day.” Note Amos’ references to a darkness beginning at noon (compatible with first century eyewitness accounts), darkness during a feast (Passover), and mourning for an only son (God’s only begotten Son– John 3:16). The significance of this supernatural darkness is that man tried to kill the Light of the world (see John 9:5), and God withheld the light of the sun for three hours. When we rebel against God, we have no assurance that He will continue to bless us.
RESURRECTION OF THE DEAD: “Many” were resurrected at Yeshua’s death (Matthew 27:52-53): And the tombs were opened [as Yeshua died], and many bodies of the kedoshim who were sleeping were raised to life. And coming forth out of the tombs after His resurrection, they went into the holy city [Jerusalem] and appeared to many. [Kedoshim = “holy ones” in Hebrew; in the actual text, the Greek hagios is used, which also translates to “holy ones” or “saints.”] Why were so many resurrected after Yeshua’s death? Yeshua was the First Fruit of God’s New Covenant (and He was resurrected during the Jewish Feast of First Fruits). Resurrection was provided for Him, and resurrection of many saints offered additional proof of the promise that those who believe in Yeshua as Savior will also have eternal life. Yeshua’s tomb is now empty; some day all Believers’ tombs will be empty of the spirits of these saints once housed there. Yeshua is in Heaven now, and His followers will some day also be there with Him (John 5:28-29): [Yeshua said] “Do not be amazed at this, for an hour is coming when all who are in their graves will hear His [Yeshua’s] voice and come out! Those who have done good will come to a resurrection of life, and those who have done evil will come to a resurrection of judgment.”
As Yeshua promised: You will most assuredly be resurrected from death. Will you be resurrected to life, and spend eternity in Heaven? Or, will you be resurrected to condemnation, and spend eternity in Hell? You and you alone, not God, determine your future life– whether you will spend eternity in Heaven or eternity in Hell.
DISAPPEARANCE OF YESHUA’S BODY; THE FOLDED GRAVE CLOTHS: In Matthew 28:1ff, Mark 16:1ff, Luke 24:1ff, and John 20:1ff we read that Yeshua, a poor, itinerant preacher, was buried in a rich man’s tomb. This rich man was Joseph of Arimathea, a disciple of Yeshua (see Matthew 27:57-61). A large stone was rolled across the entrance, and Roman guards were stationed to prevent theft of the body. Yeshua was buried in haste on Friday (just before the beginning of Shabbat) and stayed in the tomb the following Saturday, during Shabbat. After observance of Shabbat, women came at daybreak on Sunday to prepare the body properly for burial. The women found the guards had fled in terror, the large stone was rolled away, the funeral shrouds were neatly folded in the tomb, and Yeshua’s body was not there (see Matthew 28:6).
As the First Fruit of the New Covenant, Yeshua was resurrected! Today, tourists view a site said to be Yeshua’s tomb, although no one knows whether this is the authentic burial place of Yeshua. The important aspect of an empty tomb, wherever it might be, is that Yeshua rose from the dead. All other religious leaders (Mohammad, Buddha, Confucius, and so forth) are still in their tombs, but our Savior, Yeshua HaMashiach, is not in His tomb! He is alive now, and will live throughout eternity! And, He has promised that we, as Believers, can also have such immortality! Best estimates for the location of Golgotha and Yeshua’s presumptive tomb are approximately ninety meters apart (approximately the length of a football field).
Yeshua left His grave clothes behind, because He had no further use for them. John records what seems to be a minor point, but a point significant for first century followers (John 20:6-9): Then Simon Peter comes following him, and he entered the tomb. He looks upon the linen strips lying there, and the face cloth that had been on His head. It was not lying with the linen strips, but was rolled up in a place by itself. So then the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also entered. He saw and believed. For they did not yet understand from Scripture that Yeshua must rise from the dead.
After Yeshua’s resurrection, His grave shrouds were neatly folded in the tomb. To understand the significance of this observation, consider first-century dining customs. Formal meals lasted for hours, instead of our relatively brief meals. If a diner needed to leave the table for some reason but planned to return, he would casually drop his napkin on the table. Servers recognized that the diner planned to return, and the meal setting was left in place. If a diner was through eating and did not plan to return, he would neatly fold the napkin and place it on the table. Servers recognized that the diner would not return, and the meal setting was removed. By neatly folding His shrouds, Yeshua left a silent message that He was through with the grave shrouds and the grave, and He would not return. He had risen! What use would a living Man have with a tomb?
There is a linen cloth relic, the Shroud of Turin (in Italy), which many believe bears the marks of a crucified man. Is the Shroud a “photograph” of HaMashiach, as He lay in His tomb? John recorded a second cloth (“face cloth”) in the empty tomb. Jews covered the face of a dead person with a small face cloth. There is a blood-soaked cloth– the Sudarium of Oviedo (in Spain)– which many believe is Yeshua’s face covering. Numerous photographs of the Shroud of Turin and the Sudarium of Oviedo can be viewed by finding sites through search engines.
WHY CRUCIFIXION? Crucifixion was a most inhumane form of execution. The victim was nailed through the wrists and feet to lumber supports.
I use the Tree of Life Version (TLV) in these RRs because many in Shomair use this version. In the TLV, the instrument whereby Yeshua was executed is translated “execution stake.” In most other versions, it is translated “cross.” In the Greek text, it is written as stauros. Stauros is usually translated “cross.” Scriptures are compatible with use of a two-piece cross, not a one-piece stake.
The victim nailed to a cross died in constant agony, as he tried to find relief from wrist pain by “standing” on his feet, and then tried to find relief from foot pain by pulling up on his wrists. He “see-sawed” from one position of extreme pain to the other position of extreme pain. The cruci- part of our English word “excruciating” comes from the Latin word for “cross.” It took hours for the victim to die of exhaustion and filling of the lungs and pleural spaces with fluid (acute heart failure). [Anatomy lesson: “pleural” space is the space between the chest wall and lung, and is spelled differently than “plural” (more than one).] The scourging before the crucifixion was intended to weaken the victim and hasten death. If the victim lived too long on the cross for the soldiers’ convenience, his leg bones (shins, or tibiae) were broken so he could only slump on the cross and not breathe deeply enough to sustain life. Yeshua’s legs were not broken, fulfilling a Psalm 34:20 prophecy (John 19:33, 36): Now when they came to Yeshua and saw that He was already dead, they did not break His legs. |…| These things happened so that the Scripture would be fulfilled, “Not a bone of His shall be broken.”
It was necessary for Yeshua to die a bloody death to fulfill God’s requirement for sin forgiveness (Hebrews 9:22): And nearly everything is purified in blood according to the Torah, and apart from the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.
There were different types of crosses used in the first century. Artists usually depict Yeshua’s cross in the familiar Roman cross shape ( † ). Also used was a simpler cross, shaped like our letter “T” or the Greek letter Tau ( Τ ). The Tau cross ( Τ ) is easier to construct and is stronger than the Roman cross ( † ). A struggling, fully grown man would put great stress (torque) on a Roman cross, and it might come apart. A Tau cross would be much more stable, stronger, and easily constructed because it would be built around a simple mortise and tenon joint. A tenon (wooden projection or “key”) was cut in the vertical stipes, which was permanently anchored in the ground. A mortise (channel) was chiseled in the horizontal patibulum. Soldiers lifted up the patibulum, to which the victim was nailed, and slipped it over the stipes’ tenon. Perhaps this is what Yeshua saw in His future, when He spoke about being lifted up (John 3:14): “Just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert, so the Son of Man must be lifted up,….”
The Romans knew of several methods to kill Yeshua and shed blood other than crucifixion. Yeshua was crucified as much to humiliate Him, as to kill Him. He was severely scourged (beaten). He carried part of His cross to the place of execution. He did not drag an entire cross, as shown by artists, which would have weighed a few hundred pounds. The upright or vertical member (stipes) was securely anchored in the ground for stability, much like a short telephone pole. The horizontal member (patibulum) was tied to His back. Yeshua, greatly weakened from the scourging, was forced “to take up His cross” and stumble to Golgotha. He was stripped naked as further humiliation. With the patibulum on the ground and Yeshua placed atop it, long nails were driven through the wrists into the wooden beam. (Nails were not driven into the palms of the hand, as artists erroneously depict, because there is insufficient tissue between the metacarpals of the hands to support a man’s weight.) A few soldiers lifted the patibulum, to which Yeshua was nailed, to the top of the stipes and secured the two together (in the mortise and tenon joint?). Then, the freely swinging feet were gathered together, and a single nail was driven through the heels into the upright beam. With three nails, Yeshua was securely immobilized on the cross. (Rabbi’s note: 1 cross + 3 nails = 4 given.)
The all-important YHWH title board (titulus), previously discussed, was nailed to the cross. The cross was probably placed by the side of the roadway leading into the city and was probably short (so Yeshua’s eyes would be at eye level for passersby and because hoisting a wooden beam and a body high off the ground would be difficult for the soldiers). In last week’s RR, I discussed the probable location of Golgotha. Artists erroneously depict Yeshua on a tall cross on top of a hill. The purpose of crucifixion was to humiliate and torture the victim, while sending a message to others not to run afoul of Roman law. As Jews went to market, they probably stared directly into the anguished face of a crucified, dying, anguished Yeshua. Many may have known Him or listened to His messages. It would be chilling to see any person, and especially someone known or admired, nailed to a cross and dying an agonizing death.
Notice the position of the cross and Yeshua’s body:
● The vertical member (stipes) extends from sky to earth. God on high came to us on earth through Yeshua crucified there that day.
● Two criminals were crucified with Yeshua on either side of Him. Yeshua’s arms extended toward the two criminals, symbolically offering salvation to both. One criminal accepted salvation, and Yeshua told him that he would be with Him that day in Paradise (not Heaven, not Purgatory). The other criminal mocked Yeshua, and refused salvation. All persons are offered salvation equally. Some accept, but others reject, the Holy Spirit’s offer. Have you listened to your Divine invitation and accepted your salvation?
● Yeshua’s arms are still open and His hands are still outstretched, as an invitation for you. Just as He offered salvation to two criminals nearly two-thousand years ago, He offers salvation to you today!
As Yeshua bled profusely on the cross, His blood covered much of the wooden beams. If you have accepted Yeshua’s offer of salvation, your sins have been nailed to His cross (see Colossians 2:13-14). Yeshua’s blood has covered your sins, and they are no longer visible to God the Father, even if He would want to look for them. (He will not look– forgiven sin is forgotten sin.) Yeshua paid the price for your sins, and you can forever live as a reborn, forgiven, redeemed person. If you have not accepted Yeshua as your Savior, today would be an excellent day to listen to the quiet urging of the Holy Spirit to follow Yeshua. God loves you. He wants you to come home and be with Him forever. You cannot commit any sin that God cannot forgive. Yeshua has done the hard work. He died for you out of His love for you. All He asks is that you love Him enough in return to change your life and follow Him.
SIDELIGHT: I would like to discuss many more mysteries of this season, but I have overstayed my welcome. In this RR series, I have tried to follow blood sacrifices, real and symbolic, from Cain and Abel (Genesis); through Passover (Exodus); through the New Covenant and Yeshua’s crucifixion (the Gospels); to the future Marriage Supper of the Lamb (Revelation). The basic message of the New Covenant is, as the Apostle Paul wrote, “Yeshua and Him crucified” (1 Corinthians 2:2).
I have talked to evangelists who have been invited to speak at revivals in churches here and elsewhere. Some have lamented that church pastors instruct them not to “preach a slaughterhouse religion.” Speaking about blood, crucifixion, and other aspects of Yeshua’s Passion may “upset” congregants. Slaughterhouse religion! These poor, miserable pastors will likely give an account to Yeshua Himself at Judgment for not understanding the significance of what happened at Golgotha many years ago. Vicarious acceptance and appreciation of the death, burial, and resurrection of out Passover Lamb, Yeshua, is the basis of salvation. May God forgive these pastors for dismissing Yeshua’s ultimate demonstration of selfless love as “slaughterhouse religion.” Congregants SHOULD be upset by hearing of Yeshua’s horrible death, because each upset congregant wielded the whip during Yeshua’s scourging, spat in His face, forced a crown of thorns on His head, and nailed Him to the cross. All of us, including these “snowflake, politically correct” congregants, through our sins nailed the Son of God to a cross on that sad day nearly two millennia ago. END sidelight.
MYSTERIES THEN… AND NOW: More than Yeshua arose on Resurrection Day. His “rebirth” brought then, and should bring now, many mysteries. Mystery, a transliteration from the Greek text (mustērion), had much the same meaning in Biblical times as it does now– something hidden or secret. “Mystery” or “mysteries” is used nearly thirty times in the B’rit Chadashah, mostly by the Apostle Paul.
Many mysteries revolve around the death and resurrection of Yeshua. Why would God allow or participate in such an act of disrespect and hatred toward One of the Godhead? At least a partial answer, given in the next section, is that God had and still has limitless grace toward and love for His children.
RESURRECTION DAY– GOD’S GREATEST ACT OF LOVE… HIS AMAZING GRACE: Probably the world’s most popular hymn is “Amazing Grace.”
This hymn, written in 1772 and published in 1779, has two authors.
● The lyrics (words) were written by John Newton (b. 1725, d. 1807). Newton in his younger years was the captain of a slave ship which transported captured black people from western Africa to the New World (Caribbean Islands, United States, etc.), to be sold as slaves. In 1748, a violent storm battered Newton’s vessel off of the coast of County Donegal, Ireland. Newton, who had no religious beliefs at the time, called out to God for mercy. Even though this event marked Newton’s spiritual conversion, he continued slave trading until 1754 or 1755, when he ended his seafaring career and began studying Christian theology.
● The author of the music (melody) is unknown. Musicologists point out the strong similarity between a West African mourners’ chant (a sorrow chant) and “Amazing Grace.” Conditions in a slave ship’s belly were nearly intolerable, including oppressive heat; chained confinement in tight spaces with other slaves; horrible food; oppressive, ever-present smell of perspiration, vomitus, urine, feces, and dying bodies; crying; and screams of fear, hopelessness, and desperation. Surely, the Holy Spirit caused Newton to write his simple words of truth to an unknown slave’s groans, a sorrow chant the slave had heard in his native Africa.
I believe Newton heard more than a slave’s lament on that trip from Africa. I believe he also heard from the Ruach ha-Kodesh. Newton eventually resigned from being a slave ship captain and entered the Anglican Church ministry in England. He served as vicar (parish priest) at churches in London and Olney until his death. At age 82 years, his faith– faith he was first shown on a slave ship somewhere in the Atlantic Ocean– was rock solid, when he said: “My memory is nearly gone, but I remember two things, that I am a great sinner, and that Christ is a great Saviour.” Newton went to his grave with profound amazement that God, filled with grace and love, could transform his life.
When Newton died, he was buried in an inconspicuous plot in the back of a small church graveyard (Parish Church of St. Peter and St. Paul, Olney, England). The epitaph on his tombstone reads: “John Newton, Clerk, once an infidel and libertine, a servant of slaves in Africa, was, by the rich mercy of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, preserved, restored, pardoned, and appointed to preach the faith he had long labored to destroy.” Hopefully, Newton and an unknown black slave brought to the New World in Newton’s ship are reunited in Paradise, and both now sing of God’s amazing grace.
John Newton’s life epitomizes Resurrection Day. Why God created mankind, why He puts up with us, and why He loves us must surely be on Paul’s lengthy list of mysteries. It was love that brought Yeshua to a lost world (John 3:16-18): [Yeshua said] “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life. God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through Him. The one who believes in Him is not condemned; but whoever does not believe has been condemned already, because he has not put his trust in the name of the one and only Ben-Elohim [Son of God].” Yeshua came to live, teach, die, and rise again, that we might better know the mind and will of Adonai– and, that we might have the blessed hope of resurrection and eternal life.
I close this Resurrection Day series with Newton’s lyrics to “Amazing Grace:”
“Amazing grace, How sweet the sound || That saved a wretch like me. || I once was lost, but now I am found, || Was blind, but now I see.
“’Twas grace that taught my heart to fear, || And grace my fears relieved. || How precious did that grace appear || The hour I first believed.
“Through many dangers, toils and snares || I have already come, || ‘Tis grace has brought me safe thus far || And grace will lead me home.
“The Lord has promised good to me || His word my hope secures; || He will my shield and portion be, || As long as life endures.
“Yea, when this flesh and heart shall fail, || And mortal life shall cease || I shall possess within the veil, || A life of joy and peace.
“When we’ve been there ten thousand years || Bright shining as the sun, || We’ve no less days to sing God’s praise || Than when we’ve first begun.”
Until next Sunday, Shalom and Maranatha.