Monthly Archives: March 2016

Passing The Baton

“Building a legacy of blessing, power, and character for the coming generations is an indispensable part of God’s plan — for every follower of Christ and for every church,” Bayless Conley.

The passing of a ministry to the next generation is of utmost importance both to those passing on and those receiving the ministry. It is similar to what happens in a relay race when the runners must only run part way to the goal and pass the baton to the next runner and that to the next until they reach the finish line. Winning the race and reaching the goal depends upon each runner passing and receiving the baton in the most efficient way. If one fumbles or drops the baton, precious time is lost, — and possibly the race. In a ministry, if the next runner fumbles or drops the baton, precious souls are lost.

In John chapters 14 through 17 Jesus was “passing the baton” so to speak. He was preparing His disciples for carrying on the ministry after His imminent crucifixion, death and resurrection. In 17:13-26, He prays to the Father:

And now come I to thee; and these things I speak in the world, that they might have My joy fulfilled in themselves. I have given them Thy Word; and the world hath hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world.

“I pray not that Thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that thous shouldest keep them from the evil. They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth. As Thou hast sent Me into the world, even so have I also sent them into the world. And for their sakes I sanctify myself, that they also might be sanctified through the truth.

Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on Me through their word; That they all may be one; as Thou, Father, art in Me, and I in Thee, that they also may be one in Us: that the world may believe that Thou hast sent Me. And the glory which Thou gavest Me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one: I in them and Thou in Me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that Thou hast sent Me, and hast loved them, as Thou hast loved Me.

Father, I will that they also whom Thou has given Me, be with Me where I am; that they may behold My glory, which Thou hast given Me: for Thou lovedst Me before the foundation of the world.

“O, righteous Father, the world hath not know Thee: but I have known Thee, and these have known that Thou hast sent Me. And I have declared unto them Thy Name, and will declare it: that the love wherewith Thou hast loved Me may be in them, and Thou in Me,” John 17:13-26.

The Resurrection Sabbath

There has been much confusion over which day of the week Jesus was crucified and what day was the resurrection. Jesus said he would be in the grave three days and three nights, Matthew 12:40. The popular tradition is that Jesus was crucified on Friday and arose on Sunday. However, by our calendars, this does not figure as three days and three nights.

The Hebrew Calendar

We must understand that they were not going by our calendar, but rather the Biblical Hebrew calendar as given to Moses. We know that the Passover was ordained of God to begin on the fourteenth day of the first month of the year. Their months were to be reckoned by the appearance of the new moon, not by a calendar page. Just as our months do not always begin on the same day of the week, so theirs did not. Just as our Christmas day does not always fall on Sunday, so their Passover did not always fall on a regular seventh-day Sabbath. So the fourteenth day of the month was not always on the Sabbath, according to the regular consecutive counting of seven-day weeks. However, it would fall on the Sabbath occasionally.


Fourteen days after the appearance of the new moon, they were to slay the Passover lamb, Leviticus 23:4-8, regardless of what day of the week it was. They were to slay it in the evening, but were to feast on it in the night, verse 8. In their system of time-telling, the day began at evening, when a certain number of stars had appeared. So, although they slew the lamb in the evening of the fourteenth, the night that followed would have been the fifteenth.

This began the seven days of unleavened bread, verses 15-19. This fifteenth day was to be a “holy convocation” and counting from that day to the seventh day following was to be another “holy convocation.” It was to be a day of rest, “no manner of work shall be done.” The word Sabbath means “rest, repose, cease from labor.” Therefore, a day when they were commanded to cease from labor, to rest, could be called a Sabbath. So the fifteenth day could also be a Sabbath, and, counting seven days from that was to be another Sabbath. On every year that the fifteenth day fell on the Sabbath, there would have been a double Sabbath.

We find this more clearly spelled out in Leviticus 23 and Numbers chapters 28 and 29. In Leviticus 23, the Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread are described clearly. The fifteenth day of the first month was to be the feast of Unleavened Bread, a day of rest, a holy convocation, and of offerings. From this day they were to count seven Sabbaths, or forty-nine days, and the day following would be the fiftieth day, which was also to be a “holy convocation” where no work was to be done, therefore it, too, was to be a Sabbath. Here we can clearly see that there would again be a double Sabbath, the forty-ninth day and the fiftieth day.

The Double Sabbath: Resurrection Day

On the Passover when Jesus was crucified, there would have been a double Sabbath. Therefore, He was crucified on the day of the slaying of the lamb, the fourteenth.  Then He was in the grave three days and three nights and arose on the third day, which was the “second Sabbath after the first.” We find mention of this same phenomenon in Luke 6:1 where it mentions the “second Sabbath after the first.” In their calendar-reckoning, there were many double Sabbaths.

The Sabbaths were counted consecutively as the seventh day. However, when there was a double Sabbath, the counting for that next week began with the eighth day, that is, the day after the first Sabbath. Therefore, the whole system of Sabbaths from the beginning foreshadowed the resurrection of Christ which began on the “first day of the week,” and was called “The Lord’s Day.” This signifies the rest which Christians enjoy in the Lord: “There remaineth therefore a rest to the people of God,” Hebrews 4:9.

            Revelation 14:13: “Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord from henceforth: Yea, saith the Spirit, that they may rest from their labours; and their works do follow them.”


Song Of The Scapegoat

Matthew 27:46: “… My God, My God, why hast thou forsaken me?”

This cry of Jesus as He hung on the cross cost Him great agony. As He hung there His weight fell largely upon the nails through His hands. As the weight of the body would sometimes tear through the flesh and bones of the hands, they sometimes drove nails through the wrists also. Jesus would have to pull His body up against those nails in order to draw enough air into His lungs to make an utterance. This verse tells us that “Jesus cried with a loud voice.” In spite of all the pain and labor that it took, He uttered this message in a loud voice.  What was the message that was so important as to cost Him such suffering?

Jesus asked the question: “Why?” Psalm 22

So often in human experience of great suffering we ask the question: “Why?” Was Jesus accusing God by asking this question? Or, did He cry out of self-pity? No. As we shall see, He was quoting the title words from Psalm 22, the Song of the Scapegoat . Jesus knew well that His suffering was according to the Plan of Salvation before the foundations of the earth. Perhaps He even sang this whole Psalm as He was dying, not because He did not understand what was happening, but rather to tell the people that He was fulfilling the prophecy of the Scapegoat.  So let us look at this wonderful Psalm to understand His message.

You will note that this is one of the Psalms that has a title which is actually verse one of the original Hebrew text. This title is sometimes left partially translated as in the King James Version “To the chief Musician upon Aijeleth Shahar. A Psalm of David.” RSV translates the Hebrew words Aijeleth Shahar  as “The Hind of the Dawn.” The NIV translates them: “The Doe of the Morning.” The term Aijeleth may refer to a female goat. Shahar means “morning.” The Hebrew word for ‘upon’ may also be translated “High,” with reference to the time in which a thing occurs. The sense here seems to be that this “goat” has somehow become higher than the constellations of the heavens which mark the times; that is, even higher than the dawn itself. I believe the reference here is to the sacred service of the Scapegoat.

Psalm 22 is the Song of the Scapegoat. The Scapegoat Ceremony:

For the Biblical context, we must look at the Scapegoat ceremony as recorded in Leviticus 16:5-26. This passage describes how that sacrifice was to be made for the sins of the people under the Mosaic Covenant. As the High Priest, Aaron was to carry out these sacrifices.

“(5)And he shall take of the congregation of the children of Israel two kids of the goats for a sin offering. (6) And Aaron shall offer his bullock of the sin offering, which is for himself, and make an atonement for himself, and for his house. (7) And he shall take the two goats, and present them before the Lord at the door of the tabernacle of the congregation. (8) And Aaron shall cast lots upon the two goats; one lot for the Lord, and the other for the scapegoat. (9) And Aaron shall bring the goat upon which the Lord’s lot fell, and offer him for a sin offering. (10) But the goat, on which the lot fell to be the scapegoat, shall be presented alive before the Lord, to make an atonement with him, and to let him go into the wilderness.” (Leviticus 16: 5-10).

Aaron was to offer the bullock and the goat for the sin offering as burnt sacrifices according to the specific and detailed instructions in verses 11-19.

(20) And when he hath made an end of reconciling the holy place, and the tabernacle of the congregation, and the altar, he shall bring the live goat: (21) And Aaron shall lay both his hands upon the head of the live goat, and confess over him all the iniquities of the children of Israel, and all their transgressions in all their sins, putting them upon the head of the goat and shall send him away by the hand of a fit man into the wilderness.

After this, Aaron is to bathe and change clothes and complete the ceremonies for the atonement of the sins of the nation.  The “fit man” who carried the scapegoat into the wilderness is also to bathe and change clothes and then return to the camp.

Requirements for the Scapegoat

For more background on the scapegoat, we know that the animals for the sacrifices were to be perfect, without blemish. They could not be blind, lame, deformed, lack parts or be scarred in any way. From the traditions we learn that typically the Levites were responsible for carefully raising these animals. For protection these little goats for the sacrifices were probably taken into the households as the family pets, the “darling.” It would have frolicked with the children as their playmate and companion and was dearly loved.

From Psalm 22 we learn that the birth of this scapegoat was attended by its Good Shepherd for it says:“(9) But thou art he that took me out of the womb: thou didst make me hope when I was upon my mother’s breasts. (10) I was cast upon thee from the womb: thou art my God from my mother’s belly.” Remember that the shepherd was to his sheep as God is to His people as expressed in Psalm 23:1: “The Lord is my Shepherd.” 

The shepherd, probably a Levite, had assisted in the birth of this goat and may have bottle fed it: “I was cast upon thee from the womb.” Many times this may have been twin goats.

We know that this scapegoat was born of the flock that this shepherd had cared for:

(4) Our fathers trusted in thee: they trusted, and thou didst deliver them. (5) They cried unto thee, and were delivered: they trusted in thee, and were not confounded.” This scapegoat had every reason to trust in his shepherd as his forefathers had trusted for generations.

We can see from this that the presentation of these animals would have been a very emotional and truly sacrificial act of worship. Perhaps as the Levite carried the goats to the atonement ceremonies his children would ask: “Why are we taking the goats this time, Father?” And he would perhaps answer them: “The Lord has prepared Himself a sacrifice for our sins.”

Choice of the Scapegoat

At the presentation of the two goats, Aaron would cast lots to see which one was to be slain and offered as a burnt sacrifice and which one was to become the scapegoat. According to the commandment, when Aaron laid his hands upon the scapegoat and placed the sins of the nation upon his head, the scapegoat became sin, symbolically. At this, the congregation would begin to curse him, spit upon him, revile him and make faces at him. In Psalm 22:6-8 we see this happening:

“6) But I am a worm, and no man, a reproach of men, and despised of the people. (7) All they that see me laugh me to scorn: they shoot out the lip, they shake the head, saying, (8) He trusted on the Lord that he would deliver him: let him deliver him, seeing he delighted in him.”

Then the shepherd Levite would have to carry the scapegoat out through the congregation, out into the wilderness to a place where there was a cliff, a precipice, over which he would hurl the little goat.

Here then, we can take up the experience from the viewpoint of the scapegoat in Psalm 22.

He has been hurled over the cliff by his good shepherd, (his “God.” )Then he reminds the shepherd,  of his faithfulness in times past, of the unfair persecution of the congregation, of the fact of the shepherds care for him from his birth, and he begins to cry:

(1) My God, my God, why hast Thou forsaken me? Why art thou so far from helping me, and from the words of my roaring? (2) O my God, I cry in the daytime, but thou hearest not; and in the night season, and am not silent. (3) But thou art holy, O thou that inhabitest the praises of Israel.”

(11) Be not far from me; for trouble is near; for there is none to help.”

Then it seems that the little scapegoat may have started running to find his way back home and encounters a herd of wild bulls:

“(12) Many bulls have compassed me: strong bulls of Bashan have beset me round. (13) They gaped upon me with their mouths, as a ravening and a roaring lion. (14) I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint: my heart is like wax; it is melted in the midst of my bowels. (15) My strength is dried up like a potsherd: and my tongue cleaveth to my jaws; and thou hast brought me into the dust of death.”

Then, it seems that the herd of bulls passes and the scapegoat is left wounded and helpless and the pack of wild dogs that follow the herd attack him, tearing his flesh off of his bones:

“(16) For dogs have compassed me: the assembly of the wicked have inclosed me: they pierced my hands and my feet. (17) I may tell all my bones: they look and stare upon me. (18) They part my garments among them, and cast lots upon my vesture.”

Again he cries out to his good shepherd:

“(20) Deliver my soul from the sword; my darling from the power of the dog. (21) Save me from the lion’s mouth: for thou hast heard me from the horns of the unicorns.””

Meanwhile, at home:

The good shepherd may have been watching the fields and wilderness area in the slim hope that the Scapegoat would find his way back home. And here, in the middle of verse 21 the Scapegoat finds that the shepherd has heard him, even “from the horns of the unicorns.” Suddenly his lament turns to triumphant praise:

“(22) I will declare thy name unto my brethren in the midst of the congregation will I praise thee. (23) Ye that fear the Lord; praise him; all ye the seed of Jacob, glorify him; and fear him, all ye the seed of Israel. (24) For he hath not despised nor abhorred the affliction of the afflicted; neither hath he hid his face from him; but when he cried unto him, he heard.

(25) My praise shall be of thee in the great congregation: I will pay my vows before them that fear him. (26) The meek shall eat and be satisfied: they shall praise the Lord that seek him: your heart shall live for ever.

(27) All the ends of the world shall remember and turn unto the Lord: and all the kindreds of the nations shall worship thee: (28) For the kingdom is the Lord’s: and he is the governor among the nations. (29) All they that be fat upon earth shall eat and worship: all they that go down to the dust shall bow before him: and none can keep alive his own soul.

(30) A seed shall serve him; it shall be accounted to the Lord for a generation. (31) They shall come, and shall declare his righteousness unto a people that shall be born, that he hath done this.”

Then the Song of the Scapegoat continues in Psalm 23 as he exults and rejoices in his restoration to the Good Shepherd:

The Psalmist David sings: “(1) The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want. (2) He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters. (3) He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. (4) Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me. (5) Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over. (6) Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.”

Jesus Became Our Scapegoat

In His agony on the cross Jesus pulled Himself up against the nails in order to get enough breath to sing this Song of the Scapegoat and to tell the world that He was fulfilling the prophecy given so many years earlier that the Scapegoat would carry away the sins of the nation. He knew He was about to enter into the Great Shepherd’s fold and abide in the house of the Lord forever.

“He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement of our peace was upon Him; and with His stripes we are healed.” (Isaiah 53:5)

Behold the Lamb of God that taketh away the sin of the world!” John 27:46.

Pray For The Peace Of Jerusalem

Psalm 122:6: “Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: They shall prosper that love thee.”

Since the literal, natural city of earthly Jerusalem was destroyed in AD 70, the question arises: What is the “Jerusalem” that we are now to pray for?

Revelation 3:12 answers this question.  It is the New Jerusalem we should pray for: “The city of my God, which is New Jerusalem, which cometh down out of heaven from my God…” “New Jerusalem” is the Church, the blood-bought saints in Christ Jesus.

To distinguish between the old Jerusalem and the New, Paul uses the analogy of Hagar, (Agar), the bondwoman and Sara, the free woman, wives of Abraham:

For this Agar is Mount Sinai in Arabia, and answereth to Jerusalem which now is, and is in bondage with her children.  But Jerusalem which is above is free, which is the mother of us all, (Galatians 4:25-26).  When Paul wrote this letter to the Galatians the old Jerusalem, “which now is,” was still standing at that time, but was destroyed in 70 AD.

Paul continues the analogy by saying: “… Cast out the bondwoman and her son: for the son of the bondwoman shall not be heir with the son of the freewoman.  So then, brethren, we are not children of the bondwoman, but of the free.” Clearly, the old literal, physical city was not the City of God, but rather the symbol of bondage at that time.  The New Jerusalem, (“which is above”), consisted of those who had been made free in Christ.

In Revelation 11:8 John calls the old literal, physical city “Sodom and Egypt”:

And the dead bodies shall lie in the street of the great city, which spiritually is called Sodom and Egypt, where also our Lord was crucified.” Jesus was crucified in the old Jerusalem, so it lost its identity as “Jerusalem” and became known as “Sodom and Egypt.”

Then in chapter 21:2 John sees: “… the Holy City, New Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.”  The angel then carries John away in the spirit to show him “The Bride, the Lamb’s wife,” (v. 9).  What he shows him is the Holy City of New Jerusalem, the Church, “The Lamb’s wife.”

Our prayers cannot be for a wicked and unrighteous city, for Isaiah 48:22 and 57:21 tells us: “There is no peace, saith the Lord, unto the wicked.” The geographic location of the earthly old Jerusalem does not make her righteous; only the cleansing blood of Christ can make us righteous.  1 Corinthians 1:30: “But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption.” Israel of the flesh could not attain righteousness. See also Romans 9:30-33; 10:3-4; 2 Corinthians 5:21.

Philippians 3:9: “That I may be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith.

All those who refused to believe in Christ were “cut off,” John 15:6.

They became dead branches and were cast into the fires and burned unless they were grafted back into Christ, the only living Branch.

In the Old Testament times, the prophet Jeremiah was warned of God not to pray for, nor intercede for the backslidden, wicked “Israel”:  Jeremiah 7:16: “Therefore pray not thou for this people, neither lift up cry nor prayer for them, neither make intercession to me: for I will not hear thee.”  The nation, at that time, had crossed the line of God’s grace and were going into Babylonian captivity.

Again in Jeremiah 14:11-12: “Then said the Lord unto me, Pray not for this people for their good.  When they fast, I will not hear their cry; and when they offer burnt offering and an oblation, I will not accept them: but I will consume them by the sword, and by the famine, and by the pestilence.”  The time of God’s judgment had come.

Even the prayers of the most anointed of saints could not change God’s purpose: “Then said the Lord unto me, Though Moses and Samuel stood before me, yet my mind could not be toward this people: cast them out of my sight, and let them go forth,” Jeremiah 15:1.

God will not compromise His own holiness in order to save anyone from the consequences of their continual backsliding and failure to repent.

To call a sinful and unrepentant nation “Israel” and to ascribe to their city the title “Jerusalem” will bring the decreed results: “Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!” Isaiah 5:20.  Sin is a reproach to any people, no matter what they may call themselves, whether “Jewish” or “Christian”.

Pray for the peace of the true Jerusalem, the Holy City, the Bride of Christ, His Body, the Church of the Living God.