Awaiting The Promised Messiah

Our faith heritage in the churches of Christ has often shied away from the season of Advent as being “unauthorized in Scripture.” However, the word “advent” simply means “coming.” The OT is full of hope in expectant waiting for the coming Messiah, the only one who could set the world aright.The NT is also full of the same hope as the church expectantly awaits Christ’s return. Advent is a season of expectant waiting for the return of Jesus at the Second Coming. We look forward to Christ’s return through the lens of those who waited for his first coming. 

“‘The days are coming,’ declares the Lord, ‘when I will fulfill the good promise I made to the people of Israel and Judah.”

Jeremiah 33:14 NIV

This week we turn our attention to Jeremiah 33 and Mark 8, and the promise of the Messiah. God had promised in the Garden that a descendant of Eve would eventually crush the head of the serpent, and in doing so the human would be struck (Gen. 3:15). God promised to Abraham “through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed” (Gen. 22:18). God promised through Moses that he would “raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your fellow Israelites. You must listen to him.” (Deut. 18:15). 

This promise from God had been a long time in coming. Centuries of waiting for the one who would defeat evil, bless all nations, be the voice of God that we listen to, and many other prophecies, came at the perfect time, but for humans, the wait seemed endless.

And when the Messiah came, the majority of the people were not prepared.

As Israel and Judah awaited the fulfillment of God’s promise, we also wait for the fulfillment of the second coming of the Messiah Jesus. Many of us have forgotten that we are called to watch, to listen, and to open our hearts in expectant preparation for his coming (Matt. 25:1-13). 

We are called to listen to his Word. We look for signs of his presence in this world…a light in the darkness, a voice in the silence, and a stirring deep within us. We’re good at singing worship songs that reiterate these things, but do we truly expectantly wait and prepare for his return?

All of the Gospel writers want us to realize that the life of Jesus was the fulfillment of promises of old (Mt. 1:22-23; Mk. 1:1-4; Lk. 4:17-21; Jn. 1:45; etc.) and the renewal of promises yet to come (Isa. 65:17; Mt. 14:37; Lk. 12:40; Mk. 13:35; Jn. 14:2-3; Rev. 21:5). In Christ, God has and will continue to fulfill all promises.

And so we wait.

And the question that we all must answer is, “Am I ready for the coming of Christ?”

Women Praying & Prophesying With Their Heads Covered?

Why does Paul ask women to cover their heads while praying and prophesying? (1 Cor. 11:2-16)  Most people will assume something cultural is going on here, and they would be correct! But what exactly?

Women’s hair was seen as a major object of lust in the ancient world, as well as in some cultures in the middle east today (remember a lot of the Bible was written to people in middle eastern cultures). It seems foreign because hair doesn’t really cause us to lust. But as a means for cultural understanding, let’s equate the “uncovered head” of these women to wearing a very revealing bikini.

Now imagine someone dressing in such a way in front of the congregation on Sunday morning. Now you’re starting to understand the problem. In the ancient world an uncovered head meant you were sexually promiscuous; not such a crazy idea because this is one of the ways pagan temple prostitutes would wear their hair. The idea of a bikini in worship in our culture, and an uncovered head in theirs, is clearly inappropriate.

One of the greatest physical shames a woman could have in this culture was having her hair shaved off. What Paul is saying here is that if you see nothing wrong with uncovering your head in a worship assembly then you might as well go ahead and shave your head. The female readers would understand the level of shame Paul is equating to what they were doing in the assembly.

Why were they doing this? Keep in mind that churches met in homes, not church buildings. It was perfectly acceptable for a woman to have her head uncovered at home in front of her family, just like you might walk around in clothing at home that you would never wear in a public setting. When a more formal gathering (worship assembly) gathered in the same homes, it seems that some of the women were leaving their heads uncovered – again, inappropriate for male non-family members present. 

This was new territory for most of these Corinthian people. We are having a public gathering in a private home. How do we act? Paul here is teaching modesty within the assembly. How do we know this is the assembly? Paul tells us so in verse 16. “Churches” is the Greek word ekklesiai, the plural form for “assembly.” There is no assembly that practices uncovered heads (again cultural) while women are praying and prophesying.

But did you notice what is assumed in this passage? Women are clearly praying and prophesying (v. 5) openly in the presence of men in the assembly (v. 16), and that is totally ok! It is never questioned if women can pray or prophesy in the assembly, but rather can they do so with their heads uncovered. 

Somehow, women praying and prophesying in the assembly of 1 Corinthians 11 is not a violation of 1 Corinthians 14:34-35. But how can that be? We’ll take a closer look at that next week. But as a starting point, read all of 1 Corinthians 14 while asking yourself this question: 

What goal does Paul have in writing this chapter?

Connections: The Passover and the Lord’s Supper – Part 5

Last week we explored the significance of the blood being applied to the doorposts of the houses of Israel. God had spared the children of Israel because the blood of the Passover lamb had been applied to their homes. In this article we will look at the wine used in the Passover celebration, and the symbolism that Jesus applied in the Lord’s Supper.

A cup of wine is not mentioned in Exodus 12, and nobody really knows when this tradition was added to the celebration, but it was in place by Jesus’ time, and two references are made to drinking from it as part of the ceremony. (Luke 22:17, 20) The participants of the Passover celebration each have a cup of wine, and on four separate occasions would use the wine in their cup. Each time the cup has a specific name and symbolic significance in the ceremony.

The first cup which opens the meal is called Kiddush which means sanctification. A blessing was given thanking God for the “fruit of the vine” before taking this cup. Most likely this is the drink referenced in Luke 22:17-18 –  Then he took a cup, and after giving thanks, he said, “Take this and share it among yourselves. For I tell you, from now on I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.”

The second cup was known as the cup of plagues which reminded the Jews of the wrath of God poured out on the Egyptians in the form of the ten plagues. This was not a drink from the cup, but rather a dipping of the finger, and a drop of the wine on their plates for each of the ten plagues.

The third cup comes right after supper. This cup is mentioned specifically in Luke 22:20 – In the same way he also took the cup after supper and said, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you.” This third Passover cup is known as the Geulah which means redemption, and is sometimes called the cup of blessing. (We’ll explore a New Testament reference to the cup of blessing next time.)

The fourth cup known as the Hallel or the cup of praise accompanied the singing of hymns. These hymns are in your Bible as Psalm 113-118. I don’t have room to include these passages here, but you should read through them to see what Jesus sung just before he was arrested. And though this fourth cup is not mentioned specifically, it would have been taken with the hymns sung by Jesus and his disciples. (Mt. 26:30, Mk. 14:26)

Christians don’t usually pick up on the statement Jesus was making when he used the phrase “new covenant in my blood.” This phrase is only used once in the Old Testament in Jeremiah 31:31-34. “Look, the days are coming”—this is the Lord’s declaration—“when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah…”

Jesus’ statements during the Passover, and his use of the Passover emblems and traditions made it clear that he was the chosen Messiah of God, the true Passover lamb that was sacrificed once and for all to take away the sin of the world. “For I will forgive their iniquity and never again remember their sin.” Jeremiah 31:34b

For further reading on this subject, you can visit Jews for Jesus, or Chabad.

Connections: The Passover and the Lord’s Supper – Part 1
Connections: The Passover and the Lord’s Supper – Part 2 
Connections: The Passover and the Lord’s Supper – Part 3
Connections: The Passover and the Lord’s Supper – Part 4