Over the years I have written several "book" or "booklets" and many, many, many newsletter and bulletin articles. Because the book market seeks writings to meet specific needs at specific times, my material has never been accepted. I have a tendency to write what is on my mind and so I am left with self publishing. So, with the encouragement from my wife and others, I am beginning this blog in order to put my "ramblings" "out there"! I hope you enjoy!
Please note that while my intentions are to use good grammar, because of the way in which some of the material presented here is presented (orally) the grammar and syntax might not always be the best English. Also note that good theology is not always presented in the best English so there may be times when the proper grammar rules are purposely broken.
Wednesday, March 25, 2020
The Fourth Cup of Blessing and the Hymn - Lent Mid-week 5 - March 25, 2020 - Text: Malachi 4:4-6; Mark 14:26
After the Lord delivered the Children of Israel from their bondage of slavery in Egypt, by the hand of Moses, He instituted the Passover Feast as an annual remembrance of their deliverance. As we have been reminded now several times, we human beings have a tendency to forget and one way to remember then is to rehearse, to celebrate, to reenact the event or thing we wish to remember over and over again. Three weeks ago we heard the four questions that were asked and their answers as a part of the Passover celebration. Two weeks ago we heard about the first two cups of wine, the cup of Sanctification and the cup of Deliverance. Last week we talked about the food eaten during the Passover and the meaning of each food eaten. This week we move on to the point that the meal has been eaten.
As we talked about two weeks ago, so now we have already consumed two cups of wine, the cup of Sanctification and the cup of deliverance. Today we skip the third cup of wine, the cup of redemption, which we will return to on Maundy Thursday and we will talk about the fourth cup of wine, the cup of blessing.
One of the promises God made or better said, one of the promises God made was interpreted to mean that Elijah was expected to come before the Savior would come. Elijah was expected to come and to prepare the way for the Messiah. Thus, one seat at the Passover table was always left empty. This seat was meant for Elijah and the hope was that he would come in and take his seat, thus, ushering in the way for the Messiah.
This promise of God comes from the prophet Malachi (4:5) who says that before the great and awesome day of the Lord comes He will send Elijah. There were many references to this coming of Elijah as Jesus spoke with the scribes and the Pharisees. Concerning this promise of the return of Elijah, Jesus said that John the Baptist came in the spirit of Elijah to prepare the way for the Messiah. Thus, we believe Jesus’ words and we believe that John the Baptist is the one who came in the spirit of Elijah and prepared the way for the Messiah, who is Jesus. Unfortunately the whole community of Israel, that is those who deny that Jesus was and is the promised Messiah, continue to look for Elijah yet today.
Thus, at one point during the Passover Seder, the door was open to allow Elijah to enter. And every year, everyone hopped this would be the year that Elijah would walk through the door and take his seat at the table. But alas, it has never happened and we know it will never happen as we said earlier, because John the Baptist is the one who came in the spirit of Elijah, preparing the way for Jesus, the Messiah.
After the door is opened and then shut, the hymn, or the Hallel, is sang. Hallel comes from the word Hallelujah which is the Hebrew word meaning “praise God”. This may have been a psalm, perhaps portions of Psalms 115-118 or the Great Halle Psalm 136, which reads, “1Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever. 2Give thanks to the God of gods, for his steadfast love endures forever. 3Give thanks to the Lord of lords, for his steadfast love endures forever” (Psalm 136:1-3 (ESV)). Or as other translations translate it, “Praise the Lord, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever.” And so forth. And the psalm continues with this giving thanks and praise to the Lord for all the great and wonderful things He has done and continues to do. It is this word “hallelujah” that is spoke, thus the name, the Hallel.
This hymn may have been sang before the fourth cup was consumed and they, that is the disciples, may have continued to sing it as they left and went to the Mount of Olives and the Garden of Gethemane.
After the hymn is sung during the celebration, then the fourth cup of wine is consumed. The fourth cup is the cup of blessing. Before the cup, and of course we do understand that when we say the cup we are actually speaking of the contents of the cup, that is the wine in the cup, but before the cup is consumed the blessing is again spoken: Ba-ruch, a-tah A-do-nai, e-lo-hay-nu me-lech ha-o-lam, bo-ray p’ree ha-ga-fen. And this, as we have said previously, is translated to mean: Blessed are you, O LORD our God, King of the universe, who makes the fruit of the vine.
The original meaning of this fourth cup, the cup of blessing was that this cup was consumed in praise of the salvation the Lord has brought in deliverance from bondage of slavery in Egypt. Although those of the Jewish faith today would celebrate the same cup of blessing, for Christians who celebrate this Passover Seder, this cup of blessing would remind us of our deliverance from the bondage of slavery to sin.
You might recall that God’s covenant with Abraham was that He would send the Savior of the world, the Savior of all people, through the family line of Abraham. This part of the covenant was a one sided agreement with God making the promise and His fulfilling the promise. This part of the covenant had no restrictions on the part of Abraham nor any human being. The part of the covenant concerning the land of Israel was always contingent on the Children of Israel being faithful to God, which as we follow their history we know they were not. Thus, this second part of the covenant was forfeited. And, this second part of the covenant truly pointed not to an earthly kingdom, but to God’s heavenly Kingdom where Jesus, the Son of David will reign forever. It is this confusion which is seen in the last part of the Passover Seder, that is that the celebration would end with the hope and that hope would be that next year they would celebrate in the rebuilt Jerusalem. Thus, there was this continual seeking of an earthly kingdom, rather than a correct understanding of the promise of spiritual deliverance and entrance into our Lord’s heavenly kingdom.
Perhaps this part of the Passover Seder celebration begins to bring a greater distinction between what the children of Israel understood this celebration to be and what Jesus wanted them to understand, that is what we as Christian understand because we are living in the glory of the fulfillment of what was foreshadowed in this celebration. In other words, the children of Israel originally celebrated the Passover feast because they were instructed to do so in order to recall and remember their first deliverance from bondage of slavery in Egypt. At the same time, the Lord designed this celebration as a way to help them to look forward to the coming of the Messiah, the one who would deliver Israel and all people from the bondage of slavery to sin. The one who would accomplish what was promised in the Garden of Eden, the one who would crush Satan and bring forgiveness and eternal life.
Just as all the sacrifices of the Old Testament simply pointed to the one sacrifice of Christ on the cross, so this celebration pointed to the one who would fulfill all of God’s laws and promises completely and fully, the Messiah, Christ the Lord. Today, then, we continue the Passover Seder, remembering and celebrating that John the Baptist came, in the power and the spirit of Elijah, preparing the way for Jesus, that Jesus is the Messiah who came to and did deliver us from our bondage to sin by living in perfection for us, the demand of God, by taking our sins and by paying the price for our sin so that we have forgiveness and life, even eternal life. Thus we rejoice and say, to Him be the glory, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.