By Johnathan Blake
As Christian believers, we have a wonderful relationship with an Old Testament heritage. Our faith did not begin in Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. Our faith begins in Genesis 1. In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.
We teach and preach from the Old Testament scriptures because the law of the Old Testament is our schoolmaster. It all points to Jesus Christ. We have to understand that the law of Moses was temporary, it pointed forward, and it was fulfilled in Jesus Christ. The book of Hebrews is written to Christian believers who were being challenged to return to their former life under the law of Moses. This was not simply a return to rituals and celebrations from the past. The author of the book of Hebrews builds a case, line by line, and chapter by chapter, that Jesus completed and fulfilled the law by his life, death, burial, and resurrection.
The Blood of Jesus
To become believers in Jesus Christ, these Jewish people had placed their faith in the work of Jesus for their salvation. They no longer relied upon the obsolete system of sacrifices for the blood covering for their sins. Part of their acceptance of Jesus was to understand the blood of bulls and goats was unable to forgive sins. These sacrifices simply provided a temporary covering, and these sacrifices all pointed to the Messiah. Through Jesus and His single supreme sacrifice, all sin for all time could be literally remitted and washed away.
The blood of Jesus’ superior sacrifice was, and is, applied to believers through an honest recognition of our sins, our true repentance, our confession of faith in Jesus as Savior, our accepting this by faith, our being baptized in the name of Jesus, and the receiving of the gift of the Holy Spirit with the evidence of speaking in tongues is the New Testament evidence of a complete salvation experience. It is the evidence. Old Testament believers could only look forward toward this experience… the Old Testament saints of God could only struggle to see, through the shadowy revelations of the prophets, a wonderful future when old things would pass away and all things would be new!
Sorrows of Exile
For many centuries, the Hebrew phrase לְשָׁנָה הַבָאָה בִּירוּשָלַיִם (L’Shana Haba’ah B’Yerushalayim) has been used in conjunction with the end of the Passover meal and celebration. It simply means, “Next year, in Jerusalem”. The actual phrase has been traced all the way back to the 900s AD and became associated with the Passover celebration in the 1400s AD. That is a long, long time. Next year, in Jerusalem!
The Jews had faced the judgment of God for their disobedience and their idolatry. So, God had removed them from the land he had given to them. It was tough. But it was necessary. They were driven out of their homes and cities and dispersed throughout the world. This is what is called Diaspora. One of these specific exile seasons was in Babylon. It was there, with tears on their faces that they hung their harps on the willows. One of these exiles wrote these things down and it is included among the Psalms.
“By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down, yea, we wept, when we remembered Zion. We hanged our harps upon the willows in the midst thereof. For there they that carried us away captive required of us a song; and they that wasted us required of us mirth, saying, Sing us one of the songs of Zion. How shall we sing the Lord’s song in a strange land? If I forget thee, O Jerusalem, let my right hand forget her cunning. If I do not remember thee, let my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth; if I prefer not Jerusalem above my chief joy” (Psalm 137:1-6).
The people of God, from their exile in a strange land, were among strangers with unfamiliar customs, strangers. These were people who had no real understanding of, or real appreciation for, the one true God and His Word. There, the Jewish people remembered Jerusalem, they remembered the beauty of the city God had chosen to place His name upon, and the times of gathering together as a blessed nation. With tears on their cheeks and sorrow in their hearts, these homesick exiles hung up their instruments of music. And for 2,000 years, the Jewish people who were dispersed in many nations longed for Jerusalem.
A Ray of Hope
Somewhere back in the centuries, some precious Jewish man or woman allowed a ray of hope to breakthrough. As their family sang the songs of Zion, recited the holy scriptures, and remembered the Passover lamb of old at the end of their eating, someone lifted his or her voice so filled with longing and hope, and that precious child of God declared, “NEXT YEAR… IN JERUSALEM!”
I found an interesting article. I share it to let you know what this particular time was like for the Jewish people. The writer begins by stating, “Passover is always a memorable holiday in which we conclude the festive meal with a prayer that we should be next year in Jerusalem. But for those who were in Jerusalem in 1948, the memory was never forgotten.”
He then continues to describe the state of Jerusalem at this point. He writes that the British had fallen through on their promise to give the Jews a homeland, and Israel was left war-torn. Amidst calls for a ceasefire, the Arab people continued fighting. There were snipers and heavy artillery, and citizens of Jerusalem were losing sleep over the nightly gunfire. All this time, supplies to the Jews had been cut off. The article later reads,
“Rations were given out in Jerusalem for Passover: 2 lbs. of potatoes, ½ lb of fish, 4 lb. of matzo, 1 ½ oz. dried fruit, ½ lb. meat, and ½ lb. of matzo flour. For the trapped citizens of Jerusalem, who had become accustomed to privation, the Passover provisions seemed like a banquet…the news of the Israeli advances and the retreat of the Arab forces in the Galil and the Haifa areas lifted the spirits of the besieged residents of the Jewish capital.
The Passover Seder fell on April 23 that year. It was not a particularly merry affair. On the verge of their national freedom, the inhabitants of Jerusalem sat somberly around their tables. This was the first time since the nightly shellings that the city’s citizens had come together in an assembly in the various homes throughout the city that had been the dream of two thousand years’ Seders. Tonight is a holiday, but tomorrow the struggle will go on.
As they sat to begin the Seder, they heard the beginning of the snipers’ bullets looking for a straggler in the streets. But tonight was different. As they opened the door, as they had done for scores of generations, to welcome in Elijah, there was no fear. Tonight is a night of divine protection. As the Holy One protected the Jews in Egypt, so shall he protect us here in the war-torn city of Jerusalem.
‘Once we were slaves, but today we are free men’ recited in the Haggadah, took on new meaning. The British are leaving, the Arabs are attacking, and we are beginning our new national lives as free men in our own country. “Next year in Jerusalem” had a meaning that we never before understood. We meant it; we would not relinquish our dream to return to our homeland, to the city that has been in our hearts throughout the two thousand year exile.
Now we are free men, tomorrow we must continue the fight to remain free.”
What a moment in the history of the World… when the remnant of God’s people in Jerusalem were so anxiously awaiting the time when God would restore the land He’d given them. In a few short days after this Passover in 1948. God gave them their miracle and allowed his people to go home. The prophets had stated the nation would be born in a day, and on May 14, 1948, the United Nations made it official. Israel was declared to be an independent nation. Once again they were a nation and had a home.
Take Me There
Here and now, we live in this crazy world as strangers and pilgrims. There is an unfamiliarity about these days here. We are witnesses to the greatest moments in the history of the world. You might have said, “I would like to have been a part of the book of Acts early church! That must have been incredible!” Or even, “I wish I could have seen Jesus open the eyes of the blind or raise the dead back to life.”
Well, yes. But all of those old saints longed for our day! We are so close to the coming of the Lord!
Jesus is coming soon! The evidence is everywhere! And although we know, life here is good in many ways, there is a part of me that just wants to hope… L’Shana Haba’ah B’Yerushalayim – “Next year in Jerusalem.”
David Huff wrote a song that says,
Take me there. I’m longing for a place I’ve only seen in my thoughts and my dreams.
Take me there, I’m weary of this world and I believe heaven is my destiny.
Maybe this will be the year Jesus returns! Who knows, maybe we will be home with Him before this year is ended.
The Bible tells us to comfort one another with words like this:
“But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him. For this, we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep. For the Lord, himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord. Wherefore comfort one another with these words” (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18).
I hope these words fill you with hope and comfort. If for some reason, they fill your heart with fear and doubt, today is the day for you to get right with Jesus Christ. He is willing and waiting with arms wide open for you.
Jonathan Blake serves as pastor First United Pentecostal Church of Pana, IL with wife, Angela. They love spending time with their 4 sons, two daughters in law, and 3 grandsons. They also enjoy motorcycling and refurbishing furniture.