Bless Your Enemies - A Key to Passover

Andre Jacques Victor Orsel, The Infant Moses Presented to Pharaoh, 1830

Andre Jacques Victor Orsel, The Infant Moses Presented to Pharaoh, 1830

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Matthew 5:43-48 (MSG)

“You’re familiar with the old written law, ‘Love your friend,’ and its unwritten companion, ‘Hate your enemy.’ I’m challenging that. I’m telling you to love your enemies. Let them bring out the best in you, not the worst. When someone gives you a hard time, respond with the energies of prayer, for then you are working out of your true selves, your God-created selves. This is what God does. He gives his best—the sun to warm and the rain to nourish—to everyone, regardless: the good and bad, the nice and nasty. If all you do is love the lovable, do you expect a bonus? Anybody can do that. If you simply say hello to those who greet you, do you expect a medal? Any run-of-the-mill sinner does that. In a word, what I’m saying is, Grow up. You’re kingdom subjects. Now live like it. Live out your God-created identity. Live generously and graciously toward others, the way God lives toward you.”

Luke 23:34-35 (MSG)

Jesus prayed, “Father, forgive them; they don’t know what they’re doing.” Dividing up his clothes, they threw dice for them. The people stood there staring at Jesus, and the ringleaders made faces, taunting, “He saved others. Let’s see him save himself! The Messiah of God—ha! The Chosen—ha!”

From A Catholic Prayer Book

Almighty God, have mercy on N. and on all that bear me evil will and would me harm, and on their faults and mine together, by such easy, tender, merciful means, as thine infinite wisdom best can devise; vouchsafe to amend and redress and make us saved souls in heaven together, where we may ever live and love together with thee and thy blessed saints, O glorious Trinity, for the bitter passion of our sweet Savior Christ. Amen. - Saint Thomas More (1477-1535)

It’s Time To Grow Up, Heather

For several months, I keep hearing the Lord say that it’s time for me to grow up. I struggled with that for some time. I thought, “Maybe I need to be more organized, maybe I need to be more serious. Maybe I need to have a more set schedule and discipline in my life.” Now, all these may be true, but those thoughts were causing me a lot of stress. All those “should’s” and “ought to’s” just didn’t really feel peaceful or like the root of the issue. 

Then in my prayer life and study, God began to deal with me at deeper levels about repentance and forgiveness. In the middle of the night last week, I just wanted to read the Sermon on the Mount. Sometimes, it’s just good to go back to the basics. As I read in The Message version of Matthew 5, there it was, “Grow Up!” In context of the scripture, this kind of maturity had to do with not just forgiving, but blessing my enemies. Not just blessing, but actually, really loving them! 

I have been pondering and seeking on just what this means in my life, what it might mean for the corporate body, and the timing of all of this as well. As prophetic people, it seems that God is always dealing with each of us on an individual level of process as we walk. Sometimes, there is value in that for others as well. So, I just wanted to share for those that God might be leading in a similar way during this season, both personally and corporately.

Lent and Passover

Even if we are unaware of God’s seasons, it might be that some of you have been experiencing some leading by the Holy Spirit recently into some introspection and repentance. We should always be examining ourselves, but it just seems there are certain times of the year where God is focused on helping us deal with things that could limit us in the next season. Passover, or the season of Lent which coincides, is one of those times.

Lent is the Christian church’s tradition of preparing for Easter, and is very similar to the activity of preparation before Passover. Passover this year begins on Friday, April 3 and Easter is Sunday, April 5. 

Lent shares similar themes with the preparation for Passover. It is a 40-day period of fasting, introspection, repentance and consecration to God. Traditional preparation for Passover begins a month in advance with one of the most important activities being the removal of leaven from the home. Before Passover there is a week in which no leaven may be consumed. This is tied to the historic narrative of the Exodus when the Israelites left Egypt with unleavened bread because they did not have time to bake. But, to Jews there are spiritual implications as well, as leaven can represent decay and the evil inclination. So, there is the physical cleansing of the home, which also represents a cleansing of the spiritual house.

In the early church, there was also an intensive process for new believers who wanted to be baptized that occurred at this time. Leading up to Easter, the new converts were being intensely discipled one on one in the Christian faith, they were fasting, they were receiving deliverance ministry every day, and they were being prayed for. The baptism itself was quite an incredible experience. Much of this is outlined in The Didache, which was written down sometime between 50-70 AD and recorded the oral tradition of discipleship that had been going on since the beginning of the church. One of the reasons baptism was so serious and they prepared converts so intently is because Christians were suffering persecution and could very well become martyrs for becoming Christian. Yet, as I read this document, which is a series of items that were taught in succession during the discipleship period, it begins with “Love God and love your neighbor as yourself.” The prominence of the command to love makes sense as it was Jesus' own summary of all the law and prophets. Then the next most important thing to learn was how to bless your enemies.

The Didache

1 There Are Two Ways

1:1 There are two ways, one of life and one of death! and there is a great difference between the two ways.

1:2 The way of life is this: First, you shall love God who made you. And second, love your neighbor as yourself, and do not do to another what you would not want done to you.

1:3 The meaning of these sayings is this: Bless those who curse you, and pray for your enemies, and fast for those who persecute you. For what reward is there for loving those who love you? Do not the heathens do the same? But you should love those who hate you, and then you shall have no enemies.

Prophets' Blessing of Enemies

Beyond our personal call to bless our enemies and not curse them, I believe there is a corporate call to the church right now in the face of persecution to begin to pray for and bless our enemies. As a prophetic and intercessory community, we can lead the way in this.

Blessing enemies is not just a New Testament convention. There are three stories in the Old Testament that I think model what Jesus made much more clear in His ministry in regard to blessing our enemies. Each story involves a prophetic assignment.

Jonah was told by God to go to Ninevah, the capital of Assyria, to prophesy to them. These were people who hated the Jews, who waged war and killed them. These were the military and spiritual enemies of Jonah’s people and Jonah hated them. He hated them so much, that he refused to go and was willing to die instead of prophesy to them. He basically told God to throw him into the sea and kill him, and that he would prefer that experience to delivering God's message to Jonah's enemies. Why? Because Jonah knew God, and he said he knew that God would forgive the Ninevites if they responded to God’s word. But, Jonah wanted them to suffer. He finally did go, reluctantly, and delivered God’s warning to the people who repented and fasted and God spared them. Jonah still wanted to die! He sat outside the city walls wasting away, just hoping to see fire rain down on the Ninevites. God asks Jonah twice, “Do you do well to be angry?” and Jonah says that he does, and angry enough to die because of what the Ninevites have done. Even though the city was full of children and God told Jonah it was his desire to show mercy, Jonah really struggled with this prophetic assignment. 

Elisha was given an assignment by God to bring healing to Naaman, the commander of the army of Syria who also was a leper. He is one of only three examples in the Old Testament of someone being healed from leprosy, the other two were Moses and Miriam. Naaman find outs about Elisha through his slave girl, a girl that had been captured from Israel and was now a slave to Naaman’s wife. This girl had such a heart in her that she told her master that she hoped that he would be healed by Elisha and told her about the prophet Elisha. Talk about blessing your enemies! Naaman asks his king for permission to go, and his king sends him with a letter to the king of Israel asking him to heal Naaman. The king of Israel panics and shows a lack of faith, because no one ever got healed of leprosy! Even Jesus mentions that in Luke 4:27 “And there were many lepers in Israel in the time of the prophet Elisha, and none of them was cleansed, but only Naaman the Syrian.” Naaman is not pleased with how Elisha treats him but submits to God’s word through Elisha just as the Ninevites submitted to God’s word through Jonah. Elisha obeys God and Naaman, their enemy, is healed. 

In the story of Moses and the Exodus, I think there are some implications for blessing our enemies that I had never thought of before. If we think back to what the Israelites were doing there in the first place, they had been used of God to bless Egypt, and in that process they were also blessed and saved from famine. Joseph had been sold into Israel as a slave, and in his process learned to bless his enemies through dream interpretation, service, wisdom, and spiritual insight. God used him to bless Egypt and save them from famine, and in the process his own family was saved. He was honored, but sometimes we forget, this all happened in the presence of Joseph's enemies. Four hundred years later, the Pharaoh seems to have forgotten this history and instead of honoring the Israelites, is oppressing them under slavery. God saves Moses, brings him out, but then calls him and gives him a prophetic assignment to go back to Egypt and tell them to “Let my people go!” What if, like the Ninevites, and like Naaman, this was God’s attempt to bless Egypt? 

I know that might seem like an odd question since the scriptures say that God hardened Pharoah’s heart, and also that Pharaoh hardened his own heart. If God hardened Pharoah’s heart, then how is there any chance that he could respond positively to Moses and potentially be blessed by being a blessing to the Israelites? There is a lot of debate about what that idiom about hardening the heart means in Hebrew, but suffice it to say that I think there is ample evidence to show that Pharaoh had choice in the matter and could have responded differently than he did. I think God always gives us choice and honors free will and is always open to repentance.

But, the interesting aspect of the Exodus in regard to it being another example of a prophetic assignment to bless enemies, and something I had never really noticed before, is that many Egyptians left along with the Israelites. [1] “Israel and the early church often lost sight of their missional purpose. When God led Israel out of Egypt, many Egyptians went with them (Exod. 12: 38). Moses and Israel did not try to keep Egyptians—whose ruler had oppressed them—from experiencing God’s glory, power, and love.” [2]

Exodus 12:38 (MSG)

The Israelites moved on from Rameses to Succoth, about 600,000 on foot, besides their dependents. There was also a crowd of riffraff tagging along, not to mention the large flocks and herds of livestock. They baked unraised cakes with the bread dough they had brought out of Egypt; it hadn’t raised—they’d been rushed out of Egypt and hadn’t time to fix food for the journey.

One article I read said that the number of Egyptians leaving with the Israelites was 2.4 million along with only 600,000 Israelites! These were the elite of the land, the wealthy, educated, and craftsmen, and these were the ones the Pharaoh truly regretted letting go. We have thought of the Israelites taking the wealth out of Egypt in regard to gold and other material riches, but the Egyptian people were the real treasure, though they probably caused a lot of trouble along the way as they tried to bring in some of their old ways. The point is, God blessed Egypt by bringing many out into His promises to become part of His people and this became a blessing to Israel as well, not only in material wealth, but in numbers, in skills, and in an ability to move into the Promised Land.

A Key To Passing Over

As I thought about Passover, I  began to have a sense that, for me, and maybe for many, one of the keys to moving forward into our promises is this command to bless our enemies. Blessing our enemies can be both personal and corporate.

As we read about in The Didache, blessing enemies was considered one of the most important lessons that they could teach new converts in the early church. They were persecuted, but because of their witness, the church expanded and grew. 

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said to be perfect, or mature, to be like God, the Father. He associated maturity with loving and blessing our enemies. In fact, blessing enemies was the very core of Jesus' mission in the earth, and of the cross. The cross was a display of love for all of us who had rejected God and Jesus blessed us by defeating the power of death. He gave us the power to become mature sons and daughters of God (John 1:12) and through the power of the Holy Spirit, to be able to bless our enemies as well.

Our Prophetic Task In The Face Of Persecution

We are living in a time when there is persecution of Christians and we see it in horrific propaganda disseminated by radical terrorists who are most definitely our enemies. Many in the prophetic stream are right to teach and share about what is going on, what the implications are, and some of the beliefs of radical Islamism. But, I am concerned that many of the messages leave the church without direction on what we are to do in the face of persecution. 

I had a wise and tough boss once. He had a mantra: "Don’t bring me a problem unless you already have the solution!"

I believe our prophetic task is not to just call attention to the problem of persecution, but to prophesy encouragement, not fear. The encouragement comes not from saying there is nothing to fear, but that perfect, mature love casts out fear. Just as forgiveness is not a whitewashing of offense or a denial of truth, so is blessing our enemies. To pray blessings instead of cursing our enemies, we come through the truth of the abuse and out into the other side. Jesus said, “Forgive them for they know not what they do”, but Jesus knew it clearly and chose to bless.

Jesus offered us the solution to the problem of persecution. Grow up! Be ye perfect as my father in heaven is perfect, by loving and blessing the just and unjust. This is how the victory is won, this is how Jesus does it. 

A Key To A Move Of God

Many of us are well aware of the prophesies of a coming move of God, founded in love, in which a billion souls will come into the Kingdom. Could it be possible that God is allowing persecution at this time so that we have an opportunity to be perfected? Our response may be the very witness to the world that brings in those billion souls! I don’t know, but it would not be the first time God has worked in this sort of way. 

There are so many we could pray for and bless: radical terrorists, sex traffickers, child abusers, and those in our own lives who have persecuted us. As prophetic people, we tend to have a strong sense of justice and we see what is not right in the world very clearly. 

I have felt God asking me to not brace or rail against injustice but to shine in its midst. This does not mean ignoring injustice, or not being truthful, or not calling sin and abuse what it is. It doesn't mean not hating injustice. This is about coming through it and redeeming it the way Jesus showed us to. And I am not good at this! Not at all!

But, it’s not too late to begin. We also have the authority to break any curses we have spoken against others, in the name of Jesus. With the help of Holy Spirit, we can repent and begin to bless our enemies and those who have hurt us. I don’t know what that looks like in each case for each of us. It may just be prayer, it may be more than that. Each of us has to work that out with the Lord. I don’t know what God may do with this sort of obedience, but we may be surprised.

So, as Passover approaches, I encourage you, as Lord leads you, to remember this instruction to bless our enemies, whether personal or corporate. 

Prayer for Yom HaShoah (Holocaust Remembrance Day)

Lord, remember not only the men of good will, but also those of ill will. But do not remember all the suffering they have inflicted upon us. Remember rather the fruits we have brought, thanks to this suffering: our comradeship, our loyalty, our humility, the courage, the generosity, the greatness of heart that has grown out of this. And when they come to judgment, let all the fruits we have bourne be their forgiveness.

Source: Found on a scrap of paper at the liberation of Ravensbruck Concentration Camp in Germany

References 

[1] http://www.torah.org/learning/outsidethebox/5764/beshalach.html
[2]Harper, Brad; Metzger, Paul Louis (2009-03-01). Exploring Ecclesiology: An Evangelical and Ecumenical Introduction (p. 239). Baker Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.