The Empty Chair

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Passover 5784 (תשפ״ד)

On Monday evening this coming week, my family and I will have the privilege to join Jewish people around the world in an ancient tradition called Passover. This feast of remembrance, which God instructed Moses and the children of Israel to keep thousands of years ago, is a generational bond between the Jewish people over the millennia. Over the years, I have written much about this incredible appointed time, its important reminder of the past, and the prophetic connection to the ultimate Passover Lamb, Messiah Yeshua.

As part of a personal tradition that I have adopted, I like to start our Passover Seder by reading from Jeremiah 16:14-15:

“Therefore behold, days are coming,” declares the Lord, “when it will no longer be said, ‘As the Lord lives, who brought up the sons of Israel out of the land of Egypt,’ but, ‘As the Lord lives, who brought up the sons of Israel from the land of the north and from all the lands where He had banished them.’ For I will restore them to their own land which I gave to their fathers.”

As someone living in that land today, it is incredibly powerful to read these verses to my family and friends as we sit around the table celebrating the Lord’s Passover. We are back in the land that God promised our forefathers, and the same God who redeemed Israel from slavery in Egypt is indeed the same God who fulfilled his promise from Jeremiah 16!

While the story of the Passover is a powerful story of redemption and God’s faithfulness, it is also a story of sadness and great suffering that the children of Israel endured as slaves under the Egyptians’ rule. In the same way, while the story of the regathering of the children of Israel back to the Land of Promise is an amazing story, it also involves great suffering that we as a nation endure until today.

When setting up the Passover seder table with all its many elements, one will note that there is an empty chair and in front of it, a plate, and a glass of wine or grape juice. This place is set for Elijah the prophet.  One of the most enjoyable parts of the Seder is the time that we open the door to see if he has arrived.

Why Elijah? The tradition shows Elijah as one of the greatest prophets of Israel who was totally devoted to God and His instructions; Elijah had no fear to confront anyone, even the kings of Israel such as the evil Ahab (1 Kings 18). Another reason is based on Malachi 4:5 (3:23 in the Hebrew Bible) that announces the great Day of Judgment, which is also believed to be the day of redemption, thus the connection to Passover:

“Behold, I am going to send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and terrible day of the Lord.”

As I was reflecting upon this year’s Passover Seder and the empty chair, I couldn’t stop thinking about the hundreds of families in Israel whose Passover Seder will not be a celebration, but a painful reminder of those we lost in the current war or on October 7th. It will also be a painful reminder of our hostages who are still held in captivity by Hamas and whose condition is totally unknown. I think of families like my family who will be missing my beloved nephew who was killed in Gaza in November 2023. This year the empty chair will signify a great amount of sadness, pain, and grief as this war continues without an end in sight.

Personally, I pray that as a nation, we will remember the amazing story of redemption as we look at the empty chair; although mixed with grief as we also remember our missing or deceased loved ones, we will also remember the hope that this incredibly important appointed time signifies. Together, we will look forward to the day Elijah will come once again, declaring the coming of our Messiah, which will be a day of great redemption and hope. It is a day that the prophet Isaiah beautifully describes, which took on an entirely new meaning for me this year as I long more than ever that “the sound of weeping and the sound of crying” will be heard in our streets no more:

For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth; and the former things will not be remembered or come to mind. But be glad and rejoice forever in what I create; for behold, I create Jerusalem for rejoicing and her people for gladness. I will also rejoice in Jerusalem and be glad in My people; and there will no longer be heard in her the voice of weeping and the sound of crying. No longer will there be in it an infant who lives only a few days, or an old person who does not live out his days; for the youth will die at the age of a hundred, and the one who does not reach the age of a hundred will be thought accursed. They will build houses and inhabit them; they will also plant vineyards and eat their fruit. They will not build and another inhabit, they will not plant and another eat; for as the lifetime of a tree, so will be the days of My people, and My chosen ones will fully enjoy the work of their hands. They will not labor in vain, or give birth to children for disaster; for they are the descendants of those blessed by the LORD, and their descendants with them. It will also come to pass that before they call, I will answer; while they are still speaking, I will listen. The wolf and the lamb will graze together, and the lion will eat straw like the ox; and dust will be the serpent’s food. They will do no evil or harm on all My holy mountain,” says the LORD.
Isaiah 65:17-25

If you celebrate the Passover this year, please add an empty chair not just for Elijah, but also one for those who have been killed or are held in captivity in Gaza. Please add a prayer for comfort for those families and the safe return of our hostages. For me, the empty chair will represent a mix of grief and pain with hope for the future of God’s final redemption.

May you have a meaningful Passover,

Moran

 

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One Comment on “The Empty Chair”

  1. Thank you, Moran. There is so much to understand about so many biblical things. So many connection to make. Thank you for explaining and helping me understand more of them.

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