Revive Our Hearts Podcast

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Dannah Gresh: In busy seasons of life, a married couple works to find time for date nights so they can focus on one another. Here's Erika VanHaitsma.

Erika VanHaitsma: Do you have a date night with God? Do you have any time set aside specifically just for you and the Lover of your soul?

Dannah: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth, author of The Wonder of His Name, for March 30, 2021. I'm Dannah Gresh.

Yesterday, our guest teacher began inviting us into a love story starting in Genesis and ending in Revelation. It’s a love story of God pursuing His damsel in distress, working out a happy ending. Nancy’s here’s to welcome our guest back.

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth: I’m so grateful to welcome back to Revive Our Hearts today our guest teacher for this week, Erika VanHaitsma. You’re going to get to know and love this woman’s heart as you listen here on Passion Week to a woman who has a passion for Christ, for His Word, and for the whole scope of the story of our salvation as it unfolds from Genesis 1:1 to the last verse of Revelation.

I want to say that Erika’s going to start out our session today by pointing us to a passage in what is probably my favorite book in all of Scripture; you’ve heard me teach this book before. Erika, get us started and take us to the Song of Solomon. What does that have to do with Passover?

Erika: We’re going to find out! Thank you, Nancy.

Song of Solomon, chapter 2, verses 8–13 states this:

Listen! My beloved! Look! Here he comes, leaping across the mountains, bounding over the hills. My beloved is like a gazelle or a young stag. Look! There he stands behind our wall, gazing through the windows, peering through the lattice.

My beloved spoke and said to me, "Arise, my darling, my beautiful one, come with me. See! The winter is past; the rains are over and gone. Flowers appear on the earth; the season of singing has come, the cooing of doves is heard in our land. The fig tree forms its early fruit; the blossoming vines spread their fragrance. Arise, come, my darling; my beautiful one, come with me."

Yesterday, we looked at the beginning of Genesis, and we learned that there is a Creator who is over all, and therefore able to do with His creation what pleases Him the most. And what pleases this Creator? To dwell intimately with His creation.

You see this right away in Genesis 3, as Adam and Eve disobeyed God’s specific command. Yet God comes down and promises to send a Deliverer. Then God comes to a man named Abraham and enters into covenant with Abraham with that binding oath or unbreakable promise, that the descendants of Abraham—the Israelites—will belong to God, to do with as He pleases. However, things don’t go easy for God and His people.

We learn in the book of Exodus that there’s a new master on the scene, and he has claimed the nation of Israel as his, to do with as he pleases. And what pleases this new master is to use them, abuse them, and—because they grow too numerous—to lose them.

So the Israelites cry out. But Exodus 2:23 states they cry out, but not to God. It almost deliberately leaves God’s name out of that passage. They’re just crying; they are hopeless. They’re not sure who to cry out to anymore. How do you get set free from the biggest, most powerful nation on earth?

It’s quite a story! And if you haven’t heard the Exodus story, it can keep you on the edge of your seat as you’re wondering who’s going to win! Is it the mighty Pharaoh, or is the God Who created everything really the Master?

But there’s a definite answer that comes, and there are amazing signs and wonders as God shows over and over again: He is the most powerful, and He is in control! From the Nile River turning to blood, frogs infesting the land, hailstorms, painful sores inflicting man and animal.

The God of Israel shows His power over Creation, the elements, the people—over the Egyptian gods and goddesses—and even over the mighty Pharaoh!

A few years ago, one of the plagues was actually brought to life. We have some friends who live in a wooded area, and they have a couple of small ponds behind their house. They called me one day and they said, “You have to bring your kids over here!”

So we drove over there to find (and I don’t remember why; they explained to us the reason, but I don’t remember why) there was a bumper crop of frogs that year. So we walked behind their house to these ponds, and they are little ponds—there’s no fish in them; it’s just water stuck on the ground.

But there were hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of frogs! You’re sitting there watching these ponds just teem with life . . . and the constant noise! I’m sitting there going, “Oh, my word! This would drive me crazy!” I had never thought about what it would have been like to have frogs just infiltrate and swarm your house day and night and be croaking nonstop. Because there were so many frogs, they were loud! Maybe this hundred over here aren’t croaking at the moment, but these are, these hundred over here. And when these hundred are done, those hundred croak. And when those hundred are done, the two-hundred behind you are croaking!

It was just nonstop croaking! And I thought, Oh my word! Those poor people would have been driven crazy by the noise—not to mention the disgustingness of the frogs and everything. But the noise! None of the plagues would have been fun to go through. But I had a little taste of the frogs.

This showdown between God and Pharaoh culminates in what is called the Passover Festival. This is the tenth and final plague—or sign—for Egypt. Now, the angel of death is going to come and visit each Egyptian home and kill the firstborn son.

I have two sons. That would be devastating! This is a hard concept for us, and in one sense it seems unfair—that God would kill these innocent boys—because it’s not their fault Israel is enslaved. They’re not the ones keeping Israel in Egypt, so this doesn’t seem right to us always.

But we need to remember what the Bible says in Genesis 18:25: “Will not the Judge of all the earth do right?” It doesn’t say, “He’ll do fair.” It says, “He’ll do right.” To understand this plague, we need to look at it from a different level.

In Exodus 4:22, God says through Moses to Pharaoh, Israel is His firstborn son. So you need to see it as if Pharaoh has got God’s firstborn son and is not letting him go. And so, God finally says, “Enough! A life for a life.”

God has given Pharaoh numerous chances to let His firstborn son go, and Pharaoh has consistently and stubbornly said “no!” And his land has already suffered for it.

The Middle East is a very community-focused culture, and so Pharaoh would represent the entire nation. So as Pharaoh suffers, so must his people. And so every house in Egypt will lose a son so that God’s firstborn son can be set free.

And it works. God knows exactly what He needs to do to get His will accomplished, because the very next day after Pharaoh’s son is dead, all of Egypt rushes Israel out and says, “Leave before we’re all destroyed!” It works.

But it’s not only the Egyptians that are going to suffer this. The angel of death will visit the Israelite households, too. But God tells Israel how to protect themselves. In Exodus chapter 12, verses 5–11, God said. . .

“[Take one-] year-old males without defect, and you [can] take them from the sheep or the goats. . . . [On] the fourteenth day of the month . . . all the members of the community of Israel must slaughter them at twilight. Then [they’re] to take some of the blood and put it on the sides and [the] tops of the doorframes of [their] houses where they eat the lambs. That same night they are to eat the meat roasted over the fire . . . with [the] bitter herbs, and bread made without yeast” (vv. 5–8).

“This is how you are to eat it: with your cloak tucked into your belt, your sandals on your feet and your staff in your hand. Eat it in haste; it is the Lord’s Passover” (v. 11).

“You’re leaving in the morning!”

They were also commanded by God to continue celebrating this event that same night every year. So every year after that they’re to kill a lamb, eat the meat, the unleavened bread, and the bitter herbs. Every year they’re to reenact that initial Passover.

Passover has a huge connection to a very important New Testament event, which we’re going to look at in a couple days, but today I want to focus on Passover. The Jewish people still celebrate Passover to this day.

Do you know what book they read through during the Passover season? We would assume the book of Exodus—which makes sense. But actually, during this season, they read through the book, The Song of Solomon, because they see it as intimately connected to the Passover story.

Song of Solomon is a collection of love poems between a lover and his beloved, and chapter 2 specifically mentions the lover as bounding over the mountain and leaping over the hills, coming to be with the one He loves to take her hand and walk with her, to enter into an intimate relationship.

So what’s the connection between a book of love poems and the Passover story? Passover is a love story! There are many levels to Scripture. On one level, Israel is seen as God’s firstborn son, but on another level in Scripture, Israel is seen as God’s bride, God’s beloved.

Think of it like the love story that we talked about yesterday. In the Passover story, God is the hero bounding over the mountains! Israel is the damsel in distress, and the villain who’s trying to keep them apart? Pharaoh!

We need to understand. Passover is a story of God’s passionate and intense love for His people! It is first in the Passover story that we see God as the lover, bounding over the mountains, leaping over the hills, moving heaven and earth to get to the one He loves.

So God commands Israel, “Remember this night—the night your God did what no one else could do, because I love you!” And so they have. For the last several thousand years, the Jewish people have remembered the night they were set free by an amazing act of a gracious God who loves them.

And they remind themselves of that love by reading through the Song of Solomon. Passover is a love story because our God is a Lover. But actually, the story is just bigger than Passover.

So often, when we read the Old Testament, we think, Wow, God is mad. He’s angry. He’s mean. I’ve heard it from people: “I don’t like the Old Testament. God is mean and angry and always killing everyone.” And that breaks my heart, because you know what I’ve come to see in the Old Testament is not a God who’s mean and angry and killing everyone, but a God who is so passionately in love with His people He will destroy anything that stands between Him and the one He loves!

The creator God of Genesis 1 becomes the covenant-making God of Genesis 15 so He can be the lover God in Exodus who rescues His people. Then He spends the rest of Scripture pursuing His beloved.

Yes, there is discipline in the Old Testament . . . and in the New Testament. There is some harsh discipline, but you need to see it as coming from a broken heart, from a broken relationship.

When you read through the Old Testament, if it helps, picture God as the husband outside begging His wife to leave her adulterous relationship and come back to Him. Or maybe picture Him as the parent of a stubborn and rebellious child.

And He finally says, “Enough! I will let My child hit rock bottom, because maybe then My child will look up; maybe then My child will learn and choose life!” The discipline comes because a relationship has been broken—because His heart has been torn in two. God loves His people so much!

God is a passionate God. He is passionate for His own glory, and He is passionate for His people! He’s a passionate lover. Read through the book of Hosea or Jeremiah and you will see God weeping through those prophets, longing to reconcile, to be intimate. Like any lover, He wants to dwell with His beloved.

So God commands Israel, “Remember this night what I did for you, how I came to save you, and celebrate Passover every year.”

Life is crazy at my household! Every day is flying by just dealing with the day-to-day of life and homeschooling and babies and children . . . not to mention when anything out of the ordinary or unexpected comes.

There are so many nights when I finally get the kids into bed and it’s like, “Oh, yeah! I have a husband—a man I’m supposed to spend time with, a man who’s supposed to be a greater priority than my kids.” 

There are so many days when the kids are done, I’m done! I feel empty; I feel exhausted, and I’m tired! Date nights have become incredibly important in this season of our lives as we try to remind ourselves why we chose to love each other and keep that connection in the midst of life.

God is no different. He wants to be with His beloved and enjoy her company, so He set aside a date night for the children of Israel—times of the year for them to remember how He came to their rescue, and then celebrate and simply be in His presence.

God knows what life is like. He knows how busy . . . Whether you have children or not, whether you’re married or not, life can get incredibly busy. It can be hard pursuing a relationship with a God you can’t even see. God knows this.

With the season I am in right now, five minutes sometimes seems like too much time to give anything. It is hard to spend time with God, so God has created date nights. Passover is a yearly date night that is set up with the Lord of the universe as a way for God to continue calling His people back to Him. It's a way for Him to continue wooing them and reminding them, “Here’s how much I love you, and here’s why you can choose to love Me.”

What about us? What about you? Do you have a date night with God? Do you have any time set aside specifically just for you and the lover of your soul?

Do you ever set aside everything else and focus purely on Him? It’s hard. It is very hard! Sunday mornings are good, but even—honestly—during a service there are distractions, things that come and go. When life gets busy, how do you remind yourself God loves you, and how do you show God you love Him?

But Passover’s only one night a year, isn’t it? I’m very thankful my husband and I do date nights more than one night a year! And that’s not enough for God, either. Although Israel has finally left Egypt, there are still stumbling blocks in their relationship with God. This story is just beginning. Passover is followed by another feast—which we get to look at tomorrow.

Nancy: Thank you, Erika VanHaitsma. She and her husband, Bryan, serve as part of our Revive Our Hearts team. I’m so thankful for these precious reminders, that though we deserve God’s judgment as those Egyptians and Israelites did—because we are that wandering wife, those who have forgotten our covenant with God; we are not faithful to Him—yet He pursues us and in place of judgment, He offers us mercy. That’s what the Passover is about: the angel of death passing over the houses of those who place their faith in Him and trust His provision for their salvation.

And then, Erika, you made that so personal. This Passover ceremony to be observed annually for every generation to come is a way of God saying, “I want to keep pursuing you; I want to stay in a relationship with you.”

You asked this question: “When life gets busy, how do you remind yourself that God loves you, and how do you show God that you love Him?”

I see Liza here in the audience today, and Liza, come join me if you would for just a moment. As I heard that question, I thought of you and things I’ve heard you share. You’re another staff member here at Life Action and Revive Our Hearts.

I’ve heard you often share about your joy in God pursuing a relationship with you and how that’s really changed the way you look at all of life. How would you answer that question?

When life gets busy, crazy . . . You don’t have five kids; you’re a single woman working here at the ministry, but your life gets crazy, too. How do you experience the love of God in fresh ways, and how do you express that love to Him?

Liza: Well, Erika, I do appreciate so much you reminding us of God’s pursuit of us, and what a miracle that is and how that thrills my heart! I need to hear that every day—that the whole story is the God who pursues us, who comes to fix what we’ve broken, even though we’ve messed it up.

So this has just captured my heart—Jesus has—in really tangible ways in the last few years. What God has done for me is He’s set aside a night a week, where it’s date night—just me and Jesus. I orient my plans, my schedule, my calendar around that night to really reorient my heart toward a God who loves me, toward a God who is enough when I am not enough. So setting aside that time, for me, not only says, “I trust You to do what I’m not doing while I’m with You. I trust You more than I trust my own hustle.”

But you know, He’s a great listener. He restores my soul! He reminds me again and again that He is a God who pursues me, and nothing will stop Him. Nothing will stop His love and His pursuit of me.

Nancy: I think there are a lot of people listening today who are experiencing that weariness, that tiredness, and maybe just a sense of God being distant. They are losing the sense of intimacy and presence.

He doesn’t leave, but we get carried away with stuff and things—good things, important things—but losing perspective. So, Liza, I wonder if you’d just close our time today by praying for all of us that that would be fresh in our hearts.

It may be a date night a week, the Lord will show you how to structure that, but just pray that God will draw our hearts to that place of intimacy on a daily and weekly basis, would you?

Liza: Dear Father, we do thank You so much for the truth of Your pursuing love, of Your covenant love for us. God, would You speak to us in ways that we each understand? Would you come to us in our heart-language and tell us that You love us in a way that reorients our hearts, Father?

May we quit striving for Your love, and may we rest in Your love and the truths that Erika shared. Thank You so much for Your faithfulness, that You will never leave us, You will never forsake us.

So, God, may we live in such a way that that’s true. May many hungry and thirsty and desperate people see the love of Christ through us and want to experience that also. It’s in Jesus’ name and for His sake that we pray, amen.

Dannah: That’s Liza praying along with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth that we will all experience greater intimacy with God. Before that, our guest teacher, Erika VanHaitsma, invited us into a more intimate relationship with God.

Teaching like Erika’s is made possible through donations to Revive Our Hearts. We’re a listener-supported program. You can support us by praying for us. Or by making a donation. When you do, we’ll thank you by sending you a copy of the new booklet from Revive Our Hearts, Glad You Asked: Answers to 10 Essential Questions. It's a booklet that really helps you understand the biblical answer to some of the most common questions as we are forming our faith, or as you help others for theirs.

And if you’re ready to become a Monthly Partner, a copy of Glad You Asked will be included with a bunch of other resources in our welcome collection. But you’ll need to let us know today or tomorrow to receive this special offer. Visit, or call us at 1–800–569–5959.

God called His people to a yearly festival in which they ate bread with no yeast. Erika VanHaitsma will make this Old Testament concept come alive and show you why it matters so much to your life. You won’t think about bread the same way again after hearing tomorrow’s program. Please be here for Revive Our Hearts.

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth invites you into greater intimacy with God. It’s an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

All Scripture is taken from the NIV.

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About the Teacher

Erika VanHaitsma

Erika VanHaitsma

Like a tour guide, without the hokey umbrella, Erika VanHaitsma leads her audience on a journey through the scriptures uncovering the importance of each word and phrase. Drawing from her years of cultural and historical study in Israel, she adds color to the black and white pages of the Text. Erika received a B.A. from Moody Bible Institute and an M.A. from Jerusalem University College. She is a homeschool mom of five kids and is co-founder of The Context and Color of the Bible podcast. So, grab your Bible and a notebook, and strap on your hiking boots. Let's go!