Saturday, July 23, 2016

Jesus in the Old Testament: Isaiah

     As we look for Jesus in the Old Testament, by searching those verses where His name, Yeshua ("salvation") is used, we come to a greater understanding of Who He is.
     We are currently looking through Isaiah.  We looked at Isaiah 12:3 in an earlier blog, and now we will examine Isaiah 25:6-9: 
On this mountain the Lord Almighty will prepare
a feast of rich food for all peoples,
a banquet of aged wine—
the best of meats and the finest of wines.
On this mountain he will destroy
the shroud that enfolds all peoples,
the sheet that covers all nations;
He will swallow up death forever.
The Sovereign Lord will wipe away the tears
from all faces;
He will remove his people’s disgrace
from all the earth.
The Lord has spoken.
In that day they will say,
“Surely this is our God;
we trusted in him, and he saved us.
This is the Lord, we trusted in him;
Let us rejoice and be glad in his salvation (yeshua).”

     Wow.  Jesus' name is woven into the last verse, but His presence is felt throughout the other verses.
     Let's set the scene.  We are invited to a banquet to celebrate a victory.  The previous verses tell of God vanquishing His enemies (the enemies of His people) and "the song of the ruthless is stilled" (verse 5).  Although Israel's enemies have been destroyed, the banquet itself is "for all peoples," not just His chosen.
     Do you detect the gentle perfume of the Messiah at this banquet?  The Messiah, emerging from Israel's powerful legacy, would be for all peoples.  So, this banquet, held with Him in attendance, would have an expansive guest list.
     The purpose of the feast is stated next.  On the very same mountain where the banquet is held, He destroys the "shroud" and the "sheet" that all people face: death itself.  Even the most decorated soldiers will someday die.  Even the most beautiful of celebrations always has an uninvited but undeterred guest:  death.
     But not this banquet.  Death will not lurk around His peoples' victory.  They will dine with no other enemy in sight, including death.  So, because of death's defeat, our God will walk up to each and every guest, and wipe away their tears.  He will point to death's defeat and each of His guest will have no reason to ever cry again.  
     What else is banished from the feast?  "Disgrace" is taken away.  Death is the future and disgrace is in the present, because of the past.  Our heart rejoices in death being gone, but we have to live now, remembering what we have done.
     That, too, is now gone.  
     Realizing all of this, that victory, death and disgrace are gone and we sit before His bounty in utter peace, we too will exclaim that only our God can do this!  We only task is to trust Him, and He saved us. Rejoicing and gladness is our only response to His yeshua, to His salvation.  
     Salvation is of God and from God, and we, sitting in His presence, must rejoice.  
     What kind of meal, what kind of gathering, could make any of this even possible?
     Where could we go where death is banished forever and our disgrace is taken away?  In Matthew 26:26-29, we read:

   While they were eating, Jesus took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it          to his disciples, saying, “Take and eat; this is my body.”

   Then he took a cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all        of you. This is my blood of the covenant,which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of              sins. I tell you, I will not drink from this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink        it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.”

     Do you see it?  At this banquet long ago, this Passover feast, Jesus fulfilled the promises of Isaiah's vision:  His death and resurrection vanquished death and His blood cleanses our consciences, removing our disgrace (Heb. 10:22).   
     Paul echoes Isaiah's banquet with its divine purpose and its fulfillment in Yeshua:    

     But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.            For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man.                For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive. But each in turn: Christ, the firstfruits;        then, when he comes, those who belong to him.  Then the end will come, when he hands over the        kingdom to God the Father after he has destroyed all dominion, authority and power. For he must        reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death. For          he “has put everything under his feet.” Now when it says that “everything” has been put under            him, it is clear that this does not include God himself, who put everything under Christ. When he        has done this, then the Son himself will be made subject to him who put everything under him, so        that God may be all in all.

     So, let us once again listen to the guests in Isaiah's vision give praise to God, and blessed are we to see the fulfillment in Yeshua, Who made it all possible:  
Isaiah: “Surely this is our God..."
Colossians 2:9: "For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form..."

Isaiah: "We trusted in him, and he saved us..."
Romans 10:9:  "If you declare with your mouth, 'Jesus is Lord,' and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved."

Isaiah: "This is the Lord, we trusted in him..."
John 14:1: "Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in Me."

Isaiah: "Let us rejoice and be glad in his salvation (yeshua).”
Philippians 4:4: "Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!"

Blessings on you today.  Draw near to God.  He is waiting to draw near to you.

Isaiah 49:6-8
And he said, It is a light thing that thou shouldest be my servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob, and to restore the preserved of Israel: I will also give thee for a light to the Gentiles, that thou mayest be my salvation unto the end of the earth.
Thus saith the Lord, the Redeemer of Israel, and his Holy One, to him whom man despiseth, to him whom the nation abhorreth, to a servant of rulers, Kings shall see and arise, princes also shall worship, because of theLord that is faithful, and the Holy One of Israel, and he shall choose thee.
Thus saith the Lord, In an acceptable time have I heard thee, and in a day of salvation have I helped thee: and I will preserve thee, and give thee for a covenant of the people, to establish the earth, to cause to inherit the desolate heritages…

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Moses on Mountain, Jesus on the Mountain

We are exploring Jesus in the Old Testament.  I want you to consider how Jesus, like Moses, brings the Law from the mountain.  This is the New Covenant, one of forgiveness of sin and the cleansing of our conscience.  

What is interesting is Matthew, under the divine guidance of the Holy Spirit, sensed the parallel between Moses and Jesus.  The difference is, when Moses came down from the mountain, his face aglow, with God's decrees, the people were not allowed to go up the mountain.  Jesus went up the mountain and brought God down to us, allowing us to commune with the Lord Almighty.  

But He would have one more mountain to ascend, and that mountain, Calvary, would forever change our standing with God:  We now can, through the blood of the Son, come boldly to the throne of grace.  

So, enjoy the interplay between the Old Covenant and the New Covenant, as I juxtapose Exodus 19 and 20 with Matthew 5 & 8.  (I will add in my thoughts as well.) 

Then Moses went up to God, and the Lord called to him from the mountain and said, “This is what you are to say to the descendants of Jacob and what you are to tell the people of Israel: ‘You yourselves have seen what I did to Egypt, and how I carried you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself. Now if you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then out of all nations you will be my treasured possession. Although the whole earth is mine, you will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’ These are the words you are to speak to the Israelites.”

On the morning of the third day there was thunder and lightning, with a thick cloud over the mountain, and a very loud trumpet blast. Everyone in the camp trembled. Then Moses led the people out of the camp to meet with God, and they stood at the foot of the mountain. Mount Sinai was covered with smoke, because the Lord descended on it in fire. The smoke billowed up from it like smoke from a furnace, and the whole mountain trembled violently. As the sound of the trumpet grew louder and louder, Moses spoke and the voice of God answered him.

The Lord descended to the top of Mount Sinai and called Moses to the top of the mountain. So Moses went up and the Lord said to him, “Go down and warn the people so they do not force their way through to see the Lord and many of them perish. Even the priests, who approach the Lord, must consecrate themselves, or the Lord will break out against them.”

Moses said to the Lord, “The people cannot come up Mount Sinai, because you yourself warned us, ‘Put limits around the mountain and set it apart as holy.’”

The Lord replied, “Go down and bring Aaron up with you. But the priests and the people must not force their way through to come up to the Lord, or he will break out against them.”

So Moses went down to the people and told them.

Now when Jesus saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to him, and he began to teach them.  
(The new Moses goes up to bring God down.  But He is not enclosed in fire and smoke.  He is sitting right in front of them.)

And God spoke all these words:

I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. You shall have no other gods before me.

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.  
(Recognize the great things God has done for you and know, that although you wander in life's desert, you are children of the Almighty.  Rely not on yourself, but only on Him.  That is true worship.) 

You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments.

Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.  
(Life will astound you at times.  You will tempted to reach for what you can see for comfort.  But if you bow to the Unseen, with a sincere heart, your children will see you and will remember the faith of the one who called only on the name of the Lord.  Faith begets faith, but idolatry begets idolatry. God's love is fierce and we need to demonstrate that with loyalty to Him.) 

You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God, for the Lord will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name.

Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. 
(Meekness is not weakness--it is grace under pressure.  How do we sustain that grace?  Only by calling on His name in love and commitment to Him, not shouting His name out as a curse or hiding behind it with no faith in Who He is.)

Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your male or female servant, nor your animals, nor any foreigner residing in your towns. For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. 
(Jesus is our Rest.  He has accomplished all His Father requested that He do and now He sits at the right hand of the Father.  We, too, need to enter that rest.  By sitting at the banquet table of His love and provision, only then can we satisfy our hunger and slake our thirst.  He alone is our Bread and Living Water.  Suddenly, our desert has hope and we are strengthened to bring that hope to others.) 

Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you.
You shall not murder.

Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.  
(Honor extends to all our relationships, and upholds the dignity of another.  Our parents, as we come to realize, are all-too-human, and need mercy and grace, just as we do.  We cannot then engage in such anger and unforgiveness in our hearts that we "murder" them.  Hatred begets hatred.  Mercy is the antidote for the poison of a bruised childhood or the suffering of terrible wrongs.  If we extend mercy, we are then given mercy from the hands of the One Who bears the scars.)

You shall not commit adultery.

Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.  
(Love is utter devotion to the beloved.  Love sees what the person is:  a child of God.  It also sees what the person can be:  the hands and feet of Christ.  So, lusting after others is a way of saying, "You are not good enough, nor ever will be."  Lusting after the things of this world is saying to God, "You are not good enough, nor ever will be."  When we love with Christ's love, we see others as He sees them.  When we love God with Christ's love, we desire only Him.  Soon, we see only Him.) 

You shall not steal.

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.  
(There are many thieves in this world whose sole purpose is to kill, lie and destroy.  The greatest theft of all by the roaring lion, the prince of this world, is our peace:  peace within ourselves, between us and God, and between us and others.  When we enter into the ministry of reconciliation, we are modelling the reconciliation that we have already experienced between us and God because of Christ.  Stolen peace is restored when His children walk in His love.  His children reflect Him the best when they bring peace to a world agonizing under chaos and sin.)

You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor.

Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. 
(Lies, pure and simple, destroy.  Why?  Because they ignite anger and self-righteousness, and dehumanize the object--the accused--of wrath.  Jesus suffered under accusations of all sorts.  We will not walk without lies being thrown our way.  We are only to speak and act in truth laden with love. Let the world see only Jesus in us and if it then hurls lies at us, so be it. Our crown of thorns will be replaced by a crown of gold in His kingdom.)

You shall not covet your neighbor’s house. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male or female servant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.

Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
(Our reward is not the goodies of this world.  Our reward comes from being a good and faithful servant.  We need not desire the world's offerings, for the world giveth and the world taketh away. We should desire only eternal possessions: a forgiven heart, a right standing with God, and the peace that passes all understanding.  Prophets spoke what God told them to.  Jesus only spoke and did what His Father told Him to do.  We can do no less, but we will gain all the more!)  

When Jesus left the mountain, He walked among the people, full of grace and truth.  As He lives His life in us, we should no less.  Blessings on you today!

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Jesus in the Old Testament: The Ark of the Covenant

     I want you to consider, as we are exploring this idea that not only is Jesus named in the Old Testament (His Hebrew name, Yeshua means “salvation” and is found in many verses throughout the Old Testament) but He is represented by many of the objects in regards to the Tabernacle.  We explored that in an earlier blog.  Now we are going to look at the Ark of the Covenant.  How does it connect to Jesus?  I see in it a remarkable symbol of the coming Messiah. 
     I am a fan of Raiders of the Lost Ark.  It is a powerful movie, and the ending was chilling.  I still remember how the angels rose up and became avenging angels, giving the arrogant Nazi—the utterly profane looking at the utterly holy-- his just deserts. 
    The Ark is described in Exodus 25:10-22:  

Have them make an ark of acacia wood—two and a half cubits long, a cubit and a half wide, and a cubit and a half high. Overlay it with pure gold, both inside and out, and make a gold molding around it. Cast four gold rings for it and fasten them to its four feet, with two rings on one side and two rings on the other. Then make poles of acacia wood and overlay them with gold. Insert the poles into the rings on the sides of the ark to carry it. The poles are to remain in the rings of this ark; they are not to be removed. Then put in the ark the tablets of the covenant law, which I will give you.  Make an atonement cover of pure gold—two and a half cubits long and a cubit and a half wide. And make two cherubim out of hammered gold at the ends of the cover. Make one cherub on one end and the second cherub on the other; make the cherubim of one piece with the cover, at the two ends. The cherubim are to have their wings spread upward, overshadowing the cover with them. The cherubim are to face each other, looking toward the cover. Place the cover on top of the ark and put in the ark the tablets of the covenant law that I will give you. There, above the cover between the two cherubim that are over the ark of the covenant law, I will meet with you and give you all my commands for the Israelites.

     Notice first that this is a very small chest.  It is only 3 ¾ feet in length, 2 ¼ feet wide and 2 ¼ feet high. 
     Secondly, it is wooden box that is overlaid with gold, but the cover itself—the atonement cover—is pure gold.  The angels likewise are made of hammered gold and no other materials.  What is in the ark?  The tablets of the Law, Aaron’s rod with buds on it and a jar of manna.  But more on that in a bit.
     God expresses clearly what the cover is for:  Above it is the meeting place where God gathers with His people and speaks to them of His decrees.  I see it as the court of heaven in miniature:  as angels surround His golden throne, He comes to speak to His people in majesty and awe.  
     The Holy of Holies is the “throne room” and the cover itself is the “throne” and it is pure gold—no alloys or earthly materials are included that can decay, such as wood.  Gold is as close as you can get to an eternal material.  Just think of King Tut’s tomb and the beauty of that gold had not change in millennia. 
     But the lid has a name:  the “atonement cover.”  To meet with God requires atonement, or a covering of earthly sins by divine reckoning.  The divine reckoning was in the blood that was splattered on the cover by the high priest, on the Day of Atonement, Yom Kippur, as found in Leviticus 16:   

Aaron shall bring the bull for his own sin offering to make atonement for himself and his household, and he is to slaughter the bull for his own sin offering… He is to take some of the bull’s blood and with his finger sprinkle it on the front of the atonement cover; then he shall sprinkle some of it with his finger seven times before the atonement cover.  He shall then slaughter the goat for the sin offering for the people and take its blood behind the curtain and do with it as he did with the bull’s blood: He shall sprinkle it on the atonement cover and in front of it. In this way he will make atonement for the Most Holy Place because of the uncleanness and rebellion of the Israelites, whatever their sins have been…No one is to be in the tent of meeting from the time Aaron goes in to make atonement in the Most Holy Place until he comes out, having made atonement for himself, his household and the whole community of Israel.

We know from Hebrews 9:11-14 that:

But when Christ came as high priest of the good things that are now already here, he went through the greater and more perfect tabernacle that is not made with human hands, that is to say, is not a part of this creation. He did not enter by means of the blood of goats and calves; but he entered the Most Holy Place once for all by his own blood, thus obtaining eternal redemption. The blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer sprinkled on those who are ceremonially unclean sanctify them so that they are outwardly clean. How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God!

     So, Christ is the very embodiment of the high priest, offering His own blood that is not only able to satisfy God’s reckoning for atonement, but is able to cleanse our very consciences!
     But the Ark itself represents Christ.  How so?  Look at ancient monuments:  the temples of the Sumerians and the Egyptians were huge.  Cut stones of epic proportions were assembled with one purpose in mind: to show everyone that the local god was huge!  Whether the god was the pharaoh (the pyramids) or divine entities of natural forces (the ziggurats) the monuments were as large as the people could make them.
     Now enter the Hebrews.  They have just left the enormous building projects of the Egyptians and now are wandering through the desert.  Wouldn’t they want to build some sort of gigantic temple to Yahweh, the God of their deliverance, to show the Egyptians their God was seriously important?  
     Instead, to demonstrate the almighty qualities of God, they could point to the Ten Plagues, the Red Sea and the daily helping of manna and quail.  The Tabernacle, while it had lovely qualities (the woven curtains and its gold objects) it was rather paltry when compared to what the people left behind in Egypt.
     It’s as if God didn’t want His people to duplicate the big = important equation of the Egyptians. He visited them, hovering over a rather small chest.  Yes, He later would order a temple to be built as His dwelling place, but it would be destroyed by an invading heathen army.  Then it would be rebuilt by a very questionable king—Herod—and again would be destroyed by another invading heathen army.
     God went, in essence, wherever the people went.  Stone structures stay behind.  God moved as His people moved, experiencing their daily lives with them. 
     Because Jesus is the center of everything God does, I would expect the Ark (as I wrote earlier of the Tabernacle) to represent His Son.  I see that it does.  Jesus did not come, the first time, as an almighty Conqueror or King.  He came “small”—He was born in a small village, a humble Son, raised by a carpenter and his wife.
     He came from the very courts of heaven and met with us in a “small space”—a human body. 
No huge temples. No gigantic stones.  Just a man from a small town, but underneath that human flesh was the pure gold of divinity.  People could enter the “throne room”—wherever Jesus walked and talked, and they would come to see that Cover splattered with blood.  The High Priest offered Himself on  wooden cross.  
    The Ark was gold covering wood. Jesus was the gold covering the wood of the cross.    
    We meet God at Jesus, just as God met His people at the cover over the Ark.
    He moves with us and in us, experiencing our everyday lives with us.   
    We are small, but in Him, we become the huge monuments of God’s mercy, grace and work in this world.
     All along, from the very start, God wanted to show "small" so He could be mighty in us.
     Finally, what was in the Ark?
     The Law:  Jesus came to fulfill the Law in Himself.
     The manna:  He is our very Bread of Life, sent down from heaven itself. 
     The budded rod:  He fulfills the office of the High Priest and brings life where there is no life.
     Christ walks silently through the Old Testament, and if we look hard enough, we see His form moving slowly but surely towards Calvary and fulfilling all that went before Him in the Torah. 



Friday, June 17, 2016

The True Tragedy of the Terrorist Attacks

When something tragic happens, two things inevitably ensue: the "how?" and the "why?" The "how" shows us how desperate we are to prevent a future event, and understandably so. The "why?" is less constructive and quickly moves into blame. It seems lately that the conclusion many are touting is that American society is ultimately causing the attacks, with its liberal gun laws, its homophobia, its islamophobia, and its failure to identify those troubled with mental or emotional issues.

But I sense a deeper tragedy here, one with eternal consequences. Most of us picture death as a medical condition. We will fight it as long as we can, denying its intimate relationship with life itself.

If we picture dying at all, it's in our bed, old and infirm, with family gathered all around, saying good-bye and then closing our eyes, and off we go. Or we go to bed one night and not wake up the next day.

But Orlando, Boston, Ft. Hood, San Bernadino, Aurora, and September 11th all force us to face a very uncomfortable question: Are we ready to face death?

That question alone may cause you to leave my blog.

We don't like to discuss death, let alone face our own.

But this is critical.

Irrespective of foreign and domestic policy, gun laws, mental health laws and society's treatment of various identity groups, we will have to face this question.  At some point. At some time.

The greatest tragedy is not death itself, it is not being prepared for it. How so? I cannot change death's inevitability, but I can choose how I will respond to its inevitability.
A quick and less disconcerting example would be I cannot stop the hurricane brewing off the coast, but I can secure my house and my family, and if need be, leave the area and go to safer ground.

So, let's go deeper and look at this world through spiritual lenses. 1 Peter 5:8 says, "Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour."

Jesus said, "The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly." (John 10:10)
OK.  Let's review:  We have an enemy.  He is on the lookout, stalking and waiting to strike.  He wants to steal what we have, destroy who we are and lead us down the road to destruction.  He pushes our destruction on all fronts, with the final stroke being our lives.  Yes, we can choose how we proceed, but he lies in wait and when we are not sober and alert, he strikes.

He destroys us "by any means necessary":  addiction, murder, abuse, illness, insanity, and yes, terrorist attacks.  He destroys the one who perpetrates the attacks as well as those who are the targets.
Ezekiel 18:23 says, "Do I take any pleasure in the death of the wicked? declares the Sovereign LORD. Rather, am I not pleased when they turn from their ways and live?"  Clearly, God wants all to come to repentance, but Jesus comments on those who are being used by the enemy to bring the destruction:  "Woe to the world because of the things that cause people to stumble! Such things must come, but woe to the person through whom they come!" (Matthew 18:7)

So, we have now peered behind the cosmic curtain, and see the ultimate source of evil in this world. Jesus, before His final act of love to this world, His willingness to die for our sins, said, 

"'Now is the judgment of this world: now shall the prince of this world be cast out. And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me.'  This he said, signifying what death he should die.

The people answered him, 'We have heard out of the law that Christ abideth for ever: and how sayest thou, The Son of man must be lifted up? who is this Son of man?'

Then Jesus said unto them, 'Yet a little while is the light with you. Walk while ye have the light, lest darkness come upon you: for he that walketh in darkness knoweth not whither he goeth.  While ye have light, believe in the light, that ye may be the children of light.'  These things spake Jesus, and departed, and did hide himself from them."  (John 12:31-36)

There it is.  We walk in the dark without Jesus, and it is His death and resurrection that we must choose to embrace to be prepared, at any time, to meet death.  His death will save us, and His life will change us from citizens of a world ruled by Satan to children of God, whose kingdom, like our Lord, is forever.

But, you say, that is too simple.  Accept Jesus, receive eternal life and live victoriously and die victoriously only to live with Him?  But what about now?

We can change laws, but we cannot change human hearts.  What is the state of the human heart? Jesus says, "For out of the heart come evil thoughts--murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander."  (Matthew 15:19)

We can change our attitudes, but we cannot change our deepest nature, which is sinful. "I find then a law, that evil is present with me, the one who wills to do good. For I delight in the law of God according to the inward man. But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? I thank God—through Jesus Christ our Lord!" (Romans 7:21-25)

So, in the end, we grieve for those who were lost in these attacks.  We pray for their families.  

One last point. Jesus commented on two tragedies that occurred in His lifetime and it is instructive: 

"Now there were some present at that time who told Jesus about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices. Jesus answered, 'Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans because they suffered this way? I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish. Or those eighteen who died when the tower in Siloam fell on them—do you think they were more guilty than all the others living in Jerusalem? I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish.'” (Luke 13:1-5)

The true tragedy of unexpected and sudden death is not being ready for eternity.  


Sunday, June 5, 2016

The Beginning and The New Beginning: Genesis 1 & 2 and John 1

Consider as we are looking at Jesus in the Old Testament, how the apostle John sees Jesus.  The only Scriptures John had were in the Old Testament, and as he sat down to pen the very beginning of his gospel, the drumbeat of Genesis provides the bass notes for the lovely melody of his words.  As you read first from Genesis and then alternate with John, a cosmic picture of Jesus emerges.  

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning.

Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.
 Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.

And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. God saw that the light was good, and he separated the light from the darkness.  God called the light “day,” and the darkness he called “night.” And there was evening, and there was morning—the first day.
In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. 

And God said, “Let there be a vault between the waters to separate water from water...” 
And God said, “Let the water under the sky be gathered to one place, and let dry ground appear...”
Then God said, “Let the land produce vegetation: seed-bearing plants and trees on the land that bear fruit with seed in it, according to their various kinds...”
And God said, “Let there be lights in the vault of the sky to separate the day from the night, and let them serve as signs to mark sacred times, and days and years, and let them be lights in the vault of the sky to give light on the earth...”
There was a man sent from God whose name was John. He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all might believe. He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light.  The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world.  

And God said, “Let the water teem with living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth...” 
And God said, “Let the land produce living creatures according to their kinds…”
Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may      rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.”
So God created mankind in his own image,
    in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.
God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.”
God saw all that he had made, and it was very good…
He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God—children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.

By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work. Then God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done.
 The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.  (John testified concerning him. He cried out, saying, “This is the one I spoke about when I said, ‘He who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me.’”) Out of his fullness we have all received grace in place of grace already given. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God, but the one and only Son, who is himself God and is in closest relationship with the Father, has made him known.

Amen.  We cannot have the Old without the New, for what the Old concealed, the New revealed.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Jesus in the Old Testament: The Tabernacle

We are exploring the Old Testament, and seeing how Jesus' name, Yeshua ("salvation" in Hebrew) appears in many passages.  I have been reading Exodus, and I came upon the chapters where Moses is given very specific instructions on how to build the Tabernacle and then what the priests are to wear in it.  I noticed a pattern, and I am excited to share it with you.  It fits our study of Jesus in the Old Testament, although not by His name, but by representation.

First, Exodus 26:1 outlines the materials to be used for making the curtains which will surround the interior area of the Tabernacle:  "Make the tabernacle with ten curtains of finely twisted linen, and blue, purple and scarlet yarn, with cherubim worked into them..."

This inner part will be then covered with a lining made of goat hair with two more coverings made with "ram skins dyed red, and over that a covering of hides of sea cows," (26:14) which is, in effect, an outer tent.  The inner sacred space is covered with leather, an earthly material, derived from flesh. We will visit this again in a bit.

Now, Exodus 26:31:  "Make a curtain of blue, purple, and scarlet yarn and finely twisted linen, with cherubim worked into it..."  This curtain separated the Holy Place from the Most Holy Place.

On to Exodus 26:36:  "For the entrance to the tent make a curtain of blue, purple and scarlet yarn and finely twisted linen..."  This covers the entrance of the Tabernacle from the outer courtyard.

This all seems very orderly:  The curtains are to carry the colors of the evening sky:  blues and purples, with a fiery red, as from a sunset.  You move from entering the Tabernacle with a curtain of just the heavenly colors, to curtains with cherubim worked into them.  Interestingly enough, only the high priest will see the curtains with the cherubim worked into them.  The people will only see the one curtain without the cherubim.

The cherubim in the curtains in the inner area show that this isn't just the beautiful heavenly sky overhead; these curtains enclose a sacred space representing Heaven, the court of the King of the Universe.

Now, Chapter 28 of Exodus explains the priestly garments Aaron and his sons will wear.  The garments are to give them "dignity and honor" ( verse 2).  The garments set these men apart to serve the Lord as priests.  Think about it: Without the garments, they are indistinguishable from other men. Don the garments, and they are the priests of the most high God.  What are the materials to be used to produce all of the parts of the priestly ensemble?  "Have them use gold, and blue, purple and scarlet yarn, and fine linen." (verse 5)  

Their clothing, however, does not have the cherubim worked into the cloth.  They wear the sacred materials on the outside, but on the inside, they are still men of flesh.  They are not angels serving as men; they are men who have been clothed with power from Heaven.  Without the clothing, they are still men.  Their dignity and honor are bestowed.  Thus, they are the inverse of the Tabernacle:  the outer garments show sanctity only because it is given.  The Tabernacle encloses its sanctity and must be entered into only by men who are clothed properly.

The men serving in the Tabernacle are arrayed with the same sacred colors and linen as the inner sacred areas of the Tabernacle, not with the leather that covered the outside of the Tabernacle.

Consider:  What did God cover Adam and Eve after they sinned? The skin of a slain animal.  The Tabernacle will not just be another covering for a sinful nation using animal skins.  God is moving His people into a deeper relationship with Him and He is going to use a different kind of covering: An animal will be slain, yes, but the covering will be blood. Not a covering made from dead flesh, but a covering that carries life in it. Leviticus 17:11 makes that clear: "For the life of a creature is in the blood, and I have given it to you to make atonement for yourselves on the altar; it is the blood that makes atonement for one's life."  Jesus's blood carries life and we are recipients of His very own life when we are saved by it.

How does the Tabernacle then point to Jesus?  John puts it well:  "The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us." (1:14)  The word for "dwelling" here is the word for "tent" and "tabernacle." So, Jesus was the Tabernacle in human form, covered with an earthly outer covering of flesh.  Within Him was a sacred space occupied by the very Lord of the Universe.  The Tabernacle becomes a representation of the One to come.

But there's more. Jesus also donned the "garment" of the priests--His miracles. His miracles set Him apart from other men. For example, at the marriage at Cana, He was just one more guest at a table. But, once He turned the water into wine, He was now a Man set apart for sacred service. John 10:37-8 underscores this: "But if I do them, even though you do not believe me, believe the works, that you may know and understand that the Father is in me, and I in the Father.  If I am not doing the works of My Father, then do not believe Me."  John 14:11 says, "Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the works themselves."

Jesus looked like a mere man, but He was "clothed" with power from on high when He was baptized and the Holy Spirit descended on Him and He heard His Father's voice proclaiming Him.  So, Jesus came to be our High Priest (the book of Hebrews beautifully unpacks that) but He also provided the offering itself:  His own blood would not only cover the nation of Israel, but the whole world.  Not just once a year, but for all time.

So, the Tabernacle and the priests were intimately connected:  one did not exist without the other. The one was the place to meet the Lord by ones chosen to provide that interface between Heaven and Earth.  They will chosen by God and despite the temporary providing of atonement, the priests point to the One to come.  

Jesus left the court of Heaven and covered Himself with the flesh of our humanity: He was a walking Tabernacle. He was chosen by God to be our Priest and with clothed by God with power and might to do His works among us. He will clothe us with power from on high because of what He did on the cross and His resurrection: "For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive." (1 Cor. 15:22)

Paul also writes, "And so it is written, The first man Adam was made a living soul; the last Adam was made a quickening spirit. Howbeit that was not first which is spiritual, but that which is natural; and afterward that which is spiritual. The first man is of the earth, earthy; the second man is the Lord from heaven. As is the earthy, such are they also that are earthy: and as is the heavenly, such are they also that are heavenly. And as we have borne the image of the earthy, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly." (1 Cor. 15:45-49)

The earthly Tabernacle that was moved from place to place, showing that God moves among His people wherever they go, was a representation of the One who would walk among us, preside over us and die for that He may live in us!

This is so rich and we will continue as the Lord leads!


Saturday, May 14, 2016

Does Jesus See Himself in the Old Testament?

We will digress a bit from our study on this posting. We are exploring the idea that Jesus is named in the Old Testament when the Hebrew word yeshuwa'h (salvation) is used, for that is what His name means: "She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, ["the LORD saves"] because he will save his people from their sins.” (Matthew 1:21)

How did Jesus see Himself in light of the Old Testament? The Tanakh (the Jewish Scriptures) is the only reference He and His listeners had.

Let's go to Matthew 5:17-18: “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished."

Jesus sees the Law as needing fulfillment, which would imply that it is awaiting something deeper, something that will complete it. Strong's defines "fulfill" as "to become" and "come to pass." This would imply that the Law is incomplete, that it was not an end in itself but a means. Jesus is effectively defining Himself as the end. What are the Law's means? To show us our utter need for a Savior, for no one can keep all of the Law all of the time: "Behold, the LORD'S hand is not so short that it cannot save; nor is His ear so dull that it cannot hear. But your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden His face from you so that He does not hear." (Is. 59:2)

In Isaiah 53:5-6, we read: "But He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the chastening for our well-being fell upon Him, and by His scourging we are healed. All of us like sheep have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way, but the LORD has caused the iniquity of us all to fall on Him."

As Jesus is speaking in Matthew 5, He has Isaiah as one of many reference points. In fact, He inaugurated His ministry with the reading of Isaiah in His local synagogue. He knows all too well of "The Suffering Servant" mentioned in Isaiah, and may be implying that His suffering and final offering for sin is what the Law longs for and what His Father longs for. He is the end-game of the Law. 

Jesus speaks of His authority, for the Law is the authority to His contemporaries. So, if He breaks the Law, which He does by healing a man on the Sabbath (thus working on the Sabbath) and encouraging him to carry the mat he used to lie upon (which was also working) then what is the valid basis for His ministry? If not the Law, then what? He responds in John 5:16-19:

"So, because Jesus was doing these things on the Sabbath, the Jewish leaders began to persecute him. In his defense Jesus said to them, 'My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I too am working.' For this reason they tried all the more to kill him; not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God. Jesus gave them this answer: 'Very truly I tell you, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does. For the Father loves the Son and shows him all he does. Yes, and he will show him even greater works than these, so that you will be amazed.'"

Jesus predicates His authority on what His Father is doing, which is the Law of Love over the letter of the Law.  The Jewish leaders had authority to point out transgressions of the Law, but Jesus possessed a higher authority.  Both where given by God, but Jesus is coming to fulfill the Law and put into operation a higher one:  the Law written on newly born-again hearts.

A little later, Jesus says, “I have testimony weightier than that of John. For the works that the Father has given me to finish—the very works that I am doing—testify that the Father has sent me. And the Father who sent me has himself testified concerning me. You have never heard his voice nor seen his form, nor does his word dwell in you, for you do not believe the one he sent. You study the Scriptures diligently because you think that in them you have eternal life. These are the very Scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life." (John 5: 36-39)

So, Jesus is arguing that His authority is derived from the very Scriptures that the Jewish leaders are using to condemn Him and His ministry. He is saying that the Scriptures are about Him. He then invokes the very leader that the Jewish people so revered: “But do not think I will accuse you before the Father. Your accuser is Moses, on whom your hopes are set. If you believed Moses, you would believe me, for he wrote about me. But since you do not believe what he wrote, how are you going to believe what I say?” (John 5:45-7)

Jesus saw Himself as the One to Whom the Law pointed: a Mediator like Moses, a High Priest like Aaron and the Passover Lamb of the Exodus.

So, in essence, the Law is fulfilled in Jesus.  He is our Mediator Who will bring a new law down from Calvary's mountain: the Law of Love, written on believers' heart and empowered by the Holy Spirit.

He is our High Priest, Who offered Himself once and for all and satisfied the Law's requirement for atonement.

Finally, He is our Lamb: His blood, over our doorpost, will cause the Angel of Death (who flies out of our sin) to pass over us as we sit at the feast of eternal life.

Did Jesus see Himself in the Old Testament? Yes, and resoundingly so. He staked His life on it.

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