Friday, August 26, 2016

Jesus in Isaiah: Where Do You Stand in Troubled Times?

We are exploring Jesus in the Old Testament, and this next verse is a Holy Wow!  It is from Isaiah 33:6:  

"He will be the sure foundation for your times,
a rich store of salvation and wisdom and knowledge;
the fear of the Lord is the key to this treasure." (NIV)

The word in Hebrew for "salvation" is yeshuw'ah--Jesus' name.

The King James translates this verse like this:

"And wisdom and knowledge shall be the stability of thy times, and strength of salvation: the fear of the Lord is his treasure."

"Sure foundation" and "stability of thy times."  Wow:  This so speaks to us today.  

Right now, it's Trump This and Hillary That.  Who will  do what.  We are hoping, deep down inside, that the Right President will turn this country around.  For some, that means go deeper into a left-wing vision, of open borders, a place for refugees, free health care, limited to no ownership of guns, low-cost education and America getting out of the way of world affairs.  For others that means a wall, vetted refugees, repeal of Obamacare, 2nd Amendment rights, and America returning to being a world leader.

I am truly not trying to be nasty as I summarize what I believe each candidate stands for--these are my impressions from the speeches they have given.  But when elected, presidents tend to forget the speeches and do what they intended to do all along.  In other words, in an election years, presidential promises are pie-crust promises:  easily made and easily broken.

But notice the list of what has been said (again, my impression, not a condemnation) versus Isaiah's vision.  He, too, is looking at Someone to provide stability and certainty in the current (then and now) times.  But, Isaiah, unlike today's politicos, sees the real issue.  First, and foremost:  We need saving. We don't need yet another program, plan, promise or priority.  We need to have our hearts changed, and our standing before our God changed.  Why?  

Yup, the s-word:  SIN.  We are blinded, broad-sided and collided with sin.  It's in us, controlling us and making us blind to our deepest need:  Him.  

Our salvation in Him provides a "rich store."  Unstable times deplete our store.  Our resources.  Our hope.  We throw up our hands in numb despair and say, "What are we to do?"  But, Isaiah says that in yeshuw'ah/Yeshua comes "wisdom" and "knowledge."  

Wisdom in Isaiah is not just a desirable and much needed quality in troubled times: It's a Person. Paul says in 1 Corinthians 1:30:  "It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God--that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption."

God's plan all along was for us to seek wisdom from Him and Him alone.  But, by Adam munching on the fruit from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, he no longer sought God.  He sought wisdom now from within.  That "within," now having been corrupted by sin, meant that wisdom and knowledge would be anything but.  

God's reclamation of Adam's children meant giving us not only a new heart (otherwise it would be putting godly lipstick on a sinful pig) but also returning us to the real source of true wisdom:  Jesus Christ.  That is why we are no longer in Adam, but in Christ:  "So it is written: 'The first man Adam became a living being'; the last Adam, a life-giving spirit." (1 Cor. 15:45)  Jesus, as the last Adam, came to bring us back to the Garden, so to speak.  We are now able to walk in the newness of life and perfect fellowship with God because of Jesus' death on the cross.  

The debt was paid and now we are saved.  

With Jesus, now as our very Wisdom from God, we ask Him for guidance and knowledge on how to navigate in these troubled times.  Our respect for God, ("fear" in the verses from Isaiah) is our "treasure": precious and of the utmost value. That respect means following the One that God sent: 
"Jesus answered and said unto him, 'If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him.'" (John 14:23)

Jesus is our very Sure Foundation, our very Rock that we stand on: “Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it.” (Matt. 7:24-27)

So, where do I stand in troubled times?  On the Rock.  

Is that synonymous with voting for Trump?  Being a right-winger?  No.  It means shutting my mouth and doing a heart check:

Am I regularly praying for those in authority?  "I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men; For kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty. For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior; Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus; Who gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time." (1 Tim. 2:1-3)

Am I seeking His will for how I am to participate as a citizen?  "Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father.  And whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son.  If ye shall ask any thing in my name, I will do it." (John 14:12-14)

Am I ready to share my faith if asked why I am doing what I am doing? In other words, do I listen to Him and move political discussions into a way to talk about eternal matters: "But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear:  Having a good conscience; that, whereas they speak evil of you, as of evildoers, they may be ashamed that falsely accuse your good conversation in Christ." (1 Pet. 3:15-16)

Presidents come and go.  Yes, we are citizens of this world, but we must keep the eternal perspective. 

Before election day and on the day, I will be praying.  I will not fear, become angry or bad-mouth what is going on.  Standing on the Rock gives me confidence to face the storms, pure and simple.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Not Judgin’, But Not Budgin’

This is a wee departure from our talk about Jesus in the Old Testament. It's important topic to cover,
especially these days.

So often we hear today, especially in Christian circles when controversy comes calling, “Don’t judge. That’s the unloving thing to do. Jesus calls us to love.” True enough. No one would support the idea that Jesus calls us to hate, even though some people would accuse us of doing so in His name.

Let’s explore this whole judgment thing. The old saying, “A text without a context is a pretext” may apply here. If we don’t view the scripture on not judging in its context, it can be used to shut down legitimate discussion about morality and other topics people fear will create discord and offense.

Let’s begin with the familiar verses from Matthew 7:1-3: “Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?

These verses are very simple. Look at the larger context: These verses come from the Sermon on the Mount, where Jesus is laying down the principles of the Kingdom of God. Just as Moses came down off Mount Sinai carrying the stone tablets inscribed with God’s commandments, so too does Christ stand on the mountain with the new commandment of God: to love one another.

So, in this context, love rules. We want mercy from God but how we love to mete out justice to others. I want to keep my eye, but I want to take off your hand. No. The Law of Moses arbitrated relationships, between us and God first and then with each other. Fairness, mercy and compassion underpinned Moses’ Law.

Jesus’ Law is no different, except that love is the operational force, in addition to fairness, mercy and compassion. Thus, how you treat others will directly affect how God sees you. The same standard you use will be then the same standard He uses.

I want mercy, God.

Fine. Show mercy.

I want understanding for my shortcomings, Lord.

Fine. Show understanding for others’ shortcomings.

I want to do right, but when I fail, I don’t want to be punished beyond reason.

Fine. When others fail, offer a punishment that is for their restoration, not destruction.

My shortcomings are not as bad as that person’s—I deserve the benefit of the doubt.

Fine. But your prideful plank has blinded you to the seriousness of what you do.

But he’s got the sawdust of sin in his eye! I must remove it!

Fine. But your prideful plank will not allow you to see his failures objectively. Focus on you. I will focus on him. I am the Great Physician.

Now let’s look at Luke 6:36-8: “Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you.”

Again, fairly straightforward. Mercy is love applied to justice. Yes, people sin. Yes, people hurt one another. But Jesus is saying that judgement and condemnation are not in the vocabulary of the Kingdom of God. The word He is presenting is “forgiveness” only because that is what His Father does. If we are His children, we must follow the Father, knowing that our Father knows best.

Now, I could end right there. You could say, “There it is! We all need to love one another! When someone is sinning, who are you to say anything?”

But there’s more. Let’s go to the verses in John 5:9-15:
     So Jesus explained, “I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself. He does only what
     he sees the Father doing. Whatever the Father does, the Son also does. For the Father loves the
     Son and shows him everything he is doing. In fact, the Father will show him how to do even
     greater works than healing this man. Then you will truly be astonished. For just as the Father
     gives life to those he raises from the dead, so the Son gives life to anyone he wants. In addition,
     the Father judges no one. Instead, he has given the Son absolute authority to judge, so that
     everyone will honor the Son, just as they honor the Father. Anyone who does not honor the Son
     is certainly not honoring the Father who sent him. I tell you the truth, those who listen to my
     message and believe in God who sent me have eternal life. They will never be condemned for
     their sins, but they have already passed from death into life. And I assure you that the time is
     coming, indeed it’s here now, when the dead will hear my voice—the voice of the Son of God.
     And those who listen will live."

Jesus moved, taught and judged us all with permission from His Father. All He did was in fact under commission from His Father.

We, who follow Jesus, can and should do no less.

If we are called to make a judgment, it must be based on what the Father has revealed. The Father has revealed His will in the Bible. So, if we judge, it needs to be based on that; culture, modern thinking and what makes us feel good is not the foundation upon which we judge.

What is the word "judge" mean in the Greek? There are three meaning: One means to judge, as in a court of law. 

The next meaning to critically evaluate something, or to be discerning. One of the spiritual gifts is discernment, so using it is part of our walk. We need to make judgments as we navigate this world. "I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves." (Matt. 10:16)  Shrewdness comes from evaluating a situation fairly and objectively; snakes do not run into rocks.  So, discernment is part of judging.  We need the Holy Spirit's revelation of the Father's will in order to be discerning and wise.

The third meaning is a judgement that condemns.  We cannot take God's authority, cloak ourselves with it and then act in His stead.  He and He alone will judge the world. 

So, does that mean we cannot judge at all?

No.  Look at John 7:24: "Judge not according to the appearance, but judge righteous judgment."  We cannot issue condemnatory judgments, but judgments based on mercy, love and compassion.  

Mercy calls sin, sin, but also factors love into the equation, as Jesus did.

Love speaks truth, but also factors patience for change into the equation, as Jesus did.

Compassion takes a person's hand, and if that person is willing, leads them into freedom by leading them to Jesus.  

Thus, we must make an inventory before we speak, and look without wavering into our motivation for saying what we want to say.  Let us ask with bold honesty:
  • Are my words based on the full counsel of God (Acts 20:27)?  Or have I cherry-picked verses to satisfy my position?
  • Have I prayed for the right words in the right tone?  The right words delivered in a harsh tone will destroy their potential for a positive message.
  • Have I prayed for the other person's heart to be open to the words I say?  Pray for tilled soil in this person's heart, so that the seed of the Word will fall into a productive place.  Only the Spirit can prepare the soil.  No argument ever won a person to Christ. 
If the answers fall in line with His Word, then I must speak, trusting that:

For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven
and do not return there but water the earth,
making it bring forth and sprout,
giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater,
so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth;
it shall not return to me empty,
but it shall accomplish that which I purpose,
and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it. (Is. 55:10-11)

Walk in His authority and in His love.  The two are inseparable, as we and the Lord should be.

I am indebted to Lloyd John Ogilvie's The Greatest Counselor in the World--A Fresh, New Look at the Holy Spirit for the part on the three meanings of the word "judge."

Friday, July 29, 2016

Jesus as the Mercy Seat

We are exploring Jesus in the Old Testament. I posted in an earlier blog that Jesus' presence is found in the Ark of Covenant.  I would like to explore this idea a bit further. Specifically, I would like to look at the covering or lid of the Ark.  In Exodus 26:34, we read: "Then put the Ark’s cover—the place of atonement—on top of the Ark of the Covenant inside the Most Holy Place."

The Ark of the Covenant is really two pieces of furniture: the box itself and the lid. It was behind a curtain. There was no light in the Holy of Holies, or Most Holy Place, where it stood. The lampstand that provided the light was outside of the curtain. Thus, only God Himself and His glory would provide the light in the Holy of Holies.

Jesus constantly referred to Himself as the Light. Interesting.

The cover of the Ark was pure gold, and was to be the very dwelling place where God met His people. Remember what was in the Ark? Manna, Aaron's rod and the Ten Commandments. Yet, all are covered by this gold lid. You might expect to see them displayed to the people or set alongside the bread and the lampstand. But they are covered. Why?

Without Jesus, none of this makes sense.  But if He is the Light, then expect illumination!

You would want to proudly display the Ten Commandments, written by the very finger of God upon stone. This permanent material shows the everlasting nature of this covenant. The Law provides the very basis of your existence, and thereby grants you an identity: you are the chosen ones, living in a convenantal relationship with the Almighty King of the Universe. You would want it proudly visible, reminding you and everyone else of this special relationship.

You would want to display Aaron's rod, with its bud, to show that Aaron's priesthood is superior to all others. It budded miraculously, and has stayed budded. The staff he carried was not a dead piece of wood. It budded as if it were still wedded to the tree. Why wouldn't you want everyone to see how your priest is chosen and his staff is a sign of that favor?

You would want that manna out where everyone could see it. Remember how any extra gathered manna would rot? You weren't allowed to store it and yet, look at that! It sits in a jar, perpetually fresh. You could point to the jar and comment how God fed you and your people with bread from His very own hand.

Yet, into a box they go, and they have a lid over them. Out of sight. Nothing to brag on or point out. Covered. Now, admittedly, the gold cover is beautiful, with its cherubim adorning the top. But the ark is behind a curtain, and only one person, once a year, could go in. He sprinkled blood over the cover or Mercy Seat on Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, for himself and for the people.

The Ark was not a show piece, nor its contents.

Did that bother the people? Did they desire to show something off, akin to the ostentatious displays of the Egyptians?

What if you dared to look into the Ark? 1 Samuel 6:19 shows us: "But God struck down some of the inhabitants of Beth Shemesh, putting seventy of them to death because they looked into the ark of the LORD. The people mourned because of the heavy blow the LORD had dealt them."

So, how does Jesus illuminate the Ark and its rather odd (humanly speaking) treatment of its contents?

The contents under the lid had to be covered. Why? Without a covering, the contents are powerless in and of themselves. The blood, sprinkled over the lid once a year, illustrates the need for cleansing the people from sin. That is first and foremost.

But, those objects within the ark speak of a time to come when The Blood will bring life to the contents contained within. How so?

Hebrews 10:1-4 says, "The old system under the law of Moses was only a shadow, a dim preview of the good things to come, not the good things themselves. The sacrifices under that system were repeated again and again, year after year, but they were never able to provide perfect cleansing for those who came to worship. If they could have provided perfect cleansing, the sacrifices would have stopped, for the worshipers would have been purified once for all time, and their feelings of guilt would have disappeared. But instead, those sacrifices actually reminded them of their sins year after year. For it is not possible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins."

So, the annual covering of blood upon the Mercy Seat of the Ark was pointing to the One to come, Who would impart life through His own blood.

Let's start with the tablets inscribed with the Ten Commandments.

Without the Law having a covering of blood, it stands starkly, condemning all we do. 

Paul says of the Law in Romans 7:21-23: 21, "I have discovered this principle of life—that when I want to do what is right, I inevitably do what is wrong. I love God’s law with all my heart. But there is another power within me that is at war with my mind. This power makes me a slave to the sin that is still within me."

What is the answer to the Law with its standard of righteousness and our sinful nature? 

Paul says in Romans 7:24-5 and into 8:1-4: "Oh, what a miserable person I am! Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin and death? Thank God! The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord. So you see how it is: In my mind I really want to obey God’s law, but because of my sinful nature I am a slave to sin....So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus. And because you belong to him, the power of the life-giving Spirit has freed you from the power of sin that leads to death. The law of Moses was unable to save us because of the weakness of our sinful nature. So God did what the law could not do. He sent his own Son in a body like the bodies we sinners have. And in that body God declared an end to sin’s control over us by giving his Son as a sacrifice for our sins. He did this so that the just requirement of the law would be fully satisfied for us, who no longer follow our sinful nature but instead follow the Spirit."

The Law needed the covering of the blood, for people had to be cleansed each year. But that very blood points to Jesus.

Now, within us (like the contents being kept inside the box) this Law is transformed into a new law: the Law of the Spirit. This law doesn't negate the older Law. Our sinful nature, made into a new nature with the blood of the Lamb, now wants to do righteous things that God asks of us.

How about the budded rod? How does something dead, like a severed branch, have life in it? It needs sap to reanimate it. It is subject to the covering of blood on the Mercy Seat each year, and yet it points to The Blood to come. This Blood becomes our very life, as Jesus says in John 15:5: "Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing."

We produce buds and then fruit: "But if you remain in me and my words remain in you, you may ask for anything you want, and it will be granted! When you produce much fruit, you are my true disciples. This brings great glory to my Father." (John 15:7 & 8)

Aaron and his priesthood needed a covering in order to conduct their appointed office. But a greater Priest will come and be the covering itself.

Then there's the manna. It provided life to those in the desert. The manna tells of His very life in John 6:53-8: "So Jesus said again, 'I tell you the truth, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you cannot have eternal life within you. But anyone who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise that person at the last day. For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. Anyone who eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in him. I live because of the living Father who sent me; in the same way, anyone who feeds on me will live because of me. I am the true bread that came down from heaven. Anyone who eats this bread will not die as your ancestors did (even though they ate the manna) but will live forever.'"

The manna needed a covering year after year--it was food that would only temporarily satisfy a person. But One was coming whose very flesh would satisfy forever our deepest hunger.

Jesus Himself provided the blood and is Himself the Mercy Seat--the ultimate covering--for He covers us, makes us righteousness, provides us with His own life within us and nourishes us: "For God presented Jesus as the sacrifice for sin. People are made right with God when they believe that Jesus sacrificed his life, shedding his blood. This sacrifice shows that God was being fair when he held back and did not punish those who sinned in times past, 26 for he was looking ahead and including them in what he would do in this present time. God did this to demonstrate his righteousness, for he himself is fair and just, and he makes sinners right in his sight when they believe in Jesus." (Romans 3:25-27)

Jesus accomplished this as our High Priest:  "Under the old system, the blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer could cleanse people’s bodies from ceremonial impurity. Just think how much more the blood of Christ will purify our consciences from sinful deeds so that we can worship the living God. For by the power of the eternal Spirit, Christ offered himself to God as a perfect sacrifice for our sins. That is why he is the one who mediates a new covenant between God and people, so that all who are called can receive the eternal inheritance God has promised them. For Christ died to set them free from the penalty of the sins they had committed under that first covenant."  (Hebrews 9:13-15)

Hebrews 1:3 proclaims: "The Son radiates God’s own glory and expresses the very character of God, and he sustains everything by the mighty power of his command. When he had cleansed us from our sins, he sat down in the place of honor at the right hand of the majestic God in heaven."

No need to be a raider of the lost Ark. It disappeared for a reason. Its job was done. It pointed the way to the One to come.

Jesus became The Mercy Seat for us to encounter God. Now that the curtain is torn, and with His light flooding in, we can "come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most." (Hebrews 4:16-17).

Now it all makes sense.


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.  

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