The Love of the Truth 2

At the turn of the millennia, in the eleventh century and for the next five hundred years, there were reformers within Christianity who stood up and refused to be comforted by the Christianity that they had been given. It started fairly slow, at least when you regard that there are only a few names until about the sixteenth century that fall into this stream. One after another, these men defied the Catholic overlord, and even while some still desired to honor that Catholic root that they had been so devoted to, they were all deemed as heathens and rebels at the least, damnable heretics at the worst.

It is a misrepresentation to claim that these who rose up in severe adversity did so because the Bible was being misinterpreted. Another grave mistake is considering that these were heralds of the poor and oppressed. While both of these might indeed have been something that the reformers were passionate about, the secret of their defiance grew out of something else. There was a different “truth” that they stood upon. Scripture and doctrine were indeed very important, and of course the great solas of the reformation are heralded to this day by Protestants. More than Scriptural truth, however, was the love of Him who claimed, “I am the truth”. Beyond the reformers were the radical reformers, later called the Anabaptists, who simply wanted to live like Jesus in their own generation. Whether they got everything correct, or understood everything, is debatable, but the groundbreaking and radical position these ones took was far beyond what either the Catholics or the Protestants could bear.

To conclude our discussion of truth, I had in mind of discussing the word of truth, mentioned in Psalm 119, Daniel 10:21, and a couple places in the New Testament. I wanted to examine the way truth is mentioned in the eschatological passages, such as Daniel 8:10-12. Yet, I found myself unable to do so, because such a dissection of an important subject would lead to the subject being exactly that: a subject. You don’t dissect a living frog; you have a dead frog that you cut to pieces. And once the frog is cut to pieces, you might be able to mention a lot of fascinating things about the inner workings of the frog, but that frog can never be brought back together again. Truth, whether in a general sense, or in a specific narrow discussion of a connotation of the word, should never fall to such a discussion.

For a theology book, the discussion of truth has incalculable benefit, simply because we claim that the statements that we are believing are true. Yet, are the statements true because they are fact, or are they true because they are tangible? When we talk about anything within theology, we are talking about something real that we’ve all experienced, and thus we have something to talk about in connection with one another. To be led by the truth in theology is not to be led into all understanding, as many Pentecostals and Charismatics would like to believe. It is to be led into all experience with the truth. Salvation is a real thing, and not merely a doctrinal stance. While there are many discussions of how things work within theology, the leading of the Spirit into all truth is about having that relationship with these things in reality, and not in intellectualism.

As we continue into bibliology for our next unit and onward into other aspects of theology from there, let us not forget that our love is not of “truths”, but of the truth. May our zeal not be in something that we hold to doctrinally, and the tradition of our fathers handed down to us, but rather let our zeal be in truth according to knowledge. And let that knowledge be as Paul would express it in 2 Corinthians 4:6, that it isn’t merely “knowledge”, but the knowledge of the glory of God shown in the face of Jesus. Our fellowship with truth is only found in the fellowship we have with Christ our Lord. May that be our pillar and our anchor, and whether we attempt to understand the deeper aspects that are so nuanced that you can barely detect such an understanding, or whether we remain at the foundational level, may in both cases we do all of our studies unto the glory of God forever, amen.

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Must We Be Filled With the Spirit to Study?

In discussing limitations, we must also ask the question of whether there is a limitation in our own holiness. Every single person in Christ has had the struggle. There are always the voices and thoughts that say we cannot know God, because we aren’t good enough, aren’t smart enough, aren’t righteous enough, or any other absurd “aren’t enough”. Whether you fall into the camp of the Nazarenes, the Wesleyans, or the Charismatic denominations, you will find that there is a difficult quandary that must be overcome. How do you balance the understanding of a second work of grace, or a filling of the Holy Spirit, or a second blessing, or becoming ‘sanctified’ with theology?

Must one have the baptism of the Holy Spirit in order to do theology? Does God require that we would be filled with His Spirit in order to know Him? Should we expect that if we haven’t had a certain experience that purges the dross from our lives and causes us to live in a more attuned manner that we are somehow lack?

It is precisely here that the cessationist has every right to balk. Yet, I would suggest the cessationist has the exact same enigma, only with different words. The idea of a second work of grace is that we are all on a journey with the Lord. There comes a point in time in that journey where we decide it isn’t enough to simply be Christian. My roommate, who was an atheist, called this “being devout”. He experienced this moment in my life, when I was a Christian, but still enjoyed an occasional party, and watched the movies and shows I shouldn’t have. When the moment came that conviction wouldn’t allow me to live in that any longer, I gave it up. In that moment it wasn’t about my decision, but about the power of God releasing me from these things. I don’t need them anymore.

The Wesleyan branches of theology have termed this event in the spiritual walk of the believer. The cessationist would say that we’re filled with the Spirit from our spiritual birth, and they might agree that such a moment could or would happen in the life of the believer, but that event is not a baptism in the Spirit. This isn’t a “second work” of the Spirit, but just the work that the Spirit performs. Herein are semantics, and these semantics are pointless to discussion. The real pressing perplexity lay within every college student who went off to school to learn theology, or every layman who hasn’t yet had that momentous moment. As a pastor, as an educator, as a friend, as a brother or sister, how do you respond both biblically and lovingly to this kind of question?

Our resolve is found in the character of God. Ultimately, what we’re asking is not a question of self, but of God. If our focus is upon self, then it is little wonder why we have so hard a time feeling after answers. With God, all things are possible. The very God of the universe that was able to abide in flesh – not sanctified flesh, but everything that flesh is and represents – and dwelt in sinless perfection, not faltering at one point of the Law or commandments, revealing to us perfectly the heart, character, and expression of the Father tells us everything we need to know about whether we can truly know God. Let us not forget that it was not the apostles of Acts chapter 2, after being filled with the Spirit, that Jesus discipled and asked whether they didn’t know Him.1 These foolish, bumbling, hardened, ignorant disciples – the unsanctified, who haven’t yet had the second work of grace, or the baptism of the Spirit – are the very ones that Jesus seems to have utter confidence in. Is it because He knows they will receive the Spirit that He has this confidence, or is there something else that causes Him patience?

Just like our Christian walk itself is a journey, so is our understanding of theology. God meets us where we are, revealing Himself because He is not restricted. Is God free to reveal Himself to us, who are mere mortals? Or is God somehow constrained because we are too frail, too stupid, not this, not that, and not enough? Yes, we are dust, but we are God’s dust, and I don’t think He would appreciate the way that we talk about His dust sometimes. Is it not the accuser of the brethren to speak such? Why, then, do we use such language and violence against one another as the accuser of the brethren himself? Exactly who are we representing and working for?

In the end, we cannot deny the obvious. Certainly being further along in the journey with God helps. It is said that the ground is level at the cross, but we all know exactly how it feels to be brand new and hear that one guy who seems to have the whole Bible memorized. We all know what it’s like to look up to someone else because of their insight, and hopefully also because of their character and integrity. Something about them arrests our being, and we cannot reject the obvious in that moment. They have seen and experienced something that we know nothing of, possibly eating of a bread that we’ve never tasted. Their communion seems sweeter, and something in us has a bit of longing – hopefully not jealousy. Whatever you call it, that kind of closeness certainly has its benefit, but we cannot persist that it is necessary, nor that the lack thereof is a lack and limitation. God is the one who works with us, and not ourselves with ourselves. Let that be a comfort and rest.

1 John 14:9

The Table of the Lord notes

 

I recently made a video that traces the communion table from Genesis through Revelation, expressing the common theme behind it. It also looks at the table of demons, which instead of feasting upon Christ we feast upon our brethren. If you’re interested, check out the video, and here are the notes that go along with it:

Malachi 1:7, Ezekiel 41:22, 44:16
-Here in the prophets the altar is called “The table of hte LORD”.

Leviticus 21:6
-Here God calls the offerings “the food of God”
+This idea of food being provided by God comes up over and over again throughout the Bible.

Genesis 1:29
-God gave every herb and tree for food – specifically anything bearing seed.
+There is an eternal provision, just like we previously learned of the eternal tabernacle. This “food” here is again made very apparent in other key places.

Genesis 4
-If the altar = Table of the Lord and food of God, let us consider the first sacrifice recorded in Scripture.
-Cain brought from the cursed ground, by the sweat of his brow (Gen 3:17)
-Abel brought of the flock, which God had multiplied and blessed
+Abel brought from rest. It is in the wisdom and eternal pattern of God to bring a firstborn yearling lamb, for “God will provide tha lamb”, and even the meekness portrays God’s character.

Ezekiel 34:1-10, Micah 3:1-3, Zechariah 11:15-17, Jeremiah 10:25, Psalm 14:4
-Over and over again there are these people working by their own toil, according to their own knowledge. Just like with Cain, the result is to slay their brethren.
+God provided good food, and said to eat of every tree, but this one tree – the tree of the knowledge of good and evil – do not eat. Don’t take in the food of your own toil and knowledge, leaving rest as you do so. There is no seed in that – only death.

Leviticus 6:26, Deuteronomy 18:2-3, Numbers 18:11-12
-The sacrifice was not intended to be “feeding God”, but rather as the allotment for the priests and Levites. In offering the sacrifice, you feed your brethren and give them provision.
+Malachi 1:7-14 – In bringing bad sacrifices, the people aren’t providing for their brethren. In this, they again show the mindset of the bad shepherds who feast themselves, while others go hungry.
-1 Corinthians 11:21-22 – Paul rebukes Corinth for this very thing.

Jacob and Esau
-Esau despised his birthright, even the blessing of all nation, and sold it for lentils.
-Jacob, perceiving the provision for many nations, inherited the birthright and blessing, while Esau sought it with many tears.
+Just like Cain, the response to his brother’s righteousness was murder (1 John 3:10-12)

Joseph and his brothers
-God gives Joseph dreams, which he then shares. There is a certain favor upon Joseph from his father.
+Just like God favored Abel’s offering, bringing what God blessed.
-Joseph’s brothers despised their brother because of his dreams and favor, and just like Cain they desired to kill their brother.

David and Eliab
-David brings bread to his brothers and cheese to the commanders, so they might look with favor upon the sons of Jesse.
+Just like the sacrifice is provision for priests and Levites
-Eliab, David’s oldest brother, shows hostility and accusation against David, even after witnessing him be chosen of God, and anointed, filled with the Spirit.

1 Corinthians 10:14-22
-The context before this is Israel being fed and provided for in the wilderness, and yet they served idols, committed sexual immorality, and tested God.
+Though they ate of the bread and cup, they showed in their actions which table they feast from.
-Manna from heaven was given – the bread of life
+Jesus is the bread from heaven (John 6)
-Drank from the spiritual rock
+1 Corinthians 10:4 – Jesus was the rock, water representing His blood (Jn 19:34, 1 Cor 10:16)
-In all these things, they partook of Christ as we. For them it was a tqable prepared in the wilderness (Ps 78:19-20), sacrifices offered upon an altar. For us, we see Jesus our high priest (Heb 3:1) offering Himself upon the heavenly altar (Heb 9:24).
-Do we not partake of one bread? Are we not that broken Body, divided of Jew and Gentile? Yet, we are divided, some feasting from the communion God provides, laying our lives down as living sacrifices (Rom 12:1), an offering of the Gentiles made holy by the Holy Spirit (Rom 15:16). Others take of the table of demons, despising their brethren, and biting and devouring one another (Gal 5:15), whether their brethren be Jews or Christians.
+You cannot eat of the table of the Lord and the table of demons. They who minister at an altar with sacrifices have no right to eat of the table we eat upon (Heb 13:10). They are within a system built on the wisdom of the principalities and powers. Though they minister at “God’s House”, they are not in Zion, the eternal City, whose builder and maker is God. So let us join Jesus, who suffered outside the gate, and leave the camp to find His provision in the wilderness.

Table in the Wilderness
-There are many end time passages that speak of God preparing a table in the wilderness. These are passages that hint at an end time “exodus”.
-Ezekiel 20:33-35
+Hosea 2:14-15, Amos 9:8-10, Micah 7:13-15, Revelation 12:6, 14
-Deuteronomy 30:1-6
+Deuteronomy 32:20-22
-Revelation 12:6
+”They should nourish/feed for her…”
+Psalm 102:13-14, Luke 12:42, Matthew 24:45

Matthew 25:31-46 – The Least of These My Brethren
-They are judged uppon how they treat Jesus’ brethren.
+To not act is to act. It is to repeat the sins of the wicked leaders/shepherds who save themselves at the expense of God’s flock. It is feasting upon the people of God for your own nourishment, rather than nourishing them. This shows your identification with the table of demons, for who else comes to steal, kill, and destroy?

Generation After Josiah (Parts of this section are not in the video)
-Daniel and his companions refused to eat of the defiled meat. Where did they gain the wisdom it was defiled? In eating from the Table of the Lord, they were granted wisdom and discernment.
+1 Corinthians 10:21, 1 Corinthians 6:12 – Everything is permissible, so why can’t we eat from this table? It is even more repulsive than not being beneficial. It is defiled.
-Who can bring them meat in due season? (Mat 24:45, Luke 12:42)
+Luke 15:29-30 – The youngest son in the parable of the prodigal is accused of “devouring your livelihood with harlots”. Yet, the “faithful and wise servant” in the parable brought the fatted calf for this son. He has passed from death unto life, and therefore again eats from the proper table.
+Matthew 24:45-51 – At the end of the age we will either feed others nourishment, or we will beat our fellow servants. There is no in between.
-Matthew 25:31-46 – “What did you do to the least of these my brethren?”
-Parable of prodigal, the eldest son complains because he isn’t given even a young goat. “Where’s my meat?”
+Exodus 16:2-3, “Oh that we died in Egypt, when we had meat to eat and we ate bread to the full…”
-Psalm 78:19-20, “Can God prepare a table in the wilderness?”
+The eldest son complains that the younger brother “devoured with harlots”. Jerusalem/Israel is often called a harlot in the prophets.

Revelation 17 – Babylon
-Revelation 17:15-18 – The description of the judgement upon this harlot fits many Old Testament prophecies concerning Jerusalem.
+Ezekiel 16:23, 37-42, Ezekiel 23:29, Jeremiah 22:20-22, 50:41-42, Hosea 2 describing Israel as a harlot
-They who call themselves God’s people, Israel, or Jerusalem go through this chastisement. However, they who are truly God’s people shall come out refined, purified, and made white (Daniel 11:35).

Revelation 12:6 – “They provide for her…”
-The woman is Israel, fleeing in the wilderness.
+Can God prepare a table in the wilderness?
+Who is the faithful and wise servant to provide meat in due season?
-They who are like Abel, but the Cain people/false shepherds feast upon Israel, beat their fellow servants, and despise their own inheritance/roots.
-The Abel people bring an “offering” to God to provide for thise woman. 1 John 1:9, Revelation 7:14, Daniel 11:33-35, Romans 15:16 (12:1)
-Revelation 17:6 – Cain (Daniel 11:32, Isa 25:18)

Psalm 107:4-9
-Who is that wise and faithful servant who shall prepare the way, being an ambassador of that City, building the highway of holiness, so that they may say, “This isthe way, walk ye in it”?
-Psalm 102 – The Set Time to Favor Zion
+The psalm opens up to imagery of horrendous persecution. It describes an Israel in Holocaust-like scenario.
+Verses 12-14 then speak of a time that has come, a set time, where God now has mercy upon Israel. This set time to favor Zion is contingent upon one thing: God’s servants cherish Zion’s stones, and show favor to her dust.
-These servants cannot be a part of the persecuted and judged Israel, for they are bearing the mercy of God. They must then be something distinct, and yet still in God’s Household to be called “servants”.
-What does it mean to cherish her stones and show favor to her dust?
+Psalm 103:13-14
+Luke 12:42 – Who is that wise and faithful steward, whom is master will  make ruler over his avadim, to give them their okhel (food)?
-For thy avadim cherish her stones…
-Psalm 145:15 – For the servants to give food in due season is for God to give food in due season (Ezekiel 22:33-35 – I will plead)
-Genesis 42:10 – Joseph provided food for his brothers without cost (Gen 42:25-26, Isa 55:1, Rev 22:17)

Cities of Refuge
-Revelation 12:6 – A place prepared in the wilderness, for refuge
+Numbers 35:6, 1 Timothy 2:2
-We don’t wait until “one day” to be this, for the saints have always lived like this in their own generations.
+Noah prepared an ark for the saving of his household (Heb 11:7)
+Shem expressed something of God in the covering of his father’s nakedness, and therfore received the greatest blessing (Gen 9)
+Abraham believed God, and in leaving nation, family, and father’s house he became God’s nation to bless all nations.
+Melchizedek brought unto Abram bread and wine (Gen 14:18)
+Abraham slaughters the fatted calf and bakes 70 pounds of bread for three strangers (Gen 18)
+Lot takes in the two strangers and protects them under the shadow of his roof (Gen 19)
+Joseph was used to provide food to his brethren and to all nations
+The sacrifices provided for the priests and Levites
+David brought bread to his brothers and cheese to the commanders
+Ziba, the servant of Saul, brought David’s men cakes and wine to feed the faint (2 Sam 16:1-4)
+Nabal denied David’s men food, but Abigail provided lavishly (1 Sam 25)
+The widow offered two mites, all that she had, and was honored above everyone else’s offering
+Jesus tells His disciples to feed the people, even in such a solitary place (Mark 8)
+The Shunamite woman provided for Elisha a room he could always call home
-As God’s people, we are called to be that solace in the wilderness in our own generation, If we won’t do it now, then we simply never will. All these died having not received the promise. Why do we think we shall receive with much less effort, and with much less willingness?

Hebrews 13:10-16 as benediction

Ye Have Come to Zion

These are notes that I used in a video with the same title.

Genesis 1:1
The Bible cannot be about “salvation history”, as if all of the Bible describes only the means to redemption. God created in the beginning, and that creation was “good”. The degree to which creation was not fallen is the degree to which the Bible expresses something larger than salvation history alone.
Our Bible/Gospel doesn’t begin with Genesis 3 and end @ the cross
This verse expounds to us God’s purposes are larger than “salvation history” to envelop even the creation itself.
Revelation 21:1
To the degree Genesis 1:1 is about a physical heaven and earth, this is also about a physical new heaven and new earth (resurrected)

Genesis 1
1 Heaven and earth, light
2 Atmosphere and oceans (sea)
3 Land and vegetation
4 Sun, moon, and stars – separate light and dark as rulers
5 Birds and fish
6 Animals, reptiles/amphibians, humans
7 Rest
What God created on the first three days, He also made distinction and separation. What God created on the next set of three days, He used to fill what He made on the first three.

Genesis 2 – Revelation 21-22 comparison
2 trees (Gen 2:9)                       –          2 trees of life (Rev 22:2)
River (Gen 2:10)                        –          River (Rev 22:1-2)
Beauty (Gen 2:11-14)               –         Beauty (Reve 21:10-21)
Purpose (Gen 2:15)                   –         Purpose (Rev 22:5)
Marriage (Gen 2:18, 21-24)    –         Marriage (Rev 21:2, 9)
No shame (Gen 2:25)               –         No curse/shame (Rev 21:4, 22:3)
Sea (Gen 1:6-8)                          –        No sea (Rev 21:1)
Darkness (Gen 1:2-5)               –        No darkness (Rev 21:23-24, 22:5)
God’s presence (Gen 3:8, 10) –       God’s throne (Rev 21:22, 22:3)

The question is: How do we go from the Garden to the City? This gets at the heart of God’s purposes, the theme of the Bible, and eschatology.

2 Timelines:
Most people read the New Testament as the new covenant, and assume that we must look back at the Old Testament through our New Testament filter. The Old Testament is said to be looking forward to Jesus, and the New Testament looking backward to Jesus.
Hebrews 4:1-4 seems to indicate that the rest we enter into is not a New Testament thing, but established from the Garden. The Gospel itself is said to have been preached to they who came out of Egypt as well as to us. What Gospel is it that they heard, if Jesus had not yet been crucified to take away our sins?
The reality that God’s people of every generation live from is that eternal rest.
The earthly reflects the heavenly
Exodus 25:9
When we read the Old Testament, we need to understand that they were at a different part of God’s plan, but that God had still revealed to them His ultimate intention.

Garden compared to Tabernacle/Temple
Sea (Gen 1:6-8)                                –      Water from rock (Ex 17)
River (Gen 2:10)                               –      River (Eze 47:1)
Precious stones (Gen 2:11-12)     –      Breastplate of High Priest 12 stones (Ex 28:15)
Sun, moon, stars                             –      3 Types of light (outer, inner, Most Holy)
Stars                                                    –      Menorah (see Rev 1:20-21)
Mist (Gen 2:6)                                  –      Smoke (altar of incense)
Abad and samar (Gen 2:15) are the same words used for temple service (Num 3:7-8, 1 Chron 23:32)
I know some of these are a stretch, but notice the connection. The Old Testament sacrificial priesthood was about restoring unto Eden, which we’ve also seen is parallel to Zion, the New Jerusalem.

Tabernacle compared to Sinai
Washing basin                   –        Water from rock
Altar                                      –        Altar at base (Ex 24:4)
Menorah                              –        Lightning/fire (Ex 19:6/19)
Smoke of Incense             –        Smoke (Ex 19:16)
2 Trumpets (Num 10:2)   –         Trumpet blast (Ex 19:16, 19)
Showbread                          –         Manna
Ark of Covenant                –         God enthrones (Ex 24:11)
The Tabernacle was a traveling Sinai
Exodus 25:9, Hebrews 8:5
Moses goes up the mount and beholds the heavenly/eternal Tabernacle. That is the pattern the earthly is based off of. The entirety of the Old Testament priesthood and sacrifice is a reflection of something eternal.

Tabernacle/Temple compared to Rev 21-21
Ark of the Covenant                                 =   God’s throne (1 Sam 4:4, 2 Sam 6:2, Isa 37:16)
24 priestly families (1 Chron 24)         –   24 elders (Rev 4:4)
Menorah                                                       –   Seven lamps (Rev 4:5)
The Sea (1 King 7:23)                                 –   Sea of glass (Rev 4:6)
4 Cherubim (Ex 25:18, 1 King 6:23)       –   4 cherubim “in the midst of throne” (Rev 4:6)
4 Levites carry Ark (Ex 25:14, 37:4-5)  –   4 cherubim carry throne (Eze 1:22, 26-28)
Tablets of Testimony (Ex 32:15)             –   Scroll w/writing on 2 sides (Eze 2:9-10, Rev 5:1-2)
2 Altars (offering/incense)                      –   2 Altars (Rev 6:9, Rev 8:3-4)
Ex 19:16 compared to Rev 4:5
The tabernacle on earth reflected the tabernacle in heaven
Sinai was a manifestation of heaven on earth, and the tabernacle was a traveling Sinai. But God did not choose Sinai; He chose Zion.

Genesis 22
God tells Abraham to offer Isaac on a mountain in the land of Moriah. It doesn’t specify upon mount Moriah, but in the land of Moriah.
Abraham declares God will provide the lamb
God provides a ram
Exodus 12 – Passover requires a lamb, but God requires Israel to provide their own
John 1:29 – Jesus is called the Lamb of God (Gen 22:8)
Moriah has been identified as the area around Jerusalem
Notice Gen 22:14 – Mountain of the Lord
The Mountain of the Lord almost always refers to Zion, upon which the Temple sat (2 Sam 24:18-25, 2 Chron 3:1)
Ezekiel 28:13-14 – Eden was called the Mount of God
Would God be so specific to place Eden in a specific location upon the earth, which would later be called the region of Moriah, which would even later be called Jerusalem and Zion?

Hebrews 12:14-29
This isn’t replacement theology. This is the expression that we’re a part of the eternal reality, manifested in the earthly.
You have not come unto the reflection, finding the end in itself as the Tabernacle and priesthood of Aaron, but unto the eternal thing itself.

The whole Bible is attempting to explain and portray to us how God intends on making the eternal/heavenly unified and one with the earth. Eschatology (study of the end times) is the answer to that question.
If God chose Zion, then the physical Land is still important
If God chose Israel as His people, then they still matter
If God chose Jerusalem, then that Mountain is still the place where it shall be provided (Israel’s redemption, the Kingdom, nations’ redemption, judgment and mercy, etc).
God does not change His mind. Just because we don’t like it doesn’t mean that everything must now be ethereal and spiritual. The Kingdom is always spiritual and physical at the same time, ruled from one place, with one nation as God’s elect chosen people – Gentiles always having been grafted in.

Eunuchs and the Tree of Life

With the discussion of the two trees in the Garden, we’re again discussing the Kingdom of God and the kingdom of darkness. These are two different cultures at enmity with each other. Within the first two chapters of Genesis, we have the Kingdom of God expressed. In Genesis 1:16-8, we have the darkness being “ruled” over by the sun and moon. In Genesis 1:26-27, we have humanity being made in God’s image, that it might “rule”, or “have dominion”, over the creation. This ruling is described in further detail with the wording of Genesis 2.

The words of our English Bibles tell us that God God commanded the man that he would “tend and keep” the Garden. The Hebrew words denote something slightly different than what commonly comes to mind. In my mind, I always read that Adam was to “tend” the Garden, and I assumed that meant working. But God isn’t talking about work. He isn’t talking about labor. Rather, God is talking about a certain kind of building up, a certain kind of servanthood that takes into consideration what the creation needs, and then becomes that foundation that tends to the needs of the Garden. This describes nothing short of what it means to be apostolic or prophetic. Apostles and prophets are called the foundation, the very thing that holds up the building, and gets walked on without any thought or consideration.

Our word “keep” doesn’t work well anymore. It used to be that to “keep” something was to guard and cherish it, but it has now become simply possessing. For God to tell Adam to keep the Garden, He was telling Adam to cherish and guard it. This is also the word used for the commandments of God. We’re to keep the commands, which we’ve interpreted as flawlessly adhering to their demands. While it might be true that God expects we’ll live in obedience to Him, the word that he used was the same as here in the Garden. The Hebrew word shamyir means to guard, or to cherish. If you tell someone who loves God to guard His commands, they would gladly risk their lives to make sure that they do so. In fact, many of the traditions of the Jews come from this very thing. They want to guard the commands, and so they must rigorously ask the question of what exactly it means to covet, or to steal, or to bear false witness.

God’s Kingdom is expressed fully in the Garden of Eden. His rule is one of service, giving itself over to the needs of others. Indeed, just as Jesus taught, we should not be rulers in the sense of the Gentiles, who lord over one another. Rather, anyone who wants to be great must become the least, and anyone who wants to “rule” must serve. This idea of being a servant is scattered throughout the parables of Jesus. At one time He minces no words in telling us that some are made eunuchs out of their own volition, for the sake of the Kingdom of God.

To be a eunuch for the Kingdom is to strip away your own rights, your own thoughts, your own needs, and your own reputation. Eunuchs are servants who have no regard for their own households. Their only regard is for building up the house of their master. Just like the apostles wrote themselves as being “bondslaves” and “servants” of the Lord Jesus Christ, the apostle is one who fundamentally stands in adherence to the word of God. Every waking moment is a pulsation of desiring and coveting that God be served and get the glory in all things. Our life is no longer our own. “I must decrease so that He might increase.” Just as the prodigal son desired to come to the Father no longer deserving to be a son, but now coveting to be a servant, for the servants have bread and enough to spare, the apostolic man and Body does not seek their own fame and reputation, but rather seeks to train the sons in maturity and fullness, that they might become heirs.

What strikes me is that Scripture doesn’t say anything negative of the eunuchs, other than that in Leviticus they are told not to come near the altar. Every other mention, and certainly the concept of that lifetime devotion unto your master, is blatantly held in high regard. Isaiah claims that these eunuchs shall indeed come near the House of God, and shall even be given names better than sons and daughters. It is said of Elijah that he comes at the end of the age to restore the sons unto the fathers, and to turn the hearts of the fathers back to the sons. This heart is one that bleeds of that eunuch-type servanthood. It has laid down everything so that it might raise up heirs who will inherit the glorious City. As Paul said to the Corinthians, they have been prepared for one Husband.

The Elijah people are they who have given up everything of their own, they who see the Bridegroom and rejoice, preparing the Bride for but one Husband, decreasing so that He might increase, and jealously seeking to build up His house alone. For this reason, because they have no desire to build up their own name and household, they are entrusted with the secret things of God, and they are men of authority. These apostolic and prophetic men are they who God has created from the beginning. Adam was the first foundational man, expressing what it means to rule in the Kingdom of God, and was therefore the steward of the great mystery. This mystery is God revealed. Adam reflecting God outward to all creation, and bringing even the creation into fullness and maturity, that the way may be prepared for the coming of its King.

When we examine the two trees of the Garden, we must bear in mind that they are given as symbols as much as they’re real things. Yes, Adam ate a tangible fruit. Yes, there was a real and lasting death that took place. However, the two trees represent heavenly realities as well. To the tree of life we have full expression of overcoming and ruling in the Kingdom of God. To the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, we have full expression of dwelling in death, choosing death moment by moment rather than life, and thus becoming the antithesis of “seek first the Kingdom of God…”

A Brood of Vipers – Matthew 3:7-12

There are a few things going on here that are cultural references, and a few things that are Scriptural. So, first lets deal with this first section. When the Pharisees and Sadducees come to John, he calls them a brood of vipers and asks them who told them to flee from the wrath to come. What’s happening here?

Go back to Genesis 3:15. There are two seeds. There is the seed of the woman, who shall be the deliverer, later expressed in the term Messiah. Then there is the seed of the serpent. When you read through Genesis, you have two seeds presented at all times. There is Cain, and Abel/Seth. There is the wicked generation, and Noah. There is the nations at Babel, and Abraham. There is Ishmael, and Isaac. There is Esau, and Jacob. The seed of the serpent isn’t specific to a people group, but rather a concept. There are a people who consistently oppress and persecute the people of God, and it doesn’t matter if they are called Philistines, Egyptians, Assyrians, or Chaldeans.

Something begins to shift in the history of Israel, though. Solomon uses slave labor to build his palace and some military bases. But God said to not have slaves, because you were once a slave in Egypt. Here is the topsy-turvy kingdom: Israel, the new Egypt. Under Rehoboam it gets worse. The northern kingdom of Israel doesn’t ever have one good king. The southern kingdom of Judah has a handful. Over and over again in the prophets, what we read is that they are in outrage over the fact that the leaders are mistreating the people. In fact, such strong language is used in certain places (Jer 10:25, Mic 3:1-3, Zeph 3:3, etc) that it says the leaders of Israel are actually eating and devouring the people.

The leaders have become the seed of the serpent, at enmity with the seed of the woman and with God. Therefore, they are a “brood of vipers”.

But let’s not be hasty. It is easy to point fingers. What exactly were the Pharisees, anyway? In the first century, you could call the Pharisees the conservatives, and the Sadducees were the liberals. They were the leaders of the people. The Pharisees, in their great learning and understanding, were the ones who helped the people to understand the Law, so that Israel might follow it and obey. According to the Pharisees’ belief, if they could only reform the people of God back unto holiness and righteousness, then the Messiah would come. The Sadducees, on the other hand, were hired Roman officials – Jews who betrayed their own people. Therefore, the high priests, priests, and the scribes were often Sadducees hired by Rome to keep the people in check.

I’m not going to point out what I find to be obvious. In our Christianity today, there are Pharisees and Sadducees. There is no point in me putting names with those titles, because the truth is that if you can’t discern it, then you probably fall into one of those two camps. And John the Baptist calls them a brood of vipers. The difference between much of what is called Christianity today and the Sadducees/Pharisees is that at least the Pharisees/Sadducees understood that John and Jesus were talking about them…

What about this wrath to come?

Again, when you read the prophets, any “wrath to come” that is mentioned is associated with the Day of the Lord. There might be prophecies against certain nations (I’m thinking of Isaiah 37-39 currently) that had an immediate expectation, but the vast majority were beyond the immediate. It’s as though the prophet was beholding the seed of the serpent within these rebellious nations, and wasn’t merely prophesying concerning Assyria, Babylon, or Moab (or any other nation), but beyond them to an ultimate “seed of the serpent”, which is the mystery of iniquity, which the New Testament calls “Antichrist”. It is this one, the Antichrist/False Prophet, that we read Jesus will destroy with the brightness of His coming.

What is the coming wrath? It is the return of Jesus, and the outpoured fury upon the nations who have gathered against Israel at Har Meggido (Armegeddon). We read in passages like Ezekiel 38-39, Zechariah 14, and Revelation 19:11-21 about the destruction of this army that gathers. We read in other passages, such as Zechariah 14:16-17, Isaiah 19:21, and Daniel 7:11-14, about how there are nations who are judged, but not condemned and cast into the pits of hell with Jesus’ return.

Thus, to get back to what John is saying to the Pharisees, I think that we need to be keen on the understanding of the apostles in that first century. Peter calls Jerusalem “Babylon” at the end of his first epistle. When you read Revelation 17, the language used in regard to the 10 nations attacking the woman comes straight from the prophets in regard to Israel and Judah’s judgment. In Zechariah 14:14, there is a subtle hint that even Jerusalem/Judah itself will fight with the Antichrist against the coming of the Lord. God alone knows, but what we can be truly certain of is that God has consistently spoken that the wicked of Israel shall not endure unto the end, but shall taste of the wrath of God during that final expulsion and sifting through the nations.

We can ask the question of why this is being said here. It makes sense to say it if we’re dealing with the Day of the Lord, but this is Jesus’ first coming. I would challenge you to go to Malachi 3 and read it. Couple that with Matthew 21:33-43. Even though this isn’t the final last days dealing of God, it is quite clear that Jesus has indeed taken the Kingdom from the leaders of Israel and given it to they who will produce it’s fruit (the tax collectors and sinners of Israel, and later in Acts even the Gentiles).

“Therefore bear fruit to repentance…” Again, the concept of bearing fruit is not foreign in the consciousness of the Jewish people. John isn’t being clever and inventing something new. Even Isaiah the prophet calls Israel God’s “vineyard” (Isaiah 5) – the Hebrew word gan. God planted Israel, He cultivated Israel, and yet He only found bad fruit. Tell Me, O Israel, what I did wrong! The answer, of course, is that God did nothing wrong. Therefore, John is telling these people, “Bear fruit to repentance.” You who have consistently been that barren vineyard, or, even worse, been the ones producing bad fruit, repent of your wickedness, and turn unto the Lord. They know what tshuva means (Hebrew word/concept of repentance).

In the book of John, Jesus is speaking to the Jews round about Him. And in chapter 8, the Jews respond that they have Abraham as their father. It’s as if being genetically Jewish is all they think they need to inherit the Kingdom. They don’t even realize that Abraham was called to be the father of many nations because of his character, and not simply because of God’s sovereign choosing. Certainly God’s sovereign choosing played into it, but don’t think that God would have chosen Nimrod instead. There is a character, a certain mindset and lifestyle that reflects who God is, and it was that very thing that was being chosen.

God can raise children of Abraham from the stones.

Why?

It wouldn’t be too much for God to do so, but I think we should understand that John was pointing to that hill outside Jerusalem, where it says that the Messiah will step foot upon (Zech 14:5).

What stones are upon that hill?

They are graves.

God can raise them up out of the graves, and you will completely miss it, because you have hardened yourself, and have refused to consider that God is an actual person, and not some concept that we fiddle with.

We come back to the concept of agriculture and producing fruit. What do  you do when a tree refuses to bear fruit? You cut it down and use it as firewood. Therefore, John has no hesitation or timidity in pointing out that the ax is already at the root, just like it’s always been, and the fire of God is already upon you. This is the vision of the prophets. Everything is immanent; everything is life and death; everything is now, even while it yet might be millennia in the future. Eternity has no concept of time. Time cannot contain eternity. Eternal moments break the constraints of time, so that they who are eternal can perceive the reality of past, present, and future in a manner that affects all of past, present, and future. We’re affected by our past, and we also effect the past. We’re affected by the future, and we also effect the future.

In verse 11, John again brings up the issue of repentance. He says, “I baptize you with the water of repentance…” Baptism itself, as far as I can tell, comes from the concept of mikveh. A mikveh was the ritual of washing yourself with water to make  yourself clean. You find this in Exodus 19, that God says to Moses that the people need to wash their clothes and be made clean before Him. You find it again in Psalm 51:2, that David asks to be washed in order to be made clean. Ezekiel 36:25 speaks of clean water being poured out upon the House of Israel to make it clean – again, a reference to mikvah. In Leviticus 17:15, we have the mikvah prescribed in regard of becoming clean again after eating something that has died of natural causes or by beasts (that which you didn’t kill).

For a mikveh, you would immerse yourself in moving water. The rabbis talk about how this takes you out of your regular mode (in the air), and puts you in a state less familiar (floating submerged in water). It’s like birth, and has deep significance tied to it from a baby that leaves the womb, and now therefore is coming forth into the air for the first time. You are no longer unclean, but now as clean as a baby, you enter again into the air and society in right standing with HaShem (God).

In this last segment, when John begins to express what the Messiah shall do, again we find that much of it goes back to the prophets. He isn’t saying anything new. John is building upon what has already been said, and what is already being believed. For example, look up these verses: Psalm 1:4, Isaiah 1:31, 27:4, Jeremiah 7:20, 15:7, Malachi 4:1, and Amos 9:8-10.

I think the “Holy Spirit and fire” is not two separate things, but one. It’s like when you say it is raining cats and dogs. It doesn’t mean that it rains cats in one spot, but dogs further up the street. It’s just a saying, for one, but we all understand that they go together. In fact, the whole point of the outpouring of the Spirit in the prophets (Jeremiah 31:31-37, Ezekiel 36:21-27, Joel 2:25-32, etc) was that there was both the outpouring of the Spirit and the cleansing of the House of Israel, but also the judgment and recompense upon the nations in the Day of the Lord. You cannot escape it. This outpouring is always placed at the end of the Time of Jacob’s Trouble, at the threshold of the coming of Messiah, the Day of the Lord, when there shall be signs  in the heavens, and fire and devastation. The Spirit of supplication and grace poured out upon Israel in Zechariah 12 is the same timeframe as the previous verses:
“And the governors of Judah shall say in their heart, ‘The inhabitants of Jerusalem are my strength in the Lord of hosts, their God.’ In that day I will make the governors of Judah like a firepan in the woodpile, and like a fiery torch in the sheaves; they shall devour all the surrounding peoples on the right hand and on the left, but Jerusalem shall be inhabited again in her one place – Jerusalem. The LORD will save the tents of Judah first, so that the glory of the House of David and the glory of the inhabitants of Jerusalem shall not become greater than that of Judah. In that day the LORD will defend the inhabitants of Jerusalem; the one who is feeble among them in that day shall be like David, and the house of David shall be like God, like the Angel of the LORD before them. It shall be in that day that I will seek to destroy all the nations that come against Jerusalem.”

Let us conclude, then. This passage is incredibly suggestive of end times events. That which John is speaking of cannot simply be constrained to the first coming of Jesus. And yet, there is a reality in which they were exactly constrained to the first coming of Jesus. The leaders really were cast off of their own tree – the ax already being at the root. They were cast off and wild branches were grafted in. But that isn’t for you to boast, but for you to tremble. Behold the goodness and severity of God. Goodness to you, should you continue in the ways that you have been taught by Christ, yet severity to those who harden themselves to become full of bad fruit. This is a now word, because many do neglect the most basic principles of the faith, and yet it is also a future word, because the King shall come, and when He does, we shall again see the outpouring of the Spirit and fire.

Glory in the Cross – Galatians 6:11-18

These are the concluding marks of Paul’s epistle to the Galatians. Within these few verses, we have a recap that it isn’t by the flesh that we should live, but by the Spirit. Now, we can compare this statement with other statements that Paul makes elsewhere, such by saying that his Gospel is not in word only, but in the demonstration of power. They who are compelling the Galatians to be circumcised, according to Paul, are not speaking with this power, but speaking from the flesh. It is not the flesh that profits anything, but the new creation.

For those of you who struggle, listen to Paul’s advice. I’m always amazed at how simple the language is. It’s never some exotic, or some “super-spiritual” thing that is commanded of us. All we’re called to do and be is what Christ has already made us to be. We’re “new creations”, and therefore no longer under the same bondage that we once were. I know that there is still struggle. We all have them. But, don’t let your struggle and temptation define you. You’ve been bought with a price, and with that freedom you’ve been given, do all you can to remain free.

Grace and peace in Christ. Next we’ll begin looking at the Gospel of Matthew, because I’ve been saying that we need to pay attention to the words of Jesus, but haven’t yet gone through them… Pray for me, because this is the deep end.

Share in All Things – Galatians 6:6-10

Within this passage is a mandate to all. First, let me explain a bit of what it meant to be within the first century Church. Second, we’ll look at the passage directly. Third, we’ll ask the question of how we get there.

Within Acts 2:42-47, we read that they who were added to the Church continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, having all things in common, selling their possessions and distributing as anyone had need, and spending time together daily, whether in the temple, going from house to house, or or otherwise. It was completely natural. You didn’t have to tell anyone to sell their possessions; they did it naturally. You didn’t have to tell people to live in obedience to the apostles’ teaching; they did that naturally. It was the logic of the salvation and outpouring of the Spirit that caused them to come together daily, and not merely weekly.

It is within this context, spending day after day with the other believers throughout your city, that we have a definition of Church. The Greek word (ekklesia) actually comes from the Hebrew Kahal, neither having any kind of religious connotation. It simply means an assembly, or a group of people who have gathered together. The sunagoge (synagogue) was where they met. Once again, there was absolutely nothing religiously affiliated with that word in the first century. Herod called the scholars together, and that gathering was called a sunagoge (Matt 2:4). In Hebrews 10:25, the “gathering together” is sunagoge. In 2 Thessalonians 2:1, the place where Jesus gathers His Church is called an epi-sunagoge.

From this context, let us ask again what “Church” is. Within that first century manifestation, the Church was simply the people of God. For this reason, we find that Paul writes to whole cities, and not congregations within those cities. They met together daily, and anyone who had need was provided for. How did they have so much money? They didn’t. Everyone lived within their means, living a peaceful and quiet life. They didn’t spend their money on large homes, fancy clothing, or “things”. Rather, they spent their money on one another, putting it to a greater use than themselves.

This all came down to the eschatological dimension. The end times were not something far away and outside, but were a dynamic that was lived out in daily life. There was an expectation of imminent judgment upon the House of Israel, and a knowing that the righteous should be preserved. There was a knowledge that God was progressing His people forward in an ultimate drama, and therefore every day was another chance to grow and develop, progressing with God toward that ultimate climax of the age.

When we come to Galatians 6:6, we find Paul telling the people to give to they who teach. For you who are being taught, and who are finding much growth spiritually through a certain teacher, you should do what you can to provide for their needs. In 2 Corinthians 9:6, Paul uses the idea of sowing and reaping in a similar context. But, notice that Paul doesn’t remain with providing for they who teach, but the conclusion in verse 10 is to do good to all. Given the context, it must be that Paul is speaking about physical need, and giving to those who have need.

Why is this stressed?

It is the logic of our salvation, the logic of love, to provide for one another. Simply living what we’ve received demands that we would take care of one another. And how do we even get back to such a thing? In our day and age, especially here in the West, we are enshrouded with debt, with expenses, and with financial trouble. How do we get free of this? Let me be clear: Dave Ramsey might speak about getting free from debt, but he doesn’t give the biblical answer.

From the New Testament text, it seems that the way that we get free from debt is selling everything. You have your house paid off? Invite they who don’t have their homes paid off in, and allow them to live with you until they have the necessary provision to buy a home without debt. Are you still paying on your car? Sell it and get something much less exotic. Are you struggling to pay your bills? Get rid of the cable, the Internet, the cigarettes, the Netflix, and anything else that is unnecessary, and ultimately is a waste of life and time. Jesus told the rich young ruler, “Sell your possessions, give to the poor, THEN come and follow me.” How many of us would also go away saddened, and not follow Jesus?

You want freedom? How much? You want the first century reality in your midst? How much? Are you willing to buy your brother or sister a new roof on their house because they need it? Are you willing to ding-dong ditch some groceries? Are you willing to purchase a car for the single mom who can’t afford to fix the minivan that she is currently driving at 250,000 miles? Are you willing to get to know the people around you well enough to know their needs, and know whether you can provide or not? It is a shameful testimony that you can have someone who can’t even afford to feed their child and someone who has tens of thousands of dollars in their bank account gathering at the same building for “church”.

My wife and I live at a level that is so far in poverty that we don’t even register on the chart. Yet, we don’t have debt, we pay our bills, we have clothes, we have food, and everything is provided in its time. I confess, we often do have struggle, and we’ve gone without meat, we’ve gone without reasonable shoes, we are currently going with clothes that are worn out and falling apart, we have no computers, our apartment is so small that the living room is our bedroom, when car insurance or veterinarian bills come we get nervous, we’ve known hunger, we’ve known what it is to only afford water, we’ve known what it means to have a drafty house that chills you in the winter, we’ve known what it means to skip changing the oil in the car because you can’t afford it, we’ve known what it means to debate paying the electric bill or buying groceries, we’ve experienced the ghetto poverty even outside of the ghetto, and yet I boast in these things because His grace is sufficient.

You want to know why my words are often so powerful? You want to know why I speak so much of resurrection? It is because if my God is not real, then my wife and I will perish. Everything is cast upon God. If He doesn’t come through for us, providing us our daily bread, then we don’t eat. It’s not expedient, and it certainly isn’t comfortable, but it’s life from the dead.

So I ask again:
How much are you willing to experience the first century phenomenon?

 

Resurrection

Yesterday was Easter. I do my best to not post on the weekends, which sometimes means not having as much traffic. I especially do my best to not post on holidays. So, this post is coming out today 🙂

The issue of resurrection is an issue that we all need to wrestle with until it comes into the kishkas (note: kishkes are a stuffed sausage, but kishkas are the guts). We celebrate the resurrection of Christ, but why? I’m what you would call a “slow learner”, especially in these subjects… I’ve noticed that there is much emphasis upon Jesus’ cross, Jesus’ resurrection, and Jesus’ ascension, but I could not for the life of me figure out why there is such an emphasis on it. I mean, I get the death, taking our sin and the curse to the cross, and I get the resurrection, that Jesus was vindicated by the Father, but why the ascension?

Come to find out, when you realize the importance of the ascension, you understand the importance of the other two…

When Jesus raised to the right hand of the Father, where He is currently sitting, it opened wide the veil for us as well to enter into that Holiest Place, to sit down, resting from our own work, and to remain seated with Christ in heavenly places.

Did you catch that?

The emphasis is upon Christ, and I recognize the importance of Psalm 110:1 (if you don’t, don’t worry about it right now). Yet, what makes this statement so significant isn’t that Jesus ascended, but that it grants access for us to join Him. For those of you who don’t know, I’m usually a stickler for not putting emphasis upon ourselves. Yet, in this case, reason with me…

Jesus died upon the cross, and now we are to take up our crosses and follow Him.

Where He goes, we cannot follow, but don’t neglect the last part of the statement that we shall follow Him. (Please note that the place where Jesus was about to go was into death and resurrected out of the grave. You can’t do that on your own.)

We read in Romans 6 that just as Jesus went down into the grave, so too have we been baptized into His death, and just as the glory of God the Father raised Jesus up from the dead, so too has the same glory, the same power raised us up.

We are seated with Christ in heavenly places.

 

What are you saying, Tommy? Why you talkin’ so cray cray?

What I’m saying is that the significance of the crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus is that we now also have the opportunity to die, be raised, and ascend up unto the right hand of God, and be seated with Christ in that place. This is where the doctrines become reality. You can hold to the “doctrine” of resurrection, that Jesus rose and that we’ll raise on the last day. But, what did Jesus say to Mary? ” I am the resurrection.” Notice Jesus didn’t say, “I have the power to resurrect the dead”, but that Jesus, Himself, IS the resurrection. What that even means I can only intuit. It isn’t simply through Jesus that we have resurrection, as if it happens on the last day, but that in Christ we ARE raised with Him by the glory and power of God the Father.

We, too, have opportunity to suffer through the eternal Spirit unto death, and in that true suffering and death, find that God Himself will also raise us up, truly while we still yet are in the flesh. They who believe in the doctrine of resurrection, truly believe, will live in the resurrection. It isn’t simply that Jesus rose, and that one day we’ll also rise, but that we, right now, by the very power of God, have access to be alive in Christ. No more “die to sin”, because you already are dead. No more, “put to death the sinful nature”, because anything that is still “sinful nature” isn’t YOU sinning, but YOUR FLESH (Romans 7:17) – that is, the sin that dwells in you.

This changes everything.

There is no condemnation in Christ, because if you are “in Christ”, then you aren’t “in sin”. If you are walking “in the Spirit”, then you can’t be walking “in the flesh”. It’s that simple. When we make it difficult, it is either because our lack of faith, or because we simply aren’t preaching the Gospel.

The Burning Bush – Exodus 3:1-10

There are very few recorded in Scripture who hear their names called. There are even fewer who have such a glorious experience recorded along with that call. To take the burning bush and reduce it to a simple moment in our own lives when we heard the Gospel and responded, or to reduce it to a time when we decided to become more devoted, or to remember a time when God spoke something to our hearts simply is foolhardy. With such a momentous moment in history, let us have sobriety and humility while we’re trying to comprehend its importance for ourselves.

For Moses, this moment means everything. It is not only that his life will never be the same, but it is the moment when hope arrives. Imagine if you were in his shoes. You’ve spent 40 years in exile. After seeing the oppression and torment of his people, what could Moses be asking himself?

Let me pose it a different way. In Malachi 4, there is the promise of Elijah to fore-run the Messiah. There is hope given to the people that deliverance is coming. God has not forgotten His people. They are back from exile, and now they’re going to have the Davidic Kingdom restored. And then 400 years pass with no prophetic voice. 400 years pass, searching for the Messiah, searching for “The Prophet”, searching for Elijah, searching for God. While the Macabees record some victories, in large there was still much discouragement. God’s words seemed to be failing.

And then there is this moment when a man is baptizing out in the Jordan, prophesying in the power of Elijah. Can you sense the incredible adoration? What must it be for Moses to spend 40 years in the wilderness, questioning whether God really cared and remembered the covenant that He made with His people? It isn’t like Moses is groveling, or something, but that in the midst of life there is still the inner grief. Just like the Americans who continue to cry out for revival, there is the question of “Where is God?”

The burning bush is a moment when God comes down. In the Garden, God comes down to walk with Adam in the cool of the day. At Babel, God comes down to examine the tower. It is the way of paganism to continuously be seeking to go “up to God”. It is the Hebraic understanding that perceives the only moments that God is truly present is when He comes down.

What we can expect the glimmer in the words and eyes of Philip shone when he told Nathanael. “We have found Him of whom Moses in the law, and also in the prophets, wrote – Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph” we can also expect here in the soul of Moses. God has not forgotten. God has not been far off. He has seen. He has heard. And now He has come.

A current kick that I’m on is the marvel of God’s wisdom. What is it in His innate character that would dictate for Him to come to Moses through a burning bush? Why not come down in awesome glory, revealing yourself in such a manner that no one can deny it? Why would God come down in the form of a burning bush that could easily be ignored? And why does God send Moses to Pharaoh? Why doesn’t God just plague Egypt Himself and allow Israel to be delivered by terminating the Egyptians? Does God not have the authority or ability to do so?

These questions show just how contrary God thinks in comparison to us. Our mindset and attitude reflects the same kind of selfishness, the same kind of prowess that the demonic forces exhibit. Our thoughts so often are so much lower.

So, why would God come in a manner that Moses could easily have ignored? Because He knew Moses. Moses wouldn’t ignore it. How do you think that Moses noticed the slavery of his people? It has already been revealed that Moses turns aside to see. God is reinforcing this very thing in Moses. It is an apostolic attribute. It notices the minor notes, and when something is “off”, it won’t let it alone until something is revealed as to why.

It is for this very reason that Moses was chosen to be the deliverer for Israel. It is this very reason that the apostles and prophets are the foundation to the Church. They notice the very minute details, the things that others would pass by and ignore. They won’t let it alone. When something is wrong, they will be ruthless if necessary (in love) to bring maturity and stature into the Body of Christ. Just read the letters of Paul and tell me if you can find one statement that is not connected to some sort of exhortation, rebuke, or teaching that challenges, requires, and/or makes demands upon your life.

God knew Moses’ credentials. And, more importantly, God knew Moses’ inability. He has been on the backside of the desert for 40 years. That kind of extravagance is found a waste in the eyes of the men of the world. What a waste of time. Couldn’t Moses have delivered them sooner, and then Israel would have had their 40 years of wandering already, and now they would be entering the Land. Instead, God doesn’t find it extravagant to wait 40 years before calling Moses, who is now 80.

It is by the weak and foolish things that God desires to defeat the wise and strong. While it is the principalities and powers, the demonic realm, that uses force, intimidation, threat, manipulation, terror, and oppression, it is the wisdom of God to defeat it all through the cross. The cross is more than a moment at the end of Jesus’ life. It is the ever present reality of God’s ways and patterns. Through weakness, humility, foolishness, and an embrace of suffering and pain through love, God defeats and conquers. The question is epochal. Do you believe that gentleness is more powerful than violence? Do you believe that humility is stronger than force? Do you believe that suffering for the sake of love is stronger than oppression and torment?

In Exodus, there are two rods to pay attention to. Pharaoh has a shepherd’s crook. Moses, being a shepherd, has a shepherd’s crook. In Exodus 4:20, Moses’ rod is called “the rod of God”. Thus, we have the question of two wisdoms. Is the cross sufficient to overpower violence, or are we doomed to continually crying out to no avail? Does Light truly push out the darkness is a way that the darkness cannot overcome?

Now Moses stands before God (just pause on that for at least 20 minutes). God is sending him to Pharaoh. It is the wisdom of God to work hand-in-hand with His people. Indeed, while He has every ability to change things in His own strength, God uses His people as a witness. Imagine an Egypt that gets plagued “for no reason”. What reason could it be? With Moses, the reason is given. “Let my people go, or else…”

The end result of sending Moses instead of plaguing Egypt Himself is that Pharaoh acknowledges the LORD (even if without faith), there are some Egyptians that become Israelites and leave Egypt with them, and the whole nation is left asking the question of where their gods were. You see, the God of the Hebrews heard their cry and answered. But where was Osiris when the Nile turned to blood? Where was Hakthor when the cattle were plagued? Where was Ammun Ra when the sun went dark? Did they not have power? Did they not hear the cry of the Egyptians?

Just like Elijah on Carmel, the prophets of Baal cry out all day without any answer, though they obviously expected one. And how is it that the magicians were able to perform these miracles that Moses performed? Could it be that there was indeed some sort of demonic activity at work? Could it be that God was mimicking the illusions of the magicians? Either way, the fact that God permits such witness for the gods of Egypt, only to then manifest their inadequacy, shows that indeed love is more powerful than violence.

So, the question that remains is in what way can we take this and apply it to our own lives? In what ways can we believe that love is stronger than hate? It starts with living in a way that believes it. “Love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you.” That includes the annoying guy at work. It also includes the Muslim refugees. It also includes the liberal democrat politicians. It also includes the bully, the jerk, the pessimist, the racist, the guy that can’t get a hint that you don’t want to go out with him, the person that doesn’t realize that you’ve asked them if they want a breath mint 15 times for a reason, and the person with your sport team’s rival. At the end of it all, the reality is that love wins.