God Created

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth; and the earth was without form and void.  And the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters, Genesis 1:1, 2 NKJV.

“God created…”

It didn’t just happen….

First, we are told by “science,” there was nothing.

Then, all of a sudden, out of all this nothing, and out of nowhere, there was “something.”

And from this something, here we all are, us, our cats and dogs and goldfish.

“God created….”

I can’t even begin to imagine the grandeur of this.

God simply spoke, and it was so.

Not countless eons of time, stretching on and on.

God just said, and it was.

Finished and complete.

In the Beginning

Beginning….

Our last post was “Finished”.  I really hadn’t planned it that way, but every thing, every object, every thing we can see, as well as that which we cannot see, cannot “finish” unless it had a beginning.

Even this world.

This beginning….

Did it just “happen”?

No rhyme, no reason.  Just one day…

Poof!

And there it all was, in all its primordial glory, in a puff of smoke….

Or was it this way…?

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.  The earth was without form, and void; and darkness was on the face of the deep.  And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters, Genesis 1:1, 2 NKJV.

The first, somewhat abridged and inaccurate, is the “scientific” version; the second is the Scriptural version.

Today, we’re beginning a series on the first 11 chapters of Genesis.  In these chapters, describing four seminal events, are the beginnings of everything we see around us.

Many will not agree with the viewpoint of this series, that Genesis is an accurate historical record of the beginning, not only this planet, but of the material universe.

The Lord Jesus accepted the historicity and accuracy of Genesis.

We need nothing else.

As far as the “puff of smoke”viewpoint, that’s pretty much how it’s viewed today, although the possibility of such a thing actually happening have been calculated as 1 in 1 followed by a ridiculously large number of zeroes.

In other words, “it ain’t happenin’ ! ”

And it took a ridiculously large number of years.  It didn’t just suddenly appear one day in a cloud of smoke.

But this view, in the mind of atheist scientists, has the advantage that it gets rid of God.

The other view, that it took only six actual, literal days…

That’s the view of Scripture, not only in Genesis 1 and 2, but in other Scriptures as well.  We’ll look at them as we go along.  Some of the early church fathers wondered why it took God so long.  He could have done the whole thing in an instant.  He chose not to.  Genesis gives us the record of what He did do.

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.  The earth was without form and void; and darkness was on the face of the deep.  And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.

The first sentence is a capsule summary of creation.  God created the heavens and the earth.  The rest of Genesis 1-11 fills in some of the details.

Some, not all.  We’re not told everything, just what we need to know, not what we might want to know.

 

Finished

Thus all the work of the tabernacle of the tent of meeting was finished….

According to all that the LORD commanded Moses, so the children of Israel did all the work.  Then Moses looked over all the work, and indeed they had done it; as the LORD had commanded, just so they had done it.  And Moses blessed them, Exodus 39:32a, 42-43 (NKJV).

At last.

The work was done.  Everything was inspected and found to be as it was supposed to be.  Moses may very well have breathed a sigh of relief.  I don’t know that for sure, of course, but considering the headaches the children of Israel gave him during the wilderness wanderings, it’s certainly possible.

The work was done.  Nothing more needed to be done.  There was nothing to add to it.

It was finished.

This is a foreshadowing of another time when the cry went out, “It is finished!”

There’s a lot of discussion about the Cross and what the Lord Jesus did there when He died.  Generally speaking, it’s taught that He didn’t really save anyone by His death; we have to “accept” Him in order to be saved.

That is true insofar as the fact the the Scripture teaches that salvation is only by faith in His finished work.  We do have to receive Him in order to be saved, John 1:12, 13.

At the same time, though, as for what Christ did on the Cross, Ephesians 3:11 tells us of the eternal purpose which [God] accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord, emphasis added.  The Cross wasn’t just some hit-or-miss throw of the dice in the mind of God.  The plan of redemption was not “a colossal failure,” as one writer years ago put it.  Or the result of an “emergency session called by the divine council,” as another put it.  He didn’t just put it out there, so to speak, and hope that someone would receive His Son.  How can a professed believer even think such things?  But then, for the last century or so, we’ve so minimized the Lord God in the “Christian” culture of our churches, to the point where He can’t do very much without our “permission”.  We have to “let” Him do things – in His own creation!  He’s pretty much been reduced to a humble supplicant at the throne of the human will.

I hate even to write such things.

Christ accomplished on the Cross the purpose God had for Him in dying – not just to make salvation “possible,” though from our side that is certainly now true.  Without the Lord Jesus, there is no hope of salvation, no hope of heaven, only a certain prospect of judgment because of our sins. That’s the human side, but on the divine side, He actually secured the salvation of all for whom He died.  That is the work of the Holy Spirit – to apply the benefits of that death and to bring sinners to repentance and faith in the Lord Jesus.

The Tabernacle was finished; redemption has been completed.  The price has been paid.  Justice has been satisfied.

Has it begun in your life?  Have you repented of your sins and turned to the Lord Jesus for forgiveness and salvation?  If not, o, that today, it might happen!  If so, then rejoice, the work was completed.  Sin has been forgiven.  Eternal life is yours through the Lord Jesus.

Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved.

May God grant it, for Jesus’ sake.  Amen.

The Cherubim

“…And you shall make two cherubim of gold; of hammered work you shall make them at the ends of the mercy seat.  Make one cherub at one end, and the other cherub at the other end; you shall make the cherubim at the two ends of it of one piece with the mercy seat.  And the cherubim shall stretch out their wings above, covering the mercy seat with their wings, and they shall face one another; the faces of the cherubim shall be toward the mercy seat, Exodus 25:17-20 NKJV.

We wrote about the mercy seat in our last post, but these cherubim were part of it.  We left them for a separate post because of the place cherubim have in other Scriptures.  Most of the time they are associated with various buildings Israel made:  the Tabernacle, Solomon’s Temple, the Temple Ezekiel envisions in his book, Ezekiel 41.  But there are other places in the Old Testament where they appear.

In Genesis 3:24, we read that God expelled Adam and Eve from the Garden because of their sin, and He placed cherubim at the east of the garden of Eden, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to guard the way to the tree of life.

Someone once wrote that the cherubim were placed there to keep the way to the tree of life open, but it seems to me that they were placed there to keep the way shut that led to the tree, to prevent access to it.  The Scripture tells us about what happened as a result of Adam’s sin:  Then the LORD God said, “Behold, the man has become like one of Us, to know good and evil.  And now, lest he put out his hand and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live forever” – therefore the LORD God sent him out of the garden of Eden to till the ground from which he was taken.  So He drove out the man: and He placed cherubim at the east of the garden of Eden, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to guard the way to the tree of life, Genesis 3:22-24 (NKJV).

These are unutterably solemn words.

This was an act of inexpressible justice, but it was also an act of incredible grace.  IF Adam had eaten of the tree of life after he sinned, he would have indeed lived forever, God Himself said that – but he would have lived forever a fallen sinner, condemned and under the judgment of God.  There would have been no redemption, no grace, no mercy, nothing but a live forever in the heartache and misery of sin.  It would have truly been the “hell on earth” foolish men sometimes talk about.

They have no idea….

But that’s not the end of the story.

Adam and Eve tried to cover their sin, their nakedness, with fig leaves.  Sometimes they are pictured in art like this.  But there is no “covering,” no little something we can do to hide what we are in ourselves or what we do in life.  There is nothing “good” in anything we do that can cover sin, can take it away.  Satan has told us otherwise, so there are all kinds of religions and “good works,” and charities and things, but Scripture says that even the plowing of the wicked is sin, Proverbs 21:4.  The things we do merely to provide the necessities of life are sin in the eyes of God.

But someone might say, “Yes, but that talks about ‘the wicked’.”

I’m thankful that there is “good,” humanly speaking.  This world would truly be a terrible place if that were not true.  I’m sure that even Hitler did “good” in some areas of his life, but that’s only “humanly speaking.”  In God’s sight, There is none who does good, no, not one, Psalm 14:1, 3; 53:1, 3, Romans 3:12.  According to His standards, which are infinitely higher than our own, and apart from the Lord Jesus Christ, we’re all “wicked”.

“Fig leaves” will never get the job done, never cover our sin, never open the way to the tree of life.

God took away Adam and Eve’s flimsy, ineffective covering and gave them tunics, or coats, of animal skin.  We’ve mentioned this before, but God acted this way to show them, and us, that we can only live because of the sacrifice of an innocent substitute.

In a few weeks, it will be Christmas.  TV shows, advertisers, retail stores – all are gearing up for this busiest of all seasons.  Churches will have their Christmas pageants, and there will be a lot of talk about “the Christmas story.”  It will be a time of rejoicing, of family get-togethers, of “the twelve days…”.

Very little of this will have anything to do with the events they’re supposed to represent.  God provided coats of skin for our guilty first parents; He provided an innocent Substitute for us.

I’ve often thought that a true picture of Bethlehem would show a little infant in a crib or a bed or whatever Mary might have had to put the infant Jesus in, but falling across this idyllic picture would be the shadow of a cross.  Jesus was born in order that He might die.

“To Him all the prophets witness that, through His name, whoever believes in Him will receive remission of sins,” Acts 10:43.

As Abraham told Isaac all those centuries ago, Genesis 22:8, God provided for Himself a lamb.

The Mercy Seat

“You shall make a mercy seat of pure gold; two and a half cubits shall be its length, a cubit and a half its width.  And you shall make two cherubim of gold; of hammered work you shall make them at the two ends of the mercy seat.  Make one cherub at one end, and the other cherub at the other end; you shall make the cherubim at the two ends of it of one piece with the mercy seat.  And the cherubim shall stretch out their wings above, covering the mercy seat with their wings, and they shall face one another; the faces of the cherubim shall be toward the mercy seat.  You shall put the mercy seat on top of the ark, and in the ark you shall put the Testimony that I will give you.  And there I will meet with you, and I will speak with you from above the mercy seat, from between the two cherubim which are on the ark of the Testimony, about everything which I will give you in commandment to the children of Israel,” Exodus 25:17-22 NKJV.

He also made the mercy seat of pure gold; two and a half cubits was its length and a cubit and a half its width.  He made two cherubim of beaten gold; he made them of one piece at the two ends of the mercy seat:  one cherub on one end on this side, and the other cherub at the other end on that side.  He made the cherubim at the two ends of one piece with the mercy seat.  The cherubim spread out their wings above, and covered the mercy seat with their wings.  They faced one another; the faces of the cherubim were toward the mercy seat, Exodus 37:6-9 NKJV.

If the Ark of the Covenant symbolized Israel’s relationship with God, then the Mercy Seat symbolizes God’s relationship with Israel.

It’s not called “the Justice Seat,” because God’s justice by itself would send us all to hell, Israel included.  That’s all we deserve, contrary to those who seem to believe that God somehow owes us entrance into “a better place” or that it’s just automatic:  everyone, regardless, will go there. And it’s not called “the Steadfast Love seat,” in spite of those who use that translation in place of the word “mercy.”

The word “mercy” is the translation of the Hebrew word, “kippoor”.  We know it from the day in the Jewish calendar called, “Yom Kippur:” “The Day of Atonement.”  The word itself means “to cover, make atonement, propitiate,” (Wilson’s Old Testament Word Studies, p. 273).  It is used 26 times in the Old Testament, always in reference to the article of furniture, never to an attitude or emotion.  For a further study of this word and the others translated “mercy,” see Wilson.

Leviticus 26 describes the sacrifices that Aaron and his sons were to offer on the Day of Atonement, once a year in the seventh month, on the tenth day of the month, v. 29.  The purpose of the sacrifices was to make atonement for the priests, and for all the people of the assembly, v. 33.  It was the most solemn day in the Jewish calendar.  It still is, even though Israel now has no sacrifice to offer or place to offer it.

There is no longer any need for such offerings and ceremony.

We don’t have a tabernacle or the ceremonies associated with it.

We have that to which these things pointed – the sacrifice of the Lord Jesus Christ:

Hebrews 7:26-28, For such a High Priest was fitting for us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and has become higher than the heavens, who does not need daily, as those high priests, to offer up sacrifices, first for His own sins and then for the people’s, for this He did once for all when He offered up Himself.  For the law appoints as high priests men who have weakness, but the word of the oath, which came after the law, appoints the Son who has been perfected forever, NKJV.

Hebrews 8:1, 2, Now this is the main point of the things we are saying:  We have such a High Priest, who is seated at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens, a Minister of the true sanctuary and of the true tabernacle which the Lord erected, and not man, NKJV.

Hebrews 9:13-14, For if the blood of bulls and goats and the ashes of a heifer, sprinkling the unclean, sanctifies for the purifying of the flesh, how much shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God, NKJV.

Only through Him – not through Mary, not through “the saints,” not through the church, but through Him – is there salvation and the forgiveness of sins.

“Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved,” Acts 16:31.

 

The Ark of the Testimony

“And they shall make an ark of acacia wood; two and a half cubits shall be its length, a cubit and a half its width, and a cubit and a half its height.  And you shall overlay it with pure gold, inside and out you shall overlay it, and shall make on it a molding of gold all around.  You shall cast four rings of gold for it, and put them in its four corners; two rings shall be on one side, and two rings on the other side.  And you shall make poles of acacia wood, and overlay them with gold.  You shall put the poles into the rings on the sides of the ark, that the ark may be carried by them.  The poles shall be in the rings of the ark; they shall not be taken from it.  And you shall put into the ark the Testimony which I will give you,” Exodus 25:10-15 NKJV.

Then Bezalel made the ark of acacia wood; two and a half cubits was its length, a cubit and a half its width, and a cubit and a half its height.  He overlaid it with pure gold inside and outside, and made a molding of gold all around it.  And he cast for it four rings of gold to be set in its four corners:  two rings on one side, and two rings on the other side of it.  He made poles of acacia wood, and overlaid them with gold.  And he put the poles into the rings at the sides of the ark, to bear the ark, Exodus 37:1-5 NKJV.

The Ark of the Testimony, or Covenant, as it’s called elsewhere in Scripture, was the piece of furniture in the Tabernacle which perhaps more than the others was the symbol of Israel’s relationship to God.  It was a gold-plated chest in which had been placed the tablets which Moses had received at Mount Sinai, a pot of manna as a reminder of how God had supported and provided for Israel during her wilderness trek, and Aaron’s rod that budded, the evidence that his was the priesthood by Divine appointment and not something he had taken for himself, Hebrews 9:4.  Many years later, all that was left in it were the tablets, 1 Kings 8:9, 21.

The Covenant, or the Mosaic Law, is what we know was the Ten Commandments, though there was much more involved than just 17 verses in Exodus 20.  It was that which made Israel “a special treasure to Me above all people;…”, Exodus 19:5.  In Deuteronomy, rehearsing the actions of God toward Israel to a new generation, Moses said, “For what great nation is there that has God so near to it, as the LORD our God is to us…?” Deuteronomy 4:7.  Much later, God said to Israel, “You only have I known of all the families of the earth…,” Amos 3:2.

Israel’s special relationship to God gave her a special responsibility.  We mentioned Israel being “a special treasure” in the sight of God.  There was more to it than that.  In that same statement, and after reminding her of how He had delivered her from slavery in Egypt and had taken her through the wilderness, God said, “Now therefore, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be a special treasure to Me above all people; for all the earth is Mine.  And you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation,” Exodus 19:5, 6.

Israel really had no idea what was involved, but confidently said, “All that the LORD has spoken we will do,” Exodus 19:8; 24:3.  I’m sure they meant it.  But there were nearly seven weeks involved in everything that transpired at that time, and Moses wasn’t down from the mount the last time before Israel had already broken her word in a wild orgy, Exodus 32:1-25.

That wasn’t the only covenant God made or will make with the nation of Israel.  Contrary to those who say that God is done with Israel – and except for His grace, and His word, He would be! – He has promised one more covenant.

In Jeremiah 31:31-34, God said,

“Behold, the days are coming, says the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah – not according to the covenant I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, though I was a husband to them, says the LORD.  But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the LORD:  I will put My law in their minds, and write it on their hearts; and I will be their God and they shall be My people.  No more shall every man teach his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, ‘Know the LORD,’ for they all shall know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them, says the LORD.  For I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more.”

Then He goes on to say that if the sun and the moon depart and the heavens above can be measured,

“I will also cast of all the seed of Israel
For all that they have done, says the LORD.

The verses in Jeremiah are quoted in Hebrews 8, where the writer is warning his audience against going back to the “old” way of doing things, thereby turning their backs on the sacrifice of the Lord Jesus.  It’s sometimes thought that the New Covenant is for New Testament believers, but we only come under its provisions through the Lord Jesus, Hebrews 9:11-15, 24-28.

We’ve never been under the Old Covenant, though many try to put us there.

The Ark of the Covenant was a visual reminder to Israel of her blessings because of the grace, mercy and truth of God.

We have another visual symbol of God’s grace to us:  the bread and fruit of the vine in the Lord’s Supper, or communion.  Our Lord said of the fruit of the vine, “This is my blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many,” Mark 14:24, also Matthew 26:28 and Luke 22:20.

Oh, do you know the forgiveness of sins through the Lord Jesus Christ, or are you hoping that things will just “work out”?  Oh, that you might see that there is only one way of salvation, one way into heaven, one way for the forgiveness of sins.

“Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved,” Acts 16:31.

The Table of Showbread

“You shall also make a table of acacia wood; two cubits shall be its length, a cubit its width, and a cubit and a half its height.  And you shall overlay it with pure gold, and make a molding of gold all around.  You shall make for it a frame of a handbreadth all around, and you shall make a gold molding for the frame all around.  And you shall make for it four rings of gold, and put the rings on the four corners that are at its four legs.  The rings shall be close to the frame, as holders for the poles to bear the table.  And you shall make the poles of acacia wood, and overlay them with gold, that the table may be carried with them.  You shall make its dishes, its pans, its pitchers, and its bowls for pouring.  You shall make them of pure gold.  And you shall set the showbread on the table before Me always,” Exodus 25:23-30 NKJV.

And Moses spoke to all the congregation of the children of Israel saying, “…gifted artisans among you shall come and make…the showbread,” Exodus 25:4,10,13, and all the other parts of the tabernacle.  There is no recipe given to us, though, for that bread.

He made the table of acacia wood; two cubits was its length, a cubit its width, and a cubit and a half its height.  And he overlaid it with pure gold, and made a molding all around it.  Also he made a frame of a handbreadth all around it, and made a molding of gold for the frame all around it.  And he cast for it four rings of gold, and put the rings on the four corners that were at its four legs.  The rings were close to the frame, as holders for the poles to bear the table.  And he made the poles of acacia wood to bear the table, and overlaid them with gold.  He made of pure gold the utensils which were on the table:  its dishes, its cups, its bowls, and its pitchers for pouring, Exodus 37:10-16 NKJV.

These are only a few of the 20 references in Scripture to the showbread.

This bread and the various offerings and sacrifices brought by the Israelites made up a large part of the food for the priests, cf. Matthew 12:4.

In John 6, that most misunderstood and controverted chapter, our Lord four times refers to Himself as “bread”:

John 6:33, “For the bread of God is He who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.”

John 6:35, And Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life.  He who comes to Me shall never hunger and he who believes in Me shall never thirst.”

John 6:48, “I am the bread of life.”

John 6:51, “I am the living bread which came down from heaven.  If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread which I give is My flesh, which I shall give for the life of the world.”

There has been a lot of discussion, to put it mildly, over the centuries about what our Lord meant by these statements.  It’s not our purpose to enter into that discussion in this post.

At the same time, what did our Lord mean?

I believe He Himself tells us in the Gospels.

Matthew and Mark give us an account of the Passover our Lord observed just before His crucifixion.

In Matthew 26, we read, And as they were eating , Jesus took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to the disciples and said, “Take, eat; this is My body.”
Then He took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you.  For this is My blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.  But I say to you, I will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in My Father’s kingdom,” 
vs. 26-29.

Mark 14 gives us this account:
And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “Take, eat; this is My body.”
Then He took the cup and when He had given thanks He gave it to them, and they all drank from it.  And He said to them, “This is My blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many.  Assuredly, I say to you, I will no longer drink of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God,”
vs. 22-25.

It seems clear to me that our Lord is not saying, “This bread becomes My body,” as some religious organizations teach.  He is saying, “This bread represents My body.”

Paul had some further teaching on this.  Writing to a church which had completely missed the mark on this ordinance, he wrote,
For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death till He comes.  Therefore whoever eats this bread or drinks this cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord, 1 Corinthians 11:26, 27.

When our Lord said that those who partake of this bread will live forever, John 6:51, was He saying that the mere eating of the bread and drinking of the cup in a church setting confers eternal life??

No, He wasn’t.

We have to remember what these elements represent, namely, the sacrificial death of the Lord Jesus on the Cross, as Paul wrote.  It is His death which saves us.  Communion is merely a symbol, a picture, of that death.

In my wallet, I carry pictures of our family.  One of the women in those pictures is my wife.  But those pictures have never told me that they love me, have never held me, have never fixed a meal for me, never bore our children.

They’re just pictures.

Likewise, communion is just a picture, with no more power to save than those pictures of my wife have power to do anything for me.

I’ve been around church most of my adult life.  One thing I’ve noticed is that we like to eat:  fellowship dinners, going out after church on Sunday, and what not.  A lot of us could probably do less in that department.  The thing is, are we spiritually as well-fed?

How much time do we spend feeding our souls?  What would they look like if we could see them?  Well-fed or emaciated?

How much time do we spend in the Word?  I’m not talking about a quick read in some devotional booklet.  These might be useful, but I compare them to fast food, as opposed to a good, hearty dinner.  How much time do we spend in God’s Word itself – Genesis through Revelation?

Though I’ve tried several different ways of reading it, I suggest going through the whole Bible once and then going back through the New Testament again.  And then do it again.  And again.  And again.  Even after half-a-century of reading, I find things I never noticed before.  If the Lord were to give me another half-century, I would still find new things.

Oh, that we might follow the advice of the Psalmist in Psalm 34:8 and taste and see that the LORD is good.