Heart Trouble

Some of my recent reading was in Luke 6, where vs. 43-45 say the following:

For a good tree does not bear bad fruit, nor does a bad tree bear good fruit.  For every tree is known by its own fruit.  For men do not gather figs from thorns, nor do they gather grapes from a bramble bush.  A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart brings forth evil.  For out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks, NKJV.

I was struck by the word “abundance” and wondered about the Greek word it translates, so I looked it up.  It pretty much means “abundance”.  Sometimes there are nuances the English doesn’t pick up, but this doesn’t seem to be one of those times.

In Matthew 12, in one of His frequents bouts with the Pharisees, this time when they were accusing Him of casting out demons by Beelzebub, the ruler of the demons, v. 24, the Lord Jesus responded, “Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or the tree bad and its fruit bad; for a tree is known by its fruit.  Brood of vipers!  How can you, being evil, speak good things?  A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good things, and an evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth evil things.  But I say to you that for every idle word men may speak, they will give an account of it in the day of judgment.  For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned, vs. 33-37.

“A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good things, and an evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth evil things.”

This is why Scripture admonishes us to keep your heart with all diligence, For out of it spring the issues of life, Proverbs 4:23.

Solomon wasn’t writing about our physical hearts, though the same thing could be said of them.  The heart oxygenates our bodies several times a minute and removes the waste products of our breathing at the same time.  Have you ever really thought about that?  In effect, the same truck that delivers our groceries takes away our trash?  Only God could figure out something like that which actually works.

Truly, we are fearfully and wonderfully made, Psalm 139:14.

No wonder the psalmist finished that verse:  Marvelous are Your works, And that my soul knows very well.

My mom was a nurse, so I’ve had some of her medical books.  She’s been gone a long time so they were dated, but even back in the 30s and 40s, science knew enough about the wonder that is our physical makeup, that no one in their right mind should have believed that all this intricacy and interconnection “just happened”.

With the knowledge we have today, there is even less basis for that idea.

As well look at an automobile engine, though it is kindergarten simple compared to our bodies, and say that that V8 “just happened.”  Such a thought would receive the ridicule it deserves.  Man knows it was carefully engineered and built by a lot of people using expensive machinery and technology.  Only of the physical world is it accredited and accepted to say, “This universe, this body, ‘just happened’.”

Man is very concerned to take care of his physical heart, and there’s nothing wrong with that.  The other “heart,” the one that really matters, he says, “meh,” and gives it little thought.   Or if he does, he doses it with some “snake oil” that a carnival barker would be ashamed to promote.

It takes more than some little “cure” dreamed up in the side-shows of life to take care of our spiritual hearts.

Why is that?

Because Scripture has already given us the diagnosis for this kind of “heart trouble.”

Jeremiah 17:9 tells us, “The heart is deceitful above all things, And desperately wicked; Who can know it?”

That “heart” tells us that there is no God, there are no absolutes, if it feels good just do it, there is nothing after death, no judgment, no hell, though there may be a “better place,” the bible (small “b”) is just another religious book, and we don’t really have to pay any attention to it.

Scripture also gives us the “cure” for our spiritual heart trouble.

Though it’s written to and about the nation of Israel, it’s applicable to us through the Lord Jesus.  In Ezekiel 11:19, 20, God promised Israel, “Then I will give them one heart, and I will put a new spirit within them, and take the stony heart out of their flesh, and give them a heart of flesh, that they may walk in My statutes and keep My judgments and do them; and they shall be My people, and I will be their God.”

These verses and the several like them in the prophetic books of the OT form the basis of Paul’s statement in Romans 11:26, 27 about the salvation of all Israel.  These verses haven’t happened yet, but they will.  They await the coming of the Lord Jesus.

How does God give us this “heart of flesh”?  This new heart?

In 2 Peter 1:3-5, we read, ….His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue, that by these you may be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.

This is what the Lord Jesus was talking about in John 3 when He told Nicodemus about being “born again”.  The reception of a new nature, a nature that’s concerned about the things of God.  That’s the only real “cure” for the spiritual troubles we have, individually and as a nation.  Contrary to what the liberal revisionists would have us believe, this nation was founded by people who wanted to worship God as they believed the Scripture to teach and not as some religious authority told them they had to.  We have so much trouble today because we’ve thrown out their wisdom and substituted the secular wisdom of the likes of Karl Marx and John Dewey.  Who was John Dewey?  He was one of the main forces behind the secularization of public education.  Before him, as an example, one of the early grade McGuffey Readers, teaching little ones their ABC’s, of the letter “A” said, “In Adam’s Fall, we sinned all.”  A lot of churches today don’t even believe that, let alone our educational system.  This does not deny that many teachers do the best they can in a system where they might have to be physically protected from their students.  A system in which “security officers” now patrol the halls.

Our churches, our schools, our families, our kids, our government, our culture all show the deterioration that has come because we’ve thrown out the “salt” of the Word and the corruption of other things has come in.  Instead of a democratic republic (America is not a “democracy;” it is a constitutional republic – not that anyone cares anymore), we have the beginnings of a socialist dictatorship. Instead of a robust economy, paying for itself as we go, we’ve gotten so far into debt to nations which hate us that our great-great-great-great-etc.,-grandchildren will bear the burden of our stupidity.

That’s just a sample of what happens to nations, to cultures, when they throw out the good tree and replace it with the bad tree.

The heart is desperately wicked and deceitful above all things, and who can know it?

Easter

“He is risen!”

“He is risen indeed!”

So begins the Easter liturgy for the Greek Orthodox church.

It was also the practice of a church Sharon and I used to go to.

On Easter Sunday morning, the pastor would announce from the pulpit, “He is risen,” and we in the congregation would respond, “He is risen indeed!”

But it isn’t just tradition; it’s truth.

Unbelievers and skeptics tell us that the Resurrection is a fiction, that it was something cooked up by priests or other religionists to keep the people under their thumb.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

The folks involved in the story didn’t believe it either – at first.

Matthew 28:1 says, Now after the Sabbath, as the first day of the week began to dawn, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came to see the tomb. Mark 16:1 tells us that, as they came toward the garden where the tomb was, they said among themselves [for Mark tells us that a woman named Salome was with them], ‘Who will roll away the stone from the door of the tomb for us?” 

These women were prepared the anoint the body of Jesus – to do for Him what there had not been time, because of the onset of the Passover Sabbath, to do when He died.  Just in passing – the Passover Sabbath could be any day of the week, not just Friday.  And Matthew, in the original, says, after the Sabbaths, plural, the women were on their way.  “Sabbaths” – there were two Sabbaths that week.  As we said in our last post, Jesus didn’t die on Friday.

And the woman were coming to the tomb to “anoint” the body of Jesus, to do the burial practices there hadn’t been time to do earlier.  They thought He was dead.

Peter – he was going to go fishing, John 21:2-4.  Actually, he was going to return to his old business, the business he had left when Jesus called him to be a disciple, Matthew 4:19; Mark 1:17.  John tells us that six other disciples joined him.  They all thought He was dead.

When Mary Magdalene came to those who had been with him, as they mourned and wept, Mark 16:10, emphasis added, and told them that she had seen the risen Lord, they did not believe her, v. 11. Luke 24:11 tells us that “them” included the eleven and…all the rest.  They thought He was dead.

When the Lord Himself appeared to two men on the road to Emmaus, and He asked them why they were so sad, Luke 24:17, Cleopas, one of the men, expressed surprise that Jesus, whom he didn’t recognize, didn’t know of all that had happened the past few days.  He mentioned the idea that the people had hoped that “it was He who was going to redeem Israel,” v. 21, but that hope had been dashed by the Crucifixion.  Cleopas thought He was dead.

When the eleven, finally convinced of the Resurrection of the Lord, told Thomas, who had been absent when the Lord had appeared to the eleven, when they told him that the Lord had risen, he didn’t believe them.  He thought Jesus was dead.

Nobody, at first, on hearing of the Resurrection, believed itThey all thought He was dead, every one of them!

So much for some “Passover Plot,” where the disciples got together and fabricated the story that Jesus had risen from the dead!

No, my friends, no one can suffer what the disciples and the others suffered – and continue to suffer – for a known or deliberate falsehood.  Now we grant that people can be fooled about the truth of something, believe that it’s true even if it’s not, and suffer for that.  But no one can continue to suffer for something they know is not true, especially if that something came from them.

Years later, the Apostle Paul addressed this same idea.  In 1 Corinthians 15, he wrote,

Now if Christ is preached that He has been raised from the dead, how do some among you say that there is no resurrection of the dead?  But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ is not risen.  And if Christ is not risen, then our preaching is empty and your faith is also empty.  Yes, and we are found false witnesses of God, because we have testified of God that He raised up Christ, whom He did not raise up – if in fact the dead do not rise.  For if the dead do not rise, then Christ is not risen.  And if Christ is not risen, then your faith is futile; you are still in your sins!  Then also those who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished.  If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most to be pitied, vs. 12-19 NKJV (last four words – ESV).

But he goes on to declare triumphantly that Christ has risen from the dead.  Then he goes on in some detail to describe the ramifications and results of the Lord’s resurrection.

In v. 53-57, he concludes,

For this corruptible [body of flesh and blood] must put on incorruption, and this mortal [body which can and will die] must put on immortality.  So when this corruptible has put on incorruption, and this mortal has put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, “Death is swallowed up in victory.”

“O Death, where is your sting?
O Hades, where is your victory?”

The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law.  But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

Those last five words, “through our Lord Jesus Christ,” are the key.  Only through the Lord Jesus is there victory over death.  The grave is not our final resting place.

In these days of disease and discouragement, let us rest in the understanding that what we can see isn’t all that exists.  Through the Lord Jesus, we can have the victory even over something like COVID-19.  This doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t take the appropriate precautions or be careful.  It just means that the disease isn’t the final victor.

The Lord Jesus is.

It doesn’t have the final say.

The Lord Jesus does.

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

He Is Risen!

He Is Risen Indeed!

“Good Friday”

There is some discussion about the origin of the term, “Good Friday,” which we won’t get into, because it’s irrelevant.  The Lord Jesus wasn’t crucified on Friday.

He said so Himself:

“For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth,” Matthew 12:40 NKJV.  See also Jonah 1:17.

“Three days and three nights.”

It might be possible to wangle “three days” from Friday, Saturday and Sunday morning, when the Lord appeared to Mary Magdalene, Mark 16:9; John 20:11-18, but there are only Friday night and Saturday night in that scenario.

Two  nights.

I choose to believe that the scenario is wrong, rather than our Lord.

Our Lord wasn’t crucified on Friday.

He was already dead by Friday and His body was lying all wrapped up in grave clothes in Joseph’s tomb.

Does it really matter?

Yes, it does.

Either the Scripture is right, or it is not.

We can choose to defend our “tradition,” or we can seek to be true to the Scriptures.

Besides, it isn’t the day itself that’s important; it’s the death that occurred on that day.

As Israel celebrated Passover on that day in remembrance of their deliverance from Egyptian slavery, little did they know that the One who would fulfill the promise and prophecy of that day was at that very moment appearing in the presence of the Father, in type if not in reality, bringing His blood to apply to the altar in heaven.  His body may have lain in the tomb, but He was in heaven.  I’m not sure of this exactly, but Hebrews tells us that the Tabernacle in particular was a portrayal of better things in heaven.  As the OT priest applied the sacrificial blood to the horns of the altar, so I think that the Lord Jesus might have done something very similar in heaven.  As I said, I don’t know for certain; I’m just thankful that saving blood has been shed and my sins, which are many, have been forgiven, as have the sins of all who have believed on the Lord Jesus Christ for salvation.  Every day is a “good” day because of that, not just one Friday a year.  If I could only remember that more often.

What about you?  Do you celebrate the real reason for the day, or have you been carried along by tradition to rejoice over bunnies and eggs and new clothes and hot cross buns, things which have absolutely nothing to do with the day and certainly nothing to do with the forgiveness of sins.

Oh, listen, without that day, every other day would be a useless waste of time.  And without that day, there would be no heaven, at least for us, no “better place,” just a certain fearful expectation of judgment, as Hebrews 10:27 tells us in another connection.

He died, that we might live.

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

Passover

Now the LORD spoke to Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt, saying, “This month shall be your beginning of months; it shall be the first month of the year to you.  Speak to all the congregation of Israel, saying:  ‘On the tenth of this month every man shall take for himself a lamb, according to the house of his father, a lamb for a household.  And if the household is too small for a lamb, let him and his neighbor next to his house take it according to the number of the persons; according to each man’s need you shall make your count for the lamb.  Your lamb shall be without blemish, a male of the first year.  You may take it from the sheep or from the goats.  Now you shall keep it until the fourteenth day of the same month.  Then the whole assembly of the congregation shall kill it at twilight.  And they shall take some of the blood and put it on the two doorposts and on the lintel of the houses where they eat it.  Then they shall eat the flesh on that night; roasted in fire, with unleavened bread and with bitter herbs they shall eat it.  Do not eat it raw, nor boiled at all with water, but roasted in the fire – its head with its legs and its entrails.  You shall let none of it remain until morning, and what remains until morning you shall burn with fire.  And thus you shall eat it:  with a belt on your waist, your sandals on your feet, and your staff in your hand.  So you shall eat it in haste.  It is the LORD’s Passover.

‘For I will pass through the land of Egypt on that night, and will strike all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both man and beast; and against all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgment:  I am the LORD.  Now the blood shall be a sign for you on the houses where you are.  And when I see the blood, I will pass over you; and the plague shall not be on you to destroy you when I strike the land of Egypt.

‘So this day shall be to you a memorial; and you shall keep it as a feast to the LORD throughout your generations.  You shall keep it as a feast by an everlasting ordinance,” Exodus 12:1-14 NKJV.

In these verses. God is instructing Israel about what they are to do in preparation for their literally being thrown out of Egypt.  We don’t usually think of it that way, but when the Egyptians discovered at midnight that the LORD [had] struck all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, from the firstborn of Pharaoh who sat on his throne to the firstborn of the captive who was in the dungeon, and all the firstborn of livestock.  So Pharaoh rose in the night, he, all his servants, and all the Egyptians; and there was a great cry in Egypt, for there was not a house where there was not one dead, Exodus 12:29, 30, then the Egyptians, including Pharaoh, v. 30, urged the people, that they might send them out of the land in haste, v. 33, emphasis added.  They couldn’t wait to see the last of them!

There’s an interesting sidelight to all this.  Perhaps you’ve read about it in one of my earlier posts, but here it is again.  As God was telling Moses what would happen and how Israel was to prepare for their sudden departure, He said, “But against none of the children of Israel shall a dog move its tongue, against man or beast, that you may know that the LORD does make a difference between the Egyptians and Israel,” Exodus 11:7.

What does this mean?

I’m not really certain this is it, but I used to have a landlady who told me a story about her dog and the death of one of her family, or acquaintances.  I don’t remember for sure; it’s been a very long time.  Anyway, when this individual died, the landlady’s dog began to howl, quite some time before the lady herself was notified of the death.

My own mother had a similar incident.  She had befriend an elderly lady and was visiting her one day.  This old lady had a cat; my mom loved cats and easily befriended them.  But on this day, Star, the cat, would have nothing to do with Mom, but kept skulking around the edges of the room, acting like she was seeing something Mom couldn’t see.  All of a sudden, the lady died and Star streaked out of the room, never to be seen again.

Did these animals see, or somehow know of, the death angel?

I don’t know for certain, but these incidents may shed some light on what happened all those centuries ago in Egypt.  In the dead still of the night, maybe, dogs all over the country began to howl.  People woke up, saying, “What in the world…?” or whatever ancient Egyptians said in such cases, and began to investigate, only to find dead babies, sons, brothers, fathers, husbands, uncles, grandfathers.  Maybe more than one of these.  In every household.

Every household….

And out in the yard, dead sheep, cattle, goats, donkeys, oxen….

Only in those houses where blood was visible on the doorposts or the lintel on top of the doorway was there no death.

A substitute had died.

I’m certain you can see the application.

1 Cor. 5:7, Paul wrote, Christ, our Passover, was sacrificed for us.

Death stalks our land.  Even without the events so much in today’s news, each one of us has a “sell by” date, an expiration date.  As I look down the road to my 80th birthday (where have the years gone??), I’m more aware of that than ever.

Many people have the idea that death is the end of it, or that we all go to “a better place” when this life is over.  If that were true, then there’d be nothing to worry about.

However, Scripture says, “It is appointed to men for men to die once, but after this the judgment”.

You see, death isn’t the end of life; it’s just a change of scenery.  For some, their lives will catch up to them.  They may have gotten away with it, or so they thought, only to find out that “it” has gotten away from them, and they will have to answer for it.

For others, their suffering, their “bad times” will be over, and they truly will be in “a better place.”

What makes the difference?

A substitute has died.

Hebrews 9:27 says, as it is appointed for men to die once, so Christ was offered once to bear the sins of many.

As surely as the blood of an innocent sacrificial animal applied to the entryway of that ancient house protected the inhabitants of that house, so the blood of an innocent Sacrifice applied to the life of an individual in our day protects that individual, not from the consequences of their sin, but from its final judgment.

We live in a time when the Gospel has largely been forgotten, or is being ignored.  We have become “churchians,” and not Christians.  Religious lectures have taken the place of Gospel preaching, which has largely been lost, or a substitute put in its place – and we see the results, not just today, but from about the last 50 or so years.  We’ve had all sorts of decisions and results, but very few apparent conversions.  Years ago, I even had preachers admit to me that they thought that 90% of their people were lost.  Yet, this never seemed to bother them.  I couldn’t understand it.

It’s gotten worse since then.

And, no, I’m not perfect, far from it.  My faults, failures, and shortcomings would take more space than WordPress is willing to allow me, if I were even inclined to try.  I write to you, not from some ivory tower or imaginary “higher plane,” but as another one himself badly in need of a sacrificial lamb.

Today, as I write this, Passover will start at sundown.

Christ, our Passover, has been sacrificed, Hebrews 9:28.

Has the blood been applied to your life?

Oh, that you might think about it!  If it hasn’t, then may today be the day!

Turn to the Lord Jesus as your Substitute.

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

“Sanctuary Cities”

These cities have been in the news a lot recently in the contest between President Trump and those who oppose him.  These two sides have conflicting viewpoints:  one which seems to care nothing about the actual citizens of this once fair country, but values and protects those who flout her laws and sneak in, and the side which seeks the welfare of those citizens against the wishes of those who are here illegally.  Now, I do understand at least some of the reasoning of those who sneak in, considering the mess that some of the other countries in this part of the world are in, but there are ways to enter this country legally.  One of the reasons people sneak in is that we don’t have to build walls to keep people in, as some countries have done.

The purpose of this post, however, isn’t to comment on a bloated, bureaucratic and badly bent justice and/or immigration system, but to think about the concept of “justice” as it’s found in the Scripture, especially as it deals with “sanctuary cities”.

Yes, there really are “sanctuary cities” in the OT.

1. Their presence.

Where did the idea of “sanctuary cities” come from?

As Israel was preparing to enter the Promised Land for the first time, God gave instructions about these cities to Moses:  And the LORD spoke to Moses in the plains of Moab by the Jordan across from Jericho,… Numbers 35:1, NKJV.  See also Deuteronomy 19:1.

2. Their purpose.

First, we read in Numbers 35:15, These six cities shall be for refuge for the children of Israel, for the stranger, and for the sojourner among them, that anyone who kills a person accidentally may flee there, emphasis added.

These cities were given as a place of protection for those who unintentionally killed someone, as in the example given of men who were cutting down trees and an ax head slipped off its handle and killed one of the men.  Even though the slaying was accidental and unpremeditated, there were still consequences.  For more on this, see our post, “Bloodguilt,” from May 27, 2016.

In opposition to the “sanctuary cities” of our time, which seem meant to protect the guilty, the cities of refuge in the OT were designed to protect the innocent!  There were no sprawling, expensive penitentiaries or jails in Israel; there was no provision for such a thing in the Mosaic Covenant.  Instead of being protected and provided for, criminals were dealt with summarily, more often than not by a member of victim’s family.  The sanctuary cities were provided for those who did not deserve to die.

Second, for those who were allowed to live in a city of refuge, there were certain restrictions.  They couldn’t leave until the death of the high priest; his death was considered to have satisfied any requirement for justice.  His death was imputed to them, as if they had died.  If one of these citizens did leave before the time, and was slain in revenge, the one doing the killing did not suffer any consequence.  The guilty were to be dealt with; the innocent were to be protected.

The reason for this?  In Numbers 35:31, 32, God commanded Moses, “…you shall take no ransom for the life of a murdered who is guilty of death, but he shall surely be put to death.  And you shall take no ransom for him who has fled to his city of refuge, that he may return to dwell in the land before the death of the priest.  So you shall not pollute the land where you are; for blood defiles the land, and no atonement can be made for the land, for the blood that is shed on it, except by the blood of him who shed it,” emphasis added.

According to this text, the blood of murder victims pollutes the land.

Now I freely admit that this OT provision was given to Israel, not to the U.S.  At the same time, though we don’t live under the Old Testament law, there was a time in our history when such laws and provisions were considered.  As that attention has waned, and we’ve been “freed” from such “puritanical” ideas, we have seen the resultant increase in crime and violence in our country.  There is more to it than that, of course, but I wonder how polluted our country is in the sight of God, with our undue emphasis on “criminal rights” and the huge number of law-breakers who have been set free, many to repeat their crimes.  In contrast to the mess we’ve developed protecting the “rights” of the criminal, the OT Law was concerned with  the rights of the victim.

3. Placement in the community.

Ultimately, there would be six such cities, three on each side of the Jordan, and equally placed throughout the land.  They were to be built so as to be seen from a long way away.  In Deuteronomy 19:3, there were even to be roads built to these cities.  I believe that I’ve read that these roads were to be kept in good repair and well-marked.

4. Permission to enter.

Though the Law was concerned with protecting the innocent, entrance into the city was not “automatic”.  There were certain requirements.

Numbers 35:12 says, They shall be cities of refuge for you from the avenger, that the manslayer may not die until he stands before the congregation in judgment.

Then, after some intervening instruction, v. 24 continues,

…then the congregation shall judge between manslayer and the avenger of blood according to these judgments.  So the congregation shall deliver the manslayer from the hand of the avenger of blood, and the congregation shall return him to the city of refuge where he had fled, and there he shall remain until the death of the high priest who was anointed with the holy oil. 

Note that it was “the congregation” which determined admittance to the city or denial.  As we said, there was no expensive and bloated “judiciary” in Israel.

But what about those who were, indeed, guilty?

5. Prohibition.

…You shall take no ransom for the life of a murderer who is guilty of death, but he shall surely be put to death, Numbers 35:31.

There were no lengthy “appeals,” no lawyers to gum up the works, no parole or probation, no “technicalities”.  He was put to death.  Immediately.  Not after 20 or 30 or more years, where maybe he dies a natural death, after all.  It didn’t even matter if the guilty person “showed remorse,” as is so often looked for in our society today.  In our culture, for a criminal not to show remorse seems to be seen as almost worse than the crime(s) he committed.

Having said all that, and lest there be a thought that Israel wasn’t really to care about guilt or innocence, life or death, and though Israel didn’t have the legal apparatus that has developed in our country, there was still to be a thorough investigation:

One witness shall not rise against a man concerning any iniquity or any sin that he commits; by the mouth of two or three witnesses the matter shall be established.  If a false witness rises against any man to testify against him of wrongdoing, then both men in the controversy shall stand before the LORD, before the priests and the judges who serve in those days.  And the judges make diligent inquiry, and, indeed, if the witness is a false witness, who has testified falsely against his brother, then you shall do to him as he thought to have done to his brother; so you shall put away the evil from among you.  And those who remain shall hear and fear, and hereafter they shall not again commit such evil among you.  Your eye shall not pity:  life shall be for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, Deuteronomy 19:15-21, emphasis added.

“Diligent inquiry” was to be made, and severe penalties were to be carried out for false witnessing and lying.  The ninth commandment was to be enforced.  (And a person can tell the truth and still be a “false witness”.  That’s why God didn’t say, “Thou shalt not lie.”)  Evil was to be put away, not coddled, not rehabilitated.  The importance of this is seen in the fact that this idea of evil being “put away,” that is, actually gotten rid of and not just hidden away, occurs eleven (11) times in the Old Testament.  There was to be no such thing as “rehabilitation.”  Life was to be lived lawfully the first time, not the next time.

6. Pertinence.

What does all this have do with us centuries later?

We don’t live under the Mosaic Law.  As Gentiles, we never have.  “The church” never has been under the Mosaic Law, in spite of those who have tried to put us under it.  I do thank God for the Reformers – Luther, Calvin, Zwingli and all the others.  Considering the times in which they lived, I’m surprised that they were able to recover as much of the truth of Scripture as they did.  At the same time, I wish they would have returned to the original church fathers in the New Testament, and not just stopped with Origen and other “church fathers” a couple of centuries later.

Having said that, we do live under the Moral Law.  What’s the difference?  The Mosaic Law is the Moral Law given to a specific set of circumstances and people, namely to the nation of Israel.  It was to be their constitution and bylaws, as it were, as they settled into the land God promised their fathers.  This does not mean that we may live as we wish without fear of consequences, both now and in eternity.  We still cannot murder or commit adultery.  Paul taught that God put the Moral Law, the concept of “right and wrong,” in the hearts and minds of every single person who ever lived, Romans 2:14-16.  This concept may not necessarily agree with the Scriptural teachings on such, but it is still there.  None of us ever lives up even to that imperfect understanding of right and wrong, let alone to the perfect revelation of it in the Word of God.  Because of that failure, each of us is guilty in the sight of God.  All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, Romans 3:23.  Each of us, therefore, is already under the sentence of death, Romans 6:23.

Is there, then, no hope for us?  We’re all guilty.  We all deserve to die, both now and eternally in a state of separation from God, in hell, which is the “second death,” Revelation 20:11-15, especially v. 14.

There are no longer any “cities of refuge.”  Even though some of the cities may still exist in Israel, their function in that regard has ceased.

There is, however, a place of refuge.

Hebrews 6:17, 18 refers to such a place and says that …God, determining to show more abundantly to the heirs of promise the immutability of his counsel, confirmed it by an oath, that by two immutable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we might have strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold of the hope set before us.

There is no longer a city of refuge; there is, however, still a place of refuge.

This place is found in the life, death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus.  His life prepared the righteousness we need to stand in the presence of God, and His death paid for the sins of all those who come to Him by faith.  He is the place of refuge.  He alone.  Further, the OT city of refuge could do nothing about the sinfulness of its inhabitants, innocent thought they might be in a particular instance.  The Lord Jesus came not only to pay the penalty for sin; He came to take care of sin itself.  The angel told Joseph, “He shall save His people from their sin, Matthew, Matthew 1:21.  Ultimately, this refers to the nation of Israel.  For the certainty of this, read Ezekiel 37, though the promise to Israel continues through the end of the book.  Only by grace through faith in the Lord Jesus does that promise extend to Gentiles in, and through, the “church”.  And imperfect as we in the church may still be in this life, He has promised us that there is coming a time when we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is, 1 John 3:2.  I long for that time.  To be able to serve and honor God as He deserves!

“Even so, come, Lord Jesus!” Revelation 22:20.

Oh, listen, do you know this place of refuge?  Have your sins been taken care of?  Is the Lord Jesus your hope of heaven, or are you trusting something you have done?  We live in troubled times.  They may get worse, they may get better.  But they will come to an end, and we will stand before the God Who is the Creator of the heavens and the earth.  People may belittle and despise and dispute the things of God now, but then….

…there will be no doubt!  But it will be too late!

Now is the accepted time; now is the day of salvation, 2 Corinthians 6:2, emphasis added.

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

More Than An “April Fool.”

Originally posted on April 1, 2015.

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April 1, at least in the US, is known as “April Fool’s Day.”  It’s a day when people like to play jokes on other people, to “prank” them, though anymore that doesn’t seem to be limited to one day of the year.  In Luke 12:13-21, our Lord told of a man who was more than an “April fool.”

This incident in the Lord’s life happened because someone asked Him to arbitrate a dispute over an inheritance.  Jesus replied that He wasn’t here for such things, that there was more to life than a lot of “things” and the desire for more of them was to be avoided.  In v. 23, He said, “Life is more than food, and the body is more than clothing.”  This echoes something He said in Matthew 6:25, “Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing?”   I don’t think He meant that…

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