John 3:16: The Favorite Phrase

For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.  (NKJV)

This is perhaps the best-known and most quoted verse in the Bible.  Years ago, a very popular tract said, “God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life.”  People without the slightest interest in the subject were assured that God loves them:   “Smile, God loves you.”  The love of God is celebrated in sermon, song and literature.

Scripture does indeed teach that God has a redemptive love for mankind.  Titus 3:4 speaks of the kindness and love of God our Savior toward man.  He did not choose to redeem fallen angels.  Instead, He chose to redeem fallen, sinful men and women.

For verily he [Christ] took not on him the nature of angels; but he took on him the seed of Abraham, Hebrews 2:16 [KJV].  Other versions translate the first part of this verse, He does not give aid to angels [NKJV], or, For surely it is not angels he helps [ESV].  However, the word translated as “give aid” or “helps” means “to take hold of” and is translated like that in 1 Timothy 6:12 in the ESV, take hold of the eternal life…, and in the NKJV, lay hold on eternal life….  God chose to save men and women, not angels, yet notice that the writer of Hebrews said that Christ took on him the seed of Abraham.  He didn’t say that He took on Himself the seed of Adam.

Even though multitudes in the time between Adam and Abraham knew and worshiped the true God, nevertheless, it was relatively early in human history that God’s saving purpose focused on and was accomplished through one family, that of Abraham, into which family our Lord was born.  By the time of Christ, many Jews believed that when Messiah came, He would destroy the Gentiles.  They thought that no Jew, no matter how wicked, could be lost, and that no Gentile, no matter how good, could be saved, except by becoming a Jew.  They thought God loved only Israel.

Though there’s some discussion about whether John 3:16 records part of the conversation between the Lord Jesus and Nicodemus or if it’s just a commentary by John, we believe it is actually part of the conversation.  The reason for that is that the Lord is correcting Nicodemus’ narrow and provincial view.

As a Jew, Nicodemus would have been raised from the cradle with the knowledge that Israel had been God’s chosen people, redeemed from slavery in Egypt and brought into the land of Canaan as their land, an idea, by the way, still under dispute.  Further, he would have been leery of associating with Gentiles – anyone not a Jew – because of all the trouble Israel had gotten into for doing that very thing.

Even in the early church, though some time later, this was still a big controversy.  When Peter returned home to Jerusalem after his visit to Cornelius in Caesarea in Acts 10, those of the circumcision (in the church) contended with him, saying “You went in to uncircumcised men and ate with them!” Acts 11:1-3 [NKJV].  This was no gentle discussion.  You can hear the outrage.

Peter described what had happened and why he had gone to this heathen city – heathen as far as the Jews were concerned.  He had been told to go there in a special vision from God, and when he got there, he didn’t even get to finish what he was telling Cornelius and his friends, but, as he told the church at Jerusalem, as he began to speak to Cornelius, the Holy Spirit fell upon them, as upon us as the beginning, Acts 11:15.  I don’t think he got much more than started when he was interrupted by the Spirit.  In v. 17, Peter’s reasonable conclusion to those who questioned him was, “If therefore God gave them the same gift as He gave us when we believed on the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could withstand God?”

This satisfied those who had before been so contentious, v. 18:  When they heard these things they became silent; and they glorified God, saying, “Then God has also granted to the Gentiles repentance to life.”

Getting back to Nicodemus, I believe that he would have understood, however little that might have been, that the Lord Jesus was telling him that God loved Gentiles, too, and not just Jews.  It’s unlikely that he would have understood it as commonly understood in our day.

Considering the emphasis on the “love of God” in modern churches, it seems strange that the early church in the Book of Acts never mentioned it in a single sermon.  In fact, the only occurrence in Acts of any of the words translated “love” in our New Testaments is found in 28:2, where, in his description of their narrow escape from a shipwreck, Luke says of the inhabitants of the place where the survivors found themselves, that they showed us unusual kindness.

Having said all that, I’m very thankful, as a Gentile, that God extended the golden scepter of His mercy to Gentiles, cf. Esther 4:10; 5:5.  Without it, and considering the animosity that exists toward the Jewish people in a great part of this world, there would be very little hope of salvation if one had to become a Jew or a proselyte.

However, the door has been opened for all people to come to the Lord Jesus.

Have you come to Him?

Will you come to Him?

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

Caterpillars

The other morning, there was a caterpillar crawling on the floor of the bathroom.  Unless it hitched a ride on someone, I have no idea how it got there.  It’s a long way to the front door for a caterpillar.

There was some cardboard nearby, so I put the creature on it and carried it outside to a luscious green plant.  I put the thing down there and hoped the chickens wouldn’t get it.

Why didn’t I kill it, or just dispose of it?  I don’t know; it never occurred to me.  I guess I felt a kind of sympathy for a fellow creature, who was just in the wrong place.

Now we know that a caterpillar isn’t the final product, so to speak.  Even though some of them are beautiful in themselves, they all turn into something beautiful, something not limited to crawling on the floor, but able to fly.

There’s a lesson here.

Too many of us are like that caterpillar, crawling around on the floor, with little idea of anything else beyond the immediate environment.  And little or no thought for our future.

The New Testament actually has a great deal to say about the future.  For the believer, it will be a far greater change than it could ever be for a caterpillar.

Romans 8:18 says, For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us, NKJV.  Not just – “to us,” but, “in us.”

Here is just a sampling of other verses about the believer’s future, not necessarily in order:

Romans 8:29, For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren.

1 John 3:2, Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.

2 Corinthians 5:4, For we who are in this tent [this body] groan, being burdened, not because we want to be unclothed, but further clothed, that mortality may be swallowed up by life.

1 Corinthians 15:52-54, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet.  For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.  For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal 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.”

Then, of course, there are the descriptions of a future city with its street of gold, etc, Revelation 21:9-21.

The thing I look forward to, though – not the new body or the new environment – but what I long for, is that I will be able to serve and honor and glorify God as He deserves, without the distractions and difficulties of the sinful nature we all inherited from Adam.  If I could just do that, I’d be content with this old body, minus the sin nature, even with its hearing aid and glasses and creaks and groans.  Just to be able to serve Him.

But there’s also a future for the unbeliever.  The devil has a lot of them convinced that death is the end, and there’s nothing else, or that everyone is on their way to “a better place” or that there are other ways and other names by which one may prepare for the future.  Different futures, too.  But Revelation 21 has a word for them, as well, But there shall by no means enter into [the New Jerusalem] anything that defiles, or causes an abomination or a lie,… 

No, no, their destination is described in Revelation 20:15 as the lake of fire.

I don’t know really what to say about that, except maybe to liken it to the lava of a volcano, and to be thrown into something like that….

Forever….

Oh, listen, without the Lord Jesus, there is no future, only a past that will finally catch up.

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

When Jesus Went Forward

No doubt, this seems a strange, if not absurd, title, or worse. The phrase, “went forward,” has a particular meaning to our fundamentalist Christian culture, and is something which the Lord would never have had to do.  It’s an invention of men, anyway, and has no Scriptural basis.  In fact, it’s probably done more harm than good.  But He has no fault or failures to confess.  He has no need to “get saved.”  It seems almost sacrilegious, even blasphemous, to associate Him with that. 

And yet Scripture clearly says that He went forward.

You might say, “Where does it say that?”

Or maybe you already know…. 

Then Judas, having received a detachment of troops, and officers from the chief priests and Pharisees, came with lanterns, torches, and weapons.  Jesus therefore, knowing all things that would come upon Him, went forward and said to them, “Whom are you seeking?”  They answered Him, “Jesus of Nazareth.”  Jesus said to them, “I am [He].”  And Judas, who betrayed Him, also stood with them.  Now when He said to them, “I am [He], they drew back and fell to the ground .  Then He asked them again, “Whom are you seeking?”  And they said, “Jesus of Nazareth.”  Jesus answered, “I have told you that I am [He]…, John 18:3-8 NKJV, emphasis added.

The word “He” is in brackets because it is added to the translation of the original text and is in italics.  In that text, our Lord said, Ego eimi,” twice.  Literally, He said, “I, I am.”  He could have simply said, “eimi,” – “I am,” and told them He was who they were looking for.  But I think there’s more to it than that.  It was the reason they “drew back and fell to the ground.”  He told them who He was.  He emphasized it:  “I, I am.” These men were Jews and would have been well aware of the origin and significance of the phrase, “I am”. 

They understood that the Lord Jesus was claiming to be that One who met with Moses on that mountain all those centuries ago. 

That is why they fell to the ground.  It wasn’t in worship of this One who stood before them.  One day, they will confess that He is who He said He was, but it will be too late then.  But here, on this dark night, away from the crowds, along with their evil intent….  And suddenly to be reminded of the contrast between this night and that other time.  Can we say that it’s like when you enter a dark room at night and turn on the light?  The reaction of your eyes and your body to the sudden change?  Here, though, the contrast was infinite – and it knocked them over.

Had the Lord Jesus so desired, these men could have had no power over Him at all.  All the armies of the earth could not have apprehended Him.  But He went forward….

He knew what He was getting into.  Likely, He had known it His whole life.

But He went forward….

We cannot even begin to understand any of that.  Those three days beginning with the Crucifixion.  We’ve prettied it all up with our “Good Friday” services and our “morning sunrise service” on “Easter Sunday,” while completely ignoring what He said about “three days and three nights,” but we have no clue what it meant to the Son of God.  The Easter bunny gets more publicity during that weekend than the Lord Jesus.

But He went forward….

That was why He came to this benighted planet to begin with.  He didn’t come here just to be a Teacher, to give us nice platitudes to live by.  He didn’t come here to be “a good example,” because we could never follow it or live up to it, or any of the other reasons men assign to Him.  He certainly didn’t come here to give us some means by which we could make ourselves righteous. 

He came here for that weekend…

It’s true that His whole life was part of the sacrifice He made.  We have no idea what it meant for Him, who made our legs, as a child to have to learn how to walk.  He made our mouths, and as a child had to learn how to talk.  To live in a world of absolute sinfulness and rebellion against God, but Himself to live a perfect, righteous, sinless life.  He had no sin, but had to die, to pay for ours.

He took the place of those who believe on Him for salvation.   He was their Substitute, their Sacrifice.

He came to give everything to those who have nothing to give to Him.

That is why He “went forward.”

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.

“Worm Theology”

“How then can man be righteous before God?
Or how can he be pure who is born of woman?
If even the moon does not shine,
And the stars are not pure in His sight,
How much less man, who is a maggot,
And a son of man, who is a worm?”

Job 25:5, 6 (NKJV).

These verses, quoting a man named Bildad the Shuhite, form part of the discussion between Job and his three “friends” about the whys and wherefores behind Job’s suffering.  The friends seem to believe that he is afflicted because of some hidden sin, while Job maintain that he is innocent.  We don’t want to get into all that, except to say that God finally intervened and settled the matter once and for all.  He revealed that He had brought all this suffering on Job to demonstrate that there are people who follow and serve God simply for Himself and not just for what they can get out of Him.

Our thought for this post is taken from the verses at its beginning.  I haven’t heard the phrase itself in the title for a long time.  I think it was from a Christian radio program my grandmother used to listen to.  The speaker was decrying the use of “worm” to describe man, which wasn’t uncommon back then.  I don’t really remember what he said beyond the phrase, except that he did seem to think that it wasn’t fitting to describe mankind like that.  “A worm.”  Indeed!

A worm really isn’t very high on the social ladder, to say the least.  They’re good for baiting fish hooks and robins pull them out of the ground.  A heavy rain will bring them out en masse, but no one invites them for dinner – except the robin 🙂 .  At the same time, they are vital for our ecology, loosening and aerating the soil as they burrow along and they help to fertilize the ground.  We would probably be in trouble without them.

Compared to man, though, they seem pretty insignificant.  They don’t build great skyscrapers or drive automobiles or fly planes.  There is no great civilization named after them, no “wormtopia”.  They exist mostly unseen and unsung.

Insignificant.

That’s part of the thought in the verse at the beginning of the post.  Compared to God, man is indeed insignificant, in spite of the fact that we have created and built great and impressive things.  We’ve left our footprints on the moon.  We send spacecraft beyond our solar system.  We can examine things down to the atomic level and have unraveled the mysteries of our DNA.  In spite of all that, we are just creatures of the moment.  This moment.  We have no guarantee of the next moment.  I may not even have enough moments left to finish writing this post.  Only God knows for sure.  We don’t normally think like that – we plan for the future, and we should, but there is no guarantee about that future.

Why we should be concerned about that uncertainty as a race and as individuals of that race, Bildad also mentions that in his comments to Job:  “How then can man be righteous before God?” v. 4.  Worms don’t have to worry about that, but it’s perhaps the most important question facing men and women, boys and girls – how to be righteous before God.  It is the most important dilemna facing us:  how to become what we are not.

Men have dreamed up all kinds of answers to that question.  Some have started religions or believe that religious ceremonies of one kind or another can make them righteous.  Others donate to charity or build hospital wings, or do humanitarian works, often as great personal expense or suffering.

As I began to work on this post, it was on a Sunday, “church” day.  At the front of many church auditoriums, you will see a cross.  There’s a lot of discussion about that Cross.  About a death suffered on a cross almost 2000 years ago.  There were three crosses on Golgotha that day.  Two other men died on them; what made the third Cross so special?

The One who died on it.

He was not –

Insignificant.

It’s interesting that our Lord Himself used the word in the title, or at least it’s attributed to Him prophetically.  Psalm 22 is a prophecy of the agony of the Lord Jesus as He hung on the Cross.  In v. 6, as part of His thoughts during that terrible time, we read,

“But I am a worm, and no man;
A reproach of men, and despised by the people.”

Our Lord was mocked and ridiculed as He hung naked on that Cross.  Our pictures of that event have covered Him up, but the Romans, and the Jewish leaders, had no such concerns.  He was just “a worm,” to be trodden underfoot and disposed of.  Or so they thought.

There’s something incredible about the word translated, “worm,” in the verse in Psalm 22.  This wasn’t just any old fish-bait; it’s the word referring to the species of worm from which the color crimson was obtained.

Crimson.

The color of blood.

“Saved by the blood of the Crucified One”

So goes the old gospel song.

We don’t sing those old songs and hymns any more.  We like the nice little choruses that don’t really say much.  Goes along with our Christianity, which today doesn’t really do much.  You think not??  Look at America.  Thousands and thousands of churches.  Where is their influence in our culture??  I’m old enough to remember that things which are practiced and promoted today were hidden away in a corner 50, 60 or 70 years ago.

O, listen, beloved.  Our Savior humbled Himself in ways we can’t even begin to imagine.  We have our little crucifixes or crosses, all prettied up and made into jewelry, but we have no idea of the horror and suffering of those who hung on the originals!  There was nothing pretty about them!

Added to this in the case of our Lord was the fact that God made Him to be sin who know no sin, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him, 2 Corinthians 5:21.  We might be able to have an inkling of the physical suffering of our Lord, but this aspect of it is as far over our understanding as the farthest stars in the heavens.

He was the Lord of glory!

He was holy, harmless, undefiled…,Hebrews 7:26.

madesin

for the likes of us!

That is something else for which we have no comparison.  Sin is part of our makeup, part of our lives, part of our culture.  Granted, some don’t delve into it as deeply as others, but, still, we have all sinned and fall short of the glory of God, Romans 3:23.

What must it have been like for incarnate holiness to be made into immeasurable sinfulness??

He suffered the wrath of God against sin, a wrath and suffering for which there also is no comparison on this earth.  But He did it willingly, for the joy set before him endured the cross, [He despised] the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God, Hebrews 12:2.

Don’t rush by that word, “endured.”

It took the Son of God to be able to do that, but even He did not find it “easy”.

Oh, listen!  Do you know this One who bled and died for the sins of His people?  He died that you and I might live.  He suffered wrath, in order that you and I might receive grace and mercy and forgiveness.  He lives, in order that we might have hope for the future, regardless of the circumstances of the present.

Do you know this One?

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

One Or The Other

Thus says the LORD:

“Cursed is the man who trusts in man And makes flesh his strength, Whose heart departs from the LORD.  For he shall be like a shrub in the desert, And shall not see when good comes, But shall inhabit the parched places in the wilderness, In a salt land which is not inhabited.

“Blessed in the man who trusts in the LORD, And whose hope is in the LORD.
For he shall be like a tree planted by the waters, Which spreads out its roots by the river, And will not fear when heat comes; But its leaf will be green, And will not be anxious in the year of drought, Nor will cease from yielding fruit,”  J
eremiah 17:5-8 (NKJV)

As I was reading in Jeremiah the other morning, I was struck by 17:6, which describes the life of the man “who trusts in man…whose heart departs from the LORD”:   “A shrub,” “the desert,” “shall not see when good comes,” “parched places,” “wilderness,” “salt land,” “not inhabited.”

Not a very appealing picture, is it?

This is especially true when we compare it with verse 7, which describes the blessing of “the man who trusts in the LORD”: “a tree,” “planted by the waters,” “spreads out its roots,” “by the river,” “will not fear…heat,” “its leaf will be green,” “will not be anxious in…drought,” “nor…cease from yielding fruit.”

As I was thinking these verses over, it seemed to me that they presented “Two Extremes.” That was the original title for this post.  But the verses don’t really propose two extreme ways of living; they describe one or the other of the only two ways of living there are:  trusting in man, being self-confident and trusting to our own wisdom, or, trusting in the LORD because we can’t really see the next year or day or minute or second.  Last year, for example, I doubt anyone foresaw COVID-19.  And, yes, there are conspiracy theories about it all, but that’s not my purpose here.  Nobody knows when it will end or what it will ultimately do to our nation and culture – and the nations and cultures of the world.  No one can absolutely see and be sure of what will happen next – in anything.

At the same time, even though we can’t see tomorrow, there are things we’re to do today; we’re not just to sit around.  If a farmer expects a harvest, for example, he has to get out and do some hard work.  Crops don’t just appear magically.  They take several months of attention.  Houses don’t build themselves.  Meals don’t cook themselves.  The parts of a car don’t assemble themselves.  Life may go on, but so must we.  At the same time, it is the Lord gives us the intelligence, the strength and even the life to be able to “go on”.  When we do, though, we just don’t always know how things will turn out.  Ecclesiastes 11:6 says, In the morning sow your seed, And in the evening do not withhold your hand; For you do not know which will prosper, Either this or that, Or whether both alike will be good, emphasis added.

Jeremiah 17:7 has been a favorite of mine for a long time:  “Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD.”  The thing is, you can’t separate it from verse 6.  As I wrote above, these verses describe the only two possible ways to live:  self-confident, or, if I may coin a word, Lord-confident.  There is no middle road here; it’s either one or the other.

Verse 6 describes a man “whose heart departs from the LORD,” and tells us what the result of that is.  Verse 9, which we didn’t quote at the beginning, tells us why the “heart” is not to be trusted.  The heart is deceitful above all things, And desperately wicked: Who can know it?  Obviously, “the heart” isn’t referring to the physical organ which pumps blood throughout our body, and is a truly wonderful creation.

No, no, the “heart” here is the inner man, so to speak, the one we can’t see, our thoughts, motivations, desires, impulses, our “operating system,” as it were.  Our human nature.  They – it – may tell us that some thing, some action, some thought, some viewpoint, is all right and to go for it, even though God’s Word says otherwise.  Our human natures, corrupted by the Fall, simply cannot be trusted.

Man says there are many roads to heaven.

Man says he can take it (religion) or leave it.

Or that one religion is as good as another.

Or, as some seem to think, “no religion” at all is even better.

But Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through Me,” John 14:6, emphasis added.

But, having succeeded at it in the beginning, the Devil continues to say, “Has God really said…,” Genesis 3:1, paraphrased.  So wickedness has pretty much become the law of the land and this once great nation may be on its way to the trash heap of history.  I can hardly believe the deterioration in just the last few years.

I’m afraid this nation has pretty much gone to the devil.

But that’s ultimately the choice for each and every one of us:

Christ or the devil.

Heaven or hell.

One or the other.

The Lampstand

“You shall also make a lampstand of pure gold; the lampstand shall be of hammered work.  Its shaft, its branches, its bowls, its ornamental knobs, and flowers shall be of one piece.  And six branches shall come out of its sides:  three branches of the lampstand out of one side, and three branches of the lampstand out of the other side.   Three bowls shall be made like almond blossoms on one branch, with an ornamental knob and a flower, and three bowls made like almond blossoms on the other branch, with an ornamental knob and a flower – and so for the six branches that come out of the lampstand.  On the lampstand itself four bowls shall be made like almond blossoms, each with its ornamental knob and flower.  And there shall be a knob under the first two branches of the same, a knob under the second two branches of the same, and a knob under the third two branches of the same. according to the six branches that extend from the lampstand.  Their knobs and their branches shall be of one piece; all of it shall be one hammered piece of pure gold.  You shall make seven lamps for it, and they shall arrange its lamps so that they give light in front of it.  And its wick-trimmers and their trays shall be of pure gold.  It shall be made of a talent of pure gold, with all these utensils.  And see to it that you make them according to the pattern which was shown you on the mountain, Exodus 25:31-40 NKJV.

He also made the lampstand of pure gold; of hammered work he made the lampstand.  Its shaft, its branches, its bowls, its ornamental knobs, and its flowers were of the same piece.  And six branches came out of its sides:  three branches of the lampstand out of one side, and three branches of the lampstand out of the other side.  There were three bowls made like almond blossoms on one branch, with an ornamental knob and a flower, and three bowls made like almost blossoms on the other branch, with an ornamental knob and a flower – and so for the six branches coming out of the lampstand.  And on the lampstand itself were four bowls made like almond blossoms, each with its ornamental knob and flower.  There was a knob under the first two branches of the same, a knob under the second two branches of the same, and a knob under the third two branches of the same, according to the six branches extending from it.  Their knobs and their branches were of one piece; all of it was one hammered piece of pure gold.  And he mad its seven lamps, its wick-trimmers, and its trays of pure gold.  Of a talent of pure gold he made it, with all its utensils. Exodus 37:17-24 NKJV.

And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, “Speak to Aaron, and say to him, ‘When you arrange the lamps, the seven lamps shall give light in front of the lampstand’.”  And Aaron did so; he arranged the lamps to face toward the front of the lampstand, as the LORD commanded Moses.  Now this workmanship of the lampstand was hammered gold; from its shafts to its flowers it was hammered work.  According to the pattern which the LORD had shown Moses, so he made the lampstand, Numbers 8:1-4 NKJV.

This article of furniture must have been beautiful beyond description – and yet hidden away in a room only a few men were ever permitted to enter.  It was the source of light for that room.

Scripture has a lot to say about light, from its creation as a separate thing from the One who created it, who is light, 1 John 1:5; Genesis 1:3, to its being unnecessary in the New Jerusalem, where the glory of God illuminated it.  The Lamb is its light.  And the nations of those who are saved shall walk in its light, Revelation 21:23-24a.  There shall be no night there:  They need no lamp nor light of the sun, for the Lord God gives them light, Revelation 22:5a.

“The Lord God gives them light.”

The Psalmist understood this:

For with you is the fountain of life; In Your light we see light, Psalm 36:9.

This is true in the natural realm, certainly, and very few would deny light’s existence, though many deny its creation by God, but it is also true in the spiritual realm, a realm which many deny, seeking to explain everything by natural processes.

The natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; not can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned, 1 Corinthians 2:14.

But there is an agent beyond man’s natural frailty who contributes to this inability:

whose minds the god of this age has blinded, who do not believe, lest the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine on them, 2 Corinthians 4:4.

Notice Paul’s emphasis:  “the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God….”

Of all the truths of Scripture, the deity of the Lord Jesus is one of the most disputed.  Sinful men will perhaps allow Him to be a teacher, thought they ignore what He taught, or they might allow Him to be a good man who was caught up in the intrigue of His time. but the idea that He was and is the second person of the Trinity is just a bridge too far, as is His statement that He is the only Savior and the only way into the presence of God,

“I am the way, the truth, and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through Me,” John 14:6.

What do you think of the Son of Man?

Your eternal destiny depends on that answer.