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.

Called and Equipped

Then the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, “See, I have called by name Bezalel the son of Uri, the son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah,  And I have filled him with the Spirit of God, in wisdom, in understanding, in knowledge, and in all manner of workmanship, to design artistic works, to work in gold, in silver, in bronze, in cutting jewels for setting, in carving wood, and to work in all manner of workmanship.
“And I, indeed I have appointed with him Aholiab the son of Ahisamach, of the tribe of Dan; and I have put wisdom in the hearts of all the gifted artisans, that they may make all I have commanded you:”
Exodus 31:1-6 (NKJV)
And Moses said to the children of Israel, “See, the LORD has called by name Bezalel the son of Uri, the son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah; and He has filled him with the Spirit of God, in wisdom and understanding, in knowledge and all manner of workmanship, to design artistic works, to work in gold and silver and bronze, in cutting jewels for setting, in carving wood, and to work in all manner of artistic workmanship.
“And He has put in his heart the ability to teach, in him and Aholiab the son of Ahisamach, of the tribe of Dan.  He has filled them with skill…,”
Exodus 35:30-36a (NKJV).

God is giving some instructions to Moses about the building of the Tabernacle, the place of His presence among the children of Israel.  But this building will not suddenly just appear; God will use men to build it.  He called the earth into being by His word, but not this.  Men have the honor and privilege of working with God.  Make no mistake about that.  He doesn’t need any of us; He is pleased to use us.  More glory to Him, to use such poor instruments.

Two men are named, Bezalel and Aholiab.  One was from Judah, the head tribe of Israel, and one from Dan, perhaps the “tail” among the tribes.  It doesn’t matter where we’re from; what matters is where we are, and what we’re doing.  One thing about Bezalel.  He was mentioned hundreds of years later when David brought the Ark of the Covenant to the place he had prepared for it prior to the building of the Temple by Solomon, 2 Chronicles 1:4.  His work was still valuable and useful.  Who knows how the Lord will be pleased to use our efforts for Him?  The thing is, they will last far longer than any mere thing of this world we can do, necessary though those may be.

These two men were the foremen, if you will, of the artisans doing the work, 31:6, but the other men were also gifted for their work.  1 Corinthians 12:4-7 has something for us here:  There are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit.  There are differences of ministries, but the same Lord.  And there are diversities of activities, but it is the same God who works all in all.  But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to each one for the profit of all. 

That last phrase could be translated, “for the mutual benefit.”  The gifts of the Spirit aren’t about us.  It’s about those around us, especially in the assembly and how we may be a blessing and benefit to them.

Early in our marriage, Sharon and I attended a church who taught for a while on the ministry and gifts of the Spirit.  The emphasis was on how we could know which particular gift was ours.  For some reason, this bothered her because she couldn’t figure out “which” gift was hers.  That seemed to be focus of the series and it really bothered her that she couldn’t see her “gift”.  She couldn’t teach or sing or play the piano.  But one of the gifts of the Spirit Paul lists in I Corinthians 12 is helps, v. 28, and that was and is her “gift”.  She has always been more than willing to pitch in, to help.  This says nothing of the fact that she has put up with me for more than 48 years….

You see, it may not be the man behind the pulpit; it may be the ones who listen to him.  Do you pray for your minister?  His “job” is perhaps one of the most important there is.  He stands in front of men and women who will never cease to exist and it may be that something he says either prepares them for an eternity of glory or for an eternity under God’s wrath because the sin question has never been answered for them.  Spurgeon used to say that the sight of the crowds he preached to at the Metropolitan Tabernacle in London crushed him to the ground because he recognized his responsibility toward them.
But standing behind a pulpit is not the only “ministry”.  Your job is a ministry, if you could but see it, how you do it.  Do you have little ones?  Oh, the ministry there!  Those little souls, so impressionable and willing.  They’re like sponges, and they likely learn more from what they see you do than they will from what you say.  Our culture may devalue them, but they are a treasure.

Nothing is unimportant in the life of a believer.  After all, God has numbered the hairs on your head, Matthew 10:30.  If you’re that important to Him as His child, do you think your life and doings are unimportant to Him?  Nothing is “minor” or of no concern to Him.  As little as a cup of cold water given in His name will be richly rewarded, cf. Matthew 10:42.  As Paul put it, let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart.  Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all, especially to those who are of the household of faith, Galatians 6:9, 10.

According to Pattern

“According to all that I show you, that is, the pattern of the tabernacle and the pattern of all the furnishings, just so you shall make it,” Exodus 25:9 (NKJV).

The tabernacle wasn’t a ramshackle affair.  It wasn’t something made up as they went along, but every part of it, down to the clasps which held the sides to the frame, was set forth and described.  There were no revisions, no “TabernaclePlan.02”  It was complete as it came from the mind of God to the hand of Moses.

That’s equally true of everything in creation.  Many may believe that this world came into being as the result of a chance event, but someone has calculated the odds of such a thing happening as 1 in 40 to the tenth power, or as 1 followed by 40 zeroes.  That is a lot of zeroes: 10,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000.  We probably don’t even have a name for such a number.  It seems to me that it’s a lot easier to believe Genesis 1-3 than it is to believe in such a throwing of the dice, as it were.  Of course, that does get rid of God and any obligation mankind might have to obey Him.  We think we’re so smart, but all things considered in perspective, an amoeba may be smarter than us.

The truth is, God is not a God of confusion, but of peace, or order, cf. 1 Corinthians 14:33.  While Paul wrote primarily to correct some serious problems in the Corinthian church, what he wrote is applicable in a lot of places.  No matter where one looks, whether through a microscope or a telescope, he sees order and design.  Even in the so-called random movement of atoms, there is a discernible pattern.

This is true also of life.  He has not left us on our own, as it were, but has given us instructions about pretty much every area of life.  Whether individually, in our church, in our family, our neighborhood, our city, our country or our nation, there are principles and practices either commanded or forbidden, the doing of which in either case will have discernible results.  We do reap what we sow.

55 years ago, a woman decided we should ignore what God says, so she went to court.  We see the results around us today.  True, she wasn’t the first publicly to oppose God, but she was the most outspoken and successful.  I’m old enough to remember “back then,” what it was like before Madalyn Murray O’Hair and her atheism permeated society.  People left their front doors unlocked.  Cars were left unlocked – we can see this in the old TV programs.  Women could walk down the street at night without worrying about it.  I’ve mentioned this several times before, but the high school I attended was in a “tough” neighborhood.  I hate to think what it’s like today, 59 years after I graduated.  This “tough” school had a rifle range in the basement, with rifles and live ammunition.  I qualified as a marksman on that range.  People today get all upset at the very ideas of “guns” at all, let alone around or in schools, but there was never any problem at that school.  Young men carried rifles in a rack in the back window of their pickup trucks.  No one thought anything about it.  Was there crime?  To be sure.  But nothing at all compared to today.

But now….

To paraphrase Hosea 8:7, “We have sowed the wind and have reaped the whirlwind.”  Or, in the immortal words of Pogo, for you “old-timers:”  “We have found the enemy and they is us.”  I don’t mean to minimize the problem or make fun of it, or to imply that Walt Kelly, the author of Pogo, would agree with my views.  He probably wouldn’t.  But he was right in this case, whether he meant it as I take it or not.

“We” are the enemy.  Having decided that we’re too sophisticated for those old-fashioned “Puritan” ideas, we’ve thrown them all out in the name of “freedom.”

Having rejected “order,” we have opened the door to “confusion”.

Right On Time

Now the sojourning of the children of Israel who lived in Egypt was four hundred and thirty years.  And it came to pass at the end of the four hundred and thirty years – on that very same day – it came to pass that all the armies of the LORD went out from the land of Egypt.  Exodus 12:40, 41.  (NKJV)

With this post, we want to start a series on the Tabernacle, that building which accompanied Israel on its sojourn from Egypt to the Promised Land and then served as the center of worship for many decades until the building of the Temple during Solomon’s reign.  However, the children of Israel had to get out of Egypt before any of that could happen.  This post is about the beginning of those events which led to the construction of the Tabernacle.

After some instructions from the LORD about the Passover, which was to serve as a reminder of slavery in Egypt and their deliverance from it, verse 51 repeats what vs. 40, 41 said:  And it came to pass, on that very same day, that the LORD brought the children of Israel out of the land of Egypt.

“On that very same day….”

Four hundred and thirty years had passed.  Several generations of Israelites had come and gone in Egypt.  Things had gotten much worse, Exodus chapter 1 – I think Satan knew that the time of God’s promise was drawing near and, while there was nothing he could do to prevent that from happening, he determined he’d make it as rough as possible on the people of God.

But finally, that last day dawned, and “on that very same day,” Israel was delivered from Egyptian bondage.

“That very same day.”

In the Old Testament, God had promised that the Messiah, the Deliverer, would come to His people after a certain period of time had elapsed, Daniel 9.  Indeed, another “time promise” of God’s had led Daniel to intercede for his people.  In v. 2, Daniel wrote, in the first years of Darius’ reign I, Daniel, understood by the books the number of years specified by the word of the LORD through Jeremiah the prophet, that He would accomplish seventy years in the desolations of Jerusalem.

“Seventy years….”

That seventy years served as a springboard for another “time promise” – Daniel’s “seventy sevens” in the rest of Daniel 9.  It’s not our purpose here to get into all that is meant here, but there is one more Scripture germane to the fulfilment of what God promised.

In Galatians 4:4 we read,

when the fulness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son….

“the fulness of the time

At the exact moment of time – “the time” – ordained in the purpose of God, cf. 1 Peter 1:20, a virgin girl in Israel was impregnated by the Holy Spirit, and God’s deliverance of His people – from both Testaments – was set into motion.

What does all this mean to us on this rather gloomy fall day in this year of our Lord 2018?

It means that we can trust God.

We don’t know for sure what each day will bring.  We might have a general idea, get up and go to school or work, or any number of other things, but we don’t know for certain what will happen.

God does.

David rejoiced in this fact.  In Psalm 139:15, he wrote,

Your eyes saw my substance, being yet unformed.
And in Your book they all were written,

The days fashioned for me,
When as yet there were none of them (emphasis added).

Some people are bothered by the idea of God’s sovereignty in our affairs, perhaps preferring to believe that God can be caught by surprise, but there are no such “oops” moments with God.  He never has to call “an emergency meeting of the Divine Council,” as one writer put it years ago.  He has no “Plan B”.

Our text, and the other verses we used, all remind us that God is never late.  He is always on time, and He is always there.  He is always here.

Oh, that we might lift our eyes upward!  We get so caught up in the affairs of life – and, yes, we are supposed to pay attention to our lives.  Still, we too easily forget God.  I’m thankful He never forgets us.

“At The Right Hand of the Father”

This continues our side trip into some questions and ideas about “the kingdom”.  In Daniel 2:44, Daniel told Nebuchadnezzar that the God of heaven was going to establish an eternal kingdom.  Reams of paper and gallons of ink, to say nothing of gigabytes of data, have been used to explain what that is.  Our last post dealt with the idea that this kingdom can never be an “earthly” one.

The post today deals with the question, “Yes, but isn’t Jesus already reigning at the right hand of the Father?”

Without a doubt, the New Testament is clear that the Son is seated at the right hand of the Father.  The question is, What is He doing there?

Scripture tells us.

Leaving aside our Lord’s statements during His trial before the Sanhedrin that they would see Him sitting on the right hand of power, here are the verses which teach that He is at the right hand of the Father.

1. Acts 2:33, “Therefore being exalted to the right hand of God.”  This is Peter’s explanation on the Day of Pentecost about the events of the day and relating them to the death, resurrection and ascension of the Lord Jesus.

2. Acts 2:34, “For David did not ascend into heaven, but he says himself, ‘The LORD said to my Lord, “Sit at My right hand, till I make Your enemies Your footstool.” ‘  Here he quotes Psalm 16:8-11.  This is an important testimony.

3. Acts 5:31, “Him God has exalted to His right hand to be Prince and Savior, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins.”  Compare Acts 2:36. Christ was not an executed criminal, but had been exalted to be a Ruler, in order for Him to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins.  As grateful as we ought to be that mercy has been extended to us Gentiles, never make the mistake of believing that we have taken over all the promises and prominence given to Israel.  Whatever was given to them still belongs to them.  Note carefully the present tense in Paul’s listing of the advantages of being a Jew in Romans 9:3-5.

4. Acts 7:55, 56, The dying Stephen sees Jesus standing at the right hand of God, a phrase which is repeated twice.  Though in this one instance He is standing, Jesus is still “at the right hand of God.”  Some have suggested that this single recorded instance of His standing is because He is waiting to receive the first martyr of the church.

5. Romans 8:34, Who is He who condemns?  It is Christ who died, and furthermore is also risen, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us.  Paul here tells us that Christ is not “reigning,” but interceding for His people.  His work as High Priest, begun on Calvary, isn’t finished.  His work as “King” hasn’t yet begun.

6. Ephesians 1:19-21, and what is the exceeding greatness of His power toward us who believe, according to the working of His mighty power which He worked in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, far above all principality….
Here Paul taught the Ephesians that the power that regenerated and saved them was the same power that resurrected the Lord Jesus and brought Him back to heaven.  That’s the same power that saves us.  It isn’t without reason that the Bible likens salvation to a creation, a resurrection, a birth.  That same power that created the heavens and the earth and called forth Lazarus from the tomb is the same power that calls us out of darkness into His marvelous light – an effective, irresistible power.  

7. Colossians 3:1, …where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God.  The complete verse says, If then you are raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God.  This verse isn’t so much about where He is right now, as it is about where we are right now.  Are we, like people of the world, content with the paltry things this world offers, or are we like those of whom the book of Hebrews speaks, These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off embraced them and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth, Hebrews 11:13.

8. Hebrews 1:3, …when He had by Himself purged our sins, sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high….  Note carefully the words, “by Himself.”  He doesn’t need “the saints,” or Mary, or the church, or “the sacraments” to save His people.  By Himself He paid the awful penalty.  By Himself He purged, “cleansed,” “put away,” our sins.  He says, “Come unto Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest, Matthew 11:28.  You won’t find rest at the front of a church, or in baptismal waters, or in ritual or routine.  Only in the Lord Jesus is there salvation from sin.

9. Hebrews 1:13, to which of the angels has He ever said, “Sit at My right hand, till I make Your enemies Your footstool”?  This is the second time this Psalm has been quoted in this connection.  Our Lord quoted it in Matthew 22:41-46; Mark 12:35-37; Luke 21:41-44 to confound the Pharisees in their attempts to trip Him up.  The fact that this incident is recorded in all three Synoptic gospels is of some significance.

10. Hebrews 8:1, …We have such a High Priest, who is seated at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in heaven….  Again, the reference to Christ as High Priest.  He is not yet “King”.

11. Hebrews 10:12, 13, But this Man, after He had offered one sacrifices for sins forever, sat down at the right hand of God, from that time waiting till His enemies are made His footstool.  Again, and this cannot be emphasized enough, one sacrifice for sin.  One sacrifice.  One.  One.  ONE!!!

12. Hebrews 12:2, looking unto Jesus, the Author and Finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him, endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
The Cross was no walk in the park for the Son of Man.  Even He only “endured” it.  We really have no idea what the Son of God “endured” on that day, with our glib and powerless Christianity, our sanitized pictures, our pretty crucifixes, blasphemous as these are because the cross is empty, and the death of Christ was a horrible and ugly thing, because of which, by faith, God saves us.  The early church was accused of turning the world upside down.  I’m afraid it must now be said that the world has turned the church upside down.

13. 1 Peter 3:21, 22, …Jesus Christ, who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, angels and authorities and powers having been made subject to Him.
What does this mean?  Weren’t they already subject to Him?  They were subject to Him as God, but He laid all that aside when He came into this world to live and die for His people.  At the Ascension, His humanity and human nature were exalted to the same level as His deity and divine nature.  A real human being is seated at the right hand of the Father, a Being who is fully Human and, at the same time, fully God.  To Him, to this Man, this God-Man, angelic beings were brought into subjection.  That cannot yet be said of humans.  The time is coming when it will be.  The question is how and when that will happen.
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These verses certainly teach that Jesus is seated at the right hand of the Father.  But notice how He Himself characterizes this in Revelation 3:21, “To him who overcomes, I will grant to sit with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne (emphasis added).  Right now, according to the Scriptures, the Lord Jesus is seated with His Father on His Father’s throne.

So, when does He sit on His own throne?

Hear His own words in Matthew 25:31-34,

When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him, then He will sit on the throne of His glory.  All the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will divide them one from another, as a shepherd separates his sheep from the goats.  And He will set the sheep on His right hand, but the goats on the left.  Then the King will say to those on His right hand…,” emphasis added.

The Lord Himself calls Himself “the Son of Man” at the time of His Second Coming.  It isn’t until then, when He returns to this world, that He sits “on the throne of His glory.”  His sitting on His own throne as King is connected with His Second Coming, not His Ascension.

Matthew 19:28 also bears witness to this.

So Jesus said to them, “Assuredly I say to you, that in the regeneration, when the Son of Man sits on the throne of His glory….”

The rest of the verse answers a question that Peter had, which has no bearing on our subject.  In the part we read, our Lord referred to “the regeneration”.  I believe that  Scripture teaches a regeneration of society just as it teaches the regeneration of an individual.  We call this, “The Millennium”.  If one asks, “Why?” I believe it is to answer once and for all the idea of some that all that is needed is the proper education, or the right economic conditions, or some other improvement, and men will finally show that, at heart, they are basically good people.

Yet, Scripture tells us that, after 1000 years of the most perfect government and environment this fallen world has ever known, Satan will have no trouble fomenting a world-wide rebellion, Revelation 20:7-10.  This will demonstrate once and for all that man is not basically good.  He is basically evil.
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In our next post, we’ll discuss the title of our Lord Jesus:  “King of Kings”.

“Full Time Service”

There’s no Scripture heading for this post because it’s a “rabbit trail” from the previous post.  That post finished with the idea that, short of death itself, the Apostle Paul could never stop serving his Lord and God.  He was, heart and soul, into “full time service.”

Every so often, we’ll hear of a young person who has surrendered to go into full time service.  Usually this means that he has been called into some form of ministry, a pastorate, missions, or some other form of full time involvement.

The truth of the matter is, every true believer is called into full time service.  This does not mean that we’re all called to preach or teach or some other “public” thing.  The world needs Christian janitors as much as it needs preachers.  It needs Christian delivery men, secretaries, plumbers.  It needs Christian men and women on Monday and Tuesday and Wednesday and Thursday and Friday and Saturday, as well as on Sunday, and perhaps moreso.

If one isn’t “a Christian” on the other days of the week, does Sunday matter all that much?

Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God, 1 Corinthians 10:31.

Acts 14:19, 20: Left For Dead

19] Then Jews from Antioch and Iconium came there; and having persuaded the multitudes, they stoned Paul and dragged him out of the city, supposing him to be dead.  20] However, when the disciples gathered around him, he rose up and went into the city.  And the next day he departed with Barnabas to Derbe.

Perhaps this is the time Paul experienced what he recorded in 2 Corinthians 12:2-4:

I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago – whether in the body I do not know, or whether out of the body I do not know, God knows – such a one was caught up to the third heaven.  And I know such a man – whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows – how he was caught up into Paradise and heard inexpressible words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter.

From time to time, someone comes along who claims to have died and gone to heaven, only to return to this life and tell us all about it.  Maybe they did, maybe they didn’t, “God knows,” but Paul says some things about his experience that we ought to compare these other experiences by.  First, what he heard was “inexpressible.”  Second, it’s “not lawful for a man to utter.”  Third, lest he be puffed up with pride over this experience, he was given a “thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to buffet” me, “lest I be exalted above measure,” v. 7.

If we were actually caught up to heaven in this body, I’m not sure we’d be able to describe that experience.  There is nothing in this life to compare it with.  That’s one reason the Book of Revelation is so difficult to understand.  We’ve very little, if anything, to compare it with.  “Streets of gold,” “gates of pearl.”  John describes these things that he actually saw, but maybe these visions, while describing things that are real, are also the Spirit’s way of telling us that God measures wealth by a far different standard than we do.

That’s not the interesting thing to me, though, about these verses.  Verse 19 tells us those multitudes who once wanted to worship Paul as a god, now wanted to kill him.  Ah, the fickleness of human nature.  Popularity may come and go, and usually does, but Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.   “I am the LORD God, I change not,” Hebrews 13:8; Malachi 3:6.

There’s only one sure and certain thing in this world, and that is the faithfulness of God.  Even in those relationships of life which are the closest to us and the most meaningful – spouse, parent, sibling – there are likely to be disappointments.  Even on those occasions where we blame God for “disappointing” us, the fault is with us, not with Him.  We have too much of Adam in us, wanting to do things our way, but His way is the good way.

The other thing that interests me about vs. 19, 20 is Paul’s “reaction” to being killed – as the townspeople thought.  His body was dumped outside the city.  However, that’s not the end of the story.  V. 20 continues, However…  As the disciples gathered around his body, he stirred, rose up and went into the city.  And the next day, he departed with Barnabas to Derbe.

“The next day”…!

A few cultures still practice stoning, but such a thing is far removed from us here in the West.  Indeed, we bend over backwards to protect the “rights” of the condemned.  Not so in this case.  Surely, Paul had severe cuts and bruises, perhaps some broken bones.  These “stones” were not little pebbles.  And I’ve read that as a final stroke a large rock was used to crush the skull and finish the job.  That may or may not have been the case with Paul, but whatever happened, his condition would not have been good.  No doubt, his injuries were treated as best they could by the disciples, but still….

The next day.

The next day, Paul was “back on the job,” so to speak.  Nothing short of actual death could prevent him from serving His God.

Isn’t this a lesson for us?