Blood and Water

As I was mulling over the title for this post, I was not thinking of 1 John 1, though I did think of it immediately after.  The title comes from the two items in the courtyard of the tabernacle:  the bronze altar and the laver.  It is these I was thinking about with the title.  In our last post, we talked about entering the courtyard, something there’s no evidence that the ordinary Israelite could do.  He had business at the bronze altar if he had a sacrifice, and he could probably see the bronze laver, but he couldn’t approach it.

We want to look more closely at these two items ourselves as we journey inward.

The Bronze Altar

In Leviticus 1, we read part of God’s instruction to Moses about the various sacrifices:

“If his offering is a burnt sacrifice of the herd, let him offer a male without blemish; he shall offer it of his own free will at the door of the tabernacle of meeting before the LORD.  Then he shall put his hand on the head of the burnt offering, and it will be accepted on his behalf to make atonement for him.  He shall kill the bull before the LORD; and the priests, Aaron’s sons, shall bring the blood and sprinkle the blood all around the altar that is by the door of the tabernacle of meeting,” Leviticus 1:3-6 NKJV.

By the way and simply because I’ve heard it used like this:  the expression his free will” is not making a doctrinal statement about man’s will; it simply means that the offering was voluntary, as opposed to those offerings which were required.

These verses tell us that the one bringing the sacrifice was not a passive onlooker to what was going on, but he was an active participant.  At the least, he had to put his hand on the head of the animal being sacrificed, and the text reads as though he had to kill it, v. 4.  The text down through v. 8 indicates he might also have had parts in the other proceedings.  We’ll stay with some thoughts about v. 4.

He put his hand on the head of the animal.  Doing so, the man was identifying with the animal as the one atoning for the man’s sin.  The man was saying, in effect, “I deserve to die, but you are taking my place.  You are my substitute.”

He also, it seems, had to kill the animal.  In this, the man was saying, “I’m killing you; my sin is killing you.  You are my sacrifice.”

Substitution.

Sacrifice.

Two essential elements in the OT sacrificial system.

Two essential elements in the death of the Lord Jesus.

I asked a fellow once, “What did Jesus do on the Cross?”

Beside the fact that Jesus died, the fellow didn’t seem to have very much idea.

The simple fact is that Christ died for sin, not His own because He had none, but for the sin of others.  He took their place.  As the animal died instead of the individual Israelite, so the Lord died in place of individual sinners.  He was their Substitute.

The Israelite was guilty of sin.  So are we, and the wages of sin is death, Romans 3:23.  The animal was sacrificed to take his place.  We are guilty of sin and death is our reward, both physically and spiritually, if we die without the Lord Jesus as our Redeemer and Savior.  We will die physically unless the Lord comes back before then.  If you’ve recently lost a loved one, I’m sorry.  I don’t mean to add to your grief.

And apart from the Lord Jesus, we are already “dead in trespasses and sins,” Ephesians 2:1, already “dead spiritually.”  And apart from the Lord Jesus, we are already guilty before God.  The common idea that we’ll have to wait until the Judgment to find out our “fate” is false; it’s already set – apart from the Lord Jesus:

He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God, John 3:18 emphasis added.

He who believes in the Son has everlasting life; and he who does not believe the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him, John 3:36 emphasis added.

Not “the love of God,” as so often and falsely taught today, but the wrath of God.

Only in the Lord Jesus does one have any “claim” on the love of God.  Apart from Him, there is only wrath.

Apart from the Lord Jesus, there is no hope and no future.  There is no “better place.”

He is our Substitute, our Sacrifice.

The second item of furniture in the courtyard was the laver, for the daily and continual cleansing of the priests as they went about their duties.

We, too, though forgiven, also need daily cleansing from the increasing pollution and filth of this world.  As the Israelite was made unclean just by contact with things which were unclean, so we, in contact with this world, are made unclean by its actions and philosophies and need to be cleansed.

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

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness, 1 John 1:9.

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Coverings

“Moreover you shall make the tabernacle with ten curtains of fine woven linen and blue, purple, and scarlet thread; with artistic designs of cherubim you shall weave them.

“You shall also make curtains of goats’ hair, to be a tent over the tabernacle.

“You shall also make a covering of ram skins dyed red for the tent, and a covering of badger skins above that.  Exodus 26:1, 7, 14 NKJV.

Then all the gifted artisans among them who worked on the tabernacle made ten curtains woven of fine linen, and of blue, purple, and scarlet thread; with artistic designs of cherubim they made them…that it might be one tabernacle.

He made curtains of goats’ hair for the tent over the tabernacle,

Then he made a covering for the tent of ram skins dyed red, and a covering of badger skins above that.  Exodus 36:8, 13, 14, 19 NKJV.

Again we have given both the instructions for the tabernacle and some details of its construction.  We’ve done this to show how careful Bezalel and the crew of people working with him were to follow what God told them.

Just thinking about it, I could probably do a post just on the word, “careful,” which occurs more than 50 times in Scripture.  Yes, I checked, just to be “carefu,” as I notice I originally typed that word in the first sentence.

* sigh *

A tent, with three coverings.

What does it all mean?

The tent itself was made of fine woven linen covered with artistic designs of cherubim.

Oh, there’s a world of thought just in that idea: artistic designs.  When one looked at entrance to the tabernacle, he saw a work of art.  Granted, it wasn’t “art” just for the sake of being pretty.  It meant something.  The tabernacle was an expression of His holiness, as signified by the presence of the cherubim.  The priest was reminded that he was entering the presence of God.

And when God Himself began to create….!  This world, this solar system, this universe, are all works of art.  No matter how far “down” one may go with a microscope or how far “out” with a telescope, there is order and beauty and design.  The human body itself is an amazing, intricate work of art, with each part doing its bit and the whole working together as a unit.

Speaking of that, if evolution were true and time had weeded out those unable to “survive,” wouldn’t that tend toward obscurity?  By that, I mean, wouldn’t “natural selection” tend to “select” those who “fit in” and didn’t “stand out” to the notice of predators?  Wouldn’t the “colorful” creatures be more likely to be caught and eaten than their more drab cousins, and, therefore, not be able to pass their genes on to a next generation?  Wouldn’t “nature” tend to become more “drab” with the passing of time?

But that’s not what we see!  Color is everywhere!  Just in our backyard, there are robins and bluejays and woodpeckers.  One year, some robins built their nest on our porchlight.  Some others a couple of years later tried it, but they weren’t as skillful and the nest fell to the ground, breaking three light blue eggs.  Beautiful butterflies flit around the shrubbery.  Even the ants! – red or black.  One morning, there was a bright yellow caterpillar crawling across our patio.  Sharon and I wondered what it would turn into.  The grass is green – at least in the Springtime.  The lilac at the side of our garage bursts into a cloud of purple contrasting with the yellow rose at its base.  If we’re “lucky,” the wind isn’t blowing across the lake, bringing dreary clouds, so that it’s a beautiful sunny day.

Then you go to the tropics!  The birds!  And there’s the world of tropical fish, in which I was immersed as a teenager.  (Sorry.)  There’s very little more beautiful than a tank full of neon tetras in a dark aquarium with good lighting.  Siamese fighting fish.  Fancy guppies.  Sailfin mollies.  The list goes on and on.  And that doesn’t count the saltwater world, where we find Nemo and his colorful cousins and friends.

The evolutionary “scientist” is just too blind and stubborn to see.  All this beauty and artistry could not have just “happened,” any more than a Rembrandt or a Picasso.

We know there was an artist behind their art.

It’s only that greatest of all masterpieces, creation itself, that’s said to have “just happened.”

But, “sin entered” and slashed the canvas.

However, just as the world of art has people skilled in “restoration,” so God will more than skillfully restore His creation.  Cf. Romans 8:21-23,

For we know that the whole creation groans and labors with birth pangs together until now.  Not only that, but we also who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, eagerly waiting for the adoption, the redemption of our body.

The tabernacle was a work of art, portraying for us the wonderful work of redemption.

Its fine linen speaks of righteousness, as we’ve seen.  The spotless, sinless Son of God, who didn’t come just to tell us about the God of heaven, or show Him to us, but to bring us to Him.

There was a curtain of goats’ hair covering the tabernacle itself.

This speaks of substitution.  In Leviticus 16, we read:

[Aaron] shall take from the congregation of the children of Israel two kids of the goats as a sin offering…
He shall take the two goats and present them before the LORD at the door of the tabernacle of meeting.  Then Aaron shall cast lots for the two goats:  one lot for the LORD and the other lot for the scapegoat.  And Aaron shall bring the goat on which the LORD’s lot fell, and offer it as a sin offering.  But the goat on which the lot fell to be the scapegoat shall be presented alive before the LORD, to make atonement upon it, and to let it go as the scapegoat into the wilderness, 
Leviticus 16:5, 7-10 NKJV.

For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him, 2 Corinthians 5:21 NKJV.

There’s an expression about someone “being the goat,” that is, taking the blame, when something goes wrong.  This is where the expression came from.  There’s a terrible interpretation by a certain group that says the goat in Leviticus 16 refers to Satan.  That’s impossible.  He will bear sin, to be sure, his own, for ever and ever in the lake of fire, Revelation 20:10.  But he will never pay for it, never atone for the ruin it brought.

No, no.

This is a picture of the Lord Jesus on the Cross, bearing away our sins forever.  He was our Substitute, taking our blame.

Then there’s a covering of ram skins dyed red over the goats’ hair.  Surely, this brings to mind the story of Abraham and Isaac in Genesis 22 and Abraham’s famous answer to a question from Isaac:  “My son, God will provide for Himself the lamb for a burnt offering.”

We’re so used to the idea of Christ dying on the Cross that we seldom if ever really think about it.  There were three men hanging on crosses that day.  Two of them were indeed dying because of their own sin.

The other one?

He was dying because of mine….

He was our Sacrifice.

Over that covering, and the one that was seen, was a covering of badger skins.  Some scholars believe that should be translated, “porpoise” skins.  They would certainly be waterproof and provide excellent covering and protection for the tabernacle.  They speak of security.

But they would be nothing to look at.

Isn’t that how the Scripture describes our Lord?

He has no form or comeliness; And when we see Him, There is no beauty that we should desire Him.  He is despised and rejected by men, A Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief.  And we hid, as it were, our faces from Him; He was despised and we esteemed Him not, Isaiah 53:2, 3 NKJV.

If He passed us on the street today, we’d hardly give Him a second glance.

There’s nothing about Him to attract “the natural man,” the unsaved, the lost.  That One we’re not interested in until the grace of God knocks us to the ground, so to speak, like it did Saul of Tarsus.

And the durability of the covering foreshadows the durability of the Word of God and the Gospel.  For 2000 years or more, men have tried their best to get rid of the Bible and some of their efforts remain with us to this day:  Marx, Freud, Dewey, Wellhausen, Kierkegaard, just to mention some recent names, some of them perhaps unfamiliar, but their teachings pollute our Christian culture and our thinking to this day.  Every aspect of life has been infiltrated by them.  But the Word of God remains, and will remain, if another 2000 years go by until our Lord returns.

Speaking of Saul, his two questions on the road to Damascus serve us well here.

“Who are you, Lord?” Acts 9:5.

Until this moment, Saul was fully convinced that he knew who Jesus was:  an interloper, a heretic, someone to be destroyed at all costs, Acts 26:9.

But then he met Him.

The last thing he probably expected from the glory which knocked him to the ground was the answer, “I am Jesus of Nazareth, whom you are persecuting,” Acts 22:8, emphasis added.

The trouble with modern churchianity is that a lot of church members have never met the Christ of the Bible.  They have a Christ they can “worship” on Sunday morning, but then pretty much forget the rest of the week.

Oh, but to really see Him, not in some esoteric vision or other, but in and through the Word.  Seeing that He loved me and gave Himself for me!  That He died for me!

This One who is not just another prophet, not just another religious personality, but God incarnate, come to take my place!

It is then we finally understand the words of John Newton, a slave trader who wound up being a slave himself before God caught him:  Amazing grace, how sweet the sound, That saved a wretch like me.  I once was lost, but now am found.  ‘Twas blind, but now I see.

Saul’s next question followed from the first:

“Lord, what do you want me to do?” Acts 9:6.

None of us is called to be “the apostle to the Gentiles,” Romans 11:13.  Most of us are not called to “full-time Christian service,” although that’s a misnomer.  There is no such thing as ” ‘part-time’ Christian service.”  It’s not just “a job.”  Not everyone is called to stand behind a pulpit; most of us are called to sit in the pew, though I’m giving away my age.  There may be something called a pulpit on the stage, but now we sit in comfortable chairs.  We are called to serve, even if not in front of an audience.  There’s a need for Christian janitors, too.  Christians who work in every field of lawful endeavor.  Christians who show by the work they do that they are not of this world.  That they work for more than just a paycheck or benefits.

We are called on to “do” something.  Wherever we find ourselves in life, and whatever we find ourselves doing, there is where we are to “serve God.”  Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God, 1 Corinthians 10:31.

That is what the Lord would have us to do.

 

Righteous

“And its twenty pillars and their twenty sockets shall be bronze.  The hooks of the pillars and their bands shall be silver,” Exodus 27:10.
“All the pillars around the court shall have bands of silver; their hooks shall be of silver and their sockets of bronze, Exodus 27:17.  (NKJV)

In our last post, we considered the linen fence that enclosed the tabernacle courtyard.  The items in these two verses were the things which held the fence together and kept it from falling over.

At the foot of all this were the foundations, the sockets of bronze.  Together these three items made a sturdy and cohesive unit.  Remember, the children of Israel weren’t just out for a Sunday stroll.  They were traveling through rugged wilderness, where there were probably fierce winds as part of the weather out in the middle of nowhere.  The tabernacle, though entirely portable, had to be able to withstand all that, as well as to stand firmly in one place when put together.

The bronze footings were the foundations for the fence.  Buried in the sand, they provided a firm basis for the posts.  Without this footing, the posts and the linen would have sagged miserably and probably fallen in a heap.

As we look at the symbolism of this foundation, the bronze reminds us of the justice of God.  We’re so used to hearing of the love of God or the grace of God that we forget that it is really His justice that is the basis for who He is.

The Scriptures are filled with reference to God’s justice, to His being just.  On Deuteronomy 32:4, Moses is filled with praise to the God of Israel,

“He is the Rock; His work is perfect;
For all His ways are justice,

A God of truth and without injustice;
Righteous and upright is He.”

In Job 32:23, after listening to Job’s three friends pretty well miss the boat as they try to diagnose the whys and wherefores of Job’s suffering, his younger friend Elihu bursts in.  Part of his defense of God is this,

“As for the Almighty, we cannot find Him;
He is excellent in power,

In judgment and abundant justice;
He does not oppress.”

Lest anyone say, “Well, that’s just the stern God of the Old Testament.  The God of the New Testament is a God of love,” Paul has an answer in Romans 3:23-26:

For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God sent forth as a propitiation by His blood, through faith, to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His  forebearance He had passed over the sins previously committed [that is, in the Old Testament], to demonstrate at the present time His righteousness, that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.

This is Paul’s answer:  God is just, as well as the One who declares those who believe in Jesus to be righteous themselves.  Not just innocent, as if they’d never done anything wrong, not just “not guilty,” as if there’s no or not enough evidence to establish guilt, but righteous, as if they’d always done everything right!  That, to my way of thinking, is something far greater.  And this not because of ourselves, but because of the Lord Jesus.

If the bronze represents God’s justice, then what do the silver rods represent?  (The silver was also used for footings for the tabernacle itself.)

This is easy.

The silver rods represent His grace.

In Exodus 30:11-16, God told Moses to count the children of Israel, and while he was doing that, each man of military age was to give a ransom for himself, a half-shekel, or about 30 cents,  roughly speaking.  It was called “ransom” money, though Moses gave no reason why he called it that, perhaps to remind Israel of their origins, namely, they had been a slave people in Egypt.  God had redeemed them for Himself at no cost to themselves.  I think it might also remind them that they were nothing “special;” God hadn’t chosen them because they were extraordinary.  Quite the contrary, as Moses tells them:

Deuteronomy 4:7, “The LORD did not set His love on you nor choose you because you were more in number than any other people, for you were the least of all peoples.”

In Deuteronomy 9:4-6, referring to the Canaanites who were in the land Israel was about to inhabit, Moses says,

“Do not think in your heart, after the LORD your God has cast them out before you, saying, ‘Because of my righteousness the LORD has brought me in to possess this land’; but it is because of the wickedness of these nations that the LORD is driving them out before you.  It is not because of your righteousness or of  the uprightness of your heart that you go in to possess their land, but because of the wickedness of these nations that the LORD your God drives them out from before you, and that He may fulfill the word which the LORD swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.  Therefore understand that the LORD your God is not giving you this good land to possess because of your righteousness, for you are a stiff-necked people.”

It wasn’t because of their greater numbers or their superior righteousness that God was giving them the land.  He mentions this latter three times in three verses.  When they left Egypt, they’d been only a handful of people, and their record during the wilderness journey was one of nothing but complaint and rebellion.  There was absolutely nothing in them for the reason God chose them.  In fact, there was plenty of reason for Him to reject them!  It was His own good pleasure to be gracious to them.

It is His own good pleasure for us, as well, Ephesians 1:3-14.

We’ve already mentioned that Moses used the word “ransom” in describing this offering, but he also calls it “atonement money” in v. 16.  This brings us back to Romans 3.  Paul explains that Jews are as guilty of sin as Gentiles in that all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, v. 23.  God gave the law so that men might see their spiritual state, and their sin clearly, and not just the fuzzy generalizations the Gentiles might have had through their vague understandings of right and wrong, as in Romans 2:14-16.

So, the whole world, Jew and Gentile alike, is guilty in the sight of God, Romans 3:19.

How then can God be just, yet declare men to be righteous who in themselves are anything but that?  How can anyone escape the judgment due their sin?

Now it is true, there was a righteousness available through the Law, Deuteronomy 6:25.  In exhorting a new generation of Israelites to obey the commands God gave him on Sinai, Moses said, “Then it will be righteousness for us, if we are careful to observe all these commandments before the LORD our God, as He has commanded us.”

Earlier, in Leviticus 18, God admonished Moses,

Then the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, “Speak to the children of Israel, and say to them: ‘I am the LORD your God. According to the doings of the land of Egypt, where you dwelt, you shall not do; and according to the doings of the land of Canaan, you shall not do; nor shall you walk in their ordinances.  You shall observe My judgments and keep My ordinances, to walk in them:  I am the LORD your God.  You shall therefore keep My statutes and My judgments, which if a man does, he shall live by them:  I am the LORD,” vs. 1-5.

The rest of Leviticus 18 gives us an idea of “the doings of the land of Canaan.”  Folks are always so worried about “the poor Canaanites,” but they were a terrible, wicked people.

The trouble is, Israel never kept God’s statues and judgments.  They weren’t really any better than the people they dispossessed.  They never attained any kind of righteousness on their own, except maybe that external and superficial righteousness of the Pharisees our Lord encountered and rejected, Matthew 5:20.  They never obeyed.

Neither do we.

Paul gives us the remedy:  God declares righteous the one who has faith in Jesus, Romans 3:28.

What does that mean?  Elsewhere, Paul explains.  In 2 Corinthians 5:21, he wrote, For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.

In the cross, the Lord Jesus didn’t die just so we could have pretty jewelry to wear or as ornaments for our house.  He didn’t die by mistake, or as a martyr, or as an example.

He died because we couldn’t.

Our deaths could never pay for even one of our sins, let alone the many, many of which we are guilty.  Our sufferings, our church membership, our good works, our time in purgatory, if there were such a thing, could never provide even one stitch in that robe of righteousness God gives His people because of and through the Lord Jesus Christ.  Indeed, as Spurgeon once remarked, “If there is one stitch in the robe of righteousness we’re required to put in, then we are lost.”

The Jew can never be saved by “keeping the Law.”  Neither can the Gentile.  Nor, for that matter, can a church member.  Only in the Lord Jesus Christ and the ransom paid by His blood on the behalf of sinners is salvation to be had.

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

 

Walls and Screens

“You shall also make the court of the tabernacle.  For the south side there shall be hangings for the court made of fine woven linen, one hundred cubits long for one side.  And its twenty pillars and their twenty sockets shall be of bronze.  The hooks of the pillars and their bands shall be silver.  Likewise along the length of the north side there shall be hangings one hundred cubits long, with its twenty pillars and their twenty sockets of bronze, and the hooks of the pillars and their bands of silver.

“And along the width of the court on the west side shall be hangings of fifty cubits, with their ten pillars and their ten sockets.  The width of the court on the east side shall be fifty cubits.  The hangings on one side of the gate shall be fifteen cubits, with their three pillars and their three sockets.  And on the other side shall be hangings of fifteen cubits, with their three pillars and their three sockets.

“For the gate of the court there shall be a screen twenty cubits long, woven of blue, purple, and scarlet thread, and fine woven linen, made by a weaver.  It shall have four pillars and four sockets.  All the pillars around the court shall have bands of silver; their hooks shall be of silver and their sockets of bronze.  The length of the court shall be one hundred cubits, the width fifty throughout, and the height five cubits, made of fine woven linen and its sockets of bronze, Exodus 27:9-18. (NKJV)

To this point, we’ve studied something of the instructions God gave concerning the materials to build the tabernacle and the workmen who used those materials.  We looked at one piece of the furniture:  the Ark of the Covenant.  We did that because God gave the instructions starting with Himself, and moving outward from there. Having done that, we’re going to look at the rest of what Scripture says about the tabernacle from the standpoint of an Israelite approaching it from outside, from the camp.

There is some discussion about the length of a “cubit.”  The standard view is that it’s 18 inches and that’s the view we’ve taken here.  That means the courtyard we’ve just read about was 150′ by 75′ and the wall surrounding it was 7.5 feet high.  The wall was anchored by 100 “sockets” or foundation moldings of brass.  The curtain was hung from rods (“bands,” “fillets,” depending on your version) of silver.

Some have questioned the extreme detail of these instructions.  Granted, they don’t read like we might write them today, but they remind us that God is a God of details.  The saying of an unbelieving world is, “the devil is in the details,” as in “you’d better read the fine print,” but it’s not true.  God is in the details, even to numbering the hairs on our head.  After all, any detail He might “miss” might be the crucial one.

To illustrate this, there’s an old saying,

For want (lack) of a nail, the shoe was lost.
For want of a shoe, the horse was lost.
For want of a horse, the rider was lost.
For want of a rider, the message was lost.
For want of a message, the battle was lost.
For want of a battle, the kingdom was lost.

There are innumerable versions of this, and they’ve made many appearances in many places.

The point is of the rhyme is:  all those things were ultimately lost, even to the kingdom itself, because of the absence of a nail to secure a horseshoe.  Details are important, especially in eternal things.  We have no idea of the ultimate result of a seemingly insignificant act.

As the Israelite man or woman would approach or look toward the tabernacle, he or she would see only a fence, except for one side, which we’ll look at later, Lord willing.  Everything else was blocked as to view or to entrance.

Revelation 19:8 says, “And to her [the Lamb’s wife] it was granted to be arrayed in fine line, clean and bright, for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints.”  Some versions say, “righteousnesses of the saints.”  So we could say that the linen in the fence surrounding the tabernacle grounds represents righteousness.  Why is that a barrier, as in this case?

Because we don’t have any!

At least that God will accept.

The righteousness we have, those religious acts when we do some little thing we think is serving God, God looks at quite differently.  Isaiah 64:6 says of them, all our righteousnesses are like filthy rags.  The word translated “filthy rags” refers to a cloth a woman might use during her time of the month, or the rags a leper might use.  Not very pretty.  That’s God’s view of our “righteousness,” our very best.  That’s because we’re all sinners.  There’s only every been one Person who could honestly ask, “Which of you convicts Me of sin?” John 8:46.  He’s the only One of whom God said, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased,” Matthew 3:17; 12:18.  The LORD is well pleased for His righteousness’ sake, Isaiah 42:21, emphasis added.  “His” refers to “the Servant” of v. 1, the Lord Jesus Christ.

Most, if not all of us, can find people who we think are not as good as us in one way or another:  the thief, the murderer, the politician.  The trouble is, they’re not the standard of righteousness God requires.  The Lord Jesus is the standard.  For all the boasting of how good people are, probably very few would say that we’re as good as He is.  The truth is, we all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, Romans 3:23.

“Fall short.”

In southern Colorado, there’s a canyon known as the Royal Gorge.  The Arkansas River winds its way along the bottom, 956 feet below the rim.  It’s a very scenic and beautiful area.  The point is, it would be impossible to jump across that canyon.  It wouldn’t matter if one just jumped, or used a pole to assist him, as high-jumpers do in athletics, or had some other device to help him.  He would still fall short and fall to his death.

Early in the 1900s, men devised a way to place a bridge over the canyon near Canon City CO.  Building it was a masterpiece of construction.  Pictures of the work-in-progress are unbelievable.

So it is with us and God.  We recognize that we need “something” to bridge the gap between what we are and what we’re supposed to be.  So we use baptism, or church membership, or the Catechism, or the Ten Commandments, or any one of a hundred other things to “get us across.”  The problem is, none of those things work.  They all have their place, yes, but it’s not as a way of salvation.  They all fall short.

In Isaiah 45:22, the Lord Jesus says, “Look to Me, and be saved, All the ends of the earth!  For I am God, and there is no other.”

He is the bridge, and He alone.

Have you looked to Him?

Or are you trying to build your own bridge?

 

Daniel 7:27, “The Greatness of the Kingdom”

Then the kingdom and dominion,
And the greatness of the kingdoms under the whole heaven,
Shall be given to the people, to the saints of the Most High.

His kingdom is an everlasting kingdom,
And all dominions shall serve and obey Him.’   (NKJV)

In chapter 2, Daniel foretold that the God of heaven shall set up a kingdom which shall never be destroyed; and the kingdom shall not be left to other people, v. 44.  In 7:11, this kingdom is given to One like the Son of Man.  Now, in the interpretation of Daniel’s vision in chapter 7, we discover that the saints will also participate in the kingdom.  In verse 27, several things are said of this kingdom.

1. The splendor of the kingdom, then the kingdom and dominion, and the greatness of the kingdoms under the whole heaven….

In other words, this kingdom is not going to be some little insignificant thing, some mystical something that nobody can really see or touch, and which has very little, if any, influence on the world around it.  There have been times when “the church” has been influential in its surroundings, though not now.  By “the church,” I don’t mean organizations like Romanism or the various state churches of Europe.  “The church” is not some denominational hierarchy, not some monolithic religious structure, not some political entity enforcing submission to a creed or catechism.  Indeed, it has often been these manmade structures, with their political posturing or social agendas, which have been at the forefront of opposition to the people of God.  “The church” is saved people, living out their lives in seeking to please God, and coming together from time to time to praise and worship the God who has saved them, often in the face of great persecution or ridicule.  When God sets up the kingdom the Bible talks about, such persecution or ridicule will not be possible.

We don’t really have any great kingdoms today, egalitarianism has taken care of that, but there have been such in history.  The splendor of ancient Egypt, the riches of the Ming dynasty in China, the far-flung reaches of the British Empire, all these and many others bear eloquent witness to the greatness that earthly kingdoms can achieve.  All this will be wrapped up in and overshadowed by the greatness of the fifth and final kingdom, which will encompass the greatness of the kingdoms under the whole heaven….(emphasis added).  It seems to me that this cannot refer to anything other than an “earthly” kingdom, in agreement with what Daniel said in his interpretation of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream:  the “stone” will grow into a great mountain which will fill the whole earth.

Furthermore, God tells us through Daniel that the rest of the beasts had their dominion taken away, but their lives were prolonged for a season and a time.  The nations which made up the first four kingdoms still exist in one form or another, but they themselves will one day fall under the sway of the Son of Man and His saints.  As much as some decry the idea of “an earthly, carnal kingdom,” there is coming a kingdom of God which will fill the whole earth.  Peter describes this time as one in which righteousness dwells, or, literally, “is at home,” 2 Peter 3:13.  It certainly isn’t at home in this present evil world.

By the way, the word translated “fill” has the basic meaning, “to be abundant and overflowing”. This kingdom isn’t going to be some “hole in the wall” affair with people hiding in caves and forests, scared to death they’re going to be discovered worshiping God.  No, no.  It will be the answer to that petition in the Lord’s Prayer:  “Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven,” Matthew 6:10, emphasis added.

How is God’s will done “in heaven”?

Joyfully, willingly, completely, openly, only.

There are some today who desire to serve God like that, but they are few and far between in comparison with the earth’s population.  Nevertheless, there is coming a time when the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD as the waters cover the sea, Habakkuk 2:14.  We don’t really think about this, “the waters cover the sea,” but it’s quite a picture.  If we could take the highest point on Earth, Mount Everest, and drop it into the deepest part of the ocean, the Mariana Trench in the western Pacific, there would still be well over a mile of water covering Everest!

And it isn’t just some academic knowledge of God Habakkuk is talking about, reserved for scholars in some dusty hall, it’s the knowledge of the glory of God.  God will be known in His fullness.  He won’t just be shunted off to one side to await our “decision”.  Zechariah 14 gives something of an account of this time.  Though you should read the whole chapter, v. 16 says, And it shall come to pass that everyone who is left of the nations who came against Jerusalem shall go up from year to year to worship the King, the LORD of hosts, and to keep the Feast of Tabernacles.  The earth will be filled with worship and praise of Him, as well as obedience to Him, vs. 17-19.

There’s that word again:  “filled” – to be abundant and overflowing.  That certainly isn’t true today, all the varied means of communication we have today notwithstanding.

2. The saints and the fifth kingdom, this kingdom shall be given to the people, the saints of the Most High.

Who are these people, these saints of the Most High?  This subject is hotly debated.  We’ll postpone our own comments until the next post, where we’ll deal with objections to the idea of an “earthly” kingdom, which the Scriptures clearly teach.

3. The certainty of the fifth kingdom, His kingdom is an everlasting kingdom….

Earlier in this chapter, Daniel said, “His kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, which shall not pass away, and His kingdom the one which shall not be destroyed, v. 14.  There will never be any “ruins” for future archaeologists to sift through and try to figure out.  There will never be a “sixth” kingdom.  This King is eternal.  His kingdom will be eternal.

“Even so, come, Lord Jesus.”

 

Acts 2:40-46, “They Continued”

40] And with many other words he testified and exhorted them, saying, “Be saved from this perverse generation.”  41] Then those who gladly received his word were baptized; and that day about three thousand souls were added to them.  42] And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers.  43] Then fear came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were done through the apostles.  44] Now all who believed were together, and had all things in common, 45] and sold their possessions and goods, and divided them among all, as anyone had need.

46] So continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart, 47] praising God and having favor with all the people.  And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved. 

Verses 14 through 39 give us only a small portion of of what Peter said to the crowd who gathered as a result of the commotion surrounding the pouring out of the Holy Spirit.  The thrust of what he said is found in v. 40, which says that with many words he testified and exhorted them, saying, “Be saved from this perverse generation.  His words didn’t fall on deaf ears as we read that three thousand souls were converted to the Lord.

The thing that I find interesting is the fact that they “continued” is mentioned twice, in vs. 42 and 46.  This is the great distinguishing mark of true believers in the Lord Jesus, for there are many who draw back unto perdition, Hebrews 10:39.  It’s the characteristic of His people mentioned by our Lord, John 8:31, Then Jesus said to those Jews who believed Him, “If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed.”  He’s not saying that they remain His disciples, or that they become His disciples, but that they are His disciples.  This reminds us of an earlier incident in His life, recorded in John 2:23-25, Now when He was in Jerusalem at the Passover, during the feast, many believed in His name when they saw the signs which He did.  But Jesus did not commit Himself to them, because He knew all men, and had no need that anyone should testify of man, for He knew what is in man. 

We have such a shallow view of salvation.  As long as one makes some sort of  “profession of faith,” or even might have, well, that seems to be enough.  I saw an example of this just the other day.  The media has been filled with the terrible events which happened in Las Vegas.  Of the man identified as the shooter, one pastor wrote, “Now it is possible that he was saved, that he had believed on Jesus at one point in his life.”  Then this pastor wrote, as this man was preparing to shoot, “in those moments, he was not right with God, regardless of his salvation.”

Now, I grant that, generally speaking, we can’t know for certain the spiritual condition of any particular person.  However, Scripture says, you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him, 1 John 3:15.  So, while it is “possible” that this man was “saved,” it doesn’t seem very likely.  He doesn’t seem to have been “continuing”.

We read of these early believers in Acts 2, that they continued, emphasis added.  Verse 42 gives us four examples.

1. apostles’ doctrine.  Since the apostles were still alive, this was possible.  The word translated “apostle” basically means “one who is sent.”  In that respect, any true Christian might say he or she is “an apostle.”  However, there are no “Apostles” in the sense that the twelve were Apostles.  There are no people giving new revelations of Scripture or “messages from God.”  Today, we have the Scriptures.  Our question must be, What does the Scripture say? Romans 4:3, not what does this or that preacher or teacher say?  What does “the church” say?

What does God say, as given in His Word?

2. and fellowship.  This seems to be tied in with the first item:  “apostles’ doctrine and fellowship.”  There’s an old saying, which I’ve turned around somewhat:  “the feathers with whom you flock show what kind of a bird you are.”  What kind of people do we like to be around, to associate with?  That’s a reflection of who we are.  These is Acts 2 wanted to be with God’s people.

3. in the breaking of bread.  Perhaps what we call communion or the Lord’s Supper and ordinary meals were together.  Our Lord instituted His Supper at the meal of the Passover, Matthew 26:26.

4. and in prayers.  The hallmark of the NT church.

Verses 44, 45 tell of another aspect of the early church:  they were together, and all things in common, and sold their possessions and good, and divided them among all, as anyone had need.  Karl Marx used these ideas as a basis for his views on government.  Many others have tried “communal” living of various sorts.  However, especially as it regards communism and other socialist ideas, there are some things to keep in mind about this “community of goods.”

1. It was voluntary.  There is no evidence that this was a “forced” sharing, as in communism.  The government wasn’t involved at all.  Nor does it have anything to do with the current idea of “making the rich pay their fair share.”  It was voluntary,

2. It seems to have been temporary.  We don’t read of this past chapter 6, though the NT is filled with efforts of Paul and others to relieve the necessities of the saints.

3.  It didn’t work, as we see in chapter 6:1, which tells us of the beginning of “deacons.”  We’ll have more about this when we get to that chapter.

It could be this came about because those early disciples believed that the Lord would return very soon.  They had no inkling of “the church,” at least as we know it, or of the time interval between the Ascension and the Return.  We still don’t know of that interval, though that doesn’t stop speculation.  Just a few weeks ago, there were two different such speculations of facebook, both saying that such-and-such was the date on which our Lord would return, and both were wrong.  You’d think, after nearly 2000 years of such misses, that folks would give up trying to figure it out.  He may come before I get done with this post.  He may not come until our grandchildren’s grandchildren are alive.  In the meantime, there are things for us to do.

Verses 46 and 47 gives us a final summary.  The split between Jew and Christian had not yet happened.  As we said earlier, the early church was Jewish.  It wasn’t really until Paul that the Gospel really began to be preached to Gentiles – usually with Jewish opposition.  It was still a time of Apostolic miracle and ministry, a time of generosity and grace.  A time of joy and happiness.  A time of great salvation, as the last verse tells us.  It was a daily occurrence, no special meetings or anything, just apparently the result of the way these early Christians lived.

They continued.

Acts 2:22-23, “Man Proposes…”

22] “Men of Israel, hear these words:  Jesus of Nazareth, a Man attested by God to you by miracles, wonders, and signs which God did through Him in your midst, as you yourselves also know – 23] Him, being delivered by the determined purpose and foreknowledge of God, you have taken by lawless hands, have crucified, and put to death;”  (NKJV)

In our last post, we looked at the first part of this chapter and its description of the events of that extraordinary day.

Remember, it was only 50 days since the crucifixion of Christ.  Many of the men and women in Peter’s audience, for we need not suppose there were only men, many of them had no doubt witnessed the events surrounding that sad day.  Though many of them lived elsewhere, they had traveled to Jerusalem to participate in Passover and the Feast of Weeks, one of the names by which Pentecost was known.  Little had they known when they started out that they would see the fulfillment of what those two days foreshadowed.

Peter reminds them of the facts of the Lord’s ministry, v. 22.  In the words he used on another special occasion, Jesus “went about doing good,”  Acts 10:38.

“He went about doing good.”

I can’t think of a better epitaph.

But he also reminded them of the Lord’s murder, v. 23.

It is here we get into muddy waters, so to speak, not that the Lord died, the Scripture is clear about that, but on the processes or principles that lay behind that death:  “Him being delivered by the determined purpose and foreknowledge of God, you have taken by wicked hands, have crucified and slain.”  Or as the KJV put it, “the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God.”

This tells us that the death of Christ wasn’t an accident.  It wasn’t a mistake, as some have taught.  It wasn’t the result, as one writer put it, of “a hastily called meeting of the Divine council.”  How could a professed believer have such a dishonoring view of God?

In one of his writings, Peter put it like this:  He [Jesus] indeed was foreordained before the foundation of the world…, 1 Peter 1:20.  And Revelation 13:8 refers to Him as the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.

“Wait!’ says someone, “Peter says it was done according to the foreknowledge of God.  God foresaw what would happen, just as He chose those whom He foresaw would accept Jesus, 1 Peter 1:2.”

This is a common viewpoint, that God merely reacted to what He foresaw in the actions of men as He looked down from heaven.

Is it Scriptural?  Does God really just “react”?

There’s a lot that could be said about this.  In fact, we did a post a while back on this subject.  For now, let’s just say that Scripture itself uses this imagery of God looking down from heaven.  Psalm 14:2 says,

The LORD looks down from heaven upon the children of men,
To see if there are any who understand, who seek God
.

If the “foreknowledge” view were correct, we would expect to read that God does indeed see many “who understand, who seek God.”  Is that what the Psalmist describes?

On the contrary.  Psalm 14:3 says,

They have all turned aside,
They have together become corrupt:

There is none who does good,
No, not one.   (emphasis added)

Paul refers to this in Romans 3 in his teaching of the universal sinfulness, rebellion and condemnation of mankind and concludes, all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, v. 23.

This doesn’t mean that there isn’t good, humanly speaking, among men.  I expect even Hitler did “good” to those whom he loved, in spite of the misery and suffering he caused a lot of other people.  It means that there is nothing good in men as far as God is concerned.  Isaiah 64:6 puts it like this,

But we are all like an unclean thing,
And all our righteousnesses are like filthy rags:
We all do fade as a leaf,
And our iniquities, like the wind,
Have taken us away. 

That phrase, “filthy rags”?

It refers to a cloth used by a woman during her time of the month or used by a leper for his sores.  Not a very pretty description.

And that’s “our righteousnesses,” those little acts of goodness we do once in a while.  What must our “unrighteousnesses,” our sins be like?

I’m glad God didn’t decide to give us what we deserve, but sent His Son to do what we couldn’t do.  No force on earth could have put the Lord Jesus on the Cross if He hadn’t been willing to go.  And no force on earth could have kept Him away from it since He was willing.

But Peter doesn’t stop with the counsels and purpose of God.  He goes on in v. 23,

“you have taken by lawless hands, have crucified, and put to death.”

The question is often asked,  “If God is sovereign and foreordains everything, how can man be responsible for his actions?”  And that’s a good question.

The Scripture never answers it.  It just says that they’re both true statements.  There are many instances of this in Scripture.  Perhaps the best known one is found in Genesis 50.

You remember the story.  Joseph had been the favorite son of his father Jacob.  Moreover, he apparently was a tattle-tale, telling his father of the misdeeds of his eleven brothers.  They got back at him by selling him into slavery and, for 13 years, Jacob lamented the death of his son.  Fast forward, and Joseph has become second-in-command in Egypt.  His brothers needed to go down to Egypt twice to get food, and the second time, Joseph revealed to his brothers that he was their brother.  Naturally they were terrified and begged him not to pay them back for what they had done to him.  He replied, “Do not be afraid, for am I in the place of God?  But as for you, you meant  evil against me; but God meant it for good, in order to bring it about as it is this day, to save many people alive,” vs. 19, 20.

The brothers meant only evil toward their brother and were responsible for what they did.  God meant only good.  So here, with Peter’s message.  The crowd who crucified Jesus meant only evil and were fully responsible for their attitudes and actions.  God meant it for good.

Two  parallel truths.

God is God.

Men are responsible for their attitudes and actions.