“Fine Woven Linen, and Blue, Purple, and Scarlet Thread”

“…ten curtains of fine woven linen and blue, purple, and scarlet thread,” Exodus 26:1.

“blue, purple, scarlet thread, and fine woven linen, Exodus 36:37 NKJV.

Though we’ve mentioned these items in other posts, we want to look at just them in this post.  The linen was the main item out of which the tabernacle was constructed, but it was embroidered with thread of these three colors.

Now, what do, or could, these four items suggest when it comes to the study of the Lord Jesus Christ, of whom the tabernacle speaks in type and shadow?

Linen, blue, purple, scarlet?

With just a couple of exceptions in Paul’s writings, where do we find information about the Lord and His life in Scripture?

Is it not in the four gospels:  Matthew, Mark, Luke and John?

Why four?  Why not five, or ten or fifteen?

Because that’s what God wanted.

What is especially interesting about these four men is that each and every one of them was absolutely unqualified to write about the life of Christ.

God used them anyway….

Matthew, though Jewish himself, was a tax-collector for the hated Romans.  Jews would have considered him a traitor.  Yet God used him to write of their Messiah-King, who would deliver them from a far worse bondage than Rome.

Mark, that one who left Paul and Barnabas and their endeavors to go back home, was used by God to write of the Servant-Son, who finished what He started.

Luke, educated, polished, likely the “best” of the lot, humanly speaking, but, still, a Gentile:  with no part in the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world, Ephesians 2:12.  Nevertheless, God used him to know and to write about the Ideal, the Perfect Man, sent not only to Israel, but to gather His sheep out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation, Revelation 5:9.

John, a rough-and-tumble fisherman, using simple grammar to tell his story.  Beginning students in Greek use his Gospel in their first attempts at translation.  Simple words, uncomplicated grammar, expressing truths which 2000 years of study have not yet begun to fathom.

If we adapt Pilate’s exclamation about the Lord Jesus to that hostile crowd prior to our Lord’s crucifixion (John 19:5), we might come up with the following:

Matthew:  “Behold the Sovereign!”  He wrote to the Jews of their Messiah, their King.

Mark:   “Behold the Servant!”  To the Roman mind, which looked down on servants and serving, he wrote of Jesus, “the Servant of Jehovah.”

Luke:  “Behold the Sympathetic!”  He addressed the Greek viewpoint, present Jesus as Ideal Man.  As such, his is the “human interest” Gospel.

John:  “Behold the Son!”  John wrote to Christians, to declare and defend “God manifest in the flesh.”  In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and, [literally] God was the Word, emphasizing the deity of our Lord.

Boiling the distinctives of each Gospel down to one word:

Matthew is the Gospel of Christ’s Authority.  Cf. 7:24-29, especially v. 29; 28:18.

Mark is the Gospel of Christ’s Activity.  He records only one instance of teaching and four parables, but eighteen miracles.

Luke is the Gospel of Christ’s Availability.  Though there were times when Jesus withdrew from the crowds, yet, through Luke, He brings “good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people,” 2:10.

John is the Gospel of Christ’s Antiquity.  The prologue, 1:1-18, isn’t the only place where John states the eternal dignity and existence of the Word.  He quotes Jesus Himself as doing so.  In 8:58, Jesus said to them, “Most assuredly I say to you, before Abraham was, I AM.”
Unbelievers today may deny that Jesus ever claimed to be God, but those Jews who heard Him make that statement knew exactly what He was claiming.  That’s why they tried to kill Him on the spot – and that fact that He was telling the truth was why they couldn’t.
Ultimately, that’s why Jesus was crucified.  In the so-called “trials” of Him, all four of the Gospels record that the scribes and Pharisees, the leaders of the people, recognized what Jesus claimed:  Matthew 26:63-65; Mark 14:60-62; Luke 22:66-71; John 19:7.   And, apparently, one of the few at that gruesome and bloody scene who recognized the truth about Jesus was the Roman centurion, a pagan, who exclaimed, “Truly, this Man was the Son of God!” Mark 15:39.  The other notable witness was the thief who was converted at pretty much the last minute, Luke 23:42.

_______________

Four men.

Unlikely men.

God used them.

God can use us.

Linen.  Blue.  Purple.  Scarlet.

Four colors.

Four Gospels.

One message.

One Savior.

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

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Acts 2:14-23, The Truth Is….

14] But Peter, standing up with the eleven, raised his voice and said to them, “Men of Judea and all who dwell in Jerusalem, let this be known to you and heed my words.  15] For these are not drunk, as you supposed, since it is only the third hour of the day.  16] But this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel:

17] ‘And it shall come to pass in the last days, says God
That I will pour out of my Spirit on all flesh;
Your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
Your old men shall dream dreams.
18] And on My menservants and on My maidservants
I will pour out My Spirit in those days;
And they shall prophesy.
19] I will show wonders in heaven above
And signs in the earth beneath:
Blood and fire and vapor of smoke.
20] The sun will be turned into darkness,
And the moon into blood,
Before the coming of the great and awesome day of the LORD.
21] And it shall come to pass
That whoever calls on the name of the LORD
Shall be saved.’

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;

Our title comes from a question asked as a the result of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit.  The crowd was perplexed by these Galileans, considered uncouth and ignorant by others, but who were speaking a number of other, intelligible tongues, understood by those who heard them.  Some were amazed, but others made fun of it.

When this happened, Peter immediately stood up and began to explain what was happening.  Just in passing, it seems that “tongues” aren’t an end in themselves.  Indeed, Scripture tells us that, even if they are for today, not every believer will receive them, 1 Corinthians 12, though every believer has one or more gifts.  Further, Scripture indicates that tongues are ultimately not for the believer at all, but for unbelievers, 1 Corinthians 14:21-22.  There are a number of other things governing the “gifts of the Spirit,” but that’s another post.

Another thing:  notice all the Scriptures Peter quoted.  He didn’t talk about tradition or custom, or what others thought about all this.  He didn’t take a poll or start a study group.  He went directly to the Scriptures.  That’s always the best place to begin:  What does the Scripture say? Romans 4:3.

As soon as some began to mock, Peter raised his voice, v. 14, and began to explain what was going on.  Remember, it is through the foolishness of preaching that is the means God chose to save people, 1 Corinthians 1:21 (KJV).  Newer versions have it as the foolishness of the message preached.  It doesn’t matter.  Except through the power and grace of God, it’s all foolishness to the natural mind, 1 Corinthians 2:14.

So, the truth is, as Peter brought out, that these men weren’t drunk at all.  After all, it was only 9 AM.  Instead, it was a fulfillment of prophecy, vs. 17-21.  He quotes from Joel 2:28-32, although he doesn’t finish the quotation.  Joel refers to the ultimate salvation of Israel and it wasn’t yet time for that to happen.

Having explained the truth about what was happening, Peter seems to go off on a tangent.  After all, what did the execution of a criminal, as He was believed to be, have to do with anything?

But this Man was no ordinary criminal.  His was a life of miracles, wonders, and signs.   These signs indicated that He was no ordinary Man, but rather that He was who He said He was, the Son of God and His life was attested by God. 

I know that many skeptics and unbelievers deny any such thing, and some even deny that our Lord existed.  As far as they, and for all practical purposes, much of the rest of the world, are concerned, Jesus of Nazareth is dead and gone.  And if that truly is the story, then there is no hope for any of us.

I’m thankful that the truth is that He lives, as Peter goes on to say.  Lord willing, we’ll look at this in our next post.

Hebrews 11:30, 31, Faith and the Walls of Jericho

]30]By faith, the walls of Jericho fell down after they were encircled for seven days.  [31]By faith the harlot Rahab did not perish with those who did not believe, when she received the spies with peace.

In these verses, the writer looks at Israel’s entrance into the land with two vivid and very different examples of faith.

1. Jericho.

Jericho has been the subject of much speculation and doubt down through the years.  Skeptics have said that the story in Joshua was just a folk tale designed to explain the ruins at Jericho.  Others have scoffed that Israel could not have defeated a well-fortified and supplied city like Jericho.

Others have dated the evidence in those ruins and claimed that the destruction was by Egypt and not by Israel, at a time much earlier than the Bible says.  They have been shown to be wrong, though.  The evidence of the ruins shows that Jericho was destroyed at the time the Bible says that it was, by whom it was, and not earlier.

I remember seeing pictures of this event, with Israel marching around a level city with one wall.  Archaeology tells us it wasn’t like that at all.

Jericho was well-fortified, make no doubt about it.  The area of the city wasn’t “flat” but surrounded by and built on an earthen mound or embankment almost 50 feet high, with a stone retaining wall at its base.  Aerial photos of this mound are impressive, to say the least. This retaining wall, which followed the slope of the mound, was 12-15′ high.  On top of this was a mudbrick wall 6′ thick and 20-26′ high.  At the crest of the embankment was a similar wall, whose base was about 46′ above the ground where the Israelites marched.  The top of this second wall would have been 60-70 feet above that ground, or about the height of a 7-story building.  In Deuteronomy 9:1, Moses told the people that they would encounter cities great and fortified up to heaven.  We’re used to skyscrapers hundreds of feet high, but to the Israelites, Jericho must truly have seemed to reach “up to heaven.”

Furthermore, there was an abundant spring, which still exists, so the people would have had plenty of water to drink.  And, it was harvest time, Joshua 3:15.  Archaeologists found many storage jars full of grain, so the people would have had plenty to eat, as well.  Grain was a treasure, so the fact that there was so much left shows both the swiftness of the destruction and the fact that, except in one instance, Israel obeyed the injunction that the plunder of the city belonged to the Lord and they weren’t to take it for themselves.

The city could have survived for years.

Yet, Joshua 6:24 says that Israel burned the city and all that was in it with fire in seven days.   Archaeologists found layers of burned ash and debris about 3′ thick.

What happened?

God intervened.

In the words of the old song, “The walls came a-tumbling down.”

What about those walls?

Joshua 6:20 tells us that the wall fell down flat.  A more accurate reading would be, “the wall fell beneath itself.”  What happened?  Some believe that the tramping of the Israelites around the city for seven days and the blowing of the trumpets on the seventh day loosened things so that the walls collapsed.  Maybe.  Others believe that God sent an earthquake to destroy the walls.  There is some evidence in the ruins to support that view.  Some have objected that there are no fissures, but there aren’t always fissures when the ground rumbles.   The idea of an earthquake doesn’t automatically rule out the idea that God was behind it all – that it wasn’t a “miracle,” after all.  It just means that God used what we might call a “usual” occurrence in an unusual way. And at exactly the right moment.

Besides, God simply tells us that the walls collapsed without giving us any details about how.

There are a couple of other things here, as well.

Remember that there was a 12-15′ high retaining wall around the embankment.  There are remains which indicate that the lower wall collapsed over this retaining wall, forming a sort of ramp over which the Israelites could scramble.  And Joshua 6:20 says that the people went up into the city – up over the retaining wall and the ruins of the lower wall, up the slope of the embankment, and up over the ruins of the upper wall and into the city.

One final thing about this event.  Archaeology has confirmed that there is one area of the lower wall which didn’t collapse.  And there are houses built with this wall as part of their structure.  This brings us to the second example of faith.

2. Rahab, 11:31.

In one of these houses lived a woman, described as a harlot.  Joshua 2 records her story.   Apparently, she had neither husband or children, because they’re never mentioned, either here or in 6:23.    We’re really told very little in this story, only that she was willing to protect these foreign interlopers.  In Joshua 2:8-11, she tells us why.  As she was hiding the men from the soldiers who were looking for them (vs. 2-7,) she told them, “I know that the LORD has given you the land, that the terror of you has fallen on us, and that all the inhabitants of the land are fainthearted because of you.  For we have heard how the LORD dried up the water of the Red Sea for you when you came out of Egypt, and what you did to the two kings of the Amorites who were on the other side of the Jordan, Sihon and Og, whom you utterly destroyed.  And as soon as we heard these things, our hearts melted; neither did there remain any more courage in anyone because of you, for the LORD your God, He  is God in heaven above and in earth beneath.”

Rahab provides an interesting contrast to the Israelites themselves.  While it’s true that this generation of Israelites was being obedient to God, much of Israel’s history proves that this is an exception to a generally dismal picture of their relationship with God.  Indeed, they hadn’t been in the land very long when they began to revert to their old ways and brought the same judgments on themselves that they had given out to the Canaanites.

The illustrations Rahab gives of God’s power are at either end of Israel’s wilderness experience, but the Israelites seem not to have profited very much from their experiences.  Cf. Hebrews 4:2.  Exodus and Numbers, the two books which deal with Israel’s travels more than the other writings of Moses, show repeated rebellion and failure on Israel’s part.  Because of this failure, it had taken Israel 38 years to complete what ordinarily was an 11-day journey, Deuteronomy 1:2.

On the other hand, here was a woman who, in the words of Ephesians 2:12, was an alien from the commonwealth of Israel and a stranger to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world.  She was a member of a race condemned to destruction because of their sin.  Yet she and her family were spared.  Not only that, she became an ancestor to Israel’s Messiah, that One who would ultimately deliver all His people from their sin, Matthew 1:21.

You see, she had been willing to take a chance.  Perhaps, if she helped and protected God’s people, she – and her family – could escape judgment.  True, we’re not told her reasoning on this, just what she did.

Perhaps we could learn from her.

John 3:18 says, He who believes in [the Lord Jesus] 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.

We live in an age where this verse is not believed.   We’re taught that everyone is a child of God, that we’re all headed to “a better place.”

That’s not what the Scripture teaches.  It teaches that, because of our sin, we’re under a much greater judgment than what the Canaanites were under.  It teaches us that we, too, in the words of Ephesians 2:12, have no hope and [are] without God in the world.

In ten days, as I write this, it will be Easter.  Here, too, the world has substituted its own meaning into the day, a meaning that has nothing to do with redemption or salvation.  As far as the world is concerned, it’s all about eggs or clothes.  It’s about the arrival of Spring.  Only a few people seem to understand that it’s about an empty Cross and an empty tomb.

In Rahab’s time, the Cross was still a distant promise.  We’ve seen that promise fulfilled.  We’ve seen that there was One who came to take the place of sinners, to take their place of condemnation and to suffer what they should suffer.  To die on a Cross.  And those who believe in Him are no longer condemned, but have everlasting life.

It’s not just about “religion.”  There was plenty of “religion” in Canaan.  There had been plenty of “religion” in Egypt.  And there’s plenty of “religions” in our own day and time.  Only one has an empty Cross and an empty tomb.

Only one has a Savior.

Hebrews 11:23-29, “The Worst Part of Christ”

[23]By faith Moses, when he was born, was hidden three months by his parents, because they saw he was a beautiful child; and they were not afraid of the king’s command.
[24]By faith Moses, when he became of age, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, [25]choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God than to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin, [26]esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt; for he looked to the reward.
[27]By faith he forsook Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king; for he endured as seeing Him who is invisible.  [28]By faith he kept the Passover and the sprinkling of blood, lest he who destroyed the firstborn should touch them.
[29]By faith they passed through the Red Sea as by dry land, whereas the Egyptians attempting to do so, were drowned. (NKJV)

These verses tell of three phases of Moses’ life:
1. His parents, v. 23.
2. His persuasion, vs. 24-27.
3. His passage, vs. 28-29.

1. His parents in Egypt, v. 23.
The situation in Egypt was dire for the Israelites at the time of Moses’ birth.  They had been welcomed to Egypt as a result of Joseph’s role in the delivering Egypt from severe famine.  They’d even been given the best of the land in Egypt, Genesis 47:6.  That hadn’t lasted very long.  They had been both prosperous and prolific, Exodus 1:7, but then there arose a new king over Egypt, who did not know Joseph, v.8.  Likely this didn’t happen right after Joseph’s death.  Time passed and what Joseph did was forgotten.

Now, it’s believed that this king arose from a group of invaders called the Hyksos.  Even though they were powerful, they were still an ethnic minority and the king feared this growing power of the Israelites as a threat to him and his own people.  So he enslaved them.  When this didn’t work, and Israel continued to multiply, he ordered that all male babies were to be killed, Exodus 1:11-22.

This is the background of Moses.  His parents were under orders to kill him, but they didn’t.  The story is in Exodus 2:1-8.  Ultimately and in the providence of God, he came to live in the palace or at least the family of the very Pharaoh who had ordered his death.

2. His persuasion concerning Egypt, vs. 24-27.
The writer skips over the early life of Moses and brings him to the point of what we might call emancipation, that is, when children become independent of the family and go out on their own.  We’re not told what happened, but only that Moses made a choice – not to be identified as the son of Pharaoh’s daughter.  He turned away from a very rich and respected heritage.

It’s here that the title of the post comes into play.  The text says that he esteemed the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt.

Think about this –

“The reproach of Christ” –

(what a Puritan writer called, “the worst part of Him”) –

greater riches than the treasures in Egypt.”

Even after 3500 years, we’re amazed at the “treasures in Egypt”.  Archaeology has shown us probably just a tiny part of them.  What must they have been like to Moses?!  To walk among, nay, to live in and be part of, those “treasures.”  To walk around and live in the splendor and luxury of Pharaoh’s palace.  To see the pyramids as new.  He could have told us how they were built, which is still a topic of discussion.

He rejected all that.

Why?

He knew of a far greater treasure –

the reproach of Christ.

I wonder how a “modern” Moses might have handled this.  Just think of the opportunity, the power, he could have had!  Why, he might even become Pharaoh!  He could have helped his people be free of their bondage.  He could have provided for them.  He could have given them all kinds of advantages.  He could have given them political power, as it were, and made them a force to be reckoned with.

He didn’t do any of that.  Egypt wasn’t their home.  He chose to identify with his natural people, not their oppressors.  Granted, when he first tried to intervene, it didn’t go well and he was forced to flee for his life, Exodus 2:11-15.

Enough about Moses here.  What do we “treasure” about Christ?

Here in the US, we still have a measure of freedom and prosperity.  But there are countries in which even to be suspected of being a Christian is to invite persecution, even death.  Unbelievable atrocities are committed against these people, and in other countries where Christianity is forbidden or frowned upon, and there is no outcry about it.

But here we meet in air-conditioned or heated buildings with comfortable pews or chairs, good lighting, and plenty of electronic aids for “worship.”  We get in our comfortable cars and drive home to our comfortable houses.  We have electricity and hot and cold running water, and turn on the big flat-screen TV for entertainment.  We’re able to have clean clothes, and some have closets full of them.  We have plenty to eat.  Granted, there are some who don’t have all these things, but, for the most part, we do have them.

And we’re told that prosperity and plenty are the natural result of “faith,” that if we’re sick or in need, all we need is “faith”.  If we’re not healthy and happy, something’s wrong.  We don’t have enough “faith”.

But, what does all this have to do with “the worst part of Christ”?

Moses had more than we can possibly imagine, even if he didn’t have the internet, but he gave that all up for something he thought worth immeasurably more – reproach and persecution with God’s people.

Our Lord had something to say about all this.  As He finished giving “The Beatitudes,” He gave a final one that we don’t pay nearly as much attention to as we do to the first eight: “Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil things against you falsely for My sake.  Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven,” Matthew 5:11, 12, emphasis added.  But even the eighth one says, “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven,” v. 10.

Another time, He said, “The time is coming that whoever kills you will think that he offers God service,” John 16:2.  Though we can trace such killing through much of church history, beginning in Acts, we see it in what’s happening in the Middle East today with ISIS.  They believe in killing Christians that they are serving God.

I believe that’s coming even here.  How will we fare?

What will we choose?

How was Moses able to choose?

a. His concern, v. 26, he looked to the reward.
Paul had made a similar choice.  Apparently he had been on the way to becoming a “superstar” in his culture.  He was on the way to the top!  But then, the Lord Jesus met him.  After this happened, in comparing his former life with his present outlook, Paul wrote, But what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ.  Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish…, Philippians 3:7, 8.

At the same time, it isn’t always about what we have to give up.

Sometimes it’s about what we have to endure.

Paul knew something of this, as well.  He wrote to the Corinthian church:  We are hard-pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed, 2 Corinthians 4:8, 9.   What was his reaction to this?  Did he throw a pity party?  Did he give up?  Not at all.  He wrote, …we do not lose heart.  Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day,  For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory….  For we know that if our earthly house, this tent, is destroyed [that is, if we die], we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens, .4:16, 17, 5:1.  He goes on to say that we long for this transformation, this final move to an eternal abode.  Then he wrote, Now He who prepared us for this very thing is God, v. 5, emphasis added.  You see, even in the OT, and certainly in the New, God never intended His people to be earth-bound, but to realize and understand that we’re destined for something far beyond what this impoverished world has to offer.  See also Romans 8:18-23.  It’s sad that so few in our day seem to look at it this way.

b. His consciousness, v. 27, he endured as seeing him who is invisible.
There’s some discussion about when the first part of v. 27 happened:  he didn’t fear the wrath of the king.  Some think this is when he fled to Midian after standing up the first time for his people, Exodus 2:11-15, but v. 14, 15 expressly says that he feared and that he fled.  It’s more likely this refers to the time just before the Exodus, when Moses had severe confrontation with Pharaoh – the plagues and such, Exodus 5-11.  He knew that One Who is inconceivably greater than any and all earthly power.

Daniel 11:32 says, the people who know their God shall be strong and do exploits. (KJV).  While this is a prophecy of a specific time and people, still the principle holds true that true strength comes only from knowing the true God.  The reason the church in America is so weak and the forces of evil are so strong is that we have almost completely lost the knowledge of that God.  We’ve taken a verse or two of Scripture and a couple of words here and there and formed our own god.  The people who first came to this country had a robust knowledge of God.  Today, we not only deny that God, but deny that they knew this God.  And the result is the corruption, violence and filth we see on every hand and folks who in earlier generations would have been scorned and rejected are elevated to high positions and honor.

3. His passage from Egypt, 11:28, 29.
Just a couple of things in closing.  First, who would have though of animal sacrifices as a means of deliverance from slavery?  Well, God did.  The animal substituted for the firstborn of the Israelites, who, without the blood put on the doors of their homes, would have died themselves.  This blood was the evidence of the faith of the people inside – that what God said and promised was worth believing, trusting and obeying.

There is one thing about the Passover.  We studied it in church and as I was reading through the account in Exodus, there was one thing – an omission – that struck me.  I had never noticed it before.  Nowhere in that account is it written that those Israelites, having done all that was required, would be forgiven.  Read through it for yourself to see if that isn’t true.  Now, it’s true that 1 Corinthians 5:7 refers to Christ our Passover, but even there it’s in the context of getting rid of leaven, which was the other thing the Israelites in Egypt were to do in preparation for the Passover, Exodus 12:14-20, especially v. 19.  The Passover and the blood on the doorposts and lintel were a rite of separation of Israel from Egypt.  Likewise, because of Christ, His people are to be separated from the sins of this world, 1 Corinthians 5:1-8 (which rebukes the Corinthians for not dealing with grievous sin in their midst).  We are to be a pure people.

Second, the writer mentions the crossing of the Red Sea.  Unbelief and skepticism ridicule this idea and claim that the water just very shallow, it was just muddy, or there wasn’t any water at all.  Some of the maps of the crossing attempt to show this last viewpoint.  However, the text tells us that the Egyptians were drowned in this “shallow water,” every last one of them, Exodus 14:26-31.  Yet Exodus and Hebrews both tell us that the people walked through the sea on dry land, Exodus 14:29; Hebrews 11:29.

There is no contradiction.  My own view, for which I will not be dogmatic because I may not be right, is that the force of wind, Exodus 14:21, required to divide a body of water sufficient to drown Pharaoh’s army would have frozen it, and also the ground that was uncovered.  The ground would, in effect, be dry. And v. 22 says that waters were a wall to them on their right hand and on their left.  And something Moses said reinforces this idea.  In rejoicing over Israel’s deliverance and praising God for it, Moses said, “The floods stood upright like a heap; the depths congealed in the heart of the sea,” Exodus 15:8, emphasis added.  As for Pharaoh’s army:  “The sea covered them; they sank like lead in the mighty waters,” v. 10.  So much for “shallow water” or mud!

And it all began because, 40 years earlier, Moses made a choice,

for –

“the worst part of Christ.”

March Memories: “If Jesus Is God,….”

[In a couple of our last “March Memory” reviews, we looked at what the Bible says about the deity of the Lord Jesus, that He was truly God manifest in the flesh.

“Yes, but…”]

“If Jesus is God, how can the Father be greater than He is?”  “Does Jesus pray to Himself?” “Doesn’t that make Him His own Father”  “”How can He call God, ‘My God’?”  “Why were there things He didn’t know?”

And on and on go the questions.

All such questions were answered by Paul in Philippians 2:5-11:

Let this mind be in you which was in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men.  And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross.  Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and those on earth, and those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

This incredible Scripture has three parts.

Jesus as God, vs. 6, 7.

1.  His being, in the form of God.

In our post on “The Third Genealogy,” we noted that nowhere does the Bible speak of Jesus “becoming” or being “created” as God, or a God.  John said that as the Word, “Jesus” being His human name, He was, or, existed as, God.

To us, the word form carries the idea of “shape.”  However, to the Greek mind, the word carried the idea of nature or character.  In agreement with John, Paul was saying that the Word was Deity, was God.

2.  His thinking, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God.

Though there is discussion among scholars about the meaning of the words translated, “consider it robbery,” it seems to me that the best meaning is that He didn’t think equality with the Father was something to be selfishly held on to.  We’ll return to this thought in a moment.

3.  His action, made Himself of no reputation.

Scripture teaches that there was a group of people who would otherwise have been lost who were chosen by the Father, Who gave them to the Son.  Jesus called them “His sheep.”  However, since these people are by nature the children of wrath, Ephesians 2:3, something had to be done about their sin and their sinfulness.

Jesus agreed to come into this world as the Redeemer and Representative of His people, “His sheep,” Matthew 1:21.  He was their “Shepherd.”  However, He didn’t come with glory and honor, such as He had in Heaven with the Father, and which He could rightfully have claimed.  He didn’t “hold on to” the honor He had as God.  He didn’t come as a “personality” with a huge following, like some in the Church today.  He was born into an ordinary family in an obscure village in a part of Israel that was looked down on.  He spent 90% of His life unknown and even when He began His ministry, it was to ordinary people, the rulers and leaders wanting nothing to do with Him.  Indeed, it was they who ultimately demanded His death.

He didn’t just “think about” doing something.  He went ahead and did it.

The phrase could be translated, “He emptied Himself,” and there is discussion about what this means.  Some teach that He emptied Himself of His deity, that as Man He ceased to be God.  That isn’t what the term means at all.  We’ll come back here in a minute.

Jesus as Man, vs. 7, 8.

When Paul wrote that Jesus took on the form of a bondservant and the likeness of men, he wasn’t saying that Jesus just “looked” like a man.  He was emphasizing that Jesus was really and truly human.  As human as you or me, without the sin which plagues us.  Though we speak of “the virgin birth,” it was His conception which was miraculous.  Once conceived in the womb of Mary by the power of the Holy Spirit, though, He developed like any other baby.  Like any other baby, He was born into this world, where He grew and developed as a baby, a toddler, a child, a teenager (though that is a recent concept), and then as an adult.  Indeed, in His culture, once He reached adolescence, He would pretty much have been considered an adult.

It’s difficult to visualize the Creator of the Universe as having to learn how to walk,

This is where all the questions come in about the so-called limitations of Jesus.  As a human being, He didn’t have the infinite capabilities that He had as God.  It is this He divested Himself of, His divine glory and the independent exercise of His divine power, though there are still glimpses of them.  He turned water into wine, walked on water, stilled storms, healed the sick, raised the dead.  These aren’t ordinarily human activities.  Though Man, He did not cease to be God.

As for those who say that He never claimed to be God, those who heard His statement in John 8:58, “Before Abraham was, I AM, clearly understood that’s what He was saying, that He was Jehovah.  That’s why they tried to kill Him – and why they couldn’t.  See also John 5:18; 10:33.

Even though Jesus was, and is, God, He had a human mind and mere human abilities.  This is why, though as God He is omniscient, there were things He didn’t “know.”  It wasn’t because He wasn’t God, but because He was also Man.  As God, He is omnipotent.  As a Man, He got tired and hungry.  As God, He is omnipresent, being here and there.  As a man, He had to walk from here to there.

In addition, Paul wrote that Jesus was born under the Law, Galatians 4:4.  As such, He was responsible to live by its demands.  This would include acknowledging the Father as His God just like any other Jewish person.  This is why, when talking to Mary Magdalene about His ascension, He could say that He was going to “My God and your God,”  John 20:17.  Notice, however, He didn’t say, “our God.”  There was still a distinction.

As a Jewish man under the Law, He would have been subject to the Father.  It was because of this that He could say that the Father was greater than He.  It has nothing to do with some “inferiority” on His part, but has everything to do with the relationship He had with the Father at that time.  It had nothing to do with His not being God, but everything to do with His being human.  In addition, He had come to do the Father’s will, John 5:26 and many other verses.  He had come as the Servant of Jehovah, Isaiah 42:1-4.  As such, He was  obedient….

As the ultimate evidence of His humanity, He died.  God cannot die.  This is why the Word had to take on Himself true humanity, so that, as “Jesus,” He could die.  But He didn’t die easily, in glory and honor, with a morphine drip, as terminal patients do today.  He even refused what relief was available back then, Matthew 27:34.  He died the most cruel death imaginable, a death even the Romans considered despicable, though they weren’t slow to use it.

In the words of Paul, He died even the death of the cross….

But, His story doesn’t end there.

Jesus as Lord, vs. 9-11.

As far as the world is concerned, Jesus has little, if any, relevance or significance.  He might as well still be dead.  Many believe that He still is.  Certainly, there is no government which honors Him or tries to live by His word.  Even “Christendom” has relegated Him to a secondary, or less, role.  In fact, many churches still have Him on the Cross.  Others have taken His place as Head of the Church or as who guides how it functions.

To many unbelievers, Jesus is little more than a cuss word.  Or a name to be mocked and ridiculed.  Many doubt that He really existed.  Sadly, even many professing Christians don’t give Him the honor He deserves, seeing Him only as a buddy, or “a Jewish carpenter.”  Views about Him are more likely to be from sentiment than they are from Scripture.

Scripture says that God raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His own right hand.  There is a lot of discussion about what this means, and the place of the Lord Jesus in the current scheme of things.  Arguments abound over the interpretation of Old Testament Scriptures which tell of a “kingdom” over which Messiah will reign.  It’s not the purpose of this post to get into all that.

It’s enough to say that there is coming a time when every single created being will bow before the Lord Jesus and confess that He is who He said He is. Every knee will bow before Him, and every tongue will confess that He is Lord.  There are those who believe that this means that everyone will eventually be saved.  Scripture teaches otherwise.  The atheist, the skeptic, the false religionist, the demon, all will be forced to bow before Him and acknowledge Him.  This bothers some people who are concerned about “free will,” but there is no “free will” in this, any more than in a criminal forced to acknowledge his sentence and enter prison.  And there will be no appeals from this court.

God WILL be glorified in this, His Son, this One despised and rejected of men.

Though one day, even the lost will have to admit that He is Lord, He is Lord, and He has willing subjects.

Are you one of them?

There’s really only one thing left to consider….

What do you think about Christ?  Matthew 22:42.
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(originally published, May 8, 2013.)  edited and additional material.

Jephthah and His Daughter.

Judges 11:29-40 is one of those puzzling episodes in Scripture, with skeptics wondering how Jephthah could do such an awful thing to his daughter, and believers trying to figure the story out, as well.

To start, we want to focus on the daughter.  Like the servant girl of Naaman’s wife, this young lady was a remarkable person.  She met her victorious dad with a dance of welcome.  She was glad to see him.

She may as well have plunged a dagger into her dad’s heart, even though, in her innocent joy, she had no idea what she was doing.  Regardless of what may have happened afterward, it’s clear what Dad thought when he saw her come to meet him….

He was devastated….

But our focus here is on the girl.

1.  She had a submissive spirit, v. 36, So she said to him, “My father, if you have given your word to the LORD, do to me according to what has gone out of your mouth, because the LORD has avenged you of your enemies,….”

This doesn’t mean that she was beaten into submission by her father, or that she struggled against the idea.  When she found out what was going on, she simply said, “Do it.”  We don’t know anything about such an attitude in our willful and insolent society, where parents are mocked and scoffed at by their children, and “children’s rights” have pretty much cancelled out parental rights – until the kid does something “society” doesn’t like, and then, watch out!

Granted, we live in a different time than Jephthah and his daughter did, but the subject of the fifth commandment is still valid today:  Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. ‘Honor your father and mother,’ which is the first commandment with promise: that it may be well with you and you may live long on the earth, Ephesians 6:1-3.

The idea of respect for parents has almost disappeared in our time.

But there was something else, and this is the main thing:

2.  She had spiritual perception, v. 36.  She recognized that it wasn’t about what our society would likely call an abusive father, but about a vow that her father had made to the Lord.  We don’t know anything about this in a culture where “a man’s  word” isn’t worth the paper it’s written on, and the saying is, “A contract [a vow] is made to be broken.”  When things get tough, people make promises to the Lord all the time, but how often, when things get better, do they follow through?

And it doesn’t matter if Jephthah’s vow was “rash” or “foolish,” as it’s often described.  Perhaps it was.  It was still binding.  Leviticus 30:2 says, If a man vows a vow to the LORD, or swears an oath to bind himself by some agreement, he shall not break his word; he shall do according to all that proceeds out of his mouth.”  And Deuteronomy 23:21, 23 says, “When you make a vow to the LORD your God, you shall not delay to pay it; for the LORD your God will surely require it of you, and it would be sin to you. … That which has gone from your lips you shall keep and perform, for you voluntarily vowed to the LORD your God what you have promised with your mouth.”  The key word there is “voluntary,” as Jephthath’s was.  V. 22 says, “But if you abstain from vowing, it shall not be sin to you.”

Who knows what was going through Jephthah’s mind before and as he was making this vow.  Perhaps he felt pressure because of his background.  Judges 11 tells us that he was unwelcome among his brothers, and they had disowned him.  He’d left home and became the head of a band of raiders, vs. 2, 3.  After a time, the Ammonites threatened war against Israel, and Israel’s leaders turned to him to lead Israel against them, vs. 4-11.  He wasn’t too thrilled with the idea, but after some haggling with them, he agreed.

Though Jephthah tried to reason with the king of the Ammonites, the king wouldn’t listen, but went ahead with his plan to attack Israel, vs. 12-28.

One thing I find very interesting is found in vs. 28, 29:  then the Spirit of the LORD came upon Jephthah, and…he advanced toward the people of Ammon.  And Jephthah made a vow to the LORD….  Granted, some time passed while he was moving toward the enemy, but he wasn’t just some wild-eyed revolutionary when he made his vow.  As I said, who knows what was going through his mind.  Perhaps just the heat of the moment….

Regardless, he was stuck.

Now the Law did have something to say about the redemption of a sacrifice.  In Leviticus 27:1-8, if the “vow” concerned a person, a certain monetary value was placed on him or her, depending on age.  They weren’t killed, as was an animal.  There were some other provisions in the Law, as well.  However, Leviticus 27:28 says, “Nevertheless no devoted offering that a man may devote to the LORD of all he has, whether man or beast…; every devoted offering is most holy to the LORD.” Whatever happened, the daughter had become “most holy to the LORD.”  Perhaps this is a key to understanding this episode.

There are those who harshly criticize Jephthah, believing that he went ahead and sacrificed his daughter on an altar.  Perhaps he did.  In v. 40, the phrase, “the daughters of Israel went four days each year to lament” her, could refer to her death. Another view, the one which I hold with others, is that she, as “most holy to the LORD,” was given over to perpetual virginity.  This is confirmed, possibly, by the fact that she requested 2 months to go with her girlfriends to lament her virginity.  She could never marry or have children.  To our society, this is no big deal, but back then, it was.

To be barren was almost worse than death, because a woman could never fulfill her destiny as a mother.  If this is the case, then “the daughters of Israel” came to lament her remaining single.  Again, to our society, no big deal.  “Virginity” isn’t considered all that important:  “it’s just sex.”  Indeed, such a view as hers can hardly be understood by the rampant feminism  and/or immorality of a “Fifty Shades of Grey” society.

For the father, either way, this meant the end of his family.  His daughter was his only child.  For something of the importance attached to this, see the post I did on the daughters of Zelophehad, or read their story in Numbers 27.  Indeed, even the sordid action of Lot’s daughters was prompted by the desire to keep their father’s line going, Genesis 19:32.

Jephthah is mentioned later in Scripture.  Samuel remembered him as one whom the LORD has sent to deliver Israel, 1 Samuel 12:11.  Hebrews 11:32 mentions him as one of the heroes of the faith.  It’s interesting that every one of the four men mentioned in that verse was very much less than perfect.

Perhaps Psalm 15:1, 4 gives us an answer.  In v. 1, the Psalmist asks a question, Lord, who may abide in Your tabernacle?  Who may dwell in Your holy hill?  The rest of the Psalm gives the answer.  V. 4 is relevant here:  He who swears to his own hurt and does not change.

I don’t really know for certain what happened between Jephthah and his daughter.  Maybe he stands as an object lesson not to be hasty in making promises we later might not want to keep.  Maybe he just stands as a testimony to being faithful to your word, regardless of what it might cost you. In any event, God doesn’t sugarcoat the records of our lives.  He doesn’t photoshop or airbrush the pictures of His people to make them look better than they are. He shows warts and all.

Whether this is a story of “warts” or not is a subject for a lot of discussion. Perhaps only the Judgment will finally clear it all up – along with a lot of other things.  In the meantime…

Glimpses in Genesis: The Flood, Genesis 4-9.

In Genesis 1-3, we saw that God created a perfect world, inhabited by two innocent people:  Adam and Eve.  We say “innocent”  because they had no knowledge of good or evil.  All they knew was what they had seen and experienced: a perfect world, ideally suited for them.  The sad record is that they didn’t appreciate what they had, didn’t understand what they had and so, listening to their enemy and the enemy of God, they decided to take things into their own hands, with catastrophic results to themselves and their posterity.  Chs. 4 and 5 shows us something of those results: murder and mortality.

Chapter 4 records the first murder, and chapter 5, I have labelled, “The Book of the Dead.”  Chapter 4 tells us that the first murder was over religion: the fact that God accepted Abel’s offering, but not Cain’s.  Even though there is no direct record of God telling anyone about sacrifices, it’s obvious that there was something given, which Abel obeyed and Cain did not.

As we get into the post for today, we come to another controversial section of Genesis.

The Flood, Genesis 6-9.

A lot of current wisdom says that this was just a “local” flood, magnified by the ignorance of the people of that time into something more than  it really was.  Is that true?  Or perhaps, as others have suggested, overzealous Christians have tried to make this portion say something that it doesn’t really say.  Is that true?

No, and, no.

A.  The Scripture is clear that this is more than just some local overflowing of a river.

1.  It was a judgment to destroy man, Genesis 6:7; to destroy all flesh, 6:13; everything on the earth shall die, 6:17; all flesh died that was upon the earth, 7:21; all in whose nostrils was the breath of life died, 7:22; He destroyed all living things which were on the face of the ground, both man and cattle…, 7:23; “…nor will I again destroy every living thing as I have done, 8:21; never again shall all flesh be cut off by the waters of a flood, 9:11; the waters shall never again become a flood to destroy all flesh, 9:15.

In these verses, we go from purpose to process to promise never again to flood the earth to destroy all flesh.  If this was just some local flood, then God lied, because we have floods frequently.  In fact, as I write these words. locales south, north and west of where I live are experiencing the annual flooding of rivers and streams, to say nothing of other areas.  It’s on every TV newscast.

It seems to me that the Holy Spirit, through Moses, is impressing on us that this isn’t just some “local” flood, catastrophic as those can be, but a flood which wiped out the world that had existed until then.

2.  The New Testament verifies a universal flood.  The Apostle Peter wrote, …the world that then existed perished,  being flooded with water, 2 Peter 3:6.  Read down through v. 13 if you think this “flood” was just some local event.

B.  This brings up the question, Why did God do this?

The first question to answer that question is, Who are the “sons of God”?  One popular response is that they were godly Sethites, descendants of Seth, Adam’s son.  The “daughter of men” are said to have been the descendants of Cain.  Intermarriage between these two different lines resulted in compromise, apostasy and sin.  Another view is that they were angels, cf. Job 1:6; 2:1, who cohabited with human women, resulting in monstrous offspring – both physically and spiritually.  Genesis 6:4 refers to giants in the earth in those days, …when the sons of God came in to the daughters of men, and they bore children to them.  A main objection to this view is found in Matthew 22:20, where the Lord referred to angels not marrying.  However, this remark concerned angels in heaven, and Jude 6 tells us that there were angels who left their original sphere of being,  It seems reasonable to me that he’s referring to these beings in Genesis 6.  Marriages between believers and unbelievers do not result in monstrous offspring, just normal human beings.

I hold to the second view.  I believe this was Satan’s attempt to corrupt the human race and by that to frustrate God’s promise of the coming Seed of the woman, who would defeat Satan.  It seems to me that this is further borne out by the description of Noah as a man who was perfect in his generations, that is, in his ancestry.  Ancestry has nothing to do with one’s being righteous, or “just”, which is how Noah is described spiritually.  Noah’s line was the only one that hadn’t been physically corrupted and altered by the unholy union of humans and demons, for that’s what the angels had become.

A universal flood had become necessary to destroy this corrupted humanity.

One argument against such a flood is the amount of water necessary to produce it.  It’s said that there’s not enough water on the planet to do that.  This assumes that conditions then were the same as they are today.

Another argument against the Flood is the idea of God destroying a whole population in judgment.  I’ve dealt more at length with this idea of “judgment” in the post: “Sticks”.

C.  Noah was given specific instructions as to how to escape this flood.

The ark is usually pictured as a boat or ship, like what we’re familiar with.  But it really was just a huge box, designed only to float on the water, not move through it.  It’s dimensions of 450′ by 75′ by 45′ indicate a very stable and seaworthy vessel, similar in size to a modern battleship.  By contrast, the Gilgamesh Epic, from which this and other parts of Genesis and the Old Testament are said to have come, portrays an unstable 180′ cube.

God gave the instructions – complete, clear instructions.  He didn’t ask for input from Noah.  He didn’t call for a committee to study the problem.  There was no “dialogue” with the people.  He just said, “Noah, here.  Build this.”  I think there might be a lot to learn from this.

I wonder what the citizenry thought of this endeavor.  The NT portrays Noah as a “preacher of righteousness,” 2 Peter 2:5.  Some have taken this to mean that Noah went around trying to get people “saved.”  That may be, however, I expect the preparations for this giant undertaking would have given Noah plenty of opportunity to witness.  There would have been the gathering of a LOT of trees to make lumber, there probably being no Home Depots nearby.  Then the structure itself began to appear.  Lot of opportunity to witness.

I wonder what the “science” of that day might have said.  I know I’m projecting what happens today into the story, but I can’t help wondering.  Were there people who said, “What are you talking about, Noah?  What’s rain?”  Genesis 2:6 indicates there was no rain yet, but atmospheric conditions – “mist” (possibly in the early morning) – kept things watered.  I can hear the rationalists and skeptics arguing, “Noah, where’s your tangible, verifiable proof of this?  It doesn’t rain.  It’s never rained.  It’s not going to rain.  Rain is scientifically impossible.”

I expect, after a while, after the novelty wore off and the weather continued to be perfect, that people kind of got used to what was going on over there with that crazy old coot, Noah, and just ignored him.  Life went on.  In Luke 17:27, our Lord described those days, They ate, they drank, they married wives, they were given in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and the flood came and destroyed them all.

D. “…The flood came and destroyed them all,” Luke 17:27.

It took a long time to build the Ark.  From Genesis 6:3, people have believed that it took 120 years to complete the Ark.  That may be, except that Genesis 11:10 says that Shem was 100 years old two years after the Flood..  So we don’t know for sure, just that it took a long time.  But the time eventually came to an end, and the Flood came.

Some have pictured it like a rain, suddenly dotting the landscape with wet spots, with people jumping aside as the drops hit them, and then the rain coming in a deluge – flood waters rising, people scrambling desperately to find higher ground and safety, banging on the door of the Ark begging to be let in.  That, too, may be, but Genesis 7:10-11 says, And it came to pass after seven days [after Noah and his family and the animals had entered the Ark] that the waters of the flood were on the earth.   …on that day all the fountains of the great deep were broken up, and the windows of heaven were opened.  That sounds to me like one day, everything was dry, and then it wasn’t.  It was overwhelmed with water, although it did also rain for forty days and nights.  The point is, the Flood came, like God promised, and only eight people out of a planet’s population survived.

There’s a lot more we could say about various parts of this event, but we’ve already written over 1500 words.  So let’s just finish with this:

E. Only those in the Ark were spared.

The Ark is a foreshadowing of the Lord Jesus Christ.  Only those who are “in Him” are saved.  All humanity, even Noah and his family, went through the Flood!  There was no salvation in the water – which some see as a type of baptism! – only in the Ark.  Those “in the water” perished.  There is no salvation in baptism!  No “entering the kingdom”.  The Flood was a tool to destroy mankind, as we saw earlier, not a means to save it!  The Flood “fell” on the Ark; judgment fell on the Lord Jesus.  ALL in Him are save! and they alone!  Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, Acts 16:31.