“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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Revelation 2:18, The Christ and City of Thyatira.

“And to the angel of the church in Thyatira, write, ‘The things says the Son of God, who has eyes like a flame of fire, and His feet like fine brass….’ 

Once again, we’ve had to divide our thoughts into separate posts.

1. The City of the Epistle.

Thyatira was located in a valley linking two other valleys.  Because it had no natural fortification and was wide open to attack, a garrison was usually stationed there.  This defended the town, but had the added benefit in that it guarded the road into Pergamos, the capital of the province.

Because of its favorable location on the route between Pergamos and Sardis, Thyatira soon became a prosperous commercial center.  Many trade-guilds are known to have existed there.  One of her merchants is even mentioned in Scripture:  Lydia, a seller of purple, Acts 16:14.  What’s noted about her, though, isn’t her commerce, but her conversion.  She is described as one whose heart the Lord opened to hear the things spoken by Paul.  There’s so much I could say about this in these days of the widespread belief that God is impotent or at least unable to act until we give Him permission.  That is not the God of Scripture.

Membership in the appropriate guild was essential to a tradesman and his business and social life was severely impacted if he refused to join.  But each guild had its own “god” and membership implied worship of that god.  Moreover, the periodic feasts of the guild, beside honoring their god, deteriorated into drunken orgies.  Perhaps this was one of the main problems facing the church there.

Although Thyatira was the smallest of the seven cities, its letter is the longest.

If we follow the idea that each church foreshadows an era of church history, then Thyatira represents that time between 500 and 1500 AD, when Romanism was savagely predominant.  I use the word “savagely” intentionally, in view of the rivers of blood Rome shed of those who refused to join with her.   The name, Thyatira, is particularly significant, made up as it is of two words which can be interpreted as meaning “a continual sacrifice.”  The continual offering of the Mass – the so-called “unbloody sacrifice” of the Lord Jesus – is the central blasphemy of Romanism.  The partaking of communion was never intended by our Lord to be a continuation of His sacrifice or a repetition of it.  It was never meant to be some sort of “magic potion” bringing “grace” to those who partake of it.  He Himself said it was to be a reminder of Him.  In 1 Corinthians 11:25, He told the disciples, This do, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.”   It’s a memorial to His life and death.  Perhaps it’s significant that our Lord said this in the part of Communion involved in the drinking of the fruit of the vine, which is withheld from the communicant in Rome’s version.  The fruit of the vine represents His blood, without which there is no salvation.

This brings us to our next thought.

2. The Christ of the Epistle, v. 18.

This is important.  In this day of “pluralism” and “diversity,” it’s vital to remember that our Lord taught that there’s only one way of salvation and that’s through Him.  All roads do not lead to heaven.  He Himself said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through Me,” John 14:6.  And not just the “Jesus” of a lot of modern thought, who was only a good man or a prophet or whose death was accidental or a mistake, or who is even, as some now teach, only a figment of the imagination.

There’s only salvation in a Christ Who is God, Who deliberately set aside His glory as God, deliberately came into this world through means of a virgin, deliberately lived a perfect life, deliberately died a horrible death, deliberately and willingly suffered the justice of God against sin, deliberately rose again from the dead and Who, one day, will deliberately return to this world.  There was nothing accidental or unintentional in a single thing that He ever did.  This is the Christ who saves, and He alone.

The Son of God.  This is the only place in these epistles where the Lord Jesus is so named.  Perhaps, in the wisdom of God, this is to warn people not to be deluded into thinking of Him merely as the Son of Mary.  Perhaps there’s something to be learned from her last recorded words in Scripture.  She had attempted to get Him to do something, perhaps just being a mother and not really thinking about it.  He told her that it wasn’t yet time for Him to be subject to man’s will.  Her response?  His mother said to the servants, “Whatever He says to you, do it,” John 2:5, emphasis added.  That’s still good advice.  There’s nothing more she can say or do.

Eyes like a Flame of Fire.

– to uncover and destroy works of error and apostasy.

We’ve almost completely lost sight of this facet of our Lord’s being and of His Father’s.  We seem to have this idea of God as this beneficent-type grandfather who winks and chuckles at the foibles of His wayward grandchildren.  We seem to think that it doesn’t really matter what He says in His Word, if it is His Word.  Academics argue and quibble over this and that, but they never seem actually to read what He says.  From a misunderstanding of Revelation 3:20, we picture our Lord as being on the outside and wanting us to let Him in so badly.  One preacher even went so far as to call Him “the Christ of the bloody knuckles”!  This is not the Christ of Scripture!

God is indeed very long-suffering and patient.  For that, I am very thankful.  If He were not, we’d all be in Hell, where we belong.  But one of these days, as Rolfe Barnard, a great preacher of another generation, put it, one of these days we’re going to run into the end of that patience and we’ll reap what we’ve sown.  I think we’re getting there.  Look at the headlines, the lead stories on TV, the sorry condition of the major candidates running for the highest office in our land.

When the Lord comes back, He’s not going to be “gentle Jesus, meek and mild.”  He’s not going to suffer the humiliation and rejection He did the first time. Scripture describes that time when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with His mighty angels, in flaming fire taking vengeance on those who do not know God, and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.  And Zechariah 14:9-21 gives us something of the nature and character of His reign on this earth when He gets here.

That’s a picture of our Lord that the church needs today.  He has no time for diversity and “tolerance,” especially of sin or error.  He doesn’t celebrate “inclusiveness,” at least not as it’s practiced today.  The Gospel is indeed “inclusive” in that there is no one to whom it isn’t addressed, or who does not need to heed and obey it.  But there is no such thing as “religious freedom” in Scripture – that we can take it or leave it, or twist it around to suit ourselves.

I’ve heard people say what the Scripture “means to them.”  The problem is, we need to understand what it means to God.  What does He mean?  Not what do the “notes” say it means.  Not what the preacher on TV says it means.  What it says it means.  These other things may or may not be useful.  We need to read and study the Scriptures themselves, not just read about them.  Not everybody is on the road to heaven.  Our Lord indicated that most people are on the other road, Matthew 7:13, that broad way that leads to destruction.

His feet like fine brass.

Revelation 19:15 says, He Himself treads the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God.

The Old Testament describes something of this:  Isaiah 63:1-6; Zechariah 14:1-3, 12-15.  The world may gather its armies together in one last desperate attempt to destroy Israel, and they may seem to be successful, but the Lord will come back and that will be that.  The world will finally see something of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God.

Satan will no longer, and not much longer, we pray, be the god of this world. 

Even so, come, Lord Jesus.  Amen.

Revelation 1:17-20, Encouragement

And when I saw Him, I fell at His feet as dead.  But He laid His right hand on me, saying to me, “Do not be afraid; I am the First and the Last.  I am He who lives, and was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore.  Amen.  And I have the keys of Hades and Death.  Write the things which you have seen, and the things which are, and the things which will take place after this.  The mystery of the seven stars which you saw in My hand, and the seven gold lampstands:  The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches, and the seven lampstands which you saw are the seven churches.”  (NKJV)

Isn’t it interesting, in Scripture, when people see the Lord or a demonstration of His power, they don’t get all excited and jump up and down.  They’re more likely to fall down, in fear and awe, in amazement and wonder.

As one example, Isaiah saw the Lord, high and lifted up, Isaiah 6:1.  His response?  “Woe is me, for I am undone!  Because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the king, the LORD of hosts,” v. 5.

We’re not given an example of what Isaiah meant by “unclean lips.”  Because of the “fame” of Uzziah, 2 Chronicles 26:15, as a result of the things listed in that chapter, it could be that the people were lamenting his passing and saying, “What shall we do?  Uzziah is dead.  How can we replace him?”  It could be that in the midst of this mourning and depression, Isaiah saw the LORD, reminding him that even though Uzziah might be dead, God was not.

This is pretty much the thrust of our text in Revelation.  Now though no  one was dead, John was in dire straits.  But the Lord whom he served, and on account of whose word he was in exile, v. 9, was very much alive and in charge.

Who is this One whom John saw?

Hear His own testimony.

“I am the First and the Last.”

Someone else had already said that.

Isaiah 41:4, “Who has performed and done it, calling the generations from the beginning?  I, the LORD, am the first; and with the last, I am He.”

Isaiah 44:6, “Thus says the LORD, the King of Israel, and his Redeemer, the LORD of hosts:  ‘I am the First and I am the Last; beside Me there is no God’.”

Isaiah 48:12, “Listen to Me, O Jacob, and Israel, My called:  I am He, I am the First, I am also the Last.”

These three verses quote God speaking to Israel, telling them that He was First and Last.

In Revelation, Jesus applies this title to Himself.

He says, “I am the First and the Last.”

The original language is stronger: “I, I am the First and the Last.”  As it were, He underlines the statement.  He had already called Himself, “the Almighty,” v. 8.  Jehovah’s Witnesses claim that Jesus is never called, “Almighty.”  According to them, He’s only ever called “Mighty God,” as in Isaiah 9:6.  I don’t really see how this helps them.  What kind of God is Jesus?  And, then, how many “gods” are there, after all, if He is only a “mighty God” and not “Almighty”?

Was He deluded?

Deranged?

Deceived?

If He was any of these three, – if He is not God – then, in truth, He is no better than any of the founders of other religions.  In fact, He might be worse; I don’t know that any of them actually claimed to be God.

If He is not God, then He was guilty of blasphemy and the Jews were right to want Him dead.

There are those who say that Jesus never claimed to be God, that such an idea was tacked on later by Christians.  That is not true.  The Jews who heard Him in John 8:58 clearly understood His claim.  That’s why they tried to kill Him, v. 59 – and why they couldn’t.  Indeed, that was the real reason He was crucified, John 19:7; Matthew 27:39-43.

Our Lord’s comment to John was “do not be afraid.”  And throughout the rest of the book, with all the judgments, all the terrible things, that John saw, we don’t read that he “feared” again.  His Lord was alive.

This is the crux of the matter.  Resurrection was the “sign” that the Jews would be given that Jesus was who He claimed to be, Matthew 12:39, 40; 16:4; Luke 11:29.  Matthew’s accounts follow two notable miracles, the healing of the demon-possessed deaf mute and the feeding of the four thousand (men only.  There were likely several thousand there, counting women and children).  Luke’s account gives our Lord’s denunciation of the Jewish leaders for their refusal to recognize Him and their demanding of “signs” – in the face of the signs they saw!

As far as the world is mostly concerned, Jesus is still dead, or might as well be.  That is, if He even existed.

But the Cross is empty, and so is the tomb.  Christianity is the only “religion” of which that can be said.

The tomb is empty.

The One who lay in it says, “I am He who lives,” v. 18.  “I am the Living One.”

Now, He did die; He was dead.  Literally, He “became dead.”  There are those who blasphemously assert that He only fainted, or that there was some sort of a “Passover plot” in which the Lord faked His death.  But it’s hard to imagine that the disciples would suffer all that they endured following a Man who had appeared to them barely alive.

You see, we don’t know the first thing about a crucifixion.  We’ve cleaned it all up and sanitized it – made it “respectable”.  We wear a cross as pretty jewelry.  But there was nothing pretty about it, nothing “respectable.”  In the first place, condemned criminals were often scourged before and as part of their execution.  Our Lord was scourged, Matthew 27:26; Mark 15:15.  Again, we know nothing of such a thing.  We’re all concerned about “the rights” of the poor criminal, regardless of how violent he is or how many horrible crimes he’s committed.  We handle him with kid gloves.  There was no such insanity with Rome.  I’m not advocating harsh or unjust treatment of offenders, but perhaps less emphasis on them and more on their victims and what they did to them might be in order.

The Roman scourge was made of leather strips embedded with bits of bone.  At least one description of a scourging tells us that the flesh and muscles of the back were torn away and one could see ribs.  Some died because of it, never making it to a cross.  Then there was the crucifixion itself.  Crude spikes driven through wrists and ankles and the cross dropped into the hole made for it, jarring and tearing the already suffering body.

We know that Jesus actually died.  He “became dead.”  Pilate was astonished when Nicodemus came to ask for the body and sent a centurion to make sure that Jesus was really dead, Mark 15:44, 45.  Those crucified sometimes lingered for days; it had been only a few hours with Jesus.  The centurion wouldn’t have been a new recruit, but a hardened veteran, well-acquainted with what death looked like.  It would have been his life if he had been mistaken or lied about it.  In addition, there had been that spear driven into Jesus’ side, John 19:31-37.  This had been because the Jewish leaders wanted the executions to be completed before the Passover began.  What the soldiers saw with the spear satisfied them.  He was already dead.  There was no need to break His legs.

This is why Nicodemus wanted the body.

There was no doubt; He died.

He died, and….

…was buried, and that was the end of it?

That’s what the enemy wants us to think.

He was “dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore.”

Someone has commented that the “behold” should have come before the idea that such a One as Jesus could have died….

That’s why He came.

Sometimes you will hear someone say that God died for our sins.

While I understand what they’re saying, it isn’t true.

God cannot die.

This is the ultimate reason for the incarnation.  God doesn’t just “forgive” sin.  His justice and holiness require that sin be paid for.  An animal couldn’t do that, though its sacrifice looked ahead to that One who could.  An angel couldn’t do it.  There would be no correspondence between its death and the sin it was supposed to pay for.

Man sinned; man must die.

But “Man” is flawed, sinful, rejected.  He has no currency with which to pay that sin debt.

His death is the result of sin, not its remedy.

There isn’t a single individual born of the union of a man and woman whose life and death can do anything about sin.

This is why God sent His own son, born of a woman, in the likeness of sinful flesh to do something about sin, Romans 8:3; Galatians 4:4.  There is no Biblical basis for the idea that Mary herself was sinless or had been conceived without sin; she herself admits her need of a Savior, Luke 1:47.  Why would she “rejoice in God my Savior” if she were without sin herself?  She wouldn’t need a Savior.

It was necessary to Jesus be born of a human mother in order to be fully human, but without a human father in order to be completely sinless.  It was also necessary that His conception be of the Holy Spirit, Matthew 1:20; Luke 1:35, in order that He be fully God.

But not only is Jesus “alive”; He is alive forevermore, v. 18.  Paul put it like this, Christ, having been raised from the dead, dies no more.  Death no longer has dominion over Him, Romans 6:9.

On the contrary, Jesus says that He has dominion over death:  I have the keys of Hades and Death,” Revelation 1:18, emphasis added.

I think it can be said that we live in “perilous times.”  I don’t know what’s going to happen in and to this country.  I’m afraid the country of my youth is irretrievably gone.  Regardless of who wins in November, January will usher in new and uncharted territory.

It doesn’t really matter.

Democrats and Republicans don’t hold the keys to the future, to death.  My Lord holds them.  Only when He returns to this earth will things be straightened out.

Even so, come, Lord Jesus.

 

I AM

On Easter, my wife and I attended our son-in-law’s church.  He was beginning a series on the “I AM” sayings of our Lord.  Because it was Easter, the message was about Jesus’s saying, “I am the resurrection and the life,” John 11:25.

Very appropriate.

His message inspired me to begin a similar series here on the blog.  However, I’m going to start with what I believe is the “I AM” that validates all the others and makes them true.  If it’s not true, then the others don’t matter.

That “I AM” is found in John 8:58.

John 8 records one of the frequent discussions our Lord had with the religious leaders of Israel.  This particular episode wound up with a heated exchange, at least on the part of the leaders, because Jesus seemed to be making light of their descent from Abraham, v.33-59.  This was something that was very precious to them.

We see this in Matthew 3:9, where John the Baptist told those who were coming to his baptism not to count on their descent from Abraham.  He said to them, “…do not think to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’  For I say to you that God is able to raise up children to Abraham from these stones.”

The climax of the discussion in John 8 is in v. 58, where Jesus exclaimed, “Before Abraham was, I AM.”

There are those who say that Jesus never claimed to be God.  However, those Jews who heard Him on that long ago day recognized what Jesus was saying.  No doubt, the verse we know as Exodus 3:14 came to their minds, where Moses was questioning God about being sent to Egypt to bring out the nation of Israel.  He finally asked God who he was to say had sent him.  God replied, “‘I AM WHO I AM.’  And He said. ‘Thus you shall say to the children of Israel, ‘I AM has sent me to you’.”

The Jews recognized that that was precisely, exactly, what Jesus was claiming:  that He was God.

He was I AM.

In John 8:59, that’s why they tried to stone Him – and why they couldn’t.

But that’s not the only time or the first time Jesus and the Jews crossed swords, as it were, over Who He was.

John 5:18 is the first record we have of such a discussion.  One of the things that really irked the Pharisees was that the Lord Jesus would not pay any attention to their views of how the Sabbath was to be observed.  I’m sure that Jesus healed and ministered to people every day of the week, but John seems especially to pick out things Jesus did on the Sabbath.

John 5 is the record of the man healed after 38 years of lying helpless.  Unlike modern “healers,” our Lord made no spectacle of His healing.  He had no advertising, sought no crowds, allowed no fanfare, but did His work and, in this case, was gone.  The man who was healed didn’t even know who Jesus was until Jesus found him later.

As this man was carrying the pallet on which he had lain for so many years, “the Jews,” probably the Pharisees, stopped him because he was “working” on the Sabbath.  They seemed unimpressed and uninterested in the man’s healing, but were focused on what they considered an infraction of the Sabbath.

John 5 seems to occur very early in the Lord’s ministry.  The Pharisees confronted Him about His own “working” on the Sabbath.  In fact, v. 6 says that they wanted to kill Him for doing so.  In v. 17, Jesus responds, in effect, that God, His Father, had been working until now, and now it was His turn.

V. 18 shows the Jews’ response to this:  Therefore the Jews sought all the more to kill Him, because He not only broke the Sabbath, but said that God was His Father, making Himself equal with God. 

The Jews understood quite well what the Lord was saying.

He was God – and they tried to kill Him for it.

John 10:31-39 records yet another time when the Jews tried to kill Jesus for His claims.  Without going into all the details, our Lord asked the Jews why they were trying to kill Him.  They answered, “…for blasphemy,…because You being a Man make yourself God,”  v. 33.

Unlike His modern detractors, these Jews clearly understood that Jesus claimed to be God.

In fact, that ultimately was why He was crucified.

In John 19:7, which records part of the Jews’ skirmish with Pilate over what to do with Jesus, they said, “We have a law, and according to our law, He ought to die, because He made Himself the Son of God.”

That is, the Jews were saying to Pilate that Jesus didn’t just claim to be related to God, as believers might say that they are “the children of God,” but that He was God.

The God Who is the I AM.

As He hung on the Cross, the chief priests, along with the scribes and elders, mocked Jesus:  “He trusted in God; let Him deliver Him now if He will have Him, because He said, ‘I am the Son of God’,”  Matthew 27:43.

Perhaps you’ve seen that movie in which the Hulk confronts Loki.  Loki is outraged that the Hulk isn’t giving him the homage that he requires.  He shouts at the Hulk, “Enough!!  You cannot treat me like this!  I am god!”  Then he disappears from the screen.  The next thing you see, the Hulk has him by the heels and is slamming him into the roof of the building they’re on.  He does this a few times, then holds him up and looks at him.  Then he slams him a couple of more times, and leaves him crumpled on the roof.  As the Hulk stomps off, he mutters, “Puny god!”

Now I am in no way comparing the imagination and special effects of Hollywood with the reality and horror of the Crucifixion.  But our Lord’s enemies, in effect, were saying this of Jesus:  “Puny God.”

After all, though He had claimed to be God, yet here He was, hanging on a Cross.  To their way of thinking, that wasn’t how God would act!

How little they understood of what was going on!

There were some there, though, who did have an inkling of who the Lord was.

In Mark 15:39, after witnessing all that went on, and probably having seen other crucifixions as well as the crucifixion of the two men with Jesus, the centurion, who was possibly in charge of the crucifixion detail, said of Jesus, “Truly this Man was the Son of God!”

Then there was the repentant thief who called Him, “Lord,” Luke 23:42.

Luke 23:50-54 records Nicodemus coming to Pilate and asking for the body of Jesus.  We fail to realize the significance of what Nicodemus did.  We just see him asking for a body, but the truth of the matter is far different.  It was Passover time and those who had been ceremonially defiled by touching a dead body were forbidden to take part in the Passover.  To knowingly defile oneself was even worse, Numbers 9:6-14, esp. v. 13.  In effect, because Nicodemus – as well as Joseph of Arimathea – knowingly touched the dead body of Jesus, he forever put himself under a curse if Jesus isn’t who He said He was.  It was all or nothing as far as Nicodemus was concerned.

Then there’s John 1:1, In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  Not “a god,” as false cultists and others teach, but God.

The “I AM” of the Old Testament.

Finally, Paul in Philippians 2:5-11, taught that Christ did not think it robbery to be equal with God.  The word translated “robbery” could be translated “selfishly clung to.” This doesn’t mean that Jesus thought equality with God was something to be grabbed, as it were, as cultists teach, as if it weren’t already His, but that it wasn’t something to be held on to.  That is, the Word laid aside His dignity and rights as God to come to this earth to die as Man.

It is clear that the New Testament over and over testifies to the deity of the Lord Jesus as well as to His humanity.

If He wasn’t, and isn’t, God, then nothing else about Him matters.

 

Voices of Christmas: The Place

But you, Bethlehem Ephratah, though you are little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of you shall come forth to Me the One to be Ruler in Israel, whose goings forth are from old, from everlasting, Micah 5:2.

Oh, there is so much here!  Thousands and thousands of words would be needed to even begin to touch the hem of the garment on this verse.  As it turns out, we’ll only have 716.

The place where our Lord chose to be born – yes, He did! – was not a large city, not Jerusalem, not Rome or some other notable city.  He chose to be born in a tiny, obscure village, in a relatively small nation, among a people who were, and are, hated and despised:  the Jews.   This speaks to what Paul wrote years later in Philippians 2:7, He made Himself of no reputation. 

Israel has never shaped the affairs of this world in the way other nations have.  We read of no “Jewish Empire” that spanned the globe, like the Roman Empire or the British Empire.  Israel has never been a militaristic nation, never been intent on acquiring land other than that promised to her.  Yet she has shaped the affairs of this world, and will shape them, more than all the nations put together – because of this One born in her midst.

Who was He?  What did He do?  What will He do?

Does it matter?

One way or another, all these questions are answered in Micah 5:2.

He was one whose goings forth are from of old, from everlasting.  In the words of John 1:1, In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  This was to be no mere human child, conceived out of wedlock and a nice story invented to make the best out of a bad situation.  This One was God incarnate, Creator and Sustainer of the universe, yet to come into humanity a helpless Babe. Though He was conceived in the virgin womb of Mary by the Holy Spirit, He was dependent entirely on the care and protection of Mary, His mother, and Joseph, His foster-father.  Who can understand such things?

Yet out of you shall come forth to Me….  This phrase covers all of our Lord’s earthly life, from His birth to His Ascension.  Micah doesn’t tell us in this verse what all was involved in that life, but he does in v. 1, They will strike the judge of Israel with a rod on the cheek.  This is a prophecy of the abuse our Lord was to suffer before His crucifixion.  But He didn’t just die and His body left to molder in some unmarked grave like a common criminal.  He was to come forth to God, which He did at His Ascension.

Yes, but is He going to do anything?  Or is He done?

Micah answers that as well, the One to be ruler in Israel….

I know there is a lot of discussion about what this phrase “ruler in Israel” and verses which talk about “the Kingdom” really mean.  After reading the entire Bible more than 50 times, and the New Testament an additional 25 or more times, (I’ve quit counting.  The numbers are meaningless,) I can say that I’m simple enough to believe what it says in prophets, like Micah:  that there is coming a time when there will be an actual, literal, earthly kingdom of God centered in Jerusalem.  I know these adjectives call forth a lot of scorn and derision on the part of those who believe it’s all going to be fulfilled in some kind of “spiritual” kingdom.  I can’t help that. If God didn’t mean what He said, then why didn’t He say what He means?   Our Lord will yet be Ruler in Israel.

Our Lord will yet be glorified in that very place where He was vilified and crucified.  And I tell you, a thousand years, Revelation 19 and 20, isn’t nearly long enough to make up for the murder of the incarnate God.  God, of course, cannot die Himself.  That’s why the Word had to become flesh, John 1:14.

To live.

To die.

To rise again.

To return to this earth, to take His rightful place, not as a babe for whom there was, and is, “no room,” but as its Lord and God. 

Yes, it matters!

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!