“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.

Revelation 18-19:10, It’s All About Perspective.


1] After these things I saw another angel coming down from heaven, having great authority, and the earth was illuminated with his glory.  2] And he cried mightily with a loud voice, saying, “Babylon the great is fallen, is fallen, and has become a dwelling place for demons, a prison for every foul spirit, and a cage for every unclean and hated bird!  3] For all nations have drunk of the wine of the wrath of her fornication, the kings of the earth have committed fornication with her, and the merchants of the earth have become rich through the abundance of her luxury.”

4] And I heard another voice from heaven saying, “Come out of her, my people, lest you share in her sins, and lest you receive of her plagues.  5] For her sins have reached to heaven, and God has remembered her iniquities.  6] Render to her just as she rendered to you, and repay her double according to her works; in the cup which she has mixed, mix double for her.  7] In the measure that she glorified herself and lived luxuriously, in the same measure give her torment will and sorrow; for she says in her heart, ‘I sit as queen, and am no widow, and not see sorrow.’  8] Therefore her plagues will come in one day – death and mourning and famine.  And she will be utterly burned with fire, for strong is the Lord God who judges her.

9] “The kings of the earth who committed fornication and lived luxuriously with her will weep and lament for her, when they see the smoke of her burning, 10] standing at a distance for fear of her torment, saying, ‘Alas, alas, that great city Babylon, that mighty city!  For in one hour your judgment has come.’

11]  “And the merchants of the earth will weep and mourn over her, for no one buys their merchandise anymore:  12] merchandise of gold and silver, precious stones and pearls, silk and scarlet, every kind of citron wood, every kind of object of ivory, every kind of object of most precious wood, bronze, iron, and marble; 13] and cinnamon and incense, fragrant oil and frankincense, wine and oil, fine flour and wheat, cattle, sheep, horses and chariots, and bodies and souls of men.  14] The fruit that your soul longed for has gone from you, and all that things which are rich and splendid have gone from you, and you shall find them no more at all.  15] The merchants of these things, who became rich by her, will stand at a distance for fear of her torment, weeping and wailing, 16] and saying, ‘Alas, alas, that great city that was clothed in fine linen, purple, and scarlet, and adorned with gold and precious stones and pearls!  17] For in one hour such great riches came to nothing.’  Every shipmaster, all who travel by ship, sailors, and as many as trade on the sea, stood at a distance 18] and cried out when they saw the smoke of her burning, saying, ‘What is like this great city?’

19] “They threw dust on their heads and cried out, weeping and wailing, and saying, ‘Alas, alas, that great city, in which all who had ships on the sea became rich by her wealth!  For in one hour she is made desolate.’

20] “Rejoice over her, O heaven, and you holy apostles and prophets, for God has avenged you on her!”

21] Then a mighty angel took up a stone like a great millstone and threw it into the sea, saying, “Thus with violence the great city Babylon shall be thrown down, and shall not be found anymore.  22] The sound of harpists, musicians, flutists, and trumpeters shall not be heard in you anymore.  No craftsman of any craft shall be found in you anymore, and the sound of a millstone shall not be heard in you anymore.  23]  The light of a lamp shall not shine in you anymore, and the voice of bridegroom and bride shall not be heard in you anymore.  For your merchants were the great men of the earth, for by your sorcery all the nations were deceived.  24] And in her was found the blood of prophets and saints, and of all who were slain on the earth.” 

19:1 After these things I heard a loud voice of a great multitude in heaven, saying, “Alleluia!  Salvation and glory and honor and power belong to the Lord our God!  2] For true and righteous are His judgments, because He has judged the great harlot who corrupted the earth with her fornication; and He has avenged on her the blood of His servants shed by her.”  3] Again they said, “Alleluia!  Her smoke rises up forever and ever!”  4]  And the twenty-four elders and the four living creatures fell down and worshiped God who sat on the throne, saying, “Amen!  Alleluia!”  5] Then a voice came form the throne, saying, “Praise our God, all you His servants and those who fear Him, both small and great!”

6] And I heard, as it were, the voice of a great multitude, as the sound of many waters and as the sound of mighty thunderings, saying, “Alleluia!  For the Lord God Onmipotent reigns!  7]  Let us be glad and rejoice and give Him glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and His wife has made herself ready.”  8]  And to her it was granted to be arrayed in fine linen, clean and bright, for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints. 

9] Then He said to me, “Write:  ‘Blessed are those who are called to the marriage supper of the Lamb!”  And he said to me, “These are the true sayings of God.”  10] And I fell at his feet to worship him.  But he said to me, “See that you do not do that!  I am your fellow servant, and of your brethren who have the testimony of Jesus.  Worship God!  For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.”  

This might seem a strange title, but I think it’s borne out by the text we printed above, which has several different viewpoints in it.  In verse 7, the woman says, “I sit as a queen and will see no sorrow.”  When she’s judged, the kings of the earth weep and lament for her, v. 9.  The merchants of the earth, who’ve been made rich by her – how much do you suppose it would cost to rebuild the Vatican? – lament at the blow to their bottom line.  Read the list of things they no longer will be able to sell her.  Most of them are luxuries.  Expensive.  The maritime world, with all its enormous cargo ships holding hundreds of shipping containers, is also devastated, v. 19.

The reaction in heaven?

“Rejoice over her…, v. 20.

The point is, we live in a time when there are no absolutes.  There is no “objective reality.”  For example, a biological man or woman can say they’re the other, and it is so – at least as far as the world is concerned, regardless of what they are genetically.  Indeed, reality has become simply a subjective idea.  It is what you or I think it is.  We have become the Creator.  And the idea that God might have something to  say about anything is as far removed from most people’s thinking as the far side of the moon.

This was the hook Satan caught Adam and Eve with – “you will be like God, knowing good and evil,” Genesis 3:5.

“You don’t need God.  You can decide for yourself what is good or evil.”

How has that worked out?

There are so many applications that could be made here, but we’ll leave it to the Holy Spirit in this case.

What does God say?

It matters.

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.

 

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.”

Hebrews 2:1, God Has Magnified His Word….

The reference behind this post’s title is Psalm 138:2, where the Psalmist said, “I will worship toward Your holy temple, and praise Your name for Your lovingkindness and Your truth; for You have magnified Your word above all Your name.” (NKJV)

We are inundated with sermons and cards and fb posts which emphasize God’s love, but we don’t hear nearly as much about God’s truth.  Yet here the Psalmist joins them together:  God’s love and God’s Word.  And he makes an astonishing statement, that God holds His Word in greater honor even than His own name.

That’s something to think about.  We live in a time when God’s name isn’t very highly thought of.  We’ve even abbreviated things because of the limitations of texting and such.  You ever see the letters “OMG”?  We think little of God’s name, and I’m afraid we think little of His Word, as well.  We shouldn’t.

God has a great deal to say about His Word, those who proclaim it, and those who hear it.  In this post, we’ll only look at a sampling of what He says.  All quotes are from the NKJV.

Deuteronomy 18:9-22:

9]When you come into the land which the LORD your God is giving you, you shall not learn to follow the abominations of those nations.  10]There shall not be found among you anyone who makes his son or daughter pass through the fire, or one who practices witchcraft, or a soothsayer, or one who interprets omens, or a sorcerer, 11]or one who conjures spells, or a medium, or a spiritist, or one who calls up the dead.  12]For all who do these things are an abomination to the LORD, and because of these abominations the LORD your God drives them out from before you.  13]You shall be blameless before the LORD your God.  14] For these nations which you will dispossess listened to soothsayers and diviners; but as for you, the LORD your God has not appointed such for you.  15]The LORD your God will raise up for you a Prophet like me from your midst, from your brethren.  Him you shall hear, 16]according to all you desired of the LORD your God in Horeb in the day of the assembly, saying, ‘Let me not hear again the voice of the LORD my God, nor let me see this great fire anymore, lest I die.’  17]And the LORD said to me:  ‘What they have spoken is good.  18]I will raise up for them a Prophet like you from among their brethren, and will put My words in His mouth, and He shall speak to them all that I command Him.  19]And it shall be that whoever will not hear My words, which He speaks in My name, I will require it of him.  20]But the prophet who presumes to speak in My name, which I have not commanded him to speak, or who speaks in the name of other gods, that prophet shall die.’  21]And if you say in your heart, ‘How shall we know the word which the LORD had not spoken?’ – 22]when a prophet speaks in the name of the LORD, if the thing does not happen or come to pass, that is the thing which the LORD has not spoken; the prophet has spoken it presumptuously; you shall not be afraid of him.”

Deuteronomy 12:32-13:5:

32]“Whatever I command you, be careful to observe it; you shall not add to it nor take away from it.  1]If there arises a prophet or dreamer of dreams, and he gives you a sign or a wonder, 2]and the sign or wonder comes to pass, of which he spoke to you, saying, ‘Let us go after other gods’ – which you have not known – ‘and let us serve them,’  3] you shall not listen to the words of  that prophet or that dreamer of dreams, for the LORD your God is testing you to know whether you love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul.  4]You shall walk after the LORD your God and fear Him, and keep His commandments and obey His voice; you shall serve Him and hold fast to Him.  5]But that prophet or dreamer of dreams shall be put to death, because he has spoken in order to turn you away from the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt and redeemed you from the house of bondage, to entice you from the way in which the LORD your God commanded you to walk.  So you shall put away the evil from your midst.”

I’ve quoted such lengthy portions because we don’t usually take the time to look up references.  And it’s important to see or hear what God says, not just what a preacher or teacher, even me, says that He says.

In these portions, there are several things.

1. There are true spokesmen for God, 18:18.  It’s true that the main reference is to the Lord Jesus, John 1:45, but there are men who are called by God into the ministry.

2. We’re not to use “worldly” methods of worship or to seek guidance, 18:9-14.  God declares all such things to be “an abomination.”

3. There are men who speak in God’s name who do so falsely, 18:20.

4. How do we know which is which, v. 21?  God gives us two tests by which all teaching is to be measured.

a. The prophecy doesn’t happen, as given, v. 22.  We’ve mentioned this in other posts, so won’t dwell on it here, just to say that there’s no room for a “partial” fulfillment “literally,” and the rest fulfilled “spiritually.”  There may be a partial fulfillment in that the thing prophesied may have more than one “stage,” if you will, but it all has to come to pass eventually.

An example of this is the prophecy in Zechariah 9:9, 10:  9]“Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion!  Shout, O daughter of Jerusalem!  Behold, your King is coming to you; He is just and having salvation, lowly and riding on a donkey, a colt, the foal of a donkey.  10]I will cut off the chariot from Ephraim and the horse from Jerusalem; the battle bow shall be cut off.  He shall speak peace to the nations; His dominion shall be from sea to sea, and from the River to the ends of the earth.”  

In Matthew 21:1-11, we read of the “Triumphal Entry” of our Lord into Jerusalem.  The preparation for that entry, vs.1-6, sets the stage for the fulfillment of Zechariah 9:9, which is quoted in v. 5.  But that’s only half of what Zechariah prophesied.

According to Deuteronomy 18:22, the other half, v. 10, also has to come to pass.  As our Lord actually sat on a donkey and entered Jerusalem, so also must He actually have dominion…from sea to sea, and from the River to the ends of the earth.  Zechariah 14 describes this time further.  I think it’s safe to say that this hasn’t happened yet.  Our time and society certainly shows no evidence of it.  Not even “spiritually.”

But there’s another possibility:

b.  Suppose the prophecy or sign or wonder does happen.  Remember, when Moses confronted Pharaoh about releasing Israel from bondage, that Pharaoh’s men were able to duplicate the signs Moses did, at least for a while.  Some believe that they faked it, but I think that they actually were able to do those things.  Further, our Lord foretold of a time when men will show signs and wonders which, if it were possible, would deceive even the truly elect, Matthew 24:24; Mark 13:22.

What was Israel to do if that happened?  What are we to do?  Deuteronomy 13:1-5 tells us that any such thing must be in accord with the revealed Word of God.  It cannot be accepted as true if there is anything which goes against that Word.  While it’s true that Scripture wasn’t yet complete in the OT, in our time the Bible is a completed, objective standard by which everything is to be judged, not something to be received subjectively, that is, you have your belief and I have mine.  Nor is there further or private “revelation,” as some claim.  To the law and to the testimony!  If they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them, Isaiah 8:20.

You might also consider Jeremiah 2:8; 6:10, 6-19; ch. 23 to see how well or not Israel obeyed these instructions.

And one more,

2 Chronicles 18:10, 18,  22-23.

10]Now Zedekiah the son of Chenaanah had made horns of iron for himself; and he said, “Thus says the Lord; ‘With these you shall gore the Syrians until they are destroyed.'”…18]Then Micaiah said…  22]“Therefore look!  The LORD had put a lying spirit in the mouth of these prophets of yours, and the LORD has declared disaster against you.”  23]Then Zedekiah the son of Chenaanah went near and struck Micaiah on the cheek, and said, “Which way did the spirit from the LORD go from me to speak to you?”

This is a story of a confrontation between a false prophet and a prophet of God.  The thing is, the false prophet was fully convinced that he spoke for God and was greatly insulted at the idea that he didn’t.

It is true that “prophesying” doesn’t always have to do with foretelling the future.  Sometimes it just refers to “preaching,” with no element of prediction at all.

Many today, like Zedekiah of old, talk of “the spirit from the Lord”.  Now, we have no right or authority to kill false prophets, like Israel did.  Nevertheless, John warned us, Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world, 1 John 4:1.

Lord willing, we will have one more post on this, because…

God has magnified His Word.

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.
_______________

(originally published, May 8, 2013.)  edited and additional material.