Archive for the ‘Angels’ Category

CREATION’S EPIC LOVE

 

In re-reading the Creation epic of Genesis 1, I was rather surprised to see in it an intense and beautiful love story. I was more surprised that I hadn’t picked up on that sooner, as my view of the Godhead and Creation dovetailed quite well into that understanding.

That same understanding is emphasized throughout Scripture itself. 1 John 4:8 defines God as the very essence of love:

“He that does not love does not know God; for God is love.”

Scripture virtually pleads with us to apply that understanding to the relationship between the Father and the Holy Spirit.

With respect to Creation, I understand Scripture in the original to be inerrant and inspired of God as both Paul, in 2 Timothy 3 and Peter, in 2 Peter 1, have claimed. That means that I accept the Creation epic as truth, and its competing worldview, (macro)evolution, to be false. That clash with secular wisdom led me into a rather lengthy research of modern molecular biology which, in the end, more than justified my rejection of evolution on purely scientific grounds as itself being mythical in nature and not to be trusted.

With evolution out of the way, the Creation epic stood boldly as an account that deserved much reflection. From the many hours spent in consideration of Genesis 1, I eventually reached an understanding that not only reconciled a large number of ill-fitting odds and ends regarding the nature of the Godhead, but also managed to blow my mind with its simple, majestic elegance. I couldn’t have come up with the ideas myself, so I give credit where credit is due: to the Holy Spirit and the Wisdom She embodies. I have written of my vision of the Godhead before in numerous places, so here I will limit myself to a brief review of what was touched on in a previous chapter: the Godhead as I perceive it consists of three Divine Members, Father, Holy Spirit and Son, tightly united as a Divine Family, and each with different but complementary roles: the Father as the Divine Will, the Holy Spirit as the Divine Means, and the Son as the Divine Reality.

That view of the Godhead implies much about the relationship between gender and love as well as about the origin and function of the Trinity. There are many forms of love, as reflected in the several names for love in the Greek language: fileo, agape, eros. Of these differing forms, eros or gendered love is unique in its possessive nature. That quality of mutual ownership grants gendered love an intensity and passion of an altogether higher level than the other forms. Love of that nature is fervent.

The functional relationship involving Will, Means and Reality, where the functionally male Father, in marital union with the complementary functionally feminine Means, gave birth to the Reality, is an intrinsically gendered one. The intimacy involved in this functional relationship identifies gendered love as the driving force behind all of creation.

At its core, the nature of this functional relationship evokes the notion of complementary otherhood, where the other responds to initiation and in complementary harmony with it. The joyful execution of this teaming activity elevates love to beauty of the highest order. When it is performed in selflessness, it becomes noble as well.

If complementary otherhood is considered to be the essence of gender, virtually all of creation exhibits that characteristic. Even at the cellular level, as biologists have recently discovered, cell division involves the search for a complementary other. Below that level as well, a complete atom has matching numbers of protons and electrons; a mismatch of these causes the atom to search for balance.

The ubiquitous display of love in Creation verifies Paul’s words in Romans 1:19 and 20:

“Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God has shown it to them. For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse;”

It was with Adam and Eve that God brought gender and love together in the form that most closely matched that which exists within the Godhead. Had not the Fall of man occurred, man would have been free of the numerous perversions that produce debauchery in the place of love. Because of Jesus, man can look forward to a restoration of love to its original meaning.

It is fervor of this order that lies at the center of Moses’ Shema in Deuteronomy 6:4 and 5, connecting the oneness of God with love of a passionate nature:

“Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God is one Lord: and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might.”

Gendered love and its associated fervor is why Scripture describes the spiritual union between Jesus and His Church in terms of marriage, and why Jesus, in Matthew 22, repeats the commandment of Moses to love God with passion and labels it the greatest of commandments.

If we look beyond the level of the individual to the composite Church, we see that there is nothing in Scripture to suggest, as do many pastors both now and in the distant past, that this marriage is no more than a figure of speech connoting a relationship that in actuality lacks gender and its corresponding intensity. A profound joy of gendered love is implied by Jesus’ turning water into wine through His first miracle at the wedding in Cana. Jesus obviously is anticipating in His marriage a far more intimate bond with His Church than a genderless relationship would produce.

The desire of God, as revealed in the Bible, to endow us with appealing personal qualities of character, speaks to His loving plan for His Church as Jesus’ worthy partner in her future role as the Bride of Christ.

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IN THE IMAGE OF GOD

 

Man is typically treated as the primary subject of Genesis 1:26 and 27. This passage is routinely viewed as descriptive of the manner in which God created man to reflect certain attributes of His own. These attributes are generally considered to be related to character and intellect, chiefly man’s personality, rationality, and morality.

And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth. So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.”

Reference to man’s gendered creation is usually omitted or, at best, treated as incidental. But there it is in Scripture, in black and white, in a context that discourages it from being disregarded with such appalling ease. This passage speaks as much about God as of man. The attribute of gender isn’t trivial, but instead is presented as among the most profound of the attributes of which man was made in God’s image.

And to what end have we denied this beautiful attribute to God? So that we may maintain a distance from Him in direct opposition to what He desires in His relationship with us? So that we can equate purity with chastity, when the two are manifestly different concepts? The key to this blatant falsehood is found in the end of the passage above: . . . “And they were both naked, the man and his wife, and were not ashamed.”

As I had noted in Marching to a Worthy Drummer, it is the shame, not the act, that has driven us to think of gender as inappropriate to God. And the shame came not from God but from Adam’s fall. It persists to this day, and prevents most of us from perceiving the Trinitarian Godhead in all its beauty and glory.

In Genesis 2:18 and 21-24 is another passage that tends to be trivialized. As is commonly accepted, God the Father existed forever. Our minds, particularly in the material realm, are too limited to grasp any more of the nature of the Father, the Divine Will. But that same limitation doesn’t apply to the Holy Spirit, as Scripture itself gives us a clue as to Her origin. In Genesis 2, Scripture brings out details for emphasis of Eve’s creation out of Adam. This account of the creation of Eve out of Adam is commonly but quite mistakenly treated as a secondary or afterthought account of the creation of man, simply providing additional detail to the first account in Genesis 1:26 and 27.

“And the Lord God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a help fit for him. . . And the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam, and he slept: and he took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh instead thereof; and the rib, which the Lord God had taken from man, made he a woman, and brought her unto the man. And Adam said, This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man. Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave to his wife, and they shall be one flesh.”

But the repetition of the latter part of this passage by both Jesus, in Matthew 19, and Paul in Ephesians 5, places it far above the trivial in importance. This account of the creation of Eve out of Adam, rather than furnishing incidental details of man’s creation, was far more likely to have been included in Scripture for emphasis as describing the romance of the loving formation of the Holy Spirit out of the essence of the Father.

The thought that this portion of the creation epic might be descriptive of the Godhead Itself points back to the very beginning, Genesis 1:1-5:

“In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.

“And God said, Let there be light: and there was light. And God saw the light, that it was good: and God divided the light from the darkness. And God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And the evening and the morning were the first day.”

In this first passage of Scripture, the Holy Spirit is seen responding to the Father in giving birth to the first spoken Word of God, the Light. But that is precisely what John said in verses 1:1-5 of the Prologue to his Gospel of Jesus Christ:

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not anything made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. And the light shone in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not.”

We in the Church have been conditioned to believe, in opposition to the notion of Jesus being a created Being, that Jesus eternally co-existed with the Father. But that comes from the various Christian creeds, not from Scripture. Scripture itself, in Revelation 3:14, stands in plain opposition to that notion:

“And to the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write: These things say the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of the creation of God.”

Can it be that the Holy Spirit, in union with the Father, did indeed give birth to Jesus Christ? John, in Chapter Three of his Gospel, attributes spiritual birth to the Holy Spirit. The details of the Holy Spirit’s participation in creation are provided in Proverbs 8:22-31:

“The Lord possessed me in the beginning of his way, before his works of old. I was set up from everlasting, from the beginning, or ever the earth was. When there were no depths, I was brought forth – when there were no fountains abounding with water. Before the mountains were settled, before the hills, was I brought forth; while as yet he had not made the earth, nor the fields, nor the highest part of the dust of the world. When he prepared the heavens, I was there; when he set a compass upon the face of the depth; when he established the clouds above; when he strengthened the fountains of the deep; when he gave to the sea its decree, that the waters would not pass his commandment; when he appointed the foundations of the earth,

“Then I was by him, as one brought up with him; and I was daily his delight, rejoicing always before him, rejoicing in the habitable part of his earth; and my delight was with the sons of men.”

Why did God emphasize the detail of Eve’s formation out of Adam? And why, if it was not good for the man to be without a complementary woman, would it be good for God Himself to be so, as theologians commonly assume? Could it be that at one stage before the beginning of time all the attributes of the Godhead resided within the Father alone, and that in self-denial the Father parted an element of Himself to form the Holy Spirit as a separate but complementary Entity in order that love transcend all other attributes of God? Could it be that what He lost in the parting He regained in love according to the words of Adam that a man shall cleave unto his wife and they two shall be one?

THE ROAD TO EMMAUS

 

This touching account in Luke 24:13-22 is notable on several levels. At its most poignant, it shows the loving intimacy with which the risen Jesus associates with the human race. He speaks to the two men as would a loving, compassionate Parent intent on comforting their grieving souls.

The story also shows how closely the Old Testament is associated with the New, and how highly Jesus regarded it. When He revealed to the two travelers how the Scriptures foretold Him, the only Scriptures that were available to them were those of the Old Testament.

“And, behold, two of them went that same day to a village called Emmaus, which was from Jerusalem about seven and a half miles. And they talked together of all these things which had happened since Jesus’ crucifixion.

And it came to pass that, while they talked together and thought of these events, Jesus himself drew near, and went with them. But their eyes were prevented from recognizing him. And he said to them, What manner of communications are these that you have one with another, as you walk, and are sad? And one of them, whose name was Cleopas, answered him, saying, Are you only a stranger in Jerusalem, and have not known the things which are come to pass there in these days? And he said to them, What things? And they replied, Concerning Jesus of Nazareth, who was a prophet, mighty in deed and word before God and all the people; and how the chief priests and our rulers delivered him to be condemned to death, and have crucified him. But we hoped that it had been he who should have redeemed Israel; and, besides all this, today is the third day since these things were done. Yea, and certain women also of our company amazed us, who were early at the sepulcher; and when they did not find his body, they came, saying that they had also seen a vision of angels, who said that he was alive.

Then he said to them, O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Ought not Christ to have suffered these things, and to enter into his glory? And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded to them, in all the scriptures, the things concerning himself.

And they drew near to the village, to which they went; and he made as though he would have gone farther. But they constrained him, saying, Abide with us; for it is toward evening, and the day is far spent. And he went in to linger with them. And it came to pass, as he sat eating with them, he took bread, and blessed it, and broke it, and gave it to them. And their eyes were opened, and they recognized him, and he vanished out of their sight. And they said one to another, Did not our heart burn within us, while he talked with us along the way, and while he opened to us the scriptures?

Perhaps Jesus explained to the travelers how He had to die for their benefit, presenting that information in terms of Joseph in Genesis, and how Joseph suffered for the salvation of his brothers who hated him, and, in the end, how he did so willingly. He could have added the account of Abraham’s attempted sacrifice of Isaac, and of how that story foretold the Father’s suffering as He had to turn His head away in sorrow from the sin that Jesus had become on the cross. He also could have explained how Moses prophesied of Him becoming sin by holding up the bronze serpent on a pole to heal those in the wilderness who had been bitten by snakes. He could have topped that off with Psalm 22, which foretold in agonizing detail how it felt to be crucified.

Maybe Jesus also explained to them why He had to wait for four days before He resurrected Lazarus, and how in doing so he was prophesying of His own resurrection after the fourth millennium from Creation.

It could be that Jesus went on to speak of the love of God toward mankind, quoting from passages of the Song of Solomon to show the exquisitely romantic nature of that love. In looking forward to that day when the Church would become the Bride of Christ, Jesus could have noted His first miracle at the wedding in Cana, where He changed water into wine to make complete the joy of marriage.

SEA STORY

 

Going back in time from the revolutionary period of our history, those who look for them can find many examples of God’s Hand, both positive and negative, in the affairs of the American political experiment in freedom.

Why negative? Because that’s how God operates, as He has told us numerous times. In Deuteronomy 11:26-26-28, for example, Moses told the Israelites who had left Egypt with him:

“Behold, I set before you this day a blessing and a curse; A blessing if ye obey the commandments of the Lord your God, which I command you this day: And a curse, if ye will not obey the commandments of the Lord your God, but turn aside out of the way which I command you this day, to go after other gods, which ye have not known.”

This admonition applies to every Christian today just as much as to the Israelites whom Moses addressed back then. It applied as well throughout the American experience. According to the authors of The Light and the Glory, it took only one or two generations after they landed before the pilgrims, in experiencing an increasing ease of existence, began to fall away from their daily devotion to God. At first the chastising was mild, and quickly returned to blessing as the people heeded the correction:

“Perhaps the most extraordinary chastisement in this vein was the rain of caterpillars which Winthrop reported in the summer of 1646. ‘Great harm was done in corn (especially wheat and barley) in this month by a caterpillar, like a black worm about an inch and a half long. They eat up first the blades of the stalk, then they eat up the tassels, whereupon the ear withered. It was believed by divers good observers that they fell in a great thunder shower, for divers yards and other bare places where not one of them was seen an hour before, were presently after the shower almost covered with them, besides grass places where they were not so easily discerned. They did the most harm in the southern parts, as in Rhode Island, etc., and in the eastern parts in their Indian corn. In divers places the churches kept a day of humiliation, and presently after, the caterpillars vanished away.’”

God also is a champion of justice, particularly when mixed with compassion. There are several Old Testament references to how God prefers justice and mercy over lip service to Him. One example is found in Hosea 6:6; another in Isaiah 58:6 and 7:

“For I desired mercy, and not sacrifice, and the knowledge of God more than burnt offerings.”

“Is not this the fast that I have chosen- to loose the bands of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens, and to let the oppressed go free, and that you break every yoke? Is it not to deal your bread to the hungry, and that you bring the poor that are cast out to your house? When you see the naked, that you cover him; and that you hide not yourself from your own flesh?”

Jesus repeated these sentiments in Matthew 12:7 while He explained to the

Pharisees how much more important it is to show mercy, even on the sabbath, than to participate in spiritually empty adherence to the law:

“But if you had known what this means, I will have mercy, and not sacrifice, you would not have condemned the guiltless.”

It is much more fun to describe blessings than curses, and justice served rather than justice denied. Here is a good sea story, also taken from The Light and the Glory regarding that time period in America’s history:

“Our favorite of these sea stories involves two ships in distress. The first, under the mastery of William Laiton, was out of Piscataqua and bound for Barbados, when, some thousand miles off the coast, she sprang a leak which could not be staunched. He crew was forced to take refuge in their longboat. It happened that they had a plentiful supply of bread, more than they could possibly eat, but so little water that after eighteen days of drifting, they were down to a teaspoon per man per day. Meanwhile, another ship, captained by one Samuel Scarlet, was having its own difficulties, being ‘destitute of provisions, only they had water enough, and to spare.’ The spied the drifting longboat, but as Scarlet made ready to take them aboard, his men ‘. . .desired that he would not go to take the men in, lest they should all die by famine. But the captain was a man of too generous a charity to follow the selfish proposals thus made unto him. He replied, “It may be these distressed creatures are our own countrymen, and [anyway] they are distressed creatures. I am resolved I will take them in, and I’ll trust in God, who is able to deliver us all.” Nor was he a loser by this charitable resolution, for Captain Scarlet had the water which Laiton wanted, and Mr. Laiton had the bread and fish which Scarlet wanted. So they refreshed one another, and in a few days arrived safe to New England. But it was remarked that the chief of the mariners who urged Captain Scarlet against his taking in these distressed people, did afterwards, in his distress at sea, perish without any to take him in.’”

THE MIGDAL EDAR STORY

 

During one Christmas season our pastor gave his Church a special treat. He began reading the familiar Christmas story from Luke 2:7:

“And she brought forth her first-born son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.”

Pastor looked up at us and said, “How sad that man couldn’t find a more appropriate place for the Son of God to be born. Plan B it was, then,” which echoed our own thoughts. But then, smiling, he continued at Luke 2:8:

“And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, Fear not; for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you: Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.”

As our pastor recited this oft-told story, I formed my own familiar mental imagery: a large grassy field with flocks of sheep mixed with cattle, and the barn where Mary, Joseph and Jesus dwelt surrounded by the usual barnyard animals: cows, donkeys and, yes, perhaps a sheep or two. My mind drifted into a contemplation of the poverty surrounding Jesus’ birth. Of course it was appropriate, given the humble character of Jesus’ sojourn in the flesh. But being born in a manger certainly couldn’t have been plan A for Joseph’s family.

But then our pastor embellished on the story. It wasn’t well known, he said, that the region near Bethlehem where Jesus was born was a rather special place. He quoted another familiar passage, the prophecy in Micah 5:2 foretelling of Jesus’ birth in Bethlehem:

“But thou, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall he come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting.”

Pastor didn’t stop there. He went on to read another passage out of Micah, verse 4:8, which is much less well-known:

“And thou O watchtower of the flock [Migdal Edar], the strong hold of the daughter of Zion, unto thee shall it come, even the first dominion; the kingdom shall come to the daughter of Jerusalem.

Before commenting further on the function of Migdal Edar, pastor took us back to Genesis 35:19-21:

“And Rachel died, and was buried in the way to Ephrath, which is Bethlehem. And Jacob set a pillar upon her grave: that is the pillar of Rachel’s grave unto this day. And Israel journeyed, and spread his tent beyond the tower of Edar.”

Pastor put his Bible aside and looked at his congregation as if he had something momentous to tell us. And well he did. Finding his voice, he said that the region where Jesus was born was under the watchtower of the flock, a special lookout of the shepherds there because of the importance of that particular place. It was, he said with emotion, the place where lambs were born and raised for the Passover sacrifice. The manger of Jesus’ birth was, in fact, the birthing place for these special lambs, so maybe while it didn’t represent plan A for Joseph, it certainly did for God.

Pastor topped off that shocking disclosure by saying that, according to the Passover account in Exodus 12, the lambs had to be perfect in every way. When birthed, they tended to struggle some, putting themselves at risk to injury. There was a procedure in place to prevent this: upon their birth, these lambs were wrapped in swaddling clothes.

I was so enthusiastic about this revelation that I attempted to share it with other Christians, some of whom were rather cynical about it. It seemed that if this were to be true, they already would have known about it. Faced with that negativity, I pursued the topic on my own on the Internet, where I found a wealth of commentary regarding it, all of which was positive and some of which furnished excellent justification for accepting it as truth. I recommend the interested reader to do the same, simply by Googling “Migdal Edar”, or, alternatively, “Migdal Eder”.

JESUS’ FULFILLMENT OF THE MOSAIC FEASTS

 

At the time of Jesus’ crucifixion, three events occurred in rapid succession: His crucifixion, His resurrection, and the Pentecost, where the Holy Spirit indwelt believers and empowered them to do exploits. All three of these events were imprinted in the minds of the Israelites over a millennium earlier by Moses in terms of feasts and observances.

The first event, Jesus’ crucifixion, was initially foreshadowed in detail by God’s call to Abraham to sacrifice his son Isaac, as related in Genesis 22. But the commemorative feast for this event is the Passover, as instituted by Moses just before the Israelites were to cast off their enslavement and depart for Egypt. The account of the institution of this feast is given in Exodus 12:1-3, 5-7, and 12 and 13:

And the Lord spoke unto Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt, saying, This month shall be unto you the beginning of months: it shall be the first month of the year to you. Speak you to all the congregation of Israel, saying, In the tenth day of this month they shall take to them every man a lamb, according to the house of their fathers, a lamb for a house . . . Your lamb shall be without blemish, a male of the first year: you shall you shall take it out from the sheep, or from the goats. And you shall keep it until the fourteenth day of the same month; and the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel shall kill it in the evening. And they shall take of the blood, and strike it on the two side posts and on the upper door post of the houses, wherein they shall eat it. And they shall eat the flesh in that night, roast with fire and unleavened bread; and with bitter herbs they shall eat it . . . For I will pass through the land of Egypt this night, and will smite all the first-born in the land of Egypt, both man and beast; and against all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgment: I am the Lord. And the blood shall be to you for a token upon the houses where ye are; and when I see the blood, I will pass over you, and the plague shall not be upon you to destroy you, when I smite the land of Egypt. And this day shall be to you for a memorial; and you shall keep it a feast to the Lord throughout your generations; you shall keep it a feast by an ordinance forever.”

The lamb was kept in the house for four days, just long enough for it to become a household pet with the formation of a loving bond between the people and this innocent creature. Then it was slain and its blood spread on the doorposts and lintel as a sign to God to spare the occupants within as He went out to slay the firstborn of Egypt.

The Passover Lamb was a type of Jesus, who was crucified on the day of preparation for the Passover, the exact time when the lambs were traditionally slain. He was described as the Lamb of God by the Apostle John, first in John’s Gospel and then in the Book of Revelation. Christians claim the remission of their sins and their spiritual salvation by the washing of Jesus’ blood: He is our Passover Lamb.

The second event that was linked to a feast was Jesus’ resurrection after three days and three nights in the grave following His crucifixion. The corresponding feast established by Moses is the wave offering of first fruits of the barley harvest, traditionally held during the week of the Feast of Unleavened Bread from the 15th to the 21st of Nisan. The exact day is given in Leviticus 23:11 as the day following the Sabbath. The Sabbath after Jesus’ crucifixion was Saturday, Nisan 16, making the Feast of First Fruits the following day, or Sunday, Nisan 17. The account is given in Leviticus 23:9-14:

“And the Lord spoke unto Moses, saying, Speak to the children of Israel, and say to them, When you are come into the land which I give unto you, and shall reap the harvest thereof, then you shall bring a sheaf of the first fruits of your harvest to the priest, and he shall wave the sheaf before the Lord, to be accepted for you: on the next day after the sabbath the priest shall wave it. And you shall offer that day when you wave the sheaf an he-lamb without blemish of the first year for a burnt offering to the Lord. And the meal offering thereof shall be two tenth parts of fine flour mixed with oil, an offering made by fire unto the Lord for a sweet savor: and the drink offering thereof shall be of wine, a quart. And you shall eat neither bread, nor parched corn, nor green ears, until that same day that you have brought an offering to your God: it shall be a statute forever throughout your generations in all your dwellings.”

The wave offering was intended to commemorate Jesus’ resurrection from the dead, as Jesus was the first fruit of resurrected mankind.

The third feast is related in Leviticus 23:15-21:

And you shall count to you from the next day after the Sabbath, from the day that you brought the sheaf of the wave offering; seven sabbaths shall be complete: even to the next day after the seventh sabbath shall you number fifty days; and you shall offer a new meal offering unto the Lord. You shall bring out of your habitations two wave loaves of two tenth parts; they shall be of fine flour; they shall be baked with leaven; they are the first fruits unto the Lord. And you shall offer with the bread seven lambs without blemish of the first year . . .”

The passage continues with additional offerings, ending with the command that the feast is a holy convocation, no work being permitted, and a statute forever.

As it traditionally occurred fifty days after the Feast of First Fruits, this event is called the Feast of Pentecost. It is named after the root word pente, which means fifty. Pentecost is known by Christians as the mighty presence of the indwelling Holy Spirit that took place fifty days after Jesus’ resurrection and ten days after His return to heaven as related in Acts 1.

The event itself is described in Acts 2:1-18:

“And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly here came a sound from heaven like a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. And there appeared unto them cloven tongues as of fire, and it sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance. But Peter, standing up with the eleven, lifted up his voice, and said unto them, You men of Judaea, and all you who dwell at Jerusalem, be this known to you, and hearken to my words; for these are not drunk, as you suppose, seeing it is but [nine o’clock in the morning]. But this is that which was spoken through the prophet, Joel: And it shall come to pass in the last days, said God, I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams; and on my servants and on my handmaidens I will pour out in those days of my Spirit, and they shall prophesy.”

We can glean a number of facts from this correspondence between the Mosaic feasts of the spring and major events associated with Jesus’ crucifixion.

First, Jesus’ crucifixion was a preplanned event. Some false theologians are fond of asserting that Jesus was caught unawares by His arrest. That notion violates the clear teaching of the Old Testament.

Second, Scripture is not only truthful, it is precise. It is truthful in every detail. The days of Jesus’ crucifixion, His resurrection, and the birth of the Church were set with precision over a thousand years before the events took

place.

Third, the Church is an integral part of God’s master plan. The mystery of Ephesians 5:25-31 wherein the Church is defined as the Bride of Christ is not trivial. It is essential.

ARK OF THE COVENANT IN FLESH AND SPIRIT

 

In the previous chapter the Ark of the Covenant was described as the enclosure located in the area of the temple known as the Holy of Holies. It was noted there that the ark of the covenant is mentioned again in Revelation, but that this ark is probably a very different one. In my novel Jacob, book three of the four-book Buddy series, Earl Cook connects this later ark with the earlier one in his talk to fellow Christians in a Bible study:

This one’s about the Ark of the Covenant. This ark was a wooden box, overlaid with gold and topped with two cherubs. Inside the box were relics of past interactions between God and man, including the staff that Aaron used, the one that turned into a snake in front of pharaoh, and a sample of the life-sustaining bread that fell from heaven during the great exodus from Egypt and, most important, the tablets upon which God had written the Ten Commandments and which he gave to Moses on the mountain. These tablets encapsulated the Law of the Old Testament in covenant between God and man. The Ark of the Covenant was placed within the Holy of Holies of the Tabernacle in the wilderness, and later in Solomon’s temple. At the dedication of both of these temples the glory of God, called the Shekinah, descended in a cloud and dwelt within the temples. There is a great significance to this indwelling of the Shekinah glory, and I’ll probably go into it in another sermon. But for now I want to focus on the Ark, which has had a very colorful history. There’s a question as to whether Menelek, the queen of Sheba’s son with Solomon, went back to Ethiopia with a copy of it or actually had stolen the real thing. To this day, that version is jealously guarded by Ethiopians. The ark that remained in Israel was eventually lost. Apparently, the prophet Jeremiah buried it in a cave toward the end of the sixth century B.C. when Jerusalem was in danger of being overrun by enemy forces. There’s another story in that too, but to forge ahead, the Ark of the Covenant is finally mentioned again toward the end of the Bible, in the Book of Revelation, where John sees it in heaven. But this may be a different Ark altogether.

Let me tell you why. In Revelation 12, immediately after John’s sighting of the Ark in heaven at the end of Chapter 11, he goes on to describe another heavenly wonder: a woman clothed with the sun, who gives birth to a man-child who is to rule the world, obviously Jesus. This woman has variously been identified as several different personages by people of differing faiths, each one being the favorite of one faith or another. Many have thought of this woman as representing Israel. Catholics have picked up on this passage, claiming her to be Mary. For reasons that I won’t go into now, I don’t think that’s quite accurate. But it’s very close. Whether this woman actually is Mary or not, it does evoke an image that makes me want to say, ‘Of course! It can be no other way.’ That image, which I cherish now with all my heart, I know to be true, and I want to share it with you now. Mary herself, in containing the Word of God in her womb, was herself the flesh-and-blood Ark of the New Covenant in Jesus Christ. That may well have been the Ark that John saw in heaven.”

But there may also be a yet greater Person to whom this later ark may be attributed, wherein the connection is spiritual rather than fleshly. The Biblical account of this ark is presented in Revelation 11:19 through 12:17:

“And the temple of God was opened in heaven, and there was seen in his temple the ark of his covenant; and there were lightnings, and voices, and thunderclaps, and an earthquake, and great hail.

“And there appeared a great wonder in heaven – a woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars. And she, being with child, cried, travailing in birth, and pained to be delivered.

“And there appeared another wonder in heaven; and, behold, a great red dragon, having seven heads and ten horns, and seven crowns upon his heads. And his tail drew the third part of the stars of heaven and did cast them to the earth; and the dragon stood before the woman who was ready to be delivered, to devour her child as soon as it was born.

“And she brought forth a male child, who was to rule all nations with a rod of iron; and her child was caught up unto God, and to his throne. And the woman fled into the wilderness, where she hath a place prepared by God, that they should feed her there a thousand two hundred and threescore days.

“And there was war in heaven; Michael and his angels fought against the dragon, and the dragon fought and his angels, and prevailed not, neither was their place found any more in heaven. And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil and Satan, who deceiveth the whole world; he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him. And I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, Now is come salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of his Christ; for the accuser of our brethren is cast down, who accused them before our God day and night. And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto the death. Therefore rejoice, ye heavens, and ye that dwell in them. Woe to the inhabitants of the earth and of the sea! For the devil is come down unto you, having great wrath, because he knoweth that he hath but a short time.

“And when the dragon saw that he was cast unto the earth, he persecuted the woman who brought forth the male child. And to the woman were given two wings of a great eagle, that she might fly into the wilderness, into her place, where she is nourished for a time, and times, and half a time, from the face of the serpent. And the serpent cast out of his mouth water like a flood after the woman, that he might cause her to be carried away by the flood. And the earth helped the woman, and the earth opened her mouth and swallowed up the flood which the dragon cast out of his mouth. And the dragon was angry with the woman, and went to make war with the remnant of her seed, who keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ.”

Could this spiritual Woman be the same Shekinah who indwells Christian believers, as described in an earlier chapter? Could She be the same Holy Spirit of whom Jesus spoke in John 3 as giving spiritual birth? Could She be the spiritual Mother of Jesus?

Just as Revelation 11 and 12 symbolize Mary as the ark of the covenant in flesh, so do those same passages symbolize God the Holy Spirit as the ark of the Word, God’s covenant to mankind, in spirit.