Archive for the ‘family’ Category

JESUS’ RIDE TO DESTINY

 

Daniel had foretold the appearance of the Messiah around five hundred years earlier in his famous prophecy of the seventy weeks. In Daniel 9:25, the angel Gabriel tells Daniel that from the commandment to restore and rebuild Jerusalem to the Messiah the Prince would be a total of sixty nine “weeks” of years, or 483 prophetic years, which amounts to 173,880 days. When that very day arrived 483 prophetic years from Artaxerxes’ command to rebuild Jerusalem in 445 B.C., Jesus presented Himself at Jerusalem as King and Savior. The event is recorded in Matthew 21:1-11, the first three verses of which describe Jesus’ acquisition of two asses for His journey into Jerusalem:

“And when they drew near to Jerusalem, and were come to Bethphage, to the Mount of Olives, then sent Jesus two disciples, saying to them, Go into the village opposite you, and immediately you shall find an ass tied, and a colt with her; loose them and bring them to me. And if any man say anything to you, you shall say, The Lord has need of them, and immediately he will send them.”

It has been said that Jesus rode into Jerusalem on an ass to show His humble nature. But He was following the lead of King Solomon as well, who also came on a mule to receive his kingship over Israel. That earlier event is described in 1 Kings 1:33,38 and 39:

“The king [David] also said to them, Take with you the servants of your lord, and cause Solomon, my son, to ride upon my own mule, and bring him down to Gihon . . .So Zadok, the priest, and Nathan, the prophet, and Benaiah, the son of Jehoiada, and the Cherethites, and the Pelethites, went down, and caused Solomon to ride upon King David’s mule, and brought him to Gihon. And Zadok, the priest, took a horn of oil out of the tabernacle, and anointed Solomon. And they blew the trumpet; and all the people said, God save King Solomon.”

Around the middle of the nine hundred or so years between Solomon and Jesus, the prophet Zechariah in verse 9:9 predicted this very event, where Jesus would follow Solomon’s lead in riding a lowly animal to be crowned King of Israel.

“Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion; shout, O daughter of Jerusalem; behold, your King comes to you, he is just, and having salvation; lowly, and riding upon an ass, and upon a colt, the foal of an ass.”

The foretelling of this event is one of a large number of prophecies in which the Holy Spirit, through the writings of obedient humans, displayed the character of the Jesus to come. In this case, Jesus showed His humble nature, but also acknowledged His rightful Kingship over Israel and His believers throughout history.

Elsewhere in Scripture the Gospels affirm that Jesus also acknowledged His Godhood and the importance that He placed in the Spiritual domain as opposed to the material world. In John 8, for example, Jesus identified Himself as God of Abraham who also had spoken to Moses in the burning bush:

“Your father, Abraham, rejoiced to see my day; and he saw it, and was glad. Then said the Jews to him, You are not yet fifty years old, and have you seen Abraham? Jesus said to them, Truly, truly, I say to you, Before Abraham was, I AM.”

Notice here how the Pharisees were so fixated on the material world that they couldn’t comprehend Jesus’ pre-existence in the spiritual domain. Yet, through His healing acts, Jesus demonstrated how thoroughly He controlled the material world, showing man that the spiritual world is of far greater significance than the material domain. Jesus constantly told His disciples that a greater life awaits them out of this world that we find ourselves in, a domain that is worthy of a greater allegiance than our material world. Jesus brings this point home in John 17 as He prays to His heavenly Father:

“And now I come to You; and these things I speak in the world, that they might have my joy fulfilled in themselves. I have given them Your word; and the world has hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. I pray not that You should take them out of the world, but that You should keep them from the evil. They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world.”

THE TIMING OF THE WISE MEN’S VISIT TO JESUS

 

This discussion of the timing of the Wise Mens’ visit to Jesus includes a reconciliation between the alleged inconsistency between the Gospels of Matthew and Luke in their accounts of Jesus’ birth.

At first glance, the story of Jesus’ birth in the Gospel of Matthew appears to conflict with the account given in the Gospel of Luke. The event, in Matthew’s account, is accompanied by violence against the young males in Bethlehem, danger for Jesus, and the flight of Jesus’ family into Egypt to escape the wrath of Herod. Luke, on the other hand, presents a peaceful scenario surrounding the birth of Jesus.

According to Matthew 2:1-16:

Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem,

Saying, Where is he that is born King of the Jews? For we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him. When Herod the king had heard these things, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. And when he had gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he demanded of them where Christ should be born. And when they said to him, In Bethlehem of Judea: for thus it is written by the prophet [Micah in Micah 5:2], And you Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are not the least among the princes of Judah: for out of you shall come a Governor, that shall rule my people Israel.

Then Herod, when he had privately called the wise men, enquired of them diligently about what time the star appeared. And he sent them to Bethlehem, and said, Go and search diligently for the young child; and when you have found him, bring me word again, that I may come and worship him also.

When they had heard the king, they left him; and, lo, the star, which they saw in the east, went before them, till it came and stood over where the young child was.

When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy. And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshiped him: and when they had opened their treasures, they presented to him gifts; gold, and frankincense, and myrrh.

Keep in mind two items from the above account: first, to enquire diligently is to ask for details. The details were such that Herod must have suspected that Jesus was up to two years old at the time of the Wise Men’s visit.

Second, the wise men came into Jesus’ house, not the manger. Both of these facts point to the visit of the Wise Men having taken place at some time after His birth.

The corresponding account of the event of Jesus’ birth from Luke’s perspective is presented in Chapter 2 of his gospel:

And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn. 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 to them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign to you: You shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.

And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.

And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even to Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord has made known unto us. And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger. And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child. And all they that heard it wondered at those things which were told them by the shepherds. But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart. And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told to them.

And when eight days were accomplished for the circumcising of the child, his name was called JESUS, which was so named of the angel before he was conceived in the womb.

And when the days of her purification according to the law of Moses were accomplished, they brought him to Jerusalem, to present him to the Lord; (As it is written in the law of the Lord, Every male that openeth the womb shall be called holy to the Lord;) and to offer a sacrifice according to that which is said in the law of the Lord, A pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons.”

Luke’s account, unlike that of Matthew’s, paints a peaceful scenario, one in which the family of Jesus makes an uneventful return from Bethlehem, one that includes the presentation of Jesus to the Lord at Jerusalem. But Mary also had to wait until her purification was completed before Jesus was presented at the temple. The Mosaic law that specifies the post-birth purification is given in Leviticus 12:

And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, Speak to the children of Israel, saying, If a woman has conceived seed, and born a man child: then she shall be unclean seven days; according to the days of the separation for her infirmity shall she be unclean. And in the eighth day the flesh of his foreskin shall be circumcised. And she shall then continue in the blood of her purifying thirty three days; she shall touch no hallowed thing, nor come into the sanctuary, until the days of her purifying are fulfilled.”

According to this purification rite, Mary had to wait at least forty one days, and possibly longer, depending on her health, before presenting Jesus to the temple. During this time, there is no suggestion in Luke’s account of any violence or effort of Herod’s attempt on Jesus’ life. Rather, in harmony with the details of Matthew’s account, this peaceful interlude points to the likelihood that the visit of the Wise Men didn’t occur until after Mary’s purification period, and possibly years after.

The distance that the Wise Men had to travel after seeing the star in their homeland also suggests a lengthy time duration between their first sight of the star and their arrival at Bethlehem, which would place their arrival well after Jesus’ birth. But why would the Wise Men associate that star with the birth of Jesus? Bible scholar Hal Lindsey has suggested that the Wise Men were members of a cadre of Persian mystics whose Chaldean forbears had access to the teachings of Daniel during his captivity in Babylon. The information imparted to them by Daniel may well have included the prophecy of seventy weeks in Daniel 9:24-27, which would have given the Wise Men an understanding with virtually pinpoint accuracy of when Jesus would appear. When the star appeared to them, its timing must have identified it with Jesus as well as pointing to the direction of Jesus’ birth from their location.

The Wise Mens’ wisdom consisted in their faith in Daniel’s prophecy and their diligence in observing the sky for confirmation and direction.

JESUS’ RESURRECTION OF LAZARUS

 

Chapter 11:1-44 of John’s Gospel describes the event of Jesus’ resurrection of Lazarus.

“Now a certain man was sick, named Lazarus, of Bethany, the town of Mary and her sister, Martha. (It was that Mary who anointed the Lord with ointment, and wiped his feet with her hair, whose brother Lazarus was sick.) Therefore, his sisters sent to him, saying, Lord, behold, he whom you love is sick. When Jesus heard that, he said, This sickness is not for death, but for the glory of God, that the Son of God might be glorified by it.

“Now Jesus loved Martha, and her sister, and Lazarus. When he had heard, therefore, that he was sick, he remained another two days in the same place where he was. Then, after that, he said to his disciples, Let us go into Judea again.”

Jesus’ disciples thought at first that Lazarus was merely asleep. They questioned Him as to why, if that were the case, he needed to go to him, along a route they knew was dangerous for him. Jesus responded directly by telling them that Lazarus was dead. He followed that with an enigmatic statement:

“And I am glad for your sakes that I was not there, to the intent that you may believe; nevertheless, let us go to him.”

By the time that Jesus got to Lazarus’ place, he had already been dead for four days. When Martha and Mary complained about His delay in getting to Lazarus, He reassured them that Lazarus would rise again. Then He made the following statement:

“I am the resurrection, and the life; he that believes in me, though he was dead, yet shall he live. And whoever lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?”

When Jesus saw Mary weeping along with Lazarus’ friends, He asked where Lazarus had been laid, and wept along with them. The friends marveled at this demonstration of Jesus’ love for Lazarus. When Jesus came to the cave where Lazarus was, He asked that the covering stone be removed. Martha responded with horror, reminding Jesus that after four days, Lazarus would have the stench of death. At this, Jesus reminded her that if she would believe, she would see the glory of God. When the covering stone was removed, Jesus lifted up His eyes and, for the sake of the belief of the onlookers, thanked His Father for hearing Him. With that, He commanded Lazarus,

“Lazarus, come forth.”

Lazarus responded to this command by stepping alive out of the cave, still in his graveclothes.

On the surface, this story is worthwhile for demonstrating Jesus’ compassion toward Lazarus, and for His supernatural ability to perform a resurrection. But the story prods us to look for a deeper significance, in the odd circumstance of Jesus waiting for another two days before performing the resurrection. Surely He knew how Mary, Martha and Lazarus’ close friends would be grieving, and that his loitering around would serve to prolong their suffering. It would almost seem that Jesus was rather indifferent to the whole business, a thought that clashes with the fact that Jesus made a hazardous journey to reach Lazarus, and that He wept, and that He did perform the resurrection.

The apparent contradictions of motive in the story point out that something else is in play here – that the resurrection was a far more important event than simply reviving Lazarus. Jesus was actually prophesying His own resurrection. Sense can be made that He waited until Lazarus was dead four days before resurrecting him only if there is a significance to the period of four days that is associated with this prophecy.

Verse 4 of Psalm 90 gives us an interesting clue as to what that significance might be.

“For a thousand years in your sight are but as yesterday when it is past, and as a watch in the night.”

If this was the only passage that presented a specific relationship among specific periods of time, one might be tempted to dismiss the association as reading too much into the verse. But there is another verse, 2 Peter 3:8, that describes that same relationship:

“But, beloved, be not ignorant of this one thing, that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.”

Moreover, the implication of Jesus raising Lazarus after the fourth day is not the only association of four days with Jesus’ appearance. There is an even more basic one, the Passover that pointed to Jesus as the Lamb of God. The Passover event, as described in Exodus 12, includes a significant four-day period in verses 3 and 6 just before the killing of the lamb:

“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 . . . 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.”

Here is that same time period, when the lamb has been kept until after the fourth day, after which he was killed. Jesus as the Lamb of God was crucified after the fourth millennium from Creation.

Furthermore, God in Scripture makes other precise relationships among time periods, as in Ezekiel 4:6, where the following sentence may be found:

“I have appointed you each day for a year.”

In the sense of a day for a thousand years, Jesus came to Earth on the Fourth Day since Creation, confirming that His birth in the midst of a seven-millennium history of man of itself was a prophecy of His own resurrection.

It also confirms God’s use of time equivalence in Scripture.

RUTH FORETELLS THE CHURCH

 

The Book of Ruth in the Old Testament is another story that is short, almost the size of the tiny book of Jonah. But it is magnificent in its beauty as it describes the future Marriage of Jesus with His beloved Church.

As the story takes place during the barley harvest in the Fall, the Book of Ruth is traditionally recited in the Jewish community during the Feast of Pentecost, which also occurs during the same time. The subject of the story is much the same as the tale of Rebekah in Genesis 24, but fills in some additional details of the romantic relationship between Jesus and His Church.

The grand design of God that included mankind as an eventual member of the Heavenly Family was foreshadowed in the romantic book of Ruth. From the very beginning of man in Adam, God has jealously guarded the bloodline of the Jesus to come. This was well understood by the rulers of this world, from Pharaoh to Herod. At times that were interpreted as Messianic, these rulers were given to killing off the male forebears of Mary. They instinctively knew that the bloodline was intended to remain within the Semites, passing down through the Hebrews to the Israelites under Abraham. It was to rest on the specific tribe of Judah, through whom came King David, his son Solomon, and, finally, both Mary and her husband Joseph.

But an exception was granted, one of a very few in number. There was a gentile woman named Ruth who, after the untimely death of her first husband, demonstrated a godly loyalty to her mother-in-law Naomi, who had lived in Moab with her Israelite husband. After the death of Naomi’s husband as well, Naomi decided to move to her husband’s homeland of Israel, which God had favored with bountiful crops. Because Ruth was a native of Moab, Naomi thought she would be more comfortable staying there, rather than moving to Israel. Or could she have been testing Ruth?

“And Naomi said, Turn again, my daughters: why will you go with me? Are there yet any more sons in my womb, that they may be your husbands? Turn again, my daughters, go your way: for I am too old to have a husband. If I should say, I have hope, if I should have a husband also to night, and should also bear sons; Would you wait for them till they were grown? would you stay for them from having husbands? no, my daughters; for it grieves me much for your sakes that the hand of the Lord is gone out against me. And they lifted up their voice, and wept again: and Orpah kissed her mother in law; but Ruth clave unto her.

And she said, Behold, your sister in law is gone back unto her people, and to her gods: return you after your sister in law.

And Ruth said, Intreat me not to leave thee, or to return from following after thee: for whither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge: thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God: Where thou diest, will I die, and there will I be buried: the Lord do so to me, and more also, if ought but death part thee and me.”

So, after making this immortal statement of loyalty, Ruth followed Naomi back to her husband’s people, and in poverty gleaned corn in the field of Naomi’s relative Boaz.

“And Naomi had a kinsman of her husband’s. a mighty man of wealth, of the family of Elimelech; and his name was Boaz. And Ruth, the Moabitess, said unto Naomi, Let me now go to the field, and glean ears of grain after him in whose sight I shall find grace. And she said unto her, Go, my daughter. And she went, and came, and gleaned in the field after the reapers; and she happened to come to a portion of the field belonging to Boaz, who was of the family of Elimelech. And, behold, Boaz came from Bethlehem, and said unto the reapers, The Lord be with you. And they answered him, The Lord bless you. And then said Boaz unto his servant who was over the reapers, Whose lady is this?”

Ruth, being a pretty woman, obviously had caught Boaz’ eye. The feeling was mutual, and out of this first encounter began the first stirrings of a romance. Ruth confided her feelings to Naomi, who advised her to show her interest to Boaz.

“And [Ruth] went down to the [threshing] floor, and did all that her mother-in-law told her to do. And when Boaz had eaten and drunk, and his heart was merry, he went to lie down at the end of the heap of grain; and she came softly, and uncovered his feet, and lay down. And it came to pass at midnight, that the man was startled, and turned himself; and, behold, a woman lay at his feet. And he said, Who are you? And she answered, I am Ruth, your handmaid. Spread, therefore, your skirt over your handmaid; for you are a near kinsman.

“And he said, Blessed be you of the Lord, my daughter: for you have shown more kindness in the latter end than the beginning, as you followed not young men, whether poor or rich. And now, my daughter, fear not; I will do to thee all that you require; for all the city of my people does know that you are a virtuous woman.”

There was a tradition in Israel, instituted by Moses from the Word of God, that if a woman’s husband died, a near kinsman was obligated to marry her and raise up children for her. By lying at Boaz’ feet, Ruth was claiming that obligation to Boaz. Boaz, in turn, enthusiastically agreed to fulfill that obligation. Ruth conceived a child through this man. His name was Obed:

“And Naomi took the child, and laid it in her bosom, and became nurse unto it. And the women her neighbors gave it a name, saying, There is a son born to Naomi; and they called his name Obed: he is the father of Jesse, the father of David.

Now these are the generations of Pharez: Pharez begat Hezron, And Hezron begat Ram, and Ram begat Amminadab, And Amminadab begat Nahshon, and Nahshon begat Salmon, and Salmon begat Boaz, and Boaz begat Obed, and Obed begat Jesse, and Jesse begat David.”

This genealogical record is repeated in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke. As noted in Matthew:

“. . .And Salmon begat Booz of Rachab; and Booz begat Obed of Ruth; and Obed begat Jesse; And Jesse begat David the king; and David the king begat Solomon of her that had been the wife of Urias;. . .And Jacob begat Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus, who is called Christ.”

It is striking how the Bible can so dramatically convey passion by means of a simple genealogical list. By the grace of this exception that is immortalized in the begats like a medal of honor, the gentiles were permitted to participate in the creation of the physical Jesus. This gentile participation in the bringing forth of the Jewish Messiah is a type of the participation of man in the Godhead.

As Boaz prefigures Jesus Christ, the marriage between Boaz and Ruth also foretells the union between Jesus and His Church. The hint of this relationship is given substance by Paul in Ephesians 5:22-32:

“Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, and to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church; and he is the savior of the body.

“Therefore, as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything. Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it, that he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word; that he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish.

“So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loves his wife loves himself. For no man ever yet hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, even as the Lord the Church; for we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones.

“For this cause shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall be joined to his wife, and they two shall be one flesh.

“This is a great mystery, but I speak concerning Christ and the church.”

NAMING THE ANIMALS

 

In Genesis 2, God pronounces it not good that Adam should be alone. But before He proceeds to do something about it, He brings the animals of His Creation to Adam and asks him to name them. Then he forms Eve out of Adam’s rib.

“And the Lord God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help fit for him.

“And out of the ground the Lord God formed every beast of the field, and every fowl of the air; and brought them unto Adam to see what he would call them: and whatsoever Adam called every living creature, that was the name thereof. And Adam gave names to all cattle, and to the fowl of the air, and to every beast of the field; but for Adam there was not found an 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.”

This passage raises a number of questions, particularly in the sequence of events, but with other issues besides. Why did God insert the naming of the animals between His concern over Adam being alone and His forming of Eve? What was so important about Adam naming the animals? How could he name all the animals, given the enormous diversity of life?

As to the first issue, the sequence of the Biblical narrative, I like best an answer picked off the Internet on the Creation Moments website: God was using the simple tool of names to teach Adam to communicate, a skill that he would then pass on to Eve, enabling them to bond through joint communication. That answer is appealing, as it would be a valid prerequisite to the event of bringing Adam and Eve together, much to be preferred to the two staring dumbly at each other, at a total loss of words.

This reason also answers in part the second issue, the importance of Adam naming the animals. But there are other important reasons, one of which is that in having Adam name the animals, God was asserting that these creatures were fixed kinds, finished designs whose basic properties would remain intact throughout history. Thus, this episode in Adam’s life is a slap in the face to Darwin’s theory of evolution, which postulates that life is unceasingly undergoing change. In Darwin’s view, all life is in constant transition from one form to another, so that the animals we see now are simply snapshots in time of what may be very different in the future.

Noted biochemist Douglas Axe captures the essence of this contrast between God’s stability of form with Darwin’s corresponding instability in Chapter 6 his book Undeniable: How Biology Confirms our Intuition that Life is Designed. There, under the heading “Life A La Darwin”, he speaks of the salmon and the Orca whale, each very different but “utterly committed to being what it is”. Life, as Axe sees it, magnificently represents completion of form, creatures living precisely as God designed them to live.

This stability of form leads to the next issue, the question as to how Adam could have named all the animals, even within his very long lifetime. If all kinds of life are stable as was asserted above, the very diversity of life would not only indicate that this diversity existed at the time of Adam, but also would make this task extremely difficult. At this point I’ll make a statement that appears to directly contradict this supposed stability of life: there were a relatively few “kinds” of animals that Adam was asked to name; first they were limited to birds and the larger animals; second, these “kinds” were the much-fewer basic precursors whose offspring branched out after Noah’s Flood to the diversity we see today. But then one might say, “See? Animals aren’t stable in form at all!” But the post-Flood diversity has much more to do with designed-in adaptability than actual change corresponding to the evolutionary model. The difference is that God’s engine of change is His inclusion in DNA of pre-existing alternate design modifications, whereas Darwin’s “engine” is dumb, random variation.

Take, for instance, the dog. There exist today an enormous variety of dogs of varying shapes, sizes and attributes. But they’re all still dogs, having the wolf as a common ancestor. The DNA of the wolf is information-rich, capable of accommodating plans “B”, “C”, and so on according to environmental conditions or the human interference of breeding. Most common breeds today are the product of the intelligent operation of selective breeding, and many of their features would quickly revert back to those of their common ancestor if they were to be divested of their human overseers and go into the wild. It is true the Mexican hairless creature would be in serious trouble in another ice age because some features such as length of hair might be incapable of reversion. But that would be due to DNA information loss arising from forced breeding.

THE FATHER FORSAKES JESUS

 

God, knowing that Abraham’s beloved son Isaac was precious to him, gave him a terrible commandment, one that would require every last ounce of Abraham’s faith, and more so because it didn’t make sense. It violated every feature of God that Abraham had known of his Lord.

The awful thing that God had told him to do was to sacrifice Isaac. Why would God do that?

Yet Abraham had the courage and strength of character to trust God, particularly His loving nature. In faith he prepared to carry out the task that God had set before him.

Hundreds of years later, Moses offered healing salvation to those who had been bitten by poisonous snakes during the Israelites’ journey through the wilderness. His cure, as directed by God, was to cast a bronze image of a serpent and hold it up on a pole so that those who were bitten could gaze up at it and be healed. Why would God use the image of a serpent, the direct representative of evil from the very beginning at the Garden of Eden, to heal the injured? If this was supposed to represent Jesus on the cross, it was the opposite of Jesus’ nature. Again, it just doesn’t make sense.

Yet Moses had the courage to obey God’s command, and the snake-bitten people were healed through that image.

Both of these events did represent Jesus, as both Abraham and Moses must eventually have come to realize, to their astonishment of the depth of God’s love. The fact of the matter was that a grieving Holy Father, unable to look upon sin, had to turn His head away from the sin-covered Jesus on the cross. He had to forsake His own beloved Son to a shame-filled, agonizing death. Jesus, in effect, not only suffered physically on the cross but had to become the filth of sin, taking on Himself all the bad thoughts and deeds of fallen mankind that had been done throughout history.

A thousand years after Abraham and a thousand years before Jesus came in the flesh, David reigned as king over Israel. During that time, he enjoyed an intimate relationship with God. One might even say that he spoke to God. God certainly spoke to him, as David penned many Psalms, some of which possessed knowledge supernaturally beyond David’s time on earth.

One of these Psalms is Psalm 22, which begins with words which Jesus repeated while He was suffering on the cross. According to Matthew 27:46, Jesus uttered these words of Psalm 22 as He suffered:

My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?”

It could be that Jesus repeated these beginning words of the Psalm so that readers of the Gospel over the centuries following His crucifixion and resurrection could marvel at David’s supernatural picture of crucifixion, a method of punishment that wasn’t known until several centuries after David.

Psalm 22:1-18 describes with precision what happens to a person as he is crucified.

“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from helping me, and from the words of my roaring? O my God, I cry in the daytime, but you hear not; and in the night season, and am not silent.

“But you are holy, O you who inhabits the praises of Israel. Our fathers trusted in you; they trusted, and you delivered them. They cried to you, and were delivered; they trusted in you, and were not confounded.

“But I am a worm, and no man; a reproach of men, and despised by the people. All they who see me laugh me to scorn; they shoot out the lip, they shake the head, saying, He trusted on the Lord that he would deliver him; let him deliver him, seeing he delighted in him.

“But you are he who took me out of the womb; you made me hope upon my mother’s breasts. I was cast upon you from the womb; you are my God from my mother’s belly. Be not far from me; for trouble is near; for there is none to help. Many bulls have compassed me; strong bulls of Bashan have beset me round. They gaped upon me with their mouths, like a ravening and roaring lion.

“I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint: my heart is like wax; it is melted within me. My strength is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue cleaves to my jaws; and you have brought me into the dust of death. For dogs have compassed me; the assembly of the wicked have enclosed me; they pierced my hands and my feet. I may count all my bones; they look and stare upon me. They part my garments among them, and cast lots upon my vesture.

This account of Jesus’ crucifixion includes some specific details associated with the event that are profoundly important. Among these are the remarks, as in Isaiah 53, of His reproach and rejection, the specific note of Jesus’ hands and feet being pierced with nails, and of lots being cast for His garment, as noted in Matthew 27:35.

TO WHOM SHALL WE GO? (CONTINUED

TO WHOM SHALL WE GO? (CONTINUED)

This post is a continuation of my previous post, in which I gave one of three reasons for my faith in response to another WordPress blogger’s question “How do you keep God in your life?” The question was raised after the blogger noted how many people have left their Churches and their faith behind.

The first reason for my maintaining my faith in God was what I called the direct and obvious intervention of God to get me out of jams. I covered that in my previous posting.

The second reason for my faith is the supernatural character of Scripture, including its amazing consistency and prophetic accuracy. Understanding this feature takes more than a superficial glance at the Bible (I’m sure you’re well beyond that), and explaining it fully would be beyond the scope of this posting. I have posted many articles on this topic, and have addressed it in my book writings as well. For a more detailed development I’ll simply point to the appendices in my book Marching to a Worthy Drummer, and particularly to Appendix 4: The Inerrancy of Scripture. Here I’ll highlight a few basic reasons and some Biblical zingers that really grabbed me.

Scripture is a supernaturally beautiful document that identifies itself as inspired and inerrant. Paul, in 2 Timothy 3:16 and 17, and Peter, in 2 Peter 1:20 and 21, both make that claim. Despite what at least one group of pseudo-intellectuals asserts, the Bible is amazingly self-consistent, including the manner in which the two Testaments support each other.

Time and again, where my first impression was of Scriptural inconsistency, the resolution in favor of consistency gave me a deeper understanding of God. An example of this is the difference in the account of the birth of Jesus between Matthew and Luke. Matthew has Herod so jealous of Jesus that Joseph and Mary had to escape with him into Egypt until the ruler’s death. Luke, in contrast, describes a peaceful setting for Jesus’ birth. The culprit here is the tradition of having the Wise Men come to the manger where Jesus was born. That wasn’t the case, as is obvious, from Matthew’s account of Herod’s slaughtering of children two years and younger, that the Wise Men came to Israel at least a year after Jesus was born. Another tipoff is Matthew’s having the Wise Men come to Jesus’ house rather than the manger in Bethlehem.

The Old Testament description of the Passover (Exodus 12) correlates perfectly with the Gospel accounts of Jesus’ sacrifice of Himself for our salvation. Adding weight to this correlation is the account of Migdal Edar (watchtower of the flock) that places the manger of Jesus’ birth as the very same birthing place for the special lambs to be sacrificed in the nearby Jerusalem temple. That the lambs were wrapped in swaddling clothes at their birth to maintain their ritual perfection adds yet more weight.

In the sixth century B.C., the prophet Daniel (Daniel 9) foretold Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem to the very day from Artaxerxes Longimanus’ decree to rebuild Jerusalem in 445 B.C. (years after Daniel’s death) to His entry on an ass as recorded in Matthew 21. This entry wasn’t unique; it was prefigured by Solomon, who entered Jerusalem as king of Israel on his father David’s donkey (1 Kings 1:33-38 and Zechariah 9:9).

Ezekiel 4:5 and 6, in combination with Leviticus 26:18, foretells the return of Israel to its homeland on May 14, 1948. This was discovered by the late Biblical scholar Grant Jeffrey, who claimed that the ancient prophecy was accurate to the very day; I have personally verified it to the year 1948, to my astonishment.

The third reason for my faith, like the first, is personal, involving the love of God toward me, and my responsive love toward Him. It makes me a bit of a pariah, as the intimacy I feel is related to my belief that the Holy Spirit is feminine. I’ve written much about that in postings and books, and again I point to my book Marching to a Worthy Drummer, which presents the logic behind that belief. In the context of the family-based Godhead supported by a feminine Holy Spirit, I view the future marriage of the Church to Jesus to be both substantive and productive, a re-enactment of the divine union of Father and Holy Spirit.

My Baptist pastor kind of looks at me sideways sometimes, but he’s managed to convince himself that my views aren’t so far outside the box that they represent heresy. In fact, Scripture itself, other than a few masculine pronouns that I suspect were inserted later to replace the feminine ones associated with the Holy Spirit, consistently points to Her femininity. I don’t understand how that escapes the Church in general. It appears that the early Church did indeed understand that. More recently, the Moravian Church of the 1740s, established in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, held to that view during her most successful and productive period.

The bottom line is that with this view I am able not only to maintain my faith, but to love God with the fervor He commands in Matthew 22:35-38, which echoes Deuteronomy 6:4 and 5:

“Then one of them, who was a lawyer, asked [Jesus] a question, testing Him, and saying, Master, which is the great commandment in the law? Jesus said to him, You shall love the Lord your God, with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the first and great commandment.”

This kind of love is akin to the fervor with which I love my own wife, Carolyn. It’s a beautiful thing, and I wouldn’t give it up for anything.