Posts Tagged ‘Angels’

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.

THE ABOMINATION OF DESOLATION SPOKEN OF BY DANIEL

 

In His Olivet Discourse, recorded in Matthew 24, Jesus calls Daniel to mind in the following statement (24:15-22):

“When you, therefore, shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, stand in the holy place (whosoever reads, let him understand), then let them who are in Judea flee into the mountains; let him who is on the housetop not come down to take anything out of his house; neither let him who is in the field return back to take his clothes. And woe to those who are pregnant, and to those who are nursing their children in those days! But pray that your flight be in the winter, neither on the sabbath day; for then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be. And except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved; but for the elect’s sake those days shall be shortened.”

Jesus went on from there to speak of signs of what is called the tribulation period and of the time directly following that. In this passage Jesus is considered by most theologians to be speaking of a seven-year time of terrible events detailed more thoroughly in the Book of Revelation that have a worldwide effect just before Jesus Christ comes either for (post-tribulation rapture) or with (pre-tribulation rapture) His Church.

Daniel 9:24-27 speaks of an abomination of desolation, and this passage is usually interpreted as being in lockstep with Matthew 24:15, describing the death of Jesus for our sakes, followed by the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple by the Antichrist in the middle of a seven-year tribulation period that is to be initiated by a peace treaty with Israel. After causing the normal sacrifice to stop, the Antichrist sets up the abomination of desolation.

“Seventy weeks are determined for your people and for your holy city, to finish the transgression, and to make an end of sins, and to make reconciliation for iniquity, and to bring in everlasting righteousness, and to seal up the vision and prophecy, and to anoint the most Holy.

“Know, therefore, and understand, that from the going forth of the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem until the Messiah, the Prince, shall be seven weeks, and sixty-two weeks; the street shall be built again, and the wall, even in troublous times.

“And after sixty two weeks shall Messiah be cut off, but not for himself; and the people of the prince to come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary, and the end of it will be with a flood, and to the end of the war desolations are determined.

“And he shall confirm the covenant with many for one week; and in the midst of the week he shall cause the sacrifice and the oblation to cease, and for the overspreading of abominations he shall make it desolate, even until the consummation, and that determined shall be poured upon the desolate.”

The portion of this passage that deals with the timing of Jesus’ first advent was covered in an earlier chapter. Sixty nine weeks of years after the rebuilding of Jerusalem, Jesus appears in the flesh. Daniel tells us here that after Jesus’ crucifixion at the end of the sixty-nine week period, there will be a prince to come. This prince is usually interpreted as the Antichrist, whose people, according to Daniel, will destroy Jerusalem and the Temple again. This destruction is usually perceived as coming much earlier than the coming of the Antichrist, being the destruction of Jerusalem and the burning of the temple that occurred in 70 A.D.

Because the General who commanded the soldiers who destroyed the temple in 70 A.D. was the Roman Titus, the people of the Antichrist to come are usually thought of as being Romans as well, or as Europeans. I question this association, noting that the soldiers under Titus were local Arabs who were conscripted by Rome. This, to me, opens the door to a Muslim Antichrist. After the destruction of the temple, this prince, the Antichrist, will finally appear at a time yet in the future to confirm a covenant, usually interpreted as a peace treaty between Israel and its antagonistic neighbors. This event, it is commonly said, will initiate the beginning of the final seven-year fulfillment of the seventy weeks of which Gabriel instructed Daniel, which is separated from the previous sixty nine weeks by the Church Age. It is this seventieth seven-year period spoken of in Daniel 9:24, along with comparable passages in Revelation that speak of periods of three and a half years that has led Bible scholars to think of the tribulation period as consisting of seven years, with the Great Tribulation occurring at the latter half of that period. Whether or not there is to be a third temple built during the time of tribulation, and a consequent third destruction, is an open issue. Paul speaks of our bodies being temples of flesh; perhaps the Church, being an aggregate of such temples, will be the one that is involved in the Tribulation.

In Daniel 11:31 is another passage that appears to match what Jesus spoke of in His Olivet discourse.

“And forces shall stand on his part, and they shall pollute the sanctuary of strength, and shall take away the daily sacrifice, and they shall place the abomination that makes desolate.”

Because Jesus, being on earth five centuries after the birth of Daniel, spoke of Daniel’s Abomination of Desolation as being yet in the future, Bible scholars commonly interpret the passage from Daniel quoted above as also being a future event. But others, thinking back on history, see that this passage and the surrounding verses match quite well with an event that occurred after Daniel but before Jesus, at around 165 B.C. The villain in this precursor event is Antiochus Epiphanes, a brutal persecutor of the Jews and a type of the Antichrist to come. Antiochus did indeed invade the Temple in Jerusalem, stopped the normal sacrifice, and he sacrificed instead a pig on the altar there. A pig is considered by the Jews to be an unclean animal.

Actually, Daniel may have been speaking of both the precursor event and the follow-on event, yet in the future, spoken of by Jesus. The future event is almost universally anticipated as happening at the beginning of the latter three and a half years of an upcoming seven-year tribulation period just before the return of Christ to Earth.

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 hot 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.

THE FULFILLMENT OF HANNAH’S VOW

 

The two books of Samuel in the Bible were written over a thousand years before Jesus Christ was born, when Israel was still a young nation. The first chapter of First Samuel is occupied with Hannah, a woman of Israel from the tribe of Ephraim.

Hannah wanted to have a son very badly, but she didn’t seem to be able to have one. Yet she remained faithful to God, and every year she went with her husband up to a city in Israel called Shiloh to make their yearly worship and sacrifice. Year after year she did this, hoping to have a son by the next year. Finally, one year while she was praying, she broke down and wept in the sight of the priest for her lack of a son. In her misery, Hannah prayed to God, making a promise to Him if He would show His kindness toward her by giving her a son. Her vow went like this:

O Lord, of hosts, if you will look on the affliction of your handmaid, and remember me, and not forget me, but will give to your handmaid a male child, then I will give him unto the Lord all the days of his life.”

After speaking to God, Eli the Priest blessed her, and she trusted God and was no longer sad when she returned home with her husband.

“And the Lord remembered Hannah. And she bore a son, and called his name Samuel, saying Because I have asked him of the Lord. And when she had weaned him, she took him up with her along with sacrifices to the Lord. And they brought the child to the priest Eli. And Hannah said, O my lord, as your soul lives, I am the woman who stood by you here earlier, praying to the Lord. For this child I prayed; and the Lord has answered my prayer which I asked of Him. Therefore also I have lent him to the Lord; as long as he lives he shall be lent to the Lord. And he worshiped the Lord there.

Hannah did as she had promised God: she left her son Samuel with Eli the priest to live with him and learn the deep things about God from him. Then Hannah prayed again, this time to thank God for His kindness toward her:

“And Hannah prayed, and said, My heart rejoices in the Lord, my horn is exalted in the Lord; my mouth is enlarged over my enemies, because I rejoice in your salvation. There is none holy like the Lord; for there is none beside you, neither is there any rock like our God. Talk no more so exceeding proudly; let not arrogancy come out of your mouth; for the Lord is a God of knowledge, and by Him actions are weighed. The bows of the mighty men are broken, and they that stumbled are girded with strength. They who were full have hired out themselves for bread; and they who were hungry no longer hungered; so that the barren has born seven; and she who has many children has become feeble. The Lord kills and makes alive; he brings down to the grave and brings up. The Lord makes poor and makes rich; he brings low and lifts up. He raises the poor out of the dust, and lifts up the beggar from the dunghill, to set them among princes, and to make them inherit the throne of glory; for the pillars of the earth are the Lord’s, and he has set the world upon them. He will keep the feet of his saints, and the wicked shall be silent in darkness; for by strength shall no man prevail. The adversaries of the Lord shall be broken to pieces; out of heaven He shall thunder upon them. The Lord shall judge the ends of the earth; and He shall give strength to his king, and exalt the horn of His anointed.

“And Elkanah went to Ramah to his house. And the child did minister to the Lord before Eli, the priest.’

Samuel was raised among the priests, where he learned much about God. Then God used him in a mighty way. He became a great prophet, one of the greatest in Israel.

Listen to the words that Hannah spoke in thanksgiving to God for His gift of Samuel: ‘The bows of the mighty men are broken, and they that stumbled are girded with strength.’ God humbles the proud and lifts up the humble. Hannah was a prophet herself. She foretold in the Old Testament another woman’s prayer, far into the future, in the New Testament. This other woman’s name was Mary. Listen to Mary’s ‘Magnificat’ in Chapter 1 of Luke’s Gospel, which she spoke after learning that she was to give birth to our Lord Jesus Christ:

“’And Mary said, My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior. For he has regarded the low estate of his handmaiden, for, behold, from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed. For he that is mighty has done to me great things; and holy is his name. And his mercy is on them that fear him from generation to generation. He has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts. He has put down the mighty from their seats, and exalted them of low degree. He has filled the hungry with good things; and the rich he has sent empty away. He has helped his servant, Israel, in remembrance of his mercy; as he spoke to our fathers, to Abraham, and to his seed forever.’

We can learn something from this. The Old Testament is very important by introducing to us to things about God that He describes more fully in the New Testament. Just about everything that Jesus said and did when He came in the flesh was done before in the Old Testament by people of faith who were willing to be directed by the Holy Spirit. The same is true of those who were the closest to Him, like Mary.

We also can learn something else from this. God is our maker, and He loves each of us with a very great passion. But He doesn’t like it when we puff ourselves up as important, or when we get upset with ourselves because we don’t always win. He made us how He wanted to make us. Perhaps we should think less about how God should make us as perfect as possible and more about how we can be used by God and for His purpose the best that we can with what He has given to us to use.

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 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 GREAT I AM

 

The Egyptian government was so deep into the oppression of the Israelites when Moses was born that midwives had been commanded to kill the male children at birth. Moses was saved from that fate by the compassion of a succession of women. His mother had waterproofed a basket, placed the three-month-old child in it and put it into the water in the hopes that God somehow would save the baby.

God did. He had big plans for Moses, and for the fulfillment of them, Moses needed to remain alive. Pharaoh’s daughter came upon the basket and, having compassion on the baby within, adopted him.

For the first forty years of his life, Moses was a member of Pharaoh’s household, enjoying the same privileges and education as a native Egyptian. But he knew that he was an Israelite, and when he saw an Egyptian overseer abusing a slave, he killed him. Rather than appreciating Moses’ intervention on their behalf, they accused him of murder. Pharaoh himself got wind of what Moses had done, and sought to slay him as well. Moses fled Egypt, and for the next forty years of his life led a pastoral existence in the land of Midian, east of the Red Sea. There he married and had a son.

As the second forty years of his life drew to a close, God appeared to him from within a bush that burned without wasting away. Declaring His compassion on the Israelites for the suffering they were experiencing under the harsh hands of the Egyptians, God informed Moses that He had chosen him for the task of delivering his nation from slavery in Egypt and of bringing them into the land that He had promised Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Being alarmed at the magnitude of this task, Moses questioned whether his people would buy into this plan. He no doubt remembered how he already had been rejected by his people when he had tried to help them, and now God was asking him to do it again, but this time on a vastly larger scale of intervention. As related in Exodus 3:13, Moses peppered God with a series of questions:

“And Moses said to God, Behold, when I come to the children of Israel, and shall say to them, The God of your fathers has sent me to you; and they shall say to me, What is his name? What shall I say to them?”

In response, God gave him His name, an enigmatic one indeed:

“And God said unto Moses, I AM THAT I AM: and He said, Thus shall you say to the children of Israel, I AM has sent me to you. And God said moreover to Moses, Thus shall you say to the children of Israel, The Lord God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you; this is my name forever, and this is my memorial to all generations.”

For the next forty years Moses, having received abundantly of the indwelling Holy Spirit, struggled to fulfill God’s plan for him and His people Israel, the entire journey representing every Christian’s path through Jesus Christ from sin to salvation.

At first glance, this name that God gave Himself seems to emphasize His majesty and power, as if to challenge the right of mere man to question His authority.

Perhaps that is what God intended to convey, but Jesus, when He came in the flesh, took that name for Himself and embellished upon to give it a far different meaning.

That Jesus referred to Himself as the great I AM, and that the Father honored His assertion, is documented in John 8:56-58 and 18:3-6

“Then said the Jews to him, You art not yet fifty years old, and have you seen Abraham? Jesus said to them, Truly, truly I say unto you, Before Abraham was, I am.”

“Judas then, having received a band of men and officers from the chief priests and Pharisees, came there with lanterns and torches and weapons. Jesus, therefore, knowing all things that should come upon him, went forth, and said to them, Who are you looking for? They answered him, Jesus, of Nazareth. Jesus said to them, I am he. And Judas also, who betrayed him, stood with them. As soon, then, as he had said to them, I am, they went backward, and fell to the ground.”

As for Jesus’ own interpretation of what this name meant, His descriptions are given in John 6:35, 8:12, 10:7 and 11, 11:25, and 14:6:

“And Jesus said unto them, I am the bread of life; he that comes to me shall never hunger, and he that believes on me shall never thirst.”

“Then spoke Jesus again unto them, saying, I am the light of the world; he that follows me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.”

“Then said Jesus unto them again, Truly, truly I say to you, I am the door of the sheep.”

“I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd gives his life for the sheep.”

“Jesus said unto her, I am the resurrection, and the life; he that believes in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live.”

“Jesus said to him, I am the way, the truth, and the life; no man comes to the Father, but by me.”

These beautiful self-descriptions depict our God as loving and compassionate, much to our good fortune.