Posts Tagged ‘Israel’

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.

PSALM 22

 

Psalm 22 was written by David about a thousand years before Christ and several hundred years before the punishment of crucifixion was known in Israel.

“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 praise of Israel. Our fathers trusted in you; they trusted, and you did deliver 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 to 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 a 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 to 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 for my vesture.

“But be not far from me, O Lord. O my strength, hasten to help me. Deliver my soul from the sword; my darling from the power of the dog. Save me from the lion’s mouth; for you have heard me from the horns of the wild unicorns. I will declare your name to my brothers; in the mides of the congregation will I praise you.

“You who fear the Lord, praise him; all you, the seed of Jacob, glorify him; and fear him, all you, the seed of Israel. For he has not despised nor abhorred the affliction of the afflicted, neither has he hidden his face form him; but when he cried to him, he heard. My praise shall be of you in the great congregation; I will pay my vows before them who fear him. The meek shall be satisfied; they shall praise the Lord who seek him; your heart shall live forever. All the ends of the world shall remember and turn to the Lord; and all the kindreds of the nations shall worship before you. For the kingdom is the Lord’s; and he is the governor among the nations. All they who are fat upon the earth shall eat and worship; all they who go down to the dust shall bow before him, and none can keep alive his own soul.

“A seed shall serve him; it shall be accounted to the Lord for a generation. They shall come, and shall declare his righteousness to a people that shall be born, that he has done this.”

Matthew 27:46 records Jesus, after suffering for at least three hours after He was nailed to the cross, as echoing the cry given by David at the start of his psalm:

“And about three o’clock in the afternoon, Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani? that is to say, My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

It was noted in another volume of this series that God had to forsake Jesus, as He, in his moral perfection, could not look upon the sin that Jesus had personified. Jesus knew this beforehand, probably no later than while praying in the Garden of Gethsemane the evening before, and this knowledge may have contributed greatly to his agony there. He certainly agonized over it on the cross, but He also may have intended this utterance to point the future reader of Scripture to that Psalm.

Psalm 22 itself described in detail the physiological effects of crucifixion. The account has a supernatural element, as the Psalm preceded the punishment of crucifixion in Israel.

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.

THE SERPENT ON THE POLE

 

Numbers 21:4-9 speaks of the difficulties that the Israelites faced in the wilderness during their journey from Egypt to the land promised by God. By this time the people had grown tired of eating manna and were beginning to hate it. The way was dangerous as well. Among the hazards were deadly serpents, which had killed a number of people. Moses responded to this threat by having a replica of a snake fashioned in bronze and mounted on a pole, such that those who looked upon the serpent would be healed of snakebite.

“And they journeyed from Mount Hor by the way of the Red Sea, to compass the land of Edom: and the soul of the people was much discouraged because of the way. And the people spoke against God, and against Moses, Wherefore have ye brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? For there is no bread, neither is there any water; and our soul hates this light manna.

“And the Lord sent fiery serpents among the people, and they bit the people, and many people of Israel died. Therefore the people came to Moses, and said, We have sinned; for we have spoken against the Lord, and against you; pray unto the Lord, that he take away the serpents from us. And Moses prayed for the people.

“And Moses made a serpent of bronze, and put it upon a pole, and it came to pass that, if a serpent had bitten any man, when he beheld the serpent of bronze, he lived.”

The serpent on the pole, as representing the serpent of Genesis 3 who deceived Adam and Even in the Garden, also represented sin. This episode suggests that in some way a representative of sin can heal people.

The third chapter of John begins with Nicodemus coming to Jesus in the night, probably because he could get away then from the other Pharisees and speak privately to Jesus. Jesus responds with a discourse on spiritual birth, proclaiming that while a person is born in the material world through a natural mother, the Holy Spirit gives birth to a person in the spiritual realm, a necessity for those who are destined for heaven. Jesus continues in verses 14-18 to explain to Nicodemus that He is come in the flesh to point the way to a person’s spiritual rebirth through faith in Him.

“And, as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up. That whosoever believes in him should not perish, but have eternal life. For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whoever believes on him should not perish, but have everlasting life.

“For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through him might be saved. He that believes on him is not condemned, but he that believes not is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.”

In this discourse Jesus refers back to the serpent on the pole, through which people who were snakebitten would be healed through fastening their eyes on the brass serpent held up by Moses.

The obvious connection is that the serpent on the pole actually represented Jesus Himself, who indeed became sin on the cross for the purpose of healing mankind from its sinful nature.

Jesus actually became sin, having taken on Himself the sins of every person who ever lived and ever shall live. That is exactly why, in His agony during crucifixion, Jesus uttered the words recorded in the Gospels, as in Matthew 27:46:

“And about the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, Eli, Eli, lamasabachthani? That is to say, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?”

Unable to look upon sin, the Father, in the grief that was represented by Abraham’s attempted sacrifice of Isaac, had to forsake Jesus, covered as He was in the filth of mankind’s sin.