February, 2013

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How Will You Meet The Lamb?

Thursday, February 28th, 2013

And the kings of the earth, the great men, the rich men, the commanders, the mighty men, every slave and every free man, hid themselves in the caves and in the rocks of the mountains, and said to the mountains and rocks, ‘Fall on us and hide us from the face of Him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb!’” Rev. 6:15-16

Recently the eminent jurist Geoffrey Robertson, QC was interviewed on the British classical music radio program “Essential Classics.”[1] One of his anecdotes regarding a case where he served as a judge caught my attention, for it reminded me of the verses at the head of this post. When a burglar was brought before him, he had to recuse himself, because the first crime the defendant confessed to was the theft of the judge’s personal computer. The Guardian picked up the story and ran the headline: “Burglar meets his victim: his judge.” Obviously Robertson removed himself from the case in order to avoid the appearance of personal bias perverting the course of justice. In a sense this incident reflects the biblical reality that all men will meet their judge sooner or later. Amazingly, mankind’s judge was once also its victim on a particularly historic day millennia ago.

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http://www.artemisfilms.com/images/GR-04web_000.jpg

Enter The Lamb

In the first century A.D. the Son of God came to earth; men know Him by the name of Jesus of Nazareth, but His Father exalted Him as Lord and Christ (Acts 2:36.) John the Baptist gave Him another title, saying to his disciples: “Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” (Jn. 1:29.) The concept of a sacrificial lamb was familiar in Jewish history and thought. Abraham promised that God would provide a lamb for His own holy satisfaction (Gen. 22:8, 14.) When the LORD delivered Israel from slavery in Egypt, He called for them to use a lamb’s blood to symbolically shield them from the divine wrath falling upon that land (Ex. 12:3-17.) Ever after that dramatic night the Passover would be associated with the offering of a lamb. The Levitical offerings also made use of sacrifices from “the flock” (e.g. Lev. 3:7; 4:32, 35, etc.) Thus clear sacrificial overtones were in view when the forerunner used the metaphor of a lamb to describe the Messiah Jesus.

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The Lord Jesus came to earth for the express purpose of dying as a sacrifice to God the Father for people’s sins (Phil. 2:5-11; Heb. 9:14.) His teaching and healing ministry was part of the ongoing revelation of God’s character and purposes.  The Almighty was demonstrating His holiness, righteousness, love, and mercy in the person of His incarnate Son. Instead of responding to this divine disclosure positively, men rejected the Lord Jesus. His moral perfection showed the bankruptcy of human religion and stripped away the carefully cultivated self-righteous facades of scribes, Pharisees, and Sadducees. The secrets of fallen and sinful human hearts were revealed – hypocrisy was exposed, pride was cast down, and the myth of human self-sufficiency was destroyed. Many people despised Jesus for His goodness toward those who were open sinners. Others refused His grace, thinking that they were sufficient to stand before God on their own merits. Eventually, Jews and Gentiles combined to execute Jesus in the cruelest manner known to them: crucifixion.

Crimes Against Deity

Yet in spite of their wickedness, the Lord Jesus willingly went to the cross. True, He was a victim, but one must add: He was a willing victim. As He avowed: “Therefore My Father loves Me, because I lay down My life that I may take it again. No one takes it from Me, but I lay it down of Myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This command I have received from My Father” (Jn. 10:17-18; emphasis mine.) Though men wickedly crucified Him, He voluntarily died and rose again to fulfill His Father’s plan (1 Cor. 15:3-8.) In the aftermath of His resurrection, many people believed on Christ by receiving Him as their Lord and Savior (Acts 2:41; Acts 6:7.) Others rejected Him, preferring to die with uncertainty and take their chances before God’s great white throne of judgment. This was a foolish option, for the verdict is not in doubt (Jn. 3:18.) To trust in the Lord Jesus as one’s “Passover lamb” is to rest in His finished work of salvation that delivers one from divine wrath and eternal perdition in hell (Jn. 5:24; 1 Cor. 5:7-8.) Such a one says: “The Lord Jesus is my lamb; He died and rose for me!”

All Rise, The Judge Enters

Some day the Lamb will return to earth. But this time He is not coming to die and save; rather He is coming to judge and execute wrath on those who have refused His light and grace. People will seek shelter in vain, crying out for some hiding place from the holy gaze of the Son of God. He will be the judge – one who was once a victim; one who once suffered the grossest injustice in world history. He loves righteousness and hates iniquity. He is immune to bribery. As the omniscient Son of God, He will not be fooled by legal sophistry or chicanery. He will not cease until He fills the universe with the knowledge of God and roots out all evil, judging it appropriately. The Lord Jesus will bring in a new heavens and new earth wherein righteousness dwells (2 Pet. 3:13.) Will you meet the Lamb as your Lord and Savior? Or will He be your judge?

[1]BBC Radio 3, “Essential Classics,” hosted by Rob Cowan: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b01qqfly  Aired 18 February, 2013.

We’ll Praise Him For All That Is Past & Trust Him For All That’s To Come

Wednesday, February 20th, 2013

So God heard their groaning, and God remembered His covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob. And God looked upon the children of Israel, and God acknowledged them.” Exodus 2:24-25

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Image: http://images.sodahead.com/slideshows/000018393/5240483668_moses_snake-81226511681_xlarge.png

The Bible is filled with promises, but can one trust in them? After all, they were written millennia ago. Many assume that as modern, educated people they have no need for these ancient prophecies. Such assumptions are flat wrong, however, “For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart” (Heb. 4:12.) These “living” oracles are still relevant and true, what is more they will be fulfilled, because God is eminently trustworthy. His deliverance of the enslaved sons of Israel provides us with an outstanding example of His faithfulness.

The King Is Dead, Long Live The King

Moses’ forty-year stint as a shepherd, toiling in obscurity in the backside of the desert was coming to an end. He fled to Midian to avoid prosecution and execution for murder – a killing that was intended to alleviate the Israelites’ sufferings. But they did not follow his lead in revolting against the reigning superpower of the ancient Near East.  The Pharaoh who pursued his life was now dead and a new man was on the throne. More importantly, as our passage demonstrates, the Lord was well aware of His people Israel’s bondage and sufferings. T. Desmond Alexander notes the connection between the Lord’s and Moses’ common desire to aid Israel: “Thematically it is linked to the preceding section; God, like Moses, cares for the oppressed. Although there have been brief allusions to God’s concern for his people, only now does the narrative reveal in detail his awareness of the Israelites’ suffering: God hears, remembers, sees and knows (24–25).”[i]

The Lord “heard their groaning” – their excruciating pain was not unnoticed by the Almighty.[ii] Their chains were real – as is seen in the repeated use of the word “bondage,” v. 23 – and their prospects for freedom must have seemed exceedingly remote. Nevertheless, He was aware of their need, and had a plan to liberate and bless them. As the New English Translation authors explain: “To say God heard their complaint means that God responded to it. Likewise, the verb זָכַר (zakhar, ‘to remember’) means to begin to act on the basis of what is remembered.”[iii]

Revisiting Old Promises

Not only was the Lord motivated by the Israelites’ immediate situation, He also looked back to the past, referencing the covenant that He made with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (v. 24.) Rather than sidetrack His purposes for Israel, the enslavement in Egypt was actually part of the plan, as He told Abraham four centuries earlier (Gen. 15:13-16.) Changing geo-political realities, economic upheavals – even time itself cannot prevent Almighty God from carrying out His will. As the nineteenth-century Bible teacher Edward Dennett declared: “It is impossible that God should forget His word, and if He delay to accomplish it, it is only for the brighter display of His unchanging grace and love.”[iv] Being mindful of His past promises and His people’s present sufferings, the Lord sent a deliverer to rescue them from bondage. Later He led them into the Promised Land. Knowing that He was faithful to Israel in this way – not to mention the hundreds of other fulfilled Old Testament prophecies and types – assures modern people of the Almighty’s commitment to do what He has promised. If you know Him through faith in His Son the Lord Jesus Christ, you may be confident that He will do everything for believers that He has said. As a classic hymn poetically expresses it:

 The work which His goodness began,

The arm of His strength will complete;

His promise is Yea and Amen,

And never was forfeited yet.

Things future, nor things that are now,

Not all things below or above,

Can make Him His purpose forego,

Or sever my soul from His love.[v]

 


[i] T. Desmond Alexander, “Exodus,” in New Bible Commentary: 21st Century Edition, eds. D. A. Carson, R. T. France, J. A. Motyer and G. J. Wenham, 4th ed., Ex 2:23–25 (Leicester, England; Downers Grove, IL: Inter-Varsity Press, 1994), electronic ed. [Logos.]

[ii] According to the New English Translation margin: “The word for this painfully intense ‘groaning’ appears elsewhere to describe a response to having two broken arms (Ezek 30:24).” The Israeli Hebrew scholar Umberto Cassuto renders it “groaning brokenheartedly.” Umberto Cassuto, A Commentary On The Book Of Exodus, translated from Hebrew by Israel Abrahams, Skokie, IL: Varda Books, 2005, p. 29. Ironically, the Lord says He will break Pharaoh’s arms in Ezek. 30:24, where the same Hebrew word is used – sowing and reaping by the nation that oppressed Israel (Gal. 6:7-8.)

[iii] Footnote #93, NET Bible, Biblical Studies Press, 2006. Electronic version available here: http://bible.org/netbible/index.htm  Accessed on 2/20/13.

[iv] Edward Dennett, Typical Teachings of Exodus: Being a Simple Exposition. (London: W. H. Broom, 1882), p. 17.

[v] Augustus Toplady, “A Debtor To Mercy Alone,” Accessed on 2/20/13 here: http://www.hymnary.org/text/a_debtor_to_mercy_alone

Finding The Love Of Your Life

Thursday, February 14th, 2013

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Image found: http://visaodemenina.blogspot.com (via google images)

In much of the western hemisphere, today, 14th of February, is Valentine’s Day – a commercially-driven, overly-sentimental excuse to give flowers, candy, greeting cards, and special dinners to one’s spouse/boy-friend/girl-friend, etc. Many people will experience disappointment today as they have no one to lavish these dainties upon them. Others will be disillusioned by lackluster “dates” with sub-par would-be wooers. Like so many things in this world, this pseudo-holiday will fail to live up to many people’s expectations. Therefore, I offer an encouraging portrait of the perfect lover: one who exhibits sacrificial care by meeting his beloved’s deepest needs, resolute faithfulness amidst all of life’s seasons, and unparalleled generosity in lavishing gifts on them.

 1. His Sacrificial Care

This “glorious bridegroom of our hearts”[1] went to a garbage heap to win His bride. In a true tale far beyond Cinderella’s mythical rise from rags to riches, He left a place of security and beauty to traverse a slum. To prepare His beloved for her new life, He paid her crushing load of debt, and then ushered her into a new life with new values, desires, and blessings. As Romans 5:8-10 describes His self-sacrificing care: “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him. For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.”

2. His Resolute Faithfulness

This lover will never leave or forsake those who are in a relationship with Him (Heb. 13:5.) In adversity He is there to comfort and strengthen (2 Cor. 1:3-4.) In times of blessing, He gives joy and rejoices with His loved ones (Zeph. 3:17; Eph. 1:3.) When we are tired, He is unwearied, and watches over us (Psa. 120.) He provides, protects, guides, loves, and assures us that we are completely fulfilled in Him (Col. 2:20.) As the Bible speaks of Him: “Therefore know that the Lord your God, He is God, the faithful God who keeps covenant and mercy for a thousand generations with those who love Him and keep His commandments” (Dt. 7:9.) He promises: “…I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Mt. 28:20.)

3. His Unparalleled Generosity

As a gift of love the Taj Mahal[2] pales in comparison to this one’s generosity: “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (Jn. 3:16.) “What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?” (Rom. 8:31-32.) “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that you through His poverty might become rich” (2 Cor. 8:9.) There is no gift comparable to the life of the Lord Jesus Christ, which was poured out as a sacrifice for our sin. Three days later He put the finishing touches on the gift by rising from the dead; now He offers us eternal life and love in Himself. As Bonar rightly called it “the gift of gifts all other gifts in one!”[3]

Have you received the Lord Jesus Christ through faith? Eternal life is a relationship; like other relationships it is personal (Jn. 17:3.) It is no use saying: “I know about Jesus. I know who He was, what He did, and what He taught.” Do you know Him personally? Have you repented of your sins, telling Him that you want salvation from the judgment that you justly deserve? (Rom. 10:9.) Have you left off trying to earn His love and salvation – something that He says we can never do (Eph. 2:8-9)? Tell the Lord that you do not want to live for this world anymore; rather you want Him, and you want Him to change you and take you to glory with Himself (1 Jn. 3:1-3; 2 Cor. 5:17.) If you do so sincerely, you will find the perfect Lover, who will save you and love you for this life and the one to come.

 


[1] C.H. Spurgeon, “Amidst Us Our Beloved Stands,” accessed here: http://www.hymntime.com/tch/htm/a/m/i/amidstus.htm on 2/14/13.

[2] The seventeenth century Mughal emperor Shah Jahan built this famous monument as a testament to his love for his wife, Empress Mumtaz Mahal see these links: http://tajmahal.gov.in/shah_jahan.html & http://tajmahal.gov.in/mumtaz.html

[3] Horatius Bonar, “Blessed be God Our God,” accessed here: http://www.stempublishing.com/hymns/ss/89 on 2/14/13.

Remembering God’s Goodness

Tuesday, February 5th, 2013

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I have compassion on the multitude, because they have now continued with Me three days and have nothing to eat. And if I send them away hungry to their own houses, they will faint on the way; for some of them have come from afar.” Mark 8:2-3

Skeptics frequently allege that God does not care about humanity – if He is good, they reason, then why is the world in such a bad state! Such thinking willingly ignores His many providential provisions for mankind: air to breath, the multifaceted functions of the sun, abundant water (far better than Mars, for instance), etc. On the other hand, the Almighty’s critics lay the blame for human crimes upon the Creator, condemning Him for the skyrocketing violence on planet earth (ironic, since if God does not exist, there is no universal standard of morality; nothing is inherently evil; people merely dance to the chemically encrypted tune of our genes.) This view of reality obviously falls short of doing justice to the facts – or to the Creator Himself.

Catering In The Desert Redux

One incident from God the Son’s earthly ministry will suffice to demonstrate His unrivaled and unerring concern for human beings. The Gospel of Mark 8:1 describes the situation: “In those days, the multitude being very great and having nothing to eat, Jesus called His disciples to Him and said to them.” A large crowd of 4,000 with a presumably ravenous appetite after three days of going without food was standing in front of the disciples; the Lord invited them to help the needy multitude. But the disciples protested, citing their own inability given the tremendous need and the barren setting of their current location. How soon they forgot the Lord’s previous miracle of feeding 5,000 men (plus women and children, cf. Mt. 14:21) in a similar circumstance. Sadly, they were not the last followers of Christ to forget His past blessings, instead worrying over the crisis of the hour.

Without a word of rebuke, the Lord Jesus directed them to bring what they had to Him (in this case, seven loaves and a few small fish.) He took their meager resources and miraculously multiplied them to the complete satisfaction of the hungry listeners. Verse 8 affirms that they all ate and then had seven baskets of leftovers. In Scripture seven often indicates perfection; thus the perfect provision of the Son of God is displayed in this wondrous sign.

You Are The God Who Sees

As impressive as this work of power is in itself, the statement of the Lord Jesus’ intimate knowledge of the needs of the crowd is an equally amazing display of God’s character. His interest in people and their needs is on full view in this episode in Christ’s ministry on earth. He knew their need: they were hungry; and He likewise knew what would happen to them if they departed without eating: some would not make it home without “fainting on the way.” Now someone might aver that these are obvious deductions, just keeping in mind the circumstances. Nonetheless, when would-be presidents address the nominating conventions of their party, they do not begin by inquiring if the party faithful who are in attendance have eaten. No, such leaders are too important to give themselves to the minute needs of the little people that they represent (photo-ops with the politician shaking hands with the unwashed masses notwithstanding.) Yet when the Creator of the universe came to earth, He demonstrated great interest in meeting human needs – especially their spiritual needs.

Come & Dine

It is wonderful to have a God who can miraculously feed the hungry; nevertheless, it is far greater for Him to become the Bread from heaven that a man may eat of and not die (John 6.) In order to give this matchless provision, He died on the cross as a sacrifice that satisfied the divine sense of justice. Then He rose again, proving that He is stronger than death and the grave, and that He will one day raise His people from mortality and corruption to immortality in glorified bodies (1 Cor. 15.)

Having taken care of these enormous spiritual needs for believers, what lesser things will He not provide for them (Rom. 8:31-32)? If you are a Christian, then you may rest assured that whatever trial you are struggling under, He knows your situation. What is more, He is working to use it for your eternal blessing and betterment (Rom 8:28-29.) If you are not yet a Christian, please know that He is ordering the events of your life to give you an opportunity to turn from your sinful life and receive His salvation through personal faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. With Paul, an apostle of Christ, I put this question to you: “…do you despise the riches of His goodness, forbearance, and longsuffering, not knowing that the goodness of God leads you to repentance?” (Rom. 2:4.)