Monday, August 31, 2009

Jesus Heals a Man of the Dropsy

Dropsy. An old term for the swelling of soft tissues due to the accumulation of excess water. In years gone by, a person might have been said to have dropsy. Today one would be more descriptive and specify the cause. Thus the person might have edema due to congestive heart failure.

Edema is often more prominent in the lower legs and feet toward the end of the day as a result of pooling of fluid from the upright position usually maintained during the day. Upon awakening from sleeping, people can have swelling around the eyes referred to as periorbital edema. The Middle English dropsy came through the Old French hydropsie from the Greek hydrops which in turn came from the Greek hydor meaning water.

A strange meeting place.

And it came to pass, as he [Jesus] went into the house of one of the chief Pharisees to eat bread on the sabbath day, that they watched him. And, behold, there was a certain man before him which had the dropsy” Luke 14:1-2.

Why would the Pharisees, (one of the chief Pharisees) invite Jesus to his house to break bread on the sabbath? Jesus, the friend of sinners? Jesus, whom they hated? “And it came to pass. . .that they watched him.” Would they come seeking Jesus; to know Him? No, they would come that they might find fault; that they might have ought in which to accuse Him. This man claims to be the Son of God - away with Him!

Why was the poor man with dropsy there? He was certainly no friend of the Pharisees. He surely was not there at their invitation! (unless he was brought there as a snare in an attempt to entrap the Lord.) This diseased creature should be cast out! He has no place here! Jesus went into the house and found a man before Him. Why had the man come; to be abused, scorned, by the Pharisees - or did he come to see Jesus?

And why was Jesus there? Because he had much in common with His ’Pharisee brethren’? Because He wanted to fellowship with them? Or was it because He knew that the man with the dropsy was there, waiting on His arrival? Again we ask, by whose invitation was the man there? “All that the Father giveth me shall come to me: and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out” John 6:37.

The speechless Pharisees.

And Jesus answering [answering what?] spake unto the lawyers and Pharisees, saying, Is it lawful to heal on the sabbath day?” Whatever question they would have asked was answered with yet another question! (But we know! The Lord knew their thoughts!) A houseful of Pharisees and lawyers must have had the answer to that question: after all it pertained to the Law: they knew the law - didn’t they?

“And they held their peace” [hesuchazo, to keep still; to refrain from meddlesomeness or speech.]. Verse six ends, “And they could not answer him again to these things.”

Another thought: this eating of bread on the Sabbath was confined to the house of a chief Pharisee and his brethren. On almost all other occasions there was a crowd of ‘sinners’ in the midst. The Pharisees, actors, players as they were, would take this opportunity to perform. They would show (or think so in their folly) to show themselves superior, and Jesus inferior. In their despise and jealousy of Him would they think to catch Him as a fish in a net: it was a battle of the minds! They apparently did not have sense enough to know when to quit!

And he [Christ] took him, [the man with the dropsy] and healed him, and let him go;” vs.4. “And answered them.” But they have yet to say anything! Strangely enough, the man whom Jesus would heal didn’t speak either. At least there is no recorded conversation between them. Normally a person would cry out unto the Lord: or He would ask him of the desire of his heart: “Lord, that I might receive my sight; Lord, that I might be healed!” Never mind. Christ has read the minds of all those Pharisees; He knew their thoughts; why not also the thoughts (and heart) of the man with the dropsy?

“And answered them, saying, Which of you shall have an ass or an ox fallen into a pit, and will not straightway pull him out on the sabbath day?” Now who’s caught in the net? If they would say, ‘We would, of course, pull him out!’ Then why have you violated the command of the law? If they would say, No, we would leave the animal in the pit, perchance to die, as he may be wounded or become prey to a predator. Either answer would be unacceptable in their depraved mentality.

So - what have we here? a pit, a pit into which a creature has fallen and cannot free himself. We have One who will take him, pull him up, out. One who will heal him; One who will wash him with water; who will pour in wine for disinfecting; who will pour in oil for his healing; One who will let him go. . .But will the One who has shown such care not keep His eye upon him; continue to care for him?

“I waited patiently for the Lord: and he inclined unto me and heard my cry. He brought me up also out of an horrible pit, out of the miry clay, and set my feet upon a rock, and established my goings” Psalm 40:1-2.

This pitiable fellow with the dropsy was doubtlessly weak and without strength in his legs and feet. He was as one who had fallen into miry clay, quick sand. Did he wait patiently for the Lord? Did the Lord incline unto him; hearing his cry? (if not audibly, surely from his heart.) “And he took him,” brought him up and out of the miry clay of the pit. “And healed him;” “set his feet upon a rock. He is separated, delivered from the pit, from his dropsy. He is healed physically, he is healed spiritually. (Does the Lord work any other way?) His feet are now upon the Rock! He stands in the strength of the Lord!

“And let him go.” Is he healed? Has he received strength? Then ‘let him go.’ He’s made whole; now just turn him loose; he’s on his own?

There was another fellow who lay dead in a pit (the grave). Jesus called, “Lazarus come forth!” “And He brought him up out of the pit; set his feet on the Rock. Jesus saith unto them, loose him and let him go” John 11:44. Let him go? Isn’t that the same thing our Lord said about the man with the dropsy: ‘let him go?’ Let him go; release him from the grave clothes? Or could it mean more: let him go that Christ might ‘establish his goings?’

“And established my goings” Psalm 40:2b. Is Christ the Way, the Truth, the Life? Then let Him establish my goings! Let me go follow Him!

Of course we must take this personally. We were as the man with the dropsy; which is a far worse ‘congestive heart failure’ than he had; we were “without strength.” Rom. 5:6.

He [Christ] inclined unto me; heard my cry: lifted me up out of the horrible pit called Sin: up and out of the miry clay of which I could never free myself; set my feet on the Solid Rock, established my goings. And His watch care: “for He hath said, I will never leave thee nor forsake thee!” Heb. 13:5.

Looking Again at the Alabaster Box

John 12:1-11


The Alabaster Box containing a pound of ointment of spikenard. It was Mary’s treasure chest, a Hope Chest, if you will. The Day was coming for it to be opened. This was not a whim, not a sudden impulse. Surely the emotion of the moment had been building within her: “Then said Jesus, Let her alone: against the day of my burying hath she kept this [alabaster box of ointment]”.

Mary’s heart anticipated what lay deepest in His, even before it found expression in words. She not only knew that He would die, but she apprehended the infinite preciousness and value of that death. And how more fitting could she have expressed this than by anointing His body “to the burying” (Mark 14:8)! Exposition of the Gospel of John, page 229, A. W. Pink

The Father ordered it that His beloved Son should be “anointed” here in this home at Bethany in the presence of Lazarus whom Christ has raised from the dead: it attested the power of His Own resurrection! Exposition of John, page 232, A. W. Pink.

Alabaster. A finely grained variety of gypsum, often white and translucent used for ornamental objects, such as lamp bases, figurines, etc. Alabastron. an oil jar char-acteristically having an elongated shape, narrow neck, flat-rimmed mouth, and rounded base, requiring a stand or support, chiefly used for fragrant ointments; a vase. Webster’s Encyclopedic Dictionary.

Spikenard, a costly oil derived from the dried roots and stems of the nard, an herb of Asia. Spikenard was imported from India in alabaster boxes. These were stored and used only for special occasions. When household guests arrived, they were usually anointed with this oil. Nelson’s Illustrated Bible Dictionary, page 855.

If one would depend upon the definitions given by Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance, they are presented thusly: spikenard, [it is called nard also] pistikos: trustworthy, genuine. The word from which pistkos is taken is pistis: pursuasion, i.e. credence; mor. conviction (of religious truth, or the truthfulness of God or a religious teacher), esp. reliance upon Christ for salvation; by ext. the system of religious (Gospel) truth itself: - assurance, belief, faith, fidelity. But by all means, search it out for yourself.

Anointed for Burial.

Jesus suffered alone upon the cross. But might He have remembered the compassion of Mary; the costly ointment that she had allowed to flow freely down His brow and poured out upon His feet? Did she not weep as she anointed His feet? Did not the teardrops that fell from her eyes fall also upon His brow as she anointed His head? Teardrops mingled with the ointment: exceedingly precious was the ointment; exceedingly precious were the tears. Mary anointed the Lord for burial. Mary ‘broke’ the alabaster box. Was it not symbolic of her broken heart; a heart that was poured out before her Saviour?

Lazarus was dead.

“And many of the Jews came to Martha and Mary, to comfort them concerning their brother. . . [When Jesus arrived, he spoke to Martha, who in turn called Mary] “The Master is come and calleth for thee!” “The Jews then which were with her in the house, and comforted her, when they saw Mary, that she rose up hastily and went out, followed her, saying, She goeth unto the grave to weep there. . .When Jesus therefore saw her weeping, and the Jews also weeping which came with her, he groaned in the spirit, and was troubled. . .Jesus wept” John 11:19,31,33,35. (Jesus related to Martha that I AM the Resurrection. It appears that she had not heard that before. When Mary came he did not tell her the same: why repeat that which she already knew?)

Jesus wept; He suffered with Mary; He was touched with the feeling of her infirmities. Now could she weep; now could she suffer with Him; she could be touched with the feeling of His infirmities. Mary felt what Paul wrote later: “That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of His suffering” Philippians 3:10.

There was “no beauty that we should desire him” Isa. 52:14, but Mary “worshiped the Lord in the beauty of holiness” Psalm 96:9. “We hid as it were our faces from him” Isa.53:3, but Mary “beheld his glory, the glory of the only begotten of the Father” John 1:14, “We esteemed him not” Isa. 53:3, but ‘Unto Mary therefore which believed he was precious’ I Peter 2:7.

Since Orientals are so very demonstrative and emotional, it is difficult for those not acquainted with their customs to appreciate their method of expressing their sorrow, and their attempt to be comforted. In times of grief and sorrow, sackcloth is worn, and they often rend their garments in order to let people know how deep is their grief (II Sam. 3:31). Tears flow freely at such times and are considered to be a definite means of bringing comfort to sorrowing hearts (John 11:33).

Manners and Customs of Bible Lands, page 143, Fred H. Wight

The question of tears.

As Mary was anointing the body of Jesus for burial, it would have been unthinkable for her not to have wept. It would have broken custom and tradition; her love, devotion and worship for Him demanded it. The cross would afford no comfort; what prevented her from comforting Him before His death by the manifestation of tears?

Let us compare the ‘other’ account found in Luke chapter seven: “And one of the Pharisees desired him [Jesus] that he would eat with him. And he went into the Pharisee’s house, and sat down to meat. And, behold, a woman of the city, which was a sinner, when she knew that Jesus sat at meat in the Pharisee’s house brought an alabaster box of ointment, And stood at his feet behind him weeping, and began to wash his feet with tears, and did wipe them with the hairs of her head, and kissed his feet, and anointed them with the ointment” vs.36-38. In answer to the Pharisee’s objection Jesus replied, “I entered into thine house, thou gavest me no water for my feet: but she hath washed my feet with tears, and wiped them with the hairs of her head. Thou gavest me no kiss: but this woman since the time I came in hath not ceased to kiss my feet. My head with oil thou didst not anoint: but this woman hath anointed my feet with ointment. Wherefore I say unto thee, Her sins, which are many, are forgiven; for she loved much. . .” vs. 44-47.

Two women; two alabaster boxes of ointment; both anointed the feet of Jesus with ointment; both wiped His feet with the hairs of their head. One woman wept and the tears fell upon His feet, which she wiped with her hair. Tell me now, that Mary did not weep as she anointed the feet of the Lord that she worshiped; and wiped them with her hair for His forth-coming burial.

(The scripture says that Mary “broke” the alabaster box [Alabastron, an oil jar characteristically having an elongated shape, narrow neck, flat-rimmed mouth, and rounded base] Only Mark speaks of the Alabaster box being broken. “and she brake the box and poured it upon his head.” Did she smash it into pieces? Then the contents would have been splattered everywhere. Not to mention the impending danger from the sharp fragments being scattered in the process. In such case she could in no wise have poured it upon his head. Most likely, and from the scriptures we read: “against the day of my burying hath she kept this [alabaster box of ointment.” It was and continues to be so, that wines and other oils or perfumes have a seal; and this seal must be broken in order to open and pour forth the contents. Mary must have kept the seal undisturbed: the spikenard was for the Lord only. ‘Breaking’ the seal she could ‘pour’ the spikenard upon His head.)

Again we draw from an earlier quotation: “Spikenard was imported from India in alabaster boxes. These were stored and used only for special occasions. When household guests arrived, they were usually anointed with this oil.” We are familiar with “the anointing of oil.” In days gone by it was common for a pastor or someone else to go to the home of one who had an infirmity, put ‘anointing oil’ on their finger tips and place them upon the head of the sick before prayer. This, Mary did not do! She apparently poured the whole bottle upon the Lord Jesus! A small amount of the ointment upon the feet of the guest would have been noticeable, but discreet: but the whole house was filled with the aroma! Judas and the others did not strenuously object to the common practice of anointing. It was pouring a whole pound of spikenard upon the Lord! Now that was wasteful! Consider the other account of the woman who anointed Jesus at the house of the Pharisee: he did not object to the familiar practice of anointing a guest: his problem was that Jesus would allow a “sinner” to do so unto Him! A traveler, a guest, would not find it strange that his host should wash his feet, then dry them with a towel [Jesus did this to His disciples: I doubt that they had an alabaster box of spikenard in their possession!] and if he were a person of means and had the expensive spikenard; he would anoint the feet of his guest. [Odor Eaters and medicated foot powder were not available in that day!] Seeing to the comfort and refreshment of the guest was simply good etiquette!

[“Mary Magdalene has long been in popular tradition to “Mary the sinner,” and has been identified with the penitent who anointed Jesus. There were probably two anointings recorded in the gospels. . . There is no reliable evidence to connect Mary Magdalene with either anointing. When her name appears in Luke 8:2 there is not one word to connect it with the history that immediately precedes.” Unger’s Bible Dictionary, page 703.]

“Mary Magdalene out of whom he [Jesus] had cast seven devils” Mark 16:9. Does the account of the woman who anointed Jesus with the spikenard and the commendation of the Lord in her behalf even remotely resemble a woman possessed of seven devils?

But at this point I am a bit puzzled. In our text of John chapter twelve, we are given the account of Mary and the anointing of Jesus. A resurrected Lazarus was sitting at the table and observed all this with the others. Why then does John relay the account in chapter eleven of Lazarus, the brother of Mary and Martha, being sick, the following verse telling us, “(It was that Mary which anointed the Lord with ointment, and wiped his feet with her hair, whose brother Lazarus was sick.)” Is the cart before the horse? How are we to identify with this when the second anointing never took place until after Lazarus’ resurrection? How are we to relate to something that has not yet happened - unless Mary was the same woman who is revealed in Luke’s gospel; she who came to the Pharisee’s house, fell at Jesus’ feet, anointing them with spikenard and tears? In Luke 10:39, Mary is seen sitting at the feet of Jesus, hearing His word; of which Jesus said, “Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her” vs.42. Notice also at the grave site of Lazarus: “Then when Mary was come where Jesus was, and saw him, she fell down at his feet” John 11:32). “It was that Mary which anointed the Lord with ointment, and wiped his feet with her hair, whose brother Lazarus was sick” It would appear at least plausible that both anointings were done by the same woman, Mary of Bethany. The first anointing at the Pharisee’s house: surely this woman would have continued to follow Jesus; that we would have heard much more about her. And of Mary: how did she meet Jesus? Under what circumstances was she converted; when did she trust Christ for salvation? If she were the “sinner” in Luke chapter seven, the first account of the anointing of Jesus, then might she have returned home to Martha and Lazarus with a glowing testimony, leading to their conversion. Jesus was a frequent guest in their home. He loved Mary, Martha and Lazarus, and they loved Him; and Mary sat at His feet, listening to His teaching. From this she would come to know of His death, of His burial, of His resurrection. From this would the Holy Spirit have put into her heart to anoint Him for burial.

Valuable? Or Profitable?

The alabaster box of precious ointment of spikenard: it was valuable as it sat upon the stand or support; but it became profitable; its true value, its ultimate potential was realized, when it was poured out upon the brow and feet of the Lord Jesus.

What was more precious to the Lord Jesus; the ‘broken’ alabaster box of spikenard poured upon His head and feet - or she who bowed herself, broken, at His feet and anointed them with her tears and wiped them with the hairs of her head?

The blood of Christ was valuable to Himself, for the continuing life flow to His body; but it became exceedingly more precious and profitable when His body was broken and His blood, as a precious healing ointment, was poured out for wretched sinners. “What can wash away my sins; What can make me whole again; O precious is the flow, that makes me white as snow; No other fount I know; Nothing but the blood of Jesus!”

“Paul wrote to Philemon concerning his servant who had previously fled to Rome; now saved, ands in the company of the Apostle: “Which in time past was to thee unprofitable, but now profitable to thee and to me” Philemon vs.11. [The desire of the Lord is not for slaves, nor hired servants; but Sons with servant’s hearts.]

Few scriptures are more frequently quoted than Romans twelve one. Present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God? I know what I am to do, but how to do it I cannot discern. May it not be accomplished by presenting ourselves, as it were, an alabaster box of ointment; broken, poured out unto the Lord, a living sacrifice? And let us do it “To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved” Ephesians 1:6.

Dishonorable mention.

How sad, how tragic, the ‘disciple’ Judas and those at the supper! They argued over what they thought to have been wasted. Indeed! Why waste costly ointment on Jesus when it could have been sold and “wisely” spent. “But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these “things” shall be added unto you.” They were counting the creation of greater value than its Creator? Surely not. Quibbling over the finite when the Infinite stood before them? “For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows” I Timothy 6:10. Shall we spend more time mooring over the quibbling of Judas and the others?

“Then Jesus said, Let her alone” John 12:7. How blessed! Christ is ever ready to defend His own! It was the Good Shepherd protecting His sheep from the wolf. Judas condemned Mary. . .But Christ knew her motive and commended her deed.

He whose Name is “as ointment poured forth” commended her, who all unconsciously fulfilled prophesy, “While the king sitteth at his table my spikenard sendeth forth the sweet smell thereof” Song of Solomon,1:3,12. So in a coming day He will reward even a cup of water which has been given in His name. Exposition of. John, page 241, A. W. Pink.

Thoughts for meditation.

Appreciation is not to be expressed to a musical instrument; rather to the musician who plays it. Focus not upon the alabaster box of spikenard but the One upon whom it was poured, and the hands that ‘broke’ the vessel and did the pouring.

In Matthew and Mark she is shown anointing His head with the Spikenard from the alabaster box; but in the gospel of John, it is His feet. Mary anointed the head of Christ as He is the Head of all creation, the Sovereign God, and is worthy of all honour: but she would do no less than have Him be Lord of her life; therefore she bowed before Him in worship and anointed His feet!

She wiped His feet with her hair; the glory of a woman. In total submission, Mary lay at His feet in willing worship. The odor of the Spikenard filled the house. As she arose, the smell of the ointment was in her hair. Everywhere she went, it was a testimony that she had been with Jesus! His glory was all about her!

I think it’s worth repeating! If one would truly worship the Lord, he should humble himself before His feet; he must long to know Him: let him break the seal of his alabaster box and pour forth the ointment unto the Lord; let him diligently, reverently, prayerfully, search the scriptures, for therein is to be found the Way, the Truth, and the Life!

“Now upon the first day of the week, very early in the morning, they [Mary Magdalene, and Joanna and Mary the mother of James] came to the sepulchre, bringing the spices which they had prepared” Luke 24:1. But Mary whose brother the Lord had raised, was not with them. She had done what she could: she had come aforehand to anoint the body of the Lord to the burying. (Mark 14:8). She believed her Lord was risen, as He said!

Mary Magdalene, Joanna and Mary the mother of James; they had risen early, before dawn. Having gathered the spices that they had prepared, they went forth to the sepulchre that they might anoint the body of Jesus. Although He had told them of His forthcoming death and resurrection, they had chosen to ignore it. Such a thing could not be. They carried along with the spices the mentality of Thomas: “I will not believe!” Traditions and rituals they were willing to observe. Humanly speaking, what they intended to do was commendable. They would have someone roll back the stone that they might gain entrance into the place where lay the lifeless body of their departed friend, the Lord Jesus. There in the tomb would they continue to mourn His death. It is pitiable that these would come carrying the spices for the anointing of the dead. The ointments were a testimony as to their unbelief. The thought saddened me. Why could they not have had faith in the Word of the Lord? What of Mary Magdalene who cried, “They have taken away my Lord, and I know not where they have laid him.”

But do not all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose - sometimes even in the midst of our unbelief?!! These dear ones came being convinced of the worst: their friend Jesus was dead. They must anoint His body before the fourth day of His entombment. As Martha said concerning her brother Lazarus, who had been in the grave for four days, “By now he stinketh.” But no! I dare say that the tomb did not emit an unpleasant odor: perhaps rather the sweet fragrance of the lilies of the valley; of the Rose of Sharon! These ladies would come to anoint the deceased body of our Lord: but He would purpose that they come early that morning to the sepulchre that they might see the empty tomb; that Christ was indeed risen from the dead as He said! Their unbelief was turned to faith; their sadness to unspeakable Joy!

“That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ: Whom having not seen, ye love; in whom, though now ye see him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory” I Peter 1:7b,8.

Hallelujah! Selah!

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Why the Blood?

“Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers; But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot” I Peter 1:18-19.

As of now we see through a glass darkly, but there is a blessed hope that One Day our Savior will unfold as never before the wonders of His love; of His blood, freely given in our stead. How little of the plan and purpose of God we really have ability to discern. Oh God! When shall we truly have understanding? We speak of and sing of the Christ and His cross; but the more we know, the more we realize that we do not know. May there be handfuls of purpose given that we might glean thereby. Holy Spirit, speak into our ears and our hearts, words which cannot be spoken. We would see Jesus!

Understanding the Scriptures. The Lord takes the heavenly and makes known the earthly, that He might make known the heavenly. This He did by use of many witnesses: through parables, through metaphors, portrayals, similes, illustrations. The heavenly to make known the earthly to make known the heavenly. Did the bread and the cup that Jesus served His disciples magically turn into the literal body and blood of Christ as taught by the Catholics? Of course not! It was representative; it was to bring them to remembrance of the cross; of the blood that flowed forth; of precious, redemptive blood, sprinkled upon the Mercy Seat for our reconciliation unto the God of whom we had transgressed. “And almost all things are by the law purged with blood; and without the shedding of blood is no remission” Heb. 9:22.

The Law Declares it! The life of the Flesh is in the Blood. The law declares it? Yes. But almost a millennium before the Ceremonial law was given, God instructed Noah concerning the blood: “But flesh with the life thereof, which is in the blood thereof, shall ye not eat” Gen. 9:4.

“And whatsoever man there be of the house of Israel, or of the strangers that sojourn among you, that eateth any manner of blood; I will set my face against that soul that eateth blood, and will cut him off from among his people. For the life of the flesh is in the blood: and I have given it to you upon the altar to make an atonement for your souls: it is the blood that maketh an atonement for the soul” Lev. 17:10-11.

“only be sure that thou eat not the blood: for the blood is the life; and thou mayest not eat the life with the flesh” Deut.12 23.

The scriptures, on many occasions, give an answer in the midst of the question. Why are we not to drink blood; why is it seemingly an abomination in the sight of God? Verse eleven of Leviticus chapter seventeen which we read earlier gives the answer: “For the life of the flesh is in the blood: and I have given it to you upon the altar to make an atonement for your souls: for it is the blood that maketh an atonement for the soul.” Do not drink blood; it is life. It is Mine! It is consecrated unto Me. It is given for your atonement.

Confounding the Wise. The law said, but I say: “Then Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you. Whoso eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day. For my flesh is meat indeed, and my blood is drink indeed. He that eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, dwelleth in me, and I in him. As the living Father hath sent me, and I live by the Father: so he that eateth me, even he shall live by me” John 6:53-57.

“Many therefore of his disciples, when they had heard this, said, This is a hard saying; who can hear it?” John 6:60. Truly it is a hard saying; and who can hear it?

How then, does Jesus say, Thou shalt eat my flesh and drink my blood? It is a (seemingly) direct contradiction to the command of the Father. If I eat the flesh, if I drink the blood of Jesus, God will set His face against me! He will cut me off! But Jesus says that whosoever eats His flesh, drinks His blood - hath eternal life; has the hope of resurrection; dwelleth in me, and I in him: and I live by the Father! As I live by the Father, He that eateth me shall live by me.

What did the law say? “For the life of the flesh is in the blood: and I have given it to you upon the altar to make an atonement for your souls: it is the blood that maketh an atonement for the soul.” A vivid picture of the fulfillment of this scripture can be found in Isaiah chapter fifty three!

Given, For Your Atonement. “For by one offering he hath perfected [consecrated, brought to fullness, completed] them that are sanctified” Heb. 10;14. Sanctified, set apart unto the Lord? Consecrated, brought to completeness by the sacrificial offering of the body and blood of Christ? We are consecrated by Him, we are consecrated in Him, we are consecrated for Him, we are consecrated with Him. “And ye are complete in Him, buried with Him, risen with Him, quickened together with Him” Col. 2:10a,12a,13b.

The Lord Illustrates His Saying. “And he took bread, and gave thanks, and brake it, and gave unto them, saying, This is my body which is given for you: this do in remembrance of me. Likewise also the cup after supper, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood, which is shed for you” Luke 22:19-20.

“For I have received of the Lord that which also I delivered unto you, That the Lord Jesus the same night in which he was betrayed took bread: And when he had given thanks, he brake it, and said, Take, eat: this is my body, which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of me. And after the same manner also he took the cup, when he had supped, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood: this do ye, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of me. For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord’s death till he come” I Cor. 11:23-27.

What’s so Important about the Blood?

The Natural Man and the Blood. All are familiar with the basics: food and drink is assimilated or processed by the body. Air, oxygen, is breathed into the lungs. The blood is the carrier of nutrients and oxygen throughout the body. Not only does it deposit what is needed by the cells to sustain life, but takes upon itself the condemnation, the waste built up in the cells. The blood takes it away for disposal. The blood passed through the kidneys where the contaminates and wastes are purged. If the kidneys fail the body will eventually die from the poisonous pollution: the cleansing is crucial. The body has a dependence upon the function of its kidneys for purification.

The New Man and the Blood. The new man is totally dependant upon Christ: His blood brings life, nourishment, the breath of life, cleansing. “and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin” I John 1:7b. Christ cannot be polluted by the presence of our sin. (It was not embodied within Him; it was laid upon Him.) Christ’s blood cleanses, carries away our sin. Our sin is cast as far as the east is from the west; buried in the depths of the sea; His righteousness, imputed to us.

When Death comes to the Natural Man. The Science of Embalming. Basically two needles, tubes are inserted, one in an artery, the other in a vein. They are hooked up to a machine or pump. Blood is pumped out; embalming fluid is pumped in. We are familiar with the term, the “shedding of blood.” Shedding is the action of another; it is an outside source causing wounds from which blood is no longer contained. If the wounds do not immediately cause the heart to stop pumping, the pulsation of the heart will cause blood to continue to flow. Once the heart ceases to pump, the continual flow of blood ceases. Blood, once without the body, does not keep very long. Unless frozen or refrigerated it will coagulate quickly.

When Death Came to the God/Man. Christ is the Lamb slain [His blood shed] from the foundation of the world. He was wounded [His head, His hands, His feet, His back, His side] for our transgressions. He is the sheep who openeth not His mouth. The lamb whose throat is cut lies in submission. His heart continues to beat; he himself pumps forth his own blood; it is not forcibly drawn from his veins. So it was with our Lord. Though His blood was shed by reason of the wounds, yet He gave Himself a sacrifice; His blood need not be drawn from some outside apparatus; with His own heart pumped He forth His Life’s blood. As previously stated, Blood, once without the body, does not keep very long. Unless frozen or refrigerated it will coagulate quickly. The thought is this: in the offering of sacrifice, the fresh warm blood of the living sacrifice was to be taken by the high priest into the Most Holy Place to be offered on the Mercy Seat. Here’s the picture: Christ is the sacrifice; it is His blood that is to be offered. He is the Great High Priest who is to do the offering. He is the Ark of the Covenant, the Mercy Seat upon which His own blood is to be sprinkled. A suffering Saviour, a living sacrifice, Christ, as High Priest, willingly poured out Himself, His own blood. It was not cold, coagulated blood, offered upon the Mercy Seat three days later after His resurrection (as some suppose.) “The Blood will never lose its power” as some sing: Has the eternal Blood sprinkled upon the eternal Mercy Seat long since been coagulated, black, dried up? Or is Life still in the Blood?

Jesus died in our behalf: the wages of sin is death. “But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, being justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him. For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, we shall be saved by his life” Rom. 5:8-10. (If we are not justified before God, neither can we be reconciled unto Him.) Before laying down His life Jesus said, It is Finished. Then, Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit. It is finished? Not if the blood had not been already offered upon the Mercy Seat. Not if Christ was yet to be our propitiation. Not if reconciliation was not already obtained by the offering of blood. The veil of the temple was rent, from top to bottom, signifying that God had done this, signifying that the priesthood of men was officially at an end.

Signifying the “new and living way.” The veil of the temple prior to its rending: “The Holy Ghost this signifying, that the way into the holiest of all was not yet made manifest, while as the first tabernacle was yet standing. But Christ being come an high priest of good things to come, by a greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands. Neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us. . .How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God. . .” Heb. 9:8,11,12,14

“Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus. . .” The obvious should be obvious. If God has rent the veil of the temple. . .then the blood of Jesus is already, now upon the Mercy Seat, even before the veil of the temple was rent!.

What was rent? The visible veil of the Jewish temple. Christ Himself is the living Veil! “By a new and living way, which he hath consecrated [brought to fullness, completed] for us, through the veil, that is to say, his flesh” Heb. 10:19-20.

This (Christ Himself) is the Veil into the Most Holy Place. It [He] was not rent! How then may we enter the Most Holy throne room of the Most Holy God? It is through the blood. It is by faith. Does the Veil have a door? “I AM the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture” John 10:9. The Veil has no visible door; it can only be found, it will only open, one may only gain access, through faith in Christ and the sufficiency of His efficacious offering of blood.

God is making known unto us heavenly things by means of the earthly: namely, the atonement: pictures of blood, of life, of death. Our justification hinges upon the offering of the Blood of the Lamb; of His death, of His burial; of His resurrection; of His acceptance by the Father into the Heavenlies. And that, “To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved” Eph. 1:6.

As the blood is the life of the body, so is the Word to the soul and spirit. It carries with it, the Breath of Life, Nourishment, Cleansing.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

The Fire Within

A Wall of Fire Without


“Jerusalem shall be inhabited as towns without walls for the multitude of men and cattle therein: For I, saith the Lord, will be unto her a wall of fire round about, and will be the glory in the midst of her. . .he that toucheth you toucheth the apple of his eye. . .Sing and rejoice, O daughter of Zion: for, lo, I come, and I will dwell in the midst of thee, saith the Lord. And many nations shall be joined to the Lord in that day, and shall be my people: and I will dwell in the midst of thee, and thou shalt know that the Lord of hosts hath sent me unto thee. And the Lord shall inherit Judah his portion in the holy land, and shall choose Jerusalem again” Zec. 2:4b,5,8b,10-12.

Although these scriptures speak of the forthcoming kingdom age, yet this is but a continuation of the mercies and grace of an all consistent, all sufficient God. What greater example of this than that of the three Hebrew sons, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego?

Upon their refusal to bow down to Nebuchadnezzar’s golden image, they were cast into the infamous fiery furnace which was heated upward to seven times above which it was designed. They were cast into the furnace; they fell down. Was it because they were bound; or did they fall in worship to the True God? They would not bow to the image, but they would bow to the Eternal Son of God in worship! Of course, “the Son abideth forever. If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed” John 8:35,36.

The king, in astonishment said, “Lo, I see four men loose, walking in the midst of the fire, and they have no hurt; and the form of the fourth is like the Son of God” Dan. 3:25. (Well, he almost had it right! The form he saw was the Son of God!)

What a privilege! They fell at His feet in worship, now were they walking with Him - even though they were still in the midst of the fire. Perhaps we should consider following their example?

They were in the fire? Yes! “and they have no hurt” said the king. Why could the fire around them, not hurt them? “For I, saith the Lord, will be unto her a wall of fire round about, and will be the glory in the midst of her!” Zec. 2:5. Was the Lord, the glory of Zion, not in the midst of these children of Jerusalem? Was He not a wall of fire round about them, that separated, protected them from the king’s furnace of fire? The Fire within was greater than the fire without!

“And every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God: and this is that spirit of antichrist, whereof ye have heard that it should come; and even now already in the world. Ye are of God, little children, and have overcome them: because greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world” I John 4:3-4.

The Fire within is greater than the fire without!

In his Book of Martyrs (1563), John Foxe tells the story of the tragic events that took place from 1554 to 1556. The bloody Queen Mary Tudor ruled England, and for those committed to biblical Christianity, they were troubled times. Three bishops - Hugh Latimer, Nicolas Ridley and Thomas Cranmer - found themselves charged with heresy and placed on trial in the university church of St. Mary’s. Among the reasons for the trial were their commitment to the belief in the sole sufficiency of Christ’s atoning death for salvation and their refusal to compromise with the Catholic traditions and beliefs of the Queen. Eventually, Latimer and Ridley were punished together, while Cranmer’s trial and martyrdom came later.

According to Foxe, Ridley arrived at the place of execution first. When Latimer arrived, the two embraced, and Ridley called his friend to practice great faith in a terrible time. He said, “Be of good heart, brother, for God will either assuage the fury of the flame, or else strengthen us to abide it.” They both knelt and prayed before listening to an exhortation from a preacher calling on them to recant before death.

After the sermon, one of the officials pleaded, “Mr. Riley, if you will revoke your erroneous opinions, you shall not only have liberty so to do, but also your life.” “Not otherwise?” said Ridley.

If you will not do so,” replied the official, “there is no remedy: you must suffer for your deserts.”

“Well.” concluded Ridley, “so long as the breath is in my body, I will never deny my Lord Christ and His known truth. God’s will be done in me.”

The blacksmith wrapped a chain of iron around the waists of Ridley and Latimer. When the wood about Ridley’s feet was lit, Latimer said, “Be of good comfort, Mr. Ridley, and play the man! We shall this day light such a candle, by God’s grace, in England, as I trust never shall be put out.”

As the fire rose, Latimer cried out, “O Father of heaven, receive my soul!” and he died almost immediately. Ridley, however, hung on, with most of his lower body having burned before he passed away. Such faith! Such deep faith in deeply troubled times!

(Used by permission. Oxford Sermons Vol II, Triumphant Faith For Troubled Times, pages 68-69, Dr. Stephen D.C. Corts)

“Now thanks be unto God, which always causeth us to triumph in Christ” II Cor. 2:14. “Yet, not I, but Christ” Gal. 2:20. (Christ Himself is the (sole) object of our faith; likewise its source. Any other ‘faith’ is not faith at all.)

May we say again, The Fire within them was greater than the fire of the governing powers without! There was a Fire, an intense Fire, an Abiding Fire within their bosom. The fire without could burn the body but it could in no wise burn the Fire within! “For I, saith the Lord, will be unto her a wall of fire round about, and will be the glory in the midst of her” Zec. 2:5.

“Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us. Looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross. . .”

Sunday, August 9, 2009

The Angel of the Lord

It should be basic knowledge that Jesus did not first come into existence when He was born of a virgin. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him: and without him was not anything made that was made. . .” John 1:1-3.

“The Lord God made the earth and the heavens” Genesis. 2:4. “And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground” Genesis. 2:7. “And the Lord God planted a garden eastward in Eden” vs.8. “And out of the ground made the Lord God to grow every tree.” vs. 8. “And the Lord God took the man, and put him into the garden of Eden” vs. 15. “And the Lord God commanded the man. . .thou shalt not eat” vv. 16,17. “And the Lord God said, I will make him [Adam] an help meet for him” vs. 18. “And out of the ground the Lord God formed every beast of the field. . .and brought them unto Adam” vs. 19. “And the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam. . .made He a woman, and brought her unto the man” vs. 21-22. “And they heard the voice of the Lord God walking in the garden. . and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God” Genesis 3:8. “And the Lord God called unto Adam, and said unto him, Where art thou?” vs.9. “And the Lord God said unto the woman, What is this that thou hast done?” vs.13. “And the Lord God said unto the serpent . . .thou art cursed” vs.14. “Unto Adam also and to his wife did the Lord God make coats of skins and clothed them” vs.21. “Therefore the Lord God sent him forth from the garden of Eden” vs. 23.

Lord: Yehovah, (the) self Existent or Eternal, Jehovah. God: Elohiym, gods, in the ordinary sense; the Supreme God. The name ‘Lord God’ therefore, is “the self Existent, Eternal, Supreme God.” Jesus is the Lord God. “I AM the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob” Matt.22:32. “Before Abraham was, I AM” John 8:58.

Angel of the Lord is found in sixteen books of the Bible. The question concerning these: are they speaking of an angel of the Lord? or the angel of the Lord? We shall look to those that clearly identify Christ. The angels of the Lord have well served their Creator. Their presence has been known unto men (and sometimes not known): “Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares” Hebrews 13:2. Angels made appearances many times to give an announcement: (the host of angels to announce to shepherds the birth of the Son of God!) But there were times when God chose to put a personal hand in the affairs of men; those who were His children by faith. .

Any serious student of the Bible, with the Holy Spirit as his Tutor, should be familiar with the terms Theophany and Christophany. These terms speak not of an angel, a celestial creation, but identify with the Angel of the Lord, who is the Divine, Eternal God.

When Ishmael was conceived, there was conflict between Sarah and Hagar; (an on-going conflict which pictures the war between the spirit and the flesh; which lends itself to the conflict that continues in the Middle East, even unto this day.) Hagar fled. “And the angel of the Lord found her by a fountain of water. . .And he said Hagar, Sarai’s maid, whence camest thou. . .Return to thy mistress. Genesis 16:7-9. “And the angel of the Lord said unto her, I will multiply thy seed exceedingly, that it shall not be numbered for the multitude” vs.10. “And the angel of the Lord said unto her, Behold, thou art with child, and shalt bear a son, and shall call his name Ishmael. . .And she called the name of the Lord that spake unto her, Thou God seest me:” vs. 11,13-14. “Wherefore the well was called Beer-lahai-roi [the well of him that liveth and seeth me] vs.14. “I will multiply thy seed exceedingly?” The “well of Him that liveth and seeth me?” Is this an angel of the Lord who is conferring the words of the Lord God unto Hagar? Or is it the Angel of the Lord Himself, the Voice and the authority of His Father?

The offering of Isaac. His knife drawn, Abraham, in obedience to God, was about to complete faith by works! “And the angel of the Lord called unto him out of heaven. Genesis 22:11. [might an angel have appeared; restraining Abraham’s hand? No, the restraint must be in the obedience of faith: He called out of heaven!] And the angel of the Lord called unto Abraham out of heaven the second time. “And said, By myself have I sworn, saith the Lord. . .I will bless thee; will multiply thy seed. . .And in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed; because thou hast obeyed my voice” vs.18. By myself have I sworn? Thou hast obeyed my voice? Is this an angel speaking in behalf of the Lord God? Or is it the Angel of the Lord?

Moses at the burning bush. “And the angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush” Exodus 3:2. Acts 7:30-34. (The Angel of the Lord, the Son of God was seen by wicked king Nebuchadnezzar as He appeared in the fiery furnace with the three Hebrew children after the king had cast them into the fire.) “Moreover he said, I AM the God of thy father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob. And Moses hid his face; for he was afraid to look upon God. . . And God said unto Moses, I AM THAT I AM” Exodus 3:6,14 Was this an angel, or the Angel of the Lord?

Balaam and his ornery donkey. “And when the ass saw the Angel of the Lord standing in the way” Numbers 22:23. She saw the angel of the Lord; Balaam did not. Faith without works is dead. She did not know that her master was going against the will of God, she only saw the angel of the Lord standing before her with sword in hand and sensing that another route would be advisable; she moved three separate times to avoid the angel. Balaam was prevented from continuing his forbidden path. And the Lord opened the mouth of the ass! How demeaning! A witness, a testimony of a dumb? animal to a man who lacked faith, who could not see that which is substance, evidence! The Way, the Truth, and the Life will not be seen nor obeyed - without faith!

Gideon, the Lord is with thee. The Lord appeared to commission this faithful servant who thought the Lord was choosing the wrong man. (“But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things that are mighty. And base things of the world, and things which are despised hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are” I Corinthians 1:27-28.) For a sign that it was the Angel of the Lord who spoke to him, Gideon prepared a meal: a kid, unleavened cakes, broth in a pot. “And the angel of the Lord said unto him, Take the flesh and the unleavened cakes, and lay them upon this rock, and pour out the broth. And he did so. Then the angel of the Lord put forth the end of the staff that was in his hand, and touched the flesh and the unleavened cakes; and there rose up fire out of the rock, and consumed the flesh and the unleavened cakes. The Lord God Himself received the offering, consumed it with fire” Judges 6:20-21. Was He an angel or a priest? Who could do such a thing, were He not the Angel of the Lord?

Manoah and his wife; the parents of Samson. The news of the forthcoming birth of Samson, a deliverer of Israel, concluded in Manoah doing as Gidgeon; he “took a kid with a meat-offering and offered it upon a rock unto the Lord: and the angel did wondrously. . .“when the flame went up toward heaven from off the altar, that the angel of the Lord ascended in in the flame of the altar” Judges 13:19-20. What a beautiful picture! The angel of the Lord, as High Priest, receiving the offering that was offered upon the Rock, consuming it; the sweet-smelling savor ascending to heaven. Christ is the High Priest, He is the sacrifice, the offering: the angel of the Lord ascended in the flame of the altar! Our acceptance before God? Is it not in the Person of Christ Himself? Now, what angel has double duty? doing the works befitting an angel and fulfilling also the office of Priest? An angel offering a sacrifice unto God? What’s wrong with this picture? Is this not the angel of the Lord?

Zechariah, the tenth vision. “And he [an angel] showed me Joshua, the high priest standing before the angel of the Lord, and Satan standing at his right hand to resist him. In the presence of the Accuser, the Angel of the Lord called for Joshua’s filthy garments to be removed. “Behold, I have caused thine iniquity to pass from thee, and I will clothe thee with a change of raiment” Zechariah 3:4. “Thou shalt also judge my house, and keep my courts, and I will give thee places to walk among these that stand by” vs.7. Who was standing by? “Satan standing at his right hand to resist him!” What a kick in the teeth for Satan the Accuser!

Moses meeting with the Lord. Though the term ‘Angel of the Lord’ is not specifically used here, there is irrefutable evidence to support it. “as Moses entered into the tabernacle the cloudy pillar descended, and stood at the door of the tabernacle, and the Lord talked with Moses. . .and the Lord spake unto Moses face to face, as a man speaketh unto his friend. . .I know thee by name. . .thou hast found grace in my sight. . .my presence shall go with thee” Exodus 33. “And he [Moses] said, I beseech thee, show me thy glory.” vs. 18.

“And when Aaron and all the children of Israel saw Moses, behold, the skin of his face shone; and they were afraid to come nigh him” Ex. 34:30. Shall we say that Moses’ face reflected the face, the glory of the Lord? The countenance of the Lord was as lightning. Matthew 28:3, Daniel 10:6, Revelation 10:1.

Resurrection Day! The harmony of the gospels. As a beginning, let’s review and compare the accounts given in all four.

Matthew’s account of the resurrection. “In the end of the sabbath, as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week, came Mary Magdalene and the other Mary to see the sepulchre” Matthew 28:1. At the next mention of them, there is an angel present: “And the angel answered and said unto the women, Fear not ye: for I know that ye seek Jesus, which was crucified. He is not here: for he is risen, as he said, Come, see the place where the Lord lay” vs. 5. It seems that there is a break at this point: that which is recorded in verses two through four occurring earlier: “And behold there was a great earthquake: for the angel of the Lord descended from heaven and came and rolled back the stone from the door, and sat upon it. His countenance was as lightning, and his raiment white as snow: And for fear the keepers did shake, and became as dead men.” Matthew 28:2-4.

A great earthquake! Never would these women have set out to go to the tomb to anoint the Lord’s body in the midst of a great earthquake. It must have subsided, stopped, else they would not have felt safe to journey to the sepulchre. The time of the earthquake: after the resurrection, Matthew 27:51-53.

The angel they saw ‘answered’ the perplexed look on their faces: “where is the Lord; why is the stone rolled back?” This angel did as angels are known to do: he announced the “good news” of Christ’s resurrection. His countenance did not appear as lightning, else the women would have been terrified, perhaps in a far more fearful way than did those hardened professional soldiers who shook and became as dead men. (There is no mention as to the whereabouts of these soldiers when the women arrived.) No, in contrast, I’m sure the women were comforted and received assurance from the angel. “And they departed quickly from the sepulchre with fear and great joy; and did run to bring his disciples word. And as they went to tell his disciples, behold, Jesus met them, saying, All hail. And they came and held him by the feet, and worshipped him” vs. 8-9. They feared for joy. Can it be? Yes! They believed the testimony of the angel: Jesus is risen, as he said!

Mark’s account is as follows: Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of James had bought sweet spices to anoint the body of the Lord. “And when they looked, they saw that the stone was rolled away: for it was very great. And entering the sepulchre, they saw a young man sitting on the right side, clothed in a long white garment; and they were affrighted. And he saith unto them, Be not affrighted: Ye seek Jesus of Nazareth, which was crucified: he is risen; behold the place where they laid him” Mark 16:4-6.

So far we have an angel seen in Matthew; a young man sitting within the sepulchre on the right side, in Mark’s account. The witness of the angel and the young man are basically the same. Mark’s gospel differs slightly, in that he says that “Jesus appeared first to Mary Magdalene,” then she went to tell the disciples of the resurrection.

Luke’s account: “they [verse 10 identifies them: “It was Mary Magdalene, and Joanna and Mary the mother of James, and other women that were with them.”] came bringing prepared spices, and certain others with them” Luke 24:1. “And they entered in, and found not the body of the Lord Jesus. And it came to pass, as they were much perplexed thereabout, behold, two men stood by them in shining garments” vs.3-4. The testimonies of the two men was as the witness of the angel in Matthew and the young man in Mark: “He is not here; He is risen!”

John’s account. It is some what more involved than the others: Mary Magdalene came to the sepulchre; and seeing the stone rolled away ran to tell Peter and John: “They have taken away the Lord out of the sepulchre, and we know not where they have laid him” vs. 3. Next we have Peter and John entering the sepulchre and something new is added to the witness. Neither angel nor young man nor two men are to be seen at this time, but the grave clothes that Jesus had been wrapped in, were lying, apparently as though the person of whom they held had just vanished from within them, leaving the shell of grave clothes lying unto themselves. Not only could the grave not hold him; neither could the grave clothes. The ‘loose him and let him go’ as applied to Lazarus did not apply here!

The disciples having departed, Mary was left alone at the sepulchre weeping. “And as she wept, she stooped down, and looked into the sepulchre, And seeth two angels in white, sitting, the one at the head, and the other at the feet, where the body of Jesus had lain” vs.11-12. These angels asked, Woman why weepest thou? Turning, she beheld another man, who likewise repeated the question just asked by the angels: “Woman, why weepest thou?” Mary did not recognize Jesus until He spoke her name; “Mary.” This time the message was not from an angel, not from a young man, not from two men, but from the Lord Himself. The others had said that the disciples should go before them into Galilee; but His message concerns His ascension into heaven. (“I go to prepare a place for you, And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also” John 14:2b,3.) The clarification of the Lord: this has not happened yet, “I am not yet ascended to my Father” vs.17.

Now, let us examine the mysterious and perplexing account found in Matthew’s gospel; the part that should be taken separately, set apart from the rest, as it must have happened prior to the other accounts.

“And behold there was a great earthquake: for the angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and came and rolled back the stone from the door, and sat upon it. (He sat upon the rock. Is this not a proclamation of Christ’s victory over death?) His countenance was like lightning, and his raiment white as snow” Matthew 28:3. Cf. Daniel 10:6, Revelation 10:1. What was in the grave? Jesus’ body. Just before He gave up the ghost, He said, Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit. Earlier Jesus had said to the thief, To day, shalt thou be with me in Paradise. (That Christ should descend from heaven and roll back the stone from his own grave? Ludicrous! Or is it?) Who rolled back the stone? Was it an angel of the Lord? Was our Lord held captive? Was he hopelessly imprisoned until an angel be dispatched to free Him from the bondage of the grave? Did an angel roll back the stone to allow His release? Did an angel call loudly unto Him, Jesus, come forth? Did an angel say to the women who came to the sepulchre, Release Him and let Him go? The priests and scribes had said: “He saved others; himself he cannot save. If he be the King of Israel, let him now come down from the cross” Matthew 27:42. What would they now say? He raised others from the dead? He himself he cannot raise. If he be the King of Israel let him come up from the grave?

“And behold there was a great earthquake” Matthew 28:2. A parallel account is given in the previous chapter: “The earth did quake, and the rocks rent; and the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints which slept arose, and came out of the graves after his resurrection, and went into the holy city, and appeared unto many” Matthew 27:51-53. Did an angel cause all that? Or was it the work of I AM the Resurrection? The prophesy of Ezekiel, chapter thirty-seven and verses twelve and thirteen: “Thus saith the Lord God; Behold, O my people, I will open your graves, and cause you to come up out of your graves, and bring you into the land of Israel. And ye shall know that I AM the Lord, when I have opened your graves. O my people, and brought you up out of your graves.” The opening of the graves of saints after the resurrection; a picture/promise of God’s covenant with Israel!

Here in chapter twenty-seven we have the earthquakes, also the resurrection of saints coming out of the grave. When did this happen? After His resurrection. vs.53. Then in chapter twenty-eight we have the women coming to the sepulchre. We are given different views, and they are not necessarily in chronological order! In Matthew twenty eight we have the women coming to the sepulchre. Without notice verses two through four are inserted; then verse five takes up where we left off in verse one. (Scofield’s notes do not mention the Angel rolling back the stone, nor of his countenance being as lightning.)

In Judges chapter sixteen we find this account of Samson: the Gazarites lay in wait to kill Samson. “And Samson lay till midnight, and arose at midnight, and took the doors of the gate of the city, and the two posts, and went away with them, bar and all, and put them upon his shoulders, and carried them up to the top of an hill that is before Hebron.” What a beautiful picture of the resurrection of Christ! The gates of hell could not prevail: He came forth in victory carrying them as it were, upon His shoulders! “Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?” I Corinthians 15:54b,55.

“The angel of the Lord descended. . .his countenance was like lightening, and his raiment white as snow: And for fear of him the keepers did shake, and became as dead men” vs. 2,3. John describes his encounter with the Lord on Patmos: “and his countenance was as the sun shineth in his strength. And when I saw him, I fell at his feet as dead” Revelation 1:16b,17. Daniel gives this account: a certain man clothed in linen. . .his face as the appearance of lightning, and his eyes as lamps of fire. . .the men that were with me. . . a great quaking fell upon them so that they fled to hide themselves” Daniel 10:5-8. Compare scripture with scripture. Are these descriptions not of the same Man? What angelic being ever had a face whose brightness was as lightning?

The Transfiguration and the Resurrection. “And after six days Jesus taketh Peter, James, and John his brother, and bringeth them up into a high mountain apart. And was transfigured before them; and his face did shine as the sun, and his raiment was white as the light” Matthew 17:1-2. “behold a bright cloud overshadowed them: and behold, a voice out of the cloud, which said, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear ye him” vs. 5. “And as they came down from the mountain, Jesus charged them, saying, Tell the vision to no man, until the Son of man be risen again from the dead” Matthew 17: 9.

What the women saw was the resurrected Son of God. Before that, The Angel of the Lord descended from heaven and was reunited with His body in resurrection. After the resurrection He is found sitting upon the stone in His glorified body, no longer identified, as He was previously, The Angel of the Lord. He is once again the God/man, glorified by the Father, as He said.

The key to the matter. What if some One would lay some thing into a vault for safe keeping; close the vault; put it under lock and key (there being only one key.) When he returns he finds the vault is unopened: it cannot be opened save by Him who has the key in His possession. “I AM he that liveth, and was dead; and behold, I AM alive for evermore, Amen; and have the keys of hell and of death” Revelation 1:18. Who is able to upon the vault? Only He who has the key. Who can take up the possession stored in the vault? Only He who holds the key. The angel of the Lord who rolled back the stone; was he an angel? or was He the angel?

“God hath raised him from the dead!” Yes! But also: “Therefore doth my Father love me, because I lay down my life, that I might take it again. No man taketh 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 commandment have I received of my Father” John 10:17-18. His body lay in the tomb. How is He to “take it up?” By rolling back the stone? By resurrecting His own body; by taking up that which He had laid down of His own volition unto Himself? In perfect agreement; the resurrection of Christ and those that are His: “For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him” I Thessalonians 4:14.

“will God bring with Him.” Is God to bring about our resurrection; or is Christ? It is both, of course! Those having gone to sleep in Jesus, will return with him to be united with their bodies: not the old body of the flesh; but new bodies - like unto His glorified body! The Lord has the keys of hell and of death. He alone can unlock the vault; He has the power and the authority to take up that which was laid down in death. . .

Let this be firmly fixed in our minds and hearts” Jesus Christ does not only have authority over Resurrection; He said, “I AM the Resurrection!” Well, at the resurrection the “trump shall sound!” Yes! But the trumpeter is not going to open the graves!

Seeing that which is not seen. “And now O Father, glorify thou me with thine own self with the glory which I had with thee before the world was” John 17:5. This, Jesus prayed before entering Gethsemane. In three days the Father would fulfill that petition. (“The secret things belong unto the Lord our God: but those things which are revealed belong unto us. . .” Deuteronomy 29:29.) My dear friend, let take off our shoes for we stand upon holy ground.

Consider the Tabernacle in the wilderness and The Most Holy Place. There was certainly no mention of, neither was there found any place for an angel! The High Priest entered by himself into the presence of God to offer the blood upon the Mercy Seat. (He had no angel to pull back the Veil that he might gain entrance, much less enter with him into the Most Holy to aid in the sprinkling of blood!) In fulfillment of the type, when Christ offered His own blood upon the Mercy Seat before the Father - this was executed strictly between Father and Son: no other need apply!

The resurrection of the body of Christ from the dead? For what purpose now, might an angel be employed? Picture this in your mind: God the Father who was present at the birth of His Son is present at His rebirth or resurrection. God hath raised Him from the dead! Acts 3:5, Acts 4:10, Acts 13:30, Romans 10:9, I Corinthians 15:15, Galatians 1:1, Colossians 2:2, I Thessalonians 1:9, I Peter 1:21.

It is now that God would answer the petition made three days before: “And now O Father, glorify thou me with thine own self with the glory which I had with thee before the world was.” “Behold the risen, glorified Christ! His countenance was like lightning, and His raiment white as snow.”

My dear friend, this was a private gathering of the Triune Godhead: the pinnacle; the consummation; the sealing and witnessing of the Eternal Covenant. God the Father, God the Son, God the Spirit. What other witnesses are required?

The Angel of the Lord, the Son of Resurrection, had rolled away the stone. One might ask: How did He get out of the sepulchre without first removing the stone? I will answer with yet another question: How did He get out of the grave clothes without disturbing their rest?

“And came and rolled back the stone and sat upon it.” The Rock of Ages, sitting upon the stone of Death and Hell: and making it His Throne! Hallelujah! Death? Where is thy sting? Grave? Where is thy victory?

“Concerning his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, which was made of the seed of David according to the flesh; And declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead” Romans 1:3-4.

For further study, read “From the Cross to the Resurrection”, “Gleanings Beyond the Resurrection”, “I AM the Resurrection”, The Resurrection, Looking Inside the Tomb.”

Saturday, August 1, 2009

On Dreaming

Dreaming. It is a common function of our minds. We do it without thinking. It is not done voluntarily, perhaps not even involuntarily. The term is laced throughout much of the scripture. Dreaming must a part of God’s plan and purpose, else it would not have existed.

For a brief definition: Onar is a vision in sleep, in distinction from a waking vision. Enupnion is, lit., what appears in sleep, an ordinary dream. Enupniazo, shall be given up to dreams; translated, shall dream dreams; metaphorically in Jude 8, of being given over to sensuous “dreamings”; “dreamers” and so defiling the flesh. Vine’s Expository Dictionary.

Dreaming. It may be called unconscious; subconscious: Mr. Webster calls it “a succession of images, thoughts, or emotions passing through the mind during sleep.”

The first mention of dreams in the Old Testament was when Abraham and Sarah went to Gerar. Abimeleck the king took Sarah after they had vowed before the king to be brother and sister. God said to Abimeleck, You’re a dead man! the woman which you have taken is a man’s wife. . .“I also withheld thee from sinning against me: therefore suffered I thee not to touch her” Gen. 20:3,6. The first mention of dreams in the New Testament. The angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream: “fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife. . .” Matt. 1:20.

The last mention of dreams in the Old Testament is found in Joel 2:28; also repeated in Acts 2:17: “And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh. . .old men shall dream dreams.” The last mention of dreams is found in Jude 8; (and these dreams are not of the Lord!). “Like wise these filthy dreamers defile the flesh, despise dominion, and speak evil of dignities.” Needless to say, these ‘dreamers’ run rampant in the world today.

Other well known Old Testament dreams.

Familiar, the scriptures concerning Jacob and his “ladder.” “And he dreamed, and behold a ladder set up on the earth, and the top of it reached to heaven: and behold the angels of God ascending and descending on it. And behold, the Lord stood above it and said, I AM the Lord God of Abraham thy father, and the God of Isaac: the land whereon thou liest, to the will I give it, and to thy seed;” Gen. 28:12-13. And seven promises followed. Gen. 28:13-15.

In Genesis chapter 37, Joseph dreamed a dream which showed that he should reign over his brethren, for which they hated him and sold him into slavery.

In Genesis chapter 40, we find Joseph in prison with the chief of the butlers, and the chief of the bakers; each having a dream in the night. Joseph said, “Do not interpretations belong to God?” and he interpreted their dreams for them.

In chapter 41, Pharaoh dreamed of the famine that should come upon Egypt: seven years of plenty, seven years of famine. He double-dreamed it. “because the thing is established by God, and God will shortly bring it to pass” Gen. 41:32b.

In I Samuel chapter 3, :the Lord appeared to Solomon in a dream by night: and God said, Ask what I shall give thee” vs.5. Said Solomon: “Give therefore thy servant an understanding heart to judge thy people, that I may discern between good and bad” vs.9.

Interesting, the account given in Daniel: Nebuchadnezzar had a dream of which he wanted the interpretation: but the memory of it had left him. He wanted his sorcerers to recall the dream that he had forgotten and also give the interpretation. No one could do so. “Then was the secret revealed unto Daniel in a night vision” Dan. 2:19. The Lord revealed to Daniel in a dream, the dream that He, God, had given the king that the king had forgotten along, with the interpretation!

The only other mention of dreams (NT) is found in Matthew: The wise men after coming to worship the Lord Jesus, were “warned of God in a dream not to return to Herod” Matt. 2:12. After that, Joseph received of the Lord three more dreams: to flee to Egypt; to return to Israel; to return to Nazareth. Then in Matthew 27:19, Pilate’s wife “sent unto him, saying, Have thou nothing to do with this just man : for I have suffered many things this day in a dream because of him.” (Jude 8, we already covered.)

The Lord KNOWS.

Nothing in the past, in the present, or shall be in the future, be it in the realm of time or eternity has ever gone unnoticed or been hidden from the eyes of our Sovereign: “For His eyes are upon the ways of man, and He seeth all his goings. There is no darkness, nor shadow of death, where the workers of iniquity may hide themselves. Job 34:21-22. Also, “The eyes of the Lord are upon the righteous” Psalm 34:15.

The Lord knows our thoughts. “And Jesus knowing their thoughts said, Wherefore think ye evil in your heart?” Matt. 9:4. Jesus, a mind reader? Well, He is God! The same is found in Matthew 12:24, in Luke 5:22, in Luke 6:8, Luke 11:17. And again, the Lord knoweth the thoughts of the ’wise’, that they are vain” I Cor. 3:20. “For the Word of God. . .is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart’ Heb. 4:12.

The Lord knows our dreams. Dear friend, this may seem a little far reaching; but the Lord knows our dreams. To deny it is to deny scripture. “Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee” Isa. 26:3. Do our waking thoughts not have some effect on our dreams? If we would dream right, we would do well to think right; to “seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness!” We may quickly disregard or forget our dreams, but does our Lord do so? Nebuchadnezzer forgot, but God remembered and passed the dream on to Daniel. “I wouldn’t want anybody to know what I dreamed!” Somebody does. Let us meditate upon the Lord in our waking hours: but let us also say as David, “My soul shall be satisfied as with marrow and fatness; and my mouth shall praise thee with joyful lips: When I remember thee upon my bed, and meditate on thee in the night watches” Psalm 63:5-6. What of our dreams? Are they always folly; foolish? Sometimes they just might be profitable! “God does not speak to us in dreams!” Are you sure? Perhaps not to the extent that He spoke to Jacob or Daniel or Joseph. . .“God speaks to us by His Word!” Agreed! But dreams are another story. Don’t completely rule out the unknown because it is unknown: God knows what we do not know.