Tuesday February 18, 2020
As we have completed our overview of EPH 3:2-13, we are going to look into a bit more of the wonderful mystery revealed in the church age - the person, work, and life of Jesus Christ.
The OT saints, the remnant who put their faith in the promises of God, looked ahead at an outline of the coming Messiah, a silhouette in the distance, and responded with a courageous faith.
Almost constantly, Israel did not look at all like the kingdom God promised it would be.
'If you walk in My statutes and keep My commandments so as to carry them out, 4 then I shall give you rains in their season, so that the land will yield its produce and the trees of the field will bear their fruit. 5 'Indeed, your threshing will last for you until grape gathering, and grape gathering will last until sowing time. You will thus eat your food to the full and live securely in your land. 6 'I shall also grant peace in the land, so that you may lie down with no one making you tremble. I shall also eliminate harmful beasts from the land, and no sword will pass through your land. 7 'But you will chase your enemies, and they will fall before you by the sword; 8 five of you will chase a hundred, and a hundred of you will chase ten thousand, and your enemies will fall before you by the sword. 9 'So I will turn toward you and make you fruitful and multiply you, and I will confirm My covenant with you. 10 'And you will eat the old supply and clear out the old because of the new. 11 'Moreover, I will make My dwelling among you, and My soul will not reject you. 12 'I will also walk among you and be your God, and you shall be My people. 13 'I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt so that you should not be their slaves, and I broke the bars of your yoke and made you walk erect.
The faithful understood that the rejection of the Law brought curses down on the heads of the people as well as the society and the economy.
'But if you do not obey Me and do not carry out all these commandments, 15 if, instead, you reject My statutes, and if your soul abhors My ordinances so as not to carry out all My commandments, and so break My covenant, 16 I, in turn, will do this to you: I will appoint over you a sudden terror, consumption and fever that shall waste away the eyes and cause the soul to pine away; also, you shall sow your seed uselessly, for your enemies shall eat it up.
… And the curses continue until vs. 39. If they confess and repent then God promises to lift the curses and bless, but how often did the nation do that?
The faithful within the nation longed to see it turn around. We can know this because the voices of the prophets also had that longing.
As to this salvation, the prophets who prophesied of the grace that would come to you made careful search and inquiry, 11 seeking to know what person or time the Spirit of Christ within them was indicating as He predicted the sufferings of Christ and the glories to follow.
Peter does not use the word “person” in vs. 11.
“seeking to know what [time or season] or what manner of time [or season]”
People are perplexed by the seeming injustice of God’s providence. The world belongs to God and the wicked abound. The wicked seem to get away with it while the righteous suffer in an unrighteous world. This is not a modern problem. We find Abraham indignant at God for intending to destroy the righteous with the wicked in Sodom and Gomorrah.
"Far be it from Thee to do such a thing, to slay the righteous with the wicked, so that the righteous and the wicked are treated alike. Far be it from Thee! Shall not the Judge of all the earth deal justly?"
The same question dominates the Book of Job.
When the Lord finally came into the world, He came to a people in Israel who thought the Messiah would bring Israel into the fulfillment of the promise made by God in Leviticus: a thriving economy, security, peace, enemies fleeing, freedom, and God walking among them.
When Jesus fed 5,000 and healed countless people, some of the common people thought He should be king, but king in the strictly earthly sense.
Jesus therefore perceiving that they were intending to come and take Him by force, to make Him king, withdrew again to the mountain by Himself alone.
Before the beginning of the Messiah’s ministry, John the Baptist was sent by God to tell Israel that they kingdom of God was at hand and that the people should repent of their sins and be baptized in the Jordan, signifying that God would cleanse them.
What this would teach them is that they were all sinners; all law-breakers. They could not keep the Law so as to be saved. All of them were unclean, and confessing sin certainly would not cleanse them. John’s message was not penance but confession and baptism.
Jesus would then come and be baptized. John told them that He would be the Lamb to take away the sins of the world. Could you imagine the somber moment when these cousins would look each other in the eye?
The Jordan was identified (baptism) with the sins of the people. Jesus was then identified with the Jordan as the cleansing agent.
Then Jesus arrived from Galilee at the Jordan coming to John, to be baptized by him. 14 But John tried to prevent Him, saying, "I have need to be baptized by You, and do You come to me?" 15 But Jesus answering said to him, "Permit it at this time; for in this way it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness." Then he permitted Him. 16 And after being baptized, Jesus went up immediately from the water; and behold, the heavens were opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending as a dove, and coming upon Him, 17 and behold, a voice out of the heavens, saying, "This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased."
It was fitting that the Jordan, which was now identified with the sins of all Israel, would be touched by the One who needed no confession or repentance.
Notice God’s ritual instructions for a woman suspected or accused of adultery by her jealous husband.
In the ritual proscribed for the jealous husband, his wife was to drink water identified with curses.
The priest shall then write these curses on a scroll, and he shall wash them off into the water of bitterness. 24 'Then he shall make the woman drink the water of bitterness that brings a curse, so that the water which brings a curse will go into her and cause bitterness.
When Jesus identified Himself with the Jordan, He would fulfill all righteousness, being the only One who could cleanse us from sin and make us righteous.
Now let’s get back to the promise of God for Israel’s blessing in Lev 26. Neither the land nor the people ever looked like that blessing. Would the Messiah come and make Israel look like it? And for whom would He do it? Certainly, not every one living in Israel can remain in the holy kingdom. Certainly, the sinners and the unclean have to go. The Pharisees and Sadducees and the scribes were certain that if the Messiah showed up in their lifetime that He would be pleased with them. Let’s take Saul of Tarsus as the embodiment of that type of man. Him and those like him are what the Messiah will be looking for when He sets up His kingdom. They are sons of Abraham, true, and righteous, so they thought. But neither their ancestry nor their ritual, legalistic system provided entrance.
The glory of God in the OT was revealed in nature and history, that is, in the created universe and in the redeemed nation. Even Jesus pointed to the wildflowers in Galilee as a manifestation of glory greater than Solomon. Yet, on the other hand, there was the holiness of God in the Tabernacle.
When the Tabernacle was complete and Moses approached it, a cloud descended upon it, the glory of God, and Moses was unable to enter. Thus the Book of Exodus ends, but the story isn’t over. The Book of Leviticus is next and it provides the means by which Moses and other qualified priests may enter the Holy Place (not the Holy of Holies). God was holy and they were not. God was clean and they were not. It would be blood that would cleanse them in the burnt offering, the sin offering, the grain offering, and the peace offering.
Besides the glory of God in nature and in the nation there was the glory of God behind the veil. Also, there was the glory of God in delivering Israel from their Egyptian and Babylonian captivities, and in revealing to them his character of mercy and justice. God displayed His majesty in Israel and to His people.
Then the NT would open and ascribe glory to Jesus Christ. Being the Messiah, this is not odd. On the Mount of Transfiguration He was glimpsed in the full manifestation of His glory, and its full manifestation would not take place until His second coming. He worked miracles and signs, and for Messiah, this would not be odd to Israel.
What is odd, to Israel at the time but not to us now, is that although He would be revealed in glory by signs and miracles, glory was above all seen in His present weakness, in the self-humiliation of His incarnation. This culminated in His death.
And He said to them, "O foolish men and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken! 26 "Was it not necessary for the Christ to suffer these things and to enter into His glory?"
On three separate occasions in the Gospel of John, Jesus refers to His death as the hour as His glorification, and actually Jesus reveals that both He and the Father will be glorified together in it.
His suffering as well as the suffering of the Father in judging Him are more than we can know. I quote Jurgen Moltmann, “The Son suffers dying, the Father suffers the death of the Son. The grief of the Father here is just as important as the death of the Son. The Fatherlessness of the Son is matched by the Sonlessness of the Father.”
The mystery revealed is the glory of God revealed to you through the Person and work of Jesus Christ. It is the most beautiful thing ever revealed and we will always see more as we gaze into it.
And then there is our own experience of the same:
Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you, which comes upon you for your testing, as though some strange thing were happening to you; 13 but to the degree that you share the sufferings of Christ, keep on rejoicing; so that also at the revelation of His glory, you may rejoice with exultation.
The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, 17 and if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him in order that we may also be glorified with Him.
And in our lives now, on earth, there is an opportunity to see this most significant manifestation of His glory, His weakness and suffering, can be experienced by us.
Do you remember in Ephesians how Paul writes about our bold and confident access to the Father, to the throne of God?
What we come to find out is that no matter what we are faced with on earth in our present lives, we are to be filled with love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control, because we are sons and daughters of God, bearing His very name. When we find that we are not bearing this condition in our hearts, do we conclude that we must? And do we humbly, yet boldly, approach our Father and ask Him to reveal whatever truth we are failing to see or what faith we are failing to exercise?
We’ve noted many times how Peter failed to see this aspect of the glory of the Messiah after he openly and courageously declared Jesus as the Messiah. Actually, no one in Israel saw it. But that didn’t stop Jesus from revealing it and fulfilling all righteousness.
Now we, in understanding the mystery revealed, have eyes to see and ears to hear and a heart to understand the purposes of God.
Do we understand and appreciate to the fullest the treasure we all have as believers in Christ Jesus?
But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the surpassing greatness of the power may be of God and not from ourselves;
Despite the open declaration in the NT that a dark power operates all over the earth who is a constant threat, prowling about, it is impossible to read the NT without being impressed by the atmosphere of joyful confidence which pervades it, and which stands out in relief against the rather dull and lifeless religion that passes for Christianity today. Christianity is courage and victory, not defeatism.
thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
For whatever is born of God overcomes the world; and this is the victory that has overcome the world — our faith.
But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us.