Wednesday, April 16, 2014

In the Details

We are once again about to celebrate the anniversary of  Jesus' Death and Resurrection, an event that even after 2000 years has not been forgotten.
There were so many  significant details fulfilled on this week-end so long ago.   Details spoken about or portrayed prophetically in the Old Testament  that were  fulfilled literally by Jesus.

I'd like to note a few that you may or may not be familiar with.

1.  Jesus Robe ---   We read in   Joh 19:24  "They said therefore among themselves, "Let us not tear it, but cast lots for it, whose it shall be," that the Scripture might be fulfilled which says: "THEY DIVIDED MY GARMENTS AMONG THEM, AND FOR MY CLOTHING THEY CAST LOTS." Therefore the soldiers did these things." 

Why was it important that Jesus' robe not be torn ?
God commanded the following regarding the High Priests robes... Exo 28:32  There shall be an opening for his head in the middle of it; it shall have a woven binding all around its opening, like the opening in a coat of mail, so that it does not tear. 

Note that it was reinforced around the opening so that even tearing it  by accident would be prevented.
But why?  
In Lev. 10:6 , Moses gives Aaron the stern warning of the Lord.  If a High Priest 'tears his garment' he will die and the wrath of God come upon him.   A High Priest who tore his garment disqualified himself from being High Priest.

At the time of Jesus we know that Caiaphas was the High Priest, even though he was not a descendent of Aaron.  Nevertheless, when he in Matt. 26:65, in a rage, tore his garments he not only disqualified himself but condemned himself to God's wrath.
Never again would there be a High Priest in the physical temple.
Jesus was the forever High Priest -   His garment was NOT rent !  

2. Who killed Jesus ?  
Over the millennia there has been the back and forth accusing debates about who killed Jesus.
There is really only one answer.

In the very first Passover,  God did not kill the lamb,  the Eyptians did not kill the lamb.   It was each Israelite, a sinner in need of a Savior,  that had to kill his own lamb -- the lamb whose blood on the  doorframe would save him!
So also at the cross,  it was the sinners who killed Jesus ...  you and I killed Him.   It was our sin that put Him on the cross.
I John 3:16 says that Jesus lay down His own life.  When Pilate asked Jesus if he did not know that he had power to crucify Him or set Him free , Jesus answered him that he had no power at all! Joh 19:11  Jesus answered, "You could have no power at all against Me unless it had been given you from above. "
Except for your sin and mine, Jesus would not have had to give His life to save us.

3. What made Jesus finally answer Pilate when Pilate questioned him?
We know from John's epistle that Pilate was getting frustrated with Jesus because He remained silent and did not respond to his comments John 19:10 "Are you not speaking to me?...."
  We have an added detail in Luke's account in Luke 23:3 when Pilate asked him point blank .. "Are you the King of the Jews?"  and Jesus answers him ...   "It is as you say."
What made Jesus answer the question when it was worded that way?    If Jesus had not answer Pilate, Jesus would have been guilty under the law and no longer 'sinless'.  If He had not answered it would have disqualified Him as the sinless Lamb of God !
See the law stated in Lev 5:1  'If a person sins in hearing the utterance of an oath, and is a witness, whether he has seen or known of the matter—if he does not tell it, he bears guilt."
The way Pilate worded his question, it was in the form of an oath and because Jesus had 'first hand' knowledge of what the answer was, He was obligated under the law to answer.   

4. Why did the Jewish leaders  want Pilate to change the wording on the 'title' Pilate wrote to hang on the cross?
When the Jews saw that Pilate had written "Jesus of Nazareth, The King of the Jews"   they were offended and requested that he change it to "he said I am King of the Jews" ...  but Pilate refused!  - John 19:19
Why did they want it changed ?   There was a very significant reason why they wanted it changed. When an educated Jew looked at the sign written in Hebrew,  he would be struck with the acrostic of the first letters of each word - King of the Jews)  ..    Put together, the letters were YHWH ...   Yahweh,  the name by which the Jews knew their  God.   So to them the sign was blasphemous ... "Jesus of Nazareth, God"
We do not know if Pilate understood what he had written , but we know God did !
He spoke to His people even from the cross ---  "You have crucified Me, your God" .

5. What does it mean that Jesus "made His grave with the wicked, and with the rich in His death' ?
In Isaiah 53:9 we have this very specific prophecy about the Messiah.  
In hindsight it is easy to understand.  Jesus died, hanging on a cross between two wicked men.
But then a rich man, Joseph of Arimathaea, obviously a man of influence, asked  for and received permission from Pilate to take the body of Jesus.  He buried Jesus in his own, new unused sepulchre.
The prophecy, so seemingly contradictory, perfectly fulfilled!  Jesus died as a criminal, yet was buried in a rich man's tomb!

I wish you, my dear reader, 
a reflective Good Friday and a glorious Resurrection Sunday ! 
"He is risen !!  He is risen indeed !"   
and we are saved !!   

Monday, March 31, 2014

Three Dreams

One night last week I had a dream.
I dreamed that I was in a crowd of people and they were all moving and acting as if in some kind of trance or robotic state.  I remember looking at a few people standing to my right and they all lifted their arms in the air at the same time for no apparent logical reason.
Then I awoke , not remembering the dream in details the way I usually remember dreams.  What was strong on me and remained was the intense feeling of what it was like to act according to a controlling power.
I thought the dream a little strange and even though it impacted me, I did not think it was a dream from the Lord.
Then ..
The next night I dreamed the same dream with the same emotion heavy upon me upon waking in the morning.
Having the same dream twice was unusual so I prayed  asking the Lord to show me what it meant if there was something I was supposed to learn from the dream.
Then the third night I dreamed the dream again,  except this time, in the dream, I asked what the dream meant.
I was given ... "There is no power"
Somewhat puzzled I asked, "Then what is the moral of the dream?"
I was given ... "While there is no power forcing people to do what they do,  if they believe there is a power then it is the same as if there was."
I will not forget the feeling of that 'power' that permeated my dream. I felt the convincing control it had over people, so convincing that the people did not question it, in fact, seemed unaware of it.
When I awoke from the third dream I understood the meaning of it.

People have forgotten the God-given authority  of free will that every man has. That free will trumps any other power that would control us. Yet people so often submit to whatever promises them an easy way out or they give in/give up believing that what is confronting them is too big for them to overcome.
Often, believing there is a 'power' preventing them from attaining what they need or desire leads to despondency or depression.  Doesn't God's Word say, "Resist the devil and he will FLEE from you!"? James 4:7

How often do we , even as believers, give in the feeling/belief that we do not have the courage or strength or ability to stand against every lie or deception of the enemy.
Yet Ps. 53:5 says ... "There they were in great fear where no fear was...."  Why?? because God had destroyed the enemy but they did not yet believe that the enemy was rendered powerless.
Do we really believe Jesus' words ... "Whom the Son sets free is free indeed !" ? John 8:36
Would Jesus tell us something that isn't true ?
If we really believed that would we even fear being controlled by any other power ?
Freedom!  How sweet is the sound of that word, and freedom is what Jesus promised that His children have!
We are free -- free to make the choices we know are the right ones, free to pray and believe God will intervene in the situations/needs we bring before Him,  free to think God's thoughts,  free to walk in thankfulness , free to make a difference in the world we touch.

The only thing that can defeat us is believing that there is a power preventing us from attaining all that God has promised and desires to bring into our life.

Monday, March 24, 2014

A Forgiveness Bouquet

While I read with a passion, there are some books that  leave a deposit in my spirit that lingers and grows and changes me in some way.
I recently read a book by Michael Phillips that touched me deeply.

The story centres on a waif of a child, older than she looked who was 'different' in a way that made the villagers , adult and children alike , ridicule her and torment her with words and even daring to lay physical abuse upon her.

This child learned to be content with her own company and spent the hours of her childhood roaming the hills and fields surrounding her country home. In God's nature, she learned to know the heart of the God she loved and understood in the innocent ways of a child untarnished by worldly influence. She loved the sea, the sky and all of God's creatures.

When someone would hurt her with cruel words or actions,   she gave no counter response, not even in word, but would run to her secret favourite places where she would stoop again and again until she had gathered a  bouquet of wild flowers.   Tying them together with a string she would slip unnoticed back into the village to the cottage where the one lived who had hurt her and  would hang this bouquet above the door.
 It was her "forgiveness bouquet".  

The story threads through her life and the lives of those she touched and the lives of those whose character was changed because of her gentle, quiet wisdom and heart of forgiveness that could not be argued against.

If we all practised 'forgiveness bouquets'  instead of retaliation, instead of carrying grudges or allowing our hearts to be  filled with resentment and desire for retribution, would our world not be a radically different place ?  The change beginning with our own hearts, our own homes, our own neighbourhoods , reaching out into our world.  
Is that not the kind of hearts Jesus seeks ?

Our God IS a God who forgives .. over and over again ... and who among us does not need or desire His forgiveness?   And yet we sometimes forget how important forgiveness is to God. He watches to see how easily and quickly  we forgive those who hurt us.
Mar 11:25,26  "And whenever you stand praying, if you have anything against anyone, forgive him, that your Father in heaven may also forgive you your trespasses. But if you do not forgive, neither will your Father in heaven forgive your trespasses." 
Mat 6:14  "For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you."  
Luk 17:4  And if he sins against you seven times in a day, and seven times in a day returns to you, saying, 'I repent,' you shall forgive him." 

Does God not care if we are hurt ?  Ohh.. yes.. but He does not want US to have to carry the burden of unforgiveness which is like a cancer that eats at us from the inside out and robs us of the joy and blessings that God desires to pour out upon us. And unforgiveness cannot remain hidden, it will also hurt those we live with and love.
God wants us to trust Him to make all rights right,  not only in our own life and heart but also in the hearts and lives of those who are not yet His. How often undeserved/unexpected forgiveness is the key to a locked relational door.

We are approaching  the Passover/Easter season. It is a time to reflect and think about what God did for us in sending Jesus to provide for us the ultimate forgiveness we could not obtain at any lesser price than what He paid for it -  His life.
The forgiveness of God  unlocked the door, tore the veil,  that stood between us and intimacy in relationship with Him !   How precious, how  powerful indeed is forgiveness !
The name of the book I read, and highly recommend,  is From Across the Ancient Waters and the sequel  The Treasure of the Celtic Triangle.  by Michael Phillips 

Saturday, March 22, 2014

The Mysterious Melchizedec

I wish I had a quarter for every time someone wondered who Melchizedec was, the  man  who met Abraham after his successful rescue of his captured nephew.

 There is more to understand about Melchizedec than what is commonly taught in Christian circles.

First,  Melchizedec is not a name, it is a title.  
This man, who met Abraham, uniquely had two  roles, he was "Priest of the God Most High" (Gen.14:18) and he was also the King of Salem (meaning 'peace') . Therefore, being both  King and  Priest - the combined titles make up the word we have mistakenly taken to be a given name, Melchizedec. Melchi is Hebrew for King, and Zedec or Zadok is Hebrew for Righteousness.
 His Hebrew 'name'  Melchizedec translated into English would simply be KingRighteousness.
(Therefore as a Priest of God, when he met Abraham, he came to bless him with the words of God given to him  to deliver.)

What I want to do here is explain the connection between Melchizedec and Jesus, since the link between the two is stated in Heb 5:10 , "called by God as High Priest "ACCORDING TO THE ORDER OF MELCHIZEDEK," 

 Let's look at the pieces one by one.
What is meant by 'order' ?  
Order is defined in the dictionary as   the arrangement or disposition of people or things in relation to each other according to a particular sequence, pattern, or method.

The 'order' we are examining  is a called out succession of men, 'put in a row',  meeting the requirements God Himself put forth.  

What we readily understand is that under the leadership of Moses,  we have  God calling out one tribe of Israel -- the Levites, who would  be in charge of the things concerning  the worship and sacrifices and rituals of  temple service.
From that tribe of Levites, God called out Aaron and his line of descendants to be the High Priests - standing in a place of service before God that only the High Priest could fill.
But what we miss is  there is another line of priests that precedes the Mosaic 'law', a line of Zadok priests whose righteousness qualified them to serve as the High Priest of God.
The very first Zadok, (we are not told specifically) but we do have a hint,  that Seth was 'an appointed seed'.  (Gen. 4:25)  and in his time people began to call on the name of the Lord.   
What we are told is that Melchizedec was without question a Priest called of God in the line of Zadok or Righteous priests.
This line, including Melchizedec and traced through his 'seed',  follows  down into the tribe of Levites, and into the line of Aaron.  Those in this line of Zadok priests were set apart from that of the other High Priests who needed themselves to be cleansed of their sin before entering the Holy of Holies to intercede for the sins of the people. (this is important as I will show) 
It is important to note that the  'order' of the Zadok priests preceeds the law, because the final Zadok High Priest  (Jesus) was not a High Priest under the law. Just as Melchizedec came to the father (Abraham) of those who walk by faith, (Rom. 4:16) so Jesus comes to the children of Abraham or those who, like him, walk by faith  in Jesus, both Jew and Gentile.

While we could look at a thread of Zadoks traced  through the Old Testament , I want to point out a verse in Ez. 48:11 that speaks clearly of the distinction of the Zadoks ..   Verse 10 and 12  speak of the sanctuary of the Lord being placed in the middle of the 'most holy' district given to the descendants/sons of Zadok.  Then verse 11 gives the reason why,  "It shall be for the priests of the sons of Zadok, who are sanctified, who have kept My charge, who did not go astray when the children of Israel went astray , as the Levites went astray."

The Zakok Priests   stayed faithful in their 'righteousness'  before God, even when everyone around them was unfaithful.   There was an unbroken line of Zadok priests ... ending with Jesus. 

I showed in my last post how we know that Zacharias was the ligitamate High Priest rather than the impostor Caiaphas, but Zacharias was also a Zadok priest.   How do we know ?  
His righteousness is specifically noted, and also the righteousness of his wife Elizabeth, also an important detail. Why?   
In II Chron. 27:1 we have a reference to the mother of a righteous king.  It is noted that she was the daughter of Zadok .    If the Hebrew word was used in our NT account, we would have it noted that Elizabeth was the daughter of the sons of Zadok.   It is important that we have that fact.   Mary, the mother of Jesus was related to Elizabeth, rather than John,  so the 'seed of Zadok' (Ez. 46:19) was also passed to Mary, otherwise Jesus would not be in the seed line , or descendants of  Zadok and He could not be linked to Melchizedec. 

No priest could be annointed for service before the age of thirty.    We read in Luke 3:23 at the time of his baptism by John, that Jesus begain His ministry at about thirty years of age.  
Even at the age of twelve, Jesus was already astounding the leaders with His teaching in the temple -  so His being a teacher had nothing to do with His age.   It was important to note His age at His baptism  because He was being anointed as the last and final Zakok High Priest.  

It is also important that Jesus was of the seed of the Zadok High Priests, rather than just descended from Aaron  because He did not have to be cleansed of His own sin before entering the Holy of Holies to make intercession for the sins of those He died for. 

He was of the order of Melchizedec because He also holds a dual title, being not only  a Righteous High Priest  but also, like Melchizedec,  a King of Peace, being of the tribe of Judah and a descendent of King David.