I have found eight characters from the Gospel records, all of whom were commended by our Lord. Perhaps there are more. [Read more…]
It is easy to pass by the significance of little words, which sometimes affect the meaning of passages quite dramatically. Here are just three examples. [Read more…]
Every day of our lives we make choices, some of them so small we are not even aware of the fact. What shall I have for breakfast? Where shall I go for lunch today? What shall I buy for little Johnny’s birthday? What colour for our new curtains? Which bus shall I catch? And so it goes on. We take it for granted that we have the power of choice, and yes, God has granted mankind that great gift. But this freedom of choice, this gift of freewill brings with it a great responsibility. Let’s think further. [Read more…]
The Lord said that new wine should be put into new wine skins. He also said that those discipled into the ways of the Kingdom must be prepared to bring forth things new as well as things old. It was therefore not unexpected that back in January 1972 I should receive two rather humorous visions.
In the first I saw a man draw up at a modern Gas Station in a vintage Ford Model T from the 1920s. But the pump attendant warned him that to put high octane fuel into cars with low compression engines would cause damage.
In the second vision I saw a man in full armour on horseback charging a Chieftain tank. On impact his lance splintered, and he crashed against the side of the tank and regardless of his armour, he suffered injury. The men, emerging from the tank were highly amused.
The Lord says, “The nature of human life has changed over the last 2,000 years, and so also has the nature of spiritual life. Principles remain the same, but applications must identify with the present. There is a lot of difference between a volley of arrows shot from a phalanx of archers, and an Inter-Continental Ballistic Missile. But both are sent into the air to land elsewhere. So also in the spiritual life, seek to know the wiles of the Devil today, and how to combat him. Paul’s Panoply in Ephesians still stands, but you may visualise it differently to ancient armour. Seek my face, and the Holy Spirit will guide you.”
I was alerted to the fact that many ancient prophecies had either to be updated, or even withdrawn. Evangelical Christians may take offence at this, but the warfare of Ezekiel 39, assuming such warfare could take place today, will certainly not provide Israelis with fuel for seven years. Arrows burn, but shells don’t. Likewise the Temple structure of Ezekiel 40 et seq. will not be built, but even if it is, there will certainly not be blood sacrifices there. The New Jerusalem in Revelation is spiritual.
These and many other examples of prophecy require updating. Thus prophecy is seen to be fluid, not set in stone, because the prophetic word is basically a statement of the Divine Mind, rather than a prediction. God speaks to people AS THEY ARE, and uses language appropriate to the time in which they live. He will therefore speak to us today in terms we can understand, connected with life as we know it.
In 1501 Michaelangelo was given a huge block of marble weighing over six tons. It had been rejected by a fellow Sculptor who had seen blemishes in the rock. But MIchaelangelo had a vision in his mind of the young man David, before attacking Goliath, and he was saying to himself, “I’ve got to get David out of that rock!” It took him three years, and the finished sculpture is a remarkable work of art, some 14 feet tall, which is housed in the Accademia di Belle Arti di Firenze, Florence.
We are a bit like that blemished chunk of rock, and who would believe what God has in mind when He patiently carves us out of it, and makes us what He has in mind as the finished product. Yes, God has visions of His finished products, and He “He who begins a good work in us will complete it in the Day of Christ”. (Phil.1:6.)
But there is a lesson here for us. God sees in His mind’s eye the finished product. But God has not given us the final vision of people, so we are not to blame for that. But as we live amongst “unfinished products” here on earth we have a horrid tendency to see the “blemishes” in people rather than the wonderful final works of art. We evaluate people in the unfinished condition because we don’t have the vision of the final product. But to know what God is driving at, what He is doing with people as they travel through the vicissitudes of life, should help us to overlook the blemishes, and assist God in His workmanship by being kind, compassionate, understanding, and forgiving. Those who receive such beneficent treatment from us will more than likely assist in our development, rather than see our own blemishes. Just a thought for the day.
Psalm 22 is known as the Psalm of the Cross. Together with Isaiah 53, our Lord’s sufferings at Passover are so clearly prophesied that the evidence is overwhelming.
Even the number 22 is significant, because it is the last letter of the Hebrew alphabet, and like all Hebrew letters, which are pictographs, the 22nd letter TAU is the symbol of a cross, or crossroads. The Scriptures speak eloquently about the necessity of keeping straight on, rather than turning aside from one’s appointed path.
Deuteronomy 28:14 And you shall not go aside from any of the words which I command thee this day, to the right hand, or to the left.
Isaiah 30:21 And your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, This is the way, walk in it, when you turn to the right hand, and when you turn to the left.
Therefore, the story of the cross began in Gethsemane. It was our Lord’s “crossroads experience”. Let’s read Mark 14:34-42
Then He said to them, “My soul is exceedingly sorrowful, even to death. Stay here and watch.” He went a little farther, and fell on the ground, and prayed that if it were possible, the hour might pass from Him. And He said, “Abba, Father, all things are possible for You. Take this cup away from Me; nevertheless, not what I will, but what You will.” Then He came and found them sleeping, and said to Peter, “Simon, are you sleeping? Could you not watch one hour? Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” Again He went away and prayed, and spoke the same words. And when He returned, He found them asleep again, for their eyes were heavy; and they did not know what to answer Him. Then He came the third time and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and resting? It is enough! The hour has come; behold, the Son of Man is being betrayed into the hands of sinners. Rise, let us be going. See, my betrayer is at hand.”
Our Lord desperately wanted to “turn to the right or to the left” but although the heavens were now silent, it was as though He kept hearing the voice of His Father during the days of His ministry saying, ‘THIS is the way – walk in it’. He knew after the third entreaty that He had to go through with the cross. So the number 22, is particularly the “Gethsemane number”.
I am a worm and not a man. (Psalm 22:6)
The Hebrew says, “I am a cochineal beetle, not a man.”
What can this possibly mean? The Tola, or cochineal beetle was used to make a scarlet, or crimson dye. In Mexico the beetle lives on the Opuntia Cacti, the “prickly pears”, and in the Middle East on a variety of oak, called Quercus Coccifera.
The females are wingless, and crawl about on the leaves and twigs of the oak obtaining sustenance. After mating, they cling tenaciously to the wood of the oak, and never move again until death. When the eggs are laid they remain beneath the body of the beetle, and when hatched, they live off the body of the mother beetle until they are fully grown. When she dies, she bursts open and the scarlet dye covers all her brood. After about three days her body shrinks in size and becomes white, and finally drops to the earth like snow.
This all quite amazing when applied to our Lord. “Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood.” Rev.1:5
He was nailed to Oak Tree posts, and remained there until He died. All His children were deemed to be crucified with Him, and He says to them, “Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you.” John 6:53. (A much misunderstood text.)
Paul said, “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ lives in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.” Galatians 2:20
“Though your sins be as scarlet they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, (Hebrew Tola, the cochineal beetle) they shall become like wool.” Isaiah 1:18.
Matthew 27:27-28. “The Governor’s soldiers took Jesus into the Praetorium . . . and they stripped Him and put a scarlet robe (Coccinos, the Greek equivalent of Tola, from which we get our word Cochineal) on Him.”
Exodus 26:1. “You shall make the tabernacle with ten curtains of fine woven linen and blue, purple, and scarlet; (Hebrew Tola) with artistic designs of cherubim you shall weave them.” This is where Tola first appears in the Bible.
(Note. The red dye used to be called Carmine, a strong colour that was fast, never fading under intense light or heat. It used to be the most permanent of all natural colourings. It was also used to make rouge, and lipstick in earlier days. Carmine was used by Michaelangelo, Vermeer and Tintoretto.)
Verse 15. “My strength is dried up like a potsherd, and My tongue clings to My jaws; you have brought Me to the dust of death.” And in John 19:28. “After this, Jesus, knowing that all things had been accomplished, that the Scripture might be fulfilled, said, “I thirst!” Now a vessel full of sour wine was sitting there; and they filled a sponge with sour wine, put it on hyssop, and put it to His mouth.” This fulfilled a saying from Psalm 69:21. “They also gave me gall for my food, and for my thirst they gave me vinegar to drink.” (The Gall represented all the hurtful words hurled at him by the bystanders.)
Matthew 27:46. And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?” that is, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” This is the first verse of Psalm 22, and it is explained in verse 2. “O My God, I cry in the daytime, but You do not hear; and in the night season, and am not silent.” During the six hours on the cross there had been no communication from His Father. But He also refers back to Gethsemane, where He was “not silent”, calling out to His Father three times, but no answer. This is the meaning of “forsaken”. But in fact His Father had not left Him.
The truth was contained in Psalm 22:24. “For He has not despised nor abhorred the affliction of the afflicted; nor has He hidden His face from Him; But when He cried to Him, He heard.” Truly, “God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not reckoning their trespasses against them.” 2 Cor.5:19
Our Lord was vividly aware of all that had been happening to Him, and He knew that all the prophecies speaking of His death were being fulfilled to the letter. This is why He proclaimed verse 1 in a loud voice, followed shortly afterwards by the cry –
Verse 31. He has wrought it! It has been accomplished! Fait accompli! What has been accomplished? Everything prophesied about His death. This was a cry of victory, not a last dying word. All that the Father sent Him to do had been fulfilled to the letter, nothing was missing. When Jesus cried “It is finished!” the translators should have said, “It has been accomplished” exactly the same as the last words of Psalm 22.
So the whole of Psalm 22:1-24 had been fulfilled to the letter. Indeed, all that the Scriptures had prophesied of Him had been fulfilled.
We can now read the final victorious words of Psalm 22, verses 24-31.
All the ends of the earth shall remember and turn to the Lord.
All the families of the nations shall worship before Him
All the proud of the earth shall bow down
All who go down to the dust shall bow before Him.
God has exalted Him and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee shall bow in heaven, on earth, and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of the Father. Philippians 2:9-11.
And I heard every creature in heaven, and on earth, and under the earth, and in the sea, and all therein, saying, ‘To Him who sits upon the throne, and to the Lamb, be blessing and honour and glory and might unto the ages of the ages.’ Rev.5:13
Wonderful victory, yet to be seen in all its fullness. A wonderful Saviour we have! Bless the Lord, O my soul!
[Translator’s note. When John said, Jesus, knowing that all things had been accomplished, these three words in bold are TETELESTAI in Greek. When Jesus cried out It is finished! the Greek is also TETELESTAI. Why therefore didn’t the translators use the same words for both? Jesus said, It has been accomplished! ]
“There will be great earthquakes in various places, and famines and pestilences; and there will be fearful sights and great signs from heaven. . . . . And there will be signs in the sun, in the moon, and in the stars; and on the earth distress of nations, with perplexity, the sea and the waves roaring; men’s hearts failing them from fear and the expectation of those things which are coming on the earth, for the powers of heaven will be shaken. Then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory.” (Luke 21:11,25-27)
Taken at face value this looks like a global disaster caused by the Earth being struck by several asteroids, causing huge Tsunami-type waves. It speaks about “those things which are coming on the Earth,” and the perplexity and fear generated. This is followed by “the roaring of the sea and the waves.” It reminds us of films like The Apocalypse, Armageddon, Deep Impact, and The Day after Tomorrow, together with dozens of others which try to depict apocalyptic happenings. Disaster movies are indeed very popular, and are often thought of as portraying coming events.
What is the Church’s attitude to the Lukan prophecy? I get the impression they think that all true believers will be whisked away to meet the Lord, whilst the Lord deals with the Earth in dire Judgment. OK for us, hell-fire for the rest. This is the theme of the Left Behind series, with its popular films. But does this agree with Scripture, and more to the point, does it resonate with the clearly defined character of God?
In the 7th chapter of Amos, the prophet is shown three visions. In the first he sees the Lord calling for a mighty swarm of locusts to devour all the crops of the land. He cries to the Lord to forgive His people, and the Lord responds. In the second vision Amos saw a great fiery object descend upon Earth, causing the upswelling of the ocean, a sort of huge tsunami. Again he cries to the Lord, and receives the promise that it will not happen. But in the third vision he sees a plumbline, by which the Lord will come to judge His people, and he is told this cannot be avoided. Days of judgment must come, but not dreadful destruction and disaster.
Should we not adopt the attitude of Amos, and pray that the apocalyptic events will not happen, and that instead God will come to judge His people in righteousness? Didn’t Jesus say that Elijah will return? “Indeed, Elijah is coming first and will restore all things.” (Matt.17:11) He was referring to Malachi’s prophecy. “Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD. And he will turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers, lest I come and strike the earth with a curse.” (Malachi 4:5-6) Paul said that “The earnest expectation of the creation eagerly awaits the revealing of the sons of God. . . the creation itself also will be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God.” (Rom.8:19-21) Are we not looking for a lifting of curses rather than a new one?
Didn’t Peter plead with the thousands at Pentecost, saying, “Repent therefore and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, so that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that He may send Jesus Christ, who was preached to you before, whom heaven must receive until the times of restoration of all things, which God has spoken by the mouth of all His holy prophets since the world began.” (Acts 3:19-21) Notice particularly the mention of “times of refreshing” and “times of restoration”, rather than apocalyptic destruction. The key word was “repent”. Jonah warned Nineveh, and they repented, but Jonah still sat there waiting for destruction, and he was severely chastised by the Lord for his attitude.
Let us be like Amos, not Jonah.
Islam is waiting for the coming of their messiah-like figure, the Imam Mahdi, and their stated objective, from the Koran, is to create havoc on a world-wide scale which, they say, has to precede his coming. Christians must not adopt a similar attitude of blind acceptance of prophecy and the inevitability of disaster before the return of the Lord Jesus. The Lord was willing to answer the prayer of just one man, Amos. We should therefore not lose heart, but pray likewise.
Arthur records – In this dream I found myself (?) talking to my daughter Rachel. I was not recognised by her. I appeared as an old man in shabby clothes. I said, “Tell me, what will be necessary for God to restore His Universe?” She looked very interested, and after a moment’s pause said, “One of the first things is for each one of us to be obedient to God and to act out daily what He asks of us.”
“That is a very perceptive and intelligent answer,” I said. “Only those who are born again can see the Kingdom of God.”
Rachel looked pleased, and perceiving I might be in need of sustenance, asked, “Would you like to stay for dinner?” I answered in the affirmative, and I only remember vaguely sitting down and eating. Time passed very rapidly in this sequence.
Finally I stood up, and said, “Because you are born again, and because you have shown care and concern for my needs, the Lord is going to show you the effect of your belief in respect of the Universe. D’you recall Elisha’s servant seeing the cavalry when his eyes were opened?”
She saw what I was already witnessing, thousands of flashes of light emanating from her, darting outwards in every direction, round the world and out into space. These rays of light were maroon in colour and looked like threads or wires, some long, some short, very straight, piercing outwards from her. She looked amazed. I said, “Your faith is reaching out to the farthest limits of God’s Universe, and is being used towards its gradual Restoration. Never limit the effectiveness of true faith.” [End. I awoke at this point]
Madeline L’Engle wrote –
“Why does anybody tell a story? It does indeed have something to do with faith, faith that the Universe has meaning, that our little human lives are not irrelevant, that what we choose or say or do matters, matters cosmically.”
Each tree and leaf and star show how The Universe is part of this one cry, That every life is noted and is cherished, And nothing loved is ever lost or perished.
“We are all strangers in a strange land, longing for home, but not quite knowing what or where home is. We glimpse it sometimes in our dreams, or as we turn a corner, and suddenly there is a strange, sweet familiarity that vanishes almost as soon as it comes . . . ”
“All will be redeemed in God’s fullness of time, all, not just the small portion of the population who have been given the grace to know and accept Christ. All the strayed and stolen sheep. All the little lost ones.”
“I cannot believe that God wants punishment to go on interminably any more than does a loving parent. The entire purpose of loving punishment is to teach, and it lasts only as long as is needed for the lesson. And the lesson is always love.”
[Arthur’s dream was in September 2013. All the subsequent quotes are from the writings of Madeline L’Engle, who died September 2007 aged just short of 89 years. Her fascinating and thought-provoking novels show her belief in pre-existence and the final reconciliation of all.]