The creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to decay and death into the freedom of the glory of the children of God. Romans 8:21
Our online dictionary includes this definition for the word “Hebrew”:
ORIGIN: from Old French Ebreu, via Latin from late Greek Hebraios, from Aramaic ‛i b ray, based on Hebrew ‛i b rî — understood to mean ‘one from the other side (of the river).’
Abraham’s descendants’ escaping from Egypt and, with divine Providence, rushing across the “parted” Red Sea certainly do come to mind. Hebrew = one from the other side — or, as this is sometimes expressed, “one who crossed over.” The Red Sea is a long, narrow, land-locked sea; in some ways it is more like a river. Further, Joshua would much later lead the Israelis into the Land by crossing the Jordan River near Jericho.
When we visited Israel a couple of years back, we learned that “Bethlehem” means in Hebrew “house of bread.” He who has been referred to as “Panis Angelicus,” Bread of Angels, the ultimate “manna,” the one who illustrated His “body, broken for you” with bread — was born in the House of Bread!
Yeshua’s kind of “bread” differs from the ordinary kind, however. When we eat ordinary bread, it becomes us, so to speak. But when we appropriate Christ, we become increasingly like Him through the new birth.
Jesus spoke of the importance of being “born again” to Nicodemus, who was a Pharisee and had come to Him at night in the hope of not being seen by his own colleagues. When we think about the definition of “Hebrew” meaning essentially “one who crossed over,” the word itself seems to speak of this new birth — in addition to Israel’s exodus. Consider Abraham, Rahab, and Ruth. They left their very different former lives to become Israelis — to “cross over” to a new and unknown life; they somehow summoned the faith to move toward this new life in preference to what was familiar. They sensed something better; they crossed over.
In Isaiah we find the stirring words, “Behold, I am doing a new thing; can you not perceive it?” We find a paraphrase of the first part of this statement in Revelation: “Behold, I make all things new.”
Astrophysicists tell us that more than 200 finely-tuned characteristics of Earth reveal that the universal stage was set in advance for us — for billions of years. And that Earth is in a unique place and time parameter that enables us to observe these exquisite elements of design. A personal Creator had you and me in mind.
Scientists who have also studied Scripture recognize in it a setting forth in several texts — not only in those in Genesis 1 — of the astonishingly-unique process of setting the stage for our world for the very purpose of creating — not suns, but sons.
When He was physically present with us, Jesus often referred to Himself as “the Son of man.” He is described this way in the fiery-furnace story in the book of Daniel in the Old Testament as well. But after the resurrection His description, in the epistles for example, consistently becomes “the Son of God.”
“Dear friends, we are already God’s children, but He has not yet shown us what we will be like when Christ appears. But we do know that we will be like Him, because we will see Him as He really is. And all who have this hope will keep themselves pure, just as He is pure.” (1 John 3:2,3)
The goal that Jesus put before Nicodemus is the same one He puts before you and me — to become citizens of the newer creation that “eye has not seen and ear has not heard.” The one in which weapons will have been transformed into garden tools that facilitate life. In which there will be no more killing or evil or death. No animal predation. No sickness or sorrow or night. The perfect creation — as God would design it.
“You must be born again,” Jesus told Nicodemus, the apparently wise, older man.
“Pursue peace with everyone, and holiness — without it no one will see the Lord.” (Hebrews 12:14)
God’s love and mercy are freely extended to all. He waits as long as He can. His desire is that as many as possible will enter the Kingdom of all things new.
“Every man will sit under his own vine
and under his own fig tree,
and no one will make them afraid,
for the LORD Almighty has spoken.” -Mic. 4.4
The picture of the world, after being set aright by the judgments and mercies of God at the end of the age, is one of “righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit.” Micah 4 is one of the most remarkable statements of that renovated order of reality, when God Himself dwells amongst men, and His ways become the prevailing government.
There is something about our consumeristic society- the pervasive addictions to entertainment and food, the rat races of the corporate world, the machinic and often heartless nature of industry, the radical mixture of truth and untruth in politics, and the overall nature of a me-first, ‘take care of number one’ culture- that is totally antithetical to the eschatological vision given in the Scriptures.
We are consumers to the hilt, from the nature of our eating and shopping to the whole tenor of our egomaniacal and inconsiderate customs, and they even find frequent expression in the best of our militaristic endeavors and political agendas. Everyone is wanting to be seen and recognized as the greatest and biggest, and this is even prevalent in American ministry. We are willing to step on the backs of others to consume what we desire, and to secure a place of prominence and prosperity for ourselves. The reality of the cross- which is the revelation of God’s self-sacrificial character- has become ‘old hat’, and we have fallen under the waves of an all-too-often noisy, glittery, violent, and irreverent culture.
When at once we are touched by the Spirit of God and brought into contact with His nature, we see that His way and His Kingdom are totally incompatible with the busy-headed spirit of this age.
Everything is calculated to trample the inner-man these days, and if we would come into the rest and sabbath reality of the Gospel, it will require us shutting the door on the world, entering the place of prayer, and “tasting of the powers of the age to come.” If we give in to this consumeristic age we will consume the wine of this world, and consequently, our inner-man will be consumed by the fires of sin and the debilitating values of the powers of darkness. But if we turn from the crookedness of this age, and abide in the reality of God by the Spirit, we will walk in a transcendent peace, humility, and righteousness.
Have you an awareness that the same Spirit and glory that the prophets foresaw in visions of the coming age have been shed abroad in your own heart, if indeed you have believed upon Christ? You need only to surrender your own heart daily, receive the life of the Spirit, and abide in the wisdom and power of that life. It is not in trying, but in dying, that the new life issues. Authentic kingdom living is not an issue of performing religious feats or exerting moral audacity, but abiding in the Man, Christ Jesus. As it will be in the age to come, when the Divine dew of His government permeates the earth, so will it be for the believer in the present age, who surrenders to His governance and luxuriates in His fellowship.
Hear this scholar’s description of the age to come as it is set forth in Micah 4; namely, the ending of war and the destruction of consumeristic values:
As a result of disarmament, every individual enjoys the fruit of his own labor in security (4.4). The rewards of righteousness on the international level work themselves out to peace for everyone. Instead of having to flee to the narrow confines of fortified cities as in times of war, in the new era of peace everyone can sit peacefully ‘under his own vine and under his own fig tree.’ The concrete image depicts the full enjoyment of God’s abiding peace and prosperity without fear of danger. The new age will re-experience the joy and happiness of Solomon’s golden days (1 Kgs 4.20; 5.5 [4.25]; 1 Macc 14.11-12). Zech 3.10 speaks of neighborly fellowship. In fact, there is a flip side to Micah’s vision: by sitting under their own vines and fig trees they show that they have also disciplined their swollen appetites. The dreams of disarmament and of agrarian well-being are inseparable. Those who live by war will die in war (Matt 26.52), and those with ‘swollen appetites’ cannot anticipate peace. W. Brueggemann wrote: ‘The prophecy anticipates lowered economic expectations. It anticipates a modest life-style of not having more than one’s produce and therefore a respect for the produce of others…. Thus this radical vision understands that a dismantling of the military machine carries with it a break with consumeristic values.”
(Micah, Bruce Waltke; Eerdman’s, 2007; p. 212)
If we are dominated by “swollen appetites”, moved by fashion and entertainment, delighting in violence and war, or gripped with fear of danger or poverty, we can be sure that we are neglecting the high calling of the saints; namely, to “taste of the powers of the age to come,” and to drink deeply of the knowledge of God in the place of prayer.
If our hearts have been transformed by the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and we are abiding in Him and giving Him pre-eminence in all things, the evidence of that reality will be a grace-charged discipline in areas of appetite, a transcendent rest and peace, and a grace to love and forgive all men, even our enemies.
There is a remarkable kind of Kingdom modesty that we are lacking in this sensational age; a modesty in speech, attitude, appetite, and philosophy, and a bumptious, consumeristic value system has even been the basis for many of our church and ministry methodologies and paradigms. “Brethren, this ought not to be…”
The reason the prophets can describe this most beautiful version of the earth is that their visions are yet future. They predict a time when the earth, the remnant of Israel, and the nations have been purged with the fires of judgment, and after the smoke of that time has cleared, all that remains is a wonderfully God-centric existence.
Yet even now, if we have been touched by the “power” of that future age through the Gospel, and we are in fact abiding in a God-centric manner, our lives will exhibit the same qualitative majesty. Weak clay vessels that we are, a heavenly wisdom, character, and power will be demonstrated through us that will put the Kingdom of our God on display in the present age. We will go from living as consumers, and being puppets in the hands of a self-obsessed society, to “strangers and pilgrims on the earth,” who “desire a better country, that is, an heavenly: wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God: for he hath prepared for them a city.” (Heb. 11)
“…. and you shall be witnesses to Mein Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” (Acts 1.8b)
It behooves us then to abide in Him, not merely to toss around theories about what the faith is, and what the future age will entail. “Righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit” have been brought nigh to us by the Blood of the Lamb.
I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing. -Jn. 15.5
“…. the Lord, whom you seek, will suddenly come to His temple….” -Mal. 3.1a
A friend and teacher of mine once gave a remarkable definition of man-made traditions with regard to spirituality:
Religion is man’s attempt at making God something he can manage.
This has long been the egotistical disposition of mankind: seeking to create God in an image we prefer, rather than receiving and loving Him as He is.
The prophets of Israel were commissioned by the Lord to shake His complacent and sleepy-hearted people away from their preconceived notions and traditions, and to usher them into a revelation of God’s true nature and purpose.
The false prophets of Judah in Jeremiah’s day, for instance, leaned hard on age-old traditions, and used them as a blanket of false security. They claimed that judgement could not befall Jerusalem, for the tradition declares that God Himself is in the land and that it is therefore protected and covered. The moral conduct of the priests and prophets, the lifestyles of the people in the land, and the nature of Judah’s political activities were not to be discussed. Israel was protected because of Abraham’s faithfulness, and no trouble could overtake them. Or so they assumed.
Tradition says that Yahweh lives in the midst of the people. This is interpreted as Israel’s great security against all danger. In contrast to this, the prophet discerns the freedom of Yahweh in His coming. Yahweh cannot be domesticated by knowledge oriented toward the past, nor can He be attached, like some predictable element, to a pious view of existence. Rather, He shatters the fixed conception that Israel developed in her tradition, and in this, His new and terrifying coming, He proves Himself to be Yahweh….
…. the name of Yahweh cannot in its true content be considered neutrally as tradition. It is the suggestive appellation of the One who, for all that is said about Him, remains a personal subject and decides Himself, in His freedom, what He will do when He comes. And as certainly as He once came to Israel, as tradition tells of Him in Israel’s worship and apart from this, He is never at the disposal of humans like earthly property.
(The Fiery Throne: The Prophets and OT Theology, Walther Zimmerli; Fortress Press, 2003; p. 4)
He never contradicts His own character, but He does obliterate our definitions and categories, especially when we are seeking to utilize Him for our own purposes. “He is never at the disposal of humans like earthly property.”
His radical mercy will shatter our self-righteous assumptions and ideas. His fierce wrath will burn up our moral lightness and our loose views toward sin. He cannot be confined to our tidy theological definitions and traditions. The prophets remind us that we cannot fit the Lord into our schedules, plans, and dreams. If we would have anything to do with Him, we’ve got to cast our lives- lock, stock and barrel- into His Kingdom. After all, by nature, only God Himself is free.
We experience the glorious freedom of love, righteousness, peace, and truth only as we sink our souls into Him.
Editor’s Note: Guest article from David Popovici of FIRE School of Ministry: Chicago
Weakness and power are not only representative of the Gospel but also of those changed and commissioned by it. This Gospel is the main vehicle through which God chose to and continues to make Himself known to the world. The Gospel is more that just proclaiming historical facts pointing to the one time event of the Cross. It certainly and by necessity includes this content, yet so much more! It is the reality of everything that took place in that moment and continues to as a result. It is everything that it points to and everything that it re-appraises in its light. It is an encounter with the risen Lord (1Corinthians 15:1-8). The “appearing” or witness of the Gospel is what is attributed to the majority (by a landslide) of all conversions taking place outside of the western world. A world in which it is not common to find the cheap substitutes that believers often hide behind here in the west. Whether that be creature comforts, obsession with the “who’s who” of entertainment, or a cheaply held belief in the catalogue of denominational doctrines that have changed very little of your life, and even less of the lives of your neighbors.
Devils are not accused in the James’ epistle of not believing what is true about God, but for not coming into alignment with it through loving obedience. That would probably explain why the temptation remains to either steer clear of truth, (who by the way is the person of Christ) or adopt a version of it that can be attained by our own clever ideas. This Gospel, weak by worldly standards, will not cater to any man’s self-centered ideas. In fact, it is not an issue that is up for debate. It is a proclamation! God is not going “door to door” apologizing that His demand to respond to mercy can seem harsh and offensive at times.
Let me briefly comment on a few thoughts from this passage. May your hearts be encouraged by both coming into revelation knowledge of what is already true about you in Christ challenging you to walk it out by His grace and power.
“And when I came to you,” a gospel that does not presently come to others in fact falls short of its title.
“I did not come to you with superiority of speech or of wisdom proclaiming to you the testimony of God” though the gospel certainly entails intelligible content, it most certainly should not be emphasized through persuasive arguments or human reasoning.
“For I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified” a man of weakness bearing a message of weakness should be characterized by the fact that he does not find his heart’s fascination in things below, but is himself characterized by the person and message of the Cross.
“I was with you in weakness” weakness denotes dependency. The messenger himself is evidence of his message. He may appear foolish or non-powerful in accordance with the spirit of this age, yet bears a mark that is in fact wisdom, power and life to those transformed by Christ. God’s power is most clearly manifested in our dependency, often as a result of pressure and trial.
“And my message and my preaching were not in persuasive words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power” demonstration, not explanation. And I am not saying that the Gospel does not include explanation. The Gospel transforms both within and as a result, without.
“So that your faith would not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God” here is where he brings it home. Paul a wise master builders methodically discharges his ministry in the proclamation of a “weak” Gospel with this in view; that men’s convictions about life and God would not be built upon the sand of human ingenuity or self-serving appeals, but in the very reality of God.
If I can convince someone into Christ, somebody can come along and just as well convince him into something else with a better pitch than I had. But if God confronts a man through and by the Gospel, to both reveal God’s hatred for sin and love for the sinner and His victory of death. If a man can be brought face to face with LIFE by first seeing Christ’s death and his own sin, and receive a new nature, an altogether different existence. If he can see God’s life transforming, sin-destroying, disease-healing, deliverance at work in himself. Then he can properly give glory to God. For the only thing that glorifies God is what only He Himself can produce, and the Gospel is the crème de le crème from He who is Divine. “Weakness”, you gotta love it ☺.
“…. you are still fleshly. For since there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not fleshly, and are you not walking like mere men?” -1 Cor. 3.3
Paul received word from a messenger that there were all kinds of divisions and unhealthy comparisons seething in the church at Corinth. The schisms were rampant, and men were identifying with different apostles as their source, thinking themselves more spiritual because of that supposed identification. Some were even naive enough to make themselves superior to all the others because they were “of Jesus” Himself, hoping perhaps that this would put them in a more spiritual category than all!
All of this jealousy and comparison stems from an inadequate revelation of the supremacy of Christ, and the fact that in Him we have all been justified and “accepted in the Beloved.” We need oft to be reminded that His kingdom is not of this world. Paul went on to address this foolishness by declaring:
“So then let no one boast in men. For all things belong to you, whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or things present or things to come; all things belong to you, and you belong to Christ; and Christ belongs to God.” (vv. 21-23)
The jealousy and strife that most believers deal with is not the overt kind we see in the Corinthian church, though even that is all too common today. The jealousy most saints are gripped and paralyzed by is more subtle and inward. We see someone in a more esteemed position than ourselves and we are gripped with a sense of inferiority. We hear of men who do great exploits, exploits of the kind that we’ve never come close to experiencing, and immediately we are seized with insecurity and depressions.
This is a pitiful state to live in, yet because of it’s subtlety most believers are fixed in a place where the inner-man is walled in on every side, kept from the experience of the love of God, and set into a mode of dullness. Insecurity and the sense of inferiority give way to poisonous lies, and before we know it, we are harboring secret bitternesses toward others, though they have done nothing to offend or injure us. The only cure for self-consciousness, the sense of inferiority, and the subtle jealousies that bind is a fresh revelation of Jesus Christ, who is the Head of the Church, which is His Body.
When at once we realize that “all things” and all believers belong to us, that they are gifts to us, our eyes are removed from our own plight and brought into an awareness of the marvelous generosity of God. When we realize that He is coming with recompense and reward, and that His glory and light will permeate the entire cosmos, what is a little petty comparison? When we see His glory and majesty, these jealousies are exposed as demonic and anti-christ. When we are washed thoroughly in mind and heart by the revelation of Christ, all things are made new. We have liberty to bless all men, even if we differ with them, and to have an authentic desire for their spirits to prosper. After all, we “belong to Christ; and Christ belongs to God.” Is there any greater identification than that?
“Behold, to the Lord your God belong heaven and the heaven of heavens, the earth with all that is in it; yet the Lord set his affection to love your fathers and chose their descendants after them, you above all peoples, as at this day.” -Deut. 10.14-15a
The subject of God’s love is not a syrupy, flighty, or hollow subject. It is not the stuff of spiritual lightweights, nor is it a distraction from the weightier matters of Scripture. His love is not merely an attribute to be considered, nor is it a mere compartment among His many traits. It is not a cheap and fluffy revelation, but the very essence of who the Lord of history is.
The love of God is a vast reality, and it has ever and always been bound to His personality and purposes. A Biblical understanding of the love of God is absolutely foundational to the life of the Church, and if we have yet to know Him as the One who “sets His affections to love” us, we have yet to know Him as He is.
The Deuteronomic writer paints with a broad brush in these two verses, and I wonder if they strike our hearts as they must have struck his.
Verse 14 tells of the greatness of God as Creator and Ruler of the entire created order, and of heaven itself. He is high and lifted up, far above the peak of the highest mountain, transcending in every way the greatest of earthly kings and the most powerful of angelic beings. The earth belongs to Him, and “all that is in it.” We cannot wrap our minds around His greatness and glory, we can only ascribe the honor to Him in worship, and be swallowed up in wonder at His Person.
But in that great sweep of awe and transcendence, the writer reminds the children of Israel that the Lord has “set His affection to love” their forefathers, and that the chosenness of the fathers was also upon them as a nation. In that chosenness, it was not only the commandments that applied to them, but the setting of His very affection and love as well.
Could they believe, in the trial of the wilderness, with blisteringly hot winds against them, that the concentrated affections of God Himself had been directed toward them? Unfortunately, most of them could not. But He remains the same, and His heart is still set towards the sons of men, with desire to cleanse, redeem, and show His love to them in remarkable ways.
There are notes of His pure and fervent love sounded throughout the Scriptures, from the patriarchal times right through to the prophets, most notably Hosea, and it reaches a climax in the revelation of Jesus Christ in the New Covenant. Israel, as a people, has a great bulls-eye on it’s chest, and the arrow of His affections will one day hit it’s mark in an everlasting way, when all at once she has been purged and redeemed in the Day of the Lord.
Remarkable for the Church, which is mostly made up of Gentiles, is that we have been “grafted” into the same covenantal glory with God. Through Israel, most pointedly through a Jewish Man called Jesus, we have been inducted and adopted into the understanding that God has set His affections to love us. Do we believe it? Have we a consciousness, in the midst of emotional collapses, failures, and wilderness times, that He has set His affections to love us?
Have we an awareness that it is not only the great heroes of the faith that He loves, but that His heart is set toward us as well, not only to command and call us, but to love? Dear saint, you are indeed a “wild olive shoot,” a vessel not yet totally formed, but you have been grafted into the full revelation of God’s affections and love, and this has always been His intention and desire. Ask the Lord for a greater perception of His set affections towards you.
From that tender place, the mighty light of His love will shine in your soul, and you will “circumcise your heart, and stiffen your neck no longer.” You will fear and love the Lord God of Israel with all your heart, and everything will be made new.
Many generations ago, He set His affections to love the fathers of Israel, and in this generation, He has set His affections to love you. This is no small thing, and to come into this understanding is to “taste of the powers of the age to come.” Bask in that reality, and you will walk in “newness of life.”
“…. and they took note that these men had been with Jesus.” Acts 4.13b
The true Christian life is not a life of spiritual hand-me-downs in terms of experience. We can be encouraged by other saints, but we cannot live off of their testimonies and stories. We can receive insight from the brethren but we cannot ride their cloaks unto maturity. We can be quickened and challenged by their communion with the Lord but we cannot walk into the holy place by hiding behind their frames. The true life of faith is marked by the presence of God, and a believer’s walk with the Lord is founded upon the reality of actual experience with God in prayer and holy fellowship.
The Lord grants especial manifestations of Himself to the believer who seeks Him. He lavishly gives a freshness of faith, a vibrant love, and a sense of holy awe to the one who pursues Him. Charles Spurgeon gives us the real marks of a manifestation of Christ to the soul:
The Lord Jesus gives special revelations of Himself to His people.
…. Especial manifestations of Christ exercise a holy influence on the believer’s heart. One effect will be humility. If a man says, ‘I have had such-and-such spiritual communications, I am a great man’, he has never had any communion with Jesus at all; for ‘God hath respect unto the lowly: but the proud He knoweth afar off’. He does not need to come near them to know them, and will never give them any visits of love.
Another effect will be happiness; for in God’s presence there are pleasures for evermore.
Holiness will be sure to follow. A man who has no holiness has never had this manifestation.
…. Thus there will be three effects of nearness to Jesus- humility, happiness, and holiness. May God give them to thee, Christian!
(Charles Spurgeon, Morning and Evening, May 12th entry)
This threefold mark upon the life of a Christian is evidence that his soul has enjoyed new and fresh transactions of communion with the Lord. May we forego a stale and categorical Christianity, and seek daily the newness of life that comes from seeing the Lamb of God afresh! And may our lives be marked with His distinctive presence- the sublime realities of humility, happiness, and holiness! Amen!
Zach knew that Jesus was there.But he couldn’t see Him.There were too many obstructions in the way.But his desire to see Jesus pushed him beyond his natural state of inability to see Jesus.It pushed him to a tree.He climbed the tree and saw Him. In seeing Jesus he was brought into His presence and he was moved not only to repentance, but to restitution.Salvation had come to his house.
Brother, wherever you are in your life, if you are having a hard time seeing Jesus; where He is, what He would have you do…or even if you are in a state of stagnation, I say to you, “climb the tree.”Make the decision that your natural inability to see Him is not satisfying.Make a change in your heart to climb higher. Set your heart to see Him.Determine that these obstructions in the way will no longer hold their distracting power.Set them all aside, put away the non-essentials and go after God. Seek Him and make yourself find him. What do I mean? Settle for nothing less than seeing Jesus, alive, today. His mercy and grace has placed a tree in your reach, no matter how blocked your vision of Jesus is. He has set it in front of you.Only those who choose to let their frustration of their current situation move them out of complacency and into an all out initiative to see Him, climb this tree.
It seems God has set up a principle to finding Him and this is the tree that He has set in your reach for you to climb into a fresh revelation Jesus.The principle will bring you into a seeing of what you could only feel before.It will bring you into His sight and He will call to you in your hunger and declare/manifest His saving power in your house.That principle to which I am referring, that tree set in your reach to climb is this, “in that day when you seek me with all your heart, you will find me (Jeremiah 29.13).”
Whatever your obstruction, be it sin, tribulations, bondage, pride, fear, unbelief, religion or any other thing that has eclipsed God in your life, just stop, look around and right within your reach is a tree.I promise, it is there, for He has divinely given it to you, I have found it many times myself; The ability to lay your life down at His feet. I believe that most, if not all issues in life can be pined on to a lack of surrender to Christ and His gospel. “The secret of an unsatisfied life lies too often in an unsurrendered will” (Hudson Taylor). Even in weakness and despair, you can choose to lay it all down at His feet.He will take you into His presence and bring deliverance with all its effects!Praise God for such a love. Christianity is not a change of life, but an exchange of life.You lay all the pieces of your heart down and then He will pick them all up with limitless power and strength to conquer through you.
Beloved reader…lay it all down. Resurrection life follows death alone.