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.
Ross Murray’s article on CNN’s Religion Blog, entitled “My Take: Why Christians are embracing their LGBT neighbors,” is the most recent in a steady stream of editorials and articles on liberal news outlets devoted to promoting a common theme: The Bible really doesn’t speak against homosexual practice and enlightened Christians are recognizing this in ever increasing numbers.
Although Murray repeats much of the standard rhetoric, he does distinguish himself by offering one of more egregious applications of a scriptural passage I have seen in nearly 40 years of studying and teaching the Scriptures. But first a word of background.
Murray is director of religion, faith and values at GLAAD, the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation. This is a gay activist organization which would better be called the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Disagreement, glaringly demonstrated in their petition earlier this year which called on CNN to stop inviting “anti-gay” guests on their network to offer opposing viewpoints. (Yes, this is the voice of “inclusion,” “tolerance,” “equality,” and “diversity.”)
In his article, Murray argues that while “there is still a variety of scriptural interpretations, an increasing number of Christians are reading scripture and understanding that God’s design for the world includes LGBT people.” Those who with agree with his position he dubs “good Christians”; those who differ are described as “vocal anti-gay activists” who are putting forth “vocal misinformation” and becoming “more shrill.”
This is GLAAD-talk at its biased best, and to decode the language used, you are “anti-gay” if for religious, moral, social, or any other reasons you do not affirm homosexuality, no matter how much you love LGBT people; you are “vocal” if you write, say, or post anything that GLAAD does not agree with (although those on the LGBT side can write, say, or post anything they want without being “vocal”); you are spreading “misinformation” if you have any scientific, academic, or theological differences with the gay activist mantras; and you become “more shrill” if you do not capitulate to gay activist pressure.
And what is it that drives the views of the “vocal anti-gay activists” who by implication are not “good Christians”? It is “fear” and “lies,” since, in the logic of GLAAD, only fear and lies could cause a Bible-believing Christian to think that God is not giddy about homosexual practice. In contrast, LGBT Christians “build up love and break down fear.”
As for the “good [straight] Christians,” they are embracing LGBT people and their practices because they realize that “if God made them, then [they are] called to love and support them.”
But didn’t God make everyone? Didn’t He make the “vocal anti-gay activists” too? Then why does Murray disparage them? Why doesn’t he feel “called to love and support them”? And aren’t there others whom “God made” whose lifestyles or convictions Murray rejects?
Murray observes that, “Whole Christian denominations have accepted and embraced the reality of LGBT believers within their ranks and in their leadership. Lutherans, Episcopalians, Presbyterians, the United Church of Christ and Unitarians have formally accepted LGBT people within their denominations.”
What he fails to note is that these denominations (or the parts thereof that are gay-affirming) have also moved away from other historic biblical values and beliefs, meaning that their embrace of homosexuality should be seen as a sign of spiritual regress rather than progress.
In similar fashion, he points to the large ideological gap “between those ages 18 to 29 and those ages 65 and older . . . with younger Americans gravitating toward [LGBT] equality,” without pointing out that surveys indicate that less than one percent of these young people have a biblical worldview.
But all this is standard fare. It is his closing (mis)use of Scripture that is so troubling.
He writes, “Those who oppose equality can call it what they like, but the reality is that we are living in a society that has learned how to value LGBT people as they would others. That attitude doesn’t rely on fear or lies, but on caring relationships and trust. It lives out the apostle Paul’s wish for the Corinthians that someday we will know fully, even as we are fully known. It is a biblically informed reality that is helping to make the world a better place.”
What does Murray mean when he speaks of “the apostle Paul’s wish for the Corinthians”? He is referring to 1 Corinthians 13:12, which is not a “wish” but rather a prophetic anticipation of what will happen when Jesus returns. At that time, Paul writes, “I shall know fully, even as I am fully known [by God],” in contrast with our present, earthly state, in which “we see in a mirror dimly” and “know in part.”
So, the glorious hope that we will know God fully at the second coming of Christ is twisted into a wish that we will get to know LGBT people better, thereby making the apostle Paul, arguably the strongest voice in the Bible against homosexual practice, into a gay advocate.
This is what happens when GLAAD does theology. Would it be an overstatement to call this a perversion of the Scriptures?
Dr. Michael Brown is the author of A Queer Thing Happened to America and the host of the nationally syndicated talk radio show The Line of Fire on the Salem Radio Network.
Dudley explains that as a result of his seminary studies at Yale, he cast off the evangelical faith of his youth, including the idea that the Bible clearly condemned homosexuality. He now claims that his “childhood community’s approach to gay rights—though well intentioned—is riddled with self-serving double standards.” And he exhorts his readers: “So let’s stop the charade and be honest. Opponents of gay marriage aren’t defending the Bible’s values. They’re using the Bible to defend their own.”
Self-serving double standards? A charade? Could it be that Dudley still has something to learn? Could it be that, had he attended another seminary and studied with other scholars, he would have come to different conclusions? At the least, could it be that there is simply another side to the story?
Dudley’s views were influenced by Yale New Testament professor Dale B. Martin (whom Dudley failed to point out is openly gay and well-known for his gay-leaning interpretations), according to whom “today’s ‘pro-family’ activism . . . would have been considered ‘heresy’ for most of the church’s history.” Heresy? Really?
Dudley admits that the Apostle Paul felt that “male-male intercourse” was a sin (for the record, Paul said the same things about female-female relations), but he now believes that Paul was mistaken, meaning that Dudley has not only cast off the faith of his youth but also the faith of Paul. He claims that, Romans 1 is “the only passage in the Bible where a reason is explicitly given for opposing same-sex relations,” and in the chapter, Paul calls them ‘unnatural.’”
In point of fact, the Bible gives numerous explicit or implicit reasons why same-sex relations are wrong, including: 1) God created humankind in His image as male and female, and it is only when the two become one that His image is fully revealed; 2) there is a unique complementarity between a man and a woman, which is why men and women marry; 3) only heterosexuals unions can fulfill the divine command to “be fruitful and multiply”; 4) it is therefore detestable for a man to sexually penetrate another man.
What about saying these actions are “unnatural”? Dudley points out that in 1 Corinthians 11, Paul writes that nature teaches that long hair is degrading for a man but a glory to a woman. Do we uphold this teaching as well?
Actually, Paul never said that a man with long hair would not enter God’s kingdom, whereas he taught that practicing homosexuals would not enter, so one can hardly compare the two issues. Moreover, Paul used very strong language in his condemnation of same-sex practice in Romans 1, speaking of “shameful lusts” and “shameful acts,” among other terms.
With regard to long hair, Paul was most likely addressing the question of women wearing veils in Christian home gatherings, since it was the normal custom for married women to be veiled in public but not at home. Paul taught that they should be veiled when praying or speaking in the home gatherings, reinforcing his point with the analogy of nature, reminding the Corinthians that it is the common, cross-cultural pattern for women to have long hair and men to have short hair, the reverse being viewed as degrading. That’s it. (Although not mentioned by Paul, his argument is underscored by the fact that for men, baldness is common and not particularly devastating, whereas baldness for a woman is highly uncommon and quite devastating.)
Dudley next tackles the issue of celibacy, claiming that “the community opposed to gay marriage has itself revised the Christian tradition in a host of ways. For the first 1500 years of Christianity, for example, marriage was deemed morally inferior to celibacy.”
Again, this is a gross overstatement, if not downright false. 1) The first followers of Jesus were all Jews, among whom marriage was highly prized and celibacy was the rare exception to the rule. 2) The New Testament actually presumed that a congregational leader would be married, stating that he must be the husband of only one wife. 3) Marriage is said to be an earthly picture of a sublime heavenly reality, namely the mystical union of Christ and the Church. 4) It was only over a period of centuries that celibacy became exalted, and at that, primarily for “clergy” (another later concept), while some parts of the Church protested the requirement that priests be celibate. But why quibble over facts?
Dudley’s case is weakened even further when he argues that “the vast majority of Christian theologians and saints throughout history have not believed life begins at conception.” But debates about when life begins (which were largely philosophical, having to do with the nature of the soul) were hardly the issue (not to mention that many prominent, early Church leaders did claim that life began at conception). The real issue is that, for many centuries, the Church was known for its opposition to abortion (and infanticide, which it helped eradicate), beginning with early second-century documents like the Didache and the Epistle of Barnabas, which either condemned abortion or equated it with murder. This pattern was continued by the second-third century apologists, numerous church councils, and prominent fourth-fifth century leaders like Basil, Jerome, Augustine, and Chrysostom – just to focus on the first five centuries of Church history. So Dudley has misled his readers yet again.
The only time he is somewhat on target is when he claims that evangelicals have compromised the New Testament’s teaching on divorce. Sadly, there is some truth to this claim, but the solution is not to compromise biblical standards even further by sanctioning homosexual practice but rather to reclaim the high ethical ground of the New Testament when it comes to marriage and divorce.
Perhaps some further study would do Mr. Dudley well, this time in an evangelical seminary?
Michael Brown is host of the daily, syndicated talk radio show, The Line of Fire, and author of A Queer Thing Happened to America: And What a Long, Strange Trip It’s Been.
“This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, a hope both sure and steadfast and one which enters within the veil, where Jesus has entered as a forerunner for us, having become a high priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek.” -Heb. 6.19-20
If our lives are being tossed to-and-fro by the spirit of this age, if the opinions of others are swaying our thoughts and decisions, and if we are lagging in spirit and falling prey to discouragement and purposelessness, the chances are that we have lost or neglected our vital contact with the One who has entered “within the veil….. as a forerunner for us.”
If we have been instructed in the Scriptures to “abide in love,” to “walk in the Spirit,” and to “be holy just as God in heaven is holy,” how shall fallen and weak souls like us engage such realities, much less “live, move, and have our being” in them? The answer is both majestic and within reach, both transcendent and simple, both awe-striking and intensely practical. It touches the dust of who we are, waking us up to the glory of what we have become through the work of our great High Priest.
So there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God. For the one who has entered His rest has himself also rested from his works, as God did from His. Therefore let us be diligent to enter that rest…. -Heb. 4.9-11
There is a Sabbath rest for the saints, but abiding in that rest is not the automatic result of the new birth. He crashes into our world when we are born from above, introducing us to “righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit,” but it is our own precious responsibility to “be diligent to enter that rest” day by day. We’ve got to take up our crosses and follow the Lamb daily, not relying on a weekly spiritual injection on Sundays, but resisting the “world, the flesh and the devil,” and entering into communion with the Lord as an abiding reality.
There is no entry into “that rest” without diligent pursuit, and there is no diligent pursuit of the holy until we have have learned to love and live in the holiest place of all, where God Himself is, and where the Son of Man has made mediation on our behalf.
We are not struggling to perform nice services. We are not falling short in organizational excellence and programmatic expertise. But scarcely do we see men who are walking with God; men who are accessing the holy place, abiding in the life of God, and leading others into that great life. No ministry is valid before God unless it first comes from the holy place, where the glory of God is the central and chief reality.
How shall we abide in the presence of God? How shall we walk with God as Enoch of old? How shall we dwell with “everlasting burnings”? Christ Himself has made the way for us!
“Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession.
…. let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” -Heb. 4.14, 16
This is the “anchor of the soul, a hope both sure and steadfast and one which enters within the veil.” How can fallen vessels live, move and have our being in God? Though we’ve been redeemed by the blood, though we’ve become new creatures, we are still cognizant of our weaknesses and immaturities. How shall we ascend the hill of the Lord? Through Jesus Christ Himself. It is not through a mere profession, it is not only by articulating the doctrine of justification, but by literally entering into communion with the living God through faith in the finished work of the Lamb of God.
We enter through prayer and active relationship to the Son of God. Prayer is higher than any other ministry or calling, and any activity established in His name that has not come from this place of entry into His rest will invariably lead us further from the Holy Place. It will have the tone and feel of the world all over it. It will not sound that heavenly note that the true works of God convey. Abiding in Him is our great business, and Jesus is not just the Way in a categorical manner. He is literally the only One who lifts our souls into a life submerged in the knowledge of God.
There is no pastor or prophet, no program or plan, no song or book that can escort us to that place. They may stir or point us toward the Lamb, but they cannot escort us. We can only enter the rest of God through the Door that He has provided. We can only enter, in this age or in the age to come, through the Son of glory.
I suspect our faith is going to be tested. It is one thing to read what we now have before us to consider, but the real issue is whether we have the faith to believe it for ourselves. God has opened a new and living way by His blood; the veil is rent, and we are bidden to come and to enter because He has made a way once-and-for-all. We can come into the holiest place, and there He will meet with us. We can live out from that place because a High Priest has gone in before us to make a new and living way by which we can also enter and abide. Have we a faith to believe for that? That is to say, to actually enter in. A whole generation perished in the wilderness who could not enter for their unbelief. Yet God bids us enter, that is to say, appropriate and come into this place. The veil that kept the people out was rent from the top to the bottom. Are we accessing? (Art Katz, The Melchizedek Priesthood, transcribed spoken message, www.artkatzministries.org)
Here’s a bouncy, happy song about some aspects of God’s holy love. Shira Harwood, Marian Iovino, Joshua Pearson and I recorded this in our basement. It’s been primarily written for children, but it’s been enjoyed by a quite a few adults. Listen, I’m sure you’ll be edified. We’ve included Scriptures to help your meditation.
Jeremiah 32:40-41 40 “I will make an everlasting covenant with them that I will not turn away from them, to do them good; and I will put the fear of Me in their hearts so that they will not turn away from Me. 41 “I will rejoice over them to do them good and will faithfully plant them in this land with all My heart and with all My soul.
Ephesians 2:4-7 4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with [the Messiah] (by grace you have been saved), 6 and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in [the Messiah] Jesus, 7 so that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in [the Messiah] Jesus.
Gave us Your Son
Romans 5:8 8 But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, [the Messiah] died for us.
John 3:16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.
Give us Your Spirit
Luke 24:49 And behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.”
Galatians 4:6 6 Because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!”
With all Your heart, with all Your might – It’s holy love
Isaiah 6:3 And one called to another and said: “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!”
1 John 4:8 Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.
Holy love longs and Holy love calls and
Isaiah 44:22 22 “I have wiped out your transgressions like a thick cloud And your sins like a heavy mist. Return to Me, for I have redeemed you.”
Jeremiah 24:7 7 ‘I will give them a heart to know Me, for I am the LORD; and they will be My people, and I will be their God, for they will return to Me with their whole heart.
Malachi 3:7 From the days of your fathers you have turned aside from my statutes and have not kept them. Return to me, and I will return to you, says the LORD of hosts. But you say, ‘How shall we return?’
Holy love sent His Son to find
John 3:17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.
Luke 19:10 10 “For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.”
Your love searches and Your love reaches
Ezekiel 34:11-12 11 For thus says the Lord GOD, “Behold, I Myself will search for My sheep and seek them out. 12 “As a shepherd cares for his herd in the day when he is among his scattered sheep, so I will care for My sheep and will deliver them from all the places to which they were scattered on a cloudy and gloomy day.
It’s holy love
John 15:13 Greater love has no one than this, that someone lays down his life for his friends.
Holy love seeks and Holy love finds and
Luke 15:4-7 4 “What man among you, if he has a hundred sheep and has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open pasture and go after the one which is lost until he finds it? 5 “When he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. 6 “And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost!’ 7 “I tell you that in the same way, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.
Holy love never lets us go
Your love’s strong and Your love holds on
John 10:27-30 27 “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; 28 and I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of My hand. 29 “My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. 30 “I and the Father are one.”
Deuteronomy 3:24 24 ‘O Lord GOD, You have begun to show Your servant Your greatness and Your strong hand; for what god is there in heaven or on earth who can do such works and mighty acts as Yours?
It’s holy love
1 John 4:10 In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.
I’m being kept for You …
Exodus 19:4-6 4 ‘You yourselves have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles’ wings, and brought you to Myself. 5 ‘Now then, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be My own possession among all the peoples, for all the earth is Mine; 6 and you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’ These are the words that you shall speak to the sons of Israel.”
Malachi 3:17 17 “They will be Mine,” says the LORD of hosts, “on the day that I prepare My own possession, and I will spare them as a man spares his own son who serves him.”
1 Peter 2:9-10 9 But you are A CHOSEN RACE, A royal PRIESTHOOD, A HOLY NATION, A PEOPLE FOR God’s OWN POSSESSION, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; 10 for you once were NOT A PEOPLE, but now you are THE PEOPLE OF GOD; you had NOT RECEIVED MERCY, but now you have RECEIVED MERCY.
I’m being kept by You
Psalm 17:7-8 Wondrously show your steadfast love, O Savior of those who seek refuge from their adversaries at your right hand. 8 Keep me as the apple of your eye; hide me in the shadow of your wings,
By You, for You
1 Peter 1:3-5 3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus [the Messiah], who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus [the Messiah] from the dead, 4 to obtain an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, 5 who are protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.
A good, good father is just like You
Psalm 103:13-14 As a father shows compassion to his children, so the LORD shows compassion to those who fear him. 14 For he knows our frame; he remembers that we are dust.
Matthew 7:11 11 “If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give what is good to those who ask Him!
Just like You, just like You are
Matthew 6:7-8 7 “And when you are praying, do not use meaningless repetition as the Gentiles do, for they suppose that they will be heard for their many words. 8 “So do not be like them; for your Father knows what you need before you ask Him.
You are… our provider
Genesis 22:14 14 Abraham called the name of that place The LORD Will Provide, as it is said to this day, “In the mount of the LORD it will be provided.”
1 Timothy 6:17 As for the rich in this present age, charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy.
You are… our strong tower
Proverbs 18:10 10 The name of the LORD is a strong tower; The righteous runs into it and is safe.
Psalm 50:15 15 Call upon Me in the day of trouble; I shall rescue you, and you will honor Me.”
2 Timothy 4:18 18 The Lord will rescue me from every evil deed, and will bring me safely to His heavenly kingdom; to Him be the glory forever and ever. Amen.
2 Thessalonians 3:3 3 But the Lord is faithful, and He will strengthen and protect you from the evil one.
Holy, faithful, genuine, mighty love
Deuteronomy 7:9 Know therefore that the LORD your God is God, the faithful God who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments, to a thousand generations,
Romans 12:9a Let love be genuine…
1 Corinthians 13:4-8a Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant 5 or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; 6 it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. 7 Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. 8 Love never ends.
David Harwood is a prophetic teacher and worship leader, and author of the book God’s True Love.
“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.”
“But Daniel made up his mind [as did Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah] that he would not defile himself with the king’s choice food or with the wine which he drank; so he sought permission from the commander of the officials that he might not defile himself.
…. At the end of the ten days their appearance seemed better and they were fatter than all the youths who had been eating king’s choice food.
…. As for these four youths, God gave them knowledge and intelligence in every branch of literature and wisdom; Daniel even understood all kinds of visions and dreams.” -Dan. 1.8, 15, 17
There is an oft-neglected standard set in forth in the life of Daniel, and it needs especially to be heeded by believers who find themselves living in the prosperous nations of the world. It has to do with the manner of our eating and drinking, and the direct correlation of the level of our spiritual sharpness and discernment. Simply put, those who are given to overeating and overindulgence will be dulled to spiritual realities, and will have no room or capacity for the glorious privilege of the saints; namely, the grace to increase in the knowledge of God, and the power to set forth His word in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation.
Daniel and his Hebrew friends (a small remnant out of all those who were taken from Jerusalem during the first installment of Babylon’s intrusion) were characterized by a remarkable kind of consecration. It was remarkable indeed, for the majority of their kinsmen were totally duped and swallowed up by the pervasive power of Babylon’s table, and these young prophetic men were not willing to have any part of it.
For these ones who were brought to Babylon from Jerusalem to serve in the King’s palace, assimilation was the name of the game. Nebuchadnezzar wanted “youths in whom was no defect, who were good-looking, showing intelligence in every branch of wisdom, endowed with understanding and discerning knowledge, and who had ability for serving in the king’s court; and he ordered the chief of his officials to teach them the literature and language of the Chaldeans.”
They may have been castrated and made into eunuchs (removing their courage); they were given new names (removing their identities); they were instructed in the knowledge of Babylon (clouding the clarity of the Law of God), and made drunk by the voluptuous power of an unlimited volume of food and wine, straight from the King’s reservoir. Daniel and his friends endured all of the hellish transition, but they reached a point where they could not buckle any longer. They were willing to submit to the changes that were placed upon them in the sovereignty of God, but when it came to the table of Babylon, and the dulling effects of luxurious food and copiously flowing wine, they boldly and humbly drew the line in the sand.
Daniel “made up his mind that he would not defile himself with the king’s choice food or with the wine which he drank.” This was not merely an issue of the Law, which is to say, refraining from the eating of unclean animals. This was an issue of protecting the inward prophetic distinctive of his own purpose and existence as a young Hebraic man. This little remnant of four souls had maintained a union with the God of Israel, though all of their kinsmen had fallen under the sway of Babylon’s way of life.
The land of exile was to be for some of the exiles the land of opportunity.
(Daniel: OTL, Norman Porteous; Westminster John Knox Press, 1965)
It may have been the “land of opportunity” and promotion for those who lacked the iron-core of prayer and the moral grit of loyalty to Yahweh, but it was a land of radical delusion and compromise to the one who had “made up his mind that he would not defile himself.” Daniel knew that he could not transgress against the union he had with the Lord, and because he jealously guarded that union, the Lord put him high places to set forth the truth of the Kingdom.
There is a note that needs to be sounded along these lines, for the Church in this age is being mostly swept up in a manner similar to the majority of the exiles. There are too few Daniels in our midst, and as infrequently as we hear it addressed, the issue of our food and drink plays a staggering part in dulling our hearts to the reality of God, and sweeping us away in the tides of lust and sinful pleasure.
How is it that Daniel was able to endure losing his Hebrew name (which was so charged with meaning), being indoctrinated by Babylonian thought and spirituality, and becoming a eunuch (if indeed he did), but when it came to the issue of food and drink he was unwilling to give his soul over to it’s alluring power?
There is something terribly amiss in our Christian culture, when so many of our members are obese, given to excessive eating, and lusting after food in the same way that men lust after women. I am suspicious of the whole phenomenon of buffets and “all-you-can-eat” establishments, most of which are filled to capacity on Sunday afternoons. There is something telling about our dissatisfaction with God when we flock to these restaurants, making multiple trips to the buffet, and straining our intestines in pursuit of fulfillment and pleasure. Is there something lacking in our union with God, and since our drab Sunday meetings haven’t met that lack, are we compelled to turn to “comfort foods” for some type of satisfaction? The practice of overeating, which is so common to believers in the Western world, is a revealing sign that we have not been satisfied with the table of the Lord, with the fellowship that He gives, with the “food” that Jesus ate of; that is, doing the will of the Father.
Daniel and his friends stepped away from the table of Babylon and it’s stultifying influences, for they did not want their inward loyalty to the Lord to be diluted. They were jealous for His glory, and jealous to keep their hearts with all diligence, for a blurred heart cannot abide in the counsel of the Lord, and this was the chief desire of these four remarkable young men.
Not only were they preserved in terms of health, but “God gave them knowledge and intelligence in every branch of literature and wisdom; Daniel even understood all kinds of visions and dreams.”
There is something here to be said for the man who will take thankfully only what is needed of food and drink, “setting his heart upon” the place of prayer, totally unwilling to break from a union with the Lord, totally unwilling to give sway to the spirit of this age. Daniel is a unique prototype for us along these lines, and we need not to hold his example off at a distance as some rare historical episode, but to examine our own lives and press into the Lord for the grace to walk in this kind of consecrated reality.
How shall we function in the various types of “Babylonian” atmospheres that we find ourselves in? Are we willing to step away from the table, to take only what is required for sustenance, and to give our lives over to the spirit of prayer? This is not to say that we will cease to enjoy good tasting things. That is not the point at all. We know the difference between enjoying a meal with grateful hearts, and having a lawless blowout of a meal that dulls our spiritual senses.
If we have given our bodies and souls over to excessive eating and drinking, it can be certain that we have robbed ourselves of the kind of divine clarity, holy knowledge, and revelational insight that the Lord only gives to those who “set their hearts” upon Him. It is not an issue of asceticism, legalism, or striving in a fleshly religious sense. It is an issue of being set apart in the inner-man for the eternal purposes of God.
Daniel’s dogged determination in the area of food clearly played a role in opening his spirit to the realm of God, and it will be no different for the believer in these last days. There is a sharpness and priestly coherence that comes to the one who pushes away Babylon’s overflowing plates and chalices, and gives himself to the Danielic mode of being; namely, a life of joyful restraint, prevailing prayer with fasting, and living ultimately for the glory of God.
If we would overcome the spirit of this age and glorify the Son of God in these days, we must adopt this mode of being. There is no other way to come into the prophetic and apostolic reality that the Scriptures have set forth. And a Church which lacks that reality has fallen short of the glory of God.
For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, the Mighty God, the everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even forever. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will perform this.
I’d like to look at a theme that has been burning in my heart for months about the theme of ‘Sonship’. Preaching from the above text, at the beginning of this year the Lord clearly spoke to me concerning this theme, and in regard to something He wanted me to embrace more than ever. Also, I believe that this is a key theme for the Church at large to embrace, as it will be essential in the future move of God.
In the above Scripture, we see the nature of ‘sonship’ in the Son – Jesus. It foretells of His becoming a child, though He is in fact, eternally a Son. (‘A child is born… A son is given…’) And the text clearly shows that because Sonship is something Jesus ultimately manifest in His life, through becoming a child and submitting to the Father, He inherited authority and power. His ‘Sonship’ was set for us to follow, as sons. His Sonship was not only His ‘status’ by name only, but was also experienced. He did not need to enter into the ‘experience’ of sonship (becoming a child) on the one hand, yet did so because He was a Son! Jesus even said in His teaching, that unless we become as a child, we cannot receive or enter the Kingdom.
So as in the natural, sons submit to a father, then later on they receive an inheritance, so it is a type of what is actual in the Kingdom. We are declared to be sons upon being Born-again – if you like a ‘status‘ is given. But then we must enter into the experience of sonship for a greater manifestation of power, and a full inheritance, because we are sons. This is evidenced with Christ in Luke 3 & 4, where Sonship was decreed by the Father at Jesus’ baptism, but then Sonship was experienced through the submission in the wilderness testing / temptation, and the subsequent inheritance of power with God in advancing the Kingdom. Here, Christ came out in the ‘power of the Spirit…’ and He ‘proclaimed the Kingdom…’ But please note: the Spirit compelled Jesus into the wilderness! We have also received the Spirit of Sonship. And by God’s grace we should not reject the dealings of God. They are for our destiny to be realized.
In the above Isaiah passage, this ‘son’ also inherits ‘government… upon His shoulders…’ and He inherits names: ‘Wonderful Counsellor (Supernatural in counsel) Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace…’ etc. So though a son eternally (given) He comes to a place of being just a child (born). This is one of the great mysteries of all time. He in His Sonship becomes nothing, then inherits the Kingdom and subsequent authority!
One more thing of note in the Isaiah passage is that Jesus the Son is called ‘Father’. In Israel the King’s heir when inheriting the throne became a father to the people, not according to age or stature but according to God’s choosing & dealing with the man, and in turn, man’s response to God’s workings. True sonship produces true fathers; true fathers manifest authority in a fatherly way. They in turn raise up and release new sons. This is both seen in the natural and this is how it ought to be in the Kingdom of God.
What then do ‘true sons’ inherit by coming under the Father’s dealings and authority?
1.Sons inherit governmental authority.
A hireling does not understand the dynamics or heart of the Father, nor His house, neither His desire for it. A son however, does, and as a result will actually ‘give himself’ for that fulfilment.
Isaiah 22: 15 – 24 speaks of a situation in which a man by the name of Shebna is steward of over the nation of Israel. The steward was basically a prime minister, under the headship of the King.Isaiah describes a number of assaults on the nation, and always brings a word from God looking for steadfast and faithful leaders to respond to what God is saying. Shebna in this account fails to fulfil the duty of his office, and instead accepts the death of the nation, and only seeks his own memorial to be fixed, rather than caring for the future life of the people.Thus God disposes him from his position and function, and replaces him with a man called Eliakim son of Hilkiah. Look at what the Lord says to Eliakim:
“On that day I will summon my servant, Eliakim son of Hilkiah. I will clothe him with your robe and fasten your sash around him and hand your authority over to him. He will be a father to those who live in Jerusalem and to the house of Judah. I will place on his shoulder the key to the house of David; what he opens no one can shut, and what he shuts no one can open. I will drive him like a peg into a firm place; he will be a seat of honour for the house of his father. All the glory of his family will hang on him: its offspring and offshoots—all its lesser vessels, from the bowls to all the jars.”
Note the following:
·The terms ‘my servant’ and ‘son of’.
·How God makes him a ‘father’ to the people.
·The keys of the Kingdom (of David) are given to him. Keys to open, permanently, and shut permanently. (Authority and power)
·This Scripture while historical is also prophetic of Jesus Christ, and is linked in with Revelation 3: 7 – 13. Here the Philadelphian believers may have been excommunicated from the local synagogue, however in their becoming outcasts for His name’s sake, Christ comes to reassure them that they have a place of access and authority in His Kingdom. The day will come when their persecutors will acknowledge what God has done for them and granted to them. As over-comers they can take their place in the Temple of God. Christ in having the keys to the royal household, has given them a place with Him, not those who presume authority.
In other words:Kingdom authority is realised when God’s servants not only enjoy the status of sons, but because they are such, they ‘enter into’ Spiritual sonship. It may be God’s dealings through suffering; it may be a wilderness experience, or it may be demonic attack. Those that learn in those times to come under the shadow of God, experience what it is rely solely upon the Father. He then enlarges their capacity. They then inherit authority in the Kingdom, which is spiritually exercised in a paternal / fatherly way. This is how God expresses Himself.
This is often why when we look around the world those that are persecuted for the faith often carry spiritual riches beyond those in the west. Or those who have done great exploits in the West, have often gone through great wilderness experiences. It is God’s way to bring us into the likeness of the His Son. The Good Father wants His sons to inherit! But He also wants His sons to have His Son’s heart and not take the glory for themselves when endued with such authority in the Lord.
2. Sons are released into Kingdom power.
There is nothing more precious in the sight of God than when a person having gone through the wilderness, comes out in the power of the Spirit, and makes a telling impact in their generation for the Lord.
Moses came into his role as deliverer for Israel after ‘tending sheep’ in the backside of the desert. Previously, he had tried to bring matters into his own hands and bring a ‘judgment’ regarding an issue between two of the people of Israel, and ahead of God’s timing. But upon that mistake, he is thrust into the wilderness where God taught him solitude, brokenness and to see the Divine in the midst of the meaningless. Moses came out with a rod of power that literally delivered an entire people, brought God’s power and subdued an enemy nation.
Paul, previously Saul after his conversion is moved into a similar forgotten place for a season. We don’t need to talk about how God used that man. Sure enough, God’s government and power flowed through him, even when in prison.
3.Sons manifest ‘The Son’.
Just as sons inherit government and power because of submitting to the Father, they likewise begin to manifest the ministries of Jesus: Apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers are the five-fold governmental functions or ministries of Christ in the Church. They serve as headship ministry to the rest of the Body, and cause the Body at large to become as Jesus is. They also manifest something of who He is to a dark world.
I remember a word brought from a brother in the UK once about some mighty men God used at the turn of the 1900s. He said by the Spirit, that they were as they were because they had been ‘Born in the FIRE!’
The fires of revival? For sure. But also the Fires of testing. The greats of yester-year were not just particularly favored, but they experienced ‘sonship’. They went through the wilderness… they humbled themselves as children. As a result they inherited as much as they could this side of heaven. They through suffering and hardship carried a deposit of the Kingdom. God’s government rested on their shoulders! They saw the Kingdom expressed in the power of the Spirit. All because they went the Jesus way of ‘sonship.’
May this be a year when true sons begin to emerge to a place of expression of God’s rule, and become fathers to a new generation of saints expressing the glory of God in the earth.
It is a great tragedy that so much of the modern Church in the West has neglected the essential role of the Holy Spirit. In the New Testament, we read about a Church that was completely dependant upon and full of the Holy Spirit. His power and guidance was evident everywhere. The Church was born in Pentecostal fire and the concept of a church without the all-pervading presence of the Holy Spirit would have been totally unimaginable and foreign to them.
In Acts 6:1-5 we read that the early Christians noticed that there was a weakness in their administrative system (some of the widows were being overlooked in the daily ministration). Sensing the obvious, that it would not be right for the apostles to wait on tables, they looked for lay-workers who could attend to the day-to-day business of the congregation.
I want you to notice what the leadership was looking for in these table-waiters; in addition to having integrity and wisdom, they were required to be full of the HOLY GHOST! This does not mean that they could say “Shouldaboughtahonda” a few times. Look at what it says about one of these waiters that, “Stephen, full of faith and power, did great wonders and miracles among the people.” Now THAT is being full of the Holy Ghost! “But you shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you…” (Acts 1:8)
Often the gifts and miracles have been thought of as being intended only for a small group of elite Christians with big ministries and full-time preaching careers. But in the early Church, even the ushers were walking in this power! Why? Because they were all filled with the Holy Ghost. Power was part in parcel of the Christian experience. It was for the layman, for the businessman, for the blue-collar and white-collar workers. It was for everyone! The power of the Holy Spirit was not considered something extraordinary, but something normal and expected. Today the unfortunate reality is that many people think it is a rare gift if their pastor has integrity and wisdom…forget being full of faith and demonstrating miracles.
How is it possible that so many have taken the model given in Scripture and devolved into something so foreign? The power and fullness of the Holy Spirit is so basic to Christianity. It is the foundation, the DNA and the premise of all that follows. Stephen was not an apostle. He was only a waiter. But even Stephen was full of faith and power. Even Stephen demonstrated great wonders and miracles among the people. Even Stephen needed this power…to serve tables. May this thought convict every pastor, every evangelist, every full-time minister as well as every “lay” church member. If even Stephen needed the power of the Holy Spirit…so do we!
I want to just bring a brief word of exhortation at this time to all the readership of VOR. Whether you know the Lord or whether perhaps you are weighing up the cost of following Him. I am sensing at this time that even the best of us can be distracted from the key thing in the Kingdom of God. Life throws up so many issues, and there is an enemy out there seeking to violate the purposes of God. I hope the following helps deal a ‘death-blow’ to any of those things at this time.
As I sit writing this morning, my heart is stirred by the call of God, coming again to me with fresh clarity and intensity. My mind has gone back over the time when from a child God spoke to me and called me, and how in His faithfulness He kept coming back to me and back to me, again and again. He would come at times and remind me of HIs holy calling, and that His willingness to perform that concerning me was greater than my willingness to follow!
Today, I am reminded by the following things in this regard:
1. The Call of God costs.
I remember the voice of a prophet laying hands on me when 15 years old, and another when I was 18 years, declaring by the Spirit – “What I am going to call you into is going to cost you something. You have said in your heart ‘why can’t I be like other young men; why can’t I do what others are doing?’ You can not because I do not permit it, says the Lord… You are mine!’
To some of you this would seem hard or harsh. But I can tell you today that those words did something in my spirit that did me good! I did not feel condemned or hurt but I felt encouraged. I thought: ‘How amazing, that in this ruthless word from the Spirit of Christ, I was yet assured that I was His, and He was mine!’ This is the Spirit of Jesus in prophecy.
This is what the rich young ruler failed to grasp in the account of Mark 10 and Luke 18. All he heard from the Lord was the cost, ‘Give up all you have and give to the poor…’ yet he failed to hear the words, ‘then come follow me…’ If only he had grasped this! Grasping this alone would have been enough to have outweighed the carnal delights and its pull.
Some of you have felt the cost of the call of God upon your life, and may even sense it again now as you read this. Yet your heart is in a kind of spiritual negotiating with God. I have something to tell you from my own experience, and in line with the Scriptures: There is no negotiation! But there is a Treasure that far outweighs the cost! Jesus is all we need. Brothers and sisters there is only one response to the Call of God. Yield, give up your rights, do whatever He says… you will be satisfied.
2. The Call of God consecrates.
When I think of this, I think of surrender, but not just in terms of giving up something, rather in terms of giving oneself to something.
Samuel was called of God from a boy, and from a young age had to learn complete obedience to the voice of the Master. He also had to learn separation from the world and devotion to God’s presence. In this, God anointed His servant for holy and powerful purposes. The rest is history… Samuel was one of Israel’s greatest prophets and judges. He was a voice to a people and to a kingdom.
Again, I tell you from experience that the Call of God demands consecration to Him alone. There have been times when the enemy or the flesh has come to war against that in me, trying to revive the carnal man and his lusts for the world, pride and desires. But during those moments it is as if an inner whisper comes and reminds me: ‘You belong to Me… flee from it.’
He has bought us at a price! We are his for His own purpose. The need of the hour is for a total consecration to God and His purposes. This is a crucial moment for the Church. We need consecrated vessels to carry out God’s will. I pray daily much for a consecrated generation that will totally yield to the Lord, and do it on His terms, for His glory. It’s the only thing that will make a difference!
3. The Call of God keeps.
Think a moment about Peter, loved by God; called and chosen to be an apostle, and a leader among men. Yet somehow in the mysterious dealings of God, Peter goes through a season of testing, where satan incites him to deny the Lord. God knows more about the heart of man than we do about ourselves. God was not out to destroy Peter but He was allowing this attack of the enemy to make something of Peter. Some of the most wonderful words in Scripture are these: ‘But I have prayed for you Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.‘
May I say this: God’s call is more powerful to keep us than any of will ever realize! No, I am not an extreme Calvinist, neither am I an extreme Arminian. (I still cannot work God out!) But I know the God of the Bible. I have met Him in Jesus Christ, and know the Holy Spirit at work. (Not as much as I should, I add!)
I can say with confidence: His faithfulness is great and reaches to the skies! (Psalm 35: 5 & 6) and that His ability to keep me is far greater than may ability to remain faithful.
Also, we are assured by Scripture that God will not only keep us, but He is faithful to complete the work He has called us to. Our duty is by His grace to remain in Him! (John 15: 4 & 5)
My prayer this day is that as you read this you will be reminded of the Call of God on your life. It will cost until it is completed. It demands consecration to His ways and purposes. Yet He is faithful in His part to do that which we cannot do – bring it to pass.