March 1 Lev. 5, 6
Only by a personal reconstruction and reliving of the cross, and a serious, sustained attempt to live out something of its spirit in our lives, will we come to a recognition of the depth of our own failure, our need for His grace, and an appreciation of what really was done for us. And if we realize all this, we will respond- mightily. As the forgiveness suggested by the sin offering led on to the burnt offering (with its message of dedication), so our desperation leads to our dedication (Lev. 5:7). I don't need to list the ways of dedication; for you know, deep within you, how you ought to live: the readings you should read, the money you should quietly give, the phone call you should make, the recurrent wandering thought you should crush... The things you should purge out, the witness you should make, the habits you should form, the rejections and the acceptances you should make. We are taught by the realization of our desperation to go forward, quite naturally, and do all these things.
The parable of the ten virgins shows how the Lord recognized that all His people, wise and foolish, would all start off with oil in their lamps at baptism, but would inevitably lose it over time. This reflects the pattern of Israel after the flesh, who began their wilderness journey with none of them weak or ill- which in a group of three million was a miracle (Ps. 105:37). The parable teaches that the Lord's true people would realize their capacity for losing oil, and make some effort to refill themselves. Are we refilling today? Are we holding fast the confidence and joy with which we started the race?
The fullness of Christ's personal character, person, spirit, truth… is to be found in His body on earth, i.e. the community of believers. Each of them manifest a different aspect of Him. Thus “you may all [not just the elders] be prophets in turn [i.e. not just one ‘pastor’ doing all the teaching] so that all may get knowledge and comfort” (1 Cor. 14:31 BBE). This is the Biblical “unity of the spirit”- whereby the body of Jesus reveals Him consistently, as a unity, thus binding together all who share that same one spirit of Christ. This is the way to unity- not enforcing intellectual assent to dogmatic propositions. And it is the way to knowing Christ- receiving something of Him from all those who are in Him, and not just a few members of His body.
March 2 Lev. 7
The peace offering was one of the many antecedents of the memorial meeting. Once the offerer had dedicated himself to making it, he was condemned if he didn't then do it, and yet also condemned if he ate it unclean (Lev. 7:18,20). So a man had to either cleanse himself, or be condemned. There was no get out, no third road. The man who ate the holy things in a state of uncleanness had to die; his eating would load him with the condemnation of his sins (Lev. 22:3,16 AV mg.). This is surely the source for our possibility of “eating...condemnation" to ourselves by partaking of the breaking of bread in an unworthy manner. And so it is with us as we face the emblems. We must do it, or we deny our covenant relationship. And yet if we do it in our uncleanness, we also deny that relationship. And thus the breaking of bread brings us up before the cross and throne of the Lord Jesus- even now. It brings us to a realistic self-examination. If we cannot examine ourselves and know that Christ is really in us, then we are reprobate; we " have failed" (2 Cor. 13:5 G.N.B.). Self-examination is therefore one of those barriers across our path in life which makes us turn to the Kingdom or to the flesh. If we can't examine ourselves and see that Christ is in us and that we have therefore that great salvation in Him; we've failed. I wouldn't be so bold as to throw down this challenge to any of us in exhortation. But Paul does. It's a powerful, even terrible, logic.
There is good reason to think that Rom. 1 is a description of Israel in the wilderness. Rom. 1:23 accuses them of changing " the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to...fourfooted beasts, and creeping things" , clearly alluding to Ps. 106:29 concerning how Israel in the wilderness " changed their glory (i.e. God) into the similitude of an ox that eateth grass" by making the golden calf. The effective atheism of Rom. 1 is matched by Ps. 106:21: " They forgat God their saviour" . The long catalogue of Israel's wilderness sins in Ps. 106 is similar to that in Rom. 1. " Full of envy" (Rom. 1:29) corresponds to them envying Moses (Ps. 106:16), " whisperers" (Rom. 1:29) to " murmerers" (Ps. 106:25), " inventors of evil things" (Rom. 1:30) to God being angered with " their inventions" of false gods (Ps. 106:29). Because of this " God gave them up" to continue in their sexual perversion and bitterness with each other, even to the extent of murder (Rom. 1:27,29). They were a rabble of about 2 million people living in moral anarchy, driven on in their lust by the knowledge that God had rejected them. Those young people had to violently rebel against the attitude of the world and older generation around them. The waters of the Red Sea truly made them new creatures. They were so evidently not the product of their environment and parental example. Psychologists mock young Christians of today for living out parental expectation, and conforming to background environment. Yet if our response to baptism has made us truly new creations, this just cannot be true.
Christ's personal presence, His life and Spirit, are breathed into us through His words being in us. In the mundane monotony of daily life, doing essentially the same job, travelling to work the same route, the alarm clock going off the same time each morning… there can be breathed into us a unique new life through having His words ever abiding within us. And this ‘quickening’ in daily life now is the foretaste of the ‘quickening’ which we will literally experience at the resurrection (1 Cor. 15:22- ‘made alive’ is the same Greek word translated ‘quicken’ in Jn. 5:21; 6:63).
March 3 Lev. 8
As the blood of the ram had to be put on the ear, thumb and toe (Lev. 8:23), so the blood of Christ’s atonement should affect every aspect of our lives; our hearing [i.e. our perception], our doing and walking...
Mary had quoted Ps. 107:9 about how she had been filled with good things; but Zacharias quoted the next verse, Ps. 107:10, shortly afterwards (Lk. 1:79). Surely Mary had gotten him thinking in the same paths as she did. And she should likewise influence us. Indeed, all Bible characters should be influencing us each day, as part of the great crowd of witnesses who are cheering us on in our race today.
‘Offices’ in the ecclesia are roles filled by those spiritually qualified to fill them, i.e. filled with the appropriate aspect of the spirit of Christ in order to do the job; being voted into them, educated for them or seconded to them by some committee isn’t a relevant qualification. Paul reminded the Corinthians that submission should be shown to elders who have addicted themselves to serving others (1 Cor. 16:15,16)- i.e. submission arises out of our perception of an elders’ spirituality, not from his mere holding of an office. Sadly, Corinth didn’t stay with this advice. At the end of the first century, the first letter of Clement to Corinth ordered them to accept bishops as having a perpetual right to their office, and that the church must respect that right. And not so long after that, Cyprian was telling them that “whoever has the office receives the spiritual grace requisite for its fulfilment”- the very opposite of the idea of being spiritually qualified for a job in church! ‘We give you the job, and God will give you the spiritual qualifications for it’. That was how quickly the live, dynamic early church became institutionalized; that’s how strong is our desire for structure and offices, rather than the more risky way of allowing the spirit of Christ free course. The Biblical evidence is that Corinth was comprised of a group of house churches; and it was again Clement who ordered that the breaking of bread could be conducted only in one central place (1 Clement 40,41). He quenched the spirit, sought to institutionalize and contain the boundless function of the body of Christ.
March 4 Lev. 9, 10
Belief in the second coming must provoke the question: " What manner of persons ought (we) to be..." , as we hasten towards the day of judgment? " Wherefore, seeing that ye look for such things, be diligent, that ye may be found of Him...without spot, and blameless" (2 Pet. 3:11,14). When Israel knew Yahweh was going to appear, they were to prepare themselves against that day by sacrifice and atonement (Lev. 9:4).
Ps. 108, 109
There should be real comfort for us in knowing that prayer really is ‘heard’; the hearing is, in a sense, the answer / response, with which a man should be content. Therefore David desired to praise God even before the answer was received; the knowledge God was really hearing him gave such confidence (Ps. 108:1-6; 109:30).
2Cor. 1, 2
We are all members of the body of Christ; we each, therefore, have a potential influence for good upon the others in the body. Our comfort abounds by reason of the fact we are in Christ- in that whatever we each suffer, we suffer so that we may be able to comfort others in the body (2 Cor. 1:4-7). Thus Paul could tell the Corinthians that he was afflicted for their comfort. Therefore just as surely as we suffer, so we will be comforted- in that others in the body have suffered in essence the same things, and have thereby been prepared by God to comfort us. But these wonderful statements all rely for their fulfilment upon human effort. They are not automatic. If the ecclesia does not respond positively to each other, the promise of receiving a hundredfold family, possessions etc. will not come true.
March 5 Lev. 11
The structure of the law of Moses seemed to almost encourage this idea of serving God on different levels. After much study of it, the Rabbis concluded that there was within it “a distinction between holy and holy just as much as there is between holy and profane”. Take the uncleanness laws. They basically said: 'Don't touch an unclean animal. If you do, there's a penalty. If you carry the carcass, there's a more serious penalty. And if you carry the carcass home and eat it, there's something more serious (Lev. 11). The highest ideal was not to touch the unclean thing. But there were concessions to weakness for those who either couldn't or wouldn't make the effort to attain the highest level of response to the will of God. God's acceptance of 'lower levels' should inspire us to live on the highest level we can- for we love Him and want to please Him!
esus is Lord of the kings of the earth; He has control over the world; therefore, no human power can harm us without His express permission and purpose. The exhortation of Ps. 110 is powerful: because Jesus is now seated at the Father's right hand, His people offer themselves as freewill offerings in this, the day of His power. They are arrayed in " holy attire" because He has been made the Priest after the order of Melchizedek- they share in the work which His exaltation has enabled (Ps. 110:1,3,4 RVmg.).
2Cor. 3, 4
Hebrews so often uses the word " therefore" ; because of the facts of the atonement, we can therefore come boldly before God's throne in prayer, with a true heart and clear conscience (Heb. 4:16). This " boldness" which the atonement has enabled will be reflected in our being 'bold' in our witness (2 Cor. 3:12; 7:4); our experience of imputed righteousness will lead us to have a confidence exuding through our whole being. This is surely why 'boldness' was such a characteristic and watchword of the early church (Acts 4:13,29,31; Eph. 3:12; Phil. 1:20; 1 Tim. 3:13; Heb. 10:19; 1 Jn. 4:17).
March 6 Lev. 12, 13
Do we struggle with some secret vice, in the grip of habitual sin? The cross convicts of sin, for we are impelled by it to follow Christ in going forth “without the camp" (Heb. 13:13), following the path of the leper who had to go forth without the camp (Lev. 13:46). Note too how the Lord Jesus can feel with us the feelings of sinners- for He was treated as a leper, as a sinner, although He never personally sinned. Even when we sin this day, in that sense we are not separated from His fellow feelings with us.
Ps. 113, 114
The word of God to His scribes really is, to the same gripping, terrifying degree, His direct word to us (Dt. 4:36; 5:45; 10:4). This explains why David repeatedly refers to the miracle at the Red Sea as if this had affected him personally, to the extent that he could ecstatically rejoice because of it. When Dt. 11:4 speaks of how " the Lord has destroyed [the Egyptians] unto this day" , it sounds as if we are to understand each victory and achievement of God as somehow ongoing right down to our own day and our own lives and experience. Thus Ps. 114:5,6 RV describes the Red Sea as even now fleeing before God’s people. And thus because of the records of God's past activities, we should be motivated in our decisions now. Josh. 24:13,14 reminds Israel of the record of their past history with God, and then on this basis exhorts them: " Now therefore fear the Lord and serve him..." .
Our attitude to the second coming decides whether we will be in the Kingdom. In this sense we are judging ourselves, right now; we are formulating the outcome of the judgment seat by our attitude now towards the second coming. The proof for this lies in a group of passages which suggest that everyone who truly loves the return of his Lord will be in the Kingdom. Of course, a true love of His coming is only possible if we hold correct doctrine, and if our faith and behaviour is mature enough to be able to look with quiet joy and confidence towards that day. Thus our Lord said that all those whom He finds watching will be welcomed into the marriage feast (Lk. 12:37). And 2 Tim. 4:8 is plain enough: " All them also that love his appearing" will be rewarded along with Paul. Paul's own confidence in salvation was because he knew the earnestness of his desire to be " present with the Lord" Jesus (2 Cor. 5:8), such was the closeness of his relationship with Him. Is this really our attitude too? Can we feel like Simeon, that we are quite happy to die after we have just seen our Lord with our own eyes (Lk. 2:29)? Is there really much love between us and our Lord?
March 7 Lev. 14
Reflect on the Mosaic legislation about lepers and menstruating women. Were those people really morally unclean before God because of bodily situations over which they had no control? Or was this not a legislation which had the intent of convicting all people of their guilty state before God, and in the end, their need for salvation by grace alone? For the leper had to offer a guilt offering for being cleansed (Lev. 14). Was it not that the legislation was to convict of guilt regarding the human condition, rather than stating that some individual was more guilty than the one next to him simply because of a condition over which he had totally no control? Likewise, how could offering a sacrifice or paying a penalty in cash or goods really take away sin? Was the whole exercise not to convict us of guilt in order to prepare us for the way of escape through grace? A price must be paid for sin and for our guilt; we have to come to personally realize that. But that great price has been paid by the Lord, it’s not for us to pay the price, but to respond in faith to the fact it has been paid. In passing, this approach to the Law would explain why at times forgiveness and reconciliation was possible during the Mosaic period by means other than the Mosaic legislation, or when it was imperfectly applied.
Ps. 115, 116
The Lord's description of the rejected being cut down and thrown into the fire (Mt. 7:19) is surely referring to the words in Dt. 12:3 (cp. 7:5); where the idols of the world were to be hewn down and thrown into the fire. The Lord understood that those who worship idols are like unto them (Ps. 115:8; 135:18). Because the idols will be destroyed in the last day, all who worship them will have to share their destruction. And yet we can be hewn down by God's word now (Hos. 6:5) rather than wait for God to do it to us by the condemnation process. We must cut off (s.w. hew down) our flesh now (Mt. 5:30; 18:8 cp. 7:19).
2Cor. 8, 9
In appealing for the Corinthians to be generous, Paul points out that the Lord Jesus became a pauper for our sakes, and therefore, because of the riches of salvation He has given to us, the least we can do is to reach out into the lives of others with what riches we may have (2 Cor. 8:9 Gk.). This is why in 2 Cor. 8:1,19; 9:14, Paul uses the word " grace" to mean both the grace of God and also our grace (gifts) in works of response. Thus he talks of bringing the " grace" of the money collected for the poor saints; he is talking about the gift they had made; but in the same context he speaks of God's grace in Christ. If we have received the grace of God's forgiveness and salvation (and so much more) in Christ, we must show that grace, that gift, by giving. Our heart tells us to give, our heart is in our giving, it's a natural outcome of a believing mind (2 Cor. 9:5-8, J.B. Phillips). Our giving is a quite natural outcome of our faith in and experience of the cross.
March 8 Lev. 15
All Israel were to judge their neighbour "in righteousness" (Lev. 15:19; Ex. 1:17); and in allusion to this, the Lord bids us judge "righteous judgment". Our natural tendency is to flunk issues, avoid giving a judgment, leave it to someone else. And yet there is an imperative to judge others, for in doing so we reflect our experience of the Lord's gracious judgment of us. There are frequently cases in ecclesial life which thrust themselves upon us; not least in the area of marriage failure. We can't dodge these issues, for fear of the reaction of others. Whenever issues arise, even if we avoid publicly giving our comment, we have a reaction and position. We have each one experienced the Lord's gracious judgment of us, and trust to yet receive it. If this experience has truly touched us, we will surely respond in how we judge others. We know His judgment, but we also know there is an essential tension within the personality of God, in that His mercy rejoices against His judgment. And we must reflect this.
Ps. 117, 118
There is evidence within the text of the NT, in addition to church tradition, which would suggest that memorizing Scripture was a common feature of the early believers. A passage in Ps. 118 is referred to in Lk. 20:18; Acts 4:11; Eph. 2:20; 1 Pet. 2:6-8. One wonders if this was a proof text which the early believers would have known by heart. And one wonders likewise about Psalm 2- it is referred to so often. The early believers remained devoted to the instruction (lit. 'doctrinizing') given by the apostles. This might suggest rote learning. So, how about our memorizing Scripture, if we indeed claim to so live by it?
2Cor. 10, 11
When a preaching effort yields a much lower or higher response than anticipated: this is nothing else but the Lord Jesus working with us. He desires to manifest His meekness and gentleness through those who preach Him (2 Cor. 10:1). This very fact that He is working through His preachers ought to instil a far greater attention as to what manner of persons we are, as we reflect Him to this world.
March 9 Lev. 16
Through Christ's death, the veil was torn open, so that we might enter into the Holiest “by the blood of Jesus, by the way which He dedicated for us...through the veil, that is to say [the sacrificing of] his flesh” (Heb. 10:19-22 Gk.). This assumes that the followers of Jesus are already in the position of the High Priest standing in the Holy Place, but through what He opened through the cross, each of us must now go through into the Most Holy. And what was the purpose of the High Priest’s entry? To obtain forgiveness for others, to mediate for them, just as Jesus did on the cross. His cross compels us to not merely passively contemplate our own salvation, but to go deeper into the very presence of God in our ministry for others. Yet the High Priest had to cleanse himself meticulously; access had been limited to the Most Holy as a result of inadequate preparation by some in the past (Lev. 16:1,2). The Lord’s death opened up the veil, for us to pass through with the utmost effort made by us in personal sanctification, in order to further God’s glory in the salvation of others. We cannot simply refuse to enter, turn away from the torn veil. To do so is to turn away from what the cross has achieved, and to place ourselves outside its scope. We must go forward, go onwards into the presence of God to replicate in essence the Saviour’s work, with the awed and humble spirit of the High Priest entering the Holiest on the day of atonement. He would surely have carefully analysed his motives, as to why he was passing through that veil, and whether he was sufficiently personally sanctified for the work he was doing. He would have been comforted by knowing that his motives were solely for the glorification of his God in the redemption for his people which he was seeking to obtain.
David's view of the Kingdom and his longing for it, were not expressed in terms of his exulting that he would live for ever in a time when all present problems had vanished. Instead, he and other men of God have looked forward to the time when they would be perfectly spiritual. Ps.119:5,6 is an example of this: " O that my ways were directed to keep Thy statutes (in this life); then shall I not be ashamed when I have respect unto all Thy commandments" . David looked forward to the Kingdom as a time when he would be totally obedient to God's will, as expressed in His commandments. David therefore asks that God will help him in this life to be obedient to them. Our love of righteousness now will therefore be proportionate to the fulfilment which we experience in the Kingdom. David's view of the Kingdom was of a time when he would be obedient to all the commands.
2Cor. 12, 13
There is fair emphasis on Corinth's willing belief of the vicious denigration of Paul's character, made by some of their elders (1 Cor.2:16; 3:10; 4:11-14; 9:20-27; 14:18). The depths to which that ecclesia sunk are hard to plumb. And yet Paul believed that they abounded in love for him; he asks them to abound in their generosity to others as they abounded in their love for him (2 Cor. 12:7). Truly Paul reflected his own experience of having righteousness imputed to him.
So the relationship between Paul and Corinth is fascinating, but above all it's instructive of not only how we should relate to each other, but how Christ relates to us. There is a strange paradox throughout the letters to Corinth. Paul uses the most exalted and positive language about them, enthusing about the certainty of their salvation, and yet he also accuses them of the most incredible spiritual weaknesses. His great wish was their " perfection" (2 Cor. 13:9). Paul's deep-seated love for Corinth was absolutely evident to all who knew them; it was not an act of the will, which occurred just within Paul's mind. So often our 'love' for difficult members of the ecclesia is no more than a grimly made act of the will. And it was this basic love which was in Paul’s heart which led him to a wonderful spirit of hopefulness; so that even towards the end of his second letter he can speak of his “hope, that as your faith groweth, we shall be magnified in you” (2 Cor. 10:15 RV). " I will bewail many that have sinned...if I come again, I will not spare" (2 Cor.12:21; 13:2) is actually an allusion to Ez.8:18: " Is it a light thing to the house of Judah that they commit the abominations which they commit here (in the natural and spiritual temple of Yahweh, cp. 2 Cor.6:16)?...therefore will I also deal in fury: mine eye shall not spare, neither will I have pity: and though they cry in mine ears with a loud voice, yet will I not hear them" . God's anger with Israel as expressed at the Babylonian invasion was going to be reflected in Paul's 'coming' to spiritual Israel in Corinth. Yet for all his high powered allusions, Paul mixed them with the most incredible expressions of true love and sympathy for Corinth. In this we see the giant spiritual stature of that man Paul.
March 10 Lev. 17, 18
Severed from the vine, we can do nothing. Likewise the man under the Old Covenant
who made his offering of, e.g. an ox, at a place other than at " the door
of the tabernacle of the congregation" was viewed as having shed blood
and therefore was to be cut off from the congregation (Lev. 17:3,4). The Law
foresaw that there would be this tendency, to worship God away from the rest
of the congregation. Those who did so were condemned in the strongest terms:
their sacrifice of an animal was seen as the murder of their brother, whereas
they would have seen it as an expression of their righteousness. " He that
killeth an ox is as if he slew a man" (Is. 66:3) refers back to this, making
it parallel with idolatry and proudly refusing to let God's word dwell in the
David could write: “I made haste, and delayed not to keep thy commandments” (Ps. 119:60). We cannot be passive on receiving the opportunity to serve God. We will urgently seek to do something with what we have been enabled to do for the Lord. Once we perceive God's will over something, how quickly do we "haste" to do it?
Luke saw a link between the Lord’s death and His whole life when he says that they had been “eyewitnesses" of the Lord’s ministry, using the Greek word for autopsy- Luke saw his record of the Lord’s life as being an autopsy of His death (Lk. 1:2). Perhaps this idea explains why Paul likens the Lord on the cross to the body of the criminal lifted up after death, not in order to lead to death (Gal. 3:13; Dt. 21:23)- as if he understood the Lord to have been effectively dead unto sin at the time the body was lifted up on the cross. We are asked to carry the Lord's cross daily- and His cross was part of His daily life. That's the point, and that's the challenge.
March 11 Lev. 19
Proverbs is often a commentary upon the Law. The many passages there about gossiping are based upon just one passage, in Lev. 19:16-18: " Thou shall not go up and down as a talebearer among thy people...thou shalt not hate thy neighbour in thine heart: thou shalt in any wise (frankly, NIV) rebuke thy neighbour...thou shalt not avenge nor bear any grudge...but thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself" . The fact this passage is expanded upon so many times in Proverbs would indicate that gossip was as major a problem among the old Israel as it is among the new. But notice the fine psychology of the Spirit here: gossip in the church is related to having a grudge, to hating your neighbour in your heart, to not loving your neighbour as you love yourself (and we are very conservative about our own failings). When the Lord spoke about hating your brother being the same as murdering him (Mt. 5:22; 1 Jn. 3:15), he may well have been thinking of this passage in Leviticus. To hate your brother in your heart, to gossip about him, was and is as bad as murdering him.
" The sun shall be no more thy light by day...for the Lord shall be unto thee an everlasting light, and thy God thy glory" (Is.60:19) does not mean that the literal sun will be destroyed. The true light is God's word (Ps.119:105); in the Kingdom, we will not be conscious of whether there is or is not a sun or moon. The revelation of God to us through His word will totally fill our consciousness; it is in the light of this that we will see all things, rather than seeing things physically in the light of a literal sun. It will not be a case of the sight of our eyes giving us some kind of heightened aesthetic pleasure in the Kingdom; the mental vision and insight into God's character which we will then have will be all we are aware of.
As Simeon held the baby Jesus in his arms, he saw in that beautiful little boy something terrible; for he looked ahead to how His soul would one day be pierced in crucifixion, “that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed" (Lk. 2:35). The same word is used for how thoughts will be revealed at the judgment (Mt. 10:26; 1 Cor. 3:13; 4:5). In the piercing of the Son of God, the thoughts of hearts would be revealed. Our reflections upon the cross each day give us a foretaste of our feelings at the day of judgment, and empower realistic self-examination.
March 12 Lev. 20
We are told that whoever broke the Sabbath, "the same soul will I destroy from among his people" (Lev. 23:30). Yet there is no evidence of this ever happening; indeed, the prophets criticize Israel for repeatedly breaking the Sabbath. The idea of destroying from among the people, 'cutting off' from Israel, are parallel with being blotted out of God's book. That blotting out, that cutting off, happens now in God's sight; but that judgment won't be articulated until judgment day. There is no record of God zapping people dead for, e.g., offering their seed to Molech, which earnt the condemnation of being 'cut off from among the people' (Lev. 20:6). It was God who cut them off in His own judgment, from amongst those whom He perceives to be His people. God is not asleep as it were, taking no notice of our lives until He opens the books at the last day. He is actively watching, weighing up and judging our lives now- today.
“I have gone astray like a lost sheep; seek thy servant; for I do not forget thy commandments” (Ps. 119:176) was likely written by David with his mind on his follies relating to Bathsheba. Even in his spirituall low state, he still remembered the commandments. He didn’t turn his back on God; and neither do we, in our semi-spiritual unspirituality. This is our danger; we can stray from God and yet at that same time be legalistically obedience to commandments. And this can blind us to true, personal understanding of God’s message because of our refusal to truly repent.
Think through the implications of Lk. 3:4, where we read that John’s preaching was in order to make [s.w. ‘to bring forth fruit’] His [the Lord’s] paths straight- but the ways of the Lord are “right” [s.w. “straight”] anyway (Acts 13:10). So how could John’s preaching make the Lord’s ways straight / right, when they already are? God is so associated with His people that their straightness or crookedness reflects upon Him; for they are His witnesses in this world. His ways are their ways. This is the N.T. equivalent of the O.T. concept of keeping / walking in the way of the Lord (Gen. 18:19; 2 Kings 21:22). Perhaps this is the thought behind the exhortation of Heb. 12:13 to make straight paths for our own feet. We are to bring our ways into harmony with the Lord’s ways; for He is to be us, His ways our ways. Thus Is. 40:3, which is being quoted in Lk. 3:4, speaks of “Prepare ye the way of the Lord”, whereas Is. 62:10 speaks of “Prepare ye the way of the people”. Yet tragically, the way / path of Israel was not the way / path of the Lord (Ez. 18:25). We are not only Jesus to this world but also effectively we are the witness to God Himself. We minister His care to others; to the extent that Paul could write both that he was a minister of God, and also a minister of the church (2 Cor. 6:4; Col. 1:24,25).
March 13 Lev. 21
Having spoken of how we are bidden by God to the ‘feast’ of the Kingdom, lived out by us in prospect and symbol at the breaking of bread, the Lord goes on to say: “When thou makest a feast, call the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind: and thou shalt be blessed; for they cannot recompense thee: for thou shalt be recompensed at the resurrection” (Lk. 14:13,14). This inevitably is to be connected with how the Lord went on to say that we are the poor, blind, lame etc. who have been invited to the feast (Lk. 14:21). The point being, that if we perceive our own desperation and inappropriacy to be called to the Kingdom feast, then we will likewise invite others who are perceived by us as the lowest of the low, and otherwise unsuitable for a king’s banquet table. So we are to reflect God’s calling of us, the desperate, the down and outs, in our calling of others. A person who feels they are somehow a nice guy and worthy of invitation will be the one who tends to consider others as unworthy of invitation to the Kingdom. He or she who perceives their own desperation will eagerly invite even those they consider to be in the very pits of human society. The lame, blind etc. were not allowed to serve God under the law (Lev. 21:18), nor be offered as sacrifices (Dt. 15:21), nor come within the holy city (2 Sam. 5:6-8). The Lord purposefully healed multitudes of lame and blind (Mt. 15:30), and allowed them to come to Him in the temple (Mt. 21:14). His acted out message was clearly that those who were despised as unfit for God’s service were now being welcomed by Him into that service. The lame and blind were despised because they couldn’t work. They had to rely on the grace of others. Here again is a crucial teaching: those called are those who can’t do the works, but depend upon grace.
If we’re really confident in prayer being answered, we won’t be shy to openly state to others that we’ve prayed about something and expect the answer to be coming. Paul even asks Philemon to prepare his bedroom for him, because he’s so confident that prayers will be answered, and he’ll be able to come to him. Another example would be how Hezekiah prays to be ‘delivered’ (Ps. 120:2) from the Assyrian invasion. Rabshakeh had heard of this even in the enemy camp, and warned the people of Jerusalem not to trust in Hezekiah’s promise to them that his prayer would be answered and therefore “the Lord will surely deliver us” (Is. 36:18). Another lesson from this latter example is that prayerful attitudes spread- for Hezekiah had prayed for God to ‘deliver’ “my soul” (Ps. 120:2)- and yet the people therefore came to believe that the Lord would surely deliver “us”, i.e. all of them and not just Hezekiah personally as he had initially prayed. Bear in mind a simple point. Prayer should preceed action. We pray, then act. Not act, and then pray as a kind of insurance policy taken out after the event. Analyze your prayers from this perspective. If they are the prayers of faith, then we will be praying before acting. If we believe that prayer actually changes things, then we will not use it as an after-the-event insurance policy.
Luke records how the Angel summarised the Lord’s work as good news of great joy for all men (Lk. 2:10). The Gospel concludes by asking us to take that message to all men. Straight away we are challenged to analyze our preaching of the Gospel: is it a telling of “great joy” to others, or merely a glum ‘witness’ or a seeking to educate them ‘how to read the Bible more effectively’, or a sharing with them the conclusions of our somewhat phlegmatic Biblical researches? Whatever we teach, it must be a joyful passing on of good news of “great joy”. The Lord began His ministry by proclaiming a freedom from burdens through Him (Lk. 4). And He concludes it by telling the disciples to proclaim the same deliverance (Lk. 24:47). Consider how He brings together various passages from Isaiah in His opening declaration in Lk. 4:18:
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the broken-hearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, To preach [proclaim] [Heb. ‘call out to a man’] the acceptable year of the Lord”.
This combines allusions to Is. 61:1 (Lev. 25:10); Is. 58:6 LXX and Is. 61:2.
Is. 58:6 AV: “To loose the bands of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens, and to let the oppressed go free (cp. Dt. 15:12 re freedom of slaves, s.w.), and that ye break every yoke?” is in the context of an insincerely kept year of Jubilee in Hezekiah’s time, after the Sennacherib invasion. Is. 58 has many Day of Atonement allusions- the year of Jubilee began on this feast. We are as the High Priest declaring the reality of forgiveness to the crowd. Hence Lk. 24:47 asks us to proclaim a Jubilee of atonement. The Greek for “preach” in Lk. 24:47 and for “preach / proclaim the acceptable year” in Lk. 4:19 are the same, and the word is used in the LXX for proclaiming the Jubilee. And the LXX word used for ‘jubilee’ means remission, release, forgiveness, and it is the word used to describe our preaching / proclaiming forgiveness in Lk. 24:47. It could be that we are to see the cross as the day of atonement, and from then on the Jubilee should be proclaimed in the lives of those who accept it. It’s as if we are running round telling people that their mortgages have been cancelled, hire purchase payments written off...and yet we are treated as telling them something unreal, when it is in fact so real and pertinent to them. And the very fact that Yahweh has released others means that we likewise ought to live in a spirit of releasing others from their debts to us: “The creditor shall release that which he hath lent…because the Lord’s release hath been proclaimed” (Dt. 15:2RV).
We can’t have a spirit of meanness in our personal lives if we are proclaiming Yahweh’s release.http://www.aletheiacollege.net/ww/5-7great_commission_in_mark_and_luke.htm
March 14 Lev. 22
for a freewill offering, He would accept a deformed animal (Lev. 22:23), even though this was against His preferred principle of absolute perfection in offerings. There was no atonement without the shedding of blood; and yet for the very poor, God would accept a non-blood sacrifice. This all reflected the zeal of God to accept fallen men. The relationship between Solomon and his bride in the Song is evidently typical of ours with the Lord. Yet she has major problems: he always addresses her directly, yet she always answers indirectly (“he cometh...he standeth...he brought me”), often with some awkwardness and sense that she is unworthy of his love, and that his glowing descriptions of her are exaggeration. She is depicted as in doubt, lost, asleep, uncertain, reluctant, moody, sometime in love with him sometimes not, in need of reassurance despite the greatness of his love (“let him kiss me...”).
Believers aren't good people. But the Biblical evidence is that those who will be in the Kingdom basically love God, but really feel they shouldn't be in His Kingdom. There is much Biblical reason to believe that we should be positive about the fact we will surely be in the Kingdom. And yet the Biblical pictures of the judgment indicate that the accepted will not have grasped this aspect as strongly as they might have done. And this is exactly, exactly the position which I sense so many of us are in: not believing as strongly as we might the positive fact that we really will be in the Kingdom because we are in Christ, and yet experiencing answered prayer, basically holding on, albeit with a deeper sense of their unworthiness than of God's grace. These characteristics, which are clearly seen in so many of us, are the very characteristics of the faithful in the Biblical descriptions of the judgment. And therefore, many of us will be in the Kingdom of God.
Rom. 6:19 speaks of how the ever increasing downward spiral of obedience to sin is turned round at baptism, so that we begin an upward spiral of obedience to righteousness. God does good unto those that are good, but leads those who turn aside even further astray (Ps. 125:4,5). Those who are "[born] of God" are able to hear and understand God's words (Jn. 8:47)- and baptism is surely how we are born of God (Jn. 3:3-5). This seems to open up the possibility of yet higher growth once we are baptized- it's all an upward spiral, like any functional relationship.
Capturing the spirit of Isaiah, Peter fell down at Christ's feet: " Depart from me; for I am a sinful man, O Lord" . But the Lord responded: " Fear not; from henceforth thou shalt catch men" (Lk. 5:8-10). So Peter's deep recognition of his sinfulness resulted in him being given a preaching commission. And in similar vein, Peter was given another commission to teach the word the first time he met Christ after his denials (Jn. 21:15-17). Our experience of forgiveness must be the basis for our personal witness.
March 15 Lev. 23
The Angels who gave the Law of Moses are often mentioned specifically as instituting the sabbath (e.g. Ex. 31:3; Ez. 20:12,13,16,20)- because it is "the sabbath (the rest) of the Lord" (Lev. 23:3)- i. e. of the Angels who rested on that day back in Genesis. The fact man was to physically rest on the sabbath as a replica of how the Angels "rested" on that day implies that they too physically rested. This limitation of Angelic power opens a window into what eternity will be like for us (Lk. 20:35,36). For we will share their present nature.
We must forgive our brethren as God forgives us (Eph. 4:32). God expunges the spiritual record of the sin, and will not feed it into some equation which determines whether we can be forgiven. Christ " frankly" forgave the debtors in the parable. The frankness of that forgiveness does not suggest a process of careful calculation before it could be granted. God's frank forgiveness is seen too in Ps. 130:3: " If thou, Lord, shouldest mark iniquities, O Lord who shall stand?" . God does not " mark" sin, as our love for our brethren should keep no record of their past sins (1 Cor. 13:5-7 N.I.V.). If we refuse fellowship people because of the effect of past sins for which they have repented, then we are 'marking' iniquity. God does not deal with us in a manner which is proportional to the type or amount of sin we commit (Ps. 103:7-12).
You will probably encounter brethren who will seek to persuade you that we must make a difference between certain categories of sin, concluding that some sin must be repented of openly, and other sin (e.g. a fit of anger) can be repented of privately. But you must really consider what Biblical proof there is for this? Is this what the Bible really says about repentance?http://www.aletheiacollege.net/mm/3-3-1What_Is_Repentance.htm
If we condemn ourselves in our self-examination, we will not be condemned (1 Cor. 11:31). We are to most importantly [Gk. proton] “cast out” the beam from our own eye (Lk. 6:42)- and the Lord uses the same word about the ‘casting forth’ of the rejected at the last day. We are to judge our own weaknesses as worthy of condemnation. We must examine ourselves and conclude that at the end of the day we are "unprofitable servants" (Lk. 18:10), i.e. worthy of condemnation (the same phrase is used about the rejected, Mt. 25:30). This is the basis for a true humility and verve in the Lord's service.
March 16 Lev. 24
The lampstand is a symbol of the ecclesia; the lamps are us. The oil is the spirit of Jesus. Aaron was as Jesus. He daily ‘orders’ us, enabling us to shine (Lev. 24:4). Jesus understood this to be so in saying that He came to fan mens’ lamps into brighter light, to mend smoking flax, not give up on it. And He is actively about this work on a daily basis as were the priests.
David at times writes in the Psalms as if he sees himself from outside of himself. Ps. 132 is a good example, where he speaks of David in all his afflictions. Ps. 131:2 RV has him speaking of stilling and quieting his soul like a mother does a child- as if he saw himself as the mother to his own soul, talking to himself. This ability to see ourselves from outside of ourselves is vital in succesful self-examination. Another take on these passages of course is that David's prayers were re-written by another inspired hand.
Enthusiasm for Israel's response to the Gospel comes out when the grace of Jesus likens Himself to a street kid in the market who really wanted to get a game going with the other kids. He offered to play funerals with them (through His appeal through John the Baptist), but they refused. He then offered to play weddings (through His Gospel of grace, joy and peace), but still they refused (Lk. 7:32). By all means connect this with another market place parable, where Christ (the servant) comes there to try to recruit labourers, on almost unbelievably good rates. The Lord's enthusiasm for the salvation of first century Israel (and us too) comes out in Lk. 14:5 RSV, where He likens the urgency of His mission to that of a man whose son has fallen down a well. He simply must get there, regardless of the Sabbath rules. And this, says the Lord, is His all out urgency to save men. We have all fallen down the pit from whence we must be rescued (Zech. 9:11). As we distribute leaflets, place our adverts, talk to our contacts, strive in our own character development towards salvation; this is the verve of the Lord Jesus to save us. It is only the hardness of the human heart that can stand in the way of the mighty enthusiasm of the Son of God for our redemption.
March 17 Lev. 25
Paul reasons that we enter the body of Christ by baptism; and nobody hates their own body. He feeds and cares for it. This not only means that the Lord will likewise care for us. It means that we now have the basis of self-respect and a healthy love of self [the kind the Lord had in mind when He said we should love our neighbour as we love ourselves]. Because we are to count ourselves as the body of Christ, we no longer need wallow in the feeling that we are so unworthy, we aren't worth making the effort with. And therefore we should truly love our brother; Lev. 25:38 reasons that because of Israel's experience of the Red Sea redemption, therefore they were to have a generous spirit to their brother. Because the Egyptians were hard taskmasters, and Israel had been graciously saved from them, therefore they were not to be hard on each other (Lev. 25:40). If the oppressed [as Israel were oppressed] cry out unto you [as Israel cried out for their affliction], you must hear them, otherwise God will hear them and punish you, as if you are the Egyptian taskmaster (Ex. 22:24-27). Indeed, the whole Law of Moses is shot through with direct and indirect reference to the Red Sea experience. It was as if this was to be the motivator for their obedience and upholding of the culture of kindness which the Law sought to engender (Lev.23, 24; Dt. 17:7; 24:19-24). And our experience of redemption from this world ought to have the same effect.
Ps. 135, 136
The Baal cult was a fertility cult. The idea was that be sleeping with the temple prostitutes, Baal would provide fertility in family life and also good harvests and fullness of bread. Yet Yahweh was the giver of bread to Israel (Ex. 16:29 cp. Dt. 8:18; Ps. 136:25; Ps. 146:7). For Israel to trust Baal for these things was a denial of Him. We're surrounded by materialism, the belief that it's your pay packet or pension cheque which is your giver of bread. And as Old Testament Scripture continually alludes to and warns against the Baal cult, so it speaks to us too.
The synoptic Gospels use the same words for the activities of both Jesus and the disciples in respect of preaching, teaching, healing etc. Theirs was a shared ministry. Thus Jesus is recorded as “showing the glad tidings of the Kingdom” (Lk. 8:1), but in the same context He asks a new convert to go home “and shew how great things God hath done” (8:39), as if he were to continue the ‘showing’ of Jesus. If we're in Christ, we are His witnesses to this world. He is us and we are Him to the surrounding people- especially in our "home".
March 18 Lev. 26
Daniel's prayer seems to have been motivated in the first place by his appreciation of God's promise that if Israel confessed their sins when in captivity, He would turn again to them (Lev. 26:40), as well as his knowledge that Jeremiah had prophesied that when Israel intensely prayed, God would turn again their captivity (Jer. 29:12,13). Not only did the word motivate Daniel's prayer, but his prayer almost breathes his saturation with it- see http://www.aletheiacollege.net/pr/6The_Mediation_Of_Prayer.htm . Is our daily reading of the word influencing our prayers today?
Prayer, coupled with the knowledge that God knows all we are feeling, enables us to take our feelings, absolutely as they are, with no rough edges smoothed off them…to God Himself. Pour them all out in prayer and leave Him to resolve the matter. In passing, this fits in with the conclusions of modern psychiatry- that we can't eliminate our feelings, so we must express them in an appropriate way.The writer of Psalm 137, sitting angry and frustrated by a Babylonian riverside, with his harp hanging on a willow branch, being jeered (" tormented" Ps. 137:3 RVmg.) by the victorious Babylonian soldiers who had led him away captive…he felt so angry with them. Especially when they tried to make him sing one of the temple songs (" sing us one of the songs of Zion" ). And, as a bitter man does, his mind went from one hurt to another. He remembered how when Babylon had invaded, the Edomites hadn't helped their Hebrew brethren (Obadiah 11,12). They had egged on the Babylonian soldiers in ripping down the temple, saying " Rase it, rase it, even to the foundation" . And so in anger and bitterness this Jew prays with tears, as he remembered Zion, " O daughter of Babylon…happy shall he be, that rewardeth thee as thou hast served us. Happy shall he be that taketh and dasheth thy little ones against the rock" (:8,9 RV). God read those angry words as a prayer, and in some sense they will have their fulfillment. For these words are picked up in Rev. 18:8,21 and applied to what will finally happen to Babylon. Her spiritual children will be dashed against the rock of Christ, the stone of Daniel 2:44, at His return. He will dash in pieces the Babylon-led people that oppose Him.
The only people to be rejected at the day of judgment will be those who have condemned themselves, and the Lord will simply confirm this to them in His final verdict. If we are ashamed of Him now, we will be ashamed from before Him then (1 Jn. 2:28), and He will be ashamed of us (Lk. 9:26). Every time we are asked to stand up for Him and His words in the eyes of men, we are as it were living out our future judgment.
March 19 Lev. 27
God told Israel that He wanted altars made of earth; but He knew they would want to make altars of stone like the other nations, and He made allowance for this (Ex. 20:24,25). The Law has several examples of this living on different levels. " Ye shall let nothing of (the Passover) remain until the morning; and that which remaineth of it until the morning ye shall burn with fire" (Ex. 12:10) is an evident example. God foresaw their disobedience to His stated principle, and made a concession and provision. Or take the Law’s ruling about tithes: “...neither shall he change it: and if he change it...” (Lev. 27:33).
A man’s words are counted as who he is:
“Surely the serpent will bite without enchantment; and a babbler [same word translated ‘tongue’] is no better” (Ecc. 10:11)
“Ye are taken up in the lips of talkers [s.w. tongue]” (Is. 59:3)
“Let not an evil speaker [s.w. tongue] be established” (Ps. 140:11)
We will therefore be judged by our words- for they are us.
The Lord’s teaching about the cross was “hid from them” (Lk. 9:45), much to the Lord’s distress. And yet in prayer to the Father, He rejoices that these things are not hid from them (Lk. 10:21,23). This is a picture of the Lord’s present mediation for us in prayer. He is very positive about us to the Father, but realistic and even critical of us in human life.
March 20 Num 1
Wrath would come upon all Israel if the Levites weren’t encamped around the tabernacle (Num. 1:53). The curses of Dt. 28:4,18 involved cursing coming upon descendants of sinful people; perhaps in that their fathers influenced them to do wrong. Thus the salvation of men can be affected by a third party not preaching to them or not teaching them correct doctrine. Herein lies the crying need to ‘defend the Faith’.
Ps. 143, 144
There's a Hebrew word, siyakh, which means to commune with oneself; it's a clear reference to what I'm calling 'self-talk'. David speaks of how he 'muses', or talks to himself, about the wonder of God's natural creation (Ps. 143:5) and His past acts in the history of Israel. We have to ask ourselves whether, for all our familiarity with the Biblical text, these things are actually part of our self-talk? The word occurs in Ps. 55:17, where it's translated 'pray'. This self-talk is perhaps the very essence of prayer; this speaking to ourselves is in fact a speaking to God. That's how we can live the life of continual prayer which busy men like David and Paul claim to have lived. David especially speaks of how he communes with his own heart at night (Ps. 77:6; 119:148 s.w.)- this in particular is the time for self-talk.
The Lord had to comment that the harvest was great, but the labourers [i.e. the disciples] were few or weak [Lk. 10:2 Gk.]. And yet He delegated so much to them- authority, the power of miracles, the Gospel itself (Lk. 9:1-6), despite their weakness, and despite the fact much harvest was spoilt or not harvested by their weakness. They were His representatives to the world (Lk. 10:16)- and yet they still didn’t know how to pray (Lk. 11:1). We marvel at the way the Lord used them, and yet we end up realizing with a similar amazement that the same Lord has entrusted His Gospel to us, with all our weakness and dysfunction.
March 21 Num 2
s. 60:2 speaks of the sun rising upon Zion- as if Zion was the whole earth to God. Ps. 89:12 shows how God reckons the points of the compass with reference to Jerusalem: " The north and the south thou hast created them: Tabor (in the west) and Hermon (in the east) shall rejoice" . Likewise " the sea" is often used to show that the west is intended, the Mediterranean being to the west of Jerusalem (Num. 2:18; Josh. 16:5,6; Ez. 42:19). " The east" is put for Persia, Media and the lands east of Jerusalem (Ez. 25:4; Mt. 2:1); " the south" for Egypt, south of Canaan (Jer. 13:19; Dan. 11:5), or for the negev, the hill country south of Jerusalem (Gen. 12:9; 13:1,3; Ez. 20:46,47); " the north" is put for Babylon (Jer. 1:13-15 etc.). This would all explain why Is. 20:6 (Heb.) describes Israel as an island in God’s eyes. This, to Him, was ‘the world’. The point of all this is that God is in one sense "believer centric"- His world revolves around us. And our worldview likewise should have Him and His people as the centre.
God’s word is a living word. Unlike other history, we can see the intense personal relevance of all God’s past dealings with men. David at times gets ecstatic for what God had done at the Red Sea; one generation would tell the Passover story to another, they too would sing as Miriam had done (Ps. 145:4-7). Through sensitive reading of the word we can passionately enter into the thrill of Gods ways. We can perceive how we too stand day by day at the cross-roads, to eternal life or eternal death; how we too hold our futures in our hands, living out our lives as in the judgment presence of the Father and Son. And the memory of the sufferings of our Lord can likewise jolt us out of the ‘don’t care’ mindset of this world.
Practically and concretely, how will we be gathered to judgment? How? When? It seems that the Angels will suddenly appear to us in the course of our mundane lives, and invite us to go to meet Christ. "The reapers" of the harvest "are the angels"; it is they who will gather the believers, and then divide them into wheat and tares (Mt. 13:40-42). As men gather in a net and sort out the fish, so the angels will at judgment day (Mt. 13:47-50). "Men (angels) gather (the branches), and cast them into the fire, and they are burned" (Jn. 15:6). This same equation of men and angels is seen in Lk. 6:38, this time concerning how the angels will mete out rewards as well as punishment at the judgment: "Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together...shall men (angels) give into your bosom (at the judgment; ordinary men certainly don't do so in this life!). For with the same measure that ye mete withal it shall be measured to you again"- very much the language of judgment to come (Lk. 6:38 cp. Mt. 7:1,2). This association of "men" (angels) with the judgment is fitting, seeing that our guardian angel will have been with us through every up and down of life. Speaking of the principle of responsibility upon which our judgment will be conducted, the Lord hints at this: "to whom men (our guardian angels?) have committed much, of him they will ask the more" (Lk. 12:48).
March 22 Num 3
he priests weren't part-timers. They gave their lives to God in recognition of the fact that God had saved the lives of the firstborn at the Passover and Red Sea deliverance (Num. 3:12). Our deliverance from the world at baptism was our Red Sea. We have been saved. Those firstborns represent us, the ecclesia of firstborns (Heb. 12:23 Gk.). We are now being led towards that glorious Kingdom, when by rights we ought to be lying dead in that dark Egyptian night. The wonder of it all demands that like the Levites, we give our lives back to God, in service towards His children.
There is a link between the name Yahweh, and praise. Halle-lu-YAH is saying that for the sake of the Name Yah, therefore praise Him. David sat down and designed musical instruments because of the Name (2 Chron. 7:6). The Psalms often make the link explicit, e.g. " ...give thanks unto Thy holy name, and to triumph in Thy praise" (Ps. 106:47). The Name and praise are paralleled. If we know the beauty and wonder of God's Name, His very being, this is of itself an imperative to praise. He alone is worthy of praise because His Name alone is exalted (Ps. 148:13). How deep is our praise of God today, as a result of our reflection upon His Name?
Lk. 13, 14
“Strive to enter in [now] at the strait gate: for many [at judgment day] will seek to enter in, and shall not be able” (Lk. 13:24). Our attitude to seeking the Lord now will be the attitude we have then. The emotion and reality of the judgment experience will not essentially change our attitude to the Lord. If we have “boldness” in prayer now (Heb. 4:16), then we will have “boldness in the day of judgment”. How we feel to Him now is how we will then.
March 23 Num 4
The wealth Israel took from Egypt was to be given back to His service- not carried with them through the wilderness wandering until they died or left it to their kids. Quite a challenge for us who likewise have left Egypt through baptism and walk the desert walk.
There is a Biblical theme of the rejected later seeking acceptance. "When your fear cometh as desolation, and your destruction cometh as a whirlwind; when distress and anguish cometh upon you (quoted in Rom. 2:8 re. the judgment). Then shall they call upon me, but I will not answer; they shall seek me early, but they shall not find me" (Prov. 1:27,28). Now is the today of salvation; now is the time to call upon God, and not wait until being rejected at the day of judgment to do it.
The shepherd-owner calls his “friends” together. This surely refers to the clubs the Pharisees formed in villages, called the Khaburim [‘friends’]. They ought to have rejoiced to be eating with sinners, as the Lord was- but they wouldn’t. The whole context of the three parables is the Lord justifying why he ate at home with sinners, thereby showing that He considered them as somehow ‘in fellowship’ with Him. The Pharisees wouldn’t do this unless those people repented and learnt Torah in great depth. But the Lord is surely saying that He sees those men who ate with Him as the sheep which has already been brought home. He reflected the gracious outlook with which He saw people; and His hopefulness that by treating a person as if they had ‘come home’, then they would indeed do so. Probing this line further, the Lord Jesus speaks of the found sheep as being symbolic of the repentant. But the sheep did nothing- it was simply acceptant of having been found. To accept being found is, therefore, seen by the Lord as what He calls ‘repentance’. Now surely that’s grace- salvation without works.
March 24 Num 5
If a man's wife committed adultery he could have her killed; or he could put her through the trial of jealousy of Num. 5, with the result that she would become barren; or he could divorce her (Dt. 22:19; 24:1 RV; Lev. 21:14; 22:13). Within a Law that was holy, just and good (Rom. 7:12), unsurpassed in it's righteousness (Dt. 4:8; and let us not overlook these estimations), there were these different levels of response possible. But there was a higher level: he could simply forgive her. This was what God did with His fickle Israel, time and again (Hos. 3:1-3). And so the Israelite faced with an unfaithful wife could respond on at least four levels. This view would explain how divorce seems outlawed in passages like Dt. 22:19,29, and yet there are other parts of the OT which seem to imply that it was permitted. It should be noted that there were some concessions to weakness under the Law which the Lord was not so willing to make to His followers (e.g., outside the marriage context, Dt. 20:5-8 cp. Lk. 9:59-62; 14:18,19). He ever held before us the Biblical ideal of marriage. If there are different levels acceptable before God, seeing we love Him and wish to please Him, we're thereby enabled to chose to serve Him at the highest possible level.
Solomon was aware, at least theoretically, of the foolish path he was going down with Gentile women. God had inspired him with the wisdom of Prov. 2:16,17, which warned that wisdom would save a man from the Gentile woman who made a covenant with the God of Israel in her youth (in order to marry an Israelite, by implication), but soon forgot it. This was exactly, exactly the case of Solomon; yet he just couldn't see the personal relevance of his own wisdom to himself. And how much of our knowledge do we fail to personally apply?
The Lord taught us that we should have a sense of urgency in our response to others. The Lord showed by His example that it is better to meet the hunger of human need than to keep the letter of Sabbath rules (Mk. 2:25,26). His urgency, God’s urgency, our consequent urgency…all means that when even Divine principles appear to come into conflict, we are to be influenced above all by the urgency of others’ need. " Which of you shall have a son fallen into a well, and will not straightway draw him up?" (Lk. 14:5 RV). Wells weren’t that wide. Only a small child would fall down one. We can imagine the tragic situation in the home. " Benny’s fallen down the well!" . And everyone would go running. They wouldn’t wait until the Saturday evening. Nor would they worry the slightest about infringing the letter of the law. And so, the Lord explained, that little boy was like the sick men and women, sick both physically and spiritually, whom He saw around Him. There was an urgency which He felt about them. And so there should be with us too. We can realize that this world is evil and vain; and yet we can still fail to perceive the tragedy of it all, and the urgency of our task to save at least some. The Father of the prodigal told the servants: " Bring forth quickly the best robe" (Lk. 15:22 RV). The indebted man was told to sit down quickly and have his debt reduced (Lk. 16:6). There is an urgency in the mediation of mercy towards others.
March 25 Num 6
Paul was called to be a preacher of the Gospel, and yet he speaks of his work as a preacher as if it were a Nazarite vow- which was a totally voluntary commitment. Consider not only the reference to him shaving his head because of his vow (Acts 18:18; 21:24 cp. Num. 6:9-18), but also the many descriptions of his preaching work in terms of Nazariteship:
- Separated unto the Gospel’s work (Rom. 1:1; Gal. 1:15; Acts 13:2)
- “I am not yet consecrated / perfected” (Phil. 3:12)- he’d not yet finished his ‘course’, i.e. his preaching commission. He speaks of it here as if it were a Nazarite vow not yet ended. Note the reference to his ‘consecration’ in Acts 20:24.
- His undertaking not to drink wine lest he offend others (Rom. 14:21) is framed in the very words of Num. 6:3 LXX about the Nazarite.
- Likewise his being ‘joined unto the Lord’ (1 Cor. 6:17; Rom. 14:6,8) is the language of Num. 6:6 about the Nazarite being separated unto the Lord.
- The reference to having power / authority on the head (1 Cor. 11:10) is definitely some reference back to the LXX of Num. 6:7 about the Nazarite.
What are we to make of all this? The point is perhaps that commitment to active missionary work is indeed a voluntary matter, as was the Nazarite vow. And that even although Paul was called to this, yet he responded to it by voluntarily binding himself to ‘get the job done’. And the same is in essence true for us today in our various callings in the Lord’s service.
The world around us, especially through the medium of advertising, presents this world as the true Kingdom. If you buy this insurance policy, there will be true peace...if you smoke this cigarette, there will be a truly blessed life. We are pressurized more than we know to resign the true Kingdom for the fake one all around us. The wicked can even appear as the righteous, to the undiscerning. Thus the man who had such blessings that he needed to build bigger barns- for his barns overflowed- was experiencing apparently the blessings of the righteous (Prov. 3:32 NIV). But there is coming a time when the two worlds, the two Kingdoms, will experience their inevitable collision in the return of Christ.
The story of the slave who worked all day in the field and was then expected to come home and cook for his master without a word of thanks to him seems to be more realistic, lacking this element of unreality. But the Greek word " charis" , usually translated " grace" , is the one used for " thank" here (Lk. 17:9). The point is that we don't receive grace because of our going the extra mile, as we are inclined to think. We receive grace, but not as a result of all our special efforts; these are what are expected of us, on account of the fact that we have become salves to our Master, the Lord Jesus. At the end of all our special efforts (in whatever sphere), we must consciously make an effort to recognize that we are " unprofitable servants" (Lk. 17:10). This must surely connect with Mt. 25:30, which describes the rejected at the day of judgment as unprofitable servants. If we judge / condemn ourselves, we will not be condemned (1 Cor. 11:31). This is just one of many examples of where the Lord's parables seem intended to be linked with each other- which further proves that they are not stories with a deeper meaning, whose storyline is not intended to be carefully considered. We must recognize not only that we are unprofitable servants, but that we have only done what was our " duty" or debt to do- the implication being that we were sold into slavery on account of an unpayable debt. This is exactly the figure used by the Lord to describe us in Mt. 18:25.
But there is a telling detail in Lk. 17:10 which further reflects the grace of Jesus: " When ye shall have done (not 'when you do') all these things which are commanded you, (you will) say, We are unprofitable servants" . It may be that this is taking us forward to the Kingdom; it is at the judgment that we 'do all' (Eph. 6:13), it is in the Kingdom that we will obey all the commandments (Ps. 119:6). This parable is a glimpse into the appreciation of grace we will have as we enter the Kingdom; once we are fully righteous, we will realize how unprofitable we are of ourselves (notice we may still feel in a sense " unprofitable" then). We will realize that all our service is only the repaying of the huge debt incurred by our sinfulness. Then, and perhaps only then, will we see works in their true perspective. This surely is the purpose of the judgment seat. We will walk away with the sense of wonder at the grace of Jesus that filled the one-hour workers as they walked away from the pay table with a day's wages.http://www.aletheiacollege.net/mm/5-4The_Grace_Of_Jesus.htm
March 26 Num 7
The blood of Christ is personified as a voice that speaks to us, a better word than the voice of Abel’s blood which cried out it’s message (Heb. 12:24 NIV; Gen. 4:10). This is after the pattern of how the commanding voice of Yahweh was heard above the blood sprinkled on “the atonement cover of the ark of the Testimony" (Num. 7:89 NIV). The ark was made of shittim wood- from a root meaning ‘to flog, scourge or pierce’, all replete with reference to the cross. And it was there on that wooden box that Yahweh was declared in the blood sprinkled upon it. Note how there is an association between the blood of atonement and the throne of judgment in 2 Sam. 6:2 and Is. 37:16, as if we see a foretaste of our judgment in the way we respond to the Lord’s outpoured blood for us. The Lord Jesus in His time of death is the “propitiation", or rather ‘the place of propitiation’ for our sins, the blood-sprinkled mercy seat. “There I will meet with thee, and I will commune with thee from above the mercy-seat...of all things which I will give thee in commandment" (Ex. 25:20-22). The blood of Christ is therefore to be associated with the commanding voice of God, such is the imperative within it. Our reflection on the cross today should speak God's voice to us.
David had taught his children with the words: “Come, ye children, hearken unto me: I will teach you the fear of the Lord” (Ps. 34:11- did David say this to his children every evening?). And Solomon uses just the same words, even whilst disobeying God’s law at the same time in his own life: “Hear, ye children, the instruction of a father…I give you good doctrine…for I was my father’s son, tender and only beloved in the sight of my mother. He taught me also, and said unto me, Let thine heart retain my words: keep my commandments and live” (Prov. 4:1-4). And so Solomon taught his kids with the same outward form of words, although the personal reality of wisdom was lost on him. How much of our spirituality is merely mouthing a form of words, living out parental expectation in some cases...?
" The Lord...is longsuffering to us-ward" of the last days. This longsuffering of Jesus suggests the parable of the persistent widow, whose continued requests should match our prayers for the second coming (the vengeance of our adversaries which she requested will only come then). " Though he bear long" (s.w. 'longsuffering') with us, " God shall avenge His own elect, which cry day and night unto Him" (Lk. 18:7). The " us" whom Peter refers to as experiencing the Lord's longsuffering ('bearing long') are therefore to be equated with " the elect" in their fervent prayers for the second coming. The days being shortened- a strong idea in 2 Peter 3- for the elect's sake therefore refers to the hastening of the second coming on account of the elect's prayers (Mt. 24:22). In view of the later references to Matt. 24, it is not unreasonable to think that Peter is consciously alluding to Mt. 24:22 concerning the shortening of the days for the sake of the elect's prayers, through his allusion to the parable of the persistent widow of Lk.18:7.
Despite the power of prayer in bringing about the Lord's return in vengeance, Lk. 18:9-14 continues in this same context to warn that despite this:
- Perhaps the Lord won't find such faith in prayer when he returns
- Many will pray but be so sure of their own righteousness that their prayers are hindered
- The disciples will tend to despise the little ones in the ecclesia.
May we not give way to these latter day temptations!http://www.aletheiacollege.net/pr/10.htm
March 27 Num 8, 9
God intended Israel to be " a Kingdom of priests" (Ex. 19:6). “All the people of Israel” were the builders of the spiritual house of God, i.e. His people (Acts 4:10,11). All Israel were to lay their hands on the Levites to show that they were truly Israel’s representatives (Num. 8:10). When Israel were rejected, they were told that they as a nation could no longer be God’s priest (Hos. 4:6). We in the new Israel a're therefore all priests- a "royal priesthood". We're not to leave the duty of ministering to others- but to do it ourselves.
The two women of Proverbs both have surface similarities; folly parodies wisdom. Thus the words of the adulteress drip honey and oil (Prov. 5:3), just as those of wisdom do (Prov. 16:24). That which appears spiritual on the surface is often of the flesh. Thus we may kid ourselves that we're acting out of love in telling another person some dirt on another- when in fact, we're gossiping. Daily, hourly, we face these kinds of temptations.
According to another of the parables of judgment in Lk. 19:23, the Lord will shew the unworthy how they could have entered the Kingdom. Again, notice how the judgment is for the education of those judged. He will shew them how they should have given their talent, the basic Gospel, to others, and therefore gained some interest. This has to be connected with the well known prohibition on lending money to fellow Israelites for usury; usury could only be received from Gentiles (Dt. 23:20). Surely the Lord is implying that at the least this person could have shared the Gospel with others, especially (in a Jewish context) the Gentile world. This would have at least brought some usury for the Lord. This would suggest that issues such as apathy in preaching, especially the unwillingness of the Jewish believers to share their hope with the Gentiles, will be raised by the Lord during the judgment process. Of course, the Lord hadn't told the servant (in the story) to lend the money to Gentiles; he was expected to use his initiative. The overall picture of the story is that at least the man should have done something! The Lord would even have accepted him if he lent money on usury, something which the Law condemned; if he'd have done something, even if it involved breaking some aspects of God's will... Instead, his attitude was that he had been given the talent of the Gospel, and he saw his duty as to just keep hold on it. He was angry that the Lord should even suggest he ought to have done anything else! We really must watch for this attitude in ourselves. He justifies himself by saying that he has " kept" the money (Lk. 19:20), using the word elsewhere used about the need to keep or hold on to the doctrines of the One Faith (1 Tim. 1:19; 3:9; 2 Tim. 1:13; Rev. 6:9). He had done this, he had held on, he hadn't left the faith. And he thought this was enough to bring him to the Kingdom. Sadly, our view of spirituality has almost glorified this very attitude. Any who show initiative have been seen as mavericks, as likely to go wrong. The emphasis has been on holding on to basic doctrine, marking your Bible with it, attending weekly meetings about it (even if you snooze through them), regularly attending...And, son, you won't go far wrong. The Lord, in designing this parable as He did, had exactly this sort of complacency in mind.
March 28 Num 10
The Old Testament use of 'trumpet' language relates to the following ideas:
- To prepare for war
- To indicate the need to move on
- Convicting others of sin (Is. 58:1; Jer. 4:19)
- Warning of invaders (Ez. 33:3-6)
- A proclamation of the urgency to prepare for the day of the Lord (Joel 2:1)
- The certainty of salvation and God's response to prayer: " Ye shall blow an alarm with the trumpets; and ye shall be remembered before the Lord your God (Old Testament idiom for 'your prayers will be answered'), and ye shall be saved" (Num. 10:9).
All of these elements ought to feature in the work of our twenty first century priests. How much conviction of sin, blunt warning, forward moving inspiration, confidence building, real meaningful emphasis on the power of prayer, eager anticipation of the second coming, above all what sense of urgency in spiritual development- do you contribute, do you offer, do you have pouring from you? For we are each one members of a royal, trumpet-blowing priesthood.
The blindness of Solomon is driven home time and again. He warned the typical young man about being captivated by the eyelids of the Gentile woman (Prov. 6:25); yet it was the eyes of Miss Egypt that he openly admitted stole his heart (Song 4:9; 6:5). The strange woman has words like a honeycomb (Prov. 5:3); and yet this is exactly how Solomon found his woman's words (Song 4:11). The wicked Gentile woman is associated with a large house in a high place, in the temple area (e.g. Prov. 9:14). But this is exactly where Solomon built his Egyptian wife a house! The Proverbs which lament the rich man who has bitterness in his family life no doubt came true of Solomon in later life (e.g. 15:17). A whole string of passages in Proverbs warn of the " strange" woman (2:16; 5:20; 6:24; 7:5; 20:16; 23:27; 27:13). Yet the very same word (translated " outlandish" ) is used in Neh. 13 concerning the women Solomon married. The antidote to succumbing to the wicked woman was to have wisdom- according to Proverbs. And Solomon apparently had wisdom. Yet he succumbed to the wicked woman. The reason for this must be that Solomon didn't really have wisdom. Yet we know that he was given it in abundance. The resolution of this seems to be that Solomon asked for wisdom in order to lead Israel rather than for himself, he used that wisdom to judge Israel and to educate the surrounding nations. But none of it percolated to himself. As custodians of true doctrine- for that is what we are- we are likely to suffer from over familiarity with it. We can become so accustomed to 'handling' it, as we strengthen each other, as we preach, that the personal bearing of the Truth becomes totally lost upon us, as it was totally lost upon Solomon. Thus Solomon exhorted others to keep the law of their mother (Prov. 6:21), so that it would keep the from the attractive Gentile girl. And don't think, he went on, that in this context you can take fire into your hands and not be burnt. You can't play around with your own sexuality without it having a permanent spiritual effect upon you (6:27). But dear Bathsheba's words to Solomon warning against the Gentile woman were completely forgotten by him.
Truth flowed through his mouth with ease, but took no lodgement at all in his heart. Truth, absolute and pure, flows through our hands in such volume. Bible study after Bible study, chapter after chapter... But does it mean anything at all to us? Prov. 6:26 warns the young man that the Gentile woman will take his money and leave him destitute at the end. These words seem to be alluded to by Solomon years later in Ecc. 6:2, where he laments that despite his wealth and success, a Gentile would have it all after his death. He saw in later life that his warnings to the young men of Israel had been in the form of painting a picture of a typical young man who epitomized youthful folly; but now he saw that he had been making a detailed prophecy of himself.http://www.aletheiacollege.net/bl/7-3-4Sin_Never_Satisfies.htm
The Lord’s initial Palestinian hearers were well used to the scenario of absentee landlords. The parables of Israel would have been easily understood by them. The landlords lived far away, were never seen, and sometimes their workers took over the whole show for themselves. The Lord’s parable of the absentee landlord in Lk. 20:9-16 alludes to this situation. He sends messengers seeking fruit from the vineyard, but the tenants abuse or kill them, and he does nothing. When his son shows up, they assume that he’s going to do just as before- ignore whatever they do to him. After all, they’d got away with not giving him any fruit and ignoring his messengers for so long, why would he change his attitude? He was so far away, he’d been in a “far country” for a very long time (Lk. 20:9), they didn’t really know him. The Lord asked the question: “What therefore shall the lord of the vineyard do unto them?” (Lk. 20:15). The obvious answer, from the context provided within the story, would be: “Judging on past experience, not much at all”. But then the Lord presented the element of unreality in the story, as a sudden, biting trick of the tail: No, the lord of the vineyard would actually personally come and destroy them, and give the vineyard to other tenants. Even though his experience of having tenants farm his land had been a fruitless and painful experience that had cost him the life of his son. And it was that element of unreality that brings home to us the whole point of the story. The Father does appear distant and unresponsive to our selfishness, our rebellion, and our refusal to hear his servants the prophets. But there is a real judgment to come, in which He will personally be involved. And yet even His destruction of the Jewish tenants hasn’t taken away His almost manic desire to have workers, in His desperate desire for true spiritual fruit. The parables of Israel surely speak encouragement to each of us.
The parable of the absentee landlord has a telling twist to it. Absentee landlords who had never visited their land for ages, and found the people they sent to the property beaten up, would usually just forget it. They wouldn’t bother. In the parable which draws on this, the Lord asks what the landlord will do (Lk. 20:15). The expected answer was: ‘Not much. He got what he could, he was never bothered to go there for years anyway’. But this landlord is odd. He keeps on sending messengers when any other landlord would have given up or got mad earlier on. But God’s patience through the prophets was likewise unusual. And then, when the tenants thought they must surely be able to get away with it because the Lord seemed so distant and out of touch… He suddenly comes Himself in person and destroys them. He doesn’t hire a bunch of people to do it. He comes in person, as the Lord will in judgment. And instead of deciding he’d had his fingers burnt and giving up vineyards as a bad job, this Lord gives the vineyard to others- He tries again. And so the Lord is doing with the Gentiles.
March 29 Num 11
The illogicality of Israel's rejection of Moses when he first appeared to them is so apparent. They were slaves in Egypt, and then one of the most senior of Pharaoh's officials reveals that he is their brother, and has been sent by God to deliver them. Yet they preferred the life of slavery in Egypt. This same illogicality is seen in us if we refuse baptism, preferring to stay in the world of slavery, or later when we chose the world as opposed to Christ. We deny, we refuse, we reject, the Lord who bought us by going back to the world from which he redeemed us. The illogicality of going back to the world is brought out by the illogicality of Israel's rejection of Moses. Israel rejected Moses because it was easier to stay where they were. Such is the strength of conservatism in human nature; such is our innate weakness of will and resolve. They rejected the idea of leaving Egypt because they thought it was better than it was, they failed to face up to how much they were suffering (Num. 11:5). And our apathy in responding to Christ's redemptive plan for us is rooted in the same problem; we fail to appreciate the seriousness of sin, the extent to which we are in slavery to sin- even though the evidence for this is all around us.
Solomon wrote Prov. 7 shortly after his marriage to a Gentile; how ever could he do it? Clearly he was spiritually blind to a fundamental part of his life, but the fact he was blind never seems to have occurred to him. How can we think that we are not blind? Remember how the disciples were blind to the most obvious teaching of the Lord Jesus: that he would die and rise again. Israel likewise were blind to the prophecies of a suffering Messiah; the early Jewish Christians were blind to the mass of Old and New Testament evidence that circumcision, Sabbath keeping etc. were irrelevant to salvation. In retrospect it all looks so obvious. There may very well be aspects of our lives which are fundamentally astray, which could even lead to our condemnation. " Search us, O God, and know each heart" .
Lk. 21:13 speaks of how when a believer is persecuted, “it shall turn to you for a testimony”. What does this really mean? For me, the most satisfactory explanation would be that the Angels give a positive testimony of the faithful believer in the court of Heaven. Our Angels speak about us to God!
March 30 Num 12, 13
The man Moses was made very meek, until he was the meekest man alive on earth (Num. 12:3 Heb.). “A stuttering shepherd, shy of leadership and haunted by his crime of passion” in slaying the Egyptian…these things developed this in him. Remember that Moses himself wrote Num. 12:3. It's an autobiographical comment, reflecting of course the Spirit of Him who knows every heart, and could make such a statement. And yet he writes it in recording how God had rebuked Aaron and Miriam for criticizing him, and how He had told them that He spoke with Moses alone face to face. We can imagine Moses blushing, with hung head. And then he makes the comment, that he was made the most humble man… Appreciating the honour of seeing so much of God, when he himself was a sinner, was part of that humbling process. All Israel will ultimately go through this when they face up to the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ: " Enter into the rock, and hide thee in the dust, for fear of the Lord, and for the glory of his majesty. The lofty looks of man shall be humbled, and the haughtiness of man shall be bowed down, and the Lord alone shall be exalted in that day" (Is. 2:10,11). This certainly reads like an allusion to Moses' cowering in the rock, humbling himself in the dust, before the glory of Yahweh. Our glimpses of the wonder of the Father's character should have the same effect upon us, just beholding the glory of God, i.e. the manifestation of His perfect character is Christ, should change us into the same image (2 Cor. 3:18- another invitation to see ourselves as Moses).
Pro 8, 9
His father’s high parental expectation of him led him to self-assurance, arrogance, an assumption he was right and could never be wrong. And one sees this in many a Christian family. This self-assurance of Solomon’s was refelected in how he brought up his children. He spoke of his law as giving life and blessing, appropriating the very terms of Deuteronomy about the blessings of obedience to God’s law. Wisdom said: “Now therefore my sons, hearken unto me: for blessed are they that keep my ways” (Prov. 8:32 RV). Yet these are the very words Solomon uses when talking to his kids: “Now therefore my sons, hearken unto me” (Prov. 5:7; 7:24). Conclusion? Solomon sees the woman “Wisdom” as a personification of himself. It was really Solomon's self-justification. He personally was wisdom, so he thought. This is how self-exalted his possession of true wisdom made him. And of course, his kids didn’t listen to wisdom’s way. In passing, I have noted that those raised ‘in the truth’ often find it very hard to take criticism in later life. They find tolerance of others’ views hard; they perceive themselves to be right to an intolerant extent. Is this not a little bit of the Solomon syndrome?
It is where two or three are gathered together in His Name, that the Lord Jesus is somehow there in the midst of them (Mt. 18:20). Perhaps this means that He is especially manifested / revealed in the gathered together groups of believers, in a special and far different way to which an isolated believer reading a Bible may know the presence of Jesus. All this must especially be true of the breaking of bread- the only other time in the New Testament we meet the three Greek words translated “I am in the midst” is in Lk. 22:27, where the Lord comments how He is in the midst of the disciples at the first breaking of bread. Of course, mere church attendance doesn’t mean we perceive Christ there, in the midst of us; we perceive Him there insofar as we perceive the spirit of Christ in our brethren.
March 31 Num 14
Num. 14:20 records how the Father forgave Israel according to Moses’ word. And in just as real a sense, He has placed the reconciliation of this world in the hands of our ministry. The salvation of others in some sense depends upon us, a third party, as it were.
Understanding leads to obedience, but the very practicing of God’s ways grants us yet more understanding into those commands we are obeying: “I have more understanding than all my teachers: for thy testimonies are my meditation. I understand more than the ancients, because I keep thy precepts” in practical, daily life (Ps. 119:99,100). The commandments of God in that sense “help” us (Ps. 119:175 RV). “The way of the Lord is strength to the upright” (Prov. 10:29). This ought to be somewhat disturbing for our community, who can truly say that they have a better understanding of God’s word (at least technically) than anyone else. This, according to what David says, should result in a deeply empowered way of life, which in turn should drive us to yet deeper understanding. One fears that we are left knowing but not ‘understanding’ in the experiential sense of which David speaks.
The place of crucifixion was so public- it was near a road, for passers by spoke to the crucified Jesus (Mk. 15:29), and Simon was a passerby coming in from the field (Gk. agros, Lk. 23:26). The cross confronted people in their daily living, just as it should us today. Quintillian (Declamationes 274) records how crucifixions were always held in the most public places where crowds would gather. For us, if we are living the crucified life with Jesus, it cannot be done in a corner. Crucifixion is by its very nature a public event. There was once a doctor in Paraguay who spoke out against human rights abuses. Local police took their revenge by torturing his teenage son to death. The local people wanted to stage a huge protest march, but the father disallowed them and chose another means of protest. At the funeral, the father displayed his son’s body as it was when retrieved from jail- naked, scarred from electric shocks, cigarette burns and beatings. And the body was displayed not in a coffin but on the blood-soaked prison mattress. This public display of a body was the most powerful witness and incitement possible. And the public nature of the display of God’s tortured son was for the same basic reason.