Soli Deo Gloria!

(all glory be to God)

Month: February, 2011

Out of Egypt I called My Son

The Exodus of the Israelites from Egypt (paint...

Exodus from Egypt

In Matthew’s Gospel, we read that after the Magi visited Jesus and His family, Joseph was warned to flee to Egypt since Herod was coming after Jesus. In Matthew 2:14-15 we read:

14 So he got up, took the child and His mother during the night, and escaped to Egypt. 15 He stayed there until Herod’s death, so that what was spoken by the Lord through the prophet might be fulfilled: Out of Egypt I called My Son.

The verse that Matthew cites is Hosea 11:1, and Matthew’s citation of this is actually slightly problematic. This is because Hosea clearly did not write this as a prophecy (it is a reference to the Exodus) – it is a statement of fact, Israel is called God’s firstborn son in Exodus 4:22:

Then you will say to Pharaoh: This is what the Lord says: Israel is My firstborn son.

The solution to this problem is actually an easy one – because the NT authors often see things in the OT as types and shadows of the reality that is to come in the Messiah (see the book of Hebrews for an extensive example!). And in this case, Matthew sees Israel as typological of the Son of God.

We don’t really have to spend much energy proving this as we see that Jesus is called the firstborn Son of God in the New Testament in the fullest, truest sense possible (particularly, see Colossians 1:15 for His preceding any created nation).

Parallels between Israel and Jesus

In Matthew’s Gospel (in particular) we see striking parallels between Israel and Jesus. Notice that where Israel fails, Jesus triumphs. Here are some that I note [and yes, one parallel is taken from John’s Gospel!]:

Isaac, the son of promise of Abraham was conceived supernaturally of a woman whose womb had been “dried up.” Jesus was conceived supernaturally through the Holy Spirit.
Israel was called out of Egypt. We saw from Matthew’s quote of Hosea that Jesus too was called out of Egypt.
Israel was in the wilderness for 40 years, they had manna from heaven but were faithless. Jesus went without food in the wilderness for 40 days, and was tempted but faithful.When Satan tempts Jesus to turn stones to bread He quotes Deuteronomy and says, “Man must not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the word of God”. 

Incredibly the full quote in Deuteronomy 8:3 goes like this: “He humbled you by letting you go hungry; then He gave you manna to eat, which you and your fathers had not known, so that you might learn that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.”

So in this statement – Jesus Himself is alluding to the parallels to the Israelites in the desert and Himself!

Israel was called to be a light to the nations  (Ps 67) and failed in this. Jesus says that He is the light of the world (John 8:12). And where Israel failed to be a light, we see that Jesus is the Light of the World and has attracted men of all nations to Him.

Where Israel failed, Jesus triumphed. It was a mere Shadow of the Reality who is, who was and is to come.

The Servant Songs (Who is the Servant?)

Most of you are probably familiar with the 4 servant songs in Isaiah (Isaiah 42-53). And it is hard to dispute that the Servant being spoken of is Jesus. However, take a look back at Isaiah 41 – and who does God call His servant? Isaiah 41:8 says:

8 But you, Israel, My servant, Jacob, whom I have chosen, descendant of Abraham, My friend — 9 I brought  you from the ends of the earth and called you from its farthest corners. I said to you: You are My servant; I have chosen you and not rejected you. 10 Do not fear, for I am with you; do not be afraid, for I am your God. I will strengthen you; I will help you; I will hold on to you with My righteous right hand.

Now it is obvious as we read on in the Servant Songs that the servant cannot possibly be National Israel, as it becomes pretty clear that the True Servant isn’t a Nation, but a single person. In addition, the Servant possess qualities that Israel never possessed (such as being without deceit, or violence, etc.).

Therefore, 700 years before Matthew writes, the Servant Songs in Isaiah also illustrate that Jesus is the fulfillment of everything Israel was meant to be.

Where Israel fails, Jesus succeeds. Jesus is the True Israel – the True Servant. Which I believe is the point that Paul will make in Galatians 3:16:

16 Now the promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed. He does not say “and to seeds,” as though referring to many, but and to your seed, referring to one, who is Christ.

The true seed of Abraham is Jesus Christ. The Nation of Israel was a shadow.

We too fail, yet Jesus was victorious – on our behalf

Israel wasn’t the only one to fail. We failed. We fail. We will fail. Yet Jesus was victorious where we would have failed. As the book of Hebrews says:

15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. 16 Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

What an amazing thing it is to know that God has experienced every temptation we have faced, yet was triumphant. Because of this He can sympathize with us, and so we have confidence to approach His throne. No ‘god’ in any man made religion can make this claim. No other god could know what it is to be tempted, to face hunger, to face rejection by his friends, to be spat upon by those whom he came to save. Only Jesus knows what it is to be a frail human being.

No words can express the amazement we should have that the Infinite Creator can sympathize with finite creatures such as ourselves. What an Awesome and Great God we have!

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The Armor of God

Photo of the Book of Isaiah page of the Bible

Book of Isaiah

Just a short post this morning of something I found interesting. Ephesians 6 contains the famous passage about believers putting on the Armor of God:

13 This is why you must take up the full armor  of God, so that you may be able to resist  in the evil day, and having prepared everything, to take your stand. 14 Stand,  therefore, with truth  like a belt around your waist, righteousness  like armor on your chest, 15 and your feet sandaled with readiness for the gospel of peace. 16 In every situation take the shield  of faith, and with it you will be able to extinguish the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 Take the helmet  of salvation, and the sword  of the Spirit,  which is God’s word.

Here are the components of the Armor of God:

  1. Belt around your waist – Truth.
  2. Armor on your chest (Breastplate) – Righteousness.
  3. Sandals – Readiness for the gospel of peace
  4. Shield – Faith.
  5. Helmet – Salvation.
  6. Sword  of the Spirit – Word of God.

In Isaiah 59 we see that God is Armored as well:

16 He saw that there was no man— He was amazed that there was no one interceding;so His own arm brought salvation, and His own righteousness supported Him. 17 He put on righteousness like a breastplate, and a helmet of salvation on His head;He put on garments of vengeance for clothing, and He wrapped Himself in zeal as in a cloak.

Isn’t that interesting! Here is how God is dressed for battle:

  1. Breastplate – Righteousness.
  2. Helmet – Salvation
  3. Garments – Vengeance
  4. Cloak – Zeal

Even though we share in the Armor of God, notice one element we do not share: The Garments of Vengeance. Why? Because in Deuteronomy 32:35 the LORD says:

Vengeance  belongs to Me; I will repay.

Like I said – just a quick post. Hope everyone has a blessed Lord’s Day in Worship! I’m off to Church!

Philip and the Eunuch

Shaded relief map of Ethiopia.

Ethiopia

I was reading through Acts 8, and didn’t recognize a couple of things that I ought to have previously. The first is that the Ethiopian is probably the first Gentile convert in the early Church (the Church had been exclusively Jewish up to this point). The more famous conversion story of a Gentile is in Acts 10 (Cornelius, and Jesus’ revelation to Peter that the dietary laws were lifted).

I’ve often glossed over the implications of what it meant that this man was a eunuch however. And this turns out to be quite significant if we look at the Mosaic Law. Deuteronomy 23:1 says:

No one who has been emasculated by crushing or cutting may enter the assembly of the Lord.

What is the assembly of the LORD? This is what A Handbook on Deuteronomy by UBS has to say about this verse (FYI: the UBS commentary series is used to assist translators who translate the Bible into other languages):

Shall not enter the assembly of the Lord: this sounds like going into an assembly hall. But what it means is “shall not belong to the assembly” or “… the Lord’s people” (tev,cev). The Hebrew word qahal is translated in the Septuagint by ekklesia, which is the Greek word in the New Testament translated “church.”

Other commentators on this verse also mention that this was to prohibit practices found in other cultures that the LORD found detestable. If you remember a lot of societies would castrate young men for various reasons (for instance, it is widely assumed that Daniel was made a eunuch when taken to Babylon), but such a thing was detestable to the LORD.

It is curious that this man was reading Isaiah (see Acts 8:32), as Isaiah contains a passage full of hope for eunuchs (in light of Deuteronomy 23:1 above). See Isaiah 56:3-5:

No foreigner who has converted to the Lord should say, “The Lord will exclude me from His people”; and the eunuch should not say, “Look, I am a dried-up tree.” For the Lord says this: “For the eunuchs who keep My Sabbaths, and choose what pleases Me, and hold firmly to My covenant, I will give them, in My house and within My walls, a memorial and a name better than sons and daughters. I will give each of them an everlasting name that will never be cut off.

So there was a message of hope for the eunuchs inside of Isaiah – which I would guess is a good reason why this Ethiopian was reading the book. Is it any small wonder that he was full of joy (Acts 8:39) once Philip told him the good news about Jesus (Acts 8:35) and he believed (Acts 8:37)?

The next thing that struck me is that it is incorrect when certain people claim that the Church (ekklesia) is a new construct of the New Testament. Instead, the Church is the Assembly of God – which is a continuation of the qahal (Hebrew) in the Old Testament. The Church isn’t something new and different that just popped up sight unseen! In fact qahal is translated ekklesia in the Septuagint!

The Church doesn’t replace anything as some people charge Reformed Theologians as teaching, instead it is (as Paul states) the Israel of God (Galatians 6:16) – a continuation and expansion of the faithful remnant of Israel. God’s assembly has been expanded to include Jew and Gentile now. As Paul states so forcefully in Galatians 3:

There is no Jew or Greek, slave or free, male or female; for you are all one  in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s seed, heirs according to the promise.

The promise given to Abraham has been fulfilled in Abraham’s seed – Jesus Christ. There is no more Jew or Greek. The dividing wall has been torn down. And more directly to this issue at hand is Ephesians 2:

12 At that time you were without the Messiah, excluded from the citizenship of Israel, and foreigners to the covenants of the promise,  with no hope  and without God in the world. 13 But now in Christ Jesus, you who were far away have been brought near by the blood  of the •Messiah. 14 For He is our peace, who made both groups one  and tore down the dividing wall of hostility. In His flesh, 15 He did away with the law of the commandments in regulations, so that He might create  in Himself one new man from the two, resulting in peace. 16 He did this so that He might reconcile both to God in one body through the cross and put the hostility to death by it.  17 When Christ came, He proclaimed the good news  of peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near.  18 For through Him we both have access  by one Spirit to the Father.  19 So then you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with the saints, and members of God’s household, 20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets,  with Christ Jesus Himself as the cornerstone. 21 The whole building is being fitted together  in Him and is growing into a holy sanctuary in the Lord,  22 in whom you also are being built together  for God’s dwelling  in the Spirit.

What an amazing way to see God’s prophesy in Isaiah go from promise to fulfillment in Jesus Christ. What great hope the eunuchs of the world have, as well as the Jew, the sinner and tax collector. We who were once without hope and God have been brought near by the blood of the Messiah. Thanks be to God!

Josephus verifies Jesus

The destruction of the Temple of Jerusalem.

The destruction of the Temple of Jerusalem.

I have been reading up on the variety of millennial views as of late. Trying to understand each viewpoint. Early in my Christian life, I had been taught about things like secret raptures, and a variety of other dispensational “Left Behind” style theologies. Actually studying the texts has led me away from these early dispensational views and into the Covenant Theology of the Reformers. But that’s a discussion for another time.

Currently, I am reading “A Case for Amillenialism” by Kim Riddlebarger and his exposition of the Olivet Discourse (Matthew 24). He references the Jewish historian Josephus to paint a picture of what happened during the sacking of Jerusalem and the Second Temple in 70 A.D and I was struck by how horrifying it was.

If we hold to the idea of prophetic foreshortening and that the tribulation Jesus describes is both a picture of the tribulation in 70 A.D, as well as the fuller, future tribulation to come. If what the Jews experienced in the 1st Century is merely the type for the Tribulation – then we are in some serious trouble as we prepare for Jesus’ Second Advent. Here is a portion of the Olivet Discourse:

Matthew 24:1-22 (HCSB):

24 As Jesus left and was going out of the temple complex,  His disciples  came up and called His attention to the temple buildings. 2 Then He replied to them, “Don’t you see all these things? I assure you: Not one stone will be left here on another that will not be thrown down!”

3 While He was sitting on the •Mount of Olives, the disciples approached Him privately and said, “Tell us, when will these things happen? And what is the sign of Your coming and of the end of the age?”

4 Then Jesus replied to them: “Watch out that no one deceives  you.  5 For many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am the •Messiah,’ and they will deceive many.   6 You are going to hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not alarmed, because these things must take place, but the end is not yet.  7 For nation will rise up against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines   and earthquakes in various places.   8 All these events are the beginning of birth pains.

9 “Then they will hand you over for persecution,  and they will kill you. You will be hated by all nations because of My name.   10 Then many will take offense, betray one another and hate one another.  11 Many false prophets  will rise up and deceive many.  12 Because lawlessness  will multiply, the love of many will grow cold.  13 But the one who endures to the end will be delivered.   14 This good news of the kingdom will be proclaimed in all the world  as a testimony to all nations.  And then the end will come.

15 “So when you see the abomination that causes desolation, spoken of by the prophet Daniel,  standing in the holy place”  (let the reader understand ),  16 “then those in Judea must flee to the mountains!  17 A man on the housetop  must not come down to get things out of his house.   18 And a man in the field must not go back to get his clothes.  19 Woe to pregnant women and nursing mothers in those days!  20 Pray that your escape may not be in winter or on a Sabbath.  21 For at that time there will be great tribulation,  the kind that hasn’t taken place from the beginning of the world until now and never will again!  22 Unless those days were limited, no one would  survive.  But those days will be limited because of the elect.

I’ve read this passage many times before, and even though Jesus’ words are ominous, I guess it feels rather abstract due to the mystery of it all. Woe to us if we take His words and warnings lightly! Luke 21:20-24 is a slightly more detailed picture of what was to happen to Jerusalem:

20 “When you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies,  then recognize that its desolation  has come near.  21 Then those in Judea must flee  to the mountains!  Those inside the city  must leave it, and those who are in the country must not enter it,  22 because these are days of vengeance  to fulfill all the things that are written.  23 Woe to pregnant women and nursing mothers in those days,  for there will be great distress in the land  and wrath against this people.  24 They will fall by the edge of the sword  and be led captive into all the nations, and Jerusalem will be trampled by the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled.

And so, reading through the The Wars of the Jews by Josephus I was struck by something so horrifying about the siege of Jerusalem that it immediately made me refer back to what Jesus said in Matthew 24:19/Luke 21:23 (Woe to pregnant women and nursing mothers in those days!). Josephus recounts this frightful episode where a starving mother actually kills and roasts her own baby for food. Here is an excerpt (The Wars of the Jews, Book 6, Chapter 3):

There was a certain woman that dwelt beyond Jordan, her name was Mary; her father was Eleazar, of the village Bethezub, which signifies the House of Hyssop. She was eminent for her family and her wealth, and had fled away to Jerusalem with the rest of the multitude, and was with them besieged therein at this time. (202) The other effects of this woman had been already seized upon; such I mean as she had brought with her out of Perea, and removed to the city. What she had treasured up besides, as also what food she had contrived to save, had been also carried off by the rapacious guards, who came every day running into her house for that purpose. (203) This put the poor woman into a very great passion, and by the frequent reproaches and imprecations she cast at these rapacious villains, she had provoked them to anger against her; (204) but none of them, either out of the indignation she had raised against herself, or out of the commiseration of her case, would take away her life; and if she found any food, she perceived her labors were for others, and not for herself; and it was now become impossible for her anyway to find anymore food, while the famine pierced through her very bowels and marrow, when also her passion was fired to a degree beyond the famine itself; nor did she consult with anything but with her passion and the necessity she was in. She then attempted a most unnatural thing; (205) and snatching up her son, who was a child sucking at her breast, she said, “O, thou miserable infant! For whom shall I preserve thee in this war, this famine, and this sedition? (206) As to the war with the Romans, if they preserve our lives, we must be slaves! This famine also will destroy us, even before that slavery comes upon us:—yet are these seditious rogues more terrible than both the other. (207) Come on; be thou my food, and be thou a fury to these seditious varlets and a byword to the world, which is all that is now wanting to complete the calamities of us Jews.” (208) As soon as she had said this she slew her son; and then roasted him, and ate the one half of him, and kept the other half by her concealed. (209) Upon this the seditous came in presently, and smelling the horrid scent of this food, they threatened her, that they would cut her throat immediately if she did not show them what food she had gotten ready. She replied, that she had saved a very fine portion of it for them; and withal uncovered what was left of her son. (210) Hereupon they were seized with a horror and amazement of mind, and stood astonished at the sight; when she said to them, “This is mine own son; and what hath been done was mine own doing! Come, eat of this food; for I have eaten of it myself! (211) Do not you pretend to be either more tender than a woman, or more compassionate than a mother; but if you be so scrupulous and do abominate this my sacrifice, as I have eaten the one half, let the rest be reserved for me also.” (212) After which, those men went out trembling, being never so much affrighted at anything as they were at this, and with some difficulty they left the rest of that meat to the mother. Upon which the whole city was full of this horrid action immediately; and while every body laid his miserable case before their own eyes, they trembled, as if this unheard-of action had been by themselves.

What a sad, horrifying picture of the tribulation that those in Jerusalem had to face. And again, what a horrifying type of what is to come before the end.

There are some other more general descriptions that Josephus gives us of the sacking of Jerusalem. The Wars of the Jews, Book 6, Chapter 1:

Thus did the miseries of Jerusalem grow worse and worse every day, and the seditious were still more irritated by the calamities they were under, even while the famine preyed upon themselves, after it had preyed upon the people. (2) And indeed the multitude of carcasses that lay in heaps one upon another, was a horrible sight, and produced a pestilential stench, which was a hindrance to those that would make sallies out of the city and fight the enemy: but as those were to go in battle-array, who had been already used to ten thousand murders, and must tread upon those dead bodies as they marched along, (3) so were not they terrified, or did they pity men as they marched over them; nor did they deem this affront offered to the deceased to be any ill omen to themselves; (4) but as they had their right hands already polluted with the murders of their own countrymen, and in that condition ran out to fight with foreigners, they seem to me to have cast a reproach upon God himself, as if he were too slow in punishing them; for the war was not now gone on with as if they had any hope of victory; for they gloried after a brutish manner in that despair of deliverance they were already in. (5) And now the Romans, although they were greatly distressed in getting together their materials, raised their banks in one-and-twenty days, after they had cut down all the trees that were in the country that adjoined to the city, and that for ninety furlongs round about, as I have already related. (6) And, truly, the very view itself of the country was a melancholy thing; for those places which were before adorned with trees and pleasant gardens were now become a desolate country every way, and its trees were all cut down: (7) nor could any foreigner that had formerly seen Judea and the most beautiful suburbs of the city, and now saw it as a desert, but lament and mourn sadly at so great a change; (8) for the war had laid all signs of beauty quite waste; nor, if anyone that had known the place before, had come on a sudden to it now, would he have known it again; but though he were at the city itself, yet would he have inquired for it notwithstanding.

Seeing the state of Judea must have been heart-breaking. The early Christians remaining in Judea would have recalled Jesus’ words in the Olivet Discourse and fled to the mountains. As for the abomination that causes desolation that Jesus and Daniel (hundreds of years before Jesus) spoke of, this is what Josephus writes:

(316) And now the Romans, upon the flight of the seditious into the city, and upon the burning of the holy house itself, and of all the buildings round about it, brought their ensigns to the temple, and set them over against its eastern gate; and there did they offer sacrifices to them, and there did they make Titus imperator, with the greatest acclamations of joy.

Thus Jesus’ words and those of Daniel before Him came to pass. Here’s what Daniel had to write about these things in Daniel 9:

26 After those 62 weeks the Messiah will be cut off and will have nothing.
The people of the coming prince will destroy the city  and the sanctuary.
The  end will come with a flood, and until the end there will be  war;
desolations are decreed.
27 He will make a firm covenant with many for one week,
but in the middle of the week he will put a stop to sacrifice and offering.
And the abomination of desolation will be on a wing  of the temple
until the decreed destruction is poured out on the desolator.”

And as for Jesus saying that not one stone will remain of the temple? Here’s what Josephus records (The Wars of the Jews, Book 7):

Now, as soon as the army had no more people to slay or to plunder, because there remained none to be objects of their fury (for they would not have spared any, had there remained any other such work to be done) Caesar gave orders that they should now demolish the entire city and temple, but should leave as many of the towers standing as were of the greatest eminency; that is, Phasaelus, and Hippicus, and Mariamne, and so much of the wall as enclosed the city on the west side. (2) This wall was spared, in order to afford a camp for such as were to lie in garrison; as were the towers also spared, in order to demonstrate to posterity what kind of city it was, and how well fortified, which the Roman valor had subdued; (3) but for all the rest of the wall, it was so thoroughly laid even with the ground by those that dug it up to the foundation, that there was left nothing to make those that came thither believe it had ever been inhabited. (4) This was the end which Jerusalem came to by the madness of those that were for innovations; a city otherwise of great magnificence, and of mighty fame among all mankind.

So what do I take from all of this? One, that the Bible continues to prove itself trustworthy. That the words from the Lord that its Prophets give us come to pass. And therefore, we can trust what our Lord says will happen in the future. I’m constantly amazed by this.

Second, the Great Tribulation (when it comes) will not be pretty. The troubles we see in the world right now, are probably minor compared to what is to come. Just see what happened to Jerusalem. Read through Josephus’ accounts – they are not pretty. If that’s a prototype of what is to come, then the world is going to experience some deep, dark days, with suffering that is unprecedented.

Unfortunately, I also do not expect any sort of ‘secret rapture’ to take the ekklesia (Church) out of this world like Dispensationalists believe. I expect that the elect will be in this world (see Matt 24:22) in the midst of it. Just as the Church was present for the Tribulation in 70 A.D in Jerusalem, so will the Church be here for the Great Tribulation before He returns in power and glory. But the comforting thing is this – the Church will spend the rest of Eternity with the King once He emerges victorious against the presently evil world. And we will also spend it with redeemed resurrection bodies, in a New Heavens and New Earth, to reign with Him and praise Him forever and ever.

To Him be the Glory Forever! Amen.