Monday, May 25, 2009

Three Parables of Repentance (updated)

Luke 15:
1Now the tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to hear him. 2And the Pharisees and the scribes grumbled, saying, "This man receives sinners and eats with them."

3So he told them this parable: 4 "What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open country, and go after the one that is lost, until he finds it? 5And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. 6And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbors, saying to them, 'Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.' 7Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.

8"Or what woman, having ten silver coins, if she loses one coin, does not light a lamp and sweep the house and seek diligently until she finds it? 9And when she has found it, she calls together her friends and neighbors, saying, 'Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin that I had lost.' 10Just so, I tell you, there is joy before the angels of God over one sinner who repents."

11And he said, "There was a man who had two sons. 12And the younger of them said to his father, 'Father, give me the share of property that is coming to me.' And he divided his property between them. 13Not many days later, the younger son gathered all he had and took a journey into a far country, and there he squandered his property in reckless living. 14And when he had spent everything, a severe famine arose in that country, and he began to be in need. 15So he went and hired himself out to one of the citizens of that country, who sent him into his fields to feed pigs. 16And he was longing to be fed with the pods that the pigs ate, and no one gave him anything.
17"But when he came to himself, he said, 'How many of my father’s hired servants have more than enough bread, but I perish here with hunger! 18I will arise and go to my father, and I will say to him, "Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. 19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Treat me as one of your hired servants."' 20And he arose and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him. 21And the son said to him, 'Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.' 22But the father said to his servants, 'Bring quickly the best robe, and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet. 23And bring the fattened calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate. 24For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.' And they began to celebrate.
25"Now his older son was in the field, and as he came and drew near to the house, he heard music and dancing. 26And he called one of the servants and asked what these things meant. 27And he said to him, 'Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fattened calf, because he has received him back safe and sound.' 28But he was angry and refused to go in. His father came out and entreated him, 29but he answered his father, 'Look, these many years I have served you, and I never disobeyed your command, yet you never gave me a young goat, that I might celebrate with my friends. 30But when this son of yours came, who has devoured your property with prostitutes, you killed the fattened calf for him!' 31And he said to him, 'Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. 32It was fitting to celebrate and be glad, for this your brother was dead, and is alive; he was lost, and is found.'"

In my opinion, this chapter in Luke's narrative, which contains a series of the most compelling parables that the Lord taught, is one of the most misunderstood and poorly taught chapters in Scripture.
It is always amazing to me that people are able to read a novel or a textbook and have no problem reading words on paper, but when they read a scripture passage they gloss right over the literal text.

In this passage Jesus tells three parables all in reference to the same subject; REPENTANCE.

Once again let's look back at the passages that precede these parables. In chapter 14 we see that Jesus through the use of parables castigated the pharisees. He also laid down some hard pre-requisites re: discipleship. There were great crowds following Him, more than likely due to the fact that they had heard of how He was essentially making mince-meat of the religious leadership.
This leads us to chapter 15. Tax collectors and sinners were drawn to Him and the pharisees were as ever, trying to justify themselves, and denigrate the Lord. Why He eats with the "sinful rabble" who I am sure made up the majority of the crowd following Him.
Jesus then tells the story of the lost sheep, the lost coin, and the lost brother.
The premise of each story is actually very simple and understandable,

In the story of the lost sheep, we have a man with a flock of 100 sheep. One strays away and the he leaves the 99 in open country, some translations say wilderness, to find the one that is lost. We should notice here that the man has exactly 100 sheep. They are already his. When one is missing he no longer has a complete flock. He no longer has what belongs to him.

John 10:
27 My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.
28 I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand.

They cannot be snatched from His hand, but they can, and sometimes do, stray.

John 10:
29 My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father's hand.

He leaves the 99 by themselves in the open country. That seems careless. However he leaves them because they are alright where they are. Nothing, no one, can snatch them away.

The owner then finds the lost sheep and brings it back to the flock with much rejoicing, to the extent that he calls friends and neighbors to rejoice with him.

Jesus concludes with this:

Luke 15:7 Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.

Jesus does not say that there is no joy over the 99. He says there that all of heaven rejoices even more over the one that repents. The one that was lost and is found again.

The same underlying principle is found in the next parable. A woman with ten silver coins loses one, lights the lamp, and sweeps the house until she finds the lost coin. Once again we are dealing with a complete set; in this case, a set of ten. Without that tenth coin the set is not the same. Now these were not just her savings, or something like that. These were the ten coins that a single jewish girl of Jesus' day would collect, and later make a necklace or head band from, to be worn at her wedding. So her desperate search is understood all the more, this coin is irreplaceable. Once again, the joyful outcome is that she finds the coin, and calls her friends and neighbors to celebrate with her. Again the conclusion is;

Luke 15:10 Just so, I tell you, there is joy before the angels of God over one sinner who repents."

Notice that Jesus does not say that the angels are the ones rejoicing,(though I am sure that they might be). He says that there is joy BEFORE them over one repentant sinner.They are witnesses.

Here is what can be understood from these first two stories.

1. The sheep and the coin were already under ownership, and part of a set. They could not be replaced.
2. The owner seeks out that which is lost:

Luke 19:
1 He entered Jericho and was passing through.
2 And there was a man named Zacchaeus. He was a chief tax collector and was rich.
3 And he was seeking to see who Jesus was, but on account of the crowd he could not, because he was small of stature.
4 So he ran on ahead and climbed up into a sycamore tree to see him, for he was about to pass that way.
5 And when Jesus came to the place, he looked up and said to him, "Zacchaeus, hurry and come down, for I must stay at your house today."
6 So he hurried and came down and received him joyfully.
7 And when they saw it, they all grumbled, "He has gone in to be the guest of a man who is a sinner."
8 And Zacchaeus stood and said to the Lord, "Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor. And if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I restore it fourfold."
:9 And Jesus said to him, "Today salvation has come to this house, since he also is a son of Abraham.
10 For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost."

3. The friends and neighbors who rejoice with the owner are the representation of all heaven rejoicing. Interesting analogy.

4. The owner seeks and finds the lost one, yet Jesus calls them repentant.
Let's look at repentance.

The word repent in the Greek is: metanoeō
Which means: "to think differently or afterwards, that is, reconsider (morally to feel compunction): - repent."

So if repenting is the action, in thought and deed, of the wayward one turning back to, or reversing his course, then why did the owners of the sheep and the coin have to seek for the lost object?
Repentance is a a work, i.e. something that a man does. We are not saved by works lest anyman should boast. Eph 2:8-9
Men repent not to "get saved", but as the result of the fact that they are saved. Jesus came to seek and save the lost. Then they return to the flock, because He brings them back. Not only that,they are a part of a set that was already "put together". If one is truly redeemed, then one will never be lost, and one will never be replaced. All that are HIS are kept in His secure hand.

Isaiah 49:16 Behold, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands;.........

Psalm 95:7 For he is our God, and we are the people of his pasture, and the sheep of his hand..........

The final parable in this trilogy is somewhat different in its' construction.
This passage is called the story of the prodigal son, and while it is true that the son became prodigal, and then later returned, the emphasis in this story is on the brothers, especially the obedient brother who did not stray away. First and foremost it must be understood that they are both sons of the same father.They both receive the same inheritance.

To the younger:
Luke 15:12
And the younger of them said to his father, 'Father, give me the share of property that is coming to me.' And he divided his property between them.

To the elder:
Luk 15:31 And he said to him, 'Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours.

The sons of the father have the entire inheritance at their disposal at all times.

The younger son squandered away all that his father had given him, or so it seemed.
No money, no friends, in his lowest moment, slopping pigs, (something that would be abhorrent to the jews hearing this) he decides to return home.
In true repentance one realizes his unworthy state, as does this young man. He feels unworthy to be called a son.

Luke 15:20 And he arose and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him.

The assumption could be safely made that the father was looking for, that is, expecting the son's return at anytime. The wayward son begins his speech of repentance. However his father is ready to celebrate the return, and had more than likely already forgiven him when he had first run off.
So begins the celebration and the feast. The son is given a ring and robe and the fatted calf is killed. If you are a true son, you are always a son.
It should also be obvious that there was still plenty of inheritance to be had. He did not waste all that was his, as the supply is unlimited.

Luke 15:24 For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.' And they began to celebrate.

The repentant ones are always "found" ones.

The story comes to its finale with the older brother hearing the commotion and asking what it was all about. When he hears that his younger brother has returned and that there is a celebration he is righteously indignant.

Luke 15:28 But he was angry and refused to go in. His father came out and entreated him,

The father implored the older brother to come join the feast. This is most serious. The pharisees cannot say that they were never given the opportunity. He even reminds the elder brother that he always had a share in all that the father possessed. The story ends with the father re-emphasizing the value of the repentant sinner's return.

Luke 15:32 It was fitting to celebrate and be glad, for this your brother was dead, and is alive; he was lost, and is found.'"

All three of these parables are directed toward the pharisees, who originally grumbled about Jesus being a friend to sinners. Jesus is also showing them who He is.
The first two stories present Jesus as the one who seeks and saves the lost, bringing them to repentance. The final episode showing Jesus and the father as one and the same, welcoming the returning sinner with a celebration of joy in the heavenly household. The final parable is a rebuke to the pharisees who refuse to enter into that celebration, as the sinners and tax collectors are their brothers also. The emphasis here is not the seeking of the lost, but on the reaction of those who refuse to accept the repentant ones back into the family. They failed to realize that the sinners were always family.
It should be noted that these lessons were being spoken to those who were jews, the tax collectors and sinners, as well as the religious leaders. These stories speak of Israel, the chosen people. Praise God that Jesus said He owned other sheep who were not of the "jewish fold".
Praise God that Paul later reveals that Israel is both jew and gentile, and indeed always was.
John 10:16;Romans 4:9-13; 9:6-8;and 11:25-26.

So today these parables apply as much to the church, which is Israel, as they did in the day Jesus first told them. This should give us all leave to pause in sober thought.

To God Be the Glory!

Update: One final thought; it is apparent here that only that which already belongs to the owner can be lost. Therefore in the context of the Lord's teaching, the term "lost" refers to that which is already His. The church has used the term "lost" in a general way, meaning everyone who is not regenerate. This is simply not the case, as that would be a quasi-universalist doctrine.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

John 3:3

John 1:9 The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.
Genesis 1:1-5; John 1:1-5;1 John 1:1-7

John 1:10 He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him.
Romans 1: 18-23

John 1:11 He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. Romans 2:1-12

John 1:12 But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God,
13 who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.
John 3:16-21

Romans 1:
16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.
17 For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, "The righteous shall live by faith."

Romans 9: 6 But it is not as though the word of God has failed. For not all who are descended from Israel belong to Israel,
7 and not all are children of Abraham because they are his offspring, but "Through Isaac shall your offspring be named."
8 This means that it is not the children of the flesh who are the children of God, but the children of the promise are counted as offspring.
9 For this is what the promise said: "About this time next year I will return, and Sarah shall have a son."
10 And not only so, but also when Rebekah had conceived children by one man, our forefather Isaac,
11 though they were not yet born and had done nothing either good or bad--in order that God's purpose of election might continue, not because of works but because of him who calls--
12 she was told, "The older will serve the younger."
13 As it is written, "Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated."
14 What shall we say then? Is there injustice on God's part? By no means!
15 For he says to Moses, "I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion."
16 So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy.

"When there's something in the Bible that churches don't like, they call it: legalism."

Leonard Ravenhill

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Satan vs The People of God

"Did God actually say, 'You shall not eat of any tree in the garden'?"
-the serpent in Eden

“You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and has nothing to do with the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies.” –Jesus Christ

“Even the devil is God’s devil”- Martin Luther.

There is probably no more misunderstood subject than that of Satan, the devil, the accuser, the evil one, etc, etc. Since Dante’s Inferno was put to paper, the church has been laboring under a false image of Satan and the demonic realm. We must rid ourselves of the imagery of the horned gargoyle that we have fashioned as the devil, and go to the Word.

In order to arrive at an accurate scriptural assessment of the devil and his authority, we must first come to grips with the philosophy of classic dualism.
Unfortunately today, dualism is misrepresented as any propositional, i.e. either/or, truth. This is simply not so. It is spurious argument which is meant to deconstruct the facts that the Word of God is black and white in its presentation, that salvation is a yes or no proposition, etc.
Classic dualism is the belief that good and evil, God and devil, have co-existed side by side from the beginning, locked in pitched battle. This battle rages between the two; and it can never be known which will prevail on a day to day basis. This is a blatantly false teaching. The victory is assured, in fact already won, in Christ, and whether or not it looks as if evil has triumphed, we walk by faith not by what is seen. God cannot be defeated, and we have His Word on it.
We are more than conquerors as he has won the victory and gives it to us, We don’t have to do anything other than receive it, and walk in it, facing our daily battles in full assurance of the finished work.
1 Cor 15: 54-58; 1 John 5:4; 2 Chron 20:17; Romans 8:28-39; Isaiah 53:12

We must also recall that scripture says that Satan come as an angel of light. He looks good, and so do those who do his work. 1 Cor 11:12-15

Therefore, this study is based on these foundational, and biblical truths:
Satan is a created being. Both he, and evil, have never co-existed with God from before the beginning of time
He is not able to function outside of the sovereign will of God.
He is a completely defeated foe. Colossians 2:15
God is completely sovereign, in that He is omnipresent, omnipotent and omniscient,(this includes the fact that He has foreknowledge of every event, choice etc that occurs, i.e. He is fully prescient).

Satan possesses none of these attributes, which comprise God’s very nature.

One of the most overused phrases in the "christianese" language is; “I am being attacked” or, “we are under attack” or, “this is an attack”, etc. This is especially true for many in “the ministry” who view any roadblock to their work as Satan’s attempts to thwart them.
Since Satan is not omnipresent, he cannot be possibly be personally engaged in launching simultaneous and round the clock attacks against the saints. (Some people think way too much of themselves.)

If anything, the Scriptures show otherwise.
Acts 16:6-10 is the story of Paul and his companions and how the Holy Spirit leading them through Asia, prevented them from ministering in certain areas. Evidently neither Paul, nor Luke, the author of Acts, misconstrued this as a Satanic attack.
When you compare this to 1 Thess 2:17-18, we can safely assume that Paul could discern the difference between the Holy Spirit’s correction, and a true roadblock of Satan. The fact remains that whether it be God’s direct intervening, or His allowing a satanic attack, His will is accomplished regardless.

Jesus also addressed the issue of satanic hindrance in Matthew 16:22-24.
He spoke to Peter, a man, who just proclaimed Jesus to be the Christ, the Son of the living God. However, He referred to Peter as satan. The word “satanas” means adversary. Jesus wasn’t calling Peter the devil, He was calling him an adversary to the will of God.

Jesus’ words;
“You are a hindrance to me. For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.

Peter’s sincere statement, "Far be it from you, Lord! This shall never happen to you", is born as are all lofty thoughts and opinions, from the very first lie, i.e. did God really say that?
Did the Father really send the Son to suffer and die? That can’t be. Think of all the good He could do were He to live. Think of how good it would be for us. The flesh is pre-eminent in what looks holy and pious. Man’s ways and thoughts are truly not His ways and thoughts. We are to tear down these strongholds with the provided weaponry of the Spirit, the armor of God. Eph 6:10-18
Obviously, Satan did all the work he needed to do in his “conversation” with Eve in Eden.

Satan hinders through theologies and philosophies that originate in the minds of men, i.e. man’s methods, philosophical arguments, emotions etc. This is critical in dealing with the post-modern era. 2 Cor 10:3-6; Isaiah 55:7-9 .
I would add that it is possible for men to do the work of Satan without even being aware that they are doing so; even a follower of Jesus, like Peter, who obviously loved the Lord, but stumbled nonetheless. Matthew 26:30-35; John 21:15-17
Jesus said: "forgive them for they don’t know what they are doing."

Jesus told Peter that Satan demanded to sift the good hearted apostle as wheat. Luke 22:31-32
The Lord then says that He has prayed on Peter’s behalf that he may not fail and when Peter has “returned” i.e repented, he should strengthen his brothers, the other disciples

From this we can see that in the plan of God at work in the world, Satan as hindrance is used to direct people and events. ALL things work together for GOOD.

This then takes us to Jesus the son of man, and Satan’s attempts to distract Him from His mission.
In Matthew 4: 1-11 we have the well known narrative describing Jesus’ temptation by Satan. It is of utmost importance that we do not gloss over 4:1;
“Then Jesus was led BY THE SPIRIT into the wilderness TO BE TEMPTED BY THE DEVIL.”

In other words, this is God’s plan. Jesus, the man, had to be tempted.
Hebrews 2:17-18 and Hebrews 4:14-16 reveal why this was done. He had to be made like His brothers in every respect so that He would be able to make propitiation for our sins. He Himself suffered in being tempted, therefore He is able to aid us in our temptations.
He is empathetic to our weakness, as he was tempted just as we are, yet without sinning. This makes Him to be a lamb, one of the sheep just as we are, but without spot or blemish. He is the only one worthy to die on behalf of the saints.
So now we enter into the holy place through the torn veil of His body, and draw near to the throne of grace, the mercy seat, to receive grace and mercy in our time of need/temptation.

The apostle Paul writes in 1 Cor 10:12-13, that all the temptations we undergo are common to all men, but God provides the way of escaping them so that we can endure. In light of the scriptures from Hebrews I just referenced, that Jesus endured temptations and was able to overcome them all; this Jesus, who said that He is the “way”; this Jesus who is the lamb without blemish, slain on our behalf, is the very way of escape that Paul speaks of.
Jesus must be tempted in order for all of this to happen.

This also brings understanding to James 4: 4-7. We cannot be friends with the world, as that is synonymous with having enmity with God. “He yearns jealousy over the Spirit that He has caused to dwell in us” Therefore we cannot be proud, as God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble. So first of all, submit to God, then we resist the devil and he will flee. Comparing this to Jesus’ temptation by Satan, reveals amazing parallels.
Jesus was not proud. Instead of proclaiming His place in the Godhead and destroying Satan with a mere thought, He answered each temptation with “it is written….”, with the holy scriptures, the Word of God; never mind that He was Himself the Word made flesh.
Then Jesus told the devil to depart.
So humble yourself, submit your self, then resist the devil/temptation (with the word), and he will flee.
Jesus must be tempted!

Peter exhorts the church in similar terms.

1 Peter 5:
6 Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, 7 casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you. 8 Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. 9 Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world.

The roaring lion on the prowl, looks for the weakest member of the herd or the inattentive, immature one who has foolishly strayed away from the protection of the herd (brotherhood). We resist the devil through the Word of God as Jesus did, and the Word of God brings faith and strengthens that faith. Romans 10:17
A fellowship that is rooted and grounded in the Word has no problems with the devilish lion, as they are well able to resist him.

James 1: 12-15 describes the progression into sin, (being devoured by the lion) when we do not follow the Lord’s example in the area of temptation. It is our own evil desires that cause temptation to manifest, and when that desire has conceived in our hearts, it gives birth to sin, and when sin is fully grown it brings death,

1 Chron 21:1-3 is an example of this; David ordering the census of Israel which displeased the Lord so much that pestilence fell on the people and 70,000 died.
David also gave into his lust for Bathsheba. 2 Sam 11:2-4
The Hebrew word “suth” used in reference to David, and the Greek word “deleazo” that James uses are translated as entice, beguile, allure.David was seduced by Bathsheba, and by the census, as his heart already desired both; Bathsheba in desiring sexual experience, and the numbering of Israel as a pride issue. He wanted to know how many subjects HE ruled over, Perhaps to claim regional bragging rights? Were the people his possessions?
They are both related to his kingly authority. (How many pastors spend time comparing the size of their congregations?)

Satan is also used by God as a means of bringing the saints to repentance.
(now there's a thought!)
We have the examples that Paul gives in 1 Cor 5:3-5 and 1 Timothy 1:18-20. We “turn men over to Satan” for the sake of their souls. They are able to be disciplined, and have the flesh put to death in this “being turned over”, for their very salvation is at stake.

There is also the story of Job.
Job 1 is an absolutely stunning account of God’s sovereignty in all things.
Notice these facts:
God strikes up the conversation with Satan.
Satan was simply roaming the earth. (like a roaring lion?)
God brings up Job in the conversation.
God gives Satan permission to afflict Job.
All of this leading to God being glorified, which is the reason why Job was made to endure such trials. God never tests us. WE will always fail the “test”
He tests/proves His work in us, in order to shut the mouth of the accuser. Eph 2:10.
Humble yourselves under His mighty hand and He will exalt you in due time. Job 42

Peter’s denial of the Lord, i.e. his being sifted by Satan, was allowed for a purpose
God granted the demands of Satan for Peter’s sake, as well as for the sake of the other apostles.

Jesus spoke of Judas as a “devil” John 6:70-71 and in John 13: 21-30 we are told that Satan “entered” Judas. This is a rare case of satanic possession.
This was allowed in order that Jesus would be betrayed by one of His own, thus fulfilling prophecy. Acts 1:16-17

Finally, in 2 Cor 12: 6-9 we have the well known account of Paul and his “thorn in the flesh” The thorn was a “messenger of Satan” sent to keep Paul from being prideful concerning the greatness of the revelation that was given to him by the Lord in the third heaven.
Paul prayed for the removal of this thorn, but God would not take it away, as His will was for Paul to manifest the strength of the Lord in his (Paul’s) weakness. So Paul’s boasting was always in the Lord, and not in himself.

In conclusion, it should be very clear that Satan as a defeated foe, and subject to the sovereign will of God, should not cause the people of God to cower in fear.
Satan, as does all of creation, plays his part in God’s sovereign and glorious plan of salvation. Satan‘s greatest role is to accuse, and Jesus stands as our justification in answer to the accusations. Rev 12:9-11. Satan has no power over the body of Christ.

John 14:
30I will no longer talk much with you, for the ruler of this world is coming. He has no claim on me, 31but I do as the Father has commanded me, so that the world may know that I love the Father.

Whenever I want a look at the greatest enemy of God, I stand in front of a mirror.
Contrary to Flip Wilson’s “Geraldine” character, the devil did not make Eve do it, nor does he make you or me do it.

It is written;
Get behind me Satan!

Resist the devil and he will flee.

Scripture Reference List:

Job 1:8-12

Luke 22: 31-32

John 6:70-71

John 13:21-30

2 Cor 12:6-9

1 Cor 5:3-5

1 Tim 1:18-20

1 Chron 21:1-3

1 Thess 2:17-18

Matthew 16:22-24

Matthew 4:1-11

Hebrews 2:17-18

Hebrews 4:14-16

James 4:4-7

1 Cor 10:12-14

James 1:12-15

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

John 10: The Gate; The Good Shepherd; The Lamb

There are many passages of scripture that are commonly misunderstood, abused, and poorly exegeted. Certain interpretations are taught daily in seminaries, bible colleges, and churches as gospel.
Like most religious doctrine, the assumption is that since it has been taught this way for one, or two, or a hundred centuries, that this proves the "correctness" of the interpretation.
I propose to post a series of articles attempting to throw light on some of the scriptures that are most often mishandled.

2Ti 2:15 Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.

I would like to start with John 10.

To understand this chapter we must go back to chapter 9 and the incident of Jesus healing the man born blind. ( I suggest that it should be read in its' entirety) After Jesus restores the sight of this man, the pharisees question him, and eventually cast him out of the synagogue.

The chapter ends with this:

John 9:
35Jesus heard that they had cast him out, and having found him he said, "Do you believe in the Son of Man?"
36 He answered, "And who is he, sir, that I may believe in him?"
37 Jesus said to him, "You have seen him, and it is he who is speaking to you."
38 He said, "Lord, I believe," and he worshiped him.
39 Jesus said, "For judgment I came into this world, that those who do not see may see, and those who see may become blind."
40 Some of the Pharisees near him heard these things, and said to him, "Are we also blind?"
41 Jesus said to them, "If you were blind, you would have no guilt; but now that you say, 'We see,' your guilt remains.

John 10 is the conclusion of this episode. Chapter 9 flows right into chapter 10. May we be delivered from reading the Bible as if it is a collection of essays or short stories.

John 10:
1"Truly, truly, I say to you, he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door but climbs in by another way, that man is a thief and a robber.
2 But he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep.
3 To him the gatekeeper opens. The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.
4 When he has brought out all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice.
5 A stranger they will not follow, but they will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers."
6 This figure of speech Jesus used with them, but they did not understand what he was saying to them.

Jesus is speaking to the people, and the pharisees, in the same setting in which chapter 9 ends.
Let's look at each point the Lord is making.

1. Thieves and robbers "hop the fence" in order to access the sheep.
2. The true shepherd enters through the door/gate.
3. The gatekeeper opens for the authentic shepherd. The sheep hear his voice and they respond by following him.
4. The real shepherds are recognized by those they shepherd, and most importantly by the gatekeeper.
5. The sheep will not follow the stranger as they do not recognize that voice. So the stranger must resort to illegal entry, i.e. he must become a thief. The sheep will not follow him, therefore he must steal them in order to have a flock to shepherd.
6. The people were not understanding the metaphor Jesus used, so He begins to clarify:

John 10:
7 So Jesus again said to them, "Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep.
8 All who came before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them.
9 I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture.
10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.

1. Jesus is the door/gate. I believe that the Father is the gatekeeper, and that the rest of this chapter will prove that point.
2. The gate only opens to the one whom the gatekeeper recognizes as the genuine shepherd.
"All who came before me", are any and all who do not enter the pen through the gate. We know that they did not enter through the gate, as Jesus,who is the gate, says they are thieves and robbers. He does not recognize them as shepherds.
3. All who enter by Christ (the way, truth, and life) are saved, will go in and out, and will find pasture. This drives the point home that shepherds are also sheep. (more on that in just a bit)
4. So these false shepherds (thieves) come to steal, kill, and destroy.Verse 10 is not talking about Satan, though the case is most certainly made throughout scripture that Satan is an accuser, thief, murderer, and liar. However Jesus is talking about the pharisees and any others like them who are false shepherds.
5. Jesus came so that the flock will have life, and that that life will be one of abundance; "they will go in and out and find pasture". He is truly the gateway to truth and abundant Life.
The Lord now begins to really press the issue:

John 10:
11 I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.
12 He who is a hired hand and not a shepherd, who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them.
13 He flees because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep.
14 I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me,
15 just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep.
16 And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd.

1. Not only is Jesus the gate, He is the good shepherd.
2. The true good shepherd will lay down His life for the sake of the flock.
3. This is most important;: a hired hand,i.e. a hireling, is NOT a shepherd and indeed never was.
When the wolves come, and they will, the hireling will not be found. He will leave the flock at the mercy of the wolves.

Acts 20:
28 Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood.
29 I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock;
30 and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them.

Matthew 7:
15 "Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves.

A college degree, and a good resume do not qualify anyone as a shepherd. I am afraid that there exists many churches where the wolves are having their way.

4. Jesus, as the good shepherd, knows (foreknew) all that are His sheep, and they know him. Recall that in verse 4 the sheep recognize the shepherd as they know His voice. So those who know the voice of Jesus are His sheep.
5. Jesus know His sheep and they know Him, just as He and the Father know, and are known by each other. He lays His life down for all who are His, which would include sheep from another fold (the gentiles) John 17:6-26
6. There is one flock and one shepherd over all. Eph 2:11-22; Eph 4:4-6

John 10:
17 For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again.
18 No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father."

Since the good shepherd is defined by the fact that He lays His life down for His sheep, it has been given to Jesus by the Father to die, and to rise from the dead. So this is the Father's testimony concerning the Son. He is not only recognized by the Father as THE good shepherd, He is the good shepherd who rises from the dead, thus granting to all who are His flock eternal (abundant) life. The term abundant life was never meant to be defined in the sense of material goods and wealth.
This passage also supplies the answer to the question; "who killed Jesus?" (That is a whole other study.)

John 10:

19 There was again a division among the Jews because of these words.
20 Many of them said, "He has a demon, and is insane; why listen to him?"
21 Others said, "These are not the words of one who is oppressed by a demon. Can a demon open the eyes of the blind?"

The people begin to argue about Jesus. He was a bringer of controversy,i.e. a stumbling block to the jews, and foolishness to the gentiles. He is truly the rock of offense. Isaiah 8:14-15 and Matt 21:42-46

John 10: 22 At that time the Feast of Dedication took place at Jerusalem. It was winter,
23 and Jesus was walking in the temple, in the colonnade of Solomon.
24 So the Jews gathered around him and said to him, "How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Christ, tell us plainly."

1. There is apparently a lapse of time here. The Feast of Dedication, known today as Chanukah or Hannukah, was celebrated much differently in Jesus' day than it is now. The myth of one days supply of oil lasting for eight days in the Menorah was added approximately 600 years after Christ lived.

2. The jews press Him for answers as to who He is. It is interesting that He was walking in the temple, on the day of the feast that celebrated the re-dedication of the temple in the time of the Machabees.

John 10: 25 Jesus answered them, "I told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in my Father's name bear witness about me,
26 but you do not believe because you are not part of my flock.
27 My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.
28 I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand.
29 My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father's hand.
30 I and the Father are one."

1. Jesus immediately goes back to the "flock" metaphor. He tells the people that since His sheep are able to hear His voice (verses 3-5), their unbelief in His Word proves that they are not part of His flock. He knows His sheep and they know and follow Him John 8:47; Romans 9:6-7

2. He gives them eternal life, i.e. life abundant. The abundant life insures that we will never perish.

3. Jesus adds something new; no one can take His sheep from Him. The Father has given His sheep to the Son, and not only can no one snatch them away from the Son, they are also in the hand of the Father, never to be taken away. The reason being; Jesus and the Father are one and the same.

John 14:
6 Jesus said to him, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.
7 If you had known me, you would have known my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him."
8 Philip said to him, "Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us."
9 Jesus said to him, "Have I been with you so long, and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, 'Show us the Father'?
10 Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own authority, but the Father who dwells in me does his works.
11 Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me, or else believe on account of the works themselves.

John 6: 44 No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day.
45 It is written in the Prophets, 'And they will all be taught by God.' Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me--

Jesus is consistent throughout John's narrative. No one can say that He did not tell them who He is.

John 10: 31 The Jews picked up stones again to stone him.
32 Jesus answered them, "I have shown you many good works from the Father; for which of them are you going to stone me?"
33 The Jews answered him, "It is not for a good work that we are going to stone you but for blasphemy, because you, being a man, make yourself God."
34 Jesus answered them, "Is it not written in your Law, 'I said, you are gods'?
35 If he called them gods to whom the word of God came--and Scripture cannot be broken--
36 do you say of him whom the Father consecrated and sent into the world, 'You are blaspheming,' because I said, 'I am the Son of God'?
37 If I am not doing the works of my Father, then do not believe me;
38 but if I do them, even though you do not believe me, believe the works, that you may know and understand that the Father is in me and I am in the Father."
39 Again they sought to arrest him, but he escaped from their hands.
40 He went away again across the Jordan to the place where John had been baptizing at first, and there he remained.
41 And many came to him. And they said, "John did no sign, but everything that John said about this man was true."
42 And many believed in him there.

1. As they begin to collect stones with which to kill Him, Jesus again refers to the works of His Father. For which of these good works were they going to stone Him for? It sounds like a ridiculous question to ask, but it drew the response from the people; no one stones anyone for a good work. They were seeking His life as he dared to say that he was God. Remember they asked Him to state plainly that He is the Christ. I believe He gave them a plain answer.

2. Jesus quotes Psalm 82;
Psa 82:6 I said, "You are gods, sons of the Most High, all of you;

3. He presents a logical argument. If the scriptures say that God calls men His sons, and the scripture cannot be broken, (those words should be placed in every church entry), then how is He blaspheming by calling Himself the Son of God?

4. Again He refers to the works; If you cannot hear His voice,believe His words, then believe in the works that He does, as testimony that he comes from the Father. Works such as giving sight to the blind......

5. He leaves the area, and the debate still continues, though many came to believe in Him. John did no sign, which would infer that Jesus did many signs, therefore believe on acount of the works. His sheep hear His voice.

Several things can be learned from this tremendous chapter:

1. Jesus is the gate, the Father is the gate keeper.

2. He gives access to the sheep, that is, He opens the gate, to His son.

3. The Father and Son are one and the same.

4.They hold the sheep in their hand, and that is eternal security for the sheep. The sheep are already in the pen waiting for the shepherd, therefore the sheep are foreknown. They are already His. They can never be stolen from the Lord.The thieves and robbers may enter the pen, but nowhere does it say that they steal any of the flock. Their intent is evil, but His sheep are secure. This is what the exchange between the pharisees and the man who had his vision restored was all about. They could not persuade him to denounce His deliverer, so they cast him out, and later Jesus comes to claim him as His own. He could not be "snatched away". There are also sheep from another fold, i.e. the gentiles who are part of the foreknown flock.

5. Jesus is not only the shepherd, but He is the Lamb who is slain. Remember earlier we saw that the shepherds are sheep also.

6. All who are true shepherds and not hirelings, enter through Christ to lead the flock to pasture. The gatekeeper only recognizes the voice of Jesus, so only those who are called for this work, and who speak the word of God can lead His flock. The sheep of the Lord will recognize the voice of Jesus when these shepherds speak.

Now I will humbly suggest that Ezekiel 34 be studied thoroughly, as it contains the essence of what we have just worked through.

Psalm 95:

6Oh come, let us worship and bow down; let us kneel before the LORD, our Maker! 7For He is our God, and we are the people of his pasture, and the sheep of his hand.

Soli deo Gloria!

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

The Story Of Jonah: God's Sovereignty Part 3 (Updated)

Jonah 4:
1 But it displeased Jonah exceedingly, and he was angry.
2 And he prayed to the LORD and said, "O LORD, is not this what I said when I was yet in my country? That is why I made haste to flee to Tarshish; for I knew that you are a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and relenting from disaster.
3 Therefore now, O LORD, please take my life from me, for it is better for me to die than to live."
4 And the LORD said, "Do you do well to be angry?"
5 Jonah went out of the city and sat to the east of the city and made a booth for himself there. He sat under it in the shade, till he should see what would become of the city.
6 Now the LORD God appointed a plant and made it come up over Jonah, that it might be a shade over his head, to save him from his discomfort. So Jonah was exceedingly glad because of the plant.
7 But when dawn came up the next day, God appointed a worm that attacked the plant, so that it withered.
8 When the sun rose, God appointed a scorching east wind, and the sun beat down on the head of Jonah so that he was faint. And he asked that he might die and said, "It is better for me to die than to live."
9 But God said to Jonah, "Do you do well to be angry for the plant?" And he said, "Yes, I do well to be angry, angry enough to die."
10 And the LORD said, "You pity the plant, for which you did not labor, nor did you make it grow, which came into being in a night and perished in a night.
11 And should not I pity Nineveh, that great city, in which there are more than 120,000 persons who do not know their right hand from their left, and also much cattle?"

At long last, my final installment on Jonah.

In my two previous posts I tried to show how Jonah's story apart from being just a kid's bedtime tale, it is in actuality the revealing of God's sovereign plan of salvation for the entire remnant of mankind, both jew and gentile.
Jonah learned through hardship and discipline that the election of the redeemed is entirely in the hands of God. We are often very harsh on Jonah and his attitude of rebellion, but we must remember that all that he went through was caused by the hand of God, and the Lord disciplines those whom He loves.We can then say with confidence, He loves Jonah.

In this final chapter of Jonah, that has a somewhat abrupt ending, we still see that despite God's taking him through the "spiritual woodshed", and despite the fact that he did ultimately walk in obedience to God's command, he is still having a problem with perspective.
Jonah tells the Lord that he is unhappy with the outcome, which happened to be an outcome that Jonah foreknew, i.e. that the gracious and loving God would cause Nineveh to repent, by faith through hearing the His Word proclaimed.
Jonah's "prayer" is dangerously close to words attributed to a wicked and slothful servant in Jesus' parable of the talents:

Jonah 4:for I knew that you are a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and relenting from disaster.

Mat 25:
24 He also who had received the one talent came forward, saying, 'Master, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you scattered no seed,
25 so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here you have what is yours.'

To this statement the Lord could have given the same answer to Jonah, as the master did to the servant, which is; If you knew this, then you should have been faithful to the task that was given. God help us if when the Son of man returns He finds us to be faithless, i.e. lacking in obedience. Luke 18:7-8; James 2:14-26.

God asks Jonah, "do you do well to be angry?" and then proceeds to teach Jonah some heavenly perspective.
Jonah departs from the city and camps out to the east of Nineveh. His purpose is to see what, if anything, would happen to the city. He was most likely hoping the Lord would change His mind and give Nineveh a fire and brimstone type judgment.

The Lord "appoints" a gourd plant to grow and give shade to Jonah. Jonah is quite grateful for the shade.
However by the next morning the plant was attacked by a worm and it withers and dies. To add insult to injury, the sun begins to beat down on the hapless prophet and a scorching east wind begins to blow. Jonah is near collapse. Once again Jonah repeats his complaint. The same complaint that he spoke after Nineveh's repentance and salvation; "it is better for me to die than to live."
God repeats His question;"do you do well to be angry?"
Jonah's answer this time is ."yes I do well to be angry, angry enough to die."
The Lord gets right to the point:

10 And the LORD said, "You pity the plant, for which you did not labor, nor did you make it grow, which came into being in a night and perished in a night.11 And should not I pity Nineveh, that great city, in which there are more than 120,000 persons who do not know their right hand from their left, and also much cattle?"

Jonah was angry over a plant that grew and withered out of his control. He did not labor over the plant, nor did he cause to to be, to begin with.
If Jonah could become concerned with a plant that was here today and gone tomorrow, then why should the Lord not be concerned over His creation, a creation that He spoke into existence and He labored over for six days.

Nineveh had a population of people that were in reality, ignorant of the things of God. They did not know their right hand from their left. They were helpless.

Matthew 9:36
When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.

There was also the issue of "much cattle", but here again the Lord has sovereignty:

Psalms 24:
1 A Psalm of David. The earth is the LORD's and the fullness thereof, the world and those who dwell therein,
Psa 24:2 for he has founded it upon the seas and established it upon the rivers.

Psalms 50:
10 For every beast of the forest is mine, the cattle on a thousand hills.

Jonah had to learn, as we do, God's perspective on things. He has a plan. He creates the vessels for their proper use. Romans 9: 20-23
God requires obedience only, which is true worship. He does not want an argument, or a show of piety, or our religious righteousness.
If we put together these two passages from Paul's incredible letter to the Ephesians, we will gain perspective.

Eph 1:
19 and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might
20 that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places,
21 far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come.
22 And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church,
23 which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all

Eph 2:
6 and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus,

Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is the victorious, risen and ascended Lord over all. The Son is seated at the Father's right hand. he is also the son of man, and so the redeemed are raised up with Him and seated with Him at the Father's right hand also. All things are under His feet, and He is the head of His church, i.e. His Body. Therefore all things are under our feet. He is head over all things TO the church. The perspective of the church comes from being seated in Christ at the Father's right hand. We are to be viewing people and circumstance, from the same perspective as Jesus views people and circumstance.
Jonah had to learn that God's love is not bound by earthly limitations, nor does it manifest the same as man's way of showing love.
The word to the church today is to readjust to the heavenly perspective. Too much time,effort, and expense has been wasted by focusing on methods and programs. God's methods were to use a reluctant and rebellious prophet, after taking him through the storm, and the belly of a big fish, in order to bring him to understanding and obedience. If the Lord calls us to a work, then we will do it, one way or the other. His will be done!

Job 42:
1 Then Job answered the LORD and said:
2 "I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted.

Rom 8:
28 And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.
29 For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.
30 And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.

Soli Deo Gloria!

One more glaring Truth occurred to me as I looked at this again, i.e.the great gulf between God's way and man's way.
Jonah declared God to be gracious, merciful, slow to anger, abounding in steadfast love, and relenting from disaster. Obviously this is all true, and praise Him that it is. We reiterate that He is "slow to anger" which in itself denotes that He does manifest righteous anger and is justified in doing so. In fact one day that anger will be poured out in finality.
Now it is woefully apparent that Jonah is quick on the draw when it comes to anger,and is therefore not very merciful in his attitude toward the Assyrian people. Jonah declares that he is "angry enough to die".
The great discrepancy here is that while Jonah is angry enough to die, the Lord is compassionate enough to die. This was accomplished many centuries later in the person of His son Jesus.
This is the essence of Jonah's story.

Phillipians 2:
4 Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.
5 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus,
6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped,
7 but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.
8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.
9 Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name,
10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
12 Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling,
13 for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.
14 Do all things without grumbling or questioning,
15 that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world,

Saturday, May 2, 2009

The Story of Jonah: God's Sovereignty Part 2

Jonah 2:
1 Then Jonah prayed to the LORD his God from the belly of the fish,
2 saying, "I called out to the LORD, out of my distress, and he answered me; out of the belly of Sheol I cried, and you heard my voice.
3 For you cast me into the deep, into the heart of the seas, and the flood surrounded me; all your waves and your billows passed over me.
4 Then I said, 'I am driven away from your sight; yet I shall again look upon your holy temple.'
5 The waters closed in over me to take my life; the deep surrounded me; weeds were wrapped about my head
6 at the roots of the mountains. I went down to the land whose bars closed upon me forever; yet you brought up my life from the pit, O LORD my God.
7 When my life was fainting away, I remembered the LORD, and my prayer came to you, into your holy temple.
8 Those who pay regard to vain idols forsake their hope of steadfast love.
9 But I with the voice of thanksgiving will sacrifice to you; what I have vowed I will pay. Salvation belongs to the LORD!"
10 And the LORD spoke to the fish, and it vomited Jonah out upon the dry land.

Jonah chapter 1 ends with the rebellious prophet being swallowed by a great fish. In fact the passage says that the Lord appointed the fish to swallow him and he then spent the next three days and nights in the great fish's belly.
This next chapter, as can be seen above, contains Jonah's prayer while he is in the fish. The prayer is the entire content of the chapter .
What is rather curious is that the whole of the prayer is spoken in the past tense.
It has been commonly taught that Jonah in the belly of the fish is part of the Lord visiting discipline upon Jonah. While this may be true in one sense, the reality is that his sojourn in the fish has a much deeper significance.
The fish is Jonah's salvation. Jonah would have most certainly drowned had the Lord not sent the fish to swallow him. Verses 2 through 7 are a compelling account of his near death experience.
The fact that he had sunk to the point of where the mountains begin at the bottom of the sea shows how close he came to the end of his life. The past tense is used as Jonah is recounting his experience, and the prayer he offered up in the midst of that experience.
This post deliverance-prayer of praise, uttered while he was being carried to safety inside the fish, demonstrates the profound effect that this experience had on Jonah.

9 But I with the voice of thanksgiving will sacrifice to you; what I have vowed I will pay. Salvation belongs to the LORD!"

Jonah made a vow to the Lord in the midst of his crying out to God. What was this vow?

This prayer ends with the emphatic declaration: Salvation belongs to the Lord.

Jonah 3:
1 Then the word of the LORD came to Jonah the second time, saying,
2 "Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and call out against it the message that I tell you."
3a So Jonah arose and went to Nineveh, according to the word of the LORD.

The command is given again, go to Nineveh and deliver the message. This time, a very different Jonah responds in complete obedience. Was this the vow Jonah made; that he would do as the Lord told him to do? I think that is a good assumption. This is based on that which Jonah already knew, salvation belongs to the Lord. Jonah 4:2

Jonah 3: 3b Now Nineveh was an exceedingly great city, three days' journey in breadth.
4 Jonah began to go into the city, going a day's journey. And he called out, "Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!"
5 And the people of Nineveh believed God. They called for a fast and put on sackcloth, from the greatest of them to the least of them.
6 The word reached the king of Nineveh, and he arose from his throne, removed his robe, covered himself with sackcloth, and sat in ashes.
7 And he issued a proclamation and published through Nineveh, "By the decree of the king and his nobles: Let neither man nor beast, herd nor flock, taste anything. Let them not feed or drink water,
8 but let man and beast be covered with sackcloth, and let them call out mightily to God. Let everyone turn from his evil way and from the violence that is in his hands.
9 Who knows? God may turn and relent and turn from his fierce anger, so that we may not perish."
10 When God saw what they did, how they turned from their evil way, God relented of the disaster that he had said he would do to them, and he did not do it.

Jonah completed his task, and proclaimed the Word of the Lord to the inhabitants of the great city. The outcome was as the Lord foreknew; the people believed God. (Verse 5)

Now compare that to the account of God's covenant with Abraham.

Gen 15: 5 And he brought him outside and said, "Look toward heaven, and number the stars, if you are able to number them." Then he said to him, "So shall your offspring be."
6 And he believed the LORD, and he counted it to him as righteousness.

The people of Nineveh are Abraham's offspring and are counted as righteous. All who believe by faith are his offspring.This faith unto belief comes by hearing, and hearing comes by the Word of God being preached. What we have in this story, in a microcosm, is God's plan of salvation from Abraham to Jesus revealed in action.

The Jonah of chapter 1 shows Israel, given the oracles of God, the Mosaic covenant received at Sinai, separated from all other nations unto the Lord. This Israel will touch no unclean thing, or person. The experience of the storm, and the great fish in chapters 1 and 2 speak of Christ and His fulfillment of the covenant, through His life, death, burial, and resurrection. Christ has brought something completely new to the equation The Jonah of chapter 3 reveals God's full intent for Israel, both jew and gentile. Paul's entire letter to the Romans is the underlying orthodoxy to the Book of Jonah's ortho-praxy. See also Eph 2:11-22; Acts 15:1-19; Amos 9:11-12

The only way to salvation for anyone jew or gentile is by grace through faith, which comes from hearing the word of truth, i.e. Christ. This subsequently leads to belief which is accounted to us as righteousness. From the days of Abraham this was so.

Romans 4:
9 Is this blessing then only for the circumcised, or also for the uncircumcised? We say that faith was counted to Abraham as righteousness.
10 How then was it counted to him? Was it before or after he had been circumcised? It was not after, but before he was circumcised.
11 He received the sign of circumcision as a seal of the righteousness that he had by faith while he was still uncircumcised. The purpose was to make him the father of all who believe without being circumcised, so that righteousness would be counted to them as well,
12 and to make him the father of the circumcised who are not merely circumcised but who also walk in the footsteps of the faith that our father Abraham had before he was circumcised.
13 For the promise to Abraham and his offspring that he would be heir of the world did not come through the law but through the righteousness of faith.

So Jonah in the beginning was like Paul, a Hebrew among Hebrews, and by the end of his story he was also like Paul in that he was struck down by the light of divine revelation;

Salvation belongs to the Lord!

Romans 9:16 So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy.

Jonah had to learn just as the jews who lived during the days of the early church had to learn, that God's plan from the beginning was to call out a holy people, Israel, both jew and gentile, for Himself. Jonah's adventure is the story of the church.

It should be noted that the name Jonah, in the Hebrew, means, "dove".

In my final installment we will look at chapter 4 and its word of correction for the church today.

For the Glory of God!

Friday, May 1, 2009

The Story of Jonah: God's Sovereignty Part 1

The Book of Jonah has really been on my heart and mind for quite awhile. Jonah and the "whale" has become a nice little story we reserve for children's church. I believe that is as profound as anything to be found in the Scriptures. What is this prophecy all about?
I would like to present a chapter by chapter study of Jonah.
I would suggest reading the entire book. It is only four, very short, chapters long.
You can read them online here, here, here, and here.

Jonah 1:
1 Now the word of the LORD came to Jonah the son of Amittai, saying,
2 "Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and call out against it, for their evil has come up before me."

3 But Jonah rose to flee to Tarshish from the presence of the LORD. He went down to Joppa and found a ship going to Tarshish.

Notice that first of all, God commands Jonah to cry out against the city of Nineveh. The message is, judgment upon the city is at hand. (Jonah 3:4)
Jonah immediately flees from the Lord proposing to go to Tarshish, which would represent the farthest point known in that day, that he could go. (Tarshish was situated in the area now known as southern Spain.)
He goes to Joppa, the only seaport in Palestine at that time, and finds a ship that could take him to Tarshish.
It is interesting that Jonah was about to prove King David's experiential theology, which was written in Psalm 139:
7 Where shall I go from your Spirit? Or where shall I flee from your presence?
8 If I ascend to heaven, you are there! If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there!
9 If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,
10 even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me.
11 If I say, "Surely the darkness shall cover me, and the light about me be night,"
12 even the darkness is not dark to you; the night is bright as the day, for darkness is as light with you.

It is also interesting that Jonah had to depart from Joppa. As Joppa would figure in a very similar episode far into the future.
Now it must be understood that Nineveh, the capitol of the Assyrian empire, would be the last place Jonah would want to go and preach. The Assyrians were enemies of Israel, and were incredibly cruel. They eventually carried off the ten "lost tribes" of Israel, (the northern kingdom), before they themselves were taken over by the Babylonian empire. They were a gentile (heathen) nation, and for any Israelite to go and preach the Word of God to them would have been unthinkable to Jonah.

So here is Jonah in Joppa, "kicking against the goads". Now fast forward to a certain rooftop in the same port city;

Acts 10:
1 At Caesarea there was a man named Cornelius, a centurion of what was known as the Italian Cohort,
2 a devout man who feared God with all his household, gave alms generously to the people, and prayed continually to God.
3 About the ninth hour of the day he saw clearly in a vision an angel of God come in and say to him, "Cornelius."
4 And he stared at him in terror and said, "What is it, Lord?" And he said to him, "Your prayers and your alms have ascended as a memorial before God.
5 And now send men to Joppa and bring one Simon who is called Peter.
6 He is lodging with one Simon, a tanner, whose house is by the sea."
7 When the angel who spoke to him had departed, he called two of his servants and a devout soldier from among those who attended him,
8 and having related everything to them, he sent them to Joppa.
9 The next day, as they were on their journey and approaching the city, Peter went up on the housetop about the sixth hour to pray.
10 And he became hungry and wanted something to eat, but while they were preparing it, he fell into a trance
11 and saw the heavens opened and something like a great sheet descending, being let down by its four corners upon the earth.
12 In it were all kinds of animals and reptiles and birds of the air.
13 And there came a voice to him: "Rise, Peter; kill and eat."
14 But Peter said, "By no means, Lord; for I have never eaten anything that is common or unclean."
15 And the voice came to him again a second time, "What God has made clean, do not call common."
16 This happened three times, and the thing was taken up at once to heaven.
17 Now while Peter was inwardly perplexed as to what the vision that he had seen might mean, behold, the men who were sent by Cornelius, having made inquiry for Simon's house, stood at the gate........

First and foremost, the story of Jonah is the foretelling of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, going to the Jew first and then to the "Greek". Peter like Jonah, found anyone or anything outside of the Law to be unclean. The Lord had always intended for the believing gentiles to be included in the kingdom. It is no accident that these events happened at Joppa, though they were centuries apart.

It is also no accident that Peter went to the rooftop to pray at the sixth hour.

John 4:
5 So he came to a town of Samaria called Sychar, near the field that Jacob had given to his son Joseph.
6 Jacob's well was there; so Jesus, wearied as he was from his journey, was sitting beside the well.
It was about the sixth hour.
7 A woman from Samaria came to draw water. Jesus said to her, "Give me a drink."
8 (For his disciples had gone away into the city to buy food.)
9 The Samaritan woman said to him, "How is it that you, a Jew, ask for a drink from me, a woman of Samaria?" (For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.)

John 19:
14 Now it was the day of Preparation of the Passover. It was about the sixth hour. He said to the Jews, "Behold your King!"

Matthew 20:
1 "For the kingdom of heaven is like a master of a house who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard.
2 After agreeing with the laborers for a denarius a day, he sent them into his vineyard.
3 And going out about the third hour he saw others standing idle in the marketplace,
4 and to them he said, 'You go into the vineyard too, and whatever is right I will give you.'
5 So they went. Going out again about the sixth hour and the ninth hour, he did the same.
6 And about the eleventh hour he went out and found others standing. And he said to them, 'Why do you stand here idle all day?'
7 They said to him, 'Because no one has hired us.' He said to them, 'You go into the vineyard too.' 8 And when evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, 'Call the laborers and pay them their wages, beginning with the last, up to the first.'
9 And when those hired about the eleventh hour came, each of them received a denarius.
10 Now when those hired first came, they thought they would receive more, but each of them also received a denarius.
11 And on receiving it they grumbled at the master of the house,
12 saying, 'These last worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the day and the scorching heat.'

Luke 23:
44 It was now about the sixth hour, and there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour,
(See also Matthew 27:45 and Mark 15:33
Also note that Matthew, Mark, and Luke are using the Hebrew/Jewish timekeeping method which is sundown to sundown, and John is using the Roman/gentile system, midnight to midnight.)
I believe that the events recorded in Jonah 1 correspond to the 6th through 9th hour of Jesus' death struggle at Golgotha.

Jonah's rebellious flight to Joppa, is found to be entirely in the sphere of God's sovereign will.
The Lord's plan of inclusion of the gentiles begins at Joppa.
Joppa in the Hebrew means beautiful. Beautiful indeed.

So now we have the fleeing Jonah boarding the ship at Joppa:

Jonah 1:
3b So he paid the fare and went on board, to go with them to Tarshish, away from the presence of the LORD.
4 But the LORD hurled a great wind upon the sea, and there was a mighty tempest on the sea, so that the ship threatened to break up.
5 Then the mariners were afraid, and each cried out to his god. And they hurled the cargo that was in the ship into the sea to lighten it for them. But Jonah had gone down into the inner part of the ship and had lain down and was fast asleep.
6 So the captain came and said to him, "What do you mean, you sleeper? Arise, call out to your god! Perhaps the god will give a thought to us, that we may not perish."
7 And they said to one another, "Come, let us cast lots, that we may know on whose account this evil has come upon us." So they cast lots, and the lot fell on Jonah.
8 Then they said to him, "Tell us on whose account this evil has come upon us. What is your occupation? And where do you come from? What is your country? And of what people are you?"
9 And he said to them, "I am a Hebrew, and I fear the LORD, the God of heaven, who made the sea and the dry land."
10 Then the men were exceedingly afraid and said to him, "What is this that you have done!" For the men knew that he was fleeing from the presence of the LORD, because he had told them. 11 Then they said to him, "What shall we do to you, that the sea may quiet down for us?" For the sea grew more and more tempestuous.
12 He said to them, "Pick me up and hurl me into the sea; then the sea will quiet down for you, for I know it is because of me that this great tempest has come upon you."

13 Nevertheless, the men rowed hard to get back to dry land, but they could not, for the sea grew more and more tempestuous against them.
14 Therefore they called out to the LORD, "O LORD, let us not perish for this man's life, and lay not on us innocent blood, for you, O LORD, have done as it pleased you."
15 So they picked up Jonah and hurled him into the sea, and the sea ceased from its raging.
16 Then the men feared the LORD exceedingly, and they offered a sacrifice to the LORD and made vows.

The similarities of this episode to other scripture are too startling to ignore.

Matthew 8: 23 And when he got into the boat, his disciples followed him.
24 And behold, there arose a great storm on the sea, so that the boat was being swamped by the waves; but he was asleep.
25 And they went and woke him, saying, "Save us, Lord; we are perishing."

26 And he said to them, "Why are you afraid, O you of little faith?" Then he rose and rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was a great calm.
27 And the men marveled, saying, "What sort of man is this, that even winds and sea obey him?"

Psalm 107:
23 Some went down to the sea in ships, doing business on the great waters;
24 they saw the deeds of the LORD, his wondrous works in the deep.
25 For he commanded and raised the stormy wind, which lifted up the waves of the sea.
26 They mounted up to heaven; they went down to the depths; their courage melted away in 27 they reeled and staggered like drunken men and were at their wits' end.
28 Then they cried to the LORD in their trouble, and he delivered them from their distress.
29 He made the storm be still, and the waves of the sea were hushed.
30 Then they were glad that the waters were quiet, and he brought them to their desired haven. 31 Let them thank the LORD for his steadfast love, for his wondrous works to the children of man!
32 Let them extol him in the congregation of the people, and praise him in the assembly of the elders.

The ship's crew questioned Jonah;who are you? The disciples asked questions re: Jesus; what manner of man is this?
Both Jonah and Jesus were asleep in the boat and seemingly oblivious to the storm. Jonah was in the safety of the inner part of the ship. Jesus was "topside" sleeping in the very midst of the storm
Jonah's apparent demise stilled the storm. Jesus commanded the storm to be still.
Jonah became the sacrifice which saved the ship and it's crew. Jesus became the propitiation for the world.
Where Jonah was the shadow of things to come, Jesus is the greater fulfillment.

Verse 14 in Jonah 1 is beyond profound: 14 Therefore they called out to the LORD, "O LORD, let us not perish for this man's life, and lay not on us innocent blood, for you, O LORD, have done as it pleased you."

This is the prayer of faith which the redeemed pray. It is not the shout of the crowd at Jesus' trial.

Matthew27: 24 So when Pilate saw that he was gaining nothing, but rather that a riot was beginning, he took water and washed his hands before the crowd, saying, "I am innocent of this man's blood; see to it yourselves."
25 And all the people answered, "His blood be on us and on our children!"

Compare it also to this prayer:

Acts 4:
27 for truly in this city there were gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel,
28 to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place.

The sailors (like the disciples) recognized God's hand in all that happened.They offered sacrifice and vows, They worshipped the Lord.

The conclusion of this chapter is:

Jonah 1: 17 And the LORD appointed a great fish to swallow up Jonah. And Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights.

Matthew12: 39 But he answered them, "An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah.
40 For just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.

Jonah in the belly of the great fish, three days and three nights, prophecies of Jesus in the tomb. Jesus gave the interpretation of this, which obviously leaves no other meaning.

If the fish had not swallowed Jonah he would have eventually drowned. The fish's belly, i.e. the tomb, proved to be the place where life was preserved.

It is quite apparent that the story of the prophet Jonah goes deeper than could be imagined. Not only does it contain the foretelling of Jesus and His ministry to mankind, it is also the revelation of the birth of the church and its' mission to mankind. It is the revelation of God's complete and sovereign plan concerning the redemption of all things. The scriptures from Genesis to revelation are one complete and seamless Word.

John 5: 37 And the Father who sent me has himself borne witness about me. His voice you have never heard, his form you have never seen,
38 and you do not have his word abiding in you, for you do not believe the one whom he has sent.
39 You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me,
40 yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life.

Matthew 12: 41 The men of Nineveh will rise up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and behold, something greater than Jonah is here.

In the next part of this study I will look at Jonah's prayer while he was in the fish's belly. I will also look at the difference between the Jonah of chapter 1 and the Jonah of chapter 3.

Sola scriptura
Chris P.