Category Archives: The New Covenant

The True Shophar

 

There are no words to describe the overwhelming need for the sound of the shophar in this hour. Heaven must hear it. The earth must hear it. Must hear the voice of the true shophar of God.

What do we mean by the true shophar? Let’s start with some background. The apostle Paul called Israel under the law (the Sinai covenant) children. “Even so we when we were children…” (Gal. 4:3). It may well be said, then, that the old covenant was a picture book for children. Do we grasp this? The old covenant is filled with pictures—types and shadows, representations of reality. God gave these to His children anticipating the day when He would reveal to them the reality that inspired the pictures. This is one of the themes of the new covenant book of Hebrews.

For the law having a shadow of good things to come, and not the very image of the things can never with those sacrifices which they offered year by year continually make the comers thereunto perfect. (Heb. 10:1)

The law, then, contained shadows of good things to come, and not the very image of those things. In The True Worshippers I enlarged on this, showing that the Scriptures speak of these shadows as “figures of the true” (Heb. 9:24). That is, figures of the reality that cast the shadows. It is vitally important to understand this usage of the word true in Scripture; it is contrasted not only with false but also with type and shadow. We read that Christ the new covenant high priest is a “minister of the sanctuary, and of the true tabernacle, which the Lord pitched, and not man” (Heb. 8:2). In other words the tabernacle of Moses, central to the worship of the old covenant people of God, was not the true tabernacle; it was but a figure of the true. This is not saying that it was false; God Himself had ordained it, but He ordained it only as a type, a shadow—and only for a time—till in His appointed time the True Tabernacle should come on the scene.

We also read of the true bread and the true vine. These also have their corresponding contrast not only with that which is false, but also with that which is type and shadow. Christ Himself is the image, the body, that cast those shadows (Col. 2:16,17).

It’s in this sense that we must understand the significance of the old covenant shophar. That instrument was but a shadow of a spiritual reality.

Let’s see first what the Picture Book has to show us about shophars.

The Old Testament Hebrew has two words translated trumpet in the King James Version. The first is chatsotserah, which appears 29 times. Here is its first instance:

Make thee two trumpets of silver; of a whole piece shalt thou make them: that thou mayest use them for the calling of the assembly, and for the journeying of the camps. (Num. 10:2)

If the priests blew with but one trumpet the leaders were to gather to the tent of meeting; if with two, all the camp was to gather (Num. 10:3,4). And when the cloud over the camp lifted and moved on, the trumpets signaled the order in which the tribes encamped around the tabernacle were to follow (Num. 10:5,6).

The silver trumpets were also used to alert the Lord of His people’s need for His help against their enemies.

And if ye go to war in your land against the enemy that oppresseth you, then ye shall blow an alarm with the trumpets; and ye shall be remembered before the LORD your God, and ye shall be saved from your enemies. (Num. 10:9)

That’s interesting, isn’t it. The trumpets were also for God to hear.

They were also sounded, once again for God’s ears, “in the day of your gladness, and in your solemn days, and in the beginnings of your months, ye shall blow with the trumpets over your burnt offerings, and over the sacrifices of your peace offerings; that they may be to you for a memorial before your God: I am the LORD your God” (Num.10:10). Let us take special note of this. The trumpets in the mouths of the anointed priests were to provide as it were a consciousness of God, an awareness of His remembering that His people were offering these offerings before Him, that is, in His presence, before His face.

The other Hebrew word for trumpet is shophar, which appears 72 times, the first of which is at Sinai when along with thunders and lightnings the “voice of the trumpet [shophar] sounded “exceeding loud, so that all the people that was in the camp trembled” (Ex. 19:16).

No doubt it was an angel who sounded that shophar; its first recorded use by Israel was at Jericho, where it brought the walls down around their trembling enemies:

And seven priests shall bear before the ark seven trumpets [shophars] of rams’ horns: and the seventh day ye shall compass the city seven times, and the priests shall blow with the trumpets. (Josh. 6:4)

It’s here we discover the shophar was made of a ram’s horn.

The shophar was vital to victory. It was shophars that Gideon’s three hundred were armed with (Jud. 7:16). And Nehemiah had by his side one who was ready to “sound the trumpet [shophar]” if they were suddenly attacked when the wall was being rebuilt (Neh. 4:18).

The shophar had other uses as well. It was blown when Solomon was anointed king (1 Ki. 1:39). It was blown in God’s appointed times—the new moon or solemn feast days (Ps. 81:3). It was used along with the silver trumpets, as when David and all Israel brought back the ark:

Thus all Israel brought up the ark of the covenant of the LORD with shouting, and with sound of the cornet [shophar], and with trumpets [chatsotserah], and with cymbals, making a noise with psalteries and harps. (1 Chr. 15:28)

All these instances were types, shadows, that were prophetic a spiritual reality to come.

Moving from type to true

I say prophetic of a spiritual reality yet to come, and it’s Christ and the new covenant I have in mind, but even in the Old Testament of our Bible we discover that the transition to that reality had begun to take place. It was the voices of the prophets that became the shophars of God.

Cry aloud, spare not, lift up thy voice like a trumpet [shophar], and shew my people their transgression, and the house of Jacob their sins. (Isa. 58:1)

What then is a real shophar, a true shophar? “Lift up thy voice like a shophar…”

And this from Jeremiah:

Also I set watchmen over you, saying, Hearken to the sound of the trumpet [shophar]. But they said, We will not hearken. (Jer. 6:17)

God is saying that the voice of the watchmen He set over His people was “the sound of the shophar.”

God had also made Ezekiel a watchman with the voice of a shophar. God told him he was to “blow the shophar” to warn the people when because of their iniquities He was sending the sword of their enemies against them. The one who hearkened would “deliver his soul,” the one who did not, the sword would “take him away, his blood shall be upon his own head.” Furthermore, if the watchman did not blow the shophar of warning, the blood of those who were slain, said God, “will I require at the watchman’s hand.” (See Ezekiel 33:1-7.)

Again, just what specifically did God mean by the watchman blowing the shophar?

So thou, O son of man, I have set thee a watchman unto the house of Israel; therefore thou shalt hear the word at my mouth, and warn them from me. (Ezek. 33:1-7).

How clear that is. The watchman’s warning—the voice of the shophar—is a word he speaks from the mouth of God Himself, a word that brings nigh the very Presence and consciousness of God Himself. No wonder all the trembling, then, at the voice of the shophar. God is nigh; it’s this that He intends the voice of the shophar to convey.

So I must say something that needs to be said. We can blow the ram’s horn till we’re blue in the face and out of breath. With what result? Being blue of face and out of breath. That’s all. For God does not hear that kind of shophar, nor is He brought nigh in it. I realize that we’re living in a time when it’s very difficult for many to accept this, and some will no doubt be offended by it. That is lamentable.

So now my two-fold plea.

Oh for teachers that will teach God’s people that the new covenant involves us, not in types and shadows, but in a realm of spiritual reality called truth.

And oh, new covenant family of God, whether Jew or Gentile, let us be no longer children. Joel prophesied, “Blow ye the trumpet [shophar] in Zion, and sound an alarm in my holy mountain: let all the inhabitants of the land tremble: for the day of the LORD cometh, for it is nigh at hand…” If there was ever a shophar blown, it is that—Joel’s prophecy. And Isaiah’s. He cried, “Hear O heavens, and give ear O earth…” That too is the voice of the shophar. The true shophar. The shophar of God. Do we want the heavens to hear our cry in this desperate hour, and the earth around us? Then let us cry to God to make shophars of us, that we may lift up our voice to Him like a shophar—that anointed voice propelled by the Breath of the Spirit of God from deep within, whether in prayer to God or prophecy to men. Be sure that God will hear this kind of shophar. And so will those around us, and tremble at His Presence.

 

From When To If

If my title has given you hope that this might be a welcome diversion from the many troubles of the day, I am pleased to tell you that this is much more than that. This is about a transition that ultimately is God’s answer to all the troubles of the day, which spiritual detective work uncovers to be the doing of that one little three-letter culprit sin.

Multitudes in our world about us have dismissed the very concept of sin. Christians on the other hand acknowledge sin and are thankful that God in Christ has forgiven them their sins. Yet sin is so much with us that they are sure we can never really be rid of it till we die. I don’t think I could count the number of times I’ve heard Bible believing Christians confidently assuring me (and themselves at the same time, I suspect) that as long as we are in mortal flesh we will always sin. In the minds of so many it’s incredulous, presumptuous, even blasphemous, to maintain otherwise.

But what does our Bible actually say, fellow Bible believer? To insist on this completely misses the fundamental difference between the New Covenant and the Old Covenant, which God did away with because there was something it could not do.

Let’s look first at a verse from the Old Testament, which, with additions over the centuries, was the Bible of the Old Covenant people of God. This verse is part of Solomon’s prayer at the dedication of the temple he built when the Old Covenant was still in effect.

When they sin… 

When they sin against You (for there is no one who does not sin), and You become angry with them and deliver them to the enemy, and they take them captive to a land far or near… (2 Chr. 6:36 NKJV)

That’s all we need to read for what we are considering. Here is that same fragment from Young’s Literal Translation:

When they sin against Thee–for there is not a man who sinneth not—and Thou hast been angry with them, and hast given them before an enemy, and taken them captive have their captors, unto a land far off or near… (2 Chr. 6:36 YLT)

Do you see what this is saying? “When they sin against You…” Some of our English versions (including the old King James Version) have if here, but a check into the Hebrew original reveals that when is the correct translation. The context itself requires when, because Solomon immediately adds, “for there is no one who does not sin.” In other words, it’s inevitable that the people under that covenant would at some point sin against God. It’s because the Old Covenant had no provision to do away with indwelling sin.

For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and goats should take away sins. (Heb. 10:3)

That stands to reason, doesn’t it. To actually take away sins would require a better sacrifice than the blood of an animal.

Now this from the New Testament, and you will see immediately the significance of the title.

If anyone sins…

My little children, these things I write to you, so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. And He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world.  (1 Jn. 2:1,2 NKJV)

Again, the same passage from Young’s Literal Translation.

My little children, these things I write to you, that ye may not sin: and if any one may sin, an advocate we have with the Father, Jesus Christ, a righteous one, and he–he is a propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only, but also for the whole world…  (1 Jn. 2:1,2 YLT)

If anyone sins…” So we are not in the days of when anymore. Solomon if he were with us today could not say “there is no one who does not sin” for there is provision in the New Covenant that was not there in the Old. Now it is not when. If. And here the context itself requires if. John has just said that what he has written is “so that you may not sin.” What a marvel, how can this be? What is it that John has written? He has written of God’s provision for the walk free of sin—walking in fellowship with Him in the light in which is the continual cleansing of the blood of Jesus Christ (1 Jn. 1:5). What marvellous light. That’s what Peter calls it. “Marvellous light” (1 Pt. 2:9). It is new-covenant light. Under the New Covenant it is not a matter of when one will sin; those who are in covenant relationship with God through Jesus Christ are able to walk free of sin all their days, though yet in mortal flesh.

In addition to the Scriptures in 1 John, many other New Testament passages bear witness to this provision—that because of what Christ accomplished on the cross in putting away sin “by the sacrifice of Himself” (Heb. 9:26), and making that accomplishment ours by baptizing us into Himself, sinning is no longer inevitable.

 What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it? Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. (Rom. 6:1-4 NKJV)

For the death that He died, He died to sin once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to God.  Likewise you also, reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Rom. 6:10,11 NKJV)

And having been set free from sin, you became slaves of righteousness. (Rom. 6:18 NKJV)

I’ve just quoted excerpts here; please read that whole chapter carefully and prayerfully—and believingly—as well as the following one and the chapter between them (Romans 7).

There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, on account of sin: He condemned sin in the flesh, that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. (Rom. 8:1-4 NKJV)

Walking according to the Spirit—this is just what John is thinking of with his words about walking in the light. This is God’s new-covenant provision to walk the sin-free walk.

There are many other passages as well. Yet, as I said, I don’t know how many times I have heard Christians who love their Bibles say that as long as we are in mortal flesh we will surely sin, we’ll only be free of sin when we die and go to Heaven. If that is so, the death of Adam is more powerful than the death of Christ. And if that is so, the New Covenant is no better than the Old, and Christ died in vain.

He did not die in vain. The New Covenant is better than the Old.

But now hath he obtained a more excellent ministry, by how much also he is the mediator of a better covenant, which was established upon better promises. For if that first covenant had been faultless, then should no place have been sought for the second. For finding fault with them, he saith, Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah… (Heb. 8:6-8 KJV)

Please read that whole chapter as well. Oh, read, read your Bible, and the Holy Spirit helping you, believe what you are reading. God has done away with the Old Covenant, and brought in a New Covenant with provision—the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus—enabling one to live without sinning. What a wonder. It is not necessary to sin. It is not inevitable.

But it is possible to sin, for we continue to be moral beings with the ability to choose, and we live in a world that is arrayed against the righteous. This means temptation, and therefore the possibility of sinning. But if one does happen to sin, God also has provision for this. We have an Advocate before Him who is Himself the propitiation—very, very briefly, the penalty payer—for our sins; therefore God is “faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 Jn. 1:9). Note this, not only faithful, but faithful and just because of that propitiation—He would actually be (perish the thought) unrighteous not to do so—to forgive and to cleanse so that we may be restored to fellowship with Him and continue our course in His new-covenant light.

Wonderful provision… if it is necessary. How tragic, then, how worthy of great lamentation, that the greatest transition that has ever taken place in the history of man continues to be questioned, even denied, by so many believers. Let it no longer be so with us, beloved. Let us be stirred, awakened, to a fuller faith that is grounded upon the word of God. Let us become more fully believers in Jesus, believers who know that the weakness of mortal flesh is not too strong a hindrance for those in new-covenant relationship with God, those who, abiding in Christ, walk in the Spirit, walk in the light, walk free of sin, “walk even as He walked” (1 Jn. 1:6).

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A note anticipating a question about 1 Jn. 3:9, which in the King James Version is,  “Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin; for his seed remaineth in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of God.” This cannot be saying that it is morally impossible for a born again person to sin, for this would put the born again beyond the Son of God Himself, who certainly could have sinned. For we are told that He “was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin” (Heb. 4:15). If Jesus was not beyond temptation, He was certainly not beyond being able to sin. Yet He did not sin. Thank you, Jesus. Further to that, the Greek tenses in 1 Jn. 3:9 make clear that this is not stating that it is impossible for a born again person to commit a sin. The sense of the verbs is that sinning is not a continual practice, is not “hard wired” in them, as it was before they were born again. Here is 1 Jn. 3:9 in the English Standard Version: “No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God’s seed abides in him, and he cannot keep on sinning because he has been born of God.” And so the born again are by the grace of God put on the same footing as the Son of God. They are free of sin. Yet they may be tempted. And since they may be tempted, they may sin. But if they sin…

Take My Yoke Upon You

I’m writing this as to an unbeliever, asking that one a question, aware also that sometimes we believers can be very unbelieving. Like the children of Israel in the wilderness when the going got rough. “They believed not in God…” (Ps. 78:22).

Here’s my question. Are you willing to take the risk of completely unburdening yourself of your cares? Isn’t your response that this would be wonderful? Away with them all… but what’s the catch? Why do you call it a risk?

For two reasons. First, I know how important your troubles are to you, as mine are to me—for they are ours, aren’t they, and who wants to risk not looking after them ourselves, who else would give them the care and attention they need? So we continue to carry them ourselves, and they pile up, and we are like the beast of burden yoked under heavy burden.

Perhaps you are saying that this is not true of you; you would do anything to be liberated from your yoke of cares, but you’ve been taught by long experience you can’t expect that. If this is your case there is good news for you; there is yet one thing you haven’t done; there is a way—but this too involves a risk.

Which leads to my second reason, and this will mean rephrasing my question. Are you ready to take the risk of discovering another yoke—one in which you may be sure your burdens are truly cared for while you yourself live care free?

Ah, you say, that’s the catch—to be free of all my burdens I must take upon me another yoke. And yokes, well, yokes themselves are something I would as soon be completely rid of.

Oh? All of them? What about this one? Hearken to Jesus’ words:

Come unto me all ye that labour and are heaven laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me, for I am meek and lowly of heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light. (Mt. 11:28-30)

Let’s go through this slowly with a listening ear, a hearing heart.

“Come unto Me…”

We are invited to come to a Person, not a formula for how to live the carefree life. “Come unto Me.” This is where it begins for those who hear these words for the first time. But—this will help some of us for whom these words are no longer new—in the Greek, come is in the present imperative tense. The implication of that tense is, continue to come, come again and again, come as often as necessary, and—“take heed how ye hear”—discover His words to be continually new.

“Come unto me all ye that labour and are heavy laden…”

Young’s Literal Translation has, “Come unto me, all ye labouring and burdened ones…” Vincent’s Word Studies comments, “the first [labouring] an active, the second [burdened] a passive participle, exhibiting the active and passive sides of human misery.” So there is an unhappy synergy at work here—our own inner labourings of heart and mind trying to cope with the problems of life (in fact the word labour is the Greek kopiaO, from which our word cope came down to us); and synergizing (working together) with our inner labourings, the burdens from without, the multitude of cares that come upon you and me, which it seems we have no say in the matter; it comes with the territory of life in this world, and nobody is exempt, all we can do is try somehow to cope with it.

Again, let us listen. Here is Jesus, moved with our miseries, calling out to us:

“Come unto Me…. and I will give you rest.”

And what is rest? We will state it in negative terms for now—what it is not—and there are negative terms aplenty. No anxiety. No worry. No fear. No torment. No frazzled nerves. No stressed-out meltdowns. No turmoil of mind… The list is long. No unrest of heart. That’s a word we hear a lot in the news these days whenever there is social upheaval somewhere in the world. Unrest. Jesus says He has, and gives, rest in the midst of unrest. That one word give. No necessity to labour for or pay for it. It’s free. “I will give you rest.”

More on rest in a moment from the positive point of view. First we must join this statement with the one following it:

“I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you…”

There, as I said, is the catch. We must understand that the rest comes only in another yoke—that is, in our being yoked with Christ. “My yoke.” But Lord Jesus, yokes are made for toil, for work, aren’t they? Are You actually saying that You have for us a yoke that is so different that it actually produces rest instead of weariness, a yoke that in fact is in itself rest? Yes, this is what He is saying, and He simply says, “Take My yoke upon you…” He presents it to us, to you and to me, and will surely put it upon us; our part, the grace of God helping us, is to bow our neck and take it upon us. “Take My yoke upon you…”

I wonder how you see that yoke. Some picture it as a single yoke with Jesus outside it guiding. Others, of whom I am one, see it as a dual yoke with Jesus the “lead ox”  beside me.

“Take my yoke upon you, and learn of Me…”

That is, from Me, not just about Me. Learn from Me, and the word learn is from the same root as disciple. So the Teacher is inviting the burdened to become discipled to Himself. Come unto Me, He says, take My yoke upon you, become My committed disciple, and learn from Me…

“For I am meek and lowly of heart…”

The lowly Son of God walked ever in rest, doing only what He saw His Father doing, speaking only what He heard Him saying. He would not take upon Himself any other burden than this, leaving all else to His Father to look after. Not for Him—the proud disposition of the seekers of self-sovereignty, who instead of being submissive to God are dismissive of Him, asserting their un-dependence, arrogating to themselves what is God’s alone… inevitably discovering to their great unrest that the liberty they sought was actually a grievous yoke under which they are burdened with what God never meant man to bear. The God of love has not left them without a way of release. How good to know with great thankfulness that One who is meek and lowly of heart, who willingly took upon Him His Father’s yoke of rest, delighting to do His will, nothing more, nothing less, calls the labouring and burdened to join Him in that same yoke.

Let’s join phrases together again:

“Learn from Me, for I am meek and lowly of heart…”

“I am meek and lowly of heart, and ye shall find rest unto your souls.”

Satisfaction, contentment, peace, fulfillment… Rest. The rest is in His yoke, in being discipled to Him; learning from Him His own meekness and lowliness, we find rest unto our souls.

But—You are so kind and patient, Lord—is someone still worrying, still finding it hard to let go, still asking, What about all these burdens that mean so much to me, Lord? Am I just to abandon them?

But what if, He responds, your burdens become my burdens, and My burden becomes yours, the one and only burden you are to carry? In My yoke you cannot carry any other burden. Only My own. That one burden alone, My burden, is all you are responsible to carry—yet not alone, but carry with Me. As to your burdens, I will look after them, each of them, all of them, I will carry them as though they were My own. In fact they are My own, once you have become My disciple. The burdens of My disciple become My very own. I will not let a single one of them fall to the ground. And yoked together, My disciple and I will pray together concerning each one of them—in My Father’s will—and do together what He bids us do. Be sure that in this yoke we shall accomplish together far more than you ever dreamed of.

“And ye shall find rest unto your souls. For My yoke is easy and my burden is                    light.”

Again the rest is linked to the yoke. He promises rest—in a yoke—in complete submission to Him, the abandoned obedience of a yielded disciple willingly and fully surrendered to Him in His yoke—His yoke alone, while refusing any other. “My yoke,” He says, “My burden…” He is speaking of the yoke His Father had put upon Him, a yoke that is “easy,” in which he bears a burden that is “light.” I wonder at that: Jesus carried immense responsibility, and His burden—the glory of God—was surely heavier than any other. But no, He says, yoked with My Father the burden is light. Light because I am doing only what My Father lays upon Me to do—and actually it is My Father Himself that doeth the works. Now Jesus calls you and me to take upon us that same yoke in which the work is His, it is He Himself who is working—and we are simply doing His work with Him; yoked beside Him we are partners in His work.

We enjoy His rest. This does not mean inactivity or idleness any more than it meant for Him, but inward rest, rest unto the soul, refreshing rest, even though each one of us is very much involved in whatever the Lord Himself is doing. Now we too do simply and only what He is doing, and discover rest unto our souls in the doing of it. This, then, is a very different synergy, isn’t it—a synergy of rest.

“For My yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

“Rest unto your souls,” He says. Because His yoke is “easy,” that is, gentle, kindly, comfortable, congenial, serviceable, helpful, “like wings to a bird,” as one has described it. And “tailor made.” Someone else’s will not do, it’s not a “one size fits all” yoke. My rancher friend Ed Parke once told me of something he had read, an account of an old timer who made yokes like that. He would place the yoke on the animal and check the fit, and wherever necessary shave it down so it fit without abrasion; it would not cause raw sores by constant rubbing. In the words of old-time Bible commentator Matthew Henry, the yoke is “chrestos, not only easy, but gracious, so the word signifies; it is sweet and pleasant, there is nothing in it to gall the yielding neck, nothing to hurt us, but on the contrary, much to refresh us. It is lined with love.”

“Nothing in it to gall the yielding neck.” I love those words, I love them; evermore put Your yoke upon me, dear Lord, I come to you, and I bow and yield my neck.

And you? Ready to take the risk now for the first time?

Or like me, persistently take it again?

The Exegesis Of God–Part Two

Let’s recall from last time Solomon’s proclamation at the inauguration of the temple that God had instructed him to build for Him.

 The LORD hath said that He would dwell in the thick darkness.  But I have built an house of habitation for Thee, and a place for Thy dwelling forever (2 Chr. 6:1,2).

This is what Solomon’s temple was all about.  It was to be the place among men where the God who had formerly dwelt in thick darkness now shone forth.  Solomon’s temple was, however, only a shadow of the true temple not made with hands—the Son of God Himself.  And so last time we also quoted a verse from John.

 No man hath seen God at any time.  The only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He hath declared Him (Jn. 1:18).

The word declared is the Greek exegesato, and is related to our word exegesis, which is the biblical science of discovering and explaining what the Scriptures really say and mean.  Patient exegesis of the Bible will yield to the yielded much fruit.  But in John 1:18 we discover that the Son of God when He walked the earth was the exegesis of God Himself.  He was the One who explained, made known, revealed, shone forth, the hard-to-understand, unseen, obscure, unknown God.

That’s very wonderful, but I wonder if I don’t hear someone thinking, “Well and good that Jesus the Son of God was the exegesis of God the Father back then, but He is not here now.”

I know the regret you’re expressing: if only we could have lived back in Jesus’ day… or if only He were still here today.  Too bad the Devil succeeded in tearing down that living Temple in whom God dwelt and was revealed.

Just a minute.  Remember what Jesus said about that.

 Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up…
But He spake of the Temple of His body (Jn. 2:19,21).

And so the Devil has his own regrets that he and his cohorts conspired to have the Lord of glory crucified, thinking to be done with Him.  For He rose from the dead.  And He ascended into Heaven, where, seated at the right hand of God, He began His more excellent ministry of the New Covenant, and an enlargement of that Temple which would continue to be the same exegesis of God.

How so?  When Christ ascended to the right hand of God, He “received the promise of the Father” (Acts 2:33), on the day of Pentecost sending the Spirit to His waiting disciples, just as He, in turn, had earlier promised them.

 I will not leave you comfortless.  I will come to you (Jn. 14.18).

I will come to you?  This is a mystery.  The coming of the Spirit was such that the same One who was the exegesis of God at the right hand of the Father, while continuing to abide at the right hand of the Father in the Heavens, came to His disciples again, and took up residence in them.  For, those in whom the Spirit dwells, it is Christ Himself who dwells in them, as we read in many places in our New Testament.  (For example, Romans 8: 9,10, and many other places that speak of the indwelling Christ.)  And thus they become part of the same Temple Solomon prophesied of, the same habitation the Son of God fulfilled—the same living Exegesis that reveals God and makes Him known among men.

That is the astonishing implication of the sending of the Spirit.  Those in whom Christ dwells now become part of that same exegesis of God that the Son of God was.

This is what the New Covenant assembly is all about, or ought to be.  The church—which was formed by the coming of the Spirit to individual disciples—is to be the fullness of that same Exegesis of God who walked the earth two thousand years ago, and is now seated at the right hand of God.

 The church, which is His body, the fullness of Him that filleth all in all (Eph. 1:23).

The fullness of Him?  The church is His very body—the fullness of Him?  I am sure this is what Jesus had in mind when He “spake of the temple of His body” which He said He would raise up.  “The church, which is His body…”  The Devil thought to be rid of Him by the cross.  What he did, to his great chagrin, enabled God to lay in Zion the foundation Stone for an enlargement of that temple.  It began with the sending of the Spirit at Pentecost.  He comes for nothing less than to continue the same exegesis of God that the Son of God was when He was here.

That is the nature of Christ’s more excellent ministry of the New Covenant.  It is a ministration of the very knowledge of God, and thus, “all shall know Me from the least to the greatest” (Heb. 8:11) .  This is something more than knowledge as we generally think of the word.  It is New Covenant knowledge: the kind of knowledge—the knowledge of God—whom to know means our being like Him.

How imperative, then, that we in the church, as ministers of the New Covenant (which all Christians are to be) give the Prime Minister of the New Covenant—the Holy Spirit—His lordship and pre-eminence in our individual lives, and in our gatherings.  He comes for nothing less than to reveal, to make known, the same God of love and righteousness that dwelt in the Son… so that the same exegesis of God now dwells in and shines forth from the churches—you and me and our brothers and sisters in the churches.

This is what the New Covenant, and the New Covenant assembly, is all about—or is supposed to be—the exegesis of God to a world in darkness.  Anything short of this… we are sorely missing His mark.

And it has to be said that much of what is called church in our day has in fact done that.  Has fallen short.  Has missed the mark.  Let the broken and repentant heart be encouraged.  Christ is still on the Throne at the right hand of the Father, and the Holy Spirit sent from the Throne is still in the earth.  The temple He inaugurated at Pentecost is still here, though in the midst of much that man has built cannot always readily be seen.  In fact her enemies are gloating these days that they have succeeded in destroying her and treading her down in the dust.  The Lord on the throne has a surprise in store for His enemies.  The power and principle of His resurrection life is still at work.  He continues to raise up this Temple—the One that was torn down on Calvary’s cross—just as He prophesied He would do.  He will beautify her, set living stones in her just like Himself.  He will yet be fully revealed, will yet shine forth in this temple in all His glory in the Heavens and in the earth…

…And all the confusion and debate and doubt and misunderstanding as to who He is—all the thick darkness—will vanish like the morning mist in the light of the sun.

The Shemitah Holds My Future?

Apparently the hearts of many Christians are all astir again these days over Jonathan Cahn’s exciting new book, The Mystery of the Shemitah. The blurb on the book’s  cover calls it, “The 3,000-Year-Old Mystery That Holds the Secret of America’s Future, the World’s Future, and Your Future!”

Wow.  I better get a copy.  But fast; its sellers warn that it’s “flying off the shelves.”

Cahn’s previous book The Harbinger was a “runaway bestseller” on the New York Times Christian books list.  Looks like this one is on the way to joining it.

What is the shemitah? It’s the sabbath year as laid out in Leviticus.

When ye come into the land which I give you, then shall the land keep a sabbath unto the LORD.
Six years thou shalt sow thy field, and six years thou shalt prune thy vineyard, and gather the fruit thereof;
But in the seventh year shall be a sabbath of rest unto the land, a sabbath for the LORD: thou shalt neither sow thy field or prune thy vineyard (Lev. 25:2-4).

Failure to keep this and other things set forth in the Law would bring judgment (Lev. 26:34, 1 Chr. 36:21).

And so Cahn propounds that it is failure to observe the shemitah (pronounced shmeeta) that has caused cyclical devastation every seven years in the earth.  I have not read the book but saw it advertised on Charisma News along with an interview Sid Roth (It’s Supernatural) had with Jonathan Cahn.  So I watched the interview.  Cahn proclaimed to a very excited Roth that it is failure to keep the shemitahs that has brought down judgments upon the world in seven-year cycles going a long way back.  He listed several.  It included the world wars.  The Great Depression.  9/11 in 2001.  The last one was the financial crisis of 2008.  Apparently the next shemitah is from September 25, 2014 to September 13, 2015, which could bring down on us… who knows what.

There is only one little problem with this teaching.  It is entirely false.  It is derived from a covenant—the old covenant— that is no longer in effect.  Don’t take my word for it; get it straight from the writers of the New Testament:

 For on the one hand there is an annulling of the former commandment because of its weakness and unprofitableness (Heb. 7:18 NKJV).

In that He says, “A New Covenant,” He has made the first obsolete (Heb. 8:13 NKJV).

If we dare to believe our New Testament, then, the only covenant now extant with God is the New Covenant.  The covenant God made with the fathers (Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob) is not a covenant independent of Christ; it is fulfilled in Christ and His New covenant (Acts 13:32-34, Gal. 4:16).  And (according to the verses quoted above) the covenant God made with Israel under the shadow of Mount Sinai is obsolete.  It is null and void.  It is no longer in effect.  According to an online site on legal definitions I checked out, “a void contract imposes no legal rights or obligations upon the parties and is not enforceable by a court. It is, in effect, no contract at all.”  And so the Sinai covenant, the old covenant, because it is void, because it has been annulled, cannot be enforced.  That would be tantamount to trying to enforce a business partnership that has been legally disbanded, or a marriage contract that has been nullified, or trying on the basis of an old title deed to lay claim to land that has been sold to someone else.

God has brought in a BETTER covenant now (Heb. 7:22, 8:6)—better not only for Gentiles, but for Jews (with whom, actually, it was first made).  As a result, the old contract is no longer in effect.

But even if the Old Covenant were still in effect there is not the slightest suggestion anywhere in the Bible that the shemitah was in force for any nation other than Israel.  In fact the Old Covenant was a covenant God made with Israel alone.  How then could the shemitah be something that “holds the secret of America’s future, the world’s future, and your future?”

I find it very distressing, even frightening, that so many Christians are being duped by this kind of teaching.

Distressing… because it is evidence of how grievously lacking they are in their understanding of the basic difference between the Old Covenant and the New; there is such a blindness, it seems, as to the astonishing terms of the New Covenant.  And many believe God still holds out the Old Covenant for Jews that don’t believe in Jesus, and they can still come to Yahweh on the basis of that covenant. It is a teaching that does despite to the blood of Christ.

Frightening… because (and I know I am generalizing) this present generation of charismatic/evangelical Christians has strayed far, far from the truth– God’s controversy is with their teachers– and as a result they are abysmally ill prepared for the hour that is at hand. I tell you, there is trouble at the door.  Great trouble.   And it is going to result in the great and frightening collapse of a realm of Christianity that ought to have prepared its people for that hour, but did not.

Jesus My Forerunner

I have been dwelling much these days on the significance of Christ being at the right hand of God, and, as one who is seeking to come to God by Him,  I am increasingly aware that His being there is as good as my being there… while I am yet here.

For, as I mentioned last time, God has made Him my surety.  He who is both a king and a priest is my surety—yes, my surety—that God will bring me into the same relationship with Himself that my surety enjoys.   For, He who is my surety is also a forerunner.

That’s what we discover earlier in Hebrews in another passage where we are told that Jesus is before God on our behalf.  He is a forerunner who has entered into “that place within the veil” on our behalf.

Whither a forerunner is for us entered, even Jesus, made an high priest forever after the order of Melchizedek.

As with the surety passage, this too speaks of the great assurance we have—God’s promise and His oath.  Here he is talking about the promise God gave Abraham, confirming the promise with an oath.

Wherein God, willing (that is, desiring) more abundantly to shew unto the heirs of promise the immutability of His counsel confirmed it by an oath;
That by two immutable things in which it is impossible for God to lie, we might have strong  encouragement who have fled for refuge to lay hold of the hope that is set before us:
Which hope we have as an anchor of the soul both sure and steadfast, and which entereth into that within the veil:
Where a forerunner is for us entered, even Jesus, made an high priest forever after the order of Melchizedek (Heb. 6:17-20).

What love.  He has entered there “for us.”  And notice the dynamic here—“we… who have fled for refuge to lay hold of the hope that is set before us.”  On the one hand we are fleeing something—fleeing—running away from something with all our might. Running for our lives!  But not aimlessly; we are headed toward a specific destination, running to a refuge that is set before us, where we can lay hold of a hope that is set before us.

And so there is something behind us, and something set before us.  But our pace tells on us, whether or not we take this seriously.  Are we just ambling casually along, stopping here and there to enjoy “the good life” this world has to offer?  If so, it is apparent that we do not see the peril we are in.  We have not seen that this present evil world is not our friend.  Its god is intent on our destruction, and has laced all the things our carnal appetite loves to feed on with a sleeping potion that will keep us in the sleep of death.  Do we not see this?  It grieves me deeply that there are so many who do not see it… or, if they have seen, are determined to continue deceiving themselves so they can enjoy its pleasures for a few more seconds.

Some, who have awakened, and do see, have fled, as from a building on fire, have “fled for refuge…”  That is the strength of the original Greek word here; it is fleeing with a destination in mind.  Now we come to another strong word: “to lay hold of the hope that is set before us.” There is a hope set before us—the hope.  Have we laid hold of this hope?  It is an anchor of the soul that cannot drift, and cannot break, for it enters into that Place within the veil where a Forerunner has for us entered—even Jesus, whom God has made a high priest forever after the order of Melchizedek.  He is saying, actually, that it is the Forerunner within the veil to whom our hope is anchored, joined.  And He cannot be moved.

The Lord Jesus Christ our hope (1 Tim. 1:1).

I think we see this same forerunner a little later in Hebrews, where the writer exhorts us to run with endurance the race that is set before us “looking unto Jesus” (Heb. 12:1,2).  He is there!  He has arrived!  “Where a forerunner is for us entered…”  But the significance of a forerunner is that other runners are about to arrive.  So, those in the bleachers on that side of the veil… I see them craning their necks to look behind the Forerunner to see who else is coming in.  Who would that be?

Forerunner for us, it says.  Are we running, then?  His being there is on our behalf—so that we might have strong encouragement, not just to hope, but to lay hold of the hope set before us—even that same relationship of eternal life that our Forerunner enjoys with His Father.  “Fight the good fight of faith,” said Paul, “lay hold on eternal life” (1 Tim. 6:12).  It is the same eternal life that our Forerunner abides in—but abides in as a priest after the order of Melchizedek.  Meaning, He is there for our sake.  He is there (in the throne of God in the Heavens) in the power of an endless life, an indissoluble life, eternal life, His own eternal life, to the intent that you and I may live that same victorious eternal life—here on earth.  Christ has ascended to the Throne of God for this very reason—that in the power of His life we too might live.  “Because I live,” He says, “ye shall live also” (Jn. 14:19).

What wondrous words.  He lives—at the right hand of God, that we also, who are joined to Him by His Spirit, may live that same victorious eternal life right here on earth, might reign here on earth in the power of the throne of Heaven, reign in life, in the power of His own eternal life, in the midst of all we are going through…

…Right here in this present evil world.  Because, though we have fled this present evil world, though we are no longer part of it, though it is no longer our home, though we live in a realm above it all, we are not only kings, but priests.  We are still here for the sake of others around us, who, when their world collapses all around them, as it is going to, will be looking for a king and a priest.

 

Jesus My Surety

The book of Proverbs has several verses about surety, and they all have one thing in common.  They warn against suretyship.  Never, they say, never become surety for anyone else. Never.

What is surety?  It’s one of those old King James Version words which means making yourself responsible for someone else’s debt or venture.

Here is one passage from Proverbs:

 My son, if thou be surety for thy friend, if thou hast stricken thy hand with a stranger,
Thou art snared with the words of thy mouth, thou art taken with the words of thy mouth.
Do this now, my son, and deliver thyself, when thou art come into the hand of thy friend; go, humble thyself, and make sure (or, prevail with) thy friend.
Give not sleep to thine eyes, nor slumber to thine eyelids.
Deliver thyself as a roe from the hand of the hunter, and as a bird from the hand of the fowler (Pr. 6:1-5).

Another is:

 A man void of understanding striketh hands, and becometh surety in the presence of his friend (Pr. 17:18).

Another:

 Be not thou one of them that strike hands, or of them that are sureties for debts.
If thou hast nothing to pay, why should he take away thy bed from under thee? (Pr. 22:26,27).

Striking hands with the other person would be in modern finance the same as co-signing his loan.  Other translations of the passage in Ch. 6 have, “if you have made a pledge for your neighbour, and have become a guarantor for a stranger…” (NET); “if you have put up security for a neighbour,  given your pledge for a stranger…” (ESV).  Once you do this you are on the hook for what that person owes someone else.  You have committed yourself to your neighbour’s project, and if suddenly your neighbour is unable to follow through, or pay what he owes, it is you who are bound to complete the venture, or are in debt to some stranger.  In Bible days, even if you had to sell everything you own, or even yourself into slavery to keep the commitment, you were bound to do so.

And that is why the wise man said we should never get into any such commitment.  It could mean great loss to yourself, and there is no way out.  Once you have committed yourself to be surety for another, you are legally and morally bound to do so whatever the cost to yourself.

The thing is, after all of Solomon’s counsel advising us to never become surety for another… lo and behold, God Himself did this.

And that, I believe, is the very reason why we find all those passages in Proverbs warning us against suretyship.  It is so that we, who all too often are very unsure of God, will “get it.”  Suretyship is an unbreakable commitment?  Once you have made the commitment there is no way to back down, no way out of it?  God wants us to know that He was prepared to make this very commitment.  And did.

He entered into suretyship with us—that is, with those who look to Him for the fulfillment of the New Covenant in their lives.  God has made Jesus “the surety of a better covenant” (Heb. 7:22).  He did this by the oath wherewith He swore that Jesus was a priest after the order of Melchizedek.

 The LORD sware, and will not repent: thou art a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek: By so much [that is, God’s oath] was Jesus made the surety of a better covenant (Heb. 7:22, see Ps. 110:4).

Jesus enthroned as a king at the right hand of God, and made a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek, is God’s guarantee, God’s pledge, His oath—His surety—that He will make good the terms of His better covenant with you and me.  The only way He might fail in this is if something happens to our Surety, and Jesus is somehow deposed, or dies, and is no longer high priest.  Which cannot happen.  Christ our high priest is before God on our behalf “in the power of an indissoluble life” (Heb. 7:16).  So He cannot fail to fully mediate the New Covenant in the lives of those who believe Him for this.

And what are the terms of this covenant?  Simply put, when they are fully wrought in our lives, we in this world are just like our Surety who is before the throne in Heaven.  Yes, just like Him.  Having the same heart and mind.  The same righteousness. The same love.  The same relationship with the Father that He has.  A very tall order, no doubt.  But this is what we are sure of because He who was slain to redeem us is God’s surety before the very Throne of Heaven on our behalf.

 For thou was slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood… and hast made us unto our God kings and priests, and we shall reign on the earth (Rev. 5:10).

Meaning that,  just as our great high priest reigns in the Heavens, we are a kingdom of priests who reign in the earth.  We manifest His kingdom in the earth—a kingdom that is over all.  We are priests here in the earth ministering this heavenly kingdom to those around us in the grip of the kingdom of sin and death.  For, since our Surety is dead to sin, and alive to God, we too are dead to sin and alive to God– with the same eternal life our Surety reigns in the power of.  It is life that reigns in all situations (Rom. 5:17).  You say you’ve been trying to do that but find the battle overwhelming?  I know all about it.  Let us not be discouraged; let us continue to fight the good fight of faith; victory is as certain as the Surety of the Covenant before the Throne.   He ever lives above to make intercession for us, and we who are in the earth, we too make intercession for the saints who are in this hard-fought battle.  It is the authoritative intercession of priests who are kings; it is effectual intercession because of the power of His indissoluble life.

Beloved, with all the uncertainty of our day, with evil unleashed (or so it seems) and even talk of being on the brink of World War III, one thing is certain.  God has given us a Surety.  That Surety is before His Throne.  His purposes in your life and mine, and in this troubled world of ours, are as certain as that Surety.  Just as certain.

And that is the only answer for this troubled world of ours.

Hear… And Live

I believe the secret of eternal life is hidden right here—“My sheep hear My Voice, and I know them, and they follow Me, and I give unto them eternal life…” (John 10:27,28).

I remember an experience I had years ago while we were visiting my mother-in-law in Calgary.  This goes back about thirty-five years, to 1980 or thereabouts.

We were visiting her in the house, and after a while I decided to go for a short walk down the street along the city sidewalk.  I walked down the block, and as I walked along, the thought came into my heart—and it was so clear, and the Presence of the Lord was in the thought—that death was not inevitable… if I could simply hear God saying, “Live.”

For, I asked myself, “What has more authority?  The commandment of the living God?  Or death?

I remember how exhilarating the thought was.  As I walked along, I was certain that if I could but hear His commandment, His Voice saying, “Live,” I need never die.  All I needed was to hear with the hearing of faith.  And then life, not death, is inevitable.

Very naive of me?  Young in the faith, and in need of teachers who could sit me down and wise me up?

But Jesus told Martha the very same thing, first saying that those who believe in Him, though they were dead, they would live (which most Christians believe to be true), but then continuing with, “whosoever liveth and believeth in Me shall never die” (Jn. 11:26).  To this last statement He appended a question.  “Believest thou this?”

That’s a hard one to believe.  Yet Paul talks of a day when “those who are alive and remain to the coming of the Lord shall be caught up together with them [with the dead who have been raised] in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air; and so shall we ever be with the Lord” (1 Thes. 4:17).

So my thought on that city sidewalk was entirely scriptural.

However, there was a lot more to it than I realized that day; it was far from a lesson in theology that the Lord was speaking into my heart.

He was showing me—and I didn’t discover this for some time—that there is a domain of hearing His word that rules over and overrules the whole domain of sin and death in which the family of Adam is bound—so that, in hearing His Voice, I need not be subject to the law of sin and death, but am empowered to walk in Life, eternal Life.  “My sheep hear My Voice… and I give unto them eternal life.”

Death is far more than an event that terminates our mortal lives; it is the whole domain under which all those in Adam spend their lives from the moment they are born to the day they go to the grave.  The Good News is that there is realm of life in Christ over which death has no dominion.

And, there is a faith, a hearing of faith—not just in the moment I first heard His Voice and was born again, but a continual hearing—that enjoins me to that life, in fact joins me to Him who was once dead, and is now reigning in eternal life.

My sheep hear My Voice, and I know them, and they follow Me, and I give unto them eternal life…

There are things in the domain of Hell—the realm of the dead, the domain of sin and death—that are very tenacious.  The grip of sin, guilt, in the soul…  addictions of the body and the mind, thought patterns, the habit of ingrained thought patterns… all the domain of the carnal mind.  Which Paul says is itself death.  “For the mind of the flesh is death…” (Rom. 8:6).

Yes… but to hear His Voice calling out to us!

Bound down with twice ten thousand ties,
Yet let me hear Thy call;
My soul in confidence shall rise,
Shall rise and break through all.

And so God cries in Isaiah the prophet:

Incline your ear, and come unto Me: hear, and your soul shall live…” (Isa. 55:3).

That is just what God is dropping into my heart these days.

Anticipate hearing His Voice afresh.

…Hear, and your soul shall live; and I will make an everlasting covenant with you, even the sure mercies of David (Isa. 55:3).

What are the sure mercies of David?  According to the apostle Paul, it is resurrection life.

And as concerning that He raised Him up from the dead, now no more to return to corruption, He said on this wise, ‘I will give you the sure mercies of David’” (Acts 13:34).

This is an astonishing verse.  Remember that in the King James Version, ye and you are always plural pronouns.  So apparently God, in raising up His Son from the dead, fulfilled the ancient prophecy that says, “I will give you the sure mercies of David.”  Who are these—you—who receive the sure mercies of David, that is, resurrection life, because of the raising of the Son of God from the dead?

It is those who hear His Voice, and respond, and as a result are brought into New Covenant relationship with Him!

Let’s begin at Isaiah 55:1.

Ho!  Everyone that thirsteth, come ye to the waters, and he that hath no money, come ye, buy and eat; yea, come, buy wine and milk without money and without price.
Wherefore do ye spend money for that which is not bread?  And your labour for that which satisfieth not?  Hearken diligently unto Me, and eat ye that which is good, and let your soul delight itself in fatness.
Incline your ear, and come unto Me: hear and your soul shall live; and I will make an everlasting covenant with you, even the sure mercies of David.

And so, in raising up His Son from the dead, God makes an everlasting covenant of life with the thirsty, the hungry, the poor, the weary…. who hear His Voice and simply come to Him.

Perhaps we say, “I don’t know how good my hearing is.”

But are we hungry?  Thirsty?  Spiritually impoverished?  Weary—tired of labouring to advance ourselves spiritually?  Then let us notice the steps.

1)     “Incline your ear…”  This is where we begin.  If we are unsure how good our hearing is, let us begin by at least inclining our ear to Him, training our ear in His direction, and not toward the world with its many voices constantly clamouring for our attention.  To put it another way, let us cultivate an ear to hear like we would a plant, watering it, and keeping the weeds out.

2)    “Come unto Me…”  It is a loving invitation.  “Come unto Me.”  He says to the hungry, “Come,” to the thirsty, “Come,” to the weary, “Come.”  Do we hear Him calling us?  “Him that cometh to Me I will in no wise cast out” (Jn. 6:37).

3)    “Hear, and your soul shall live,” He calls.  It is a quickening word, it creates the very hearing it calls for, imparts the very life it promises.

Years ago I had an old friend who lived in a seniors’ facility.  She was deaf, and those who visited her had to communicate by writing on a little notepad she kept.  I say she was deaf, but let me tell you, she was not deaf.  One day she gave me a bookmark on the back of which in her very shaky handwriting she had written a few lines from Psalm 143 beginning, “Cause me to hear Thy lovingkindness in the morning…”

I treasure that bookmark, which I keep in my Bible; what she wrote on its back has been my prayer for years.  Cause me to hear Thy lovingkindness in the morning—that is, Lord, Your Voice!  Which, as He speaks with quickening power, the sure mercies of David become mine– the faithful mercies, His covenant-love, His lovingkindness.  (It’s the same word in Hebrew, chesed.)

And this is my prayer in this hour, which many are beginning to recognize is a very early hour of a brand new day.  Let those of us who are watching for the morning be praying:

“Dear Lord, for our part, we are inclining our ear to You, recognizing how deeply we need to hear Your Voice in this hour when the morning is about to break on a world in gross darkness.  For your part, please cause us to hear Your Voice, cause us to hear Your lovingkindness in the morning!  For in Thee do we trust, for You are our beloved Shepherd David, and we are the beloved sheep of your pasture.  Cause us to hear Your Voice, our Shepherd!  We believe that in Your Voice is the grace to do things otherwise impossible for us to do.  Cause us to hear Your Voice!  We trust You; hearing your Voice we will follow You as You lead us in the realms of eternal life.”

We Are There Unto This Day

Christian teachers for centuries have seen in the old testament story of Israel crossing Jordan a shadow of the true baptism—baptism into Christ, which Paul sets forth in Romans Chapter Six.  It is a teaching that is fundamental to the Christian walk, yet all too often it is unfamiliar territory to believers.  It is left to the theologians to ponder while we do our best to get on with a practical life.

But we will get nowhere in life without what Christ accomplished in the Cross of Calvary becoming not just doctrine, but the reality we walk in.  And this is what Romans Six is all about.

Therefore we are buried with Him by baptism into death, that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life (Rom. 6.4).

Baptism into Christ makes real in us what is real in Him.  What is real in Him?  First, that He died unto sin.

For in that He died, He died unto sin once (once for all) but in that He liveth, He liveth unto God (Rom. 6.10).

Christ died unto sin.  But Paul continues:

Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin and alive unto God through (Gk. en, meaning in) Jesus Christ our Lord (Rom. 6.11).

Astonishing words!  You and I, dead unto sin just as Christ is dead unto sin?  Paul says we are to reckon it so.  To reckon means to account.  I think it was Watchman Nee who gave the illustration of a man who has a certain amount of money in his bank account.  He makes a transaction on the basis of this; he buys something, reckoning (accounting) on what he has in the bank.  He could not reckon this if he did not know it to be true.  This is why Paul talks about “knowing this, that our old man is crucified with Him…” (Rom. 6.6).  We can only reckon on the basis of what we know is true.  It is true, it is a fact, that Christ died unto sin, and that our old man died with Him.  Knowing this we who are baptized into Christ can reckon ourselves to be just as dead unto sin as Christ is dead unto sin.  It is as true in us as it is in Him.  If it is true in Him, it is true also of those who are in Him.

And so going back to the story in Joshua, when Israel crossed through Jordan on dry ground, the Lord commanded that twelve stones from the midst of Jordan were to be set up as a memorial on the Canaan side of the river.  The twelve stones represented the twelve tribes of Israel, that is, the whole congregation, each and every one of them.  And twelve stones were set up in the midst of Jordan as well.

And they are there unto this day (Josh. 4.9).

“Dad,” says a young Israelite, as they walk along the bank of the Jordan, “what are these stones here for?”

“These stones,” Dad says, “are to remind us that the Lord brought us all through the Jordan on dry ground.  Right over there is where it happened,” says Dad, pointing.  “And do you know what else, son?  There are also twelve stones under the water over there, which the Lord commanded were to be set up in the midst of Jordan.  They are there to this day.”

So it is with us, beloved, when we were baptized into Christ.  We were baptized into His death—which is death indeed unto sin.  And we are there unto this day.

Let this truth—this fact—enlighten us with new-covenant light.  In Christ we are not dead unto sin one day and alive unto sin the next.  In Christ we are not still alive unto sin.  On the very day that we were baptized into Christ we were baptized into His death.  We were buried with Him in the Jordan waters of baptism.  And we are there unto this day.  We are dead unto sin.  We are no longer alive unto sin.  We are no longer sinners.  Sin has dominion over us no longer.  We are as dead unto sin as Christ.

In Christ we are dead unto sin.  We are buried with Him in baptism…

…And—if this is not wonder enough—also risen with Him (Eph. 2.6, Col. 3.1).

And therefore we are also seated together with Him in the heavenlies—the Canaan side of the Jordan.  We are in our inheritance now as He is in His inheritance!  We need no longer look behind us fearing some specter of sin might come up out of Jordan to haunt us.  This very day we are to “seek those things which are above,” that is, the things of our heavenly inheritance in the Spirit. This is God’s new-covenant commandment unto which we have been liberated.  With Joshua—Jesus—as our guide, this very day we can explore our eternal inheritance in the heavenlies a bit more.  We are to fix our minds on this, we are to have a one-track mind, and not be perpetually focusing on our sins that are buried (with ourselves as well) back there in the Jordan waters.  We are to “walk in newness of life” through the land of our inheritance a bit further—the length and the breadth of it, the depth and the height of it, overcoming every enemy that would stand against us along the way.

This is His order—His new creation order—for us today… if we will hear His Voice!

Light That Changes Us

We have been talking about walking in the light of our Lord and Saviour’s countenance.  It is light that changes us, as Paul shows when he compares the glory of the old covenant with that of the new.

Moses when he came down from the mountain after communing with God did not know that the skin of his face shone while he talked with Him (Ex. 34.29).  When the people saw him they shielded their eyes, could not look steadily into his face, could no more look on his face than look at the sun.

But then the glory on Moses’ face began to fade. So he covered his face.  He could not let the people see the fading glory—and he refused to minister without that glory.  So he went into the tent he had set up, and took the veil off while he communed further with the Lord.  Then, recharged as it were, he would come out and talk with the people again, till the glory began to fade again.

What Moses did was prophetic of the whole dispensation of the old covenant—and also of the blindness of the hearts of the people under that covenant.  Paul called the old covenant a “ministration of death” that would one day come to its end; its glory would come to an end.  But tragically, most of those who were bound under that covenant refused to acknowledge that it was over; there was a veil upon their hearts that prevented them from seeing that the Sinai covenant was history.

For, God had brought in a new covenant—one whose glory was never going to fade.  Those who drew nigh to God by this covenant would, with unveiled face, behold the glory of the Lord in the face of Jesus Christ, and be transformed “into the same image from glory to glory.”

“To this day,” grieved Paul, that same veil remained on their hearts in the reading of the old testament.  We may well say in our day it is still there—even in the reading of the new testament.  For “the letter” of the Scriptures has no power to change; it is “the Spirit that gives life” (2 Cor. 3.6).

And so Paul adds this:

Nevertheless, when it shall turn to the Lord, the veil shall be taken away (2 Cor. 3.16).

He has in mind Moses returning to commune with the Lord, and taking away the veil while he talked with Him.

Let us not miss what Paul says next.  With apostolic authority and Holy Spirit inspiration, he brings this old testament picture right up into the new covenant.  “Now the Lord,” he says, referring to this passage about Moses returning to commune with the Lord, “is the Spirit…”

It is in unveiling our hearts to the Spirit of the Lord that we discover the shining face of the Lord Himself.

And in this light what do we discover?

“…And where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.”

What does he mean—liberty?  This.  The covenant of the law was a covenant that “gendereth to bondage” (Gal. 4.24).  The Sinai covenant brought forth children of bondage.  It was “a yoke of bondage” (Gal. 5.1).  Rather than liberating from sin, it actually intensified sin in the heart of man, and brought them deeper into captivity to the law of sin and death (Rom. 7.23).  But the new covenant—the perfect law of liberty—minsters grace to the hearers and sets them free from the law of sin and death, empowering them with the quickening power of Life to do the will of God.  As Paul says in another place—and I wonder sometimes if this is not the most wondrous verse in the Bible:

The law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath set me free from the law of sin and death.

The new covenant walk is a walk in the Spirit, a walk in the light of His countenance.  A walk in liberty.  A transforming walk.

…Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.
But we all with open (unveiled) face beholding as in a glass (mirroring) the glory of the  Lord are changed into the same image from glory to glory even as by the Spirit of the Lord (that is, the Lord the Spirit).

This is what the light of His countenance does as we walk in it.  It is new covenant light that changes us into the same image we see in the mirror.  It is true light, making true in us what is true in Him (1 Jn. 2.8).

Let us keep looking into this mirror!

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