Category Archives: The New Covenant

The Easy Yoke

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

Some time ago I wrote about this, relating it to the cares and burdens of life. Jesus’ words certainly apply to that. But I’ve been looking at this further because of a question on my heart. Just what is the easy yoke that Jesus says is His? Let’s see if we can find out.

First, let’s find out what the unbearable yoke actually was. “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden…” Bible expositor G. Campbell Morgan draws our attention, as always, to the context of Jesus’ words. He was addressing the cities where He had taught and preached. Matthew names three in particular “where most of His mighty works were done”—Chorazin, Bethsaida, and Capernaum. He is pronouncing woes upon those cities. “Woe unto thee, Chorazin! woe unto thee, Bethsaida!… And thou, Capernaum, which art exalted unto heaven, shalt be brought down to hell” (Mt 11:21-23). Why? Because He had taught in the synagogues in these cities—as was His practice wherever He went Mk 1:21, see also Lk 4:31, Jn 6:59—and for the most part His teaching and preaching was not received. He had come to proclaim a king and a kingdom, and was rejected. What was left for them but woe upon woe?

Yet it’s quite something, quite the revelation of His heart, that He had no sooner pronounced these woes than He broke out in prayer, overcome with thankfulness that His Father, Lord of heaven and earth, is the kind of God who “hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes. Even so, Father: for so it seemed good in thy sight. All things are delivered unto me of my Father: and no man knoweth the Son, but the Father; neither knoweth any man the Father, save the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son will reveal him” (Mt 11:25-27). What joy surges into the heart—that God is that kind of God, a God who hides Himself from the wise and the prudent, the high and the lofty, and reveals Himself to the lowly, to “babes.” Babes—not babies but infants (as the Greek makes clear) little ones whose lowliness has opened their eyes. Of such is the kingdom of God.

It’s right then that Jesus gives out His invitation. “Come unto Me, all ye…” Yes, not only those who were little in their own eyes, but those also who were so “wise in their own eyes and prudent in their own sight” that they had rejected Him. Whether they had received Him or rejected Him, they were those to whom He had been sent—“the lost sheep of the house of Israel” (Mt 15:24). He had taught in their synagogues and done mighty works in their streets. His great heart of love was burdened for them. “Come unto Me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden…” They were a people under the law of Moses. It has been calculated that the law of Moses contains something like 613 commandments. The very thought is wearying; some years later we find Peter himself calling the Sinai law “a yoke… that neither our fathers nor we were able to bear” (Acts 15:10). He wasn’t being critical of the law God had given; he was simply acknowledging what they all knew by experience—the Sinai law was beyond their ability to bear.

Yet the Pharisees of Jesus’ day strictly policed the people to make sure they observed each and every one of these (going easy on themselves in the process) adding to them countless others of their own making, one of them being that people were forbidden to come to the synagogue for healing on the sabbath day (Lk 13:14). Jesus loved nothing better than to loose people from their burdens on the sabbath, and He had blistering words for the Pharisees because “they bind heavy burdens and grievous to be borne, and lay them on men’s shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers” (Mt 23:4). The apostle Paul, himself once a strict Pharisee, later called the Sinai law “a yoke of bondage,” urging the Galatian churches not to be entangled in it again, but rather to stand fast in the liberty wherewith Christ had set them free (Gal 5:1).

What then is the easy yoke?

If Paul called the old covenant a yoke of bondage, and if Peter called it a yoke that Israel was not able to bear, then the easy yoke Jesus is speaking of must be the new covenant. But I wonder how many of us, though we are Christians supposedly under the new covenant, find there’s not much difference; we are still labouring and heavy laden, trying as best we can to keep the laws of the new covenant, yet always falling short, or feeling that maintaining our relationship with the mediator Himself is a labourious chore. If that is the case it means we haven’t yet come to know the liberating law of the new covenant.

So we must make a discovery. Here’s a passage of Scripture that I think will help us do that. It’s in Romans Chapter 7. I want to quote from Young’s Literal translation, which gives the tenses more clearly:

Are ye ignorant, brethren–for to those knowing law I speak–that the law hath lordship over the man as long as he liveth?
for the married woman to the living husband hath been bound by law, and if the husband may die, she hath been free from the law of the husband;
so, then, the husband being alive, an adulteress she shall be called if she may become another man’s; and if the husband may die, she is free from the law, so as not to be an adulteress, having become another man’s.

So here is someone in a relationship from which there is absolutely no release—apart from the death of husband.

Now I must reluctantly state something here—please don’t use this passage to enforce your doctrine that a woman can be released from her marriage only by the death of her husband (or vice versa) and that therefore there are no grounds for divorce under any circumstances. You make yourself a modern-day Pharisee with this teaching, and it is entirely unscriptural in the first place, and has done damage in I don’t know how many lives. I won’t pursue this further here, and in any case, if that is all you get out of this passage, you have entirely missed the point. That is not Paul’s focus here; he is leading up to a wondrous revelation:

So that, my brethren, ye also were made dead to the law through the body of the Christ, for your becoming another’s, who out of the dead was raised up, that we might bear fruit to God;
for when we were in the flesh, the passions of the sins, that are through the law, were working in our members, to bear fruit to the death;
and now we have ceased from the law, that being dead in which we were held, so that we may serve in newness of spirit, and not in oldness of letter. (Rom 7:1- 6)

What a wonder—dead not only to sin, which Paul has shown in the previous chapter,  but dead to law as well.

Which law?

Is this still a bit complex? It could be because there are three laws in operation here. Let’s see if we can distinguish them, bearing in mind that here in Romans 7 Paul is still enlarging on what he introduced in Romans 5:11—the contrast between the two men, Adam the old man, and Christ the new man.

2. The law of sin. (Yes, I know, I’ve put the second one first, don’t give up on me.) In verses 1 and 2, “the law of the husband” is the grievous law by which all those in Adam are as it were “married” to the “husband”—the old man. Paul refers to this law as he comes to the conclusion of Romans 7; it is “the law of sin which is in my members” (7:23). He cries out in the deepest anguish of heart for release from it. But (sorry for the grim news) it is a law from which there is no release but by death (Rom 7:1,2). Remember, of course—this is very important—that Paul is speaking in Romans 7:23 not of his present experience, but of the state he was in before being in Christ. He is using a well-known literary device called the “historical present tense,” in which one speaks of the past as though present.

1. Now the first one. The principle of law. Romans 7 opens with, “Know ye not, brethren, for I speak to them that know (the) law…” I’ve placed the article in parentheses because it’s not there in the Greek. Paul is speaking to “brethren,” born again believers like himself who have the same Father, some of whom were Jews but the majority of whom were Roman Gentiles. They too “know law,” are familiar with law, just as he a Jew knew law, for the Jews had the law of Moses; the Romans to this day are renowned for their system of law. So Paul knows that the believers in Rome will all understand that the law “has dominion over a man as long as he lives.” He proceeds with his illustration of a married woman being bound to her husband as long as he lives—but only as long as he lives. There is no escape from it as long as the husband lives. In fact, instead of delivering “the woman” from the law binding her to the man, the law actually strengthens that captivity and makes it even more severe. What law is this? It is the law of God, but only the letter of law. In his own personal conflict with the law of sin Paul said he had delighted in “the law of God after the inward man” (7:22) but found that all it did was bring him into captivity to the law of sin in his members. That’s what the letter of law does, whether the law of Moses or Roman law or that to which the consciences of all men and women in varying degree bear witness (Rom. 2:15). It has the effect, not of making them righteous, but of awakening the law of sin in them and thus making sin “exceeding sinful” (Rom. 7:13). That’s what the principle of law does; it gives sin “muscle,” as Paul wrote to the church of Corinth. “The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law” (1 Cor. 15.56). This is the yoke under which the Jews laboured and were heavy laden, the law that Peter referred to as a yoke Israel could not bear and Paul called a yoke of bondage. This yoke is broken only by death; all human beings are “under law” as long as they live.

3. That is, all except those who are in the easy yoke of Christ—that is, are “under grace.” “For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under (the) law, but under grace” (Rom. 6:14). This is the law of the Spirit which in the new husband enables those married to Him to “bring forth fruit unto God” (Rom. 7:4). This is the great delivering and liberating law of Romans Chapter 8, “the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus.” The critically important thing is that the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus does not and cannot rule in those who are still in Adam, the old man. A death must take place first.

Release by death, but whose death?  

This is vitally critically immensely indispensably indisputably important. I’ve piled on the adjectives so you won’t miss how absolutely utterly important this is. The only way of release from the law of sin, as well as from the outward principle of law—which actually aggravates sin without imparting righteousness—is by a death. But whose death? Your death, my death, cannot effect this. Whose death then? The death of Christ, Paul says. “…Ye also were made dead to the law through the body of Christ…” Paul has in mind the death of Christ that becomes the death of those who are in the body of Christ.

It was after I’d read the Romans 7 passage many times over the course of many days that one word suddenly stood up off the page of my Bible. Christ. Do you know, dear brothers and sisters, that this is the key word in this whole passage? Christ. It would do us all well to have this word re-quickened to us, for it is almost considered nothing much more than Jesus’ last name. No, Jesus is the Christ—the Anointed One, the Spirit-empowered and Spirit-empowering One! Only He, the Anointed One, could accomplish the death that releases from the former “husband”—the old man. And only He the Anointed One could consequently liberate those bound by law to the old man so that they could become joined, as it were, married, “to Him who was raised from the dead.” Only with the former “husband” deceased are they delivered from bondage to him; only thus may they be joined to Another who is raised from the dead, and find themselves under another rule, another law, another yoke—another covenant.

And so Paul shows that it is only in the body of Christ the Anointed One that this release from the old man and joining to the new man takes place. Only in the body of Christ is the old man put to death and the first yoke broken; only in Him is the new yoke bound in place; only in the body of Christ are we joined to “Him that was raised from the dead, that we might bear fruit unto God.”

So how does one get into the body of Christ?

How then does one get into the body of Christ where this wondrous transition takes place? Simply by baptism. Paul shows in another epistle that it was “in the cloud and in the sea” that the old covenant people were baptized unto (or, into) Moses (1 Cor. 10:2). In accordance with this pattern the new covenant people of God are “baptized into Christ.” There are several references to this in the New Testament (Gal. 3:27, Rom. 6:3, Col. 2:12, 1 Cor. 12:13). None of these, in my view, speaks of water baptism; water has no power to effect this union. (This is why John the Baptist said that One coming after Him was mightier than he, for He would baptize in Holy Spirit.) Let me show how I come to my view:

For by [or, in] one Spirit we were all baptized into one body… (1 Cor. 12:13).

This verse is usually considered only with a view to the functioning of the members of the body of Christ with diverse spiritual gifts manifested by the Spirit. But we must never lose sight of the truth that these Spirit-given functionings in the body of Christ are taking place in a body that has been raised from the dead. And before a body can be raised from the dead a death must take place. Baptism always involves a death. “Know ye not,” says Paul, “that so many of us as were baptized into Christ were baptized into His death? (Rom. 6:3). It’s my conviction based on 1 Corinthians 12:13 that Paul has the Spirit baptism in mind here in Romans 6:3 and the other places where he speaks of baptism into Christ. Baptism into Christ and baptism into the body of Christ are not two separate things.

This is why Paul says in the Romans 7 passage that “ye also were made dead to the law through the body of the Christ…” It is the death of Christ he has in mind; therefore those in the body of Christ (by Spirit baptism into that body) benefit from that death and are themselves made dead to the law, and in that same body also become “another’s, who out of the dead was raised up, that we might bear fruit to God.” It is both Christ’s death and His resurrection that is the lot of those baptized into His body. They are “dead to the law by the body of Christ,” and in that same body of Christ become one with “Him who was raised from the dead,” and therefore are now able to bring forth fruit, no longer unto death (Rom. 6:21, 7:5) but unto God. For they are now serving—the word means to serve as a slave—not in oldness of letter, but in newness of Spirit. What a wonder of the grace of God.

The new covenant yoke

Those words—newness of Spirit. Is not this a marvel? I’m transfixed with those words. We can understand readily enough Paul calling it slavish to try to serve in oldness of letter—that is what labouring and being heavy laden under the old yoke is all about, and it brings forth “fruit unto death.” But to serve as a slave in newness of Spirit? What is this, what yoke is this? This, beloved, is the new covenant! The easy yoke. The yoke of liberty! What joy! What rest unto the soul! This is what Paul means in Romans 6 by being no longer under law but “under grace.” This is a yoke in which there is an empowering—empowering grace, the empowering of the Spirit of Christ the Anointed One. “I can do all things,” says Paul, “through the Anointed One who empowers me” (Phil. 4:13). And apart from Him, apart from the Anointed One, nothing can be accomplished. Nothing.

Christ. It’s all about Him—and those yoked with Him, those who by baptism in Holy Spirit are one with Him who is raised from the dead, those who are serving God together with Him in newness of Spirit—that is to say, in new covenant relationship with Him—thus finding rest unto their souls while bringing forth fruit unto God. For, the new covenant is not just a higher order of moral precepts. The new covenant is a relationship with a Person, the Anointed One Himself, whose yoke is easy and whose burden is light.

The Everlasting Light

I don’t expect to be saying much myself in this message, just quoting from others, and from quite a bit of Scripture. I wanted to start out by inviting you to sing along with me a little children’s song we used to sing, but I couldn’t find it anywhere on the Internet. Here are the lyrics, maybe you know the song:

The Lord shall be unto me an everlasting light,
The Lord shall be unto me an everlasting light,
If I follow Jesus, If I follow Jesus,
The Lord shall be unto me an everlasting light.

Don’t mind my becoming a bit teary-eyed as I sing, it’s a beautiful song of a powerful truth.

Jesus said, “I am the light of the world; he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness but have the light of life” (Jn. 8:12). He didn’t say there would be no darkness, but that the one following Him would not walk in that darkness, but rather in the light of life. The light of life is an everlasting light. It doesn’t shine for a while and then go out; this light never goes out, and the darkness, try as it may, cannot put it out; it is everlasting, it shines continually and forever. We are invited to walk in this light. There is empowering grace in the invitation when received by faith.

The song comes from Isaiah, who is addressing the city of God—Zion and her children:

The sun shall be no more thy light by day; neither for brightness shall the moon give light unto thee: but the LORD shall be unto thee an everlasting light, and thy God thy glory.
Thy sun shall no more go down; neither shall thy moon withdraw itself: for the LORD shall be thine everlasting light, and the days of thy mourning shall be ended. (Isaiah 60:19,20)

With this passage in mind let’s read something Andrew Murray once wrote:

I was once preaching and a lady came to talk with me. She was a very pious woman, and I asked her, “How are you getting on?”
Her answer was, “Oh, just the way it is, sometimes light and sometimes dark.”
“My dear sister, where is that in the Bible?”
She said, “We have day and night in nature, and just so it is in our souls.”
No, no! In the Bible we read, “Your sun shall no more go down.”
Let me believe that I am God’s child, and that the Father in Christ, through the Holy Ghost, has set His love upon me, and that I may abide in His presence, not frequently, but unceasingly. [i]

Not frequently, but unceasingly? Asa Mahan, whose testimony is in Forty Witnesses[ii], wrote the following:

Soon after I became conscious of a personal union with Christ, “I in him and He in me,” I inquired of the Lord whether such blissful union could be an abiding one. In specific answer to such inquiry this promise was, all-impressively, presented to my faith, and has ever since abode in my heart as the light of my life; namely, “The sun shall be no more thy light by day; neither for brightness shall the moon give light unto thee; but the Lord shall be unto thee an everlasting light, and thy God thy glory. Thy sun shall no more go down, neither shall thy moon withdraw itself; for the Lord shall be thine everlasting light, and the days of thy mourning shall be ended.” (Isa. 60:19,20).

Why mournest thou, then, for the darkness, follower of Jesus the everlasting light? Let’s keep our eyes fixed on the everlasting light of life.

William Penn in his preface to the Journal of George Fox wrote of the light of the gospel-day that early Friends walked in. Fox’s journal is liberally sprinkled with references to this, “the everlasting day,” as he called it.

When the people were settled I stood up on a seat, and the Lord opened my mouth to declare His everlasting Truth and His everlasting day. (The Journal of George Fox)

Therefore all Friends, mind the oneness, and that which keeps you in the oneness and unity, it is that which keeps you out of the world; and this one light leads you out of darkness into the everlasting day, where ye see the church of God. (Epistles of George Fox, Number 46)

Labor to exercise a good conscience towards God, in obedience to him in what he requires, and in doing to all men the thing that is just and honest; in your conversations and words giving no offence to Jew or Gentile, nor to the church of God. So you may be as a city set on God’s Zion hill, which cannot be hid; and may be lights to the dark world, that they may see your good fruits, and glorify your Father which is in heaven. For he is glorified in your bringing forth good fruits, as you abide in Christ, the vine, in this his day of life, power, and light, that shines over all. Therefore all that believe in the light, walk in the light, as children of the light and of Christ’s everlasting day; that in the light you may have fellowship with the Father and the Son, and one with another; keeping in the unity of his holy spirit, in the bond of his holy peace, in his church, that he is head of. My desire is, that God’s wisdom everywhere may be justified of her children, and that it may be showed forth in meekness, and in the fear of the Lord in this his day, Amen. (Journal, 1687)

Whilst I was under this spiritual travail and suffering, the state of the city New Jerusalem, which comes down out of Heaven, was opened to me; which some carnal-minded people had looked upon to be like an outward city, that had dropped out of the elements.  But I saw the beauty and glory of it, the length the breadth, and the height thereof, all in complete proportion.  I saw that all, who are within the light of Christ, in His faith, which He is the author of, in the truth, and power of God, which are the walls of the city, such are within the city, are members of this city, and have right to eat of the tree of life, which yields her fruit every month, and whose leaves are for the healing of the nations….  This holy city is within the light; and all that are within the light are within the city; the gates whereof stand open all the day (for there is no night there), that all may come in…. The Christians in primitive times were called by Christ ‘a city set upon a hill’; they were also called ‘the light of the world…’ (Journal)

The fruit of the light

This everlasting light brings forth children, and brings forth fruit.

Ye are all the children of light, and the children of the day: we are not of the night, nor of darkness “ (1 Thes. 5:5)

For ye were once darkness, now are ye light in the Lord; walk as children of light: (for the fruit of the light is in all goodness and righteousness and truth) proving what is well-pleasing unto the Lord. And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness… (Eph. 5:8-11 ASV)

The King James Version has here, “the fruit of the Spirit,” but the American Standard Version and many others have “the fruit of the light.” I like that. It reminds me of the promise Moses gave Joseph:

And of Joseph he said: “Blessed of the LORD is his land, With the precious things of heaven, with the dew, And the deep lying beneath,
With the precious fruits of the sun, With the precious produce of the months [the moons]… (Dt. 33:13,14 NKJV)

And that reminds me of this:

 And by the river upon the bank thereof, on this side and on that side, shall grow every tree for food, whose leaf shall not whither, neither shall the fruit thereof fail: it shall bring forth new fruit every month, because the waters thereof issue out of the sanctuary; and the fruit thereof shall be for food, and the leaf thereof for healing. (Ezek. 47:12)

Fruit every month? And note that the reason these trees bring forth unfailing fruit is because their roots are in a perpetually flowing river.

And here again:

Blessed is the man that trusteth in the LORD, and whose hope the LORD is. For he shall be as a tree planted by the waters, and that spreadeth out her roots by the river, and shall not see when heat cometh, but her leaf shall be green; and shall not be careful in the year of drought, neither shall cease from yielding fruit (Jer. 17:7,8)

All these remind me of this next one, which is very easy to relegate to the future. Let’s not do that.

And he showed me a river of water of life, bright as crystal, proceeding out of the throne of God and of the Lamb, in the midst of the street thereof. And on this side of the river and on that was the tree of life, bearing twelve manner of fruits, yielding its fruit every month: and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. (Rev. 22:1,2 ASV)

That is the fruit of the light bearing fruit every month of the year. That is the city from which flows a river of everlasting life “proceeding from the throne of God and of the Lamb” within her, a city the light of which is the everlasting light dwelling within her. “There shall be no night there: They need no lamp nor light of the sun, for the Lord God gives them light. And they shall reign forever and ever” (Rev. 2:5).

“God is light,” writes John in his first epistle, “and in Him is no darkness at all” (1 Jn. 1:5). So there is no night in this city, no darkness at all. The citizens of this city, because they abide in this city, dwell in this city, and walk in this light, have fellowship with Him who is the light, and with one another, “and the blood of Jesus Christ His son cleanseth us from all sin” (I Jn. 1:7).

Here is what Francis Ridley Havergal discovered so wonderfully one day:

First, I was shown that “the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanseth us from all sin,” and then it was made plain to me that He who had thus cleansed me had power to keep me clean; so I just utterly yielded myself to Him and utterly trusted Him to keep me….
It was that one word “cleanseth” which opened the door of a very glory of hope and joy to me. I had never seen the force of the tense before, a continual present, always a present tense, not a present which the next moment becomes a past. It goes on cleansing, and I have no words to tell how my heart rejoices in it. Not a coming to be cleansed in the fountain only, but a remaining in the fountain, so that it may and can go on cleansing. (Frances Ridley Havergal, Forty Witnesses)

Are you and I saying that this is not so with us? Yet this is why He has given us His own abiding anointing—the Holy Spirit—to teach us to abide in the Anointed One (1 Jn. 2:20-27). That anointing abides in us, and is the empowering to abide in Him, and in fact teaches us to abide, as we are ready and obedient learners of the anointing.

And so, dearly beloved of the Lord, let us not be of little faith; let us not put off into the future, or into faraway Heaven, the everlasting light of the everlasting day, nor the everlasting life that springs from the fountain of life, nor the eternal unfading inheritance, nor the fadeless glory, nor the unfading leaves of the tree of life, nor the fruit of the light that fails not, nor the ever-present and continually cleansing blood, nor the incorruptible manna, nor the abiding Presence and anointing… all of which are the manifold blessings of the New Covenant. There was a day when our Lord was just dying to inaugurate this New Covenant so He could bequeath to us all these and more. He is living today that He might cause us to know them in vital relationship with Himself, to the praise of His glory.

[i] Andrew Murray, Apostle of Abiding Love, by Leona Choy

[ii] Here is a pdf of Forty Witnesses:

Forty Witnesses – Salvation from Sin

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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 the shophar that caused the people to tremble; we read later that it was blown by the priests 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 sounded on the day of atonement to proclaim the Jubilee (Ex. 25:9). 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 of 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.”

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