159. Speak to the mountain!

I thought I knew what grace meant.  I have written about it.  I know the Scriptures; I know this particular text in Zachariah – it is one of my favourites.  I can just imagine the capstone; a beautiful stone-built arch with the miraculous word: grace carved out on it.  It has to be the logo of my life.  I claimed it, I framed it and I own it in my imagination.

Still, there is more to learn.  I should have known.  The Word of God is multi-facetted and never one-dimensional.  There is always something new – a new angle, a new perspective.  Zachariah 4 has been put in the spotlight again in the last few weeks.  Let us read together:

Who are you, O great mountain?
Before Zerubbabel you shall become a plain!
And he shall bring forth the capstone
With shouts of “Grace, grace to it!
  (Zechariah 4:7)

Zerubbabel had a gigantic task.  He had to restore the Temple that lay in ruins after a cruel siege of Jerusalem about 70 years before and the subsequent exile of the people of Judah into Babylon.  The Temple had been built by Solomon after the death of David and was the climax of the Hebrew civilization and conquering of Canaan, the promised land of the slave nation that was led out of Egypt by Moses.

The people were discouraged and the planners and builders did not know how to restore the Temple to its former magnificence. The prophet Zechariah is called by God to encourage the leaders and to inspire the restoration project. Zechariah proclaims a series of visions with the interpretation thereof.

Start small, he says.  For who has despised the day of small things? (Zechariah 3:10)

Every gargantuan task starts in the ideas of people, the planning on paper and the first bricks to be laid.  They could not be dismayed and cast down by the city in ruins. Nehemiah had already rebuilt the wall in a record time of 54 days.  The Temple was next.  Just the thought of the former glory of the Temple, almost defeated the whole project. The overwhelming task proved to be too much.

God steps in.  In the words of Zechariah, He promises the immense, miraculous, super natural power of the Holy Spirit, through which nothing is impossible.

Hear the words and see the way being made:

This is the word of the Lord to Zerubbabel:
‘Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit,’
Says the Lord of hosts
.  (Zechariah 4:6)

The visions of Zechariah are the insight into the unseen, that reveals the super-natural to encourage and enable. It is exactly where we find strength today – in the prophetic word of God.  Our vision into the unseen uncover the “veil” of mystery and expose the reality of God’s powerful intervention that facilitate the impossible into a wonderful work of the Holy Spirit.

Nothing is impossible when we “see” the way God sees. This is the perspective that the prophetic brings.

The Brenton Septuagint Translation has an interesting variation on the words of this verse.

Who art thou, the great mountain before Zerababbel, that thou shouldest prosper? whereas I will bring out the stone of the inheritance, the grace of it the equal of my grace.

[The Septuagint is the translation of the Old Testament Jewish scriptures from Hebrew to Greek in the third and second centuries before Christ by Jewish scholars for the Greeks.  Later, after Jesus, the Greek Christians used this translation as the authentic version of the Old Testament.  Sir Lancelot Charles L Brenton translated the Septuagint into English in 1844]

Our inheritance is written on the capstone.  Grace that equals God’s grace.  It is powerful words.

It is words of empowerment to equip us for everything we need, however impossible.

How do we know that grace is a power that works in our favour?

 And with great power the apostles gave witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And great grace was upon them all.  (Acts 4:33)

God’s grace empowered the apostles.  The realm in which this most colossal task in the entire history of mankind, of establishing the Christian church happened, is grace.  The fledgling start of Christianity in the acts of the handful of Christ followers who were empowered by the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost, cannot be described in human terms.  The core of the statement is, of course, that by the power of the Holy Spirit, everything is possible.

The Holy Spirit is the main player in the story. He makes all the difference.  The Holy Spirit is the power of the grace of God. He is the invisible drive that makes the mountain a plain.

One could never disregard or underestimate the Holy Spirit’s role in a situation or in the life of a born-again Christian. The Holy Spirit moves the mountain in the unseen, without you being able to see or feel.  Things happen in the unseen with miraculous impact in the seen.  He is the breath of God, the source of life, the wind of power (John 3).  One cannot see breath, see the wind or see the source of life.  One can experience the effect thereof.

God is good and He wants good things for you – all for your benefit.  The cross of Jesus is the guarantee.  He can make things work to unfold to your advantage even if you could not imagine it in your wildest dreams. It is his character as He defines himself in Exodus 34:6:

And the Lord passed before him and proclaimed, “The Lord, the Lord God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abounding in goodness and truth,

God is love – you have heard it all before, often. He cannot do anything but from love. He does not have love; He is love. It is his being, his character and the source from which He acts.

Believe it – even though it might not feel that way. The Holy Spirit is not a feeling. He is the life-giving source that works according to a higher plan that you cannot feel.

This is how CS Lewis describes it:

It is quite right that you should feel that “something terrific” has happened to you (It has) and be “all glowy.”  Accept these sensations with thankfulness as birthday cards from God, but remember that they are only greetings, not the real gift.  I mean, it is not the sensations that are the real thing.  The real thing is the gift of the Holy Spirit which can’t usually be—perhaps not ever—experienced as a sensation or emotion.  The sensations are merely the response of your nervous system. Don’t depend on them.  Otherwise when they go and you are once more emotionally flat (as you certainly will be quite soon), you might think that the real thing had gone too.  But it won’t. It will be there when you can’t feel it.  May even be most operative when you can feel it least.

 

CS Lewis:  Words to live by. [My emphasis]

 

 

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153. Supernatural and extraordinary – it is for me!

“He is not the soul of Nature, nor any part of Nature. He inhabits eternity: He dwells in a high and holy place: heaven is His throne, not his vehicle, earth is his footstool, not his vesture. One day he will dismantle both and make a new heaven and earth. He is not to be identified even with the ‘divine spark’ in man. He is God and not man.”   

C.S. Lewis, Miracles

The words of the ancient prophet Isaiah are poetic.  Reading in English would not make it clear, but to the scholars who can appreciate it, the Hebrew text is quite phenomenal.  Isaiah was a singing prophet.  I can only imagine how he would sing the sharp judgments over idolatry, godlessness and sin over evil cities and hardened hearts in a deep angry voice. On the other hand I can hear him in an anguished cry to repent and a passionate joyous call declaring the loving promises of God over his people.  Isaiah feels like my dear friend, sometimes the wise and loving grandfather I never knew and most often the trusted mentor I desperately need.

I wonder how the words of Isaiah 61 would have sounded in his voice and words.  It is words of magnificence about the healing, salvation, liberation and restoration for the loved ones of a miracle-working God who has everything under control.  Can you “hear” him in you inner being?

“The Spirit of the Lord God is upon Me,
Because the Lord has anointed Me
To preach good tidingsto the poor;
He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted,
To proclaim libertyto the captives,
And the opening of the prison to those who are bound;
To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord,
And the day of vengeance of our God;
To comfort all who mourn,
To console those who mourn in Zion,
To give them beautyfor ashes,
The oil of joyfor mourning,
The garment ofpraisefor the spirit of heaviness;
That they may be called trees of righteousness,
The planting of the Lord, that He may be glorified.”

Just these first verses stir up a passion in me to experience the Spirit of God and speak the words of God.

All the heartache, desperation and destruction of a broken world could find solace, comfort and salvation from these life-changing words of Scripture.  It is significant how much emphasis is on mourning and tears.  The promise of freedom from the limitations of spiritual imprisonment by the evil woes of life is a powerful promise of deliverance.  Life breeds fear, anger, sexual sin and other kinds of wickedness to enslave us to the devil. Supernatural release and restoration are promised to all who seek salvation in the grace of God.

And they shall rebuild the old ruins,
They shall raise up the former desolations,
And they shall repair the ruined cities,
The desolations of many generations.

The brokenness of our world is a ruin of tears and depression.  Fear and bondage of any kind keep us locked up and limit our potential. The good news is that the century old remedy for all oppression still stands as the powerful solution to all desolation of life.  It is the outstanding theme of the Psalms.

Praise God!  Look up and praise your Saviour and Lord.  Know that He will deal with the ruins and misery of your life.  Grab hold of his greatness and goodness like a drowning man in a raging sea.  “See” yourself as a tree of righteousness.

In the words of this same prophet as few chapters earlier, God says to you:

O you afflicted one,
Tossed with tempest, and not comforted,
Behold, I will lay your stones with colorful gems,
And lay your foundations with sapphires.
(Isaiah 54:11)

You are the jewels in his crown. (Malachi 3:16-18)

You are the afflicted one who are going to rebuild, who will surrender control to the Holy Spirit to initiate peace and restoration of the walls of your city, your family relationships and all the wreckage of life around you.  You will announce freedom to the prisoners and live in the comfort of your loving Father.

Think with me through the details of this Word from God.  The consolation of God’s presence and intervention is to be found in the reality of daily living. It is the oil of joy and the garment of praise that heal and cover.  Oil is what we take into our bodies for nourishment and medication.  A garment is what we wear on the outside.  We do not go naked.  Our world is obsessed with clothing.  Just think of the percentage clothing stores in any shopping centre.

A garment of praise is probably the most beautiful and most elegant clothing possible.  Think of a cloak embroidered with the finest gemstones and silk thread.  Your foundations in sapphires…

Years ago my mother had a dream about my husband and I.  She was in our driveway with her car, struggling to unload a heavy chest from the trunk.  We stood on the front porch and did not offer any assistance.  She knew she had to open the chest and show us what is inside.  When she opened it, it was full of the most beautiful cloaks she has ever seen.  My mother was a seamstress herself and appreciated fabrics and embroidery. She told me of the dream and announced that she will pray for an interpretation.  Early the next morning she phoned.

God said: We had to wear our testimony and Word revelation so that others would be blessed by it.  The jewels and gold were the tests that refined us as people and our Rhema-words were the jewels that we spoke when we testify of the goodness of the Lord.  We had to “look” the work of God in our lives.

What can I say?  I would be most flattered if the people say of me: Oh, here comes old Praise the Lord again!

Dress up Pebble pal!  Wear your praise.  Break loose from the bondage of depression with a constant awareness of the gemstones in your heart.  Every tear is a diamond of victory and joy, recorded by God.

You number my wanderings;
Put my tears into Your bottle;
Are they not in Your book? 
(Psalms 56:8)

Let our words be the words of Jesus of whom is said:

For He whom God has sent speaks the words of God, for God does not give the Spirit by measure.  (John 3:34)

 

 

152. The arm of God.

“There comes a moment when people who have been dabbling in religion (man’s search for God) suddenly draw back. Supposing we really found Him? We never meant it to come to that! Worse still, supposing He had found us?” C.S. Lewis, Miracles.

It is a most miraculous moment if you want it.  The instant that time stands still and you know the God of the universe has cast his all-seeing gaze on you.  He has seen your fear, He has answered your call, He reacts to you and acts on your behalf. You see his arm moves… in your favour.

The Lord has made bare His holy arm
In the eyes of all the nations;
And all the ends of the earth shall see
The salvation of our God.
  (Isaiah 52:10)

Behold, the Lord God shall come with a strong hand,
And His arm shall rule for Him;
Behold, His reward is with Him,
And His work before Him
. (Isaiah 40:10)

God is baring his arm for you.  It is as if I see the action of rolling up his sleeve.  It is the action of somebody who is ready to work.  All his power and goodness flow into his arm and hand that He stretches out to touch you.

Moses sang about God’s hand and arm with his powerful touch on his people.

“Your right hand, O Lord, has become glorious in power;
Your right hand, O Lord, has dashed the enemy in pieces
. (Exodus 15:6)

The Psalmist had a lot to say about God’s arm and hand.

Oh, sing to the Lord a new song!
For He has done marvelous things;
His right hand and His holy arm have gained Him the victory. (Psalms 98:1)

Many centuries later Mary sang about God’s arm in her song of praise when the angel brought her the news of her pregnancy.

He has shown strength with His arm…  (Luke 1:51)

You might say this is all good for Biblical times.  What about today?  Can I still rely on a miracle when I live in fear of the day?  Our struggle against all the evil around us: destruction, divorce, deception, disfigurement, dishonesty and so much more can be overwhelming.  We try our best in the world given to us with what we get to equip us for a daunting task.  If we look around us we might doubt the possibility of a miracle – rightly so.

The post-modern wailing about the non-existence of God casts a dark shadow over the faith of our childhood, if indeed we were so lucky to grow up with faith.  So many children grow up in a godless and god-cursing environment.  Is there extraordinary support available?  Might there be something like a miracle?

The only way to meet the God of miracles is through Jesus, whom He sent as the incarnation of himself to reveal his heart and mind to humanity.  What is the most notorious fact about the life of Jesus before his death?  His miracles- of course.  In our world with the squeal of New Atheism the miracles are attacked in a mocking and scoffing way to ridicule anybody so naïve to believe them. Water into wine – come on! A virgin pregnant – we all know where babies come from!

Christians often draw back and think they do not have the answers, or their answers suddenly feel inadequate.  The counter argument is that of science and the superiority of all that can be explained in real terms.  There are however, so many things that science are still grappling with.  They can describe energy, but not explain it.  They can define consciousness, but not explain it or the origin of it.  They cannot deny the existence of both energy and consciousness and therefore they have to accept the existence of something they cannot explain.  Why should they demand an explanation of the claim that Jesus was both God and man at the same time?

It is very important to acknowledge and know the normal course of business, to concede a miracle.  If the dead regularly came to life, it would not be extraordinary.  If 5000 homeless men are fed from one picnic basket every week, we would soon be very familiar with it, and it would be nothing special.

A miracle is God’s supernatural – above and beyond the laws of nature that rule our world daily, action in our lives.  It is his extraordinary intervention into my specific situation.

Often the most significant miracles take place inside us when fear and anger in the deepest crevasses of our heart and thoughts are stirred and healed by the Holy Spirit.  God rolls up his sleeves and get to work to heal me.

Circumstances are a field of action for miracles.  How would we ever know what a miracle is, if we never need one?  There, in the corner of discouragement and panic, we feel God’s hand touch us from an outstretched arm to reach us, however far we might have wandered off away from him.

 And remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the Lord your God brought you out from there by a mighty hand and by an outstretched arm;therefore the Lord your God commanded you to keep the Sabbath day. (Deuteronomy 5:15)

Crucial in these processes of God’s action in our life is to see, to acknowledge and to remember the miracle, in order to make it part of our testimony of praise to God.  Miracles are often judged and categorized in our mind.  We think of small and big miracles. It is important to see all of them and express your gratitude to the Lord.  The insight of the Holy Spirit alerts us to the awesome work of God in our lives.

The testimony of miracles is the gold refined by firementioned in Revelation 3:18.  The Psalmist warns against a superficial attitude when God’s intervention is to be taken seriously.

Our fathers in Egypt did not understand Your wonders;
They did not remember the multitude of Your mercies,
But rebelled by the sea—the Red Sea. 
(Psalms 106:7)

Even the disciples did not hold the miracles in high regard.

For they failed to consider or understand [the teaching and meaning of the miracle of] the loaves; [in fact] their hearts had grown callous [had become dull and had lost the power of understanding]. (Mark 6:52, AMPC)

Strong words indeed!  Let us hold the intervention of the mighty arm of God in high esteem and lift our testimony up on the altar of our pebbles of perpetuity on the banks of the Jordan (Joshua 4).  Then when people ask: why is this altar of testimony built, we can answer with the high praises of God in our mouth.  In doing so we will avoid the harsh insult of callous hearts and foolish, superficial lives.

 

 

 

 

142. Miracle tree of God in action

[New Year 2019]

The rhythm of nature and the certainty of the seasons are always a source of inspiration for me.  There is so much of what we experience on a daily basis that encourages us to believe the Word of God with deep assurance.  I have quoted Genesis 8:22 often.  I am sure all of you know it by heart by now.  The language echoes the rhythm of the words and the meaning.

“While the earth remains,
Seedtime and harvest,
Cold and heat,
Winter and summer,
And day and night
Shall not cease.”

Every person caught in the tight grip of winter knows that spring is coming. Relief is coming.  Many psychologists and counselors use the symbolism of the seasons to explain life.

Our life is not constant and mostly it is difficult to “see” the spring in the middle of winter.  However, it is ALWAYS there. It requires a closer look to see the promise of the bloom on every tree, waiting for the silent announcement of the turn of time.  In the beginning of spring the trees get a gleam of green – a light green, a new green.  Later it becomes clearer and deeper in colour.

Usually the turn of the calendar year finds the northern hemisphere in the fiercest grip of winter.  The south enjoys its warmest days.  The first day of the New Year is either very cold or very hot and it is hard to envisage the turn of the season.  That is exactly the utilization of imagination that we need to believe the promises of God for the future.  The things hoped for becomes firm and confident faith.  (Hebrews 11:1)

The visual and atmospheric experience of the season while the opposite is reality, is the challenge.  It is what God expects of us.

The golden thread of symbolic learn experiences in the Word of God, is true treasure.  We know there were three elements in the Ark of the Covenant that stood in the Holy of Holies in the Tabernacle, representing the presence of the Most High God.  There was the golden bowl with manna that did not go bad, as nothing ever decays in the presence of God.  There were the stone tablets on which the law was written and lastly the staff of Aaron that bloomed, blossomed and bore fruit in one day.

This staff is the symbol of the supernatural, literally above and beyond the natural and expected process.

We have just mentioned the seasons. Usually the blooms are ready in winter already.  In early spring they swell out and grow into leaves and flowers.  Mostly on fruit trees, like the almond of which this staff was cut, the flowers become fruit – a most magnificent progression.  After some more time has passed, the fruit is ready for harvesting.

Aaron’s staff was a dry stick.  A staff was a common accessory for a man at the time. David writes about it in Psalm 23, visualizing God as a good shepherd using a staff as protection for the sheep.  Jesus depicted himself as a good shepherd, saying it in one of the seven I AM-sayings in John’s Gospel.

This dead piece of wood becomes the symbol of the supernatural when the normal process of nature is accelerated as a sign of God’s intervention and communication.

Now it came to pass on the next day that Moses went into the tabernacle of witness, and behold, the rod of Aaron, of the house of Levi, had sprouted and put forth buds, had produced blossoms and yielded ripe almonds.  (Numbers 17:8)

Many centuries later we read of the almond shoot in the first chapter of Jeremiah.  This particular passage was a lifeline in a dark time in my own life.  It was God’s encouragement to me that He will make his promise true.  Read with me in the Amplified translation.

Moreover, the word of the Lord came to me, saying, Jeremiah, what do you see?

And I said, I see a branch or shoot of an almond tree [the emblem of alertness and activity, blossoming in late winter].

Then said the Lord to me, you have seen well, for I am alert and active, watching over My word to perform it.

The Hebrew word for almond shoot is similar to the word for “alert and active”.

The almond blossoms very early, in late winter, before the first signs of spring.  God’s timing always resembles his grace and mercy, just like He shortened the exile in the time of Daniel.  The blossom of the almond is a symbol of God’s action upon his word and our circumstances.

How are you these first days of 2019? It is quite daunting to look at a year ahead and again realize how little control we have over our future. Our answer to the future is HOPE. Our hope in God fills our hearts and minds and our faith in God guarantees God’s action to our advantage and benefit, especially when things look dark and uncertain.

How do you know that God will act on your behalf?  It is his promise since the earliest days on earth.  Listen closely to the words of my dear friend, the ancient prophet Isaiah:

The Lord has made bare His holy arm. In the eyes of all the nations and all the ends of the earth shall see the salvation of our God.(Isaiah 52:10)

To bare your arm implies that you have rolled up your sleeves and are ready for work.  Isn’t this just such a magnificent picture of God in action? Let 2019 be the year of God’s grace in your life and expect a special revelation of his goodness.

Sing with the Psalmist the promise for 2019.

Sing to God a brand-new song.
He’s made a world of wonders!

He rolled up his sleeves,
He set things right.

God made history with salvation,
He showed the world what he could do.

He remembered to love us, a bonus
To his dear family, Israel—indefatigable love.

The whole earth comes to attention.
Look—God’s work of salvation!   (
Psalm 98:1-3, The Message)

Just pause and think of God’s love and his salvation and then jump up and dance.  You have good reason to twirl and swirl in the beauty of his grace and love.

May God bless you with a firm conviction of his love for you in 2019!

94. Tabernacles, Temples, Cathedrals and Churches.

A trademark of life on earth is worship. Just think for a moment. All through history and all over the globe, places of worship are central to the culture and history of every nation on the face of the earth. Since ancient times, elaborate buildings and even natural wonders have been dedicated to gods and higher beings as appeasement and admiration.

The desert people with their fold-up version of a place of worship, was no different. Freed from the sun-worshipping Egyptians, who built magnificent architectural wonders in awe of their gods, they ventured into the desert with nothing to anchor their renewed faith in the miracle-working YHWH (Yaveh), the God of their faith-ancestry, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

Not too far into their desert wanderings, we find the meticulous and awe-inspiring prescription of the Tabernacle, based on the detailed instructions of Moses whose ear was inclined to hear God’s voice. Under Holy Spirit-inspired craftsmen, the Ark of the Covenant is built, to symbolize the Presence of the Most High God, with thick embroidered woven linen to separate it from the section where the Table of Showbreads, the Lampstand and the golden bowl with incense symbolize the Word of God, illuminated by the Light of the World, Jesus, and the worship that prepares for His presence, are located. In the forecourt was the altar of burnt offering where innocent blood cleansed from sin and the bronze laver with water symbolized baptism. This ancient pattern of worship is the foundation of our regular religious reunion with God.

I am always encouraged by the scripture, describing the gifting of art and crafts for men and women that came from God.

…and He has filled him with the Spirit of God, in wisdom and understanding, in knowledge and all manner of workmanship, 32 to design artistic works, to work in gold and silver and bronze, 33 in cutting jewels for setting, in carving wood, and to work in all manner of artistic workmanship.

34 “And He has put in his heart the ability to teach, in him and Aholiab the son of Ahisamach, of the tribe of Dan. 35 He has filled them with skill to do all manner of work of the engraver and the designer and the tapestry maker, in blue, purple, and scarlet thread, and fine linen, and of the weaver—those who do every work and those who design artistic works. (Exodus 35: 31- 35)

Settled in the Promised Land, a few centuries later, it is David’s desire to build a Temple for the God He loves and pours out his worship to. His son Solomon, builds a magnificent Temple to mark the high point of Hebrew culture in the ancient world and earn the respect of neighbouring nations for almost four centuries. After Solomon’s death the kingdom divides and slowly falls away from true worship until the hostility of other ancient Empires (Assyria and Babylon) brings destruction and exile.

After the exile, the reconstruction of the Temple dominates the lives of Ezrah and Nehemiah who re-establish worship in the physically restored Temple, carefully recorded with the many miracles accompanying their daunting task.

Under Roman rule, the Jewish king Herod the Great, works for decades to restore the Temple to its former glory. He is well known for his grand architectural projects throughout the Judea of that time. It is the centre and pride of the city of Jerusalem, built to the pattern of the original desert Tabernacle and the Temple of Solomon, with a few modern additions like the Court of the Gentiles and the Court of the Women that were never included in the original plan.

The Temple was the pride and joy of the Pharisees, priests and people at the time of Jesus. It was the centre of Jewish culture and everyday life. Jews lived and worked in their culture of worship. There was just no alternative. If you were born a Jew daily prayer, sacrifices, the Sabbath and celebrating the feasts, marked your life, diary and pleasure. Nothing else was important. Worship of YWHW was above all else in life and the world.

Acts like Jesus cleansing the Court of the Gentiles where the money was collected, would produce immediate reaction from the leadership. Their reaction is discussed in John 2:17-25.

Jesus’ disciples remembered the words of Psalms 69:9. The Psalm is talking of the Messiah. He would be consumed with zeal for the House of God. Zeal means passion or even jealousy. In the minds of the disciples Jesus was being established. His actions befitted the Messiah.

The reaction of the Jews is understandable. They needed to establish Jesus’ credentials through some sign. They knew the Messiah would be established by wonders and signs. Jesus needed to prove His claim. He had to do something supernatural.

Jesus’ reply presented them with a problem. This is John’s interpretation written long after all the events. He is writing seventy years of perspective into the narrative.

The words of Jesus were later used against him as accusation in His trial (Matthew 26:61). The accusers said they heard him say:

“Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” (John 2:19)

Jesus never said He would destroy the Temple building and rebuild it. Jesus knew the end of the Temple was near. He said to the Samaritan woman that people would worship in spirit and truth without a specific place.

Temple worship did not lead men to God. It should have. It became obsolete. He would never have suggested rebuilding the old ways.

God makes things new, always better than before. It is the miraculous principle of restoration. He makes something you never envisaged. Look out for the new thing. (Isaiah 42:9, 43:19)

Jesus wanted to bring a Temple not made by hands. His coming would bring an end to man-made, man-arranged worship and bring Spirit-worship after the ultimate sacrifice had been made. (Mark 14:58)

He came to introduce a new way to worship God without elaborate buildings and animal sacrifice – a new way of coming into the presence of the living God.

In 19BC Herod started work on the Temple to appease the Jews within the Roman political system. In 64AD the building was finally finished. It took 46 years to build. Only six years after that in 70 AD, the Romans army under generalship of Vespasian destroys the Temple so that only the wailing wall stands.

With this background Jesus makes a shocking statement. Did He really mean all the lavish magnificence and splendour would be nothing and completely obsolete? All the money they spent would be irrelevant in God’s plan. Jesus calls men into discussion with his statement. He sets the literal against the figurative, the physical in contrast with the spiritual.

Further more, His statement was a prophecy of the Resurrection. All would then have access to the glorified Jesus. The ever-present God was to be reachable to the ends of the world. The true depth of the statement could only be known after the resurrection.

The scripture that they believed is that they will be saved from death. Death was an absolute mystery and very frightening. For You will not leave my soul in Sheol (Psalms 16:10). Peter quoted it at Pentecost (Acts 2:31) and Paul quoted it at Antioch (Acts 13:35). It expressed the confidence of the church in the power of God and the Resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Our approach to God is not dependent on anything man-made or man-built. We worship in our own inner-Temple in the presence of the risen Christ.

Jesus obviously did many miracles in Jerusalem. Many believed in Him, but He did not openly declare Himself.

Jesus knew human nature and how quickly a miracle becomes old news. In journalism they talk about the “one day wonder”. Sensation is only sensational for a very short time.

They would follow signs and wonders, but not many will follow the self-denial and service. Surrendering to the will of God, carrying a cross would separate the superficial from the real.

Jesus was not in it for the popular vote. The mob would have declared Him Messiah. He did not want acceptance until they all knew exactly what acceptance meant.

John calls miracles signs and uses three words:

Teras means a marvelous thing. It has no moral significance; simply an astonishing thing. The New Testament does not use this word alone to describe a miracle.

Dunamis means power. Our word dynamite comes from this word. It denotes extraordinary power, effective power to be recognized by all.

Semeion means sign. This is the word John uses. The deed told men about the man, revealed his character and it was done in order to understand the person doing it better. Miracles told men something of the nature of God. Jesus showed whom God is in healing the sick, comforting the poor, feeding the hungry.

Jesus performed signs of the love of God.

In any miracle there are all three meanings included, revealing the heart of God.

 

85. Word, Light, World, Darkness.

We have said it already. It is written in the volumes of history. His words stand firm and unchallenged.

Then Jesus spoke to them again, saying,

“I am the light of the world.

He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life.” (John 8:12)

Many people have come and gone, claiming to be God, to be the Messiah, to bring salvation, healing, meaning to life and other benefits. Just Google the list of Messiah-claimants in Judaism, Christianity and Islam – it is long and tiresome. None of those names have endured even a fraction of the time that the name of Jesus has.

No-one in the history of all mankind has ever said: I am the light of the world.

The word light occurs in the Fourth Gospel no fewer than twenty-one times. Jesus is the light of men. The calling of John the Baptist was to point men to that light which was in Christ. Twice Jesus calls himself the light of the world (John 8:12, John 9:5).

This light can be in men (John 11:10), so that they can become children of the light (John 12:36), “I have come,” said Jesus, “as light into the world” (John 12:46).

  • Jesus brings the light, which puts chaos to flight. He is the one person who can save life from becoming chaos.
  • Jesus brings light, which shows things as they are. It strips away the disguises and concealments. It shows people and circumstances in their true character and values. It is light that reveals truth.
  • Jesus brings guiding light – a light that brings certainty and confidence. Doubt and confusion flee when He is crowned the King of your life.

Darkness in the world is as real as the light (John 1:5).

The unconquerable light will in the end defeat the hostile dark. John is saying: “Choose your side in the eternal conflict and choose right.”

It is men whose deeds are evil who fear the light (John 3:19-20). The man who has something to hide loves darkness. Darkness is used symbolically. It also indicates blindness. Jesus says: “I am the light of the world; he who follows me will not walk in darkness” (John 8:12).

Without Jesus Christ a man cannot find or see direction for his life.

“Now on the first day of the week Mary Magdalene came, while it was still dark, John writes in John 20:1. He describes the atmosphere before the news of the resurrection as dark to contrast the magnificence of life.

He tells how Judas dipped his hand in the bowl with Jesus and then went out to do his dark work.  Having received the piece of bread, he then went out immediately. And it was night. (John 13:30).

Although men through all the ages did all they could to obscure and extinguish the light of God in Christ, they could not quench it. In every generation the light of Christ still shines in spite of the efforts of men to extinguish the flame.

Darkness will never win. Darkness might be symbolical, but you cannot hide from God. God is also in the darkness. Wherever you may find yourself and may feel it is too dark, too evil, too far away from light – God is there to hear you cry.

 So the people stood afar off, but Moses drew near the thick darkness where God was. (Exodus 20:21)

Within the first five verses of this Gospel we see a culmination of every philosophy, every concept of deity, every confusion of thought as well as logical thought plus all the Roman, Greek, Persian and Egyptian models of gods and their functioning. John states the boldest statement in all of history – Jesus is the One everything points to and the answer to every possible question and argument ever.

John the Baptist was witness to the Light, just as we are witnesses, not the light itself. (John 1:6-8)

For 400 years the prophetic voice was silent until John the Baptist. It seems that certain people were so fascinated by John that they gave him a higher place than he ought to have had.

John denies that he is first and declares that he must decrease while Jesus increased (John 3:25-30). Jesus was more successful in his appeal to men than John was (John 4:1). The people said that John was not able to do the things that Jesus did (John 10:41).

This Gospel warns greatly against the following of a mere man, instead of following the risen Christ. The true prophet will always point to Jesus. He emphasizes that John the Baptist was only a witness.

We know Jesus is the Christ by various witnesses. There is the:

  • witness of Jesus himself. “I bear witness,” he said, “to myself” (John 8:18). “My testimony is true” (John 8:14).What Jesus was in himself was the best witness that his claims were true.

 

  • witness of his works. He said: “The works which the Father has granted me to accomplish … bear me witness” (John 5:36).

“Believe me for the sake of the works themselves” (John 14:11). One of the condemnations of men is that they have seen his works, and have not believed (John 15:24). No man could have done the mighty works that Jesus did unless he was closer to God than any other man ever was.

 

  • witness which the Scriptures bear to him. Jesus said: “Search the scriptures, because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness to me” (John 5:39). “If you believed Moses, you would believe me; for he wrote of me” (John 5:46). It is Philip’s conviction that he has found him of whom Moses and the law and the prophets wrote (John 1:45).

 

  • witness of the last of the prophets, John the Baptist. “He came for testimony to bear witness to the light” (John 1:7-8).

 

  • witness of those with whom Jesus came into contact. The woman of Samaria bore witness to the insight and to the power of Jesus (John 4:39). The man born blind bore witness to his healing power (John 9:25;John 9:38). The people who witnessed his miracles told of their awe at the things he did (John 12:17).

 

  • witness of the disciples and especially of the writer of the gospel himself it was Jesus’ commission to his disciples: “You also are witnesses, because you have been with me from the beginning” (John 15:27). And the Spirit is the witness, because the Spirit is the truth” (1 John 5:7). Spirit brought God’s truth to men, and the Spirit enabled men to recognize that truth when they saw it.

For us: God will always give us confirmation with a witness. Be aware of unconfirmed prophecy. God will show you. His path is not darkness and uncertainty.

“One witness shall not rise against a man concerning any iniquity or any sin that he commits; by the mouth of two or three witnesses the matter shall be established. (Deuteronomy 19:15)

1:9 That was the true Light which gives light to every man coming into the world.

There are two Greek words for true: alethes and alethinos. The first one means true as opposed to false and the second one means real as opposed to unreal. He uses the second as it is explained: answering to the perfect ideal, and as opposed to all more or less imperfect representations. [Ellicott].

John states his case like a lawyer so that there is no doubt who Jesus is.

There are partial lights and there are false lights; and men follow them. Jesus is the only genuine light, the real light to guide men on their way. Jesus is the dawn in a dark world.

Knowledge of Him could drive away the shadows of doubt. By His coming the people could know God; a mystery no more. When Jesus came men saw what God is like. The guessing was over. The light had come.

A new power came into life. It was the answer to despair. Jesus showed the right way and how to walk in it. The way was made clear. He made the impossible possible.

The darkness and terror of death was engulfed in His promise of life eternal. The ancient world feared death; it was torture by whatever gods there were. Jesus showed that death was only the way to a larger life.

The ancient world was exclusive. The Jew hated the Gentile and held that Gentiles were created for no other purpose than to be fuel for the fires of hell. The ancient prophet, Isaiah, saw that Israel’s destiny was to be a light to the Gentiles (Isaiah 42:6; Isaiah 49:6). The Romans feared Christianity because it robbed them of their exclusiveness.

Our world in confusion and strife has only one solution – to believe in Jesus and be united in love. Any other unity and peace are impossible.

Jesus as a man and His doctrine were unique and a welcome relief from the terrifying uncertainty of ancient gods and the search for knowledge of the mysteries of life.

Where is He today? He is the guiding light, the only source of peace and truth. He is real life. He is victory over the darkness.

By grace and the cross – He is mine! Have you made the step into life – true Life?

 

 

 

4. Be greedy – it’s good for you!

That’s the truth – there is good greediness. In our hour of need we are not timid. We ask for the full package, the whole promise – and that’s how it should be.

Before we explore this very exciting principle, let us establish a core principle for success in living the Word.

Write it down.

Whatsoever God communicates with you through His Word and the wondrous outcome of circumstances submitted to prayer, must be written down. Problems tend to manifest in scary disguise that robs us of faith. Panic wrecks our memory of God’s wonderful pathway of provision. The enemy will present as a unique and overwhelming flood of complications.

The miraculous power of our own testimony carries us through future crises. In your journal your unique description of the problem, the prayer and the promise will become the powerful encouragement that will remind you of miracles and answer to prayer. You will praise God through your journal and in the presence of the people.

Journaling is our pebbles of perpetuity. Every stone that is marked with a miracle is the foundation of our sacrifice of praise and gratitude. If you are quiet and stunned in panic, your stones will call out. They will remind you of your loving Father Who already have the outcome and answer ready. Luke 19:40: 

But He answered and said to them, “I tell you that if these should keep silent, the stones would immediately cry out.”

In Isaiah 55 God invites the thirsty to come to the waters and drink to the full. This reminds us of the promise of blessing to those who hungers and thirsts for righteousness. Matthew 5 promises an enviable happiness and life joy for those who are greedy for God. The blessing implies the full satisfaction of the hunger and thirst. This is not a partial promise; it is the full package deal. His Word will quench your very need and every desire.

Pause and absorb the full meaning of the word blessing as we find it in the Amplified Bible:

Blessed = happy, to be envied, and spiritually prosperous—with life-joy and satisfaction in God’s favor and salvation, regardless of their outward conditions; with a happiness produced by the experience of God’s favor and especially conditioned by the revelation of His matchless grace.

This is a promise that sustains us through life whatever our circumstances might be. It is not a mindless acceptance of every problem and negative circumstances. It is rather the submission of problems and circumstances to the powerful working of God’s blessing to change you and your circumstances. The problems we are facing will serve as the field of action for our greatest miracles. The process of spiritual and mental growth is mostly a greater miracle than the supernatural outcome and provision. We cannot leave a crisis unchanged. Deep within our spirit the Holy Spirit works to renew our thinking. This is a spectacular miracle.

In the second part of Isaiah 55:1 a purchase is mentioned.

Yes, come, buy priceless, spiritual wine and milk without money and without price; simply for the self-surrender that accepts the blessing.

Is redemption and salvation not free? Off course it is free, but never cheap. The cost was a life. Jesus died to purchase our salvation. We accept His cross and receive the full redemption of sin. This is the start of a process of growth in which we will visit the Kingdom store of Revelation 3:18:

Therefore I counsel you to purchase from Me gold refined and tested by fire, that you may be truly wealthy, and white clothes to clothe you and to keep the shame of your nudity from being seen, and salve to put on your eyes, that you may see.

There we will buy three items. This purchase is not made with money, but with experience. As we receive the special insight into the full measure of Grace that sustains us through our life, we will be rich with the gold that has been refined by the fire of our crisis.

Sin exposes us to the world. God covers us in beautiful heavenly robes of righteousness through the blood of Christ. It is not our own efforts that clothe us. The Cross declares us righteous.

Eye ointment will be our focus on the Word that reveals God in His almighty splendour. Our perspective – our inner eyes – changes so that the problem is diminished and fear is crushed.

The crises of life bring us to a place of hearing and learning. Here we are open to revelation knowledge. This is our gold, cleansed by fire. In the fire and pain of problems, God reveals His promise and encouragement. His word is alive and is spoken into our inner being. This is a rhema-word; the spoken word. It is words that will heal and restore you supernaturally, so that you can face life with the courage and wisdom necessary to change your circumstances.

As quoted in Pebbles number 2, I have to repeat the words of Jesus in John 6:63: [The Message]

Every word I’ve spoken to you is a Spirit-word, and so it is life making.

All increase in life comes by His Word. Back to Isaiah 55 in The Message translation. This is what God wants for us:

Listen to me, listen well: Eat only the best, 
fill yourself with only the finest.
 Pay attention, come close now,
 listen carefully to my life-giving, life-nourishing words.

Could we ever grow in God to a place where we will welcome the refiner’s fire? Problems tend to surprise me and catch me off-guard. Many times we live with constant pain and brokenness in our body, relationships or other circumstances. God will break the Bread (His word) daily for us to be strengthened and revived.

For you have need of steadfast patience and endurance, so that you may perform and fully accomplish the will of God, and thus receive and carry away and enjoy to the full what is promised.

[Hebrews 10:36]

But you need to stick it out, staying with God’s plan so you’ll be there for the promised completion. [The Message]

The Greek word for steadfast patience and endurance is a composition of two words: hupo + mone. Hupo means “under” and mone means “to remain”. It describes the capacity to continue to bear up under difficult circumstances, not with a passive complacency, but with a hopeful fortitude that actively resist weariness and defeat. [According to Strong’s Bible Concordance]

The promise of outcome is sure. Your victory is guaranteed. These wonderful words of Jude 24 are a joy to my heart – always:

Now to Him Who is able to keep you without stumbling or slipping or falling, and to present you unblemished, blameless and faultless before the presence of His glory in triumphant joy and exultation – with unspeakable, ecstatic delight —

There is no place for doubt. God said it. He will do it. And – He will do it for you! Philippians 1:6:

And I am convinced and sure of this very thing, that He Who began a good work in you will continue until the day of Jesus Christ, developing that good work and perfecting and bringing it to full completion in you.

There is no doubt. God said it. Psalm 91:14:

Because he has set his love upon Me, therefore I will deliver him; I will set him on high, because he has known My name.

 

Isaiah 55 – the conversation continues…