119. Oh, Death, who’s afraid of you now?

[John 11]

It is the one certainty of life. Death follows every life on earth. For as long as man draws breath, death is the existential fact of life, mystified into fearful speculation and hesitant philosophical debate.

Death and the realm of death is a mystery that belongs to God. All that we have is the one-sided accounts of near-death experiences that provide a glimpse into something outside our realm of reality.

As we are so aptly instructed in Deuteronomy 29:29 (The Message):

God, our God, will take care of the hidden things but the revealed things are our business. It’s up to us and our children to attend to all the terms in this Revelation.

There is no doubt that life provides us with enough to take care of. Making a living, raising children with the values and courage to secure the next generation, caring for our earth and extend the hand of God in love to the immeasurable suffering and destruction around us, are more than enough for one lifetime of responsible living. How can we still worry about death?

But death comes, or rather strikes, daily. Sometimes it is anticipated in the elderly and enters slowly into the suffering of disease and weakness, with expectation and even relief. Accidents and crime shock and traumatize the loved ones when death is a painful punch out of nowhere, bruising our inner being with merciless irreversibility.

Death is part of life. Let us then listen attentively to the details of the encounters of Jesus with death, which was such an expected and terrifying cruelty of the young and old in Palestine of the first century.

Just the words He chose to describe the situation are indicative of the victory He brought. He always called death, sleep…

Lazarus and his sisters provided Jesus with a place to feel at home. Jesus said He had no home (Luke 9:58), but in Bethany He had a place of rest. These three people truly loved Him. There He found a place of relaxation and escape from the demands of the crowds.

The name Lazarus means God is my help. It is the same name as Eleazar (Aaron’s son), which is the Hebrew version. Lazarus fell ill, and the sisters sent Jesus a message to say that he is sick. The sisters’ message included no request for Jesus to come to Bethany. They knew that it was unnecessary; they knew that the simple statement that they were in need would bring Him to them.

It is sufficient that Jesus should know. Jesus would not ignore His sick friend. Jesus, on the other hand, was not alarmed. He knew He had the power to deal with anything. God’s glory had to be served.

The power of prayer is that you know He knows. The Bible says He knows everything – He knows before we pray. I can testify that over the years God knew better than me what I needed. Even my request is imperfect.

When we pray we expect the glory of God in action.

Upon hearing the news Jesus makes a statement. What a magnificent answer to the prayer of supplication this is!

This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God, that the Son of God may be glorified through it.

Jesus talks of his glory in connection with the Cross. (John 7:39) When the Greeks came to Him, Jesus said: “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified” (John 12:23).

He talks about the kernel of wheat, which must fall into the ground and die. (John 12:16) John says that the disciples remembered what Jesus said about dying.

It is our dying to self that magnifies the glory of God’s redemption in our life.

The Cross was His supreme glory and the way to glory. To cure Lazarus was to take a step, which would end in the Cross. It did and He knew it.

Jesus accepted the Cross to help his friend. He knew the cost of helping. He was prepared to pay it. There was no other way to glory than through the Cross.

When He received the news about Lazarus, He stayed for two more days.

There are various reasons mentioned by some commentators:

Jesus waited so that when He arrived Lazarus would be indisputably dead. It would make the miracle all the more impressive. There was a superstition that the soul of the dead still hovered around the body for three days, seeking re-entry. Thereafter it left and death is fully acknowledged.

Jesus takes action entirely on His own initiative and not on the persuasion of anyone else. When He turned water into wine at Cana (John 2:1-11) Jesus’ first answer to Mary is: “Don’t bother about this. Let me handle it in my own way.” In John 7:1-10 it recounts Jesus at first refusing to go to Jerusalem and then going in his own good time.

Our prayer should be that we leave it up to Him to do things His way.

To go to Judaea at that time seemed to them, the surest way to commit suicide by church leaders. The disciples were shocked.

“Are there not,” he asked, “twelve hours in the day?” We live within the confines of time here on earth. It will be worth our while to note the great truths in this statement of Jesus.

A day cannot finish before it ends. The period is fixed; nothing will shorten or lengthen it.

There are twelve hours in the day. There is time for everything a man should do. There is no need to rush.

There are twelve hours but only twelve hours. A day cannot be extended. Time cannot be wasted.

There is time enough, but not too much. The time we have, must be used to the utmost. [See Pebbles 109: And you? What do you have to say?]

If a man walks in the light, he will not stumble; but if he tries to walk in the night, he will stumble. These words might have two meanings: on the surface and is true, and on another level which lies below the surface it is even more profound.

The Jewish day, like the Roman day was divided into twelve equal hours, from sunrise to sunset. The length of an hour varied according to the length of the day and the season of the year.

On the surface: a man will not stumble when the sun is shining, but when the dark comes, he cannot see the way. There were of course, no streetlights in country places. Travelling stopped at nighttime.

A man must finish the day’s work within the day, for the night comes when work is ended.

In a deeper meaning, John uses the words the dark and the night to describe life without Christ; a life dominated by evil as in the case of Judas: “So, after receiving the morsel, he immediately went out; and it was night” (John 13:30). Night is when a man goes away from Christ and when evil reigns.

The threat of time is at the heart of the Gospel. A man has only so much time to make his peace with God through Christ. We have the limited time of this life to do God’s work.

Time has in it two tones of truth: the glory of being in time and the tragedy of being too late.

In the section of John 11:11-16 we see that Jesus’ conversations always follow the same pattern. Jesus says something, which sounds quite simple. His saying is misunderstood, and he goes on to explain more fully and unmistakably what he meant.

Jesus says: Lazarus is sleeping. To the disciples that sounded like good news. Sleep is good medicine. The word sleep has always had a deeper and a more serious meaning. Jesus said of Jairus’ daughter that she was asleep (Matthew 9:24); at the end of Stephen’s martyrdom we are told that he fell asleep (Acts 7:60). Paul speaks about those who sleep in Jesus (1 Thessalonians 4:13) and of those witnesses of the Resurrection who are now fallen asleep (1 Corinthians 15:6).

So Jesus had to tell them plainly that Lazarus was dead. It was a good thing, because it would produce an event, which would serve their faith.

The final proof of Christianity is the sight of what Jesus Christ can do. Words may fail to convince, but there is no argument against God in action. The power of Jesus Christ has made the coward a hero, the skeptic a man of faith, the selfish a servant. The plain fact of history is that the power of Christ has made the bad good. The redemptive power of the Gospel cannot be denied.

We should be a living proof of his power. Our task is to demonstrate in our lives what Christ has done for us.

As a great scholar once said: “I do not like crises; but I like the opportunities which they supply.”

At that moment the disciples might well have refused to follow Jesus. They realized that going even close to Jerusalem would mean certain death. It is the lone voice of Thomas that says: “Let us, too, go that we may die with him.” 

All Jews had two names – a Hebrew name by which a man was known in his own circle and a Greek name by which he was known in a wider circle. Thomas is the Hebrew and Didymus the Greek for a twin. So Peter is the Greek and Cephas is the Hebrew for a rock; Tabitha is the Hebrew, and Dorcas the Greek for a gazelle.

Thomas displayed courage. In his heart it might not even have been courage, but loyal despair. However, Thomas was determined – he would not quit.

Real courage means being perfectly aware of the worst that can happen, even being sickeningly afraid of it, and yet doing the right thing.

 

Death swallowed by triumphant Life!
Who got the last word, oh, Death?
Oh, Death, who’s afraid of you now?

(1 Corinthians 15:55, The Message)

Advertisements

48. After the Cross – the Lion and the Lamb.

Our heavenly journey continues. It is sometimes complicated to think ourselves out of time. I struggle to grasp the full implication of God’s perspective outside our “prison” of time. He sees all of history in one moment, our birth and death and whole life in between. I have often thought that this single feature of God, comprehended in its fullness, will boost my faith and trust in our loving Father to reign supreme over every aspect of my life till the day of my death. Knowing He sees and controls my destiny “abounding in goodness and truth” (Exodus 34) guarantees my victory in all things to end well.

Nowhere is the time perspective more obvious than in Revelation 5. God takes the scroll from the angel in His right hand, the symbol of power and authority. The scroll is all of history, written on the front and back, in other words fully ordained with nothing to be added or taken away – complete and sealed. It contains the God proclaimed redemptive plan of God in Jesus Christ now revealed in victorious consummation, with seven seals that represent the consequences of sin and disobedience.

In Roman law, only the last will and testament was sealed with seven seals – one for each witness. All witnesses were to be present when the seals were broken and the will read. Ordinary documents had only one seal.

No creature, celestial of earthly, is worthy to execute God’s plan for the “fullness of times”. This is earth’s tragedy, therefore John wept.

He made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, to be put into effect when the times reach their fulfillment–to bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ.

(Ephesians 1:9,10, NIV)

John gets the impression that the promise of a worthy One is frustrated, and gets a sense of deep sorrow.

Surely the Sovereign LORD does nothing without revealing his plan to his servants the prophets. (Amos 3:7, NIV)

God reveals His secrets to the prophets throughout all time, also today. Inside the vision is the point of receiving for those who guard their insight and anointing to “see” into unseen. Outsiders will receive nothing. It is a life of ignorance and confusion. (Ephesians 4:18)

There is comfort for weeping and sorrow in the Plan. One of the elders comforts John. The church has the knowledge of Jesus, the solution to all. The church should be the comfort and the vehicle of insight to see the One and reveal Him as the solution to history and the consequences of sin contained in the seven seals. Jesus’ own words to so many were: Do not weep. He speaks comfort and rest over a battered and broken world.

Human grief is born in insufficient knowledge and a lack of vision.

Do we lack patience, endurance and trust? Jesus is worthy to know God’s secrets. He is the key to the revelation of God’s secrets. Only in Him is the fullness of knowledge and understanding of what is happening in our world.

Christ is introduced as the Lion of Judah just as Matthew 1 establishes Jesus’ genealogy as the true Messiah from the root of David. (Isaiah 11:1) Jesse’s offspring would combine power and goodness. (Jeremiah 23:5, Zechariah 3:8)

Instead of the expected Lion, John sees a Lamb as though slain, but alive, bearing His scars also in heaven on the Throne of the Most High. God’s purpose is fulfilled. The death of Jesus was no accident of history. It was death with a purpose, to rescue the entire universe. There are no limits. It is all-inclusive and will always be.

The seven horns depict full authority, omnipotence and honour. (Psalm 89:17,112:9, 148:14) The priest put the blood of the sacrificial animal on the horns of the altar. (Leviticus 4:7,18, 25). It speaks of redemption. One could also grab hold of the horns of the altar to save one’s life when persecuted. (1 Kings 1:50/ 2:28)

The seven eyes depict full knowledge, wisdom, insight and counsel as promised in Isaiah 11:2 – characteristics of the Messiah. He takes the scroll exactly as described in Daniel 7: 9-14. Daniel calls Him the Ancient of days.

The Lamb is the centre of the scene. Jesus is called the Lamb of God 29 times in the Bible. In Isaiah (53:7) and Jeremiah (11:19) they see Jesus prophetically like a lamb led to slaughter.

Worship is the reaction to His triumphant entry into heaven after the victory on the Cross. The Cross stands at the centre of history. Years of earthly time after the Cross, John sees Christ’s entry into heaven to take the scroll of destiny in His hand, since the Cross made Him worthy to roll out God’s plan of redemption for mankind. Also for us, only the Cross makes us worthy of our destiny of redemption from sin.

Jesus stands before the Throne as the first fruits of the church. In John 20:17 Jesus says to Mary Magdalene:

 “Do not cling to Me, for I have not yet ascended to My Father; but go to My brethren and say to them, ‘I am ascending to My Father and your Father, and to My God and your God.’

In Revelation 5 John sees Jesus’ ascension to His Father as triumphant over death and glorified in the ultimate victory over sin and destruction. This is the moment when all of creation knows He is worthy to take the scroll. After this Jesus returned and appeared to many, also to Thomas who was allowed to touch Him.

All creatures, elders and the saints worship the Lamb as worthy to control destiny. This scripture is one of the spiritual pillars in my life.

It is thrilling to imagine the Throne room of heaven and the altar of incense, which depicts worship and prayer. My prayer is in that golden bowl before the Throne of God. Rejoice, Pebble pals!! The prayers of the saints are in that bowl. We have already said that we are saints, made righteous by the Cross.

But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; (1 Peter 2:9)

There is no such thing as unanswered prayer. God hears ALL prayers. We proclaim the praises of our Jesus together with the hosts of heaven. Whatever bears down on your heart this day, proclaim the Lamb of heaven and praise Him in chorus with all the angels. Bring your circumstances and heavy heart to the Throne room and “see” yourself in the golden bowl before the Throne.

Let my prayer be set before You as incense, The lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice. (Psalm 141:2)

Our prayers are directly before God. There is no intermediary necessary. The door to God is open. Jesus says this to Mary Magdalene as the most important message to His disciples – My God and your God and My Father and your Father. We have access through the Blood of the Lamb. We pray in the name of Jesus, which He gave to us. (John 16:26) We do not pray through any other mediator.

Let us sing the new song. It is new in quality; it was never heard before. (Psalm 33:3, 40:3, 98:1, 144:9, 149:1, Isaiah 42:1-13) It is UNIQUE and it is happening NOW.

[New could mean: neos – more of the same depicting quantity as in a new pencil but many others already exist or:  kainos – unique, has never been, depicting quality as in one of a kind.]

The kings and priests to reign are the saints of God to rule over the earth through our intercession, spiritual war and walk with God. Our witness is the effective barrier against complete destruction. The presence of the church holds back evil. (1 Peter 2:9)

The numbers of Revelation are symbolical of endless and countless multitudes (5:11). Only God can do this type of calculation. It is always more than enough; more than needed.

He is El Shaddai – the God of plenty.

Every creature is every possible being. Every knee shall bow. (Philippians 2:10) All the multitudes join the cosmic chorus to praise every attribute of God forever. All history moves towards the point of ultimate recognition of the Lordship of Jesus. Everybody says AMEN – it is true.

It is the greatest chorus ever. Every created thing is designed to praise Jesus. The elders have harps. It was the traditional music in the Psalms.

Sing to the Lord with thanksgiving;

Sing praises on the harp to our God, (Psalm 147:7)

 

 

 

17. Gold in your hand.

“Unbelief will destroy the best of us: faith will save the worst of us.”  Charles Spurgeon.

No matter how much we learn, there will always be some mystery surrounding God’s character and ways. It is always a reminder that He is so much bigger and more than we could ever imagine in our wildest dreams. Just when you think you know Him better, He will reveal something more that brings you to your knees in worship and wonder.

One of the things that are a constant reminder of God’s infinite greatness is time. The concept of being outside of time is hard to grasp. We live as “prisoners” of time if I may say so. God is all knowing and therefore sees all of history in a moment. Nothing ever surprises Him. This single realization is such a comfort to me. No matter what happens in my life; if my life is submitted to God, He is in control and nothing robs Him of His ability to work it out for my good, even if the worst may happen to me. Life happens and that could be an unpleasant surprise and a big shock to me, but God is never surprised nor shocked.

He knows when things go wrong, He knows when I am going to mess up, He knows all my failures even before they happen and He knows my pain of regret or pain of grief for things beyond my control. In everything He supports me, carries me through and forgives my sin.

Many years ago I saw failure and tragedy as a “side road” that happened when I left the planned “highway” that is set out for me by the will of God. I thought my life journey is planned in a concrete ditch-like road from which I should not step out. Failure to stay within this rigid, specific plan will cause ultimate spiritual failure.

I slowly came to realize, by the conviction of the Holy Spirit that my journey is a combination of the decisions I make with my sound mind in submission to God’s direction through prayer. I might decide to take a job in another city and move or I might decide to stay where I am, it will not alter the will of God for my life. The only important factor is submission in prayer. God helps me to make the right decisions when I make prayerful choices. In either one of the choices, His presence makes the difference. He will work it out to my advantage and will bring me through all crises that might come my way. There is no path that guarantees smooth living. The broken world we live in brings tragedy and heartache in which we are comforted from the Source of love and compassion. Even the heartache works to my advantage when my life is submitted to His hand and direction.

Jude 24

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—

When God says He presents you, then it is His working in your life that will bring you blameless and faultless, into His presence and before the Father. He will make you the joy of heaven. It will not be your own efforts of good living, only your decision to prayerfully submit.

Romans 11:36

For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. [For all things originate with Him and come from Him; all things live through Him, and all things center in and tend to consummate and to end in Him.] To Him be glory forever! Amen (so be it).

This is our faith in God. He is much bigger that you think and He directs all things in your life. Although the world is broken and in the hands of the evil one, God steps in on behalf of His children.

2 Chronicles 16:9:

For the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth to show Himself strong in behalf of those whose hearts are blameless toward Him.

A blameless heart is only possible through the cross. God Himself cleanses our hearts.

Psalm 51:10

Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right, persevering, and steadfast spirit within me.

Acts 15:9:

And He made no difference between us and them, but cleansed their hearts by faith (by a strong and welcome conviction that Jesus is the Messiah, through Whom we obtain eternal salvation in the kingdom of God).

This is such a relief. My own efforts always end up in disappointment, but Jesus works in me to be cleansed and worthy to enter into the presence of God.

Romans 8:28

We are assured and know that God being a partner in their labour, all things work together and are fitting into a plan for good to and for those who love God and are called according to His design and purpose.

The Greek word for purpose is prothesis meaning: pro = previously and thesis = a place. It indicates a conscious plan of preparing a place, called to the place where you belong. The magnificent design for salvation was already in place in the Garden of Eden when sin entered.

How do we know that we are included in this plan?

1 Timothy 2:3,4:

For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.

We bring ourselves into this wonderful plan of salvation through Jesus Christ. Further in 1 Timothy 2: 5,6 :

For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself as ransom for ALL ……..

If the Word of God says ALL then it means ALL. God already knows who will accept Him and who will reject His invitation. It is always an invitation, free to be rejected, otherwise it is not love. True love is always a choice.

Greek has two words for time – chronos and kairos.

Chronos reminds us of the word chronology and indicates calendar time, measured time, counted time, the relentless and constant passing of time in minutes, hours, days, months, years, decades, centuries and millennia.

Kairos is the liberating concept of God’s time and is defined by Strong’s concordance as: opportune time, set time, appointed time, due time, definitive time, seasonable time, proper time for action.

God’s time is always the right time. If we submit our lives we will be assured of the fullness of time when things happen at the right moment.

Colossians 4:5:

Walk in wisdom toward those who are outside, redeeming the TIME – kairos. The Amplified puts it this way: making the most of the time, and seizing the opportunity.

Can we relax in God’s timing and rest in the Holy Spirit to trust Him fully for the defining moment when the timing is the best it could ever be. He knows best. Do you believe that? When we yearn for things or solutions, it is complicated and our faith in His timing falters. We need wisdom to discern the timing and God promises that in James 1 without reproach.

Amongst all the genealogies and chronological documentation of the book of Chronicles, this remark stands out:

1 Chronicles 12:32

…of the sons of Issachar who had understanding of the times, to know what Israel ought to do…

Being mindful of time gives us a new perspective. In the end all we have is today. Everything we do this moment, which is all we have at our disposal, determines our future as well as our concepts and perspectives of our past. God enables us to “work” with our time.

The past is under the blood. Isaiah 1:18 is the key:

“Come now, and let us reason together,” says the Lord,

“Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow;

Though they are red like crimson, they shall be as wool.

This is the only way to get rid of wounds and hurt, failures and disappointments. Forgive other people and accept God’s forgiveness in your life. Even if circumstances do not change (which it will) you will change. A free heart and a new way of thinking are priceless. Again – it is not your own efforts, but His purpose and grace. Praise God for this!

2 Timothy 1: 9:

…who has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was given to us in Christ Jesus before time began..

The future is in God’s hands. The content of our future is the promises of God in His word. Just as certain as the daybreak each day and the changing of the seasons, you can rely fully and wholly on every word He says in the Bible. He will do what He says He will do – period.

Genesis 8:22:

As long as the earth endures, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night will never cease.

Can you accept the challenge to trust the Holy Spirit today with everything in your life and submit to God’s season for your life?

1 Peter 1:6,7:

In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.

The gold is in your hand…

I am reading: Experience the Impossible by Bill Johnsons – highly recommended.