Saturday, January 29, 2011

The Meek Shall Inherit the Earth

When do the meek inherit the earth?  Is Jesus simply saying that the redeemed shall one day live on the recreated earth in the "new heavens and earth"?  This is certainly true and each beatitude has an element of looking forward to receiving in some way what we give up in this life.  But there seems to be something in them that speaks to being blessed now.  Verse 3 of Matt. 5 says, "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven."  Jesus had said that the kingdom of God was about to begin; so we should be enjoying living in the kingdom right now.  Again, are we to think of the satisfaction of thirsting and hungering after righteousness as only something that we gain in Heaven?

So how is it possible to inherit the earth now?  Let me offer something to think about.  The word for "earth" simply means land or dirt.  The terms of inheritance and land are very Old Covenant terms.  The main inheritance of the Old Covenant was the Promise Land.  While our full inheritance is to be in the presence of our Lord face to face and thus Canaan is a type of Glory, yet they also fought battles in this land flowing with milk and honey.  Canaan is also a type of living in the kingdom.

So I think what Jesus is telling us is that those who live in submission to the Lord shall be able to enjoy the "land" or the blessings of living in the kingdom of God set up by Jesus.  I think 1Co 3:21-23 offers some help here: "So let no one boast in men. For all things are yours, whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or the present or the future--all are yours, and you are Christ's, and Christ is God's."  Also 2Co 1:20  "For all the promises of God find their Yes in him. That is why it is through him that we utter our Amen to God for his glory."

In a very real sense we already have everything through Christ.  When we live lives in submission to God’s will we will live life as man was created to live life on this earth.  Instead of every material thing becoming our master, we use all things for him.  Just as Adam was originally given dominion over all things to serve God with but sin turned his dominion upside down so Christ has given us all things that we might honor him as they were originally intended to be used.  The Bible has much to say about us reigning with Christ now.

Rom 5:17  For if, because of one man's trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ.  Rom 6:12  Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions.  Rom 6:14  For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.  Rev 5:10  and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth."

We read further, Rev 11:17  saying, "We give thanks to you, Lord God Almighty, who is and who was, for you have taken your great power and begun to reign.  Rev 20:6  Blessed and holy is the one who shares in the first resurrection! Over such the second death has no power, but they will be priests of God and of Christ, and they will reign with him for a thousand years.  

The Key to living in the kingdom then is meekness.  Rebels don’t serve the king, they disrupt the kingdom.  Living for self not only disrupts the kingdom of God it will disrupt your life and you will be unable to enjoy the benefits of Christ’s rule, Pro 3:5  Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. Pro 3:6  In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. Pro 3:7  Be not wise in your own eyes; fear the LORD, and turn away from evil. Pro 3:8  It will be healing to your flesh and refreshment to your bones.

Are we living in our inheritance now or do we think that we will only be able to reign with Christ at some point in the future?  

Monday, January 24, 2011

The Kingdom of God

Since we are going through the Sermon on the Mount at Church, I thought some of you might be interested in this program.  Every now and then I post one of The White Horse Inn's programs.  I thought they did a nice job pointing out some of the basics of what the Kingdom of God looks like.  Sometimes it is just as important to know what the Kingdom of God is not!  Enjoy

The Kingdom of God

At their page click on the arrow by "Program Audio"

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

A Better Mediator

When reading through 1 Kings 6:11-13 I noticed something I hadn't seen before.  The passage reads, "Now the word of the LORD came to Solomon, Concerning this house that you are building, if you will walk in my statutes and obey my rules and keep all my commandments and walk in them, then I will establish my word with you, which I spoke to David your father.  And I will dwell among the children of Israel and will not forsake my people Israel." 

Back in Exodus when the Old Covenant was ratified, it was clearly between God and the nation.  They agreed to the terms and they were sprinkled with blood and God told them that they would suffer the consequences if they didn't obey and they would reap the blessings if they did.  In the above passage Solomon the third king of Israel is told that if he obeys the laws of God that God will dwell among the people.  I might not have thought too much about this except for something I learned way back in high school while in Old Testament Survey, (I went to a Christian School).

We had to learn all the names of the kings of both Israel and Judah and what happened during some of their reigns.  Probably the most obvious thing we saw was that if a king was good, he obeyed the terms of the covenant and strangely enough so did the people; if he was evil he led the people into disobedience.  Israel never had a good king and so the people went immediately into idolatry and stayed there.  Judah had some kings who obeyed and some who did not and under the good kings the people generally did what was right concerning the covenant and under the evil kings they, without exception, did what was evil.

Now to understand what is going on here you have to remember that we are speaking of Israel under the Old Covenant.  The Remnant were those true believers that loved God and served him regardless of what was going on in the nation around them.  But mostly Israel was composed of unbelievers who were doing whatever they wanted to.  We also must remember that the Old Covenant was part and parcel with Israel's politics as well as it's religion. It controlled their civil laws as well as the laws of the Temple.  So whoever was king could effectively enforce whether Israel as a nation would obey the terms of the covenant or not.  If a king wanted to establish idolatry he could do that and make it difficult for those who did not participate and could be favorable to those who did.

My point is that when Israel asked for a king and God said that they were rejecting him by doing so, they were in effect asking for a mediator; someone who would rule them rather than God.  They wanted to allow him to rule the nation rather than God and it seems to me that by granting them their wish God establishes the king as Representative or Federal Head for the people.  They are still responsible to obey and they will suffer the consequences but God will let the king be the representative and as he goes, so goes the nation. 

Under the judges the people pretty much ruled themselves and that didn't work out too well because by the time of Samuel and Saul they were doing whatever seemed good in their eyes which translated meant they mostly didn't keep the covenant with God.  So perhaps by letting a king rule them they might do better.  But while it served them well at times, by and large the result was the same and God finally says enough is enough and promises that he will establish a better covenant.

And so in 1 Kings 6 I see a foreshadowing of Christ who said, "Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest."  If we are left to our own devices we have no hope of obeying God.  In fact we are told that there are none who does good and sins not.  The Old Testament is one big object lesson that man cannot obey God, let along earn salvation.  But those who come under the rule of the Lord Jesus Christ have found One who is able to perfectly keep the Law of God.  This is the essence of the New Covenant.  We are no more able to obey God than they were in the Old Testament but God has given us a king who will please God in all things and told him that all who are in this kingdom He will dwell with forever!  Thank God that we have a mediator who is much greater than the kings of the Old Testament.

Even Jesus tells us as much, Mat 12:42  "The queen of the South will rise up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, for she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon, and behold, something greater than Solomon is here."

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Swords Into Plowshares

We read in Isa 2:2-4,  "It shall come to pass in the latter days that the mountain of the house of the LORD shall be established as the highest of the mountains, and shall be lifted up above the hills; and all the nations shall flow to it,   and many peoples shall come, and say: "Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob, that he may teach us his ways and that we may walk in his paths." For out of Zion shall go the law, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem.  He shall judge between the nations, and shall decide disputes for many peoples; and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore."  Generally the beating of swords into plowshares is taken to be the fruit of salvation in which we are changed into peacemakers from the haters that we are by nature.  I assume that most see Isaiah as prophesying about the gospel age and with these two views I agree.  Yet there are some difficulties.

I have heard this and similar passages, see Micah 4:3, as referring to a golden age on earth in which the gospel has so swept over the earth that entire nations, if not all nations, no longer will engage in war and there will be universal peace.  Others see it as referring to a millennial age in which Christ will rule from Jerusalem and enforce peace on earth if you will.

It seems that by understanding the term "nations" as having to refer to actual national entities we run into some problems.  First of all the gospel is never said to affect nations, only individuals.  We don't preach the gospel to governments but individual sinners.  The word for nations in Isaiah basically is a word used for Gentiles and is telling us that all people groups will benefit from the gospel.  Some believe that Matthew 25:32 is referring to nations also, "Mat 25:32  Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats."  But this word also is "ethnos" and refers to all people groups along with the Jews.  The ESV I think rightly goes on to say he will separate people even though the KJV properly translates it "them" because it does refer back to the nations.  The reason is because they are then referred to as sheep and goats which is always a term of individuals.

Realistically can we ever expect a nation and in particular its government to be so "Christianized" that it will disband its army?  Would it not immediately be overthrown by another nation?  Arguably America was the best example of a Christianized nation and yet there was never any hint of anything so foolish as to disband our military.  In fact, we quickly produced the finest military on earth.  The only way this prophecy could apply to nations in this sense is if it was applied almost universally.  It would be saying that Christ would bring peace on earth through the gospel and not by his return.

Yet another problem is that Jesus himself said along with the writers of the New Testament that things would get worse and worse on the earth, not better and better.  "There will be wars and rumors of war".  It is hard to read The Revelation and see a golden age on earth until after Christ makes a new Heaven and a new Earth.  Paul in 2 Tim. 3 says that the last days will be one marked by all kinds of sinfulness not men who love and are at peace with each other but self-lovers.

So instead of seeing this as a prophecy of a golden age before Christ comes back; some wishful idea that the gospel will usher in a utopia, perhaps there is a simpler way to understand it.  Why can't it just be a reference to all ethnic groups or all kinds of people from all over the earth?  So it does refer to the effect of the gospel but on individuals because the gospel doesn't apply to and can't save and change governments.  We might fight the wars of our governments but in our own lives we love, we don't hate.  And such people exist among all nations or people groups.

This might help explain this passage in Isa. 11:9-12, "They shall not hurt or destroy in all my holy mountain; for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea.
In that day the root of Jesse, who shall stand as a signal for the peoples--of him shall the nations inquire, and his resting place shall be glorious.  In that day the Lord will extend his hand yet a second time to recover the remnant that remains of his people, from Assyria, from Egypt, from Pathros, from Cush, from Elam, from Shinar, from Hamath, and from the coastlands of the sea.  He will raise a signal for the nations and will assemble the banished of Israel, and gather the dispersed of Judah from the four corners of the earth." 

The knowledge of the Lord can cover the earth in that it is known among all groups of people.  It doesn't have to mean that every individual is a Christian or that every nation is Christian and as a nation seeks God.  Just before verses 9-12 in Isaiah 11 it refers directly to the change the gospel will make in individuals who are in the promised Kingdom of the Messiah, "The wolf shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the young goat, and the calf and the lion and the fattened calf together; and a little child shall lead them.  The cow and the bear shall graze; their young shall lie down together; and the lion shall eat straw like the ox.  The nursing child shall play over the hole of the cobra, and the weaned child shall put his hand on the adder's den." 

Admittedly these are not among the easiest to understand passages and subjects in the Bible, but it seems to me that this position avoids difficulties that we don't need to have.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

All Those Old Testament Names

So I am reading in Jeremiah 36 Sunday while preaching.  As is so often the case the passage is riddled with hard to pronounce (at least to me) names.  And if this weren't enough, many times we also find out that So and So was the son of So and So.  Now this is interesting to me because it seems that every time someone is mentioned after that we are told again and again who his father was so while reading this before a church full of people I have to mispronounce them not once but several times.

Now I am not really complaining because I know that it is important for them to be there and repeated or the Lord wouldn't have them there.  But as I was struggling through them Sunday and many times before the thought crosses my mind why do I need to know that "Jehudi was the son of Nethaniah who was the son of Shelemiah who was the son of Cushi."  Most certainly I don't know all the reasons these names are mentioned along with their relatives but let me offer what I think might be one reason.

It is something we mentioned as we went through all the genealogies while we preached through Genesis.  It is an amazing thing that obscure names of people who lived in the first few generations of the history of the earth and humanity are listed for us to begin with.  What I am struck with is the fact that God knows the name of everyone and doesn't forget our names.  He doesn't see us as a sea of faceless humans or merely as nations but knows each one of us personally, ordained from the beginning that we would be and what we would do and where we would end up.  This is great news for some and not so good for others.

In the aforementioned text of Jeremiah 36 we read of a king named Jehoiakim who didn't like what Jeremiah had been saying about Jerusalem's soon to be destruction.  He told Jeremiah he was not allowed in the Temple.  We might say that he didn't like what this preacher preached so he wouldn't let him preach.  The problem was that Jeremiah was simply preaching what God had told him.  Today we simply go somewhere else but when you are the king you can get rid of the preacher.  He didn't want to hear that God was going to judge them for their sin so instead of repenting he rebels in an interesting way.  Jeremiah had sent Baruch to preach in his stead and when some of the king's officials heard these words they took the scroll and brought it to the king.

The king was sitting by a fire during winter time and told them to read from the scroll.  When they got finished reading a section Jekoiakim would take his knife and cut off that section and throw it into the fire!  For his rejection of the Word of God, God curses his lineage and none of his descendants would sit on the throne of Israel.  For Jeremiah's part he is kept safe through the capture of Jerusalem.  All this seems to illustrate the fact that no matter when you live God knows you and will never forget any promises he makes to you either for good or a promise of judgment if you don't repent.

In Rev. 20:11ff we read of the final judgment where all of the living and dead are called up to stand before the Lord their Judge.  In vs. 13 we have some chilling words, "Rev 20:13  And the sea gave up the dead who were in it, Death and Hades gave up the dead who were in them, and they were judged, each one of them, according to what they had done."  We won't be able to hide in the crowd because God knows each one of us by name.  In fact, vs. 15 says that some have had their names written in a book.  Elsewhere we learn that their names have been there since before the world began.

Is it an actual book?  I doubt it, but it teaches of the kind of record keeping God keeps.  There is no chance of forgetting the names of his elect.  I am glad our God is a God who keeps records of names.  And I am glad that there is a name by which we don't have to be afraid to stand up and be counted in that day of judgment.  "Act 4:12  And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved."  We read a lot of names in the Bible but of all those born in the world only one has been give to us for salvation.

Maybe the next time I sing "When the Roll is Called Up Yonder", I will be glad that I was not lost in a sea of humanity but God took mercy on me and called me unto himself and has given me a new name, "Rev 2:17  He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who conquers I will give some of the hidden manna, and I will give him a white stone, with a new name written on the stone that no one knows except the one who receives it."  Just as a wife takes her husband's name so I am part of the bride of Christ and my new name is the name of my Beloved, "Rev 3:12  The one who conquers, I will make him a pillar in the temple of my God. Never shall he go out of it, and I will write on him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem, which comes down from my God out of heaven, and my own new name."