Thursday, August 25, 2016

Clothed in Someone Else's Clothes

Gen 27:15  Then Rebekah took the best garments of Esau her older son, which were with her in the house, and put them on Jacob her younger son.
Gen 27:16  And the skins of the young goats she put on his hands and on the smooth part of his neck….
Gen 27:21  Then Isaac said to Jacob, "Please come near, that I may feel you, my son, to know whether you are really my son Esau or not."
Gen 27:22  So Jacob went near to Isaac his father, who felt him and said, "The voice is Jacob's voice, but the hands are the hands of Esau."
Gen 27:23  And he did not recognize him, because his hands were hairy like his brother Esau's hands. So he blessed him….
Gen 27:27  So he came near and kissed him. And Isaac smelled the smell of his garments and blessed him and said, "See, the smell of my son is as the smell of a field that the LORD has blessed!

There is something in this account that reminds me of my own salvation.  By birth Jacob was not to inherit the blessing; this belonged to his elder brother Esau.  Esau was not only the first born but his father's favorite particularly because Esau cooked a wild game dish that Isaac loved.  Knowing that God had ordained, before they were born, that Jacob was to receive the blessing of the firstborn his mother Rebekah cooks up a rather elaborate plan to trick Isaac into giving Jacob the blessing. 

As the verses above tell us, Jacob gets his father’s blessing by dressing up in Esau’s clothes and making himself feel and smell like Esau and bringing him a meal that tasted like something Esau would have cooked.  One can’t help being reminded that this was the only way that we are accepted by our Heavenly Father.  We must be clothed in righteousness not our own but his.  He receives us based on his love for the Son so that now when he sees us he sees the righteousness of his Beloved Son.  If we come in the righteousness that we are born with, we would be cast out because we are by nature children of wrath.  

The Bible often uses this motif to illustrate this “substitution”.  Isa 61:10  I will greatly rejoice in the LORD; my soul shall exult in my God, for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation; he has covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decks himself like a priest with a beautiful headdress, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.

Mat 22:11  "But when the king came in to look at the guests, he saw there a man who had no wedding garment. Mat 22:12  And he said to him, 'Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding garment?' And he was speechless.

Eze 16:8  "When I passed by you again and saw you, behold, you were at the age for love, and I spread the corner of my garment over you and covered your nakedness; I made my vow to you and entered into a covenant with you, declares the Lord GOD, and you became mine.

Now some might object with this by saying that they are uncomfortable using Jacob’s deception as a type of our coming to the Father through the righteousness of another; after all we don’t trick the Father; it is his plan all along.  But I see this as an illustration and nothing more and in my mind probably an illustration that God intended by allowing things to work out the way they do.

The OT is full of some rather unsavory accounts all given to teach us about Christ and his work and his people.  I have asked myself why did God cause Jacob to get the blessing this particular way?  Why this sordid account of a wife and son deceiving Isaac and not just have Esau die or accepting the fact that he had given up his birthright earlier so that Jacob would not need to trick his father?  Maybe the answer is that this gives us such a stark illustration of how without being clothed in Jesus’ righteousness we have no hope to approach the Father.  

Hey, if you are uncomfortable saying that out loud, that is fine with me.  But either way it illustrates the way we are saved nonetheless and causes me to rejoice in the glory of the gospel of grace and I hope it does you too.

Friday, August 19, 2016

The Ultimate Answer to Every Question

Rev 12:7  Now war arose in heaven, Michael and his angels fighting against the dragon. And the dragon and his angels fought back.

Don Carson makes a great point while dealing with chapter 12 in Revelation and I thought I would pass some of it along.  This chapter begins the second major section in the book which gives us a behind the scenes look at the spiritual world which helps us understand what is going on in the physical realm.  I chose vs. 7 because it speaks directly of the war in the spiritual realm and how that affects things on the earth. 

It is essential for Christians to keep in mind that there is more to this world and life than just what they can see and feel.  One way to see this is by pointing out that for every question that has ever been asked from the beginning of time there is always two answers; and this gets back to what Carson said.  If you asked me why I have blue eyes we could answer that it is because of my parent's genes and go into all the biological explanations for how some genes are dominant and others are recessive. 

If we asked how is it that Hitler was able to rise to power in Germany there are plenty of historians who could explain all the politics of the time and the moral vacuum in Europe after WWI, etc.  If someone asked how is it that Jesus came to be crucified one could speak of the political intrigue in Judea at the time and how crucifixion was the form of punishment for sedition, etc.

But on one hand those are all surface level explanations.  At best they are secondary causes but there is a more important and fundamental answer to all questions and that is, “Because God did it”.  The first answer is the means by which he accomplishes his will.  And it is extremely important for us to never approach any question in life or any event or circumstance by merely being satisfied with the first answer.  I would say that if we don’t understand the second answer, the first explanation really doesn’t matter.  If we make everything about the physical world we end up dismissing God and the spiritual as if they don’t matter.

It is how the world lives to only look at surface level explanations for everything and there are two fundamental sins that result in this.  First of all, to look at this world by only being concerned with the secondary causes you have no reason or opportunity to give God glory or thanksgiving in everything.  If I am able to get a better job and I don’t acknowledge God as being behind it, then I might boast on my abilities or how lucky I was but I sin in the most fundamental way by not acknowledging that God is behind the supply of every need I have.  To rob God of the glory he is due is just another reason why we are all born deserving of his wrath.

Secondly, when we only acknowledge the physical realm we assume that there is no higher purpose than our physical needs and this causes us to demean the purpose of everything from something that is to be used to serve the Lord in the Kingdom of God to using everything to serve man.  So, for instance, someone discovers a cure for a deadly disease and it is used to save lives but the lost can see no higher purpose than saving human life whereas they should want to save human life so that those humans can serve the Lord.  It always ends up making man the highest purpose for everything.  (To be honest, there are plenty of people out there who see animals and the planet as more important than human life but that is another subject)

This again is one of the worst sins mankind is capable of because not only do they not give God glory but they don’t even acknowledge him as the ultimate reason for all things and in most cases don’t acknowledge him at all. 

So for us saints it is imperative that we never look at anything only as how it affects us or as if it was just a coincidence or as if there is anything that really has no meaning or purpose.  We must always understand that God is behind everything, the good and the bad, the painful and the pleasant because there is nothing that happens apart from his eternal counsels.  Even when the wicked rebel against his revealed will, it is merely because he has allowed it to serve his eternal purposes.  This will cause us to worship him in faith and thanksgiving and also cause us to use everything as an opportunity to serve him and not just ourselves and it will certainly help stop us from complaining about the providential workings of the Lord.

Friday, August 12, 2016

Aaron's Rod That Budded

Num 17:8  On the next day Moses went into the tent of the testimony, and behold, the staff of Aaron for the house of Levi had sprouted and put forth buds and produced blossoms, and it bore ripe almonds. Num 17:9  Then Moses brought out all the staffs from before the LORD to all the people of Israel. And they looked, and each man took his staff. Num 17:10  And the LORD said to Moses, "Put back the staff of Aaron before the testimony, to be kept as a sign for the rebels, that you may make an end of their grumblings against me, lest they die."

The occasion that brought about Aaron’s rod that budded is one of the most tragic in all the years of Israel’s wilderness journey.  It begins in chapter 16 where the sons of Korah decide that they are just as holy as Moses and Aaron and should be able to be priests also even though they were not of Aaron’s line but instead only from Levi.  They served as Levi’s but were not priests.  We can hear their arrogance in Num 16:3  They assembled themselves together against Moses and against Aaron and said to them, "You have gone too far! For all in the congregation are holy, every one of them, and the LORD is among them. Why then do you exalt yourselves above the assembly of the LORD?

There are two problems with their attitude.  First of all they have no regard for the God ordained authority in their lives.  This is something I have seen over and over again in my years of ministry.  People, both men and women but usually men, who decide that they are as qualified as those ordained into the ministry and called by the church to lead  because they cannot submit to God’s way of doing things.  But the men of Korah’s problem was that God had already chosen a leader and priest and so whether they could do the job or not was not the issue.  In rebelling against Moses and Aaron they were in direct opposition to God.  They tell Moses and Aaron that they have “gone too far” in taking upon themselves the leadership roles which of course was not true as Moses tried to get out of it but the Lord made it clear that he and Aaron were the men to do this work.  Moses later turns it around and tells them that in fact they have gone too far in usurping the authority that God had ordained.

The second issue here is that they were challenging the typology of the priests under the Old Covenant.  Two hundred fifty of these self-ordained leaders brought their own censors to burn incense before the Lord at the Tabernacle which was something reserved only for the priests.  So over the next couple of days the Lord deals with these rebels by swallowing up the men and their families and their possessions.  Their rebellion had destroyed their families as well.  I have seen this also when men who feel they must be the sole authority in their own life and cannot submit to the church and certainly their wives cannot submit to the elders of the church so take them away that they can be their own “priests” for their families and rule them in their arrogance.  Often they destroy any healthy spiritual atmosphere.

The next day we see that even watching the earth swallow up all these people isn’t enough of a warning for some.  The congregation accuses their leaders of killing the people of Korah as if it was Moses and Aaron and not the Lord that opened up the earth and sent fire down to consume the rest.  The influence of the malcontents has rubbed off on them and the Lord almost destroys them all but stops through Moses’s intercession.

And so in chapter 17 God proves once and for all that Aaron and his family alone is to be priests by having leaders of all the tribes bring their walking sticks and lay them up before the Tabernacle and the one that buds the next day is to be considered proof that that family alone is to be the priests. 

It is here that we see how all this points to the importance of the type of the High Priest.  It has always been a temptation for some to think that they can come before God and do the work of atonement and intercession on their own.  But Act 4:12 says, “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."  Just as God said only Aaron was to be the High Priest so Jesus was proclaimed to be the only savior.  The budding rod shows why Jesus alone is our Redeemer.  We are all dead in trespasses and sin but only One was sinless and died and came back to life and that was Jesus Christ.  Just as there was only one rod that had life in it so Jesus is the way, the truth and the life. 

There were three objects placed in the Ark: the tables of stone, the bowl of manna and Aaron’s rod that budded.  It wasn’t the stone tablets first given to Moses as he broke them to symbolize the people breaking the Law even as they were being given.  This was the second copy which speaks of Jesus perfectly obeying the Law when we could not.  He is also the heavenly manna, the Bread of Life come down from Heaven.  And the rod speaks of his identity as the only High Priest. 

It is a tragic sin to reject any authority that God ordains but when you reject the One ordained from all eternity to take your place under the judgment of God, you “go too far” and you have only the judgment of God to look forward to.  May the Lord give us hearing ears to understand and obey his Word.