The Angel of the LORD in Genesis 16 with Hagar

This is the first of a series of studies on the Old Testament character of the angel of the LORD. As we go through the appearances of this person in the Old Testament, it will become obvious that this is no ordinary angel. In fact, my conviction is that this is none other than the pre-incarnate Jesus, the second Person of the Trinity before His appearance in Bethlehem. My goal in each of these posts is to demonstrate how the angel of the LORD prefigures Jesus Christ. Then I also want to discover what characteristics are exhibited by the angel of the LORD and how Jesus manifested this in His earthly ministry. Finally, an implicit objective in all my posts is to show the beauty and the power of the Scriptures, and to make plain that the Scriptures are God-breathed (2 Timothy 3:16).

GENESIS 16: THE ANGEL OF THE LORD MEETS HAGAR

As the narrative in Genesis 16 unfolds, Sarai, Abram’s barren wife, has given her Egyptian maidservant, Hagar, to Abram so that Abram can go into her and have an heir. The plan backfires when Hagar conceives and, as a result, despises her mistress Sarai. Sarai then “treats Hagar harshly,” and Hagar runs away into the wilderness (Genesis 16:6). We will pick up the action there.

After the angel of the LORD finds Hagar in the wilderness, he speaks to her and asks her what is wrong. Hagar replies that she is fleeing from Sarai. The angel of the LORD then directs Hagar to return to Sarai and submit to Sarai’s authority (16:9).

We need to pause here for a second, because something interesting has just occurred. Notice that the angel of the LORD commands Hagar to return and submit to Sarai because it is right for Hagar to submit to her authority. Thus, the angel of the LORD has the authority to give people commands and to make moral judgments. This is a clue that this angel is divine.

Next, the angel of the LORD declares that He “will greatly multiply your descendants so that they will be too many to count (16:10).” Now stop and consider this. With no reference or allusion to God or to the LORD, the angel of the LORD just declared the future as if it were already fact and promised to Hagar that He Himself would give her many descendants. He had said, “I will greatly multiply . . .” Notice he speaks in first-person singular: “I will.” Only God has the power to declare the future because only God controls and ordains the future. Also, God is the one who opens the womb and God alone is the one who determines who will bear children and how many they will bear. Yet here, the angel of the LORD has both declared the future and has promised Hagar children. These are strong clues that this mysterious angel is none other than the LORD Himself, since He does what only God can do.

The angel of the LORD goes on to make specific prophecies about Hagar’s son-to-be, Ishmael. He gives Ishmael his name and He describes his personality and even tells where he will live (16:11-12). All this is declared as fact, even though Hagar had just conceived. It is almost as if the angel of the LORD knows the future in detail, almost as if he is omniscient.

Finally, we examine Genesis 16:13 and see other clues about the identity of the angel of the LORD. Hagar “called the name of the LORD who spoke to her . . .” Hagar is convinced that the Person who spoke to her was the LORD but notice that the only Person who spoke to her in this story was the angel of the LORD. We must conclude that the angel of the LORD is the LORD. Now notice the name that Hagar gave to “the LORD who spoke to her:” “You are a God who sees.” Clearly Hagar believes that the LORD who spoke to her is God. At the end of this verse (still in Genesis 16:13) she says, “Have I even remained alive here after seeing Him?” In Hagar’s mind, when she saw the angel of the LORD, she had seen God. She was amazed that she remained alive because no one can see God and live. Again, Hagar believes that, in the angel of the LORD, she has met and talked with God, a God who sees her and has compassion on her, a God who is not going to let her perish in the wilderness or be treated too harshly by her mistress, Sarai. Yet Hagar had talked only talked with the angel of the LORD.

            We have looked at the textual evidence about the identity of the angel of the LORD, but there are also intangible, subjective hints that let us know who he is. From the moment of His appearance on the scene, he possesses a divine presence, a bearing that radiates authority. It is obvious that the angel of the LORD is no ordinary angel. There is in his demeanor a simple, confident assurance that He is in charge, the He is in control.

            Notice one other thing about the angel of the LORD. In Hagar’s encounter with him, even though he is an angel, his appearance does not frighten Hagar. Isn’t that curious? In other encounters with angels, it is normal for the angel to calm the person, but this angel does not tell Hagar, “Fear not!” Maybe he appears to Hagar as an ordinary, flesh and blood man. The angel of the LORD does not intimidate her, but rather seems to have compassion on her. She trusts Him. It is only after her encounter that she realizes who He was. His words. His demeanor. His presence. His compassion. His authority. “Why, He must be God!”

WHO IS THE ANGEL OF THE LORD?

Who is the angel of the LORD? Surely, it is obvious who he is. Who is a divine being who appears as a flesh-and-blood man? Who is the one whose very presence exudes authority? Who is the one who existed in the form of God, yet did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped (Philippians 2:6)? Who is the one who speaks as the LORD, yet is not the LORD? The angel of the LORD announced that He Himself would greatly multiply Hagar’s descendants and that she would have a son. But only God has the authority to make and fulfill such promises.

Yes, the angel of the LORD is none other than the pre-incarnate Lord Jesus Christ. There is no other candidate, no other suspect.

CHARACTERISTICS OF THE ANGEL OF THE LORD

            First, we see that the angel of the LORD is compassionate. Hagar is running from Sarai, running into the wilderness. She is just a runaway Egyptian maid, wandering in the wilderness, but the angel of the LORD seeks her and finds her and speaks kindly to her and sends her back to the place of safety and blessing.

            We also see that the angel of the LORD has the power to create the future. He declares to Hagar that He will greatly multiply her descendants and that she will have a son, who she is to name Ishmael. He is sovereign over the future.

            Finally, the angel of the LORD sees us, and He gets involved in our lives.

            And now we know this angel of the LORD as Jesus Christ, the great King of kings.

SDG                 rmb                 2/22/2021

Crippled in both feet (2 Samuel 9:3)

When I was younger, it was a lot easier for me to believe that people were a pretty noble lot and that, if a person applied themselves and made the effort, then life would turn out pretty well. But as I have gotten older and have seen so many of my own best efforts amount to nothing as plans disappear like mist, and as I have watched those with promising beginnings become mired in mediocrity, I have wondered if maybe I overestimated our nobility. Maybe the truth is that we are broken and crippled in both feet and need someone to lift us up out of our futile existence.

MEPHIBOSHETH, THE CRIPPLE

In 2 Samuel 9 we are introduced to Mephibosheth. It is an odd name that he was given. His name in Hebrew means “dispeller of shame,” which is ironic because Mephibosheth’s life is marked by brokenness and shame. When we meet him in this story, “he is in the house of Machir the son of Ammiel in Lo-debar (9:4).” The most noticeable feature of Mephibosheth is that he is crippled in both feet (9:3).

“How did he become crippled?” you ask. Mephibosheth was the grandson of the king of Israel, King Saul. One day when he was five years old, the report came that his father Jonathan and his grandfather Saul had been killed in battle. His nurse took him up and fled, and in her haste, Mephibosheth fell. He fell and became crippled. In one day, Mephibosheth became crippled and orphaned. When he was five years old, all reasonable prospects for a happy future were irreversibly shattered. His father was killed, his legs were crippled, and the nurse he trusted failed him. And so, eventually, he drags himself out to Lo-debar, into the house of Machir the son of Ammiel. There in this dusty, backwater town, he ekes out his existence; forgotten, crippled, and orphaned. Helpless. Hopeless. End of story.

But it is not the end of the story, because there is an anointed king, King David, who is seeking for Mephibosheth. From his house in Jerusalem, King David “sent and brought him from the house of Machir the son of Ammiel, from Lo-debar (9:5).” David calls Mephibosheth by name (Isaiah 43:1) and, for no reason other than to show him kindness, the king makes promises to Mephibosheth, extravagant and astonishing promises of kindness and of lands and of a place at the king’s table where Mephibosheth can eat regularly as one of the king’s sons. In one day, Mephibosheth exchanged the miseries of Lo-debar for the glories of Jerusalem, and the house of Machir for the house of the king.

How does Mephibosheth respond? First, he “fell on his face and prostrated himself” before King David. What else would a person do when entering the presence of the king? Then Mephibosheth confesses his own unworthiness to receive such mercy and kindness. “Why do ‘you regard a dead dog like me?’” This is not self-loathing or self-pity, but an acknowledgement by Mephibosheth that he deserves none of David’s kindness. All he can bring to the king is his homage and unworthiness.

Through David’s kindness, Mephibosheth, who once was living in the house of Machir the son of Ammiel in Lo-debar, crippled in both feet, now lived in Jerusalem and he ate at the king’s table regularly as one of the king’s sons. Oh, and he was lame in both feet.

THE GOSPEL IN THE STORY OF MEPHIBOSHETH

As fascinating as this story of Mephibosheth is, it is the “normal” story of everyone who has trusted in Jesus the Messiah. The sober truth is that we are all broken from birth. All of us are victims of the fall, ruined because of the sin of Adam. We are figuratively hiding out in Lo-debar, waiting for someone who can be a “dispeller of our shame.” All our reasonable prospects for a happy future have been shattered or have evaporated. Like Mephibosheth, we are forgotten, crippled, and orphaned. Helpless. Hopeless. It feels like the end of story.

Then one day, we hear about an anointed king, King Jesus, the Son of David, who is seeking for us (Luke 19:10) and who is calling us by name. As we listen to His voice, this King makes promises to us, extravagant and astonishing promises of forgiveness of sins, and of joy in this life and eternity in heaven, and of a place at the King’s table where we can eat regularly as one of the King’s sons or daughters. According to this gospel of good news, in one day, in one moment we can exchange the miseries of our brokenness for the pleasures of His holiness. Jesus the Messiah is the great dispeller of our shame.

How do we respond? We fall on our face and prostrate ourselves before the glorious Messiah Jesus and we confess our sins and our unworthiness, and then we give Him our lives as living sacrifices (Romans 12:1) so that He can make use of even our lameness and our brokenness.

Yes, we are Mephibosheth.

SDG                 rmb                 2/20/2021

Old Testament stories: Genesis 22 – “Where is the lamb?”

The Bible contains many genres, different types or styles of literature that communicate the Bible’s essential truths. “Narrative” is one of those genres. Narrative is simply a way of saying “a story.” The Bible, both Old and New Testament, is full of stories that are inspired and written so that they convey spiritual truth through the dialog and the events of the characters in these narratives. I am now writing a series of articles that look at stories from the Old Testament which foreshadow the coming of Jesus the Messiah. That is, these stories about characters and events which happened centuries or even millennia before Jesus was born, nevertheless unmistakably picture the Messiah in His life and ministry. The hope is that we will see Jesus a little more clearly through these stories. This story from Genesis 22 is the first article in the series.

GENESIS 22:1-14 – ABRAHAM AND ISAAC GO TO MORIAH TO SACRIFICE

Our story for this article will come from Genesis 22, when Abraham is an old man and his son, Isaac, the son of promise, is probably in his late teens. Abraham is called by God to go to the land of Moriah to make an unusual sacrifice. The format for these Old Testament studies will be to go through the narrative once, pointing out what is going on in the story and highlighting some features of the narrative that are particularly significant and that will be explored later. Then we will go through the passage a second time pointing out how the story gives us a foreshadow of the Messiah who is promised in the Old Testament.

Because this article is long, I decided to place it on my “Roy’s Reflections” site as a ‘page’ rather than a blog post. Follow the link below to read the entire article.

Old Testament stories: “Where is the lamb?” (Genesis 22) – Roy’s Reflections

The Beauty of Old Testament Narratives: A series

One of the fascinating features of the Bible is the large percentage of the Scriptures, in both the Old and the New Testaments, that are made up of narrative stories. Narrative stories have an inherent attraction to us because we all like to read a good story. We see other people like ourselves wrestling with the challenges of life or making decisions or trying to figure out their meaning and purpose or dealing with conflict and confusion and loss, and we identify with them. Narratives connect us at a basic human level, and it is the same with the narrative stories of the Bible. They are remarkably accessible, and the characters are surprisingly real.

But there is something else to consider in these narrative stories in the Scriptures, and it is this: Why were these stories selected to be included in the pages of the Bible? Of the uncountable events that have taken place in history and the millions of characters who have walked on the face of the earth, why did the authors of the Bible select these narrative stories to be preserved for all time? It would be one thing if these stories had great political or historical interest and showed prominent world-changers as they made history, but the narratives in the Scriptures, and particularly those in the Old Testament Scriptures, are chosen seemingly at random. The characters are, for the most part, ordinary people in ordinary circumstances. So, why these people? And if we figure out why these people are included (Abraham, Moses, David, Solomon, and so on), we may still have questions about why these events. Is there a reason these stories were selected?

The narrative stories we will explore are from the pages of the Old Testament. The Hebrews held these writings to be inspired revelation from the LORD Himself and were, therefore, sacred writings. Since they were sacred, they could not be changed or altered, for then they would not be God’s word. These Scriptures were central to the life of the Hebrew faith community. In fact, two important jobs came from the Hebrews’ veneration of the Scriptures: the lawyer and the scribe. The lawyer’s job was to study the Scriptures to see what they meant, while the scribe was tasked with painstakingly copying the Scriptures, letter by letter, onto new scrolls so that the word of God would be preserved exactly as it had been received.

But why all this effort? Why all this tedious attention to detail to make sure that these obscure events about unknown people were preserved in their original form? Why? Because in the mind of God, there was a definite purpose for the Old Testament and even a definite purpose for how the Old Testament was written. These books of Torah and history and prayer and wisdom and prophets were given by God to the Hebrews to prepare the world for a coming event. The Scriptures were written to prepare the world for the appearing of Jesus, the Messiah. And so, some of these narratives point forward to show us the promised Messiah.

Over the course of the next few weeks, I plan to post a series of articles on selected narratives from the Old Testament Scriptures which give us foreshadows and clues about the first advent of Jesus the Messiah. As we explore these stories, we will see that, though ordinary in their characters and their details, the stories have a quality about them that transcends their ordinariness. We will also discover that the stories, though interesting in themselves, are written for the purpose of foreshadowing the one to come.

So, that is the plan. The first post in the series will look at Genesis 22:1-14, the story of Abraham and his son Isaac going to the land of Moriah to make a very unusual sacrifice.

SDG                 rmb                 2/9/2021

The death of David’s son (2 Samuel 12:14)

“Because by this deed you have utterly scorned the LORD, the child who is born to you shall die.” – 2 Samuel 12:14

If we are watching a courtroom drama unfold where the guilt of the accused party has been clearly proven by evidence and cross-examination and there is no reasonable doubt that they committed the crime, and then the jury returns a verdict of “not guilty,” we are justly outraged. The guilty one has been unjustly acquitted. The law has been violated because the guilty have gone free. The law is in place to punish the guilty, and yet this guilty one has not been punished.

In these situations where men have ignored and run roughshod over man’s laws, it is right to be angry and outraged. How much more outraged should we be, then, when a person is proven guilty of violating God’s Law and is unjustly acquitted! Yet this seems to be exactly what we find in 2 Samuel 11-12 in the incident with David’s famous sins.

A quick review is in order for this familiar story. In 2 Samuel 11, “in the spring of the year, the time when kings go out to battle, David remained at Jerusalem (2 Samuel 11:1).” Whether by design or by chance, David is walking on his roof and sees Bathsheba, the wife of Uriah the Hittite, bathing. He sends messengers to bring her to his house, “he lay with her, then she returned to her house (11:4).” Bathsheba becomes pregnant by David, and now David has a problem. After calling Uriah the Hittite, Bathsheba’s husband, back from the battlefield to Jerusalem, David tries to convince Uriah to go to his house to be with his wife. The noble and loyal Uriah refuses to go to his house to lie with his wife while Joab and Israel’s army are out in the open field fighting the Ammonites. With Plan A foiled, David then implements Plan B, which is to have Joab “set Uriah at the forefront of the fiercest fighting and then draw back from him, that he may be struck down and die (11:15).” Uriah is thus killed, so Plan B appears to have worked, “but the thing that David had done displeased the LORD (11:27).”

In the next scene, the prophet Nathan comes to David and tells him a story about a grave injustice done by a rich man against a poor man. Incensed by the injustice, David cries out, “As the LORD lives, the man who has done this deserves to die (2 Samuel 12:5).” Nathan famously declares to David, “You are the man!” The prophet then proceeds to tell David the details of his sins and the consequences that the LORD is going to bring on David because of his sins. David then says to Nathan, “I have sinned against the LORD (12:13).” Astonishingly, after this simple and brief confession, Nathan responds to David by saying, “The LORD also has put away your sin; you shall not die. Nevertheless, because by this deed you have utterly scorned the LORD, the child who is born to you shall die (12:13-14).”

What?? This is outrageous! David willfully commits adultery with Bathsheba whom he knows is married to Uriah the Hittite, one of his thirty mighty men (23:39), and then wickedly sees to it that this noble man, Uriah, dies in battle, effectively murdering him, and then utters a brief confession of “I have sinned,” and he gets off the hook? “I have sinned,” and adultery and murder are just sort of swept away? How can this be right? O yes, I am sure it was extremely painful to watch as your infant son die, knowing that his death was your fault, but that in no way satisfies the demands of the Law. Surely this is gross injustice! How can the LORD allow this?

SOLVING THE OUTRAGE

            This does seem to be an outrage but consider these things. The death of the child born to Bathsheba highlighted David’s guilt and reminded him of the wages of his sin, but the death of that child brought him no forgiveness. For if Nathan is telling David that he is forgiven because of the death of the child of Bathsheba, then the injustice of that forgiveness and the outrage remain. David violated the Law of God on two counts, and the Law of God demands death for the violator. By David’s own words, “The man who has done this deserves to die!” “The soul who sins shall die (Ezekiel 18:4).” The justice of God demands a death penalty for these sins, and the death of Bathsheba’s son could never satisfy the Law’s demands. Bathsheba’s son died as a judgment for David’s sins, not as a propitiation for David’s sin, because this unnamed son of David was not an acceptable sacrifice for David’s sin. This child was not a worthy substitute.

            How, then, can the LORD take away David’s sin, and how can the LORD legally forgive one who has flagrantly and repeatedly and willfully rebelled against His holy Law? If the death of this child cannot atone, what can wash away David’s sin?

            Nathan can declare that the LORD has taken away David’s sin not based on the death of Bathsheba’s son, but based on the death of Mary’s Son. The death of David’s son born in Jerusalem could not atone for any of David’s sins, but the death of David’s Son born in Bethlehem atoned for all of David’s sins. The unnamed son of Bathsheba was not an acceptable sacrifice for David’s sin, but the Son of Mary, who was named Jesus because He would save His people from their sins (Matthew 1:21), gave His life as an acceptable ransom (Mark 10:45) for David’s sin by His substitutionary death on the cross. Therefore, Nathan can declare that the LORD has taken away David’s sin because Jesus the Messiah, the glorious Son of David, that Child who is born to David shall die.

“All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified as gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus, whom God displayed publicly as a  propitiation in His blood through faith (Romans 3:23-25).”

APPLICATION

            Now the question that we asked earlier about David must be answered by every one of us. How can the LORD legally forgive one who has flagrantly and repeatedly and willfully rebelled against His holy Law? For the truth is that we have all rebelled against the Lord and we have all flagrantly and willfully violated His holy Law. How can God legally forgive us? But the good news of the gospel is that the Jesus who died for David’s sins is also the Savior who died for the sins of all those who put their faith in Him. If you repent and believe in the gospel (Mark 1:15), then Jesus died for your sins, as well. Praise God that the Child who was born to David died!

SDG                 rmb                 11/14/2020

Psalm 110: A brief lesson in Christology

The LORD says to my Lord, “Sit at My right hand . . .”

INTRODUCTION

Thus, David begins Psalm 110, a psalm that held many mysteries for those who lived before the Incarnation. “The LORD says to my Lord.” “Yahweh says to my Adonai.” Right from the start the psalm presented difficulties. God is talking to God. Yahweh is talking to Adonai, so there appear to be two persons here, but the Shammah from Deuteronomy 6:4 says, “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one.” So how can this be? There is no clear solution to this puzzle.

            Jesus Himself brings out another conundrum from the psalm, as He questions the Pharisees during Passion Week. At that time, Psalm 110 was accepted by Hebrew scholars as a messianic psalm. The images and the drama of the psalm made it obvious that it pictured the victorious exploits of the Messiah. But the Holy Spirit had inspired David to write a theological riddle. So, Jesus asks, “Whose son is the Christ (Matthew 22:42ff)?” “The Son of David,” the Pharisees reply. The trap has been set and the bait has been taken. Jesus then quotes Psalm 110 and asks the obvious question: “If (in Psalm 110) David calls him (the Messiah) ‘Lord,’ how is He his Son?” In other words, “How can the Christ (Messiah) be both David’s son and his Lord?” No answer is offered because no answer is available. The Pharisees have no solution to the riddle.

            But the mysteries are even deeper than that. While the psalm was acknowledged to be about the victories of the Messiah, the only reference for the pronouns “You” and “Your” in verses 1-4 and the only reference for the pronoun “He” is verses 5-7 is “the Lord,” which in Hebrew is Adonai, a divine name of God. Therefore, taking all this into account, from Psalm 110 we discover that the Messiah is the Lord Adonai, but He is also the human Son of David “according to the flesh (Romans 1:3),” a Man like us who “will drink from the brook by the wayside (Psalm 110:7)” to quench His thirst. Sort of like a God-Man.

            Does that sound familiar? It should because Psalm 110 points unerringly to the Lord Jesus Christ. In fact, this psalm is one of the most complete pictures of Jesus Christ in both His first and second advents in the Bible. The psalm provides us with a lesson in Christology that is supported by many other Scriptures. The rest of this article will explore Psalm 110 verse-by-verse and show how it reveals Jesus to us.

FINDING JESUS IN PSALM 110

  • Verse 1 – The Lord is told to sit at the right hand of the LORD because He has accomplished something that merits the seat of honor. Christ is exalted to the right hand of the Majesty on high (Hebrews 1:3) because He has accomplished the work of redemption that He was given to do (John 17:4). He is highly exalted as a result of His perfect humiliation by his death on the cross (Philippians 2:5-11). He has been allotted a portion with the great (Isaiah 53:12).
  • Verse 1 – We have already talked (above) about the divine and human natures of the one who is the Lord (Adonai) and yet the Son of David.
  • Verse 2 – A “strong scepter” is a symbol of this King’s power. “The LORD sends forth Your strong scepter from Zion.” This scepter is the gospel that is sent forth and allows Christ through His church to rule in the midst of His enemies, “as sheep in the midst of wolves (Matthew 10:16)”. With the scepter of the gospel Christ will conquer the nations and bring many into His kingdom.
  • Verse 3 – There is a certain day in the future, “the day of Your power,” when His power will be on full display. We know that this will be the day of the Lord, the day of Christ’s return. In that day, “Your people will volunteer freely” and they will be dressed “in holy array.” This is describing the glorified saints arrayed in white robes who will come with the Lord Jesus upon His return. (See 1 Thess. 4:14; 2 Thess. 1:10; Revelation 19:14)
  • Verse 4 – The LORD has taken an oath and has sworn, and when God Himself takes an oath, it indicates the unchangeableness of the promise (Hebrews 6:13-20). This is the solemnity of the oath that the LORD has made to the Lord Jesus. The oath cannot be broken or changed.
  • Verse 4 – What is the nature of the oath? That Christ is “a priest forever, according to the order of Melchizedek.” First, then, He is a Priest as well as a King. There were no such kings in the Davidic line, for the priests were descended from Aaron in the tribe of Levi and the kings were from David in the line of Judah. Thus Christ, the Son of God, is the only one allowed to be both King and Priest because He is of the priestly order of Melchizedek. As a priest, Jesus makes intercession for His people. As priest, He is also the one who brought the blood of the eternal sacrifice to the heavenly mercy seat (See Hebrews 9-10).
  • Verse 4 – Christ is a priest forever. The priesthood of Jesus had no beginning and will have no end. In eternity past, the LORD swore with an oath that Jesus was a priest forever. He always lives to make intercession for His people (Hebrews 7:25). His people always have an advocate, a priest to intercede for them with the Father.
  • Verse 4 – For a study of Melchizedek as a type of Christ, spend time in Hebrews 7.
  • Verse 5 – “The Lord is at Your right hand.” Thus, begins the day of the Lord’s wrath. Verses 5-6 speak about the day of Christ’s return in wrath and judgment. We recall from verse 1 that the LORD invited the Lord to sit at His right hand. On the day of wrath, the Lord will still be at the LORD’s right hand as they render judgment to the unrighteous. In Revelation 6:16, the kings of the earth say to the mountains, “Hide us from the presence of Him who sits on the throne (the LORD), and from the wrath of the Lamb (the Lord).”
  • Verse 5 – “He will shatter kings in the day of His wrath.” From that same passage in Revelation 6:15-17, the Lord shatters kings and the great men in the day of His wrath. Psalm 110:5 is describing the events of Revelation 6:15-17.
  • Verse 6 – The Priest-King of the order of Melchizedek “will judge among the nations.” Can there be any doubt that this is the terrible day of Christ’s final judgment? This is described in Matthew 25:31-46, when Jesus separates the sheep from the goats and casts those on His left “into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels (v. 41).” We see a glimpse of this in Luke 19:27 and in Revelation 14:9-11. Psalm 2:9 also mentions that the Son “will break them with a rod of iron and shatter them like earthenware.” Finally, in Revelation 19:11-16 we see the Lord Jesus coming in His final judgment.
  • Verse 6 – “He will fill them with corpses.” In the great day of judgment, there will be many slain by the Lord Jesus as He returns to deal out retribution. In Revelation 19:17-21, the Scriptures declare that the birds in midheaven will feast on “the flesh of kings and the flesh mighty men,” and all of these will be “killed with the sword that came from the mouth of Him who sat on the horse.” The one on the horse is the Lord Jesus in His Second Coming. There will be many corpses on that day.
  • Verse 6 – “He will shatter the head over a broad country.” What would it mean for Jesus the Messiah to “shatter the head?” In Genesis 3:15, we read that the Messiah, the seed of the woman, will bruise Satan on his head. Now here we read that the great Priest-King, the Messiah “will shatter the head.” Psalm 110:6 is speaking of how Jesus crushed Satan’s head when He was crucified at The Place of a Skull. We also know that Jesus will finally “crush Satan’s head” when throws him into the lake of fire (Revelation 20:10).
  • Verse 7 – The final verse may be the most mysterious of all. “He will drink from the brook by the wayside.” From this phrase it is unmistakable that this Warrior is human, for He thirsts and so He must stop by the wayside to drink from the brook. He wields the divine sword of judgment, yet He also needs water to slake His thirst.
  • Verse 7 – There may be more intended from the phrase, “He will drink from the brook.” For we know that, during His first advent, Jesus the Messiah was required to drink the cup of God’s wrath which He was given (John 18:11; Matthew 20:22). We know that, while He was on the cross, the Messiah thirsted (John 19:28). It is possible, then, to understand this phrase as speaking about His suffering in His earthly life. He drank from the brook of suffering that ran by the wayside of His life.
  • Verse 7 – If drinking from the brook does, in fact, point to Jesus’ suffering in this life, then the second half of the verse fits well into Scripture. In Isaiah 53:11, “As a result of the anguish of His soul . . .” Then in 53:12, “Therefore, I will assign Him a portion with the great.” In Philippians 2:8, Jesus was “obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” But 2:9, “Therefore also God highly exalted Him and bestowed on Him the name that is above every name.” (See also Revelation 5, where the Lamb is given glory and honor because He has conquered.) Because the Messiah endured the cross, “Therefore He (the LORD) will lift up His (the Lord’s) head.” And this understanding would bring us back to the start of the psalm when Jesus ascends to the right hand of the LORD.

CONCLUSION

            Psalm 110 presents us with a powerful picture of Jesus the Messiah in His first advent as the suffering Servant, but also in His Second Coming as the Warrior-Judge. This psalm also highlights the prophetic nature of some of the psalms as clearly foreshadowing future events. Finally, the psalm reveals again the divine inspiration of the Scriptures as these words written by David a thousand years before Jesus’ Incarnation are fulfilled by our great Priest-King.

SDG                 rmb                 10/20/2020

Living in the present with Joseph (Genesis 50:19-20)

My last post was about living in the present moment so that we can maximize our enjoyment of the Lord and can give ourselves away for the blessing of others. If I am dwelling in the past and lamenting things that cannot be changed, or if I am fearing the future and fixating on the threats that might come, then I am not living in the present. And the present is the only place where I can live and be faithful to my calling (Ephesians 4:1) and accomplish the works the Lord has given me to do (Ephesians 2:10).

In this post I wanted to further explore this idea of living in the present by looking at some biblical pictures of this and asking, “So, what do I do with my past? How do I handle thoughts and feelings about my past? Do I just pretend those things never happened?”

TWO ASPECTS OF THE PAST: MY OWN SINS AND THOSE OF OTHERS

It occurs to me that there are two aspects of our past that can prevent us from living fully in the present. First, there are my own sins and failures. There are the things that I have said and done in violation and rebellion against God’s moral Law and have thus wounded others, and these things now bring me the pain of shame and guilt and regret. How can I ever remove these black marks from my past when the sins are committed, and the words are said and cannot be taken back and are etched in history’s stone? Who will set me free from this guilt and shame (Romans 7:24)? The good news of Jesus Christ answers this question, because most of what the Bible has to say about our past and about how we are to deal with our past is focused on this aspect of our past. The Bible declares that, “Though your sins are as scarlet, they will be as white as snow. Though they are red like crimson, they will be like wool (Isaiah 1:18).” The Bible proclaims that, because the Lord Jesus Christ died on Calvary’s cross, your sins can be forgiven and your guilt and shame can be removed if you will place your faith in Jesus Christ as your personal Lord and Savior. The gospel, and only the gospel, offers forgiveness, full and free, from all your sins and failures (John 8:36).  

But the second aspect of our past that can prevent us from living in the present is the things that have been done to us by others. This second aspect has to do with dealing with how others have wounded and harmed us. People can often be thoughtless, and they can be intentionally cruel, and they can inflict deep and long-lasting damage to us. But regardless of who or how the damage is done, we are the ones who must mend and forgive and untangle and resolve and defang these deep pains from our past. These kinds of wounds can stay with us a long time and can leave us trapped in the wreckage of the past. How do we deal with this part of our past? How are we able to bury these specters from the past so that we can live and flourish in the present?

JOSEPH RECEIVED CRUEL AND EVIL TREATMENT, AND YET . . .

            Joseph was the favorite son of his father, Jacob. Then one day, while obeying his father’s instructions to find his ten older brothers (Genesis 37), his brothers conspired together to strip off his special coat and to throw him into a pit to die. Before they could kill Joseph, however, some slave traders come along, and the ten older brothers decide to sell Joseph to the slave traders heading to Egypt. When Joseph is gone, they dip his robe into goat’s blood and tell his father that he is dead. Meanwhile, as a slave in Egypt, Joseph is falsely accused and thrown into an Egyptian prison. Here is a man who should have been trapped by his past and by the evil that was done to him by others. Here is a man whose major hope for the future would be to get out of prison so he can take revenge on his brothers.

            But that is not what we find. Through God’s providence and God’s plan, Joseph is dramatically promoted from prison to the palace and is made second in charge to Pharaoh, the king of Egypt. And what does he do with the pain of his past?

MANASSEH AND EPHRAIM

            Pharaoh gives Joseph a wife and through her, Joseph has two sons. He names the firstborn Manasseh, for “God has made me forget all my hardship and all my father’s house (Genesis 41:51).” The name of the second he called Ephraim, “For God has made me fruitful in the land of my affliction (41:52).” Joseph is able to break free of the poison of his past because he focuses on what God is doing, and he focuses on God’s goodness. It is as if he says, “Yes, people can be cruel and evil, but God is good and I will rejoice in Him and I will trust Him to run His universe as He sees fit.” Joseph could have remained trapped in the past, bitter and vengeful and blaming others for his pain, but he chooses instead to trust the Lord and to live in the present and to do today what God has commanded him to do today.

RECONCILES WITH HIS BROTHERS

            What will Joseph do with his feelings toward his brothers? How can he ignore the hateful evil that they did to him, throwing their own brother in a pit and then selling him off to slave traders? But even in this Joseph will not be a slave to his past. He will not be trapped in the pit of self-pity or in the chains of revenge. Instead, when he finally confronts his brothers, the men who robbed him of his home and of the peacefulness of his youth, he says, “And now do not be distressed or angry with yourselves because you sold me here, for God sent me before you to preserve life (Genesis 45:5).” Joseph knows the God is the one who used the evil deeds of his brothers to preserve life in Egypt. God is the one in control. and God is good. God has made Joseph lord of all Egypt (45:9). Joseph focuses on God and is thus able to escape the slavery to his past. So, Joseph chooses to forgive his brothers and not to hold them under his judgment, and thus is able to live and love in the present. At the end of this scene, Joseph “kissed his brothers and wept on them, and afterward his brothers talked with him (45:15).”

CONFESSION OF SIN AND FORGIVENESS AT LAST

            Joseph has been freed from his past, and he has forgiven his brothers’ sins against him, but because his brothers have never admitted (confessed) their evil to Joseph and have never asked for his forgiveness, they remained trapped in the past. They remain fearful that Joseph may some day remember the evil that they have done to him and may take revenge. But finally, the brothers, too, are set free from the evil that they did to Joseph. “Please forgive the transgression of your brothers and their sin, for they did you wrong (Genesis 50:17).” Joseph responds to their request for forgiveness by weeping, as all the evil of the past and its pain finally rolls away, and he says, “Do not be afraid, for am I in God’s place? As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good to preserve many people alive (Genesis 50:19-20).”

FORGETTING THE PAST SO WE CAN FULLY LIVE IN THE PRESENT

            By fixing his focus on God, and not on the evil deeds of men, Joseph is able to move past his past, so that he can fully live in the present. The Lord has given him the ability to forgive his brothers so he can forget their cruelty to him. He thus forgets what lies behind, so that he can be free to embrace what lies ahead (Philippians 3:12-14). When we focus on the Lord and His goodness, we remove from our past the power to enslave us and we can joyfully live in the present.

SDG                 rmb                  10/1/2020

Joseph’s Mysterious Steward (Genesis 43-44)

There is an interesting character that appears here in this part of the Genesis story: Joseph’s house steward IN Genesis 43-44. Just as a “by the way,” it is fascinating that the Lord builds little points of interest into His story of the patriarchs, little nuggets of gold. For those who are paying attention and who know where to look and when and what to look for, these subtle details make the story captivating regardless of how many times the story is read. Just when it would appear that all the details have been studied and all the viewpoints have been exhausted, another twist in the road will be found and another trail to explore will be uncovered. And so, for this reading the “new trail” is a consideration of this ‘house steward’ of Joseph, the person that does Joseph’s bidding and interacts with the brothers on Joseph’s behalf.

The first time that we encounter this steward is in Genesis 43:16 when the brothers have come to Egypt for the second time to buy food, because the famine is severe in all the land. The steward is commanded to bring the brothers into his house. They try to justify themselves by telling the steward that they brought back both the first money that appeared in their sacks and also more money to buy food. The steward listens to them and then says to them, “Peace be to you. Do not be afraid. Your God and the God of your father has given you treasure in your sacks. I had your money.”

What an interesting thing for the steward to say! First, he declares to them peace. The steward represents Joseph, the one in power, and instead of threatening them he declares peace. “Do not be afraid.” Jesus would often say exactly these words to His frightened disciples. In the Old Testament, when angels appeared to men the angels almost always spoke of peace and told the humans not to be afraid. Here also the steward tells the brothers not to be afraid. “There is no threat here. Yes, you are in the house of the most powerful one in the land, but you are here in his peace and you have nothing to fear. The sovereign may be awesome and glorious, but you have found favor in his sight and you do not need to be afraid of him. In fact, here in his land he will protect you. You are safe and you are favored.” Thus, the steward speaks for Joseph and speaks to his brothers.

The steward also mentions God and gives Him the credit for returning the money into their sacks. Then he makes another noteworthy statement when he says that God put treasure in their sacks and he adds, “I had your money.” (NASB) The ESV says “I received your money.” What does this mean? It is clear that the steward had not received the money and did not have the money, but had given the money back to the brothers. The steward is declaring that he knew where the money was all the time and that their money does not spend in Joseph’s domain. “Your money will not be accepted here as payment for these goods.” It is also significant that the steward acts without Joseph’s consent or knowledge. He does not need to get Joseph’s permission to speak very boldly about what has taken place. (This can raise the question about the identity of the house steward. Could this minor character be a cameo appearance of the Son of Man, a theophany of the pre-incarnate Christ?)

Probably the most fascinating interchange takes place in 44:6-13. Here the brothers have once again started to leave Egypt with their food when the steward catches up with them. The dialog is remarkable. Joseph tells his steward exactly what to say and the steward speaks those harsh words to the brothers, words of accusation, that they have responded to all Joseph’s benevolence by stealing his silver divining cup. The brothers respond defensively and say, “How could we steal silver or gold from your lord’s house? WITH WHOMEVER OF YOUR SERVANTS IT (THE DIVINING CUP) IS FOUND, LET HIM DIE, AND WE ALSO WILL BE MY LORD’S SLAVES.” Pay close attention to this and to the reply of the steward. The brothers propose that if the silver cup is found on anyone, the one who has it will die, and the rest will be slaves. But the steward says, “Now let it also be according to your words; HE WITH WHOM IT IS FOUND SHALL BE MY SLAVE, AND THE REST OF YOU SHALL BE INNOCENT.” Notice what has taken place here. The brothers say the guilty party should die, but the steward says that the guilty will be his slave. The brothers say that the rest will be slaves, but the steward says that the rest shall be innocent! Yet the house steward prefaces his statements with the words, “Let it be according to your words.” Given the opportunity to exercise severe judgment, he instead changes the sentence to one of grace. One brother will pay the penalty for the crime and the rest of the brothers will be considered innocent. One will be punished and the rest will go free. Notice further that the favored brother, the one most beloved by his father and the one who was the most innocent (Benjamin had almost certainly not been with his brothers when they sold Joseph into slavery) was the one who would bear the penalty for the other brothers’ crime. Also notice that Benjamin had been selected by Joseph as the one who would be considered guilty. All the brothers except Benjamin were equally guilty of selling Joseph into slavery, but only the innocent brother was chosen to bear the punishment for the crime and then the rest would be considered innocent. It is almost as if the crime of the ten guilty brothers is imputed to the one innocent brother.

Of course, the analogy is clear. We are all the ten guilty brothers. We all come into the presence of God with blood on our hands, with myriad sins that stain our multi-colored tunic. We are the ones who have stolen the ruler’s silver cup. We are the ones who tremble before the holy God who justly accuses us of our crimes and of our sins and asks us who we have to bear our deserved condemnation. In the terror of His gaze we need an innocent brother. We need a chosen sin-bearer who is Himself unblemished and spotless, who is holy and sinless, who is undefiled and separated from sinners and yet who will willingly accept the divine wrath that must be satisfied for the sins we have committed. This is the glorious Lord Jesus Christ, the spotless and sinless perfect sacrifice, the Brother who has endured the full weight of the wrath of God on the cross. And yet here is the wonder of God’s grace, that when I gaze at the cross and embrace as my Savior and Lord the crucified and risen Son of God, then the blood is removed from my hands and the stains are removed from my tunic and I am considered innocent. I am wrapped in a robe of righteousness and my sins are separated from me as far as the east is from the west and they will be remembered no more and I am received into the house of the King as a favored child and a full heir. Glory be to God! Here in Joseph’s house steward we see a foreshadow of the coming Messiah, a picture of Jesus Christ and of His mission of redemption which He accomplished on the cross. Let God be praised for His magnificent Word.

SDG                 rmb                  10/2/2019

Joshua 2: Christ in the Scarlet Thread

MAIN IDEA: The main idea in this writing from Joshua 2 is that the writers of the Old Testament narratives, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, wove into their stories pictures of Jesus which foreshadow His life, His salvation and His gospel. And while Jesus Christ appears many times in the Old Testament (Hebrews 1:1; Luke 24:27), He often appears in disguise and here in this passage is a beautiful example of how Jesus Christ and His salvation are hidden in an Old Testament narrative.

In this article I will carefully go through this passage from Joshua 2 showing how Jesus and His gospel are here in disguise. Then I will lay out for you the TYPICAL CHARACTERISTICS of these “Jesus-in-disguise” passages so that you can begin discovering them for yourself.

As you read through Joshua 2, the story sounds a little unusual, with the spies coming inside the walls of Jericho and then talking to Rahab, the harlot. Nothing may catch your eye as significant as you continue to read. Then suddenly you see it: the scarlet thread. “Tie this cord of scarlet thread in the window . . . (2:18)” At once you should be drawn to full attention, for the “scarlet thread´ is a big neon sign shouting “Jesus is hiding here!” SCARLET, like the stain of sin that can only be removed by Jesus’ blood (Isaiah 1:18). A SCARLET thread, like a thin trickle of blood running down from where a thorn has pierced Jesus’ sinless brow. A scarlet thread, like the red drops dripping down the rough wood of a Roman cross. Yes, the scarlet thread is an obvious clue intentionally placed in the text to catch the disciple’s attention and to quietly announce for those who have listening ears that the Messiah is hidden here.

Now that the scarlet thread has decisively alerted us that the hidden Messiah is near, we begin the next part of the study, which is to mentally “rope off the passage” (in this case, 2:1-21) and to become a spiritual detective bent on finding all the clues which the Holy Spirit has hidden in this story so that you can clearly see Jesus.

I remember when I was a child there was a children’s magazine that would have a drawing or a picture on one of the pages of the magazine. The drawing was a pencil sketch in its own right, but also in the drawing or sketch were many hidden objects and the point of the game was for the observer to find all the objects hidden in the drawing. This spiritual detective work that we are doing now is very similar to finding the disguised or hidden objects in the picture. In this Bible study, the goal is to find all the hidden clues in the passage until you can see Jesus clearly. Here are the things that I found in the passage.

  • The main character in this chapter is Rahab the harlot, a prostitute in the pagan town of Jericho. Thus she is a condemned sinner from a people who are doomed to destruction. As such she is in urgent need of salvation. So this is a story about a sinner in urgent need of salvation and thus pictures for us all doomed sinners who need to find the means of salvation. Jesus comes to save sinners from destruction.
  • Rahab appeals to the spies for mercy, asking that she and her family will be spared when the destruction comes (2:12-13). (Ephesians 2:8-9; Romans 3:20) Even so, we are saved as an act of God’s mercy.
  • Rahab is not spared (saved) by her good works, for she has none. Rather she is spared only because of the scarlet thread and the oath.
  • The two spies are from the people of Yahweh and are the agents of salvation for Rahab. Notice some interesting details about the spies from the story.
    • The spies/saviors are to hide themselves for THREE DAYS (2:16). In my view, this foreshadows the three days the Lord Jesus lay in the ground after His crucifixion. In this case, “three days” is a messianic clue, almost as obvious as “scarlet thread.”
    • When the spies (saviors) will return to Jericho, they will bring a sword of destruction on all those who do not have a scarlet thread in the window of the house. Just so, when Jesus returns, He will bring a sword of judgment (Rev. 19:11ff) on all those who have not believed in Him.
    • The spies explain to Rahab the way of salvation (2:17-20). In this way they are acting as ambassadors (2 Cor. 5:20) or witnesses (Acts 1:8; Isaiah 43:10). They are messengers of salvation from the people of God.
    • The spies are bound by their oath (2:17-20) to save Rahab from death. In the same way, God through Christ binds Himself with an oath (promise) to save all those who will trust in Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior.
  • Only those who are gathered into Rahab’s house, the house with the scarlet thread in the window, will be spared from the sword (2:18-19). (Remember Exodus 11-12 and the Passover. Also remember Genesis 7 and the closing of the ark.) All those who are gathered into the house with the scarlet thread will be saved and all those who are outside will perish, regardless of any other factor. In this same way, all those who are called into the house of God, the true Church, and who truly believe in Christ will be saved and all who remain outside will perish.
  • Rahab’s soul and the souls of her family will be delivered from death because of the oath and the scarlet thread. The oath and the thread are matters of life and death. Even so, believers are delivered from eternal death through faith in Jesus Christ. Jesus is the scarlet thread and faith in Him is the oath.
  • Rahab believes the spies and demonstrates her faith by putting the scarlet thread in her window (2:21). In the same way, those who follow Jesus make their faith visible through baptism and through boldly identifying with Jesus. Figuratively, they display Jesus Christ by placing Him in the window.
  • Rahab must remain faithful to the oath she had accepted (2:20). If she is unfaithful to the terms of the oath then the oath is null and void. This says that there are conditions that must be met to receive the benefits of the oath. Just so, everyone who merely goes through the motions of believing in Christ, but who is never truly converted will not be saved by Christ (Matthew 7:21-23).

Now it is certain that not all of these clues are equally strong. In fact, some of these may be too much of a stretch and may not actually be intended by the Holy Spirit to foreshadow the Lord Jesus. My point is that, in passages where Jesus is intentionally disguised or hidden, there are often many clues that point forward to the coming Messiah.

And what were the results for Rahab? Rahab and all her family who were gathered into her house were spared by the spies (Joshua 6:22-25). “By faith Rahab did not perish along with those who were disobedient (Hebrews 11:31).” Rahab the harlot even finds herself in the lineage of the Messiah (Matthew 1:5).

TYPICAL CHARACTERISTICS OF THESE STORIES:

While all these stories do not follow exactly the same pattern, because our God is an infinitely creative God who writes stories uniquely, there are typical characteristics that mark out these stories.

  • Theme of the story is about salvation, rescue or redemption;
  • Clues are intentionally placed in the text to catch the diligent reader’s attention and to flag the story as needing to be read more slowly and carefully (scarlet thread, three days, MORE
  • The story is often obscure or even odd (Making the story odd or obscure is done as a clue to catch attention.);
  • The story often has almost no historical significance, since it is about people who make no difference in world history.;
  • The story seems almost to have been placed in the text for the express purpose of piquing your curiosity.
  • Study of the passage reveals many images or ideas which foreshadow the life and mission and salvation of the Lord Jesus Christ.

So the next time that you are reading along in the Old Testament and encounter an odd passage that seems to have an obvious clue (like a scarlet thread) which is associated with Jesus, begin to look for more clues. It could be that Messiah is hidden there.

SDG        rmb        4/27/2017

Daniel 2: Christ is Foreshadowed in Babylon

I have been meditating on Daniel 2 in recent days. In reading the text, it appears on the surface that this chapter is a story of a crazy king who has a strange dream and, because he doesn’t understand the dream, the king issues an outrageous decree that only Daniel, with divine help, can fulfill. Nebuchadnezzar’s dream is well-known, and because it is so unusual and its interpretation is so significant, it seems that the dream is the appropriate focus of the chapter.

But as I considered the context and the circumstances of the chapter in a different light, and as I remembered that the Old Testament often foreshadows the coming of Jesus Christ and gives us illustrations of the salvation that He would bring, I began to see another picture hidden in this chapter, a picture of Jesus rescuing His people from the wrath of God by fulfilling the demands of God’s holy law on their behalf.

You may ask the question, “Where do you see that in this chapter?” Well, begin by understanding that what happens to Daniel in this chapter foreshadows something of Christ. In theological terms, this concept is called a “type.” Thus Daniel is a type of Christ. So I am suggesting that there is a parallel between the events of Daniel 2 and something that Christ accomplishes in His earthly ministry and that the events of this narrative in Daniel 2 are intentionally presented to point us to Christ. If you are following me so far, I invite you to consider the following parallels.

  • As Nebuchadnezzar, the sovereign ruler of Babylon, issues his decree of “Tell me my dream or perish,” so the LORD God, the sovereign ruler of the universe, has issued His decree to mankind: “Obey My law or perish.”
  • As there was no wise man found in Babylon who could fulfill the demands of Nebuchadnezzar’s decree, so there is no one among the children of Adam who can fulfill the LORD God’s decree.
  • And since all the wise men have failed to fulfill Nebuchadnezzar’s decree, all the wise men must perish as a consequence. Just so, since all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23) and all people have failed to fulfill the LORD God’s righteous decree, we are all subject to God’s judgment and His righteous condemnation as a consequence. (The soul who sins will die. Ezekiel 18:4, 20)
  • So you see that both the wise men of Babylon and all of sinful humanity need a Savior, someone who can rise up from among them and satisfy the king’s decree on their behalf so that they do not perish. In both scenarios there is a need for a Savior who can rescue those who are perishing.
  • And as Daniel rises up from among the wise man of Babylon to save them from the king’s fury, just so Jesus Christ was sent from heaven to become Man and to perfectly fulfill the Law of God on our behalf to save His people from the righteous wrath of God.

And so these unusual events which occurred so long ago in Babylon are presented to point us to Christ. Daniel gives us a picture of Christ and foreshadows for us what Jesus Christ will accomplish. Jesus Christ is the Savior that we need to deliver us from God’s holy wrath, for He is the only One who can perfectly fulfill the law’s demands so that, for all who trust in Him, Christ is our righteousness (Jeremiah 23:6; 1 Cor. 1:30; 2 Cor. 5:21).         SDG       rmb         1/28/2017