Friday, April 5, 2024

Keeping our Eyes on Jesus

One of the events in the Scriptures in fulfilling the Messianic prophecies in Number 21:8-9 stated:

And the LORD said to Moses, “Make a fiery serpent and set it on a pole, and everyone who is bitten, when he sees it, shall live.” 9So Moses made a bronze serpent and set it on a pole. And if a serpent bit anyone, he would look at the bronze serpent and live.” ESV

After some time of travelling, Israel became impatient, grumbled, and even called God’s blessing of manna “worthless food.” God took offence at their sinful attitudes and sent fiery serpents as judgment. After seeing the fiery serpents and experiencing the consequences of their actions, they sought Moses and his intervention on their behalf to the Lord.  Moses intervened and sought the Lord for healing. Then God told Moses what to do:

And the LORD said to Moses, “Make a fiery serpent and set it on a pole, and everyone who is bitten, when he sees it, shall live. 9So Moses made a bronze serpent and set it on a pole. And if a serpent bit anyone, he would look at the bronze serpent and live.”

Allowing sinful attitudes of grumbling and discontent is not without its consequences, but with humility, God responded with healing. Here’s what happened:

God didn’t remove the snakes, but He provided the cure. But the remedy was not automatically effective for everyone. Each person had to believe God’s promise and look at the uplifted snake if he or she wanted to live. But when a person looked, he was healed instantly. There were no delays. He didn’t need to accumulate enough good works to merit healing. The instant he looked; he was miraculously healed.”[1]

In the Scriptures, two specific events showed the pattern of God in providing healing:

·       Moses used a bitter stick to sweeten bitter waters. (Exodus 15:25)

·       Elisha used salt to purify the harmful water. (II Kings chapter 2)

These Biblical accounts demonstrated that God is ultimately in control over everything. Moreover, He can bring beneficence or destruction to the world by employing any of the creatures he created.

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Moving forward, Jesus saw it as a picture of His redemptive act at the Cross of Calvary. Jesus declared, “Just as Moses lifted the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted, that everyone who believes may have eternal life in him” (John 3:14–15 ESV). The bronze serpent lifted in the wilderness became a foreshadowing of fulfilling the plan of God for the salvation of humanity, i.e., Jesus crucified
on the Cross of Calvary.

As the serpent on Moses’ staff was raised up to offer deliverance and healing, so, too, would Jesus eventually be lifted up on a cross to offer eternal life. The snake was elevated on a pole so that all of Israel could see it and be healed, just as Jesus was lifted up on the cross so that all might see Him and be drawn to Him for salvation.”[2]

Billy Graham shared, “God’s holiness demands that sin be punished—but God’s love has provided the way of redemption through Christ.”

God provided the only remedy for humanity’s redemption; it’s simply looking unto Jesus as the only source of redemption and trusting Him with our eternal life. Remember, any offers outside of His offer are distractions from the enemy. Don’t be fooled. Instead, become wise as our eternal destiny is at stake.

Remember Peter? “When Peter actually walked on water for a brief time, he was okay as long as he kept his focus on Jesus. It was only “when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, ‘Lord, save me! (Matt. 14:30)”. That’s when “Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. ‘You of little faith,’ he said, ‘why did you doubt?’” (Matt 14:31).”

How was Jesus able to keep Peter from drowning? Peter had to take his eyes off the winds, fix them back on Jesus and keep himself from sinking. Always keeping our eyes on Jesus makes a difference in our eternal destiny.

Let’s talk again!

Friday, March 22, 2024

Jesus, the Great High Priest

In the Scriptures, Melchizedek and Aaron were two of the most renowned High Priest:

·       Melchizedek only appears briefly in Genesis 14, yet this priest earns a role in the hall of faith in the New Testament. Melchizedek was not born into the Levitical priesthood but was appointed by God.

·       Aaron, the High Priest, was the man appointed by God to oversee the Tabernacle in the wilderness, a position of sacred responsibility. God chose Aaron, brother of Moses, to be his first High Priest.”[1]

The Old Covenant priesthood foreshadowed the priesthood of the New Covenant and a comparative allusion to the High Priest role given to Jesus. Compelling provided this insight:

 “In the Jewish system, a priest mediated between the people and God. Aaron and his descendants were appointed priests, with the tribe of Levi serving as assistants in the Tabernacle (Numbers 3:5-10). Most importantly, it was the high priest who entered into the Most Holy Place on the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur). Only the high priest could enter and, before doing so, he was required to make a sacrifice for himself. In this way the high priest was cleansed and could then go on to offer the cleansing sacrifices for the people (Leviticus 16).”[2]

Then Jesus came into the scene with a specific purpose in mind and knew about these two individuals acting in the interest of God. Yet, He became the Great High Priest with a purpose, i.e., opened direct access and reconciled many to God. He then qualified Himself because of His sacrifice for our sins at the Cross of Calvary. The apostle Paul expounded it in the book of Romans:

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But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. 9Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. 10For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. 11More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.” (Romans 5:8-11 ESV)

Most importantly, through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, those who believed and sanctified in Him became part of the royal priesthood, “. . .and made us a kingdom, priests to his God and Father, to him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.” (Revelation 1:6 ESV)

Martin Luther shared this wonderful insight: “In his life Christ is an example showing us how to live; in his death he is a sacrifice satisfying for our sins; in his resurrection, a conqueror; in his ascension, a king; in his intercession, a high priest.”

Clearly, Melchizedek and Aaron fulfilled their roles as God intended for them. But God knew better when He removed the limitations of the human priesthood by sending Jesus, the Son of God, as the Great High Priest. Remember, in the Old Covenant, the high priest approached the throne of God, represented by the Mercy Seat, only once a year. But Jesus, our Great High Priest, approached the throne of God directly without any restrictions because, at His death, the Temple curtains ripped in two. Matthew recorded this great event:

And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice and yielded up his spirit. 51And behold, the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. And the earth shook, and the rocks were split. 52The tombs also were opened. And many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised, 53and coming out of the tombs after his resurrection they went into the holy city and appeared to many.” (Matthew 27:50-53 ESV)

Jesus fulfilled the plan of God flawlessly. Thus, everyone who believes in Him can come boldly to the throne of God with confidence. Ray Pritchard summarized it excellently:

Because Jesus is our great high priest, we’ve got a friend in high places. We’ve got connections in heaven. We’ve got a friend at the throne of grace who delights to answer our prayers. Come boldly. Come often. Come to the throne of grace and pour out your heart to God. You will not be turned away.”

Let’s talk again!

Friday, March 15, 2024

The Scapegoat: Jesus the Sin-Bearer

In the Scriptures, you will find many fascinating things that God required from the book of Leviticus. It involves the sacrifice of a Scapegoat. How did this animal become relevant to us today? Let us begin our study on this fascinating topic. John Barnett shared this insight:

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The scapegoat was guilty of nothing. But the High Priest, as it were, laid all the sins of the people on the scapegoat and sent him away. He was without sin. But sin was credited to His account as if He had personally committed it and then God punished Him though the fact is He never committed any of it. That’s imputation.”[1]

Moreover, Bible Study Tools Dictionary expounded:

When the priest laid Israel's guilt on the scapegoat, the goat was sent into the wilderness as a reminder that their sins went away out of the land where the people lived. I think of God casting our sins away in Micah 7:19. Because a scapegoat “carried away” the sins of the people, Jesus is often compared to being the Scapegoat of all believers.”[2]

The Scapegoat is an extraordinary depiction of the Messiah yet to come. The prophet Isaiah saw Him so clearly and inspired to pen the following:  

But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned, everyone, to his own way; and the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all” (Isaiah 53:5–6).

Upon seeing Jesus, John the Baptist uttered, look and "Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29 NASB) Jesus became the Scapegoat of Leviticus. In this position, He carried all our sins for our complete redemption. In doing so, Jesus gave us an abounding hope and an inexpressible joy when “…our sins are removed as far as the East is from the West” (Psalms 103:12). It happened when He became the “scapegoat” carrying the sins of the people at the Cross of Calvary.

Emma Danzey wrote in her article, “How Is Jesus Our Scapegoat Today?” shared:

Knowing that Jesus is our scapegoat frees us from the burden of having to go through a priest anymore. We no longer have the pressure to have a ceremony correctly to cover our sins, but we have the blood of Jesus over our lives.”[3]

God sent His Son Jesus as the sacrificial Lamb and a Scapegoat to complete His redemption plan for us.

J. Allan Peterson shared this story:

I read about a small boy who was consistently late coming home from school. His parents warned him one day that he must be home on time that afternoon, but nevertheless he arrived later than ever. His mother met him at the door and said nothing. At dinner that night, the boy looked at his plate. There was a slice of bread and a glass of water. He looked at his father’s full plate and then at his father, but his father remained silent. The boy was crushed. The father waited for the full impact to sink in, then quietly took the boy’s plate and placed it in front of himself. He took his own plate of meat and potatoes, put it in front of the boy, and smiled at his son. When that boy grew to be a man, he said, “All my life I’ve known what God is like by what my father did that night.”

Because of His great love for the fallen humanity, He sent Jesus as the Lamb of God and a Scapegoat for our redemption and salvation. What is remaining is our response to this great love. We can only reciprocate by recognizing our need for a Saviour and Lord. Therefore, may we respond to His call and not harden our hearts now. Securing our eternal status in Christ is of paramount importance. Remember, if we missed this opportunity, we only have ourselves to blame. Hear what Peter said to the crowd when asked:

Brothers, what shall we do?” 38 And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:37b-38 ESV).

It’s your turn now to do so.

Let’s talk again!

Friday, March 8, 2024

The Sacrifice Acceptable to God’s Standard

Moses interceded for Israel’s deliverance from God’s wrath by offering himself as the payment: “But now, if you will forgive their sin—but if not, please blot me out of your book that you have written” (Exodus 32:32 ESV).   

Maybe you are wondering why Moses made such an offer to God. Bridgeway Bible Commentary provided Moses’ commitment to Israel: “In a display of genuine love for the unbelieving people, Moses offered to die on their behalf and so be punished for them.[1]

What occurred that God became incensed with anger against Israel? Moses took longer than expected to receive God’s Tablet of Stones at Mount Moriah. Here’s what happened:

When the people saw that Moses delayed to come down from the mountain, the people gathered themselves together to Aaron and said to him, “Up, make us gods who shall go before us. As for this Moses, the man who brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him” (32:1).

While in the mountain, God told Moses what the people did in his absence:

And the LORD said to Moses, “Go down, for your people, whom you brought up out of the land of Egypt, have corrupted themselves. 8They have turned aside quickly out of the way that I commanded them. They have made for themselves a golden calf and have worshiped it and sacrificed to it and said, ‘These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt!’” 9And the LORD said to Moses, “I have seen this people, and behold, it is a stiff-necked people. 10Now therefore let me alone, that my wrath may burn hot against them and I may consume them, in order that I may make a great nation of you” (32: 7-10).

After hearing what God wanted to do, Moses interceded on behalf of Israel and offered his life instead. However, God said no to his offer. Bridgeway Bible Commentary shared, “But God would not accept the death of one person for another, for all were sinners, though the extent of their sin varied. God would hold each person responsible for his or her actions. He would show mercy on the unfaithful nation, but he would punish individuals who rebelled against him.”[2]

Although God acknowledged the intercession of Moses for his people as a righteous act, unfortunately, his life is not considered a sufficient payment for the sins of Israel. Moreover, God reserved the right as far as His justice is concerned based on His prerogative. Simply stated, “33. . .the LORD said to Moses, “Whoever has sinned against me, I will blot out of my book. 35 Then the LORD sent a plague on the people because they made the calf, the one that Aaron made.” (32:33, 35).

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Dr. Constable's Expository Notes shared, “He chose not to take Moses’ life as a substitute for the guilty in Israel since this would not have been just. Moses being a sinner himself could not have served as a final acceptable substitute for other sinners in any case.”[3]

God didn’t accept Moses’ life because of God’s requirement of an unblemished life. Moses, even as God’s chosen individual, overstated his status.

God, in this episode, provided the qualification of anyone doing so. God’s plan and purpose became
evident. Thus, Jesus’s sacrifice paid for the penalty of sin, i.e., death on the cross became the only sufficient payment required by God. John the Baptist, in seeing Jesus declared: “The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29 ESV).

What Jesus did become the only acceptable payment for the sins of humanity: “Yet it was the will of the LORD to crush him; he has put him to grief; when his soul makes an offering for guilt, he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days; the will of the LORD shall prosper in his hand (Isaiah 53:10 ESV).

When God sent Jesus, He fulfilled what anyone, including Moses, cannot do, i.e., redemption from God’s wrath against sin. Most importantly, without Jesus and His sacrifice for us at the Cross of Calvary, we remain in our sin and cannot expect forgiveness from God.

In addition, the author of Hebrews has made it abundantly clear that Jesus fulfilled in His death what the Old Testament sacrificial system could only point to. In Hebrews 10:1-4 (ESV), it stated:

For since the law has but a shadow of the good things to come instead of the true form of these realities, it can never, by the same sacrifices that are continually offered every year, make perfect those who draw near. 2Otherwise, would they not have ceased to be offered, since the worshipers, having once been cleansed, would no longer have any consciousness of sins? 3But in these sacrifices there is a reminder of sins every year. 4For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.”

There’s no doubt that Jesus embodied the fulfillment of God’s requirement. Between Moses and Jesus, there’s no comparison as to who fulfilled the redemption requirements against God’s wrath. Knowing this, why wouldn’t anyone put their trust in Jesus?

Let’s talk again!

Friday, February 23, 2024

Intimacy with God: No More Limitations

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A. W. Tozer shared his thoughts about intimacy with God and what it meant: “What's closest to your heart is what you talk about, and if God is close to your heart, you'll talk about Him.” However, intimacy is a word that many frown upon. People think that being intimate with God is for special people only. People assumed intimacy with God was a special call that an average person could not experience. They felt disqualified due to compromised sinful Christian life. Others claim it is too hard to figure out the 'how' to's of being intimate with God.”  Unfortunately, those claiming intimacy with God but never describing the process of attaining it are useless to many trying to achieve it.

Moses, as the prophet of God, provided a glimpse of what intimacy meant: “11Thus the LORD used to speak to Moses face to face, as a man speaks to his friend. When Moses turned again into the camp, his assistant Joshua the son of Nun, a young man, would not depart from the tent” (Exodus 33:7-11 ESV). Moses showed a glimpse of seeking intimacy with God and how God responds to genuine seekers and His willingness to accommodate those who wholeheartedly seek it. Enduring Word Commentary[1] shared this insight:

 “Moses was unique because of his personal intimacy with God. The term face to face does not literally mean “physical face to physical face,” but it has the idea of free and unhindered communication. Moses had a remarkably intimate relationship with God.”

Here’s how the Scripture described Moses and his desire for intimacy with God when he made a daring request to God, “Now therefore, if I have found favor in your sight, please show me now your ways, that I may know you in order to find favor in your sight.” (Exodus 33:13 ESV). Then God replied to Moses, “And the LORD said to Moses,This very thing that you have spoken I will do, for you have found favor in my sight, and I know you by name” (Exodus 33:17 ESV).

One important lesson about this episode: God always welcomes, with open arms, any requests for insights into His heart and purposes through intimacy with Him. Being intimate with God cannot happen without anyone seeking it with the intensity of desire and complete humility. God hears and accommodates His people, especially in matters involving intimacy with Him.

Moving forward, Jesus provided the best picture of intimacy with His Father:

At that time Jesus declared, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children; 26yes, Father, for such was your gracious will. 27All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.” (Matthew 11:26-30, ESV)

The most important revelation is this: God sent His Son Jesus to re-establish an intimate relationship with God’s people through His Son Jesus. In the Old Testament, intimacy with God is shown only with specific individuals God chose. Thus, God, in His great love for humanity, made intimacy possible again through His Son Jesus.

From Adam and Eve’s intimacy with God, Enoch’s walk with God, and Moses’ intimacy with God, a common thread exists, i.e., each had limitations on the revelations of God and the level of intimacy experienced. However, when Jesus walked the earth, He revealed a specific distinction between His intimacy with God and the new level of intimacy with anyone who believes Him:

Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. 7If you had known me, you would have known my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.” “…Whoever has seen me has seen the Father.” (John 14:6-7, 9 ESV)

Simply stated, intimacy is God’s idea. God sent His Son Jesus and made it happen. Now, it’s your turn. When you surrender your life to Jesus, the path to intimacy with God begins.

Let me end with this insight from Malcolm Webber:[2]

When they saw the Lord Jesus, they saw the Father. When they heard the Lord Jesus, they were listening to the Father. When they touched the Lord Jesus, they were touching God. This was how Jesus lived. This was the source of all of His life and ministry, inward union with His Father.

Let’s talk again!