A Greater Ladder

February 25, 2019 at 2:57 pm | Posted in Biblical Greats, John | Leave a comment
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Jesus answered and said unto him, Because I said unto thee, I saw thee under the fig tree, believest thou? thou shalt see greater things than these. And he saith unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Hereafter ye shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of man.

John 1:50-51

Jesus referred to the incident which we often call “Jacob’s ladder” from Genesis 28:12. Jesus is the only one Who can connect Heaven and Earth – in Whom sinful man can come into peaceful relationship with holy God. Jesus did not identify Himself as the fulfillment of what the Angels typified, but as the fulfillment of what the ladder itself typified. This motif – that Jesus would be the longed-for Mediator (daysman, interpreter) between God and man – appears in other Old Testament passages as well.

For he is not a man, as I am, that I should answer him, and we should come together in judgment. Neither is there any daysman betwixt us, that might lay his hand upon us both.

Job 9:32-33

Yea, his soul draweth near unto the grave, and his life to the destroyers. If there be a messenger with him, an interpreter, one among a thousand, to shew unto man his uprightness: Then he is gracious unto him, and saith, Deliver him from going down to the pit: I have found a ransom.

Job 33:22-24

The identification of Jesus with the fulfillment of Jacob’s ladder is also a statement of exclusivity. Aside from Christ, there are no other “ladders” or “stairways” to Heaven, no other ordained salvific connections between God and men. Faith in Jesus is the means to accessing this ladder, but no one really has faith in a ladder until he steps on with his full weight and starts the climb up.

The Greatest Miracle

July 9, 2018 at 11:45 am | Posted in Biblical Greats, Luke | 1 Comment
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John the Baptist received from his disciples some news about Jesus’s ministry.

And the disciples of John shewed him of all these things.

Luke 7:18

John’s disciples considered themselves REformers (as opposed to the Pharisees who thought of themselves as CONformers, and Jesus’s disciples who were TRANSformers). John was doubting Jesus because he wasn’t seeing any reformation.

And John calling unto him two of his disciples sent them to Jesus, saying, Art thou he that should come? or look we for another?

Luke 7:19

Doubting can be a sign of unbelief, but not always. You can still have faith in God but be perplexed over what He is doing. As Oswald Chambers once said, “Doubting is not always a sign of unbelief; sometimes it’s a sign that a man is thinking.”

Then Jesus answering said unto them, Go your way, and tell John what things ye have seen and heard; how that the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, to the poor the gospel is preached. And blessed is he, whosoever shall not be offended in me.

Luke 7:22-23

The Greek word translated as “offended” in Luke 7:23 is skandalizo, from which we get the English word “scandalized.” It was originally the word for the bait in a trap – the enticement to fall into peril. The Person and ministry of Jesus should cause us to stop and think – but not to stumble and turn away. Jesus stressed the miracles He was doing so that John’s disciples could see the “transformation” which happens to individuals rather than the “reformation” which happens to governments.

I think sometimes we do a disservice in making converts believe that they are joining a club rather than entering into a personal relationship with the Savior. Healing the centurion’s servant was a great miracle. Raising the widow’s son from the dead was a great miracle. But Jesus was about to do an even greater miracle. He was about to save a sinner. That’s the greatest miracle because it meets the greatest need: forgiveness. It accomplishes the greatest result: eternal life. It cost the greatest price: the sacrificial death of Christ on the Cross.

Our Great Needs

June 6, 2016 at 3:11 pm | Posted in Biblical Greats, Uncategorized | 5 Comments
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It goes against our human instincts to admit that we are needy. We don’t like to confess that there are things we cannot obtain on our own, or that we have gotten ourselves into trouble without the ability to get ourselves out. Asking for help is inherently humbling, and we want to see ourselves as self-sufficient, self-reliant, self-made, self-taught, and fortified with heavy doses of self-esteem. In actuality, though, “self-deluded” might be a more accurate description when we are thinking this way. J. Stuart Holden (who narrowly missed going down with the Titanic due to his wife’s voyage-cancelling illness) once preached, “Our needs are the greatest things we have – far greater than our possessions or accomplishments or desires.”

The “needy” in Scripture are often lumped together with the “poor,” and these two conditions are the source of great injury to human pride, because the Lord speaks of the poor and needy as objects of divine pity, while men see them as objects of derision or scorn. However, this may be a blessing in disguise. For, it is when we are completely helpless before our enemies or circumstances – when our needs by far outweigh our resources – that we get desperate enough to call upon our great Help and Deliverer.

All my bones shall say, LORD, who is like unto thee, which deliverest the poor from him that is too strong for him, yea, the poor and the needy from him that spoileth him?

Psalm 35:10

Who is the one Being in all of existence Who has never had, and never will have, a single need? The Holy Lord of Hosts is the single indisputable answer to this question, and when we recognize this fact – combined with the fact that He loves us enough to hear our cries for help and pleas of weakness, and to come to our aid – then we are perhaps closer to a right understanding and knowledge of His glory, character, and attributes than at any other time.

Much harm has been done by the modern professing church in attempting to exalt the “felt needs” of sinners over the unvarnished proclamation of the truth about God, but we must never lose sight of the fact that, although we love and serve a great God, the only thing “great” about ourselves is our massive needs.

Who Is the Greatest?

April 1, 2016 at 10:04 am | Posted in Biblical Greats, Matthew | 2 Comments
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In Matthew Chapter 17 three of the Lord’s Disciples saw Jesus transfigured – His outward appearance transformed from within by the glory of His deity for a brief moment. They fell on their faces, trembling in fear at just a tiny glimpse of His glory. Therefore, in Chapter 18, we could expect their reaction to be, “Lord, Your majesty and splendor have overwhelmed us! What might we do to serve you better?” Right?

Wrong! Chapter 18 records their most pressing question:

At the same time came the disciples unto Jesus, saying, Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?

Matthew 18:1

The disciples wanted to know the same thing that a distressing number of Christians want to know today: “What’s in it for me?”

Jesus answered by summoning a small unspoiled child into their midst, and told them:

Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven.

Matthew 18:4

Before the Lord imparts His glorious grace upon His human creations, He wants to see the quality of humility (James 4:10). Humility, it is sometimes said, is not thinking too much of oneself, or too little of oneself. However, a close inspection of Christ’s teaching here is that true humility is actually not thinking of oneself at all. Imagine the freedom and the inspired power that God can impart to His children when they no longer care how “great” they look to men, but instead begin to get zealous over how great God looks to men, and how much God can do to help the people they encounter on a daily basis.

The Greatest Sacrifice

March 17, 2016 at 1:13 pm | Posted in Biblical Greats, Hebrews | 2 Comments
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Priests went into the Old Covenant sanctuary to make sacrifices. These sacrifices had to be repeated time and time again, but the New Covenant Sacrifice is superior. It is an everlasting Sacrifice. It is sufficient and efficient to open the way into the Holy of Holies in Heaven – to allow believers to have confident and eternal access to God the Father. In the Old Covenant animals were sacrificed, but in the New Covenant the Sacrifice was Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God. Christ was a better Sacrifice because He actually took away sins.

But in those sacrifices there is a remembrance again made of sins every year. For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sins.

Hebrews 10:3-4

Old Covenant sacrifices had to be repeated over and over because they did not cause God to stop “remembering” the sins of the people. These sacrifices served to cover sin, but not to cleanse the sinner. Christ was a better Sacrifice because God had prepared the Sacrifice Himself.

Wherefore when he cometh into the world, he saith, Sacrifice and offering thou wouldest not, but a body hast thou prepared me:

Hebrews 10:5

Christ did what it was not possible for anyone else to do: He pleased God with His mind, His heart, His desire to obey, and even with a body of flesh. He did ALWAYS the will of the Father.

While he yet spake, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them: and behold a voice out of the cloud, which said, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear ye him.

Matthew 17:5

For I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me. And this is the Father’s will which hath sent me, that of all which he hath given me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day. And this is the will of him that sent me, that every one which seeth the Son, and believeth on him, may have everlasting life: and I will raise him up at the last day.

John 6:38-40

I have glorified thee on the earth: I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do. And now, O Father, glorify thou me with thine own self with the glory which I had with thee before the world was.

John 17:4-5

Old Covenant sacrifices were accepted, but they had no will of their own to be sacrificed, and they had not been especially prepared by the Father in the way Christ had.

In burnt offerings and sacrifices for sin thou hast had no pleasure.

Hebrews 10:6

Why would God have no pleasure in sacrifices which were done in obedience to His Word? These sacrifices were often made with an outward show of obedience, but without an obedient heart. Remember, God sees the heart. There’s no drawing near by way of a sacrifice in form only. There must be a humble heart, a desire to please, and a true obedient ATTITUDE: a desire that the Lord God would accept this sacrifice as a sign of true repentance and a resolve not to disobey again. This did bring about blessings, but it did not pay the sin debt once and for all. The sacrifice of Christ did.

But this man, after he had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down on the right hand of God;

Hebrews 10:12

For by one offering he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified.

Hebrews 10:14

The Great Peradventure

February 18, 2016 at 2:47 pm | Posted in Biblical Greats, Exodus | 7 Comments
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Then Moses stood in the gate of the camp, and said, Who is on the LORD’S side? let him come unto me. And all the sons of Levi gathered themselves together unto him.

Exodus 32:26

“The gate of the camp” was just as significant as the location where Moses had chosen to smash the tablets. It was the official dividing line between God’s “chosen people” and just “people.” These were people who had forfeited their claim to God’s special protection and in fact had “exposed themselves” (both literally and figuratively) to God’s judgment and wrath.

Do you remember hearing or reading about the legendary incident from the Alamo when Colonel Buck Travis is said to have drawn a line in the sand to see who wanted to stay and who wanted to leave? Moses did something similar here – and the Levites made a wise choice in front of everyone. Imagine Aaron’s shame as he walked from the people over to Moses.

And he said unto them, Thus saith the LORD God of Israel, Put every man his sword by his side, and go in and out from gate to gate throughout the camp, and slay every man his brother, and every man his companion, and every man his neighbour.

Exodus 32:27

Moses used classic prophetic-command speech: “Thus saith the LORD God of Israel…” = “This is God’s idea, not just mine. Get your swords, go in and out, make inquiries about who wants to stick with the idolatry and who wants to repent. Kill the ones who won’t confess and repent.” This was an observance of the legal death penalty. It didn’t matter who – their neighbors, their friends, their own family members. It sounds barbaric to us, doesn’t it? I hope you don’t want to throw out your Bible and become a liberal at this point, although, sadly, many have. You’ll have to reject the truth to do it – and you’ll also have to blame God for protecting your soul about 3000 years before you were even born. Remember, these were enemy combatants in a war – the war for truth – and those that chose to take the side of idolatry by refusing to repent are the ones who were willing to send everyone to hell for the sake of a pathetic bull-god orgy – even after waking up with their hangovers. I’m glad we don’t have to kill the apostates and the pagans today as New Testament Christians, but it would be good for us to remember that the stakes are just as high, in a sense.

And the children of Levi did according to the word of Moses: and there fell of the people that day about three thousand men.

Exodus 32:28

3000 executed criminals sounds like huge number, but that is just a fraction of the number that had been partying, because some of the guilty ones apparently repented and were spared.

For Moses had said, Consecrate yourselves today to the LORD, even every man upon his son, and upon his brother; that he may bestow upon you a blessing this day.

Exodus 32:29

This gives more insight into how the fathers and male leaders were given an opportunity to repent and survive the Levite purge.

And it came to pass on the morrow, that Moses said unto the people, Ye have sinned a great sin: and now I will go up unto the LORD; peradventure I shall make an atonement for your sin.

Exodus 32:30

You can see the heaviness that was on Moses the next day, but he knew the job was not finished. He still refused to sugarcoat their sin, because he knew there are consequences to even forgiven sin. In Exodus 32:30 the Holy Spirit has recorded the words of Moses – not as a prophetic revelation – but as a heavy sighing fumbling for the right word to describe what he knows he is going to have to attempt: atonement. “Peradventure.” What a terrifically descriptive word for the man who had been in the presence of this holy God – who knew His hatred for sin – but who also knew His mercy in response to confession and prayer. “I shall make;” “at one ment.” “Maybe I can somehow bring us back into loving fellowship with our God Who we’ve offended so greatly.” I hope you can hear that word “atonement” echoing all the way through the Old Testament into the New Testament and on into your life. I myself remember the estrangement from God – the horror of knowing He was completely beyond my sinful reach – when Jesus – the Rescuer – the Atoner – the AtoneMENT – brought me to Him!

In his bold but reverent intercession on behalf of the stiffnecked and idolatrous people of Israel (Exodus 39-12:4), Moses asked God to turn aside His holy and justifiable wrath, and to show mercy. Many centuries later Jesus Christ went even further and fully satisfied God’s justice and propitiated the wrath that we deserved on the Cross of Calvary. And He is still interceding for His people at the right hand of God’s throne even today (Romans 8:33-34). The majesty of such a loving and glorious Savior makes this world’s cares, concerns, amusements, and trials seem pretty small and insignificant, doesn’t it? I pray that we will live for Him all the days of our lives.

Jesus Christ: The Greatest Priest, Prophet, and King

July 10, 2015 at 3:01 pm | Posted in Biblical Greats, Matthew | 1 Comment
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The second big transitional phrase in Matthew comes at the beginning of Chapter 11:

And it came to pass, when Jesus had made an end of commanding his twelve disciples, he departed thence to teach and to preach in their cities.

Matthew 11:1

The transition is from a section dealing with the King training His workers/warriors to a section dealing with the types of battles they faced.

Jesus explained that the religious leaders had been introduced, both by John the Baptist and by Jesus Christ Himself, to their true King.

But whereunto shall I liken this generation? It is like unto children sitting in the markets, and calling unto their fellows, And saying, We have piped unto you, and ye have not danced; we have mourned unto you, and ye have not lamented. For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, He hath a devil. The Son of man came eating and drinking, and they say, Behold a man gluttonous, and a winebibber, a friend of publicans and sinners. But wisdom is justified of her children.

Matthew 11:16-19

These leaders, having heard the principles of His Kingdom, did not worship Him. Instead, they rebelled against Him. Worship involves surrender and humility. The rebellious leaders chose to be childish, and childishness involves pride and self-worth, along with a desire to show that “I can do it on my own.” This is the attitude that almost kept me from coming to Christ.

In Matthew Chapter 12 we see that the religious leaders began to take on the methods of Satan. Instead of just killing Jesus, they began to attempt to subtly undermine the principles of His Kingdom.

At that time Jesus went on the sabbath day through the corn; and his disciples were an hungred, and began to pluck the ears of corn, and to eat. But when the Pharisees saw it, they said unto him, Behold, thy disciples do that which is not lawful to do upon the sabbath day.

Matthew 12:1-2

However, when their tactics did not work, they did in fact try to kill Him. This was what they had done in the past to God’s anointed prophets, kings, and priests. What they did not realize was that Jesus was…

Greater than the previous priests:

But I say unto you, That in this place is one greater than the temple.

Matthew 12:6

Greater than the previous prophets:

The men of Nineveh shall rise in judgment with this generation, and shall condemn it: because they repented at the preaching of Jonas; and, behold, a greater than Jonas is here.

Matthew 12:41

Greater than the previous kings:

The queen of the south shall rise up in the judgment with this generation, and shall condemn it: for she came from the uttermost parts of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and, behold, a greater than Solomon is here.

Matthew 12:42

It is not enough to clean out our spiritual house. The house must be filled with something.

When the unclean spirit is gone out of a man, he walketh through dry places, seeking rest, and findeth none. Then he saith, I will return into my house from whence I came out; and when he is come, he findeth it empty, swept, and garnished. Then goeth he, and taketh with himself seven other spirits more wicked than himself, and they enter in and dwell there: and the last state of that man is worse than the first. Even so shall it be also unto this wicked generation.

Matthew 12:43-45

For whosoever shall do the will of my Father which is in heaven, the same is my brother, and sister, and mother.

Matthew 12:50

If you do the will of God in trusting and receiving Christ Jesus, then you will be the right kind of “whosoever.” If you reject Him, you will the wrong kind of “whosoever.”

The Great Rescuer

January 14, 2013 at 2:56 pm | Posted in Biblical Greats, Resurrection, Selected Psalms | 12 Comments
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Psalm 116 is about being thankful to the Lord after we have called on Him in a time of great danger and He has rescued us.

Return unto thy rest, O my soul; for the LORD hath dealt bountifully with thee.

Psalm 116:7

The psalmist had been at rest, but then trouble came.

I said in my haste, All men are liars.

Psalm 116:11

Men he trusted had lied about him.

The sorrows of death compassed me, and the pains of hell gat hold upon me: I found trouble and sorrow. Then called I upon the name of the LORD; O LORD, I beseech thee, deliver my soul.

Psalm 116:3-4

They almost caused his death, but He called on the Lord, and the Lord rescued him.

I love the LORD, because he hath heard my voice and my supplications. Because he hath inclined his ear unto me, therefore will I call upon him as long as I live.

Psalm 116:1-2

This Psalm is probably from a testimony given in the Sanctuary. It contains parts of Psalm 56, other Psalms, and parts of Isaiah.

Let’s identify two of four main principles found in Psalm 116:

1. God answers the prayers of His children.

I love the LORD, because he hath heard my voice and my supplications.

Psalm 116:1

Whenever you find yourself in danger, call on the Lord. New, first-time parents will be keenly aware of this principle. Dad is at the far corner of his yard, perhaps on the top of a ladder, pruning a tree. Or mom is carrying a scalding hot pot of boiling water from the stove to the sink. Suddenly their new-born infant lets out a shriek of pain from his crib. Dad leaps from the ladder like a reckless school-boy! Mom instantly drops the pot of water! They race for the baby’s room without any regard for their own safety. Why? Because they love their child, and it sounds like the child is trouble. If wicked, sinful, intrinsically selfish, fallen mortals react this way when their child cries out in distress, how much more will our loving Heavenly Father (Who loves with a perfect love) come to the aid of His children when they – being in real danger – cry out for help?

Have you ever known of a situation where one child called on a parent for help, but the parent didn’t or couldn’t come help because he or she was already busy helping another child? This can’t happen with God. He is never “too busy” to hear or to come to the aid of one of His children. We should trust God in all types of troubles, and there are some troubles that are obviously hopeless unless we are rescued.

The Holy Spirit applied the plea of Psalm 116:3 to the Resurrection of Jesus Christ in Acts 2:24.

The sorrows of death compassed me, and the pains of hell gat hold upon me: I found trouble and sorrow.

Psalm 116:3

Whom God hath raised up, having loosed the pains of death: because it was not possible that he should be holden of it.

Acts 2:24

2. God’s attributes tend toward rescue.

Gracious is the LORD, and righteous; yea, our God is merciful.

Psalm 116:5

Grace is when God gives us what we do not deserve. Mercy is when God withholds from us what we do deserve. Any time we are in danger, we are experiencing what we deserve. Rescue is what we do not deserve. However, God delights in grace and mercy.

The LORD preserveth the simple: I was brought low, and he helped me.

Psalm 116:6

We have a tendency to respond to God’s grace like spoiled children. First, we are amazed by grace. Then, we start to assume grace. Pretty soon, we are demanding grace. When is the last time you simply and uncritically just believed that God does what He says He will do because He is God?

Next time, we will take a look at two more principles from Psalm 116.

Jesus the Great

April 20, 2010 at 10:03 am | Posted in Biblical Greats, Zechariah | 2 Comments
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Lord, help us to be focused, to keep our mind on You. Help us not to separate what we learn from what we do. Help us to remember Your ways and Your Person. Help us to remember Your people, Your church, and the lost. Help us to remember that our afflictions are light considering our blessings, and definitely light compared to what You suffered for us.

Zechariah 9:1-8 describes the conquests of Alexander the Great.

Ashkelon shall see it, and fear; Gaza also shall see it, and be very sorrowful, and Ekron; for her expectation shall be ashamed; and the king shall perish from Gaza, and Ashkelon shall not be inhabited.

Zechariah 9:5

And I will encamp about mine house because of the army, because of him that passeth by, and because of him that returneth: and no oppressor shall pass through them any more: for now have I seen with mine eyes.

Zechariah 9:8

Alexander the Great paved the way for Greek civilization and the Roman empire, which in turn brought about a united language, the spread of roads and information, and some stability in government. Due in part to the achievements of Alexander the Great, Christ Jesus was not crucified in private.

Zechariah prophesied that Jerusalem would be spared – and it was. The high priest had a dream, and the priests and the people dressed in white, and opened the city gates. Alexander was impressed, and he even offered sacrifices to God in the temple.

Notice these contrasts between Alexander and Christ:

a. Alexander wept because there were no more lands to conquer. (He couldn’t conquer any more people.) Christ wept because the people rejected Him. (He couldn’t set them free.)

b. Alexander rode a mighty steed. Christ rode a donkey.

c. Alexander received great fanfare. Christ’s chief moment of public acclaim involved peasants, children singing, and palm branches.

d. Alexander brought judgment. Christ brought grace and forgiveness.

e. Alexander threatened death if a city wouldn’t surrender. Christ died for the people who wouldn’t surrender.

In Zechariah Chapter 10 we see images of the flock which is victimized by an evil shepherd.

For the idols have spoken vanity, and the diviners have seen a lie, and have told false dreams; they comfort in vain: therefore they went their way as a flock, they were troubled, because there was no shepherd. Mine anger was kindled against the shepherds, and I punished the goats: for the LORD of hosts hath visited his flock the house of Judah, and hath made them as his goodly horse in the battle.

Zechariah 10:2-3

The Great “I AM” Announces the Great “I WILL”

February 22, 2010 at 12:07 pm | Posted in Biblical Greats, Genesis | 14 Comments
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Genesis 12:1-3 records one of the earliest covenants made by God. “Now the LORD had said unto Abram, Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father’s house, unto a land that I will shew thee: And I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing: And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed.”

Notice that the promises of God to Abram were unaccompanied by rationalizations or explanations. “I will shew… I will make… I will bless…” God entered into covenants in order to show that He is faithful, and that He keeps promises. The covenants of God are 100% pure grace – the unmerited favor and blessings of God. A born-again believer on the Lord Jesus Christ is saved by God’s grace, and kept eternally secure by God’s grace.

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