Exodus 12:5 KJV Your lamb shall be without blemish, a male of the first year: ye shall take it out from the sheep, or from the goats:
The shepherd had to carefully inspect each lamb, looking for the best to offer as a sacrifice. What did a carpenter, soldier, farmer, merchant, or other person who did not raise or own sheep do for a sacrifice? In the early days of Judah, before the stone temple, did each person go into the fields to purchase a sacrifice? Did the shepherd give the same care and attention to choosing every sacrifice for others as he put into choosing one for his family? Was there one lamb more perfect than the other? Did the shepherd think by saving the best for himself, he would receive a special blessing from God? Or did he see the message in the sacrifice and give the best to others, maybe the poorest family as an offering?
If the shepherd really loved and cared for his sheep, what went though his mind day after day, week after week as people came to purchase a lamb? What went through his mind each year as he choose the best of the first born to take to the Tabernacle? What must of gone through the mind of a shepherd as he looked up at the stars wondering why God ordered the sacrificial system? Did they realize the lamb was a symbol pointing to the life, ministry and sacrifice of the Messiah?
John 1:36 KJV And looking upon Jesus as he walked, he saith, Behold the Lamb of God!
Before Jesus began His public ministry, John identified Him as the lamb of God. Many people look at this symbol as Jesus’ sacrifice. What about Jesus as the Lamb of God? What about God as Jesus’ Shepherd? God chose the best of the best, the perfect sacrifice. He held nothing back. God watched over Jesus every minute of every day He was gone, closer than any shepherd watched a lamb. God constantly inspected His Lamb making certain He was the perfect offering. There were a few major differences. The lambs death was quick. At the hands of the high priest, Jesus’ death was slow. Unlike the shepherd looking up at the stars asking why, God had no place to turn, no one to ask. The only thing God could do is shroud His Son in darkness for a while as He suffered on the cross.
2 Samuel 23:2-7 NLTse “The Spirit of the LORDspeaks through me; his words are upon my tongue. (3) The God of Israel spoke. The Rock of Israel said to me: ‘The one who rulesrighteously, who rules in the fear of God, (4) is like the light of morning at sunrise, like a morning without clouds, like the gleaming of the sun on new grass after rain.’ (5) “Is it not my family God has chosen? Yes, he has made an everlasting covenant with me. His agreement is arranged and guaranteed in every detail. He will ensure my safety and success. (6) But the godless are like thorns to be thrown away, for they tear the hand that touches them. (7) One must use iron tools to chop them down; they will be totally consumed by fire.”
When we look back at the introduction of this chapter, we don’t only find the context, we gather important information by seeing the setting it was written in. These are the last words of David: “David, the son of Jesse, speaks– David, the man who was raised up so high, David, the man anointed by the God of Jacob, David, the sweet psalmist of Israel. (2 Samuel 23:1 NLTse).
David is on his death bed. He’s spent weeks going over his life, reviewing every detail, wondering what he did right and what he did wrong. David spent long hours seeking God’s presence, trying to find the answers to life. In his old age. David once again found God. David developed the personal relationship with God that led him from shepherd boy, to king, to prophet. Remember, David was not given the gift of prophecy like Saul. David had to find the gift. David had to earn the gift. In David’s last words we see the gift of prophecy. So much Is said in so few words.
Did David find God’s gift of prophecy at the right time? At that very moment David’s prophet, Nathan was plotting against him. Another story was unfolding which shows David’s inability to be a father. It also showed David’s failure as priest of his family. About that time David’s son Adonijah, whose mother was Haggith, began boasting, “I will make myself king.” So he provided himself with chariots and charioteers and recruited fifty men to run in front of him. Now his father, King David, had never disciplined him at any time, even by asking, “Why are you doing that?” Adonijah had been born next after Absalom, and he was very handsome. Adonijah took Joab son of Zeruiah and Abiathar the priest into his confidence, and they agreed to help him become king. (1 Kings 1:5-7 NLTse). David’s son, his general, and priest were plotting to cease control of the country. To make matters worse, David’s prophet and one of his wives were hatching their own plan. Then Nathan went to Bathsheba, Solomon’s mother, and asked her, “Haven’t you heard that Haggith’s son, Adonijah, has made himself king, and our lord David doesn’t even know about it? If you want to save your own life and the life of your son Solomon, follow my advice. Go at once to King David and say to him, ‘My lord the king, didn’t you make a vow and say to me, “Your son Solomon will surely be the next king and will sit on my throne”? Why then has Adonijah become king?’ And while you are still talking with him, I will come and confirm everything you have said.” (1 Kings 1:11-14 NLTse).
Both parties thought they could take advantage of David in his old age. I’m sure you’ve seen this in your life. Start turning to God and the whole world thinks it can take advantage of you. In David’s case we see history repeating itself. Once again a woman gets involved to give God’s plan a push. Sarah and Rebekah were aware of God’s plan, but thought God’s plan needed a woman’s touch to get it moving along at a pace they felt comfortable with. We all know how much they were able to help. Its no wonder God didn’t give the same command to anoint Solomon, He gave for Saul and David. What was the result? For one thing, Bathsheba was not shy about her motives. She did it for herself as well as her son. To say the least, Bathsheba’s influence shortened king David’s dynasty and weakened the nation. After only one generation, God split Israel.
When we check the summation of 2 Samuel 23, we find another sobering fact David had to live with and face when he sought God’s presence on his death bed. Uriah the Hittite. There were thirty-seven in all. (2 Samuel 23:39 NLTse). 2 Samuel 23 records thirty-seven of David’s closest and most trusted friends. The last friend mentioned is Uriah the Hittite. David killed one of his best friends because of the lust he had for his wife. It seems strange how God would use such an abnormal affair in the family tree leading to the birth of His Son. Jesse was the father of King David. David was the father of Solomon (whose mother was Bathsheba, the widow of Uriah). Solomon was the father of Rehoboam. Rehoboam was the father of Abijah. Abijah was the father of Asa. (Matthew 1:6-7 NLTse). We find more turns and twists in Jesus’ genealogy. David was one of the most famous and well known. David is a symbol to point to Jesus as King. But little is said or written about David as a prophet. David’s final prayer contains so many details. Among other things it shows the extent of David’s understanding and relationship with God.
Notice how David repeated certain word sequences. The first is, “speaks, words, spoke, and said.” David used a sequence of four similar words to draw attention to one of the most important and easiest forms of Bible study to learn, key words, which lead us directly to related texts. The other lesson of course is context, which helps ensure the proper parallel texts are used to explain the spiritual meaning of the prophecy. Our first clue is the spiritual word, Rock. Most people know a Rock sometimes represents Christ. We find the texts in 1 Corinthians 10.
1 Corinthians 10:1-4 NLTse (1) I don’t want you to forget, dear brothers and sisters, about our ancestors in the wilderness long ago. All of them were guided by a cloud that moved ahead of them, and all of them walked through the sea on dry ground. (2) In the cloud and in the sea, all of them were baptized as followers of Moses. (3) All of them ate the same spiritual food, (4) and all of them drank the same spiritual water. For they drank from the spiritual rock that traveled with them, and that rock was Christ.
Knowing this prayer is connected with Christ, the next step is to look at words David repeated and finding the same repetition in the New Testament. We want to find out how the Spirit spoke through Christ. Using the combination of the first two words in the series will lead right to John chapter 3.
John 3:31-36 NLTse “He has come from above and is greater than anyone else. We are of the earth, and we speak of earthly things, but he has come from heaven and is greater than anyone else. (32) He testifies about what he has seen and heard, but how few believe what he tells them! (33) Anyone who accepts his testimony can affirm that God is true. (34) For he is sent by God. He speaksGod’swords, for God gives him the Spirit without limit. (35) The Father loves his Son and has put everything into his hands. (36) And anyone who believes in God’sSon has eternal life. Anyone who doesn’t obey the Son will never experience eternal life but remains under God’s angry judgment.”
Is there a better set of verses describing Jesus’ ministry on earth? This covers one of the most important subjects Jesus came to teach. Remember this because it is the beginning of understanding. Jesus came to teach us the difference between earthy things and Heavenly. Another important word is added through repetition. Unless we believe Jesus is speaking through experience and accept His testimony, we don’t stand a chance. We can’t understand what Jesus is talking about, how it applies to our lives, or the history of this world. The lesson is, we have to know Jesus like a friend or brother. His Spirit is still here teaching, but do we know HOW to listen? I have to be honest. I see how many people preach. They take a verse or two and tell you what they think it says. More often than not their comments have nothing to do with the context — their comments have nothing to do with the subject recorded in the chapter they took the verse from. Fact of the matter is, they are of the earth, and they speak of earthly things. Think of it. Did Jesus die for people to take five, maybe ten of His Words and use them to preach their own message? You have no idea how much the world stands in the way of God’s message. For one thing, there is not a publisher in the country that will consider standing behind any of my books. They have a rule….. no more than 5% of the book can be scripture. Although the Bible is the worlds best selling book of all time, no one is interested in reading God’s Word. They want nice, easy stories written to entertain. To get permission to use scripture from a translation other than the King James, the best Bible to use for study, the publisher restricts authors. No more than 20% of the book can be scripture. I can write entire paragraphs with nothing but scripture. I’ve written studies using only scripture. Not sure if anyone could write a book using only scripture, except for God. But I enjoy writing stories and pointing out parallels between scripture and characters in the Bible. The point is, there is a dividing line between learning lessons from earthly examples and those from Heaven. God went to great lengths to work with choices people made and record those examples so we can learn from them. God also uses connecting or parallel stories to emphasize the points He is teaching. I see preachers going way off base and missing so many lessons people suffered to bring us. I see the way some people preach and wonder why.
The next series of similar words we see is, “light – gleaming.” This may be a difficult prophecy to study based on the fact David used similar words instead of repeating the same word. The rule of interpretation is, to look for words that are the SAME, SIMILAR, and RELATED. Having used the related words, light and gleaming, David points us to other scripture about Jesus. There are a number of texts to choose from, but which add to the lesson in 2 Samuel 22? Remember the context. These are David’s last words. There is a movement from one realm to another. Israel is about to change kings. Wouldn’t is make sense — God’s Spirit is leading us to New Testament scripture to show us another change? This will help to narrow down the texts.
Luke 1:74-80 NLTse We have been rescued from our enemies so we can serve God without fear, (75) in holiness and righteousness for as long as we live. (76) “And you, my little son, will be called the prophet of the MostHigh, because you will prepare the way for the Lord. (77) You will tell his people how to find salvation through forgiveness of their sins. (78) Because of God’s tender mercy, the morning light from heaven is about to break upon us, (79) to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, and to guide us to the path of peace.” (80) John grew up and became strong in spirit. And he lived in the wilderness until he began his public ministry to Israel.
A new era is about to dawn on the earth. Zechariah’s prayer is also a prophecy. Zechariah’s eyes are opened as well as his voice returning to him. After months of sitting in silence, Zechariah finally was able to understand his role and his son’s role in God’s plan of salvation. See the similarities between this texts and David’s prayer when we look behind the scenes? David was at a time in his life when he thought about the major details in his life and what he was going to do with his remaining time. David finally took time to forge a relationship with God. God rewarded David by showing him the future. God’s had to take Zechariah’s voice away to get him to slow down and think. Zechariah had to think about the his new role in life. He was finally getting a son. Of course Zechariah had plans. Like all fathers, Zechariah made plans for his son to follow in his footsteps and become a priest. Although that may seem like an honorary role to the world, God had bigger plans. Much bigger plans. It took a lot to get Zechariah to listen. After listening to his wife and Mary talk for weeks, it finally began to register with Zechariah. I’ll bet there are a lot of wives wishing God would take their husband’s voice away so they would listen. Some people have a difficult time reading God’s Word. Some people think Zechariah is referring to his son and the light. John clears up that question in his first chapter.
John 1:8-14 NLTse John himself was not the light; he was simply a witness to tell about the light. (9) The one who is the true light, who gives light to everyone, was coming into the world. (10) He came into the very world he created, but the world didn’t recognize him. (11) He came to his own people, and even they rejected him. (12) But to all who believed him and accepted him, he gave the right to become children of God. (13) They are reborn–not with a physical birth resulting from human passion or plan, but a birth that comes from God. (14) So the Word became human and made his home among us. He was full of unfailing love and faithfulness. And we have seen his glory, the glory of the Father’s one and only Son.
John was God’s prophet to announce a new era, Jesus’ ministry. We learn a lot by looking at details about John, who he was, how he was brought up, how he announced Jesus; ministry, how he was accepted, and who rejected his message. John was beyond simple. The son of a priest, John did not learn from his earthly father, but was educated by his Heavenly Father far away from any outside influences. John represented God by the clothes he wore, which were as simple as the message God gave him. John didn’t spread the message in Jerusalem, but far away where people with little religious influence would hear and accept it. Of course religious leaders from the temple made the trip to investigate. Under the temple of God’s creation, John’s announcement had little effect on the religious leaders, who rejected not only the message, but the Messiah. David also covered that contingency in his short prophecy.
Thorns is another word written in sequence in David’s prophecy. Looking at New testament texts we find two possible solutions. As we’ve seen with prior key words, some times it requires more than a single text to understand how the prophecy has been fulfilled. This is not unusual, since God used a sequence of texts from different prophets over a period of time to record a prophecy. Why wouldn’t God use the same method to explain its fulfillment?
Matthew 13:22 NLTse The seed that fell among the thorns represents those who hear God’s word, but all too quickly the message is crowded out by the worries of this life and the lure of wealth, so no fruit is produced.
Hebrews 6:3-8 NLTse And so, God willing, we will move forward to further understanding. (4) For it is impossible to bring back to repentance those who were once enlightened–those who have experienced the good things of heaven and shared in the HolySpirit, (5) who have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the power of the age to come– (6) and who then turn away from God. It is impossible to bring such people back to repentance; by rejecting the Son of God, they themselves are nailing him to the cross once again and holding him up to public shame. (7) When the ground soaks up the falling rain and bears a good crop for the farmer, it has God’s blessing. (8) But if a field bears thorns and thistles, it is useless. The farmer will soon condemn that field and burn it.
Once again, and I cannot overstress this point. Parallel texts must be within the same context used in the prophecy. In review, the context is preparing for a new beginning. The beginning of this prophecy tells us, “The Spirit of the LORDspeaks through me; his words are upon my tongue.” Checking the two texts from the New Testament, we know in Matthew 13:22, Jesus is explaining the spiritual meaning of the parable of the sower, which marks a beginning in Jesus’ ministry. After introducing and explaining the parable of the sower, Jesus begins teaching His disciples how to understand all parables.
Hebrews 6:3-8 explained a choice. We can either move forward to further understanding, or face the fate of a field of thorns. Hebrews 6 marks a new beginning, or a point where a decision must be made. Hebrews 6 shows how people waiver. These two texts show how one will reinforce another by providing additional information. The parable of the sower explains how thorns are a spiritual symbol for worries in this life and the lure of wealth. Hebrews 6 shows how people accept God’s Word, and Jesus’ sacrifice, but have a tendency to later turn away. One explains how worries and riches turn people away, the other explains what they are turning away from. David introduced the prophecy. The combination of Jesus’ parable about the sower and seed and Hebrews 6 explain the fulfillment.
David’s simple prophecy explained a number of details. Of course the prophecy accurately predicted details of Jesus’ ministry. In addition to that, this short prophecy also holds the key to a number of important rules of Bible study. David shows how to identify similar and related words. Once these words are identified, they are used to lead us to texts explaining how this prophecy was fulfilled. I’m sure you’ll agree this is a simple process to follow. God doesn’t use complicated rules, but insists we use the brain and tools He’s given us. It doesn’t take an advanced degree with years of preparation to master these simple techniques. Once you see them exercised, you shouldn’t have much trouble using them to advance your study of God’s Word. One of the most important lessons covered in David’s prophecy is of course learning context. The main context is located in the chapter itself, disclosed in the introduction and summation. Details are also contained within the prophecy itself which must be considered when analyzing parallel texts. Prayer and guidance from God’s Spirit are also important steps which must be followed and respected. Once all the proper steps are followed, the result will reveal a clear, simple, and informative answer supporting and explaining the original prophecy. One of the most important details to remember, God will always explain His Word. He really doesn’t need anyone’s help.
This is a short Bible study on Isaiah chapter 59 that shows how to find where the fulfillment to this prophecy is recoded and how to check to ensure you have the correct fulfillment. In other words, how to eliminate any guesswork in matching prophecies to their recorded fulfillment.
Isaiah 59:1-21 NLTse Listen! The LORD’s arm is not too weak to save you, nor is his ear too deaf to hear you call. (2) It’s your sins that have cut you off from God. Because of your sins, he has turned away and will not listen anymore. (3) Your hands are the hands of murderers, and your fingers are filthy with sin. Your lips are full of lies, and your mouth spews corruption. (4) No one cares about being fair and honest. The people’s lawsuits are based on lies. They conceive evil deeds and then give birth to sin. (5) They hatchdeadly snakes and weave spiders’ webs. Whoever falls into their webs will die, and there’s danger even in getting near them. (6) Their webs can’t be made into clothing, and nothing they do is productive. All their activity is filled with sin, and violence is their trademark. (7) Their feet run to do evil, and they rush to commit murder. They think only about sinning. Misery and destruction always follow them. (8) They don’t know where to find peace or what it means to be just and good. They have mapped out crooked roads, and no one who follows them knows a moment’s peace. (9) So there is no justice among us, and we know nothing about right living. We look for light but find only darkness. We look for bright skies but walk in gloom. (10) We grope like the blind along a wall, feeling our way like people without eyes. Even at brightest noontime, we stumble as though it were dark. Among the living, we are like the dead. (11) We growl like hungry bears; we moan like mournful doves. We look for justice, but it never comes. We look for rescue, but it is far away from us. (12) For our sins are piled up before God and testify against us. Yes, we know what sinners we are. (13) We know we have rebelled and have denied the LORD. We have turned our backs on our God. We know how unfair and oppressive we have been, carefully planning our deceitfullies. (14) Our courts oppose the righteous, and justice is nowhere to be found. Truth stumbles in the streets, and honesty has been outlawed. (15) Yes, truth is gone, and anyone who renounces evil is attacked. The LORD looked and was displeased to find there was no justice. (16) He was amazed to see that no one intervened to help the oppressed. So he himself stepped in to save them with his strong arm, and his justice sustained him. (17) He put on righteousness as his body armor and placed the helmet of salvation on his head. He clothed himself with a robe of vengeance and wrapped himself in a cloak of divine passion. (18) He will repay his enemies for their evil deeds. His fury will fall on his foes. He will pay them back even to the ends of the earth. (19) In the west, people will respect the name of the LORD; in the east, they will glorify him. For he will come like a raging flood tide driven by the breath of the LORD. (20) “The Redeemer will come to Jerusalem to buy back those in Israel who have turned from their sins,” says the LORD. (21) “And this is my covenant with them,” says the LORD. “My Spirit will not leave them, and neither will these words I have given you. They will be on your lips and on the lips of your children and your children’s children forever. I, the LORD, have spoken!
I don’t think we’re looked at such a one sided prophecy in Isaiah. Most of this chapter deals on negative aspects. Only the last few verses have a positive spin. It’s as if translators took out this one segment because its theme was centered on one aspect of human nature. Look at the collection of keys words.
All of those key words are related including the way web is used in the chapter. They could have been grouped together as one related list. There are other key words but this list seems to be the obvious guideline to search for parallel texts. As we’ve learned, key words will lead to scripture with the same theme. From that point it’s a matter of checking introductions and summations to make certain both chapters share the same contexts. That’s when we are certain the fulfillment explains the prophecy.
Looking at Isaiah 59 it may be questionable whether or not Isaiah is describing a condition in Judah at that time, or if he is pointing to the future. We don’t know until we check scripture. Living in this world it is not difficult to assume problems Isaiah listed describe the time he prophecised in, the era New Testament writers covered, our time, or any time in between. Let’s face it, sin has been and is a problem in this world and it is going to take a major event to solve the problem – eliminate sin.
It’s your sins that have cut you off from God. Because of your sins, he has turned away and will not listen anymore. This leads most people to believe a lot of popular teaching these days. Are they true? Has God turned away from this world and left us on our own to face the enemy and his army of angels? Take a look at the timing. Has God communicated with this world since Isaiah was given this prophecy or vision? Of course. Jesus came to this world to explain how God communicates with us. If I hadn’t done such miraculous signs among them that no one else could do, they would not be guilty. But as it is, they have seen everything I did, yet they still hate me and my Father. This fulfills what is written in their Scriptures: ‘They hated me without cause.’ “But I will send you the Advocate–the Spirit of truth. He will come to you from the Father and will testify all about me. And you must also testify about me because you have been with me from the beginning of my ministry. (John 15:24-27 NLTse). Okay what do we get out of those four verses? Jesus’ enemies hated Him. How does what compare with Isaiah 59? “Your hands are the hands of murderers, and your fingers are filthy with sin. Your lips are full of lies, and your mouth spews corruption. No one cares about being fair and honest. The people’s lawsuits are based on lies. They conceive evil deeds and then give birth to sin. They hatchdeadly snakes and weave spiders’ webs. Whoever falls into their webs will die, and there’s danger even in getting near them.” Like those priests who killed Jesus, there were people trying to discredit God and kill His followers a long time ago. It still goes on today. People claim to teach about Jesus but they carry their own message. They don’t listen to God’s Spirit. They don’t know Jesus. They don’t receive their message from Jesus. They miss details while eliminating important information. Some preachers and people may think their doing a good job but have no idea they are turning people away from God’s simple plan of salvation.
Even when God sheds light on this world most people miss it. “We look for light but find only darkness. We look for bright skies but walk in gloom. We grope like the blind along a wall, feeling our way like people without eyes. Even at brightest noontime, we stumble as though it were dark. Among the living, we are like the dead.” I’ve seen this in the news. The US wants to build a multi-billion dollar space system to shoot down meteors just in case God forgot one. In essence a move like this is designed by the enemy to take eyes off God while placing trust in science and government. It’s sort of like those people hiding behind Jerusalem’s walls. Instead of trusting in God and obeying Him, they make plans to discredit God, His ability and concern. Isn’t that what the US is doing – hiding behind a wall of money while worshiping science over God? So what happened a few weeks later? News comes out about a giant volcano in the middle of the US. God spoke with a meteor that passed over Russia last year. Science and rulers shook their fists at God and plugged their ears. Not even religious leaders saw or heard anything. So God repeats Himself with a volcano located deep inside the country that boasted the loudest. It seems science and leaders forgot to look under the ground to see all of God’s domain. God has His way of making the wisdom of this world look foolish. This almost seems like a chapter out of Exodus using different elements for new plagues. This time God moved from what man thought he could see to something he couldn’t see, but is much closer to home. See how the threat or curse moved? Notice how the plagues in Exodus moved from the river to the field to inside homes? What’s going to happen if the world doesn’t listen to these signs and warnings?
Isaiah paints a dim picture showing a pattern the world has repeated a thousand times and continues to repeat. Those studying future prophecy will not argue that the trend will continue until Jesus returns. We should also know, Jesus and God’s Spirit is hard at work to change the tide. It’s not going to be easy. We may not see world changing trends, but God has always centered His efforts on individuals which is one of the most difficult concepts for us to phantom. I have no idea why. Most Christians pray to God. Most think God hears them. Most believe God works in their lives. So why would those same Christians think some worldwide event, meeting, rally, or out pouring of God’s Spirit is in the works? That’s what most people who rely on future prophecy are waiting for. They don’t plan on making a move toward God until they see the sign they’re told to wait for. It seems that sign changes from day to day or week to week. If you watch some of those modern day future prophecy gurus you can’t help but think prophecy is a moving target. But it’s not. God wrote the fulfillment of every prophecy in His book long before it happened. That’s part of being God.
As you’ve noticed, the beginning of this study included the entire chapter of Isaiah 59. Just about the whole chapter covers a single aspect, the world is evil and people in it run to do evil. They love sin more than God. In the summation Isaiah introduced a few words of hope. “He was amazed to see that no one intervened to help the oppressed. So he himself stepped in to save them with his strong arm, and his justice sustained him.” How is God going to save them? “”And this is my covenant with them,” says the LORD. “My Spirit will not leave them, and neither will these words I have given you. They will be on your lips and on the lips of your children and your children’s children forever. I, the LORD, have spoken!” This sounds nice. It sounds worth repeating. But what does it mean? Of course it means God’s Spirit has been with man and remains with us. What words has God’s Spirit given us? Has God’s Spirit spoken to a single person or a chosen group of church leaders to speak to? We should be thankful we don’t live in a world or time when one man claiming to be god in earth determines right from wrong, what’s to be preached and what blasphemy is. There was a time extending for generations when one man determined what was to be preached, how it was to be preached, who it was preached to, and who preached his message. Whoever didn’t follow the creed of one man was tortured, killed, burnt on a stake, or worse. God showed this world what men are capable of. Then God opened new doors to put an end to one man, or group rule in this world. Are we walking through those doors again?
Isaiah’s chapter closed by showing God’s Spirit will always be with us. Jesus came to explain how God works with us. His disciples were examples of how we fall short of that understanding as well as examples of what to preach, how to preach, who to preach to, in addition to explaining what Jesus taught them in easy to understand terms. Those disciples didn’t change anything Jesus taught. They didn’t add to it or subtract from it, but showed how those lessons are related. This study shows how Paul explained Isaiah 59 to the Ephesians.
Ephesians 2:1-10 NLTse Once you were dead because of your disobedience and your many sins. (2) You used to live in sin, just like the rest of the world, obeying the devil–the commander of the powers in the unseen world. He is the spirit at work in the hearts of those who refuse to obey God. (3) All of us used to live that way, following the passionate desires and inclinations of our sinful nature. By our very nature we were subject to God’s anger, just like everyone else. (4) But God is so rich in mercy, and he loved us so much, (5) that even though we were dead because of our sins, he gave us life when he raised Christ from the dead. (It is only by God’sgrace that you have been saved!) (6) For he raised us from the dead along with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms because we are united with ChristJesus. (7) So God can point to us in all future ages as examples of the incredible wealth of his grace and kindness toward us, as shown in all he has done for us who are united with ChristJesus. (8) Godsaved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. (9) Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it. (10) For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in ChristJesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.
The introduction to Ephesians makes it clear we, people following Christ were no different than the rest of the world. “Once you were dead because of your disobedience and your many sins. You used to live in sin, just like the rest of the world, obeying the devil–the commander of the powers in the unseen world.” Paul didn’t pull any punches. Sure we’re all sinners and that’s an important part of our ministry, remembering where we came from. Remember Abraham was called out of the land of the Chaldeans. That was Babylon. Paul the author of this book persecuted Christians. He arrested, beat, and jailed them. We know he stood by watching Stephen stoned to death. Then there was Peter, Andrew, James, and John, all fishermen. They didn’t have many leadership skills. Not the kind you would expect to find in a small group of people starting a new church, or shall we say religion. Maybe it was just a fresh way of looking at God or returning to a way long lost, hidden under generations of sin. All of us used to live that way, following the passionate desires and inclinations of our sinful nature. By our very nature we were subject to God’s anger, just like everyone else.
After we realize where we came from, how do we figure out where to go? The first step is to realize how and why we were changed. Paul explained how the prophecy in Isaiah 59 was fulfilled. “He was amazed to see that no one intervened to help the oppressed. So he himself stepped in to save them with his strong arm, and his justice sustained him. He put on righteousness as his body armor and placed the helmet of salvation on his head.” As usual, it’s always best to let God’s Word explain the fulfillment. “God is so rich in mercy, and he loved us so much, that even though we were dead because of our sins, he gave us life when he raised Christ from the dead. (It is only by God’sgrace that you have been saved!)” Change is never an easy process. It is not an instant change. When you become a new Christian it is like facing a battle on two sides. One side wants you to change, to be a better person. The other side wants to pull you back by sending every kind of temptation and trial you can imagine. At times it seems you’re not going anywhere. Some days you’ll want to give up. Remember God is stronger and Jesus already won the battle. Also think of what Elisha told his servant when everything looked lost. “Don’t be afraid!” Elisha told him. “For there are more on our side than on theirs!” Then Elisha prayed, “O LORD, open his eyes and let him see!” The LORD opened the young man’s eyes, and when he looked up, he saw that the hillside around Elisha was filled with horses and chariots of fire.” (2 Kings 6:16-17 NLTse). How can we loose when we have a much larger army around us and they are on fire?
“Godsaved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it. For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in ChristJesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.” Sure we’re saved by God’s grace and sure it’s a gift from God. Does that mean we have nothing to do? Look at the texts carefully. “We are God’s masterpiece.” What does that mean? “He has created us anew in ChristJesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.” If we’re a masterpiece, there has to be some changes before a canvas or block of marble can become a masterpiece. We become God’s new creation in Christ. And Paul tells us why, “so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.” Remember the study when we looked at details about the book God wrote for us long before we were born? Is all of this fitting together? Ask yourself these questions. Is God changing me or recreating me into the masterpiece He originally designed? Is God leading be back to follow the story of my life He originally wrote for me? Some people may argue this takes away our freedom of choice. Ask yourself another question. Do you want to live forever in a world like this or the perfect world God originally created? If Jesus is going to recreate a new world, don’t you think you have to undergo a few changes to fit in? It’s just not you. As Paul pointed out, “all of us used to live that way.” Paul also wanted to tell us how far this message should reach. He covers that in the summation for Ephesians 2 which we have to compare to Isaiah 59.
Ephesians 2:16-22 NLTse (16) Together as one body, Christreconciled both groups to God by means of his death on the cross, and our hostility toward each other was put to death. (17) He brought this Good News of peace to you Gentiles who were far away from him, and peace to the Jews who were near. (18) Now all of us can come to the Father through the same HolySpirit because of what Christ has done for us. (19) So now you Gentiles are no longer strangers and foreigners. You are citizens along with all of God’s holy people. You are members of God’s family. (20) Together, we are his house, built on the foundation of the apostles and the prophets. And the cornerstone is ChristJesus himself. (21) We are carefully joinedtogether in him, becoming a holy temple for the Lord. (22) Through him you Gentiles are also being made part of this dwelling where God lives by his Spirit.
At first glance the summaries for Isaiah 59 and Ephesians 2 seem to contrast one another and they do. “He was amazed to see that no one intervened to help the oppressed. So he himself stepped in to save them with his strong arm, and his justice sustained him.” This could lead people to look for the avenging Messiah those priests who opposed Jesus were looking for. This shows how a parallel chapter will disclose the unexpected interpretation to a symbol. Paul filled in not only the name but details showing how the prophecy was fulfilled. Together as one body, Christreconciled both groups to God by means of his death on the cross, and our hostility toward each other was put to death. How does this help to explain the summation of Isaiah 59? We see the prophecy pointed to Jesus who intervened to help the oppressed. We also see that by His death on the cross, “he himself stepped in to save them with his strong arm.” This puts a strange twist on Jesus’ sacrifice. Did you ever look at Jesus’ death on the cross as a show of His strong arm? Think about it. Arm is a symbol. It required a lot of courage and inner strength to die on the cross. The symbolic arm doesn’t point to physical strength but character.
Isaiah used other symbols Paul revealed. “He clothed himself with a robe of vengeance and wrapped himself in a cloak of divine passion. He will repay his enemies for their evil deeds. His fury will fall on his foes. He will pay them back even to the ends of the earth.” Of course robe and cloak are symbols. Vengeance and repay are also symbols we can understand by reading Paul’s explanation. “Our hostility toward each other was put to death. He brought this Good News of peace to you Gentiles who were far away from him, and peace to the Jews who were near.” Look at Jesus’ enemies who opposed all of Jesus’ followers. They thrived on hostility. They created hostility. They were convinced hostility ensured their positions and income. When Jesus and His disciples brought together Jews and Gentiles, they put an end to that hostility. In essence they put an end to the hold those religious leaders had on their followers. Those religious leaders payed to have Jesus betrayed and Jesus repaid them by putting an end to their strangle hold on the Jews. This cut into their income. Jesus didn’t fight that war with any type of weapon they expected. Jesus fought with righteousness and salvation, the last thing they expected. Generations later they still can’t figure it out.
“The Redeemer will come to Jerusalem to buy back those in Israel who have turned from their sins,” says the LORD. “And this is my covenant with them,” says the LORD. “My Spirit will not leave them, and neither will these words I have given you. They will be on your lips and on the lips of your children and your children’s children forever. I, the LORD, have spoken!” Isaiah’s prophecy tells about a message, but doesn’t tell us exactly what that message is. This is another detail Paul points us to. “He brought this Good News of peace to you Gentiles who were far away from him, and peace to the Jews who were near.” Paul used the phase Good News for a reason. One of the major misconceptions Christians have, carry, and teach is the Good News which is also translated Gospel. If nothing else we should learn one lesson from the Gospel. Jesus prayed for every person before He met them and knew exactly what to say to them, how to heal or help them, and answer questions from those who opposed Him. How did Jesus know all of that? He prayed long and hard. Most of Jesus’ prayers consisted of listening. Why bother praying if you already know the answer? Why bother praying if your not going to listen to God’s answer? The Gospel represents people who learned how to communicate with God like Jesus did. Look at how Paul explained it. “Now all of us can come to the Father through the same HolySpirit because of what Christ has done for us.” What does it mean to come to God? It better mean listening to Him. I don’t think one of us has earned the right to go to God with demands, comments, or a better way of doing things. I don’t think God needs advice on fulfilling His plan of salvation. Has the LORD ever needed anyone’s advice? Does he need instruction about what is good? Did someone teach him what is right or show him the path of justice? (Isaiah 40:14 NLTse).
“So now you Gentiles are no longer strangers and foreigners. You are citizens along with all of God’s holy people. You are members of God’s family.” Paul also explained another portion of Isaiah’s prophecy. “In the west, people will respect the name of the LORD; in the east, they will glorify him. For he will come like a raging flood tide driven by the breath of the LORD.” The book of Acts explains how Christianity grew at such a fast rate no one could control the tide. Jesus sent vengeance upon His enemies by creating a situation they couldn’t control. This left them with a lot of sleepless nights. It also formed divisions within their established religious order. Without God’s Spirit they were tossed and turned like a raging sea. Everyone thought they had the only solution and insisted their plans had to be followed to the letter. Methods they used to build the unity they wanted turned out to be a weapon destroying everything they dedicated their lives to. Once they took their eyes off Jesus they sunk faster than Peter on that stormy sea. Only Jesus could lift them out of the grave they dug for themselves. The faster their house fell, the quicker God’s house grew. “Together, we are his house, built on the foundation of the apostles and the prophets. And the cornerstone is ChristJesus himself. We are carefully joinedtogether in him, becoming a holy temple for the Lord. Through him you Gentiles are also being made part of this dwelling where God lives by his Spirit.
Comparing those summaries verse by verse we’ve seen how one explains the other. God used more symbols than anyone could ever imagine. Without God’s Spirit we would have never found those simple explanations or seen how Jesus fulfilled His promise of vengeance by dying on the cross and opening up a path to God’s throne not only for Jews, but Gentiles. This pulled the floor out from under the Jewish religious order. Loosing members equated to loss of income. Breaking down those barriers between Jews and Gentiles ensured that the Jewish religious order would never regain the glory it once had.
We’ve also seen how parallel chapters explain one another. All we did was follow simple Bible Study rules or patterns but highlighting keys words, looking at the patterns, using key words to search for parallel New Testament texts, checking introductions and summations to ensure we are using chapters with the same theme and context, then study the chapters together verse by verse to unlock lessons just below the surface.
Introductions and Summaries Psalms 49:1-4 Listen to a Parable
Psalms 49:1-4 NLTse Listen to this, all you people! Pay attention, everyone in the world! (2) High and low, rich and poor–listen! (3) For my words are wise, and my thoughts are filled with insight. (4) I listen carefully to many proverbs and solve riddles with inspiration from a harp.
The obvious key word in this prophecy is listen followed by the related words, people, everyone, and world. Key words also tell us what to listen to, proverbs and riddles. Some translations use the word parables for proverbs. This prophecy is simple. It is asking everyone in the world to listen to many proverbs. It’s also another prophecy about Jesus that is easy to locate because it’s quoted by inspiration in Matthew 13.
Matthew 13:1-3 NLTse Later that same day Jesus left the house and sat beside the lake. (2) A large crowd soon gathered around him, so he got into a boat. Then he sat there and taught as the people stood on the shore. (3) He told many stories in the form of parables, such as this one: “Listen! A farmer went out to plant some seeds.
As we’ve seen in previous studies of God’s Word, when Old Testament scripture is quoted, we need to look at surrounding texts and the entire chapter to get the whole message. We also learned an important rule of Bible Study concerning the introduction to chapters. Since the fulfillment of the prophecy in Psalm 49 is found in the introduction of Matthew 13, we need to look at the first few words. Look at how the words, “later that same day,” point us back to the previous chapter. Once again there’s a reason Matthew points us back to the previous chapter that we’ll look at later. At this point we’ll compare key words between the prophecy and fulfillment. Psalm 49 has the key word, listen. Matthew 13 repeated the similar words, told and taught. The key word people is also found in both chapters as well as sharing the related words, proverbs, riddles, stories, and parables. The connection between these two chapters is established by the simple Bible Study rule of repetition.
It’s unusual for both the prophecy and fulfillment to be introductions. This points us to the importance of the lesson since the introduction of chapters establishes the theme. Since the introductions share the same key words and theme, it’s obvious the chapters dwell on the same spiritual lesson which will be revealed as we study and compare more of these chapters.
We need to note, Psalm chapter 78 is a second version of the prophecy fulfilled by Jesus that will be studies at a later time. O my people, listen to my instructions. Open your ears to what I am saying, for I will speak to you in a parable. I will teach you hidden lessons from our past- (Psalms 78:1-2 NLTse).
We also need to look at the previous study showing how people throughout history will betray Jesus. Once we’re shown how we’ve physically turned away from Jesus and spiritually betrayed Him, we have to learn how to serve Him and prepare to work in the harvest. We see this in the sequence Jesus placed in His word. All the details point to the significance to this subject. Not only is this prophecy found in the introduction to Psalm 40 and Matthew 13, it’s repeated in the introduction of Psalm 78. The fulfillment is also repeated in Mark 4 and Luke chapter 8. When God repeats Himself we need to pay attention!
The parable of the sower is one of the most important parables Jesus told because it is one of the few parables where Jesus explained the spiritual interpretation. In His explanation Jesus tells his disciples; “You are permitted to understand the secret of the Kingdom of God. But I use parables for everything I say to outsiders, so that the Scriptures might be fulfilled: ‘When they see what I do, they will learn nothing. When they hear what I say, they will not understand. Otherwise, they will turn to me and be forgiven.’” (Mark 4:11-12 NLTse). We see two concepts in Jesus’ explanation. “You are permitted to understand the secret of the Kingdom of God,” and by turning to Jesus to understand those parables, you will be forgiven. This requires much more than some of the conventional teaching that offers forgiveness by merely knowing Jesus’ name which is sometimes termed the once forgiven, always forgiven theory. To learn and understand the lessons taught between these two chapters we need to compare the summations.
Psalms 49:16-20 NLTse So don’t be dismayed when the wicked grow rich and their homes become ever more splendid. (17) For when they die, they take nothing with them. Their wealth will not follow them into the grave. (18) In this life they consider themselves fortunate and are applauded for their success. (19) But they will die like all before them and never again see the light of day. (20) People who boast of their wealth don’t understand; they will die, just like animals.
Matthew 13:53-58 NLTse When Jesus had finished telling these stories and illustrations, he left that part of the country. (54) He returned to Nazareth, his hometown. When he taught there in the synagogue, everyone was amazed and said, “Where does he get this wisdom and the power to do miracles?” (55) Then they scoffed, “He’s just the carpenter’s son, and we know Mary, his mother, and his brothers–James, Joseph, Simon, and Judas. (56) All his sisters live right here among us. Where did he learn all these things?” (57) And they were deeply offended and refused to believe in him. Then Jesustold them, “A prophet is honored everywhere except in his own hometown and among his own family.” (58) And so he did only a few miracles there because of their unbelief.
David tells us how useless worldly riches are. Matthew shows us a spiritual contrast when he describes how people in Jesus’ hometown rejected Him. They had the riches of the universe in front of them, but the pull of the world blinded them as they looked at the physical aspects and ignored the spiritual. Looking deeper into the story we see how people Jesus grew up with picked and chose what to see and what not to see. They didn’t see the good Jesus did. They didn’t see the example He set as He grew up in front of them. They also closed their eyes to miracles Jesus performed after He began His ministry. It’s not by accident they asked, “Where does he get this wisdom and the power to do miracles?” Their faith was anchored in the established religious order who they trusted and believed had the truth. But as history has shown, was far from the truth. All of this ties into the parable Jesus explained and David’s warning about worthless riches. The religious leaders built a fortune on their rules, regulations, doctrines, traditions, and of course their version of the sacrificial system. Every facet of their form of worship was designed to produce income, place excess burdens on people, and draw them away form the real vision of God as well as a personal relationship with Him and His Son. It’s hard to believe people growing up with Jesus missed so much. But how much do people miss today? Do they know how to understand parables like Jesus explained? Don’t forget the opening line to David’s prophecy. “Listen to this, all you people! Pay attention, everyone in the world!” Following basic Bible Study rules we see the same method in Matthew. Now it’s time to look back at the previous chapter.
Matthew 12:46-50 NLTse As Jesus was speaking to the crowd, his mother and brothers stood outside, asking to speak to him. (47) Someone told Jesus, “Your mother and your brothers are outside, and they want to speak to you.” (48) Jesus asked, “Who is my mother? Who are my brothers?” (49) Then he pointed to his disciples and said, “Look, these are my mother and brothers. (50) Anyone who does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother!”
To help us understand, Jesus placed a more personal emphasis on David’s plea for everyone to listen. “Anyone who does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother!” David shows us the world is supposed to listen. Jesus explains His family will be the ones who actually follow Him. David adds more details to his prophecy to show how important it is to learn the mysteries of proverbs and parallels, in other words, how to understand God’s Word.
Psalms 49:5-15 NLTse Why should I fear when trouble comes, when enemies surround me? (6) They trust in their wealth and boast of great riches. (7) Yet they cannot redeem themselves from death by paying a ransom to God. (8) Redemption does not come so easily, for no one can ever pay enough (9) to live forever and never see the grave. (10) Those who are wise must finally die, just like the foolish and senseless, leaving all their wealth behind. (11) The grave is their eternal home, where they will stay forever. They may name their estates after themselves, (12) but their fame will not last. They will die, just like animals. (13) This is the fate of fools, though they are remembered as being wise. (14) Like sheep, they are led to the grave, where death will be their shepherd. In the morning the godly will rule over them. Their bodies will rot in the grave, far from their grand estates. (15) But as for me, God will redeem my life. He will snatch me from the power of the grave.
The contrast continues to unfold as we see David explain how riches and wealth will never redeem a single person. God doesn’t want our wealth, He wants us to listen to His Son. But even as he spoke, a bright cloud came over them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my dearly loved Son, who brings me great joy. Listen to him.” (Matthew 17:5 NLTse). The way David explains how useless riches are reminds me of one verse. So I advise you to buy gold from me–gold that has been purified by fire. Then you will be rich. Also buy white garments from me so you will not be shamed by your nakedness, and ointment for your eyes so you will be able to see. (Revelation 3:18 NLTse).
There’s a difference between worldly riches and spiritual just like there’s a difference between a message from the world and one from Heaven. Jesus explained how to find the message from Heaven when He taught His disciples how to understand the parable about the sower. Where do you think Jesus got His interpretations for the key words from? Do you think He guessed at them or made up the spiritual meanings like other people do? No! Every interpretation Jesus provided came from scripture. Every interpretation can be proved with scripture. When we look at Matthew 13 we see Jesus point us back to scripture a number of times.
Other seeds fell on shallow soil with underlying rock. The seeds sprouted quickly because the soil was shallow. (Matthew 13:5 NLTse).
And I will give you a new heart, and I will put a new spirit in you. I will take out your stony, stubborn heart and give you a tender, responsive heart. (Ezekiel 36:26 NLTse)
He replied, “You are permitted to understand the secrets of the Kingdom of Heaven, but others are not. To those who listen to my teaching, more understanding will be given, and they will have an abundance of knowledge. But for those who are not listening, even what little understanding they have will be taken away from them. That is why I use these parables, For they look, but they don’t really see. They hear, but they don’t really listen or understand. This fulfills the prophecy of Isaiah that says, ‘When you hear what I say, you will not understand. When you see what I do, you will not comprehend. (Matthew 13:11-14 NLTse)
Then I heard the Lord asking, “Whom should I send as a messenger to this people? Who will go for us?” I said, “Here I am. Send me.” And he said, “Yes, go, and say to this people, ‘Listen carefully, but do not understand. Watch closely, but learn nothing.’ Harden the hearts of these people. Plug their ears and shut their eyes. That way, they will not see with their eyes, nor hear with their ears, nor understand with their hearts and turn to me for healing.” (Isaiah 6:8-10 NLTse)
But since they don’t have deep roots, they don’t last long. They fall away as soon as they have problems or are persecuted for believing God’s word. (Matthew 13:21 NLTse)
To learn, you must love discipline; it is stupid to hate correction. The LORD approves of those who are good, but he condemns those who plan wickedness. Wickedness never brings stability, but the godly have deep roots. (Proverbs 12:1-3 NLTse)
The seed that fell among the thorns represents those who hear God’s word, but all too quickly the message is crowded out by the worries of this life and the lure of wealth, so no fruit is produced. (Matthew 13:22 NLTse)
This is what the LORD says to the people of Judah and Jerusalem: “Plow up the hard ground of your hearts! Do not waste your good seed among thorns. (Jeremiah 4:3 NLTse)
The seed that fell on good soil represents those who truly hear and understand God’s word and produce a harvest of thirty, sixty, or even a hundred times as much as had been planted!” (Matthew 13:23 NLTse)
For I will gather you up from all the nations and bring you home again to your land. “Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean. Your filth will be washed away, and you will no longer worship idols. And I will give you a new heart, and I will put a new spirit in you. I will take out your stony, stubborn heart and give you a tender, responsive heart. And I will put my Spirit in you so that you will follow my decrees and be careful to obey my regulations. “And you will live in Israel, the land I gave your ancestors long ago. You will be my people, and I will be your God. I will cleanse you of your filthy behavior. I will give you good crops of grain, and I will send no more famines on the land. I will give you great harvests from your fruit trees and fields, and never again will the surrounding nations be able to scoff at your land for its famines. (Ezekiel 36:24-30 NLTse)
Oh, the joys of those who do not follow the advice of the wicked, or stand around with sinners, or join in with mockers. But they delight in the law of the LORD, meditating on it day and night. They are like trees planted along the riverbank, bearing fruit each season. Their leaves never wither, and they prosper in all they do. (Psalms 1:1-3 NLTse)
Jesus always used stories and illustrations like these when speaking to the crowds. In fact, he never spoke to them without using such parables. This fulfilled what God had spoken through the prophet: “I will speak to you in parables. I will explain things hidden since the creation of the world.” (Matthew 13:34-35 NLTse)
O my people, listen to my instructions. Open your ears to what I am saying, for I will speak to you in a parable. I will teach you hidden lessons from our past— stories we have heard and known, stories our ancestors handed down to us. We will not hide these truths from our children; we will tell the next generation about the glorious deeds of the LORD, about his power and his mighty wonders. For he issued his laws to Jacob; he gave his instructions to Israel. He commanded our ancestors to teach them to their children, so the next generation might know them– even the children not yet born– and they in turn will teach their own children. So each generation should set its hope anew on God, not forgetting his glorious miracles and obeying his commands. Then they will not be like their ancestors– stubborn, rebellious, and unfaithful, refusing to give their hearts to God. (Psalms 78:1-8 NLTse)
The field is the world, and the good seed represents the people of the Kingdom. The weeds are the people who belong to the evil one. (Matthew 13:38 NLTse)
Then the earth will answer the thirsty cries of the grain, the grapevines, and the olive trees. And they in turn will answer, ‘Jezreel’–‘God plants!’ At that time I will plant a crop of Israelites and raise them for myself. I will show love to those I called ‘Not loved.’ And to those I called ‘Not my people,’ I will say, ‘Now you are my people.’ And they will reply, ‘You are our God!'” (Hosea 2:22-23 NLTse)
The enemy who planted the weeds among the wheat is the devil. The harvest is the end of the world, and the harvesters are the angels. (Matthew 13:39 NLTse)
Swing the sickle, for the harvest is ripe. Come, tread the grapes, for the winepress is full. The storage vats are overflowing with the wickedness of these people.” Thousands upon thousands are waiting in the valley of decision. There the day of the LORD will soon arrive. (Joel 3:13-14 NLTse)
And the angels will throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. (Matthew 13:42 NLTse)
You will throw them in a flaming furnace when you appear. The LORD will consume them in his anger; fire will devour them. You will wipe their children from the face of the earth; they will never have descendants. Although they plot against you, their evil schemes will never succeed. (Psalms 21:9-11 NLTse)
Then the righteous will shine like the sun in their Father’s Kingdom. Anyone with ears to hear should listen and understand! (Matthew 13:43 NLTse)
Many of those whose bodies lie dead and buried will rise up, some to everlasting life and some to shame and everlasting disgrace. Those who are wise will shine as bright as the sky, and those who lead many to righteousness will shine like the stars forever. But you, Daniel, keep this prophecy a secret; seal up the book until the time of the end, when many will rush here and there, and knowledge will increase.” (Daniel 12:2-4 NLTse)
“The Kingdom of Heaven is like a treasure that a man discovered hidden in a field. In his excitement, he hid it again and sold everything he owned to get enough money to buy the field. (Matthew 13:44 NLTse)
My child, listen to what I say, and treasure my commands. Tune your ears to wisdom, and concentrate on understanding. Cry out for insight, and ask for understanding. Search for them as you would for silver; seek them like hidden treasures. Then you will understand what it means to fear the LORD, and you will gain knowledge of God. (Proverbs 2:1-5 NLTse)
“Again, the Kingdom of Heaven is like a merchant on the lookout for choice pearls. When he discovered a pearl of great value, he sold everything he owned and bought it! (Matthew 13:45-46 NLTse)
In that day he will be your sure foundation, providing a rich store of salvation, wisdom, and knowledge. The fear of the LORD will be your treasure. (Isaiah 33:6 NLTse)
There’s an obvious connection between riches and Heaven, but who in their right mind confuses worldly riches from this world with eternal riches from Heaven? Look at what people consider riches in this world and how they effect lives. Today it costs thousands of dollars a month to maintain a comfortable living. Tens of thousands of dollars a year. This world is filled with people after those riches. Mortgage, taxes, food, clothing, cars, vacations, electronics, the latest phone, service plans, insurance, transportation, gasoline, heat, electricity, the list goes on. It never ends in this world. Compare that to Heaven where everything is given by a loving God who died so we can have salvation, eternal life, and Heaven with a home and no bills! One of the things Jesus offers us is the ability to understand His Word. In this example we see unmistakable evidence. Jesus’ quoted a number of texts in His lesson. A large percentage of that lesson is made up of scripture. If we ignore that fact and don’t look at and compare that Old Testament texts to the parable, we’ll never see or understand the message.
Looking at this world it’s not difficult to see where the warnings come from that need to be heeded. Look at the grand churches with sprawling parking lots, manicured lawns and landscaping designed to attract financially stable members. Inside the church people spend hours, days and weeks choosing carpeting, colors, padded pews, choir robs, and decorations exceeding the extravagance of former idols worshiped generations ago. Some people waste hours every week spending a fortune planning back grounds and flower arrangements to please the eye. More time, money, and effort is placed on planning decorations inside the church than on the sermon. Before the sermon becomes a thought details on lighting, camera, big screens, and sound systems rob time that could have been spent sharing the simple message Jesus gave His disciples to share. Jesus never taught in an atmosphere churches spend millions of dollars and endless hours to create. But that’s the world today. That’s the way of the world. Create a church to compete for members and donations. Popular churches have become so elaborate, they push away the poor, depressed, needy, sick, bewildered, all the people Jesus ministered to. Today’s churches who consider themselves successful reject the same people the religious leaders who opposed Jesus turned away. No wonder we find Jesus preaching this vital message in a simple boat with nothing but blue sky highlighting an endless view of water on the lake. Neither one of the gospel writers recorded any details about forming a committee or collecting funds to paint the boat, or long meetings to agree on a new sail to add atmosphere to the scene. As a matter of fact a sail would have upset the entire service. Jesus was smarter than most people give Him credit for when He followed God’s Spirit to set the location, theme, and words for His message.
Malachi 4:5-6 NLTse “Look, I am sending you the prophet Elijah before the great and dreadfulday of the LORD arrives. (6) His preaching will turn the hearts of fathers to their children, and the hearts of children to their fathers. Otherwise I will come and strike the land with a curse.”
I’ve been looking forward to this for weeks, the last study in this series of books. Not because the task is complete. I am looking forward to getting back into the gospels and begin work on Luke and then John. There is still so much work to do and so much to learn. Yes this has been a learning process for me. I have to admit, about 90% of what is in this book, I saw for the first time when I compared all those parallel chapters and prayed about the spiritual links and lessons. Then it was just a matter of writing.
His preaching will turn the hearts of fathers to their children, and the hearts of children to their fathers. This explains my deepest thoughts and emotions while working on these books about the prophecies Jesus fulfilled. It has been like working with a kind, gentile, loving father at my side every step of the way. But I know there are a lot of details I missed, and some I forgot to include. Other details were just too difficult to explain. But I understand there are just some things God wanted to sit down and personally explain to you. That’s just the way He works. After all, if you’re a parent, you know there are certain things you have to teach on a one on one basis. I hope you know there are things in this world only you can teach your child. And if you let those opportunities slip by, the world will jump in and take your place.
Can you image a day when fathers hearts will turn to their children and children will respond with love and understanding? The Bible of course gives us an example to learn from. And of course those lessons are often taught using contracts. Luke is the only author who mentioned Zechariah, so we will use Luke 1 as a parallel chapter.
Luke 1:13-20 NLTse But the angel said, “Don’t be afraid, Zechariah! God has heard your prayer. Your wife, Elizabeth, will give you a son, and you are to name him John. (14) You will have great joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth, (15) for he will be great in the eyes of the Lord. He must never touch wine or other alcoholic drinks. He will be filled with the Holy Spirit, even before his birth. (16) And he will turn many Israelites to the Lord their God. (17) He will be a man with the spirit and power of Elijah. He will prepare the people for the coming of the Lord. He will turn the hearts of the fathers to their children, and he will cause those who are rebellious to accept the wisdom of the godly.” (18) Zechariah said to the angel, “How can I be sure this will happen? I’m an old man now, and my wife is also well along in years.” (19) Then the angel said, “I am Gabriel! I stand in the very presence of God. It was he who sent me to bring you this good news! (20) But now, since you didn’t believe what I said, you will be silent and unable to speak until the child is born. For my words will certainly be fulfilled at the proper time.”
The first thing the key words point out in the fulfillment recorded in Luke 1 is, an angel came to talk to Zechariah. It was the angel Gabriel. The same angel who delivered messages to Daniel. The angel didn’t bother to introduce himself until after Zechariah expressed doubt. Then it was too late. Zechariah expressed something we need to pay attention to.
We see a pattern in the Bible. God sent Gabriel to deliver some important messages. We see that based on the general rule of repetition. This prophecy about the power of Elijah was also repeated. Listen! It’s the voice of someone shouting, “Clear the way through the wilderness for the LORD! Make a straight highway through the wasteland for our God! Fill in the valleys, and level the mountains and hills. Straighten the curves, and smooth out the rough places. Then the glory of the LORD will be revealed, and all people will see it together. The LORD has spoken!” (Isaiah 40:3-5 NLTse).
When we pay attention to what is recorded, we see Gabriel shared this information based on scripture with Zechariah before he expressed doubt. Lesson number one. If Zechariah had studied scripture with an open mind and God’s Spirit by his side, he would have understood Isaiah’s prophecy as well as Malachi’s. Two strikes.
We can see the third strike when we understand Zechariah’s prayer for a son. We learn a great deal of details by looking back a few verses. One day Zechariah was serving God in the Temple, for his order was on duty that week. As was the custom of the priests, he was chosen by lot to enter the sanctuary of the Lord and burn incense. While the incense was being burned, a great crowd stood outside, praying. (Luke 1:8-10 NLTse).
Zechariah was a priest. A very responsible priest trusted with important tasks. Notice what he was doing. Zechariah was taking care of the incense in the temple. The texts even goes as far as mentioning prayers to point us to the spiritual meaning of incense. And when he took the scroll, the four living beings and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb. Each one had a harp, and they held gold bowls filled with incense, which are the prayers of God’s people. (Revelation 5:8 NLTse). There are great lessons to learn once we see how and why that incense was moved from a worldly temple to the Heavenly Sanctuary.
What was Zechariah’s prayer for a son? Since the word father is repeated a number of times, we need to consider what father’s usually pray for. There are two main prayers fathers offer for their children, especially sons. One is to pray their sons are able to accomplish much more than themselves and to live an easier, more enjoyable life. The other prayer is to have a son to carry on the family business. In this case, Zechariah was a priest. Neither one of those prayers fit into God’s plans. Zechariah’s son was not going to be a priest, like the other priests, and his father. And Zechariah’s son was not going to have an easy life.
In the eyes of a father, his son is a symbol of living on past the grave. Fathers feel a piece of themselves will live on in their son. Carrying on the same trade is one way of achieving that goal. And that tradition was not found to be stronger in any trade then the Levitical priesthood. It was almost written in stone before John was born. Zechariah was facing a trial much like Abraham offering Isaac as a sacrifice. For John not to become a priest after the Levitical order was like sacrificing his son.
Zechariah needed some time to think about it. There is something strange about someone who can’t talk. People tend to believe they can’t hear. But Zechariah heard everything around him. He heard what people thought and the gossip they were capable of spreading. Silence was a tool God used to lift the blinders from Zechariah’s eyes. Zechariah heard people talking about how they thought he was cursed. They assumed Zechariah did something wrong in the temple and God was punishing him. Zechariah thought, “how could I be cursed? God sent Gabriel to talk to me. God sent the same angel Daniel talked to.” Silence helped Zechariah to fine tune his connection with God’s Spirit.
When we see key words like birth and born repeated, we have to look for a spiritual connection. That connection is the end of the Levitical priesthood and the introduction to the form of ministry God always intended and really needed. God sent His Son to this world and Jesus needed some help. Now we learn from the contrast. Gabriel told Zechariah how his son was going to lead people back to God, lead fathers to a real relationship with their children, and prepare the people for the coming of the Lord. Gabriel told Zechariah his son was going to accomplish much more than Zechariah ever dreamed about. See the connection in the contrast. John was going to be a preacher like the world has never seen. Gabriel compared him to Elijah. John was to become a man of words and Zechariah lost his ability to speak. This shows us how one form of preaching will end and another one will begin. That’s why John’s ministry is illustrated as a ministry preaching the Good News, and Zechariah, the old priesthood went silent.
Malachi warned, “Otherwise I will come and strike the land with a curse.” Zechariah showed us the beginning of that curse. He wanted to pull his son one way when God needed John to move in a new direction. It was an important direction because it concerned His Son. The Son God was sending down here to teach the world how to worship and serve Him. We see a great deal of those details revealed in the introductions.
Malachi 4:1-4 NLTse The LORD of Heaven’s Armies says, “The day of judgment is coming, burning like a furnace. On that day the arrogant and the wicked will be burned up like straw. They will be consumed–roots, branches, and all. (2) “But for you who fear my name, the Sun of Righteousness will rise with healing in his wings. And you will go free, leaping with joy like calves let out to pasture. (3) On the day when I act, you will tread upon the wicked as if they were dust under your feet,” says the LORD of Heaven’s Armies. (4) “Remember to obey the Law of Moses, my servant–all the decrees and regulations that I gave him on Mount Sinai for all Israel.
Sounds like Malachi’s introduction to chapter 4 is telling about the end of the world. The beginning of Jesus’ ministry was the end of the world for some people. Is it? The introduction to every chapter of course establishes its theme and lesson. To understand it better, we can use the help of the five W’s.
the arrogant and the wicked
judgment is coming
will be burned up like straw
We have to look into the rest of the chapter, or the previous chapters to find that answer.
Once again, we have to search for an answer.
Since we already have two unanswered questions, it’s time to look at the previous chapter to see how the author led into this introduction.
Malachi 3:14-18 NLTse “You have said, ‘What’s the use of serving God? What have we gained by obeying his commands or by trying to show the LORD of Heaven’s Armies that we are sorry for our sins? (15) From now on we will call the arrogant blessed. For those who do evil get rich, and those who dare God to punish them suffer no harm.'” (16) Then those who feared the LORD spoke with each other, and the LORD listened to what they said. In his presence, a scroll of remembrance was written to record the names of those who feared him and always thought about the honor of his name. (17) “They will be my people,” says the LORD of Heaven’s Armies. “On the day when I act in judgment, they will be my own special treasure. I will spare them as a father spares an obedient child. (18) Then you will again see the difference between the righteous and the wicked, between those who serve God and those who do not.”
The summary in chapter 3 shows two opposing groups. One thinks they have a way around serving God, while the other group, God listens to. We see that theme carried forward to chapter 4 and into Luke 1. There is another group mentioned in the introduction to chapter 4.
you who fear my name
the Sun of Righteousness will rise with healing in his wings.
And you will go free
you will tread upon the wicked
obey the Law of Moses
There is only one time mentioned: all the decrees and regulations that I gave him on Mount Sinai for all Israel.
Location is not given.
Is answered in the what.
We can see time and location are universal, beginning when Moses received God’s law at Mount Sinai. Since we can see John’s birth, and of course Jesus’ birth marked a new understanding of that law. The new beginning must also mark the end of an era. Which of course was one of the main themes of Jesus’ ministry on earth.
Luke’s introduction here is the introduction to his book where we see details we need to pay attention to throughout his book. When we read Luke chapter 1, we have to ask, why this story is so important and how it relates throughout his entire book?
Luke 1:1-13 NLTse Many people have set out to writeaccounts about the events that have been fulfilled among us. (2) They used the eyewitness reports circulating among us from the early disciples. (3) Having carefully investigated everything from the beginning, I also have decided to write a careful account for you, most honorable Theophilus, (4) so you can be certain of the truth of everything you were taught. (5) When Herod was king of Judea, there was a Jewish priest named Zechariah. He was a member of the priestly order of Abijah, and his wife, Elizabeth, was also from the priestly line of Aaron. (6) Zechariah and Elizabeth were righteous in God’s eyes, careful to obey all of the Lord’scommandments and regulations. (7) They had no children because Elizabeth was unable to conceive, and they were both very old. (8) One day Zechariah was serving God in the Temple, for his order was on duty that week. (9) As was the custom of the priests, he was chosen by lot to enter the sanctuary of the Lord and burnincense. (10) While the incense was being burned, a great crowd stood outside, praying. (11) While Zechariah was in the sanctuary, an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing to the right of the incense altar. (12) Zechariah was shaken and overwhelmed with fear when he saw him. (13) But the angel said, “Don’t be afraid, Zechariah! God has heard your prayer. Your wife, Elizabeth, will give you a son, and you are to name him John.
First of all, Luke wanted his friend to know the accounts he recorded are accurate. After all, Luke was there to see them. Luke also tells us there are other reports he used from some of the early disciples. Luke carefully investigated every detail before writing.
Luke begins with a date. A date we saw missing in Malachi chapter 4. Luke quickly introduced Zechariah, pointing out he was a priest. Because Luke repeated the word priest, we have to consider the reason why.
Luke also pointed out, Zechariah was an important priest and he was old. He’d been around for a while. Like all priests in his day, Zechariah would have began instructions for his position at a very early age. Zechariah endured rigorous training under the care of Israel’s most honored and trusted priests. In short, Zechariah read the scriptures. But he was taught the accepted interpretations and was not allowed to question, add to, or subtract from those interpretations. Zechariah was, for lack of a better term, brainwashed from birth.
The first new lesson we see God introducing to Zechariah is His timing. Elizabeth was well past child bearing years. They waited together in the twilight of their years for what was to come. Because they didn’t have a son to care for them, they had to put more trust and dependence in the established priestly order to care for them in their old age. Which made it impossible for Zechariah to stray away from the accepted order in any way, shape, or form. Zechariah was stuck – bound to his job and beliefs by dedication and financial concerns.
Zechariah and Elizabeth were righteous in God’s eyes, careful to obey all of the Lord’scommandments and regulations. It was important for God to find a married couple who both followed His commands. But there was more than just following commands. There had to be more than a search for self righteousness through works. God had to find a couple willing to understand His plan of salvation and teach their son, or allow God to teach their son how to prepare the world for Jesus’ ministry.
What are the connecting factors between the introduction for Malachi 4 and Luke 1? Malachi told us to, “remember o obey the Law of Moses, my servant.” Luke told us, “Zechariah and Elizabeth were righteous in God’s eyes, careful to obey all of the Lord’scommandments and regulations.” The connection goes beyond God’s law. Malachi talks about a day of judgment. Luke tells us about the day final preparations were made to announce Jesus’ arrival here in earth. This was not only a renewal of the original form of worship, but the beginning of Jesus’ life, ministry, test, and trial to prove He is worthy to judge this world. Jesus had to first prove He could take the worst this world was prepared to throw at Him and pass every test and trial. God’s standards are not lax. They are especially rigid for His Son. You see, God wanted His Son to be just like Him in all ways. Jesus explained that. No one has ever seen God. But the one and only Son is himself God and is near to the Father’s heart. He has revealed God to us. Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father! So why are you asking me to show him to you? (John 1:18, 14:9 NLTse).
No one knows what day Jesus will return to fulfill that portion of His ministry. Heaven and earth will disappear, but my words will never disappear. “However, no one knows the day or hour when these things will happen, not even the angels in heaven or the Son himself. Only the Father knows. (Matthew 24:35-36 NLTse). But there are certain steps we have to know before we can understand circumstances related to Jesus’ return. Don’t be concerned about the date. Don’t worry about it and certainly, don’t listen to anyone who claims to know the day and hour. But that does not mean we are supposed to ignore the event and all the details and lessons associated with Jesus’ return. We find a recorded fulfillment in one portion of this prophecy. Part of the prophecy is a lesson. A very important lesson we can understand. Many people preach about that one detail, the power of Elijah. “Look, I am sending you the prophet Elijah before the great and dreadfulday of the LORD arrives.” How can we tell which details are correct and which are man made fabrications if we don’t understand the extent of the event?
The main question is, will you be afraid when God pours out a dramatic amount of new information and understanding during those last days? I think most religions preach their own version of the later rain, power of Elijah, a last day Pentecost, a time where people will once again have the gift of prophecy and dreams. The only thing is, I can’t find a verse in the Bible where God told us, He is going to be silent for a time, or withhold His voice until some future time. When I hear people believe God doesn’t talk to this world now, I tell them to tear every page out of their Bible where they find something about God speaking to someone and see how much is left. There may be time that passed when people didn’t listen to God, but that doesn’t mean He wasn’t trying to be heard.
We talked about this study during our meeting today and some important details came out. That’s another way God speaks to us, through His faithful followers. Did you notice, Elizabeth couldn’t get pregnant until Zechariah lost his voice? Look at the texts someone pointed out to me. “Thus has the Lord dealt with me in the days in which he looked on me, to take away my reproach among men.” (Luke 1:25 KJ2000). As soon as Zechariah fell silent, he finally entered into a world where he could understand his wife. Elizabeth had to endure her pain and reproach alone in silence. Zechariah had to share that silence to know his wife. Once he knew and shared her pain, she was ready to conceive.
That’s one thing about God’s Word. Once you learn to study with God’s Spirit, there is always more to see and learn. There is no doubt about it. But it is not always easy to share. Having been involved in an institutional church for some time, I know how difficult it is to share. Malachi provided an important detail that will help us understand why. His preaching will turn the hearts of fathers to their children, and the hearts of children to their fathers. Otherwise I will come and strike the land with a curse.”
Like God wanted Jesus to be exactly like Himself, fathers want their children, especially sons to grow up exactly like themselves. As we’ve seen in this story about Zechariah, God needed that chain broken. The last thing God wanted was to see was John to grow up like his father. When we see how God teaches with contrasts we can see that lesson. I’ve heard dozens of people tell me, “I am second generation this, or third generation that.” It’s their way of saying, “I already know everything.” They learned from their parents and if their religion was good enough for their parents and grandparents, it is good enough for them. It is the rut Gabriel told Zechariah he had to get out of. Everything Gabriel told Zechariah went against what he had drilled into his head by his father. That’s been a major problem in Christianity for generations. People refuse to move on. That’s why they reject anything and everything new with no additional thought. They have been drilled into thinking their parents and grandparents are lost if they didn’t know everything. It’s sad, but that’s the way people think. It’s really nothing more than an excuse not to move on. The best reason they can come up with not to listen to God’s voice.
Jesus didn’t have His legs broken at the cross because He had places to go and things to do. God knew Jesus was going to move forward. On the other hand, those guilty people on their crosses had their legs broken. They weren’t going anywhere. They died at the cross. They represent a lot of Christian religions stuck at the cross. They want to keep it easy to understand. They use excuses like, “new people may come in.” Don’t they think God is able to get new people up to speed before they walk through that door? There is no excuse to consistently reject new details God is trying to share. No matter how great or small they may be. God always confirms His Word. There is no danger in learning something new. We were created in God’s image and He is our loving Father, who lives to take us as far as we are willing to go and learn as much as we decide to learn. Which brings us to the perfect time to look at and compare the summaries.
Luke 1:56-80 NLTse Mary stayed with Elizabeth about three months and then went back to her own home. (57) When it was time for Elizabeth’s baby to be born, she gave birth to a son. (58) And when her neighbors and relatives heard that the Lord had been very merciful to her, everyone rejoiced with her. (59) When the baby was eight days old, they all came for the circumcision ceremony. They wanted to name him Zechariah, after his father. (60) But Elizabeth said, “No! His name is John!” (61) “What?” they exclaimed. “There is no one in all your family by that name.” (62) So they used gestures to ask the baby’sfather what he wanted to name him. (63) He motioned for a writing tablet, and to everyone’s surprise he wrote, “His name is John.” (64) Instantly Zechariah could speak again, and he began praising God. (65) Awe fell upon the whole neighborhood, and the news of what had happened spread throughout the Judean hills. (66) Everyone who heard about it reflected on these events and asked, “What will this child turn out to be?” For the hand of the Lord was surely upon him in a special way. (67) Then his father, Zechariah, was filled with the Holy Spirit and gave this prophecy: (68) “Praise the Lord, the God of Israel, because he has visited and redeemed his people. (69) He has sent us a mighty Savior from the royal line of his servant David, (70) just as he promised through his holy prophets long ago. (71) Now we will be saved from our enemies and from all who hate us. (72) He has been merciful to our ancestors by remembering his sacred covenant– (73) the covenant he swore with an oath to our ancestor Abraham. (74) We have been rescued from our enemies so we can serve God without fear, (75) in holiness and righteousness for as long as we live. (76) “And you, my little son, will be called the prophet of the Most High, because you will prepare the way for the Lord. (77) You will tell his people how to find salvation through forgiveness of their sins. (78) Because of God’s tender mercy, the morning light from heaven is about to break upon us, (79) to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, and to guide us to the path of peace.” (80) John grew up and became strong in spirit. And he lived in the wilderness until he began his public ministry to Israel.
This summary is what I couldn’t wait to get to. Here is where we see one of the most important lessons in this prophecy and its fulfillment. Did you notice something missing? An angel talked to Zechariah. The angel also spoke to Mary. When we check, we see, Joseph had dreams. It seems the only one who didn’t have an angel appearing to them or had a dream was Elizabeth. Look at what she said to praise God. And after those days his wife Elizabeth conceived, and hid herself five months, saying, “Thus has the Lord dealt with me in the days in which he looked on me, to take away my reproach among men.” (Luke 1:24-25 KJ2000).
Elizabeth returned to seclusion, to share the pain her husband was experiencing. Being childless, Elizabeth was not looked upon in a positive way by society. Especially in a circle of priests and their wives who were all experts in the law. Being alone opened up a channel to God’s Spirit to alleviate her lonely feeling. Elizabeth didn’t need a miraculous meeting or dream to learn and understand what was happening. She had a direct connection with God she relied on, because she was using it for years. This is the connection fathers need with their sons and with God. The same connection Elizabeth had with God.
I’ve been trying to sell my house for more than a year. I have it priced way below market value and below tax assessed value. People come over, look at the house, but the answer is always the same. They think the yard is too much work. It is a full acre with flower gardens all over. It also has vegetable gardens and fruit trees as well as a wild flower garden. And of course plenty of grass. They say there is too much work for them. To me it is paradise. A place to walk a few steps and meet God in nature. There are a lot of birds, deer, and even a pair of cranes that mate every years. Ducks are in the pond and geese visit, eat, and rest in the corn field up the block. I watch squirrels dodging hawks and falcons. Every year rabbits are all over the yard for a few weeks. Until those baby hawks leave the nest. I look out everyday and watch the balance of life in a sinful world and learn lessons.
All the people who look at the house have kids. I can see, this world is not ready for this study, or the message in Malachi 4. Fathers have no interest in teaching their kids or spending time with them. There is no connection between them. Fathers have no heart to share. All they know is give their children everything they want, then let television, the Internet, and the school system raise their kids. The world has gone from one extreme to the other. This world is not ready for God’s simple message. God is love.
Jeremiah 11:15-19 NLTse (15) “What right do my beloved people have to come to my Temple, when they have done so many immoral things? Can their vows and sacrifices prevent their destruction? They actually rejoice in doing evil! (16) I, the LORD, once called them a thriving olivetree, beautiful to see and full of good fruit. But now I have sent the fury of their enemies to burn them with fire, leaving them charred and broken. (17) “I, the LORD of Heaven’s Armies, who planted this olivetree, have ordered it destroyed. For the people of Israel and Judah have done evil, arousing my anger by burning incense to Baal.” (18) Then the LORD told me about the plots my enemies were making against me. (19) I was like a lamb being led to the slaughter. I had no idea that they were planning to kill me! “Let’s destroy this man and all his words,” they said. “Let’s cut him down, so his name will be forgotten forever.”
Jeremiah began this series of prophecies much like our last study by asking how and why the Jews relied on the stone temple to save them. Once again this makes me think about what I’ve missed in the last study. But this time my attention is focused on a new trend God’s Spirit introduced. The first prophecy used the symbol of an olive tree. The second prophecy used the symbol of lamb being led to slaughter. You would think those two prophecies would make it easier to locate the New Testament parallel texts for this prophecy, but I have to admit, it wasn’t easy for me. I looked at those key words and searched using words like destruction, broken, and destroyed. Because the prophecy tells us the lamb is led to slaughter to destroy that man and all his words, I of course focused on Jesus’ trial where He remained silent. But none of them seemed to cover the olive tree. It took me two days of praying and searching before I received the familiar knock on the head and heard the voice asking me, “are you listening?” I saw the first hints, and then it hit me like a ton of bricks. The key is the olive tree. I was trying to associate the olive tree with the fig tree Jesus withered. That turned out to be a bad idea but a valuable lesson to discuss.
Remember how God showed Jeremiah a symbol than asked him what it meant? Jeremiah’s answer was always, “I don’t know, you tell me.” And God explained it. The olive and fig tree are related but on different levels. This shows how God is in control of those symbols He used, and the ONLY way we can understand their proper meaning is to listen to HIM and keep all His symbols within the context of His Word.
John 18:1-9 NLTse After saying these things, Jesus crossed the Kidron Valley with his disciples and entered a grove of olive trees. (2) Judas, the betrayer, knew this place, because Jesus had often gone there with his disciples. (3) The leading priests and Pharisees had given Judas a contingent of Roman soldiers and Temple guards to accompany him. Now with blazing torches, lanterns, and weapons, they arrived at the olive grove. (4) Jesus fully realized all that was going to happen to him, so he stepped forward to meet them. “Who are you looking for?” he asked. (5) “Jesus the Nazarene,” they replied. “I AM he,” Jesus said. (Judas, who betrayed him, was standing with them.) (6) As Jesus said “I AM he,” they all drew back and fell to the ground! (7) Once more he asked them, “Who are you looking for?” And again they replied, “Jesus the Nazarene.” (8) “I told you that I AM he,” Jesus said. “And since I am the one you want, let these others go.” (9) He did this to fulfill his own statement: “I did not lose a single one of those you have given me.”
In the prophecy, Jeremiah told us; “I, the LORD, once called them a thriving olive tree, beautiful to see and full of good fruit. But now I have sent the fury of their enemies to burn them with fire, leaving them charred and broken. “I, the LORD of Heaven’s Armies, who planted this olive tree, have ordered it destroyed. In simple terms, that olive tree will be destroyed. In contrast look how that symbols appeared in John’s Gospel. After saying these things, Jesus crossed the Kidron Valley with his disciples and entered a grove of olive trees. Standing alone this text does not appear to have much levity on Jeremiah. We clearly see the relationship and message when we compare other gospels. Then Jesus went with them to the olive grove called Gethsemane, and he said, “Sit here while I go over there to pray.” (Matthew 26:36 NLTse). Jesus prayed in that olive groove just before Judas betrayed Him and He was arrested by a group made up of Roman and temple guards. Once we examine the details we begin to see how far the Jews slipped away from God. In Jeremiah’s time his warning went out to the Jews. In Jesus’ time those Jews were joined by the government. In this case Rome. We can see a little more light shed upon the symbols in Daniel representing the forth kingdom, Rome. It was unlike the other kingdoms. We see how the Jews joined with the forth kingdom to oppose Jesus. It was far more than opposing Jesus, they joined forces to kill Him. Daniel was a leader in the first kingdom, Babylon. Daniel was also a leader in the second kingdom, the Persians and Medes. Not much is written about the third kingdom, Greece. But we see Paul preaching in Greece and the New Testament was written in Greek. Those first three kingdoms had a relationship with God and the gospel. Rome was far different than the others based on the fact, the Roman government ordered Jesus’ execution. That wasn’t all Rome joined forces with the Jews to carry out. Together they persecuted early Christians. If that wasn’t enough, Rome finally reestablished a new order loosely based on Christianity but changing all the original forms of worship and the message given to the disciples in the name of unity. They’re form of unity resulted in some of the most violent persecution the world has seen.
Jesus fully realized all that was going to happen to him, so he stepped forward to meet them. “Who are you looking for?” he asked. We can look at this text in a number of different ways. When Jesus asked this question, He knew who they were looking for and why. John told us, Jesus knew what was about to happen. Do you think Jesus prayed only for Himself in the olive grove? If you knew Jesus you’d know He spent every minute available to pray for every person He wanted to save, and that was everyone. The prophecy and fulfillment compliment one another by showing that olive groove God planted was going to be destroyed. Taking Jesus prisoner was only one step in the process. Salvation was still a personal decision for each and everyone of those religious leaders and their followers. Of course Jesus prayed for them. The prophecy in Jeremiah told about a curse. Jesus prayed in an olive grove to show His concern for all of them present and in the future. Jesus’ question, “Who are you looking for?” Is still pertinent today. When people walk through church doors, who are they looking for? Jesus of course. How is Jesus presented to them? Today the most popular way of presenting Jesus is doctrines, traditions, and prophecies about this world. Neither one of those teach anything about Jesus. None of them are Biblical. They are man made methods of reaching out to the world showing once again how this world seems to think they can solve their own problems. This is the message we see in Jeremiah. “What right do my beloved people have to come to my Temple, when they have done so many immoral things?”
The Tabernacle build by Moses and the Israelites had a specific physical pattern which extended to its services. Priests had to follow specific steps to wash and dress. They had to follow a specific path inside the Tabernacle court. Every item in the Tabernacle and all its associated services pointed to Jesus, His life and ministry. That is a pattern lost in today’s religious world. Ask a preacher to explain those details and you may receive an explanation of two or maybe three items. Worse yet, they most likely will mix items in the Tabernacle with items in the stone temple designed and build by a man from Tyre using taxes and slave labor. Can you see the pattern showing how this world mixes religion and government? Satan’s promise to Eve was to be like gods. This world is still reaching out to fulfill that promise. It seems as if this world forgot who made that promise. Only Jesus is both King and Priest. No one has the right to copy or attempt to duplicate that title or system.
We’ve seen how Jeremiah was very dedicated to following orders from God. Look at how He worded this prophecy. “Let’s destroy this man and all his words,” they said. “Let’s cut him down, so his name will be forgotten forever.” Many people will confuse this prophecy with another. He was oppressed and treated harshly, yet he never said a word. He was led like a lamb to the slaughter. And as a sheep is silent before the shearers, he did not open his mouth. (Isaiah 53:7 NLTse). The fulfillment of this prophecy is found in other gospels. Then the high priest stood up and said to Jesus, “Well, aren’t you going to answer these charges? What do you have to say for yourself?” But Jesus remained silent. Then the high priest said to him, “I demand in the name of the living God–tell us if you are the Messiah, the Son of God.” (Matthew 26:62-63 NLTse). In John’s book Jesus provided a few simple answers. Jeremiah’s prophecy did not say Jesus would remain silent. It says they will silence Him.
Why did they want to silence Jesus? What did He say during His trials those religious leaders didn’t want the world to hear? It’s easy to quickly find the words Jesus spoke by looking at a red letter Bible where Jesus’ words are in red.
Jesus answered him, “I spoke openly to the world; I always taught in the synagogue, and in the temple, where the Jews always met; and in secret have I said nothing. Why do you ask me? Ask them who heard me, what I have said unto them: behold, they know what I said. Say you this thing of yourself, or did others tell it to you of me? My kingdom is not of this world: if my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jews: but now is my kingdom not from here.” Pilate therefore said unto him, “Are you a king then?” Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. To this end was I born, and for this cause came I into the world, that I should bear witness unto the truth. Every one that is of the truth hears my voice.” (John 18:20-21, 34, 36-37 KJ2000).
What words were worth killing Jesus over and why? Jesus began by telling them to talk to the people who were His witnesses. We can see how Jesus was denied witnesses. Do you understand how that relates to Satan’s plans today? How many people are capable of witnessing for Jesus? If you had to tell someone about your relationship with Jesus would it be convincing? How long would your testimony last? Would your witnessing be an individual testimony needed at that particular time? Think about this for a moment. If you had to rely on your testimony about Jesus to save you, would it? Is that what those religious leaders feared? It’s easy to see how those religious leaders were controlled by Satan. It’s not as easy to admit giving into Satan when your personal testimony of Jesus is not real, sincere, and real.
Jesus also told them His Kingdom is not of this world. Neither is His Word. Neither should our testimony be about this world. There are too many complaints and not enough answers. Most of the answers we hear are from this world and not from Heaven. Those religious leaders feared Jesus as much as they feared loosing control. It’s a fear that still runs a lot of the churches and organizations in this world. It’s a fear that can only be overcome by the real message from Heaven, from Jesus’ Kingdom. Jesus said more than the world will ever imagine … those who work so hard to silence Him do not understand. Caiaphas didn’t understand the prophecy he spoke. First they took him to Annas, the father-in-law of Caiaphas, the high priest at that time. Caiaphas was the one who had told the other Jewish leaders, “It’s better that one man should die for the people.” (John 18:13-14 NLTse). Jesus had to endure two trails at the hands of the priests and religious leaders. That has a spiritual significance you can pray about and investigate on your own. It’s not by chance there are two prophecies in Jeremiah 11 and the fulfillment of both is found in John 18.
John 18:19-24 NLTse Inside, the high priest began asking Jesus about his followers and what he had been teaching them. (20) Jesus replied, “Everyone knows what I teach. I have preached regularly in the synagogues and the Temple, where the people gather. I have not spoken in secret. (21) Why are you asking me this question? Ask those who heard me. They know what I said.” (22) Then one of the Temple guards standing nearby slappedJesus across the face. “Is that the way to answer the high priest?” he demanded. (23) Jesus replied, “If I said anything wrong, you must prove it. But if I’m speaking the truth, why are you beating me?” (24) Then Annas boundJesus and sent him to Caiaphas, the high priest.
Jesus was hauled into the high priest’s home bound in chains and ropes. A pole was inserted below Jesus’ arm with His hands tied behind His back. Guards used that pole to control prisoners. Lifting on the pole exerted a great deal of pain by pulling their shoulders from the sockets. For guards it made turning and directing prisoners much easier. The guards who arrested Jesus used it for sport. Although Jesus freely gave Himself up and followed instructions, those guards lifted up on that pole to see Him suffer. In Jesus’ case a long chain hung from His neck trailing behind Him. In the olive grove and along the road that chain often snagged on bushes and weeds along the path choking the Savior. A guard following behind some times stepped in that chain to see Jesus jerked back and fall to the ground. Jesus had the choice of falling straight back where His head would strike the ground or to one side where the pole between His back and arms would tear His arms from His body. Most of those guards laughed at His suffering. Demons pushed them to inflict the maximum amount of pain on God’s Son as they marched Him to the high priest.
There was no reason to question Jesus in the high priest’s home. Nothing like this was ever done. The high priest neglected to wear the breastplate God designed to consult in matters of life and death. Seeing this, Jesus knew what the verdict would be before the first question was asked. That is why Jesus answered them by telling them to ask the people who listened to Him. It was a nice way of telling them, Jesus knew He would not be allowed witnesses in His trial. It was also a way of telling them, His witness would continue after His trial and execution.
Jesus’ trail was well planned and every step rehearsed down to the last witness the priests gathered against Jesus. But at the trial the thoughts and words from those witnesses was scrambled by an unseen force. Unknown and unseen by the religious leaders because they didn’t know God or His voice. But the voice and instructions from demons was loud and clear to them.
The high priest began asking Jesus about his followers and what he had been teaching them. Jesus looked around the room at each face. He saw many of them when He preached. Jesus knew those people heard what He said. Jesus also knew few words touched their hearts. Jesus knew how their preconceived ideas and doctrines hid truth from their ears and eyes. Jesus knew they witnessed the miracles He performed. Jesus replied, “Everyone knows what I teach. I have preached regularly in the synagogues and the Temple, where the people gather. I have not spoken in secret.” For many of those priests this was a last call to salvation they would hear. Jesus had been praying for them before they arrested Him in that olive grove. Jesus had no choice but to request witnesses on His behalf. “Why are you asking me this question? Ask those who heard me. They know what I said.” Jesus followed court procedures which were not part of the high priest’s plans. Then one of the Temple guards standing nearby slappedJesus across the face. “Is that the way to answer the high priest?” he demanded. This was nothing new. We see Jeremiah went through the same process when he delivered God’s messages. By now we should know, we have to compare the introduces from both chapters to see more details about this lesson being taught in scripture.
Jeremiah 11:1-8 NLTse The LORD gave another message to Jeremiah. He said, (2) “Remind the people of Judah and Jerusalem about the terms of my covenant with them. (3) Say to them, ‘This is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says: Cursed is anyone who does not obey the terms of my covenant! (4) For I said to your ancestors when I brought them out of the iron-smelting furnace of Egypt, “If you obey me and do whatever I command you, then you will be my people, and I will be your God.” (5) I said this so I could keep my promise to your ancestors to give you a land flowing with milk and honey–the land you live in today.'” Then I replied, “Amen, LORD! May it be so.” (6) Then the LORD said, “Broadcast this message in the streets of Jerusalem. Go from town to town throughout the land and say, ‘Remember the ancient covenant, and do everything it requires. (7) For I solemnly warned your ancestors when I brought them out of Egypt, “Obey me!” I have repeated this warning over and over to this day, (8) but your ancestors did not listen or even pay attention. Instead, they stubbornly followed their own evil desires. And because they refused to obey, I brought upon them all the curses described in this covenant.'”
We have to compare the introduction of Jeremiah 11 to the introduction to John 18 which contains the fulfillment of one of the prophecies. What does the covenant have to do with Jesus praying in that olive grove and being arrested? Jesus followed God’s covenant and all His laws to prepare for that moment. On the other hand, Judas followed his own course, ideas, and concepts. Hence we see the result from each course. Jesus received God’s promise and more. What did Judas get? Judas continued to follow his own course by making his own decisions, and believed his way was the only way. “I have sinned,” he declared, “for I have betrayed an innocent man.” “What do we care?” they retorted. “That’s your problem.” Then Judas threw the silver coins down in the Temple and went out and hanged himself. (Matthew 27:4-5 NLTse). Those priests were as guilty as Judas was when it came to doing things their own way. They arrested Jesus and tried Him their own way. They ignored God’s method for trying a man. Then of course one thing led to another when they tried to cover up Jesus’ resurrection. One mistake after another was made. Nothing worked out for them. A lesson we need to look at whenever we feel we are wise enough to plot our own course.
Jeremiah 11:20-23 NLTse (20) O LORD of Heaven’s Armies, you make righteous judgments, and you examine the deepest thoughts and secrets. Let me see your vengeance against them, for I have committed my cause to you. (21) This is what the LORD says about the men of Anathoth who wanted me dead. They had said, “We will kill you if you do not stop prophesying in the LORD’s name.” (22) So this is what the LORD of Heaven’s Armies says about them: “I will punish them! Their young men will die in battle, and their boys and girls will starve to death. (23) Not one of these plotters from Anathoth will survive, for I will bring disaster upon them when their time of punishment comes.”
You can see how comparing prophecies with their fulfillment brings out more details than ever imagined. Jeremiah lived through this prophecy which also pointed to the future event of Jesus’ trial and how God was going to deal with those religious leaders. Why couldn’t those religions leaders who condemned Jesus look back and see those simple lessons? This was a lesson God’s Spirit was trying to reach those religious leaders with. But they wouldn’t listen. Instead they continued their plans to silence Jesus. John provided a detailed account.
John 18:28-40 NLTse Jesus’ trial before Caiaphas ended in the early hours of the morning. Then he was taken to the headquarters of the Roman governor. His accusers didn’t go inside because it would defile them, and they wouldn’t be allowed to celebrate the Passover. (29) So Pilate, the governor, went out to them and asked, “What is your charge against this man?” (30) “We wouldn’t have handed him over to you if he weren’t a criminal!” they retorted. (31) “Then take him away and judge him by your own law,” Pilate told them. “Only the Romans are permitted to execute someone,” the Jewish leaders replied. (32) (This fulfilled Jesus’ prediction about the way he would die.) (33) Then Pilate went back into his headquarters and called for Jesus to be brought to him. “Are you the king of the Jews?” he asked him. (34) Jesus replied, “Is this your own question, or did others tell you about me?” (35) “Am I a Jew?” Pilate retorted. “Your own people and their leading priests brought you to me for trial. Why? What have you done?” (36) Jesus answered, “My Kingdom is not an earthly kingdom. If it were, my followers would fight to keep me from being handed over to the Jewish leaders. But my Kingdom is not of this world.” (37) Pilate said, “So you are a king?”Jesus responded, “You say I am a king. Actually, I was born and came into the world to testify to the truth. All who love the truth recognize that what I say is true.” (38) “What is truth?” Pilate asked. Then he went out again to the people and told them, “He is not guilty of any crime. (39) But you have a custom of asking me to release one prisoner each year at Passover. Would you like me to release this ‘King of the Jews’?” (40) But they shouted back, “No! Not this man. We want Barabbas!” (Barabbas was a revolutionary.)
If those religious leaders had reviewed the price Jerusalem had to pay for not listening to God or His prophet Jeremiah, maybe they would have listened to Jesus. John tells us those Jewish leaders knew something about God’s law. His accusers didn’t go inside of Pilates palace because it would defile them, and they wouldn’t be allowed to celebrate the Passover. I’m not sure where they got that from. John is pointing us to the fact priests and Pharisees wrote a kind of commentary on scripture. In their minds that commentary explained everything in scripture in terms people could understand. In essence that commentary turned out to be another idol placed between themselves and God. Don’t be too surprised. Most denominations follow the same course. The biggest mistake those priests made was not referring to scripture which is the same mistake committed today. People refer to books, commentaries, web sites, anything and everything except the Bible. Then they consider themselves experts without consult the universe’s one source of infinite wisdom. All they are doing is denying time with God’s Spirit in His Word.
Preparations for Jesus’ trial didn’t seem out work well for those priests. They hoped the tide would turn in their favor and they could once gain control of the situation. The next phase was to present Jesus to Pilate. Jesus was presented to Pilate with the visual effect of a condemned prisoner. He was bound in chains and beaten. All of this was planned to give Pilate the visual effect of a guilty criminal. That didn’t work either. Pilate saw trough their scheme and personally questioned Jesus. Pilate knew those priests staged the whole scene and he knew why. For years Pilate received reports about Jesus from his guard who he trusted, and continuous complaints from the priests and Pharisees, he didn’t trust. Pilate saw how those reports did not agree. Scripture explains how Jesus requested witnesses. The priests denied Jesus that right, but God already provided Pilate with a list of his own witnesses. Jesus told Pilate, “My Kingdom is not an earthly kingdom. If it were, my followers would fight to keep me from being handed over to the Jewish leaders. But my Kingdom is not of this world.” This was something the priests did not want to hear. It was a detail they could not accept. It was one of the reasons they wanted to kill Him. Jesus told about this in a parable.“Finally, the owner sent his son, thinking, ‘Surely they will respect my son.’ “But when the tenant farmers saw his son coming, they said to one another, ‘Here comes the heir to this estate. Come on, let’s kill him and get the estate for ourselves!’” (Matthew 21:37-38 NLTse). Pilate said, “So you are a king?”Jesus responded, “You say I am a king. Actually, I was born and came into the world to testify to the truth. All who love the truth recognize that what I say is true.” There were two reasons those priests could not understand Jesus’ messages and ministry. They did not love Jesus or the truth. They loved their customs and traditions more than God’s Savior.
As we’ve seen in this study, God’s time line is crossed by many events. Jeremiah’s prophecy contains two events, the olive tree and Jesus being silenced. The two are related. Jesus’ rejection and execution led to the final destruction of Jerusalem’s temple, a prophecy Jeremiah and other prophets repeated. Jesus’ arrest was preceded by His prayers in the olive grove. In both prophecies God used symbols. Jeremiah showed us how we rely on God to tell us what symbols represent. I am like an olive tree, thriving in the house of God. I will always trust in God’s unfailing love. I will praise you forever, O God, for what you have done. I will trust in your good name in the presence of your faithful people. (Psalms 52:8-9 NLTse). David told us what an olive tree is supposed to represent. Some one who trusts in God. But there is another side of the story. Paul tells us about a change that olive tree will undergo. And since Abraham and the other patriarchs were holy, their descendants will also be holy–just as the entire batch of dough is holy because the portion given as an offering is holy. For if the roots of the tree are holy, the branches will be, too. But some of these branches from Abraham’s tree–some of the people of Israel–have been broken off. And you Gentiles, who were branches from a wild olive tree, have been grafted in. So now you also receive the blessing God has promised Abraham and his children, sharing in the rich nourishment from the root of God’s special olive tree. But you must not brag about being grafted in to replace the branches that were broken off. You are just a branch, not the root. “Well,” you may say, “those branches were broken off to make room for me.” Yes, but remember–those branches were broken off because they didn’t believe in Christ, and you are there because you do believe. So don’t think highly of yourself, but fear what could happen. For if God did not spare the original branches, he won’t spare you either. (Romans 11:16-21 NLTse).
We can see the olive tree was not completely destroyed. God broke off those branches that wouldn’t produce and replaced them with new branched that will produce. As a whole the Levitical priesthood failed. To remove all doubt, God chose the line of David of Judah to bring His Son into this world. That last Passover when Jesus died marked the death of a spiritual first born son, the end of the Levitical priesthood. “Look, I have chosen the Levites from among the Israelites to serve as substitutes for all the firstborn sons of the people of Israel. The Levites belong to me, for all the firstborn males are mine. On the day I struck down all the firstborn sons of the Egyptians, I set apart for myself all the firstborn in Israel, both of people and of animals. They are mine; I am the LORD.” “Of all the people of Israel, the Levites are reserved for me. I have claimed them for myself in place of all the firstborn sons of the Israelites; I have taken the Levites as their substitutes. For all the firstborn males among the people of Israel are mine, both of people and of animals. I set them apart for myself on the day I struck down all the firstborn sons of the Egyptians. Yes, I have claimed the Levites in place of all the firstborn sons of Israel. And of all the Israelites, I have assigned the Levites to Aaron and his sons. They will serve in the Tabernacle on behalf of the Israelites and make sacrifices to purify the people so no plague will strike them when they approach the sanctuary.” (Numbers 3:12-13, 8:16-19 NLTse). So there won’t be any mistake, Paul used Gentiles as a symbol so we would see those new branches included us. Are you a productive branch or a broken branch on that olive tree?
Isaiah 40:1-15 NLTse “Comfort, comfort my people,” says your God. (2) “Speak tenderly to Jerusalem. Tell her that her sad days are gone and her sins are pardoned. Yes, the LORD has punished her twice over for all her sins.” (3) Listen! It’s the voice of someone shouting, “Clear the way through the wilderness for the LORD! Make a straight highway through the wasteland for our God! (4) Fill in the valleys, and level the mountains and hills. Straighten the curves, and smooth out the rough places. (5) Then the glory of the LORD will be revealed, and all people will see it together. The LORD has spoken!” (6) A voice said, “Shout!” I asked, “What should I shout?” “Shout that people are like the grass. Their beauty fades as quickly as the flowers in a field. (7) The grasswithers and the flowersfade beneath the breath of the LORD. And so it is with people. (8) The grasswithers and the flowersfade, but the word of our God stands forever.” (9) O Zion, messenger of good news, shout from the mountaintops! Shout it louder, O Jerusalem. Shout, and do not be afraid. Tell the towns of Judah, “Your God is coming!” (10) Yes, the Sovereign LORD is coming in power. He will rule with a powerful arm. See, he brings his reward with him as he comes. (11) He will feed his flock like a shepherd. He will carry the lambs in his arms, holding them close to his heart. He will gently lead the mother sheep with their young. (12) Who else has held the oceans in his hand? Who has measured off the heavens with his fingers? Who else knows the weight of the earth or has weighed the mountains and hills on a scale? (13) Who is able to advise the Spirit of the LORD? Who knows enough to give him advice or teach him? (14) Has the LORD ever needed anyone’s advice? Does he need instruction about what is good? Did someone teach him what is right or show him the path of justice? (15) No, for all the nations of the world are but a drop in the bucket. They are nothing more than dust on the scales. He picks up the whole earth as though it were a grain of sand.
You have to love the way Isaiah begins the message in Isaiah 40. “Comfort, comfort my people,” says your God. “Speak tenderly to Jerusalem. Tell her that her sad days are gone and her sins are pardoned. Yes, the LORD has punished her twice over for all her sins.” It’s easy to understand the first part of the introduction, “comfort my people.” The second part should be just as easy to understand but is often misunderstood. “ “Speak tenderly to Jerusalem.” The third past ties in the second and the forth. “Tell her that her sad days are gone and her sins are pardoned.” The forth part of Isaiah’s introduction is what people have problems understanding. “Yes, the LORD has punished her twice over for all her sins.”
How does God comfort His people? There are many ways. In this example God is using His prophet Isaiah as an instrument to deliver a message of comfort. What God really wants is to give everyone personal comfort. God wants each individual to come to Him and listen to His words of comfort. No second guessing, no details or points missed in communication that often happen when a message is passed from one person to the next. Which is what happens when people expect religious leaders to approach God’s throne get a message and rely it to them. No mass message from religious leaders that’s supposed to solved everyone’s problems. No, God doesn’t want that. God wants to deliver His message to you on a one on one level, the Creator to the created being. God wants you to find comfort in the fact He knows about you, your problems and he cares. That is real comfort.
I have to admit, Isaiah 40 has been my favorite chapter for over 10 years. While working as a design engineer I opened some modern translation I was reading at the time and they translated a verse in Isaiah 40 using the word designer. This was getting real personal. I was reading it in the morning as I was preparing for the work day. I think it may have been the NET translation. From whom does he receive directions? Who teaches him the correct technique, or imparts knowledge to him, or instructs him in skillful design? (Isaiah 40:14 NET). Strange as it may seem, I never thought of God as a designer until that day. Then God took on a whole new meaning for me and so did my life.
I had been working a number of years doing what only a few people in this world were able to do, designing industrial paint finishing systems. This was basically designing and installing entire factories which had to be specifically designed, well balanced systems. Ever hear of human error? Ever hear the old saying, ”whatever can go wrong will go wrong?” Such was the the life as an engineer, a human designer.
I began every project with prayer asking God to give me the skill to complete the perfect project. Those projects were so large something was bound to go wrong. And it did. Mistakes took time to correct and added pressure to the job. When I saw God described as a designer it told me I had something in common with God. I looked at the whole world and how God created it with not a single error or mistake. No engineering changes, no redesigning, no wasted time. God created this world perfect the first time. I felt so humbled to think of what God has done and how I seem to create minor errors in everything I do.
There was one project I remember. I used and modified portions of a number of systems previously installed and working. Every detail had been checked and all the previous mistakes corrected. This was like a second chance to get it right. After weeks of designing, shipping, and installation we reached the last week of installation and most of the systems was test started and spot checked. There was one final component to be installed and it was a relatively simple, although huge part of the system. It was an environmentally controlled room erected inside the shop that contained the heart of the system, the paint booths. I figured what can go wrong now? The room and paint booths were provided by our best supplier. The same hour I was praising God for giving me the perfect error free project I received a phone call from our supplier in Florida. He said, “your not going to believe this. I am standing out in the parking lot looking at the box of hardware for your room. Some how it fell off the truck.” How can a box weighing close to 100 pounds fall off an enclosed trailer with the door closed? In all places, the factory parking lot? It’s impossible. But it was God’s way of reminding me to be humble. It was God’s way of reminding me, perfection is reserved only for Him. Although I thought I was doing the right thing by praising God and giving all the glory to Him, people didn’t see it that way. People would have viewed my claim to a perfect job as bragging. God saw how other people would have perceived a perfect job and He would not allow it. After all, God designed them and He knew what was in their hearts.
God did the same thing with Isaiah 40. For years I looked at this chapter as God the designer of the whole world with all those flowers, birds, animals, water, sky, sin, stars, air, and man. Every physical detail is perfect. The shape and function of the hand. The delicate pedal of the iris able to withstand heat, rain, high winds, and hail storms and retain all its beauty. But that pedal can be torn with the fingers of a child. Look deep into God’s design and see how He designs beauty into every detail. The shape of the pedal, scent, how God blended colors. Lift your eyes to the horizon during a sunset to see a combination of colors no artist can reproduce or camera capture. Blink at a sunset and the scene changes. Look along the horizon and see how one color blends with the next. See how God makes a feast of colors for our eyes with air we breath and clouds that bring rain. Everyday and moment is different. “Pay attention to this, Job. Stop and consider the wonderful miracles of God!” (Job 37:14 NLTse).
One of the lessons this study has taught me is to be ready for the unexpected when listening to God’s Spirit who showed me something in Isaiah 40 I never saw until I looked at the parallel chapter the prophecy led me to. God is more than a designer of physical things. God is a designer of life itself. “Clear the way through the wilderness for the LORD! Make a straight highway through the wasteland for our God! Fill in the valleys, and level the mountains and hills. Straighten the curves, and smooth out the rough places. Then the glory of the LORD will be revealed, and all people will see it together. The LORD has spoken!” The fulfillment of this prophecy is found in all four gospels. It must be important. One book contains the parallel chapter while the others contain lessons to consider.
Mark 1:1-8 NLTse This is the Good News about Jesus the Messiah, the Son of God. It began (2) just as the prophet Isaiah had written: “Look, I am sending my messenger ahead of you, and he will prepare your way. (3) He is a voiceshouting in the wilderness, ‘Prepare the way for the LORD’s coming! Clear the road for him!'” (4) This messenger was John the Baptist. He was in the wilderness and preached that people should be baptized to show that they had turned to God to receive forgiveness for their sins. (5) All of Judea, including all the people of Jerusalem, went out to see and hear John. And when they confessed their sins, he baptized them in the Jordan River. (6) His clothes were woven from coarse camel hair, and he wore a leather belt around his waist. For food he ate locusts and wild honey. (7) John announced: “Someone is coming soon who is greater than I am–so much greater that I’m not even worthy to stoop down like a slave and untie the straps of his sandals. (8) I baptize you with water, but he will baptize you with the HolySpirit!”
We can see Isaiah 40 leads us directly to John the Baptist. John easily fits the mold of speaking comfortable to God’s people. Although John’s preaching was direct and to the point, it often cut at people the same way John said the ax is going to cut out the roots of the tree. John did tell the people their sins will be forgiven once they repent. Which explains the forth part of the introduction in Isaiah 40. “Yes, the LORD has punished her twice over for all her sins.” The first punishment is the trials and lessons sin brings. The second is confession which may not be so easy for some people who have a difficult time dealing with God’s convicting Spirit.
Filling in valleys and leveling mountains and hills has a spiritual meaning explained by the Bible when we compare the prophecy to its fulfillment. Isaiah provided one of the key details. A voice said, “Shout!” I asked, “What should I shout?” Obstacles are created when people preach their own message. We see this lesson taught when we see contrasts between the philosophy, doctrines, and traditions of those religious leaders compared to the way Jesus taught and what He taught. One of the questions in this prophecy comes up in the next verse. “Shout that people are like the grass. Their beauty fades as quickly as the flowers in a field. The grasswithers and the flowersfade beneath the breath of the LORD. And so it is with people. The grasswithers and the flowersfade, but the word of our God stands forever.” Notice the contrast in the message comparing people to God’s Word which stands forever. The question is, what people are represented by withering grass? It’s too easy to say the symbol applied to those Pharisees. It’s also too easy to say it applies to people who don’t believe like you. Neither one takes into account being punished twice for your sins.
Since withering grass is compared to God’s Word, would those people have God’s Word or a message of their own? Now we begin to see what valleys need to be filled, and which hills and mountains need to be leveled. Sure people may claim to have God’s Word, but think about it. They’re taking a little here and there to build up their own hills and mountains. God is saying He needs to level it all out so, “the glory of the LORD will be revealed, and all people will see it together.” Think of what’s presented here in physical terms. Material hills and mountains are being used to fill in the low spots. God is leveling the field so people can see the full view.
Someone takes a tiny portion of scripture which leaves people in a hole they can’t see out of. Then those people take that portion of scripture and build a whole new idea or concept out of it. They not only place people in a hole but build up hills and mountains making certain people can see only what they want them to see. Today we call this modern religion. Then one day when Jesus returns and He tells those people they never knew Him nor does He know them, they go to cry to the mountains and the rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the face of the one who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb.” (Revelation 6:16 NLTse). Revelation uses the word rocks. People need to realize there is a big difference between building on a Rock and using rocks to build a wall around you. Building on a Rock you can see around you. People piling rocks around you restricts your view. The only time in their lives they’ll see Jesus is when the look up to see Him coming in the clouds. That’s when they’ll try leveling out everything around them but it’ll be too late.
John didn’t want to attract people to himself. His role was to turn people to Jesus. There is a lot of speculation on Elijah’s power we’re supposed to see in the last days. “Look, I am sending you the prophet Elijah before the great and dreadful day of the LORD arrives. His preaching will turn the hearts of fathers to their children, and the hearts of children to their fathers. Otherwise I will come and strike the land with a curse.” (Malachi 4:5-6 NLTse). But most of what you hear misses a major point in that prophecy. He must become greater and greater, and I must become less and less. (John 3:30 NLTse). To operate within Elijah’s power in the last day you’ll have to decrease while Jesus increases. Only Jesus knows what’s in people’s hearts and on their minds. Only God saw all their worries and trials long before they occurred. It has never been our role to solve problems and give advice unless we’re specifically directed by God.
After leaving Egypt God told Israel He wanted to make them a nation of priests. God wanted to work with every individual in Israel. God wanted to train those slaves from Egypt to be priests to the world. God needed each and every one of them. But they turned down God’s offer and told Moses to stand between them and God. How did that work out? How many people made it into the promised land? The Bible is filled with evidence those two people who made it to the promised land talked to God and God talked with them. So why in the world are preachers trying to copy a game plan from Israel that didn’t work?
“Shout it louder, O Jerusalem. Shout, and do not be afraid. Tell the towns of Judah, “Your God is coming!” That’s it. There’s the simple message. Tell the world God is coming. Now we’re waiting for Jesus to return. In Isaiah’s time the message pointed to Jesus’ birth. How much of the world got the message the first time? Not many. What went wrong? Did God make a mistake? Did God forget something??? The world got the message wrong because the world thought it was safe to leave communication with God in the hands of a few religious leaders. Once Jesus began preaching what did those religious leaders do? They planned to kill Jesus. What makes the world think they can follow a failed plan with different results? You can’t place a hedge of people around and expect them to see Jesus.
We know John’s role was to point people to Jesus. That’s what the prophecy pointed us to. Isaiah filled in a few details. “He will feed his flock like a shepherd. He will carry the lambs in his arms, holding them close to his heart. He will gently lead the mother sheep with their young.” Isn’t Jesus our shepherd as well as the Lamb of God? Now we get into my favorite part of Isaiah 40, God the Creator and designer. God held the oceans in His hand before placing them in this world. God placed them underground before sin called for a reconstruction of this world. Now comes the important part. Who is able to advise the Spirit of the LORD? Who knows enough to give him advice or teach him? Has the LORD ever needed anyone’s advice? Does he need instruction about what is good? Did someone teach him what is right or show him the path of justice?
People have been trying to physically redesign this world. They dig deep into the earth and move mountains looking for gold. They’ve been pumping high pressure water into the ground to push oil to the surface. Both those actions have been poisoning water supplies by causing more pollution than anything ever before. Some countries overlook human slavery to extract precious metals and gem stones from the earth. The world God measured in His hands. Other nations in this world support or cast a blind eye at human slavery to support their sex trade, not to mention body parts for medical use. Some people are forced to sell parts of their bodies to survive. Governments hold long meetings to create laws about human trafficking but do nothing to alleviate the real cause of suffering. Our modern day definition of a politician is a person who’ll spend billions of dollars on lies before they will help feed a single family. How are any of those world leaders going to give God advice on the design of His world and teach him what is right or show him the path of justice? No one can. That would be insanity. We already have one contrast in the form of a renegade angel named Satan insisting a few changes will make this world a better place to live. Look around to see how Satan’s plans have worked to far. Now imagine where we would be if Satan was not restrained.
When we look at other gospels we see another side of God’s design which goes way beyond physical attributes. In the beginning the Word already existed. The Word was with God, and the Word was God. He existed in the beginning with God. God created everything through him, and nothing was created except through him. The Word gave life to everything that was created, and his life brought light to everyone. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness can never extinguish it. God sent a man, John the Baptist, to tell about the light so that everyone might believe because of his testimony. John himself was not the light; he was simply a witness to tell about the light. The one who is the true light, who gives light to everyone, was coming into the world. He came into the very world he created, but the world didn’t recognize him. He came to his own people, and even they rejected him. But to all who believed him and accepted him, he gave the right to become children of God. They are reborn–not with a physical birth resulting from human passion or plan, but a birth that comes from God. So the Word became human and made his home among us. He was full of unfailing love and faithfulness. And we have seen his glory, the glory of the Father’s one and only Son. John testified about him when he shouted to the crowds, “This is the one I was talking about when I said, ‘Someone is coming after me who is far greater than I am, for he existed long before me.'” From his abundance we have all received one gracious blessing after another. (John 1:1-16 NLTse).
Notice how John repeated word and light? John calls attention to a few details in the introduction of his book that link back to Isaiah 40. “They are reborn–not with a physical birth resulting from human passion or plan, but a birth that comes from God.” Once sin entered the scene, God’s physical design changed in this world. After God deals with sin He will change it back. It’s safe to assume God will handle that task Himself. The same is true with a spiritual rebirth. A human plan ain’t going to work. Along with a spiritual rebirth, John also tells us a little bit about another birth. John filled in a few details about Jesus’ birth, another aspect of God’s perfect design.
I can tell you a little about a successful design. It takes a great deal of planning. Don’t you think God gave His creation a great deal of planning before He spoke things into existence? John tells us, “God created everything through him, and nothing was created except through him.” Don’t you think God and Jesus had long talks about how everything in this world is designed? John’s introduction brings out another facet of God’s design, the birth and ministry of His Son Jesus.
Take a moment to think about the planning and detail God went through to plan Jesus’ birth. The prophecy in Isaiah 40 is also found in Luke 3. Luke tells us some interesting details God had to plan.
Luke 3:1-6 NLTse It was now the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius, the Roman emperor. Pontius Pilate was governor over Judea; Herod Antipas was ruler over Galilee; his brother Philip was ruler over Iturea and Traconitis; Lysanias was ruler over Abilene. (2) Annas and Caiaphas were the high priests. At this time a message from God came to John son of Zechariah, who was living in the wilderness. (3) Then John went from place to place on both sides of the Jordan River, preaching that people should be baptized to show that they had turned to God to receive forgiveness for their sins. (4) Isaiah had spoken of John when he said, “He is a voice shouting in the wilderness, ‘Prepare the way for the LORD’s coming! Clear the road for him! (5) The valleys will be filled, and the mountains and hills made level. The curves will be straightened, and the rough places made smooth. (6) And then all people will see the salvation sent from God.'”
Luke provided us with the date showing God’s perfect timing while introducing a few of the characters. Then God placed Isaiah’s prophecy in this chapter to lead us to other details in His design of Jesus’ birth and ministry. Jesus was about thirty years old when he began his public ministry. Jesus was known as the son of Joseph. Joseph was the son of Heli. (Luke 3:23 NLTse). Luke also shows us it took Jesus about thirty years to prepare for His ministry. How many people spend thirty years preparing for their ministries before they begin preaching? They may spend 4-6 years in school before getting a degree to teach. Quite a difference between God’s plan and this world’s idea of preparation. Luke goes back in time as he continues in his book.
David was the son of Jesse. Jesse was the son of Obed. Obed was the son of Boaz. Boaz was the son of Salmon. Salmon was the son of Nahshon. (Luke 3:32 NLTse). Here we’ll highlight a few points but imagine the stories awaiting us in Heaven when we get to meet all of Jesus’ relatives and hear their stories. Boaz has an interesting story. He married Ruth who had a history worth looking at. The two sons married Moabite women. One married a woman named Orpah, and the other a woman named Ruth. But about ten years later, both Mahlon and Kilion died. This left Naomi alone, without her two sons or her husband. (Ruth 1:4-5 NLTse). Jesus had a bit of Moab in Him. From some of the earlier studies in this book we’ve seen Moab was one of Lot’s sons who grew up with little or no spiritual guidance. So Moabites seemed to always be a bit of trouble for Israel even though they were distant relatives.
Judah was the son of Jacob. Jacob was the son of Isaac. Isaac was the son of Abraham. Abraham was the son of Terah. Terah was the son of Nahor. (Luke 3:34 NLTse). Abraham has another interesting history. God told him, ‘Leave your native land and your relatives, and come into the land that I will show you.’ So Abraham left the land of the Chaldeans and lived in Haran until his father died. Then God brought him here to the land where you now live. (Acts 7:3-4 NLTse). It’s really interesting when you understand exactly where Abraham came from. And it came to pass in the ninth year of his reign, in the tenth month, in the tenth day of the month, that Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came, he, and all his army, against Jerusalem, and encamped against it; and they built a siege wall against it round about. And the city was besieged unto the eleventh year of king Zedekiah. And on the ninth day of the fourth month the famine prevailed in the city, and there was no food for the people of the land. And the city was broken up, and all the men of war fled by night by the way of the gate between two walls, which is by the king’s garden: (now the Chaldeans were against the city round about:) and the king went the way toward the plain. (2 Kings 25:1-4 KJ2000). Abraham came from what was later known as Babylon. In other words, when Judah was sent to Babylon, they were sent back to where it all began. This is another part of Jesus’ ancestors we have to consider.
Luke went all the way back to Adam. Shelah was the son of Cainan. Cainan was the son of Arphaxad. Arphaxad was the son of Shem. Shem was the son of Noah. Noah was the son of Lamech. Lamech was the son of Methuselah. Methuselah was the son of Enoch. Enoch was the son of Jared. Jared was the son of Mahalalel. Mahalalel was the son of Kenan. Kenan was the son of Enosh. Enosh was the son of Seth. Seth was the son of Adam. Adam was the son of God. (Luke 3:36-38 NLTse). Luke wanted us to see how Jesus’ birth was planned since the beginning of this world.
What does that history have to do with the design of Jesus’ birth and ministry? These are all lessons pointing to God’s design. Jesus often ministered to Gentiles and pagans as well as Jews. Jesus made sure everyone understood His message, the Good News was for the world to hear. Every one of those details was important in God’s design. We see other details on God’s design when we look at the summations of the prophecy and compare it to the fulfillment.
Isaiah 40:21-31 NLTse Haven’t you heard? Don’t you understand? Are you deaf to the words of God— the words he gave before the world began? Are you so ignorant? (22) God sits above the circle of the earth. The people below seem like grasshoppers to him! He spreads out the heavens like a curtain and makes his tent from them. (23) He judges the great people of the world and brings them all to nothing. (24) They hardly get started, barely taking root, when he blows on them and they wither. The wind carries them off like chaff. (25) “To whom will you compare me? Who is my equal?” asks the Holy One. (26) Look up into the heavens. Who created all the stars? He brings them out like an army, one after another, calling each by its name. Because of his great power and incomparable strength, not a single one is missing. (27) O Jacob, how can you say the LORD does not see your troubles? O Israel, how can you say God ignores your rights? (28) Have you never heard? Have you never understood? The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of all the earth. He never grows weak or weary. No one can measure the depths of his understanding. (29) He gives power to the weak and strength to the powerless. (30) Even youths will become weak and tired, and young men will fall in exhaustion. (31) But those who trust in the LORD will find new strength. They will soar high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint.
Are we beginning to understand God’s design? If not, these two chapters will help provide more details. Isaiah points us back to, “the words he gave before the world began.” Another reference to Luke’s account of Jesus’ genealogy. “To whom will you compare me? Who is my equal?” asks the Holy One. We can look at this in two ways. No one is like God the Creator and designer but when we look at Jesus’ birth line we see we have something in common with our Savior. We all physically came from Adam and all share spiritually with Abraham. No one can measure the depths of his understanding. Jesus shares a bloodline with some of those tribes we consider far from God and difficult to reach. Which shows how well God planned as well as how far the Good News is to spread. When we look at Mark 1 we see how Jesus followed God’s plan of salvation.
Mark 1:35-45 NLTse Before daybreak the next morning, Jesus got up and went out to an isolated place to pray. (36) Later Simon and the others went out to find him. (37) When they found him, they said, “Everyone is looking for you.” (38) But Jesus replied, “We must go on to other towns as well, and I will preach to them, too. That is why I came.” (39) So he traveled throughout the region of Galilee, preaching in the synagogues and casting out demons. (40) A man with leprosy came and knelt in front of Jesus, begging to be healed. “If you are willing, you can heal me and make me clean,” he said. (41) Moved with compassion, Jesus reached out and touched him. “I am willing,” he said. “Be healed!” (42) Instantly the leprosy disappeared, and the man was healed. (43) Then Jesus sent him on his way with a stern warning: (44) “Don’t tell anyone about this. Instead, go to the priest and let him examine you. Take along the offering required in the law of Moses for those who have been healed of leprosy. This will be a public testimony that you have been cleansed.” (45) But the man went and spread the word, proclaiming to everyone what had happened. As a result, large crowds soon surrounded Jesus, and he couldn’t publicly enter a town anywhere. He had to stay out in the secluded places, but people from everywhere kept coming to him.
Isaiah repeated key words understanding and strength combining them with weak, powerless, tired, exhaustion, and faint. We often forget Jesus felt those emotions and physical burdens when He walked this world. Jesus grew tired as He worked endless hours healing, ministering, and teaching crowds that gathered around Him. Jesus worked three jobs for no worldly pay at all. I know what Jesus felt like having to work two major jobs from 8 AM to 10 PM for little or no pay while finding time to minister to people, read and study the Bible then finally sitting down to write. Jesus found His rest in prayer – communion with His Father. Have you had days like that? Nothing seemed to go right. Opposition lurked at every corner as it seemed some unseen force planned every little trial. Do you have days when you can’t wait to have a long talk with God asking Him why it all happened and waiting for His answer? Jesus faced opposition from religious leaders. People in His hometown doubted Him. The brothers Jesus grew up with wondered why He didn’t come to them for advice. There was the occasional confrontation with demons. At times groups of them. Day in and day out Jesus witnessed pain and suffering caused by Satan, his agents, and people claiming to follow God. Jesus heard all their excuses, “they’re different, they’re poor, they’re sick, she’s a widow, he’s and orphan, they’re suffering God’s curse, they don’t follow God in the right way like us.” Jesus suffered through an endless list of man made concepts, ideals, and beliefs. Like Isaiah, Jesus wandered through a battle field with enemies on all sides and every side taking full advantage of less fortunate people. How do you feel when you are passionate about a job while people all around you are flooding you with unnecessary paperwork, details, questions, procedures, requests, accusations, rumors, and threats? You can only account for feelings on such matters to the degree related to your income. Jesus had His life at stake as well as the future of this world.
As we can see, Jesus received instructions from His Father while in prayer. When His disciples found Him, Jesus told them what God told Him, “We must go on to other towns as well, and I will preach to them, too. That is why I came.” God told Jesus what He had to do next and why He had to do it. Don’t you think God also told Jesus what to preach, who to talk to, how to reach them, and assured Him, God’s Spirit would be with Him to heal? I just took a break to check my Facebook account and saw a very common request. This was a request from a National Director from a major church asking for prayer. She didn’t know what to preach so asked people to pray for her. To most people this may seem normal because we often hear people making prayer requests like this. I work with a number of local pastors from all denominations. When I hear them preach, they never have notes. We talk about preparing sermons. A wise pastor once told me, “if an evangelist cannot see the what a church needs in ten minutes, they are on the wrong business.” A man of God is just that. He has to be led by God 24/7. I suddenly noticed a difference between some of the pastors on my Facebook account and those I work with in the area. Local pastors I know have full time jobs and minister full time. They don’t ask for prayer about what to say, they spend the entire week in communion with God and get the right message from God at the right time. I’ve been asked to speak at services a number of times. I don’t have time to prepare notes or a collection of scripture. Each and every time I found myself studying the same subject the preacher shared. All I could do is add to or confirm His testimony and maybe add a few details from other texts I studied during the week that came to mind at that moment. Preaching has to be a natural occurrence when it is from God’s Spirit. God confirms His messages. Jesus knew God’s messages and instructions were confirmed as He traveled about preaching. Jesus saw that confirmation on the expressions on peoples faces, when they asked questions God’s Spirit gave them. Jesus also saw confirmation by paying attention to reactions whenever He answered questions. Jesus promised to give this world God’s Spirit. Why not accept Jesus’ promises, if you have faith He can keep them.
I saw one major difference between local pastors working full time to support their families and ministries, and those pastors on Facebook drawing a salary, and calling ministry a job. Those Facebook pastors rely on others for financial support, so naturally rely on them for spiritual support. Strange as it may seem, that is the difference I see.
Working pastors share more faith and reliance on Jesus because they experience more of the trials and opposition Jesus lived through. Sure there are all kinds of degrees of faith, and we all have different strong as well as weak points. There is no hard and fast way to measure the faith of a man or woman. After all, each of us has the same access to God’s Spirit. It all depends on how hard and long we listen, how we listen, and how we cooperate with God’s Spirit. God doesn’t measure us by our education, or how much money we spent on that education, the name of the college, grades, or lack of any formal education in religion. Those can be tools to build on but none of them can ever be a substitute for a personal relationship with God’s Spirit.
Prayer is part of God’s design. We have to face facts. We can remember only so much for so long. Another point is, how can we recall what we haven’t learned? People say God works with people where they are and that’s true. But how much can God teach someone who acknowledges Him only an hour or two a week? We learn a lot from Jesus and the way He prayed. Jesus got away by Himself to pray. Jesus got away from distractions. That is the most difficult part for me when I pray and stop to listen to God’s voice. It can be a battle to keep distractions out. It’s best to pray and listen when there are no distractions. Waves of thoughts can enter your head. When that happens, I concentrate on what I’ve read or what I am studying in God’s Word that day. Then the still small voice can be heard when your mind settles in on one subject like Jesus’ ministry and how it relates to Isaiah 40. But those who trust in the LORD will find new strength. They will soar high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint. Jesus needed a super human effort to accomplish what He came to do in three years. Look at Jesus’ answer to His disciples. “That is why I came.” God cheered Jesus on to keep Him going. Not a day or moment could be wasted. God went over details in scripture with Jesus. Details Jesus had to fulfill in a specific way at a specific time. Our lives are the same. You saw me before I was born. Every day of my life was recorded in your book. Every moment was laid out before a single day had passed. How precious are your thoughts about me, O God. They cannot be numbered! (Psalms 139:16-17 NLTse). God knows your life as well as He knew Jesus’ life. God recorded your life like He recorded Jesus’ life in scripture. The only difference is, we don’t have the record of our life to read like Jesus did. Which is another reason we have to learn to listen.
One detail in Mark we should pay attention to is Jesus preaching in synagogues and casting out demons. The first demon Jesus cast out was in a synagogue. No one in the synagogue knew the man was possessed by a demon. It’s a little detail Jesus wants us to consider.
There is another detail to consider. People in Jerusalem didn’t listen to God. They also ignored God’s prophets. Without a spiritual connection with God and doubts about His prophets, Jerusalem was lost. They had no intentions of turning away from their own concepts on religion. The same was true in Jesus’ time. With no direct relationship with God’s Spirit, people couldn’t recognize a demon worshiping next to them. Other stories in the Bible tell us how people in synagogues rejected Jesus. They tried to throw Him over a cliff. They questioned Jesus’ ability to heal. They question His healing on the Sabbath. They also questioned His authority to forgive sins. All of those inside synagogues.
How much do people question Jesus in churches today? What do people do in churches? How do people choose a church? People develop their own ideas about religion then search for a church that agrees with their concept of God. It happens all the time. People want to surround themselves with people who think alike. Then they create rules in the church to keep out people who might make waves. They convince themselves their form of worship is advanced and the only correct way to worship. They build a hedge around themselves calling it a form of protection, blocking outside influences from the world. Convincing themselves all that is for their protection, they can’t see their rules, regulations, doctrines, and traditions block out God’s Spirit. They cannot see demons walking among them.
Jerusalem locked themselves inside city walls with people having the same interests which in their case was love of money and power. They had the belief the world outside could die and they would be the chosen race to repopulate the promised land. After all they were God’s chosen people – what could go wrong? Satan uses the same deception inside churches – while demons walk among them.
Isaiah told us that would happen. Who is able to advise the Spirit of the LORD? Who knows enough to give him advice or teach him? Has the LORD ever needed anyone’s advice? Does he need instruction about what is good? Did someone teach him what is right or show him the path of justice? Religious leaders have no problem telling God they have a better way to worship. Some want to wave their hands in the air while praising Jesus because He forgives everyone for everything all the time. Some people get into nothing but music. So they find a church concentrating on the same type of music they appreciate. Some hymns, others gospel, then there is what they call soft Christian rock and of course hard rock Christian music. Some people get into it so deep it becomes the center of religion while Jesus takes a backseat. Some people just like control so they find a church they can control which is usually a church made up of sheep that follow without question. Most Christians want to follow and it is not hard to find a church with a preacher who wants to make all the decisions. Too many churches want to be in control. They’ve forgotten what it means to let God’s Spirit led with Jesus as the head. Like the pastor asking for prayer on what to preach, they forgot how to listen to God’s Spirit. They forgot they have a direct path to God’s throne.
Pastors who like control are like Herod. They think they have control. They may receive a good income. But what happens when membership shrinks and funds dry up? They ask the church what to preach. That’s when pastors are controlled by members. Those pastors stagger like drunks tossed like a reed in the wind going in whatever direction their pointed to protect their income. Some are more like Herod. They like to show off their riches. But how rich are they spiritually? Did you notice how rich preachers showing off their wealth attract the same type of people? If you look at their hand chosen TV audience that’s the image they want to portray. In all likelihood those preachers prey on poor in the back ground. Who do you think their get rich sermons are really pointed to? Their TV programs are marketed using tinsel and glitter. Were you expecting to see a man dressed in expensive clothes? No, people with expensive clothes live in palaces. (Matthew 11:8 NLTse).
Why did Jesus tell the leper not to tell about the miraculous healing performed? This is an important Bible Study lesson. God always provides the answer before raising a question. Looking back we see the obvious answer. But first we’ll look at the result. As a result, large crowds soon surrounded Jesus, and he couldn’t publicly enter a town anywhere. Crowds became so thick, Jesus was not able to work effectively. Now how can God’s Son be over worked and over extended? Shouldn’t God be able to control the situation? Sure, God could have done anything. In this case He is teaching a lesson. Our first lesson is learning how to look back for the answer. While Jesus was alone praying Simon and the others went out to find Jesus. When they found him, they said, “Everyone is looking for you.” What stopped the disciples from praying? Why couldn’t they hear the same message Jesus did? Obviously Jesus’ disciples weren’t ready for those large crowds. They were unprepared to assist Jesus. The disciples could have been a great aid to Jesus if they had learned to listen to God when they prayed. They exhibited the same form of prayer still popular in churches today. It’s seen in a lot of churches. Set aside a little time to pray thinking that’s what the church needs to do. What does that teach people about prayer? Popular prayers are far from teaching people the proper way to pray because prayer is 20% talking and 80% listening. Instead, churches teach people prayer is 100% talking and 0% listening. Does anyone have enough faith to pray in the proper way or do they practice the proper way to pray by waiting for God’s answer, share it with the church, and let people verify God’s answer? Do people have enough faith to pray that way in church or are they afraid God won’t answer? Some churches pray and share God’s message. Most other churches don’t have that ability or connection with God to pray in public and listen for His message. So those other churches point fingers at the few who do, and make up all kinds of stories and rumors to make it appear to be something totally different. I’ve heard people preach about other denominations like they are some kind of experts. Some times I ask the preacher if they were a member of the church they criticized. In almost every case the answer was, “no.” So much for being an expert.
Jesus needs people who know how to pray today as much as He needed them when He worked on His personal ministry here. Would you want other people who don’t know how to pray working on your personal ministry? Jesus worked long hard hours for no pay at all. Jesus was very serious about His job. Jesus received instructions directly from God. Jesus wanted His disciples to receive instructions in the same way. Jesus knew one day He was not going to be there to give them step by step instructions. Jesus was trying to teach His disciples how to communicate with God’s Spirit, but it takes much more than knowing it can be done. Communication with God takes time and effort. Fact of the matter is, those disciples not only disappointed Jesus but failed to reach out and spiritually support those people who went to see Jesus. Those people walked for hours and days to see Jesus while the disciples failed to spend proper time in prayer. How does all this apply to some churches today? People put a lot of time into work, getting ready for church, going to church, paying what they call tithe. Their money represents time, and what do preachers have to offer? Do preachers spend time praying? Are they getting their messages directly from God? If preachers today worked with Jesus, would He feel they were ready for the crowds Jesus faced? Would today’s preachers be prepared to assist Jesus?
Strange how someone can be a leper one day and one of the worlds greatest evangelists the next. The leper knew how to lead people to Jesus. The leper was no expert. Far from it. For years the leper was separated from society forced to associate with only people of his kind. Did the leper go tell only people he associated with? No! He went to everyone. The leper represented people who associate worship with only people of their own kind then finally see the light when they personally meet Jesus . The sad part is the leper was forced from society. Other people make their own life to resemble a disassociated leper by choice. Jesus physically healed that leper and also set him free from the restriction of associating only with people of his kind. That’s one of the lessons Jesus was trying to teach His disciples.
God the designer has patterns and formulas He wants us to follow. God not only wants us to learn those lessons, He needs us to follow those patterns. When the disciples didn’t follow God’s simple pattern of prayer, they couldn’t help Jesus when He needed them. God never changed His patterns no matter how hard men tried to come up with a better plan. God never needed anyone to tell Him what to do. God doesn’t need people constantly insisting they have a better or easier way. God just can’t work with people who insist on following their own rules to fulfill God’s plan of salvation. God’s seen more people try to help Him along with His plan of salvation than we can number. We have some examples. Some of the most prominent are Sarah’s plan to help God by giving her Egyptian slave to Abraham. There were a few more along Jesus’ family line. Then there was the early Christian church that traveled many roads God never wanted them to take. Some of the converted Jews wanted new Christians to be circumcised. Others wanted to bring in a few gods and idols to increase membership. Then of course the belief God had one choice race turned into one chosen church. The list goes on and on. The Old Testament shows us signs and explains a lot about Jesus’ ministry. The gospels recorded details of Jesus’ ministry. The New Testament explains some of those details showing Jesus’ ministry in action then copied by His disciples and other followers. Both the Old Testament and New Testament are filled with examples showing what happens when people follow God’s pattern and what happens when they don’t.
This is a short study on the prophecy Isaiah recorded about Jesus’ birth. The main theme behind this type of study is to hone basic Bible Study skills. Of course the fulfillment of this prophecy was also recorded in the Bible. Now all we have to do is compare the prophecy to the recorded fulfillment. When we compare the two chapters we find one way God communicates with us through the Bible, as well as patterns that are consistent throughout the Bible. In fact, we find how information is multiplied at levels we could not imagine.
Isaiah 9:6-7 NLTse For a child is born to us, a son is given to us. The government will rest on his shoulders. And he will be called: Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. (7) His government and its peace will never end. He will rule with fairness and justice from the throne of his ancestor David for all eternity. The passionate commitment of the LORD of Heaven’s Armies will make this happen!
Isaiah is proving to contain a number of prophecies difficult to locate parallel chapters for. What was your first thought on New Testament scripture explaining the fulfillment of a child being born with the government resting on His shoulders? I have to admit my first impression was scripture about Jesus being born. Then I thought the key word government would lead to the answer. I was wrong again. This time it was the third word, peace which led to a matching chapter.
John 20:19-23 NLTse That Sunday evening the disciples were meeting behind locked doors because they were afraid of the Jewish leaders. Suddenly, Jesus was standing there among them! “Peace be with you,” he said. (20) As he spoke, he showed them the wounds in his hands and his side. They were filled with joy when they saw the Lord! (21) Again he said, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I am sending you.” (22) Then he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. (23) If you forgive anyone’s sins, they are forgiven. If you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.”
After two failed attempts this study reminds us it takes a lot of prayer and patience to wait for the right answer. Isaiah seems to be a difficult book to work with. But how can you hope to understand prophecy if you don’t understand Isaiah? And how can you hope to understand Isaiah if you don’t understand the prophecies about Jesus?
Isaiah provided a brief description of Jesus. He will be called: Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. His government and its peace will never end. He will rule with fairness and justice from the throne of his ancestor David for all eternity. Peace is obviously one of the most important promises. It’s a promise no other government can give or keep. The government will rest on his shoulders. Jesus can keep His promise because He cares for those entrusted in His care. It’s no wonder the prophecy points to John’s Gospel. “I am leaving you with a gift–peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid. Remember what I told you: I am going away, but I will come back to you again. If you really loved me, you would be happy that I am going to the Father, who is greater than I am. I have told you these things before they happen so that when they do happen, you will believe.” (John 14:27-29 NLTse).
As I prayed about this study I was reminded of the description Isaiah recorded. Then I wondered. How well do we really know Jesus? Is this why some of these studies seem difficult? Is it because we really know little about Jesus, or is it because we have trouble listening to Him? Jesus told us: “I am telling you these things now while I am still with you. But when the Father sends the Advocate as my representative–that is, the Holy Spirit–he will teach you everything and will remind you of everything I have told you.” (John 14:25-26 NLTse). Jesus said the Advocate will teach us everything and remind of everything Jesus told us. Are we too busy dealing with the cares of the world, our own message, or some strange message someone gave you to preach? Are you too wrapped up in future prophecies trying to figure out something Jesus wasn’t or isn’t ready to tell us yet? When you look at the Bible Study rules taught by the prophecies Jesus fulfilled you can’t help but see how inadequate popular interpretations are today. They lack the time and depth of communication with Jesus and His Advocate required to understand simple prophecies already fulfilled.
The question lingered on my mind. How well do we really know Jesus? Most Christians know Jesus died on the cross to forgive our sins. But that’s not all. Jesus also died to save His Father’s Kingdom because God and His law was accused of being too restrictive by Satan. We still have Christians today who claim the law is too restrictive. Jesus also died to provide indisputable evidence showing the effects of sin. Satan was allowed to carry out his full plan with few restrictions. Satan showed he was ready, willing, and able to kill God’s Son to secure a higher position. Heaven had to know God’s judgment is just and true. Jesus also died to open up a direct path to God’s throne for all of us and to send His Advocate, God’s Holy Spirit. Jesus’ sacrifice also proved the Levites were unfit to represent God and finish the duties of proclaiming His message. Jesus closed the door on the Levites and opened the door for all of Jesus’ followers to take over the role of priest in homes as well as the community.
Most people know Jesus is God’s Son and was born to a virgin. Joseph and Mary were His parents on earth. Then Herod tried to kill Jesus so the family fled to Egypt. Jesus was in Egypt to prove God’s Spirit is able to protect everyone from the worst influences the world can throw at them. Jeroboam fled to Egypt to escape Solomon. After Jeroboam returned, he was given ten Israelite tribes to rule. Jeroboam introduced a list of pagan forms of worship to his new kingdom. Satan found a new way in. Jesus’ parents faced the same influence that ruined Jeroboam, but with God’s guidance none of it was transferred to Jesus.
Many people know some details about Jesus’ ministry. He preached for about three and a half years. During that period, Jesus ministered to Jews as well as Samaritans, Romans, Greeks, Syrians, and of course made an extra effort to reach out the religious leaders. Jesus taught with parables and taught His disciples how to understand all scripture. Most people don’t know how to read scripture close enough or how to listen during prayer to see those details.
Some of the things most often taught about Jesus’ ministry include His baptism, the sermon on the mountain, the leper he healed, the religious leader’s daughter and Lazarus He raised from the dead, the paralyzed man lowered through the roof by four friends and the man at the pool Jesus gave the power to walk, the man He put clay on his eyes to restore his sight, the woman who touched the hem of His garment and what Jesus taught the woman at the well.
When we look at the gospels we can’t help but see there were a lot Jesus’ disciples didn’t know much about Him. We see how the disciples were unprepared for His sacrifice on the cross. They lived, ate, slept, walked, and talked with Jesus for over three years and still didn’t know Jesus. People listen to a few half hour sermons about Jesus and think that’s enough. Some people think reading through the Bible or reading a few prepared studies may be enough to learn about Jesus. A movie or two may be the the majority of contact some people have with Jesus. What do we get when we look deeper into scripture to see Jesus’ personality?
A close examination of scripture will show how Jesus repeated lessons. This shows what a patient teacher Jesus is. Jesus feed a large crowd twice, healed a number of blind, raised a few from death, healed a leper then a group of them, as well as thousands of others we don’t have details about. Jesus also reached out for a real relationship, but his disciples didn’t understand. Neither do a lot of people catch onto Jesus’ quest for a close personal relationship recorded in scripture.
Looking back at the Old Testament we see Jesus the Creator. Long ago God spoke many times and in many ways to our ancestors through the prophets. And now in these final days, he has spoken to us through his Son. God promised everything to the Son as an inheritance, and through the Son he created the universe. The Son radiates God’s own glory and expresses the very character of God, and he sustains everything by the mighty power of his command. When he had cleansed us from our sins, he sat down in the place of honor at the right hand of the majestic God in heaven. (Hebrews 1:1-3 NLTse). Jesus is shown as the deliverer and giver of life when He took the form of a Rock that followed Israel to the promised land. We see Jesus as a warrior when He spoke with Joshua. We see Jesus in many forms. Some we know well. Some we hardly know, and some may be new to us. Do you know about Jesus’ ministry in the Heavenly Sanctuary He is administering in now? Have you talked with Jesus today? Do you treat your relationship with Him as a real relationship or is it based on basic historical data you’ve heard? Maybe your relationship goes no deeper than to have a savior just in case there is a God and the world does end. The deeper we look the more we learn about Jesus. The Old Testament is full of prophecies about Jesus. The New Testament is loaded with details showing how He fulfilled each prophecy as well as stories about His life and ministry. The Book of Hebrews explains what Jesus is doing in Heaven now. How much do you love to study? How much do you study about the One you say you love? Its time we took a deeper look at these two chapters to see what details they reveal.
Isaiah 9:1-5 NLTse Nevertheless, that time of darkness and despair will not go on forever. The land of Zebulun and Naphtali will be humbled, but there will be a time in the future when Galilee of the Gentiles, which lies along the road that runs between the Jordan and the sea, will be filled with glory. (2) The people who walk in darkness will see a great light. For those who live in a land of deep darkness, a light will shine. (3) You will enlarge the nation of Israel, and its people will rejoice. They will rejoice before you as peoplerejoice at the harvest and like warriors dividing the plunder. (4) For you will break the yoke of their slavery and lift the heavy burden from their shoulders. You will break the oppressor’s rod, just as you did when you destroyed the army of Midian. (5) The boots of the warrior and the uniforms bloodstained by war will all be burned. They will be fuel for the fire.
John 20:1-10 NLTse Early on Sunday morning, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and found that the stone had been rolled away from the entrance. (2) She ran and found Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved. She said, “They have taken the Lord’s body out of the tomb, and we don’t know where they have put him!” (3) Peter and the other disciple started out for the tomb. (4) They were both running, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. (5) He stooped and looked in and saw the linen wrappings lying there, but he didn’t go in. (6) Then Simon Peter arrived and went inside. He also noticed the linenwrappings lying there, (7) while the cloth that had covered Jesus‘ head was folded up and lying apart from the other wrappings. (8) Then the disciple who had reached the tomb first also went in, and he saw and believed— (9) for until then they still hadn’t understood the Scriptures that said Jesus must rise from the dead. (10) Then they went home.
The new light for this world is Jesus rising from the tomb symbolizing His victory over death. After Jesus rose from the grave the disciples began to understand who Jesus is and what He has to offer. They began to understand more about this world than they ever expected to see. Their ministry was to tell the world about the prophecies Jesus fulfilled. That was the evidence the disciples were given. Satan, who is the god of this world, has blinded the minds of those who don’t believe. They are unable to see the glorious light of the Good News. They don’t understand this message about the glory of Christ, who is the exact likeness of God. You see, we don’t go around preaching about ourselves. We preach that Jesus Christ is Lord, and we ourselves are your servants for Jesus’ sake. For God, who said, “Let there be light in the darkness,” has made this light shine in our hearts so we could know the glory of God that is seen in the face of Jesus Christ. We now have this light shining in our hearts, but we ourselves are like fragile clay jars containing this great treasure. This makes it clear that our great power is from God, not from ourselves. (2 Corinthians 4:4-7 NLTse). Don’t you realize that you become the slave of whatever you choose to obey? You can be a slave to sin, which leads to death, or you can choose to obey God, which leads to righteous living. (Romans 6:16 NLTse).
One of the details we see repeated is the disciples saw the linen wrappings lying there. Because it’s repeated it becomes one of the main considerations in the story. This points to the fact Jesus came out of the tomb naked which leads us to other texts. “I tell you the truth, unless you are born again, you cannot see the Kingdom of God.” “What do you mean?” exclaimed Nicodemus. “How can an old man go back into his mother’s womb and be born again?” Jesus replied, “I assure you, no one can enter the Kingdom of God without being born of water and the Spirit. (John 3:3-5 NLTse). Jesus’ resurrection was a symbol of a new birth.
Not only did the disciples begin to understand when they saw the empty tomb, it marked the moment the world would begin to understand. Jesus came from the tomb to shed new light on the world and break the yoke of bondage of not only sin but death and the grave. The introductions tie in these two chapters better than any parallel chapters with a prophecy and its fulfillment. Now it’s time to study the summations.
Isaiah 9:14-21 NLTse Therefore, in a single day the LORD will destroy both the head and the tail, the noble palm branch and the lowly reed. (15) The leaders of Israel are the head, and the lying prophets are the tail. (16) For the leaders of the people have misled them. They have led them down the path of destruction. (17) That is why the Lord takes no pleasure in the young men and shows no mercy even to the widows and orphans. For they are all wicked hypocrites, and they all speak foolishness. But even then the LORD’s anger will not be satisfied. His fist is still poised to strike. (18) This wickedness is like a brushfire. It burns not only briers and thorns but also sets the forests ablaze. Its burning sends up clouds of smoke. (19) The land will be blackened by the fury of the LORD of Heaven’s Armies. The people will be fuel for the fire, and no one will spare even his own brother. (20) They will attack their neighbor on the right but will still be hungry. They will devour their neighbor on the left but will not be satisfied. In the end they will even eat their own children. (21) Manasseh will feed on Ephraim, Ephraim will feed on Manasseh, and both will devour Judah. But even then the LORD’s anger will not be satisfied. His fist is still poised to strike.
John 20:24-31 NLTse One of the disciples, Thomas (nicknamed the Twin), was not with the others when Jesus came. (25) They told him, “We have seen the Lord!” But he replied, “I won’t believe it unless I see the nail wounds in his hands, put my fingers into them, and place my hand into the wound in his side.” (26) Eight days later the disciples were together again, and this time Thomas was with them. The doors were locked; but suddenly, as before, Jesus was standing among them. “Peace be with you,” he said. (27) Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and look at my hands. Put your hand into the wound in my side. Don’t be faithless any longer. Believe!” (28) “My Lord and my God!” Thomas exclaimed. (29) Then Jesus told him, “You believe because you have seen me. Blessed are those who believe without seeing me.” (30) The disciples saw Jesus do many other miraculous signs in addition to the ones recorded in this book. (31) But these are written so that you may continue to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing in him you will have life by the power of his name.
We see the key words in the summation for Isaiah 9 are devour, eat, and feed. This seems to have little in common with the key word peace written in the main prophecy as well as the introduction’s key words light and shine. The introduction also has key words break and destroyed as well as burden and slavery which shows a connection between the introduction and summation in Isaiah 9.
Isaiah’s introduction tells about a time of darkness and despair will not go on forever. One day the people who walk in darkness will see a great light. Using basic Bible Study rules we’ve been shown Jesus is that light. Hardly anyone understood that light until after Jesus rose from the tomb. John’s summation shows some details on that light as well as explaining the spiritual meaning the other key words devour, destroy, burden, and slavery lead to.
In John’s summation in chapter 20, the key words disciple, believe, and wounds tell a story all their own. As often as the word believe is repeated, one of the main themes in the summation to John 20 deals with a disciple who refused to believe unless it was done their way. It seems people like Thomas had to make their own set of rules.
We also see another term shared by the introduction and summation in John 20. Why would John open this chapter in his book with the term closed doors and repeat it near the end? One important aspect of good solid Bible Study is to put yourself in place of the characters as well as the author by praying and carefully listening. In this case you have to ask what lesson was John trying to convey? More often than not, the author will quote scripture at a point like this. When you look at the scripture quoted it will provide the explanation. Does John quote scripture here? Not directly. John closed this chapter by writing: The disciples saw Jesus do many other miraculous signs in addition to the ones recorded in this book. But these are written so that you may continue to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing in him you will have life by the power of his name.
We have to remember and apply another Bible Study rule here. The end of a chapter is arranged to lead into the next chapter. In other words there is a distinct relationship between the end of one chapter and the beginning of the next. This is a transition from one thought to another. Also remember the introduction and summation of each chapter relate to the same theme which is the context of the chapter. In this case we see a close relationship between the end of chapter 20 and the end of John’s Gospel. The disciples saw Jesus do many other miraculous signs in addition to the ones recorded in this book. But these are written so that you may continue to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing in him you will have life by the power of his name. (John 20:30-31 NLTse). This disciple is the one who testifies to these events and has recorded them here. And we know that his account of these things is accurate. Jesus also did many other things. If they were all written down, I suppose the whole world could not contain the books that would be written. (John 21:24-25 NLTse).
John did refer to scripture. Once John saw the light which was revealed when Jesus explained all the prophecies that He fulfilled to all the disciples, he couldn’t help but share the good news at the beginning and end of his book. John did what Jesus set out to do, point people back to scripture.
We also see another set of related texts in the summations for Isaiah 9 and John 20. Thomas didn’t believe Jesus was alive. Some people say Thomas doubted. That’s a nice way of saying Thomas challenged Jesus, God, and His Spirit. Thomas also stood apart from the other disciples. Keep in mind the locked door and how it applies to both the disciples and Christianity today. Notice how the word wounds is repeated. Look at where the wounds recorded by John are located. Did you notice wounds that are missing? What happened to Jesus’ wounded feet? Were they healed? Does Jesus now have scares or are His wounds still open? What about the wounds on His back? Is Jesus’ back still ripped open or are they now scares He has to bear for all eternity?
John left off Jesus’ feet because of his personal contact with Jesus. Who is worthy to wash Jesus’ feet and see the wounds where the nail was driven to hold Him to that cross? John loved Jesus so much he wanted to save that privilege for himself. Thomas didn’t really know Jesus, otherwise he would have never doubted. Jesus had to tone down His own wounds to meet Thomas where he was. Jesus didn’t want to loose Thomas. Jesus doesn’t want to loose anyone. But Jesus wants people to find Him by looking deeper into all the stories about Him.
By combining the summation for Isaiah 9 and John 20, we see another spiritual lesson, one that has an important bearing on Christianity today. Thomas’ unbelief has a deeper more personal meaning people want to avoid like looking at the feet that were wounded for us. Have you ever thought about Thomas’ unbelief on a personal level? Why didn’t Thomas want to believe? Jesus’ resurrection should have been the happiest moment in his life. A moment Thomas should have been happy and willing to share. Instead Thomas held a sense of mistrust towards the other disciples. No one could deny the joy and excitement exhibited by the other disciples, but Thomas decided to hang onto feelings that just didn’t fit the situation at all. Why? We see Isaiah provided the answer hundreds of years before the event. Therefore, in a single day the LORD will destroy both the head and the tail, the noble palm branch and the lowly reed. The leaders of Israel are the head, and the lying prophets are the tail. For the leaders of the people have misled them. They have led them down the path of destruction.
In a single day Jesus revealed the truth about all the prophecies the religious leaders misinterpreted. They held their traditions and reputations to a higher degree than the Son of God. Even after Jesus’ resurrection the religious leaders continued to plot and maneuver to save their coveted reputations, traditions, and doctrines which meant more to them than truth. Isaiah’s summation only tells a small part of the prophecy. The lies, mistrust and disbelief did not end with Thomas who was only a symbol. They will attack their neighbor on the right but will still be hungry. They will devour their neighbor on the left but will not be satisfied. In the end they will even eat their own children. Manasseh will feed on Ephraim, Ephraim will feed on Manasseh, and both will devour Judah. But even then the LORD’s anger will not be satisfied. His fist is still poised to strike.
When we follow basic Bible Study rules we focus on the key words the author repeated, so we concentrate on the words devour, eat, and feed. Those are actions words describing what will happen. Asking who it will happen to is another question. In this case Isaiah provided another list of symbols. There is also a spiritual relationship between the words neighbor, children, Ephraim and Manasseh who were brothers. We can see how personal Isaiah is getting by using the symbols of neighbor, children, and brothers. Who do we see fitting those descriptions when we apply them to Thomas?
Isaiah’s summation also tells us how fast disbelief will spread. This wickedness is like a brushfire. It burns not only briers and thorns but also sets the forests ablaze. Its burning sends up clouds of smoke. Disbelief not only spreads but smoke blocks out light. Evilness also works with a double edged sword. How many people can really see the wounds Jesus carries? How many people talk about the wounds John intentionally didn’t mention? How many people look beyond the printed word into the emotions of the characters and authors? If they did, many Christians would not act the way they do or preach some of the messages they think are true.
I get upset every time I hear messages pointed at separating denominations. Thomas didn’t have the same beliefs the other disciples shared, but Jesus still reached out to him. I see a world where Christians spend long hours looking for faults in other denominations and writing long drawn out sermons about their differences because it makes them popular. Is this really what Jesus placed Himself under a Roman whip for? Too much of the world preaches separation. Is that what Jesus walked to the cross for? Too many Christians focus on minor details and differences to try and prove themselves better then brothers and sisters in Christ. Is this what Jesus hung on the cross for? They will devour their neighbor on the left but will not be satisfied. In the end they will even eat their own children. If people really knew Jesus, how would they act? How would they reach out to other Christians? How could they learn to work together to finish the work we’ve been given?
How well do you know Jesus and the wounds He carries? If the world knew, there would be no more killing, no more taking advantage of the poor and needy. If the churches who claimed to follow Jesus knew Him and the scars on His body, they would not be fighting among one another claiming to be the best, the remnant, the only church with the truth. If they really knew Jesus, they would know the truth. They would have answers on how to reach out to others, to everyone, no matter what their denomination or religion. Jesus did.
If people knew Jesus and what held Him on that cross, they would not bicker about little matters inside the church. They would not lie and gossip about members in the church or discourage them from seeking personal ministries.
People write songs about Jesus’ arms, His hands, and the crown of thorns upon His head. But no one seems to write or sing about His feet. The feet covered with dust from the road to Golgotha. The prophecy here says the government will rest on his shoulders. What held up those shoulders on the cross? The nails in His feet. On the cross His feet were the closet part of Jesus to this world. His disciples looked straight at His feet nailed to that cross and wondered why. Those were the feet that were covered by the apron around His waist as He bend down to wash His disciples feet. Now Jesus’ feet were covered in blood and dirt. Who sings about washing the feet of their King?
Psalms 143:1-7 NLTse Hear my prayer, O LORD; listen to my plea! Answer me because you are faithful and righteous. (2) Don’t put your servant on trial, for no one is innocent before you. (3) My enemy has chased me. He has knocked me to the ground and forces me to live in darkness like those in the grave. (4) I am losing all hope; I am paralyzed with fear. (5) I remember the days of old. I ponder all your great works and think about what you have done. (6) I lift my hands to you in prayer. I thirst for you as parched land thirsts for rain. (7) Come quickly, LORD, and answer me, for my depression deepens. Don’t turn away from me, or I will die.
As I think about this last prophecy I am going to write about in this book, I can’t help but wonder if the main theme of this book is coming through. It would be wrong to claim this book or any other contains all the answers. The Infinite God we serve will never run out of details to share with us. That’s why the main theme of this book, sharing the little I know about studying God’s Word has to come through. That reflects David’s theme in this prayer when he prays and pleads with God.
This was one of the most difficult prophecies to find a parallel chapter for. Which word would you use to search? Chased, knocked, and forces seemed to be the obvious choice, but didn’t come up with any results. The next choice was hear, listen, and answer. Still no results. This led me to prayer and plea which offered a number of choices. The result also follows the theme we’ve been following as the series of prophecies David recorded lead into prophecies about Jesus’ disciples. The parallel chapter to the prophecy in Psalm 143 is another story of God saving a disciple in need.
Acts 12:1-6 NLTse About that time King Herod Agrippa began to persecute some believers in the church. (2) He had the apostle James (John’s brother) killed with a sword. (3) When Herod saw how much this pleased the Jewish people, he also arrested Peter. (This took place during the Passover celebration.) (4) Then he imprisoned him, placing him under the guard of four squads of four soldiers each. Herod intended to bring Peter out for public trial after the Passover. (5) But while Peter was in prison, the church prayed very earnestly for him. (6) The night before Peter was to be placed on trial, he was asleep, fastened with two chains between two soldiers. Others stood guard at the prisongate.
The months and years after Jesus’ resurrection was not a good time for His disciples. Priests persecuted them. Herod joined in the persecution and later Rome developed the own form of persecution. Of course Rome had to out do the others. It wasn’t safe to walk down the streets and less safe to meet in homes. Meeting in public was out of the question. How was the Good News going to spread under such conditions? Its a shame people ignore the trials and sacrifices Jesus’ early disciples had to endure which should be examined today for the lessons that still apply. For one thing, most of us have it easy compared to the original disciples. We also see one of the effects of preaching the right message. People are pleased to see us imprisoned and killed.
These two chapters are linked by the single word pray. Once we compare the two chapters we see how chased, knocked, and forces are related to persecute, killed, arrested, imprisoned, prison, and fastened. We can see which future enemy David was referring in his prophecy.
There is a questionable translation in Psalm 143 verse 2. Don’t put your servant on trial, for no one is innocent before you. The words, “before you,” were added in this translation. If you take time to look at the original Hebrew, you’ll see how some of the words can be translated in a variety of ways. Comparing this verse to Acts 12, a better translation may read: Don’t let your servant see a verdict, for no one is innocent. This would explain how Peter felt at the time. We can see what’s going through his mind at the time. Peter and the other disciples know Herod had James executed and the people supported Herod’s evil methods. Peter was a step away from death. We can hear Peter’s prayer from the prison cell. My enemy has chased me. He has knocked me to the ground and forces me to live in darkness like those in the grave. I am losing all hope; I am paralyzed with fear. We also see what gave Peter hope in that prison cell. I remember the days of old. I ponder all your great works and think about what you have done. I lift my hands to you in prayer. I thirst for you as parched land thirsts for rain. Peter went over the prophecies Jesus taught the disciples while he laid there chained to two guards. Do you think Peter preached to those guards? Do you think the guards gave their lives to Jesus before Herod had them executed?
So we’ve learned another Bible Study method. How to look at a questionable verse. You need to look at the original Hebrew to see the lesson. The Bible Study method shows how proper translations can be derived by comparing the prophecy to the fulfillment. How many more of those verses do you think the Bible contains? Only one or two may be enough to change the way we look at the unfolding history of this world.
That may be what churches fear the most. There are some churches that don’t openly claim, but base their future on being infallible. If one of their members was to find something in the Bible questioning any of their doctrines or sacred interpretations to prophecy and they found it hard to defend their views, what do you think will happen? That member would find themselves in the same position Peter did — condemned without a trial. That’s why it’s important to follow the Bible Study rules revealed in God’s Word, stick to them and let God’s Spirit build up the evidence He wants to give you and when.
When Jesus revealed Himself to His disciples He didn’t stop at the physical evidence He presented to them. He spent forty days training them by teaching them all the scriptures about Himself. Think of those forty days and about Pentecost which means fifty days after offering the first fruit. Pentecost refers to the harvest in the Old Testament. See Leviticus chapter 23. Seven Sabbaths were counted off from the first fruits which represented the disciples who learned from Jesus. On the fiftieth day Israel began the celebration of of the harvest. This pointed to the people the disciples reached in those days. Put yourself in Peter’s shoes. What do you think the seven Sabbaths or seven times seven reminded him of?
When Peter laid down in that cell and began remembering the days of old and all the great works He saw Jesus do, did Peter remember what Jesus said about forgiving people? “Lord, how often should I forgive someone who sins against me? Seven times?” “No, not seven times,” Jesus replied, “but seventy times seven! (Matthew 18:21-22 NLTse).
While Peter laid on the cold stones trying to get comfortable, his mind wandered back over his life. Peter knew he was a condemned man. All hope was lost. Now all he could do is think back over his life and repent for his sins while there was still time. Peter remembered the three times he denied Jesus and how Jesus asked Peter three times if he loved Him. Peter thought of all the times he competed with James and John for leadership of the small group. Peter thought of how he told Jesus he would follow him no matter what. Even if it meant his life. Now Peter faced the answer. Now it was going to cost Peter his life.
If Pilate and the priests guarded Jesus’ tomb with eight or ten soldiers, you can bet Herod placed twenty or thirty guards in charge of guarding Peter. Herod spent his life in competition with Pilate and the priests. He mistrusted them and looked for every opportunity to out do them. Everything looked bleak for Peter as he laid in his cell in the dim light of a distant torch. Peter thought about the doubts he had when he heard Jesus rose from the tomb and how he didn’t listen to Jesus when He tried to explain what was about to happen to Him. Peter let out a long sigh then took a deep breath. Was this how it was all going to end? Sitting in a dark, cold cell smelling of rotten hay and urine. Peter thought this was worse than a grave.
Acts 12:7-16 NLTse Suddenly, there was a bright light in the cell, and an angel of the Lord stood before Peter. The angel struck him on the side to awaken him and said, “Quick! Get up!” And the chains fell off his wrists. (8) Then the angel told him, “Get dressed and put on your sandals.” And he did. “Now put on your coat and follow me,” the angel ordered. (9) So Peter left the cell, following the angel. But all the time he thought it was a vision. He didn’t realize it was actually happening. (10) They passed the first and second guard posts and came to the iron gate leading to the city, and this opened for them all by itself. So they passed through and started walking down the street, and then the angel suddenly left him. (11) Peter finally came to his senses. “It’s really true!” he said. “The Lord has sent his angel and saved me from Herod and from what the Jewish leaders had planned to do to me!” (12) When he realized this, he went to the home of Mary, the mother of John Mark, where many were gathered for prayer. (13) He knocked at the door in the gate, and a servant girl named Rhoda came to open it. (14) When she recognized Peter’s voice, she was so overjoyed that, instead of opening the door, she ran back inside and told everyone, “Peter is standing at the door!” (15) “You’re out of your mind!” they said. When she insisted, they decided, “It must be his angel.” (16) Meanwhile, Peter continued knocking. When they finally opened the door and saw him, they were amazed.
Luke really wanted to emphasize the word angel in this part of the story. We really can’t be sure what part angels play in God’s plan of salvation. Scripture tells us about angels delivering messages and saving entire cities. In this case the angel God sent broke the chains holding Peter, opened doors and barred gates. It seemed to Peter like he was in a dream. Once out of the cell Peter looked around to discover he’d never been in that place before. He had no way of knowing the way out. With guards posted all around him, Peter wasn’t sure he should get his hopes up or not. In his sleepy state fear gripped Peter’s heart. He felt the weight of uncertainly and fear mixed with the grief he fell asleep with. All of this confused Peter, making him feel like all of this was a dream until he reached the relative safety of the street where Peter felt over joyed. He was free!
Rhonda didn’t close the door and leave Peter standing outside for no reason at all. Standing on the street taught Peter other lessons. Once again Peter felt alone and vulnerable. This gave Peter time to think. He didn’t like the feeling of being alone in the dark. Once the door opened and his friends greeted him, told Peter how they’ve been praying for him, and took him inside the house to share food and light, Peter saw how important it is to reply on not only God, His angels, but also the people he shared struggles with.
Everyday we see and feel the effects of friends, family, business associates, and people we meet. Some times they effect us for good. Other times they place trials on us without being aware of what their doing. The fact of the matter is, Peter’s friends prayed for him and the effect was good beyond imagination. People may be trying to help us without praying. Often the effects are much like those seen when Sara tried helping Abraham and Rachel tried helping Jacob. It took a long time to see the effects, but we are still living with them today. Were those women helping their husbands or trying to help themselves? The problem they shared was, they didn’t pray before acting.
How often people act without praying and seldom do they see the effects until its too late. Some times they fail to see the effects or make excuses to keep from accepting responsibility. Too often we forget to pray. Too little do we consider the true effects of prayer and too soon do we forget the miracles God performed at our request. When miracles do occur, we never give enough praise and glory to God. It seems the least we can do is cling to God’s Word and listen to Him for the messages He has for us. And of course this study would not be complete without examining the summations.
Psalms 143:8-12 NLTse Let me hear of your unfailing love each morning, for I am trusting you. Show me where to walk, for I give myself to you. (9) Rescue me from my enemies, LORD; I run to you to hide me. (10) Teach me to do your will, for you are my God. May your gracious Spirit lead me forward on a firm footing. (11) For the glory of your name, O LORD, preserve my life. Because of your faithfulness, bring me out of this distress. (12) In your unfailing love, silence all my enemies and destroy all my foes, for I am your servant.
Acts 12:18-25 NLTse At dawn there was a great commotion among the soldiers about what had happened to Peter. (19) Herod Agrippa ordered a thorough search for him. When he couldn’t be found, Herod interrogated the guards and sentenced them to death. Afterward Herod left Judea to stay in Caesarea for a while. (20) Now Herod was very angry with the people of Tyre and Sidon. So they sent a delegation to make peace with him because their cities were dependent upon Herod’s country for food. The delegates won the support of Blastus, Herod’s personal assistant, (21) and an appointment with Herod was granted. When the day arrived, Herod put on his royal robes, sat on his throne, and made a speech to them. (22) The people gave him a great ovation, shouting, “It’s the voice of a god, not of a man!” (23) Instantly, an angel of the Lord struck Herod with a sickness, because he accepted the people’s worship instead of giving the glory to God. So he was consumed with worms and died. (24) Meanwhile, the word of God continued to spread, and there were many new believers. (25) When Barnabas and Saul had finished their mission to Jerusalem, they returned, taking John Mark with them.
The summation to Psalm 143 appears to be a continuation of Acts 12:7-16. It may have been close to Peter’s prayer when he ate dinner with the other disciples the night God’s angel delivered him from Herod’s prison and sure death. The last few lines lead us right into the summation in Acts 12. The introduction to Psalm 143 began with a plead for God to listen to prayer. Acts 12 began with a description on the persecution the disciples faced at the hands of Herod and Peter’s arrest. One of the rules of Bible Study tells us the introduction and summation cover the same theme. In this case we see the beginning and end of a story showing how God saw the affliction His people were suffering and acted to save them. God sent an angel to free Peter. Then God dwelt with Herod. When we consider the entire chapter we see Herod was struck with sickness for more than accepting the people’s worship instead of giving the glory to God. This shows the mistake people make when separating a few particular verses to make a point. By restricting or holding back information, teachers take the glory from God as sure as Herod did. God’s glory is expanded through His Word. In Acts chapter 2 we’ve seen how important it is to deliver the message God provides without adding to it or subtracting from it. We’ve also see what is revealed in God’s Word when the right chapters are compared. The question is, how do we use this power? There are a million answers to that question. Not everyone will receive the same message to deliver. Some messages will concentrate more on some points while other points will be emphasized in other messages. Herod’s death is not a major consideration here because the message is tailored to a broad audience where each individual must consider the trials they faced, the personal prisons they need delivery from, the personal way God delivers them, and the people around them who they share the experience and joy. Part of that individual experience is how they give glory to God which we see taught in the contrast presented in Acts 12. Peter and his friends prayed. God answered their prayer and they glorified God. In Herod’s distorted view, he was serving God. We also see the same attitude with the priests. One of the warning signs we can’t ignore is the competitive nature they shared. God’s never competes. Jesus never competed with anyone in His ministry. The competitive nature comes from the enemy and he knows how to introduce it without people being aware of what they’re actually doing, what the out come will be, or who is leading them. Herod didn’t pray. He let his pride and competitive nature lead him. In the end Herod paid for the crimes he committed.
Psalms 34:19-20 Not One of His Bones will be Broken
Psalms 34:19-20 KJV Many are the afflictions of the righteous: but the LORD delivereth him out of them all. (20) He keepeth all his bones: not one of them is broken.
Psalms 34:19-20 NLTse The righteous person faces many troubles, but the LORD comes to the rescue each time. (20) For the LORD protects the bones of the righteous; not one of them is broken!
Psalms 34:20 KJV+ He keepethH8104 allH3605 his bones:H6106 notH3808 oneH259 of themH4480 H2007 is broken.H7665
BONES H6106 עצם‛etsem eh’-tsem
From H6105; a bone (as strong); by extension the body; figuratively the substance, that is, (as pronoun) selfsame: – body, bone, X life, (self-) same, strength, X very.
It seems like God’s Spirit is leading us in a new direction again, building on what we’ve learned with a new lesson on how to study our Bibles. Psalm 34:20 is a well known prophecy about Jesus with its fulfillment easily found in John 19. While collecting texts for this study an unusual detail came up. I looked at the New Literal Translation (NLTse) to find this ageless verse translated quite differently than the familiar King James and other versions. I wondered why they felt a need to stray on such a familiar verse.
Its not unusual to see differences like this in translations. This Bible Study lesson will show you how to look into questionable translations. The KJV obviously points to Jesus on the cross and His death before Roman guards broke the legs of the condemned men. There must have been a reason the priests asked them to break their legs. This was another detail of their plan ensuring Jesus would not be an acceptable sacrifice. This shows how God’s Spirit tried to reach the priests. Even though Jesus didn’t fit their concept of their Messiah, something told the priests details in scripture pointing to the Messiah offering the ultimate sacrifice. Jesus pointed them to the right scripture. Some of them must have read those verses and compared them to Jesus. The priests could see the message in scripture, but wouldn’t accept it because scripture didn’t agree with their traditions.
The NLTse presents a different view, pointing to Jesus’ followers called the righteous. It may also refer to Jesus as the righteous in the singular form. How do we solve for this variation? The first step is to look at a direct translation. On this program, E-sword refers to it as the KJV+ translation. Many versions of this translation and some KJV study Bibles use italics to show words which have been inserted to make the English translation flow a bit better. In this case there are no italics, but the original translators inserted the word his in front of bones. Now is when we check the definition of the original Hebrew word by looking at the Hebrew dictionary in the Strong’s Concordance. On a computer program it’s as easy as clicking on the Strong’s number. As we can see the Hebrew word means bone and can be extended to the whole body. On the spiritual level, the body refers to Jesus’ body of believers. Remember the fulfillment of a prophecy is always greater than its symbols.
This lesson deals with looking at the fulfillment of a prophecy on a greater spiritual level while staying within context. To do this we need to look deeper in the text than comparing two texts, which we will do. The first texts to look at is the fulfillment in the New Testament.
John 19:34-37 NLTse One of the soldiers, however, pierced his side with a spear, and immediately blood and water flowed out. (35) (This report is from an eyewitness giving an accurate account. He speaks the truth so that you also can believe.) (36) These things happened in fulfillment of the Scriptures that say, “Not one of his bones will be broken,” (37) and “They will look on the one they pierced.”
The first detail a student of the Bible will notice is verse 37 quotes a second prophecy about Jesus. A serious student of the Bible knows the rule, whenever we see Old Testament texts quoted in the New Testament, we need to look at the Old Testament scripture. The Old Testament scripture will always add more details.
Zechariah 12:7-11 NLTse (7) “The LORD will give victory to the rest of Judah first, before Jerusalem, so that the people of Jerusalem and the royal line of David will not have greater honor than the rest of Judah. (8) On that day the LORD will defend the people of Jerusalem; the weakest among them will be as mighty as KingDavid! And the royal descendants will be like God, like the angel of the LORD who goes before them! (9) For on that day I will begin to destroy all the nations that come against Jerusalem. (10) “Then I will pour out a spirit of grace and prayer on the family of David and on the people of Jerusalem. They will look on me whom they have pierced and mourn for him as for an only son. They will grieve bitterly for him as for a firstborn son who has died. (11) The sorrow and mourning in Jerusalem on that day will be like the great mourning for Hadad-rimmon in the valley of Megiddo.
Once we look at the second prophecy John quoted, we see why the NLTse was translated to leave the door open to include Jesus and His followers. Zechariah 12 tells us, “ The LORD will give victory to the rest of Judah first.” This includes more than the interpretation which commonly refers only to Jesus in reference to, “Not one of his bones will be broken” Compare this to the NLTse translation for Psalm 34. “For the LORD protects the bones of the righteous; not one of them is broken!”
Looking at this on a spiritual level, we see how God not only saw none of Jesus’ bones would be broken, He also offered protection to Jesus’ followers. One of the rules of Bible study tells us the fulfillment is always greater than the symbol. In this case bones takes on a symbolic form and therefore must be greater than the definition of a physical bone. Zechariah provides a spiritual interpretation that applies to Jesus’ followers at the cross. “On that day the LORD will defend the people of Jerusalem; the weakest among them will be as mighty as KingDavid!” What does it mean to be as mighty as KingDavid?
Looking back on David’s life we see a lot of aspects, growth, levels of faith, mistakes, and sins God forgave. As a young boy, God chose David as king and Samuel anointed him. He grew up in king Saul’s presence playing his musical instrument and singing to ease Saul’s troubled mind. As a youth, David had a spiritual influence on Israel’s leader. The influence David had on Israel’s leader extended to the kingdom. David’s youthful faith defeated Goliath the giant when Israel’s army and king shook in fear. David grew to become a commander in Saul’s army. God was with David as he won victory after victory. Among others, the Philistines were scattered before David. The woman sang of the thousands Saul slayed and the ten thousands David slew. Jealousy engulfed Saul and eliminated the only peace He received through David. Saul conceived a plan to send David out against the Philistines thinking David would never overcome the odds. Saul was so confident in his plan, he promised the hand of his daughter as a reward. Much to Saul’s surprise, David succeeded and became his son-in-law. Having David as a relative should have solved the problem, but not for Saul. Finally David fled for his life.
David faced his greatest trials, learning experience and faith while he was on the run avoiding Saul’s pursuit. Taking a close look at the circumstances Saul wasted a great deal of tax money trying to put down a perceived threat he couldn’t do a whole lot about. Samuel told Saul he would loose the kingdom. Saul knew he was fighting against God’s will. Often times Saul left his kingdom unprotected. Spending tax money in an attempt to achieve his selfish goals, Saul left the people he was supposed to serve to pursue what he wanted. Saul was a king, but without a country or God. It was a lesson David should have learned and one we should pay attention to. During his flight David wrote some of the most emotional Psalms begging for help and praising God for His protection. David’s flight began with the death of many priests. Saul had them slain in the hope one of them would reveal David’s location. Each priest valiantly gave his life to protect God’s anointed – a spiritual lesson future generations of priests should all learn from. One of the priests escaped taking the breastplate of righteousness with the Urim and Thummim, stones God used to direct David. As David was directed from mountain side to woods, to caves and valleys, his faith in God grew. God watched David endure trial after trial knowing each one was making David a stronger leader. Finally Saul and his sons died in battle on the same day and David took his role as king.
Before taking control of the kingdom, David acquired a number of wives. When he found fault with his first wife, Saul’s daughter, he put her away, but didn’t divorce her. David continued to acquire wives and house prostitutes in his palace. Some overlook this as tradition. This shows how dangerous tradition can be. David’s multitude of marriages were his downfall. One compromise led to another until David’s lust led him to murder one of his most trusted friends and commanders, Uriah, listed as one of David’s most valiant warriors. To punish and warn David, God sent the prophet Nathan to tell him the baby would die. There was noting David could do. He accepted God’s judgment praying until the last minute.
Having so many wives and children made David a weak husband and father. One of his eldest sons Absalom rebelled against his father and kingdom costing a number of lives, including his own. In his old age, another of David’s sons tried taking the kingdom. Nathan the prophet joined forces with one of his wives, Bathsheba to trick David into appointing Solomon king. It seems David forgot how he was chosen by God and how God sent his prophet Samuel to anoint him. With everything David went through, it seems he forgot a lot of lessons. Although David made one mistake after another, God still loved him, giving him many opportunities to learn and remember lessons. One we need to pay attention to is how God reacted to David’s mistakes. “The weakest among them will be as mighty as KingDavid!” When we look back on David’s life, we see the why God arranged the prophecy to include the weakest and greatest. Look at the lesson God taught when He chose David, who was the youngest of Jesse’s sons and Samuel’s last choice. Maybe we’re the last choice when it comes to how people view us while being first in God’s eyes. “The weakest among them will be as mighty as KingDavid!” Some of the people we view as last are actually first in God’s eyes. Now the spiritual lessons in these prophecies is beginning to reveal itself.
What aspect of David’s life do you see yourself in? Are you the young David full of faith, willing and able to slay giants? Are you more like David in his youth respecting and serving someone who views you as an enemy? Are you like David the young man facing trials that grow faith in God. Do you know how to listen to God’s voice? Will you make the same mistake as David – straying from God’s guidance? Will you use David as an example – make the same mistake he made and say, “compared to David, I’m not so bad.” Will you have rebellious sons like David, or will you send time to teach them God’s laws and commandments like Moses instructed? Where do you imagine your life in regards to the examples David set? Where does that compare to where you want to be? Another aspect of this lesson is God’s respect for David no matter where he was in his walk. We need to foster the same respect for others. Throughout his journey David recorded his Psalms. They were more than prayers. They were prophecies God gave to David to record. David had a unique relationship with God. We have to not only consider God’s patience with David, but imitate it, making His patience a piece of our lives.
The addition of David’s attributes is another step in the lessons God’s Bible reveals. It shows how the prophecies He wrote are linked in a way that they explain one another and establish the context God intended. This should be a lesson you begin using and building on. When we see a series of Old Testament prophecies quoted by a New Testament writer, we have to look up the original texts. The Old Testament scripture will be connected with related texts in the chapter which will show us God’s explanation of the spiritual side of the subject. We can’t guess at spiritual interpretations. We can’t expect to interpret them with our own wisdom. Any of those attempts will do nothing but deny the existence of God’s Spirit, taking the glory off God while trying to place it on themselves. To let God’s Word explain itself, we have to follow general Bible Study rules by comparing the introduction of the chapter containing the prophecy with the chapter explaining its fulfillment.
Psalms 34:1-5 NLTse I will praise the LORD at all times. I will constantly speak his praises. (2) I will boast only in the LORD; let all who are helpless take heart. (3) Come, let us tell of the LORD’s greatness; let us exalt his name together. (4) I prayed to the LORD, and he answered me. He freed me from all my fears. (5) Those who look to him for help will be radiant with joy; no shadow of shame will darken their faces.
John 19:1-7 NLTse Then Pilate had Jesus flogged with a lead-tipped whip. (2) The soldiers wove a crown of thorns and put it on his head, and they put a purplerobe on him. (3) “Hail! King of the Jews!” they mocked, as they slapped him across the face. (4) Pilate went outside again and said to the people, “I am going to bring him out to you now, but understand clearly that I find him not guilty.” (5) Then Jesus came out wearing the crown of thorns and the purplerobe. And Pilate said, “Look, here is the man!” (6) When they saw him, the leading priests and Temple guards began shouting, “Crucify him! Crucify him!” “Take him yourselves and crucify him,” Pilate said. “I find him not guilty.” (7) The Jewish leaders replied, “By our law he ought to die because he called himself the Son of God.”
Psalm 34 and John 19 contain a simple contrast. We see David’s typical style of writing which is to praise God at the beginning of his prayer. David draws attention to his reverence to God by using the related words, praise, speak, boast, tell, and exalt. David’s introduction shows the importance of sharing God’s love. John’s introduction to chapter 19 shows us how the Roman guard mocked Jesus. They put a crown a thorns on His head and dressed Him in a purple robe. The Roman guard was following Pilate’s lead. Pilate referred to Jesus as the King of the Jews. When the guards took Jesus away to whip Him, they played their game of dressing Him like a king then mocking Him. Quite a contrast to David, king of Israel who praised God. “Those who look to him for help will be radiant with joy; no shadow of shame will darken their faces.” The priests looked on Jesus and shouted, “Crucify him! Crucify him!” “Take him yourselves and crucify him.” David the king praises God while Pilate, a subject of the Roman emperor and his guards mock Jesus. Pilate proclaims Jesus innocence but does little to uphold justice. Comparing this to the prophecy in Zechariah 12, we can see how the weakest of Jesus’ followers were far greater than Pilate. Now we understand the comparison to David. Each of Jesus’ followers present at the cross were about to fulfill David’s prophecy of praising God and Jesus by telling people about the cross and their new understanding of God’s plan of salvation. We can see by the contrast, the story goes much deeper. One group will understand and praise God by spreading the message about Jesus. The other group will continue to mock and discredit God’s Son. The summary to David’s prophecy confirms the contrast.
Psalms 34:21-22 NLTse Calamity will surely overtake the wicked, and those who hate the righteous will be punished. (22) But the LORD will redeem those who serve him. No one who takes refuge in him will be condemned.
John 19:38-42 NLTse Afterward Joseph of Arimathea, who had been a secret disciple of Jesus (because he feared the Jewish leaders), asked Pilate for permission to take down Jesus‘ body. When Pilate gave permission, Joseph came and took the body away. (39) With him came Nicodemus, the man who had come to Jesus at night. He brought seventy-five pounds of perfumed ointment made from myrrh and aloes. (40) Following Jewish burial custom, they wrapped Jesus‘ body with the spices in long sheets of linen cloth. (41) The place of crucifixion was near a garden, where there was a new tomb, never used before. (42) And so, because it was the day of preparation for the Jewish Passover and since the tomb was close at hand, they laid Jesus there.
Psalm 34 closes with a contrast between people who hate the righteous and those who serve God. Psalm 34 appears to lack information describing what made them wicked. When we see a lack of information, our first question is, where do we find the answer? Learning to reply on God’s Spirit leads us to the answer, in the parallel chapter. In this case we’ve already identified John chapter 19 which describes how Pilate, his guards, religious leaders, and other people mistreated Jesus. This of course is an extreme example, but we need to keep in mind, the fulfillment is always much greater than the symbol. In keeping with His own rules, God shows a much greater fulfillment than the prophecy itself.
There’s another lesson seen in the summations. In Psalm 34 we see, “But the LORD will redeem those who serve him. No one who takes refuge in him will be condemned.” How does this compare to John 19 where Joseph buried Jesus’ body in his tomb? This is where we learn lessons on paying attention and knowing a bit about the history and society the story took place. In Jesus’ time all the religious leaders prepared a tomb for their burial. They didn’t leave details to family or friends, they planned everything themselves. When we look at the crowd gathered at the cross, there were dozens, maybe a hundred of more people with empty tombs at their disposal. Only one of them along with his friend Nicodemus stepped forward to offer his personal tomb and the respect Jesus needed at the moment. We can see how this relates to today’s Christian movement. People sit around – they look up and see Jesus, but there’s no compassion, no desire to give or serve. Joseph is one of the few examples of unconditional love in the Gospels. He gave his tomb to Jesus expecting nothing in return. Although Joseph still believed widely acceptable concepts on the Messiah and didn’t understand Jesus’ ministry or the prophecies He fulfilled, God accepted his gift. Once again we see God using an interesting contrast to teach a lesson. Jesus was surrounded by almost every religious leader in Jerusalem and regions near and far. Many of them wanted to see Jesus’ body cast into the dump to be devoured by wild dogs, pigs, and scavenger birds. Every one of those religious leaders spent time and money on elaborate tombs to guarantee the world would not forget them. Today no one remembers many of their names, but the one who gave up his tomb is remembered across the world. God’s plan of salvation is more detailed than we can ever perceive on our own. God’s plan included a way for each of us to make a mark on eternity. Joseph gave up something no one expected him to give. Joseph also put in physical effort to fulfill spiritual aspects of a prophecy. Look at how many people had to act their parts at the proper time in God’s plan of salvation. It’s actually an amazing feat when you think of it. God’s plan is still in the making. Most people are looking at prophecy as gloom and dome, persecution, trials, and of course the endless list of conspiracy factors. People today are looking at future prophecies the same misguided way the religious leaders did in Jesus’ day. They’re also missing prophecies being fulfilled because they’re acting just like the Pharisees, relying on themselves. There’s little anyone can do about it. People will argue their beliefs with their last dying breath. Human nature today is no different than is was on the day Jesus died. People will either be willing to look with their eyes, listen with their ears, and understand with their hearts – or shut off understanding because they want to think they know everything. That’s one of the elaborate tombs people build for themselves so people will remember them for their whit and imagination. Other people build up tombs around themselves with every item that catches their fancy. Big houses, cars, and fancy clothes to impress people and this life and beyond. Do they really think of fellow Christians around the world as they flock to stores and malls, shop online, buy they latest cell phone, or sit and stare at a screen pushing buttons while in a group of people? So many ways to serve. So much work to do – in their minds there seems to be so little time, money or skills to finish God’s plan of salvation. What’s the problems here? Have they been convinced a small donation once a week puts the job in the hands of so called professionals? Where do we find proof only trained, paid professionals should spread God’s Word? There is no so called professional training in the Bible. Paul disclosed his training in Galatians chapter 2. Paul learned at Jesus’ feet. Don’t rely on anyone but Jesus who trusted His Father all the way to the cross and beyond.