Tuesday, June 21, 2011


One of the comforting pictures from the Hebrew Scriptures is that of the faithful resting 'under God's wings.'  It's found five places in the Psalms:  17:8, 36:7, 57:1, 63:7, and 91:4 .   It's also used in Ruth 2:12, when Boaz shows favor to Ruth and says "May you be richly rewarded by the LORD, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to take refuge."  This is a figure of speech comparing God to a mothering bird, protecting her chicks from the eyes of predators and sheltering them from rain, sun and harm. 

Does God have wings?  Hardly; God isn't hampered by physical form, although he has sometimes appeared as a human (for instance, Genesis 18).  But his loving care for us is described in many different ways in Scripture, including this picture of providing and protecting.  Jesus didn't have wings either but he picks up this word-picture, as recorded by Matthew and Luke.  In Luke 13:34, he says "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones God’s messengers! How often I have wanted to gather your children together as a hen protects her chicks beneath her wings, but you wouldn’t let me."  Jesus' people refused his offer of protection, preferring their own blindness to his offer of God's redemption through his suffering.

But he was put to death on a cross, which was most likely an upright stake (the basic meaning of the Greek word used) with a crosspiece which he was forced to carry to the hill where he was killed.  The soldiers nailed him to the crosspiece, and put a sign over his head (Matthew 27:35-37) proclaiming him, ironically, "King of the Jews."  

Now, this is total speculation on my part -- this interpretation doesn't appear in Scripture so I can't claim it's authoritative, just a word picture in my own head.  As Jesus' arms were spread out and his hands nailed to the crosspiece of his stake, with the sign above naming him as King of the Jews, he 'spread out his wings' in a manner of speaking, to provide shelter and protection for all people -- his own nation as well as all of us Gentiles.  Though he died a criminal's death, it was to save us from our crimes against him:  "I passed on to you what was most important and what had also been passed on to me. Christ died for our sins, just as the Scriptures said" (1 Cor. 15:3).  

Colossians 1:20 says, "Through [Jesus] God reconciled everything to himself. He made peace with everything in heaven and on earth by means of Christ’s blood on the cross."  God has already brought you back to himself, through Jesus' blood.  The only question is whether you find yourself "under the shadow of his wings" as he says you already are -- or whether, like Jesus' own people, you stubbornly prefer your way -- a way that didn't work for them either?  God lets you choose.  I pray you choose life. 

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Pictures from the Old Testament: the Rock

Our ongoing series on the pictures in the Old Testament (the Hebrew scriptures) that point to Christ, takes us to a lot of humans; but today, to another object, not a human but a rock.  In the history of the newborn nation of Israel, fresh out of Egypt, Moses twice asks for water from a rock for the thirsty people. 

First, in Exodus 17:1-7, the thirsty people ask for water and blame the lack of water on Moses.  God tells Moses "I will stand before you on the rock...Strike the rock, and water will come gushing out. Then the people will be able to drink."  In Numbers 20:1-13, the people are thirsty again (and cranky as usual), so God tells Moses to speak to the rock, "and it will pour out its water."  Instead of speaking, Moses yells at the people, then strikes the rock with his staff.  The water comes out anyway but God corrects Moses and doesn't allow him to take the people into the Land of Promise because he "did not trust me enough to demonstrate my holiness to the people of Israel." 

Normally, water ran down the riverbeds during rainy season, or there were pools in the wilderness from springs deep underneath the earth.  These sound like truly supernatural events, with water coming from an unexpected spot. In one story the rock is to be struck, in another Moses is to speak to the rock but strikes it instead.  What's it all mean?

These symbols are interpreted for us in the New Testament, primarily in two passages.  In John 7:37-39, Jesus says "anyone who is thirsty" can come to him and drink, and John interprets that as meaning the Holy Spirit. So the physical water given to Israel was just a picture of the greater reality, the Holy Spirit, given from Jesus, the true Rock.  In 1 Cor. 10:4, Paul writes, as part of a warning not to take God's provision lightly, that the Israelites ate and drank "spiritual" food and drink in the wilderness, drinking from the "spiritual rock that traveled with them, and that rock was Christ."  The manna pictured Christ's body given for us, and the water from the rock pictured the Holy Spirit to be given, so we should read "spiritual rock" as being a picture of Christ, not an actual rock dragging itself around in the desert sand.  God's faithfulness was with them, as it would be later in sending his Son -- who was "struck" in order to provide life for us.  (Some have read this verse as indicating that the second Person of the Trinity is 'the one' who accompanied the Israelites; but let's remember, God is one, not divided in any way, so "all of God" was there, not just one Person.) 

So, Jesus, the Rock of our salvation, is also the source of the promised Holy Spirit, whom he sent to be with us.  The Hebrew Scriptures agree perfectly with the Greek Scriptures, that the plan and purpose of God is fully presented in his Son Jesus, whom we know as the Christ.  Salvation and reconciliation with God through Christ is the main theme of the entire unity of Scripture.  Will you accept what he has worked so hard to offer you?

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Life and Death...and Life

This time of year, everything is growing.  Fast!  The lawn is trying to get ahead of me again, and the weeds are growing faster than the veggies in the garden.  God created the spring of the year, I think, to give us hope not only of physical life and health from eating the great foods that are available to us right now, but to remind us of the new life, a forever-life, that he has prepared for us through his Son, whom we know as Jesus. 

We also face death in this physical life today.  Just last week, one of my friends lost his mother to suicide, a sad and regrettable result of hopelessness.  My mom died 36 years ago, and I still miss her.  Death came into the world, according to Genesis 3, because of humanity's rebellion against God; our first parents didn't fully believe that God was providing completely for them, so they listened to a talking snake instead (how much sense does THAT make??).  Death, in this physical world, is the ultimate result of the choices we've all made, and it's the end of the line as far as we can tell with our five senses; but God has promised us more.

John 3:16 says "For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life."   Jesus says further in John's gospel, in chapter 5, "I tell you the truth, those who listen to my message and believe in God who sent me have eternal life. They will never be condemned for their sins, but they have already passed from death into life" (verse 24).  Whoa, "already passed"?  What's up with that?  The next few verses explain that the "new life" starts with belief, but is made full at a future resurrection:  "And I assure you that the time is coming, indeed it’s here now, when the dead will hear my voice—the voice of the Son of God. And those who listen will live...Don’t be so surprised! Indeed, the time is coming when all the dead in their graves will hear the voice of God’s Son, and they will rise again" (vs 25, 28).  Why is it already true?  Because "The Father has life in himself, and he has granted that same life-giving power to his Son" (v. 26) and those who chose then -- and choose now -- to believe in Jesus, are already living in that new kind of life, the life that will last forever. 

So why the future resurrection?  So that everything will finally be set right -- back the way it was before that first rebellion, and in fact even better.  The Bible ends the same way it begins:  in a garden.  "Then the angel showed me a river with the water of life, clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb. It flowed down the center of the main street. On each side of the river grew a tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, with a fresh crop each month. The leaves were used for medicine to heal the nations. No longer will there be a curse upon anything" (Rev. 22:1-3) And all the hurt will be gone from this new life:  “Look, God’s home is now among his people! He will live with them, and they will be his people. God himself will be with them. He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever." (Rev. 21:3-4). Human bodies will be changed to eternal, glorified bodies with no more aches and pains:  "Our earthly bodies are planted in the ground when we die, but they will be raised to live forever. Our bodies are buried in brokenness, but they will be raised in glory. They are buried in weakness, but they will be raised in strength. They are buried as natural human bodies, but they will be raised as spiritual bodies...It will happen in a moment, in the blink of an eye, when the last trumpet is blown. For when the trumpet sounds, those who have died will be raised to live forever. And we who are living will also be transformed. For our dying bodies must be transformed into bodies that will never die; our mortal bodies must be transformed into immortal bodies."  (1 Cor. 15:42-53).

I'm looking forward to that for a lot of reasons.  Are you? 

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Jesus Is the One

Please see this wonderful video courtesy of Churchleaders.com and Tim Keller:


What do you think?  I think Tim has it figured out. What an awesome God!