The Baptism of Jesus as Seen in Zechariah

2 Chronicles 24:20-22 – “Then the Spirit of God clothed Zechariah the son of Jehoiada the priest, and he stood above the people, and said to them, ‘Thus says God, “Why do you break the commandments of the Lord, so that you cannot prosper? Because you have forsaken the Lord, he has forsaken you.”’ But they conspired against him, and by command of the king they stoned him with stones in the court of the house of the Lord. Thus Joash the king did not remember the kindness that Jehoiada, Zechariah’s father, had shown him, but killed his son. And when he was dying, he said, ‘May the Lord see and avenge.’”

The Spirit of God clothing Zechariah the son of Jehoiada the priest is a picture of all three persons of God at the baptism of Jesus. Zechariah, the son, represents Jesus. His name means “the Lord remembers.” Jehoiada represents God the Father. Jehoaida means “the knowledge of the Lord.” And the Spirit of God clothed Zechariah. Baptism is spoken as putting off the old man and putting on the new man, like a change of clothing. All of this is like saying at his baptism Jesus was clothed by the Spirit with the full, perfect, and complete knowledge of God.

In Matthew, Jesus gets baptized, then gets tested in the wilderness, and finally gave the sermon on the mount. In it he gives the commandments of his kingdom. He says, “you have heard it said…but I say unto you…” In a way he is asking why Is Israel breaking the commands of God. Israel had forsaken the heart of God’s commands, love.

Of course, the leaders of Israel conspired to kill Jesus just as those in the story above conspired to Zechariah, who was eventually put to death by the king.

There are some pretty interesting things to draw out here from the life of Jesus.

Elisha, the Woman and Her Son or God, Israel and Jesus?

2 Kings 8:1-6 has a short little story about Elisha, a woman and her son. Elisha tells the woman to arise and depart with her household and sojourn wherever she can because there will be a famine for seven years. The woman obeys Elisha and goes to the land of the Philistines for seven years. When the seven years were up, she returned to the land and appealed to the king to get her house and land back. The woman appeared with her son before the king. When the king asked the woman about her son being restored to life, she told him. So, the king restored all that was hers with the produce of the land for the period she was not in it.

In this story we see Elisha as God (his name means “my God is salvation”), the woman as Israel, and her son as Jesus.

Before this story, Elisha had resurrected the woman’s son just as Jesus was resurrected, or restored to life. After Jesus was resurrected, Israel was scattered all over the world due to persecution and famine. Israel sojourned wherever it could.

The famine represents the time that Israel would be without the nourishment of bread, or the scriptures. This would last seven years, or a complete period of time, however long that would be. But, at the end of the seven years, the woman returns to her land, which I believe symbolizes repentance.

The woman appears before the king, or Israel appears before God, having repented, and asks for its land back. But, Israel didn’t appear before the king alone. Her son, Jesus, was with her. When the king asked Israel about her son, Jesus, being restored to life, she confessed it as true. Based on her confession that God is her salvation and that he restored Jesus to life, Israel gets her land back. And, not just her land, but all that it produced while she was not in it.

Certainly, we have seen some of this story unfold in history, but not all of it. The time has not been completed yet.

Elijah:Elisha, John the Baptist:Jesus

2 Kings 2 has an interesting story about Elijah and Elisha.

The Lord was about to take Elijah away as the two traveled together. Elijah kept trying to send Elisha away, but Elisha refused to leave. The two men approached the Jordan river. Elijah took his cloak, rolled it up and struck the river. The water parted so the two men could go across on dry ground.

After they crossed, Elijah asked what he could do for Elisha. Elisha asked for a double portion of Elijah’s spirit. Elijah says if Elisha sees him being taken away then it would be so. Elisha sees Elijah taken away and tears his own clothes in two pieces. So, Elisha took Elijah’s garment that had “fallen” from him and went back to the Jordan. Then Elisha took the garment and struck the water, the water was parted, and Elisha went to the other side.

The other prophets who were there said, “The spirit of Elijah rests on Elisha.”

I think this story is a picture of the baptism of Jesus by John the Baptist, but I’m struggling to see it clearly.

The Jordan river was where Jesus was baptized. Clearly the details of the story in 2 Kings 2 are baptism: water being struck, water parting, walking through on dry ground, etc.

Jesus’ baptism in the Jordan was the start of his ministry. Also, it was essentially the end of John’s ministry as he had prepared the way for Jesus. In 2 Kings 2, we see the beginning of Elisha’s ministry and the end of Elijah’s.

Certainly, Jesus’ ministry was greater than John’s. John said there was one coming after him (Jesus) whose sandals he was not worthy enough to untie. In 2 Kings 2, Elisha gets a double portion of Elijah’s spirit after the “baptism.” Elisha’s ministry was greater than Elijah’s just as Jesus’ was to John’s.

At Jesus’s baptism, the Holy Spirit came down and fell on him like a dove. In 2 Kings 2, in the crossing of the Jordan, we read that Elisha took off his clothes and put on the garment of Elijah, that had “fallen” from him.

I’m sure there are other ways the story in 2 Kings 2 is a picture of the baptism of Jesus and the initiation of Jesus’ ministry. But, even these few connections are quite interesting and demonstrate what Jesus said regarding all the scripture being about him (Luke 24).

To Seek or Not to Seek? That Is the Battle

Paul writes in Romans 15:4, “For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.”

So, in 2 Chronicles 18-21, we read about Jehoshaphat, king of Judah. Jehoshaphat made a marriage alliance with Ahab king of Israel, one of the most wicked kings of Israel. Ahab wanted to go to war against Syria. Because of the marriage alliance, Jehoshaphat said, “I am as you are, my people as your people. We will be with you in the war.” Through the marriage alliance, Jehoshaphat literally wedded himself to the desires of a wicked king. Seeking the will of the Lord, while done before going to war, was an afterthought and a token action. But, during the battle, “Jehoshaphat cried out, and the Lord helped him.”

After setting about to bring the law of the Lord to the people, Jehoshaphat and Judah were attacked by Moab, Ammon, and Edom. The very first thing Jehoshaphat did was “set his face to seek the Lord.” It was no longer an afterthought, a pretense to justify his own desire. Jehoshaphat proclaims that he is powerless against the kingdoms coming to attack Judah and that God is in control of all kingdoms.

Having sought the Lord, the Spirit of the Lord comes upon Jahaziel. He says, “You will not need to fight in this battle. Stand firm, hold your position, and see the salvation of the Lord on your behalf.” Jehoshaphat and all Judah fell down and worshiped the Lord.

As Jehoshaphat went out to face Moab, Ammon, and Edom, he put the praisers in front of the army. As they began to sing and praise, the Lord set an ambush and Moab, Ammon, and Edom fought against one another and were defeated by the Lord.

What do we learn?

Seeking the Lord cannot be an afterthought to justify our own desires. It should not be done after we have already decided to go our own way and enter into a battle.

Rather, seeking the Lord must be done all the time, even during the time when we aren’t struggling, so that when the battle comes we admit our weakness and powerlessness. Then, we are able to fully depend on the Lord.

Depending on God, we can stand firm, hold our position, and see the salvation of the Lord. Don’t be afraid. This is exactly what Moses told Israel when they were “trapped” between Egypt and the Red Sea.

Having sought the Lord, what was the one thing Jehoshaphat did in going out to battle? He led the way with praise. Over and over in the New Testament we are encouraged to give thanks in everything and at all times and continually let praise to God be on our lips. But, this will only happen if seek God with our whole heart in the times of peace, in the times when staring a major test straight in the face.

A rather simple lesson – seek God at all times and praise him at all times, then stand back, hold firm, don’t be afraid, and watch God win the victory for you.

Elijah and the Prophets of Baal or Jesus on the Cross

In 1 Kings 17-18, I believe we can see Elijah as a picture of Christ.

In 1 Kings 17, Elijah tells Ahab, king of Israel, that “there shall be neither dew nor rain these years, except by my word.” Ahab was king over the tribes that were lost. The dew and rain were symbols or types of the Holy Spirit. So, Elijah was saying that the lost tribes would have nothing of the Spirit, nothing of the revelation of God, until Elijah again brought dew and rain by his word.

So, Elijah goes away for a lengthy period of time. But, in 1 Kings 18, in the third year from when he left, the word of the Lord tells Elijah to show himself to Ahab. Jesus starts his ministry with an announcement, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” But, the eyes and ears, and therefore the hearts, of many were unable to hear Jesus for the three years of his ministry. They didn’t have the Spirit in them. It was as if no dew or rain fell on the land.

Ahab gathers all the people of Israel and the prophets at Mt. Carmel. Elijah comes to them and says, “How long will you go limping between two different opinions? If the Lord is God, follow him; but if Baal, then follow him.” That sounds like Jesus’ ministry. He was calling people to make a decision to follow him, and consequently the Father. In Matthew 6:24, Jesus says, “No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.”

So, Elijah tells the prophets of Baal to pick one bull and prepare it for an offering but put no fire on it. They did so calling on Baal to burn up the offering. These prophets “limped” around the altar. In other words, they were lame, without power.

In John 19, Jesus is before Pilate, being questioned before his crucifixion. Pilate says, “You will not speak to me? Do you not know that I have authority to release you and authority to crucify you?” Jesus replied, “You would have no authority over me at all unless it had been given you from above.” Also, in John, Jesus said, “No one takes it [his life] from me, but I lay it down of my own accord.” No one could bring judgment (fire) upon Jesus to kill him. Rather, he laid his life down willingly.

But, the prophets continued to rave about trying to bring fire. “No one answered; no one paid attention.”

At the time of the evening sacrifice, Elijah said, “Come near to me.” All this happens on Mt. Carmel, the name of which means something like fertile ground. Then Elijah repaired the altar. And, he had a trench dug around the altar. Next, he put the sacrifice on the wood on the altar. Then, Elijah had water poured on the offering three times. He had so much water poured on the offering that it filled the trench with water. Something this wet shouldn’t burn with fire. Jesus was filled with the Spirit during his ministry and as he went to cross the place of his sacrifice.

Elijah calls on God. Fire comes down and burns up the offering and “licks up the water that was in the trench.” John 19:28 says, “After this, Jesus, knowing that all was now finished, said (to fulfill the Scripture), ‘I thirst.’” Why did Jesus thirst? He needed water. Symbolically, the Spirit had left him. In John 19:30, Jesus says, “It is finished.” He had done the work of his sacrifice. The passage goes on to say, “And he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.”

When the people saw how God burned the offering that Elijah had doused with water “they fell on their faces and said, ‘The Lord, he is God; the Lord, he is God.” Matthew 27:54 says, “When the centurion and those who were with him, keeping watch over Jesus, saw the earthquake and what took place, they were filled with awe and said, ‘Truly this was the Son of God.’”

So, the story of Elijah and the prophets of Baal is a wonderful picture of Jesus on the cross. And, there are so many more details that could be brought out.

Where’s Your Treasure?

Asa was king of Judah and Benjamin. We read his story in 1 Kings 15 and 2 Chronicles 14-15.

Early in Asa’s reign, Zerah the Ethiopian came against him with a one million man army, nearly double the size of Asa’s army. But, Asa and Judah and Benjamin were successful in battle against Zerah. And, there was peace and no more war for many years.

Later, in the 36th year of Asa’s reign, presumably quite a while after the battle against Zerah, Baasha the king of Israel came to fight against Asa. Asa’s father, Abijah, had fought against Israel and defeated the much larger army of Israel. So, Asa was fighting a weakened Israel under Baasha, an army much smaller than the Ethiopian army. Yet, Asa sought help from the Syrian king to defeat Israel. While he won the battle, from then on he had wars.

What was the difference?

In the first instance, the battle against Zerah, Asa and Judah and Benjamin relied on the Lord. Asa and Judah and Benjamin sought the Lord. Asa recognized his weakness and knew that only the strength of the Lord could save him. When they won the battle, Asa removed all the means of worship of the foreign gods from Judah and Benjamin. Asa and Judah and Benjamin made a covenant to seek the Lord with all their heart and soul.

Most significantly, 2 Chronicles 15:18-19 says, “And he brought into the house of God the sacred gifts of his father and his own sacred gifts, silver, and gold, and vessels. And there was no more war.” Asa brought his treasure into the temple, the house of God, and there was peace.

But, in the second instance, Asa took silver and gold from the treasures of the temple, the house of God, and made a covenant with Ben-hadad the king of Syria.

See the difference? In the first instance, Asa knew he was weak. He relied on God and sought him with all his heart and soul. Therefore, he had peace. In the second instance, Asa took what was precious to him and God and gave it to a foreign king, a king of this world. He relied on his strength and wealth and earthly power. Therefore, he had wars.

In Matthew 6:19-21, Jesus says, “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do no break in a steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” After the first battle, Asa brought his treasure to the temple, the house of God, heaven. He put his heart there and had peace. Before the second battle, Asa removed his treasure from the temple, the house of God, heaven. His heart turned away from God and he had wars, dying just a few years later.

When we put our treasure in heaven, our heart is with God. Our trust is in Him. Then, and only then, can we have the promise of Philippians 4:6-7, which says, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.”

The Word of God before He Became Flesh

In 1 Kings 12-14, the phrase the “word of God” and the “word of the Lord” are repeated frequently. I think when we read this we often take it as God speaking to an individual. But, I think those phrases mean something much more than God speaking to someone.

Sometimes, the word of God “came to” an individual. Other times, something was done “by” the word of the Lord. I believe this is far more than God speaking to someone. In fact, I believe those phrases are indicating that Jesus came to that person or Jesus gave that person strength or power to do something (hence the action being done “by” the word of the Lord and Paul saying “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me”).

John 1 tells us that Jesus is the word of God. John 1 also tells us that “the Word became flesh and dwelt amongst us.” Because of that, I think we limit Jesus to the word that was made flesh. But, that body was the form that the Word of God took at that particular time. For, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God.”

This brings a whole new light to reading the Old Testament because we see that Jesus as the word of God or the word of the Lord is on the scene constantly, just not in a fleshly body. He’s constantly coming to people or giving them strength or power to do something.

It also brings new light to the New Testament. For, the word of God, the word of the Lord, and the word are still references to Jesus. I believe it’s important to see these references to the word as Jesus and not the Bible or the scriptures. So when Paul says to Timothy to “preach the word,” he is saying to preach Jesus. He’s not saying to preach the scriptures. Sure, the scriptures support Paul’s preaching and he is steeped in them. But, he’s clearly preaching Christ and him crucified.

Even Jesus said in John 5 that he has eternal life and the scriptures simply bear witness to him. You won’t get life from the Bible. You get it from Jesus.

Or consider Acts 4:4, which says, “But many of those who had heard the word believed.” Now, Peter and John got in trouble with the priests, the captain of the temple, and the Sadducees because “they were teaching the people and proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection from the dead.” Peter and John got in trouble for preaching Jesus, the word. If they had merely been teaching the scriptures, like the priests and Sadducees, they wouldn’t have gotten in trouble at all.

A study of the word, word of God, and word of the Lord in contrast to the scriptures is very enlightening.

No More Breath in Me

In 1 Kings 10 we read about the Queen of Sheba. I think we could think of her as a type of the church, all believers. She had heard of the fame and wisdom of Solomon, who I think is a type of the resurrected Jesus. So, she comes to Solomon with all of her questions, hard questions. She told Solomon all that was on her mind. Solomon answered everything she asked him because he had all knowledge and wisdom.

Then, the Queen of Sheba sees the greatness of the kingdom of Solomon – his wisdom, his house, the food on his table, the seating of his officials, etc. Remember, she is a queen. So she has her own kingdom. But, when she sees Solomon’s kingdom, it was is so great that there was no more breath in her.

The queen of Sheba says, “The report was true that I heard in my own land of your words and your wisdom, but I did not believe the reports until I came and my own eyes had seen it. And behold, the half was not told me. Your wisdom and prosperity surpass the report that I heard.”

Now, put yourself in the place of the queen of Sheba and Jesus in the place of Solomon. We heard about Jesus, his fame. So, we go to Jesus and challenge him with all of our questions, everything on our mind. If we earnestly seek him, he will answer everything for us. We realize Jesus’ kingdom is greater than the reports we were given. But, we can’t just rely on the reports of others. We have to know for ourselves. The queen of Sheba did not believe until she saw the greatness of Solomon with her own eyes. The same is true for us. We do not believe until we see the greatness of Jesus for ourselves. In him are all the riches of wisdom, riches that are unsearchable or without end.

I love how the story of the Solomon ends at the end of 1 Kings 11. “Now the rest of the acts of Solomon, and all that he did, and his wisdom, are they not written in the Book of the Acts of Solomon?” It makes me think of what is said about Jesus in the book of Acts 1:1, “In the first book, O Theophilus, I have dealt with all that Jesus began to do and teach, until the day he was taken up, after he had given commands through the Holy Spirit to the apostles whom he had chosen.” Luke was now going to write about the rest of the acts of the risen Lord Jesus, what he continued to do through the apostles. An interesting little connection between Solomon and Jesus.

Increasing vs. Ruling

Proverbs 29:2 – “When the righteous increase, the people rejoice, but when the wicked rule, the people groan.”

I find this to be a fascinating contrast. As many proverbs do, this proverb contrasts the righteous and the wicked. The result of the contrast is straight forward – because of the thing the righteous do the people rejoice, but because of the thing the wicked do the people groan. So far, so good.

But what is this proverb really contrasting? Wouldn’t it have made more sense to say that when the righteous rule the people rejoice and when the wicked rule the people groan? Seemingly, if when the wicked rule the people groan, then it would be better for the righteous to rule so that the people would rejoice. If this were the case, then we would be saying that one type of rule of man by man is better than another. But, that’s not what this proverb is saying.

We must pay careful attention to the action of the righteous and the wicked that is being contrasted – increase vs. rule. The righteous increase. The wicked rule.

The word increase here is the same word used over and over in the Old Testament in the phrase “be fruitful and multiply.” The word increase is often used in the context of bearing children. Before Jesus, this was predominantly understood in the physical sense – for the righteous to increase, to be fruitful and multiply, was to have more children. After Jesus, we gain a spiritual understanding of “increase.” We cannot multiply or produce other believers. Only the Holy Spirit can do that (John 3). But having been born again by the Spirit, we are able to bear the fruit of the Spirit as we abide in the true vine, which is Christ. The fruit born is not for ourselves, but it is to be eaten by others. As those who have been made righteous in Christ bear the fruit of the Spirit, others come to know, to experience, Jesus. The righteous increase and the people rejoice.

But, the word rule means to rule or to make someone lord. It has the idea of one person taking authority over another person. It can even have the connotation of superiority of the one ruling. Remember how the mother of the sons of Zebedee asked for her two sons, who were of the twelve, to sit on the right and left of Jesus when he was on his throne. The other 10 disciples were upset at this request. Jesus responded, “You know the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them.” (Matthew 20:25) The wicked rule. They take authority over others. They lord their power over them. They bear down on them. And, the people groan.

So, the proverb is not comparing one type of rule to another – the rule of the righteous to that of the wicked. Rather, the proverb is comparing two fundamentally and altogether different actions – increasing versus ruling. Bearing fruit versus lording it over another. Serving versus taking authority over another. On the one hand the people rejoice. On the other hand they groan.

In Matthew 20:26-28, Jesus goes on to say, “It shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave, even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as ransom for many.”

Judges 9 is a worthwhile passage to read in connection with this proverb. The chapter contains a parable of trees seeking a king to rule over them. The trees go to a variety of other trees asking for that particular tree to rule over all the trees. But, the olive tree, the fig tree, and the vine all say they cannot stop bearing their fruit to rule over the other trees. But, then the trees ask the bramble to be king, to rule over them. You know what’s interesting about bramble? It’s prickly. It has thorns. Many consider it a weed because of its tendency to grow in neglected areas and its sharp, tough thorns. (Perhaps all of the above explains why we get the type of people we do to run for president!) See, the parable is contrasting bearing fruit and serving with ruling and lording it over. When you know your purpose, the fruit God has called you to bear, that your life is to be a living sacrifice, carrying about the death of the Lord Jesus, to bring life to others, to reconcile them to God, you cannot be turned from that purpose to rule over others.

Later in Proverbs 29:25-26 it says, “The fear of man lays a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord is safe. Many seek the face of a ruler, but it is from the Lord that a man gets justice.” How important this is with what has happened this week in Charlotte and Tulsa and the election season that is upon us. We don’t need to seek after so-and-so to lead us. We shouldn’t think that so-and-so will get us on the right track.

No, we need to trust Jesus, to seek him and his kingdom. He is the Lord! Then we will have justice and every other thing he has promised us.

Bodies “A” Living Sacrifice

“If your enemy is hungry, give him bread to eat, and if he is thirsty, give him to water to drink, for you will heap burning coals on his head, and the Lord will reward you.” – Proverbs 25:21-22

In Romans 12, Paul writes to the brothers, the church, that they should present their bodies as a living sacrifice. Note carefully that “your bodies” is plural and “a living sacrifice” is singular.

Why is this so? Paul continues by saying that each one of us is a member of one body. Just as a body has different parts with different functions that are all necessary for the body to live, the same is true of the church. It is made up of different people with different gifts that are all necessary for proper functioning. In the church, the individual members, “your bodies,” must all come together with the gifts given to them by the Holy Spirit so that the church can present “a living sacrifice.” I cannot present “my body” as “a living sacrifice.” My body does not have all the necessary gifts to be a living sacrifice on its own. “A living sacrifice” can only be presented as “one body in Christ.”

What does this have to do with the quote from Proverbs above?

We know love because Jesus Christ died for us. He died for us when we were still sinners, when we were his enemies. So, when Jesus commands us to love our enemies, he is telling us to love the unbeliever as he loved us. So, the church as Christ’s body on the earth, the living, tangible expression of Jesus that the unbeliever can see, hear, and touch, is to show the unbeliever love by dying for them, presenting their bodies a living sacrifice. I cannot truly do this on my own. Rather, it takes all the members together to be a living sacrifice, loving as Jesus loved.

After urging the brothers in Rome to present their bodies a living sacrifice and explaining how they are each a member of the body of Christ with a different function, Paul continues by saying that this is all to display Christ’s love. For two paragraphs he tells us what the love of these many members coming together as one body looks like. At the end of the two paragraphs, Paul quotes the passage from Proverbs 25:21-22.

It’s easy to think loving your enemies was a new concept that Jesus was presenting. That it was different than the way God was in the Old Testament. Not true! Paul is showing that loving your enemies has always been God’s way. It has always been the way that God’s people would show God’s love to rest of the world.

God has not changed, but our perception of who God is has changed as a result of the death and resurrection of Christ.