Jesus, The Cupbearer

TODAY’S READING: NEHEMIAH 1-3

Jesus is God’s cupbearer.

We know this from Jesus’ prayer in the garden. Matthew 26:39 says, “And going a little farther he fell on his face and prayed, saying, ‘My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.'”

Why do I bring this up in regards to Nehemiah 1-3?

Nehemiah 1:11 says, “Now I was cupbearer to the king.”

Nehemiah was cupbearer to the king while Jesus was cupbearer to the Father. So, we can see that Nehemiah is a type or picture of Jesus.

Nehemiah 2 takes place in the month Nisan. This is the month that Jesus was crucified. It also takes place in the 20th year of King Artaxerxes. If you study the number, then you will find that it symbolizes redemption. Jesus redeemed us through the cross. Therefore, both Nisan and the 20th year of Artaxerxes are telling us that what we read in Nehemiah 2 witnesses to the time right before Jesus’ death.

Knowing this, before you read further in this blog, make sure you read Nehemiah 2.

Now that you have read Nehemiah 2, read my version below. I have rewritten Nehemiah’s conversation with Artaxerxes as the conversation between Jesus and the Father in the garden of Gethsemane.

In the month of Nisan, in the year of redemption of the Father, when wine was before him, Jesus took up the wine and gave it to the Father.

Now Jesus had not been sad in his presence. And the Father said to Jesus, “Why is your face sad, seeing you are not sick? This nothing but sadness of the heart.”

Then Jesus was very much afraid. Jesus said to the Father, “Let the Father live forever! Why should not my face be sad, when the city, the place of my people’s graves, lies in ruins, and its gates have been destroyed by fire?”

The the Father said to Jesus, “What are you requesting?”

So Jesus prayed to the Father. And Jesus said to the Father, “If it pleases the Father, and if your servant has found favor in your sight, that you send me to Judah, to the city of people’s graves, that I may rebuild it.”

And the Father said to Jesus (the Holy Spirit sitting beside him), “How long will you be gone, and when will you return?” So it pleased the Father to send Jesus when Jesus had given him a time.

And Jesus said to the Father, “If it pleases the Father, let words be given to me to the governors of the province Beyond the River, that they may let me pass through until I come to Judah, and letter to Asaph, the keeper of the king’s forest, that he may give me timber to make beams for the gates of the fortress of the temple, and for the wall of the city, and for the house that I shall occupy.”

And the Father granted Jesus what he asked, for the good hand of the Father was upon Jesus.

You can continue reading the rest of the chapter and see Jesus as Nehemiah. And, this continues throughout the whole book.

Delivered from the Enemy and Ambushes

TODAY’S READING: EZRA 8-10

“Then we departed from the river Ahava on the twelfth day of the first month, to go to Jerusalem. The hand of our God was on us, and he delivered us from the hand of the enemy and from ambushes.” – Ezra 8:31

I don’t see where the months are named in Ezra, but Jesus was crucified in the first month of the year. Jesus entered Jerusalem on the 10th of the month and was resurrected on the 17th of the month. So, the 12th day of the first month in Ezra could be during what would be the week of Jesus’ crucifixion.

If so, then that is quite interesting because what happens to Ezra on 12th day of the first month also happened to Jesus.

On the 11th, Jesus cleansed out the temple. The next day, the 12th, Jesus was questioned by what authority he did these things (Matthew 21:23-27). Jesus said he would only tell the chief priests and elders the source of his authority if they would tell him the source of the authority of the baptism of John. The chief priests and elders were afraid to answer and said they didn’t know. So, Jesus wouldn’t tell by what authority he was doing things.

It’s interesting that Jesus’ authority was questioned on the 12th day of the month since the number 12 symbolizes divine authority.

As that 12th day wore on, Jesus began telling parables. The chief priests and Pharisees heard the parables and realized Jesus was talking about them. So, they sought to arrest Jesus. The enemy was out to get Jesus.

So, the Pharisees “plotted how to entangle him in his words.” (Matthew 22:15) Just like Ezra, the hand of the enemy was out to get Jesus. The Pharisees were trying to trap Jesus in his words by ambushing him with what they thought were tricky questions.

First, they asked him about it being lawful to pay taxes or not. Then they asked Jesus about who a woman would be married to if she continued to marry the brothers of her dead husband trying to produce an heir for him. Next, they asked him what was the greatest commandment.

Every time they were marveled by the answers Jesus gave. “And no one was able to answer him a word, nor from that day did anyone dare to ask him any more questions.” (Matthew 22:26)

So, while they were seeking to arrest Jesus and to trap him on the 12th day, eventually they left Jesus alone because of the astonishing answers to their questions.

Indeed, the hand of God was on Jesus, delivering him from his enemies and their ambushes on his way to the cross.

Jesus, God of Heaven and Earth

TODAY’S READING: EZRA 5-7

The phrase “God of heaven” appears 24 times in the Bible. Only twice is it found in the New Testament – both in Revelation. But, I find it interesting that two of the 24 appearances, both in the Old Testament, say “God of heaven and earth.”

Why do I find this so interesting?

Well, Genesis 1:1 says that God created the heavens and the earth. Yet, throughout the Bible, God was consistently referred to as the God of heaven. It was as if everyone believed that God ruled heaven but man ruled earth. God was the God up there but not down here.

Twenty-two times various men called God the “God of heaven.” That’s an interesting number, 22.

There are 22 letters in the Hebrew alphabet. The last letter is tav, which written in early Hebrew looked like a cross. Indeed the letter means mark, sign, or cross.

Jesus quoted Psalm 22 from the cross. While most men viewed God as the God of heaven alone, verses 27-28 say, “All the ends of the earth shall remember and turn to the Lord, and all the families of the nations shall worship before you. For kingship belongs to the Lord, and he rules over the nations.” On the cross, Jesus let everyone know that God was not just God of heaven but God of the earth as well.

Therefore, the number 22 has to do with the suffering of the son of God, Jesus, the one who came down from heaven. It was his suffering on the cross that rent the veil and made a way for heaven and earth to be connected.

So, what about the other two uses where men say “God of heaven and the earth?”

The first occurs in Genesis 24:3 when Abraham is sending out his servant to find a bride for Isaac. This entire chapter is a picture of the Father sending out the Holy Spirit to find a bride for Jesus. That marriage of Christ and the church is a mystery. The head, Jesus, is in heaven while the body, the church, is on the earth. This marriage connects heaven and earth. Currently, is through the church that Christ’s kingdom is displayed on the earth.

The second occurs in today’s reading in Ezra 5:11. Some men who were in the government under King Darius asked the elders of the Jew who told them they could build the house of the great God. The elders of the Jews said, “We are the servants of the God of heaven and earth.” The building of this house is a picture of the building of the house made without hands, the temple of God, which we are. We are the true dwelling place of God so that God can dwell on the earth not just in heaven.

One of the meanings of the number two is union.

So, we see the suffering of Christ on the cross (22) united (2) heaven and earth. Therefore, God is the God of heaven and the earth.

In Acts 17:24, Paul told the Greeks at the Areopagus, “The God who made the world and everything in it [Jesus], being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man.”

It is truly amazing how much of the Bible speaks directly to who Jesus is.

The People Gathered as One Man

TODAY’S READING: EZRA 1-4

Ezra 3:1-2 says, “When the seventh month came, and the children of Israel were in the towns, the people gathered as one man to Jerusalem. Then arose Jeshua the son of Jozadak, with his fellow priests, and Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel with his kinsmen, and they built the altar of the God of Israel, to offer burnt offerings on it, as it is written in the Law of Moses the man of God.”

The seventh month is the month of the harvest. Also, in the seventh month, Israel celebrates three feasts – trumpets, atonement, and tabernacles. The seventh month, the harvest, and these feasts all related to the second coming of Jesus.

So, it was in this seventh month that “the people gathered as one man in Jerusalem.” The Hebrew word for gathered is asaph. It means to gather, to bring in, to receive, to retract, to destroy, to pull back. Asaph can mean to gather as in a harvest. But, asaph is often used throughout the Bible to euphemistically refer to dying. It is used in the phrases “to be gathered to one’s people” and “gathered to one’s fathers.” It’s also used in regard to gathering a body and its bones for burial.

Now, there seem to be two groups of people. There were those with Jeshua the son of Jozadak and those with Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel. When we examine those names, it is quite clear the Jeshua and Jozadak are Hebrew names. However, the names Zerubbabel and Shealtiel seem to be Canaanite or Babylonian names. I see here Jew and Gentile.

So, the people gathered in the sense of being harvested for the Lord or dying to themselves. The people gathered or came together as one. Instead of two men , Jew and Gentile, the people died to themselves and became one man.

Ephesians 2:13-16 says, “But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility.”

Galatians 3:26-28 says, “For in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. For as many of you as were baptized in Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek…for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”

The people were gathered into one, or made into one new man, by there dying. Notice that this happened through the cross and their being baptized in Christ – Jesus’ death and their own symbolic death with Christ in his crucifixion through baptism.

Why were the people gathered together? Why did they die with Christ to become one new man.

“They built the altar of the God of Israel, to offer burnt offerings on it.”

This immediately brings to my mind Romans 12:1-2.

“I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”

Notice that Paul pleads with the Roman church – made of both Jews and Gentiles – to present their bodies – that’s plural, as in two, Jew and Gentile – as living sacrifice – that’s singular, as in one new man, neither Jew nor Greek. They were to be gathered together into one sacrifice, or burnt offering, a living sacrifice for spiritual worship. It was by building this altar and offering themselves on it together as one man that they would show God’s goodness, his perfect and acceptable will.

By coming together as one man through the cross of Christ, Jew and Gentile would be reconciled together. And, this coming together as one in reconciliation through their willingness to die to themselves, as a living sacrifice, would be a continual visible witness to the rest of the world that God is reconciling the world to himself through Christ. This is God’s goodness. This is God’s will that is good, perfect, and acceptable.

What exactly does a living sacrifice look like?

Paul tells us in 2 Corinthians 4:8-12.

“We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. So death is at work in us, but life in you.”

In this way, we participate in the ministry of reconciliation. For, God was reconciling the world in Christ from the cross, from his sacrifice. So, as living sacrifices we become ministers of reconciliation, our own burnt offering.

Of course, burnt offerings emit quite the aroma. So, 2 Corinthians 2:14-16 says, “But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere. For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing, to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life.”

Jesus: King of the Jews and King of the World

TODAY’S READING: 2 CHRONICLES 35-36

These two chapters form the end of the Hebrew Old Testament. And, it provides an interesting ending to the story, which is finally fulfilled in Jesus – king of the Jews and king of the world.

Josiah is the last good king of Israel. Chapter 35 recounts his keeping of the passover. In 2 Chronicles 35:3, Josiah said, “Put the holy ark in the house that Solomon the son of David, king of ISrael, built. You need not carry it on your shoulders.”

Jesus says that he was greater than Solomon. Solomon built a temple, but Jesus came to build the real temple of God, which is not made by hands. Rather, the temple that Jesus is building is made from living stones – all people filled with the Holy Spirit.

Josiah’s words to the priests and Levites reveal just that. His instruction to put the holy ark, the presence of God, in the house pictures Jesus’ words that the Holy Spirit, the presence of God, would be put in our hearts. Notice that Josiah says that the ark, the presence of God, will no longer be a burden to carry on the shoulders. Instead, as the ark would rest, or dwell, in the house, so the presence of God would rest, or dwell, in our hearts.

The story of Josiah and Jesus come together in the passover. Josiah was the only king of Israel to keep the passover. 2 Chronicles 35:18 says, “No passover like it had been kept in Israel since the days of Samuel the prophet. None of the kings of Israel had kept such a Passover as was kept by Josiah.”

Of course, Jesus truly kept the passover, slaughtered on the cross as the lamb of God, like no one else had ever done. Jesus truly was the king of the Jews.

But, chapter 36, the last paragraph of the Hebrew Bible, ends with an interesting twist. The Lord stirred the heart of Cyrus, king of Persia, a gentile king.

In, the very last verse, 2 Chronicles 36:23, Cyrus said, “The Lord, the God of heaven and earth, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth, and he has charged me to build him a house at Jerusalem, which is in Judah. Whoever is among you of all his people, may the Lord his God be with him. Let him go up.”

What went through the minds of the Jews with this as the last statement of their scriptures until Jesus came?

Cyrus, the king of Persia, was at one time the king of the largest kingdom in the world.  He says God gave him all the kingdoms of the earth. In Matthew 28:18, Jesus said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.” And, in Revelation 11:15, when the seventh angel blew his trumpet, “There were loud voices in heaven, saying, ‘The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he shall reign forever and ever.'” Like Cyrus, every kingdom was given to Jesus.

Cyrus said he was charged to build God a house. We know that Jesus said if the temple was destroyed he would rebuild it in three days. Of course, Jesus was not talking about the literal, physical temple that Solomon built and was rebuilt by Cyrus and then Herod. The real temple of God started with Jesus, the cornerstone, and continues to be built with each one of the us. We are the true house of God.

Cyrus said, “Whoever is among you of all his people, may the Lord his God be with him.” In the most famous verse in the Bible, John 3:16, Jesus said, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” Whoever believes has eternal life, has the Lord his God with him.

So, in some sense, Cyrus provides an interesting picture of Jesus as king of kings, or king of the world. What an unexpected ending.

Pride, not Sin, Keeps God from You

TODAY’S READING: 2 CHRONICLES 32-34

It is often said that God cannot look upon sin and that God cannot tolerate the presence of sin. Therefore, sin keeps God away from you. However, it is not sin that keeps God from you. Rather, it is pride. God cannot draw near to you when you are full of pride.

Manasseh, king of Judah, is an example of this in 2 Chronicles 33.

“He did what was evil in the sight of the Lord, according to the abominations of the nations whom the Lord drove out before the people of Israel.” Manasseh did evil, every king of evil that the nations of Canaan had done and for which they removed from the land. The next several verses go on to list all the evils that Manasseh did.

“Manasseh led Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem astray, to do more evil than the nations whom the Lord destroyed before the people of Israel.” Manasseh wasn’t just a little evil, a little sinful. No, Manasseh did even more evil than the nations that were in Canaan before Israel entered the land.

But, look at the very next verse.

“The Lord spoke to Manasseh and to his people, but they paid no attention.” Despite all the evil and sin of Manasseh, God continued to speak to him. Sin did not keep God from Manasseh.

However, Manasseh and the people paid no attention to God. In effect, Manasseh told God he didn’t need God’s help. It was Manasseh’s pride that kept God away. This is because God is love and love does not force anything on anyone. Love draws and woos. But, pride resists.

“And when he was in distress, he entreated the favor of the Lord his God and humbled himself greatly before the God of his fathers. He prayed to him, and God was moved by his entreaty and heard his plea and brought him again to Jerusalem and into his kingdom.”

What changed? Did Manasseh remove all the evil in the land and stop sinning?

That’s not what the text says at all.

No, Manasseh humbled himself – greatly! When Manasseh, humbled himself, God was right there waiting. Manasseh’s humility moved God to hear him – despite Manasseh’s evil and sin.

Jesus came to dwell in the midst of the people. The people were full of sin. In Mark 2:17, Jesus said, “Those who are well have no need of physician, but those who are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.”

Those who are well are full of pride. In effect, they say, “I’m good Jesus. I don’t need your help. I’m just fine as I am, thank you very much.”

But, Jesus came to sinners. He didn’t reject sinners. He ate with tax collectors, drunks, and prostitutes. These were all considered sinners. Jesus was in the presence of these sinners so much that he was accused of being a sinner himself.

If God could not be in the presence of sin, then Jesus would have never entered the homes of these sinners to eat with them.

In the parable of the prodigal son,  as the soon as the lost son humbled himself to return to his father’s house the father went running to greet him. This is just what God. He’s right there with us in our sin. God is just waiting for us to humble ourselves and cry out to him in our distress. This moves God and makes us able to receive God’s help.

James 4:6 says, “But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, ‘God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.'”

Notice that it does not say that God opposes sinners. No, God opposes the proud. Pride, not sin, is what creates distance between God and man.

However, God gives grace to the humble. God gives grace to the one who cries out for help, who admits his weakness, who says I am sick and need a doctor. But, note that it does not say that God gives grace to the one who does not sin.

Grace is not conditional based on sin. Grace only needs to be received. God’s presence only needs to be received. Pride, not sin, prevents that.

The Door Is Open

TODAY’S READING: 2 CHRONICLES 29-31

“In the first year of his reign, in the first month, he opened the doors of the house of the Lord and repaired them.” – 2 Chronicles 29:3

Opening the doors of the house of the Lord was one of the first acts of Hezekiah as king. And, it’s also one of the first acts of Jesus as king.

Notice that Hezekiah opened the doors of the house of the Lord in the first month of the first year of his reign. When he opened the doors of the house of the Lord, Hezekiah provided access to God that had been cut off.

In John 10:9, Jesus said, “I am the door.” And, in John 14:6, Jesus said, “No one comes to the Father except through me.” As the door, Jesus is the access, the way, to the Father.

What opened this door, this way, to the Father?

Hebrews 10:19-20 says, “Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh.”

The door is opened by the blood of Jesus. By his death on the cross, the shedding of his blood, Jesus revealed the Father’s love for us. And, it’s God’s kindness, his love, that lead us to repent and draw near to him.

Jesus died on the cross in the first month of the year. And, his crucifixion was in the first year of his reign. It was because of his obedience to death on the cross that Jesus was exalted by God (Philippians 2:8-9). It was after his death on the cross that Jesus ascended to heaven to take his seat on the throne. That’s when the reign of Jesus as king began.

So, just like Hezekiah, Jesus opened the door, the way, to the Father in the first month of the first year of his reign.

2 Chronicles 29:3 also says Hezekiah repaired the doors. In the Hebrew, the word for repaired literally means to be strong or firm. Other translations say that Hezekiah strengthened the doors.

Jesus did that too.

In Revelation 3:8, Jesus said, “Behold, I have set before you an open door, which no one is able to shut.” Jesus opened the door by his blood. Jesus opened the way to the Father. And, no one can shut the door or close the way. Here we see the strength of Jesus on display. Nothing, no one, can shut the door that he has opened. His power keeps it permanently open.

One small, seemingly innocuous act of Hezekiah, the opening of the doors of the house of the Lord, recorded so that we can see Jesus as the one who permanently opened the door to the Father.

God Is Working Behind the Scenes

TODAY’S READING: 2 CHRONICLES 25-28

“And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” – Romans 8:28

This was the first scripture I ever knew beyond a mere intellectual understanding. I was at the lowest point of my life, but I told God that his word said this so I believe that he would do it. No matter which way my situation went, I believed that God would cause it to result in my good, which, as the next verse says, is to be conformed to the image of Christ.

But, why does Paul say that this is so “for those who love God?”

Because those who love God know that God is good and only good. Those who love God know that God made his creation good – “and God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good.” (Genesis 1:31) And, those who love God know that God is restoring all things to their original very good state.

Ephesians 1:9-10 says this is “the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.” Because God is good and only good, if all things are to be united in heaven and earth are to be united in him, then all things will be good.

However, because God is love and love does not seek its own, does not force anything, it is not directly obvious that God is working in all things for good. Yet, God is always there, ever present, in every situation bringing about his goodness. It’s as if God is working behind the scenes, even if we don’t see it.

I believe this is evident throughout Israel’s history. The Spirit reveals God at work behind the scenes in the little, seemingly insignificant, details of each of Israel’s kings.

Take Uzziah as an example.

The name Uzziah means my strength is Yahweh or strength of the Lord.

His mother’s name was Jecoliah, which means Yahweh is able or made strong of the Lord. Jecoliah was from Jerusalem, which means possession of peace or foundation of peace.

Just by these names, God was reminding Israel that he was their true king and that he was Israel’s strength to bring about real peace.

But, in what way would God’s strength bring about Israel’s peace?

The two numbers that define Uzziah’s reign explain how.

Uzziah’s reign began when he was 16 years old.

Almost everyone, given how often it is used in weddings, knows that 1 Corinthians 13 is about love.

Do you know many characteristics Paul lists about love in 1 Corinthians 13? 16!

  1. Love is patient.
  2. Love is kind.
  3. Love does not envy.
  4. Love does not boast.
  5. Love is not arrogant.
  6. Love is not rude.
  7. Love does not insist on its own way.
  8. Love is not irritable.
  9. Love is not resentful.
  10. Love does not rejoice in wrongdoing.
  11. Love rejoices with the truth.
  12. Love bears all things.
  13. Love believes all things.
  14. Love hopes all things.
  15. Love endures all things.
  16. Love never ends.

Agape (the noun not the verb) is the Greek word for God’s love. It is used 18 times in 1 John. But, the 16th time the noun love is used John writes, “But perfect love casts out fear.”

1 John 3:16 says, “By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us.” The seeming weakness of Jesus, the son of God, on the cross truly revealed the incredible strength of God. What power must it have taken to remain on the cross despite all the calls for Jesus to prove he was the son of God by taking himself down from the cross? Which one of us could resist proving our power to all those mocking us?

Uzziah’s reign began with a reminder of God’s strength, his love.

And, Uzziah’s reign lasted 52 years.

I wrote a few days ago in The Gospel of Christ: For He Is Good, For His Steadfast Love Endures Forever that the number 26 symbolized the gospel of Christ.

Of course, the number 52 is 2 x 26.

The number two can symbolize union or separation.

So, the number 52 symbolizes or union to gospel of Christ that separates us from the world. This is what love does.

Ephesians 2:4-6 says, “But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ – by grace you have been saved – and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus.”

How do we know this, that we are joined together with Christ, is true? What guarantees this for us?

Ephesians 1:13-14 says, “In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.

The Holy Spirit seals us in Christ. His seal is like a wall that keeps us in Christ.

Did you know that the wall around Jerusalem was connected to the number 52?

Nehemiah 6:15 says, “So the wall was finished on the twenty-fifth day of the month Elul, in fifty-two days.”

But, the number 52 is connected to the Holy Spirit in another way.

Acts 2 records the pouring out of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost. Pentecost took place 50 days after the feast of first fruits. The feast of first fruits was the day that Jesus was resurrected. Therefore, the Holy Spirit was poured, became a seal, a guarantee, a wall around believers, 52 days after Jesus was crucified, which revealed the strength of God’s love and brings us back to the number 16.

Speaking of Jesus, Colossians 1:16-17 says, “For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities – all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.”

When we know Jesus as the one that created everything and the one who holds everything together then is no doubt that he is working all things together for good.

Jesus Defines God’s Character

TODAY’S READING: 2 CHRONICLES 21-24

Jesus defines God’s character. Period. End of story.

John 1:18 says, “No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known.”

John 6:43 says, “Not that anyone has seen the Father except he who is from God; he has seen the Father.”

These two scriptures declare that no one but Jesus has ever seen God. That means everyone in the Bible from Adam to John the baptist – Abraham, Isaac, Joseph, Moses, Elijah, etc. – never truly saw God. And, if you never saw someone, never truly knew someone, then your description of that person would be lacking, deficient.

But, Jesus, because he was at the Father’s side and came from the Father, truly saw and knew the Father. Therefore, Jesus can perfectly reveal the Father. Indeed, the Bible says that Jesus did just this.

Colossians 1:15 says, “He is the image of the invisible God.”

2 Corinthians 4:4 says, “Christ, who is the image of God.”

Hebrews 1:3 says, “He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature.”

Jesus is the exact imprint of God’s nature.

This is critical!

We must get this firmly in our minds.

Jesus is the exact imprint of God’s nature.

Jesus is like God. But, more importantly, and clearly more difficult for most people to understand, God is exactly like Jesus.

Jesus must define God’s character. In fact, Jesus is our only definition of God’s character. Therefore, if it is not like Jesus, if Jesus would not say it or do it, then it is not God.

To paraphrase my friend Richard Murray, we must let Jesus, not the Bible, define God’s character. For, if we let the Bible define God’s character, then we end up confused and crediting God with things he would never say or do.

I cannot stress how important this is.

Let’s look at a passage of today’s reading to see why this is so important.

“And a letter came to him from Elijah the prophet, saying, ‘Thus says the Lord, the God of David your father, “Because you have not walked in the ways of Jehoshaphat your father, or in the ways of Asa king of Judah, but have walked in the way of the kings of Israel and have enticed Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem into whoredom, as the house of Ahab led Israel into whoredom, and also you have killed your brothers, of your father’s house, who were better than you, behold, the Lord will bring a great plague on your people, your children, your wives, and all your possessions, and you yourself will have severe sickness with a disease of your bowels, until your bowels come out because of the disease, day by day.”‘”

Now, most people would read “Thus says the Lord” and say, “See, right there it says God said it. You cannot deny this. God said it. God said he would bring a plague on the people of Jehoshaphat.”

Here is where we must have Jesus define God’s character.

Did Jesus ever put a plague on someone? Did he ever give someone a severe sickness? Did Jesus ever cause someone’s bowels to come out of them?

Of course not.

Jesus always did exactly the opposite of this. Everywhere Jesus went he healed people of all sorts of sickness, disease, and demonic oppression.

Therefore, while Elijah may have thought God gave him this word, God most definitely did not say this to Elijah. Remember, Elijah never saw God. Only Jesus saw God. And, only Jesus could perfectly reveal God.

This statement by Elijah, which wrongly attributes a plague brought on the people to an act of God, is exactly why Jesus took Peter, James, and John up a mountain so they could see him transfigured.

While they were on that mountain and Jesus was transfigured, Moses and Elijah appeared. Peter wanted to exalt Jesus to the level of Moses and Elijah. So, Peter suggested he, James, and John build three tabernacles, one each for Jesus, Moses, and Elijah.

But, “He was still speaking when, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them, and a voice from the cloud said, ‘This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him…’ And when they lifted their eyes, they saw no one but Jesus only.” (Matthew 17:5, 8)

The brightness of Jesus overshadowed, or eclipsed, Moses and Elijah. So much so that Peter, James, and John could no longer see anyone but Jesus. Moses and Elijah completely disappeared.

On top of that, God said Peter, James, and John that they were to listen to Jesus and Jesus only. “Listen to him.”

God was making the point that Moses and Elijah did not perfectly reveal who he was. Therefore, if we want to know who God truly is, then we should listen only to Jesus.

So, when we read the Old Testament we need to listen to Jesus only. If it doesn’t sound like Jesus, then we know it is not God saying it, no matter what the authors of the Old Testament believed or wrote.

Let Jesus define God’s character and the you find the truth, Jesus, in all the scripture.

Judge with Love

TODAY’S READING: 2 CHRONICLES 17-20

When Solomon dedicated the temple, the priests sang in unison, “For he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever.” The phrase “for his steadfast love endures forever” makes it first return since Solomon under the king Jehoshaphat.

In addition to Jehoshaphat having the priests sing “give thanks to the Lord, for his steadfast love endures forever,” Jehoshaphat also walked in all the ways of David. Jehoshaphat was one of the good kings of Judah. Because of that, we can see Jesus in Jehoshaphat in several places in these chapters.

The name Jehoshaphat means Yahweh has judged or the Lord judges. Indeed, Jesus is the judge of every man.

But, there are some interesting clues about how Jehoshaphat judged.

One of the first things we read about Jehoshaphat took place in the third year of his reign. Of course, the number three often symbolizes the period between death and life. Therefore, the number three can symbolize the resurrection. So, what we read Jehoshaphat doing in the third year of his reign will likely have a connection to Jesus.

In the third of his reign, Jehoshaphat sent his officials through Judah to teach. Interestingly, in 2 Chronicles 17, we read that Jehoshaphat sent out 16 men to teach.

Almost everyone, given how often it is used in weddings, knows that 1 Corinthians 13 is about love.

Do you know many characteristics Paul lists about love in 1 Corinthians 13? 16!

  1. Love is patient.
  2. Love is kind.
  3. Love does not envy.
  4. Love does not boast.
  5. Love is not arrogant.
  6. Love is not rude.
  7. Love does not insist on its own way.
  8. Love is not irritable.
  9. Love is not resentful.
  10. Love does not rejoice in wrongdoing.
  11. Love rejoices with the truth.
  12. Love bears all things.
  13. Love believes all things.
  14. Love hopes all things.
  15. Love endures all things.
  16. Love never ends.

Agape (the noun not the verb) is the Greek word for God’s love. It is used 18 times in 1 John. But, the 16th time the noun love is used John writes, “But perfect love casts out fear.”

So, we are seeing a connection between the number 16 and the word love. But, not just any love, perfect love.

Therefore, Jehoshaphat is a picture of the Lord who judges with love. Look at the following verses and notice how they are sound similar to the way Jesus judges.

2 Chronicles 19:5-7 says, “He appointed judges in the land in all the fortified cities of Judah, city by city, and said to the judges, ‘Consider what you do, for you judge not for man but for the Lord. He is with you in giving judgment. Now then, let the fear of the Lord be upon you. Be careful what you do, for there is no injustice with the Lord our God, or partiality or taking bribes.”

The Lord was with Jehoshaphat in judging. Similarly, Jesus only judged as he heard from the Father.

2 Chronicles 19:9-10 says, “And he charged them: ‘Thus shall you do in the fear of the Lord, in faithfulness, and with your whole heart: whenever a case comes to you from your brothers who live in their cities, concerning bloodshed, law or commandment, statutes or rules, then you shall warn them, that they may not incur guilt before the Lord and wrath may not come upon you and your brothers. Thus you shall do, and you will not incur guilt.”

Jehoshaphat told the judges simply to warn. This is how Jesus judges. He warns us not do certain things because they will bring wrath. But, as we see in the passage above, the wrath is not God’s. Rather, the people bring wrath upon themselves when they break the law. It’s out of love that Jesus warns people not to sin. This is exactly what God did in the garden with Adam and Eve. He warned them out of love not to sin. But, he did pronounce a judgment of wrath upon them.

These are just a few of the ways that we Jesus in Jehoshaphat.