The Cross – Returning Our Deeds on Our Own Head

TODAY’S READING: OBADIAH

“For the day of the Lord is near upon all the nations. As you have done, it shall be done to you; your deeds shall return on your own head.” – Obadiah 1:15

The day of the Lord is a day of light.

John 1:4-5 says, “In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.”

John 3:19 says, “And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil.”

1 John 1:5 says, “This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.”

While he was in the world, Jesus was the light of the world. His light shined in the evil of men. The evil of men could not darken Jesus’ light.

God is light. He is goodness. God does not do evil to us.

The evil we experience is a result of our own darkness, our own evil, coming back upon us.

Yet, God is in the midst of that darkness, shining his light, his goodness upon us.

Verse 15 in Obadiah reminds me of Psalm 7:14-16, which says, “Behold, the wicked man conceives evil and is pregnant with mischief and gives birth to lies. He makes a pit, digging it out, and falls into the hole he has made. His mischief returns upon his own head, and on his own skull his violence descends.”

“On his own skull his violence descends” makes me think of the cross. For, Jesus was crucified at Golgotha, which means place of the skull. It was the violence of men that drove the cross into Golgotha in order for it to stand upright so that Jesus could be crucified on it. So, when I read this I picture my own violence, my own evil, my own wickedness, driving the cross into my own skull.

My evil returns upon my own head.

However, this on its own does not reveal the wonder of the cross.

What makes the evil that you and me did to Jesus on the cross so wonderful are the words he spoke from the cross. “Father, forgive them, for they know now what they do.”

So, as we are crucifying Jesus, doing violence to him, he cries out for our forgiveness, which causes our own violence and the cross to pierce our own skull.

I think we have all experienced a situation where we have been evil, mean, or wicked to someone, but they respond with kindness. At the very least, this causes our mind to stop in its tracks because kindness is not the response we expect to wickedness. It is so out of the norm of what expect that the returning of good for evil creates a cognitive dissonance in our minds. It is this dissonance in our minds that has the power to snap us out of evil stupor and cause us to change our thinking and our actions.

The cross is  one of those little experiences we have all had magnified to the nth degree. And, this is why God does not do evil to us. Evil will never cause us to change our thinking and the way we act because we expect evil to be done to us. But, what we don’t expect goodness, mercy, kindness to be done to us, especially when we know we have been evil and wicked to someone else.

Therefore, Romans 2:4 says, Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance?”

God’s kindness, mercy, and forgiveness expressed through Jesus on the cross is meant to jar our thinking so that we repent, so that we change our minds. Therefore, God’s kindness causes our own evil to come back on our own heads.

This is what the wrath of God is. It’s not evil or death or destruction done to us. It’s a burning within us created by the cross that reveals our own wickedness to us.

Isn’t that painful?

This is what Paul means in Romans 12:19-20 when he says, “Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, ‘Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.’ To the contrary, ‘if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by doing so you will heap burning coals on his head.”

No vengeance we could ever attempt to take to repay someone can have the effect of the cross of Jesus Christ,the ultimate act of returning good for evil, on someone’s thinking.

Can Anyone Escape God’s Saving Love?

TODAY’S READING: AMOS 5-9

“And those who are left of them I will with the sword; not one of them shall flee away; not one of them shall escape.” – Amos 9:1

In Amos 9, Amos tells us that God will search out his enemies to kill them with the sword. Not a single enemy will be able to flee or escape. In the next three verses, Amos tells the great lengths God will go to kill his enemies.

“If they dig into Sheol, from there shall my hand take them; if they climb up to heaven, from there I will bring them down. If they hide themselves on top of Carmel, from there I will search them out and take them; and if they hide from my sight at the bottom of the sea, there I will command the serpent, and it shall bite them. And if they go into captivity before their enemies, there I command the sword, and it shall kill them; and I will fix my eyes upon them for evil and not for good.” – Amos 9:2-4

That’s quite a dire picture that Amos paints. There is nowhere that anyone can go to escape from God. God will find his enemies wherever they are and kill them. He will find them and do evil, not good, to them.

Is it possible that Amos did not understand God clearly? That the picture he painted of God was wrong?

Actually, isn’t it obvious that Amos wrong.

Amos said, “I will fix my eyes upon them for evil and not for good.”

In Matthew 5:44-45, Jesus said, “But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and the good, and sends his rain on the just and on the unjust.”

To be sons of the Father, we have to act like the Father.

How does the Father act?

He loves his enemies. He does good, not evil, to them. He gives the sun and the rain to all, whether they are good or bad, just or unjust. God never seeks to do evil to anyone. Therefore, 1 John 1:5 says, “This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.” Further, James 1:17 says, “Every good and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.”

Perhaps Amos heard God say that he was going to separate that which was not of him from all people. So, Amos interpreted this, because he had a veil over his understanding of God (2 Corinthians 3 and 4), as God was going to use a sword to kill his enemies.

But, God’s sword is “of the Spirit, which is the word of God.” (Ephesians 6:17) God’s sword is Jesus. And, we never see Jesus killing. Instead, we see Jesus dying.

God’s sword, instead of seeking to kills us, seeks to separate us from all that is not God. Therefore, Hebrews 4:12-13 says, “For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom me must give account.”

In Revelation 19:21, instead of being thrown in the lake of fire with the beast and the false prophet, “the rest were slain by the sword that came from the mouth of him was sitting on the horse.” God doesn’t throw any of the collaborators with Satan, the beast, and the false prophet into the lake of fire. Instead he slays them with the sword of his mouth, that is his word, which separates from them all their false ideas of who God is. Therefore, the birds gorge on their flesh, not their spirits. So, all of them lived and are saved.

While Amos paints the picture that God will go everywhere in creation to find and kill his enemies, Paul tells us that there is nowhere in creation we can go to escape from God’s saving love.

Romans 8:31-39 says, “What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died – more than that, who was raised – who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the  love of the Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written, ‘For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.’ No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

And, before we get on our high horse (where Paul once rode) and think that this applies only to us, to those we deem worthy, let us remember that in Romans 8 Paul is speaking about setting the entire creation right. His all means all people, not just the people in the Roman church he is writing to.

So, God goes anywhere and everywhere to find all people. Because nothing can separate anyone from his love.

Jesus tells us this very thing in the parable of the lost sheep. In Luke 15:3-5, Jesus said, “What many of you, having a hundred sheep, if he has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open country, and go after the one that is lost, until he finds it? And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing.”

Every person is one of Jesus’ lost sheep. And, Jesus will go into the far country, indeed wherever he needs to go, to find all his sheep that are lost.

While Amos says that there is nothing God’s enemies can do to escape his killing sword, Jesus and the New Testament reveal that there is nowhere we can go and nothing we can do that will cause us to escape God’s saving love.

Jesus Is the Foundation that Destroys Strongholds

TODAY’S READING: AMOS 1-4

“So I will send a fire upon the wall of Gaza, and it shall devour her strongholds.” – Amos 1:7

Fire. Devour. Strongholds.

Amos connects these three words six times in what the Lord says to Gaza, Tyre, Edom, the Ammonites, Moab, and Judah. Then, Amos uses stronghold a seventh time in regards to Israel. Amos 3:10 says, “They do not know how to do right,” declares the Lord, “those who store up violence and robbery in their strongholds.”

The Hebrew word for stronghold is armon. It is used 32 times in the Old Testament. But, Amos uses it 12 times, more than any other book in the Old Testament. Twelve is the number of governmental perfection in the Bible. So, Amos’ 12 strongholds should have something to do with God’s perfect rule in our life.

Further, I mentioned above that Amos has the Lord saying that fire would devour the strongholds six times. Six symbolizes both man and work. So, these strongholds have something to do with man’s work that will be burned away.

But, the seventh place, Israel, that Amos connects with strongholds reveals something else about strongholds. Israel stored up violence and robbery in their strongholds. This violence and robbery that filled Israel’s strongholds was clearly opposed to God as the Lord said that Israel did not know how to do right because of it.

But, what exactly are these strongholds and what do they have to do with Jesus?

The word stronghold occurs just one time in the New Testament.

2 Corinthians 10:4 says, “For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds.”

Just like we saw in Amos, strongholds are to be destroyed in warfare. But, these strongholds are not physical fortresses or palaces since we are not to use weapons of the flesh against them. Rather, the strongholds that are to be destroyed are spiritual for it takes divine power to conquer them.

Still, what are these strongholds that need to be destroyed?

2 Corinthians 10:5 says, “We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ.”

The previous verse said we destroy strongholds. This verse says we destroy arguments and lofty opinions that are against the knowledge of God. Strongholds are arguments, lofty opinions, ideas, thoughts, etc. that are against the true knowledge of God.

What is the true knowledge of God?

God is good.

God is good and only good.

God is light and in him there is no darkness at all.

God is love and in him there is no fear.

God is life and in him there is no death.

Anything and everything in our hearts and minds that is against these truths of God, these strongholds, needs to be destroyed.

We are to work for God. But, with these strongholds that are against God, we can work in the wrong way, building up things that are against God. Amos says God will consume these strongholds with fire. Therefore, God consumes with fire the work that is built by these strongholds, or by false notions of God.

Therefore, 1 Corinthians 3:15 says, “If anyone’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire.”

The strongholds of our wrong ideas about God create works that will be burned up, consumed by fire by God. But, the person himself will be saved through this fire that burns up every false work from false ideas of God.

But, 1 Corinthians 3:15 has another interesting connection to Amos and the fire that devours strongholds.

In the first six uses of stronghold in Amos, the Septuagint uses the Greek word themelion. The word themelion means foundation. Now, we can see the interesting connection to 1 Corinthians 3:15.

1 Corinthians 3:10-14 says, “According to the grace of God given to me, like a skilled master builder I laid a foundation, and someone else is building upon it. Let each one take care how he builds upon it. For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if anyone builds on a foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw – each one’s work will become manifest, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done. If the work that anyone has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward.”

In Amos, the six places that had their strongholds, their foundations, devoured by fire had built on the wrong foundation.

What is the lesson?

The foundation was not Jesus Christ. Because the foundation was not Jesus Christ, the heart and mind developed strongholds that were arguments and lofty opinions against the true knowledge that God is good and only good. These false arguments and opinions about God led to works that would not stand the test of fire. Therefore, they would be consumed by fire. But, the person would still be saved.

Therefore, we can see why it is so critical that we have the correct foundation laid. The only foundation that should be laid and built on is Jesus Christ. This means the only thing we in our hearts and minds that is should be used to understand God is Jesus Christ.

Not Moses.

Not the law.

Not the prophets.

Not Solomon and his wisdom.

Not the Bible.

No, the only foundation is Jesus.

He is the only one to see God face to face. He is the image of God. He is the exact representation of God’s character.

If we try to have any other foundation other than Jesus, then we will develop that wrong idea about who God is. This then will lead to works that need to be destroyed by fire, which is a painful process.

So, Jesus is the foundation that is laid that will destroy the strongholds of our hearts and minds.

What Does Jesus Speak to His Army?

TODAY’S READING: JOEL

“The Lord utters his voice before his army.” – Joel 2:11

Probably the most well-known passage in Joel is Joel 2:28-29, which Peter quotes in the first sermon of the church.

“And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old me shall dream dreams, and your young men shall see visions. Even on the male and female servants in those days I will pour out my Spirit.”

We know that this occurred at Pentecost after Jesus was crucified. So, when Joel writes “it shall come to pass afterward,” we can understand what comes before this in Joel 2 as indicative of what happened at the cross and the direct lead up to it.

It is the events directly leading up to the cross and Jesus’ crucifixion that tell us what the Lord uttered to his army.

The night before his crucifixion a mob came to arrest Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane. Peter drew his sword and struck the servant of the high priest in the ear. In Matthew 26:52-3, Jesus said, “Put your sword back in its place. For all who take the sword will perish by the sword. Do you think that I cannot appeal to my Father, and he will at once send me more than twelve legions of angels?”

To his earthly army, the disciples, Jesus told them to put away their sword. They were not to fight as the world fights for their king because everyone who fights with the sword will die by the sword.

But, what about Jesus’ heavenly army, the twelve legions of angels that he could call upon? What does Jesus say to them?

During his trial, Pilate asked Jesus if he was a Jew and what he had done for his nation to deliver him over to Pilate.

In John 18:36, Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered over to the Jews. But my kingdom is not from the world.”

Jesus said his kingdom was not of this world, which means it was a spiritual kingdom. Therefore, as he spoke of his spiritual kingdom, Jesus said that his servants, his angel army, was not to fight. That is, they did not fight against flesh and blood, bringing death and destruction, the way that man fights.

We even see some of this in Joel 2. For, Joel 2:12-13 says, “’Yet even now,’ declares the Lord, ‘return to me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning; and rend your hearts and not your garments.’ Return to the Lord your God, for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love; and he relents over disaster.”

From the cross, before his earthly and heavenly army, Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” (Luke 23:24) This is both Jesus telling us that it is okay to return to God because he forgives and him stating that God is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love.

Do not fight. Return to God. He is forgiving.

This is what the Lord says before his army.

Jesus Served and Guarded Sheep for a Wife

TODAY’S READING: HOSEA 10-14

“Jacob fled to the land of Aram; there Israel served for a wife, and for a wife he guarded sheep.” – Hosea 12:12

Jesus is Israel.

Or, Israel is a type  and foreshadowing of Jesus.

In scripture, we see that the lives of Jesus and Israel mirror each other. The New Testament authors even reveal this in passages that on the surface seemingly have nothing to do with Jesus. Therefore, the New Testament authors were taught by Jesus (Luke 24) and led by the Spirit to see Jesus everywhere in the Old Testament. They did so even if it meant ripping a passage out of its context.

A classic example of this is Hosea 11:1-2, which says, “When Israel was a child, I loved him, and out of Egypt I called my son. The more they were called, the more they went away; they kept sacrificing to the Baals and burning offerings to idols.”

In context, this passage is clearly about the nation of Israel. God brought the nation of Israel, Jacob/Israel’s descendants,  out of Egypt. And, it was the nation of Israel that, even though they were called by God to be a light to the world, went away and sacrificed to false gods and idols.

But, Matthew said that this passage was about Jesus. Matthew 2:14-15 says, “And he rose and took the child and his mother by night and departed to Egypt and remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet, ‘Out of Egypt I called my son.'” So, Matthew identifies Jesus as the fulfillment of everything Israel was.

Why is it significant that Jesus was called out of Egypt?

Any Israelite would have thought of Egypt as their place of slavery. So, we could think of Jesus as a slave that was called out of his slavery by his Father.

Hebrews 2:14-15 says, “Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery.” So, Jesus became like one of us, like a slave, although not a slave to sin as we were, so that he could deliver us from our slavery to the fear of death.

So, Philippians 2:5-8 says, “Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant [literally, slave], being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”

Jesus left his Father, left heaven, left his nature as God, to become a slave. He made himself such a slave that he became obedient to the point of death even as we are held in slavery to the fear of death.

This brings us to Hosea 12:12, which says, “Jacob fled to the land of Aram; there Israel served for a wife, and for a wife he guarded sheep.” While this passage says that Jacob fled, the original telling of the story is different. Genesis 28:5 says, “Thus Isaac sent Jacob away.” Isaac, the father, sent Jacob, the son. Just like the Father sent Jesus, his son.

In Hosea, we read that Jacob fled to Aram. Aram means high or elevated. Perhaps we could think of Aram as symbolizing a place of pride or a high place, which typically was a place of false worship.

But, when Isaac sent Jacob away, Jacob went to Paddan-aram. Paddan-aram might mean the plain of Aram. But, it might also mean elevated ransom or place where height is rescued.

So, we can see Jesus in this in that he left his Father to come to a place of pride and false worship. But, he came to be the elevated ransom, the one who when he was lifted up would draw all people to the Father. In his  being lifted up, Jesus would rescue us from our height, our pride, and our high place of false worship.

Hosea says that Israel served and guarded sheep for a wife. The Hebrew words used for served and guarded are quite interesting. They are the exact same words used in Genesis 2:15, which says, “The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work [serve] it and keep [guard] it.

Having told the man he was to serve and guard the garden, Genesis 2:18 says, “Then the Lord God said, ‘It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.'” Why was the man to serve and guard the garden? For God was going to give him a wife to help him.

God indeed gives the man a wife that was from his side, bone of his bone and flesh of his flesh. So, Genesis 2:24 says, “Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.”

However, this story is not about Adam and Eve. Paul tells us that it is about Jesus and the church, his bride. Ephesians 5:31-32 says, “‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.’ This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church.”

Jesus left his father. He came to the earth to serve and guard what he was given, the sheep, the Father’s people, so that he too could have a wife from his side, a wife that was bone of his bone and flesh of his flesh. And, Jesus would be one with his bride.

The Septuagint translation provides an interesting look into Hosea 12:12. It says, “And Jacob withdrew to the plain of Aram, and Israel was slave to a woman, and by a woman he was guarded.”

My suspicion is that the translation of the Greek is not quite correct here. The English words to and by are the same Greek word. And, that Greek word can also be translated for. Therefore, I believe we could read the verse as “Israel slaved for a woman, and for a woman he guarded.”

The Greek word for slaved in this verse is edouleusen, which comes from the root word douleuo. This is the same word used in Philippians 2:7 when it says that Jesus to “the form of a slave [doulos].”

In Matthew 20:25-27, Jesus said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. It shall not be so among you, But whoever would be great among us must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave.”

Jesus is first. In fact, Colossians 1:18 says, “And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent.” Jesus is preeminent, first, in all things. But, that meant he had to be a slave. So, Jesus slaved for us, his sheep, his wife.

Indeed, in Matthew 20:28, Jesus said, “Even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” There is Jesus in Paddan-aram. The Father sent Jesus to be the elevated ransom for us.

Then, there is the Greek word for guarded.

In John 17:12, Jesus said, “While I was with them, I kept them in your name, which you have given me.” Who were those given to Jesus? John 10 tells us that those given to Jesus are his sheep.

Jesus continued in John 17:12, “I have guarded them.” Jesus used the same Greek word for guarded that we read in Hosea 12:12 in the Septuagint. And, he used in the context of shepherding the sheep he was given.

So, even though there is nothing in the immediate context of Hosea 12:12 that reveals the passage to be about Jesus, the Spirit interprets the scripture for us to see that Jesus is Israel who served and guarded, worked and kept, slaved and guarded, his sheep to be his wife.

Steadfast Love and Knowledge of God, Not Sacrifice and Burnt Offerings

TODAY’S READING: HOSEA 5-9

“For I desire steadfast love and not sacrifice, the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings.” – Hosea 6:6

This is such a simple and powerful statement from God. He desires and delights in steadfast love and the knowledge of him. Conversely, he does not desire or delight in sacrifice and burnt offerings.

Yet, despite this simple, clear, direct declaration of what God desires, we still miss the point of the cross. In fact, we often apply the exact opposite of this statement to God, Jesus, and the cross.

What do I mean?

Much of western Christianity believes that God required the death of someone in order for there to be justice. In other words, God needed someone to be sacrificed to be appeased.

More than that, God required blood to be shed to forgive sins. Many believe that God would not be satisfied, he would not be appeased, until blood was shed. In other words, there had to be a burnt offering, for it was the blood of the burnt offering that was applied to the horns of the altar and poured out at the base of the altar, in order for God’s anger to be assuaged.

But, this belief completely and entirely misses the point of what God desires. Hosea 6:6 says God does not desire and delight in sacrifice, burnt offerings, shedding blood, and blood sacrifices. Rather, God desires in steadfast love and the knowledge of him.

Instead of God desiring sacrifice, burnt offerings, and the shedding of blood, we are the ones that desire those things. We are the ones that have the need for a sacrifice to assuage our anger. We are the ones that have a need to shed blood to make things right. We have are the ones that are blood thirsty. We are the ones that seek satisfaction this way.

Where was God in all of this?

2 Corinthians 5:19 says, “That is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them.” Another way of translating this is, “God was in Christ.”

Therefore, God wasn’t requiring a sacrifice and a burnt offering.

Therefore, God was the sacrifice and the burnt offering.

God allowed us to make him the sacrifice and the burnt offering in order to reveal to us his steadfast love. 1 John 4:8-10 says, “God is love. In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.”

God allowed us to make him the sacrifice and the burnt offering in order to reveal to us that he is good and only good. When Jesus was called “good teacher,” he responded, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone.” (Luke 18:19) God is good. And, because he is good, God can only do good. It is so because that’s God nature, his very being – goodness.

There’s another way of saying this. 1 John 1:5 says, “This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.” Darkness is evil, violence, murder, death. God is not these things. Therefore, he does not desire or delight in these things. To show this, God allowed us to put all of our violence upon him and murder him.

So, it was a burnt offering that Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”

Jesus quoted Hosea 6:6 twice.

When the Pharisees asked the disciples why Jesus ate with tax collectors and sinners, Jesus responded, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. Go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.’ For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.'”

The Pharisees thought the righteous were those offered the proper sacrifices and burnt offerings according to the law. But, Jesus says he didn’t come for those people for they were self-righteous. He came for sinners. And, he demonstrated that by showing mercy to the tax collectors and sinners instead of demanding sacrifices from them. Therefore, if you were really righteous you would know that God wanted you to show mercy and give sacrifices and burnt offerings.

In Matthew 12:7, Jesus said to the Pharisees, “And if you had known what this means, ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the guiltless.”

This is fascinating because Jesus ties the desire for sacrifice and burnt offerings with condemning the guiltless.

Who was the only one that was truly guiltless?

Jesus.

And, we condemned him, made him a curse, by hanging him on a cross. It was our need for sacrifice and burnt offerings, not God’s, that did that.

A scribe asked Jesus what was the most important commandment. Jesus said that the first was to love God and the second was to love your neighbor. The scribe said that Jesus was right.

Then, in Mark 12:33, the scribe said, “And to love him with all the heart and with all the understanding and with all the strength, and to love one’s neighbor as oneself, is much more than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.” This scribe realized that to love God and neighbor is much more than all the whole burnt offerings and sacrifices combined together that Israel had offered for more than a thousand years.

And, Jesus said, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.”

In other words, when you perceive that God really desires and delights in steadfast love, mercy, grace, and knowing that he is good and only good then you have reached the kingdom of God.

But, if you think that God requires, needs, gets some sort of satisfaction out of, sacrifices, burnt offerings, the shedding of blood, then are not anywhere near the kingdom of God.

Ultimately, understanding this comes down to understanding where we are and where God was in relation to the cross. We were standing away from, apart from, outside of, the cross, projecting our violence upon it and Jesus. And, because we are self-righteous, we think that’s where God was too. We think that God was standing in the same spot we were with the same attitudes and desires we had in regards to the cross and the crucifixion of Jesus.

But, God was not standing away from the cross, looking at the cross, and doing something to Jesus on the cross. No, God was positioned on the cross. He was in Jesus. God was in the exact opposite from us in regards to the cross.

And, the moment we see that it changes everything about who was desiring what at the crucifixion. The moment we see that it changes the entire meaning of Jesus’ death and crucifixion.

The Meaning of Jezreel Reveals Jesus in Hosea

TODAY’S READING: HOSEA 1-4

“And the children of Judah and the children of Israel shall be gathered together, and they shall appoint for themselves one head. And they shall go up from the land, for great shall be the day of Jezreel.” – Hosea 1:11

If you are familiar with the Bible, then when you think of the book of Hosea you probably think of the man who married a prostitute, Gomer, for a wife. However, the Spirit showed me this morning that misses the heart of the story.

There are five people mentioned in the first chapter of Hosea. There’s Hosea, Gomer, Jezreel, No Mercy, and Not My People. Jezreel is at the center of these five people. So, in a sense, the story revolves around him. Yet, Jezreel seems to be the forgotten person of the book. He is only in the story a brief period of time. And, does anyone talk much about this Jezreel? I would say much more attention is paid to either Hosea and Gomer or No Mercy and Not My People.

The Spirit revealed Jezreel as the heart of the story to me through the meaning of the names in the first chapter of Hosea.

Hosea is the same name as Hoshea. Many probably know that the same means salvation. The name Jesus is simply the Greek transliteration of the name Hosea. Hosea was the son of Beeri. The name Beeri means well of God, well of the Lord, or my well. So, when we read Hosen, son of Beeri, we could read it as salvation of the well of the Lord.

Therefore, I first saw Hosea as a picture of Jesus. While this could be, since Jesus and God are one, as I moved through the meaning of the names I saw that here Hosea was more a picture of God the Father.

Gomer means completion or complete, perfect. This is somewhat strange because Gomer was anything but complete or perfect in the spiritual sense because she was a prostitute. Gomer was Hosea wife’s. And, Israel is portrayed as God’s wife throughout the Bible. So, Gomer is a picture of Israel. She was the daughter of Diblaim, which means twin fig cakes or two cakes of figs. I think this represents Judah and Israel.

Fig cakes are made from dried fruit. So, they are lacking water. But, Gomer completed, made perfect, or matured, which is to say no longer, when she marries Gomer who is the salvation of the well of the Lord.

Their first child, a son, is Jezreel. Jezreel means God sows or he will be sown by God. Jezreel comes from the Hebrew root word to scatter seed. Jesus was the son of God and Israel, Hosea and Gomer. And, Jesus is the seed sown by God. Speaking of his soon coming death and resurrection, Jesus said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit” (John 12:24).

Jezreel’s blood was shed (Hosea 1:4), which is an obvious reference to Jesus. And the shedding of his blood would bring an end to the kingdom of the house of Israel, which is also a reference to Jesus.

The second child of Hosea and Gomer is No Mercy. When Hosea wrote it seems to me that No Mercy represented Judah. But, with Jesus in mind, I believe No Mercy represents all the people of Israel.

Why does No Mercy symbolize Israel?

It was not because God would show no mercy to Israel. God is the father of mercies. And, we are told, “Be merciful even as your Father is merciful”(Luke 6:36).

Rather, it was because Israel showed no mercy to Jesus and crucified him. This is why Jesus had to say to the Pharisees, “Go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.'” (Matthew 9:13) It is why Jesus told the Pharisees that they had neglected the weightier matters of the law, including mercy (Matthew 23:23).

The third and final child of Hosea and Gomer was Not My People. In the context of what Hosea wrote, Not My People seems to represent the ten northern tribes of Israel that was separate from Judah. But, with Jesus in mind, I believe Not My People represents the Gentiles.

We just need to look at the context of when Jesus said he would be a grain of wheat that dies and is sown into the ground to bear much fruit. Just before Jesus said that, he said, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.”

Why did Jesus say that his hour had come to be glorified?

John 12:20-21 says, “Now among those who went up to worship at the feast were some Greeks. So these came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and asked him, ‘Sir, we wish to see Jesus.'” Just before Jesus said he was to be Jezreel, who had his blood shed and is he who will be sown by God, the Greeks, who were not Jesus’ people, came and asked to see him.

So, in No Mercy and Not My People, we have the Jews and the Gentiles, the complete spiritual Israel, God’s people. Therefore, Hosea 1:10 says, “Yet the number of the children of Israel shall be like the sand of the sea, which cannot be measured or numbered. And in the place where it was said to them, ‘You are not my people,’ it shall be said to them, ‘Children of the living God.'”

Where is that place?

The cross.

Ephesians 2:14-17 says, “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 [Jew and Gentile], so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility. And he came and preached peace to you who were far off [Gentiles] and peace to those who are near [Jews].”

This brings us back to the passage quoted at the start of this post. “And the children of Judah [Jews] and the children of Israel [Gentiles] shall be gathered together, and they shall appoint for themselves one head. And they shall go up from the land, for great shall be the day of Jezreel.”

Who would they appoint as their one head?

Jezreel, for it was his day that was great.

Who is the one head of the Jews and Gentiles?

Jesus.

Colossians 1:18-20 says, “And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of the cross.”

So, Jezreel truly is a picture of Jesus. But, Jezreel seems to be the forgotten man in the story. And, that seems to be fitting for Jesus. For while he has done everything for us through the cross, making us all one, how easily we forget Jesus.

How often do we teach and preach, do church, minister, etc. and it has little to nothing to do with Jesus?

The Time of Insight and Understanding

TODAY’S READING: DANIEL 9-12

“While I was speaking in prayer, the man Gabriel, whom I had seen in the vision at the first, came to me in swift flight at the time of the evening sacrifice. He made me understand, speaking with me and saying, ‘O Daniel, I have now come out to give you insight and understanding.'” – Daniel 9:21-22

At the start of chapter nine, Daniel says that he perceived that there would be 70 years before the desolations of Jerusalem. However, while Daniel understood that there were 70 years, he did not understand the full meaning of the 70 years. So, Gabriel came to give him insight and understanding into the meaning of the seventy years.

Gabriel was the angel that came to Daniel during his vision of the 2,300 evenings and mornings that I wrote about in yesterday’s post. But, Gabriel did not give Daniel the full meaning of the vision. Rather, he told Daniel to seal it up, obstruct it, or put a veil over it. In the post, I noted that Paul tells us that it is Christ crucified that removes the veil because seeing Jesus crucified causes us to repent or change our minds so that we can see things in a new way.

Why was Gabriel unable to give Daniel full insight and understanding in this second encounter and not the first encounter?

The answer is in Daniel’s prayer in Daniel 9:4-19. In this prayer, Daniel repents.

Daniel starts his prayer with confession. He states that God keeps covenant and steadfast love. Daniel says that everyone in Israel has sinned, done wrong, acted wickedly, rebelled, and turned aside from God’s commandments and rules.

They haven’t listened to the prophets. Jesus speaks to the failure of Israel to listen to the prophets several times. He alludes to it in the parable of the tenants in Matthew 21:33-40. The owner of the vineyard, God, sent servants, the prophets, to speak to the tenants, Israel, but the tenants beat, stoned, and killed the prophets that God sent instead of listening to them.

Jesus spoke to the failure to listen to the parable of the rich man and Lazarus in Luke 16:19-31. Jesus said, “And he said, ‘No, father Abraham, but if someone goes to tem from the dead, they will repent.’ He said to him, ‘If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead.'”

And, Jesus directly said to the disciples on the road to Emmaus. Luke 24:25-27 says, “And he said to them, ‘O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?’ And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself.”

But, in his prayer, Daniel is acknowledging the need to truly listen to what the prophets are actually saying for the prophets spoke in the name of God. When we understand what the prophets were saying, we have come to an understanding that Jesus Christ had to suffer to restore us and redeem us.

Daniel declares that mercy and forgiveness belong to God and asks the Lord to forgive.

I believe that God’s forgiveness is the greatest revelation of Jesus Christ on the cross. Jesus was perfectly innocent. Yet, all of mankind judged him guilty and executed in the most shameful, violent way anyone could be killed. Yet, during the midst of the crucifixion, Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”

And, three times Daniel acknowledges that Israel had not listened to and obeyed God’s voice.

God had always wanted a people that would listen to his voice. The law written on tablets of stone was given because Israel refused to listen to God’s voice. In John 5:37, Jesus said the Jews had never heard God’s voice because his word was not in them and they did not believe the one he sent. But, in John 10:27, Jesus said, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.”

In John 15, the night before he was crucified, Jesus told the disciples to abide in his words. He was saying to listen to his voice and obey it. They were not to listen to the voice or writing of anyone else, including Moses.

So, we see that much of Daniel’s prayer centered around the a heart change that was related to the crucifixion of Jesus.

And, note the time that Gabriel came to Daniel to give him insight and understanding. Gabriel “came to me swiftly at the time of the evening sacrifice.” The time of the evening sacrifice was the time that Jesus dies on the cross.

It is Jesus Christ crucified that opens our eyes and ears, our minds and hearts, to what God is truly wanting to reveal to us about himself. It’s only when we come to the cross and allow its full impact upon us that we are ready for true insight and understanding.

In 2 Corinthians 3, Paul says that Jesus Christ crucified removes the veil so that we can see God clearly. But, Paul says the same thing about our time of insight and understanding in a different way in Ephesians.

“In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known to us 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.” – Ephesians 1:7-10

“That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in heavenly places.” – Ephesians 1:17-20

What Is the Meaning of Daniel’s 2,300 Days?

TODAY’S READING: DANIEL 6-8

“Then I heard a holy one speaking, and another holy one said to the one who spoke, ‘For how long is the vision concerning the regular burnt offering, the transgression that makes desolate, and the giving over of the sanctuary and host to be trampled?’ And he said to me, ‘For 2,300 evenings and mornings. Then the sanctuary shall be restored to its rightful state.'” – Daniel 8:13-14

If you google this passage of scripture, then you are going to find all kinds of interpretations for the meaning of the 2,300 days in this prophecy. Even all of the commentaries take different approaches, although there are two main interpretations. One is to take the 2,300 evenings and morning as literal days. These interpretations then try to tie this prophecy into Antiochus and his desolation of the temple. The other is to take the 2,300 evenings and mornings as years (the whole one day is a 1,000 years with the Lord thing). Most of these interpretations tie this prophecy into the Catholic church and say something was to supposed to happen in 1800 something.

I have no idea whether either of these interpretations are right or wrong. But, I do know that very few, if any, of the interpretations I looked at make Jesus the center of the interpretation. And, in truth, Jesus as the key to the interpretation is the only interpretation that truly matters.

How do we know this prophecy is about Jesus?

Revelation 19:10 says, “For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.” In other words, all prophecy is about Jesus. Not coincidentally, John wrote this statement after an angel told him to write something and he fell down at the angel’s feet to worship him. John’s situation was pretty similar that of Daniel in his prophecy.

Even more, we know that Daniel’s prophecy is about Christ crucified.

How so?

Luke 24:25-27 says, “And he said to them, ‘O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?’ And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.”

Jesus said to the two disciples on the road to Emmaus that he had to suffer the crucifixion to enter his glory. And, this is what Jesus showed them that Moses and all the Prophets spoke about.

Daniel was a prophet. So, his prophecy was about Jesus and about Jesus crucified.

Further, Daniel 8:26-27 says, “‘The vision of the evenings and the mornings that has been told is true, but seal up the vision, for it refers to many days from now.’ And I, Daniel, was overcome and lay sick for some days. Then I rose and went about the king’s business, but I was appalled by the vision and did not understand it.”

Daniel was given a partial interpretation of the prophecy by the angel Gabriel. But, when it came to the 2,300 evenings and mornings, the angel only told Daniel that the vision was true but that he should seal up the vision. In other words, the angel wasn’t going to tell Daniel what it meant. In addition to meaning “seal up,” the Hebrew word here can mean to block or obstruct.

What blocks or obstructs are understanding of Old Testament prophecies?

A veil.

Who removes the veil that blinds our understanding of Old Testament prophecies?

1 Corinthians 3:12-16 says, “Since we have such a hope, we are very bold, not like Moses, who would put a veil over his face so that the Israelites might not gaze at the outcome of what was being brought to an end. But their minds were hardened. For to this day, when they read the old covenant, that same veil remains unlifted, because only through Christ is it taken away. Yes, to this day whenever Moses is read a veil lies over their hearts. But when one turns to the Lord, the veil is removed.”

Daniel could not yet turn to the Lord. So, he could not have the veil removed. Therefore, the vision was sealed, obstructed, and Daniel could not understand the interpretation.

In Revelation 5, an angel asks, “Who is worthy to open the scroll and break it seals?” John tells us that it was a slain lamb, Christ crucified, that was able to open the seals of the scroll and reveal what it says. Again, we see that it is Jesus Christ crucified that provides us the understanding we need to interpret prophecy.

Within Daniel’s prophecy, the key to understanding it is the statement “Then the sanctuary shall be restored to its rightful state.”

The Hebrew word sanctuary might be more literally translated “holy thing.” The King James version of Luke 1:35 says, “And the angel answered and said unto her, ‘The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore all that holy thing  which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God.'” Jesus is “that holy thing” spoke of in Daniel 8:14.

At the end of the 2,300 days, Jesus, “that holy thing,” would be restored to his rightful state. Philippians 2:6 tells us that Jesus had the form of God. In other words, he had God’s glory. But, he gave up that glory to take on flesh and blood and bear our sin on the cross. So, the night before Jesus was crucified, he prayed, “And now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed.” After his crucifixion, Jesus would be resurrected and restored to his rightful state, to the glory he had with the Father in eternity.

However, even if we go with the common translation of sanctuary or temple, then we still see this as referring to Jesus. We should also keep in mind that the phrase “shall be restored to its rightful state” can also be translated properly restored, vindicated, made right again, or cleansed.

The last possible translation mentioned, “cleansed,” is an interesting one. For, when do we see Jesus cleansing the temple?

John 2:14-15 says, “In the temple he found those who were selling oxen and sheep and pigeons, and the money-changers sitting there. And making a whip of cords, he drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and oxen. And he poured out the coins of the money-changers and overturned their tables.” Here is Jesus cleansing the temple.

The Jews were angered by this and asked Jesus, “What sign do you show us for doing these things?”

Jesus answered, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” John tells us that Jesus was speaking not about the physical temple but the temple of his body, which fits perfectly with what we have already seen in the prophecy by Daniel.

But, the Jews responded to Jesus, “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and you will raise it up in three days?”

Now, this is an interesting response.

Why was it significant to include that the temple had taken 46 years to build?

Because the number 2,300 is 46 x 50.

The number 50 immediately calls to mind the jubilee. And, it was Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection that would usher in the greatest of all jubilees were everyone and everything that believed in him would be set free.

John 8:31, 36 says, “So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, ‘If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free…So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.'”

Surely these numbers are not coincidences, right?

Notice that Jesus says that abiding in his word makes us disciples and causes us to know the truth so that we can be free. And, even this ties into the number 2,300.

John 1:14 says, “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” Jesus is the physical manifestation of the Word of God, the logos. And, he dwelt among. But, the Greek word for dwelt is literally tabernacled. Jesus was literally God’s sanctuary, God’s dwelling place, among us.

It is the Word made flesh, God’s living tabernacle, that ties into the number 2,300.

2,300 is 4 x 575.

The number 4 symbolizes the physical creation. So, here we have the physical manifestation part of Jesus as the Word.

What about the number 575?

Throughout the prophets we read a phrase that typically says “and the word of the Lord came to me.” This phrase and its slight variations occur 45 times in Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Zechariah.

Care to guess what the numerical value of that phrase is?

Try 575.

So, we have 4 x 575 = 2,300, or the physical manifestation of the word of the Lord coming to us as a sanctuary.

The number 2,300 is also 23 x 100. The number 23 symbolizes death and resurrection life throughout the Bible. And, the number 100 symbolizes the child of promise, which of course is Jesus. So, we see the number 2,300 as the death and resurrection of the child of promise, Jesus.

And, all of this fits beautifully with what we read in Daniel 8:13.

“For how long is the vision concerning the regular burnt offering.” The burnt offering was to be offered every evening and morning. But, we know based on this prophecy that at the end of “2,300 evenings and mornings” the burnt offering would come to an end. It was Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross that brought it to an end. Hebrews 10:11-12 says, “And every priest stands daily at his service, offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God.”

This is followed by “the transgression that makes desolate.” The transgression of all transgressions in history was the crucifixion of the most innocent person to who have ever lived, Jesus. And, it was the crucifixion of Jesus that made the temple desolate, empty, and ultimately brought about the destruction of Jerusalem as the Jews turned away from the way of peace that Jesus was showing them.

This is followed by “and the giving over of the sanctuary.” Jesus, the sanctuary, the tabernacle, the temple, was given over to the Romans by the Jews to be crucified. They delivered him up to Pilate.

This is followed by “and the host to be trampled underfoot.” Who is the host of the sanctuary, the tabernacle, the temple? The one who lives there. Jesus it the host of the tabernacle. And, he was trampled under the feet of the Gentiles at his crucifixion.

So, whenever we read prophecies, particularly those that seem difficult to understand and interpreted by many in all kinds of ways, we need to always look to Jesus for the true meaning. For, it is the testimony of Jesus that is the spirit of prophecy. All scripture truly speaks of Jesus and what he needed to suffer to enter his glory and deliver us from sin and death.

Who Is the King that God Sets Up?

TODAY’S READING: DANIEL 4-5

“Till you know that the Most High rules the kingdom of men and gives it to whom he will.” – Daniel 4:25

“Until you know that the Most High rules the kingdom of mean and gives it to whom he will.” – Daniel 4:32

“Until he knew that the Most High God rules the kingdom of mankind and sets over it whom he will.” – Daniel 5:21

The first two verses above were spoken by Daniel to Nebuchadnezzar in interpretation of a dream about his kingdom. Nebuchadnezzar thought it was himself and his greatness and glory that made him and his kingdom great. The last verse was spoken to Belshazzar, Nebuchadnezzar’s son, as a reminder of what happened to his father as Daniel was interpreting the handwriting on the wall for Belshazzar. The next day Belshazzar lost his kingdom.

We tend to read statements about God choosing a king whom he wills over the kingdom of men as a statement of fact that God has hand selected every king that has ever ruled over any kingdom, government, or nation on the earth.

But, in order to believe this, one would have to believe that God hand selected Genghis Khan, Hitler, Pol Pot, and every other evil leader to rule these nations. If this is true, then there is a lot of innocent blood on God’s hands.

Not only that, but if we believe that God has appointed every ruler over the kingdom of mankind, then we must believe that he appointed Satan to rule over us. For Satan had the rule over every kingdom of this world.

Matthew 4:8-9 says, “again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. And he said to him, ‘All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.'” Satan could not have made this offer to Jesus if he was not truly ruling all the kingdoms of this world.”

In 2 Corinthians 4:4, Paul indicated that Satan was the ruler of the kingdom of mankind when he said, “In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.”

1 John 5:19 says “the whole world lies in the power of the evil one.”

In John 12:31, Jesus said, “Now is the judgment of this world; now will the ruler of this world be cast out.”

Surely, God would not have made Satan the ruler of the world only for Satan to blind us to the truth of God so that God could send his son to cast Satan out of this world so that we could know the truth about God. This could kind of view makes God a jumbled mess working against his own purposes.

So, instead of reading “the Most High God rules the kingdom of men of mankind and sets over it whom he will” as a statement that God has handpicked every king, we need to read this as a statement that God has always had in mind a king that would ruled mankind according to his own will.

And, that king is Jesus.

Go back to Genesis 1:26, which says, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion.” Genesis 1 is a take on all the creation myths of the ancient near-eastern cultures. These myths were used by the kings in these lands to show that they had descended directly from the gods to rule over all the people. But, in Genesis 1, God is overturning that way of thinking, saying that he had appointed all mankind to have dominion according to his own image.

Further, Genesis 1:27 says, “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.” But, it is not just men that were created in God’s image to rule, women were created in God’s image as well. And, as we read on into Genesis 2, we find the man and the woman, Adam and Eve, are actually a picture of Jesus and the church, the man and the the woman, that are to have dominion over the earth according to God’s own image.

Therefore, in Genesis 1 and 2 we see God desires a ruler over mankind as he wills. And, the ruler God wills has to rule according to God’s image.

Genesis 5:1 says that “when God created man, he made him in the likeness of God.” But, Adam chose not to remain in that likeness. Adam chose to rule according to his knowledge of good and evil. So, when Adam, indeed all mankind, produced offspring, he did so according to “his own likeness, after his image,” according to Genesis 5:3.

So, all men and women are the image of Adam, not God. Therefore, no man or woman ruled as God wills. No earthly king, and certainly not Satan, ruled in the image of God. Therefore, none of these kings were hand selected by God to rule the kingdom of mankind.

But, Colossians 1:15 says, “He [Jesus] is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation.” Jesus is the one that the Most High God wills to rule over the kingdom of mankind.

This is just what Paul goes on to say in Colossians 1:16-20. “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. And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.”

God even directly proclaimed that Jesus was the one he had chosen to rule over the kingdom of mankind. When Jesus was baptized, Mark 1:11 says, “And a voice came from heaven, ‘You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.” Then, on the mount of transfiguration, a picture of Jesus in his ascended glory on the throne of God, Mark 9:7 says, “And a cloud overshadowed them, and a voice came out of the cloud, ‘This is my beloved Son; listen to him.”

Why are we to listen to Jesus?

Because he is the true king, the one whom the Most High God has willed to rule over mankind from the foundation of the world.

Notice that Paul said in Colossians 1:20 that all of this was “by the blood of his cross.” And, in John 12:32, just after he said the ruler of this world would be cast out, Jesus said, “And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.”

So, we see that Jesus’ death on the cross was necessary to reveal the true king of mankind. For, it is the cross, God’s giving of his own life for us, that revealed the greatness of God’s love. Not only did the cross reveal the greatness of God’s love, but it revealed that God is love. God is the self-sacrificial giving of self for the benefit of others. This is only possible because God is three in one. For, if God were singular, the God could not be love in his eternal nature. There would have been nobody, no other, to love.

God’s three-in-one nature brings an interesting element to the handwriting on the wall that judged Belshazzar, who is a picture of the ruler of this world and all men who have sat as a king over men.

The handwriting on the wall was “Mene, mene, tekel, parsin.” Daniel interpreted this as Belshazzar had been numbered and weighed and found wanting, meaning that he did not have what it takes to rule. He was not in God’s image of love and therefore not qualified to rule. Therefore, the kingdom was divided and taken from him.

What I find fascinating is that the handwriting on the wall – mene, mene, tekel, parsin – that revealed Belshazzar unfit for the throne over mankind has a numerical value of 1,118. This is the exact same numerical value of what the Jews call the Shema.

What is the Shema?

It is Deuteronomy 6:4, which says, “Hear, O Israel: The Lord Our God, the Lord is one.”

Do you know what the next verse says?

“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.” According to Jesus, the greatest commandment, which stems from knowing that the Lord our God is one. Three in one. God is love.

Surely it is not a coincidence that the judgment of Belshazzar has the same numerical value as one of the most important revelatory statements in all of scripture. And, it is this judgment, this statement of who God is, three in one, love, that reveals who is the one, Jesus, that is in God’s image whom God wills to be on the throne ruling over the kingdom of mankind.