Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah Picture Jesus

TODAY’S READING: DANIEL 1-3

“Among these were Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah  of the tribe of Judah.” – Daniel 1:6

The book of Ezekiel starts with a vision of four living creatures that represent the four aspects of Jesus through the four gospels. Each of the four faces of the four living creatures displayed Jesus seen from a certain angle. I wrote about this in Four Creature, Four Faces, Four Gospels, All Jesus.

I believe we something similar in Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah.

First, let’s look at the meaning of their names.

Daniel means God is my judge, God rules me, or judge of God.

Interestingly, in Matthew, the gospel of Jesus as king, Jesus never spoke of himself as a judge or judging, even though a king has the right to judge. Although, Jesus himself is judged by men and men deemed him worthy of death. In Mark, the gospel of Jesus as servant, the word judge does not appear for a servant has no authority to judge. In Luke, the gospel of Jesus as “the” man, the only time Jesus referred to himself in the context of judging he said, “Man, who made a judge or arbitrator over you?”

It’s really only in the gospel of John, which presents Jesus as God, as the son of God, that Jesus refers to himself as one who judges.

Jesus said in John 5:22, 26-27, “For the Father judges no one, but has given all judgment to the Son…For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself. And he has given him authority to execute judgment, because he is the Son of Man.”

Jesus said the Father gave him the judgment. But, he qualified this by saying that has life in himself and has given the son this life also. And, it is this life, this giving of life, that is the authority by which Jesus judges. Jesus’ judgment gives life.

Jesus goes on to say in John 5:30, “I can do nothing on my own. As I hear, I judge, and my judgment is just, because I seek not my own will but the will of him who sent me.” Jesus’ judgment is just because he judges only as the Father tells him to judge. Because God is life, the judgment is life.

Jesus said in John 8:15-16, “You judge according to the flesh; I judge no one. Yet even If I do judge, my judgment is true, for it is not I alone who judge, but I and the Father who sent me.” We judge according to the flesh and for retribution. But, Jesus does not judge according to the flesh, which means he judges according to the Spirit. Therefore, he judges by the Father who is spirit and who is life. Jesus judges life and this is why his judgment is true.

Hananiah means Yahweh has been gracious or graciously given of the Lord.

I believe this corresponds to Jesus as seen in the gospel of Matthew. As I have said, Matthew presents Jesus as king. We expect a king to judge according to the law, to enforce the law, to rule according to the law. According to man’s ideas, a should be about justice in the sense that even should get what they deserve and pay someone back in kind for the wrong that they have done. This, retribution, was the basis of the Hebrew law.

But, Matthew presents Jesus as a different kind of king. Matthew presents Jesus as a king who deals graciously with people. Jesus as a king sets things right instead of merely doling out justice through punishment and retribution.

This is the entirety of the sermon on the mount in Matthew 5-7. This is the declaration, the promulgation, that initiates the kingdom of God and the law of King Jesus. And, throughout most of his declaration, Jesus overturns or flips on its head the law that Jews heard through Moses. Instead of retribution – an eye for eye – Jesus says his law is about grace and restoration. Jesus says his law is epitomized by loving your enemies, doing good to your enemies and not evil, for God pours out his rain, his favor, his grace, on the good and the evil, the just and the unjust.

The name Mishael (also Michael) means who is like God or, perhaps more literally, what is God like?

I believe this corresponds to the picture of Jesus as seen in the gospel of Luke. Here, Jesus is presented as “the” man. In Luke, Jesus shows us that God identifies with man.

Hebrews 2:14 says, “Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things.”

Therefore, Hebrews 4:15 says, “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.”

Not only does God identify with man, but God became man.

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, 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 as “the” man shows us just what God is like.

Azariah means helped of God, Yahweh has helped, the Lord has helped.

I believe this corresponds to the gospel of Mark where Jesus is presented as servant. A servant is one who helps. This is just what Jesus does at all times.

So, we have four separate men, but when taken together they give us the complete picture of Jesus as seen in the gospels.

But, three of these gospels – Matthew, Mark, and Luke – are similar in nature while one – John – stands out as distinct. Matthew, Mark, and Luke present Jesus more as a man who is a king, a servant, and “the” man or priest that mediates God’s presence. However, John presents Jesus as God, the son of God.

So, we see a similar distinction in the book of Daniel. Daniel is often presented by himself in a given story while we see Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah (Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego as we may more commonly know them) acting together in a given story.

It’s actually a quite common feature in scripture that when we see a list of four things that three of them of them are similar and one is unique. This is meant to remind us of the nature of Jesus as seen in the gospels.

So, notice in Daniel 2 in the story of Nebuchadnezzar dreams about the image we see Daniel basically acting alone.

Nebuchadnezzar’s image, a statue made of different metals and some clay, is a picture of man’s kingdoms that attempt to rule the world. But, Daniel reveals that Nebuchadnezzar’s image will be destroyed by a rock not cut by human hands. Of course, this rock is Jesus. And, Jesus is the image of the invisible God.

So, it’s fitting in this story that we see Daniel acting alone as this story is about which image will rule the world. Will it be the image and kingdom that man has constructed or the image of God, Jesus, the son of God, the kingdom that has not been made by human hands?

But, in Daniel 3 we have a story about an image that Nebuchadnezzar had made. Again, this image about the rule of man as the dimensions of the statue feature the number 6, which often symbolizes man.

However, the story is not about who is the image but will you worship the image. So, in this story we see Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah – the three pictures of Jesus as man – refusing to bow down and the worship the kingdom that man has created.

So, the four men – Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah – are needed to give us the complete picture of Jesus.

What Is Ezekiel Pointing Towards?

TODAY’S READING: EZEKIEL 47-48

“The circumference of the city shall be 18,000 cubits. And the name of the city from that time shall, The Lord Is There.” – Ezekiel 48:35

This is closing verse of Ezekiel. In a sense, we could say this closing sentence is everything that Ezekiel is pointing towards.

So, how do we Jesus in what Ezekiel is pointing towards? And, what do the names of the tribes, the allotment of the land, and the gates of the city have to do with seeing Jesus in Ezekiel’s closing statement?

We know that in the last verse of Ezekiel that the city being referred to is Jerusalem. More properly, given everything the vision Ezekiel had, we should think of this city as the New Jerusalem.

Revelation 21:2-3 says, “And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God.”

So, the new Jerusalem, the holy city, is likened to a bride. This city is the dwelling place of God with man. God himself will be with his people there. Indeed, the Lord is there.

We are even told about the gates of the new Jerusalem. Revelation 22:12-13 says, “It had a great, high wall, with twelve gates, and at the gates twelve angels, and on the gates the names of the twelve tribes of the sons of Israel were inscribed – on the east three gates, on the north three gates, on the south three gates, and on the west three gates.” This connects back to Ezekiel because this is exactly what Ezekiel said about the city he saw in his vision.

This it the city that Abraham was looking for when obeyed God and left the land and household of his father.  Hebrews 11:10 says, “For he was looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God.”

All of this points to the city in Ezekiel’s closing sentence as not a physical city but to Jesus. Specifically, Jesus dwelling with his bride.

We read in Revelation that the city had 12 gates with the names of the tribes of Israel on them. And, this is the case in Ezekiel. But, to get the full meaning of Ezekiel, we need to take a step back. For this city was in the land of Israel that was allotted to the 12 tribes.

Earlier this year, I wrote about the meaning of the names of the 12 tribes of Israel and the names of Manasseh and Ephraim in The Story of Jesus and Israel through the 12 Tribes and  The Story of Jesus and Israel Is Incomplete without Manasseh and Ephraim. Throughout the Bible, the 12 tribes, which are actually 13 tribes, are listed in different orders. When we consider the order of the tribes and the meanings of their names, we can discern something about what God is trying to say in that particular passage of scripture.

In Ezekiel 48:1-29, when we read of how the land was allotted, the order of the tribes are:

  1. Dan
  2. Asher
  3. Naphtali
  4. Manasseh
  5. Ephraim
  6. Reuben
  7. Judah
  8. Benjamin
  9. Simeon
  10. Issachar
  11. Zebulun
  12. Gad

So, if we took the sentences spoken at each of the births of the son that fathered these tribes, then we would have a paragraph like the following:

God has judged me and heard my voice. Happy I am for women have called me happy. With many wrestlings I have wrestled and prevailed. For God has made me forget all my hardship and all my father’s house. For God has made me fruitful in the land of my affliction. Because the Lord has looked upon my affliction, my husband will love me. I will praise the Lord. The son of my right hand, the highly regarded son. Because the Lord has heard that I am hated, he has given me this son also. God has given me my wages because I gave my servant to my husband. God has endowed me with a good endowment and now my husband will honor me. Good fortune has come.

Now, remember that this was how the land was allotted. So, we are not in the city, the dwelling place of the Lord, at this point.

So, notice how the paragraph seems to start with us. We were judged. We wrestled. We forget our hardship. We became fruitful in the land of our affliction.

But, it is not until the middle of this paragraph that we begin to see Jesus. My husband will love me. I will praise the Lord, the son of his right hand, the highly regarded son.

And, by the end we know the good that God has endowed us with. Good has come to us.

While Levi did not receive an inheritance, an allotment, in the land, he is inserted into the middle of the tribes and the description of their allotment. This is interesting because the Levites were the priests. The function of the priests is to mediate the presence of God to the people. That is, they are to join God and the people.

This is exactly the sentence spoken over Levi at his birth. “This time my husband will be attached to me.” In the paragraph above, Levi is their to join the people to God.

Notice where Levi falls in the description of the allotment of the land – between Judah and Benjamin. Judah means “I will praise the Lord.” Benjamin means “the son of my right hand, the highly regarded son.” So, it is in the midst of praising the Lord, Jesus Christ, the son of God’s right hand, that we are joined to God.

It’s also interesting that Levi does not fall exactly in the middle of the allotment of the tribes. In other words, there are not six tribes on one side Levi and six tribes on the other. Since Levi falls between Judah and Benjamin, there are seven tribes before Levi and five tribes after.

Seven is the number of spiritual perfection. As we progress to being joined with the Lord we are spiritually perfected or matured.

Five is the number of grace. Having been joined to the Lord through spiritual perfection or maturity, we truly experience God’s grace.

Ezekiel 48:30-35 tells us about the gates of the city. When we come to the 12 gates of the city, the order of the tribes is different. Not only is the order of the tribes different, but the tribes themselves are different. Here is their order:

  1. Reuben
  2. Judah
  3. Levi
  4. Joseph
  5. Benjamin
  6. Dan
  7. Simeon
  8. Issachar
  9. Zebulun
  10. Gad
  11. Asher
  12. Naphtali

And, here is the paragraph we get from the meanings of these names.

Because the Lord has looked upon my affliction, my husband will love me. I will praise the Lord. This time my husband will be attached to me. God has taken away my reproach. May the Lord add to me another son. The son of my right hand. The highly regard son. God has judged me and heard my voice. Because the Lord has heard that I am hated, he has given me this son also. God has given me my wages because I gave my servant to my husband. God has endowed me with a good endowment and now my husband will honor me. Good fortune has come. Happy am I for women have called me happy. With many wrestlings I have wrestled and prevailed.

When I read this paragraph, I see it starting with Jesus and the cross instead of me. My husband will love me, which we only know because of the cross. My husband will be attached to me, which we only know because asked the Father to forgive us from the cross. God has taken away my reproach through Jesus’ death on the cross.

In the middle of this paragraph, we focus on the son. The Lord adds a son. The son of his right hand, the highly regarded son. I have been judged by this son. But, the judgment of the son from the cross is forgiveness.

By the end of the paragraph, we are extolling what God has done. A good endowment. Good fortune, Happiness or joy.

But, notice that when we get to the city, when we want to enter the city, that Manasseh and Ephraim have been dropped from the list.

Manasseh means “God has made me forget all my hardship all my father’s house.” Truly, when we enter the city where the Lord is, we forget all of our hardships, all of our struggles, and our father’s house that we had to leave, like Abraham, to reach the city whose builder and maker is God.

Ephraim means “For God has made me fruitful in the land of affliction.” When we enter the city, no longer are fruitful in the land of our affliction, a strange land. Now we are fruitful in the city where the Lord is.

Instead of Manasseh and Ephraim we have Levi and Joseph. We are joined or attached to the Lord because of another son, Jesus. We are the bride of Jesus. Therefore, in Revelation, John describes the new Jerusalem, the holy city, coming down from God in heaven, as a bride, the bride of Jesus.

And, this brings to Ezekiel’s closing sentence.

The only way to enter the city was through the gates of 12 tribes. In other words, as the paragraph above shows, the only way to enter the city was through the work, the cross, of Christ.

The circumference of the city that contained these gates was 18,000 cubits.

Why is this significant?

The Hebrew word life has a numerical value of 18.

And, 1,000 is 10 cubed. The number 10 symbolizes orderly perfection. But, when a number is cubed it magnifies and intensifies the meaning of the number.

So, in the number 18,000 we have the magnification or intensification of the orderly perfection of life. Since this is the circumference of the city, when we enter the city we are surrounded by the intensity of life.

Also, it is interesting that the numerical value of the Hebrews words for 18,000 is 1,071.

What else has the value of 1,071?

In the Hebrew, the phrase “the righteous shall inherit the land” has a value of 1,071.

In the Greek, the phrase “white robes” and the words “joint-heirs” and “sinless” all have the numerical value of 1,071. Those in the city have put on the white robes of righteousness. They are sinless. They are joint-heirs with Christ.

The number 1,071 is interesting because it is 7 x 153. Seven, as I have said, is the number of spiritual perfection. And, 153 is that seemingly oh so strange number of fish that John records the disciples catching out of the sea after Jesus’ resurrection when Jesus told them to drop the net. So, the city is filled with the spiritual perfection of the lives saved by the gospel.

And, this city is name The Lord is There. In the Hebrew, this name has a numerical value of 371. The number 371 is 7 x 53. As, I just said, seven is the number of spiritual perfection.

But, what about the number 53?

Here are some of the words in Hebrew and Greek that have a numerical value of 53: stone, prophecy, message, the jubilee.

These aren’t just random words. These are all words that related to Jesus. Jesus is the stone that builders rejected. The spirit of prophecy is the testimony of Jesus. Jesus gave us the message that God is light and in him is no darkness at all.

As the cornerstone, Jesus is the foundation of the city that Abraham was looking for. Paul says that the foundation that has been laid is Christ and that no other foundation can be laid. So, when we enter into the city whose name is The Lord Is There, we have come to the true spiritual understanding of who Jesus is and the message who came to give us.

I Am Their Inheritance

TODAY’S READING: EZEKIEL 44-46

“This shall be their inheritance: I am their inheritance: and you shall give them no possession in Israel; I am their possession.” – Ezekiel 44:28

The their in this sentence is the Levites, or the priests. More specifically, it is the Levites that are the sons of Zadok. The name Zadok means just or righteous. The priests that are sons of the just or righteous receive no possession in the land of Israel. However, God is their inheritance.

But, who are the priests, the sons of Zadok?

In 1 Peter 2:9, Peter says, “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession.”

Revelation 1:5-6 says, “To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood and made us a kingdom, priests to his God and Father.”

All those that are loved by Jesus and have been freed from their sins by the power of the cross are priests. And, as priests we do not receive an inheritance in the land of Israel, a physical inheritance, but we receive God himself as our inheritance.

In the gospels, Jesus speaks of inheriting the kingdom that was prepared for us from the foundation of the world. Also, Jesus is asked several times what must be done to inherit eternal life.

In the rest of the New Testament, we read of inheriting the kingdom of God.

Luke 17:20-21 says, “Being asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, he answered the, ‘The kingdom of God is not coming in ways that can be observed, nor will they say, ‘Look, here it is!’ or ‘There!’ for behold, the kingdom of God is in the midst of you.'” So, the kingdom of God is not a physical thing to be seen, but it is something in the midst of us, in our hearts.

Romans 14:17 says, “For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.” Remember in Matthew 6 Jesus told us not to go seeking after what we need to eat and drink and wear but to seek first the kingdom of God.

In Galatians 5, Paul says that those who do the works of the flesh will not inherit the kingdom. The very next sentence is “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.” Paul is saying that when you have the kingdom in your heart, then you will display the fruit of the Spirit. So, the kingdom that we inherit is the fruit of the Spirit. Notice how Paul’s statement about the fruit of the Spirit is expanded version of what he says about the kingdom of God.

So, we do not inherit a physical kingdom, but the kingdom of God. Indeed, we inherit God himself. And, this means that we inherit wisdom and life.

This is what Paul speaks of in Ephesians 1:17-18, which says, “that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him, having the eyes of your heart enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints.”

 

Our inheritance is Jesus, wisdom, eternal life, God in our hearts.

Filling Ezekiel’s Temple

TODAY’S READING: EZEKIEL 41-43

“Then he led me to the gate, the gate facing east. And behold, the glory of the God of Israel was coming from the east. And the sound of his coming was like the sound of many waters, and the earth shone with his glory. And the vision I saw was…just like the vision that I had seen by the Chebar canal. And I fell on my face. As the glory of the Lord entered the temple by the gate facing east, the Spirit lifted me up and brought me into the inner court; and behold, the glory of the Lord filled the temple.” – Ezekiel 43:1-5

In yesterday’s post, I wrote that the vision of Ezekiel’s temple was fulfilled by Jesus Christ when he died and raised the temple, his body, three day later. And, ultimately, since we are the body of Christ, we are the third temple in Ezekiel.

In today’s reading, we see more evidence that links Ezekiel’s temple with Jesus and us. Ezekiel says that the vision of his temple is like the vision he had by the Chebar canal. I wrote in my first post on Ezekiel that the vision by the Chebar canal was a vision of Jesus’ baptism. In Jesus’ baptism, Jesus, the tabernacle of God in our midst, was the filled with the Holy Spirit, the glory of the Lord. This is why the vision by the Chebar canal is like the vision of Ezekiel’s temple. They are both about the Spirit filling with the glory of the Lord.

The language of the the glory coming and the earth shining with God’s glory reminds me of John 1.

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 1:14 says, “And the Word became flesh and dwelt [tabernacled] among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.”

Matthew 3:16 says, “And when Jesus was baptized, immediately he went up from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened to him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove coming to rest on him.”

After Jesus was crucified and resurrected, he began building his temple that was destroyed. It started with his own resurrection body that was filled with the Holy Spirit. But, Jesus breathed the Holy Spirit in his disciples too. John 20:22 says, “And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit.'”

Then, the Holy Spirit fell on the 120 disciples in the upper room. Acts 2:3-4 says, “And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rest on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance.”

Finally, Paul says that we the temple that the Holy Spirit is building for a dwelling place for God. Ephesians 2:19-22 says, “So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.”

The New Testament is quite clear that Ezekiel’s vision of the temple is fulfilled in the body of Christ that is God’s temple, God’s dwelling place. And, in the end, this temple covers the whole earth because God will be dwelling in all people.

Jesus Is Ezekiel’s Third Temple

TODAY’S READING: EZEKIEL 39-40

“In the twenty-fifth year of exile, at the beginning of the year, on the tenth day of the month, in the fourteenth year after the city was struck down, on that very day, the hand of the Lord was upon me, and he brought me to the city.” – Ezekiel 40:1

This is the introduction to the vision of Ezekiel’s temple. Many Jews and many Christians are looking forward to the construction of this temple. The Jews have plans to build this temple and have already begun constructing some of the furniture. Many Christians are donating toward this effort.

But, is Ezekiel’s vision of a third temple about a physical temple that is to be constructed in the end times?

My answer is no.

Because of Jesus!

John 2 describes the scene of Jesus driving the animals out of the temple and flipping over the tables of the money changers. The Jews asked Jesus, “what sign do you show us for these things?” Jesus answered, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” The Jews (an apparently many Christians still today) though Jesus was referring to the physical temple because they asked Jesus how he would raise it up in three days when it took 46 years to build the current temple.

But, John 2:21-22 says, “But he was speaking about the temple of his body. When therefore he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this, and they believed the Scripture and the word that Jesus had spoken.

Did you catch that? They believed what Jesus said. But, in addition to that, there was scripture that declared what Jesus had spoken as well.

Could it be that when we read Ezekiel 40:1 through the lens of Jesus we see that the third temple that Jesus said he would and did build, the temple of his body, is the same temple Ezekiel is describing?

The timing of this vision is no coincidence. And, I believe the timing reveals that the temple in Ezekiel’s vision is none other than the temple of Jesus’ body that he raised three days after he was crucified.

The vision takes place in the 25th year of the exile on tenth day of the month. While the month is not given, we know that it is the first month because Ezekiel writes the vision was “at the beginning of the year.”

John 1:14 says, “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.” The word dwelt is literally tabernacled in the Greek. Jesus tabernacled, or was a temple, among us and because of that we saw God’s glory, which was full of grace.

Further, John 1:16 says, “For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace.” Grace is symbolized by the number five throughout the Bible. “Grace upon grace” would be 5 x 5, or 25.

Jesus came to us in grace and we have received from him “grace upon grace.” So, this statement by John corresponds to Ezekiel’s vision coming to him in the 25th year of the exile.

Now, it was on the 10th day of the first month of this 25th year of the exile that Ezekiel had this vision of the third temple. The first month is the month of the Passover. And, the 10th day of the first month is the day that the Passover lamb was selected.

This corresponds precisely with Jesus’ crucifixion. Hence, Jesus is the Passover Lamb. Notice that Ezekiel says in his vision God brought him to the city, referring to Jerusalem, on the 10th of the first month. This was the day that Jesus entered Jerusalem and was selected as the Passover lamb. And, it was three days after Jesus was crucified that he raised up the temple of his body.

Therefore, the timing of Ezekiel’s vision of the third temple coincides perfectly with the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus, which Jesus said was the rebuilding of the temple of his body and the authority for what he did in the temple in John 2.

Ezekiel further says, perhaps in a parenthetical phrase, that this vision occurred in the 14th year after Jerusalem was struck down. Fourteen symbolizes deliverance in the Bible. And, it was Jesus’ death on the cross that delivered us from Satan, sin, and death. This was the work Jesus was sent to do by the Father.

Given that this was Jesus’ work, we should not be surprised that this third temple that Ezekiel sees is marked by the number 6. This is not true of the tabernacle of Moses or the temple of Solomon.

Notice that the measuring reed that was used for Ezekiel’s temple was six cubits long. Measuring reeds are symbolic of judgment. So, we can see that everything will be measured by the work of Christ. Whatever does not measure up to the work of Christ will be burned up. What does not measure up is the dross of the silver that needs to be burned away so that the pure silver, which symbolizes our redemption, can be revealed.

Ezekiel tells us that the wall of the temple he sees is six cubits high and six cubits thick. Further, he tells us that the threshold, or the width, of the gate on the east is six cubits. So, to enter the temple from the east you had to enter a cubed spaced that was 6 x 6 x 6.

This cubed space symbolizes the work of Jesus. And, we must enter into the temple, God’s presence, through the work – the crucifixion, death, and resurrection of Jesus.

Even the New Testament authors tell us that the third temple is not a physical temple but the body of Jesus.

In Acts, Stephen says that God does not dwell in temples made by man’s hands. The very purpose and idea of a temple is for it to be a dwelling place of God. But, Stephen says that God does not dwell in physical temples made by the hands of man. So, we have no need to look for a future physical temple in Israel. God won’t be dwelling there.

Paul says that we are God’s temple. We are the third temple that Ezekiel saw in his vision. For, we are the body of Christ, which is the temple of God that was raised up three days after the crucifixion. Paul was able to see this because he no longer read the Old Testament by the literal letter and through the veil that covered it. He know read the Old Testament through the crucified Christ, who tore the veil that kept us from seeing God so clearly. I believe that Paul would say that all those looking for another physical temple would like the Jews, who are still reading the Old Testament through the veil (see 2 Corinthians 3 and 4).

As is always the case, Jesus transforms and then fulfills the visions and prophecies of the Old Testament.

How Does God Act for the Sake of His Name that Was Profaned?

TODAY’S READING: EZEKIEL 36-38

“But when they came to the nations, wherever they came, they profaned my holy name, in that people said of them, ‘These are the people of the Lord, and yet they had to go out of his land.’ But I had concern for my holy name, which the house of Israel had profaned among the nations to which they came. ‘Therefore say to the house of Israel, Thus says the Lord God: It is not for your sake, O house of Israel, that I am about to act, but for the sake of my holy name, which you have profaned among the nations to which you came. And I will vindicate the holiness of my great name, which has been profaned among the nations, and which you have profaned among them. And the nations will know that I am the Lord, declares the Lord God, when through you I vindicate my holiness before their eyes.'” – Ezekiel 36:21-23

Israel was to be a light to the nations. They were to be a people that revealed the glory of God to the nations around them.

But, when Israel went to the nations, instead of being a light, revealing the glory of God, Israel had profaned the holy name of God.

How did they profane the name of God?

Ezekiel 37:17-18 says, “When the house  of Israel lived in their own land, they defiled it be their ways and their deeds. Their ways before me were like the uncleanness of a woman in her menstrual impurity…for the blood that the had shed in the land.”

Ezekiel uses the metaphor of woman in her menstrual impurity to show that Israel had profaned the name of God by shedding blood.

What does it mean to profane something?

The Hebrew word translated profane means to be defiled, to profane, to desecrate, to render unholy, to put into use. According to the Lexham Theological Workbook, this Hebrew word describes the act of defiling something holy by treating it as common.

In English, the word profane means to treat (something sacred) with abuse, irreverence, or contempt; to debase by a wrong, unworthy, or vulgar use.

Israel took the name of God, which was holy, and made it common. They treated the name of God with abuse, irreverence, contempt. They debased the name of God by putting it to use in a wrong, unworthy, and vulgar manner.

How did they profane the name, the character, of God? How did they make God’s name, his character, unholy?

Israel made God’s name and character unholy by shedding blood, by warring, by killing their enemies.

But, God said he was going to act. He was not going to act for the sake of Israel. No, he was going to act for the sake of his holy name, his holy character. God was going to restore, to vindicate, the holiness of his name. And, when the nations saw the vindication of his holy name they would know that he is Lord.

What is the holiness of God, of God’s name?

1 Peter 1:14-16 says, “As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, ‘You shall be holy, for I am holy.'”

We are to be holy in the same way that God is holy.

Jesus said this another way in Matthew 5:48, which says, “You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” To be perfect is to be spiritually mature, to be complete, to be holy. Therefore,, Jesus is saying to be holy as God is holy.

In verses 5:46-47, Jesus tells us what being perfect, being holy, as God is holy is not like. He says, “For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same?”

The Gentiles love as the world loves. They love their own and hate their enemies. The Gentiles shed the blood of their names. And, notice that Peter said not to be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance. Peter is saying don’t love the way used to, loving only your brother or those that love you. For, this is what Israel was doing when Ezekiel prophesied that they profaned the name of the Lord by shedding blood.

Loving as the Gentiles did and Israel did in its former ignorance was to love those who love you and hate those who hate you. But, this was not being holy as God is holy, perfect as God is perfect. Rather, it was to profane the name of God, to put God’s name and character to common use. For, it is quite common to shed the blood of your enemies.

So then, what is being holy as God is holy, perfect as God is perfect?

Jesus tells us in Matthew 5:43-45. “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 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 on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.”

Is it not clear what it means to be holy as God is holy, perfect as God is perfect?

It means to love your enemies, to do good to your enemies. This is what makes God holy. This is what makes God uncommon, unique, set apart. And, it is the same for us.

We are not holy because we hold to a set of rules, to some more guidelines. We are holy because love as God loves.

How do we know God loves us?

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.”

We know God is love because Jesus Christ died for us.

When did Jesus die for us?

Romans 5:6, 8, 10 says, “For while we were still weak, at the right time Chris died for the ungodly…But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us…For while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son.”

God loved us, Christ died for us, while we God’s enemies.

This is what makes God holy. God is not holy because he cannot tolerate sin and what destroy all sinners in an everlasting fire forever and ever. No, God is holy because instead of killing his enemies he dies for them.

Throughout the ages, men have used God’s name as justification to kill their enemies. The Old Testament shows that Israel did this repeatedly.

But, in Ezekiel, God said he would act to vindicate the holiness of his name. He wa not going to act for the sake of Israel. He was going to act for the sake of his name.

The singular act, the sine qua non, that God performed to vindicate the holiness of name for all ages was to die on the cross, to die the most shameful death ever devised by men, the most wicked and vile intention of all the evil intentions of man’s heart.

God vindicated the holiness of his name by shedding his blood not by shedding the blood of others.

The singular act of Jesus crucified on the cross defines the name and character of God. This act is what makes God holy. This is why Jesus was the slain lamb before the foundation of the world. He is so because this is who God is.

And, in case you are wondering, for Jesus to come again to slaughter millions, to confine people to an everlasting, eternal judgment of fire, to destroy millions, would be to profane the name and character of God.

God doesn’t kill his enemies. He dies for them.

Jesus Is No Longer Mute

TODAY’S READING: EZEKIEL 33-35

“In the twelfth year of our exile, in the tenth month, on the fifth day of the month, a fugitive from Jerusalem came to me and said, ‘The city has been struck down.’ Now the hand of the Lord had been upon me the evening before the fugitive came, and he had opened my mouth by the time the man came to me in the morning, so my mouth was opened, and I was no longer mute.” – Ezekiel 33:21-22

Ezekiel receives word that Jerusalem has been burned down. It has been destroyed. He hears this from a fugitive, or a survivor or one who has escaped the destruction.

In regards to this passage, almost every commentary I checked debates the historical accuracy of the fugitive coming to Ezekiel in the 12th year of the exile. Some reason there must be an error because Jerusalem was destroyed 18 months prior to this and the journey from Jerusalem to Babylon was only four to five months. Others suggest that the fall of Jerusalem happened a year later than the other scholars claim. Therefore, the fugitive’s journey would have been the expected four to five months.

But, not one commentary I read made any attempt to connect this to Jesus. But, this should be the first approach to every passage of scripture as Jesus said in Luke 24 and John 5 that all scripture witnesses to him. Our first approach to scripture should not be a literal approach that attempts to fit the events into a precise historical context as created by historians and archaeologists.

What does the passage say about Jesus?

As I read through the passage, “so my mouth was opened, and I was no longer mute” really stood out to me.

When was Jesus mute and he began to speak?

Luke 2:42 says that “when he was twelve years old” Jesus, Mary and Joseph went to Jerusalem for the passover. Mary and Joseph set out to return to Nazareth, but Jesus stayed behind.

Luke 2:46-47 says, “After three days they found him in the temple, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. And all who heard him were amazed at his understanding and his answers.” While we are not told what Jesus said, we are told the first account of Jesus speaking when he was twelve years old. And, later in the same passage, Luke records the first words of Jesus in any of the gospels.

Twelve is the number of governmental perfection or divine authority. The first mention of Jesus speaking, of being no longer mute, was when he was 12 years old in the temple. The temple was God’s dwelling place. The temple was the place that God ruled from. It was from here that his government and authority issued forth.  So, in the life of Jesus we have quite a connection between speaking, no longer being mute, the number 12, and divine authority.

As an interesting aside to the number 12 and divine authority, the 12th time Luke uses the name Jesus is in Luke 4:14-15, which says, “And Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit to Galilee, and a report about him went out through all the surrounding country. And he taught in their synagogues, being glorified by all.” The 12th mention of the name Jesus says that he had the power of the Spirit, divine authority. And, with that divine authority, Jesus was teaching, speaking.

So, we have a connection with the number 12 between Jesus and the passage in Ezekiel. But, what of the 10th month and the fifth day?

The number 10 symbolizes orderly perfection. In other words, the number 10 is about bringing things into right standing or making things right.

Luke 2:49 are the first words any of the gospels record Jesus speaking. So, when he was 12 years old, Jesus said to Mary and Joseph, “Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” Most Bible translations have a note saying that “in my Father’s house” could be translated “about my Father’s business.” Young’s Literal Translation translates this verse as “Why is it that ye were seeking me? did ye not know that in the things of my Father it behoveth me to be?”

Jesus told Mary and Joseph that he was “in the things of his Father.”

What are “the things of his Father” that was Jesus was in?

Jesus was in the business of setting things right, making things right.

Romans 3:21-22 says, “But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it – the righteousness of God through faith in [some say should it be of] Jesus Christ for all who believe.”

The righteousness of God has been manifested in Jesus Christ.

Romans 10:3-4 says, “For, being ignorant of the righteousness of God, and seeking to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness. For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.”

Righteousness does not come from adherence to the law. Jesus put an end to that as the righteousness of God comes through him.

So, if Jesus was speaking in divine authority about the orderly perfection, the righteousness of God, that he was bringing, then how was speaking?

Luke 2:47 says, “All who heard him were amazed at his understanding and his answers.”

Jesus was sitting among the teachers and the rabbis in the temple. And, it was these teachers and rabbis that were amazed at what Jesus was saying when he was 12 years old.

Why were they so amazed?

These men were teachers of the law. But, Jesus was not teaching them the law. They were amazed because he taught them not the law but grace and truth.

John 1:16-17 says, “For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. For the law was given through Moses; but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.”

Five is the number of grace. So, this is the meaning of the fifth day in Ezekiel. Jesus came in grace and truth, not the law.

As another confirmation of Jesus coming in grace, the story of Jesus speaking when he was 12 years old in Luke ends with the fifth mention of the name Jesus in Luke. Luke 2:52 says, “And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature and in favor with God and man.”

So, in this fifth mention of the name Jesus, do we not have a wonderful definition of grace?

Increasing in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and man.

Come back to Ezekiel and read through the message he got from the Lord in the 12th year, 10th month, and fifth day of the month.

First, the Jews said that since Abraham was just one man and possessed the land, surely they as a whole nation could possess the land. But, the Lord said they were going to do it through blood and reliance of the sword. But, God told them this was not going to work.

The first words of Jesus’ ministry in Matthew were, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” The Jews wanted a warrior king to defeat the Roman Empire so they could they could posses the land again. If Abraham did it as one, surely they as a nation with their Messiah could defeat the Roman Empire.

But, Jesus’ entire ministry was about telling the Jews to repent from that wrong idea. The kingdom would not come from fighting as Jesus told Pilate. The kingdom would not come through the sword as Jesus told Peter to put away his sword and all that lived by the sword would die by the sword.

Second, the Lord told Ezekiel that the people would hear his words like lustful songs that stir the heart, but they won’t do what he says.

But, despite the amazement everyone had at Jesus’ words, and despite the people acknowledging the authority that Jesus spoke with, they heard his words but wouldn’t do them.

In Luke 6:46, Jesus said, “Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do what I tell you?”

In John 7:17, Jesus said, “If anyone’s will is to do God’s will, he will know whether the teaching is from God or whether I am speaking on my own authority.”

In John 8:43-45, Jesus said, “Why do you not understand what I say? It is because you cannot bear to hear my word. You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the the truth, because there is not truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies.”

Ezekiel shows that Jesus, that God, is no longer mute. Jesus is speaking with divine authority about making things right, righteousness, in grace and truth. And, his loudest, clearest message was spoken through the cross.

Are we hearing and doing?

How Jesus Transforms “Slain By the Sword”

TODAY’S READING: EZEKIEL 31-32

“When Pharaoh sees them, he will be comforted for all his multitude, Pharaoh and all his army, slain by the sword, declares the Lord God. For I spread terror in the land of the living; and h shall be  laid to rest among the uncircumcised, with those who are slain by the sword, Pharaoh and all his multitude, declares the Lord God.” – Ezekiel 32:31-32

These are the closing words of Ezekiel’s prophecies regarding Egypt. Interestingly, there are six prophecies regarding Egypt in Ezekiel. Six is the number that symbolizes man and his flesh. So, it is even more interesting that these prophecies about Egypt are filled with the word uncircumcised and the phrase “slain by the sword.”

Further, these six prophecies about Egypt conclude Ezekiel’s prophecies regarding the nations of the world. Counting Egypt, Ezekiel prophesies against seven nations from chapters 25 to 32. Seven is the number of completion or perfection. More specifically, seven is the number of spiritual completion or perfection.

The seven nations Ezekiel prophesies about are:

  1. Ammon
  2. Moab
  3. Edom
  4. Philistia
  5. Tyre
  6. Sidon
  7. Egypt

Although the Spirit has not revealed it to me yet, I believe there is something to the meaning of the names of the nations Ezekiel prophesies about. They are:

  1. A great people
  2. Who’s your daddy? or What’s your father?
  3. Red or ruddy (as in clay or of the earth)
  4. Mourners, causing to mourn, land of the wanderers
  5. Rock
  6. Fishery, fish, plenty of fishing
  7. Double distress or double stronghold

Perhaps the meaning of these seven nations is a great (as in the number of) people calling out who is my father. They are clay and of the earth. Therefore, they mourn in their land of wandering. But, there is a rock that fishes for people to pull them out of their distress and the strongholds that bind them.

Regardless, Egypt as the seventh and last nation Ezekiel prophesies about joins all the others in the pit. Egypt was uncircumcised, hard of heart. And, Egypt was slain by the sword.

But, in this sense, Egypt is just like all the other nations. Every nation of this world is hard of heart. Every nation of this world attempts to keep itself alive by the sword.

Therefore, Psalm 2:1-2 says, “Why do the nations rage and the peoples plot in vain? The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the Lord and against his Anointed.”

These verses are quoted in Acts 4. They are attributed to the kings of this world, the Gentiles, and all the peoples of Israel as crucifying, piercing with the sword, Jesus. It is as if all the kingdoms of the world were fighting with sword against the kingdom of God.

But, in John 18:36, Jesus told Pilate, “My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting.”

And, when Peter cut off the ear of the servant of the high priest with a sword, Jesus said, “Put your sword back into its place. For all who take the sword will perish by the sword” (Matthew 26:52).

In contrast to Jesus’ kingdom, every kingdom of the world fights with the sword. And, because every kingdom of the world fights with the sword, every kingdom of the world will die by the sword.

Revelation 13:7-10 precisely speaks to this when it says, “Also it was allowed to make war on the saints and conquer them. And authority was given it over every tribe and people and language and nation, and all who dwell on the earth will worship it, everyone whose name has not been written before the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb who was slain. If anyone has an ear, let him hear: If anyone is to be taken captive, to captivity he goes; if anyone is to be slain with the sword, with the sword he must be slain.”

Those who worship the beast will make war against all people with a physical sword and they will die by that sword.

But, Jesus transforms this phrase “slain by the sword.”

In Ephesians 6:17, Paul tells us that part of spiritual armor is “the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.”

John 1:1-2 says, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God.” John clearly says here and elsewhere that Jesus is the word of God.

Jesus, the word of God, is the sword of the Spirit. But, this is not a literal sword that is designed to kill. For, in Ephesians 6:12, when Paul is telling us to don our spiritual armor, he says, “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.”

Remember, Egypt means double stronghold, and it was the last of the nations that Ezekiel prophesied about. He repeatedly referenced that the double stronghold would be slain by the sword.

So, Paul connects all of this together in 2 Corinthians 10:3-5, which says, “For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ.”

We war, but not with a physical sword. We war with a spiritual sword, the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, which is Jesus. This spiritual sword is destroy our mental strongholds, which are every the thought, argument, and opinion we have that is against the true nature of who God is as revealed by the image of God, the exact representation of his character, Jesus Christ.

We are told more about this spiritual sword in Hebrews 4:12-13. “For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and spirit, of joints and 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 we must give account.”

Jesus, the word of God, the sword of the Spirit, does not kill. Rather, he separates soul from spirit. He separates truth from in the most inward parts of us. Therefore, he can separate the thoughts and intentions of heart, purifying us and consecrating us for God.

And, no creature, nothing ever created, is hidden from the living and active word that is sharper than any two-edged sword. Every creature is naked and exposed before this sword. Everything created, instead of being killed by the sword, will have everything that is not of God separated from their being so that they come to spiritual perfection or maturity and can be summed up in Christ.

Revelation 1:16 tells us that this two-edged sword, the word of God that is living and active, comes from the mouth of Jesus. And, it is this two-edged sword that comes from the mouth of Jesus that brings us full circle back to the nations and transforms their being “slain by the sword.”

Speaking of Jesus, Revelation 19:15 says, “From his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations.” Since the sword is coming from Jesus’ mouth, it is not a literal sword. As we have already seen, this sword is the word of God. And, it has the spiritual effect of destroying strongholds, our wrong thoughts and ideas of God.

So, Revelation 19:19-21 says, “And I saw the beast and the kings of the earth with their armies gathered together to make war against him who was sitting on the horse and against his army. And the beast was captured, and with it the false prophet who in its presence had done the signs by which he deceived those had the mark of the beast and those who worshiped its image. These two were thrown alive into the lake of fire that burns with sulfur. And the rest were slain by the sword that came from the mouth of him who was sitting on the horse, and all the birds were gorged with their flesh.”

The phrase “slain by the sword” is only found 10 times in the Old Testament. It is only found in Ezekiel’s prophecies about Egypt. And, it is regularly mentioned in connection with “the uncircumcised.”

The only time we find the phrase “slain by the sword” is here in Revelation 19:21. And, Jesus completely transforms the meaning from what we think we read in Ezekiel.

Notice that Revelation 19:20 specifically says that the beast and the false prophet, “these two,” were thrown in the lake of fire. These two were thrown in the lake of fire because they had deceived all the peoples of the earth.

What had they deceived the peoples of the earth about?

Paul tells us in 2 Corinthians 4:3-4, which says, “And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. 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.”

The beast and the false prophet deceived, or blinded, the peoples of the world to the gospel of Jesus, who is the image of God. The beast and the false prophet were the source of “arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God.” So, they were destroyed.

But, who else was with the beast and the false prophet?

“The kings of the earth with their armies gathered to make war against him who was sitting on the horse and against his army.”

What happens to everyone else gathered with the beast and the false prophet?

They aren’t thrown in the lake of fire.

Revelation 19:21 says, “And the rest were slain by the sword that came from the mouth of him who was sitting on the horse.”

The rest, the kings of the earth and their armies that had gathered to make war against Jesus, were not killed with a physical sword.

No, they were slain by the sword from Jesus’ mouth, the word of God, the sword of the Spirit, the spiritual sword that destroys every mental stronghold, every wrong argument, every wrong idea, every wrong notion, we have about God.

The rest, every creature, were not killed. The rest were slain by the sword, the word of God that is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, that separates soul from spirit, that discerns and divides the intentions of our hearts.

In other words, they were circumcised in the heart. This is what means to be “slain by the sword.” You are circumcised. The flesh, the old man, is cut away so that you can be raised to new life.

This is why “all the birds were gorged with their flesh.” The rest weren’t killed by Jesus so that birds could eat them.

No, the rest were circumcised of their flesh and the birds gorging on their flesh represents the utter destruction of their flesh, their old man.

Jesus utterly transforms the phrase “slain by the sword.” In his hands, from his mouth, it is not a sword that kills. Rather, it is a sword that takes every wrong idea and thought we have about God so that we can live in the newness of life. And, this is to be so for every creature so that all, whether in heaven or in earth, can be summed in up Christ.

Does God Really Control Every King and Kingdom?

TODAY’S READING: EZEKIEL 28-30

“And I will strengthen the arms of the king of Babylon and put my sword in his hand, but I will break the arms of Pharaoh, and he will groan before him like a man mortally wounded. I will strengthen the arms of the king of Babylon, but the arms of Pharaoh shall fall. Then they shall know that I am the Lord, when I put my sword into the hand of the king of Babylon and he stretches it out against the land of Egypt.” – Ezekiel 30:24-25

In this passage, Ezekiel prophesies that God will use Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, to break the power of Pharaoh, king of Egypt. According to Ezekiel, God will pit one kingdom against another.

This idea of God using one kingdom to punish another is quite common throughout the Old Testament. So, at one time God favors a particular kingdom, for example Assyria, to punish Israel. But, at another time, Assyria falls out of favor with God. So, God raises up another kingdom, Babylon, to punish Assyria.

Perhaps the epitome of this belief that God is in literal control of every king of the earth is Proverbs 21:1, which says, “The king’s heart is a stream of water in the hand of the Lord; he turns it wherever he will.”

Therefore, many Christians today believe that God’s sovereignty is such that he directs every single event that happens. They believe that God picks and chooses leaders to be put in place and directs their every action.

This would mean that God is responsible for all the violence, evil, wickedness, and destruction of every single king and kingdom of this earth.

But, does this idea that God picks and chooses kings and turns the hearts of the kings he chooses wherever he wants hold up to what Jesus reveals about God?

Hardly.

There are two specific instances in which Jesus has a significant interaction or confrontation with the king of this world.

Matthew 2:1-3 says, “Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the east came to Jerusalem, saying, ‘Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw his star when it rose and have to come to worship him.’ When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled.”

Jesus was born king. We need to read that carefully. Jesus was not born to be king. He was born king. Jesus was king immediately upon his birth.

Now, when Herod, who symbolizes the king of this world, hears that there is another king to be worshipped, Herod seeks to kill Jesus. Jesus, and God, have a direct confrontation with the king of this world.

How did God respond?

Did he simply turn Herod’s heart wherever he wanted it to go? Did God directly control Herod’ actions?

If you say yes, then you believe that God was behind the killing of all the boys less than two years old in Bethlehem. For Matthew 2:16 says, “Then Herod, when he saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, became furious, and he sent and killed all the male children in Bethlehem and in all that region who were two years old or under.”

If Jesus reveals anything about God, then he reveals that God was not behind Herod’s actions, directing Herod’s heart wherever he wanted it to go.

Instead, we see God’s response a few verses earlier. Matthew 2:13-15 says, “Now when they had departed, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, ‘Rise, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you, for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.’ And he rose and took the child and his mother by night and departed to Egypt and remained there until the death of Herod.”

Instead of seeing God behind the actions of Herod as he slaughtered an untold number of innocent baby boys, we see God acting in a way to protect his son. He told Jesus’ earthly father, Joseph, to take Jesus and flee to another country until Herod died.

Just like this interaction with the symbolic king of this world at the beginning of his life, Jesus has another encounter with the symbolic king of this world at the end of his life.

John 18 and 19 records the interaction between Jesus and Pilate, symbolizing the king of this world. Pilate ends up delivering Jesus over to be crucified. But, if we think God was behind the scenes, directing Pilate’s heart wherever he wanted it go, so as to crucify his only beloved son, then we have a very sick and twisted view of God.

Pilate asked Jesus, “Where are you from?” Jesus did not respond. There was no attempt to manipulate Pilate in the direction Jesus, or God, wanted him to go. Pilate, who surely was angered that this lowly Jew would not answer his question, then asked, “You will not speak to me?” Pilate then told Jesus that he had authority to let him live or crucify him.

Then Jesus spoke and told Pilate, “You would have no authority over me at all unless it had been given you from above.” Jesus is not saying that God is directing Pilate to crucify Jesus. Rather, Jesus is saying that he has made the choice to lay down his life, to suffer. Pilate will carry out his own evil and wicked intentions. Jesus simply laid down his life. This was how Pilate had authority over him. Not because God was manipulating Pilate like a river to crucify Jesus.

Beyond these two interactions between Jesus and the symbolic king of this world, we know that God does not control and direct the appointing of every king and their following actions because that is not love.

“Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices in truth. Love bears all things, believes, hopes all things, endures all things.”

“God is love.”

If God is love, and if God is all the things Paul says love is, then could God ever be in the business of manipulating and forcing kings to do what he wants like a stream of water in his hand?

Certainly not.

God is omnipotent. God is all powerful. But, God’s power does not force, control or manipulate.

God is love. That is his power. And love draws and woos.

In 1 Corinthians 13, Paul goes on to say that “we prophesy in part.” We must remember that Paul is speaking of people who know Jesus. And, because they know Jesus, they have seen the Father clearly. This is in contrast to the people before the time of Jesus who had a veiled view of God (2 Corinthians 3 and 4).

So, if those who have seen Jesus and had the veil over the true view of the Father removed still prophesy in part, then how much more did Ezekiel and all the other writers of the Old Testament only prophesy in part?

Interestingly, another meaning for the Greek word translated part is “to some degree.” Even as much as we have seen Jesus and know the Father, Paul says we still can only prophesy and testify of Jesus to some degree. And, Paul certainly believed that the Old Testament writers prophesied to even less of a degree than we do.

So, just because the Ezekiel and other Old Testament writers believed that God manipulated and controlled all the kings and kingdoms of this world, that doesn’t mean that is what God is like and what he actually did. Jesus shows us otherwise.

In fact, to believe that God manipulates and directly controls all the kings and kingdoms of this world is a childish belief. In regards to prophesying in part, this is why Paul says, “When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways.”

So, let us put away this childish view that God is directly behind all the events of history, controlling everything that happens. That does not line up with Jesus has revealed. Nor does it line up with what love, God’s love, is truly like.

Their Rock Is Not Like Our Rock

TODAY’S READING: EZEKIEL 25-27

“The word of the Lord came to me: ‘Now you, son of man, raise a lamentation over Tyre, and say to Tyre, who dwells at the entrances to the sea, merchant of the peoples to many coastlands, thus says the Lord God.” – Ezekiel 27:1-3

The rest of Ezekiel 27 details the lamentation against Tyre.

But, what does lamentation have to do with Jesus?

Knowing the meaning of the name Tyre gives us a clue. Tyre simply means rock. And, while there was an old part of the city on the mainland, the city proper, the fortified city, was on a rock out in the sea.

After Moses told Israel they would do evil in the sight of the Lord and provoke him to anger, Moses wrote a song. Deuteronomy 32:31 records a very interesting line in this song. It says, “For their rock is not as our Rock.” At times, gods in the ancient world were thought of as rocks. Here, Moses is saying that that the gods of the peoples around Israel, their rock, was not as the Rock of Israel. Of, course we know that this Rock that Moses referred to is Jesus.

So, we have Tyre. A rock that dwells at the entrances to the sea. The sea often symbolizes a great mass of humanity in the Bible. The sea can also symbolizes evil and wickedness. It is where one of the beasts of Revelation came from.

And, Tyre, this rock in the sea, was the merchant of the peoples to many coastlands. As you read through the lamentation, you see all sorts of material goods that Tyre was the merchant or trader of among all the peoples. And, as you read through the lamentation, you will note that there are 37 peoples or lands listed that Tyre did commerce with.

Throughout the Bible, the number 37 symbolizes inheritance. Study the lives of the patriarchs and you fill find that often times the 37th mention of their name is associated with an inheritance or reward. Caleb’s name appears 37 times in the Bible. And, he is specifically noted for the inheritance he received in the promised land.

So, this lamentation of Tyre, a rock for the great mass of peoples, has to do with the what the people received through their commerce with Tyre. The lives of the peoples were derived and founded upon this commerce, this rock. In a sense, this lament is about the peoples of the world founding their lives on materialism and the things of this world.

But, in Jesus’ first sermon in the Matthew, his first sermon as king, the sermon on the mount, Jesus says some interesting things about building the foundation of your life on the rock of materialism.

“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves, break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

“No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money [mammon or possessions].”

“Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and its righteousness and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.”

In everyone of these statements, Jesus is saying not to have the foundation of your life be material possessions, the things of this earth, the things of this life.

Instead, God is spirit. And, we need to put ourselves in a position to worship God in spirit. And, this spirit has to do with Jesus, the Rock, and the rock we build our lives on.

In Matthew 16:18, Jesus said, “And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church.”

What was the rock Jesus said he would build his church upon?

The answer is in the previous verse. Jesus said, “Blessed are Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven.”

Instead of the rock of commerce and the material world, we are to build are lives on the rock of spiritual revelation directly from the Father. And, that spiritual revelation from the Father is always about the Rock, Jesus.

When we will build our lives upon the Rock, Jesus Christ, we receive, not an earthly, but a spiritual inheritance, which will become a material inheritance as we receive the whole earth. Just read Ephesians 1 and Romans 8. And, of course, Matthew 5:5, which says, “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.”