Are You Following a Man-Made System or Jesus?

We have a choice to make. We can follow a man-made system. Or, we can follow Jesus.

How do we know whether we are following a man-made system or Jesus?

Simply consider how you are being watered.

Consider Deuteronomy 11.10-12.

“For the land that you are entering to take possession of it is not like the land of Egypt, from which you have come, where you sowed your seed and irrigated it, like a garden of vegetables. But the land that you are going over to possess is a land of hills and valleys, which drinks water by the rain from heaven, a land that the Lord your God cares for. The eyes of the Lord your God are always upon it, from the beginning of the year to the end of the year.”

In these verses, we can see Egypt as a symbol of life following a man-made system and Canaan as a symbol of life following Jesus.

In many ways, the land of Egypt was like the land of Canaan. In both places, dirt, water, seed, and sun combined to produce fruit. Similarly, following a man-made system can look very much like following Jesus.

But, there is one critical difference between Egypt and Canaan – how they are watered.

The fields of Egypt were in very flat land. Therefore, they were watered in one of two ways. The first was the annual flooding of the Nile River. Once a year, the Nile would overflow its banks and water the fields of Egypt. But, for the remainder of the year, the fields were watered by a system of canals. The Egyptians had to dig out and maintain these canals. Further, the water was “pumped” through the canals by foot pedals. The Hebrew of Deuteronomy 11.10 literally says, “where you sowed your seed and water it with your feet.”

The fruit of the fields of Egypt was dependent on a man-made system to get water. But, this was not the case with the land of Canaan.

In Canaan, “the eyes of the Lord your God are always upon it, from the beginning of the year to the end of the year.” The produce of Canaan was not reliant upon a single annual flood from a great river. Instead, God watched over the land throughout the year and provided rain as necessary. Instead of being flat like Egypt, Canaan was full of hills and valleys to direct the water where it needed to go. Further, Deuteronomy 8.7 says, “For the Lord your God is bringing you into a good land, a land of brooks of water, of fountains and springs, flowing out in the valleys and hills.”

Unlike Egypt’s fields that were dependent on a man-made system of canals, Israel’s fields on “the rain from heaven,” or the Spirit who is given by Jesus.

In John 4.10, 13-14, Jesus said, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water…Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”

Notice the similarities in Jesus’ language to the passages in Deuteronomy. Jesus’ words from his conversation with the woman at the well are the reality of how we are to be watered just as the fields of Canaan were to be watered.

We learn more about this living water in John 7.37-39, which says, “On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and cried out, ‘If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, “Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.”‘ Now this he said about the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were to receive, for as yet the Spirit had not been given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.”

What is the living water that flows out of our hearts?

The Spirit.

Where does the Spirit come from?

Heaven.

Jesus gives the spirit as rain from heaven to water our life.

Notice that in order to receive this water you must go to Jesus. Jesus says, “Let him come to me and drink.” But, those following a man-made system do not go to Jesus.

Where do those following a man-made system go?

“You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life.” (John 5.39-40)

Those following a man-made system depend on scripture only. They don’t actually go to Jesus to receive the Spirit, living water, the rain from heaven. This scripture-only dependence treats scripture like the land of Egypt – flat. Everything in the scripture becomes equally important. But, this flat reading of scripture requires a man-made system of canals and foot-powered pumps to force water, or life, through them.

However, those following Jesus understand that scripture is full of mountains and valleys. Some portions of scripture are closer to God than others. Some portions of scripture more fully reveal God than others. Therefore, some portions of scripture are more important than others.

So, while Egypt and Canaan have many similar features, their source of water, and therefore life, are completely different. One is man-made. The other comes from heaven. Only the Spirit can show us the difference.

Why Was Jacob’s Name Changed to Israel and What Is Its Significance?

Jacob’s name was changed to Israel. Perhaps you are familiar with the story. But, in case you are not, I will tell it to you.

God appeared to Jacob as he came from Paddan-aram and blessed him. God said that his name was Jacob, but Jacob should not be his name any longer. From now on, his name should be Israel. God told Jacob that his own name was God Almighty (El Shaddai). God Almighty then commanded Jacob to be fruitful and multiply. He told Jacob that a nation and a company of nations as well as kings would come from him. God Almighty was going to give Jacob and his offspring the land that he gave to Abraham and Isaac. So, Jacob set up a pillar of stone and poured a drink offering and oil on the pillar of stone. Jacob called the place Bethel.

Is that the story you were expecting to hear?

Probably not.

You were probably expecting to me to tell you how Jacob sent his family across the Jabbok stream, but Jacob stayed alone on the other side of the stream. During the night, he wrestled with a man until day broke. The man was not able to prevail against Jacob so he put Jacob’s hip out of joint. The man asked Jacob to let him go, but Jacob said he wouldn’t let the man go until he blessed him. The man asked Jacob his name. When the man was told it was Jacob, the man said that he would no longer be called Jacob but Israel, since he had striven with God and men and prevailed. Jacob asked the man his name, but the man did not tell Jacob. The man merely asked Jacob why he wanted to know. So, Jacob called the place Peniel because he had seen God face to face and lived. The sun came up on Jacob as he passed Penuel. Therefore, the people of Israel do not eat the sinew of the thigh on the hip socket.

If you are familiar with the story of Jacob’s name being changed to Israel, then that is most likely the story you are familiar with. But, this story is completely different in every way than the first one I told. The first account in this post is from Genesis 35.9-15. The second account, the more familiar one, is from Genesis 32.22-32.

What is going on here?

Why are there two completely different accounts about the changing of Jacob’s name to Israel in the Bible?

Both accounts are from the book of Genesis. In fact, these accounts are just a few pages apart in the modern Bible.

Did Moses forget what he wrote in the first one when he wrote the second one?

Or, did Moses not write either account?

After reading Who Wrote the Bible? by Richard Elliot Friedman at the end of last year, I have come to believe that Moses did not actually write either account. In fact, Moses most likely did not write any of the first five books of the Bible, at least in the form that we have them.

In Who Wrote the Bible?, Friedman persuasively shows that there were actually four writers of the first five books of the Bible. This is commonly known as the JEPD theory. The letters JEPD stand for the “identity” of the four writers. Based on a combination of textual, linguistic, historical, and archaeological data, scholars have been able to identify four (at least) separate writers of the first five books of the Bible as well as which particular parts of those five books they wrote. I will summarize the identity of the four writers according to Friedman below.

The J stands for Jehovah. This writer only referred to God as Yahweh, or Jehovah, and therefore the letter “J” is used to identify him. This writer was someone particularly concerned with the kingdom of Judah. He focused on the patriarchs, the Abrahamic covenant, and the family of David.

The E stands for Elohim. This writer always referred to God as Elohim. That is, until Moses saw God in the burning bush and God told him that his name was I Am That I Am, or Yahweh. This writer was likely a Levite priest from Shiloh and a descendant of Moses. Unlike the J writer, the E writer emphasized the Mosaic covenant.

The P stands for Priest. Like the E writer, this writer likely was a priest too. However, the P writer most likely descended from Aaron and lived in Jerusalem. The P writer most likely wrote after the J and E writers. The P writer follows the same stories in the same order but retells the stories in a different way to emphasize the Aaronic priesthood in Jerusalem. In fact, the P writer distinguishes between the priests, who were from Aaron, and the Levites.

The D stands for Deuteronomist. The D writer wove the writings of J, E, and P together and wrote the entire book of Deuteronomy. That’s all I will say about the D writer because the D writer does not factor all that much in to Jacob’s name change for the purposes of this post.

In Who Wrote the Bible?, Friedman shows that each of these writers retold the history of Israel from a specific perspective. And, that retelling was crafted in a way to add credibility, weight, gravitas, to the kingdom – the northern or southern, Israel or Judah – they were from or their class of the priesthood.

So, about those two completely different stories of Jacob’s name being changed to Israel…

The account in Genesis 32.22-32, the more familiar account of Jacob wrestling with an unidentified man, was written by the E writer. The less well-known, certainly the less talked about, account in Genesis 35.9-15 was written by the P writer. We know this because of how the stories were told.

The P writer only has priests as the intermediary between God and man. The P writer never mentions angels. He never uses anthropomorphisms, dreams, or talking animals to reveal God. The accounts of the P writer tend to be shorter and more matter of fact. For the P writer, God is more cosmic and distant. This is exactly how the story of Jacob’s name change is told in Genesis 35.9-15.

Yet, the account in Genesis 32.22-32 has a mysterious, unidentified man wrestle with Jacob. Jacob believed this person to be God in some way. The E writer anthropomorphized God in his retelling of the story. God is more personal for the E writer in that Jacob believed he wrestled God in hand-to-hand combat and Jacob declared that he saw God face to face.

But, why two different accounts retold in two different ways?

What was the significance of these stories to these two writers?

Ultimately, these stories were about how Jacob/Israel received not just a blessing from God but the blessing of God. Therefore, the E and P writers were trying to lay claim to the blessing God gave Abraham for their kingdom/priesthood. You know…the blessing where God told Abraham that “I will make of you a great nation” (Genesis 12.2), “in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed” (Genesis 12.3), and “to your offspring I will give this land” (Genesis 12.7).

Remember, the E writer wrote from the perspective of the northern kingdom, Israel, and the Levites that descended from Moses. But, the P writer wrote from the perspective of the southern kingdom, Judah, and the descendants of Aaron. Hence, the P writer was more focused on Jerusalem, which was ultimately the capital of the southern kingdom, Judah.

Interestingly, the J writer records nothing about Jacob’s name being changed to Israel. But, that doesn’t mean the J writer had nothing to say about how Jacob got the blessing. The J writer told how Jacob got the blessing when Jacob tricked or deceived (some would say stole) Esau out of his birthright (Genesis 25.29-34 and 27.1-45).

Why would the J writer recount Jacob instead of Esau receiving the blessing given originally to Abraham this way?

Why would the J writer portray Jacob in a negative light?

Remember, the J writer wrote from the perspective of the kingdom of Judah and the family of David. Judah sat between Israel and Edom, the kingdom that came from Esau. Israel was to the north while Edom was to the south of Judah. At one time, David had conquered Edom and effectively made it part of the kingdom of Judah. But, Jacob was more associated with the northern kingdom of Israel. John 4.4-6 says, “And he had to pass through Samaria. So he came to a town of Samaria called Sychar, near the field that Jacob had given to his son Joseph. Jacob’s well was there.” This is why the Samaritan woman (Samaria being synonymous with the northern kingdom of Israel) at the well said to Jesus, “Sir, you have nothing to draw water with, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water? Are you greater than our father Jacob? He gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did his sons and his livestock.” (John 4.11-12)

In a subtle way, the J writer was saying that the northern kingdom, Israel, which was closely associated with Jacob, could only lay claim to Abraham’s blessing from God because Jacob tricked Esau and deceived Isaac into giving it to him. But, Judah, the kingdom of David, could lay claim to that blessing because David defeated Edom, the kingdom of Esau. Further, David had conquered lands in the northern kingdom too. Therefore, David, and consequently Judah, had a much more legitimate claim to the blessing of Abraham.

However, the E writer was laying claim to the blessing for the northern kingdom, Israel. In the E writer’s account of Jacob’s name change to Israel, Jacob says to the unidentified man, “I will not let you go until you bless me.” (Genesis 32.26) Jacob believed he received that blessing because wrestled and prevailed against this unidentified man. Even though Jacob never gets the man’s name, he calls the name of the place Peniel. “For I have seen God face to face, and yet my life has been delivered.” (Genesis 32.30) Peniel, or Penuel, was in the northern kingdom, almost due east of Shechem. It was in the tribe of Gad, which meant it was on the east side of Jordan. So, the city that the E writer mentions as important was in the northern kingdom.

But, interestingly, it was not a city of religious importance in the northern kingdom. It was not Dan or Bethel, which were the cities Jeroboam set up as religious centers of worship. Nor did the writer mention Shiloh, which was in the northern kingdom and one of the resting places for the tabernacle. Nor was it one of the three cities that Samuel went to on his circuit of judging. Remember, the E writer is writing from the perspective of a Levite priest descended from Moses in the northern kingdom of Israel. This priest likely favored the northern kingdom politically but not religiously. Politically, because the northern kingdom did not have the place of centralized worship (Jerusalem) that the Aaronic priesthood had control over in Judah. Not religiously, because Jeroboam had set up his own priesthood passing over the Levites. Hence, the E writer associated a city that was in the northern kingdom but not a city of worship in that kingdom to the Jacob’s name change.

The E writer’s account also alludes to Moses because Jacob says he saw God face to face. There is only one other person in the first five books of the Bible that saw God face to face and that was Moses. But, unlike Jacob, Moses got the name of God when he encountered God. Therefore, Moses had more importance than Jacob. So, we can see the elements of the E writer’s story of Jacob’s name change to Israel fit with a Levite in the line of Moses in the northern kingdom trying to lay claim to Abraham’s blessing from God.

The elements of the story in the P account try to lay claim to that blessing too. The P writer does it more blatantly though. In his account, Jacob doesn’t ask for a blessing in a subtle allusion to Abraham’s blessing by God. In the P account, God tells Jacob, “Be fruitful and multiply. A nation and a company of nations shall come from you, and kings shall come from your own body.” (Genesis 35.11) This story is very much about who really has the blessing God gave Abraham. In fact, God gave Jacob the same commission he gave to Adam and the patriarchs.

For the P writer, who has claim to that blessing has to do with worship, which is why the P writer’s account has “Jacob set up a pillar in the place where he [God] had spoke with him, a pillar of stone. He [Jacob] poured out a drink offering on it and poured oil on it.” (Genesis 35.14) Jacob called the place Bethel. Yes, Bethel was one of the places Jeroboam put a center of worship in the northern kingdom. But, it was on the border of the kingdom of Israel and Judah. Technically, Bethel was in Benjamin. And, at one point had been conquered by David. Plus, when Assyria conquered the northern kingdom of Israel, it did not capture Bethel, which became a part of Judah. Hence, the P writer could be seen as laying claim to Bethel for the kingdom of Judah.

Further, in the P writer’s account, Jacob does get the name of God. God identifies himself to Jacob as God Almighty, or El Shaddai. Psalm 91 speaks of the shadow of Shaddai. This shadow was under the wings of the cherubim in the most holy place of the temple. Psalm 91 was written by David, which would please the P writer since David was from Judah. Further, only a priest from the line of Aaron was allowed to enter the most holy place because the high priest always came from the descendants of Aaron. Therefore, the P writer is emphasizing that Jerusalem, Judah, and the Aaronic priesthood have the best claim to the God’s blessing of Abraham because Jerusalem was the place of centralized worship. That is perhaps why the name El Shaddai is mentioned in this account of Jacob’s name change to Israel as an attempt by a priest of Aaron in Jerusalem to lay claim to the the blessing of Abraham.

There is so much more that could be said about the different accounts of how Jacob became the heir of the blessing of Abraham and his name change to Israel. Clearly, it is not what appears to us on the surface thousands of years later. And, we haven’t even spoken of the wrestling (the Hebrew word is used only in this story) between Jacob and the unidentified man or the strange saying about not eating the sinew from the hip because Jacob’s hip was put of socket in the wrestling match.

But, does any of the underlying political and theological intrigue that motivated these writers even matter to us today?

What significance does any of this have for us?

Is it even important to us what this may have meant to the original writers and hearers?

Does the “plain” meaning, if there even is one, matter to us today?

Or, is there an inspired meaning to Jacob’s name change to Israel, a meaning beyond what the original writers intended, that is just as important today as ever?

Ultimately, what matters to us is that Jesus is true Israel – not a certain ethnic group of people or certain small plot of land in the Middle East.

Isaiah 49.3, 5-6 says, “And he said to me, You are my servant, Israel, in whom I will be glorified.’…And now the Lord says, he who formed me from the womb to be his servant, to bring Jacob back to him; and that Israel might be gathered to him – for I am honored in the eyes of the Lord, and my God has become my strength – he says: ‘It is too light a thing that you should be my servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob and to bring back the preserved of Israel; I will make you as a light for the nations, that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth.”

Luke applies this passage to Jesus in Luke 2.29-32. Jesus is the true Israel. Jesus – not some faction of the nation, kingdom, priests, or people of earthly Israel – is the one to whom the promises of Abraham belong.

Paul explicitly says this in Galatians 3.16 – “Now the promises were made to Abraham and to his offspring. It does not say, ‘And to offpsrings,’ referring to many, but referring to one, ‘And to your offspring,’ who is Christ.”

Or, as Paul says in 2 Corinthians 1.20, “For all the promises of God find their yes in him. That is why it is through him that we utter our Amen to God for his glory.”

Remember those blessings..the blessing where God told Abraham that “I will make of you a great nation” (Genesis 12.2), “in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed” (Genesis 12.3), and “to your offspring I will give this land” (Genesis 12.7).

They belong to Jesus. Those that find their identity in Jesus, true Israel (Romans 10 and 11), are the great nation God made of Jesus.

They speak of all peoples, nations, tribes, and languages belonging to Jesus and being blessed by him.

They refer to Jesus receiving all the land on the entire earth as his.

Jacob’s name change to Israel is not important so that a country almost 3,000 years later called Israel can lay claim to the blessing God gave Abraham.

The name change is important and has its meaning in Jesus and Jesus alone.

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.

A Deeper Look at Jesus, the Holy Spirit, and Babylon

TODAY’S READING: JEREMIAH 50

“Declare among the nations and proclaim, set up a banner and proclaim, conceal it not, and say: ‘Babylon is taken, Bel is put to shame, Merodach is dismayed. Her images are put to shame, her idols are dismayed.'” – Jeremiah 50:2

Later, in verse 38, Jeremiah says that Babylon “is a land of images, and they are mad over idols.”

Babylon is an interesting city in the Bible.

It’s first mentioned in Genesis 10:10 as the beginning of the kingdom of Nimrod. Babel, or Babylon, literally means gate of the deity. We could think of its religion, idols, and images as the way mankind thought they could reach God.

Genesis 11:9 says, “Therefore its name was called Babel, because there the Lord confused the language of all the earth. And from there the Lord dispersed them over the face of the earth.” Because of this, Babylon has come to mean mixture or confusion. But, the name is also here associated with the idea of departing as God dispersed the people over the face of the earth when he confused their languages.

The Hebrew word translated Babylon is used 261 times in the Old Testament. I find this interesting because 261 is 9 times 29. One of the meanings of the number 9 is visitation. The number 9 is also associated with the Holy Spirit and judgment.  The number 29 symbolizes departure as many times in the Bible when a person’s name is used it is associated with departure.

So, even in the first mentions of Babylon, which was originally the city of Babel, we the meanings of 9 and 29. God went down to visit the people of Babel. He judged their activities, confusing their languages and causing them to depart the plain of Shinar.

Revelation, which is chock full of symbolism, including the number of times words are used, uses the name Babylon six times. Six is the number of man. Therefore, we could also think of Babylon as the ultimate city of man. We would be in the ultimate city of man when the Holy Spirit (9) has departed (29).

What’s more interesting is that the only other way to multiply two numbers together and get 261 is 3 x 87. The number 3 symbolizes divine perfection.

What about the number 87?

Interestingly, two of the Hebrew words for idol have a numerical value of 87.

Further, Isaiah 9:6 says “For to us a child is born, to us a son if given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” Here one of Jesus’ names is Everlasting Father, which has a numerical value of 87.

And, speaking of his servant, Jesus, God says, “Before me no god was formed, nor shall there be any after me. I, I am the Lord, and besides me there is no savior.” (Isaiah 43:10-11) “I am the Lord,” our savior, has a numerical value of 87.

Jesus is the image of God (Colossians 1:15). Jesus is the exact imprint of God’s nature (Hebrews 1:3). Jesus is the divinely perfect image (idol) of God that saves us from our slavery to the idols of Babylon.

Revelation 18:4 bids us to come out, or depart, Babylon. It is by beholding Jesus Christ crucified, the divinely perfect image of God, that we are able to depart Babylon and its false idols and images. Speaking of Jesus’ death on the cross, Colossians 2:15 says, “He disarmed the rulers and authorities [the idols and images of Babylon] and put them to an open shame, by triumphing over them in him.”

Another interesting fact about Babylon is that 169 out of 261 uses of the word in the Old Testament occur in the book of Jeremiah. This is more than five times the number of uses in the book with the second most uses of Babylon.

Why is 169 an interesting number?

The number 169 is 13 x 13. That is the only way to multiply two numbers together and get 169. The number symbolizes rebellion and depravity. It is often associated with Satan in the Bible. In the Bible, squaring a number often intensifies its meaning. Revelation 18:2 says, “She has become a dwelling place for demons, a haunt for every unclean spirit, a haunt of every unclean bird, a haunt for every unclean and detestable beast.” Indeed, Babylon is the dwelling place of everything that leads us away from God. It is truly the city of intensified rebellion and depravity.

I mentioned that the forerunner to Babylon was Babel, which is where God confused the languages of the people.

Jeremiah 50:2 says, “Babylon is taken.” The Hebrew word for taken is used 120 times in the Bible.

Coincidence?

In Acts 2, God reversed his visitation to Babylon that resulted in a judgment that caused the people to depart the plain of Shinar when the Holy Spirit visited the 120 disciples in the upper room. Those 120 disciples received from the Holy Spirit tongues of fire that allowed them to speak the languages of the Jews gathered from around the world. These 120 disciples were the first ones sent out to regather the Jews from every nation. In effect, God was regathering those that had their languages mixed at Babel by the 120 disciples that declared the great things God had done. Indeed, Babylon was taken.

In John 21, Jesus stood on the shore and asked the disciples if they had caught any fish. They said no. So, Jesus told them to cast the net on the right side of the boat. Verses 10-11 say, “Jesus said to them, ‘Bring some of the fish that you have just caught.’ So Simon Peter went aboard and hauled the net ashore, full or large fish, 153 of them. And although there were so many, the net was not torn.”

Jesus told his disciples they would be fishers of men. The number 153 symbolizes the disciples’ catch of men from all the Gentile nations. Notice that even though the disciples would catch many men the net would not break. None would be lost.

So, we have 120 representing the regathering of the Jews as the Holy Spirit spoke through the disciples with tongues of fire reversing the midex languages of Babel. And, we have Jesus’ disciples, fishers of men, catching 153 fish representing the salvation of the Gentile nations that were in bondage to Babylon and its idols and images.

Add together 120 and 153 and we get 273.

How many times is the word Babylon used throughout the entire Bible?

273.

Coincidence?

I think not. And, this is likely connected to one mention of the number 273 in the Bible.

Numbers 3:42-47 says, “So Moses listed all the firstborn among the people of Israel, as the Lord commanded him. And all the firstborn males, according to the number of names, from a month old and upward as listed were 22,273. And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, ‘Take the Levites instead of all the firstborn among the people of Israel, and the cattle of the Levites instead of their cattle. The Levites shall be mine: I am the Lord. And as the redemption price for the 273 of the firstborn of the people of Israel, over and above the number of the male Levites, you shall take five shekels per head.”

The Levites were the priests of Israel. Every believe today is priest and part of God’s royal priesthood. Instead of taking the firstborn males of Israel, God would take the Levites, of which were there 22,000 (Numbers 3:39). The number of firstborn over and above the number of priests, 273, would be redeemed with five shekels of silver. Five is the number of grace. Silver is the metal of redemption. So, the extra 273 firstborn males, symbolizing all the Jews that the 120 would regather and the 153 Gentile nations from which none would be lost, are redeemed by the grace of Jesus as he works through his royal priesthood, the believers, the church.

Are all the confluences of Jesus, the Holy Spirit, Babylon just coincides?

I would argue they are not. Rather, these connections are the inspiration of the Holy Spirit through the scriptures.

Indeed, Babylon has fallen at the hands of the image of God, Jesus Christ.

In That Day, Here I Am

TODAY’S READING: ISAIAH 50-52

“‘Now therefore what have I here,’ declares the Lord, ‘seeing that my people are taken away for nothing? Their rulers wail,’ declares the Lord, ‘and continually all the day my name is despised. Therefore my people shall know my name. Therefore, in that day they shall know that it is I who speak; here I am.” – Isaiah 52:5-6

Here again we come to the phrase “that day” in Isaiah. I have written about “that day” in That Day Sin Was Taken Away, That Day: The Preservation and Inheritance of Life, A Signal for the Peoples, and Egypt, Assyria, and Israel in That Day.

I mention this “that day” in Isaiah 52:6 because it stands apart. It is the only time Isaiah uses “that day” in the second half of the book, from chapters 40 to 66, which are of a different character than the first half and speak more directly to what the new creation that Jesus ushers in “that day.”

According to Isaiah, in “that day,” which I believe specifically refers to the day of Jesus’ crucifixion, God’s people will know his name, they will know that it is he who speaks, and they will know that it is God who speaks says, “Here I Am.”

When Moses was called by the Lord to lead Israel out of Egypt, he asked God what was his name in case Israel asked Moses this same question. Exodus 3:14 says, “God said to Moses, ‘I Am Who I Am.’ And he said, ‘Say this to the people of Israel: “I Am has sent me to you.”‘”

It was actually the angel of the Lord that spoke to Moses from the burning bush. This appearance of the angel of the Lord, who declares, “I Am Who I Am,” is actually a picture of Jesus. See my post Jesus: I Am the Burning Bush.

Now, the Hebrew for “I Am” in Exodus 3:14 is not the same as the Hebrew for “I Am” in Isaiah 52:6. However, it seems to me that we should see the linkage between these two. Especially when we consider I Am in the light of John’s gospel, which is the gospel that reveals Jesus as the son of God.

John makes use of “I Am” in regards to Jesus repeatedly. The most direct and bold use is in John 8. In this chapter, the Jews ask Jesus if he is greater than their father Abraham. Jesus’ final reply to that question, in John 8:58, is, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.” Jesus declared right then and there that he was “I Am,” the God who met Moses in the burning bush. And, the Jews knew that this was exactly what Jesus meant for they immediately picked up stones to stone him to death for blaspheming the name of God.

So, Jesus declares boldly, “I Am.” He has come to witness to who the Father is and he declares that he is the same as, one with, the Father by taking his name “I Am.”

And, throughout the John’s gospel, Jesus repeatedly declares the name of God so that Israel will know that he is speaking, “Here I Am.”

  • I Am the bread of life – John 6:48
  • I Am the light of the world – John 8:12
  • I Am the door – John 10:7
  • I Am the good shepherd – John 10:11
  • I Am the resurrection and the life – John 11:25
  • I Am the way, the truth, and the life – John 14:6
  • I Am the true vine – John 15:1

John’s gospel features these seven I am statements, seven being the number of spiritual perfection, to reveal Jesus as the son of God, the I Am.

But, there are a number of instances, six to be exact, in John’s gospel where, the English translation, Jesus says, “I am he.” But, in everyone of these instances, the word “he” is not found in the original Greek and has been added in English, supposedly to aid in our understanding. But, by adding “he,” the translators have taken away the force of what Jesus is saying.

Notice how the following passages read without the “he” that is not in the Greek. I will bold the I Am that doesn’t have the “he” in the Greek.

“‘I told you that you would die in your sins, for unless you believe that I Am you will die in your sins.’ So they said to him, ‘Who are you?’ Jesus said to them, ‘Just what I have been telling you from the beginning. I have much to say about you and much to judge, but he who sent me is true, and I declare to the world what I have heard from him.’ They did not understand that he had been speaking to them about the Father. So Jesus said to them, ‘When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know that I Am, and that I do nothing on my own authority, but speak just as the Father taught me. And he who sent me is with me. He has not left me alone, for I always do the things that are pleasing to him.’ As he was saying these things, many believed in Him.” – John 8:24-30

“I am not speaking of all of you; I know whom I have chosen. But the Scripture will be fulfilled, ‘He who ate my bread has lifted his heel against me.’ I am telling you this now, before it takes places, that when it does take place you may believe that I Am. Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever receives the one I send receives me, and whoever receives me receives the one who sent me.” – John 13:18-20

“So Judas, having procured a band of soldiers and some officers from the chief priests and the Pharisees, went there with lanterns and torches and weapons. Then Jesus, knowing all that would happen to him, came forward and said to them, ‘Whom do you seek?’ They answered him, ‘Jesus of Nazareth.’ Jesus said to them, ‘I Am.’ Judas, who betrayed him, was standing with them. When Jesus said to them, ‘I Am,’ they drew back and fell to the ground. So he asked them again, ‘Whom do you seek?’ And they said, ‘Jesus of Nazareth.’ Jesus answered, ‘I told you that I Am.’ So, if you seek me, let these men go.'” – John 18:3-8

Without the “he,” Jesus’ statements become much more forceful and powerful. And, all of these I Am statements fulfill the scripture, “Therefore my people shall know my name. Therefore in that day they shall know that it is I who speak; here I am.”

Seeing Jesus in Hezekiah and Sennacherib’s Conflict

TODAY’S READING: ISAIAH 35-37

On the surface, Isaiah 36 and 37 contain a story of a historical conflict between Hezekiah, the king of Israel, and Sennacherib, the king of Assyria. But, underneath the surface, Jesus can be seen in the deeper meaning.

Isaiah 36:1 says that this conflict took place in the 14th year of Hezekiah’s reign. The number 14 symbolizes deliverance and salvation throughout scripture. Israel was delivered from Egypt on the Passover, which took place on the 14th of the day month. In Acts 27:27, it was on the 14th night after the storm arose that sailors of the ship Paul was on suspected they were nearing land. And, it was on the 14th day of the month, on the Passover, that Jesus was crucified, which set us free from our bondage to Satan and the powers and idols of this world.

Depending on the source, Sennacherib means bramble of destruction or the moon god Sin has increased the brothers. Bramble is a thorny bush. In Judges 9, bramble is the tree that desires to rule over the other trees.

Sennacherib sent the Rabshakeh to deliver a message to Hezekiah. Rabshakeh means chief cupbearer. Since the Rabshakeh was coming on behalf of Sennacherib, he was bearing the cup of destruction.

Hezekiah means Yahweh strengthens or the strength of the Lord. Here Hezekiah is a picture of Jesus. Jesus was strengthened by the Father. And, Christ crucified is the strength or power of God.

The Rabshakeh told the people of Jerusalem to not listen to Hezekiah. He said that Hezekiah would not be able to deliver them. Instead, the people of Jerusalem should make peace with Sennacherib, who is a picture of Satan. If they make peace with Sennacherib, they will have their “own” vine, their “own” fig tree, water from their “own” cistern, and your “own” land.

There is very reminiscent of how Satan deceived Eve. Satan told her if she ate from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil that she would be like God. But, she would have to disobey God, turn her back on God, to do so. This is just what Sennacherib is doing here. Through Rabshakeh, he told the people of Jerusalem to not trust in Hezekiah, Jesus, for deliverance. God could not really provide for them. But, he would give them everything they desired.

At one point during the conflict, the Lord told Hezekiah through Isaiah that Sennacherib would fall by the sword in his own land. In other words, it would be by his own power that Sennacherib would be destroyed.

Also, Hezekiah went up the house of the Lord to pray. The conclusion of his prayer was, “So now, O Lord our God, save us from his hand, that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that you alone are the Lord.”

The end of Hezekiah’s prayer reminds us the end of Jesus’ prayer the night before he died. In John 17:18, 20-23, Jesus said, “As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world…I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me.” Just like Hezekiah, Jesus is praying that the whole world, all the kingdoms of the earth, would know God the Father alone is the Lord.

In this story, we also see a picture of Jesus drinking a cup of destruction for this is what Sennacherib to Hezekiah through the Rabshakeh. Jesus committed to drinking this cup in the garden so that we would not have to drink it. But, ultimately, the cup of destruction could not destroy Jesus.

Once already in the story the Lord said Sennacherib would by fall the sword in his own land, or by his own power. But, twice more something similar is said. Isaiah said that the Lord has spoken concerning Sennacherib, “I will turn you back on the way by which you came.” And, “By the way that he came, by the same he shall return.” That the enemy will destroyed by his own weapon or be turned back by the way he came is a recurring theme throughout the scripture.

This is exactly what Jesus did to Satan on the cross. Jesus did not destroy Satan with a sword or with strength or with power. Instead, Jesus defeated Satan with his own weapon. Jesus sent Satan back by the way that he came.

How did Satan come?

By death. He was a murderer from the beginning.

So, how did Jesus defeat Satan by the way that he came?

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.”

Jesus defeated Satan, the one who had the power of death, through his own death. Jesus used Satan’s own weapon against him. No force or violence was required.

In the story under consideration, this was symbolized in that “the angel of the Lord went out and struck down 185,000 in the camp of the Assyrians.”

Why 185,000?

The number 185 is never mentioned in scripture. But, it is interesting that the number 185 has only two divisors – 5 and 37. These are the only two numbers that you can multiply together to get 185.

Most know that the number five symbolizes grace. But, not many know what the number 37 means. A close study of scripture will reveal the number 37 is found all over scripture. But, I will give just one example for know. Using one type of gematria (the ordinal type where the letters have a number based on their place in the alphabet), the value of the Hebrew word for wisdom is 37. All throughout scripture we can see that the number 37 symbolizes wisdom or truth.

So, what could this number 185,000 represent?

That the angel of the Lord struck the Assyrian camp with 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; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.

If we look by the Spirit, then Jesus is all over the conflict between Hezekiah and Sennacherib.

Judge with Love

TODAY’S READING: 2 CHRONICLES 17-20

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jesus: The Hebrew Slave That Would Not Go Out Free

In Exodus 20, God gives Moses the ten commandments that he is to give to Israel. Then, In Exodus 21-23, God gives Moses more detailed laws for Israel to follow.

In Matthew 5:17-18, Jesus says, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished.”

Jesus came to fulfill every bit of the laws we read of in Exodus 20-23. He came to fulfill every other law and prophecy in the Old Testament too. This is why Jesus showed the two disciples on the road to Emmaus where he was in all the law and the prophets. Jesus showed them how he fulfilled, or completed, the law and the prophets.

Not one bit of this law, the law we read about in the Old Testament, will pass away until “all is accomplished”, that is until heaven and earth pass away. The Greek word accomplish, ginomai, means to become or to take place. It also means to come into a new state of being. In John 19:30, when Jesus was on the cross, he said, “It is finished.” In other words, Jesus accomplished all that was in the law and the prophets. Jesus had brought creation to a new state of being.

It also meant that heaven and earth had passed away. How so? Well,  in order for there to be a heaven and an earth, there had to be a distinction or a separation between them. God did this when he created the firmament on the second day of Genesis. This firmament was equivalent to the veil in the tabernacle and the temple, which separated the most holy place from the holy place, or heaven from earth. But, Jesus’ death on the cross tore the veil and removed the firmament that separated heaven from the earth. Now, heaven and the earth were connected. They were one. There was no more distinction. Therefore, the two had passed away.

The passing away of heaven and earth is now but not yet. It has begun but is not complete. What do I mean? Well, for all those that believe in Jesus, the reality is that heaven and earth have passed away. The kingdom is here. This is why Paul says in Romans 6:14, “For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.” And, this is why John writes in his gospel in John 1:17, “For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.” However, for all those who have not received Jesus Christ, they are still under the law. The veil of Moses has not been taken away. Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 3:14-16, “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.” For those that have not had the veil removed, heaven and earth are still separated, still alive as it were.  They have not passed away. And, for them it is as though the law has not been accomplished, that is finished or brought to an end. Therefore, they are still under the law. The law is still their tutor to bring them to Christ. This is what Paul is writing about in Galatians 3 and 4.

So, for those who believe Jesus, they are no longer under all the laws we read about in Exodus 20-23. Jesus has fulfilled those laws for us. Instead, we obey Jesus. He said to practice perfect love – love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, soul, and strength and the love your neighbor as Jesus has loved you (yes, Jesus ramped up the requirement to “as he loved us” from “as yourself” right before he died).

Therefore, I want to look at just one of the laws in Exodus 21 to see how Jesus fulfilled it. Exodus 21:2-6 says, “When you buy a Hebrew slave, he shall serve six years, and in the seventh he shall go out free, for nothing. If he comes in single, he shall go out single; if he comes in married, then his wife shall go out with him. If his master gives him a wife and she bears him sons or daughters, the wife and her children shall be her master’s, and he shall go out alone. But if the slave plainly says, ‘I love my master, my wife, and my children; I will not go out free,’ then his master shall bring him to God, and he shall bring him to the door or the doorpost. And his master shall bore his ear through with an awl, and he shall be his slave forever.”

Have you considered that Jesus fulfilled this law?

Philippians 2:5-7 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, being born in the likeness of men.” The Greek word for servant is doulos. It literally means a born bondman, a slave, or one made a slave. Jesus became a Hebrew slave just like it says in Exodus 21:2.

If the slave served six years, then he was to go out free in the seventh year. Jesus did not serve six years. His ministry, his work, his time as a slave was only three and a half years. Therefore, he was not entitled to go out free.

Jesus came into his service, his slavery, single. He was not married. If he had come into his service, his slavery, married, then he could have gone out free with his wife after six years. Therefore, if Jesus ended his six years of slavery and went out free, then he would have had to go out single, without any wife or children that his master might have given him.

But, if the master gave the slave a wife and children while during his time of slavery, then the wife and children would be the master’s and not the slave’s. The slave would have to go out alone. We know that the church, all believers,  is the bride of Christ, the wife of Jesus. Did you know that Jesus received his wife, all believers, from God, his master, during his slavery?

This fact is repeated several times in the gospel of John. John 6:39 says, “And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day.” John 17:12 says, “While I was with them, I kept them in your name, which you have given me. I have guarded them, and not one of them has been lost except the son of destruction, that the Scripture might be fulfilled.” John 18:9 says, “Of those whom you gave me I have lost not one.” Jesus was given those that would believe in him, his wife, during his ministry, during his slavery. And, he didn’t lose one of them.

But, there was an exception to the slave going out alone and leaving his wife and children behind that his master gave him. The exception was if the slave clearly said, “I love my master, my wife, and my children; I will not go out free.” Jesus loved his master, the Father. John 14:31 says, “But I do as the Father commanded me, so that the world may know that I love the Father.” And, Jesus loved his wife, the believers. John 13:1 says, “When Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart out of this world to the Father, having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end.” Jesus clearly said that he loved his Father and his wife and children through every thing he did and everything he spoke.

Since Jesus clearly stated this love, he said “I will not go out free.” Therefore, like the Hebrew slave, Jesus was to be brought to God and to the door or the doorpost. “And his master shall bore his ear through with an awl, and he shall be his slave forever.” The door or the doorpost is a symbol of the cross. We learned this earlier in Exodus in the account of the Passover. Jesus was brought to the cross. An awl is a boring instrument or a needle. Jesus was nailed to the cross and pierced with a spear while he hung on it. Jesus said he would be God’s slave forever in order to keep his wife and children that he received during his slavery. Jesus will serve the Father forever as the High Priest as it is says in Hebrews.

Jesus did not go out free. He paid with his life to receive his bride. Both 1 Corinthians 6:20 and 7:23 say “you were bought with a price.” A price had to be paid in order for Jesus, the Hebrew slave, to bring the wife and children he received from his master out of slavery with him. Galatians 3:13 says that “Christ redeemed us.” He bought us to keep us since he received us during his slavery. What was the price Jesus paid? Ephesians 1:7 says that “in him we have redemption through his blood.” Jesus bought us with his blood, with his life. Indeed, this is how we know that Jesus, the Hebrew slave, clearly said that he loved us during his time of slavery. For 1 John 3:16 says, “By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us.” Jesus didn’t pay this price as some sort of punishment. No, Jesus paid this price to show his Father how much he loved his wife that his Father gave him during his time of slavery.

Jesus fulfilled the law of the Hebrew slave to bring the wife that he received from God out of slavery with him. He was willing to not go out free but pay the price for us. He loves us that much.

Jesus, Believers, and the World: The True Exodus, A Story of Worship

Today’s Reading: Exodus 5-7

Exodus is the account of Moses leading Israel out of the land of Egypt. But, this story foreshadows another exodus, a greater exodus, the true exodus.

In Deuteronomy 18:15, Moses says, “The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your brothers – it is to him you shall listen.” Moses’ prophecy is fulfilled by Jesus. According to Luke 9:35, while Jesus was on the mount of transfiguration with Peter, John, and James, a voice called out from heaven, “This is my Son, my Chosen One; listen to him!”

In Exodus, Moses is a type of Jesus.

Israel is the people of God. In Genesis 46, we see that Israel was made of the 70 people that came into Egypt with Jacob. These 70 were the descendants of Abraham. They are connected to the 70 nations dispersed from the sons of Noah and represented the nations of the world that would be blessed through the promised offspring, who Paul says was really Jesus, not Isaac.

In Romans 9:6-7, Paul says, “For not all who are descended from Israel belong to Israel, and not all are children of Abraham because they are his offspring, but ‘Through Isaac shall your offspring be named.'” Just because you descend from Abraham by flesh and blood does not mean that you are a child of Abraham. Well, then, who is a child of Abraham? Paul says in Galatians 3:7, 29, “Know then that it is those of faith who are the sons of Abraham…And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to the promise.” The true people of God, the people of the promise, are those that believe the gospel just as Abraham did.

In Exodus, Israel is a type of the believer.

What Egypt is is not as explicitly stated in the Bible, but we can infer what it represents from the whole of scripture. In Matthew 2, an angel of the Lord appears to Joseph in a dream and tells him to take Jesus and his mother to Egypt. Matthew 2:15 says, “This was to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet, ‘Out of Egypt I called my son.'” Jesus said his kingdom was not of this world. These are just a few points that help us understand what Egypt is.

In Exodus, Egypt is a type of the world.

Therefore the true exodus is Jesus leading all those that believe in him out so that they are no longer of the world and can worship in spirit and truth.

That was a rather lengthy, but I believe necessary introduction, to what the Holy Spirit immediately laid on my heart this morning as I read Exodus 5.

Moses and Aaron had gathered the elders of Israel. They spoke all the things God told them to speak and did the signs God gave them to do in front of all the people. And, the people believed and bowed their heads in worship.

At the start of Exodus 5, Moses and Aaron go to Pharaoh. They tell Pharaoh that God said, “Let my people go, that they may hold a feast to me in the wilderness.” God spoke to the ruler of the world and basically said let my people go so they can worship me. “But Pharaoh said, ‘Who is the Lord, that I should obey his voice and let Israel go? I do not know the Lord, and moreover, I will not let Israel go.”

The Holy Spirit immediately brought to my mind Jesus’ conversation with Pilate just before he was crucified. Shortly before that conversation, the people proclaimed hosanna to Jesus as he entered Jerusalem. They believed he was king and worshiped him like the Israelites believed and bowed their heads to worship at the end of Exodus 4.. But, Jesus is arrested and led before Pilate, who symbolized the ruler of this world.

Jesus had been gathering people, people of Israel, to himself to worship God in spirit and in truth. When Jesus was brought before Pilate by the chief priest and elders, Pilate asked who he was and what he had done. In John 18:36, Jesus answered, “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 is saying, “Let my people go.”

Pilate says, “So you are a king?” Like Pharaoh, Pilate is thinking strictly in earthly terms. He’s thinking that Jesus is a king like him, or Caesar, and he wants an earthly kingdom. In John 18:37, Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world – to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice.” I think many read Jesus’ statement as if he was saying “I was born king.” But, I don’t think that’s what he is saying here. Jesus says to Pilate, “You say that I am king.” That’s what you say, but not what I’m saying. Jesus then tells Pilate why he was born – to bear witness to the truth. In fact, Jesus is truth and everyone who is of the truth listens to his voice. Jesus is talking about worship. He is saying, “Let my people go, that they may hold a feast to me in the wilderness.”

But, Pilate said to Jesus, “What is truth?” Pilate said exactly what Pharaoh said. “I do not know the Lord, and moreover, I will not let Israel go.”

Pilate sends Jesus to be flogged. Pilate meets with the Jews. The Jews say that Jesus declared himself to be the Son of God. Now, Pilate was afraid. So, he asked Jesus, “Where are you from?” But, Jesus didn’t answer. Clearly this angered Pilate. Pilate said, “You will not speak to me? Do you not know that I have authority to release you and authority to crucify you?” What does Pilate mean by this? I think he was telling Jesus that he has authority to take his life so Jesus better worship him. But, in John 19:11, Jesus answered, “You would have no authority over me at all unless it had been given you from above.” Jesus was saying I will not worship you, but I will worship the one in heaven who has authority over you.

Most of the rest of Exodus 5 is about Pharaoh trying to get the worship that belongs to God and how the Israelites struggled under the burdens of Pharaoh could not believe and worship as they did at the end of Exodus 4. How so?

God wanted his people to go into the wilderness a three days’ journey to have a feast before him. Three days is the time between death and life, the period of time between Jesus’ death and resurrection. God was calling his people to a new life to worship him, to believe who he is. Jesus was asked what people must do to be doing the works of God. In John 6:29, Jesus answered, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.”

However, Pharaoh told Moses that by going out into the wilderness to worship he was taking the people away from their work. Moses was just trying to get them our of their burdens. Pharaoh told Moses and Israel to get back to work. Their work was to make bricks. And, Pharaoh was determined to make their work, their brick making, as difficult as he could.

So, Moses was talking about worship, believing, which is the work of God. And, Pharaoh was talking about making bricks, work, burdens. Did you know making bricks is a type of self-worship or the worship of man by man? Genesis 11:3-4 says, “Come, let us make bricks…Come, let us build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be dispersed over the face of the whole earth.” Mankind wants to get worship by building his own city, his own temple, so that man can gather together to themselves.

But, I left something out of Genesis 11:3, “And they had brick for stone.” Man builds with brick. God builds with stone.

Genesis 28:18-19 says, “So early in the morning Jacob took the stone that he had put under his head and set it up for a pillar and poured oil on the top of it. He called the name of that place Bethel.” Jacob had seen a vision of a ladder with angels ascending and descending. He saw a vision of heaven and earth connected. So, he set up a stone and poured oil on it – a living stone. And, Jacob called that place Bethel – the house of God. Jacob recognized that God builds his temple, his place of worship, with stones not bricks. Man can make bricks, but he can’t make stones. Only God can make stones. And, only God can make stones live.

Jesus was the cornerstone, the chief stone, the stone that the builder’s rejected. Listen to what Peter says when we come to Jesus to worship, when we go out into the wilderness three days’ journey for a feast, “As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.” God builds his city, his temple, with living stones, men and women who believe, not bricks.

Therefore, Pharaoh wanted to build his own temple through the work of man with bricks. He wanted man’s worship. Of course, Pharaoh is a type of Satan here.

But, God, Jesus, Moses, wants a different kind of work, a work that is believing God. God does this work with living stones. I think Hebrews 11:8-10 sums it all up, “By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place that he was to receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going. By faith he went to live in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, living in tents with Isaac and Jacob, heirs with him of the same promise. For he was looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God.”

Let my people go. Let them go out. Into the wilderness. Three days. From death to life. They won’t know where they are going. But, by faith. By faith dwelling in the land of promise. A foreign land. As strangers. Not of this world. Living in tents. Sojourners passing through. Looking for the city, the temple, built by God. This is what a lifestyle of worship looks like.

Jesus: I Am the Burning Bush

Today’s Reading: Exodus 1-4

In John 1, we read that the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us. Rightly, we understand that this is Jesus. We know that Jesus came into the world. Wrongly, many of us think that this is the first time that Jesus appeared in the world. The Word made flesh was when Jesus, God, became a man, became like one of us. But, it was not the first time that Jesus appeared in the world. Jesus, the Word of God, was and living active in the creation from the beginning of creation. The entire Old Testament testifies to this.

Exodus 3 is one such testimony of Jesus.

In this chapter, Moses leads his flock to the west side of the wilderness. Throughout the Bible, east is the direction away from the presence of God. But, as we move west, we draw closer and closer to God’s presence. So, it’s important to recognize that Moses led his flock to the west side of the wilderness to Horeb, the mountain of God.

Verse 2 says, “And the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush. He looked, and behold, the bush was burning, yet it was not consumed.”

It is important to recognize that the angel of the Lord is Jesus in his pre-incarnate form, before he took on flesh and became a man. I have written about this before – most recently in Jesus Meets a Woman at a Well and God Provides Himself the Lamb.

The angel of the Lord is not just another angel that God sends to do something. We know this because in every place the angel of the Lord appears he speaks in a way that equates himself with God, but he also seems to be in submission to God. After the angel of the Lord appeared, notice that the rest of Exodus 3 says that “God called to him”, “I am the God…”, “the Lord said…”, “Moses said to God”, “God said to Moses”, and so on. Is it the angel of the Lord or God speaking to Moses? Is Moses speaking to the angel of the Lord or to God? Yes and yes.

Also, it is very important to see that the angel of the Lord “appeared” to Moses. Typically, when the angel of the Lord shows up in scripture, we read that he “appeared.” This is not referring to a vision, but a physical manifestation of the presence of God. Not physical in the sense of God made flesh, but a physical manifestation none the less. Appeared is the Hebrew word ra’ah. Generally, it means to see, to show, to look at. But, most of the time when it is translated “appeared” it is referring to the Lord manifesting himself to someone.

John 1:18 says, “No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known.” Then, in John 6:45-46, Jesus says, “Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me – not that anyone has seen the Father except he who is from God; he has seen the Father.” Jesus says we can hear the Father, but we can’t see him. If we have heard the Father, then we will come to Jesus. Jesus, the angel of the Lord, who is from God, is the only one that has seen the Father.” Further, in John 14:7, Jesus says, “If you had known me, you would have known my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.” To see Jesus is to see the Father, because Jesus is in the Father and the Father is in him.

Therefore, when the angel of the Lord appeared to Moses, he did not see the Father. No one has ever seen the Father. But, Moses did see Jesus.

How did the angel of the Lord appear to Moses? In a flame of fire out of the midst of the bush.

This Hebrew word for bush (which sort of sounds like Sinai – is it a pun?) is only used five times in the Bible. Four are found in the passage we are looking at. The fifth is in the blessing Moses speaks to the tribe of Joseph in Deuteronomy 33. Joseph will be blessed by “the favor of him who dwells in the bush.” This bush is a brier or species of bramble. What is significant about brier or bramble bushes? They have thorns. Adam’s sin caused the ground to be cursed and, because of the curse, the ground would produce thorns. (Consider that the dry ground that appeared on day three in Genesis refers to Jesus.) So, in this sense, thorns are the fruit of sin. The angel of the Lord, Jesus, appeared in the thorny bush. 2 Corinthians 5:21 says, “For our sake he [God] made him [Jesus] to be sin who knew no sin.” And, seeing Jesus in this thorny bush gives new meaning to 1 Peter 2:24, which says, “He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree.”

The angel of the Lord appeared to Moses in a flame of fire. Did you know that there are actually bushes in the wilderness that secrete an oil that, when under enough heat, will catch fire? They are called gas plants, or burning bushes. But, generally the flame burns out quickly. But, in verse 3, Moses says, “I will turn aside to see this great sight, why the bush is not burned.” I think Moses was used to seeing one of these bushes catch fire. But, what caught his eye was that the fire on this bush lingered. The fire on this bush did not go out. Moses saw that the bush was burning but was not consumed. The word “consumed” literally means to eat or devour. But, it also means destroyed. The angel of the Lord appeared to Moses in a bush that was burning but was not destroyed.

In the Bible, fire symbolizes judgment. The angel of the Lord appeared in a thorny bush that was on fire but not destroyed. Jesus was made sin for us and bore our sins on the cross but was not destroyed. Jesus is the burnt offering. Referring to his crucifixion, Psalm 22:14 says, “My heart is like wax; it is melted within my breast.” Jesus’ heart was burned and melted like wax on the cross. And, when Jesus’ side was pierced on the cross blood flowed out. Revelation 1:15 says that John saw Jesus’ “feet were like burnished bronze, refined in a furnace.” His feet that touched the ground, which was cursed and produced thorns, were burnished like bronze in a furnace. But, immediately after John sees this, in verses 17 and 18, Jesus says, “Fear not, I am the first and the last, and the living one. I died, and behold I am alive forevermore.” Jesus was burned but consumed, burned but not destroyed. “I died, but ‘I Am’ alive forevermore.”

Notice that angel of the Lord, Jesus, appeared out of the midst of the bush. The midst is the place where God dwells. The Word of God, Jesus, was made flesh and dwelt (tabernacled) among, in the midst of, us.

Meditate on where the angel of the Lord appeared to Moses. And, meditate on where Jesus has appeared to you. We truly see Jesus in the innocent, just, and righteous one that was made the thorny bush of sin, burned on the tree, died, but was not destroyed, and is alive forevermore. The sin, the burning, the death Jesus died was done by his own creation. Jesus, the one through whom all things were made (John 1:3). Or, as Colossians 1:16 says, “For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities – all things were created through him and for him.” What Jesus created murdered him.

How was Jesus burned but not destroyed? How was Jesus burned, murdered by his own creation, but not destroyed, alive forevermore?

In Luke 23:34, when Jesus was on the cross, in a flame of fire in the midst of his creation on the tree, he said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”

Forgiveness. Life overcoming death.

He was not destroyed because he forgave. He defeated death and became a life-giving Spirit because he forgave.

This is to know Jesus. In 2 Corinthians 5:21 and 1 Peter 2:24, why did Jesus become sin for us? Why did he bear our sin in his body on the tree? “That we might die to sin and live to righteousness.” “So that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”

What does this look like?

In the Lord’s prayer, Jesus tells us to pray “forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.” In Mark 11:25, Jesus says, “And whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father also who is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses.” Paul writes in Colossians 3:13, “bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.”

To know Jesus is to be aflame in the burning bush with him and not be destroyed but live forevermore with him through forgiveness. But, this is to know, not just Jesus, but God.

Moses sees this burning bush that is not consumed and asks the name of the one he is speaking to. The angel of the Lord responds, “I Am.” Reread Revelation 1:17-18. Jesus says “I Am” the first and the last. “I Am” the living one. I died. But, “I Am” alive forevermore.

In Exodus 3:15, the angel of the Lord, Jesus, says, “This is my name forever, and thus I am to be remembered throughout all generations.”

Jesus! I am the burning bush in the midst of all men that was not destroyed. I forgive you!