What Is God’s Job Function?

Genesis 2.2 says, “And on the seventh day God finished his work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all his work that he had done.”

But, Jesus told us that the Father never stopped working. In John 5.17, Jesus said, “My Father is working until now, and I am working.”

So, God works. Therefore, God has a job.

What is God’s job function?

Why is God working?

What is God trying to accomplish with his work.

To put it simply, God’s job function is to bring life out of death.

Everything that God does is focused on this one thing – bringing life out of death. God never brings death to anyone. Only life.

Just look at what Jesus said in John 5.19-29 immediately after he said that Father is working and so is he.

“Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing. For whatever the Father does, that the Son does likewise. For the Father  loves the Son and shows him all that he himself is doing. And greater works than these will he show him, so that you may marvel. For as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, so also the Son gives life to whom he will.” – John 5.19-21

The Father gives life to the dead. And so does Jesus. Therefore, Acts 10.38 says, “He went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him.” Matthew 4.23 says, “And he went through all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction among the people.” Mark 1.34 says, “And he healed many who were sick with various diseases, and cast out many demons.” Luke 4.40 says, “Now when the sun was setting, all those who had any who were sick with various diseases brought them to him, and he laid his hands on every one of them and healed them.” Everywhere Jesus went in the gospels he brought life to those that were sick because that is what he saw the Father doing.

Back to John 5.

“For the Father judges no one, but has given all judgment to the Son, that all may honor the Son, just as they honor the Father. Whoever does honor the Son does honor the Father who sent him. Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life.” – John 5.22-24

Here again Jesus stresses that God causes things to move from death to life. This is how God works. Bringing life from death is God’s job function. Jesus says this is the word he is speaking and everyone who hears it will have eternal life. In other words, they will know that God and that his job function is bring life from death.  Later in John 12.49-50, Jesus explicitly stated this when he said, “For I have not spoken on my own authority, but the Father who sent me has himself given me a commandment – what to say and what to speak. And I know that his commandment is eternal life. What I say, therefore, I say as the Father told me.” Jesus only spoke life because life is the only thing God speaks. God is always calling life out of death.

Back to John 5.

“Truly, truly, I say to you, an hour is coming and is now here, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live. 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. Do not marvel at this, for an hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear his voice and come out, those who have done good to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil to the resurrection of judgment.” – John 5.25-29

The hour that was coming that Jesus referred to was his crucifixion. At the crucifixion of Jesus, the dead would hear the voice of the Son of God and come to life. All those in the tombs would hear the voice of the Son of God, come out of the tombs and receive the resurrection of life. The Bible, Christian faith, and Christian tradition make clear that if there is anything that reveals God it is the cross, where God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself, which is to say bringing life out of death. So, here again we see God’s job function – bringing life out of death.

What else did Jesus say about the hour of his crucifixion?

“The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.” – John 12.23-24

So, a seed dies and bears fruit. Life comes out of death. When Jesus died he was like a seed planted in the ground that God brought life out of.

But, what do we know about seeds?

Let’s go all the way back to creation, back to Genesis 1.11-12, which says, “Let the earth sprout vegetation, plants yielding seed, and fruit trees bearing fruit in which is their seed, plants yielding seed according to their own kinds, and trees bearing fruit in which is their seed, each according to its kind.”

Seeds can only bear according to their kind. That is, seeds can only produce what is inside of them. Nothing else. An apple seed cannot produce an orange tree.

What was in Jesus?

“For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself.” – John 5.26

The Father and the Son both have life in them. Life is in their seed. Therefore, they can only produce life. They cannot produce death because then their seed would be producing not according to their own kind but some other kind. The seed must die before it can bear what it is carrying inside of it. So, Jesus, the Son of God, had to die to bring forth life. Again, we are confronted with God’s work and his job function.

In fact, this is the theme of the creation story in Genesis 1. Remember, God was at work when he created.

What did God do?

Genesis 1.2 says, “The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep.”

What does that mean?

The earth was dead.

But, then God called forth light, water, and land on days one, two, and three. Then, God said, “Let the earth sprout vegetation.”

Life.

Then God made the waters to swarm with living creatures and the heavens with birds.

More life.

Then God caused the earth to bring forth living creatures.

More life.

Then God created mankind in his own image.

More life.

Life, more life, more life, and more life. All from a dead earth.

Bring life out of death was what God did in the beginning, what God in the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus, what God is still doing today, and what God will always be doing.

God brings life and never death.

This what a crucified God reveals to us. Jurgen Moltmann said it this way in The Crucified God:

“The death of Christ cannot only come to fruition in an existentialist interpretation, in the ability of the believer to die in peace, important though that may be. The crucified Christ must be thought of as the origin of creation and the embodiment of the eschatology of being. In the cross of his Son, God took upon himself not only death, so that man might be able to die comforted with the certainty that even death could not separate him from God, but still more, in order to make the crucified Christ the ground of his new creation, in which death itself is swallowed up in the victory of life and there will be ‘no sorrow, no crying, and no more tears.'”

“Like the metaphysics of finite being, the theology of the cross sees all creatures subject to transitoriness and nothingness. But because it does not arise in this context, but sees nothingness itself done away with in the being of God, who in the death of Jesus has revealed himself and constituted himself in nothingness, it changes the general impression of the transitoriness of all things into the prospect of the hope and liberation of all things. ‘For the creation was subjected to nothingness, not of its own will but by the will of him who subjected it in hope’ (Rom. 8.20). Thus the metaphysical longing of all that is transitory for intransitoriness and of all that is finite for infinity undergoes an eschatological transformation and is taken up into the hope of freedom and the sons of God and the freedom of the new creation that does not pass away. Anyone who says ‘resurrection of the dead’ says ‘God’ (Barth). On the other hand, anyone who says ‘God’ and does not hope for the resurrection of the dead and a new creation from the righteousness of God, has not said ‘God’. What other belief in God can be held by those who are ‘dead’ unless it is ‘resurrection faith’?”

Indeed.

To say that life from death is to say God. That is God’s work and job function.

But, if you say God and cling to hell, eternal conscious torment, eternal burning and suffering, then you are not actual saying God. You are saying death. And, Satan is the one with that power (Hebrews 2.14-15).

We must remember that we all were once dead. Some may even still be dead. But, to proclaim God, to proclaim Christian faith, to proclaim resurrection faith is to say that I once was dead but now I am alive.

“And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience – among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ – by grace you have been saved – and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” – Ephesians 2.10

Once again, God brings life to dead. This is his work. It is God’s job function. We, all humankind, are his workmanship, his masterpiece.

What Does the Land of Canaan Symbolize?

For the past couple of days, I have been reading the book of Joshua. Joshua is the account of Israel finally entering the promised land, Canaan, after wandering in the wilderness for 40 years. When I first began reading the Bible, I thought Canaan symbolized heaven. So, we have a story of God leading his people of Egypt, the world or the earth, and into Canaan, heaven. In between, is the wilderness, our journey through this world once we are saved as we try to make it to heaven. I’m sure I’m not the only one that has believed this. But, as I have become more familiar with the story of the Bible, I believe something different now.

So, what does Canaan, the promised land, symbolize if it does not symbolize heaven?

Rest.

The Greek word for rest is katapauo. Almost every use of the word is in the book of Hebrews.

Hebrews 3.11 says, “As I swore in my wrath, ‘They shall not enter my rest.'” This is actually a quotation of Psalm 95.11. This verse is about a people who have hardened their hearts and rebelled against God on their day of testing in the wilderness. Because the people always went astray in their hearts, God said they would not enter his rest. The writer of Hebrews goes on to ask who it was that rebelled? Was it not those led out of Egypt by Moses? Weren’t these ones with whom God was provoked? Weren’t these the ones whom God said they could not enter his rest?

Then, in Hebrews 4.8-10, the writer of Hebrews ties the idea of rest together with Joshua leading Israel into the land of Canaan. “For if Joshua had given them rest, God would not have spoken of another day later on. So then, there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God, for whoever has entered God’s rest has also rested from his works as God did from his.” Joshua led the people into Canaan, but he did not give them rest because Israel did not cease from its works.

Even though those that rebelled in the wilderness failed to enter God’s rest, which is to say they died in the wilderness without entering Canaan, Hebrews 4.1 says, “the promise of entering his rest still stands.”

So, what is God’s rest then?

Hebrews 4.3-4 says, “For we who have believed enter that rest, as he has said, ‘As I swore in my wrath, “They shall not enter my rest,”‘ although his works were finished from the foundation of the world. For he has somewhere spoken of the seventh day in this way: ‘And God rested on the seventh day from all his works.'” This is a quotation of Genesis 2.2. The Lexham English Septuagint says, “God completed in the sixth day his works that he did, and he ceased on the seventh day from all his works.” The Greek word for ceased is the word katapauo, the same word the writer of Hebrews uses.

God’s rest is a ceasing from creative activity. God worked, or created, on the first six days, but he ceased, or rested, from creating on the seventh day. We know that God’s rest related specifically to God’s creative work not all of God’s work though. John 5.16-17 says, “And this was why the Jews were persecuting Jesus, because he was doing these things on the Sabbath. But Jesus answered them, ‘My Father is working until now, and I am working.” For Jesus and God, the seventh day, the Sabbath, was not a day of doing nothing, doing no work. They both still worked on the Sabbath. But, they no longer did creative work.

What is significant about creative work?

When you create something, you own it. It’s yours. You can do whatever you want with it.

On the seventh day, God ceased from that kind of work. God was now sharing his creation with mankind. He was making man a partner with him in taking care of the creation.

So, for you and me to enter God’s rest is for us to rest, or cease, from our own creative works. We are stop trying to make something that is our own, something that we can use for ourselves, and do with it whatever we please. Oh, we still have work to do. Lots of it. But, the work is to ensure that have everyone has a satisfactory portion of God’s creation. That is the concept of peace, shalom.

In Canaan, this was symbolized by each tribe receiving their inheritance of the promised land. And, no family was to lose their inheritance as all their land was to be restored to them every Jubilee. No one was ever to be without their portion. For the first Christians, this was fulfilled in Acts 2.32, 34-35, which says, “Now the full number of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one said that any of the things that belonged to him was his own, but they had everything in common…There was not a needy person among them, for as many as were owners of lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold and laid it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to each as any had need.”

They had entered God’s rest, Canaan.

What Work Is Forbidden on the Sabbath?

In my last post, we saw that the man supposedly killed by God for picking up sticks on the Sabbath was actually a picture of Jesus. In the New Testament, we see that Jesus, that is God, heals rather than kills on the Sabbath. Jesus, that is God, gathers his people rather than casting them out on the Sabbath. Instead, it was Moses, Aaron, and the congregation that stoned the man for gathering sticks on the Sabbath. While there was no specific law against gathering sticks on the Sabbath, Numbers 15.32-36 indicates that Moses, Aaron, and the congregation came to a mutual decision that the man should be killed.

How did they determine that the man gathering sticks on the Sabbath should be killed?

They based their decision on what Moses thought he heard from God.

“And the Lord said to Moses, ‘You are to speak to the people of Israel and say, “Above all you shall keep my Sabbaths, for this is a sign between me and you throughout your generations, that you may know that I, the Lord, sanctify you. You shall keep the Sabbath, because it is holy for you. Everyone who profanes it shall be put to death. Whoever does any work on it, that soul shall be cut off from among his people. Six days shall work be done, but the seventh day is a Sabbath of solemn rest, holy to the Lord. Whoever does any work on the Sabbath day shall be put to death. Therefore the people of Israel shall keep the Sabbath, observing the Sabbath throughout their generations, as a covenant forever. It is a sign forever between me and the people of Israel that in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, and on the seventh day he rested and was refreshed.”(Exodus 32.12-17)

Moses, Aaron, and the congregation deemed that gathering sticks on the Sabbath was doing work. Working on the Sabbath profaned the Sabbath as the Sabbath was to be a day of solemn rest. The Sabbath was a day of solemn rest because the Lord made the heaven and the earth in six days and rested on the seventh day. By working on six days and resting on the seventh day, Israel would be imaging, emulating, mirroring God. If one’s life did not image God, then their soul should be cut off from the people and they should die.

But, is this what God really instructed Moses and Israel to do?

Did God really say to Moses that anyone who gathered sticks on the Sabbath was profaning the Sabbath by working on it and should be put to death?

Or, did Moses misunderstand God?

Does Jesus help us understand God, work, and the Sabbath differently?

In John 5.1-17, Jesus comes across a man who had been an invalid for 38 years. Every day the man would lie by the pool at the Sheep Gate so that when the water was stirred he could get in the pool and be healed. But, you had to be the first one in the pool, and someone always beat him into the pool. Even though it was the Sabbath, Jesus told the man to get up, take his bed with him, and walk. At once the man was healed, but carrying his bed on the Sabbath was against the law. This man was profaning the Sabbath by doing work. Further, Jesus was profaning the Sabbath healing the man. Verses 16-17 say, “And this was why the Jews were persecuting Jesus, because he was doing these things on the Sabbath. But Jesus answered them, ‘My Father is working until now, and I am working.”

Jesus is clearly saying that the Father works on the Sabbath. “He is working until now.” Therefore, because the Father is working on the Sabbath, Jesus says, “I am working.”

What is going on here?

Exodus 32.12-17 is clearly referring back to the creation accounts in Genesis 1-3. Verse 17 says, “It is a sign forever between me and the people of Israel that in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, and on the seventh he rested and was refreshed.” Genesis 2.1-2 says, “Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them. And on the seventh day God finished his work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all his work that he had done.” The two passages are quite similar.

But, there is something very interesting about the seventh day of creation that you might not have noticed.

It never ended.

Each of the first six days of creation had a clear ending.

  • “And there was evening and there was morning, the first day.” (Genesis 1.5)
  • “And there was evening and there was morning, the second day.” (Genesis 1.8)
  • “And there was evening and there was morning, the third day.” (Genesis 1.13)
  • “And there was evening and there was morning, the fourth day.” (Genesis 1.19)
  • “And there was evening and there was morning, the fifth day.” (Genesis 1.23)
  • “And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day.” (Genesis 1.31)

But, in Genesis 2.1-3, this phrase is not stated regarding the seventh day. In other words, for God the seventh day, the day of solemn rest, the Sabbath, has continued forever without end. So, Jesus said that even though it is the Sabbath, and always has been the Sabbath for God, “My Father is working until now, and I am working” because I am the image of my Father.

Hold on.

Genesis 2.1-3 says “on the seventh day God finished his work…he rested on the seventh day from all his work…God rested from all his work that he had done in creation.”

So, which is it?

Did God stop working or not?

In Genesis 2.1-3, the Hebrew word for work is melakah. This word does mean work. But, it can also mean possessions, or what is owned by the expenditure of work. The idea behind melakah seems to be that when you work to create something you own what you have created. God worked to create for six days. At the end of six days, God rested from the kind of work that creates. There was nothing left for God to create and own. All of it had been made. And, God owed all of it. But, God did not stop working altogether.

Exodus 32.14-15 says, “Whoever does any work on it, that soul shall be cut off from among his people. Six days shall work be done, but the seventh day is a Sabbath of solemn rest, holy to the Lord. Whoever does any work on the Sabbath shall be put to death.” Three times the word work is used and three times it is the word melakah. Therefore, the work that is forbidden on the Sabbath is the work of creating to take ownership of what is created.

Why?

Because God had created and owned everything on the first six days of creation. As the seventh day of creation never ended, there was nothing left to work to create and own. God had created the earth, all the land, and given it to man. Man was merely a steward of what God had created. Man did not own the land himself. Therefore, for man to work to own the land on the Sabbath would profane the Sabbath, or profane the work God had already done in creation and rested from.

When man was created he was living in the seventh day, the day of rest that never ended. Yet, man was given work to do. Genesis 2.15 says, “The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it.”

Wait a minute.

How did God put the man in the garden “to work it” when God had rested from his work?

The Hebrew word for work in Genesis 2.15 is not the same as in Genesis 2.1-3. Here the Hebrew word for work is bod, which primarily means to serve. Also, the Hebrew word for keep is samar, which also means to watch over or guard. In other words, man was to serve and keep, guard, or watch over what God had created as his own possession. Again, man was a steward not an owner.

Some food for thought. These two Hebrew words, bod and samar, are regularly used of the priests serving in the Tabernacle. The priests, by the way, worked on the Sabbath as sacrifices still had to be offered. And, Jesus tabernacled among us (John 1.14) and was always working as God’s servant.

In a restatement of the 10 commandments, Deuteronomy 5.12 says, “Observe the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.” The word observe is the Hebrew word samar. Also, Exodus 32.12-17 says, “you shall keep my Sabbaths…you shall keep the Sabbath…the people of Israel shall keep the Sabbath.” Each time the word keep is the word samar.

Therefore, on the seventh day, the Sabbath, Adam was to serve and keep, guard, or watch over the garden. Similarly, Israel was to keep the Sabbath in the same way as Adam. There was still work to be done, just not the kind of work that would take ownership of what the work produced.

Exodus 32.12-17 says “everyone who profanes it shall be put to death” and “whoever does any work on the Sabbath day shall be put to death.” The phrase “shall be put to death” is the same phrase that we find in Genesis 2.16-17 after Adam was given the command to bod and samar the garden of Eden in Genesis 2.15. Genesis 2.16-17 says, “And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, ‘You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.”

So, Adam was to work and keep the garden. As long as Adam did that, he could eat from everything in God’s garden, including the tree of life, which meant he could benefit from what God created and owned. But, if he ate from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil instead of the tree of life, then Adam would surely die. In other words, Adam was to work and keep the garden to extend it throughout the earth. And, he would do this as long as he did not try to own anything himself. In this way, Adam would spread life throughout the earth. But, if Adam ate from the tree of the knowledge good and evil, if Adam stepped outside his role as steward so as to make his own judgments and own what was not his, then he would surely die.

Perhaps, this is why in the beginning of Solomon’s book on wisdom, which is Jesus, who is the tree of life, Proverbs 1.18-19 says, “But these men lie in wait for their own blood; they set an ambush for their own lives. Such are the ways of everyone who is greedy for unjust gain; it takes away the life of its possessors.” To be greedy for unjust gain is to work to own that which is not rightfully yours. As we have seen, that is what is meant by working to create on the Sabbath, which profanes the Sabbath. Men that try to possess land that is not theirs through violence are working to own that which is not theirs. It results in death.

Further, we see an allusion from the life of Jesus back to the command God gave Adam to work and keep the garden to spread life throughout the earth and the command to keep the Sabbath. However, if Adam ate from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, then he would surely die.

“On another Sabbath, he entered the synagogue and was teaching, and a man was there whose right hand was withered. And the scribes and the Pharisees watched him, to see whether he would heal on the Sabbath, so that they might find a reason to accuse him. But he knew their thoughts, and he said to the man with the withered hand, ‘Come and stand here.’ And he rose and stood there. And Jesus said to them, ‘I ask you, is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or to do harm, to save life or to destroy it?’ And after looking around at them all he said to them, ‘Stretch out your hand.’ And he did so, and his hand was restored. But they were filled with fury and discussed with one another what they might do to Jesus.”

Jesus’s work of healing on the Sabbath was an one of working, or serving, and keeping the garden of God by restoring or extending its life. Because the man’s hand was withered, he was not able to fulfill the command God gave to Adam. Therefore, the man was not able to image God, which meant that he could not express God’s life. Knowing that the scribes and Pharisees believed it was wrong to heal, to work, on the Sabbath, Jesus asked if he could do good or give save life on the Sabbath. He was asking not if he could work to create so as to own the fruits of his labor but if he could work and keep the life that God had created and owned. Jesus was seeking to liberate the life that God had created. To not do this kind of work on the Sabbath, to not extend God’s kingdom and the life it brings, would be to do harm and to destroy life, to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.

So, through the lens of Jesus, I think we can see that not all work was forbidden on the Sabbath. Working to own the produce of our work was forbidden. But, if that work was the kind of work that saved life, restored life, and extended God’s kingdom then that work was not only allowed but actually commanded by God to be performed. This is the kind of work that God still performed on the Sabbath according to Jesus. Therefore, it was the kind of work Jesus did on the Sabbath since he only did what he saw his Father doing. In this way Jesus imaged God. As we enter back into that day of rest, the day of rest without end, meaning every day is a day of rest, this is the same kind of work that we are to do. And, we are to do everything as if we are doing it for the Lord. In other words, everything should we do should be an act of serving and keeping God’s garden. It’s all work on the Sabbath. Then we to will image God and be his sons.

Rest, Don’t Work; Or, Don’t Whore after Other Gods

TODAY’S READING: EZEKIEL 16-17

“But you trusted in your beauty and played the whore because of your renown and lavished your whorings on any passerby; your beauty became his.” – Ezekiel 16:15

The Hebrew root word for whore is zanah. Zanah means to commit fornication, be unfaithful; to abandon someone to fornication. Words derived from zanah mean prostitution, harlotry and fornication. While this is the literal meaning of zanah, it seems to be that zanah is almost always used in the context of whoring after other gods.

Israel was considered God’s bride. Therefore, when they whored after other gods, it was as if Israel was committing fornication or adultery against God.

Although not necessarily the case in Ezekiel 16, presumably Israel, at least at some point, whored after other gods for what the other gods could potentially give them. But, these other gods require you to work for what you can get from them.

This reminds me of Adam of Eve. God had provided them everything that was good. God had even given them access to his life. Yet, they chose to go after another god. They failed to believe in God’s good provision and sought what they desired from another. They played the whore.

This also reminds me of what Jesus said in Matthew 6:25-34. He said we are anxious for our life, what we will eat, drink, and wear. But, Jesus told us to look at the creation and see how God provided for what he created. “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 you heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.”

The implication here is that the Gentiles were seeking after what they should eat, drink, and wear. In their anxiety, the Gentiles sought this from other gods. And to get these things from their gods, the Gentiles had to work for them. But, Jesus told those listening to him to seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness.

Don’t whore after gods for what you need. Seek the kingdom of God, and God will give you everything you need for life.

Jesus spoke to this another way in John 6:28-29. “Then they said to him, ‘What must we do, to be doing the works of God?’ Jesus answered them, ‘This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.'”

Today, I think we have taken this to mean that God simply wants to have an intellectual belief in God and that doing any work is wrong. But, we must remember that Adam worked in the garden before sin. It was only after Adam sin, after he whored after another god, that his work became toil and striving, seeking the things he needed for life.

God wants us to work. But, the works are believing in God when the works are rooted in a trust that God will provide and produce the everything necessary for life. Therefore, 1 Corinthians 10:31 says, “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” And, Colossians 3:17 says, “And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”

So, we are not to whore after other gods, seeking what is necessary for life. That work is toil and striving. But, we are to work believing that God has provided everything we need. He is in control of the outcome. That work is rest.

Besides what we have seen so far in Ezekiel 16 and the words of Jesus, the book of Ezekiel provides further confirmation of whoring after other gods being a striving work instead of seeking the kingdom and doing a restful work by trusting in the Lord.

The Hebrew root word for whoring is found 38 times in the book of Ezekiel. The number 38 symbolizes work or labor in the Bible. The 38th time the word Elohim is mentioned in the Bible is Genesis 2:7, which says, “Then the Lord God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature.” This was the completion of God’s most masterful work.

As we move through the lives of the patriarchs, the 38th mention of their names is often associated with work in some form. Further, Israel wandered in the wilderness for 38 years as they tried to work their way to God. Yet, the promised land was a type of the rest we receive from Jesus. Israel’s work ended after 38 years. We see something similar in the man who was lame for 38 years and was healed by Jesus in John 5.

So, 38 can be a period of striving work that at last becomes rest.

This is exactly what we see the 38th time whoring is mentioned in the book of Ezekiel. Ezekiel 43:7-9 says, “And he said to me, ‘Son of man, this is the place of my throne and the place of the soles of my feet, where I will dwell in the midst of the people forever. And the house of Israel shall no more defile my holy name, neither they, nor their kings, by their whoring and by the dead bodies of their kings at their high places, by setting their threshold by my threshold and their doorposts beside my doorposts, with only a wall between me and them. They have defiled my holy name by their abominations that they have committed, so I have consumed them in my anger. Now let them put away their whorings [the 38th mention] and the dead bodies of their kings far from me, and I will dwell in their midst forever.”

This was said speaking from the temple, which was a place of rest. The 38th mention of whorings by Ezekiel said they will be put away, the striving work will end, and God will dwell in the midst of the people forever. There will be rest.

The Tabernacle, the Priests, and the Men of War – Part 2

TODAY’S READING: NUMBERS 3-4

In Part 1 yesterday, we saw that Jesus is the tabernacle. Also, Moses took a census of the tribes of Israel, except one. To take the census, he got one assistant from each tribe. Then, Moses registered all men who were able to go to war. Finally, Moses told the tribes to camp around the tabernacle according to their armies and their banners.

But, the Levites were excluded from the census. According to Numbers 1:50-51, God told Moses, “But appoint the Levites over the tabernacle of the testimony, and over all its furnishings, and they shall take care of it and shall camp around the tabernacle. When the tabernacle is to set out, the Levites shall take it down, and when tabernacle is to be pitched, the Levites shall set it up.”

And, right in the middle of God assigning the camp positions of the 12 tribes around the tabernacle, he says that the camp of the Levites should be in the midst of the camps. (Numbers 2:17) That meant the Levites would camp closer to the tabernacle than the 12 tribes.

THE LEVITES MINISTER JESUS

While the 12 tribes camped around the tabernacle were made of men who were able to go to war, the Levites were to minister in the tabernacle. In other words, the Levites are a picture of those who minister the presence of Jesus.

In Numbers 3 and 4, the work of the Levites is described as

  1. Guarding (11 times)
  2. Service (20 times)
  3. Work (1 time)
  4. Duty (10 times)
  5. Bearing burdens (2 times)
  6. Carrying (10 times)

Particularly important are the words guard and service as these come from the root words that describe Adam’s role in the garden in Genesis 2:15, which says, “The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it.”

THE LEVITES WERE TAKEN INSTEAD OF THE FIRSTBORN

All the firstborn in Egypt that did not come under the blood died the night Israel left Egypt. Therefore, all the firstborn in Israel were consecrated by God to be his. But, according to Numbers 3:11-13, God said that he was going to take the entire tribe of Levi instead of the firstborn who opens the womb among the people of Israel. Collectively, the Levites would be as the firstborn to God.

THE LEVITES WERE LISTED

Moses was told to take a census of the 12 tribes. The Hebrew word census literally means head. In Numbers 1 and 2, the idea is that Moses would count the heads in each tribe to get a number of men who were able to go to war.

But, in Numbers 1:49, God expressly told Moses not to take a census of the Levites. Instead, Moses was told to list the Levites. But, the meaning of the Hebrew word translated list is to see to, tend to, to fulfill an assigned task. The idea here is that the Levites were appointed to certain obligations, which were to minister the fabrics, frames, and furniture of the tabernacle.

SPIRITUAL VS. CARNAL

When we compare the Levites to the 12 tribes of men who are able to go to war, I believe we see a contrast between the spiritual and the carnal believer.

Numbers 1:52-53 says, “The people of Israel shall pitch their tents by their companies, each man in his own camp and each man by his own standard. But the Levites shall camp around the tabernacle of the testimony.” The men who were able to go to war in the 12 tribes camped in their own camp and by their own standard, which is to say they were divided. But the Levites, camped around the tabernacle only, which is to say they gathered around the name of the Lord Jesus Christ only.

Paul describes just this in 1 Corinthians 1:10-13. “I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment. For it has been reported to me by Chloe’s people that there is quarreling among you, my brothers. What I mean is that each one of you says, ‘I follow Paul,’ or ‘I follow Apollos,’ or ‘I follow Cephas,’ or ‘I follow Christ.’ Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul?” The Corinthian church was camping according to their own camps and standards. And, it is the same today with all those who camp according to their denomination.

Later, in 1 Corinthians 3:1-4, Paul explains exactly why these divisions were happening. “But I, brothers, could not address you as spiritual people, but as people of the flesh, as infants in Christ. I fed you with milk, not solid food, for you were not ready for it. And even now you are not ready, for you are still of the flesh. For while there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not of the flesh and behaving only in a human way? For when one says, ‘I follow Paul,’ and another, ‘I follow Apollos,’ are you not being merely human?” The divisions in the Corinthian church were caused by strife and jealousy.

James 3:14-16 says that it is jealousy and selfish ambition that is earthly, unspiritual, and demonic. Where these two things exist, so does disorder and every vile practice. Then in James 4:1-3, James explains where quarrels and fights come from. “Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? You desire and do not have, so you murder.”

Because the 12 tribes were carnal, divided according to their own camps and standards, they were men who were able to go to war.

But, the Levites camped around the tabernacle. They were not divided. In effect, they gathered to the name of the Lord Jesus Christ only. The Levites were the ones who ministered in the tabernacle. As spiritual believers, the Levites were presenting their bodies a living sacrifice. They were following what Paul said in Romans 6:13, “Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life.”

As spiritual believers, the Levites picture those who no longer regarded anyone according to the flesh. They provide a picture of those in intimate fellowship with Christ that recognize the old has passed away and the new has come. Dwelling between the tabernacle, Jesus, and the men who were able to go to war, the carnal believer, the Levites were the spiritual believers who were given the ministry of reconciliation. Therefore, in 2 Corinthians 5:20, Paul says of these spiritual believers, the Levites, “Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.”

Jesus, the tabernacle, was the firstborn among many brethren. 1 Corinthians 15:20 says, “But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.” The Levites, collectively taken as the firstborn of all Israel instead of the firstborn that opened the womb, are a picture of the spiritual believer that is a kind of firstfruits, like Christ. James 1:18 says, “Of his own will he brought us forth by the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures.” But, the carnal believer will be made alive too, just not until Christ’s second coming. 1 Corinthians 15:23 says, “But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ.”

After 40 years wandering in the wilderness, Israel finally made it to the promise land. This is a picture of the Christian that enters the rest and abundant life that Christ gives. But, the carnal believer, the men who were able to go to war, don’t make it there. Joshua 5:4, 6 says, “And this is the reason why Joshua circumcised them: all the males of the people who came out of Egypt, all the men of war, had died in the wilderness on the way after they had come out of Egypt…For the people of Israel walked forty years in the wilderness, until all the nation, the men of war who came out of Egypt, perished, because they did not obey the voice of the Lord; the Lord swore to them that he would not let them see the land that the Lord had sworn to their fathers to give to us, a land flowing with milk and honey.”

PRIESTS DON’T GO TO WAR

The distinction of the Levites from the rest of Israel is important because today all of God’s people are priests.

1 Peter 2:9-10 says, “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people of God’s own possession so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; for you once were not a people, but now you are the people of God; you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.”

Revelation 1:6 says that Christ loved us and washed us from our sins in His own blood, making us priests to God. Other passages in the New Testament make it clear that all God’s people are priests. And, there are a number of passages towards the end of Isaiah that prophesy that God’s people will one day be priests.

Today, all of God’s people are priests. These people are God’s possession. The Lord says these people are His, just like He did of the Levites in Numbers.

Because God’s people are all priests today, God’s people are not numbered among those able to go out to war. Rather, God’s people proclaim the excellencies of Him who called out us out of darkness into the His marvelous light.

God’s people do not do violence but minister the very presence of Christ, proclaiming the mystery of the gospel and the power of the cross. God’s people proclaim a suffering servant, Jesus Christ, that defeated fear and death through His own death. God’s people perform the ministry of reconciliation, which is not brought about through war and violence but by loving their enemies.

This is why the weapons of God’s people are spiritual and not carnal.

Let us hear the voice of Christ and no longer be men who are able to war. Let us turn our swords into plowshares. Otherwise, we will be the carnal believer that never that enters the rest and abundant life of Christ. This should be a significant warning to who profess the name of the Lord Jesus Christ that are part of the wars of this world.

So, Jesus is the tabernacle. The question is – how do we camp, how do we gather, around Jesus?

The spiritual believers, the Levites, those that are priests, gather around the name of the Lord Jesus Christ alone. They are followers of the Prince of Peace and obey his voice and none other. Their war is spiritual in nature and uses only spiritual weapons.

The carnal believers, the 12 tribes, are around the tabernacle but further away. They gather according to their own camps, their own standards, their own banners, their own doctrines, their own traditions, dead letters (2 Corinthians 3 and 4), their own denominations. They are spiritual infants full or strife and jealousy, which lead to fighting and wars and murder so that their desires can be fulfilled. Their wars are natural, carnal, physical and the weapons they use are the same, resulting in death.

Let us turn to the name of the Lord Jesus Christ alone. He is the way, the truth, and the life.