Saturday, July 27, 2013

Abraham Preaches the Gospel -- part 2

  In  Col 2:17 we read,  "which are a shadow of things to come, but the substance is of Christ."
This verse is talking about the Old Testament things   that are a 'shadow'  but the 'substance' or real thing that is shadowed is of Jesus Christ.
 We understand that if we see a shadow of a tree -- the substance (or reality)  of the tree casting the shadow  is nearby. The tree is the 'real' thing and the 'shadow'  something that points to or indicates that  there is  a tree.

Therefore to understand  how the gospel is preached to or through Abraham we have to see the Old Testament story pieces as the 'shadow'  of the 'good thing'  it  shadows.

There are two important keys to keep in mind that unlock the mysteries of understanding how the things of the Old Testament point to the things of Jesus and the New Covenant.

ONE - The 'shadow'  that we see in the Old Testament is 'physical' or real in earthly terms,  but the 'substance' is real in the eternal spiritual sense. Because the 'shadow' is physical in earthly terms,  the shadow is oft more real to us than the real thing which being spiritual, is invisible to us.

TWO - A physical aspect of a shadow picture must  point to a spiritual reality.
An earthly physical shadow piece will never point to another physical piece. It  must always correspond to the spiritual reality it is pointing to.
This is also called 'types and antitypes'.   The type being the shadow or the thing that points and the antitype is the spiritual reality being pointed to.  (see Rom. 5:14 and I Peter 3:21 for use of these terms - though some translations have used other words such as symbolize instead of type or anti-type) 

So lets see if we can follow the pointing fingers of our Abraham/Melchezidek story and uncover a portrayal of the gospel story that would not yet be seen for thousands of years in the future.

The shadow pieces we are given are....

1. Melchizedek -- we are given strong hints in the NT about him -- Melchizedek was King of Salem and the High Priest of God - an usual duel role --  no one else except Jesus was both King and High Priest.  Another unique detail is that Melchizedek was not a priest from the tribe of Levi, from which all all the priests of the covenant of Moses were taken.   Neither was Jesus a High Priest from the tribe of Levi - hence we are told Jesus was a High Priest of the order of Melchizedek. So... we have strong indication that Melchizedek is pointing to Jesus.

2. Bread and Wine --  Here we are given more evidence to see Melchizedek as a shadow of Jesus.   Melchizedek brought bread and wine to his meeting with Abraham. We know the bread and wine of the Old Testament Passover was revealed by Jesus Himself to be symbolic of His death - the sacrifice of his flesh - broken for us and His  blood,  poured out as the offering to cover our sin bringing salvation to all who would believe on Him.

3. Abraham --   we know Abraham is the father of all who live by faith -- so Abraham points to all those who have put their faith in the sacrifice of Jesus .. and then receiving His blessing of salvation.

4. Sodom and Gomorrah -- Sodom and Gomorrah have always, even until today,  been synonymous with sin and worldliness so it is not a stretch to see that these cities point to the world lying in sin and wickedness. (II Peter 2:6)

5. The four Kings --   The four kings point to the enemy who seeks to overcome -  to take captive at his will.
We see here  our spiritual enemy pointed to,  the prince of this world who takes souls captive at his will to keep them for himself under his control.
(I Tim 2:26)

6. Kings of Sodom and Gomorrah --  These kings  represent the mirage of all  this world can offer -  power, riches, fame,  self-gratification.  Yet, at the first sign of trouble the "arm of flesh" or the security of this  world will desert us, disappointing our trust in it.  The world cannot save us, it will leave us defenceless and vulnerable to the enemy.

 7. The Tenth of the plunder  that Abraham offered to Melchizadek --   I have heard some suggest that is was the first example of paying the tithe and  we are to follow Abraham's  example ,  but that violates our rules of interpretation.
First -  something physical in the Old Testament shadow cannot point to  something physical in the New Covenant corresponding piece.. The pointing piece  is physical , the  piece pointed to must be spiritual. Therefore the physical tithe in the Old Testament shadow cannot be the tithe in the spiritual real thing.
Secondly - An important detail to note is that Abraham did not give a tenth of his own wealth or of his own possessions.   He offered something that did not belong to him.

So what then could this 'tithe'  point to as its spiritual corresponding piece ?
What can we 'give'   to the Lord that comes out of the world, yet does not belong to us ?  
Is it not the souls we win for Jesus ?    God says all the souls belong to Him (Ez 18:4) so when we 'rescue' someone from out of the world and bring them to the Lord ..   we bring to Jesus what never belonged to us.  (I Cor. 9:22)

In looking at these story pieces we can see that the shadow story pieces point to Jesus and the gospel message.  
God established His eternal covenant with Abraham promising that through Him all the world would be blessed. . (Gen. 12:3)
 How is all the world blessed through Abraham ?
 Abraham as the father of faith is pointing to his SEED , Jesus , who would bring in the covenant of faith -- the spiritual kingdom, with its doors open to every person -  gathering believers (faith children of Abraham) from  every nation under heaven.
God gave Abraham a 'sign'  that would show who was under the blessing of this covenant and who was not.  (Gen 17:7-14)  The sign was circumcision --  remember this is still before God gave the law through Moses so circumcision has  to do with Abraham, not the 'law', making it a piece of our gospel picture.
The shadow is physical circumcision -- anyone not circumcised was outside the blessing of the covenant and would be cut off !    The spiritual reality that this is pointing to , is the circumcision of our heart --  the 'circumcision' of our heart is the confirming sign that we are indeed children of Abraham - that we are under the blessings of the  spiritual covenant of faith.    (Col. 2:11)

Do you now see how the gospel was preached to and through Abraham? (and we could also have looked at the picture of Abraham offering his son, pointing to God offering His Son as the Lamb)   

 Do you realize the significance of this ?  
Imagine that someone gives you the seed of a maple tree and tells you to plant it and then mark out on the ground the exact shape and size of the shadow the future full grown tree would cast. Could you do it ?? Impossible , isn't it ?
And yet that is what God has done , over and over again ...  Marked out the shadow pointing in detail to the substance not yet a reality ... in fact being yet  thousands of years in the future.
What amazing proof God has provided for us and with what confidence can we  know that  our God is indeed all-mighty  and all-knowing to the nth detail.  We can trust that His every word is true !
Our God is an awesome God !

Friday, July 26, 2013

Abraham Preaches the Gospel

When Jesus walked this earth, He was a man but He was also God.   I sometimes  try to wrap my head around what it would have been like to literally sit at the 'human feet'  of God and hear the words of Truth flow from His mouth.
But we do have some of His words recorded for us and I think today maybe they are so familiar to us we take them for granted.
I'd like to draw your attention to something Jesus said and then 'unzip the file'  and reveal the depth and fullness of what He was teaching.
Several times, as in John 5:39,  Jesus makes reference to the fact that the Old Testament testifies and points to Himself  -  the gospel itself is hidden in the story accounts and in the prophetic words of the prophets.
One very direct reference is in Gal. 3:8 that states the gospel was preached to Abraham and also therefore reveals the gospel through Abraham to us.   Abraham's faith was credited to him as righteousness -- faith being the foundation of the New Covenant--  and because He is called the father of all who live by faith, all those who live by faith are blessed with him. (Rom 4:16)

But.. you may be puzzled, wondering .....   HOW does the gospel in/through Abraham testify of Jesus and the New Covenant or the church ?

Let me show you .....  

Turning back to Genesis 14 we have the story of Abraham and Melchizedek.  
The background setting is that in those days there were four  kings who joined together to make war against the kings of Sodom and Gomorrah.
The four kings prevailed in battle against the kings of Sodom and Gomorrah. Seeing that they were beaten, the kings of Sodom and Gomorrah fled for their lives leaving their cities vulnerable.  
The four kings invaded the cities, took captive  the  inhabitants along with all their possessions and departed, with prisoners and plunder, back to their own countries.
 At that time one of the  residents of Sodom was  Lot, Abraham's nephew, and he too with all he possessed was carried off into captivity.
One who managed to escape undetected,  had connections with Abraham and came running to tell him what had befallen his nephew.
Abraham immediately armed his servants and  intent on a full rescue mission  pursued the captors.
Abraham won the battle. He freed Lot along with all the other people taken in the raid and also retrieved all the stolen goods.
On his way back to Sodom , he encountered Melchizedek, the King of Salem. Melchizedek came with bread and wine and a blessing for Abraham.
 Abraham gave to Melchizedek a tenth of the spoil that he had retrieved from the enemy.

The grateful king of Sodom, perhaps ashamed of his cowardly flight in the face of defeat, then also came  to Abraham and as a reward offered him all the spoil, if he would but allow the people to return to their homes.
Abraham refused any gifts saying that he would keep nothing for himself, it was not his.  Therefore the people and their goods were returned to the cities from where they had been so violently taken.

Hmmm...   doesn't sound like the gospel story ?    Come back tomorrow for part two of my post.  

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Looking Good From a Distance

Sunday morning I came out of the house, ready for church and saw one of our neighbours  washing/polishing his truck .. It was gleaming  white in the morning sun.

I greeted him and asked...   "Didn't you just wash your truck yesterday?"
He replied, "Yes, but I wasn't quite finished and missed a few spots !"
I called back .. "It looks perfect to me !"
His response... "Yes, it looks good from a distance!"
I quipped , "That's how most people see it !"
He smiled. "True!"

I immediately realized what a great analogy this was.  A sermon in a short  spontaneous conversation.

I thought of how we are so careful in how we present the part of us that others see. We fuss with our hair, our clothes, keeping  our words and facial expressions kind and friendly.   We try to please those around us, doing the things expected of us, performing the good deeds that will be favourably received and duly admired.

At a distance ... we look good !

But what about if someone looks closer ...  all the way into the heart that is carefully concealed from other people who are impressed with their view of us.   But there is One who is not distracted by the outward, nor does He judge by how we look at a distance.  He examines our heart - close up!

God is not concerned with how we look at a distance - in fact the outward isn't His concern at all  - He desires our 'heart' beauty!  
  Do not let your adornment be merely outward—arranging the hair, wearing gold, or putting on fine apparel.... but let it be the hidden person of the heart... 
1Pe 3:3,4  

God is the examiner of the heart ... the One who desires to 'clean' what others may not see -- what we ourselves may ignore or justify!  
  Examine me, O LORD, and prove me; Try my mind and my heart. 
Ps. 26:2 

There really isn't anything God misses ... we have no 'heart spots' we can hide from Him. 
  For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.
Heb 4:12 
What does God require of us ? 
"And now, Israel, what does the LORD your God require of you, but to fear the LORD your God, to walk in all His ways and to love Him, to serve the LORD your God with all your heart...." 
Duet. 10:12
What is the best spot remover for our hearts ?  
  How can a young man cleanse his way? By taking heed according to Your word.
   Your word I have hidden in my heart, That I might not sin against You. 
Ps. 119:9,11

May we allow our heart to be  'cleaned/polished'  in such a way that we can say to the Lord , 
as did  King David .. 
 You have tested my heart; You have visited me in the night; You have tried me and have found nothing; I have purposed that my mouth shall not transgress.  
Ps. 17:3

Monday, July 8, 2013

Can You Say It ?

The above photo is my patio corner flower garden.   I love  the profusion of blossoms and colour.   Every flower is true to its kind  --  easily recognized and named.

There is an old testament battle, the  account  of which contains a detail I enjoy because it is one of clever espionage.

In Judges 9 we have the story of a sibling quarrel between the Ephramites and the Gileadites that became so heated they went to battle against each other.
The Gileadites won  and gained control of the fords of the Jordon River  that escaped Ephramites needed to cross  to return safely home.
When an Ephramite would approach the ford the Gileadites would stop him and ask .. "Are you an Ephramite?"    and if the one desiring to cross would say 'No, I am not!'   then the Gileadites would demand.. "Say, Shibboleth!"  and if the man said .. "Sibboleth!"  he was known to indeed be a Ephramite because the Ephramites could not pronounce the 'sh'!
Caught in his lie, he was revealed as the enemy.

I heard a modern version of that story yesterday morning.  During WW II the Americans had a similar way of discerning who was a spy among their soldiers.  A suspected spy would be called into the commander's office and told ... "Sing the second verse of the Star Spangled Banner!"  If the soldier clicked his heels in a smart salute and a quick 'Yes, Sir'  followed by a correct rendition of the second stanza of the national anthem, he was immediately arrested as a spy !    Why?  No American knows the second stanza!

We have another example in I John 4:2b,3
"Every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is of God, and every spirit that does not confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is not of God. "  
Here we are told how we can know on whose side someone is ..  friend or foe!  
Someone who is of God,  will confess who Jesus is !   They will declare Jesus to be God. They will know His character and will 'confess' it in their own life -- their words, their actions will reflect the image of the One they believe in.  If they cannot, we know that they are not of God but of the enemy!   
"He that says (confesses)  he abides in Him ought himself also to walk just as He walked." 
I John 2:6 

 We too,  have an enemy who often stands at the crossings of our life. He stands in the way of those who pass by demanding of them ... "Can you say Jesus, confessing Him to be the Lord of your life?"    
The answer a person gives will either cause Satan to sneer with glee or hang his head and flee! 
"Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you !" 
James 4:7