Saturday, March 21, 2009

The Sheep and the Goats. . .

I greatly desire to spend eternity with Jesus.  Above everything else I want to make my home with him.  At one point in the Bible the Lord said, "Well done, thou good and faithful servant"  Who is a good and faithful servant?  How can I know whether that phrase fits me?  Those words were said in a parable that Jesus was telling his disciples in Matthew Chapter 25.


In Matthew 24 the disciples had asked Jesus about the end of the world:  

Matthew 24:3  And as he sat upon the mount of Olives, the disciples came unto him privately, saying, Tell us, when shall these things be? and what shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world?  

Jesus answered the first two questions: "When shall these things be" and "what shall be the sign of thy coming" in chapter 24.  He gives the signs of the end of the world, but then He then asks a question of his own, a more important question than the questions that his disciples asked Him:

Matthew 24:45  Who then is a faithful and wise servant?. . .

Jesus spends the remainder of chapter 24 and all of chapter 25 giving us the answer.  He first begins:

Matthew 24:45-51
Who then is a faithful and wise servant, whom his lord hath made ruler over his household, to give them meat in due season?  (46)  Blessed is that servant, whom his lord when he cometh shall find so doing.  (47)  Verily I say unto you, That he shall make him ruler over all his goods.  (48)  But and if that evil servant shall say in his heart, My lord delayeth his coming;  (49)  And shall begin to smite his fellow servants, and to eat and drink with the drunken;  (50)  The lord of that servant shall come in a day when he looketh not for him, and in an hour that he is not aware of,  (51)  And shall cut him asunder, and appoint him his portion with the hypocrites: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

Jesus is talking about servants.  Servants are not strangers.  Servants are those who are in the household of the master.  Servants do the bidding of the master, but to be a faithful and wise servant,

A servant must be:
1.  Taking care of the responsibilities that the master gave him.  He cannot slack off from his duties and do evil and think that he will get away with it merely because his master has been gone for a long time.

Jesus continues:

Matthew 25:1-13
Then shall the kingdom of heaven be likened unto ten virgins, which took their lamps, and went forth to meet the bridegroom.  (2)  And five of them were wise, and five were foolish.  (3)  They that were foolish took their lamps, and took no oil with them:  (4)  But the wise took oil in their vessels with their lamps.  (5)  While the bridegroom tarried, they all slumbered and slept.  (6)  And at midnight there was a cry made, Behold, the bridegroom cometh; go ye out to meet him.  (7)  Then all those virgins arose, and trimmed their lamps.  (8)  And the foolish said unto the wise, Give us of your oil; for our lamps are gone out.  (9)  But the wise answered, saying, Not so; lest there be not enough for us and you: but go ye rather to them that sell, and buy for yourselves.  (10)  And while they went to buy, the bridegroom came; and they that were ready went in with him to the marriage: and the door was shut.  (11)  Afterward came also the other virgins, saying, Lord, Lord, open to us.  (12)  But he answered and said, Verily I say unto you, I know you not.  (13)  Watch therefore, for ye know neither the day nor the hour wherein the Son of man cometh.

He reiterates and expands on what He said in chapter 24.  Now we are given the parable of the 10 virgins.  We have 10 pure and undefiled ladies, holy in their ways.  All 10 have the source of light with them.  Their lamps are able to cast light for illumination, but 5 have neglected the fuel for their lamps.  In every other respect they are acceptable to the bridegroom and worthy of Him, but they are rejected for their unpreparedness.  From this we can learn that

A servant must be:
2. Always prepared.  His lamp must be continually filled with the fuel that allows illumination as no one knows the time of the bridegroom's return.

Jesus continues with another parable.  We are now given the lesson of the talents:

Matthew 25:14-30
For the kingdom of heaven is as a man traveling into a far country, who called his own servants, and delivered unto them his goods.  (15)  And unto one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one; to every man according to his several ability; and straightway took his journey.  (16)  Then he that had received the five talents went and traded with the same, and made them other five talents.  (17)  And likewise he that had received two, he also gained other two.  (18)  But he that had received one went and digged in the earth, and hid his lord's money.  (19)  After a long time the lord of those servants cometh, and reckoneth with them.  (20)  And so he that had received five talents came and brought other five talents, saying, Lord, thou deliveredst unto me five talents: behold, I have gained beside them five talents more.  (21)  His lord said unto him, Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord.  (22)  He also that had received two talents came and said, Lord, thou deliveredst unto me two talents: behold, I have gained two other talents beside them.  (23)  His lord said unto him, Well done, good and faithful servant; thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord.  (24)  Then he which had received the one talent came and said, Lord, I knew thee that thou art a hard man, reaping where thou hast not sown, and gathering where thou hast not strewed:  (25)  And I was afraid, and went and hid thy talent in the earth: lo, there thou hast that is thine.  (26)  His lord answered and said unto him, Thou wicked and slothful servant, thou knewest that I reap where I sowed not, and gather where I have not strewed:  (27)  Thou oughtest therefore to have put my money to the exchangers, and then at my coming I should have received mine own with usury.  (28)  Take therefore the talent from him, and give it unto him which hath ten talents.  (29)  For unto everyone that hath shall be given, and he shall have abundance: but from him that hath not shall be taken away even that which he hath.  (30)  And cast ye the unprofitable servant into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

Again Jesus speaks of servants.  Again these are not strangers.  They are those who have a relationship with their master.  Servants receive benefit from their master and are thereby obligated to uphold their Lord's interests.  The Lord has entrusted each servant with varying amounts of treasure.  Each servant was given treasure according to his ability to manage and utilize it.  For not tending to his masters interests that servant was sent out into the darkness and despair.  We learn again:

A servant must:

3. Utilize what his master has given him, to the master's benefit.  By not using what you are given, you are not conserving it, you are losing it and will be held accountable for the loss. 

Now Jesus leaves the parables behind and speaks directly and prophetically to the happenings of the end time:

Matthew 25:31-46
When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory:  (32)  And before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats:  (33)  And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left.  (34)  Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world:  (35)  For I was hungry, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in:  (36)  Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me.  (37)  Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee hungry, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink?  (38)  When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee?  (39)  Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee?  (40)  And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.  (41)  Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels:  (42)  For I was hungry, and ye gave me no meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me no drink:  (43)  I was a stranger, and ye took me not in: naked, and ye clothed me not: sick, and in prison, and ye visited me not.  (44)  Then shall they also answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee hungry, or athirst, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister unto thee?  (45)  Then shall he answer them, saying, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me.  (46)  And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal.

All the nations shall be gathered before him.  The Greek word translated 'nations' in verse 32 is 'ethnos'.  Jesus is not speaking of the divided countries of the world.  He's not talking about the various political divisions of the earth but rather of tribes and families and individuals who will stand before Him.  

In verse 40 where He says, "Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren. . .", the Greek word translated 'brethren' is a compound word: 'a-delphos'.  The first part of the compound 'a' is the first letter of the Greek alphabet.  The same word alpha that is used for Jesus in his being the Alpha and the Omega. 'a', the primary, the first, the most significant.  The second part of the compound word 'delphos' means womb.  So the word translated 'brethren' means from the primary womb, from the most important womb. . . to paraphrase: "Inasmuch as you have done it to one of my least important of my womb-mates then you have done it to me. . ."

What womb is Jesus referring to?  Jesus was not of Eve's womb.  His was not the womb of all mankind.  Jesus came forth from the womb of Mary.  The Spirit of God entered into the womb of a virgin, a woman untouched by man. . . and by a miracle was he born of a virginal woman and the Spirit of God. . .

Who then are the womb mates of Jesus?  Those who have been born, not of the womb of a woman, but reborn, born again of the water and of the Spirit.  The womb mates of Jesus are the brethren of His rebirth.  Jesus came up from the waters of His baptism and immediately the Spirit of God alighted upon Him after his second birth.

In another verse, Jesus is even more explicit about who His brothers are:

Matthew 12:50  For whosoever shall do the will of my Father which is in heaven, the same is my brother, and sister, and mother.

The word translated brother in this verse is the same, 'a-delphos' that is translated as 'brethren' in Matthew 25:40.  Jesus defines 'brethren' specifically, as those who do the will of God, they are His brothers.  Jesus is not talking about unbelievers here.  He is not talking about strangers, but His brothers are those who do the will of His Father, those with whom He has shared a womb. . .Jesus places huge importance on how the least important of his brothers in His kingdom are treated:

Did you act on your womb-mates hunger?
Did you act on your womb-mates thirst?
Did you act on your womb-mates having no friends?
Did you act on your womb-mates having no clothing?
Did you act on your womb-mates illness?
Did you act on your womb-mates being imprisoned?

Based upon those questions, He separates His flock into sheep and goats. . .One interesting difference to note between them, is that sheep are continually producing something of value for the shepherd, every day they are growing wool, while goats are not as consistently valuable to the shepherd. . .

So the 4th lesson we can learn about being a good and faithful servant,

A servant must:

4. Be continually aware of and seek to serve the needs of his womb-mates, his fellow servants.

Scriptures will often have an immediate meaning at the time for which it was written and very often yet another meaning for people down through the ages.  Jesus here in Matthew chapters 24 and 25 gave one of the longest recorded lessons in the Gospels, second only to His Sermon on the Mount.  These lessons, these talks were given to his disciples and his disciples alone.  There were no large crowds present.  This was a private conversation between He and His disciples.  Chapter 24 begins by saying that His disciples came to Him privately.   Jesus spent all this time preaching and teaching on being a good and faithful servant to his disciples. . .He preached on being a good and faithful servant to Judas who betrayed Him in the very next few verses.  Do you think that only coincidence? Or was the Lord was trying to reach and save Judas with these lessons. . . Thank you my Lord. . .

To summarize and to personalize what we have learned by this study:

1.  Take care of the responsibilities that the master has given you.  We cannot slack off from our duties and do evil and think that we will get away with it merely because our master has been gone for a long time.
2. Always be prepared.  We must be wise and prepared.  Our lamp must be continually filled with the fuel that allows burning illumination, for we do not know the time of the bridegroom's return.
3. We must utilize what our master has given us, for the master's benefit.  If we do not use what we are given, if we are not conserving it, we are losing it and we will be held accountable for the loss. 
4. We must be continually aware of and watch out for and serve the needs of and lift up our womb-mates, our fellow servants.

This study has been a tremendous learning experience for me.  When I first started reading about the sheep and the goats in Matthew 25, I was not at all clear as to what Jesus was saying. . . I have learned greatly during this study. . .

Thank you my Lord. . .
Thank you my God. . .

Dave 

Sunday, March 8, 2009

The Spoils of War. . .

Numbers 31:21-23
And Eleazar the priest said unto the men of war which went to the battle, This is the ordinance of the law which the LORD commanded Moses; (22) Only the gold, and the silver, the brass, the iron, the tin, and the lead, (23) Every thing that may abide the fire, ye shall make it go through the fire, and it shall be clean: nevertheless it shall be purified with the water of separation: and all that abideth not the fire ye shall make go through the water.


Eleazar instructs the Hebrew men of war, on how to treat the spoils that they bring into the camp from the battle field. If it is able to withstand it, if the spoils are of a nature able to physically survive the fire, then they must pass through the fire to be purified and cleansed. Nevertheless after passing through the fire the spoils (and indeed all spoils) must be washed with the water of separation.

This 'water of separation', its preparation, its recipe take care to notice, was given by God directly to Moses:

Numbers 19:1-9
And the LORD spoke unto Moses and unto Aaron, saying, (2) This is the ordinance of the law which the LORD hath commanded, saying, Speak unto the children of Israel, that they bring thee a red (
Hebrew 'âdôm) heifer without spot, wherein is no blemish, and upon which never came yoke: (3) And ye shall give her unto Eleazar the priest, that he may bring her forth without the camp, and one shall slay her before his face: (4) And Eleazar the priest shall take of her blood with his finger, and sprinkle of her blood directly before the tabernacle of the congregation seven times: (5) And one shall burn the heifer in his sight; her skin, and her flesh, and her blood, with her dung, shall he burn: (6) And the priest shall take cedar wood, and hyssop, and scarlet, and cast it into the midst of the burning of the heifer. (7) Then the priest shall wash his clothes, and he shall bathe his flesh in water, and afterward he shall come into the camp, and the priest shall be unclean until the even. (8) And he that burneth her shall wash his clothes in water, and bathe his flesh in water, and shall be unclean until the even. (9) And a man that is clean shall gather up the ashes of the heifer, and lay them up without the camp in a clean place, and it shall be kept for the congregation of the children of Israel for a water of separation: it is a purification for sin.

The written Hebrew language of the Bible only contained consonants. That is why we are not sure of the original pronunciation of God's name. We cannot be sure exactly what Moses called God. The Hebrew letters "YHWH" are all that we have of His name. Today there are conventions followed for what vowels are implied by certain consonants, but those conventions have changed down through the years. Again we do not know, was it YAHWEH? Was it JEHOVAH? We cannot be certain.

Likewise the word אדם is variously read as 'Adam' or 'man' or 'red' depending on which unrecorded vowels are inserted into the originally written consonants. Consider this most special sacrifice of a red (Hebrew 'âdôm) heifer. This very rare 'âdôm cow of the same descriptive ruddy red color as that is also associated with the first man Adam. . .The Old Testament points to the New Testament. Many things described in the Old Testament are metaphors or analogies for things which would come to full fruit only under the New Covenant (the New Testament).

Consider the metaphor for this very special and rare red cow. There are only believed to have be nine pure red heifers recorded in all of the Jewish oral tradition. The first was offered by Moses and Eleazar. The last recorded red heifer was offered in the year 15 or 16 A.D., only a few years before Jesus began His earthly ministry. There has been no red heifer offered, no water of separation created in the almost 2000 years since. These few animals supplied all the ashes for the required water of separation used over the thousands of years between Moses and Jesus. They are a very rare creature indeed.

I believe that this sacrificial red ('âdôm) heifer is a metaphor for the sacrifice. . . the crucifixion on the cross of Jesus, the second Adam. According to the Bible there have been two Adam's. The first man was the man named Adam. He was an actual man, but he was also a metaphor for the second Adam. . .The first Adam was physical, the second Adam is spiritual:

1 Corinthians 15:44-47
It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body. (45) And so it is written, The first man Adam was made a living soul; the last Adam was made a quickening spirit. (46) Howbeit that was not first which is spiritual, but that which is natural; and afterward that which is spiritual. (47) The first man is of the earth, earthy: the second man is the Lord from heaven.


Notice the similarities in the word used for the red heifer ('âdôm) and for the man Adam ('âdâm). Only the unwritten vowels are different.

Genesis 1:26-27
And God said, Let us make man (
'âdâm) in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth. (27) So God created man ('âdâm)in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.

Genesis 2:7-8 And the LORD God formed man (
'âdâm) of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man ('âdâm) became a living soul. (8) And the LORD God planted a garden eastward in Eden; and there he put the man ('âdâm) whom he had formed.

Genesis 2:19 And out of the ground the LORD God formed every beast of the field, and every fowl of the air; and brought them unto Adam (
'âdâm) to see what he would call them: and whatsoever Adam ('âdâm) called every living creature, that was the name thereof.

The Hebrews are instructed to sacrifice this most unusual and rare 'âdôm heifer and to burn it along with wood, hyssop, and blood red dye. The sacrifice of this red heifer is unlike any other sacrifice recorded. The red heifer is not sacrificed in the tabernacle area, but must be offered outside the camp:

Numbers 19:2-3 This is the ordinance of the law which the LORD hath commanded, saying, Speak unto the children of Israel, that they bring thee a red heifer without spot, wherein is no blemish, and upon which never came yoke: (3) And ye shall give her unto Eleazar the priest, that he may bring her forth without the camp, and one shall slay her before his face:

Not only is the sacrifice conducted outside the camp, but in another important way this sacrifice differs from any other sacrifice in that that every one involved with the offering the red heifer is defiled:

Numbers 19:6-8
And the priest shall take cedar wood, and hyssop, and scarlet, and cast it into the midst of the burning of the heifer. (7) Then the priest shall wash his clothes, and he shall bathe his flesh in water, and afterward he shall come into the camp, and the priest shall be unclean until the even. (8) And he that burneth her shall wash his clothes in water, and bathe his flesh in water, and shall be unclean until the even.

Both of these conditions, the sacrifice taking place without the camp and the ones conducting the sacrifice being made unclean by the sacrifice, are strong parallels with the crucifixion of Jesus. He was offered not in the temple, but outside the 'camp' on a lonely hill and in addition those offering Him up were not righteous, their's was not a holy act, but they were defiled, made unclean by this act. Their actions were actions of sin, not righteousness. Jesus is called the lamb of God (John 1:29 & 36), but the lamb was a proscribed offering in the temple and offered by holy men. It imparted no uncleanness to them. It may not be as poetically evocative and may strike the mind's eye strangely, but Jesus can, I believe, equally be thought of as the perfect red heifer of God. . .

Finally the ashes of this unusual sacrifice are required be mixed with water as the recipe for the water of separation. . .This water of separation was unlike any other water. It is separated. . .It is different. . .It is Holy. . .It was required to have this water and to use this water to cleanse both the workers and the implements of the tabernacle. The lack of this water, the lack of a 'âdôm heifer to sacrifice, to make this water of separation, is the reason that the Jewish people of today are not able to rebuild and sanctify their temple as prophesied by Daniel,

I don't want to get too far away from my main topic, but another 'âdôm heifer is required to fulfill the prophetic verses in Daniel chapter 8. The sacrifices are prophesied to begin again in the Jewish temple in the last days, but until an 'âdôm heifer can be sacrificed and burnt, the sacrifices cannot resume. The Jewish people await the return of an exceedingly rare red cow for the fulfillment of the prophecies. The items of the sanctuary will be cleansed with the water of separation, but until an 'âdôm heifer is found, the water of separation cannot be made. The Jewish people seek cleanness and purity and sanctification from the burnt remains of a cow. They continue to look for that sacrifice to provide for them that which we know has already been offered. . .

Our sacrifice. . . our perfect offering for the purification of our sins has the same elements of the perfect 'âdâm sacrifice: the ashes of the fire, the irreducible remnants of the 'âdôm heifer, the crimson stain of His blood, the wood, and the hyssop that the Jews await. . .

We started this study with the verses in Numbers 31, of Eleazar instructing the warriors how to clean the spoils of their battle with the water of separation and with fire. We are told in Numbers 19:9 that this water of separation is a purification for sin. We also know of and are instructed in the powerful use of purifying water and fire to destroy sin in our lives. . .

John the Baptist also told us of the cleansing by water and fire: 


Matthew 3:11 I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance: but he that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear: he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire:

And again Peter said the same: 

Acts 2:38 Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized [immersed in water] every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of [purification from] sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost [the fire of God's Spirit].

Everything that comes into the camp must be purified by fire and washed clean by water. . .

You and I are warriors. Jesus said: 

Matthew 10:34 Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword. 

All through the New Testament the symbolism of our being soldiers and at war are used.

Romans 13:11-12
And that, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep: for now is our salvation nearer than when we believed. The night is far spent, the day is at hand: let us therefore cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armor of light.


It is still dark, but the sun is coming. . .We have our orders. . .the light is dawning. . .We must not forget our purpose. We are followers of Christ. We must keep ourselves and our weaponry at the full ready. We battle for the kingdom. We are warriors. We know the enemy. We know our objective. We have our orders. We too have spoils of war to bring into the camp. The spoils of our battles, the riches of our victories are the hearts and souls of men. . .

I love you my God. . .
I love you my Lord. . .

Thank you my God. . .

Dave