Showing posts with label Yahweh. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Yahweh. Show all posts

28 July 2012

Jesus in Zechariah

We look at chapter six of Zechariah, investigate the meanings of some names, discover Jesus hidden in this Old Testament passage, and see that following in his footsteps we are truly a royal priesthood.

A crown for the KingSean and I have been working our way through Zechariah for a few weeks, and we've been finding a whole lot to ponder on.

Last time we read chapter six, and the section from verse nine to the end seemed rich with meaning (Zechariah 6:9-15). It's all about Jesus!

Zechariah is called to accept gold and silver from three returning exiles. Their name are Heldai, Tobijah, and Jedaiah. These names are not accidental.

The meanings of the names - Curiously, Heldai can be translated 'mole' or 'worldly' or 'rustiness'. Moles dig underground, and rust reverses the hard work of smelting iron, converting it back to dust. So the name seems to suggest the world and its influence.

Tobijah on the other hand means 'Yahweh is good', and Jedaiah means 'Yahweh's friend'.

The silver and gold is to be made into a crown and set on the head of the high priest whose name is Joshua (ie Jeshua or Yahshua or 'Yahweh saves'). New Testament English translations render this name 'Jesus'. And Jesus of course is, indeed, our Great High Priest.

Let's ponder this a little before we move on. The corruptible world, the goodness of the Most High, and his friend bring silver and gold. And they bring it from the place of captivity, the place of exile.

Heldai represents you and me. We are worldliness. Every believer in Jesus, every one of us, has been rescued from a place of exile. But now we have come out from captivity and from death. We have come to the throne of glory, we are covered by grace, we have come to new life in Christ.

Tobijah represents the Almighty who is pure and good in every way. He is Emmanuel, the Most High with us, he came (as Jesus) into the place of captivity to find us and he travels out from exile with us.

Jedaiah represents the friendship between Heldai and Tobijah. Through Christ we have now become Yahweh's friends, not by our own merit but solely through his. Yahshua said, 'I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.' (John 15;15)

The crown - The gifts of silver and gold are things that will last, things that are worthy of being forged into a crown fit for the King. They're the gold and silver and costly stones that Paul writes about in 1 Corinthians 3:10-15, things that will remain after the fire. The crown is the church, the bride, the thing that complements and completes the King upon his throne. We, his people, are the lasting gifts brought out from captivity and exile and wrought into a holy crown. To us he gave his glory, the glory that the Father has given him. We are his crowning glory, the work of his own hands (I will build my church). This is a mystery revealed to those who have eyes to see. It is an eternal work. It will never fade or fail.

And all of this is laid out by Zechariah, hundreds of years before Jesus of Nazareth called the fishermen from Galilee and brought the vision to ultimate fulfilment in his own life and death and resurrection.

The Father speaks to the Son - In verses 12-15 we read a message from Yahweh Elohim to Joshua the High Priest - or if you like, a message from the Father to the Son. We read about the man whose name is 'The Branch', he is also mentioned in Isaiah and Jeremiah, he is clearly Jesus. He is the one who builds the Temple, he is the one who is clothed in majesty and rules on his throne. He will be a priest on his throne, and there will be harmony between the two. In other words there will be harmony between kingship and priesthood.

This was unheard of in Israel, but in Christ kingship and priesthood are combined. We inherit this harmony through him, hence we are a 'royal priesthood'. (But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. - 1 Peter 2:9)

I'd like to leave you with a question. If Jesus is the High Priest and we are priests, what does Jesus being the King make us? Does this affect the way we see ourselves and live our lives?

02 May 2012

Understanding the Almighty

Augustine comes as close as anyone in writing down what the Almighty is really like. This is not a trivial task! Read this extract from his 'Confessions' and see how he uses paradoxes to crack open our minds to see.

Portrait of AugustineJob found it was hard to truly know Yahweh. How can anyone know the creator of the universe? We can't - unless he reveals himself.

'Then Yahweh spoke to Job out of the storm. He said, "Who is this that obscures my plans with words without knowledge? Brace yourself like a man; I will question you, and you shall answer. Where were you when I laid the Earth's foundation? Tell me if you understand..."' (Job 38:1-41:34)

The following text is a translation from Augustine of Hippo. It was written at or just before the year 400 AD when Augustine was in his mid forties; he manages to convey something of the nature of the Almighty. It's the first chapter from Augustine's 'Confessions' and has the title 'Confession of the Greatness of God'.

I have based it on 'The Confessions of St Augustine: Modern English Version'*, rewritten as a light paraphrase in my own words. I hope it will be easy to read and understand.

As you read it, notice the way Augustine uses phrases like 'always busy but always at rest' or 'you pay debts when you owe nothing but in paying them you lose nothing'. By hinting at Yahweh's impossible behaviours he opens our minds to the flavour and aroma of his nature.

You are incomparable Yahweh!

So our praise of you has to be higher than our human nature.

Your power is magnificent.

Your wisdom is limitless.

We, such lowly beings, want to praise you. What is a human being, just a tiny speck of the universe you made. Every one of us contains the evidence of approaching death. Our short lifespans speak of our sinfulness and spell out to creation that you reject pride.

But although we are so lowly we desire to praise you, even though we are just a minute fragment of this universe. You arouse in us delight in your praise. You created us for yourself and our heart can't rest except in you.

Please, Lord. Let us know what comes first. Is it that we must cry out to you first before we can praise you? Must we call out to you before we can comprehend you? But who can call on you without knowing you first? If I don't know you I might not understand who you are.

Or, do we call on you in order to know you? Romans 10:14 says, 'How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone telling them?'

So we know those that search for the Lord will praise him because those who search will find him and those who find will praise him. I'll seek you by calling out to you. I'll call on you with faith that really knows you, because you've been explained to me. My faith will call on you, Lord, the faith you gave to me. You breathed life into me by faith through the birth of your Son and his word as the One who explains you.

Who is Yahweh but Yahweh?

Who is Elohim but Elohim?

The Most High, the best, the most powerful and omnipotent, merciful but just, hidden yet present with us, most beautiful yet also most strong.

You're still - but you're incomprehensibly active. You can't change - but you change everything. You're never new but you're never old. You make everything new but defeat the proud with old age, even before they see it coming. You are always busy but always at rest. You continue to gather although you don't need a thing! You support, fill and spread. You create, feed and bring maturity. You go on searching although you already have everything.

Your love is not yearning, your jealousy is not bitter, you regret with us but don't reproach yourself, in your anger you remain calm.

Everyone else fails to complete their plans but your purpose is steady. You receive what you found but hadn't lost. You have no needs but rejoice in what you gain. You're not grasping but you require excessive payments so that you can be in debt. But there's nothing we can give that isn't already yours! You pay debts when you owe nothing but in paying them you lose nothing.

What have I managed to say, my Mighty One, my life, my holy joy? What can any mere human say about you? But woe to anyone who doesn't speak because silence is very eloquent.

I want to rest in you. I want you to come into my heart like strong wine so that I forget all my anxiety and fully accept you, the only good in my life.

What do you mean to me? Help me out in expressing it. What must I mean to you that you require my love so much that you become angry and threaten utter misery if I don't give it? It's so painful not to love you.

So be merciful to me and explain, Lord, what you are to me. Tell me, 'I am your salvation' and tell me loudly enough that I will hear. Look, Lord, my heart is open before you. Open the ears of my heart and tell me, 'I am your salvation'.

And after you speak, let me take hold of you quickly. Don't hide your face from me. Let me die in order that I won't just die. But let me see your face.


*New Spire edition, 2008, ISBN 978-0-8007-8762-2

30 December 2011

Prophecy to the breath

Part 8 of a series - 'The valley of dry bones'
< Sinew, muscle and skin | Index | An overwhelming army >

And now Ezekiel is commanded to pray to the breath, calling it to fill the slain bodies so that they may come alive. We need breath (that is, the Holy Spirit) if the church is to be filled, come alive and function properly.

The power of the wind
Ezekiel stands and marvels over the bodies lying around him (bodies which so recently had been no more than dry and jumbled bones). And  Yahweh commands him to prophecy again.

Then he told me, 'Speak to the breath, son of man, tell it prophetically, "Here's what Yahweh Almighty says - come, breath, come from the four winds and breath into these dead bodies so they can come alive."' (Ezekiel 37:9)

So what is going on here? Let's take it step by step and notice the details. It is absolutely fascinating.

Yahweh speaks to a man (Ezekiel) and commands him to speak to the breath (or spirit, or wind, or life). He is not called to speak to the bodies, he is called to speak to the breath.

Breath, spirit, wind and life are closely connected in Hebrew thinking. Breath and spirit are the same word - 'ruach', and anything with breath/spirit has life. Whatever does not have breath/spirit is dead. When we breathe we create a feeble wind, while the winds that can bend trees and raise dust from the ground are clearly far more powerful.

There is an underlying thought here that the winds can provide the necessary breath/spirit to fill these bodies and bring them to life. And the breath comes 'from the four winds'. In other words it comes from anywhere and everywhere. We cannot pin the Holy Spirit down, he comes and goes as he chooses.

The church in our day seems often to be limp and lifeless. At least in the West we are not seeing great, sweeping moves of new believers. It is happening in some eastern lands just as it happened in Jerusalem after Pentecost when three thousand were baptised and added in a single day. (Acts 2:41)

Why are we in the west left out? Perhaps it's because the churches are at best like dead bodies, and the people at worst like dry scattered bones. We need to plead with the Lord to renew us by sending his Spirit to transform us and reinvigorate us. The church in the West needs an Ezekiel to hear Yahweh and to obey him in calling the Life and Spirit of Christ to re-enter the scattered bodies.

We should all be calling out to our Father in heaven to send an Ezekiel (or even a band of Ezekiels) to call the life and breath of his Spirit to return in power and to fill us so that we begin to live again.

Why is it necessary to speak to the Spirit rather than to the churches? Might it be because the churches are dead?  Earlier in the chapter Ezekiel spoke to the dry bones, they were dead too. So what was the difference? Notice that both times Ezekiel spoke as he was commanded by Yahweh - and that is the key.

Our primary duty will always be to listen and do what we are told, to watch and do what we are shown. This is how Jesus himself lived while he was here in the world, he knows how hard it can be and how effective it is. And he called us to follow him.

< Sinew, muscle and skin | Index | An overwhelming army >

03 December 2011

The word of Yahweh

Part 5 of a series - 'The valley of dry bones'
< Speak to the bones | Index | The bones come together >

Now we come to the heart of the matter, here's the message that Ezekiel is to speak over the dry bones. They are to come to life!

A derelict church in Turkey
Before we look at the words themselves, let's briefly recap on what we've discovered so far.

The Israelites are in captivity in a foreign land and so is Ezekiel; we can see this as applying to the church as well. The world we live in is foreign and often at odds with the Kingdom of heaven.

Yahweh leads Ezekiel into a valley and shows him a lot of scattered bones, the remains of what was once alive. Ezekiel and the Almighty look at the bones very thoroughly. We need to go with Jesus and examine the state of the church carefully in just the same way; will we find life or dryness? And, like Ezekiel, we need to believe that Father can and will put back life into what has become dead. Recognising deadness and believing he will restore life are essential, not optional.

And now we must command what is dead, command the bones to hear what the Master says to them. 'Hear what the Lord says.' This is not only a command, it's also a declaration that the words we speak are indeed his words not our own. With that as background let's consider the words themselves.

'This is what the Lord Yahweh tells these bones: "I'll cause breath to come into you and you'll come alive. I'll attach tendons, cause flesh to appear on you and cover you over with skin. I'll put breath into you and you'll live - then you'll know that I'm Yahweh."' (Ezekiel 37:5-6)

It seems that one of the reasons Israel hadn't been treating Yahweh correctly was that they had not known him. Perhaps it was the overriding reason. You can almost hear the distress mingled with hope in the Lord's heart - 'Then you'll know that I'm Yahweh'. He wants a people who are not dry, scattered bones. He wants a people who know who he is and love him and treat him accordingly.

We need a right view of the Lord's power and authority and glory. We need a right view of his Father heart. We need to grasp the depth and height and breadth of his love for us. It was just the same in the time of Haggai. They had returned to the land of Israel at that time but they still didn't understand that their priority should be the Lord's well-being, not their own. If they had truly loved him they would have built his house. The problem is not the lack of building, but the lack of love that would have provoked building.

The word translated 'breath' is important. It is 'ruach' in Hebrew and it also means 'spirit'. He wants to fill us with breath so that we will live again. Or, he wants to fill us with his Spirit so that we will live again.

I believe that Father has a great volume of blessing and authority and effectiveness stored and ready to pour out on his people. But to some degree we will affect the timing. It will be poured out when we, the church, are ready. The question is - are we ready? And if not, is there anything we can do to come into that place of being ready?

< Speak to the bones | Index | The bones come together >

27 October 2011

THOUGHT - Tent pegs in bronze?

In some correspondence recently I wrote, 'Let the Kingdom be extended. Spread the tent pegs wider still'. What did I mean by that? For some, the tent peg reference may be clear, for some it may seem odd.

Can anyone supply these in bronze?When I wrote, 'Let the Kingdom be extended', it was me speaking in my own words. I am hoping, praying, and expecting to see Christ's Kingdom extending further and wider and deeper in my own life and in the lives and activities of others near and far.

But what about those tent pegs?

Tent pegs are mentioned in the Bible. Paul was a tent maker and sometimes used his expertise to earn a living. That meant he was not always dependent on the help of the people in the local churches. Just like Peter, Andrew, James and John who were commercial fishermen, Paul's spiritual work reflected his trade. They became people catchers; Paul became a maker of shelters in the form of new churches. (I might come back to this idea in another article, it seems interesting.)


But tent pegs first appear in Exodus (see this Bible Gateway search for more details). The pegs were part of the Tabernacle, the place where Yahweh lived amongst his wandering people. The instructions are detailed - they are to be made of bronze. And notice Exodus 35:21...
'Everyone who was willing and whose heart moved them came and brought an offering to Yahweh for the work on the tent of meeting, for all its service, and for the sacred garments.'
The church is also a kind of tent, a tabernacle. Just as the Tabernacle was a mobile, temporary precursor of the Temple that would later be built in Jerusalem, so the church is a mobile, temporary precursor of the Bride that is yet to be fully revealed. Just like the Temple to come, the Tabernacle contained an innermost place where Yahweh rested in utter glory.

And where is his glory contained in the church? In the heart of every member, every part of the body, poured out in abundance at Pentecost and still burning brightly in every follower of Jesus today. The power and the glory of the Most High, the Father and the Son and the Spirit, is contained in us. We are the bride of the Lamb. That power and that glory is intended to be manifest in us today. It always was, it always will be.

Israel wandered in the desert for forty long years, sometimes grumbling, suffering needlessly because they had refused to go straight in to the promised land. Has the church done this too? Are we afraid of  'the giants in the land'? What are our giants? What prevented us going straight in? What did Israel learn in the desert? What has the church learned in 2000 years of 'desert wandering'?

And finally, one more thing to consider. In 1971 (the year is not precise) a great outpouring of Holy Spirit power and glory was underway in a house church movement - but it came to nothing. Since then forty years have passed bringing us to 2011. Coincidence? Perhaps...

But back to those tent pegs. I was quoting from Isaiah 54. (The word 'stakes' in verse 2 (NIV) is translated pegs in, for example, the NASB.) We noticed this chapter in the late 1970s and spent some time thinking about it prayerfully. I believe this passage is about the church, the bride of the Lamb. Forty years on, is it time for a fresh start into the place of promise? What does it mean to enlarge, stretch, not hold back, lengthen, strengthen?

But this comes with a warning. None of it will happen if we are looking for power or glory. Instead we need to have a burning hunger for Jesus - and only for him. And everything we think and do must be not only in his name, but for his sake and for his glory.

I'd like to hear what others think about this. Please comment.

22 October 2011

THOUGHT - His presence

When we think about the Almighty's presence among his people, clearly there's a difference between his presence personally and his presence corporately. Yet the two are inextricably linked.

A glorious solar haloAs far as his personal presence is concerned, we know that the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Christ, lives within us. Jesus expressly tells the disciples to expect him. He turns up at Pentecost and rests on each one - like a flame. He also dramatically energises and activates the church and they go out boldly sharing the good news. (Up to that time they had been prayerful, yet grieving, fearful and probably very confused.)

But notice that they were together in one place when the Spirit came upon them. The personal presence came in the context of corporate activity. There is something special about unity itself. The Father, Son and Spirit are one - a community - the pattern for all community. So we are intended to be one, a community as close as theirs. And even more amazing, we are supposed to enter into their community; the Son wants to bring his bride into the family home.

I cannot be the bride of Christ any more than I could marry a toenail. If we are to be the bride isn't it obvious that we must first become one? My wife, for example, is an entire person, not merely a collection of disconnected body parts. (Does this remind anyone of Ezekiel 37 and the valley of dry bones?)

How badly do we want his presence, will we do what he says? Jesus' prayer was that we should be one as he and the Father are one and that we should be one with them. Read it for yourself in John 17:20-26. And immediately after that, Jesus goes to the olive field to be arrested and killed. We are so important to him that we're in his prayers at that terrible and particularly distracting moment.

Notice what he says about glory. He wants us to see and receive his glory (verse 22) - had you noticed that? The glory is surely the Father's presence within us individually and corporately. Just as his glory appeared as the pillar of fire and the pillar of cloud and led the gathered people of Israel through the desert, so when we are in the dark he gives us light and when we are in the light he gives us direction.

As locally gathered expressions of his body, let's turn away from what we want and begin to focus on what he wants. Will we choose to be one and receive his glory? And will we choose, not for our own sakes, but for his sake?

Whenever we are one for his sake he will illuminate us and give us direction and pour out his glory. The enemy knows this and will do anything to prevent it. But resist him and he runs away because he can't stand in Jesus' presence.

Here's a suggestion to try next time you meet. Drop any plans for structure, don't prepare anything, don't have anyone 'in charge'. Just agree to be quiet in his presence and individually focus on Jesus. When he puts a thought in your mind, or a picture, or a few words, or a Bible verse - share it and then wait for someone else to receive. Don't be anxious about 'awkward' silences, just focus back on Jesus and get ready to share whatever he gives you.

See what happens. And why not report back by posting a comment below?

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