Sunday, November 28, 2010

Jesus Suffered for My Sin

Isaiah 53:5 But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.

The wounding, bruising and stripes are all physical inflictions upon the body of Christ before He ever got to the cross. The Hebrew for bruised was very graphic—to beat to pieces, break in pieces, crush. Transgressions are acts of willful rebellion and disobedience to God; iniquities are a reference to the moral evil and wickedness that are a result of our sin nature.

Chastisement speaks of reproof, instruction, correction, and discipline; Webster goes on to add punishment through the inflicting of pain. I thought the second definition from Webster was very applicable—“To reduce to order or obedience; to correct or purify; to free from faults or excesses.” Christ was punished to bring us to a position of obedience and purity—to make us righteous, free from faults. Because of His sacrifice, we can have peace (safety, happiness, health and prosperity). Because of His sacrifice, we are healed (spiritually). This again brings to mind the verse from 1Peter referenced above.

Isaiah 53:6 All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.

“gone astray” = deceive, (cause to, make to) err, seduce, (make to) stagger, (cause to) wander, be out of the way.

As I look at the first two clauses in this verse I get a picture of two different kinds of sheep. The first one wanders off from where he should be because of deceit, or bad judgment, or seduction, or physical impairment. The second is making a deliberate choice to go off on his own and choose his own path independent of the shepherd. These directly relate to the sinners and transgressors in the previous verse.

“laid” = to impinge, by accident or violence, or (figuratively) by importunity:—come (betwixt), cause to entreat, fall (upon), make intercession, intercessor, intreat, lay…
“impinge” = To fall or dash against; to touch upon; to strike; to hit; to clash with; — with on or upon.

More often than not, the Hebrew sends my mind spinning in many directions. YHWH, God the Father, laid our sin on Jesus, His Son. Paul declared this truth in his letter to the Corinthians. As I read through the different translations, I wasn’t really satisfied with any of them. I think you need a couple of them to get the complete picture.

CJB - 2Cor. 5:21 God made this sinless man be a sin offering on our behalf, so that in union with him we might fully share in God’s righteousness.”

NIV - 2Cor. 5:21 God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

In my mind it is important to recognize that in becoming our sin offering He became our sin. He was there in our stead. This is something the Jews who lived under the sacrificial system of the law understood much more completely than do we who live under grace.

By laying our sin on Jesus, God the Father effectively created a separation between Himself and His Son that had never before existed.

Matthew 27:46 And about the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani? that is to say, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?

In our mind I don’t think we can adequately picture how violent and terrible this was for Father or Son. It wasn’t just my sin, or your sin; it was the sins of every person who has ever lived or will ever live on planet earth. His sacrifice was for all.

Romans 5:18 Therefore as by the offence of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life.

1Corinthians 15:22 For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.

After willingly and obediently becoming our sacrifice, Jesus became our intercessor before the Father.

Hebrews 7:25 Wherefore he is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

A Man Despised and Rejected

Isaiah 53:3 He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not.

Jesus began His years of ministry as a young man, and many were drawn to hear Him because of the miracles He performed. Many became true believers and followers of Jesus, but the majority of the people rejected Him—especially once He began to declare Himself the Son of God. They were completely blind to the truth of the scriptures and thought He was blasphemous for even suggesting such a thing.

The spiritual leaders of the nation in particular despised Him. They were threatened by the popularity He gained through the working of His miracles, and they resented the fact that He performed these miracles on the Sabbath. They were so tied in to legalism, that they had totally perverted the intent of the law. Because of the power these leaders exerted in society, many were afraid to step out in faith to follow Jesus; they were afraid of the repercussions.

“a man of sorrows…grief” – There are many incidents in the New Testament that speak about the Lord’s compassion for the people. He felt their pain, their grief. Most of His miracles were miracles of healing that relieved pain and suffering. Jesus wept at the tomb of Lazarus. Jesus was in agony in the garden of Gethsemane before His arrest. He didn’t want to endure the cross, yet He wanted more to do the Father’s will.

Mark 14:35-36 And he went forward a little, and fell on the ground, and prayed that, if it were possible, the hour might pass from him. And he said, Abba, Father, all things are possible unto thee; take away this cup from me: nevertheless not what I will, but what thou wilt.

“we hid…our faces” – I believe this has to be a reference to having to turn from the view of a man that was beaten beyond recognition.

“despised…esteemed him not” – Even Pilate could find no fault in Jesus. He yielded to the will of the crowd to protect his own position.

Matthew 27:24-25 When Pilate saw that he could prevail nothing, but that rather a tumult was made, he took water, and washed his hands before the multitude, saying, I am innocent of the blood of this just person: see ye to it. Then answered all the people, and said, His blood be on us, and on our children.

The people were determined to crucify the Savior, to the point of cursing their own children if they were wrong.

Isaiah 53:4 Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted.

“borne” = lift, suffer, carry (away), forgive, pardon, wear
Webster: Carried; conveyed; supported; defrayed.
“defray” = 1. To pay or discharge; to serve in payment of; to provide for, as a charge, debt, expenses, costs, etc. 2. To avert or appease, as by paying off; to satisfy; as, to defray wrath.

“griefs” – anxiety, disease, sickness, weakness

I thought the definitions from the Hebrew and Webster were especially helpful. The word borne not only included the idea of carrying and suffering, but the idea of forgiveness and pardon. The word defray was particularly specific. Jesus averted God’s wrath from us by paying our sin debt and satisfying God’s justice. As I continued to think on this verse, I realized that our griefs, anxieties, diseases, sicknesses, weaknesses and sorrows are a result of sin. This thought immediately led me to a verse in 1Peter.

1Peter 2:24 Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed.

By baring our sins in His body on the cross, He was also baring our griefs and sorrows. The main point being—Christ died in my stead. He sacrificed Himself to give me an abundant life.

Although I am making personal application (which I can’t help but), I am reminded that Isaiah is speaking to the Jewish people specifically. The Jewish leaders and all those that supported them in their determination to crucify the Lord felt justified in their actions. They assumed that He was getting His just punishment and judgment from God.

“esteem” = “to plait or interpenetrate, i.e. (literally) to weave or (gen.) to fabricate; figuratively, to plot or contrive (usually in a malicious sense); hence (from the mental effort) to think…”

This certainly wasn’t what I expected when looking up the Hebrew for esteem. This seems to paint a very descriptive word picture of what was going on in the minds of the Pharisees in particular as they sought to get Jesus killed. They were weaving a fabricated story with malicious intent to bring about the death of an innocent man. In doing so they positioned themselves as defending God by judging the One they considered a blasphemer.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Introducing Isaiah 53

Isaiah 53 is another one of the chapters I treasure most in scripture. It is an amazing prophecy of the future sacrifice of the coming Messiah. I have often heard it referred to as “The Holy of Holies” of the Old Testament, and I have no reason to disagree with that assessment. It is really hard for me to understand how the Jews rejected Jesus as the Messiah; it provides such a vivid description of the Savior’s sacrifice at Calvary.

Isaiah 53:1 Who hath believed our report? and to whom is the arm of the LORD revealed?

Whose report? It would seem that Isaiah is speaking as representative of the prophets or maybe even the Trinity in this verse and then as representative of the Jewish people in the next several verses.

What report? The report being given in the last chapter—Israel being restored in relationship to YHWH and occupying a place of blessing and prosperity. In particular, the message of the last three verses. That Messiah will be King of kings; but before that happens, He will be beaten beyond recognition and put to death for the atonement of the sins of the nations—including the Gentiles. This makes me think of verses from my recent study in 1Corinthians.

1Corinthians 1:23-25 But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumblingblock, and unto the Greeks foolishness; But unto them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God. Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men; and the weakness of God is stronger than men.

The truth of this message is unbelievable according to man’s way of thinking, but is the embodiment of wisdom in God’s thoughts.

The answer to the second question in the verse is found in Isaiah 52:10 The LORD hath made bare his holy arm in the eyes of all the nations; and all the ends of the earth shall see the salvation of our God.

In previous study we have found that the arm is a symbol of one’s strength and power. Making it bare or revealing it would be a word picture of displaying this strength and power for all to see. The fact that His arm is described as holy gives understanding that the judgment executed in His strength and power is righteous and according to God’s purposes.

Isaiah 53:2 For he shall grow up before him as a tender plant, and as a root out of a dry ground: he hath no form nor comeliness; and when we shall see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him.

You have to go back to the last few verses of the previous chapter to identify “he.”

Isaiah 52:13-15 “Behold, my servant shall deal prudently, he shall be exalted and extolled, and be very high. As many were astonied at thee; his visage was so marred more than any man, and his form more than the sons of men: So shall he sprinkle many nations; the kings shall shut their mouths at him: for that which had not been told them shall they see; and that which they had not heard shall they consider.”

I believe the context and the rest of this chapter identify this “servant” as the Messiah. “He,” Jesus, the Messiah, will grow up before “Him,” God the Father. Jesus came to earth as a baby; He had to grow into a man just as any other boy born on this earth.

“a root out of a dry ground” – I think this is a reference to the land of the people of Israel as a spiritual desert. He grew up spiritually healthy in spite of His environment.

Jesus was not an especially handsome man. People weren’t drawn to Him because of His looks, but He did have charisma. The beauty of the man Jesus was within—not in His outward appearance. This fits right in with the teaching of scripture in other places.

1Samuel 16:7b …for the LORD seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the LORD looketh on the heart.

1Pet. 3:3-4 Whose adorning let it not be that outward adorning of plaiting the hair, and of wearing of gold, or of putting on of apparel; But let it be the hidden man of the heart, in that which is not corruptible, even the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price.

Friday, November 19, 2010

A Transparent Heart

Psalm 139:17-18 How precious also are thy thoughts unto me, O God! how great is the sum of them! If I should count them, they are more in number than the sand: when I awake, I am still with thee.

I think you have to read both of these verses together to get the best understanding. I remember thinking early on that David was describing his thoughts about the Lord. The context of this psalm makes it clear that David is describing God’s thoughts about him. The fact that he numbers them as more than the grains of sand is a commentary on how strong David’s faith in God’s love for him was.

I do think there is a legitimate application to David’s thoughts toward God as well in the last part of verse 18. It seems as if David is saying that when he goes to sleep, he is focused on his relationship to God (implied by the word still); and when he wakes up, his first thoughts are about God. I can honestly say that I have grown in relationship to the point that I can make that same statement quite often. My desire is to grow to the point that my every thought, word, and deed is made with reference to His presence in my life and how it glorifies Him.

Psalm 139:19-20 Surely thou wilt slay the wicked, O God: depart from me therefore, ye bloody men. For they speak against thee wickedly, and thine enemies take thy name in vain.

I am sometimes surprised at how abruptly the psalmist seems to change the directions of his thoughts. At one moment he is praising God and thanking Him, and then he turns his thoughts to his enemies, who are most often equated to God’s enemies. That’s foreign to my type of thinking. David, however, was a warrior, and much of his life was spent defending himself from his enemies. Because he considered himself a man of God, he naturally associated his enemies with God’s enemies. I think David’s actions many times reflect the truth that he expected God to act or to give him specific direction to act on his behalf against his enemies—whether Saul or even his own son. He seemed to desire to align his battlefield activities according to God’s direction—his treatment of Uriah being an obvious exception. David’s respect for life ties in directly with his understanding of the worth that God places on each individual through the care that He takes in the creation of that person. In Saul’s case, in particular, he knew that he was dealing with a man that was God’s anointed; and even though he knew he had been anointed by God to succeed Saul, he knew that he should respect God’s authority as to when and how that succession would be effected.

In reading several other translations, this verse is worded more as a desire on David’s part that God would just go ahead and destroy all the wicked people that caused him such grief since these same people showed their disdain for God, especially by using His name so flippantly and profanely.

Psalm 139:21-22 Do not I hate them, O LORD, that hate thee? and am not I grieved with those that rise up against thee? I hate them with perfect hatred: I count them mine enemies.

In these verses David is expressing his love and honor for the LORD. He was expressing his extreme hatred for the enemies of God as a reflection of his love for his LORD. It seems to be clarifying his thoughts in the previous verses. Anyone who is an enemy of God is an enemy of David. It’s like a son professing his love and commitment to his father by rejecting fellowship or refusing to have compassion on anyone who would show his father disrespect of any kind.

I couldn’t help but think of the Lord’s teaching that we should love our enemies. It would seem in these verses that David had no understanding of that concept. The key difference is that David lived in a time that was functioning under the law. It took Jesus, God in flesh, to come and example and teach us the true intent of the law. David was jealous for God’s honor, and one of the best ways he could express that was to express hatred for those who did not honor God as he did. Jesus is jealous for the honor of His Father as well, and He expressed that jealousy by throwing the moneychangers out of the temple in defense of that honor. Jesus, however, primarily came to reveal the character of God and to provide redemption for wicked, sinful man. His desire was to bring more people into relationship with Himself. He exampled a lifestyle that expressed concern for the sinner through humility and forgiveness without regard to self, and He taught that to honor Him we should follow that example.

Psalm 139:23-24 Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.

After expressing the desire for God to destroy the wicked, David begins to look introspectively. He loves his Lord, and truly desires to live his life in obedience to and respect for Him. He invites God to search his heart again. If God finds any wicked thoughts or desires, his prayer is for the Lord to direct his thoughts and desires according to the straight way that aligns with God’s way. He is looking forward to a relationship with the Lord that will never end.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

We Are Fearfully and Wonderfully Made

Psalm 139:13 For thou hast possessed my reins: thou hast covered me in my mother’s womb.

“possessed” = to erect, i.e. create; by extension, to procure, especially by purchase…..redeem

This is a very precious verse. Every individual is specifically created by God in the mother’s womb--a place that God intended as a place of protection and nourishment for the developing person. Through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, David is also telling us that every individual’s redemption has been provided for as well. Even though Jesus wouldn’t die on the cross for another thousand years or so, in the mind of God that redemption was sure before the foundation of the world.

1Peter 1:18-20 Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers; But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot: Who verily was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you…

Psalm 139:14 I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvellous are thy works; and that my soul knoweth right well.

The Hebrew for the word praise includes worship and thanksgiving. We worship and give thanks to God for many reasons. In this particular psalm, David is focused on how God loves him and has such concern for him from the moment of creation in his mother’s womb to intimate involvement throughout his life.

The Hebrew for fearfully indicates to revere as well as to cause fear. This seems to be a statement regarding the value that God places on human life.

“Wonderfully made” is a phrase that indicates the uniqueness of man in the creation and the amazing way in which our body functions. To describe God’s creative skills as marvelous is a reference to the miraculous intricate design of our being. Only in this century are we beginning to get a glimpse of just how miraculous and unique our bodies are with the unlocking of the DNA database that is unique to every individual. David may not be able to understand it all, but he certainly knows how to appreciate the results.

The word soul is a reference to the true person of David that is housed in this magnificently designed body. This reminds me of a quote I heard recently that was attributed to C. S. Lewis: “You don’t have a soul. You are a soul. You have a body.”

Psalm 139:15 My substance was not hid from thee, when I was made in secret, and curiously wrought in the lowest parts of the earth.

This verse is confusing at first. The Hebrew for "lowest parts" included a reference to the “womb, figuratively.” I think this is David’s poetic expression coming out. Since we are made of the dust of the ground, the womb would picture the “lowest part” of the woman’s being. “Curiously wrought” is a reference to embroidery and needlework, which I think is a reference to the exacting care and attention given to the design of our being. It would also be a reference to the uniqueness of each individual.

If possible, I am even more overwhelmed than before as I think of the God of the universe keeping intimate tabs on each one of His children to the point of knowing their thoughts before they do and at the same time giving special attention to the formation of every new human. It’s interesting that the word substance was chosen. It’s a reference to the raw material used in the creation, which we know consists of the merging of an egg from the woman and sperm from the man.

Psalm 139:16 Thine eyes did see my substance, yet being unperfect; and in thy book all my members were written, which in continuance were fashioned, when as yet there was none of them.

The Hebrew for unperfect is a reference to the “embryo, the unformed mass.” When God looked at that embryo, He already had the blueprint recorded that would eventually result in David; that is true for every baby that is born. As that baby continues to develop, God ensures that he/she develops exactly according to His recorded blueprint. The Spirit through David makes express note that this blueprint exists before even one identifiable part of the baby is formed.

It truly grieves my heart to see how little respect our culture gives to these special creations. It is the ultimate in selfishness to decide that one’s comfort or convenience is more valuable or important than to honor the life that God has initiated in the womb. Sometimes we can’t help but wonder why God allows this to continue. One thing of which I am sure is that The Righteous Judge to Whom vengeance belongs will administer justice. The sad thing is that once we get to the point of thinking we have the right to determine who should have the right to be born or not, we are well on the way down the path to determining who should be allowed to live or die according to our assessment of their quality of life (and our current culture reflects that truth). That is an authority that only God possesses. Once we position ourselves as “gods” regarding the value of life, we have effectively done away with our need to recognize His authority in any area.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

You Can’t Hide from God

Psalm 139:5 Thou hast beset me behind and before, and laid thine hand upon me.

This is a statement of David’s faith in God’s protective hand upon His life. He knows that nothing can touch Him unless God so chooses to allow it.

Many people seem to think that they can actually do things in secret that even God cannot see. The Psalmist tells us that this is a false assumption. The Apostle Paul declares that one of the most beautiful truths to the child of God is that He can be assured that nothing can touch His life except God allow it for His purposes--which are always for the good and for His glory.

Romans 8:28 “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.”

This is actually an outworking of who God is; He is love.

1 John 4:16 “And we have known and believed the love that God hath to us. God is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him.”

Psalm 139:6 Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high, I cannot attain unto it.

The Hebrew for the word high states, “especially inaccessible, by implication, safe and strong.” I certainly identify with David’s thought. Even though I can accept the truth stated in God’s word, I certainly don’t always understand it. It’s just beyond my understanding. I liked the inclusion of the words safe and strong. Even though I may not be able to truly understand God, I can certainly trust Him. God’s character ensures that the person of faith has nothing to fear from what he may not understand about God’s truth. He can be confident that God only operates from a righteous, compassionate and loving character. I can’t help but be reminded of the words of the prophet Isaiah.

Isaiah 55:8-9 For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.

Psalm 139:7-10 Whither shall I go from thy spirit? or whither shall I flee from thy presence? If I ascend up into heaven, thou art there: if I make my bed in hell, behold, thou art there. If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea; Even there shall thy hand lead me, and thy right hand shall hold me.

The first thing I notice in this section of verses is that David is making a direct connection with God’s Spirit and His presence. They are inseparable. The point David is making is that he knows that there is nowhere he can go to hide from God. In fact, there is nowhere he can go where God is not with him. As one who has trusted God for his salvation, David knows that God is always ready to provide him direction and protection.

As I continue to think about verses 8-9, I get a picture of God’s mercy. We believers are sure of God’s direction and protection when we are on the high road of obedience (ascending to heaven and taking the wings of the morning so to speak), but God is faithful to His own even when we choose to rebel and disobey (make our bed in hell or dwell in the depths of the sea so to speak). He is faithful to rebuke, chasten and forgive.

Revelation 3:19 As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent.

Hebrews 12:6-8 For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth. If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not? But if ye be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards, and not sons.

1John 1:9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

Psalm 139:11-12 If I say, Surely the darkness shall cover me; even the night shall be light about me. Yea, the darkness hideth not from thee; but the night shineth as the day: the darkness and the light are both alike to thee.

David is expressing something that we all must think sometimes if we are honest about our actions. We think that God won’t notice this one thing; after all, “I’m not important; I’m just one among billions,” “no one can see me,” or “nobody knows me here.” David knew the truth—You cannot hide from God. Everything we do is as if we were surrounded by neon flashing signs. To God’s eyes, there is no such thing as night or darkness. He sees us just as well at night as in day and in dark as in light.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Nothing is Hidden from God

Another one of my very favorite chapters in scripture is Psalm 139 because it talks about how personal God’s involvement is in my development as a specific creation according to His purpose. There is nothing about me that He does not know and with which He is not intimately involved. It is in fact His very love and concern for us that is at the heart of prophecy. If He didn’t care, He wouldn’t bother.

Psalm 139:1 O LORD, thou hast searched me, and known me.

“Lord” = YHWH, (the) self-Existent or Eternal; name of God

After looking at the Hebrew, I am convinced that David is expressing his knowledge of the fact that God has penetrated to the core of his being and examined his character intently, and He understands David better than anyone else ever could. The word for known indicates the results of that examination; David was God’s “familiar friend.” I think that truth can be verified with scripture that identifies David as a man after God’s own heart.

1Samuel 13:13-14 And Samuel said to Saul, Thou hast done foolishly: thou hast not kept the commandment of the LORD thy God, which he commanded thee: for now would the LORD have established thy kingdom upon Israel for ever. But now thy kingdom shall not continue: the LORD hath sought him a man after his own heart, and the LORD hath commanded him to be captain over his people, because thou hast not kept that which the LORD commanded thee.

Experience has shown me that the best friends are those who share your heart, who love the things you love, who have the same concerns, and who are considerate of you.

The truth is that God has “searched” each one of us. My desire is to also be known by Him as a “familiar friend,” to have a character that embraces the things He loves, that is jealous for His name, and that lives to see Him glorified in me.

Psalm 139:2 Thou knowest my downsitting and mine uprising, thou understandest my thought afar off.

Not only does David recognize that God knows his character, He also knows where he is and what he is doing at all times. He even knows the thoughts that occupy his mind. I thought the Hebrew root for thought was quite interesting; it states, “to tend a flock; i.e. pasture it; intransitively, to graze.” This seems to be referencing the ideas that dominate our thinking, the things upon which we meditate. The Hebrew for “afar off” was also interesting. It referenced “wandering and precious” among other things. This gives a different perspective to me. Instead of just understanding that God knows our thoughts no matter how far away we may think Him to be, it seems to be saying that He knows where our thoughts like to wander, the meditation on things that are precious to us, things we may choose to hide from others. It really ties in more directly to the Hebrew for thought.

Psalm 139:3 Thou compassest my path and my lying down, and art acquainted with all my ways.

“compassest” = to cast away, to diffuse, winnow, spread, scatter, to turn aside

The Hebrew for this word has stumped me; it wasn’t what I expected to see. After going to good old Webster, my thoughts were drawn to the word spread. It made me think that the NLT had the best translation, “You chart the path ahead of me and tell me where to stop and rest…”

This fits in with my understanding of God’s working in the lives of His children. We are created with a purpose to bring Him glory, and He doesn’t just leave us to chance regarding that purpose. As God, He can direct our paths without taking away our freedom as to whether to follow that path. Because God is love and He knows us so well, we are given every opportunity to honor Him in fulfilling that purpose—even if we take a few detours from that path along the way.

Psalm 139:4 For there is not a word in my tongue, but, lo, O LORD, thou knowest it altogether.

David knew that God knows us even better than we know ourselves. He is omniscient; He knows everything. He even knows every word that we are going to say before we know it ourselves. Nothing we do or say surprises the Lord.

Sunday, November 7, 2010


1Corinthians 15:51-53 Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality.

At this point Paul gets everyone’s undivided attention; he tells them that he is going to reveal to them a secret, something that God has not revealed to anyone before. The Greek for sleep states, “to slumber, to decease, be dead.” It’s obvious that in the context of this passage the reference is to physical death. Paul is telling this body of believers that not everyone is going to die. Also in context, Paul is sharing this revelation with people who have trusted Christ as Savior. The exciting new truth—“we shall be changed….to put on immortality.”

One of the first things I notice is that Paul seemed to think that he could be part of that group—“we shall not all sleep.”

The next truth revealed is that whether dead or alive, the believer will be changed, made different. The question begs, “What kind of change?” Our mortal, corruptible bodies will be made immortal (eternal) and incorruptible (not subject to decay or depravation).

There are so many other questions that this truth poses, such as how and when? Paul gives a general answer to both in verse 52.

• In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye – an instant, less than a second

• At the last trump – I did quite a bit of study on this in conjunction with my topical study of the rapture. Suffice it to say that many scholars have given varying explanations regarding this trumpet. I want to share with you a few paragraphs from that study as quoted from Renald Showers that make good sense to me.

“1Corinthians 14 talks about the trumpet from a military perspective, so it would appear that thought would be continued in chapter 15. In Bible times, “when they went to war, they had a “last trump” that would be blown that would tell the fighting men, ‘Your time of fighting is over. It is time for you to go home and rest.’ A ‘last trump’ ended their time in the warfare.”

There were also two trumpets related to guard duty. “They had a first trump that signaled when a man was to start his watch…then they had a ‘last trump’ which signaled that his time on guard duty was over and it was time for him to go home.” The comparison to the Christian is obvious.

“The fact that Paul, when he mentions the last trump, doesn’t explain to the Corinthians what he meant by that indicates that they understood what he meant by ‘the last trump.’ They were very familiar…with that terminology of ‘the last trump’ signals used for Roman soldiers, whether their fighting is done or their tour of duty on the watch is over for that day.” [end Showers quote]

I recently learned that the trumpet is blown each morning of the month preceding Rosh Hashanah. During Rosh Hashanah 100 notes are sounded with the trumpet each of the two days. It is observed two days because of the difficulty in discerning the new moon; therefore, the date from year to year is unknown. It seems that there could be a possible application to the rapture--but only time will reveal the truth.

1Corinthians 15:54 “So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory.”

When this transformation takes place, then the child of God will realize what it means for death to be swallowed up in victory. It would seem from the human perspective that at death man meets ultimate defeat. For the child of God, however, it is the seed that germinates into victorious, everlasting life!

Where was this written? In the book of Isaiah.

Isaiah 25:8–9 “He will swallow up death in victory; and the Lord GOD will wipe away tears from off all faces; and the rebuke of his people shall he take away from off all the earth: for the LORD hath spoken it. And it shall be said in that day, Lo, this is our God; we have waited for him, and he will save us: this is the LORD; we have waited for him, we will be glad and rejoice in his salvation.”

In context the prophet is talking about the time that the Lord comes to establish His kingdom and all Israel turns to Him in faith for salvation. Paul is declaring the truth of that prophecy also to be applicable to the body of believers resurrected to immortality before that time.

1Corinthians 15:55-56 “O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law.”

If we embrace this truth, we can face death without fear and looking forward to our future. It is our sin that subjects us to death, and it is the law that reveals how bound we are by sin. Death has no sting when you know that you face an eternity in the presence of God. The law can impart no strength to sin in one who has embraced God’s grace.

1Corinthians 15:57-58 “But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord.”

The child of God, however, has gained the victory over sin and death through the sacrifice of our “Lord Jesus Christ.” This truth should motivate us to serve the Lord in spite of all the temptations the flesh and the enemy may throw our way. It should encourage us to persevere through the tough times and strengthen us to make the hard choices such commitment may require. It should fill us with such gratitude that we “abound” or are characterized by a life of service in doing the work of the Lord. There is no sacrifice that we can make in serving the Lord for which the reward will not be far greater.

Thursday, November 4, 2010


1Corinthians 15:46-47 “Howbeit that was not first which is spiritual, but that which is natural; and afterward that which is spiritual. The first man is of the earth, earthy: the second man is the Lord from heaven.”

This section gets a little harder to me since we know that our resurrected bodies will arise from the dust of the ground. Verse 47 helps us draw the distinction between natural and spiritual. The natural man, Adam, was created from the dust of the ground and was dependent on the laws of nature as established by God for his existence; his sustenance was dependent upon God’s provision through the creation on earth. The spiritual man, Jesus Christ, though willing to humble Himself and be born of flesh as a man, is a supernatural being, a heavenly being. His willing sacrifice made it possible for man to be transformed into a heavenly being.

The life force of our earthly body is the blood.

Leviticus 17:11 For the life of the flesh is in the blood….

The life force of our heavenly body is the Spirit.

John 6:63 It is the spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing: the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life.

Romans 8:9-11 But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his. And if Christ be in you, the body is dead because of sin; but the Spirit is life because of righteousness. But if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwelleth in you.

Galatians 6:8 For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting.

1Corinthians 15:48-49 “As is the earthy, such are they also that are earthy: and as is the heavenly, such are they also that are heavenly. And as we have borne the image of the earthy, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly.”

I really liked the wording of the New Living Translation for these verses: Every human being has an earthly body just like Adam’s, but our heavenly bodies will be just like Christ’s. Just as we are now like Adam, the man of the earth, so we will someday be like Christ, the man from heaven.

I think Paul’s explanation of this truth in his letter to the Romans gives us a fuller understanding.

Romans 5:17–19 “For if, because of the offence of one man, death ruled through that one man; how much more will those receiving the overflowing grace, that is, the gift of being considered righteous, rule in life through the one man Yeshua the Messiah! In other words, just as it was through one offence that all people came under condemnation, so also it is through one righteous act that all people come to be considered righteous. For just as through the disobedience of the one man, many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the other man, many will be made righteous.” (Complete Jewish Bible)

1Corinthians 15:50 “Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; neither doth corruption inherit incorruption.”

We have determined that flesh and blood are descriptive of man’s natural body, and this corruptible body can have no part in God’s eternal kingdom. God’s kingdom is one of righteousness.

Hebrews 1:8 “But unto the Son he saith, Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever: a sceptre of righteousness is the sceptre of thy kingdom.”

Romans 14:17 “For the kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost.”

John 3:3 “Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.”

Monday, November 1, 2010


1Corinthians 15:35 “But some man will say, How are the dead raised up? and with what body do they come?”

This verse expresses the obvious questions from anyone regarding resurrection.
• How can the dead be brought back to life?
• What kind of body will they have?

1Corinthians 15:36-38 “Thou fool, that which thou sowest is not quickened, except it die: And that which thou sowest, thou sowest not that body that shall be, but bare grain, it may chance of wheat, or of some other grain: But God giveth it a body as it hath pleased him, and to every seed his own body.”

It would seem that Paul is being a bit harsh with his answer in addressing the questioner as a “fool,” but the Greek here makes reference to “mindless and unwise.” I think he is grabbing the person’s attention with the intent of getting him to reason within himself. He goes on to give an object lesson found in nature as pictured in the process of sowing and reaping. A seed has to die and be buried in the ground before it can be brought to life through the miraculous provision of God through nature. Most of us can’t tell anything about the fruit that will emerge from that seed just by looking at that seed. When it produces fruit, it will produce according as God has determined it to produce—be it grain, flower, vegetable, etc. Each seed produces one plant. You can’t change the process that God has established.

1Corinthians 15:39-41 “All flesh is not the same flesh: but there is one kind of flesh of men, another flesh of beasts, another of fishes, and another of birds. There are also celestial bodies, and bodies terrestrial: but the glory of the celestial is one, and the glory of the terrestrial is another. There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars: for one star differeth from another star in glory.”

Paul now goes on to explain that God is sovereign. His creation reflects an amazing variety of plant and animal life as well as great diversity in the universe that supports that life. He established the laws by which nature and the universe function. Just as there are many types of plants, there are also many types of flesh or bodies—men are different from animals are different from fish are different from birds. There are also different types of bodies in the heavens, and each is glorious in its own way. The sun is different from the moon, and both are different from the stars. They are different sizes and temperatures and their influence in the creation is unique.

1Corinthians 15:42-44 “So also is the resurrection of the dead. It is sown in corruption; it is raised in incorruption: It is sown in dishonour; it is raised in glory: it is sown in weakness; it is raised in power: It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body.”

Now Paul gets to the application. The resurrection of the dead believer is no different. It is buried in the ground after death in anticipation of the future life that will emerge from that death. It is buried as decaying flesh, and will be raised incorruptible to eternal life. It is buried stained and dishonored by the sin nature that it possessed, but will be raised in everlasting righteousness and glory. It is buried in feebleness of mind and body, but will be raised by the miraculous power of God to everlasting strength and vitality. It is buried as a natural body of flesh that found life in the blood, but will be raised a body of flesh and bone that finds everlasting life in the Spirit. Then he emphasizes the truth that there is a distinct difference between a natural body and a spiritual body. Jesus was raised to a spiritual body and was not limited in movement. Angels are spiritual beings that can take on flesh. I’m sure there are going to be many differences far beyond these obvious ones. A body with a spirit that is powered by the Spirit will allow us to enjoy creation to the fullest, far beyond what we can imagine.

1Corinthians 15:45 “And so it is written, The first man Adam was made a living soul; the last Adam was made a quickening spirit.”

My understanding of this verse would be that Adam was created the fully perfect human being that was intended to live forever as he was—in intimate fellowship with God and with a body uncorrupted by sin. When Adam sinned, he suffered spiritual death. He was no longer in fellowship with God and his body was doomed to corruption as was his seed. The last Adam, Jesus Christ, was born in the same perfect state in which Adam was created, but with the singular ability to impart of His life-giving Spirit to restore to life every man who would accept His most loving and sacrificial gift—His very life through death, burial and resurrection. Having provided for their spirit to live again, He would also provide for their bodies of flesh to be renewed and once again free from corruption.