Friday, December 23, 2011

Ruth - A Nearer Kinsmen Redeemer

This entry is in the series of Thirty-Nine Reasons Jesus Came to Die, concerning the Book of Ruth.

Set in the middle of Judges, most likely around the beginning of Judges 10, the Book of Ruth contains amazing prophecies for Christ and that his church would be larger than just Israel. The most obvious link to Jesus in this book is that Ruth is Jesus' great-grandmother several generations removed, and also a Gentile (Matthew 1:5). Her assimilation into not just Israel, but the salvation of God, looks forward to a time when Jesus would say, "And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd." (John 10:16)

Other important themes are the rigidness to the law (Ruth 4:4), the caring for the poor (Ruth 2:7), and the price paid for a bride who was in servitude (Ruth 4:10, 1 Corinthians 7:23).

But the main prophecy of Jesus in the book of Ruth is that of Kinsmen Redeemer. This person was able and compelled to purchase a family member out of slavery (Leviticus 25:47-49), to purchase land sold (Leviticus 25:25), and to perpetuate a lineage of a dead brother (Deuteronomy 25:5-6, Ruth 2:20). Boaz is a kinsmen redeemer of Naomi (Ruth's mother-in-law), and also Naomi's dead husband and dead sons, but he is honest that there is a nearer redeemer. In the book, the nearer redeemer waves his right in order for Boaz to be able to be both redeemer and husband to Ruth.

Jesus Christ is our Nearer Kinsmen Redeemer, a brother by our adoption (Romans 8:14-15,29), the God who created us (Colossians 1:15-16), and the one who paid the price for our ransom from slavery (1 Peter 1:18-19).

Into your hand I commit my spirit; you have redeemed me, O LORD, faithful God. – Psalm 31:5

For I know that my Redeemer lives and at the last he will stand upon the earth. – Job 19:25

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Judges - To Turn us to God

This entry is in the series of Thirty-Nine Reasons Jesus Came to Die, concerning the Book of Judges.

The book of Judges is ripe with prophecy for Jesus; he is clearly seen in the humble origins of Gideon (Judges 6:15, John 7:41), questions about the legitimacy of birth like Japheth (Judges 11:2, John 9:29), and, for the first time in this study, in an anti-type, that of Samson.

Jesus is seen most beautifully in this book in his role of turning people back to God. The book of Judges has a running theme, that where there is no king or judge acting for the people, they quickly run off into idolatry. This is seen over and over and over, then a judge is appointed and routes the enemy and turns hearts back to Heaven, and then dies, and it all starts over again, until in the later chapters where no judge is rising, until Samuel comes (but that's another study for another day). The book of Judges is a narrative of straying people being led back to God.

Jesus Christ fulfills this role emphatically perfectly, and even moreso, because he lives forever, there is no occasion for his church to look for, or need, another Saviour.

For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls. – 1 Peter 2:25

God exalted him at his right hand as Leader and Savior, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins. – Acts 5:31

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Joshua - Our Leader into the Promised Land

This entry is in the series of Thirty-Nine Reasons Jesus Came to Die, concerning the Book of Joshua.

Joshua is an especially easy book to see Jesus in, since in Hebrew both are spelled, Jeshua. Joshua is an undeniable type for Jesus, leading his people into the promised land (John 14:6), Moses brought the people close, but the law does not lead to salvation, it only leads to Jesus (Galatians 3:24 KJV; The ESV terribly translates this verse). This is the primary prophecy for Christ in the book of Joshua, though it is certainly not the only prophecy. Jesus is seen in the scarlet cord which protected Rahab from wrath, in the leading of armies to accomplish God's purposes perfectly (Joshua 5:13-15), and once again in the new cities of refuge which provided salvation for lawbreakers.

Joshua as the leader of Israel to lead them into the promised land, both as military leader, and covenant maker (Joshua 24:25), is a beautiful look at Jesus who leads his church into Heaven, and the one who makes a perfect covenant with God for a rebellious people, so that they are saved in spite of their failure to keep the covenant.

Lead me in your truth and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation; for you I wait all the day long. – Psalm 25:5

Let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. – Hebrews 12:1-2

Christ has obtained a ministry that is as much more excellent than the old as the covenant he mediates is better, since it is enacted on better promises. For if that first covenant had been faultless, there would have been no occasion to look for a second. In speaking of a new covenant, he makes the first one obsolete. And what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away. – Hebrews 8:6-7,13

Deuteronomy - A Curse for Us

This entry is in the series of Thirty-Nine Reasons Jesus Came to Die, concerning the Book of Deuteronomy.

Deuteronomy is a collection of three of Moses' sermons, giving a summary of the history, laws, and covenant of Exodus through Numbers. Jesus is seen in this book as the fulfilment of the law, as the city of refuge which the lawbreaker may flee to for salvation, and in the festivals which point towards atonement with God.

Jesus is most prevalent in Deuteronomy in regards to the blessings derived from keeping the law and the curses which are wrought by breaking the law, whereby he kept the law perfectly and yet faced the curse of lawlessness. Deuteronomy is especially concerned with the consequences of sin and the justice of God. A cursory look at Deuteronomy will crush the sinner under his sin and the enmity that is put between him and God for his transgression, indeed every person who reads Deuteronomy should see that he is under great condemnation for his sins against Heaven.

Jesus Christ came to see that his people will be blessed by obedience, not their obedience, but by his obedience. "The law is not of faith, rather 'The one who does them shall live by them.' Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, 'Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree'—so that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promised Spirit through faith." – Galatians 3:12-14 (Deuteronomy 21:23)

For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. – 2 Corinthians 5:21

Monday, December 19, 2011

Numbers - God With Us

This entry is in the series of Thirty-Nine Reasons Jesus Came to Die, concerning the Book of Numbers.

Numbers tells of the wanderings of Israel in the desert for forty years; prophecy of Jesus is evident throughout, from Moses being a type of a mediator (Numbers 14:11-20), to salvation through faith (Numbers 21:9, John 3:14-15), to the promised Star and Scepter of Israel (Numbers 24:17).

Jesus Christ is most evident, however, in being an everpresent help to the people of Israel in their wanderings in the desert. He was their guide by day, their light by night, their protection in battle, and their daily provision.

"On the day that the tabernacle was set up, the cloud covered the tabernacle, the tent of the testimony. And at evening it was over the tabernacle like the appearance of fire until morning. So it was always: the cloud covered it by day and the appearance of fire by night." – Numbers 9:15-16

"Behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age." – Matthew 28:20

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Leviticus - The Fulfillment of the Law

This entry is in the series of Thirty-Nine Reasons Jesus Came to Die, concerning the Book of Leviticus.

The book of Leviticus is exceedingly detailed in giving the laws of God; this is especially important for us because it shows us how holy and righteous God is, that he is intimately concerned with matters of morality and ceremony. He is not a God who can be worshipped in any way, and he is not a God whom can be in fellowship with sin.

For this reason the book of Leviticus is one of the most crushing books of the Bible, it shows mankind how unrighteous they are, and how righteous God is; mankind's sin has made a separation between him and God. This book, while containing viable and useful means for understanding man's role in the Mosaic Covenant, is much more relevant in pointing us to Jesus Christ.

The New Testament tells us that we "have in the law the embodiment of knowledge and truth" and that Jesus Christ is the "end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes." (Romans 2:20, 10:4) He himself declared, "Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them." (Matthew 5:17)

The Bible tells us that sin is transgression against the law (1 John 3:4), this law is almost exclusively contained in the book of Leviticus, Jesus Christ was impeccable in keeping the law, as the Bible says that Jesus is, "one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin." (Hebrews 4:15) He was baptized for the reason that, "it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness." (Matthew 3:15)

In the book of Leviticus we see our Saviour as the perfect fulfillment of the law, fulfilling the conditional parts of the Covenant so that we are found righteous in him, justified in our faith, for as it is written, "the righteous shall live by faith." (Romans 1:17)

Exodus - The Redeemer from Slavery

This entry is in the series of Thirty-Nine Reasons Jesus Came to Die, concerning the Book of Exodus.

Exodus picks up where Genesis ends, with Israel falling into slavery to the Egyptians for several hundred years. Their bondage is harsh and with no hope in sight. Exodus describes several events, the calling of Moses, Moses' glimpse of God, the Burning Bush, the Ten Plagues, the Passover Lamb, the Escape from Egypt, the Parting of the Red Sea, Manna from Heaven, Water from a Rock, the Giving of the Law, the Tabernacle details; all of these point at Jesus Christ, but none is the main point of the book.

Jesus Christ is the Redeemer who sets the captives free (Psalm 107:1-3, Luke 4:18-19), who says, "you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free" and "if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed." (John 8:32,36)

In Exodus we see a people completely in bondage, without hope without God, but led out of slavery by their God. Jesus Christ is the one who leads the captives free, who calls us out of darkness into his glorious light (1 Peter 2:9).

Genesis - The Promised Offspring of Eve

This entry is in the series of Thirty-Nine Reasons Jesus Came to Die, concerning the Book of Genesis.

Genesis describes the Creation Event, the Fall, the Flood, and the Dispersion of mankind, and the calling of Israel. All of these are hugely important parts of the book, but Jesus is seen most clearly in fulfilling the following prophecy,

I will put enmity between you (Satan) and the woman (Eve),
__and between your offspring and her offspring;
he shall bruise your head,
__and you shall bruise his heel.
– Genesis 3:15

Throughout Genesis we see this offspring anticipated. Cain is the first expected Messiah, "I have gotten a man with the help of the LORD", but hope in him is dashed when he murders his brother. Seth comes into the world with such a declaration, "God has appointed for me another offspring instead of Abel, for Cain killed him." Seth, in time, proved not to be the Messiah either (Genesis 5:8).

Throughout Genesis it continues:
Noah? No.
Abraham? No.
Isaac? No.
Esau, Jacob? No and no.
Joseph? Nearly, but no.

Luke shows this expectation in his gospel by taking us straight up the lineage of Jesus to Adam (Luke 3:23-38); Jesus is the promised offspring, the
perfect Son of Man, who crushed the head of Satan by the power of his Resurrection.

"Now the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Christ have come, for the Accuser of our brothers has been thrown down..." – Revelation 12:10

Thirty-Nine Reasons Jesus Came to Die

I was talking to a good friend recently about how to teach children the books of the Old Testament. I think it is fruitless to just teach them the names, or a song, because these books contain so much more than just the prophet who wrote them, everyone of them points to the Saviour, Jesus Christ.

Of himself, he gave this study, "he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself." (Luke 24:27)

An American POW during World-War II gave this testimony, "Chapter after chapter gripped my heart. In due time I came to the books of the prophets, and found that their every writing seemed focused on a divine Redeemer from sin, one who was to be sent from heaven to be born in the form of a human babe." - Jacob DeShazer

This series then will strive to give a brief summary of Christ from the 39 books of the Old Testament; my intention is not to find Jesus in every corner of every book, because in some books, like Zechariah, Jesus is priest, king, conqueror, shepherd, and temple; my intention will be to give the clearest and most definite prophecy for Jesus Christ from each book, in an easy and memorable way, that you, dear reader, will be able to see Christ in every book of the Old Testament.

This entry will be the table of context for these. I intend to post at least one a day, sometimes more. This table of contents will provide for a simple summary of each post:

1. Genesis - The Promised Offspring of Eve
2. Exodus - The Redeemer from Slavery
3. Leviticus - The Fulfillment of the Law
4. Numbers - God With Us
5. Deuteronomy - A Curse for Us
6. Joshua - Our Leader into the Promised Land
7. Judges - To Turn us to God
8. Ruth - A Nearer Kinsmen Redeemer
9. 1 Samuel - The King Chosen by God

Friday, December 16, 2011

Christopher Hitchens - God is Pleased to Cut Down Some to Warn Others

Christopher Hitchens was NOT surprised when he stepped out of this world, he knew there was a God (Romans 1:21-23), his conscience knew it was wrong to transgress the law of God (Romans 1:24-25).

Sinner, you know also (Psalm 94:8-9), take the expiration of Hitchens as your warning to stop suppressing the truth in unrighteousness (Romans 1:18), it is NOT a matter of evidence, it never was and it never will be (Psalm 10:4), you cannot make your Creator go away by pretending he doesn't exist (Psalm 2:4-5).

Jesus Christ is your Lord (Philippians 2:9-11). The question then is, Is he your Lord and Saviour, or your Lord and Executioner? (John 10:27-28, Hebrews 10:31)

I bid you, as does Christopher Hitchens at this very moment, most likely from the very torment he warns against, "Flee from the wrath to come!" (Luke 16:27-28)

Far in the deep where darkness dwells,
The land of horror and despair,
Justice has built a dismal hell,
And laid her stores of vengeance there.

Tremble, my soul, and kiss the Son;
Sinners, obey the Saviour's call;
Else your damnation hastens on,
And hell gapes wide to wait your fall.
- Isaac Watts

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Conscientious Christmas Objections

After my last post, A Defense of Christmas, I want to make sure that the conscientious objectionable parts are outlined so it does not seem that I defend all of Christmas. We must recognize that there are two ways to look at this, first is between Christian and non-Christian, and second between Christians; this article will focus exclusively between Christians. The reason that this distinction is so important is because for the unbeliever, all of Christmas is impure; they are NOT glorifying God in their observance of this holy-day (holy as in set-apart, not as a means of grace). See Titus 1:15 and Romans 8:7-8 for scriptural justification of this stance.

Between Christians it is possible to have two entirely different views on a matter of conscience, especially concerning things that one believer may have a past in. The prime example in scripture is food which was prepared as an offering to a false god. Some believers believe this food is a sin to consume, while others see no sin. The law says it is not sin, and therefore neither the one who abstains nor the one who partakes are sinning. Scripture is clear that someone MUST not go against their conscience and be careful not to go against the conscience of their brother (1 Corinthians 8:1-13).

Christmas is a prime target for this sort of matter of conscience discussion. Some see Christmas as sinful, while others see no sin. The scripture calls for the one who abstains and the one who partakes to be fully convinced as to their position. As my last post addressed, some (most) who abstain do so from utterly fallacious arguments, and these should be addressed, as God absolutely forbade Peter from calling any food unclean since God had made them clean (Acts 10:14-16).

This post will address several parts of Christmas which are lawful and logical reasons for abstaining from Christmas altogether. As my previous post attests, I love Christmas, but I willfully and completely abstain from the following parts of Christmas.

Consumerism

On the shopping-day following Thanksgiving, commonly called “Black Friday”, we were blessed to hand out over 2,000 gospel tracts to people who willingly stayed up all night, or arose very early in the morning, to patronize various businesses. Several times throughout the eight hours we were active in evangelism, I looked on the crowd and was overwhelmed by the insatiability of it all; that the crowds were longer than last year, and that the same people would be in the line again next year, and were buying and selling only because of the season.

I find no way in this exercise in greed to honor Christ; this holiday should not be about things or shopping or debt. The Bible says that the borrower becomes slave to the lender (Proverbs 22:7), and that we ought not store up our treasures here on earth (Matthew 6:19-20, 32-33), since we can only serve materialism or Jesus, it is absolutely impossible to serve both (Matthew 6:24).

On Black-Friday a man asked what the card I gave him was, I said, “It’s a gospel tract.” He said, “I’d rather have a TV.” It provided the subject of my open air sermon for that store where I preached that our greatest need is not televisions, iPads, or money, it is salvation from sin; things of this world are transient, we must seek the one who is immutable.

Unbalanced Affection

But then one may say, “But the things I go into debt for are to make others happy.” The idea that you can justify one sin with its positive outcome is probably my least favorite part of the Christmas season. Many become Machiavellians (the ends justify the means, even if the means are deplorable) during the Christmas season; people were shot and pepper-sprayed this year during shopping, last year people were trampled to death; yet the long-lines and great deals justify the violence and greed in the minds of many.

But worse than the unlawful justification is the idea that the ends are good; is going into debt in order to shower someone with presents on one day the loving and good thing to do? Isn’t it more loving and affectionate to teach children the principles that will lead to a joyfilled, fulfilling, sustainable, responsible life?

If you love someone, show them that more than one day a year, and not because the traditions of that day expect you to. Christians ought to be celebrating the Advent of their King every day of the year, remembering and honoring his humility and lovingkindness daily by loving their neighbors daily as themselves. One day of gift-giving does not make up for a year of absent charity.

Exchanging of Gifts

Let me be absolutely clear, I am not against gift giving; it is a viable and often excellent means of telling someone that you care about them. Consider, “God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son” (John 3:16), “Christ loved me and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:20). We see in Matthew 2:11 that gifts were given to the Lord Christ as he entered human existence.

What I am against is the compulsive giving of ‘gifts’, which is why I am against the exchange of gifts.

Beloved, if you are only getting someone something because you know they are going to get you something, your tradition is one I despise. You’ve entered into a complicated and unrewarding system of barter, one that quenches love and cheapens the definition of love. Give out of your abundance, and do so for affection, not because you are paying someone back. Remember, “the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23).

Santa Claus

Depending on which tradition of Santa Claus you follow, there may be something redeemable in this character, but as he is celebrated by most today, I reject him totally. Santa Claus has become an antichrist, a false idol, with many of the attributes of God. He is omniscient, all knowing (he knows when you’ve been bad or good), he is omnipresent, present everywhere (he sees you when you’re sleeping), and he is set up as the judge of goodness, rewarding niceness with presents and naughtiness with disappointment.

Even his name is blasphemous, Santa, directly derived from the German “Sinter” which means “Saint”, or Christian. But if that weren’t bad enough, he even shares a name with Jesus. When Martin Luther was trying to wrestle the focus of Christmas from Saint Nicolaus, he pointed at the “Christkindle”, or Christ-Child, as the purpose of Christmas. Today if you ask most people who Kris Kringle is, you will be told that he is Santa Claus.

The Santa myth is one with absolutely no redeeming traits. He steals children’s affections from their parents, he takes the credit for presents he didn't give, he provides a convenient lie which sounds suspiciously like the truth of Christ, and his overemphasis during the Christmas season drags the affections away from the one they should be on, which is the Christ who gives the ultimate and everlasting gift of life.

Heretical Music

Some of the all time best hymns were written for Christmas. The best hymns focus both on Christ’s humility in being born a baby, and his saving work on Calvary. Consider from “Joy Has Dawned”, which is an archetypal great Christmas song:

Gifts of men from distant lands
Prophesy the story:
Gold—a King is born today,
Incense—God is with us,
Myrrh—His death will make a way,
And by His blood He'll win us.

Son of Adam, Son of Heaven,
Given as a ransom;
Reconciling God and man,
Christ, our mighty champion!
O What a Savior! O What a Friend!
What a glorious mystery!
Once a babe in Bethlehem,
Now the Lord of history.

But the part of Christmas music that I loathe are the ones that have absolutely nothing to do with Christ’s nativity or purpose of his advent, but rather focus on consumerism, joy without purpose, fleeting pleasure, and/or Santa Claus. I am utterly torn on heathens singing Christmas songs, because as we looked at earlier, the unbeliever cannot be pleasing to God (compare Isaiah 64:6), but I rejoice that they hear the gospel in the songs they are singing.

Granted, there is a place for secular music that is just fun, but when it claims to celebrate the birth of Christ I take an offense. I’ll sing “Winter Wonderland” or “Jingle Bell Rock” with you, provided we’re not doing so in church or listening to a “Christian” radio station, but we must keep it distinctly separate from any semblance of Christ worship, except to recognize that we are free to love life and fun and even silliness on occasion.

Conclusion

There is a call for every believer to be fully convinced why they are doing something or abstaining from something. I am fully convinced that most of Christmas is God glorifying and a valid means of honoring the Christ who is celebrated; I abstain from the consumerism, gift-bartering, Santa Claus myth, and bad music. But, I fully understand how someone could abstain completely from Christmas due to the debacle that it has been turned into by these traditions.

However you celebrate your Saviour, honoring him in your life, I pray that he will give to each of us a more tender conscience, one that is fully convinced we are living for eternity, one that hates sin and loves righteousness, that loves people and recognizes that stuff is perishable. Beloved, if you are convinced that any of these can be used to honor Christ, then by all means tell me, or if all of Christmas offends you, let us bear together, and may the God of endurance and encouragement grant us to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, that together we may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ (Romans 15:5-6).

I feel that we can do so through Christmas, and so I once again echo the sentiments of the hymn, “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen”, that even though so many have defaced Christmas, it is still a viable and wonderful celebration of the Lord of History.

Now to the Lord sing praises,
All you within this place,
And with true love and brotherhood
Each other now embrace;
This holy tide of Christmas
All other doth deface.

O Tidings of Comfort and Joy,
Comfort and Joy,

O Tidings of Comfort and Joy.