God’s Amazing Plan. Part 3: If You Want Something Done Right…

I closed my last post on this subject by saying “It’s time”, then I left you hanging for over a year. For that I apologize.

In the 400 hundred years or so since the close of the Old Testament, the children of Israel had been under the rule of the Persians, the Greeks under Alexander the Great, The Syrians under Seleucus (one of Alexander’s generals), The Egyptians under Ptolemy (another of Alexander’s generals),  The Syrians under Antiochus Epiphanes (who tried to exterminate them), themselves under the Maccabees, and finally, the Romans.

God’s timing is always perfect. He had told Micah the messiah would be born in Bethlehem.

But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah,
out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old,
from ancient times.”
(Micah 5:2)

Mary was chosen to be the mother of the messiah, but she was in Nazareth, and she was poor. Isn’t it amazing that Caesar Augustus chose that particular time to order a census?

In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) And everyone went to their own town to register. So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them. (Luke 2:1-7)tLuk0215Dore_TheNativity

In the first two posts, we looked at the hints of God’s plan for redeeming mankind. By the time of the Gospels (the books of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John), the Jews (as they were then called) were fully aware that the Messiah was coming. They just weren’t expecting him to come like he did. They definitely weren’t expecting him to be born in a stable.

They had definite ideas of what the Messiah was supposed to do. He would be a great ruler, who would rid them of the Romans, and restore Israel as it had been under David and Solomon. That was how they understood the Old Testament prophecies, but there were some things they missed. To be honest, I don’t know how they could have understood.

We have looked at Isaiah 9: 6-7 before, but let’s look at it again

6 For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given,
and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
7 Of the greatness of his government and peace
there will be no end.
He will reign on David’s throne
and over his kingdom,
establishing and upholding it
with justice and righteousness
from that time on and forever.
The zeal of the Lord Almighty
will accomplish this.

Verse seven describes the Messiah they were expecting, but go back to verse six. It says the child will be called “Mighty God”. Wait a minute. No one gets to be called “God” but God. Anything else is blasphemy. How could this person be called “God”?

If He is God.

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. (John 1:1-3)

The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John 1:14)

No one has ever seen God, but the one and only Son, who is himself God, and is in closest relationship with the Father, has made him known. (John 1:18)

The Word was God. Since the Word became flesh, that means God became flesh. God became a human being. Jesus said as much Himself.

Jesus replied, “If I glorify myself, my glory means nothing. My Father, whom you claim as your God, is the one who glorifies me. Though you do not know him, I know him. If I said I did not, I would be a liar like you, but I do know him and obey his word. Your father Abraham rejoiced at the thought of seeing my day; he saw it and was glad.”

You are not yet fifty years old,” they said to him, “and you have seen Abraham!”

Very truly I tell you,” Jesus answered, “before Abraham was born, I am!” At this, they picked up stones to stone him, but Jesus hid himself, slipping away from the temple grounds. (John 8:54-58)

Jesus called Himself “I am”. He was calling Himself “God”, a stoning offense to be sure, unless He was telling the truth.

So part of God’s amazing plan was that He would come to live among us as a human being.

I am not even going to pretend that I understand how the Trinity works. I don’t know how God could be Father in Heaven, and Son on Earth, but I know that He was.

Ok, but why would God do that? What is the point? Well, I guess you can say “If you want something done right, you need to do it yourself.” In order for mankind to be redeemed, there would need to be a blood sacrifice, because;

For the life of a creature is in the blood, and I have given it to you to make atonement for yourselves on the altar; it is the blood that makes atonement for one’s life. (Lev 17:11)

The animals sacrificed had to be perfect. They had to be “without spot or blemish”. A human stand-in for mankind would have to be perfect too. Do you know anyone like that? No, I don’t either. There isn’t anyone.

God knew there was no way that any human being would ever be able to live a sinless life, but He could. The “Word” was with God from the beginning, was in fact, God, and then became flesh and came to live with us. Jesus was God coming to earth as a human being, to live as human beings live. He had the same physical needs, and He was subjected to the same temptations (Matt 4). The difference is that He didn’t succumb to the temptations. He remained sinless, and as such was able to be the perfect sacrifice for sin.

Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. (Hebrews 4:14-15)

All of that was laid out in the prophecies too, but they just didn’t get it.

We’ve already looked at portions of Isaiah 53, but let’s start at the end of Chapter 52, and read through 53.

13 See, my servant will act wisely;
he will be raised and lifted up and highly exalted.
14 Just as there were many who were appalled at him- his appearance was so disfigured beyond that of any human being
and his form marred beyond human likeness—
15 so he will sprinkle many nations,
and kings will shut their mouths because of him.
For what they were not told, they will see,
and what they have not heard, they will understand.

1Who has believed our message
and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?
2 He grew up before him like a tender shoot,
He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him,
nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.
3 He was despised and rejected by mankind,
a man of suffering, and familiar with pain.
Like one from whom people hide their faces
he was despised, and we held him in low esteem.

4 Surely he took up our pain
and bore our suffering,
yet we considered him punished by God,
stricken by him, and afflicted.
5 But he was pierced for our transgressions,
he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was on him,
and by his wounds we are healed.
6 We all, like sheep, have gone astray,
each of us has turned to our own way;
and the Lord has laid on him
the iniquity of us all.

7 He was oppressed and afflicted,
yet he did not open his mouth;
he was led like a lamb to the slaughter,
and as a sheep before its shearers is silent,
so he did not open his mouth.
8 By oppression and judgment he was taken away.
Yet who of his generation protested?
For he was cut off from the land of the living;
for the transgression of my people he was punished.
9 He was assigned a grave with the wicked,
and with the rich in his death,
though he had done no violence,
nor was any deceit in his mouth.

10 Yet it was the Lord’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer,
and though the Lord makes his life an offering for sin,
he will see his offspring and prolong his days,
and the will of the Lord will prosper in his hand.
11 After he has suffered,
he will see the light of life and be satisfied;
by his knowledge my righteous servant will justify many,
and he will bear their iniquities.
12 Therefore I will give him a portion among the great,
and he will divide the spoils with the strong,
because he poured out his life unto death,
and was numbered with the transgressors.
For he bore the sin of many,
and made intercession for the transgressors. (Isaiah 52: 13-16; 53)

I have to wonder who the learned men; the rabbis, the scribes, etc, thought Isaiah was talking about? Did they understand this was about the messiah? Maybe they didn’t. Maybe they did what many of us do when we come to a passage we don’t understand.  Maybe they just skipped over it.

John the baptist understood.

The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! (John 1:29)

Jesus told both His disciples and His enemies, several times that He would die. He told them why He would die, and that He would be resurrected.

 No one has ever gone into heaven except the one who came from heaven—the Son of Man. Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes may have eternal life in him. For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.  For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. (John 3:13-17)

He then began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and after three days rise again (Mark 8:23)

 Now is the time for judgment on this world; now the prince of this world will be driven out. And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” 33 He said this to show the kind of death he was going to die. (John 12:31-32)

In John 14, Jesus tells his disciples (and us) the plan, but they still didn’t get it. When he was arrested, tried, found guilty and crucified, they were heartbroken, terrified and confused.

tLuk2334Dore_TheCrucifixion

Jesus was crucified during time of the Passover. Like the lamb without defect, he was sacrificed, and his blood covers us, saving us from the second death. Paul says,

Get rid of the old yeast, so that you may be a new unleavened batch—as you really are. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed (1 Cor 5:7)

In the last post, we read that on the Day of Atonement, the High Priest would offer a blood sacrifice for himself, and then one for the people. This was the only day of the year the priest could go behind the curtain that separated the Holy Place from the Most Holy Place.

Hang the curtain from the clasps and place the ark of the covenant law behind the curtain. The curtain will separate the Holy Place from the Most Holy Place. (Ex 26:33)

This was not a little flimsy curtain. From what I could gather from different sources, it was something like 60 feet high, 30 feet wide, and 4 inches thick.

And when Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, he gave up his spirit. At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. (Matt 27:50-51)

The Most Holy Place was no longer hidden. How do you suppose that happened?

God sacrificed Himself for us, so that we could be reconciled to Him. A Day of Atonement would no longer be necessary.

the veil was Torn

John says,

When he had received the drink, Jesus said, “It is finished.” With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit (John 19:30)

When Jesus said “it is finished”, He meant His redemptive work was done. He gave up His own life, to atone for all of us.

That part was done, but there was much more to come.

Connie

God’s Amazing Plan: Part 2

Last week, we started looking at God’s plan to redeem mankind.  We read that God told the serpent that Eve’s offspring would crush his head. We read that God told Abraham all nations would be blessed through him. Israel (Jacob), when blessing his sons, said that the “ruler’s staff” would remain with Judah’s descendants until its rightful owner came for it. Moses told the Israelites there would be a another prophet like him, and that they should listen to that prophet.

We also looked at the feasts God instituted, particularly Passover and Day of Atonement.

If you missed last weeks post, you can read it here.

So what’s next?

After Joshua had dismissed the Israelites, they went to take possession of the land, each to their own inheritance. The people served the Lord throughout the lifetime of Joshua and of the elders who outlived him and who had seen all the great things the Lord had done for Israel. Joshua son of Nun, the servant of the Lord, died at the age of a hundred and ten. And they buried him in the land of his inheritance, at Timnath Heres in the hill country of Ephraim, north of Mount Gaash. After that whole generation had been gathered to their ancestors, another generation grew up who knew neither the Lord nor what he had done for Israel. (Judges 2:6-9)

So, apparently, that whole generation had failed to teach their children about the Lord. Things went downhill from there.

Then the Lord raised up judges, who saved them out of the hands of these raiders. Yet they would not listen to their judges but prostituted themselves to other gods and worshiped them. They quickly turned from the ways of their ancestors, who had been obedient to the Lord’s commands. Whenever the Lord raised up a judge for them, he was with the judge and saved them out of the hands of their enemies as long as the judge lived; for the Lord relented because of their groaning under those who oppressed and afflicted them. But when the judge died, the people returned to ways even more corrupt than those of their ancestors, following other gods and serving and worshiping them. They refused to give up their evil practices and stubborn ways. (Judges 2:16-19)

It was a real mess. The book of Judges ends by saying,

In those days Israel had no king; everyone did as they saw fit. (Judges 21:25)

Israel had no king because God was supposed to be their King. Not only did the Israelites completely ignore God’s law, they also decided they wanted an earthly king to rule over them. God told Samuel that the Israelites were not rejecting Samuel as judge, they were rejecting God. He told Samuel to give them what they wanted, and make Saul king. g1Sa0921Dore_SamuelBlessingSaul

Saul would prove a disappointment, but that was part of God’s plan too, because He had someone else in mind.

The Lord said to Samuel, “How long will you mourn for Saul, since I have rejected him as king over Israel? Fill your horn with oil and be on your way; I am sending you to Jesse of Bethlehem. I have chosen one of his sons to be king.” (1 Sam 16:1)

Jesse had seven of his sons pass before Samuel, but Samuel said to him, “The Lord has not chosen these.” So he asked Jesse, “Are these all the sons you have? There is still the youngest,” Jesse answered. “He is tending the sheep.”Samuel said, “Send for him; we will not sit down until he arrives.”So he sent for him and had him brought in. He was glowing with health and had a fine appearance and handsome features. Then the Lord said, “Rise and anoint him; this is the one.”So Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him in the presence of his brothers, and from that day on the Spirit of the Lord came powerfully upon David. Samuel then went to Ramah.(1 Sam 16: 1-13)

Years would pass before David actually became king, and we’re not going to through all of that now, but once he was king, and reigning in Jerusalem, he wanted to build a temple for the Lord. The Lord said “no”, but He also said this:

The Lord declares to you that the Lord himself will establish a house for you: When your days are over and you rest with your ancestors, I will raise up your offspring to succeed you, your own flesh and blood, and I will establish his kingdom. He is the one who will build a house for my Name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. will be his father, and he will be my son. When he does wrong, I will punish him with a rod wielded by men, with floggings inflicted by human hands. But my love will never be taken away from him, as I took it away from Saul, whom I removed from before you. Your house and your kingdom will endure forever before me; your throne will be established forever.’” (2 Sam 7:11-16)

Do you seem some similarity between that and Israel’s blessing on Judah? Oh, if you didn’t already know; David is a direct descendant of Judah. According to this post at Bible.org, it was from this point that the Messiah, was called “son of David”.

Well, David’s heir to the throne was Solomon, and you can read all about him in 1 Kings.

 

i2Ch0111Dore_Solomon

Unfortunately Solomon had many wives and they turned him away from the Lord. Once again, things went downhill. The kingdom was divided, with ten tribes still calling themselves Israel, and two calling themselves Judah. The books of Kings and Chronicles follow both kingdoms, until Israel is taken by Assyria, and pretty much disappears. Later, Judah is taken by Babylon, who is in turn taken by Persia. In time, the Jews (as they were then called) are allowed to return home. The chronological history of the Old Testament ends with the book of Esther, the story of the Jewess who becomes Queen of Persia, and saves her family from annihilation.

lEst0705Dore_EstherAccusingHaman

What about God’s plan?

A little longer, please.

David wrote the majority of the Psalms and his son Solomon wrote most of the Proverbs, as well as Ecclesiastes and Song of Solomon. Today, the remaining books of the Old Testament are called the Major Prophets and the Minor Prophets. Some prophets lived during the time of the kings of Israel and Judah, some during the time of the Babylonian exile and some after the return from exile.

Psalms and the writings of the prophets contain the main portion of what we call the “messianic prophecies”; those which foretell about the one who would come and rescue Israel. There are well over a hundred of such prophecies in the Old Testament. No, we aren’t going to list them all here, but this article has a good list, as well as fulfillment scriptures from the New Testament.

Here are just a few.

Dogs surround me,
a pack of villains encircles me;
they pierce my hands and my feet.
All my bones are on display;
people stare and gloat over me.
They divide my clothes among them
and cast lots for my garment.
(Psalm 22: 16-18)

nIsa0608Dore_Isaiah

Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel. (Is 7:14)

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the greatness of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever.
The zeal of the Lord Almighty will accomplish this.
(Is 9:6-7)

Surely he took up our pain and bore our suffering, yet we considered him punished by God, stricken by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions,
he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him,
and by his wounds we are healed. We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.
(Is 53:4-6)

oEze0103Dore_EzekielProphesying

I will place over them one shepherd, my servant David, and he will tend them; he will tend them and be their shepherd. I the Lord will be their God, and my servant David will be prince among them. I the Lord have spoken (Ezek 34:23-24)

In my vision at night I looked, and there before me was one like a son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into his presence. He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all nations and peoples of every language worshiped him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed. (Dan 7:13-14)

pDan0220Dore_Daniel

Rejoice greatly, Daughter Zion! Shout, Daughter Jerusalem! See, your king comes to you, righteous and victorious, lowly and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey (Zech 9:9)

But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times.” (Micah 5:2)

I will send my messenger, who will prepare the way before me. Then suddenly the Lord you are seeking will come to his temple; the messenger of the covenant, whom you desire, will come,” says the Lord Almighty. (Mal 3:1)

These are just a few of the prophecies concerning the Messiah. He was to be from the family of Judah, a son of David, from Bethlehem, born to a virgin, righteous, victorious and sovereign. He would rescue Israel, and rule forever.

Is that your plan God? Awesome!

Wait a minute. What about redeeming mankind?

There has to be more.

There is. For a hint, scroll up and look at Isaiah 53:4-6 again.

When the New Testament opens, about four hundreds years have passed since the writings of Malachi, the last prophet. What was once the mighty kingdom of Israel is now a Roman province called Judea, where Herod the Great is King. Caesar Augustus is the  Emperor of Rome.

It’s time.

Until next week

Connie

God’s Amazing Plan: Part 1

Last week, I said,
“So we know that sin (transgression, offense, trespass) is disobedience to God, and that disobedience makes us unfit to be in His presence. If we remain in that corrupted, defiled state, all that remains for us is the eternal spiritual death called Hell.”

Then I said God had a plan.

God had a plan from the beginning. He knew Adam and Eve would sin, and He knew that He would make a way to reconcile mankind back to Himself.

I don’t know why He even bothered, but I’m glad He did!

Remember what He said when He cursed the serpent?

And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel. (Gen 3:15)

Did you notice that God’s reference to Eve’s offspring is singular? He and his, not they and their. Did He have a particular offspring in mind?

God’s plan was to send His Son, but He needed to wait for the right time, the right place, and the right family.

Abram was a descendant of Shem, one of Noah’s three sons who survived the flood by entering the ark.aGen1201Dore_AbrahamJourneyingIntoTheLandOfCanaan

Beginning in the 11th chapter of Genesis, and running through the end of the book, we learn of how God changed Abram’s name to Abraham, promised to make him a great nation (when he was childless) and gave him a child in his old age. God told Abraham that “all nations” would be blessed through him (Genesis 12:3). The story continues with Abraham’s son Isaac and his grandson Jacob, whose name was changed to Israel. Jacob had twelve sons, one of which was sold to slave traders by his brothers. That son was Joseph, and he would rise to be the right hand of Pharaoh, and save his family’s life during a great famine. Israel and his entire family moved to Egypt. aGen4605Dore_JacobGoethIntoEgypt

Before he died, Israel blessed his sons. The blessing on Judah is particularly interesting.

Judah, your brothers will praise you; your hand will be on the neck of your enemies; your father’s sons will bow down to you. you are a lion’s cub, Judah; you return from the prey, my son. Like a lion he crouches and lies down, like a lioness—who dares to rouse him? The scepter will not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, until he to whom it belongs shall come and the obedience of the nations shall be his. He will tether his donkey to a vine, his colt to the choicest branch; he will wash his garments in wine, his robes in the blood of grapes. His eyes will be darker than wine, his teeth whiter than milk. (Genesis 49:8-12, bold emphasis mine)

Genesis closes with the death of Joseph.

So what does all this have to do with God’s plan? Well, we know God told the serpent Eve’s offspring would crush his head. We also know that he told childless Abram that “all nations” would be blessed through him. We also know that Israel said that Judah would have the “ruler’s staff” and he would keep it until the one to whom it belonged came for it.

Who was the rightful owner of the staff?

Wait. There’s more.

Exodus continues the story of Israel’s descendants, only now they are in trouble. They have become numerous in Egypt and the current Pharaoh doesn’t remember Joseph. He only knows that there are too many Hebrews and they might try to overtake his kingdom. So, he made them slaves and went so far as to make them kill their newborn sons. That was about the time Moses was born. Moses’ family were descendants of Israel’s son Levi. God had a plan for Moses. He would use Moses to get His people out of Egypt and back to the land He had promised Abraham. Because Pharaoh was so hardhearted and stubborn, God sent ten plagues on Egypt.

The final plague in Egypt was the death of the first born.bExo1229Dore_TheFirstbornSlain

The Lord said to Moses and Aaron in Egypt,“This month is to be for you the first month, the first month of your year. Tell the whole community of Israel that on the tenth day of this month each man is to take a lamb for his family, one for each household…The animals you choose must be year-old males without defect, and you may take them from the sheep or the goats. Take care of them until the fourteenth day of the month, when all the members of the community of Israel must slaughter them at twilight. Then they are to take some of the blood and put it on the sides and tops of the door frames of the houses where they eat the lambs. That same night they are to eat the meat roasted over the fire, along with bitter herbs, and bread made without yeast…This is how you are to eat it: with your cloak tucked into your belt, your sandals on your feet and your staff in your hand. Eat it in haste; it is the Lord’s Passover.

On that same night I will pass through Egypt and strike down every firstborn of both people and animals, and I will bring judgment on all the gods of Egypt. I am the Lord. The blood will be a sign for you on the houses where you are, and when I see the blood, I will pass over you. No destructive plague will touch you when I strike Egypt. This is a day you are to commemorate; for the generations to come you shall celebrate it as a festival to the Lord—a lasting ordinance. (Ex 12: 1-3,5-8,11-14)

This is the first of seven annual feasts God established for the children of Israel. He would use them to set a pattern for future events. Their observance always required several sacrifices.

One feast came in the fall of the year. It was called the Day of Atonement. You may also recognize it for it’s Hebrew name Yom Kippur.

Aaron is to offer the bull for his own sin offering to make atonement for himself and his household. Then he is to take the two goats and present them before the Lord at the entrance to the tent of meeting. He is to cast lots for the two goats—one lot for the Lord and the other for the scapegoat. Aaron shall bring the goat whose lot falls to the Lord and sacrifice it for a sin offering. But the goat chosen by lot as the scapegoat shall be presented alive before the Lord to be used for making atonement by sending it into the wilderness as a scapegoat. (Lev 16:6-10)

The high priest was required to make a sacrifice first for himself, then one for the whole nation. The whole process is outlined in Leviticus 16.

Just in case you were wondering about the necessity of blood sacrifice:

For the life of a creature is in the blood, and I have given it to you to make atonement for yourselves on the altar; it is the blood that makes atonement for one’s life. (Lev 17:11)

Hold that thought. It’s important.

We’ll get back to the feasts later. They figure into God’s plan

We’ve talked about Moses and the Law before. We’ve also talked about how Moses was not allowed to enter the promised land and how Joshua would take his place. Before he goes, Moses tells the Israelites about someone else.

The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your fellow Israelites. You must listen to him. (Deut 18:15)

Eventually, this prophet would be identified as “Messiah” or “anointed one”.

Like God promised, the children of Israel, led by Joshua entered and took control of the promised land of Canaan. Then Joshua died, and everything went down hill from there.

What about God’s plan?

We’ll we’ve already gone on long today, so come back next week and we’ll learn more about God’s amazing plan.