AUSTRALIAN BIBLE CHURCH December 14, 2007
A CONTINUATION OF THE THRUST AND
BASE OF THE PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH
OF AUSTRALIA ON BIBLICAL LINES …
6 INTIMATE ANSWERS TO ULTIMATE QUESTIONS from the Word of God
We have been surveying 6 crucial questions,
and having completed the first four,
find two remain.
These focus the work of the Messiah, who like an express train, arrived, but in His case, not to deposit passengers, but to give life, to die. Predicted to happen at around 30 A.D. as specified by Daniel 9, it came on time. He will return, this time not by a scheduled time, for it is hidden for prudence and to catch the unwary and the wayward (Matthew 24); but by a scheduled series of events. The door is open, and the trumpeters are near to sounding.
As it was in His first coming, everything was ready, and now it is nearly so again: it is prepared for that moment when He is prepared to act, and act He will (Acts 1:7ff., Revelation 1:7ff.). It will not however be the work of an actor, but of God in His awesome majesty, who having done all, requires this of all, to receive it and Him, that the ransom offered on the Cross, be paid to the accounts in need (and none is not - II Corinthians 5:17-21)! As we await His return, let us ponder then further the deep and intimate questions in our series, and take the last two, which indeed encompass this same Jesus and this same Lord, who in turn encompasses us spiritually who are His, and calls those who are not to that same necessary repentance in that crucial New Covenant, for which it is a required prelude.
5 THE PARADIGM OF DEVOTION who is this ?
Here in Jeremiah 30:21 we have part of that amazingly brilliant and beautifully comforting pair of chapters, 30-31. First came the announcement of the Messiah to come as King (30:9) , then of the beautiful governor from their own midst who will rule (30:21), then the sadness of the weeping for young children in these arenas of time (31:15), a national sadness, next arrived the sensational account of the woman to encircle, encompass a man, a new thing in the world (31:22). Finally, dashing onto the silent screen we find the outcome, the New Covenant then to come, but which has now arrived with the Messiah Himself, Jesus Christ (31:31). That was the collection of tableaux, developing like a flower opening, or an oak with seasonal pictures of its beauties.
Thus it builds from the Messiah to His coming from among their very own midst, to rule (having been born in Bethlehem as in Micah 5), on to the calamities from surging murders, which concentrate like a mad rebellion of crusty, worldly power at His coming (cf. Revelation 12:4), to the virgin birth (entirely new and therefore not parthenogenesis). Here it is the Fatherhood of God, which brings the virgin to this incarnation, as in Isaiah 7-9, so that He is "the mighty God" (cf. Isaiah 7:14, 8:8, 10:21, Micah 5:1-3), though on earth as a servant (Isaiah 42, 52), indeed receives power and honour, assuming His Messianic place, in the end, "on the throne of David," to bring blessing to all nations; and it is He who proceeds in everlasting glory and dominion (Isaiah 9:7, 49:5, Psalm 102:15-22, Phil. 2:8-10, Ephesians 1:10), one God with the Father and the Spirit (Isaiah 48:16).
So does the glory of it flourish into the New Covenant, which results as in Isaiah 53, from the shedding of His blood as He expiated the sin to be unloaded upon Him, the Lamb of God, in death, or as Zechariah 3:9-10 puts it, the engraving on Him as the stone, which clears the iniquity in one day.
At the Governor from themselves phase, the question is asked: WHO IS THIS WHO PLEDGED HIS HEART TO APPROACH ME! (30:21). In other words, here is an Old Testament parallel to Christ's question to His disciples, Who do you say that I am ? (Matthew 16) ?
Peter answers the question only because the Father gave it to him so to recognise Christ as the Son of the living God, a fact which Christ notes (Matthew 16:17). Thus the Rock was identified, as in I Corinthians 10:4. “THAT ROCK was Christ!” Again, it is as in II Samuel 22:32. God, David declares is his strength and power, and thus he asks, ”WHO is God, except the LORD, and who is a rock, EXCEPT OUR GOD!” Indeed in Isaiah 44:8, we are told that "there is no other Rock. I know not one!" The speaker ? God in whom are all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.
To contest this identification, you have to conceive yourself wiser than God. Peter, the name meaning stone, failed at once in seeking to have Christ avoid the Cross, after this!(Matthew 16:22-23), but being corrected could be used with the rest as fitting. The word used by Christ to designate the Rock on which the Church was built was a different one than that of Peter's name, one meaning rock, a living mass. The Rock, it is a different thing to stone, the stone that moved!
This ? IT WAS THE ANSWER TO THE QUESTION: WHO IS JESUS ? HE is the ROCK as seen by FAITH as happened with Peter. It is on that, Christ founded His Church: that is, on Himself, Lord, realised as the Son of God and resurrected, unable to be defeated because God incarnate, the only Saviour, the Lord of the Old Testament expressed in human form: it is on this the Church is built.
Who is this who pledged His heart to approach the Lord ? It is this King, the Messiah, the Governor, the One to bring in the New Covenant as in Jeremiah 31, the next Chapter: it is the Lord, strong and mighty, as in Psalm 24:8ff..
"Who is this King of glory?
The LORD strong and mighty, the LORD mighty in battle.
Lift up your heads, O ye gates; even lift them up, ye everlasting doors;
and the King of glory shall come in.
Who is this King of glory?
The LORD of hosts, he is the King of glory."
On this identification BY FAITH (so that you act on it), all depends. It is foundational to the entire Church. If you do not give to Christ this place, you are no part of His Church. If someone else takes it, he is no part of the Church. The Church of Jesus Christ is therefore founded on Him, pledged, crucified, risen, and on no other, be it individual or regime (cf. Psalm 40, Matthew 26:39). He did not come to be bypassed, but to be found. He CANNOT be surpassed. He is found by faith, attested by fact, viewed through repentance, coming soon to reign (Luke 24:26, Acts 1:7ff., I Thessalonians 1). The world wriggles, but Christ remains.
6 THE CALL OF THE HEART Is Not Ephraim My dear son ?
Here in this very same pair of delightful, Messianic chapters, we find the Lord, even while showing the judgments to come, showing the way for repentance, since here is the Lord available, the King coming, the Governor from their own midst. Is not this what is needed by Israel ? If the END to which they are moving is horrific, yet the BEND which their knees need to know, before this same God, their Rock, this is going to come, must come, and is the only way home for Israel.
God shows His heart-warming and delightful, kindly fatherly love for the straying people, designated by the name of a major tribe, Ephraim as if a single person. First we see the long last repentance come to heart for many in that land (31:18-19).
"I have surely heard Ephraim bemoaning himself:
‘You have chastised me, and I was chastised, like an untrained bull;
Restore me, and I will return, for You are the Lord my God.
Surely, after my turning, I repented; and after I was instructed, I struck myself on the thigh;
I was ashamed, yes, even humiliated, because I bore the reproach of my youth.’
Then the love of God is poured out in such a tender mercy, that it is an eternal beauty to hear it. The love there shown is as toward all the world, even those who were not of Israel, but are to be born of Israel's God, to whom they will in large measure, indeed, soon return (Zechariah 12:1-13:1, Ezekiel 36ff., Romans 11:25ff.).
"Is Ephraim My dear son? Is he a pleasant child?
For though I spoke against him, I earnestly remember him still;
Therefore My heart yearns for him; I will surely have mercy on him,
says the Lord."
Here then is the final question.
Will you come to the Lord, surrendered in faith, to trust Him utterly ? With repentant heart you may come and seek the Rock, to love Him and His word, and in Him, find strength and pardon and power and peace. It is to be found nowhere else; God is no one else! He is to be worshipped in spirit and truth, not by bits and fits, but by a living faith.
In Jeremiah 31, there is a further beautiful and enlightening feature. Just before 31:22, the virgin birth prophecy, and immediately after the 31:20 endearing challenge to and concerning Ephraim at which we have just looked, there is a fascinating transition. God in 31:21 invites, indeed commands the people to set up sign-posts, to make landmarks, to set their heart towards the highway (cf. Isaiah 35:8, the highway of holiness).
Thus after the endearment is the cost crisis. There is action to take. There is orientation to gain, and there are sign-posts to follow. We are reminded of Christ speaking in John 5:39-40. They searched the scriptures, He said, thinking in them to find eternal life, but they WOULD NOT COME TO HIM, to gain it. It was thus like a sign-post, the scripture, but like a prescription not followed, wholly useless in itself. Right ? Of course. Useful ? undoubtedly. Correct ? Precisely. It is FOR THAT VERY REASON that NOT following it to the ONE of whom it speaks resembles someone without a sign-post, too dead to think; or one with a sign-post, too neurotic to act. It is the Lord Himself who gives life.
However here the Lord through Jeremiah declares this: SET UP the SIGN POSTS AND, yes there is a second point, TURN BACK. In this case, you must ACT on what the sign says. Be oriented but also activated! It is indeed a ‘backsliding daughter’ to whom the Lord speaks, however great the endearment. But eternal life is not in word only, but in deed. TURN BACK! He cries. How LONG will you ‘gad about’! He exclaims. Then comes this remarkable word “FOR”.
A reason is given amidst these cries. Why should the backslider turn back ? It is because there is a way prepared for doing so. What is to be gained in so acting ? It is what God has given which is to be gained. What then is this ? It is the ONE whom the woman encompasses, the one of crucial manhood to come, envisaged here however as still in the womb. It is HE who is to be found. Who then is He ? It is the Lord (as in Isaiah 7, and 9:1-7), the “mighty God” who through THIS BABE when so grown, will rule a Kingdom never to end, which will continually increase! How beautiful is the transition, and how intense these findings fitted so artistically and powerfully together in Jeremiah!
In Jeremiah 31, following this, He speaks next of the fact that as He cast down because of sin, so in view of these Messianic marvels, so consistently and persistently announced in Jeremiah 30-31 (as in 23:5), He will build. More than a country, He will build, indeed He will INAUGURATE a NEW COVENANT. You could flatten astronomy, He declares, more readily than remove one particle of this new thing, for “from the least of them to the greatest of them” what ? It is this: “They shall all know Me!” As in Jeremiah 9:23 puts it, concerning this saving knowledge of the Lord, the only Saviour (Isaiah 43:10-11): “Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom,
“ ‘Let not the mighty man glory in his might,
Nor let the rich man glory in his riches:
‘But let him who glories glory in this,
That he understands and knows Me,
‘That I am the LORD, exercising lovingkindness, judgment and righteousness in the earth.
For in these I delight,’ says the LORD.”
Thus from Israel will come a remnant (as in Isaiah 11:11); and the Lord as man, He will rule (Isaiah 11:1ff.).
It is the Messiah as Governor, Lord and King, it comes despite the horrendous multitude of children slain by Herod, in the slaughter of the innocents, as it is called, traced in Jeremiah 31:15. It comes through the virgin who encompasses in human format in her womb (31:22), the Christ, that new thing that enters thus this world, the incarnation. It comes amidst enduring endearment (31:20) despite the catastrophes from sin; and it comes with the cry to RETURN, HEED the sign, be oriented and seek the original, the only, the Lord God, through His incarnate Ruler and Redeemer, Jesus Christ.
Yes, this New Covenant comes (31:31ff. cf. Hebrews 8:7ff.), and through whom ? WHO IS THIS WHO PLEDGES HIS HEART ? you recall this from Jeremiah 30:21 ? Let us answer that. It comes through Him who sanctified Himself because of the brethren, for whom He died (John 17:19). But what is His prayer there ? In John 17:17 we find out. “Sanctify them by Your truth, Your word is truth.” Of whom does He speak, but of His own! “They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world.”
Let us then one and all hear the call, set up the sign-posts and FOLLOW THEM to Him. If any be not yet His, then let it be in repentance that Christ is called on, so to find His salvation in this New Covenant in His own blood. Indeed, the sign is already set, for His day has now come, so let His word reign supreme in our hearts BECAUSE IT IS HIS! As to those already His, let us be sanctified wholly in mind spirit and body (I Thessalonians 5), and while not perfect, constantly seek to be so (Matthew 5:48). Even that does not mean sinless, but COMPLETE and brought to the fulfilment of what is intended for us, like sculptures with the finishing touches, not the tarnishing breakages. Let us avoid WILFUL sin as driving on the wrong side of the road, or diving into sulphuric acid.
Sin is a cruel ruler and a fool creator. Sanctification IN CHRIST is a kind contribution, by the power of His Spirit and the operation of His word. Be then thankful and rest in His redemption, be active in His directions and be calm in His favour; and rejoice, for there is nothing lacking in Him, whose pity is profound and whose peace is as deep.