AUSTRALIAN BIBLE CHURCH April 22, 29, May 5, 2012
Presbyterian Church following the Bible without Qualification
and the Lord Jesus Christ without Compromise by Faith
BEYOND THE SURFACE
Forces Below the Surface that Control the Seas
Before World War II, there was the beginning of a prosperity, following the depression. There was a new hope, confidence in science and the wondrous works of man. What could stop him now, wasted in World War I, but with the hope of the League of Nations, certainly with troubles enough, but only to be overcome, many were seeing clearly the way to prosperity with enterprise, concern with results, rebuilding with joy, Germany humbled, and Europe renewing itself.
That was on the surface, which like insects on the waters, some like to tread exclusively, not caring to look below. Insects are built that way; but with man it is mere wilfulness, fear of what might be there in the way of responsibility, often with inveterate presumption, that God is not really entirely necessary.
Ignoring reality does not however remove it. The forces below the surface still work, and when volcanoes rock the seas, there is a work to remind of the need to avoid mere superficiality: and this psychic force, this wilful oblivion is as keen as death and agony and anguish and torture, which our race has now abundantly inherited, in its sophisticated superficiality, and imaginative thoughts about the depths it does not consider.
It was so in the day of Jesus. On the surface, there was a vast new Temple, 46 years in the building, a powerful religious body with ways of its own, which dealt with the occupying Romans, a foxy king with some rule, and an unreliable and at times violent, Roman Governor.
It did not seem, any more than did the prelude to Word War II, to be a perilous time. When Jesus of Nazareth came into the scene, following His introduction through John the Baptist, whose fame made the start of the Messianic time the more agile, there seemed to be a new era of powerful prophecy, when God was doing great things.
What lay below the surface was this: The TIME WAS UP. The clock of God had been ticking for nearly half a millenium, since Daniel had declared the data which led to the time beyond all other times in history, following the creation: the work of divine salvation. It was now that the Messiah was to come, and His death was to occur, some three and one half years later. Those years, those of His ministry, led on from the prediction to that very time. NOW was D for deliverance or doom day.
Each day brought it nearer. This was beneath the surface, but available information to those who would study Daniel and see, and Isaiah, and understand. The Jews did indeed do much to study the word of God, but when it came to who was to run the religion, where the post of high priest could be BOUGHT, the movement into religious crime, and vested interest was blatant. It went further, indeed, into unbelieving substitutes for doctrine, such as those of the Sadducees who did not even believe in the resurrection of the body, as if Psalm 16 had never been written, and the Pharisees, experts in tradition (Mark 7:7)..
When this same Jesus brought out from the depths of the word of God, the forces underlying history, they were inert in response, in their minds. Yet they were acrid and inflammable in their spirits (Luke 11:52ff.), seeking to derail his express, while securing only humiliation for themselves (cf. Matthew 22: 46). Soon they were showing an increasingly blind hatred (John 11:49ff.). Killing was the answer, they came to feel; for Christ was simply unanswerable, and His constant miracles, not one aborted (as notably in Mark 2), were a spur to faith in Him among the people but odium amid rulers.
There was fear of an overturning of the unbelief, a loss of power of the mighty, a rankling anticipation that Rome might react and an entire unbelief, as if this were the nature of things: of course one did not believe, since the whole point was to carry on as usual amid the various equations of forces, and inclinations enabling one to get deviously, or in some way, what one wanted.
It was in fact a time very like the present, where the ONE THING that is important, is that the UN and the USA and Russia and Japan and China and North Korea and Iran and so forth and so on, might manifest their various powers, plans, and hopes, and manage things, while Obama solemnly and pretentiously announces that the USA is NOT a Christian nation, and there is objection even to having the special support for firing on guns, now to be scrubbed, so that they come WITHOUT the almost hidden Christian markings that some had put on such equipment. Even freedom of association, to have a Christian Law Club in one American University, was denied. Because the Club did not believe in homosexuality and its outcomes, they were not allowed there to EXIST, excluded.
Thus the nation founded to enable freedom of religion and the pursuits for happiness, is moving out to declare loss of freedom, manifest insistence on their own terms of religious belief WHEN and in WHATEVER WAY, it suits them.
Australia is as so often, rapidly following the USA with the threat of investigating newspapers, by a government-appointed instrumentality, lest they offend certain beliefs and approaches which the government likes, thus moving to the establishment of its own religion. This is moving on its way, step by step, where not God but mere elected officials, tell what is permitted concerning God and man, WHEN AND AS they so desire. In this way, the ultimate is man, and not God, though this solemnly aborts the Constitution, so that will and not law rules. It increases as the threat moves to subvert even web sites which dare to express prescribed topics in unauthorised ways. Thus freedom dies that tyranny might live.
Under the surface, we see the forces at work, and there has been no lack of warning that following the US case, we may be on the road to religious ranting and ruin of the worst type, that which is without reason or evidence, but mere a cultural clique speaking its wishes, and literally laying down the law.
Jesus Christ, the Messiah laid down His life, to take it up again, that truth prevail. He showed it by fulfilling all the biblical specifications, so that when He was personally present, He was on earth, far more powerful and important than the events at that moment when the Los Alamos group were watching the first atomic explosion in New Mexico. The opportunity for deliverance was NOW, when He lived in the land, and it was without devastation, a triumph of love.
Once this was lost, by unbelief, then replacements occurred from beneath the surface, just as the heart is below the skin, though its ways have their effects for all that. Here replacement for eternal life was present, with devastation and loss of scope to be saved on the part of all who continued, sitting blindly on the surface, awaiting the next wave. That wave surely came 40 years later, destroying not only the Temple but the city, and making the civilisation to be in peril.
Let us then look below the surface, and consider the danger of blindness to it now.
In our text we find a number of vastly important principles and predictions.
THE WAY - Narrow but Necessary - Luke 13:24
THE FALSE HOPE Luke 13:25-30
I) Expectant but Excluded - Luke 13:25-26
The entry to this way is narrow, constrained, took much work, cost life, and the free entry was made at greater cost than that for the whole creation. It is often cheaper to buy new, than to reclaim; and here death drawfs all fees. In Dava Sobel's book, LONGITUDE, we see that the decades of strenuous labours by many, involving horology, splendid time methods for clocks, astronomy, mathematics, readings of moon and star movements consuming hundreds of hours, and one of the most amazingly brilliant and intricate of machines, refined for 20 years after its initial successes, led to the offer of a fellowship in the Royal Society and eventually, very large prize money, and the active support of King George III.
How prized this fine method of saving thousands of lives by improving nautical time keeping in a method of determining longitude from variations in time from a given point! While however those mental labourers and inventors had to discover the unknown, we have merely to uncover our ears, to what is broadcast (as predicted in Isaiah 52:7 and foretold in Isaiah 53-55), to receive the most extensive and expensive gift ever made! Narrow though the way is, the door is open, personal and Jesus Christ (John 10:9), and the entry by faith brings eternal life! These are not speculations of the mind, but actions for the life!
ii) The Fruit of False Hope - Luke 13:27-29-29
No work can replace His work, performance essentialised and consummated at Calvary, memorialised in the Last Supper and confirmed in the resurrection (Romans 1:4); and you have to accept it as necessary for your entry: this narrowing the field, to match the door frame. In so entering, you belong to the Shepherd, one Shepherd, one door. Things, Christ indicated, in spiritual reality are by no means, what they seem. Many would wish to convert Christ to their wilfulness, to admire their pretensions; but these are mere players, their way unknown. The entry is not via building a house, but through a prepared door, free entry.
iii) Multiple Entrants and Inverted Order - Luke 13:30
Indeed, some now first, will be last, and last first. As Christ said to the disgraced but restored Peter,
"YOU follow Me!" Flocks will be interested when judgment comes; but only sheep enter (John 10:27-28). Sheep hear His voice and gladly come to God on the Saviour's terms.
THE LION AND THE FOX
(Genesis 49:9-10, Luke 13:32)
The lion of Judah, predicted in Genesis, is the ruler to come in whom only can they rest (cf. Isaiah 8:6, Ezekiel 21:27). Keil, in the Keil and Delitzsch Commentaries on the Old Testament, Vol. 1 of the set, deals masterfully with this prediction, signifying for the lion of Judah, a sceptre and for the personal name, Shiloh, the basic concept of rest. It might be rendered periphrastically then, until He who is Rest comes. It was indeed from Judah as planned, that Christ came, and from Bethlehem in particular, as foretold in Micah 5.
It is He to whom the rule is due as in Ezekiel 21:27, and none will stand till this comes. In this genre as in Isaiah 8, is the sense and setting of the waters which flow smoothly, in turn close to Psalm 23 and Matthew 11:28ff.. There only is rest for man, in leader, its source and centre and in the led, its realisation.
Unlike this lion of power and reservoir of rest, this 'sceptre' or ruler from Judah on earth, from God in worth, One to whom rule is rightfully accorded and in whom, to come, is another, mentioned by Christ as seen in Luke. It is His very opposite. Who is this ? It is 'that fox', as He designated Herod (Luke 13:32), the king whose place depended on various and complex dealings with Rome. His vile violence and vicious ways and scheming were not the better because of subtlety.
Told of danger of death at Herod's hand, Christ showed no fear, but rather rebuke in his message to Herod, in reply to the challenge of peril at hand. In this, His sovereign power, His depth of understanding and His ironic weaving of the three days to come, as predicted, before His resurrection, following murder, into a symbolic itinerary, there was a reverse challenge. Herod could murder; but not surprise (Luke 13:32-33).
THE PERFECTION - COMPLETION
The regal fox could be cunning, but not compelling. His ways were known, and the outcomes known, and contempt covered the case from the lips of the Lord. When the crunch came, when the evil spurted from rupture, this time not of oil pipes or gas ones, as now from Egypt to Israel, but of the arteries of blood, as then from Christ, there would be a perfect understanding and profuse power: He would simply be perfected on the third day by this exercise, crucified to rise, dominated to dominate, crushed to crush what crushes and with this, give liberty to man, even eternal life (Romans 14:9, Luke 9:22, Hebrews 2:14-17).
What then do we find ? Christian! do not bow to the Herods of this world or fear their will or ways or wit, but continue neither reckless nor feckless, while faithful to the end in the employment of another, the Lord of glory, become man that we might BE and LIVE and PROCEED FOR EVER, His. Don't let the passing parade of fiddlestick cultures, works of and for doom, inveigle you, deceive or haunt you, harass or invade you, but seizing Ephesians 1:19, where the power of God is made available, even that which raised Christ, act in Him, for Him and by Him. It is not to avoid suffering or the impact of sorrow, that the power is given, but to perform the work of God, granted as a privilege and a prize to you, and complete it to the uttermost, with the grace and the wisdom both available and desired for you (James 1, II Peter 3:18).
compromise, don't squirm, but watch and pray, awaiting the day of His return.
GREATER THAN NEHEMIAH
(Luke 13:32-33, Nehemiah 6:10-14)
i) The Continuing Work for a Set Time
This situation has much in common with that with Nehemiah when he was engaged in rebuilding the position of Jerusalem. Cunning and trickery abounded from the local powers and conspirators, who wanted to rule Jerusalem, or exterminate it, as Ahmadinejad does now. It is a long story and a continuing one till they return to the Lord, long after His crucifixion, just as in Nehemiah they were returning to Jerusalem after its destruction.
As then the Lord helped them in their ardour and faith, so has He helped them now - though they be still in unbelief in the Messiah, long since come, as He said He would (Psalm 40, 102, Hosea 13:14). The forecast victories preceding His return in power, as in Zechariah 12:1ff., have already been fulfilled in 1948, 1967, 1973, and the early 1990s. HIS time draws near. Soon the trap will be sprung into which so many nations pour their interfering faces, as if irresistibly dawn by the baying of theological and social wolves, to join them in baying at Israel, either with slithery salivation dropping from the tongues, or lustrous eyes shining as if benevolent, in the intense darkness, lit up from within.
This was to be, as it has been, in the days leading up to their most massive repentance to come, in Israel, on the threshold of which we appear to be now placed.
As the deliverance seemed hopeless in Nehemiah's day, but was total, so will it be when once more the nation turns to the Lord in heart, and to His salvation already achieved, and made available (Deuteronomy 32, Micah 7, Isaiah 59, Romans 11, Isaiah 2 and 11). It is His salvation which whether in symbol or substance, has always been focal, and to this must all come, Jew or Gentile, while the Lord works out His entire and universal testimony, just as He said, in every jot and tittle: for His is majesty and divine power.
What then of the case of Nehemiah ? When various tricks and traps had been engaged in by Israel's adversaries, on its return to the fallen Jerusalem, to rebuild, a special one was added. This it is which is parallel to that attempted on Christ. In the case of Nehemiah, he was slyly told of the danger of assassination and a meeting proposed, in which no doubt his fear, if stirred, could lead to precisely the follies which could have helped that very thing, his assassination. But Nehemiah had no interest in leaving his task for personal reasons, or in fear. In God was his trust, and in his assignment his concern.
He engaged in NO meeting for such
personal purposes or to satisfy any such fears, but instead stood the more
solemnly to complete his task. So should every Christian bow not in
heart to fear, but his shoulders to his work for Christ.
ii) The Special Work and the Three Days
So Christ, Saviour and example, did not fear, but made clear His continuance on His foreknown path to the three days following the murder to be JUDICIALLY worked, openly rather than entirely clandestinely. After those three days, He would be perfected, His work complete, for out of that mash, murder, would come the greatest exhibition of life on this earth ever made. That was the resurrection of His body as that of the Saviour, in this way designating not only in words and predictions, but in physical fact (Luke 24:39, I Corinthians 15) what is the truth; and so overturning man's great enemy, death, BY ATONEMENT personally (Hebrews 2:14-15).
This He did at a hideous cost for hideous mistrust on the part of man: but in it, He achieved personally, and as man, a perfect solution. So it then was to be, and later, so it came to be. The word of the Lord is always like that.
Christ, then, had this message for Herod (Luke 13:32-33). He would continue in a short term, acting now, acting for a little to come, and this was put in the format of the forecast arising on the 3rd day after the predicted murder, for on the third day, went His message, perfection would be achieved: not a dismal rotting under way, but a glorious victory that forever exposed the heart of man, the will of God, the work of salvation and the control of all history by the God of all wisdom.
THE GREATER TASK
Here then was One to restore, as did Nehemiah, to be threatened as was Nehemiah, and to continue unmoved, as did Nehemiah; but this in a task as great as the heavens above the earth, and greater yet, for here did God not only desire and exhort and teach and heal, in the incarnate Christ, but He laid to REST the harassment for faith so often engineered, the evil conflict as ever,with demonstration as ever. This He did in the most intimate of ways: as man, through blood, with guilt vicariously assigned, so that One might cover all in scope, and in particular, those who believed.
This action alas was very unlike the desire of many in Jerusalem at that day; but there were enough who did believe, to start the Church of the New Testament which was to sweep Europe and pro forma, to gain Rome, before after much time, the Gentile nations, as now, put forth another parallel. Just as Israel faced judgment from Rome, a mere 40 years after the crucifixion, so now the nations scurry to disown Christ, if not in word, as in the case of Obama relative to the USA, then in beliefs and education and behaviour. Their trial, likewise, as in Revelation 6ff., and Matthew 24, Luke 21, II Thessalonians 2, is shortly to come (cf. Answers to Questions Ch. 5). If you do not find the waters of rest, indeed Him who IS man's only enduring rest through redemption, then ruin awaits, as fungus to damp bread.
Let us rather learn that to be redeemed is to be covered, met, not with mish-mash but with mercy, not with fancies, but with fact, not with man but by God (Matthew 20:28, John 8:58), whose reliability is that of the Maker, whose mastery is liberation from the soiling, spoiling of man, to the regions of realism in the God whose love is not pasted like posters, but expressed, like blood, and realised, as in resurrection.
THE CONFRONTATION (cont.)
THE DISMAL EMINENCE OF JERUSALEM
i) The Special Work and the Three Days
This now we have already considered above.
ii) Lesser than Nineveh (Luke 13:33-34, Matthew 12:41)
Alas, Israel of Christ's day (as in Matthew 23:37ff., Luke19:42ff.), as a nation, and Jerusalem in terms of its rulers, did not repent, though some thousands did so, showing works of great courage (cf. Acts 4-5, 12), in the process! Hence, after a generation, its destruction. It had rejected its BUFFER, and blighted its own mercy.
In this, it became less than Nineveh which, in the day of Jonah, DID repent, massive and cruel city though it was. This Christ indicated, as seen in Matthew 12:41.
THE KILLER THAT GIVES AND TAKES DEATH (Luke 13:34-35)
How desolate is the desolation that secures its own ruin, in the very face of divine deliverance!
How appalling was the result of sin against the very face of the Lord (II Corinthians 4:4-6)! How was the killer city devastated!
When repentance did not then seize it, Rome did!
Immune in dull heart to its prospects, in the day of its predicted devastation (Matthew 24:1ff., Luke 19:42ff.), the plight of the fallen city was to be sustained for centuries, before its restoration.
Even under Babylon, in retrospect it can harrow even the heart that beholds it! (Lamentations1 illustrates this). What then is the feeling all these years, concerning Jerusalem!
It is one of the appalling events of history, Rome's action on Jerusalem, a generation after Jerusalem's action on Jesus. Look back for the earlier fall under Babylon, given stark testimony by Jeremiah in Lamentations.
Consider these words from the Book of the Lord, that are from lamentation indeed (NKJV - bold and paragraphs added):
"How lonely sits the city
That was full of people!
How like a widow is she,
Who was great among the nations!
The princess among the provinces
Has become a slave!
2 She weeps bitterly in the night,
Her tears are on her cheeks;
Among all her lovers
She has none to comfort her.
All her friends have dealt treacherously with her;
They have become her enemies.
3 Judah has gone into captivity,
Under affliction and hard servitude;
She dwells among the nations,
She finds no rest;
All her persecutors overtake her in dire straits.
4 The roads to Zion mourn
Because no one comes to the set feasts.
All her gates are desolate;
Her priests sigh,
Her virgins are afflicted,
And she is in bitterness.
5 Her adversaries have become the master,
Her enemies prosper;
For the Lord has afflicted her
Because of the multitude of her transgressions.
Her children have gone into captivity before the enemy.
6 And from the daughter of Zion
All her splendor has departed.
Her princes have become like deer
That find no pasture,
That flee without strength
Before the pursuer.
7 In the days of her affliction and roaming,
Jerusalem remembers all her pleasant things
That she had in the days of old.
When her people fell into the hand of the enemy,
With no one to help her,
The adversaries saw her
And mocked at her downfall.
8 Jerusalem has sinned gravely,
Therefore she has become vile.
All who honored her despise her
Because they have seen her nakedness;
Yes, she sighs and turns away.
9 Her uncleanness is in her skirts;
She did not consider her destiny;
Therefore her collapse was awesome;
She had no comforter.
O Lord, behold my affliction,
For the enemy is exalted!
10 The adversary has spread his hand
Over all her pleasant things;
For she has seen the nations enter her sanctuary,
Those whom You commanded
Not to enter Your assembly.
11 All her people sigh,
They seek bread;
They have given their valuables for food to restore life.
See, O Lord, and consider,
For I am scorned.
12 Is it nothing to you, all you who pass by?
Behold and see
If there is any sorrow like my sorrow,
Which has been brought on me,
Which the Lord has inflicted
In the day of His fierce anger."
So was its first great devastation under Babylon. It had not learnt... This time it was even its Lord, God incarnate, the only Saviour (Isaiah 43:10-11), whom they slew, and the thing was cumulative (Matthew 23:35-36)! With pardon, sin's guilt is short-circuited; but without it, and with the slaying of the Pardoner, alas, alas for Jerusalem! But its deliverance comes, its faith is in the wings, soon to come. It centres as always on the Prince of Pardon, of Peace, the Messiah, the long come Jesus Christ. To Jew as to Gentile, He calls, and vast are the movements that impend now.
THE SAVIOUR WHO OFFERS LIFE
WILL RETURN AT THE NEXT TIME
i) The last time for this verse of praise - Palm Sunday saw His acclamation
a week before a very different scene.
Yet His resurrection, His body raised, was the greatest acclamation of all!
ii) The next time is the return of the Messiah to rule and to judge
(Matthew 24-25, Acts 17:31, Psalm 2).
In both times, some believed, but in the next, to come,
unbelief will be like a blot on the surface
of the sun: noticeable but of little effect, till the judgment is done.
Beneath the surface of culture and clangour,
pre-occupation and occupations, building and harrowing,
over the top of the milling crowds caught in unbelief,
many spilling in their hearts once again by indifference or misdirection,
the atoning sacrifice as if it were muted,
alas, judgment sits, its solemnities at hand.
there is a cause
i) of man
ii) of his perilous condition
iii) of his loneliness,
iv) of betrayal, so that he searches the heavens,
but has little interest in their source.
v) of his imminent judgment, for time has been long;
and cause no less is there of the special times
a) of creation
b) of the fall
c) of the predictions of the coming Saviour
d) of His actual coming and salvation,
a labour of love, and a work of power
e) of failure of Israel spiritually,
and the entanglement of the Gentiles
f) of judgment to come.
Israel was lost to the glory of the Lord for a time, and how long it has been, but less than eternity; and Gentiles have been gained as a specialty for a time, like that of Israel, and how long it has been, but the opportunities likewise, they are not for eternity. Shortly as in Micah 7, Romans 11:25ff., Zechariah 12:1 -13:1, a vast swathe of Israel is to be brought out of unbelief to receive with tempered but untampered delight, the Saviour whom their nation once so famously rejected. This is very specific and the time is precisely in the field of the present, where Israel is back from its sojourns and occupations (Luke 21:24ff.), back in its land, with its vastly triumphant victories against all seeming possibility repeated, conflict won as foretold, even when its throat was attacked by many nations.
Moreover, its suffering continues while its national heart still beats without Christ. Many of those of Israel are to come back in a flush; be sure you occupy your place among the redeemed remnant, if a Gentile, of the nations (cf. Revelation 7), or if a Jew, of that historic base: all coming to the same God in the same way, but with very different backgrounds (Galatians 3:26-29, Romans 4; Galatians 1:6-9).
There is a divine ophthalmologist (John 8:12, 9:3-5), and on application or cessation of obstruction, He can open the eyes, and does, for those who call upon Him AS HE IS, and Him only, by faith (Acts 2.4:11-12, Luke 2:26).
It is necessary to see, and not to close the mind as if it were a book, placed back on the dusty shelves for another day ... possibly.
It is necessary to see so that you do not stumble (I Peter 2:1-10). When God gives you sight, whereas you were blind, then the sight is stark and the dark is plucked from its seeming infinity, to become merely a past phenomenon, and a gift by its very absence! The word of God is indeed a light to the path, and the Lord is a light to the heart, and the way is both open and frequented, so that even a fool on it, does not stumble (Isaiah 35:8). How all-encompassing is that! for the Lord knows His sheep, and cares for them. Without Him, the inconceivable swirls, but with Him, the incomprehensible is comprehended and the truth is a donation for delight.
How narrow the entrance, how vital to pass through it (John 10:9)!
This world without God, however, not only ignores the depths, but the heights, and the Maker of both. It has opened the envelope of the Gospel these centuries of old, and torn it up so often and so fiercely in a little while, that it even now seeks to replace it with a blank sheet of paper, with a forged signature, above which every people and culture can write its own folly, and pretend it divine.
When the antichrist is well established, then the surface will be ruptured, and a large fish will burst it, till it be killed. Then the Maker will Judge (Acts 17:31, Revelation 20). It is not necessary to follow in the steps of ancient Jerusalem, glorious and gutted, through failing likewise to recognise the Messiah, now! He is here now and He is calling for you. Don't listen if you love death. Rejoice if you know Him. Call upon His name if you desire Him. Remember the trio: REPENT, BELIEVE, RECEIVE (Luke 13:1ff., John 5:24, John 1:12ff.).