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PATHOS, the PENETRATION and
A Crystal of Spiritual Beauty
Recently, with some Chinese friends, anew the Gospel story was being told, from Isaiah 52-53. The marvel, for what ? the ten billionth time ? or more ? in the history of this globe, was being revealed. NOT like the kings of power and gory glory, leaving people to die for their own welfare, protection and power, but a King so great that humanity itself is His product: it is He who dies. Though royal with all the heights of regality, of heart, of spirit, of love, and yes because of it, He gives His life, a sacrifice for others, for His subjects... It is so, for those of them, to be sure, who repent and receive Him, for gifts are not received which are cast ignominiously with contrived insult or even complete ostensible indifference, to the dust. Were it a cheque, it would then not be cleared. No change in the royal account would be reported.
But here, as befits royalty, there is knowledge: and the knowledge is foreknowledge (Romans 8:29ff., Ephesians 1;4) so vast, that it includes that of who is HIS. He knows His own. On the other hand, the love is so extensive, as well as intensive, that its SCOPE is such that, as I John 2 puts it, that He is "the propitiation on behalf of our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world." The Greek uper tells no more than this, that it is proffered TO all, available FOR all and has efficacy relative to all. WHAT anyone does, this, it is another question. The formulation of the original, undivided Bible Presbyterian Church in America on this topic, when it first was formed, many decades ago, is correct, and this is what it conveys.
often have the nations offered help to other nations, provided it is accepted
as offered. If it is not, all the money in the world would not help, for
the point of application is sullied, the entry is barred. Though they want
the money, the conditions, they do not. Though they wish the aid, the quality
of the contribution is ignored. No transaction occurs. That is currently
the position with Yugoslavia, relative to material aid, though
it may accept these conditions. The principle is not different. However,
with God, it was always foreknown WHO are His; and to these it goes.
How sad the rebellious rejection becomes (cf. for Lamentations, Tender Times for Timely Truths Ch. 9, p. 114ff., Pall of Smoke and Diamond of Joy Ch. 11 ), and how great the eventual grief, since it simply cannot be assuaged! When mercy is mangled, where is it to be found ?It does not therefore have its destruction without impediment, its folly without appeal or its fatalities without the opportunities to faith (cf. Matthew 24:14, Isaiah 53:1, 55). The love which teems into the heart of man, but is so often diverted, asserted into mutated vainglory, this has its source above; and from above comes its resource.
Or as Hebrews 10 declares from the lips of the Lord,
To do that you need to get near enough to see it, and to do that, to hear it, but when you hear it, you can do it (John 3:19); and surely, neglect is a form of despising when such a word as this is declared to you, as it is now, and as it has been so much that myriads could scarcely account for the frequency of its exposure on this earth. Such is the case with this misguided planet, which though it keeps its astronomical whereabouts in order, makes astronomical rebellions in men and materials, with young and old, as if it had aspired to become a missile, seeking its own destruction in its targets.
- "of how much worse punishment do you suppose will he be thought worthy who has trampled the Son of God underfoot..."
is to the beauty of holiness which we considered last time, that we now
turn with more focus on this one feature: the regality and nobility of
the sacrifice of Christ which became the atonement, OFFERED TO ALL with
sincere heart and great compassion (Colossians 1:19ff., I John 2), and
effective for all who receive it (as in Isaiah 53:4,6,10 cf. The
Kingdom of Heaven Ch. 9,
where those who are healed by the stripes laid on the victim's back of
Christ, are those who have laid their sins upon Him).
IT SHALL BE FOR A LAMENT - but Selectively
First however, look again at Lamentations. Here the prophet Jeremiah, heart-broken for the extensive spiritual follies and frauds of sinning Jerusalem, so long like a colt on the rampage, kicking its heels and cavorting as if hypnotised by disregard of reality, by contrast was to be found weeping before it came, this assured tragedy, which nevertheless he had to predict since it was true, and its shadow was the darkness he foreshadowed, that they might escape its looking shade. Indeed, in the mercy of God, this word of the prophet was a challenge to them before it hit, one faithfully revealed, in case any should repent (Jeremiah 9:1ff., 17), at last finds the prophecies fulfilled (cf. Jeremiah 5).
It was no joy to behold the tragedy, payment for the travesty of injustice, unfaithfulness, idolatry and heartlessness which had plagued the city long before it was invaded. Had Jeremiah not appealed times all but without number, protesting and making protestation from the heart, comparing their foolishness now to this, now to that, if by any means they might repent (just as you see in Hosea 12:10, where the Lord gives "many similitudes" or parables, pictures, depictions of His mercy and challenge, if by any means they might listen in time!). SO we find in Jeremiah 2:24-28, 3:3-5,21-22, 4:22ff., 5:1ff., 5:23-25,30-31, 8:4-6,8-11, the challenges and pictures, the appeals and the sorrows, crowned by the weeping, inconsolable, of 9:1ff..
In Jeremiah 17 the prophet even makes, in God's name, a sensational offer of deliverance; it is as practical as it is simple, but they are dead to it, as to all divine consolation.
immediate concern however is with Lamentations 1:18-22. Here a word provocative
to the sympathies, arresting to the heart, is to be found, one seeming
to say so much that might be said to this, our own day, via the afflicted
city of Jerusalem. This, once so high in the mind and love of God, now
in turmoil, as it was then in destruction, towards the end of the prophet's
life, because it would not return to ITS OWN LORD, in whose name its glory
was originally to be found. Now, with its own Messiah still unreceived,
Him whose date of death is one, and not another (SMR pp.
886ff. ), precisely as predicted by Daniel, the city suffers still.
But this date of death, the accomplishment required and wrought by the Messiah, on time, It is the one used by Jesus of Nazareth, the Jewish Messiah, on which to accomplish His own crucifixion (cf. Luke 9:31*1, 18:31, 22:37); no other used it, with just claims, nor could any, for the power required is that of God alone (cf. SMR Ch. 6, It Bubbles, It Howls, He Calls.. Ch. 10, Barbs, Arrows and Balms Appendix IV, Repent or Perish Chs. 2 and 7). It is long done, and the time for its reception is all but past.
As to Jesus Christ, to do what He as Messiah had to do, required that He be God to do it! (Isaiah 40:10ff.). In and through Him, indeed, what God has done is very sufficient; God is NEVER insufficient: but it MUST be received, and it is only then that one is restored to His presence, redeemed, pardoned and at peace.
In modern events it is Jerusalem which suffers still, with its Gold-domed Mosque: an effrontery to the God of Israel, who is the Father of Eternity; and that 'abomination' as God calls contrary worship, it is an audacity and a disclaimer without warrant, ground or reason, wildly contrary to the word of God which is demonstrable, verified. The presence of the Mosque is tolerated, it appears, because the day of animal sacrifice (as in Isaiah 66:1ff., 53:6) is now long past, and because if the Jews are rejecting the Messiah who is their own, then is it so much worse for some other body to be asserting a false prophet, and doing so right in the heart of Jerusalem, as if to mock Israel for its own failure, and to bring in a parallel in rebellion to their own! (cf. SMR pp. 822ff.). The lesson can scarcely be missed; it gleams in the sun, parades in the land and glitters itself with the aid of rifles and bullets, broken children and bombs in shopping centres, to retain its hold for those who want it so.
Is it not permitted to be there, not only as a rebuke to other religious failure in Israel AS A NATION itself, but in this also, that Israel is NOW back in her land, and yet continues STILL without returning to that same Lord: so it is that, all straying, the land is weary with blood from this side and from that (cf. Ch. 10 It Bubbles, It Howls, He Calls).
Again there is the cry, the howling, and again there is the plea.
Then, in Jeremiah's day, it was in terms of the Lord whose Messiah was still to come (as in Joyful Jottings 22-25 cf. Isaiah 52-53 and consult Heart and Soul, Mind and Strength, Chs. 4ff.). NOW it is in terms of the Messiah who has LONG come and to whom they of Israel must come, as in Zechariah 12:10ff., if they will know peace. It will be so that many WILL come to Him in faith, and that most dramatically under enormous military assault, as predicted, just as much else predicted has already come in dimensions almost innumerable (SMR Ch.9); but for now, the sorrow is and must be.
It is ever so when truth is not received, in the end. Since however, a more blessed end is portrayed for the city, or many of its inhabitants, we can still rejoice for this coming time*2. There is "hope in your end" (or, in your future: Jeremiah 31:17). And how dramatically, yes and tenderly He depicts the coming conversion of so many:
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 as instructed, I struck myself on the thigh.
I was ashamed, yes even humiliated,
Because I bore the reproach of my youth.'
"Is not Ephraim My dear son ?
Is he not 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."
Meanwhile, there is horror, almost daily.
"Set up signposts,
Set your heart toward the highway,
The way in which you went.
"Turn back, O virgin of Israel,
Turn back to these your cities.
How long will you gad about,
O you backsliding daughter ?
For the LORD has created a new thing in the earth -
A woman shall encompass a man."
we now know as the massacre of the innocents
(Herod's slaughter of the young children of Christ' birth time,
in an effort to eradicate the new King to whom the wise men from the East had come),
in Jeremiah 31:15ff., 'Rachel weeping for her children,
refusing to be comforted, because they are no more',
in this condensed and topically essentialised picture of history,
to the use of a woman as the sole human agent in the divine incarnation
(as in Isaiah 7, Micah 5:1-3, Isaiah 40:10, Psalm 45), so that
"a woman shall encompass a man", in Jeremiah 31:22,
to the New Covenant itself, in Jeremiah 31:31ff.,
|we see indeed "HOPE IN YOUR END", for Israel, as Jeremiah here forecast.|
Meanwhile in our own contemporary Israel, there is horror nearly every day, as the conflicting currents of sin interact, and man seeks either as with Israel THE NATION, to avoid the Christ, or as with the Arab multitudes, to REPLACE Him in the Islam manufacture to which we have so often referred (see both Indexes).
also, in Jeremiah's day, there was, according to this same ancient word,
It was total, terrible and devastating to the heart of the prophet who beheld it, like a wife who screamed at her husband to swerve from the course directed towards the bridge's side, before it was too late, but who then watched the mangled body of the doomed man removed from the smashed car, when his drunken stupour did not respond, and his body paid for his neglect.
In just such a way, the prophet personifies Jerusalem and has her speaking as follows, after the invasion and destruction (Lamentations 1):The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.
16 “For these things I weep;
My eye, my eye overflows with water;
Because the comforter, who should restore my life,
Is far from me.
My children are desolate
Because the enemy prevailed.
17 "Zion spreads out her hands,
But no one comforts her;
The Lord has commanded concerning Jacob
That those around him become his adversaries;
Jerusalem has become an unclean thing among them.
18 “The Lord is righteous,
For I rebelled against His commandment.
Hear now, all peoples,
And behold my sorrow;
My virgins and my young men
Have gone into captivity.
19 “I called for my lovers,
But they deceived me;
My priests and my elders
Breathed their last in the city,
While they sought food
To restore their life.
20 “See, O Lord, that I am in distress;
My soul is troubled;
My heart is overturned within me,
For I have been very rebellious.
Outside the sword bereaves,
At home it is like death.
21 “They have heard that I sigh,
But no one comforts me.
All my enemies have heard of my trouble;
They are glad that You have done it.
Bring on the day You have announced,
That they may become like me.
22 “Let all their wickedness come before You,
And do to them as You have done to me
For all my transgressions;
For my sighs are many,
And my heart is faint.”
AND IT IS NOT FOR ISRAEL ALONE, THIS LAMENTATION
was no further pity to be made practical at this stage, on site,
for the city invaded by Babylon in Jeremiah's day: its members had
dismissed the grace of God, His appeals ignored, and now results came like
a tidal wave. So did Jerusalem mourn, lament and seethe with sadness. It
was abandoned for the time, while judgment came on its formerly frolicsome
heart, so long bent on fooling with idols, putting children through the
idolatrous fires, just as so many of the twenty first century, in deeds
of our own time, do so to them in many lands, in spirit and mind, with
the disorganised riot of irrationality known as organic evolution (cf.
Magnificent Rock Chs.
1, 8, Spiritual
Refreshings for the Digital Millenium Ch.
13, Wake up World! Your Creator is Coming ... Ch.
6, but also 4, 6 and 7).
Was not their involvement with the culture of their benighted times, as dark as our own generation's abandon in these affairs (cf. Jeremiah 2:26-28, Isaiah 57:5-6, 29:16ff.) ? That word of God here cited: it says it!
So now does the whole world, forgetful of its Maker (cf. Isaiah 1:3), embark on its riot of folly, raddled with irrationality like one with cancer, and this the more so, the nearer they come to the conception and work of God!
But you say, Surely here are to be found many true religions, filled with sincerity ?
Did not Israel of old say much the same of its many ... variants on what God had said ? and was not THIS one of the most lethal of their faults ?"Yet you say, 'Because I am innocent,
Surely His anger shall turn from me.'
Behold, I will plead My case against you,
Because you say, 'I have not sinned.' " (Jeremiah 2:35ff.),
comes the divine response. Of gods, there is no other one, and hence of words, no other truth from sources which are merely fictitious, imaginary or delusive; or in fact, some combination of these malign or empty ingredients. Thus is the word of God (Isaiah 44:24ff., 45:9-12, 45:22-24, Psalm 96).
Whether in that day, ancient, or this, with this conceit or fancy or that, with sophistication assumed as in both cases, or not, it is one. Falling from the only God is the sure way to folly in mind, in heart, in civilisation, and ways of making many other women (to use the terminology of Ezekiel 16, 23, Hosea) or other spouses, your 'partner', by something for some reason called a law, this is merely to add mockery to rebellion, and self-assertion of 'innocence' to guilt. It does not go down like apple juice, but like a choking draught. It is no more acceptable than efforts to dim the sun.
In modern times, as in those of old,, here in a school or beyond, the protestation of innocence in the presence of guilt does not help. Chaining the minds of the young to the fictitious preposterousness of fanciful sallies into nothing, and its works, far from God, achieves in the end, only wrath.
Whether however it be of such woeful romanticism of philosophy, or of religions, the question is not very different. Which of the 'religions' have any experimental verification, logical demonstration, focal figure demonstrably divine, or predictive apparatus consolidated and complete, duly fulfilled ? (Cf. SMR Chs. 1, 10 and contrast with SMR Chs. 8, 9).
Which of the pagan philosophies has ever stood, before chopped down by its successors, or which stands now, powdered and puffed up, pompous and pretentious, before the simple realities even of logic! (Cf. SMR Chs. 1-3, 10, TMR Chs. 1, 4, 5,7,8, pp. 422Eff., S1-S34, Repent or Perish Ch. 7, Barbs, Arrows and Balms 6, and 7, Things Old and New Ch. 10, Epilogue and Appendix, Little Things Ch. 5, Tender Times for Timely Truths Ch. 11, Spiritual Refreshings for the Digital Millenium Chs. 13 and 16.)
What is this which is protested in comparative religion which is not even comparatively rational! There is no other available recourse to reason (cf. SMR Chs. 1-3,10), but that one God with that one site of speech, the Bible, and that one only begotten Son, the Christ who put it into practice and practised the power, evidenced the purity and made the sacrifice essential to cover sin before the incandescent reality of the only God; and nothing else is comparable. It does not exist, it does not find itself; it is simply not there.
Just, then, as God declared (in Isaiah 41,43,48), so it is now the same, exactly and precisely. The ancient word is addressable to the modern situation; it has not essentially changed, except in this, that its guilt grows greater, for its exposure to the word of God and to Christ, is now more complete. Then, He was to come; now He has come. Then as now, however, there is no other.
God attests that this is the position in word, in deed, and makes the challenge repeatedly, as seen in the above Isaianic passages. He only has SHOWN His word in contradistinction for all else, irrevocable, indispensable, inflexible, foreknown, fulfilled, the thoughts of the heart of the Eternal God (Amos 3:7, 4:11, Jeremiah 23:16-29, Matthew 5:17-20, Deuteronomy 7:6-11, 4:7, Isaiah 59:21, Psalm 111, 119, II Peter 1:19-21).
But in the middle is Christ Jesus the Lord: the butt of the preliminary prophecies of His coming and the source of the succeeding ones, from Him and others, of His coming return (cf. Answers to Questions Ch. 5 and with SMR Ch. 8, A Spiritual Potpourri Ch. 17), the ever living Word of God.
On Him, alone, the ambassador to and for faith, the heart of the faith, the Scion of eternity who became the servant to meet the guilt of sin in the glory of grace, does this, that or any race stand or fall. He does what He says for one for all, and in history He has made His intimations; but as far as the end is concerned, unless one goes to the beginning, the everlasting word of the living God, the Saviour, and there is no other Saviour but God (Isaiah 43:10-11, Acts 4:;11-12), the end is the same, outright exclusion from grace and the place of impenitent self-esteem reduced to rubble by the truth.
a marvel that the One on whom, then, for man, all depends, should have
humbled Himself, and become for the New Covenant, as Saviour, a very focus
that seemed to incorporate what happened to Jerusalem of old. That city,
it was devastated for its sin; He, the Christ, was in form devastated
for sin: the difference is that one showed its results in penalty, depicting
it in sorrow and disgrace; the other showed the same results, by bearing
sin for many as He said, bearing it in agony and triumph, the glorious
prelude to the physical resurrection which changed the world, instituted
the church, confirmed the pardon and evicted all political and false ecclesiastical
power from its presumptuous primacy, as wholly incompetent. It could not
even stop the clear testimony of the resurrection with all its power -
against one man! He left imprisonment in their face, though the plan to
arise had been exposed for a millenium or so*3.
(Cf. Joyful Jottings 22-25, SMR
pp. 931ff., )
BUT CONSIDER THE PARALLEL!
But consider the parallel! How closely does He, the Lord as man, the Christ, resemble the devastation of Jerusalem as foretold by Jeremiah and, fulfilled in the 6th. century B.C., classically exposed in the book of Lamentations!
Just as Jerusalem is seen speaking as quoted in detail above, saying ,
"You have moved my soul far from peace;so as predicted of the Messiah, in Psalm 69 (cf. Joyful Jottings loc. cit.),
I have forgotten prosperity,
And I said, 'My strength and my hope
Have perished form the LORD,' "
so Christ cried, in the desolations necessarily the product of the bearing of that sin of men which separates from God (Isaiah 59:1ff.),
"My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me!", just as Psalm 22 predicted He would do (cf. Joyful Jottings 25).
Moreover, just as Jerusalem in Lamentations cries,
"Remember my affliction and roaming:
The wormwood and the gall.
My soul still remembers
And sinks within me..."
"You know My reproach, My shame and My dishonour:which resounds harmoniously with the lament in Psalm 22 of the crucifixion.
My adversaries are all before You.
"Reproach has broken My heart,
And I am full of heaviness:
I looked for someone to take pity, but there was none,
And for comforters, but I found none.
"They also gave Me gall for My good,
And for My thirst, they gave Me vinegar to drink" - 69:19-21,
So is He poured out like a drink offering; but the drink is His blood, signal and symbol of life, river of its support. It is this which in the Lord's Supper, or Communion, is in turn symbolised by the grape juice which is used with fragments of bread, to represent His body and blood, or in other words, His sacrifice in physical format (Colossians 1:22), as the Lamb of God, to be slain for salvation, to remit sin through justly bearing the fruit of justice, Himself (Romans 3:23ff.). These words, as He says, are spirit and they are life, and in spiritual understanding, it is His life which is received, living to make us who believe alive, dying to remove the mortality at its source (John 6:62ff.).
Thus the suffering denoted by Jerusalem's fall, and exhibited in Lamentations, due penalty of folly, is fulfilled in more modern deeds than those of the 6th century B.C., or in the Psalm's case, 1000 B.C. approximately: in those of Christ around A.D. 30.
What Jerusalem had to bear for its sins, is the fruit of sin; and therefore what Christ had to bear to substitute in godly grace for those who receive Him, as sacrifice, had many of the marks of the horror in Jerusalem's own fall so much earlier. The city, it was virtually obliterated, its craftsmen and leaders killed or taken, its walls broken, treasures sacked. SO Christ was marred more than the children of men (Isaiah 52:12ff.). What sin does, Jerusalem got and Christ took. Each is a display; but as to Him, His suffering was far more than merely physical, though this is not minimised; it was spiritual, His whole life bearing an aweful burden of guilt so far from the incandescence of His own eternal purity, that the result is all but inconceivable in the dimensions of horror.
then with Jerusalem of old: What it earned, He bore. What it required,
He volunteered to remove, for His people, of whatever race or place (Cf.
Psalm 40). That is to say, for one who is ONE as God is, His coming was
willing, and there was no constraint on it, as for reluctance; for it was
His DELIGHT to do it. Imagine a Christ who would have, or even could have
said: Come down from the Cross! Now that does give me an excuse. Down
from it right away I come, and you, you theological devastation scene,
will be the first to suffer for your uncouth impudence, your mockery! This
is far removed from the One who KEPT ON PRAYING, Father,
forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing
(verbal significance, Luke 23:34).
For this there was neither need, nor occasion, desire nor avenue: He loves, and sin will find its just reward soon enough. His purpose in so coming was not to condemn but to save (John 3:17), and in glorious irony, His refusal to come down when taunted with all the mordant wit of selfishness which could not understand love, was the very expression both of His POWER (of self-control and determination not to cease till He had accomplished all He came to do, whatever the price), and of His purity! How often it is so, that what some take for weakness if the very power of God, though in their blindness, they do not heed it. As to that, see II Corinthians 12:9-10, which finishes:
"For when I am weak, then I am strong".Yet there is a further parallel, and shortly we shall see them all together in terms of beauty of holiness. What happened with Ezra and Nehemiah, assailed and assaulted, subjected to trickery and treachery, when the Jerusalem around the 5th century B.C. was being rebuilt, begins to sound somewhat like contemporary Israel, which is again being rebuilt after the humiliations of alienated control for nearly two millenia. This city still suffers as predicted (cf. Deuteronomy 32, Leviticus 26, Zechariah 12).
? It is for this reason: though its martial prowess in mighty military
victories has been demonstrated as predicted (cf. SMR Ch.
9), yet its suffering in impenitence must continue while it is so menaced,
and will do so, until its reward comes, with the blessing for faith, as
also predicted in the same chapter of Zechariah.
So in parallel, for the earlier rebuilding of Jerusalem the destroyed, it was to the first and crucial coming of the Messiah they could look in hope.
each case, the hope comes to Him who fulfils it, in deeds. In this case,
with Him, comes the end of the Age, and the onset of the millenium, followed
by the departure of the heaven and earth, since as Revelation 20:11 tells
us, had no place left for them.
OF THE COMPLEX AGENDA IN ITS HEART OF AIM
So does the sublime simplicity continue: God has made the world and man within it (Isaiah 45:12ff.): man has rebelled, and he suffers and is provided for, and rejects it mostly, and he suffers; and Israel in particular, was called to provide a complete work in writing, that of the word of God till that time, and it did; but it rebelled even from this, and above all, from Him whose central and focal place for faith and deliverance was provided in their very own city. Indeed, with Gentile aid, He was murdered there, according to their plan (in disbelief), and His (in love, as pre-announced In Isaiah 52-53).
Thus have they suffered, and they suffer; and they must, until they come where mercy is to be found (Isaiah 55); so that they with the Gentiles make now one world with many non-solutions, whilst the one solution is the one that is not taken*4. They too suffer for their ravished ingenuities, which have all the clamant clamour of the spoiled child and the soiled youth, who alas, in now grown ... older!
So with two fires, old and new, the world prepares for its scorching. Judgment sits in its time. Redemption stands for all time.
While the overall direction is simple, and the major thrusts are most delightfully straightforward, the involvements of many in diverse fashions has been complex, and with Paul one can then exclaim,
SPECIAL FEATURES OF BEAUTY OF HOLINESS
ONE NOW FINDS
But consider with me the beauty of holiness in the divine response to the situation of man.
It is shown meritoriously in the Cross, where HIS merit becomes available for our demerit, that accounts changed, He can charge to Himself our sin, and provide for us His righteousness as in Isaiah 61:10, 53:8ff., Galatians 3, II Corinthians 5:17-21.
better can we go than to the Lord Jesus Christ, to see this beauty of holiness;
and what an exhibition of the beauty of His heart, of the wonder of the
divine love and the compassions which fail not (as in Lamentations 3:22,31-33),
is there to be found - for there is no change, HE does not change
as Psalm 102, Hebrews 1 and Malachi 3:6 remind us.
Here is an instance of divine anger shown in Christ. It is not for some real or imagined insult, as frequently happens with sinners. It is not for an injustice suffered, for this was His daily bread, as sinners collided with Him, like waves on the rocky coast-line (cf. Luke 11:52-54). It was not because of the death warrant fraudulently concocted and evilly executed; for, to this He came freely (cf. Psalm 22, 40, Isaiah 53, Matthew 26:52-56, John 18:36, Matthew 16:24-27, 20:28).
No it concerned something most different from these things, and most revelatory of the divine nature.
Before we proceed to consider the detail of these actions of Christ, and utterances, let us consider what that great author and scholar, Professor J.N.D. Anderson says in his work, Jesus Christ, the Witness of History.
The setting is the death of Christ's friend Lazarus, the grief of the sisters that he died while Christ did not come earlier, so that the death might have been prevented, the laments of others at this scene of mortality. We read of a divine anger moving vigorously within Him (to which in detail we shall revert shortly). Professor Anderson states this: that Christ's anger is here directed against the whole phenomenon of death and suffering.
It is now that we must consider the case to see if this is entirely accurate.
In John 11:33, we find indication not only of the arousal of a deep anger, an exhibition of a contrary feeling to this scene of grief and suffering in sorrow relative to that saint of God, Lazarus. We find this also, that Christ 'troubled Himself' or was troubled.
Now it is not at all a case of this: of man seeing the divine scheduling with displeasure.
Rather, as divine, as in Hosea 13:14 (Christ is THE word of God, not 'a word', and there is no other god in scripture but one so that Christ is God, and always was, God expressive or God the word cf. Isaiah 48:16, cf. Spiritual Refreshings for the Digital Millenium Ch. 15): Christ expresses what is felt as God, though in human formulation as to format. It is the divine mind which here also (as in John 5:19ff., quite expressly) is being displayed. It is a trouble, grief, an alien thing, that He faces.
He does not face a phenomenon, which is His own express consequence, duly determined for sin, as alien; it is rather the suffering in His people at the sign of death that He wishes to dispel, with hope, with faith, with some measure of sight, with reassurance, with joy that lifts the burden, with a spectacle which for all time will remove the din of grief and attenuate it to a sense of loss that is neither eternal nor gross, but temporary and yielding an eventual reunion.
Not then as alien to the phenomenon of death, but as alien to its negative impact on man when BELIEVING, He is stirred. He is not sorry about His own dealings, but intensely concerned to heed the appeals and the expressions of regret about His not being there, and the extravaganzas of grief, by SHOWING what GOD has provided and is providing IN HIM, as He is about, almost at once, to demonstrate. How ? On the cross and through the defenceless body of the tomb, unable to retain His own, which could no more restrain His resurrected body, than the air can restrain the violence of the wind which surges in upon it, from some approaching front.
But what is it that is shown in Hosea 13:14 as in accord with the divine mind, and that indeed with a feeling of intensity and disparagement! It is this which resembles the testimony of Christ when facing this grief of heart and stricken sadness, at the passing of His friend Lazarus, in the presence of His believing sisters (as the context makes abundantly clear to be the case), He groaned in spirit.
It is this which Hosea relates, exposing the very thought of God as He confronts in love, the licence given to death as otherwise supreme commander of the reward of sin:
Now notice the fierceness of the resolve, the crisis character of the divine commitment exhibited in Hosea 13:14, the inveterate desire, the decisive determination; and the consider the irony, HE, God, will be the plague of that plague of human life, death! that end of human sin, hell. It will be a plague to be removed, not by the Department of Agriculture, which did well in the locust menace last year, but by the Justice of God, because it will be satisfied with the provisions of the Mercy of God so that "Mercy and truth have met together, Righteousness and peace have kissed" - Psalm 85:10.
Now this, in Hosea, follows straight after an exposé of the iniquity of Ephraim, and its results. It is not blindness of sentiment, then, but arrest of results with the driving force of love, the elixir of mercy and the kindness of interventionism which is here found. Hard it may be; horrible is the thing to be removed, and horrendous the price of ransom, for death, since it must be death, and it was (as in Isaiah 53): BUT IT WILL BE PAID. Such was the message of the prophet, one whom Christ quoted, from the earlier Ch. 6.
This being the divine attitude, and Christ sharing these things intimately as in John 5:19ff., and being the word of God, not the critic, it follows then that this same fashion of passion, this repudiation of results for sin to faith (as in Hosea 14:2ff.) in Him and His provisions (to be the cross), is the vast stirring feature which occurs in this domain.
Hence in Christ, it is the same insistence on mercy, as in Micah 7:19ff., in which GOD DELIGHTS, and this payment over the price of sin, to cancel it in Himself, that is operative with such passion. After all, HE was about to DO the paying! For millenia this intention was not only made, but announced. He was stirred deeply, and with some anger. Action must purge the situation. This is the appearance of the movement.
Thus we return to John 11. It is in context, then, the trouble, grief, which He faces with this interesting word as the description, one rendered 'groaned' or 'was moved with indignation', one which indicates in background snort, and suggests anger, indignation, groaning, deep concern.
He WILL not have it this way. DEATH WILL NOT be suffered in THESE situations to be the last word. LIFE is going to be the prize and the price will be paid to secure it, even for those who lost it, and it is HE who, about to pay, is determined to show beforehand that as to death, it is in the power of His hand. It is not matter of mere circumstance: in principle and in power He has the authority to dispel it. He did so! Lazarus was COMMANDED to come out of the tomb. He did.
This is a high point in His teaching and labouring career on earth, this open manifestation of His detestation of the sidetracking of mercy, His surging yearning against the fate the soul of sin deserves, and the insistence that it is not, in any case, 'fate', but a result which He is well able to determine in the opposite direction. To the faithful, here then came the offer of faith. As this to Lazarus, so that to you: as in I Cor. 15:57ff., John 6:50ff., John 3:15ff.. "In My Father's house are many mansions; if it were not so, I should have told you" (John 14:2).
In more detail yet, it was, just before the John 11:33 episode, the profound grief of a BELIEVER who in fact had just categorically expressed this faith in Him, even to the point of asserting that HE indeed had power over life and death: it was this which was manifest to Him. Martha had the assurance that if HE had been there, THIS (death, as if out of mind, out of deliverance were the case for her brother) would not have happened! ... if only Christ had been there. Such was her spoken confidence in Him.
Now He who had delayed to come to the scene of the sickness, earlier reported to Him, on purpose (John 11:4-16). When He heard, He stayed where He was, and only later came. This sickness is not to death, He declared, knowing He could overcome it. It was a trial case for those who saw, and an affirmation from Him who gave, the Christ. EVEN IF it would appear, in later days, at first, that His not yet having come would mean horror for the departed, or eternal separation, it was not so.
This, a few days might seem to have the same effect as a few centuries after He had returned to heaven from which He had come; but in neither case would death be SUFFERED to be the last word. So for those few days, He taught a lesson to last for a few centuries, that death was merely temporary, that He had the power and it would all be unleashed, as for Lazarus, AT THE RIGHT TIME, in fact at the general resurrection (John 5:19ff.).
In other words, the concept that, unlike the case of the wicked (as in Psalm 1:6), the people of God are butts of circumstance, objects - however temporary - of divine oblivion, is grievous, perhaps even grating to Him.
He WILL not, and wills not to, have it so! So He acts. He raises Lazarus, stating that His open calling on His Father is not for His own sake, but for the sake of those standing by, as the miracle is wrought (John 11: 40-42). Nor must we ever forget that if ANY SINGLE ONE of these clear public events had EVER failed, the status of Christ as God would forever have been shown false, and in view of the date and the assurances of Amos 3:7, the status likewise of the Bible. That this was and is impossible is not the present point: it was a test, freely engaged in, times without number. Now of course it never was shown false, but only verified, ad infinitum.
It was thus in this overwhelming consistently constant exhibition of power, purity and prophetic fulfilment, that HIS DEATH was the only answer for the paranoia, the State survival first lust (John 11:50), or whatever other motivation decided to 'remove' Him, as the Mafia might have done, had that been their day.
Mafia ? The term is scarcely excessive in this: IF a man is guilty of making false claim to being God, OBVIOUSLY you have to DISPROVE it, and the way to do that is not a night trial in which talk of blasphemy is ASSUMED to be true, in that Christ claimed to be God on earth! In view of the prophecies, not to mention the date now having come to hand, from Daniel 9, it was wholly unwholesome and ludicrous, to determine that issue by mere prejudice, as if unbelief in the face of miraculous evidence were its own judge! Never was a trial more unjust, and this is merely objectively the case. It did not BEGIN to answer the only relevant question. It merely assumed it. The actual answer proved an embarrassment, a harassment to 'religion', a due warning to many of what can come with State religion, let alone when it is moved by survival fears and manipulative exercises.
BUT ALL THIS CHRIST SUFFERED, and suffered willingly (as in John 18:36 and Matthew 26:54ff.), because love drove Him, love He was and is, as GOD IS LOVE (I John 4:7ff.), and FOR LOVE God sent His only begotten into the world (I John 4:14-16, John 3:16).
This is the first of the considerations of this beauty, the insistence of BEING the PRICE to be paid to justice that mercy might be exhibited, and that it might act. It was a zealous and gracious determination, as far above sentiment as death is above a scratch.
Thus in John 11, we find this. Confronted with a contrary affirmation in word and scene, Christ was stirred, moved; His mind soared, His spirit was roused to heights and application, and He in indignation resolved to do then, what He came to do at that place: raise Lazarus. It was we recall, not TO DEATH, that the matter would in the end come, as He earlier told the disciples.
then, will not have the last word, though justice required it; for He had
the way to overcome death with no injury to
justice, the foundation of His throne (Psalm
89:14); and He had it in terms of mercy and truth, which in the same Psalm,
we find "go before Him".
It does not matter what it costs, as we see both in Hebrews 5:7, Luke 22:39-46,
and Hosea 13:14: "pity will be hidden from
Pity hidden ? In other words, when Christ asked, If it were possible to let this cup pass from Him...You get that sort of thing in the Bible, and it is only there. It is natural and in one sense necessary; for since it is the very word of God, immediately inspired by Him, therefore He being changeless, there is sure to be not merely harmony, consistency, but also application as here. It is rather like meeting a person, and if he has a settled character (as in I Peter 5:10, and in terms like those of II Peter 1:4-10), finding that his words here mirror those there, or confirm them, or are consistent with them or a development of them. This, it is the second element of the beauty of holiness, which we find in this passage, in its Biblical context.
it was NOT POSSIBLE. Love had its own ways; and all things are possible with God, but not the denial of Him who is God, for that is merely making HIM impossible, for whom ALL things are possible, on His own basis! (cf. SMR Ch. 1, Acme, Alpha and Omega Ch. 8). Rather the case is this: love will, must and does prevail, and it is practical, resolute and triumphant; hence its potential denial in the words of Martha and Mary, in the grief about this saint of God, Lazarus were IMPOSSIBLE, not to be tolerated for one moment. Hence He acted in this motif, in this spirit, in this power, in this resolution, made so clear some 700 years earlier in Hosea.
It is of course only one more of the innumerable verifications one discovers with the ease of one swimming, finding that every stroke is followed by just such another, and so one progresses. That is the way of the thing! So here.
Thus Christ being roused to realities unseverable, acts without fear or question. His indignation is stirred as if by an expulsive breath. THIS SHALL NOT BE! This is the love of God, the exquisite love that finds no 'no' for an answer to life, when there are met the preconditions of repentance and faith in Him and in His works, by which severance and detachment can be changed to acceptance and attachment, in and to His own life, as branches in and abiding in the life of the vine (as in John 15). He WILL do it, first raising Lazarus, and then dying (despite the gross afflictions of Hebrews 5:7, when He cried vehemently before the event, but still did it). The love of God is like that! It never balks. It does it. So the challenge became the transmutation of Lazarus in its outcome. Death fled; life was restored; and the King commanded with a loud voice, we read.
You see further exhibition of this in John 11:35. "Jesus wept", the shortest verse with one of the largest portrayals of the love of God. How He loved him! they cried... It is simple, direct, elemental. When the grief of many, of whom presumably not a few were believers, was apparent, some saying, "Look how He loved him!" , again we see recorded, a second time, Christ groaned, was moved, stirred in spirit to the uttermost. He felt the vast indignities, it appears clear, or repudiation in spirit.
But of what ? His 'love', so ascribed, and their sorrow were ingredients. Would He suffer - literally, death so to fly in the face of His love, and at that, explicitly ? Would it be incompetent ? without hands ? that He might be deemed to be ? It is precisely this that the ungodly affirmed, in Isaiah 29:16ff.. There it is a question of 'turning of things upside down', a thing completely INTOLERABLE to the TRUTH!
That is the point. As the truth, He could not and would not suffer this thing in His very presence. Stirred, He acted; and knowing, as for days before He came, He expressed His wisdom, interpreted His heart and raised the man who had died, from the very hands of death, in one of history's greatest confrontations. For, if you are to die, what is a few minutes here or there, compared with eternity whether for this or that; but if you live for ever, the victory of life is incomparable to its near ruin, so justly deserved by sin, and by those who do not accept the naturally ONE ONLY divine remedy, from the Prince of Life who IS life in its source.
A little time became a large lesson; a little delay, a vast performance preliminary, and in the midst of all this strategic planning... Jesus wept. That is the third element of the beauty of holiness seen here. Knowing full well what He would do, and having indicated in advance the outcome, He was still stirred in heart, with feeling, emotion, depth, grief, personal feeling, and in this, He proceeded to give power, which in time would become a giving of His very self.
Christ, as Prince of Life (Acts 3) found it unthinkable that this sort of situation would stand. It was then changed, radically, once and for all, in this sign, before the substance, the payment was made within days, on the Cross. ALL necessary action to secure this - exactly with the vigour and vim, brio and brilliance expressed in Hosea 13:14, therefore was taken. He has SAID His mind in the matter; now He DID it! It was expressed hundreds of years before, and expressed again in human form, and the mode, the spirit, the depth and the determination, the resolve and the indignation of desire, that His will be wrought in mercy profound and wonderful, re-appeared in the format of flesh, when Jehovah became man.
mercy, active love, reliable faithfulness, all these things are beautiful,
as seen here, in the harmony of holiness, in Christ.
His is not the work of the despot, the tyrant or the dictator. Yet His kingdom is pure, so pure that final entry is utterly denied to many sorts of things (as in Revelation 22:4, 8), especially what defiles. It is a matter of life, what it is, what it is to be, and being it with zest, relish.
His zeal is mercy; His delight is in it; His goodness is surrounding it, His heart is in it: His non-self serving beauty is to give, in order to gain children that these might share His love, find His life and having it, abound in it. The cost does not matter; He does not deny Himself as if to diminish, since He is the source of joy for all and any. But He was willing to die, and we who are His are to show the same spirit, His Spirit helping, His word directing, His example stirring: for it is not in some form of words, which many speak in hypocrisy, that the faith is finally found, though words may and do DEFINE what it is; it is in the reality to which faith is pointed, by which the reality of the love abides in us. That reality is Christ, by whom the things of God may be translated by His Spirit, in man - when he is redeemed.
It is not, this love of God, a love which ignores His own words, or acts as if they did not matter; for how is that love which rebels against the only final source of mercy, and the ground of all life ? but it is one which exhibits, in spirit, and in heart, what is in the heart and the spirit, and as to that ? What is it that Paul speaks of in Colossians 1:27 ? "CHRIST IN YOU THE HOPE OF GLORY".
With Christ within, ruler and righteousness, this stunning beauty of His ways is conveyed. But how is it stunning and what does it stun ? It stuns sin, often into surrender, when the heart sees that love is real, that giving is indeed better than receiving, that God's treasury, the unsearchable riches of Christ (Ephesians 3:8), has no bounds; that it is not a matter in the end of scarce resources and demanding aims, but unlimited resources and delimited aims, which must be made to conform to the purity of all aim, for which there is always resource.
It is then, in the beauties of holiness, that just as Christ at once RAISED Lazarus, and proceeded to the Cross, nothing being too much for Him either morally in power to will, or dynamically, in power to resurrect, that life proceeds. It is then to be found in the ample graciousness which concedes nothing to death, and its treacherous ally, sin, but proceeds, if still imperfect, yet constantly purified, in the highway of holiness (Isaiah 35), where even fools, they do not err!
Such is the
beautiful provision, the abundant mercy and
the apt intimacy of the living God
with His people.
And what hinders, reader, if you are not yet among them in your own life, to reach forth to Christ, and seeing Him who is invisible but whose visibility is the greatest of any who ever met this earth, receive Him. Do not say in your heart, What beauty is this, that I do not participate! What ugliness rather, it might be said, if you do not! This is not aristocracy, except of the passion of self-will, which though He would in love provide, and has provided in abundance for all who will ever come, you would not (cf. SMR Appendix B, Spiritual Refershings for the Digital Millenium 9, 12). When you read Colossians 1:19ff., you read the riot act on such irrationality.
Come then, and be His, in the beauties of holiness, for these are His and His alone.
*1 Luke 9:31 has this fascinating language, that Christ in the transfiguration was talking with Moses and Elijah about "His decease which He was about to accomplish at Jerusalem". It was a work to be done (as in Psalm 40 cf. Joyful Jottings 22), a death as an operation to save lives, but not His own. This required the destruction of death as a payable penalty, thus liberating mankind, as many as received Him who did it and hence submitted to the results of the redemption, which involve a new person created in the life which is His (Isaiah 61:1-3,10, Colossians 3:10, II Corinthians 5:14-15, Romans 6, Galatians 2:20).
apparently contradictory it may seem, that one should accomplish life by
death, or liberation by the penalties of litigation! Yet when Christ is
that One, the contradiction is of the force which He terminated upon Himself,
for His people. Thus He ended the domain of destruction by destroying the
death which destroys (Hosea 13:14, Hebrews 2); but this selectively, for
those who receive His work, as that of the Great Physician, whose gift
of immortality is not a contradictory, but simply a contrary thing: life
broke death, being stronger, when it is that of God Himself.
In Jeremiah's time there was also some solace left.
In the case of Judah, unlike the dismissed and disbanded Northern ten tribes, then called 'Israel', there was 'only' a 70 year exile in Babylon forecast and required (as in Jeremiah 25, where some nations would find less simple outcomes!). This 70 year period of punitive exile for Israel at that time, in turn was made, as we see in Daniel 9:24-27, the basis of the long-range prediction of the death of the Messiah as shown in SMR pp. 886ff., 959ff., Biblical Blessings Ch. 6, namely, around A.D. 30. As to that, it is an event which has already occurred. At Daniel's time, it was the great hope and the 'marvellous work' of Isaiah 29:14, as explained above, in Chapter 5.
In fact, no figure in all history has attracted, we are told, so much space in Encyclopaedia Britannica as He who died in the predicted date. His Gospel pulses through the earth, rouses kings, invests Kingdoms, is betrayed as precious things tend to be, misused as if re-machined with desperado abandon in foolish substitutes that bring grief to the plagiarisers and their troupes (as since the days of II Corinthians 11), and is mocked in ridicule. Nevertheless, this His Gospel continues unchanged, as does the rest of His word, shut out by multitudes, directing their hearts to obstruct it, like the closing doors of some space station.
These may work with apparent security, as if to keep out the dim slenderness of space; but here it is the work of the word of God against which they are set, which undeterred, continues with complete inexorability. It is moreover the dim anguish of earth which is shutting out the shining light of day, deeming that darkness which is its only light (John 9). What works, it expels; what does not, it adopts, smiling like an inane grandfather, blessing the horny head of a young crocodile, and thinking it charming.
To revert however: the exile of Israel initially was for a specific 70 year period, to Babylon. There was then to be - and indeed, there was, as you see in Ezra and Nehemiah, through the sovereign Cyrus as instrument, a restoration of the Jews to their land. This was enabled by the divinely predicted fact that the Medes and Persians made a conquest of Babylon (Isaiah 13:17ff.), and the new king - as predicted plentifully and dramatically in long preceding Isaiah (Chs. 43-45), and confirmed in the Cyrus Cylinder, famous in archaeology - gave the Jews authority for their return to their own land.
Thus the parallel grows.
1) Israel in Jeremiah's day, was exiled for a time; and then they were to return to their land by authority, and by a specified earthly sovereign; and this they duly did.
2) Israel in our day, or in our Gentile days, has been exiled for around 1900 years, from A.D. 70 to 1948, and has returned as predicted (see With Heart and Soul, Mind and Strength Chs. 4ff., and Divine Agenda Ch. 8, Galloping Events Ch. 8). It has thus accomplished Phase I of its agenda of restoration (cf. SMR Ch. 9, It Bubbles, It Howls, He Calls ... Ch. 10).
Phase 2 awaits, likewise, their repentance towards Christ, their deliverance from assault and then comes, as for all Christians, the phenomenal Phase III, the Rescue of the Redeemed, or if you will the parousia, the second coming of Christ, the gathering of the elect from all the world (Matthew 24:30-31), prior to its final work-out of that once glorious orb, in squalor and force, writhing with rebellion, filled with blood (Revelation 16). It is then that the Lord, following His reception for His people (Revelation 19:8) returns with His saints (Revelation 19:11-14, with II Thessalonians 3:13, Zechariah 14:5), and it is then that such passages as Revelation 19:16ff., 5:10, 20:4, I Corinthians 6:2, Isaiah 65, Micah 4 and Zechariah 14 are fulfilled.
The point here, then, is this:
That as in the 70 year exile, great desolation and unmitigated disaster (as seen in Lamentations) brought the sinning nation to its knees, knees soon as in Daniel, to be used in prayer for their restoration (Daniel 10), according to the predictions of Jeremiah; so that it was an end with a light beyond it, and it would be rebuilt: so here in our day.
Now Israel has a beginning in its restoration, since 1948 made official, one fraught with peril: as indeed was the case in the rebuilding operations of Ezra and Nehemiah, who were afflicted by Arabs in their own distant day of yore. It began then with the double hope, the rebuilding and then the Messiah, to come in the day which Daniel so accurately predicted.
was then. Now ? This current restoration of Israel in our own contemporary
world is to lead on to a vast conversion of many of Israel's people,
a massive deliverance (as paralleled in type in Cyrus for the earlier generation
of that people). Next, and even more epochal, proceeds not the first
coming of the Messiah, as was the case for those earlier to return
- a blessing aborted by their nation rejecting their own Saviour, but His
second coming. As to this, for the contemporary Jewish situation
in Israel, it is associated with a rescue so vast and noble, that it is
relayed in many scriptures, such as Deuteronomy 32, Romans 11, Isaiah 59,
Ezekiel 38-39, Zechariah 12-14.
*3 See also
Arrows and Balms Appendix
Biblical Blessings Ch. 15, Extended Endnote 2, AAA 11,
The Magnificence of the Messiah, Endnote 1,
SMR Ch. 6 and Index, KH 9, Section 14, JJ 25,
A Spiritual Potpourri Chs.15, 16,
Stepping Out for Christ Ch.5,
Things Old and New Ch. 2, Excursion2A,
Spiritual Refreshings for the Biblical Millenium Chs. 5, 6.
The following sites are among those which relate to the topic of the non-solving substitutes for spiritual verity:
It Bubbles, It Howls,
He Calls .. Ch. 11,
Things Old and New Ch. 10 and Epilogue, Appendix,
Biblical Blessings Ch. 2;
Spiritual Refreshings for the Digital Millenium Ch. 8,
Questions and Answers 6 ,
Acme, Alpha and Omega:
Jesus Christ Ch. 9 - glamour,
stammer, hammer ... flitter and glitter;
The Frantic Millenium and the Peace of Faith Ch.11 - twigs and towers;
News, Facts and Forecasts (NFF) Ch. 8 - sham, shame and co.;
NFF 13 - symphony and seditions - two heady heads,
NFF 14 - deadly d's;
Repent or Perish Ch. 5 inventions in mind, gender, politics ...