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COLLISION with WORDS and then NAILS
As we survey some of the scenes, scenarios and splits in the Middle East, it is good also to consider for a little, some of the moral and spiritual cleavage between Christ and His brethren in the flesh, in the form of those two massive parties, the Pharisees and the Sadducees. It is not our purpose here to trace out in extensive detail what crevasses divided; but to highlight a vital point, a crucial chasm for the better understanding of what Christ required and indeed requires, better ennobles and enables for His children, and the position that can never stand, then or now.
Middle East is an especially crucial, chronic and intimately close participant
in all this, like a belt. Unfortunately, and indeed necessarily, at this
time it squeezes.
1. CHRIST AT WORK IN HIS HUMAN WORKSHOP
MATTHEW 9:9-13 has need of a little exposition first.
Here first we see a tax-gatherer, someone in the employ of Rome for the purposes of Rome, in maintaining its policies in this subject area. Naturally he would not be popular, except perhaps in certain circles where such things were accepted pragmatically or with dispassion. His name is Matthew. At the time of our introduction, he is at work, in fact 'sitting at the tax office'. Challenged to follow Christ, such is his delight in, faith or conviction about Him, that he follows. That! it is business, and business-like, in an impressive manner.
Now we find Christ, evidently at the man's home, where not surprisingly in view of the massive psychic, yes moral and religious, spiritual and personal event which has come when an established agent follows someone so despised by the mighty and unexalted in society, with a goodly group of Matthew's associates. These are deemed to be 'tax collectors and sinners', whatever that rather infelicitous second term might mean. After all, as Solomon himself pointed out in Proverbs, there is no man who does not sin. Evidently, it is a sobriquet for some squalor or a mild euphemism for some special thing or real or imagined form of degradation, conceivably sexual, but not necessarily.
WHY! ask the enlightened, the sophisticates of society, the arbiters of conscience, WHY ask the Pharisees, does your Master eat with SUCH AS THESE!
Jesus hears this.
He immediately changes the topic substantially. It is no more a case of exaltation by company, or degradation by it. The concept of social stepping stones to please God or man is not at all in view. It is SERVICE, and specialised service which comes to light at once. THOSE WHO ARE WELL don't need the doctor. The sick do.
That fully answered the criticism, as well as exposing their motivation and denudation of spirit, that it did not even OCCUR to them, apparently, that anyone could be interested in doing something for SOMEONE ELSE, not in order to gain kudos (indirectly) or to prove a moral superiority (in hoped for or imaginary implication, in the category of 'good works to show myself off to good advantage, and be the right sort of chap for all to see'). Jesus did not stop there, in His physician's reply to the sick who condemned the sick who were more aware of their condition!
GO and LEARN what that means (in Hosea 6:6 in fact), "I desire mercy and not sacrifice". He proceeded, "FOR I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance" - Matthew 9:13.
strength of His rebuke (cf. Luke 16:15*1)
makes it clear that to this proposition, there is a corollary. Perhaps
those so visually disadvantaged as not to realise, far less appreciate,
what the doctor is doing, are if possible, more lost than those more inclined
to receive Him, outcasts of society though they be!
2. CHRIST'S REFERENCE TO HOSEA IN REBUTTING PHARISEES
Since Jesus referred to Hosea 6:6, we need in finding His precise point in view, to look there and to see it in its own context. After all, Christ not merely noted this word of the prophet Hosea, He even APPLIED it, saying after the quotation, "FOR ..." indicating the result in terms of His own act ion, flowing from this principle, or in striking accord with it.
In Hosea 6, then, we need to note that we have an absolutely extraordinary chapter. Here we find that there is to be a healing and RAISING UP after three days, for those who, having been torn, and repentant, may LIVE in the sight of the LORD. Indeed, based on this event, there is also the assurance that THEN they shall know, as they pursue the knowledge of the Lord, that "His going forth is established as the morning," and that "He will come to us like the rain, like the latter and former rain to the earth."
This seems certainly to refer to revival, restoration, abiding and praise in the presence of peace and joy with the Lord on the part of those concerned.
But what is the antecedent, what is it which LED to this blessed and glorious result ?
AFTER THREE DAYS, HE WILL RAISE US UP! We should all realise this, that whether in law or sustained discourse, each part needs to be understood in the light of what is elsewhere declared, declaimed or indicated. In Isaiah 26:19, we find this, avoiding the addition which the Authorised Version without any authority, puts in. It actually SAYS this:
Isaiah 26 for its part, has in its earlier verses, been rich in the terms of trust in and peace from the Lord, in blissful surrender and confidence, being one of the chief scriptural resources, like Isaiah 40, in the Old Testament in this connection. It deserves the closest reading.
Speaking of the departure from their misalliance with other 'lords' (Isaiah 26:13), and the distress following from such errors, nevertheless in contrition of heart and confidence of soul, those here figured are seen waiting diligently upon the Lord; and it is here that we find, that although their own works are not especially impressive, to say no more, "Your dead shall live, My dead body, they shall arise."
As already noted, this is a resurrection setting of the dead arising from the dust, as it proceeds to narrate. Hence we are being told by the speaker, in fact the LORD, that it is AS HIS DEAD BODY that HIS PEOPLE will arise, in the times of general resurrection. In Hosea 13:14 we find that despite the evils and errors of Israel, there is a great work to be performed for His people, those who believe in Him (as in Isaiah 28:9-16, ending on the Messiah's salvation, and 29:1-4, and 28:21), literally an "awesome work" and it focusses on the Messiah, as seen in Isaiah 2, 4, 7, 9, 11, 22, 28, 32, 40, 41-42, 49, 50-55, 61 and so on.
Isaiah 26:19 with Hosea 6, then, involves then His resurrection as the criterion of accomplishment and the attestation of victory (as in Psalm 16, 40, Isaiah 52-53, and of course here in 26:19). ONLY IN HIM is this to occur.
In Hosea 13:14 emphasis is placed on God personally breaching death, effecting this deliverance by ransom (as in Matthew 20:28). He personally will be the ‘plagues’ of death (cf. Hebrews 2:24, Isaiah 53).
But in Hosea 6:4-5, we see, as so often elsewhere (for example in Isaiah 30), that the nation of Israel is so far off that it is disjoining itself altogether from the saving presence of the Lord; indeed, in Isaiah 65:13-15, 62:1-3, we find the Lord is going to call His servants by another name, and in the interstices of history before the restoration of Israel (as in Ezekiel 36ff., cf. SMR Appendix A), there is to be devastation. This indeed will continue in no small degree until they come to Him on the new basis (cf. Isaiah 32:14ff., 62:1-3, Deuteronomy 32), , which while not invalidating His promises, does supersede His former provision of access to grace, in that now the Messiah has come, and all hinges on Him (as in Isaiah 22:20ff., 53). The Gospel of Isaiah 50-55 becomes the kernel now, and nothing can displace it (Isaiah 59:21).
Thus, in line with these normative facts, we find in Hosea 6:4-5, the complete contrast of Israel the nation, with this blessed condition to which Hosea is referring in 6:1-3. The contrast is poised, pointed and stylised. Whereas the blessed who rise as Christ's dead body, that is, are included in its resurrection principles and powers by gratuitous gift, the nation's 'goodness' vanishes in dispirited vagueness, dispersing like a cloud of unbelief.
Paul puts this same 'containment' in Christ as risen, for those following Christ as risen, in terms of His being the first-fruits of the resurrection, and they those who follow (as is the case in the fulness of the season, agriculturally, to pursue the image). These follow in due time (I Cor. 15), and are kept in spiritual freshness. IN terms of imagery, to them is the former AND the latter rain (Hosea 6:3), while those who are not believing in Israel are in a most contrary position. Their goodness is like the morning cloud which passes away. They are like the rising mist, soon gone in the heat of the day! (Hosea 6:4-5).
Now it is quite fascinating that JUST as Christ, i n quoting Hosea 6:6 FOLLOWED IT with the word "for", making an application of the principle in view in 6:6, Hosea 6:6 has itself this same use of "for' as its first word. The REASON WHY so many in Israel are in such short supply of GOODNESS is this, that they are violating, grossly flouting the principle of 6:6. GOD DESIRES MERCY AND NOT SACRIFICE. Now we must see this in the literary configuration in which it exists. Thus we find in Isaiah 1 that God has no time for their solemn assemblies and sacrifices BECAUSE of the HYPOCRISY with which they defile them, making them like unspiritual substitutes, forms and ceremonial actions, sacramental hypes without holiness. This violates their purposes and even RENDERS these otherwise holy actions, repugnant to Him.
So here, the POINT is this: GOD DESIRES THE SPIRITUAL REALITY, not its formalistic substitute. Symbols are fine, if they are used spiritually. GOD IS A SPIRIT and desires worship in SPIRIT AND IN TRUTH (as Christ pointed out in John 4: 24, to the woman at the well, in Samaria, one who proved more apt in response than many of Judah!). Hence the substance of sacrifice is this, that God loves enough to make provision for salvation and pardon in terms of just payment, at first in animal format, though this could only be symbolic, if graphic; but later and finally, in redemption in and through the human format adopted by His eternal WORD who became flesh (I John 1:1-4, Micah 5:1-3, Zechariah 12:10, Psalm 45, 2, 110). MERCY is the keynote, the substance, the activating reality.
Sacrifice is what it takes to provide it. If you try to turn the MEANS, however just and holy, so that they contradict the PURPOSE and the MOTIVATION, then it is a sort of dead-lock. It is like someone being given money to buy a plane-ticket, and valuing the money in such a way that he forgets its purpose, and keeping it in his pocket, misses the plane. That is repugnant. The money is good, the purpose is good; but the connivance in purchasing power instead of purpose of it, is to forget what is the real relativity, the relationship of God to the means He supplies.
When of course Christ BECAME that sacrifice WHEN Daniel predicted and AS Isaiah foretold, then the MEANS being the LORD Himself, is intrinsically holy, and not merely as an instrument; and even at that, Christ could rebuke those who studied the just and true scriptures, but failed to find in HIM their crux and criterion (John 5:39-40). It has to be by faith, and this is so obvious when He Himself says, He who believes in Me has eternal life (John 6:47).
Thus the concept of using some sacrament or holy ceremony as if it in some way had intrinsic merit, instead of realising that without trust in God, love of God, reliance on God's redemption wrought in Christ, gratitude for His loving kindness in making this sacrifice and sending His Son into the world (as in I John 4), NOTHING is of the least importance TO THE SOUL concerned, for it fails to gain he eternal life which God in His love was through faith by grace proffering. Matthew 18's parable of the unforgiving man whose master had forgiven him a truly massive amount of debt, trying to squeeze out of someone else, subordinate to himself in credit, some trifling amount, illustrates from a different angle, the same point. MERCY (blessed are the merciful - Matthew 5) is the keynote, love is the trumpet, faith is the requisite, transformed hearts proceed from it as they respond in grace from God, to receive what and HIM WHOM the Father has offered. Sacrifice outside this obvious perspective is mere terminological profusion.
speaks Hosea in 6:6 in context; and it is this which Christ quotes.
3. THE RESULT TO THE POINT
Thus Christ on the occasion recorded in Matthew 9, is rebuking the critical Pharisees for lacking the substance of the whole framework of salvation, lacking heart and lacking understanding. Their merciless formalism, their ceremonial entitlements are void, their harassment of the Saviour Himself when HE is doing the very work they should rejoice to see, showing the very MERCY they so neglect that they are merely aspersive when someone is given a vast uplift in life by the gracious intervention of the Saviour, merely illustrates their utter deadness of heart, their vain and urbane religiosity, their unloving self-regard, their intrusive busy-bodiness in the presence of the greatest works of all time.
If you are blind to an atomic bomb explosion (as distinct from being blinded BY it), then how great is your blindness. If a search-light at 20 feet hits your car, and you do not notice, by talk of these crowds of useless people where the apparatus is placed, one would wonder if you had ever known light at all, and in what sort of life you are presuming to be driving! So it is here. Their failure is infinite, their confusion utter, their quibbles evocative of contempt past speaking.
Such appearances of those appearance conscious, and not mercy-related, are involved in a number of disparate and derelict errors. They show
Christ the physician, then, found need to rebuke His intrusive critics, while performing operations of mercy on the lost.
But what of the positive side to this ?
We shall approach this by considering the beautifully gracious case of the "daughter of Abraham" (Luke 13:16), a woman for some 18 years seeming somewhat in the direction of being BENT DOUBLE. This is the sort of thing one has seen, and it is most distressing to consider the feelings and watch the sense of embarrassment this can cause the sufferer.
What then happened when Christ took therapeutic action without delay ? Accosted and accused as so often by the unfeeling blather of the critics, He made a comparison, after first healing the woman, eyes on His service without the preliminary niceties of diplomacy with the devious. He presented verbally one thing. It was this.
Did they themselves not FREELY WATER THEIR DONKEYS on the Sabbath ? How then could they without gross blindness accuse Him, when He brought deliverance at a far higher level, to a sufferer in this most acute condition, who with such patience for so long had endured, and endured, and then endured some more!
This is MERCY. This is a sacrificial mercy, for in providing it, Christ first humbled Himself to human format, which for a Spirit is most limiting, though for us it is a thing of the utmost wonder, for that it so surpasses all our own inventions, and with it from the same Source is the prize of a spiritual body to come, a consummation which awaits His people, for whom He has prepared wonderful things as Paul notes in I Corinthians 2. Again, Christ showed mercy in being willing NOT MERELY to become man, but to become man in a cursed environment, known as this present world (cf.Biblical Blessings Ch. 7 and Romans 8:18ff., 5:1-12, Genesis 3).
Jesus was INNOVATIVE in His answer to His critics, to His complainants who tore at His kindness, and with death in their eyes, at least in due time, expressed their loathing for HIs liberties. REST however on Sabbath or Sunday, in the Old or the New Covenant, is NOT a selfish disparagement of mercy; it is rather a kindly provision of the Almighty, and a hygienic handbook rule for freshness and relief, but above all, an opportunity for those who DO love the Lord, to have time for the refreshment and renewal, the research and the intimacy which true friendship tends always to involve, and when with the Almighty, of necessity stands in need.
shamed these by their own conduct, and shamed them doubly by their obvious
failure to take PERSONS seriously, while allowing the animals of their
labours to be looked after, on that day!
4. INNOVATIVE GOODNESS
What then is needed ? Not dull-eyed conformity in slavish mutilation of spiritual life, corpse-like spiritual squalor with a white collar, but brio of heart, ardour of spirit, aspiration to serve, yearning to help IN the name and according o the ways of Christ (Colossians 3:17). THIS is the Christian emphasis: that is, the one deriving from Christ, and as He so well showed, in full conformity of spirit with the word of God for BOTH covenants (cf. Matthew 5:17-20, Isaiah 58).
Two errors need to be escaped:
helping in one's OWN name and strength, or that of another of one's merely
personal choice; and
2) not helping at all, in clottish carelessness or worse, formal fabrication of excuse.
Look now at the notorious case of Mark 2 as an example of this fluidity and function, this faithfulness with grace and understanding, this true goodness.
The men with the paralytic, for whom Jesus was obviously the only answer, were themselves MOST innovative. In through the roof, that site of siesta, they came. In the midst of the crowd pressing, they were as if from above! Into the midst, they came, their surprise tactics ensuring attention when otherwise it might have been almost impossible to obtain in a reasonable time framework. Does not this show the heart, that sense of fitness BECAUSE of the case! Christ AT ONCE addressed the crucial part of the whole matter (Mark 2:5). This man's sins were forgiven him. So the Saviour spoke, clearly, boldly, unequivocally.
need here to realise that doubtless the paralytic himself was far form
adverse to the bold stroke of his friends, in so lowering him in front
of the Lord; and that a lively hope in and fixation on Christ's was in
his mind and heart, as he was lowered. It is unlikely in the extreme that
he was a mere puppet, for such an extraordinary act, with such enormous
social overtones, to say no more!
Christ pronounced the forgiveness. The wrath stirred, in the formal hearts of some watching this episode, was not small. How can sins be forgiven except by GOD ONLY! They cried.
Theologically, this was dead right, indeed, alive and well and right. Christ did not dispute it. It was true. (Compare Psalm 51: Against Thee only have I sinned and done this evil in Thy sight! Says David, for all property and creation being that of God, HIS is the right and to HIM is the liability of any, and of all for their sins.)
The Son of God did NOT argue with them, contest or dispute. Their proposition here was powerful, lustrous and correct. There were two, and only two options for Him. He could state or imply that HE was God (in fleshly format), or He could apologise for His presumption and seek divine pardon for His false teaching. Christ was however no diplomat, accessible by pressures and seeking to put a face on things. Immediately, just as He had forgiven, so He put the reality of His undoubted action as God, to the test. Which, said He, is easier: to say your sins are forgiven, or to say (and obtain the validating results from saying): Take up your bed and walk.
If the sick man had not done so, there would quite surely be no Christian religion. One has to be realistic. There was maximal motivation on the part of the Pharisees and their (temporary and limited) allies, the Sadducees in their opposition to Christ. It was HE or they! It COULD not be both. Their whole superiority of cult and culture; their immense prestige, not to mention (indirect) political power relative to the Sanhedrin and (in the end) Rome was at stake. If a mere Messiah could over turn their arguments, dispel all sense of authority in their knowledge, leave them like web-footed ducks in the presence of greyhounds, in the race, and reduce their dignity, they were finished. If life on earth is precious to you, there is often felt to be need to safeguard it. That is the normal sort of reason why war is so conventional. This world is loved too much. Of course, there are defences, but apart from these, the record of pillaging, imposing, enslaving, imperial and imperious wars is like locusts. They hop almost everywhere.
If He had not successfully raised Lazarus, if He had confidently told ANYONE to rise from the dead or from the sickness or any other countermanded thing, which His feebleness would display as dysfunction, then He would at once lose all credibility as divine, as directive, as Lord, as able to stand against His foes, for if He could not control reality, neither could they, and so if He fell there, then their normal social and political swagger would ballast them in their war vessels of pomp. Then His paranoia (as such a case could reveal) would make Him despicable, playing on the people's minds with His imaginary powers, while making claims such as this, to forgive sins, or raising the dead, or overcoming the learned with His wit and wisdom, and indeed with His superior knowledge of the word of God, for all their years of study. To say, "Before Abraham was, I am" (John 8:58), had He been at ALL vulnerable in handling reality, would have been worse than fatal. It would have been comical.
When you have what it takes, then it is possible to show the spirit of your dealings by the way in which you use it. Christ had what it took: deity. THEN He could show the heart and mercy of His life (recall His words to the disciples when they sought immediate retribution for some unco-operative cities! - Luke 9:54), in the course for the power to follow. It would be like a river bed allowing the power of the flood to follow its curves, contours and bed. His contour ? Mercy, serviceability, faithfulnesses, a perfect match of word and deed, a limitless aspiration for goodness, an integral reality in His own self, in which mercy and goodness were allied with strength and grace, so that His INNOVATIVE will was wrought in marvels and wonders of grace and love.
Thus, here, responding to innovation with innovation, Christ at once forgave the man (direct diagnosis had to precede it and awareness of the apt and fitting conditions of heart), as only God can, since ONLY GOD knows the heart (Jeremiah 17:9-10). Indeed, ONLY God is in a position to adjudicate the law and its impact on the unseen regions of the heart. There was no cautious if or watchful maybe, no pompous sounding in principle. He forgave. It was done in a moment. It was over. No consultation, no committees. God had spoken.
Then He verified the virtue to do such a thing, by showing the divine dynamic which mere human words could not control or coerce, invoke or constrain. God did the healing just as Christ, deity in human format, the eternal word of God, forgave. The man arose.
Thus the query: WHO but God only has authority to forgive sins - was wholly right, and neither deserved nor gained any rebuke from the Lord, either in heaven or on earth. Quite the contrary, the Lord Jesus Christ ballasted the concept with the weight of relevant authority. As God He pardoned, as God He healed.
Christ did not hide or traverse a tight rope with diplomatic and slithery talk. For this, He had neither need nor heart. His purpose was to win souls to truth, not to escape. He simply verified His assumption of power to pardon with His demonstration of power to heal instantly, totally and in the very face of the prior enactment of pardon, in the very sight and presence of the God who must perform the miracle, or else the man would stay precisely on the pallet on which he had for so long lain!
Thus Christ simply demonstrated His supernatural role and status as God, by assuming such a function, first at once on His own discretion to pardon SINS, and then to raise the man on the PROPOSITION that it was done in order to SHOW that He did in fact have power, authority to forgive sins on earth.
The same reaction was similarly uncorrected when He stated that He and His Father were One (indeed in John 5:19ff. He went further, indicating that He did things in just the very same manner as did His Father!). This we read in John 10:30, and the Jews protested that it was not for a good work that they made their protest ( He had done one more marvel, jointly, of power and mercy at the time), but because he, a man, made himself equal with God!
His reply ? Since even mere mortal powers could assume such a title as 'gods' as in Psalm 82,, why then should they object when God as man, the Son of God actually did the things of God, and showed by His works who He really was !(John 14:1-12, John 10:35ff.).
Of course the term 'gods' in Psalm 82, shown by the address in the plural for 'you' is not the ONE God; but still, 'the gods' are obviously being there berated for their inane pretentiousness, as if they were immortal beings, whereas they would "die like men"! His use of the term in the singular, as the SON of God, was not a misuse, since His works attested the authenticity of the implied status as God NOT in pretension, but in reality; and, indeed, this in a context of Messianic prediction and fulfilment before their eyes. This validated such a CASE as His own, that is the one of the Messiah, whose throne is God's (Psalm 45), whose word judges (Isaiah 11), whose salvation is achieved by HIS OWN PERSON, when the ONLY Saviour is God (Isaiah 43:10-11). IN this context, there is no question possible religiously or rationally. God has defined the case, predicted the identikit phenomena, fulfilled them.
This is precisely what Christ was showing John the Baptist when, addressed with a query form disciples of John's about His messiahship, He replied:
5. THE TRUE AND THE FALSE IMPLICATIONS AND TREATMENT OF POWER
Important in our day is it to realise that the testimony of the compassion and power of Christ was joint, and that these two were in turn conjunct with the testimony of His other Messianic deeds of healing and speaking unanswerably, and the very fact that there WAS to BE a Messiah, and WHEN. All this having been given, the testimony of any given attestation, if you will, laboratory signal of His presence, would be read in the overall total context of His APPEARANCE as a being, His personal presence and characteristics, birth place, tribe and so on.
MERE power does not prove authenticity, as it can come by
a) devious deceits, in fact the work of othersChrist's work was qualitative before quantitative, and identity coded before at all.
b) mere manipulation of available powers instituted by God and freely available to users who know how
c) satanic miracles, 'lying wonders' as Revelation 13:13-14 says of the 'works' of the second beast (Rev. 13:11), the deviously fraudulent religious one which is to use ALL the authority of the basic beast or world power, as if encapsulated in some cocoon of blatancy, bursting into flitting life for a short season.
Thus when the world rule to be instituted arises, you may be sure that there will be superficially impressive works to thrust it upon the popular mind. IN THIS CASE, we are warned both of the nature of the works, deceitful, of the source of any power, diabolical, and of the timing, when all the other signals of the Approach of Christ are in place, before He comes (as in Luke 21:24, 21:28, Matthew 24).
This brings us to a useful consideration drawn from Romans 11:9-10. There Paul is speaking of the blindness of the nation of Israel, as the end approaches, and noting that there is a dispensation and a scenario. The Jews stay that way UNTIL the Lord removes their slumber. Quoting Isaiah 29:10, which is not only specific to the Jews, but a generic for all rebellion which is so chronic that the results become highly developed, Paul indicates that in the interim, the case is this:
has given them a spirit of stupor,
Eyes that they should not see,
And ears that they should not hear,
To this very day!"
This is highly arresting. The Greek word translated 'stupor' in the verbal form, refers to acute mental pain. In the noun, it is rendered by Thayer in terms, yes, of stupour, or slumber, that sort of result that would obtain from exceedingly prolonged grief for example. It is a sort of suspension of sensibility, and perhaps sensitivity, a dulling, a removal to a domain of function which could be called stupour. It is the sense of a RESULT which is here interesting. As in II Thess. 2:10, IF there is a continued resistance to the love of the truth, there can come an active delusion! God sends it at His own discretion, and of course being intensely merciful, is not rash. One sees this innovative mercy in the case of Ahab, king of Israel, in I Kings 20, where God’s prolonged patience is staggering to behold. Let us examine this case for a moment.
If ever there were a radical heritage, a debased series of progenitors, Ahab would be in competition for the prize. There was the not so sensitive Rehoboam, increasing taxes under protest with a sort of reckless abandon, in Judah. But in Israel, to the North, following the division, you had Jeroboam, given magnificent opportunities by the Lord (cf. I Kings 11:31-40), who so abased them and the things of God in sly manoeuvres of self-interest (cf. I Kings 12:27), that in the end his whole house was wiped out, according to the word of the prophet whom God sent (I Kings 14). His son Abijah became ill, and he had the effrontery (under these circumstances!) to seek Ahijah the prophet who in the Lord's name gave him his wonderful opportunity in the first place, because of the failure in Rehoboam, and before that, in the latter part of Solomon's kingdom (I Kings 11). The son died, despite Jeroboam's wife effort to get a good verdict, dressing up as someone else, and visiting Ahijah the prophet.
In a merry-go-round of follies, Nadab his son is displaced as king by Zimri, while the people unite under Omri, Zimri burning himself in the king's house rather then yield. Omri had civil war with Tibni, and prevailed, his son being ... Ahab! So did the idolatry of the calves, in response to the Lord's SECOND OPPORTUNITY, given to Israel free of Judah, come to its almost vaudeville conclusion.
Now Ahab, he married a Sidonian complete with idols, and fell more and more for it. He was confronted by Elijah (I Kings 17), who told of no rain for years. He was confronted later, and in the much broader confrontation between Elijah and the 400 prophets of the Baal Ahab had fostered through his wife, there fell the distinguishing fire from heaven on the offered sacrifices, while Baal, as non-existent as God as Buddha (who at least realised this much), could do only what nothing can do, which of course, is nothing. The 400 false prophets were duly by law slain (as provided for hundreds of years earlier in Deuteronomy 13, 18). Now of course the slithery slopes of sin were rapidly transferring both Ahab and Jezebel to the most ghastly phases of their famous history.
It is not our purpose here to trace it all, but simply to abstract one thing, from the context now duly in place. BEFORE that end came, God showed ANOTHER prodigious mercy to Ahab. One might wonder HOW He could be so merciful, but then the mercy of God is marvellous, unfathomable, stirring and profound. He allowed divine grace TWICE to assist Ahab in war against the Syrians, and even sent a prophet to arrange and stir and stimulate and predict (I Kings 20:28ff.). The Syrians, in typical cultural mode rather like today's, assuming that the Judah God would be rather a natural kind of thing, limited to hills rather than valleys, were looking for defeat of Israel, for the second battle would be fought in the flatter terrain. God however defended the truth against any such misconception, ensuring their utter defeat.
What then, Ahab ? Will you repent of your many follies and follow the Lord, being grateful and starkly amazed at HIS MERCY! Not at all. Instead, Ahab, inspired by Jezebel (a standing example on mixed faith marriages - Can two walk together except they be agreed! Amos 3), devised a cunning plot to repudiate the integrity of a man whose vineyard he wanted badly, so that when he was killed, he, Ahab took possession.
Of course, Elijah being sent, told him of the utter depravity of the disaster, the retributive justice which would now make him so famous among malefactors. Our point however is this. In the course of these events, AHAB had a tour de force of mercy, a provision so prodigious, a kindness no ineffable, a grace so fluent and free shown him that he might, even then, repenting with relief from his absurd follies, have sought and abided in the Lord. Not so!
But HOW INNOVATIVE was the LORD in His mercies! even if they were so lightly regarded.
The Lord ? that is His nature, whether in heaven or on earth, as Old Testament LORD or the LORD Jesus Christ, His incarnation in the New Testament (John 8:58, Phil. 2 cf. Isaiah 45).
PEOPLE are expected to LOVE MERCY likewise!
Not just to receive it, but to show it. Christ as man exhibited just this profound passion of GOODNESS, so innovatively expressed because it was like a current, a full-fed stream, demanding outlet.
Thus Micah 7 expresses it for all time:
"WHO is a GOD like YOU,
And passing over the transgression of the remnant of His heritage ?
"He does not retain His anger forever,
Because He delights in mercy.
He will again have compassion on us
And will subdue our iniquities.
"You will cast all our sins
Into the depths of the sea."
It is of course in terms of covenant that He does this, the Old now blooming in the New (cf. Matthew 26:28, Jeremiah 31:31). See on this verse, Appendix II, Barbs, Arrows and Balms.
He is made known decisively,
propositionally and in Christ, definitively. There is no guess-work. There
is only God.
6. CONSISTENT CALLING
A. THE FACT
So is there consistency between the eternal Word of God and His eternal Father, and so is demanded consistency between our words and deeds, yes and what blessedness is there for the humble and the meek, the merciful and the poor in spirit (Matthew 5). Religion is not to impress God, it is rather the impress of God. It is not to earn merit, it is rather the reception of Christ's merit (Romans 3:23ff., I Peter 3:18, II Cor. 5:17ff., Galatians 3, 5). It is not going about to establish our own righteousness (Romans 10 in fact condemning this perilous activity, this mockery of the very purity of heaven, by implying its standards could be met by our dusty imperfections, as if ANY PART of our works could reach that sublime infinitude of purity and purpose - Titus 3:5-7).
Here then lay a vast contrast between Christ and many of the officials and some of the parties of His people, who having vast temporal power or influence, saw that He died and that they continued, only of course to die many deaths from the Romans and the Moslems and Hitler and so forth through the Ages. His blood, cried they, be on us and on our children! and so it was to be. Except... there is the escape hatch, so sadly denied those losing their lives in the now famous Russian submarine, Kursk, lost earlier this year, amidst delays in accepting international help for any who might at that time have still been surviving.
God's escape hatch from sin, self-parade, achieving your own righteousness in whole or in part as an approach mode to heaven, and all the other vanities of pride aided by rebellion against the word of God, it is this. Christ, sent on command to bring home His own, has died to save sinners, to ransom them, receiving the curse due them, as the above references portray. If you regret NOT being one of HIS, whom He redeems, the case is not too hard. You simply repent of your sin and accept His freely offered grace, being thankful that the SCOPE of His offer is to ALL (as in I John 2:1-3), though the effect is only on MANY (as in Isaiah 43 and Matthew 26:29).
IF you come, and come by faith, that simply attests you as one whom He came to redeem. HE KNOWS His own, always has known them (Ephesians 1:4). Here the wonder, the marvel. You need not need to fill in expensive, time consuming papers, and hope the bureaucracy will somehow manage to LET YOU IN. The KING has already invited you. Then come. Not to some other king with the same name, one of the lying wonders of Satan; come to the Christ who came, and being King, left a true record of His will and word.
That is all. The escape hatch is currently open. God has provided better than Russia, and for things far better, whether they be for the Russian, the American or the American Indian: it is one. He is Creator of all.
Consistent was this Christ (Luke 2:26) is opposition to misuses of the law, as if mere conformity to its outward requirements could get you anywhere, when God is a SPIRIT and desires worship in spirit and truth as Isaiah 1, as well as John 4, makes so intensely clear. THE ONLY WAY to be like Him, is to be begotten, regenerated by Him, so that your sin-soiled soul should have the native beauty of the new born, and thus to receive Him whose life in you, constantly moves your spirit to conformity to Himself (as in II Corinthians 3:18ff., Romans 8).
The Middle East has 3 religions NONE of which realise these things; NONE accept Christ only and altogether as the SOLE and TOTAL efficient cause of salvation. Each writhes in torment before the truth. They wrestle about the Middle East, and in this do not adorn it. The people deceived are to be loved, but the brigandage that traps them, this is a net, and it is intensely sad.
Christ, however, is consistent. His calling is consistent with His power, His work of salvation is consistent with prophecy to this effect (see Barbs, Arrows and Balms 17), and His life on earth was consistent with His innovative goodness, His efficient mercy, His lively concourse of compassion and power.
Thus in Romans 8:28ff., we read of that glorious provision of God, that suffer as we may, our paths are to His glory, in and by His power (I Peter 1:3-5, I John 3:9), and those whom He foreknew, these are duly called, justified and glorified. ANY in ANY of these categories ineffably and inseparably proceeds to the next. WHOM He called, THOSE He justified ... There are no exceptions (as in John 13:1, Ephesians 1:4, Revelation 13:8). It is quite useless for any power to try to separate Christ's people from Christ (Romans 8:36ff.). They are HIS (I John 3:9, 5:11-12).
The mercy and goodness of God is the base of the sacrifice (John 3:16), and the sacrifice of Christ of the justification (Romans 3:23ff., 4:25ff.). There is no use of divine sacrifice as a substitute for the divine grace, but as the door IN for it, so that the door OUTWARD is well used - as in Matthew 5:16. Thus in John 10:9, the door in, Christ, assures totally absolute salvation dependent on NOTHING. You enter, you WILL BE SAVED, and nothing can remove you (vv. 27-28), nothing whatever, to any extent whatever. But you, being saved on entry by faith, are also then ONE OF HIS, and the nature of these (you remember the good tree and the good fruit in Matthew 7 ?) is such that they GO IN AND OUT AND FIND PASTURE.
WHO is with them ? Christ. Where does He lead them ? to what is fitting for sheep. Is it to some height of unattainable wonder that they cannot reach, too steep ? Of course not. Is it to some debased immorality which He cannot abide ? Of course not (Romans 3:8, 6:1). IF they are His, He CORRECTS THEM (cf. Hebrews 12 which rather specialises on this matter), and consider what was King David's correction right down to the intense grief, utter humiliation and despondency when his pet son Absolam sought to overthrow him as king, USING TREACHERY and misuse of mercy, to do it! That was a very precise correction for the King (because of the events of II Samuel 11), but God's mercy certainly did not depart from him, and rich was the fellowship and beautiful the intimacy with the Lord, which the Psalms have echoed for thousands of years, to delight devoted hearts which love the Lord.
let us examine, in this comparison with false religion and true in the
Middle East from the days of its genesis at the more modern level, the
example of Christ Himself, in this CONSISTENT CALLING, this wonderful way
of matching word with deed, and both in spirit.
b) AN EXAMPLE of this Consistent Calling, IN the incarnated Person of Christ Himself: the staggering sovereign mercies humanly felt and divinely given, seen in the combination of Matthew 14 and John 6
Thus we read in Matthew 14:11-14 of the progression
NO need for them to go! Instead He prepared an astonishing culmination to the miracles of Elijah and fed the 5000 in such a style that when later, the disciples had forgotten to bring bread, HE exhorted them on what He did for the 5000 and the 4000 who were miraculously fed (Mark 8:17-21). The hard thing was rescuing those infected in heart from the leavens - the ideologies, perspectives, false religiosity of the Pharisees, Sadducees and others, not simply creating bread! In other words, it was pure and simple miracle, supplying from nothing visible, what would become visible, precisely as He did in creation (cf. Hebrews 11:1ff., Colossians 1:15ff., John 1:3). Again in Mark 6:51ff., telling of the occasion when Jesus walked on the water to meet them, after prayer following His undue 'popularity', we read of their astonishment at seeing Him so walk.
They were astonished immeasurably, it is written. This was because, says Mark 6:52, "they did not consider the miracle of the loaves: for their heart was hardened." In other words, such provisions as those for the 5000, are in keeping with the identity of the One who of course could, and would if it furthered His purity and compassion, walk on water to reach and teach His disciples. They ? Like Peter could only flounder, unless the eyes were kept on Christ (Matthew 14:30).
"They do not need to go away" is a beautiful, choice and charming verse, statement, exhibition of the superbly wonderful character of Christ, of the nature of God therefore.
Nor did it stop there. After His praying and avoiding the pitfall of false and deviating popularity, proffered regality for the wrong reasons, we then find Him in John 6, on the following day, carrying out the next stages of His teaching, STILL DESPITE HIS PERSONAL AND PRIVATE GRIEF, which was invaded by the multitudes, whom He so graciously received and helped, notwithstanding. Nor did He make a parade of His doing so; He simply did it. God is like that.
It is interesting that the people, after the feeding of the 5000, were even going to make Him king, "by force", but God does not deal at this level by force. His people are volunteers (Psalm 110), and He Himself came freely. Freedom is one of the most awesome attributes of God, one of the intense wonders, to the extent both meaningful and weighty, that it is conveyed to mankind. Certainly the pathology of sin like a cancer degrades it, but this is not to say it is vanished, merely debased.
At once, in John 6, we see Christ exhort the people who came rushing to His side, seekers amply ardent in arduously finding Him again, and engaged in boating scenes of knowledgeable kind, to track Him down. In John 6:26, we find Jesus telling them this: "Assuredly I tell you, you seek Me, not because you saw the signs but because you ate of the loaves and were filled. Do not labour for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to everlasting life, which the Son of Man will give you, because God the Father has set His seal on Him."
What however was their reply ?
"What shall we do that we may work the works of God ?" (John 6:28).
Exhibitionism ? cheap food ? something deeper... At all events, they were interested in following His example in terms of the miraculous powers apt for the Messiah, as signals and signs of His authenticity, so that they should believe in Him, and know God, not so that they could be like children learning the use of the chemical laboratory! It was, of course, a fundamental misunderstanding, for it appears that they did not yet realise the full extent of His identity, in many cases, as shown indeed categorically in John 6:66, where many, faced with His redemption, walked away.
Christ's answer, then, to this adventurist sounding question was typically deep and healing to those whose hearts would heed.
Perhaps in a little, they would be crying, BARABBUS, BARABBUS, seeking release of a murderer, and pursuing with remorseless intensity, and the murder of Christ!
But let us revert to the scene in John 6, the day after the feeding of the 5000 thousand and Christ's private prayer when they sought forcibly to make Him king. This of course would have been as fatal as would their hurling Him over the cliff at Nazareth as was intended (Luke 4); but this too was prevented with the precision of the Almighty, and the illimitable purity of His Son, who is indeed GOD WITH US (Isaiah 7) for those who are His! His authenticity they recognise; and recognising it, they have access to Him, and He being recognised, is with them.
Christ then proceeded to make it clear of the bread which came from above, in the days of Moses so that millions were fed for months, that this was a signal, or type or symbol of Himself. THAT bread, like of course the bread He created in the just past feeding of the 5000 in one of the most prodigious miracles ever transpiring on earth, as we have seen in retrospect in the implications above - was perish. There was nothing eternal about it, even if it came from the hand of the Eternal God direct. Christ however, He indicated of Himself, He was the living bread.
Anyone 'eating' of this would not die, and one, once eating was assured entry to God and moreover, raising up at the last day, living for ever.
In this, He was showing the fulfilment in Himself of the type forged in the Passover ceremony, instituted in earlier days in Egypt. In this, there was a literal eating of the slain lamb, whose blood covered the door, so hat the angel of death would 'pass over' and not destroy the eldest son of such households as so presented the blood. This was in the day of the Egyptian slavery of Israel, and placing the blood on the door of one's house was the signal of acceptance of the deliverance of the Almighty.
This was one of the most fundamental concepts and events in Jewish history, repeated yearly in the form prescribed. They ate the Passover lamb. So now they would 'eat' Him, and 'drink' His blood. It was of course spiritual (John 6:62). He Himself, physically, was to proceed back to heaven in the near future as He heavily and at once emphasised. No cannibalism entered in. Gnawing was excluded. There would in any case be a limited supply; the body was human.
"The words that I speak," He cried, " are spirit and life" - John 6:63. "The flesh profits you nothing."
Unfortunately, multiplied thousands have refused to accept this statement, and hence are profited not at all. You cannot revise GOD! It is BY HIS DEATH (Colossians 1:22) that sins are pardoned and blamelessness is imputed (cf. Galatians 3 and Titus 3, II Cor. 5:17-21).
Many however then, as now, moved away at this news. Peter asked if he too would go, refused, saying that Christ and He alone had the words of eternal life. There was simply nowhere else to go. This was and is true, now as then. There was and is no other force or name or authority or source whatsoever , but Christ, personally, Himself, to be spiritually received in terms of His death, wholly righteous, a sacrificial peace offering to His Father, for whom He came, to whom, victorious, He returned. The victory was thus by no means altogether and only on the Cross; for any failure of power or purity or purpose on the way to it, as when they sought by force to make Him king for the wrong reasons, or any wavering as when they wanted to hurl Him over the cliff at Nazareth because He declared that in HIM was Isaiah 61:1-2a fulfilled, would have been fatal to the entire project.
God, however, never fails. His mercies, new every morning, never fail (Lamentations 3:22-24, Psalm 90, Zephaniah 3:5). The water that He gives is like a spring, welling up to eternal life, and those who ONCE drink of it (the Greek tense makes clear, as in the John 6:53 parallel, as does of course the contrast in the context), NEVER thirst again. It is so. Many fail here, for not putting their whole trust exclusively in Christ, who cannot and does not fail, and has indeed already triumphed, they trust partly in themselves, which are not perfect or sure, and so CANNOT believe the simple reality of eternal life in the way I John 5:12-13 and I Thessalonians 5:9-10 with Philippians 3:20-21 so clearly declare.
As to Christ, however, His calling is consistent and consistently He is merciful, faithful and true. That is why He who sat on the white horse, Christ, in Rev. 19, is called "Faithful and True". "In righteousness He judges and makes war."
7. THE FAMILY WAY THROUGH ADOPTION and the FRIEND of the FAMILY!
Further: in the wonder of the Old and New Covenant harmony of wonder in the Lord, displayed to perfection in Christ the only begotten Son of the eternal God, the eternal word of the living God (I John 1, John 3), there is a new sense of togetherness.
This is NOT with the world (James 4:4, John 17:9). It is not in an institution as such (for many, as we see in Revelation Chs. 2-3 are in false churches which, as I Timothy 3 and II Peter 2 make so clear, is to be an increasingly manifest phenomenon as the end nears, and false christs and prophets, like lynxes or hyenas, prey on the confusion.
The word of God, however, remains clear, and the Gospel neither can nor does change - Galatians 1). It is in CHRIST HIMSELF (Colossians 1:27, I Cor. 12:13) into which one is baptised by the Spirit. It is into HIM that this occurs, we read. It is then ONCE that one is born again as in I Peter 1:22ff., where the perfect tense indicates a continuing result of that regenerative dynamic which, as in the physical parallel of birth, comes once and is completely beyond one's own power (as in John 3).
Until then one is blind (as in John 3, where until born again, one cannot even SEE the kingdom).
After that, one is IN CHRIST'S
BODY, and CHRIST IS IN YOU (John 6:50ff.).
Race and colour are nonsense. We are all one in Christ Jesus (Galatians 3:28). Rich and poor are vanities. We are all brethren and He is the Master (Matthew 23:8-10).
This is the religion transcending all race and all divergence, because there is the ONE GOD and the ONE saviour and the ONE salvation, ONE redemption, ONE body of this ONE Christ who ONCE by GRACE ONLY made the way plain and simple, paying for it for all who come to Him. For these, the inestimable privilege is NOT to try to pay for the way HE has created, but to FOLLOW it as it is the highway of holiness, and heed; for all those who walk in IT, though they be fools yet they shall not err (Isaiah 35:8 cf. 33:15ff.).
That is most reassuring; for one could hardly be more stupid than a fool!
How is it received ? Find
in Romans 3:23ff., Isaiah 55. It is received freely, it is received without
price. That which is priceless has to be: for who could pay! Psalm 49 in
this wholly matched pair of covenants, tells us. NO ONE (49:7). It is GOD
who redeems (49:15). And more ? "The upright shall
have dominion over them in the morning." The worldlings of power
are but for the pit! What do you expect ? Rotting is not preserved; only
Christ can preserve, without aid or help form anyone, all results being
good fruits, He the ONE who plants! (Matthew 15:7).
"WHY do you spend money for what is not bread,This is the liberty in Christ. As we shall see in our next chapter, the ninth, there is also structure, but this exceedingly far from removing the liberty that is its ground - like a highway for the car. Its presence restricts a divinely and ludicrous autonomy (to fly, dive into the asphalt); but it enables the most marvellous liberty in driving!
And your wages for what does not satisfy ?
Listen carefully to Me, and eat what is good,
And let your soul delight itself in abundance.
Incline your ear, and come to Me.
"Hear, and your soul shall live:
And I will make an everlasting covenant with you -
The sure mercies of David.
Indeed I have given Him as a witness to the people.
A leader and commander for the people" -
Isaiah 55:2-5, cf. I Peter 1:18, Galatians Chs. 3-5.
And all this ? It was wrought.
Where ? In the Middle East. This is what Christ did and said, and it confronted,
as it yet confronts, Judaism. But this ? At least it still has its book
which still commands to Christ. In that, there is hope. It is a sure hope
for many, for their return to Him on a large scale in the nation, it categorically
predicted (Zechariah 12:10). With them as with many amongst the Gentiles,
question will then be: "Why did we not come sooner!" And with them,
they might add - "Especially since it was and is our own Messiah!"
But then it will for one, for all, for Christ is all and in all (Colossians
3:11, Galatians 3:28), and Christ crucified, yea, rather risen, this is
enough for any (Roman 10:9, 8:34, Galatians 6:14).
THIS ? It is the profound innovative goodness of God,
to have good things stored up, before time began,
and the attrition summed up by the second law of thermodynamics began (Isaiah 51:6),
and the patience of waiting for a specified event began (Galatians 4:4, Daniel 9),
in the mode of earth.
From the foundation of the world (Revelation 13:8, Ephesians 1:4),
this lamb was slain, yes before it,
kept in the mind of God,
fresh from the heart of God,
His eternal word garbed in flesh in the eye,
His redemption in the strategic plan,
while His grace like Old Faithful, but not fitful, was coming in stages of preparation
through the Flood, Abraham, David, the prophets,
until there, yes on this very earth,
was the sight of centuries,
God in flesh, humble in manner,
goodness issuing without limit or selfishness, love in Person.
It is no good scamping goodness. The Gospel is the epitome of goodness.
It needs to be received, but men are so often deceived. The Lord is good and His goodness faileth NEVER. It is the height of irony that man often thinks himself CLEVER in avoiding the Lord, but there is no event so fatally sad, or at least open to tragedy as this avoidance. It is like the avoidance of the plan for removing a swamp, yes the swamp and infestation that was much of Israel (Palestine then in name) before Israel's return.
It was however the Lord who predicted the turning of the desert into flower gardens (Isaiah 35:1) following the Messianic revelation of Isaiah 32:1-4, the spiritual regaling of Isaiah 33 and the judgment of Isaiah 34), and aboriculture (Isaiah 41:9ff., 55:13); and it has come.
The Lord also predicts the wonder of the turning of LIVES which come back, not to a piece of earth, but to HIM WHO DIED ON A PIECE OF EARTH, in order to impart peace and spiritual fertility to lives lost, and needing reclamation, by the KING HIMSELF. The everlasting joy on their heads (Isaiah 51:11) is one of the foci of the faith; for there is JOY IN THE LORD, which is strength, and it is happy, hygienic, holy. Even pagan Pilate had the dash in the midst of his cowardly betrayal of justice and Jesus jointly, to have written, The King of the Jews.
Not of these only, however, is He King; but He is a light to the Gentiles (Isaiah 49:6), for He is Lord of all. He is Lord
each life He is Lord of all; it is impossible to reserve a part of the
land of one's life from Him.
It is like a car; for if you exclude the body from the attention of the service mechanic, then you in due time may find yourself born along fast and effectively, but flung onto the road in the process! Except you forsake all that you have, you cannot be My disciple, said Christ (Luke 14). And what would you expect ? Does not a coach in sport often require the most far-reaching regimen ? But if your life is to be spiritual, there has to be the service of the Saviour in every dimension, not under the lordship of fallen man (I Peter 5:2-3), but in the interstices of the heart, in the presence of the Lord Himself.
Those who acknowledge and receive Him as He is, what blessedness is theirs; for to be the children of God by adoption is to find the lost cause of man, resettled in the haven of loveliness, in the hands of the living God. In Psalm 1 you read
BLESSED is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the ungodly, nor stand in the way of sinners, nor sit in the seat of the scornful...In Matthew 5-7, you read of the blessedness of life in the Lord, that it has dimensions further removed from this life of flesh and politics and economics, than Niagara from a puddle. Oh the blessedness of the merciful, the poor in spirit, the meek, the peacemakers, those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake. This Christ enunciated near the first.
When the author was a young man, an exuberant older lady insisted that life was not nearly complete until one had TRAVELLED. My indication was that unless the Lord sent me on His business abroad, I should not feel free to go. Within a year or so, began those various trips abroad wholly occasioned by my work and service to Christ. It is not what you get, where you go, but WHO goes with you, and FOR WHOM you go, and WHY that matters. Better on a cross with Christ than in some plastic paradise without Him. HE is the light of life, and to prefer to walk in darkness is stumbling instead of humbling (John 8:12, 3:17-19). What humiliation, to need the light of your Creator! What stupendous problem, to receive the gift by grace (Romans 5:15) of your Redeemer.
exuberant goodness, this innovative wonder of the Lord, this strange, this
awesome thing, this Gospel, it is the power of God to salvation (Romans
1:16), it brings to the heart of life, provides the key to it and it has
the King with it, the Prince of life and of peace, whose banner over His
people, is love.
Luke 16:15 is as follows:
"And He said to them,
are those who justify yourselves before men, but God knows your hearts.
For what is highly esteemed among men is an abomination in the sight of God.' "
The cleavage is quite as great as Paul makes it in Romans 10:1ff., and there is no hope for those who, in their own vanity and imagination, want to dispense with Christ and disperse their own goodness, which is indeed like a morning mist which rises. The Middle East is full of rising mist, and falling blood.