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The Incandescent Question Put ... by Christ
This time the question which we seek to answer, is a rhetorical one. It is addressed to the disciples whom Christ met on the road to Emmaus, after the crucifixion and resurrection of His body (interred as in I Corinthians 15:1-4, and raised accordingly, as what was so interred!). Before the occasion when He asked Thomas to poke his fingers into His side and verify the physical character of the resurrection, He challenged the minds of the disciples on this Sunday journey.
had briefly told Him the account of the Galilean who had been murdered,
despite the marvels of His unrivalled ministry, and Christ confronted them,
asking a question in this way (caps. added):
"He expounded to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself"
1 The Preliminary
In Joyful Jottings 25 we considered some of the Psalms relative to the Messiah, His suffering and His betrayal, His predicted murder and resurrection, His coming power and glory.
This should be preliminary reading for what follows.
(Also very helpful would be Spiritual Refreshings for the Digital MilleniumCh. 11 and Barbs, Arrows and Balms 17, and indeed the first section of SMR Ch. 9 .)
There we showed a certain genre, type, approach, exposure panorama, literary land form, amongst others, of the betrayer, the persecutor, the rejecter of mercy, the implacable resistance force to love, the ultimate delinquent from deterrence. It focussed the person who in history appeared as Judas Iscariot, but this was the face to a company, certainly not exquisite, who
my adversity ... rejoiced, and gathered together...
They tore at Me and did not cease:
With ungodly mockers at feasts
They gnashed at me with their teeth" (from Psalm 35:15ff.).
witnesses rise up;
They ask me things that I do not know.
They reward Me evil for good,
To the sorrow of my soul" - 35:11-12.
'did not know' what they affirmed for the simple reason it had not happened:
they were false witnesses. This is seen exposed in their talk, for example,
which would have made Christ into a temple destroyer because He had referred
in the midst of their hate, to His challenge: Destroy this temple and
in three days I will raise it up. At the time they made mockery even
of that, as if He really would have intended to destroy physically
the emblem of mercy, when He insisted every jot and tittle of the law must
be fulfilled, and would be! AND the Old Covenant was still at that time
in force, while HE had come not to destroy but to fulfil (Matthew 5:17-19).
Indeed, He did not here say, I WILL DESTROY IT, but DESTROY IT! (that is,
if you destroy it, I will rebuild). Is there any crime in offering to rebuild
what is to be destroyed! (See the realities in Matthew 26:61, and John
2 The Irony
Moreover, there was a beautiful irony. THEY would in fact destroy the 'temple', not only His bodily life, as a temple for it, but HIS BODY OF INCARNATION as the part of the very reality which the temple DEPICTED, for it was HE who was the sacrifice, HE who was the altar, HE who was the height and the depth, the glow and the beauty of holiness, HE who was the priest, except with the difference that He would offer HIMSELF! (cf. John 10:10-18, Hebrews 8-10). HE would however indeed be raised up as one of the TRINITY whose plan it was (cf. I Corinthians 2:6-8). In facat, IN the destruction of the reality for the prototype, the temple, of His body, they ensured that the temple would in fact in due course be destroyed, but in a very different milieu, long after the crucifixion, for its symbolic significance being fulfilled, it became a thing of the past (as in Jeremiah 3:16, Isaiah 66:3, Psalm 40:1-5).
But lacking all sharpness of wit, but not of tongue, and flaying his words into a contorted misrepresentation, the false witnesses would invent Christ as the radical revolutionary destroyer, like the Liberation Theologians, whose inventions have similar relationship to reality.
despite all such things of His adversaries,
"...as for Me, when they were sick
My clothing was sackcloth;
I humbled Myself with fasting;
And my prayer would return to My own heart.
I paced about as though he were my friend or brother;
I bowed down heavily, as one who mourns for his mother" - from 35:13-14.
3. The Imprecatory
Of ready comprehension is the fact that the so-called "imprecatory psalms" - which should include Psalms 31,35,41,55,69,109, show the exact opposite of the tender forgiveness of Isaiah 53:12, and what in Psalm 22 is the gracious lovingkindness to those receiving from His mighty actions as victim in crucifixion, there depicted, as in Psalm 72, has been noted. It is indeed just the same in Psalm 51 where the humility and joy of receiving the tender mercy of the Lord is in focus.
In these listed psalms, there is the REJECTION of mercy, there is the OBDURACY of rebellion to the uttermost, there is the DESPISING of the Lord's goodness, and the DISCOUNTING of the Lord's grace in the one afflicted. This is to tread underfoot the blood of Christ (as in Hebrews 10), and when love is rejected, reality is harsh, like the chemotherapy in cancer. The tender is trodden on, and the harsh is invoked. Judgment sets in: irrevocable judgment. Thus in Psalm 109:14ff., we see the invocation of judgment on the whole spiritual tribe of the treacherous against truth, the marauders against mercy, the defilers of truth. It is a litany of appalling proportions; but then sin is appalling in the presence of holiness, and what sin surpasses the slander and slithering subterfuge, indeed in the end, the vicious betrayal of the goodness of the Lord, expressed in the sacrifice of Christ, in love for the lost! "HOW," asks Hebrews 2, "shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation!"
The answer is simple: there is NO ESCAPE. How fortunate were those who DID escape (as in Isaiah 66:19), who take the 'sign' (in locus and in reality, that of the cross - not in wood but in gospel message - as in Galatians 6:14) to the nations, the signal, the salvation itself (Isaiah 40,52-53,55) of Christ, the Messiah (cf. SMR pp. 791-793). Without that escape, the submarine is to go to the bottom; with it, you cease to join it!
O FOOLISH ONES, He cried, AND SLOW OF HEART TO BELIEVE! It is necessary therefore to open the eyes with sight, not unseeing!
These genres, then, of regal and eternal rule of Christ, are obvious (cf. Joyful Jottings 25 pp. 215ff., cf. His inherent majesty, pp. 219ff. and 230 ). The procedure to "enter into His glory" is likewise readily perceived. The crucifixion is not hard to pick for the prophecy from the King David, who for his part, died in exceptional comfort in his bed! The resurrection, as Peter points out with such simple eloquence in Acts 2:25-31, is similarly obvious. Not always so readily picked, however, is the fact that
Each type of prophecy, and in particular this is so in the Psalms, has its genre. There is the suffering sacrifice genre (as in 2,22, implied in 72), the resurgent resurrection miracle (as in 16, implied in 22, in Isaiah 53, in 26:19), there is the royal throne of the eternal King of Psalm 72, 110, Isaiah 32, implied in 4, 11, and there is the ferocious and contemptible betrayal genre, focussed in 109, patent in 69, and showing the same focus in 31,35,41,55. There is therefore the judgment aspect which comes. The stark quality of the sacrifice Psalms is matched by the barren desolation of the persecutory Psalms, and the unattenuated judgment with which they reek, like the odour of battle, when the guns have created a haze of sound, smell and smoke over the field.
In Dr Steve Austin's work, Grand Canyon, Monument to Catastrophe, we find in the first chapter a reference to the various strata of this dynamic attestation of vast erosion. In this, the writer alludes to the fact that these come to be recognised, each one for what it is, so that at whatever level or in whatever layering it is found, one can "see" it. So with the Psalms, in their genres, like layers, like stratification, they may soon come to be seen in their qualities and calibre in these things.
There is a lyrical symphony, a coloration, a signature which is distinctive and definitive. What is there seen ? Let us take one case... There is the tenderness betrayed, the judgment unallayed, the sense of ferocity of faithlessness and fervour of faithfulness contrasted, of complete vindication, and this often includes elements of eternity, of remorseless ruin to the authors of ruin, endless oblivion to the agents of destruction, because it is to the LORD that their case is answerable. It is, we see, this same Christ of the crucifixion and the resurrection which brings these irrevocable and ultimate judgments PER SE, on the enemies. When you attack your ONLY MERCY, the result is inevitable. This is the nature of this genre. It is precisely as in John 3:16-36. He who does NOT believe in the name of the only begotten, as to him he is condemned ALREADY!
There is no other avenue, the case is hopeless, without Him, man is helpless, so disdaining help, he is not helped, and being in mortal peril, he endures everlasting contempt. That is the nature of the case. Medical operations are one sort of parable to illustrate: ignore the disease by all means, refuse the operation of course, if you wish; but what you CANNOT ignore, whether or not you would, is the result of ignoring the facts. You receive and believe, or you die. In eternity, the case is far more drastic.
cost likewise, covered for all who believe, by the Messiah, is likewise,
of unparalleled and unparallelable proportions! He though in the form of
God, took the form of man, and was OBEDIENT to DEATH! It is was programmed,
not merely a matter of peril. The willingness is profound. It must be received,
this sacrifice, and if it is not, the dreadful proportions of the human
heart without Christ are no longer dressed up, as a corpse at a funeral.
The corruption is allowed to be what the soul has desired. If the undesirable
be desired, it does not change the destiny! It merely accounts for it.
5. Psalm 31
But let us look for a moment at Psalm 31. We know of the cases in this same genre, of Psalms 69 and 109 from Acts 1:20, and of that of Psalm 41 from John 13:18, but it is worth while, in the discovery of the beauty of this holiness, seen as so often, in the midst of the immoral mire of opposition, to consider the case of Psalm 31. At some times, the evil of the sinners is visited upon Him (cf. Psalm 31:10), and this occurs at the uttermost pinnacle of divine power to pardon, as seen in Isaiah 53:6, but often in this genre. Just as His acceptance of the iniquity of the redeemed as attached to HIMSELF, is seen in His being ACCREDITED with it - just as in II Corinthians 5:91-21: so His own wonder of innocence shines through like the sun behind dark clouds of menace (as in Isaiah 53:11-12, cf. Psalm 2:10-12).
as for Me, I trust in You" (31:14) He says (just as in Hebrews 2:13).
"You are my strength.
Into Thy hand I commit my spirit," He declares - as was fulfilled in the event of Luke 23:46, "Father, into Thy hands, I commit My spirit." Just as David is the immediate occasion of the Psalm, so the intense dynamics lead on through the vista of the genre, to Christ. Thus, in Psalm 31:11, "I am a despised thing among all my enemies", as in Isaiah 53:3, "He is despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief." Accordingly, the inevitable result for those so rejecting the predicted MESSIAH can be only one, and it is seen in Psalm 31:17ff.
Indeed, "my life is spent with grief" (Psalm 31:9) is precisely so of the "man of sorrows and acquainted with grief". "I hear the slander of many" is the very sound of the 'court' which condemned Him in the very midst of false testimony and artful contrivance (as in John 11:48ff., Matthew 26:59).
says Psalm 31:13, "is on every side:
While they take counsel together against Me,
They scheme to take away my life."
This is precisely the position just noted in John 11, and found in numerous places in the New Testament. It is, moreover, just the case found in the Messianic Psalm 2, a mixed genre of revolt, victimisation, vindication and triumphant regality, in which the Lord puts His Christ in power in the very midst of His enemies, whose efforts against the truth were incensed and incendiary, spreading like magnesium bombs in the World War II, casting their flames with evil and spirited design. (See Acts 4:25 and Joyful Jottings 21 -22.) In Psalm 2, there is this same movement from the limited purlieus of King David, to the international dominion (as in Genesis 12, Psalm 72, Daniel 7) of the Messiah, His unlimited judgment on all peoples (see Joyful Jottings 17), and the requirement, idolatry if He were not deity, to put one's trust in Him (Psalm 2:11-12).
So the genre shows itself in its glints and embraces.
we see in Psalm 31:21, the reflection of Psalm 22:22-28, and in Psalm 31:22,
an intimation resonant in no small measure with Psalm 22:1, which Christ
fully uttered as the immediacy of the horror of BEARING sin, BECOMING A
SIN SACRIFICE (like the scape goat which had the sin put on it, before
it ran off with it, into the wilderness, in symbolic format), struck like
a new and awesome black lightning, no less horrendous in grief, because
it lacked the light. "My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me!" was not
some new thing. It has been predicted for some 1000 years; but the NEW
thing was ACTUALLY BEARING IT! With that perfect blend of prophecy and
fulfilment, which on Christ weighed with unrelieved strength (as in Matthew
26:54), He made that cry, and exposed the hideous separating power of sin,
which also and with it, He took. Not for nothing has someone said, 'The
soul of His suffering was the suffering of His soul!'
This suffering aspect appears in vast intensity in Lamentations. This is a quite different genre, and is not directly Messianic, though there are obvious implications and correlations. Thus in this case, Jerusalem, Zion, is the victim, but a HIGHLY DESERVING ONE. Her INIQUITY is real and extensive. Her PENALTY is due and righteous. The sense of the Messiah comes in the type, Josiah, a picture of the righteous who might spread out his wings for protection, who is cut off (as in II Kings 22ff., and 23:29-30). The reference to this historical episode of great grief is highly impactive, since Josiah was both energetic and holy, both meticulous and godly, a tremendous delay to divine retribution as the climax of hundreds of years of trifling and appalling renegacy came on scene. We see its notation in Lamentations 4:20...
The Lord is intensely compassionate (Lamentations 3:33) and over Jerusalem, Christ wept, not less really than for His FRIEND, Lazarus! (Luke 19:42ff., John 11). It was not. SO like Josiah, He left, but in His case, not merely fighting to prevent an evil influence from overshadowing Judah (as presumably the case with Josiah in his resistance to Pharaoh Necho's bursting forth to Carchemish), but bearing the iniquities on a HIGHLY SELECTIVE BASIS: of those who received Him, had done so, would do so.
Not only, however, is Lamentations in a special genre, as a foremost representative, that of the JUSTLY JUDGED VICTIM bearing penalties for sins innumerable ("Zion spreads out her hand, but no one comforts her" - 1:17), relieved in this by Josiah, where the sense of a VICTOR who might in some measure have delivered, appears. It is also seen in the prophet Jeremiah himself, another type of Christ in the very same very short book of Lamentations. Thus,
Here the reference to gall evokes memory of Psalm 69:20-21:
looked for someone to take pity, but there was none:
And for comforters, but I found none.
They also gave me gall for my food,
And for My thirst they gave Me vinegar to drink."
Indeed, before this, we have read:
When it is the word of the Lord, it CANNOT be broken in policy, and must be revered in practice OUT of LOVE! Where is that love which says, and cannot find it in its heart to do! If we fail, let us not fail as a practice; or if we fall, let us not stay down! Let us rather work, for the night is coming in which no man can work. NOW is the time! Let us be diligent! Jeremiah was, Josiah was...
Thus via Josiah, and via this heart warming, and yet poignantly sad word of Jeremiah in Lamentations 3, we find a clear index to the Messiah, for Jeremiah is a type of Christ, indeed in faithfulness and suffering. Let us however be clear: it is not at all that he bears ANYTHING WHATSOEVER of sin; only the sinless Christ can do that, pure enough to make weight in credit for debit, deity to cover without restriction as many as He will. Nevertheless, the depiction of the sense of the thing appears, and it adds to Lamentations that double edge.
Now, not only is there the depiction of the horrendous impact, spiritually and physically, of sin; but there is a double relief in the two prophets (if so we may deem Josiah as well), who were busy BEARING with the shame or the death, as in one case and in the other, with which the sinful nation was associated. Meanwhile, Jerusalem, the destroyed city of Jeremiah's day, is the very emblem of the acute desolation, just as the grief is by these types of Christ, turned to the direction of Christ, who in the end, is the only relief that sin can have, for only He has come "the just for the unjust to bring us to God" (I Peter 3:18). Let us therefore listen to the edge of this sorrow, which HE had to bear (Lamentations 1:12):
Hence we do well to see, as does that marvellous king of music, George Handel in his Messiah, the Lamentations in its soulful sorrow, its excavations to bedrock of grief, a picture of the One who would indeed BEAR SIN, but not for Himself, being cut off out of the land of the living.
We recall then that Christ's question about sorrow and the glory to follow were not limited to the Psalms, though these were specifically mentioned.
For more on this topic, see SMR Ch.9, and Joyful Jottings as above. In passing, however, let this be added. Lamentations appears to provide a further depth of empathy, even than that so far shown in Jeremiah's suffering. Not alone the victim of oppression, he held dear and near to his very heart, the desolation of the people EVEN THOUGH THEY HAD AFFLICTED HIM! Thus in Lamentations 2:1 we find:
But there is more. In Lamentations 1:12, the imagined speech from Jerusalem herself, when the question is asked, "Is it nothing to you who pass by ..." is redolent with empathy, compassion, concern. In 1:19ff., again we see the intense empathy as Jerusalem is seen to be soliloquising in the tremulous tenderness of the prophet,
is this ultimate criterion of love, and of this,
that ultimate expression of it in the Lord Himself,
in the New Testament (Luke 19:42ff.),
as in the Old (Jeremiah 48:36, Ezekiel 33:11),
which makes His divine power a delicacy,
for it is not gross or abusive,
as in the dictators and the oppressionists as they may be called,
of Rome or the scimitar, the swastika or the sword:
the power of the lord enables what it is noble, and ennobles what is true.
Finally, let us rejoice, for HE who was vicariously to suffer, has done so effectually. That greater than Jeremiah with more than pity who endured more than travail, and tendered not only words but His own very life as a substitutionary atonement for all who come to Him, has covered for ever the case of the judgment, barren, devastating and irreparable, on sin. He who was to suffer, has suffered (cf. Psalm 22:21-31, Isaiah 53:11-12), done so with love (Psalm 40), and in entering into His glory, where He is now received in heaven awaiting the announced restoration or all things (Acts 3:19-21), is interceding (Hebrews 7:25). He is able to save to the uttermost His people, all who come in faith and repentance to Him as the object of faith, redeemer, the ONE expressing the power of God in His own personal, bodily resurrection.
Let us delight further in that, in all this, He has fulfilled His heart's desire. The Father has done in love that from which He would shrink in horror, that we be redeemed (Isaiah 53:10), and the Son has done in ultimate and assured delight that from which He indeed felt the enormity and the waves of anguish, through which He had to pass to implement the iron of His loving will (Hebrews 5:7, Isaiah 50:4-6, Psalm 40:1-5, Hebrews 12:2, John 13:1-2, 17:12-24). These things assured, the power of God kept Him in His longsuffering intercession even when He was UPON IT ("Father forgive them they do not know what they are doing" - as Isaiah predicted in Isaiah 53;12), and in the dramatic restoration of His body which galvanised, transformed and enthralled His disciples (John 20:25-29, Acts 2, Acts 4:1-19, 4:23ff., 5:29-32).
It was this indestructibility of His body which enraged His murderers, this testimony of the witnesses which they sought to suppress not only by paying the soldiers to make an idiotic lie (as if they COULD know it was disciples who 'stole' the body if, as they claimed, they were asleep! in what court would that stand!), but in using the implements of intimidation, death threats and imprisonment, blusters and swagger, against the disciples. The power of God as always, prevailed, and the integrity of faith, as always was vindicated; but the suffering was also the gory testimony of reality and sincerity, as well as being in the ransom of Christ's crucifixion, the means of pardon.
Power there was in the creation, in the Exodus and in the resurrection, as in the healing and the holiness of those called. The power however which even NOW (Ephesians 1:19) is the lot of the Christian has a subtle test. IF you believe Him raised bodily from the dead, just as all the fulness of the godhead was in Him in bodily form (Colossians 2:8-9), then that is the stated measure of the power available through faith, for HIS PURPOSES through you on THIS earth NOW! If you do not, then, according to your 'faith', so be it. Is that not what He said! Faith can be put into words, and into works: like truth, it works in reality, because it is real. Therefore, rejoice! If you are to suffer to fill up what remains of the sufferings of Christ, in the sense that you show the love of God BY being willing to suffer for HIM (not for sin, HE did that as explained above, cf. Isaiah 53:6, 43:10-11), then so be it.
How you serve is His business; the power and joy with which you do it, this is your personal enduement (cf. I Peter 1:8-10, 4-5).
Wait therefore on Him
1) because He is God.
2) because He is worthy.
3) because if you do not, what are you waiting for ? this world is going.
4) because He is wonderful.
5) because He is marvellously kind.
6) because He is compassionate.
7) and because He is infinitely worth waiting for!