AUSTRALIAN BIBLE CHURCH May 4, 2014
Presbyterian Church following the Bible without Qualification
and the Lord Jesus Christ without Compromise by Faith, continuing in accord
with the biblical thrust of the Constitution of 1901 of the Presbyterian Church of Australia
EZRA 3:11-13, II Corinthians 3:7-10
THE GLORY THAT EXCELS
GREATER THAN GRANDEUR
EZRA 3:11-12, II Corinthians 3:7-10 may be read below.
"And they sang responsively, praising and giving thanks to the Lord:
“For He is good,
For His mercy endures forever toward Israel.”
Then all the people shouted with a great shout, when they praised the Lord, because the foundation of the house of the Lord was laid.
But many of the priests and Levites and heads of the fathers’ houses, old men who had seen the first temple, wept with a loud voice when the foundation of this temple was laid before their eyes. Yet many shouted aloud for joy, so that the people could not discern the noise of the shout of joy from the noise of the weeping of the people, for the people shouted with a loud shout, and the sound was heard afar off."
"But if the ministration of death, written and engraved in stones, was glorious,
so that the children of Israel could not steadfastly behold the face of Moses
for the glory of his countenance; which glory was to be done away:
How shall not the ministration of the spirit be rather glorious?
"For if the ministration of condemnation be glory,
much more doth the ministration of righteousness exceed in glory.
For even that which was made glorious had no glory in this respect,
by reason of the glory that excels.
For if that which is done away was glorious,
much more that which remains is glorious."
GREATER THAN GRANDEUR
There is glory in sunsets, picturesque, lonely, lively, majestic, delicate, complex in composition, remarkable in scope, and in dawns, clean, clear and tender in an anointing that softens and yet enhances; and in the vastness of the oceans, the spread of the stars like astronomical sand, yet with startling power implicit in their midst. There is some room for it in the potential of the mind of man, despite its hideous fall, in the love that will not let go, and the hope of the little child, who is free and unbound in spirit, like the one two and one half years old, who advancing some 10 yards from his mother toward me as I walked, called out to me, waving, with what the mother said was, "Hullo grandpa!", though I had never met them. There can be such dash and adventure, even in the young, and such parental love, many prepared to die willingly for their children, though diseases of the soul make this less likely than once.
There is far more abundant glory in the Maker of it all, from the sophisticatedly brilliant language creation in the DNA and associated linguistics, which far surpasses in wonder the complexities of man's structure of words, being programmed throughout generations and reproducible in living format without our aid, to the technicalities in flight and motion, from birds to insects, in guidance controls and available facilities in life forms by the million. There is far more marvel in the spirit of man, which can cope with problems of the mind, but not with those of the soul, so that he is now soiled almost to obliteration as his lusts spoil the crop, even himself, his own race. Yet they still pout and sprout with military power, intimidation, remorseless wars of aggression, suppression, expression, as if life were their chattel and the wounds and tortures of millions were but a small price to pay for their desires, as in the Ukraine, merely as one example, from the 1930s to this day, multiply affronted.
Nevertheless, even this, for all its wonder and potential, is small compared with the greatness of the glory of God Himself in HIS own Being; for not enough is it for Him to create such grandeur with majesty and yet with detail and sophisticated coverages of masses of data to secure unitary results of amazing and unitary competence, to form hearts that can feel and sense and discern things beyond our mere earth. Rather does He exhibit not just His works to make, but His works to restore.
What man has desecrated, God has set forth to rescue, not indeed with imperious invasion, such as currently threatening in the Ukraine, and as now normal, in much maligned and menaced Israel as well, but as shown to the point of the Cross of Calvary. It is He, Himself who has suffered. It is not enough glory that He from His supernatural glory made terrestrial creations of stark majesty and considerable brilliance, or that He abased these glories (Romans 8:17) because of the sins of man, whose spirit scorned the deity in listening to self-elevation programs, as it does to this day. He went.
Even then, this was but the beginning. In Israel, in the days of the grand temple of Solomon, He depicted the manner of His rescue for man, of His salvation, but not with imperial thrust of force. You could leave the land so dedicated, and your heart was still your own. You could deny as you would, and go where you would, or stay if you would. In its ceremonial and symbolic sacrifices was the itemisation of sins, which blight like a spiritual virus, and threaten with strangely popular pandemic as now, like golden staph for the spirit of man. Indeed, he amplifies it and even glorifies the infection.
Yet God has persevered, and leaving the glory of the temple and its symbols of salvation, and equipping the mind and heart of man with clear description of the meaning, purpose and point of sacrifice for sin, and ultimate sacrifice to cover it, He brought forth His only begotten Son of Man, incarnate from heaven, the Word of God from eternity, so that as man He could and would, facing temptation and trial, bring out salvation. How ? by bearing death for repentant sinners, offering freely to all, calling to all, and once for all deliver all who would come, for ever (John 5:24, Hebrews 10:10-14, 9:12).
THE DAY OF INITIAL DECLINE TO LESS THAT IT WAS
On the way, Israel lapsed. That is why when Israel, which though chosen as an instrument of divine instruction to the world, itself sinned, and so lost Jerusalem after centuries of its maintenance, and this as predicted, and in this lost the very temple which depicted salvation and the system which itemised sin and exhibited the glory to be: there came a very poignant moment. After the foretold 70 years of exile, as predicted once again (Jeremiah 25), a remnant having returned and rebuilt with many pangs, the FOUNDATION of the temple was finished. What a singular time and day was this one!
Before this and after it, there were years which were to move through to the day of Nehemiah, through many vicissitudes, as predicted in Daniel 9:25, till at last the land recovered, and the people with no small self-discipline, with vast works to do and difficulties to overcome, were restored. It followed at that stage, the miracle (as foretold of the coming Cyrus, in Isaiah 44-45) of the imperial restoration of authority to rebuild the temple in its place. With relish and vigour they had proceeded to do so.
In that special time noted in Ezra 3, when the FOUNDATION of the temple was re-laid, ready for action in a vast restoration, feelings were mixed. To be sure, it was not as in the day of Solomon when immense wealth and power was available, and grandeur and art were thrust into it as if a giant wave came not to destroy but overpoweringly to create! It was now the work of a rather small band of dedicated people, much harassed by enemies, to rebuild. When that came, there was then a certain poignancy.
The temple was now on site and ready for completion. Thus, in Ezra 3, we find the people rejoicing that this eminent step towards recovery was now DONE. The foundation of the Temple, once more, was laid. It was not the end, any more than the deliverance of Dunkirk was the end of the war for Britain; far from it; but amidst attempts to destroy them again, it was a mighty work. Many shouted, rejoicing; but some of those once immersed in the wonders of the glory of the former temple, wept. In the grandeur sense, this beginning was so vastly different; yet it was there, on the way. So did the poignancy, the restoration, but one in diminuendo at this stage, arise like a vast cloud in the beauty of dawn, glowing with a delicate pink.
THE GLORY WHICH EXCELS
That was indeed, a diminuendo affair, but it was one with hope, For the Christian however, the displacement is not down, but upwards. It is blessedly the reverse. Now that Christ has risen, payment made to the uttermost to cover any and all who will ever come, and have come in faith to the Saviour, articulated in David and the Psalms as in Paul and the epistles, as in II Corinthians 5:17ff., Colossians 1:19ff., there is no need for symbols as the substance itself is now presented. Instead there is given a lively and vitalising reminder and application as in the case of the Lord's supper, where the function was as specified, "in remembrance of Me" - not to act as a distillate or removal from heaven to earth (forbidden in Acts 3:19ff.).
Till He comes, this is in remembrance (I
and WHEN He comes,
then the remembrance is replaced by His own
when this mortal puts on immortality
and this corruptible puts on incorruption,
so that the greater glory of the New Covenant, is shown.
It is shown firstly in the One WHO has operated and accomplished the saving work itself. and at that, in PERSON, and at that, ONCE in securing it (Hebrews 9:12-10:14), secondly in WHAT HAPPENS as it culminates in the bodily resurrection as foretold in Isaiah 26:19, Psalm 16 and I Corinthians 15 and demonstrated in Himself. And there is more. Thirdly, it is exhibited in the current presence of the Holy Spirit (Romans 8:16), sent from the Father by the Son, ennobling by His moulding of the soul (II Cor. 3:17-18), enabling by His gift of wisdom and dynamising as the power of Christ is made available (Ephesians 1:19).
There is a trilogy of culminating glories, so that now in Christ, revealed, redeemer, resurrected in body, there is the overthrow of evil in its heady power (not without suffering - Luke 10:19, I Peter 5:9). No more is there a decline in the glory, but what now is that wonder which Paul calls "the glory which excels".
Put pithily in Hebrews 1:3-4, we have this:
"Who being the brightness of his glory, and the express image of His person,
and upholding all things by the word of His power,
when He had by himself purged our sins,
sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high;
"Being made so much better than the angels, as He hath by inheritance
obtained a more excellent name than they. For to which of the angels said He at any time,
You are my Son, this day have I begotten thee? And again, I will be to him a Father, and he shall be to me a Son? And again, when he brings in the first-begotten into the world,
He says, And let all the angels of God worship him."
Again, we find this theme, in Revelation 5:12-14, where multiplied myriads tune their voices:
"Saying with a loud voice,
Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honour, and glory, and blessing.
"And every creature which is in heaven, and on the earth, and under the earth, and such as are in the sea, and all that are in them, heard I saying,
Blessing, and honour, and glory, and power, be to him that sits upon the throne, and to the Lamb for ever and ever."
Let our hearts echo this theme, as spirits enlivened, we behold in spirit Him on whom all destiny pivots, as we who believe, through His grace are being changed from glory to glory (II Cor. 3:17-18), with a glorious liberty and desire, as in II Corinthians 3:17-18.