46. Believing Moses

Short Meditations in John 5:  46. Believing Moses

Jn 5:46  If you believed Moses, you would believe me, for he wrote about me.

Jesus draws this conversation to an end with a challenge to these religious Jews in respect of Moses. We have already considered the challenge that they did not obey the Law of Moses and thus needed a Saviour (implied) but now the challenge becomes more personal. We did briefly refer to this before but now we need to note what Moses had written: I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their fellow Israelites, and I will put my words in his mouth. He will tell them everything I command him.” (Deut 28:18)

Over the years the scholars searched the Old Testament scrolls finding these references to a ‘Coming One’, a Messiah who would come from God to deliver His people, an ‘anointed one’. More often those references were found in the Prophets, but of course Moses was also seen as a prophet and this verse (which is repeated a short while later) became part of that collection of prophecies in respect of the ‘Coming One’.

So why, we might ask, did Jesus not give a full teaching of the many prophecies from the Old Testament, as we now call it, and show that they clearly spoke about him when you considered the things he did? The answer is that Jesus almost went out of his way NOT to be ultra-clear about who he was and only spoke about himself very clearly on rare occasions. Why, again we might ask? Jesus knew that belief in him was a heart issue (and we have considered that previously) and therefore it was only seekers who would find him and realise who he truly was.

However, what we do also find about Jesus in the Gospels is that he was not averse to dropping hints for those who might be looking. Much of his teaching about himself was somewhat oblique – such as the ‘I am’ sayings of John’s Gospel, and in particular throughout the Gospels, his teaching using parables.

When Jesus’ disciples asked him, “Why do you speak to the people in parables?” he replied, Because the knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of heaven has been given to you, but not to them,” and then went on, “Whoever has will be given more, and they will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them.” (Mt 13:10-12) i.e. those who remain close to Jesus will get answers, and once they realise who he is, more will be given them.

So the reference to Moses is one of these ‘nudges’, these hints, given for the seeker but remaining an obscurity for those who criticised him and who were against him.

 

25. Isaiah (3)

Meditations of Old Testament Highlights: 35.  Isaiah (3)

Isa 1:17     learn to do right! Seek justice, encourage the oppressed. Defend the cause of the fatherless, plead the case of the widow.

I suggested yesterday that, here in Isaiah, we can distinguish between Messianic Prophecies and General Principle Prophecies, and yesterday we looked at the Messianic Prophecies and so now we pick up on one or more general principle prophecies. What I am calling ‘general principle prophecies’ are those words from God that certainly applied to specific situations in the day they were spoken, but also can act as general principles for us today.

  1. Obey the Law: Our starting verse above is a classic example of this. Seeing it in context, it comes at the end of the Lord rebuking Israel for having rebelled against Him (v.2), having forsaken Him and turned their backs on Him (v.4), resulting in them having been vulnerable to attacks of enemy nations who had devastated them (v.7-9), but nevertheless carrying on meaningless religious ritual (v.11-15). The Lord didn’t want this; it is a message that is repeated again in Isaiah and Isa 58 is a classic against meaningless fasting. He wanted then to live out good lives which this verse characterises. It is very simple and straight forward, a basic keeping of the Law to produce a just and caring society. Easy! Our calling is similar.
  2. Consequences: Verses 19 and 20 of chapter one are really just a synopsis of all the laws of blessings and curses found in Deut 27 to 29: If you are willing and obedient, you will eat the best from the land; but if you resist and rebel, you will be devoured by the sword.” Obedience brings good – God’s blessings, His decrees of good, while disobedience brings bad – God’s curses, His decrees for bad. Not only does the Lord lay out quite simply the fundamentals of keeping the law for blessing the community of God, but He also reminds them of the consequences of obedience and disobedience – yes, there WILL be consequences, and so we need to choose which path we take.
  3. Future Glory: It is easy to get morbid when a nation is not doing well and wonder about how it will all work out and perhaps that is why Chapter 2 opens with, “This is what Isaiah son of Amoz saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem: In the last days the mountain of the LORD’s temple will be established as chief among the mountains; it will be raised above the hills, and all nations will stream to it.” (2:1). Under the anointing of the Spirit on the Day of Pentecost, the apostle Peter applied the phrase “the last days” to the period of the Church, the period of the Spirit (see Acts 2:17,18), which perhaps distinguishes it from the phrase “end times” suggesting the very last days before Jesus winds up all things. These ‘last days’ last from Pentecost to that future time.

Some may wish to interpret the verse above as referring to Israel but the teaching of the apostle Paul suggests that a true ‘Jew’ is only a member of ‘the people of God’ if he is Spirit born (Rom 2:28,29) and therefore the ‘people of god’ comprise both Jew and Gentile born of the Spirit, and thus the “mountain of the Lord’s temple” is what today we simply refer to as Christianity or ‘the Christian Church’. God’s people may have looked in a poor state in Isaiah’s day but that did not mean the Lord’s plans would be frustrated. The nation was the precursor to the Church (i.e. both believing Jew and Gentile)

  1. Revival for Israel in End Times: For those who think this is detrimental to Israel, a further prophecy comes: “In that day the Branch of the LORD will be beautiful and glorious, and the fruit of the land will be the pride and glory of the survivors in Israel. Those who are left in Zion, who remain in Jerusalem, will be called holy, all who are recorded among the living in Jerusalem.” (Isa 4:2,3) It is difficult to believe that this means anything less than the geographical Jerusalem and thus signifies a day of revival in Israel yet to come even as the apostle Paul appeared to teach (Rom 11:25-27). We are to watch for such signs.
  2. Dullness & Blindness: There comes a strange instruction at Isaiah’s calling, that reveals a spiritual principle: “He said, “Go and tell this people: ” `Be ever hearing, but never understanding; be ever seeing, but never perceiving.’ Make the heart of this people calloused; make their ears dull and close their eyes. Otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts, and turn and be healed.” (Isa 6:9,10) Jesus quoted this as his reason for using parables (Mt 13:13-15). Because of spiritual dullness (or maybe spiritual hardness) there comes a spiritual blindness and spiritual deafness so that people see the prophet and hear his words but the significance of them is lost on these people. The more they hear Isaiah’s words the harder and more resistant they become and the less impact those words have. It’s all about heart condition, is what Jesus taught. If your heart is hard and resistant to God, you’ll hear His words but they’ll have no impact on you.
  3. Free Salvation: Let’s jump to near the end of the book: Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost.” (Isa 55;1) It sounds like a market stall barrow-boy shouting an offer that just can’t be believed. Summary: come and get what God is offering – it’s free! A few verses later, “Seek the LORD while he may be found; call on him while he is near. Let the wicked forsake his way and the evil man his thoughts. Let him turn to the LORD, and he will have mercy on him, and to our God, for he will freely pardon.” (Isa 55;6,7) You don’t have to take exams to get to heaven. You don’t have to be clever, handsome or beautiful and you certainly don’t have to be famous. It’s very simple: turn away from evil (repent) and turn to God and – and here’s the amazing offer – He will pardon you, grant you mercy – it’s a free pardon! Don’t ever say God is hard when He reaches out to us in this way.

Yes, in this book of amazing prophecies there are calls to obedience, warnings about consequences of lifestyles, hope for the future, a warning against hard-heartedness and then offers of free salvation. It’s all there, a variety of highlights of salvation basics. It speaks into the historical context of Hezekiah’s day, it sends out peals of hope of a coming Messiah, and it lays out warnings and offers for all who would face the reality of the living God. The Lord, who Isaiah ‘saw’ in chapter 6, is the same Lord today and all these things come by His revelation.

8. Revealed

Meditations in 1 Peter : 8 :  Revealed

1 Pet  1:12 It was revealed to them that they were not serving themselves but you, when they spoke of the things that have now been told you by those who have preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven. Even angels long to look into these things.

I have to confess to not liking secrets, they smell of division, and yet I recognise that sometimes secrets are quite valid. You keep secret the presents you have bought for a birthday or at Christmas. You keep secret difficult times you may be going through from your young children who could not handle the worry. If you are working on an invention it is legitimate to keep it a secret until you have patented it. If you are planning changes in business or war, it is legitimate to keep the plans secret until they have been finalised and thought through properly. In Britain we struggle with a ‘Freedom of Information’ Act  which is sometimes abused so that people are required to relinquish information prematurely. We also live in an age when ‘leaks’ appear common and someone ‘spills the beans’ before the information is ready to be released.

The prophecies about the Gospel in the Old Testament are God’s ‘leaks’. It was like He was so excited about what the Godhead had planned, that He couldn’t help sharing bits of it with His prophets. But why keep it a secret? Why not come out with it to Abram, say? “In many centuries I am going to send my Son from heaven to reveal my love on the earth and then to die for the sins of the world.”  Why didn’t God say that? Well, I suspect the answer has got to be that it wouldn’t have helped us. We wouldn’t have understood it and we’d still have been sceptical of Jesus when he came and threatened our religiosity.

As Peter continues to talk about the prophets who received the revelations in the Old Testament period he says, It was revealed to them that they were not serving themselves but you.” Now I confess to finding that strange, I’m not sure I understand it, and I haven’t found a commentator who explains it satisfactorily, because he is basically saying that they were told by God that this was for a future generation but in reality they could not have known which generation would enjoy the fulfilment of their words. It has, therefore, to be a general sense that is being referred to, the sense that this is going to happen at some future date.

Possibly an example of this was Balaam who eventually brought a word that is usually taken to refer to Jesus: “I see him, but not now; I behold him, but not near. A star will come out of Jacob; a scepter will rise out of Israel.” (Num 24:17) and then, “A ruler will come out of Jacob.” (v.19) It is a word that is also so dressed up with references to other nations being subjugated that it has to be very much spiritualised to be applied, yet the point is that he does know that it is yet for some time in the future.

These things have now been brought right into the present by the preaching of the Gospel says Peter: when they spoke of the things that have now been told you by those who have preached the gospel.” On the day of Pentecost Peter started his message by a long reference to Joel (Acts 2:17-21), explaining how what was happening was a direct fulfilment of his prophecy. He then cited David’s psalm writing (Acts 2:25-28) that indirectly pointed out the fact of the resurrection, and then about Jesus ascending back to heaven (Acts 2:34,35).

After the healing at the gate called Beautiful, Peter taking the opportunity to preach again declares, “this is how God fulfilled what he had foretold through all the prophets, saying that his Christ would suffer.” (Acts 3:18) and “He must remain in heaven until the time comes for God to restore everything, as he promised long ago through his holy prophets. For Moses said, `The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among your own people; you must listen to everything he tells you.” (Acts 3:21,22) and, “Indeed, all the prophets from Samuel on, as many as have spoken, have foretold these days. And you are heirs of the prophets and of the covenant God made with your fathers. He said to Abraham, `Through your offspring all peoples on earth will be blessed.’ When God raised up his servant, he sent him first to you to bless you by turning each of you from your wicked ways.” (Acts 3:24-26). In each case the general teaching followed by a specific example.

Of course Jesus himself on the road to Emmaus said to the two disciples, “How foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Did not the Christ have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?” And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.” (Lk 24:25-27)

The message is very clear: the Old Testament prophecies clearly pointed to Jesus and Jesus and his apostles used that to verify all that had taken place and which we now call part of the Gospel. The angels in heaven were likewise kept in suspense as they looked on and saw what was happening on earth yet the revelation was not given to them but to prophets and then apostles. It’s a Gospel for mankind and it was to mankind that it was shared. Hallelujah!

7. Seeking Prophets

Meditations in 1 Peter : 7 :  Seeking prophets

1 Pet  1:10,11   Concerning this salvation, the prophets, who spoke of the grace that was to come to you, searched intently and with the greatest care, trying to find out the time and circumstances to which the Spirit of Christ in them was pointing when he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the glories that would follow.

The previous section had come to an end with Peter declaring, for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls.” (v.9). It is natural for him now to say something more about this salvation: “Concerning this salvation…” Now I’m going to consider these verses above in reverse order.

“When he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the glories that would follow” Who is the ‘he’ here? It was the “Spirit of Christ in them” and the ‘them’ were the Old Testament prophets. So he reminding us of a strange feature of the Old Testament that perhaps we take for granted. It is said that there are over 300 prophecies in the Old Testament that Christ fulfilled, i.e. 300 that pointed to Christ, and some of them speak about his sufferings. Now the Old Testament period teachers really struggled with all of this for some prophecies also spoke about a coming One who would be a ruler. We’ll stick to prophecies from Isaiah for this comparison purpose. As to a ruler: “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever.” (Isa 9:6,7) Note the ‘ruling language’ there.

Yet when we go into a later part of Isaiah we get pictures of a suffering servant: “See, my servant will prosper; he will be raised and lifted up and highly exalted.” (Isa 52:13) Oh that’s confusing, it starts out speaking of his success! But watch how it continues: “there were many who were appalled at him– his appearance was so disfigured beyond that of any man and his form marred beyond human likeness.” (Isa 52:14) That doesn’t sound very good! “He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. Like one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not.” (Isa 53:2,3) This successful servant is not going to be a handsome hero and in fact he’s going to be despised and rejected!!!! “But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed.” (Isa 53:5) It continues: “He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth. By oppression and judgment he was taken away. And who can speak of his descendants? For he was cut off from the land of the living; for the transgression of my people he was stricken. He was assigned a grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death, though he had done no violence, nor was any deceit in his mouth. Yet it was the LORD’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer (Isa 63:7-10) All of this speaks of the work of the Redeemer, the Messiah, the Christ.

All of this, God knew because it had been planned within the Godhead from before the foundation of the world. This is what the Spirit of God was communicating through many prophecies throughout the Old Testament period. Thus there were a number of prophets who found themselves speaking out these things and who were left wondering, “What does this mean? When will this happen?” Surely some times there was a double fulfilment in respect of what was spoken, a fulfilment within years and then centuries later through Jesus Christ,  but even so the prophets were left wondering, and the teachers were left wondering, what form of person does this refer to? How can opposite pictures we true? These things seem contradictory! On one hand a victorious and glorious king, but on the other hand an oppressed and crushed servant! How can these things be? Is it any wonder they had lots of questions.

No wonder the apostle Paul spoke of “the revelation of the mystery hidden for long ages past, but now revealed and made known through the prophetic writings.” (Rom 16:25,26) and “he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, to be put into effect when the times will have reached their fulfillment–to bring all things in heaven and on earth together under one head, even Christ.” (Eph 1:9,10) and “the mystery that has been kept hidden for ages and generations, but is now disclosed to the saints. (Col 1:26).

What does all this say? It says that this glorious Gospel was not some last minute strategy from God to dig the earth out of a hole; it was a plan that had been on God’s heart from the beginning of time and which came at exactly the right time in human history. Hallelujah!