Shake Us Forward

Then the LORD answered Job out of the whirlwind and said … “Have you ever given orders to the morning, or shown the dawn its place, that it might take the earth by the edges and shake the wicked out of it? Job 38:1, 12-13 

From the place where morning gathers 
You can look sometimes forever ’til you see 
What time may never know 
What time may never know 
How the Lord takes by its corners this old world 
And shakes us forward and shakes us free 
To run wild with the hope 
To run wild with the hope 

–from Calling Out Your Name by Rich Mullins 

Lord, shake us forward, out of our caves and entrenchments. Shake us down from our high places and babbling towers. Shake us free from our resistance and resentments, our pain and regrets. Shake us out into the wild wind of your love and promise and hope. 

Image, BREAKING NEWS – EARTHQUAKE! by Michael https://flic.kr/p/8cP1vw  

It’s Absolutely Not Possible

It’s like God is declaring, “Not on my watch!”

I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it. Luke 18:17 

When reading this verse, I usually concentrate on the “little child” part. But this time the word “never” jumped out at me. It’s actually two Greek words – οὐ μή – that are translated “never” in the above verse. Let me just say up front that studying these words has greatly encouraged my faith and I hope it does the same for you. 

According to NetBible Translator’s Notes, “The negation in Greek used here (οὐ μή, ou mh) is very strong.” Strong’s Concordance, notes that it is “a double negative strengthening the denial.” The meanings include: not at all, by no means, neither, never, in no case, nor ever, not in any wise. 

So, it’s really important to pay attention when Jesus uses this word. He is saying in the above verse that it is vital that we come to God with the faith of a child. (And note that it is matter of our will – “anyone who will not receive.”)

Thayer’s Greek Lexicon adds that “οὐ denies the thing itself (or to speak technically, denies simply, absolutely, categorically, directly, objectively), but μή denies the thought of the thing, or the thing according to the judgment, opinion, will, purpose, preference, of someone.” 

Denying the thought of the thing is like saying “God forbid,” or “don’t even think about it!” Like Peter exclaiming after Jesus predicted his death at the hands of the chief priests:  

“Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. “Never, Lord!” he said. “This shall never ( οὐ μή ) happen to you!” Matthew 16:22 

This is also translated “God forbid!” “Heaven forbid!” “Impossible, Master!”  

These are negative examples, but there are many, many promises using this word combination. From God’s point of view, it is like he is declaring, “Not on my watch!” Jesus uses this emphatic “double negative strengthening the denial” many times, categorically and absolutely declaring the impossibility of something happening.

It is helpful for me to think of it as “It’s not happening!” (I was going to say “It ain’t happenin’!” but my librarian/English major self won’t let me.) Or I could say, “It is absolutely not possible – not ever.” I want to make sure I realize the implications – to shake myself out of my – what is it? – sleepiness, complacency, apathy? I don’t want to just let my eyes and mind slip by these promises, but grab unto them with both hands and all my heart and soul. 

Below is a list of some of the promises using this double, emphatic negative.* It is mind jogging to me, and so comforting and encouraging to read them with “It’s not happening. It is absolutely not possible – not ever!” preceding the promise. (You can precede these verses in any way that speaks to you): 

It’s not happening. It is absolutely not possible – not ever!

I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished. Matthew 5:18 

Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away. Matthew 24:35 

Anyone who drinks the water I give will never thirst–not ever. The water I give will be an artesian spring within, gushing fountains of endless life. John 4:14 (Message) 

Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. Luke 6:37 

All men will hate you because of me. But not a hair of your head will perish. Luke 21:17-18 

Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty.” John 6:35 

All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away (never cast them out, never reject them). 

When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” John 8:12 

I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand. John 10:28 

Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die.” John 11:25-26 

And then these wonderful promises: 

So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature. Galatians 5:16 

And I will forgive their wrongdoings, and I will never again remember their sins. Hebrews 8:12 (NLT) 

Their sins and lawless acts I will remember no more. Hebrews 10:17 

… God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.” Hebrews 13:5 

For in Scripture it says: “See, I lay a stone in Zion, a chosen and precious cornerstone, and the one who trusts in him will never be put to shame.” 1 Peter 2:6 

He who overcomes will not be hurt at all by the second death. Revelation 2:11 

All who are victorious will be clothed in white. I will never erase their names from the Book of Life, but I will announce before my Father and his angels that they are mine. Revelation 3:5 (NLT) 

Him who overcomes I will make a pillar in the temple of my God. Never again will he leave it. Revelation 3:12 

That last one! How amazing! We will be in His Presence and never again, not at all, by no means, never ever, in no case, not ever, not in any wise will we leave His glorious Presence ever again. Praise God! It ain’t happenin’! 

*A further discussion and complete list of verses using οὐ μή and be found here https://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?t=kjv&strongs=g3364 

Image copyright by Derek Bair

Wineskin in the Smoke

Like David, I must choose hope.

Kaph 

 My soul faints with longing for your salvation, 

    but I have put my hope in your word. 

My eyes fail, looking for your promise; 

    I say, “When will you comfort me?” 

Though I am like a wineskin in the smoke, 

    I do not forget your decrees. 

How long must your servant wait? 

    Psalm 119:81-84a 

For years I have been reading that phrase “though I am like a wineskin in the smoke” and wondering what it means. It has been an enigma to me. But now I am starting to get an idea. Maybe, sometimes you have to be there in the dark smoke to finally understand.  

Each of the sections of Psalm 119 start with one of the letters of the Hebrew alphabet. This section starts with kaph. 

“Jewish writers state that kaph means ‘bent.’ It has a dual symbolism, standing for the palm of the hand serving as a container and, at the same time, as a measure for what it holds. Ibn Ezra states that kaph means ‘result through mental and physical effort.’ While yod stands for the hand indicating power and possession, kaph denotes productivity and accomplishment.” — Mick Mills, David Michael, Messiah and his Hebrew Alphabet. [emphasis mine] 

David used kaph as a word in Psalm 139:5: You hem me in—behind and before; you have laid your hand (kaph) upon me. “You have laid your kaph on me” – You are doing, producing, accomplishing something in me! 

The first word of this section of Psalm 119, kalah, starts with the letter kaph. Kalah means to be spent, be used up, to waste away, be exhausted, fail. My soul faints. My eyes fail. But it also means to come or bring to an end, to complete, finish, to accomplish, fulfill, bring to pass. On our side we are exhausted, spent, we have failed and are failing. On God’s side, he is bringing us to the end of our own strength, he is finishing, accomplishing, fulfilling his purpose and promise in us, bringing his Word to pass. 

What does that have to do with wineskins in the smoke? 

There are two things that I have found. Nomadic peoples would hang their skin-bottles in their tents which were full of smoke and they would become, over time, black and dried out, shriveled, and useless. Many commentators conclude that David is lamenting that he feels like such a skin in the hot, blinding smoke – suffering, helpless, waiting. (See, for instance, Spurgeon in The Treasury of David https://www.christianity.com/bible/commentary.php?com=spur&b=19&c=119&v=45

But there is another beautiful meaning here. Hanging skin-bottles over a fire, or in a smoky place, was an ancient method of refining the wine inside of them.i 

  “A bottle in the smoke. One object amongst the ancients of such exposure was to mellow the wine by the gradual ascent of the heat and smoke from the fire over which the skin was suspended; and thus the words teach us the uses of affliction in ripening and improving the soul.” — Ernst Friedrich Karl Rosenmüller, quoted in John Mason Neale, Richard Frederick Littledale, A Commentary on the Psalms 

“And in that custom the psalmist finds an illustration of the meaning, and of the mercy, of the afflictions to which he has been exposed. They have been sent to act on him like the warm smoke on the wine – to refine, mellow, and ripen his character; and because, under them all, he has refused to part with his faith in God and duty; because he has been true to God and God’s statutes, they have had their intended and proper effect upon him.” — Rev. Robert Tuckii  

How long must your servant wait?  

Yes, it’s the waiting that makes it so hard. I’m not good at waiting even for good things, let alone waiting in the suffocating smoke of misery, not knowing what is going to happen, how long it will last, helpless, not able to change or affect anything. Like David, I must choose hope. 

“To wait with openness and trust is an enormously radical attitude toward life. It is choosing to hope that something is happening for us that is far beyond our own imaginings. It is giving up control over our future and letting God define our life. It is living with the conviction that God molds us in love, holds us in tenderness, and moves us away from the sources of our fear.” — Henri J.M. Nouwen, Radical Waiting 

“What seems to be in mind is a long waiting-time, which was also a time of suffering and strain. The watching for God was prolonged; no response seemed to come; much had to be borne while he was waiting; he seemed to get dry, shriveled, and blackened, like the wine-skin in the chimney that had waited so long (and seemed to get tired of waiting, even as he did) for the moisture and refreshing of being used, and filled again with wine. But the question of supreme importance was this – What was he doing during this hard waiting-time?” – Rev. Robert Tuckiii  

What was David doing in the waiting? I have put my hope in your word … looking for your promise … I do not forget your decrees. He believed, because he knew God, he knew that all the time he was hanging there in the dark, hot, choking smoke – God was working, God was accomplishing his purpose, God was fulfilling his promise.

Lord help me do that too. When I’m hanging there, when despair and hopelessness swirl around me like the strangling, blinding smoke – give me that grace. 

Even when I don’t see it, You’re working 
Even when I don’t feel it, You’re working 
You never stop, You never stop working 
You never stop, You never stop working 

— from Way Maker by Osinachi Kalu Okoro Egbu 

Jesus said to them, “My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I, too, am working.” John 5:17 

Photo, free download from Pixabay 

Easter Saturday

We are in a very dark and scary time right now. It is easy to succumb to fear and even despair. By faith, and in hope, let’s sit with him in heavenly places and see the end of this trouble.

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world (conquered, prevailed, been victorious).” John 16:33 (NIV)

You probably already knew this, but I just realized that Jesus said this to his disciples at the last supper. After Judas had left to betray him.

Yet, Jesus said, “I HAVE overcome,” because from where God sits, there is no time. Jesus had already overcome, in fact he had overcome from the foundation of the world.

He [the Lamb who was slain] was chosen before the creation of the world, but was revealed in these last times for your sake. 1 Peter 1:18

Jesus knew what the disciples were going to experience in the next days and he wanted to give them something to cling to. He hoped they would remember his words in that dark day between the despair of the crucifixion, and the blazing light and joy of the resurrection. As Philip Yancey wrote, “It was no accident, I believe, that Jesus spoke his triumphant words, I HAVE OVERCOME THE WORLD, even as Roman soldiers were buckling on weapons for his arrest.”

We are in a very dark and scary time right now. It is easy to succumb to fear and even despair. Let us rest and abide in the One who promises to always be with us. Let us be still and know that he is God. He has already overcome this dark world, and whether we live or die, our peace is in him, our ultimate home is with him. By faith, and in hope, let’s sit with him in heavenly places and see the end of this trouble.

“It is a good thing to remember, when we encounter dark, disturbing times, that we live out our days on Easter Saturday.”—Philip Yancey[i]

Do not fear, for I am with you; Do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, Surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand. Isaiah 41:10 (NASB)

 

[i] Where is God When it Hurts?

 

God’s Proposal

Paul is saying here that all things work for the good of those who have been called according to God’s proposal, God’s intention. But what, I wondered, is God’s proposal or intention?

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose (prothesis). For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. Romans 8:28-29 (NIV)

I have always read this verse and stopped at the comfort of its promise: that in all things God works for the good of those who love him. This time I thought I would go through it carefully, word by word, and study it. When I got to the word translated “purpose” I was stopped in my tracks at the amazing depth and fullness and loving message hidden there.

The Greek word is prothesis. It means “a setting forth of a thing,” figuratively, a proposal or intention. Paul is saying here that all things work for the good of those who have been called according to God’s proposal, God’s intention. But what, I wondered, is God’s proposal or intention? The word prothesis also contains the answer to that question.

Prothesis also means a setting forth of the shewbread in the Temple, as exposed before God. The shewbread, or showbread, was the Bread of the Presence, which God commanded to be always before him.

Put the bread of the Presence on this table to be before me at all times. Exodus 25:30 (NIV)

Prothesis is the same word that Jesus used in Matthew:

He answered, “Haven’t you read what David did when he and his companions were hungry? He entered the house of God, and he and his companions ate the consecrated bread (shewbread, loaves of presentation)—which was not lawful for them to do, but only for the priests. Matthew 12:3-4 (NIV)

The noun prothesis comes from the verb protithemai, which means to place before, to set forth to be looked at, expose to public view. It was used of the bodies of the dead that were let lie in state. In ancient Greek it referred to the laying out of a dead body during the funeral (exposing the body for viewing), also called lying in repose. The laying out, or exposing of, the shewbread in the temple was like the lying in repose of the body of Christ. It was the exposing of God’s intention, his Grand Proposal to save the world.

God’s purpose, his proposal, his intention, that, Jesus, the Bread of Life, the Bread of the Presence, Immanuel, God with us, would die for us.

“I am the bread of life. Your ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness, yet they died. But here is the bread that comes down from heaven, which anyone may eat and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats this bread will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.” John 6:48-51 (NIV)

This was always God’s intent, but there is more in Romans 8:28-29: For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son. He wants us to be like Jesus. To lay our lives down too. To help bring this life, this Bread, to the world. To share the good news of God’s grand proposal: that Jesus died and rose again from the dead to save us from our sins.

Although I am less than the least of all the Lord’s people, this grace was given me: to preach to the Gentiles the boundless riches of Christ, and to make plain to everyone the administration of this mystery, which for ages past was kept hidden in God, who created all things. His intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms, according to his eternal purpose that he accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord. Ephesians 3:7-11 (NIV)

While they were eating, Jesus took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to his disciples, saying, “Take and eat; this is my body. Matthew 26:26 (NIV)

 

Rise up and help us; redeem us because of (for the sake of, for the purpose of, to the intent of, on account of) your unfailing love. Psalm 44:26 (NIV)

 

Image by Heartlight https://www.heartlight.org/articles/201703/20170304_worthy.html

You Shall Love, I Promise

What if I really believed this? How would it change how I live?

The final secret, I think, is this: that the words “You shall love the Lord your God” become in the end less a command than a promise. And the promise is that, yes, on the weary feet of faith and the fragile wings of hope, we will come to love him at last as from the first he has loved us—loved us even in the wilderness, especially in the wilderness, because he has been in the wilderness with us. He has been in the wilderness for us. He has been acquainted with our grief. —Frederick Buechner, A Room Called Remember

This idea has really captivated my mind – that all of those Old Testament laws, all of those “shalls” and “shall nots” could be looked on as promises, not as commands. As even the longing cry of God: Someday you will love me with all your heart and all your mind and all your strength. Someday you will love your neighbor as yourself. I promise!

Jesus said, “Don’t misunderstand why I have come. I did not come to abolish the law of Moses or the writings of the prophets. No, I came to fulfill them (Matthew 5:17 NLT). Jesus made it possible for me to do the “shalls” in him and through him. He did this by making me a new creature, by changing my heart, by making it possible for me to come into the Presence of the Father and know him.

For by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy. The Holy Spirit also testifies to us about this. First he says: “This is the covenant I will make with them I will put my laws in their hearts, and I will write them on their minds.” Then he adds: “Their sins and lawless acts I will remember no more.” Hebrews 11:14-17 (NIV)

He has put his law in our hearts. He has given us new hearts, new minds, the mind of Christ. He has given us grace and power to obey his will, to truly know him, to truly love him.

What if I really believed this? How would it change how I live? It would set me free. If I truly believed that God is not a fierce judge, giving me impossible things to accomplish, just waiting for me to trip up, but a loving Father who is by my side, walking through this wilderness with me. A loving Father holding out his arms to this (still) toddler-me, saying, “Come on, you can do it! You shall love!” I would fearlessly go out there and love – not love to be noticed and acclaimed, not love to be accepted and loved back, not love to please people, not love to earn Brownie points, not love to finally “get it right.” But just freely love to please God, to know the joy that it gives Him.

And if I was rejected, taken for granted, ignored, dissed, insulted, criticized, misunderstood, it would not make me stumble as long as my eyes were fixed on his loving face and my ears attuned to his joyful, encouraging voice.

So, you and me, let’s not give up. Don’t despair. Keep going “on the weary feet of faith and the fragile wings of hope” through this wilderness. Trust in him. Keep running into his open arms. You shall learn to love the Lord your God. You shall love.

The LORD your God will circumcise your hearts and the hearts of your descendants, so that you may love him with all your heart and with all your soul, and live. Deuteronomy 30:6 (NIV)

See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland. Isaiah 43:19 (NIV)

Christ’s life showed me how, and enabled me to do it. I identified myself completely with him. Indeed, I have been crucified with Christ. My ego is no longer central. It is no longer important that I appear righteous before you or have your good opinion, and I am no longer driven to impress God. Christ lives in me. The life you see me living is not “mine,” but it is lived by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.  Galatians 2:20 (MSG)

For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him. John 3:17 (NASB)

 

Photograph by Jack Bair, copyright 2019, all rights reserved.

Middle of the Story

Ann Voskamp wrote, “Faith thanks God in the middle of the story.”[i] The middle of the story is the hard place, where behind me, and at my feet, is the stumbled-over rubble of past mistakes, rebellions, regrets. And before, is the obscured darkness of unknown hazards and hopes. Faith thanks God amid the wreckage. Faith asks me every day to turn from fear and trust the One who has promised. How do I do that? Hebrews 11:1 (NKJV) says:

Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.

The amazing Greek word translated “substance” is hupostasis.  It partly means “steadfastness of mind, firmness, courage, resolution, confidence, firm trust, assurance,” and it is mostly translated that way as “confidence.” It literally means “a setting under”[ii] as in setting under a support, a substructure, a foundation, that which is firm. Faith is the setting under me of the foundation that makes or causes me to stand and be confident. Jesus is that foundation[iii] under me. He is the Rock on which I stand.

Thinking of it this way helps me, because it makes me realize that faith is not so much something that I “have,” something I am required to manufacture or come up with. But faith is something I do. I simply step onto the Rock. I place my faith and hope, not in my ability to produce faith, not in something that may or may not happen, but in Jesus – his faithfulness, his truth, his Word, his love and care.

But, the hidden treasure in this word is another facet of meaning. Hupostasis also means “actual existence, substance, real being, essence.” It is used in this sense in Hebrews 1:3.

The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being (hupostasis) sustaining (bearing up, upholding, keeping from falling) all things by his powerful word.

Faith is the essence of hope as Christ is the essence of God – His exact representation. When I step onto the Rock, I am sustained, upheld, kept from falling by the very essence of God, which is love. God is love; his real being is love. I will thank God here in the middle of my story, confidently standing on Jesus, the Rock of my salvation, supported and sustained by his Love that was proven at the cross.

My hope is built on nothing less
than Jesus’ blood and righteousness.
I dare not trust the sweetest frame,
but wholly lean on Jesus’ name.

On Christ the solid rock I stand,
all other ground is sinking sand;
all other ground is sinking sand.

And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him. 1 John 4:16 (NIV)

He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand. Psalm 40:2 (NIV)

There is so much in Hebrews 11:1! I will look at the second half of the verse next time. Read more about faith in the blog Faith, Part Two

[i] Ann Voskamp, The Broken Way

[ii] All translations from NetBible.org and Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible

[iii] 1 Corinthians 3:11 

 

The Ram

I just recently discovered an amazing, wonderful hidden treasure looking at this verse.

Blessed (adored, knelt down to, praised, thanked) be the Lord,

who daily, daily (perpetually, presently, continually, today, yesterday, tomorrow)

bears our burden (our heavy burden, carries our load),

The God (the powerful, strong, mighty God) who is our salvation (welfare, deliverance, victory, Yeshua!).

Selah (pause, lift up, exalt). Psalm 68:19

 

I just recently discovered an amazing, wonderful hidden treasure looking at this verse. The Hebrew word translated God is el (אֵ֣ל). And, according to Strong’s Concordance, el is a shortened form of ayil (אַיִל), which means strength, or anything strong, like a strong man, a pillar, or a mighty oak. But it primarily means, and is mostly used (156 times) to mean a ram, like a ram for the burnt offering. I had to selah, pause, a minute to let that sink in.

Ayil is the word used in Genesis 22 where God tells Abraham to sacrifice his son, Isaac, to test his faith. It is the word used for the ram that Abraham looks up and sees with its horns caught in the thicket, the ram provided by God to be a sacrifice in Isaac’s place, the ram that foreshadowed the Lamb of God who would carry all our sins and sorrows and pains and sicknesses – our heavy load – to the cross.

The one who still daily bears our burdens. The Hebrew word for daily is repeated for emphasis – he daily, daily, day after day, perpetually, presently, continually, today, yesterday and tomorrow bears our burdens as our Intercessor, Comforter, God With Us.

The strong one, the mighty one who willingly let himself be caught in the thicket to be our sacrifice. The One provided by God to be our salvation, welfare, deliverance, victory.

Yeshua.

Jesus.

Abraham looked up and there in a thicket he saw a ram caught by its horns. He went over and took the ram and sacrificed it as a burnt offering instead of his son. So Abraham called that place The LORD Will Provide. And to this day it is said, “On the mountain of the LORD it will be provided.” Genesis 22:13-14 (NIV) 

Blessed, adored, knelt down to, praised, and thanked be the Lord!

Selah

 

Image, Silk Willoughby church, East Window detail, by Jules & Jenny on flickr.com https://www.flickr.com/photos/jpguffogg/

Hoping From

We were never meant to put our hope in this earth. For He, and only He, is the Rock-Solid Place. He is all our future and in him is all our hope.

I know that my Redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand upon the earth. Job 19:25 (NIV)

I recently read an article by J.D. Walt in Seedbed (Take the Long View https://www.seedbed.com/step-3-take-long-view/ ). He was commenting on a quote about hope by British theologian, Jeremy Begbie.

“Christians do not hope ‘in’ the future. We hope ‘from’ the future.” In other words, we aren’t hoping everything is going to turn out ok in the end. We live as those who have already won. The future is a settled matter. Because of Jesus, the future is as fixed as the Sun. Our hope is not rooted in our hopefulness. It is securely anchored in the settled future. We hope “from” the future … He not only holds our future, He is our future.” J.D. Walt

Hoping from the future. Our hope is not wishful thinking. “We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain, where Jesus, who went before us, has entered on our behalf. (Hebrews 6:19-20).” This idea of “hoping from” made me think of one of the most magnificent statements of hope and faith in the Bible spoken by Job:

“I know that my Redeemer lives and that in the end he will stand upon the earth. And after my skin has been destroyed, yet (yet!) in my flesh I will see God; I myself will see him with my own eyes—I, and not another. How my heart yearns within me!” Job 19:25-27 (NIV)

Job is not hoping his Redeemer lives. He knows; he is hoping from an assured future. Job looks ahead to the end and declares this amazing prophetic affirmation of the return of Jesus and of the resurrection of the dead. It affirms the resurrection – I myself will see him with my own eyes (but argues against reincarnation – I, and not another). But as I looked at Job 19:25 word by word in the Hebrew I discovered some additional “wonderfulness.”

There is so much in just the word “redeemer” – ransom, act as kinsman-redeemer, buy back – but that will have to wait for another day. What really stopped me in my tracks was the word “earth.”  I was expecting the Hebrew word erets – אֶרֶץ. It is used for earth or land all over the old testament, over 2,500 times, starting in Genesis.

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth (erets). Genesis 1:1 (NIV)

Strong’s Concordance says that erets comes “from an unused root probably meaning firm.” This reminds me of “terra firma,” solid ground. But I was surprised to discover that erets is not the word translated earth in Job 19:25. The word is aphar – עָפָר. Aphar is a very different word, meaning  ashes, dust, earth, ground, mortar, powder, rubbish. I imagined Jesus, King of Kings and Lord of Lords, victorious returning conqueror, planting his feet on a rubbish heap. What could it mean?

This word, aphar, does not have the meaning of permanence or solidity, but rather, weakness and impermanence.

Then Abraham spoke again. “Since I have begun, let me go on and speak further to my Lord, even though I am but dust (aphar) and ashes. Genesis 18:27 (NLT)

For he understands how weak we are; he knows we are only dust (aphar). Psalm 103:14 (NLT)

And then I realized. God made the Earth firm, solid, perfect. But when Jesus comes back, he will not stand on an Earth that is firm, as some permanent, rock-solid place. But, he will stand in the debris of our sins and rebellion, on the rubbish heap, in the blowing-away dust, this dying place. And He will change it as He changes us, making all things new. We were never meant to put our hope in this earth. For He, and only He, is the Rock-Solid Place. He is all our future and in him is all our hope. We can’t hope “in” the ruined rubbish heap of this world. We can’t hope “in” our own hopefulness, our own fleeting strength. But we can hope “from” that future with Him, that “settled matter,” the everlasting, the unchanging, the unfailing. For by faith we are already there, seated with God in the heavenly places if we are in Christ Jesus (Ephesians 2:6). We can live as those who have already won. Hope from!

Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away. Matthew 24:35 (NIV)

But in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, the home of righteousness. 2 Peter 3:13 (NIV)

He raises the poor from the dust (aphar) and lifts the needy from the ash heap; he seats them with princes, with the princes of their people. Psalm 113:7-8 (NIV)

Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed— in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. 1 Corinthians 15:52 (NIV)

I myself will see him with my own eyes—I, and not another. How my heart yearns within me!” Job 19:27 (NIV)

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