Every Heart

And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden.  Genesis 3:8 (ESV) 

I saw a meme on Facebook the other day about cancel culture. The first person says, “I hate cancel culture.” The second one answers, “The very first Bible story is God cancelling two people over an apple.” I wanted to put in a good word for God here.

What this meme defines as “cancelling” was God closing the doors of the Garden and not allowing Adam and Eve back in. They had just sinned, separating themselves from God, causing a rift in the relationship. And they showed a distressing tendency to continue on that path, refusing to admit their responsibility in the matter, pointing fingers at each other.  

God did not want them to eat of the tree that would give them eternal life in that state. They would have been eternally separated from God and his love for them. Isn’t that the definition of hell? It was an act of mercy and compassion banning them from the Garden and locking them out. He was giving them a chance; he was giving them time to turn, time to realize what they had lost. Until God would come back into another garden and open the door again by offering Himself up as the atonement. 

When Jesus had spoken these words, he went out with his disciples across the brook Kidron, where there was a garden, which he and his disciples entered. Now Judas, who betrayed him, also knew the place, for Jesus often met there with his disciples. So Judas, having procured a band of soldiers and some officers from the chief priests and the Pharisees, went there with lanterns and torches and weapons. John 18:1-3 (ESV) 

Now in the place where he was crucified there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb in which no one had yet been laid. John 19:41 (ESV) 

You are invited to turn around and come back into the garden and walk again with the One who loves you and wants to spend eternity with you.  

“God now fills the recovered garden, and we may without fear walk and commune with Him in the cool of the day.” — A.W. Tozer 

Come back  Salvation

Image, hand-colored lino print by Sheila Bair. Copyright 2020, all rights reserved. 

Go Stand

Now Moses used to take a tent and pitch it outside the camp some distance away, calling it the “tent of meeting.”  Exodus 33:7 

Moses placed the staffs before the LORD in the Tent of the Testimony. Numbers 17:7 

Reading through the accounts again of the Israelite’s journey through the wilderness, I saw something I hadn’t noticed before. The tent, or tabernacle, that traveled around in the wilderness with the Israelites was called both the Tent of Meeting and the Tent of the Testimony, or Witness. And I realized something as I remembered that Paul said in 1 Corinthians that we are now that Temple or Tent. 

Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit lives in you? 1 Corinthians 3:16 

And that being so, I realized that we are both – a tent in which to meet with the Lord, and a tent of testimony or witness to who he is. What does that mean?  

We are the Tent of Meeting  

We always have a holy place where we can go to meet with God and commune with him – our hearts – seeking Him, turning toward Him, open to His correction and love. 

Because of Christ and our faith in him, we can now come fearlessly into God’s presence, assured of his glad welcome. Ephesians 3:12 (NLT) 

Because of Jesus’ atoning death on the cross, we can now come into God’s presence as Moses did. 

The LORD would speak to Moses face to face, as a man speaks with his friend. Then Moses would return to the camp, but his young assistant Joshua son of Nun did not leave the tent. Exodus 3:11 

Moses spoke to God there in the Tent as a friend, face to face, but had to leave to attend to the needs of the people. But Joshua never left the Tent. I have always thought, how amazing and precious to never leave the Tent of Meeting! But that’s exactly what we can do because of what Jesus did on the cross. We can dwell continually in God’s Presence.i 

One thing I ask of the LORD, this is what I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD and to seek him in his temple. Psalm 27:4 

We are the Tent of the Testimony  

The Tent was also called the Tent of the Testimony because it contained objects that pointed to God’s plan of redemption and reminded the people of all that God had done for them. These objects were witnesses to God’s love and care. Among them were the Ark which “contained the gold jar of manna, Aaron’s staff that had budded, and the stone tablets of the covenant (Hebrews 9:4).”

These objects stood as witness to God’s Word (the commandments), God’s goodness and care for their very lives (the manna or Bread of Life), and the authority of the High Priest (Aaron’s rod that budded). The High Priest was a type of Jesus who would take the blood of the sacrifice – his own blood – into the heavenly Holy Place. 

For Christ did not enter a man-made sanctuary that was only a copy of the true one; he entered heaven itself, now to appear for us in God’s presence. Hebrews 9:24 

This is what we are witnesses to; this is the testimony of our earthly tent: Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world (John 1:29), the Bread given for the life of the world (John 6:51), the Word made flesh (John 1:14), the Way, the Truth, and the Life (John 14:6). This is what Jesus has done for me; this is who he is to me. 

When I think of myself this way, as a Tent of Meeting and Testimony, a lot of Bible verses click into a new focus, and I see why holiness, and perseverance, and trust in God is so important. May God show you who you are in Him and give you grace to stand. 

… at night an angel of the Lord opened the prison doors and brought them out, and said, 

Go (pursue the journey on which you have entered, follow) 

and stand (stand immovable, stand firm, in the presence of others, in the midst, before judges, steadfast of mind, not hesitating, not wavering, stand ready, stand prepared) 

in the temple (in the temple courts, in the sacred place) 

and speak (utter your voice, emit a sound, speak, talk, tell, use words to declare, preach)  

to the people (population, people groups, tribes, nations) 

all (each, every, any, all, the whole, every one, all things, everything of) 

the words (which have been uttered by the Living Voice, things spoken, the Word) 

of this Life (life real and genuine, a life active and vigorous, devoted to God, blessed, in the portion even in this world of those who put their trust in Christ, but after the resurrection to be consummated by accession of a more perfect body, and to last forever).  

Acts 5:19-20 

do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? 1 Corinthians 6:19 

Go and stand in the temple … 

i For more on the Tent of Meeting see https://www.gotquestions.org/tent-of-meeting.html 

Image, free download from Pxfuel

Shards on the Ground

Jesus became a broken shard of pottery for us.

Woe to him who quarrels with his Maker, to him who is but a potsherd among the potsherds on the ground. Does the clay say to the potter, ‘What are you making?’ Does your work say, ‘He has no hands’? Isaiah 45:9 

“A potsherd among the potsherds” NetBible translates this “a mere shard among the other shards on the ground.” That really hit me when I read this verse. We are mere broken shards laying on the ground. Wow, that is a very humbling picture. But the wonderful thing is that Jesus, Messiah, was described the same way. 

My strength is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth; you lay me in the dust of death. Psalms 22:15 

Psalm 22 is the great Psalm describing the Crucifixion. It includes “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” and “They divide my garments among them and cast lots for my clothing.” 

Jesus became a broken shard of pottery for us. Jesus, “Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness” (Philippians 2:6-7). Human likeness, like the other shards on the ground.  

The Hebrew word translated potsherd is cheres or heres (חֶרֶשׂ). It means both an earthenware or clay vessel, and a broken shard or potsherd. The Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament (TWOT) includes this definition: 

“This word, which occurs seventeen times, represents the potter’s product (Isa 45:9) which is dried and fired (Psa 22:15 [H 161), or even glazed (Pro 26:23). Bottles (baqbuq), bowls (ke li), and pots/pitchers (nebel) are made of it. It is in vessels made of heres, that documents were stored (Jer 32:14). heres can apply generally to a vessel (Pro 26:23), or it can mean pieces of potsherd at least large enough to use to carry a coal from a hearth or dip water for a drink (Isa 30:14).” 

As I read this definition, I realized that Jesus was all of these for us. He was a clay pot (a human being) in which the Word was stored. 

The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. John 1:14 

He was the broken potsherd large enough to carry the coals from the altar of sacrifice. The coals that cleanse like the angel did for Isaiah. 

With it [the live coal] he [the angel] touched my mouth and said, “See, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for.” Isaiah 6:6-7 

He was the broken potsherd large enough to give us his living water. 

Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.” John 4:10 

Cheres is a variation of a word whose root is “to scrape,” and means itch and an eruptive disease. Job took a shard of broken pottery – a cheres – to scrape his boils of the “serous or lymph-like fluid” [which] is occasionally “acrid and offensive.”i 

Then Job took a piece of broken pottery and scraped himself with it as he sat among the ashes. Job 2:8 

In like way, Jesus touched the lepers. He puts his healing hands on us at our most needy and disgusting. 

Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. “I am willing,” he said. “Be clean!” Immediately he was cured of his leprosy. Matthew 8: 3 

But the most wonderful, the most amazing thing about the heres is this: 

“Being porous, it [heres] absorbed the fat of holy things and the uncleanness of unclean things. Thus it was to be broken when contacted by either holiness or uncleanness (Lev 6:28 [H 211; Num 15:12).” — L.J.C., Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament 

Jesus was both. He was a pottery jar carrying God’s holiness, but he was also a pottery jar which absorbed and carried the uncleanness of our sin. He was broken after coming in contact with our uncleanness. We are broken when coming in contact with his holiness. 

Oh Lord Jesus, let us be broken with your holiness! Let us be like you, Jesus, storing the Word in our hearts, touching the lepers, offering the life-giving water, carrying the live coals of your righteousness and sin-cleansing power of the blood. Let us be broken with you as shards on the ground.  

Image from WikimediaCommons, Broken vases on Holy Saturday in Corfu 

i Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament 

Jesus in the Middle

You know what is the most amazing and wondrous example of Jesus in the middle?

Here they crucified him, and with him two others—one on each side and Jesus in the middle. John 19:18 

Jesus in the middle. It seems like Jesus was always in the middle. The Greek word translated “in the middle” is mesos – the middle, the midst, in the midst of, amongst, between. It comes from meta, which means “with,” “denoting accompaniment,” “amid.” 

That’s why he came – to be with us, among us, in our midst. That was his mission and his passion. From the beginning to the end of his life on earth when he died still in the middle of sinful man. 

[When he was 12 years old:] After three days they found him in the temple courts, sitting among (or, in the midst of) the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. Luke 2:46 

[His last night on earth:] For who is the greater, one who reclines at table or one who serves? Is it not the one who reclines at table? But I am among you as the one who serves. Luke 22:27 (ESV) 

At the beginning of Jesus’ ministry, God revealed to John the Baptist that Messiah was coming and that he was in our midst, not like John himself, who had kept himself separated. 

“I baptize with water,” John replied, “but among you stands one you do not know.” John 1:26 

So many times, the Bible tells of Jesus in the middle of the crowd, being grasped at and jostled, so that in the crush his disciples would be astonished that he could ask, “Who touched me?” (Luke 8:45) 

And Jesus touched them, and held them, and he mingled with them, and he ate with them, and he welcomed them – much to the consternation and distain of many. 

Zacchaeus quickly climbed down and took Jesus to his house in great excitement and joy. But the crowds were displeased. “He has gone to be the guest of a notorious sinner,” they grumbled. Luke 19:6-7 (NLT) 

Both the Pharisees and the scribes began to grumble, saying, “This man receives sinners and eats with them.” Luke 15:2 (NASB) 

 But you know what is the most amazing and wondrous example of Jesus in the middle? It’s in Colossians: 

When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your sinful nature, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, having cancelled the written code, with its regulations, that was against us and that stood opposed to us; he took it away (out of our mesos = midst, out from amongst us), nailing it to the cross. Colossians 2:13-14 

Do you see it? He took out from our midst all our sins, all that stood against us, all that opposed us, all the kept us separated from the love of God. And he replaced it with Himself. One of the meanings of mesos is “between.” Jesus stood between us and the just wrath of God. Like Aaron the High Priest, a type of Jesus, who ran into the midst of the assembly with the censer, stopping the deadly plague (Numbers 16:44-50). Jesus in the middle. 

And he is still in the middle, still in our midst, still interceding for us. His blood shed on the cross for all time has stopped the deadly plague of sin and death if we will but look to him in faith. 

While they were still talking about this, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” Luke 24:36  

For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them. Matthew 18:20 (ESV) 

… and in the middle of the lampstands [which represent the churches] I saw one like a son of man, clothed in a robe reaching to the feet, and girded across His chest with a golden sash. Revelation 1:13 (NASB) 

For he who sanctifies and those who are sanctified all have one source. That is why he is not ashamed to call them brothers, saying, “I will tell of your name to my brothers; in the midst of the congregation I will sing your praise.” Hebrew 2:11-12 (ESV) 

This post is also available as a Bible study at https://hiddentreasurebiblestudies.home.blog/2021/06/03/jesus-in-the-middle/

Image: Ford Maddox Brown, Jesus Washing Peter’s Feet [1852-6], Tate Archive, image  released under Creative Commons CC-BY-NC-ND (3.0 Unported) 

Mount Ebal

It struck me as kind of weird that God commanded Joshua to build the altar there.

Then Joshua built on Mount Ebal an altar to the Lord, the God of Israel, as Moses the servant of the Lord had commanded the Israelites. — Joshua 8:30 

After the Israelites had come into the promised land and won a couple of battles, Joshua built an altar to the Lord and offered sacrifices – the burnt offering and the fellowship offering. It struck me as kind of weird that God commanded Joshua to build the altar there on Mount Ebal because it was the mountain of cursing. 

When the LORD your God has brought you into the land you are entering to possess, you are to proclaim on Mount Gerizim the blessings, and on Mount Ebal the curses. Deuteronomy 11:29 

Half of the tribes were to stand on Mount Ebal and call out the curses that would incur to those who failed to obey the commandments (Deuteronomy 27:14-26). And half were to stand on Mount Gerizim and call out the blessings. Wouldn’t God want the altar to be built on the place of blessings? 

But then I saw that this is the whole point.  

God didn’t turn his back on those who committed sin. He didn’t say that he would only receive sacrifices from the ones who perfectly kept the commandments. He knew that the blessing was unattainable without the altar of repentance. But mostly, it was unattainable without the One to whom the sacrifices pointed. God left room for mercy, looking forward to the final sacrifice for sin, to Jesus, the Lamb of God, who would set us free from the curse forever. 

Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: “Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree.” Galatians 3:13 

Don’t cover over your sins and try with all your might to obtain the blessing through self-righteousness. Go to the mountain of cursing. Admit your failures before God. That is where the altar is. 

I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance. Luke 5:32 

Image, Mount Ebal (Eival) in Samaria, by Bukvoed in Wikimedia Commons 

Always

Continually, continual, daily, regularly, constantly, always …

Be my rock of refuge, to which I can always go; give the command to save me, for you are my rock and my fortress. Psalm 71: 3 

From my birth I have relied on you; you brought me forth from my mother’s womb. I will ever praise you. Psalm 71:6 

But as for me, I shall always have hope; I will praise you more and more. Psalm 71:14 

The Hebrew word tamiyd is used three times in Psalm 71. In the above verses, the word translated “always” and “ever” is tamiyd. It means continually or continuously, constantly, perpetually, evermore. I can continually go to God, praise God, and have hope in God. Yes! And you know why? Because of the other meaning of tamiyd.  

According to the Encyclopaedia Judaic, “Tamid is an abbreviated form for olat tamid (daily burnt-offering), and refers to the daily (morning and evening) sacrifices as set out in Exodus 29:38-42 and Numbers 28:1-8.” i

Tamiyd (or tamid) is the regular, daily sacrifice, the fire of which was never to go out (Leviticus 6:12-13) until the Lamb of God, Jesus, the final sacrifice for sin would come (Hebrews 9:15-27).   

But he [Jesus] has appeared once for all at the culmination of the ages to do away with sin by the sacrifice of himself. Hebrews 9:26b 

The word also refers to the Bread of the Presence, the shewbread or showbread, which was placed weekly on the golden table in the Tabernacle.  

“The word [tamiyd] is used alone to designate the daily burnt offering in Dan 8:11-13; Dan 11:31; Dan 12:11. Num 4:7 refers to the ‘bread of continuity’ meaning the bread that was always there.” — Dr. Walter C. Kaiser, Jr.ii  (emphasis added) 

The Bread that is always there. Jesus, always right there with us. As close as our breath and the beating of our hearts. Hallelujah! 

Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; he who comes to Me will not hunger, and he who believes in Me will never thirst.” John 6:35 

And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age. Matthew 28:20 

Continually, continual, daily, regularly, constantly, always, at all times, all day and all night, constant, perpetual, endless, forever, ever, evermore.iii 

Because of the Lamb of God who was the final sacrifice for sin, the Lamb slain before the beginning of the world, whose passionate, fiery love for us never goes out, I can always go into the Presence of God. 

In him and through faith in him we may approach God with freedom and confidence. Ephesians 3:12 

Because of the Bread of Life who is always there with us, I can ever praise him 

Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise—the fruit of lips that confess his name. Hebrews 13:15 

Because of Jesus who daily bears our burdens and ever lives to make intercession for us, I can always have hope 

Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful.  Hebrews 10:23 

My Rock of refuge to whom I can always go, may your fire never go out in me. 

Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 

Seek the Lord and his strength, seek his face continually (tamiyd). 1 Chronicles 16:11 

i Encyclopaedia Judaic, Jerusalem, 1971 Keter Publ. House Ltd. 

ii Hebrew word studies in the Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament, Vols. 1- 2, edited by Laird Harris, Gleason Archer and Bruce Waltke, Chicago: Moody Press, 1981. 

iii Some of the ways that tamiyd is translated in NetBible. 

Wait, What Just Happened?

When Jesus died on the cross something chain busting, history crashing and astounding happened. A transaction took place, what Derek Prince called a “divinely ordained exchange.” Let’s not let Easter fly by without camping out for a while in the revelation of what took place that glorious day. Below are some aspects of the exchange. I have also posted a Bible study written by R. Nelson Colyar in Hidden Treasure Bible Studies here The Transaction at the Cross

  1. Jesus was punished that we might be forgiven and have peace with God (Is. 53:4–5) 
  2. Jesus was wounded that we might be healed (Matt. 8:16–17, Isaiah 53:5, 1 Peter 2:24) 
  3. Jesus was made sin with our sinfulness that we might be made the righteousness of God (Is. 53:10; 2 Cor. 5:21) 
  4. Jesus tasted death for us that we might share his life (Heb. 2:9) 
  5. Jesus was made a curse that we might receive the blessing given to Abraham (Gal. 3:13–14) 
  6. Jesus became poor that through his poverty we might become rich (2 Cor. 8:9) 
  7. Jesus suffered our shame that we might share in his glory (Matt. 27:35–36, Heb. 2:10) 
  8. Jesus suffered our rejection that we might become accepted by the Father as his beloved children (Matt. 27:45–51, Eph. 1:3–7)

You were his enemies, separated from him by your evil thoughts and actions, yet now he has brought you back as his friends. He has done this through his death on the cross in his own human body. As a result, he has brought you into the very presence of God, and you are holy and blameless as you stand before him without a single fault. Colossians 1:21-22 (NLT)

Image in the Public Domain

This Long Dark Night

We must keep the light burning.

Command the Israelites to bring you clear (pure, clean, righteous) oil of pressed (beaten, pounded) olives for the light so that the lamps may be kept burning. In the Tent of Meeting, outside the curtain that is in front of the Testimony, Aaron and his sons are to keep the lamps burning before the LORD from evening till morning. Exodus 27:20-21 

These verses always strike me. The lamps were to be kept burning all night long. There should always be a light in the Temple of God. And we now know that we are that Temple.  

There were, actually, three things that were to be kept burning: 1.) the lamps (here and also Lev. 24:2), 2.) the incense, which was to be kept burning perpetually or continually (Exodus 30:8), and 3.) the fire on the altar (Leviticus 6:12).   

The importance of keeping our lamps burning is exemplified in the parable of the wise and foolish virgins: 

At that time the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish and five were wise. The foolish ones took their lamps but did not take any oil with them. The wise ones, however, took oil in jars along with their lamps. The bridegroom was a long time in coming … Matthew 25:1-5 

What is the oil for our lamps that we must keep with us at all times? I believe it is the Holy Spirit in us. It is staying in the Presence, listening for his voice, always poised to obey.  

“The light in the sanctuary was to burn continually before the Lord, in the Holy Place, [Leviticus 24] verses 1-4. The “pure oil olive beaten” is a symbol of the Holy Spirit, the “Spirit of grace.” The candlestick of “pure beaten gold” is the symbol of Christ “bruised” as an offering for sin, Isa. 53:10. The Spirit was given by reason of His being bruised. Cf. John 14:16-18, 16:7, 7:39. The lamps burned “from the evening till the morning,” perpetually before the Lord. Grace and truth are given unto us and kept by the priesthood of Christ. John 1:17.” — R. Nelson Colyar, Leviticus, The Book of Holiness, p. 47. 

So, the burning lamps symbolize the Light of Christ, the glory of God shining out from our lives.  

For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ. 2 Corinthians 4:6 

The continually burning incense symbolizes the prayers of the saints according to Revelation 8:4. We are to “pray without ceasing” (1 Thess. 5:17, Eph. 6:18).  

The continual fire on the altar was the burnt offering that was entirely consumed symbolizing the complete and perfect sacrifice of Christ on the cross. We are also to “offer [our] bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is [our] spiritual act of worship” (Romans 12:1).   

The fire on the altar must be kept burning; it must not go out. Every morning the priest is to add firewood and arrange the burnt offering on the fire and burn the fat of the fellowship offerings on it. The fire must be kept burning on the altar continuously; it must not go out. Lev. 6:12-13 

The fat symbolizes God’s portion, the best part, the “cream of the crop.” “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength” (Mark 12:30). That best love, that first love, must be kept burning. It all goes together this continual praying, self-sacrifice, and light.  

The passion of self-sacrifice – offering ourselves on the altar, daily taking up our cross for love of the One who took up the cross for us, the light of God’s Spirit shining out – because if He is in us and we are surrendering to crucifixion of self, the light can’t help but shine, and the incense of unceasing prayer – a continual looking up, offering thanks and praise, the worship of hope and faith and expectation of His goodness, but also just that “naked intent toward God,” the “practice of the presence of God.” 

We who are the Temple must keep the light burning through this long dark night. 

You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Matthew 5:14 

When night settles down on a church the Lord has his watchers and holy ones still guarding his truth, and these must not be discouraged, but must bless the Lord even when the darkest hours draw on. — Charles Spurgeon, Treasury of David 

The LORD will command His lovingkindness in the daytime; and His song will be with me in the night, a prayer to the God of my life. Psalm 42:8 (NASB) 

The bridegroom was a long time in coming …  

Photo, detail of free download from Pixabay 

By His Stripes

The God-Man, Jesus, standing there taking it for us.

But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed. Isaiah 53:5

God showed me something about Isaiah 53:5 that has been helping me a lot lately. The verse says by his stripes we are healed.   

by his stripes (bruises, stripes, wounds, blows, blueness, weals, black-and-blue marks, hurts) 

we are/were/have been healed (healed, made healthful, cured, repaired, made whole)   

He stood there and he took it. He allowed them to whip and beat on him. He did not have to do that. When they came to arrest him and one of the disciples drew his sword to fight back, Jesus said, Do you think I cannot call on my Father, and he will at once put at my disposal more than twelve legions of angels?” (Matt. 26:53). 

I guess this part never really sunk in for me like it has lately. He was beaten black and blue and bloody for us. I don’t usually like to write like this, but I think that we are so far removed from the reality of what went on that night that it has become just words.  

Then they spat in his face and struck him with their fists. Others slapped him and said, “Prophesy to us, Christ. Who hit you?”  Matthew 26:67-68 

Then Pilate took Jesus and had him flogged. John 19:1 

“Three forms of corporal punishment were employed by the Romans, in increasing degree of severity: (1) fustigatio (beating), (2) flagellatio (flogging), and (3) verberatio (severe flogging, scourging). The first could be on occasion a punishment in itself, but the more severe forms were part of the capital sentence as a prelude to crucifixion. The most severe, verberatio, is what is indicated here by the Greek verb translated flogged severely (μαστιγόω, mastigow). People died on occasion while being flogged this way; frequently it was severe enough to rip a person’s body open or cut muscle and sinew to the bone. It was carried out with a whip that had fragments of bone or pieces of metal bound into the tips.” — NetBible Study Notes on John 19:1 

This sort of punishment was very real to the early disciples. It happened right where they lived. They had seen it, and some of them would go on to experience it first-hand. But I am sure that they were bewildered when it happened to their leader, their Lord, the Messiah! Why didn’t he call the angels down? And later, why didn’t he come down from the cross? 

But how then would the Scriptures be fulfilled that say it must happen in this way?” Matthew 26:54 

Going back to Isaiah 53:5, “by his stripes we are healed,” the Hebrew word translated “healed” is rapha. It means to mend, to cure, to make whole. This healing includes literal physical healing of persons, but also, figuratively, the healing of personal distress, like anxiety and depression. And, it can also refer to “national hurts” according to the Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon

In this time of schism and hurt, of pandemic and anxiety, depression and fear – how we need this word! We need to meditate on it. We need to remember and proclaim it. We need to ask God to make it real to us over these thousands of years. The God-Man, Jesus, standing there taking it for us. 

He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds (bruises, wales, wounds that trickle with blood, blow-marks) you have been healed. 1 Peter 2:24 

“I gave my back to those who struck (smote, beat, scourged) me.” Isaiah 50:6 

Thank you, Lord Jesus, that you stood there and took the punishment that we deserved. Thank you that by your stripes we are healed.

Image, Passiflora, or passion fruit flower, by Heidi & Matt https://flic.kr/p/fZ2nn  

Provided

We might not be happy with all the things that God “provides” for us, but we have to keep in mind that God always has his heart and mind focused on something greater.

But the Lord provided a great fish to swallow Jonah … (Jonah 1:17 NIV) 

I was reading the book of Jonah again recently and that word “provided” in this translation caught my attention. Besides the whale, God also “provided” a vine for shade, a worm to kill the vine, and a scorching east wind and hot sun (Jonah 4:6-8).

It is kind of an amusing translation to me because the meaning of “provide” that I always think of is “to supply or make available (something wanted or needed).”i Kind of like the amenities offered at a hotel. But, the only thing here that Jonah I think wanted or thought he needed was the shade of the vine, which made him “very happy” (Jonah 4:6). Certainly not the whale or the discomfort of the blazing desert heat.  

But there is another, what Merriam Webster calls, archaic definition of this word which is closer to the actual Hebrew meaning. And that is “to prepare in advance.” The Hebrew word is manah (מָנָא), which means to count, reckon, number, assign, tell, appoint, ordain, or prepare. In this case, God assigned to Jonah, or appointed/prepared for him the whale, vine, worm and weather. Jonah is not too happy about most of what has been assigned to him – including his assignment, in the first place, to go to Nineveh and urge repentance. We also have assignments prepared in advance. 

For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. Ephesians 2:10 

Many times, it seems, the things that God provides for us are, as in Jonah’s case, the means to gently (or maybe it feels not so gently) change our attitudes and nudge us into these good works.  

The Hebrew word manah also can mean count or number, as in “counted among” or “numbered with,” as in this verse: 

Therefore I will give him [Messiah] a portion among the great, and he will divide the spoils with the strong, because he poured out his life unto death, and was numbered with the transgressors. For he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors. Isaiah 53:12 

Messiah himself had an assignment; things prepared in advance for him to accomplish. We might not be happy with all the things that God “provides” or assigns to us, but we have to keep in mind that God always has his heart and mind – his very being – passionately focused on something greater. Something greater than our comfort or temporal happiness or personal preferences at the moment. And that is always the salvation of people (including us!). 

“Should I not have compassion on Nineveh, the great city in which there are more than 120,000 persons who do not know the difference between their right and left hand, as well as many animals?” Jonah 4:11 (NASB) 

Unlike Jonah, who ran in the opposite direction, Jesus, the Messiah, gave us the perfect example of accepting that which God has provided for us. He “for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame” (Hebrews 12:2), and resolutely set his face toward Jerusalem and the cross that awaited (Luke 9:51).  

Jesus commanded Peter, “Put your sword away! Shall I not drink the cup the Father has given me?” John 18:11 

Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.” Matthew 26:39 

Lord, I pray that you would work in me “to will and to act according to your good purpose,” that I might do the good works prepared in advance, and that you won’t have to “provide” for me very many whales – or worms. 

So [Jonah] complained to the LORD about it: “Didn’t I say before I left home that you would do this, LORD? That is why I ran away to Tarshish! I knew that you were a gracious and compassionate God, slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love. I knew how easily you could cancel your plans for destroying these people. Jonah 4:2 (NLT) 

i Merriam Webster 

Image attribution: Pieris rapae caterpillar, by James Lindsey at Ecology of Commanster