Living Stones

John said to the crowds coming out to be baptised by him … “Produce fruit in keeping with repentance. And do not begin to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ For I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham.” Luke 3:7-8 

As you come to him, the living Stone—rejected by men but chosen by God and precious to him— you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. 1 Peter 2:4-5 

Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Jesus, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples!” “I tell you,” he replied, “if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.” Luke 19:39-40 

This morning I smiled as I read these verses, because I realized that the words of John by the river, and the words of Jesus to the Pharisees, were prophetic. Jesus did raise up children from the stones – not for Abraham, but for the Father. The hard stone of our hearts he replaced with flesh (Ezekiel 11:19) and made them living. He did this by giving us the grace of repentance and the gift of justification by faith in his atoning death on the cross.  

For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. Galatians 3:26  

By his blood shed on the cross he enabled us to become children of God and living stones that are being built into his house and into his priesthood.  

But Christ is faithful as a son over God’s house. And we are his house, if we hold on to our courage and the hope of which we boast. Hebrews 3:6 

… and He has made us to be a kingdom, priests to His God and Father—to Him be the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen. Revelation 1:6 

Cry out his praise all you stones!  

Photo of stones by Sheila Bair

The Stability of Our Now, Our Always

Amen and amen! I can be sure of this.

And He will be the stability (firmness, truth, steadfastness, steadiness, security, the verily, the truly) of your times (your when, your now, your always, continually), A wealth of salvation, wisdom and knowledge; The fear of the LORD is his treasure. Isaiah 33:6 (NASB) 

Oh, how we need stability in these days! Stability in the above verse, also translated “sure foundation,” is the Hebrew word emuwnah (אֱמֻנָה). It means, literally, firmness. Figuratively, it means security, fidelity, steadfastness, steadiness, faithfulness, stability, steady, truly, truth, verily. The root of this word is aman (אָמַן), from which we get amen in the New Testament. (I know I have written about this before, but God keeps bringing me back. My need – our need – for His stability is great. See Amen)

When Jesus says, “Truly, truly I say to you” (I stopped counting at 70), he is actually saying Amen, amen! So be it! Truth! This is true, this is sure, this is a faithful word you can stand upon! 

R.C. Sproul writes this about Jesus’ use of amen: 

“There is, perhaps, no more remarkable use of the term amen in the New Testament than on the lips of Jesus. Older translations render statements of our Lord with the preparatory words, ‘Verily, verily, I say unto you.’ Later translations update that to ‘Truly, truly, I say unto you.’ In such passages, the Greek word that is translated as ‘verily’ or ‘truly’ is the word amen. Jesus does not wait for the disciples to nod their agreement or submission to His teaching at the end of His saying; rather, He begins by saying, ‘Amen, amen, I say unto you.’ What is the significance of this? Namely, that Jesus never uttered a desultory word; every word that came from His lips was true and important. Each word was, as ‘amen’ suggests, valid, sure, and binding  … 

We also notice that Jesus uses the Hebrew technique of repetition by saying not merely, ‘Amen, I say unto you,’ but ‘Amen, amen.’ This form of repetition underlines the importance of the words that are to follow. Whenever we read in the text of Scripture our Lord giving a statement that is prefaced by the double ‘amen,’ it is a time to pay close attention and be ready to give our response with a double amen to it. He says ‘amen’ to indicate truth; we say it to receive that truth and to submit to it.” — R.C. Sproul, Amen. (emphasis mine) 

Amen and amen! I can be sure of this: 

Jesus is my stability, firmness, truth, steadfastness, steadiness, security, my verily, my truly. Jesus is Lord; Jesus is the Word made flesh. He is The Amen! The Truth. He is the sure foundation, the firm Rock I stand on. He is faithful and true. He is my certainty, my assurance – right now, when everything is shaking around me, and tomorrow no matter what happens, and forever.  

He can be your stability too. Put your faith in him. Salvation

Truly (Amen!), truly (amen!), I say to you, he who hears My word, and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life, and does not come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life. John 5:24 (NASB) 

So Jesus said to them again, “Truly (Amen!), truly (amen!), I am the door of the sheep. John 10:7 (NASB) 

My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand. John 10:27-28 

The eternal God is your refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms. Deuteronomy 33:27 

He alone is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I shall not be shaken. Psalm 62:6 

Read more about aman (אָמַן) here Faith, Part One

Image, Strong by Eduardo Martinez https://flic.kr/p/2ihGeUk  

Unum Necessarium

“Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.” Luke 10:41-42 

I have written about this verse before (see https://wrestlingwordblog.wordpress.com/2018/09/28/one-thing/ ), but God has been showing me some different facets of this hidden treasure. 

I always looked at this verse as Jesus pointing out something I was supposed to do or not do. Busyness vs. Contemplation. Works vs. Faith. I saw some kind of judgement on Martha and a holding up of Mary as an example. But is that what Jesus is really saying here? 

Service and missions and doing good works are good things, aren’t they? And we are called to these, aren’t we? Prayer and study and meditation on the word are life-giving and good for the building up of the body. But what is fundamentally needed, a necessity, necessary? What can’t I live without? What gives me life and breath and holds me together? If I was paralyzed and couldn’t communicate, if I was in a coma and couldn’t hear or even think. When I die and all that I have done in this life is left behind. What is the “one thing” that is necessary? In Latin it is called the Unum necessarium, and Douglas Taylor wrote of it this way: 

“It was a saying of former ages, Unum necessarium, ‘One thing is needful’, drawn from the Latin rendering of the Lord Jesus’ words to Martha in Luke 10:42, when she had shown herself ‘careful and troubled about many things’. In contrast with her care and agitation, there was actually only one thing truly necessary, and Mary had seen it and chosen it. But what was it, and what is it? Some say that it is ‘the contemplative life’, as opposed to mere activism; some take it to be salvation, some, repentance, some, regeneration, or new life in Christ. Who is right, or is the answer something else altogether?  
                                                                            … 

But what is the one thing needful? What had Mary chosen to do? Surely it was to listen to Christ’s words in a serious and believing way? Surely the implication is that the one thing needful is to receive and believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, as he is revealed in Holy Scripture? Those who profess to be Christians disagree on many things. Some are important. Some are not. But one thing is absolutely indispensable, and surely all sincere and genuine Christians can agree on this: Christ himself, as he is revealed in the Scriptures, is the truly indispensable One. We need him absolutely and unconditionally. We hang on him; we depend on him. We are lost without him. He is the Unum Necessarium, the ‘one thing needful’, the Rock of our salvation. If we have him, we have everything. If we do not, we have nothing. Praised be his holy Name forever that he has had mercy on us!“i   

So, again, God is saying: it’s not me. I’m not the Wonderful One. It’s not what I do or say or think or write or even how fervently I believe. It is Jesus Christ my Lord. It is Him. It all – everything – always comes back to Him. In my heart, Christ in me, the hope of glory. It is Him, what he has already done on the Cross and which cannot be outdone or added to. Christ Himself. Could that be what Jesus was saying to Martha – and to Mary? Only one thing is needed and that is Me, and Mary has figured it out? It’s Jesus, the One who will be with us and for us and in us to the end and will dance over us with joyful singing on into eternity. 

You know, I always heard Jesus saying, “Martha, Martha,” shaking his head, as a gentle, but disappointed rebuke. However, recently I have learned that in the culture of Bible times, repeating the name was an expression of intimacy and affection. (See Bible.org https://bible.org/illustration/repeating-names) Think of “Abraham, Abraham” (Genesis 22:11), “Moses, Moses” (Exodus 3:4), “Simon, Simon” (Luke 22:31), “Saul, Saul” (Acts 9:4), and many more. 

 Maybe Jesus was not so much rebuking Martha for stressing out in doing her good service, but lovingly pointing her to the Way to do it. To dwell in him, find rest in him, to let him be strong in her and let his love do the loving through her. Pointing her, and me, and all of us, to the Unum Necessarium. 

Lord, I come, I confess 
Bowing here I find my rest 
Without You I fall apart 
You’re the One that guides my heart 

Lord, I need You, oh, I need You 
Every hour I need You 
My one defense, my righteousness 
Oh God, how I need You 

(Songwriters: Christy Nockels / Daniel Carson / Jesse Reeves / Kristian Stanfill / Matt Maher) 

One thing have I desired of the LORD, that will I seek after; that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the LORD, and to enquire in his temple. Psalm 27:4  

He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. Colossians 1:17 

i Posted 13th June 2011 by Douglas Taylor http://worksworthdeclaring.blogspot.com/2011/06/unum-necessarium.html 

Photo by Jack Bair

Except

I’m fighting down fears right now. But that “except” is there, holding me on the Rock.

I assigned the hill country of Seir to Esau, but Jacob and his sons went down to Egypt. Joshua 24:4

This unassuming sentence is tucked into a long account of the history of God’s people at the end of Joshua’s life. But the verse jumped out at me this last time I read it. At first it would seem that Esau got the better end of this deal. God gave Esau the hill country of Seir, but Jacob and his sons went down to Egypt – and we know what happened to them there.

Esau missed out on 400 years of slavery and 40 more years in the desert wilderness. He became very rich and great, with many chiefs. Genesis 36 is the account of Esau and his greatness, his many descendants, and their many chiefs. Esau had “kings who reigned in the land of Edom before any king ruled over the Israelites” (Genesis 36:31).

A commentary on Genesis 36 notes, “As F. Delitzsch says[i], ‘secular greatness in general grows up far more rapidly than spiritual greatness.’ In other words, the progress of the world far out distances the progress of the righteous who are waiting for the promise.”[ii]

Yes, it would seem that Esau got the better deal. Except. Except Esau also missed out on:

  • Deliverance from slavery
  • Redemption by the blood of the Passover lamb
  • Miraculous rescue from the enemy
  • Pure water from the Rock
  • Bread from Heaven
  • Hearing God’s voice from the mountain
  • Comfort and protection of the cloud and the pillar of fire
  • The giving of the Word of God
  • The refining as silver
  • The testing as gold
  • Learning dependence on God alone

I know that I would have been right there with the panicked Israelites heart and soul as they grumbled against Moses saying, “Why did you bring us up out of Egypt to make us and our children and livestock die of thirst?” (Exodus 17:3) … “Why did you bring us up out of Egypt to this terrible place? It has no grain or figs, grapevines or pomegranates. And there is no water to drink!” (Numbers 20:5).

Yeah, I’m pretty sure I would have been with them because I’m fighting down similar fears right now. But that “except” is there, holding me on the Rock. Except, I want to be part of the Story.

Esau didn’t just miss out on the hunger and the thirst, the fear and uncertainty, the hardship and the trials. He also missed out on being part of the great Story of Salvation. Esau missed out on being part of Jesus’ story. The Story of the Savior.

For I do not want you to be ignorant of the fact, brothers and sisters, that our ancestors were all under the cloud and that they all passed through the sea. They were all baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea. They all ate the same spiritual food and drank the same spiritual drink; for they drank from the spiritual rock that accompanied them, and that rock was Christ. 1 Corinthians 10:1-4

So he got up, took the child and his mother during the night and left for Egypt, where he stayed until the death of Herod. And so was fulfilled what the Lord had said through the prophet: “Out of Egypt I called my son.” Matthew 2:15

Lord, bring me out. Bring me through. Bring me into the wilderness with you. Write me into your great Story of Salvation.

Jesus
Write me into Your story
Whisper it to me
And let me know I’m Yours

–Rich Mullins

 

Watch out for the Esau syndrome: trading away God’s lifelong gift in order to satisfy a short-term appetite. Hebrews 12:16 (MSG)

[i] Franz Delitzsch. New Commentary on Genesis, 2:238.

[ii] NetBible Study Notes

Image by Jack Bair, all rights reserved

Amen!

When Jesus is translated, so many times, as saying, “verily, verily I say to you” he was really saying “amen, amen” – or “you can trust what I am going to say, you can stand on this Rock.”

“These are the words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the ruler of God’s creation.” Revelation 3:14 (NIV) 

In Revelation 3:14 the Lord Jesus calls Himself “the Amen.”  That really struck me, so I looked up the definition of the word. It means firm and faithful. Jesus, the firm foundation. Jesus, faithful and true. At the beginning of a discourse it means “surely, truly, or verily,” so that when Jesus is translated, so many times, as saying, “verily, verily I say to you” he was really saying “amen, amen” – or “you can trust what I am going to say, you can stand on this Rock.” At the end of a discourse or sermon it means “so it is, so be it, or may it be fulfilled.”

According to the Thayer Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament, saying amen “was a custom, which passed over from the synagogues to the Christian assemblies, that when he who had read or discoursed, had offered up solemn prayer to God, the others responded Amen, and thus made the substance of what was uttered their own.” Yes, I believe it. Yes, I am putting my trust in this.

But I also found out something about the origins of the word. According to NetBible, “The word ‘amen’ is a most remarkable word. It was transliterated directly from the Hebrew into the Greek of the New Testament, then into Latin and into English and many other languages, so that it is practically a universal word. It has been called the best known word in human speech. The word is directly related — in fact, almost identical — to the Hebrew word for “believe” (amam), or faithful. Thus, it came to mean “sure” or “truly,” an expression of absolute trust and confidence.”

So it is very comforting to me that the Bible ends with the word “Amen.” This is something that can be trusted. This is true. “For no matter how many promises God has made, they are ‘Yes’ in Christ. And so through him the ‘Amen’ is spoken by us to the glory of God.” (2 Corinthians 1:20 NIV)

Amen! So be it! I’m standing on this Rock!

 

Image in the Public Domain: Woman standing on a rock near Villa de Leyva, Colombia by Joshua Earle https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Woman_standing_on_a_rock_near_Villa_de_Leyva,_Colombia_(Unsplash).jpg

 

City of Refuge

I have been seeing that everything in the Bible points us to Jesus. One of the many wonderful things our Savior provides us is a refuge from the Adversary, from the roaring lion seeking whom he may devour (1 Peter 5:8).

In ancient Israel there were places called cities of refuge (Numbers 35:13-29) that God provided for people who had killed someone without premeditation or by accident. Since the law demanded an eye for an eye (Exodus 21:24), it was a place to escape the avenger of blood, usually a relative of the person killed. There were six of these cities, placed within traveling distance from anyplace in Israel. It is wonderful to look at the hidden treasure in their names and see the foreshadowing of the Redeemer, Savior, Messiah. Below are the names of the six cities, their definitions, and verses that reveal Jesus, our City of Refuge.

Shechem = “back” or “shoulder” as a place of burdens

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. Isaiah 9:6 (NIV)

What man among you, if he has a hundred sheep and has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open pasture and go after the one which is lost until he finds it? When he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. Luke 15:4-5 (NASB)

Ramoth = “heights” (plural of a word that means high in value; the root of both words is a word that means “lifted up”)

Behold, My servant will prosper, He will be high and lifted up and greatly exalted. Isaiah 52:13 (NASB)

But I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself. John 12:32 (NIV)

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.” Now to you who believe, this stone is precious. 1 Peter 2:6-7 (NIV)

Kedesh = “holy place” (from the verb qadash which means to consecrate, sanctify, prepare, dedicate, be hallowed, be holy, be sanctified, be separate)

Such a high priest [Jesus] meets our need—one who is holy, blameless, pure, set apart from sinners, exalted above the heavens. Hebrews 7:26 (NIV)

In the synagogue there was a man possessed by a demon, an evil spirit. He cried out at the top of his voice, “Ha! What do you want with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are—the Holy One of God!” Luke 4:33-34 (NIV)

You disowned the Holy and Righteous One and asked that a murderer be released to you. Acts 3:14 (NIV)

Hebron = “association”

But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law muttered, “This man welcomes sinners, and eats with them.” Luke 15:2 (NIV)

For there is one God and one mediator* between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all men—the testimony given in its proper time. 1 Timothy 2:5-6 (NIV)

The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Here is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and “sinners”.’ But wisdom is proved right by her actions.” Matthew 11:19 (NIV)

*“one who intervenes between two, either in order to make or restore peace and friendship, or form a compact, or for ratifying a covenant”

Bezer = “gold ore” or “remote fortress” “inaccessible spot”

The fear of the LORD is pure, enduring forever. The ordinances of the LORD are sure and altogether righteous. They are more precious than gold, than much pure gold; they are sweeter than honey, than honey from the comb. Psalm 19:9-10

The LORD is my rock, my fortress (fastness, castle, defense, fortress) and my deliverer; my God is my rock (rocky wall, cliff), in whom I take refuge. He is my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold (refuge, secure height, a cliff or other lofty or inaccessible place, defense, high fort, tower). Psalm 18:2

Golan = captive, “their captivity: their rejoicing”

So the soldiers, their commanding officer, and the Temple guards arrested Jesus and tied him up. John 18:13

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. Isaiah 53:7

Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Hebrews 12:2

 

Image copyright Jack Bair 2019. All rights reserved.

Middle of the Story – Part Two

When I step up on the Rock in faith, I must endure the testing of that faith. That’s part of the deal. I cannot “accept” Jesus but refuse the cleansing flame.

Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. Hebrews 11:1 (NKJV)

The last blog looked at the first part of the above verse – that faith is the substance or essence of hope. It is the setting under me of the solid foundation, Jesus. The stepping up on the Rock. This time I want to look at the second half of this verse – faith is “the evidence of things not seen.”

The word translated “evidence” is the Greek word elegchos. It means conviction, as in assurance, certainty. But it also means proof – as in “that by which a thing is proved or tested.” My faith must be tested, but, as God meets and holds me up in the testing, his Word and promises are proved true to me in my life. They become my assurance, evidence of what I cannot see with my eyes. The word elegchos also means reproof and is used that way in 2 Timothy 3:16 (NASB).

All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness …

Or as the Message puts it, “showing us truth, exposing our rebellion, correcting our mistakes, training us to live God’s way.”

Exposing, correcting, training. It’s not God and his Word that needs proving or testing, but me. Testing is no fun. The Bible compares the testing of our faith to the purification or proving of gold.

These trials are only to test your faith, to show that it is strong and pure. It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold––and your faith is far more precious to God than mere gold. 1 Peter 1:7a (NLT)

The crucible for silver and the furnace for gold, but the LORD tests the heart. Proverbs 17: 3 (NIV)

The proving of precious metals involves heating them to the melting point and skimming off the impurities that rise to the top. For me, there is still a lot of ugly stuff that rises when the heat is turned up.

Testing may seem harsh and even cruel in the midst of it, but God is love and the testing is loving. As Hebrews 12:29 declares, “Our God is a consuming fire.” Love does not let us remain as we are, far from Him and alone. But Love consumes, burns up the barriers and idols in our lives and hearts that divide us from him. Henri Nouwen has written, “Let God love you the way God wants.” Oh, that is hard. I want him to do things my way. I want to choose the test. Giving permission to that consuming passion in my life is scary. I want some kind of guarantee that things will work out the way I hope they will.

When I step up on the Rock in faith, I must endure the testing of that faith. That’s part of the deal. I cannot “accept” Jesus but refuse the cleansing flame. But he is always there with me in the proving. Indeed, he is the proof. He is the evidence. He is “the divine Yes–God’s affirmation. For all of God’s promises have been fulfilled in him” (2 Corinthians 1:19-20 NLT). He is good, and his ways and purposes are good, though I cannot comprehend it. And he is able to do, and is doing, immeasurably more than all I ask or imagine, though I may not be able to see it now (Ephesians 3:20).

Lord God, give me the grace to let you be God, to let you love me the way you want, in the murky middle of my story. Call me, draw me, woo me to step up onto the Rock and allow your passionate, cleansing fire to sweep over me. Help me remember that Jesus was tested too, that he has traveled this way before me. And I will thank you in the middle of the story and I will dance with joy to the distant songs of deliverance.

I would have despaired unless I had believed (stood firm, trusted) that I would see the goodness of the LORD In the land of the living. Psalm 27:13 (NASB)

But he knows the way that I take; when he has tested me, I shall come forth as gold. Job 23:10 (NIV)

So this is what the Sovereign LORD says: “See, I lay a stone in Zion, a tested stone, a precious cornerstone for a sure foundation; the one who trusts (who is supported, upheld, confirmed, verified) will never be dismayed (will not topple, give way, run away, will not panic). Isaiah 28:16 (NIV)

Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, for our “God is a consuming fire.” Hebrews 12:28-29 (NIV)

 

Image is in the Public Domain

 

 

Peace, Peace

You will keep (guard, watch over, preserve)

in perfect peace (peace, peace)

him whose mind (purpose, framing, framework)

is steadfast (supported, upheld, leaning upon),

because he trusts (is bold, confident, sure, secure) in you.

Isaiah 26:3

 

Image from Matthew’s Island

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)