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

I Testify

The one who existed from the beginning is the one we have heard and seen. We saw him with our own eyes and touched him with our own hands. He is Jesus Christ, the Word of life. 1 John 1:1 (NLT)

This is what eyewitnesses do. They testify about what they have seen and heard and experienced, with their own eyes and ears and hands

I have been called to be a witness, and I, too, testify that

I have heard His voice calling my name. I have heard Him say to me, “You are mine!”

I have looked, while in the spirit, into His eyes like unending pools of molten love, like perfectly pure liquid gold, purer than anything here on this earth

I have felt His Presence, very near, right beside me, instant in need, comforting, cheering me on, relentlessly offering me this Hope, pointing out the Way

I have experienced His unstoppable power and authority, taking my breath away, healing, redeeming, restoring, bursting bonds, kicking down doors, bringing me out into that spacious place

I have experienced this power in me, in my heart, in my mouth and in my hands, working through me sharing this love, this healing, this redemption, this new-creature, new-way-of being, new Life

I have known the power of His Truth repairing the twisted, mangled parts, the mind-blowing revelation of His Word, changing my thinking, switching the track, crumbling unscalable walls, blowing away the chaff

I testify, with my own ears, with my own eyes, in my own life, with my own hands

He is Jesus Christ, the Word of Life

 

Image in the Public Domain, by Brad Shorr

The Craftsman

Isn’t this just like God, to overcome destruction and chaos and hatred, with creativity, redemption, and love?

Then I looked up, and there before me were four horns. I asked the angel who was speaking to me, “What are these?”
He answered me, “These are the horns that scattered Judah, Israel and Jerusalem.”
Then the Lord showed me four craftsmen. I asked, “What are these coming to do?”
He answered, “These are the horns that scattered Judah so that no one could raise their head, but the craftsmen have come to terrify them and throw down these horns of the nations who lifted up their horns against the land of Judah to scatter its people.” Zechariah 1:18-21 (NIV)

In this amazing vision, that was given to Zechariah, God meets and overcomes brute force and destruction with craftsmen, with artisans! With craftsmen who will restore, redeem, remake like new. And this act of mercy and unfailing love – this checed – terrifies the enemy who can only mar and destroy and scatter.

Isn’t this just like God, to overcome destruction and chaos and hatred, with creativity, redemption, and love? He is the ultimate artisan, the Creator. Jesus was the Craftsman at his side during the creation.[i]

I was there when he set the heavens in place, when he marked out the horizon on the face of the deep … I was the craftsman at his side. I was filled with delight day after day, rejoicing always in his presence, rejoicing in his whole world and delighting in mankind. Proverbs 8:27, 30-31 (NIV)

He continually is creating and crafting – the entire Universe, but also you and me. I am, we are, his poiema, his poem if we surrender to his expert hands. Ephesians 2:10 (NIV) says that “we are God’s workmanship” or “we are God’s masterpiece” (NLT). Though it may seem like chaos reigns, he is always working, always re-creating, always redeeming – and our enemy is terrified.

The word translated craftsmen encompasses many types of creativity and craft: craftsman, carpenter (it is very cool that Jesus was a carpenter-craftsman here on Earth), artisan, engraver, artificer, stonemason, blacksmith. The craftsmen in the Bible were always doing one of three things: creating and adorning God’s Temple, fashioning idols and adorning their temples, or they were hammering out weapons for warfare.

Made in the image of God, we are craftsmen too. We were made to be always adorning a temple – either the temple of God as we adorn our hearts (working out our salvation) with holiness, righteousness, faithfulness, humility – or the temples of our idols, perhaps with greed, covetousness, bitterness, jealousy, resentment, unforgiveness, pride.

We, as craftsmen, are also given the trust and authority to hammer out weapons of warfare – and to wield them – in this fight against evil, chaos, destruction of all that is good and right, the fight against the hatred of all whom God loves. These weapons of our warfare are many and mighty. Mostly they are not intuitive to our flesh. They include praise and thanksgiving in the face of impossible odds (2 Chronicles 20:15-25). Ephesians lists more of the weapons and armor that we use against the enemy.

For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God … Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Ephesians 6:12-16 (NIV)

Isn’t it amazing that the weapons of our warfare are truth, righteousness, faith, and the Good News of Jesus death and resurrection, his love, forgiveness, and redemption? Isn’t it wonderful that with these we disarm the rulers of this world?

For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. 2 Corinthians 10:3-4 (NIV)

He forgave us all our sins, having canceled the charge of our legal indebtedness, which stood against us and condemned us; he has taken it away, nailing it to the cross. And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross. Colossians 2:13b-15 (NIV)

Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome (subdue, conquer, prevail, be victorious over), evil with good. Romans 12:21 (NIV)

Let us, as “little craftsmen,” adorn our hearts as temples of the Lord. Let us forge the weapons of our warfare, working alongside The Craftsman. Let us overcome the brute force and destruction, hatred and chaos of this world, with the Word of God, with truth, mercy, praise, thanksgiving, and unfailing love.

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I [Jesus] came that they may have life, and have it abundantly. John 10:10 (NASB)

 

[i] See 1 Corinthians 1:30

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

 

The Speed of Light

The light shines

(continually shines, is shining, shines on)

in the darkness, but the darkness

has not understood

(perceived,

conquered,

overcome,

seized,

grasped,

apprehended,

overtaken,

can never

extinguish) it.

John 1:5

 

 

Image By Zouavman Le Zouave – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=3302900

Mercy Seat

The ark was full of responses to doubt and fear and rebellion, but God covered it all over with His mercy.

Behind the second curtain was a room called the Most Holy Place, which had the golden altar of incense and the gold-covered ark of the covenant. This ark contained the gold jar of manna, Aaron’s staff that had budded, and the stone tablets of the covenant. Above the ark were the cherubim of the Glory, overshadowing the atonement cover (Mercy Seat). Hebrews 9:3-5 (NIV)

In the heart of the Israelite’s Tent of Meeting, behind a veil in the room called the Holy of Holies, or Most Holy Place, was a box covered with sheets of beaten gold which was called the Ark of the Covenant. Its lid, the Mercy Seat, was solid gold and depicted two angels in an attitude of worship. Inside the ark were three things:

1) a jar of manna, the “bread of heaven” or bread of angels which was given to the Israelites to eat in the desert

2) a dead wooden staff made from a branch of an almond tree which had come alive and produced flowers and almonds

3) the ten commandments written on stone tablets

I recently realized that all those things in the Ark were put there in a direct response to rebellion. The manna was given to the Israelites in response to their grumbling about having nothing to eat (Exodus 16: 3-4). God commanded Moses to put some in the ark as a reminder of His provision (Exodus 16:32).

Korah and company rebelled against Moses and Aaron as God’s chosen authority – “What right do you have to act as though you are greater than anyone else among all these people of the LORD?” they asked. Kind of like, “who made you the boss of me?” (Numbers 16:3). Aaron’s rod budded and produced fruit in direct response to the rebellion to confirm God’s choice, and God commanded Moses to include it in the ark as a sign (Numbers 17:1-10).

The stone tablets containing the ten commandments were the most important response, a life-preserver thrown out to all of us people flailing about trying to be our own god. His word is an anchor dropped into the world’s chaotic sea of sin and rebellion – an anchor that holds within the veil (Hebrews 6:19-20).

The ark was full of responses to doubt and fear and rebellion, but God covered it all over with His mercy and told Moses He would meet with him there.

“You shall put the mercy seat on top of the ark, and in the ark you shall put the testimony which I will give to you. There I will meet with you; and from above the mercy seat, from between the two cherubim which are upon the ark of the testimony, I will speak to you about all that I will give you in commandment for the sons of Israel. Exodus 25:21-22 (NASB)

The Mercy Seat is where the blood of the sacrifice was sprinkled as an atonement for sin of the people by the High Priest once a year. This foreshadowed the death of Jesus, the Lamb of God, the final sacrifice for the sin of the world. It also foreshadowed Jesus as High Priest offering his own blood one final time in the heavenly Temple (Hebrews 9:11-28).

I also have been realizing that all those things in the ark represented Jesus, the Savior who was to come. He is the manna, the Bread of Life (John 6:48-51). He is the chosen High Priest (Hebrews 4:14), the Branch (Isaiah 11:1) that was dead and came back to fruitful life. He is the Word of God made flesh (John 1:14). God knew from the beginning how things would go and had a plan for our redemption. God’s response to the sin and rebellion of the world was Mercy. His response was Jesus.

… and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of his blood—to be received by faith. He did this to demonstrate his righteousness, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished— he did it to demonstrate his righteousness at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus. Romans 3:24-26 (NIV)

The word translated “sacrifice of atonement” in the above verse means, in the Greek, both the atoning victim and the Mercy Seat itself. Jesus is our Mercy Seat. But, Jesus isn’t storing up all our sins – or even the reminders of our sin – in a box and covering them over with his blood. At the cross Jesus vanquished sin, he destroyed it, he wiped it out forever – we can be made just as if we had never done anything wrong. Yet we are still crabbing about what we want but don’t have to satisfy our cravings, arguing about who is the boss, who gets to make the rules. We have been doubters, grumblers, rebels from the beginning, but God is still waiting to meet us there, at the Mercy Seat. Come and meet him there.

Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin. Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. Hebrews 4:14-16 (NASB)

If you would like, you can learn more about the Mercy Seat here https://www.bible-history.com/tabernacle/TAB4The_Mercy_Seat.htm

 

Photo replica of the Ark of the Covenant in the Royal Arch Room of the George Washington Masonic National Memorial. Photo by Ben Schumin on December 27, 2006