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