The Potter’s Mark

And the most amazing thing is that we can bear the Potter’s mark too.

He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of His nature, and He upholds the universe by the word of His power. After making purification for sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high. Hebrews 1:3 (ESV) 

Maybe I have been watching Antiques Roadshow too much, but when I read this verse recently, I immediately thought of the potter’s marks that are impressed on the bottom of clay pots. Many times, there are fake marks on pots to make them appear authentic and more valuable than they are. 

The word translated above as “the exact imprint” is the Greek word charakter (χαρακτὴρ). It is where we get the English word “character” from.    

Strong’s Concordance notes that the word can mean a graver (the tool or the person), the engraving, the figure stamped on something, an exact copy, the express image.  

Thayer defines it as “the exact expression (the image) of any person or thing, marked likeness, precise reproduction in every respect (cf. facsimile).”i  I never thought of being a facsimile in a positive light, but this article from StudyLight.org was enlightening: 

“The word ‘express image’ in our text is once again a metaphor and suggests the idea of a visible outward reproduction of the inward nature of that which is original. A similar idea is illustrated in a fax machine. A fax is the outward visible form that we can examine in order to see all of the characteristics of the inward image stored in random access memory that the human eye cannot possibly otherwise behold. The application the inspired Hebrew writer wanted his readers to recognize is that Christ metaphorically is our ‘facsimile’ of the Father. Through Him we are able to see all of the divine qualities that make up the natural essence of the invisible God.”ii — Rick Calvert 

Jesus came as a “facsimile” so that we could see and come to know the invisible, unseeable God (Exodus 33:20). He came stamped with the exact character of God. God’s character has been much maligned of late, actually, from way back in the Garden. But look at Jesus and you see God.  

“When a man believes in me, he does not believe in me only, but in the one who sent me. When he looks at me, he sees the one who sent me. John 12:44-45 

Or as the Message translates it: Whoever looks at me is looking, in fact, at the One who sent me. Jesus came to earth as a human being to show us what God is really like.iii Who He really is. 

No one has ever seen God, but the one and only Son, who is himself God and is in closest relationship with the Father, has made him known. John 1:18 

Jesus was the exact charakter/character of God expressed in a man here on Earth. He bore the true Potter’s mark. The way he did that was to completely and utterly yield and submit to the will of the Father, for he said, “I do not seek my own will, but the will of Him who sent me” (John 5:30).  

He loved people, he healed people, accepted the rejected, he spoke the truth in love, he offered second chances and mercy, he knelt down and washed their dirty feet, he touched their open sores, he suffered their pain with them, he was angry at sin and oppression and hypocrisy, he was passionate for the holiness of God and His temple. He accepted the suffering and humiliation of the cross and died for us all. 

And the most amazing thing is that we can bear the Potter’s mark too if we, like Jesus, yield to His forming hands and submit to His will. If we take up our cross and follow Him. Otherwise, we may have an imprint on us, but it won’t be the charakter of God. We will be a fake, a forgery, a counterfeit.  

But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit. 2 Corinthians 3:18 (NASB) 

For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. Romans 8:29 (ESV)  

You call me Teacher and Lord, and you are right, for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you. John 13:13-15 (ESV) 

Image: Judith Pearce, Ian Sprague. Bowl. Marks https://flic.kr/p/cPjZ9C  

i Joseph Henry Thayer, D.D., Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament (Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1901)  

ii Greek Thoughts by Rick Calvert https://www.studylight.org/language-studies/greek-thoughts.html?article=34   

iii for a fuller and excellent discussion of why Jesus came see Why did God send Jesus at gotquestions.org https://www.gotquestions.org/why-God-sent-Jesus.html 

Missing Him

So much of life is waiting, looking forward, to the thing that we hope will finally satisfy. Finally fill the emptiness.

When I awake, I will be fully satisfied, for I will see you face to face. Psalm 17:15b (NLT)

To see him face to face! To look into his eyes of pure love, like unending pools of liquid gold. Purer than anything here on earth. How I long for that. The Hebrew word translated satisfied in the above verse is saba or sabea. It means to be satisfied, sated, fulfilled, surfeited. When I awake, open my eyes and look into his, I will be satisfied, sated, fulfilled, surfeited. David wrote:

For He satisfies (saba) the longing soul, and fills the hungry soul with goodness. Psalms 107:9 (NKJV)

We all have longing souls, whether we know it consciously or not. We long to see him face to face. C.S. Lewis famously wrote, “If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world.”[i] Frederick Buechner also wrote about this longing for, or missing, God.

“Each of us … carries around inside himself, I believe, a certain emptiness—a sense that something is missing, a restlessness, the deep feeling that somehow all is not right inside his skin.  Psychologists sometimes call it anxiety, theologians sometimes call it estrangement, but whatever you call it, I doubt that there are many who do not recognize the experience itself, especially no one of our age … Part of the inner world of everyone is this sense of emptiness, unease, incompleteness, and I believe that this in itself is a word from God, that this is the sound that God’s voice makes in a world that has explained him away.  In such a world, I suspect that maybe God speaks to us most clearly through his silence, his absence, so that we know him best through our missing him.” [ii]

Missing him. Yes, we are all missing him. So much of life is waiting, looking forward, to the thing that we hope will finally satisfy. Finally fill the emptiness. The Christian knows we are waiting for, looking forward to, his return. Missing him. Like the bride we are supposed to be getting ready, preparing for that day. In traditional Jewish wedding customs, the couple was betrothed for one year.[iii] The groom would go back to his home to prepare a place for his bride (John 14:2-3). And they would be apart and missing each other. But he would leave a gift as a pledge of his love (John 14:16, 27). The bride would use the time to prepare for the wedding day, to prepare herself and her wedding garments (Revelation 19:7).

But they missed each other. They were longing for the wedding day when they would see each other again face to face. And so are we longing for his return. And nothing else can fully satisfy. And do you know that the passionate heart of the Bridegroom is missing and longing for you too?

As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, my God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God (see the Face of God)? Psalm 42:1-2 (NIV)

There is only one Being Who can satisfy the last aching abyss of the human heart, and that is the Lord Jesus Christ. — Oswald Chambers, The Discipline Of Disillusionment

The Spirit and the bride say, “Come!” And let him who hears say, “Come!” Whoever is thirsty, let him come; and whoever wishes, let him take the free gift of the water of life. Revelation 22:17 (NIV)

[i] C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

[ii] Frederick Buechner, Secrets in the Dark

[iii] Read more about Jewish wedding customs here http://www.messianicfellowship.50webs.com/wedding.html

Image, picture of my daughter in her wedding dress, by Nathan Dillon 2019. All rights reserved.

Sticky-notes

It’s as if God is placing sticky-notes in our lives as daily reminders of His presence and provision. They’re everywhere. —  C.J. Mahaney

They said to him, “Lord, let our eyes be opened.” Matthew 20:33

 

One Thing

One thing only is necessary, that I find God, that I am one with Him – to see Him, to hear Him, to experience Him, to know Him.

The number one is very important in the Word. Old and New Testaments proclaim, “Hear … the LORD our God, the LORD is one” (Deut. 6:4, Mark 12:29). Having a oneness in ourselves, in our hearts – a unity and oneness with God in relationship and love is the theme throughout. David asks God, “Unite my heart to fear Your name” (Psalm 86:11). James warns us not to be double-minded, but fixed, sold out.

Come near (be joined) to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded (wavering, uncertain, doubting, divided in interest). James 4:8 (NIV)

 Marriage – the two becoming one – is a picture of this goal of oneness with God. So, idolatry, making anything more important than our relationship with God, is seen as adultery. We were made for this oneness, but our sin and rebellion has divided us from the One who loves us. Jesus came to show us the way back, to provide the way for this to happen. Paul wrote in his letter to Timothy, “There is one God and one Mediator who can reconcile God and humanity—the man Christ Jesus. He gave his life to purchase freedom for everyone” (1 Timothy 2:5-6 NLT).

Karl Rahner wrote of Jesus’ life and acts as a demonstration this one essential thing.

Therefore Jesus goes into the desert, therefore he fasts; therefore he leaves behind everything else that a man needs even for bare existence, so that for this once not just in the depths of his heart but in the whole range of his being he can do and say what is the first and last duty of humankind – to find God, to see God, to belong to God to the exclusion of everything else that makes up human life. And therefore he fasts. Therefore through this cruelly hard act, this denial of all comfort, this refusal of food and drink, through the solitude and abandonment of the desert, through everything else that involves a rejection, a self-denial of the world and all earthly company, through all these he proclaims this fact: one thing only is necessary, that I be with God, that I find God, and everything else, no matter how great or beautiful, is secondary and subordinate and must be sacrificed, if needs be, to this ultimate movement of heart and spirit.[i] (emphasis mine)

One thing only is necessary, that I find God, that I am one with Him – to see Him, to hear Him, to experience Him, to know Him.

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

To see God
“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 10:42

To hear God
One thing I do know. I was blind but now I see! John 9:25

To experience God
Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining towards what is ahead, I press on towards the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenwards in Christ Jesus. Philippians 3:13-14

To know God

Everybody I know says they need just one thing
And what they really mean is that they need just one thing more
And everybody seems to think they’ve got it coming
Well I know that I don’t deserve You
Still I want to love and serve You more and more
You’re my one thing

Save me from those things that might distract me
Please take them away and purify my heart
I don’t want to lose the eternal for the things that are passing
‘Cause what will I have when the world is gone
If it isn’t for the love that goes on and on with
My one thing
You’re my one thing

One Thing by Rich Mullins https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9aqP-A4tKCA

 

Image in the Public Domain: Mary Magdalene at the Feet of Jesus by James Tissot. In the Brooklyn Museum

[i] The Great Church Year, Karl Rahner.

The Mutual Gaze

Have you ever seen two lovers staring into each other’s eyes, or have you been one? When my husband and I were going together we could sit and gaze into each other’s eyes forever, it seemed, without saying a word, and be perfectly happy and content. That same kind of mutual gaze appears in the Bible between God and the apple of His eye, His delight and love – that’s us!

“When we lift our inward eyes to gaze upon God we are sure to meet friendly eyes gazing back at us, for it is written that the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout all the earth. The sweet language of experience is ‘Thou God seest me.’ When the eyes of the soul looking out meet the eyes of God looking in, heaven has begun right here on this earth.” ― A.W. Tozer, The Pursuit of God (Chapter 7, The Gaze of the Soul)

“God looks at us lovingly, searching for room in our hearts. Knowing this, how can we not turn our attention to God? In the measure you desire Him, you will find Him. He so esteems our turning to look at Him.” —St. Teresa of Avila, The Way of Perfection, 26.3

“Meanwhile brethren, that we may be healed from sin, let us now gaze on Christ crucified; for ‘as Moses,’ saith He, ‘lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of man be lifted up; that whosoever believeth on Him may not perish, but have everlasting life.’ Just as they who looked on that serpent perished not by the serpent’s bites, so they who look in faith on Christ’s death are healed from the bites of sins.” – Augustine, Tractate XII ch.3 Homilies on the Gospel of John

Have you ever seen two lovers staring into each other’s eyes, or have you been one? When my husband and I were going together we could sit and gaze into each other’s eyes forever, it seemed, without saying a word, and be perfectly happy and content. That same kind of mutual gaze appears in the Bible between God and the apple of His eye, His delight and love – that’s us!

The LORD is in his holy temple; the LORD is on his heavenly throne. He observes (gazes at) the sons of men; his eyes examine (try, prove) them … For the LORD is righteous, he loves justice; upright (straight, level) men will see (gaze at) his face. (Psalm 11:4 and 11:7 NIV)

At first, these verses may sound kind of scary. He is examining me to see if I am upright? Sounds like I am being judged. Can I only gaze back if I pass the test? Job 36:7 says “He does not take his eyes off the righteous.” But who is righteous? In this verse God is looking down at us, and the righteous are gazing back at Him. Sometimes God is gazing only hopefully, as in Psalm 14:2, “The LORD looks down from heaven on the sons of men to see if there are any who understand, any who seek God.” He is always looking for somebody who is looking back.

But, if I had to depend on my own merits I would never be able to look him “full in his wonderful face” as in the beautiful hymn by Helen H. Lemmel, Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus. In my own strength I will always fall short; I will always fail and hurt those around me. But he loved us and yearned so much for us to have that relationship with him, to be able to gaze back, that he made a way through Jesus. In Numbers 21 the people of Israel were being bitten by poisonous snakes and dying. God gave Moses instructions to save them: “The LORD said to Moses, ‘Make a snake and put it up on a pole; anyone who is bitten can look at it and live.’ So Moses made a bronze snake and put it up on a pole. Then when anyone was bitten by a snake and looked at the bronze snake, he lived” (Numbers 21:8-9). Jesus refers to this incident in John 3:14-16 when he said,

“Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes may have eternal life in him. For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”

So just as the Israelites had to look at the metal snake and believe that it would heal them, so we look up at Jesus hanging on the cross and believe in what he accomplished there. 2 Corinthians 5:21 says that “He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” Me and you, the righteousness of God! He did that for us so that we could gaze back, unafraid, unashamed. In Hebrews, Paul urges us to “fix our eyes” on Jesus.

Let us fix our eyes (consider attentively, look, turn the eyes away from other things and fix them) on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy (gladness, persons who are one’s 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 NIV)

Jesus had his eyes fixed on us as he endured the cross – the “persons who are one’s joy”† – and the joyful fellowship we would have together. Let us turn away from all things that would keep us from gazing back – sin, rebellion, self-centeredness – and fix our eyes on him as we walk with him on our journey, for we are his joy and he is ours! Let us pray with David:

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 NIV)

Keith Green put it so well.

Oh Lord, You’re beautiful
Your face is all I seek
For when Your eyes are on this child
Your grace abounds to me

Oh Lord, please light the fire
That once burned bright and clear
Replace the lamp of my first love
That burns with holy fear

I want to take Your word and shine it all around
But first help me just to live Lord
And when I’m doing well, help me to never seek a crown
For my reward is giving glory to You

Oh Lord, You’re beautiful
Your face is all I seek
For when Your eyes are on this child
Your grace abounds to me

(from Oh Lord You’re Beautiful by Keith Green)

“O Lord, I have heard a good word inviting me to look away to Thee and be satisfied. My heart longs to respond, but sin has clouded my vision till I see Thee but dimly. Be pleased to cleanse me in Thine own precious blood, and make me inwardly pure, so that I may with unveiled eyes gaze upon Thee all the days of my earthly pilgrimage. Then shall I be prepared to behold Thee in full splendor in the day when Thou shalt appear to be glorified in Thy saints and admired in all them that believe. Amen.” ― A.W. Tozer, The Pursuit of God

† Thayer’s Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament

Look up and see

In Genesis 22:7-8 when Abraham is on his way to obey God in faith and sacrifice his only son Isaac as a burnt offering, Isaac asks his father, “The fire and wood are here, but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?” Abraham answers, “God himself will provide (ra’ah) the lamb for the burnt offering, my son.” God does provide a ram, “Abraham looked up and there in a thicket he saw (ra’ah) a ram caught by its horns. He went over and took the ram and sacrificed it as a burnt offering instead of his son. So Abraham called that place The LORD Will Provide (ra’ah), or Jehovah Jireh. And to this day it is said, “’On the mountain of the LORD it will be provided (ra’ah).’” (Genesis 22:13-14).

The word translated both “saw” and “provide” in this verse is the same Hebrew word, ra’ah (רָאָה) which means:

to see, perceive, observe, consider, look at, give attention to, discern, gaze at, appear, present oneself, cause to see, show, cause to look intently at, behold, cause to gaze at, to be caused to see, be shown, be exhibited, to look at each other, face

God sees what’s going on, he is giving attention to it. Some people think it is like he is going to “see to it.” He is gazing at and sees the answer to the problem right now. He is going to cause us to see, behold, the answer too, as he caused Abraham to see the ram caught in the thicket. And he has been seeing the answer to all our problems from the beginning of time. The mountain, Moriah, where this all took place, and where “on the mountain of the Lord it will be provided” is the same mount where Solomon built the first temple (2 Chronicles 3:1) and where the second temple was rebuilt (Ezra 5:13). God saw it all, from beginning to end, and provided the answer there on mount Moriah when Jesus came to offer himself up as the Passover Lamb. He let himself be caught like the ram in the thicket; he let himself be sacrificed.

At the temple Mary and Joseph brought the baby Jesus and he was prophesied over (Luke 2:22-32); “my eyes have seen your Salvation” (2:30). At the temple Jesus taught daily, demonstrating his power and authority and allowing the children to call him the Son of David or Messiah (Matthew 21:14). In the temple the veil dividing God from the people was torn in two from top to bottom as Jesus died, providing the way for reconciliation to God (Mark 15:38, Luke 23:45, Matt. 27:51). The sacrifice for our sins, providing reconciliation with God, was provided. And if we look up we will see it, and we will be able to look at God face to face.

For some reason this knowing that God sees, that he’s got it all under control, he’s planned and known the answer from the beginning of time – this has boosted my faith way more than just knowing that he is my provider, though that is a wonderful and awesome fact. I know I can trust in him, I can lean back on him, he’s got my back, he’s got it all figured out.

But you, O God, do see (ra’ah) trouble (misery, pain) and grief (vexation, frustration, anger); you consider it to take it in hand. The victim (or unfortunate one, poor) commits himself to you; you are the helper of the fatherless. (Psalm 10:14 NIV)

 

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