Monthly Archives: July 2013

Jonah and Nineveh

Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. [Matthew 5:4 SV]

Another example from the Old Testament of mourning over sin is the experience of Jonah as he goes to Nineveh.

Now the word of the Lord came to Jonah the son of Amittai, saying, “Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and call out against it, for their evil has come up before me.” But Jonah rose to flee to Tarshish from the presence of the Lord. [Jonah 1:1-3 ESV]

God sent Jonah to Nineveh because of its “great evil.” Historical documents and discoveries have revealed the evil which the kings and soldiers and peoples of Nineveh practiced. Was their evil any different than that of the people before the flood? The LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually”  [Genesis 6:5 ESV]. Nineveh, an old city, was the Assyrian capital and had conquered the land of many of the nations around Israel.  They were ruthless, not allowing any to fight or rebel against them. One of the hallmarks of Assyrian domination was the exile of the people conquered and the land resettled by another conquered people. Many of the captives were taken back to Assyrian, Nineveh, and tortured to death. Yet, God exercised compassion toward these people.

In the early eighth century BC, somewhere between 810 and 760 BC, Jonah was commanded by God to go to Nineveh. Scripture contains many prophecies against non-Hebrew cities throughout the known world. These prophecies fill books in the Old Testament. Only once do we find God showing compassion to a whole city that is not a Hebrew city.

Jonah was a well known Prophet of God in Israel. He carried the characteristics of a prophet as discussed earlier in this series.  Prophets love truth and hate the lie, especially in themselves. He recognized sin and the utter horror of sin. He knew God intimately and saw himself truthfully. One of the critical concerns facing every prophet, men still corrupted by sin, is pride. Jonah rebelled against God by going in the opposite direction, away from Nineveh.

Jonah’s disobedient  reaction to the command of God to go to Nineveh does not fit that of a prophet of God. Are there other examples of true Prophets not doing what God has commanded? Moses balked at being sent to Pharaoh but became the strongest leader in Israel’s history. Are there other examples?

Some have concluded Jonah must not have known God well because he tried to flee from God by going to Tarshish. A critical reading of the rest of the book will show Jonah does know God and knows Him well. He probably decided to go to Tarshish because that was the first ship he could find going anywhere in the opposite direction of Nineveh. He went over the sea to a distant land instead of going over the land, into the hands of the enemies of God.

The questions remains: why would God want to send Jonah to Nineveh? I think there is an answer which may be obvious to us but hidden from Jonah.

Jonah finally makes it to Nineveh. But not until after his disobedient actions bring him into horrendous circumstances and threatened the lives of uninvolved people. His ship is threatened by a storm. How tortuous the threat of dying a sea as the ship is destroyed, breaking apart around them in a raging storm. Knowing God was after him he tells his shipmates to cast him into the sea. At first, they refused, valuing Jonah’s life more than their own safety. Finally, they relent, begging God’s forgiveness as they put Jonah in the rolling waters.

Jonah was swallowed by a great fish and probably dies within its gut. Chapter two of Jonah is a precursor to the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus, the Christ. God miraculously saves Jonah from rebelling completely against Him by having him die, or at least come close to death, in the belly of a big fish. Inside of the fish Jonah repents of his sin and agrees to go to Nineveh. And the LORD spoke to the fish, and it vomited Jonah out upon the dry land”  [Jonah 2:10 ESV].

Nineveh was a huge city in comparisons to the other cities of the world at that time. It took three days to walk through the city. Jonah walked into Nineveh a day’s journey and delivered God’s message to the people. “And he called out, “Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown”  [Jonah 3:4 (ESV)]!  A surprising thing happens. “And the people of Nineveh believed God. They called for a fast and put on sackcloth, from the greatest of them to the least of them”  [Jonah 3:5 ESV]. They believed Jonah who was speaking for God. How many gods did they have? Hundreds! No one knows the political setting in which Jonah preached. It is obvious God had been preparing these people for Jonah’s message. We are given only the information we need to know. These people, with their heads and their hearts, believe God, the God of the Hebrews, was going to destroy them, and they repented. They mourned over their sin and rebellion against God.

The word reached the king of Nineveh, and he arose from his throne, removed his robe, covered himself with sackcloth, and sat in ashes. And he issued a proclamation and published through Nineveh, “By the decree of the king and his nobles: Let neither man nor beast, herd nor flock, taste anything. Let them not feed or drink water, but let man and beast be covered with sackcloth, and let them call out mightily to God. Let everyone turn from his evil way and from the violence that is in his hands. Who knows? God may turn and relent and turn from his fierce anger, so that we may not perish.”  [Jonah 3:6-9 ESV]

God knew they would repent, saw their hearts and did not bring upon them the disaster He had planned. Look at the characteristics of repentance in their reaction to Jonah’s message. They fasted, a sign of deep grief and mourning over sin. They covered themselves with sackcloth. They did not dress as if nothing was wrong. When a people in the Old Testament mourned they did so with their complete person. They changed what they had been doing, turning away from violence, from lying and stealing and committing adultery.  They changed their demeanor and the way they lived because they recognized sin and realized the consequences of sin.

Now look at Jonah and his reaction to the true repentance of the people of Nineveh.  In the entire last chapter of the book Jonah throws a juvenile temper-tantrum.  He is angry at God and tells us why he did not want to go to the wicked city of Nineveh. “O Lord, is not this what I said when I was yet in my country? That is why I made haste to flee to Tarshish; for I knew that you are a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and relenting from disaster”  [Jonah 4:3 ESV]. Those who think Jonah did not know God do not understand the ramifications of this intimately knowledgeable understanding of God.

Jonah was angry with God because He spared wicked people Jonah wanted to die and believed deserved the full wrath of God. Perhaps Jonah knew the Northern Kingdom, against whom he delivered the prophecies of God because of their rebellion, was sooner or later going to be taken over by Assyria or the next big power from the East. He didn’t want this to happen. He wanted God to destroy Israel’s enemies. Nineveh was a true enemy of Israel. God decided to not destroy Nineveh so Jonah went outside the city to pout.

“And should not I pity Nineveh, that great city, in which there are more than 120,000 persons who do not know their right hand from their left, and also much cattle?” [Jonah 4:11].

Jonah, the prophet of God, did not mourn for the people of Nineveh who were not, by his standard, God’s people. He grieved God did not destroy these people.  Yet, the people of Nineveh mourned and grieved God was going to punish them and repented. God saw their hearts and relented. God is gracious and we, none who recognize sin and realize the consequences of sin have a right to complain against Him.

In 722 BC, within a lifetime, Assyria conquered the Northern Kingdom of Israel and carried its people off to exile forever, replacing them with another conquered people who did not know God. God did this because of the continuing sin of the people of the Northern Kingdom after warning them over and over to return to Him. He sent Prophets, including Jonah, to the people and leaders of the Northern Kingdom.  These Prophets were ignored by the people and leaders. Where the people of Nineveh turned with one word from Jonah the people of the Northern Kingdom refused centuries of warnings.

Perhaps, God was preparing Assyria to receive those who were His, sending Jonah ahead of the soon to be exiles. God’s compassion toward those who repent is prevalent. Jonah’s story is filled with God’s grace toward all and a prominent notice, over 700 hundred years before the fact, of what He has decided to accomplish in the life, death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus Christ.

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A Girl, A Pagan, and a Prophet

Blessed are those who mourn for they shall be comforted. [Matthew 5:4 ESV]

Not every God a appointed authority seeks God. In this world most seek their own end. This does not mean they are not appointed by God to fill the position which He has determined. He places them where He wills and He removes them at His will. God also appoints men who represent Him before the people, who follow Him with their whole heart, and speak for Him. We may not see the difference between the two yet know one wants the acclaim of the world and the other serves God. For the former, the desire is for everything the world has to offer and nothing of God. For the latter, the desire is for all God gives, and nothing the world has to offer. Mostly.

In Israel during the time of the kings there lived a man named Elisha, the prophet or Seer of God. He had been the servant of Elijah who was taken into heaven without dying. Elisha also had a servant named Gehazi. As servants of their master, Elisha spoke for God and Gehazi spoke for Elisha.

Israel, the Northern Kingdom, was in constant conflict with the surrounding nations. Syria, to the East, raided Israel over and over. The commanders of the Syrian army, Naaman, battle hardened and brilliant, had an Israeli servant girl, captured and carried off during a raid when she was young. Naaman was a leper, having a skin disease, possibly a white spot, which brought him shame and made him unclean. Remember, leprosy was considered by the Hebrews punishment for some sin. In the minds of the Israeli people Naaman’s leprosy was judgment from God. He raided Israel and stole their children. Yet, here is a remarkable statement from a stolen child.

Now the Syrians on one of their raids had carried off a little girl from the land of Israel, and she worked in the service of Naaman’s wife. She said to her mistress, ”Would that my lord were with the prophet who is in Samaria! He would cure him of his leprosy.” So Naaman went in and told his lord, “Thus and so spoke the girl from the land of Israe.”  [2 Kings 5:2-4 ESV]

She, a child of God, wanted to help her master. Had not God made Naaman her master, her authority. She mourned for the sin of her master and sought his best interests in telling him how he could be healed. These are the characteristics of a true servant.

Naaman went to Elisha, with elaborate payment to buy his freedom from leprosy. Elisha accepted none of his offerings, told him what to do to be healed and sent him on his way. Grudgingly, Naaman followed the prophet’s instructions and was healed. With his healing of the body came a healing of the soul and spirit.

Then he returned to the man of God, he and all his company, and he came and stood before him. And he said, “Behold, I know that there is no God in all the earth but in Israel; so accept now a present from your servant.” But he said, “As the Lord lives, before whom I stand, I will receive none.” And he urged him to take it, but he refused. Then Naaman said, “If not, please let there be given to your servant two mules’ load of earth, for from now on your servant will not offer burnt offering or sacrifice to any god but the Lord. In this matter may the Lord pardon your servant: when my master goes into the house of Rimmon to worship there, leaning on my arm, and I bow myself in the house of Rimmon, when I bow myself in the house of Rimmon, the Lord pardon your servant in this matter.”He said to him, “Go in peace.”  [2 Kings 5:15-19 ESV]

We cannot sell God’s grace. Nor can we buy it. It is free to His children, His friends and His enemies. Some of these enemies turn away from the world and turn toward Him. Elisha would take nothing from Israel’s enemy but gave freely, healing and dirt. Naaman also had a God appointed authority but would never again worship the false, deceptive illusion his authority worshipped. Never again. Naaman mourned over sin and remained a servant.

Now we come to Gehazi, the servant of Elisha. Did he not know his master, or the Master of his master. Had he not learned anything. He knew how to think but his thinking was wrong, as deceptive as the false image worshipped by the Syrian king.  In the thinking of his heart he decided he and Israel was owed something by this guilty pagan. “See, my master has spared this Naaman the Syrian, in not accepting from his hand what he brought. As the Lord lives, I will run after him and get something from him”  [2 Kings 5:20 ESV]. He justified his sin using his own moral standard, not that of God. He turned Elisha’s words upside down and rebelled against the wishes of his master and his master’s Master. He coveted and excused his covetousness, even using God as a justification. If Elisha would not benefit then he, himself, would.

He felt entitled and then he lied.

“All is well. My master has sent me to say, ‘There have just now come to me from the hill country of Ephraim two young men of the sons of the prophets. Please give them a talent of silver and two festal garments.’” And Naaman said, “Be pleased to accept two talents.” And he urged him and tied up two talents of silver in two bags, with two festal garments, and laid them on two of his servants. And they carried them before Gehazi. And when he came to the hill, he took them from their hand and put them in the house, and he sent the men away, and they departed.  [2 Kings 5:22-24 ESV]

He lied when he requested the items. He lied when he brought them back, hiding them. Have you every hid something you knew you were not supposed to have? And when Elisha confronted him he lied again. Was there so little understanding of truth, of himself and the God of Israel that he could lie so blatantly without acknowledging he lied? Then to have the audacity to go and serve his master as if nothing were wrong? Gehazi’s heart was hard and he could not see the sin he had so blithely committed.

Elisha saw the sin, revealed to him by God, and he mourned. “Did not my heart go when the man turned from his chariot to meet you?”  [2 Kings 5:26]  Elisha knew with his whole person the sin his servant committed . He grieved and mourned knowing the dire consequences of such obvious rebellion. It was a rebellion which brought remorse but not repentance. Remorse is grief because one has been caught, found out. Had he not been caught he never would have repented. Having been caught he was closer to repentance. There is nothing in Scripture which suggests Gehazi ever repented.

Three things happened next. Gehazi carried Naaman’s leprosy for the rest of his life. Where he had not been a leper now he was “like snow.”  [2 Kings 5:27 ES]  Gehazi’s descendants carried Naaman’s leprosy until he had no more descendents.  His sin was carried by his family, just as Adam’s in is carried by all. Jesus, the head of the Body of Christ, gives us His righteousness. I cannot buy His righteousness, or sell it, or earn it, or every be divested of it. I am identified with Him just as Man is identified with Adam and Gehazi’s descendants are identified with their father.

Finally, Gehazi “went out from his presence”  [2 Kings 5:27 ESV]. He was no longer a servant of Elisha. He would no longer speak for Elisha, although he would try. He continued to refer to himself as the servant of the man of God. He continued to extol the great things done by Elisha. He would continue to lift himself up, live according to his own moral code, seek the attention of those in the world. When he left Elisha’s presence, it was permanent. See 2 Kings 8:1-6. Scripture does not lie. Those revealed in God’s Word, being human, do lie.

Mourning over the consequences of sin is a gift, a grace of God, of grief and of repentance.

Slave or Bond-Servant

Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. [Matthew 5:4 ESV]

Mourning is the result of recognizing the fact of sin. Those who mourn, or grieve over their sin, and the  truth and reality of sin will realize the consequences of sin, both the temporary and the eternal ramifications. One of the consequences is separation from God and the corruption of the image of God upon which that relationship was built. We are created by Him for Him.

I do what I do not want to do. What I want to do I don’t do. What I hate doing I continue doing. What I know is right and good and acceptable to God, I cannot, even do not, want to do. I want to sin. I don’t want to sin. A war wages within every Christian. It is a battle of laws I am judged by and wills I must follow. I do not establish the laws. My own will is in submission to the Will of God and the will of sin. “For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am of the flesh, sold under sin. [15] I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate” [Romans 7:14-15].

The evidence of my life reflects this war.

So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin.  

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. [Romans 7:21-8:1]

Though I am responsible for what I do what matters is not what I do, or want to do, but whom I serve. Do I serve sin, enslaved by it so that everything I do or think or am resonates sin to the world and to God. Or do I serve God. Only some of what I do emulates my service to God. Everything else I do provides ample evidence of sin’s control. What is the difference? Who is my true Master and how do I know?

In the non-Christian, those wholly captured by sin, there is no conflict, no struggle within, no admission of sin or mourning over the consequences of sin. There may be a momentary struggle deciding what is right or wrong, but the measurement of right and wrong is themselves and not God. There is no war being fought within the non-Christian. Adhering to their own standard of living, their own moral code, they show themselves self-righteous, rich in spirit. Their rebellion against God is complete and completely hidden from themselves.

For the Christian these characteristics are not true. After recognizing sin, after recognizing that I sin, there is no place for self-righteousness. Recognition of sin means I cannot ignore the truth I have violated God’s absolute moral law. Once I see the evidence, once my eyes are opened to who I truly am, I cannot help but mourn, to grieve over the truth I have violated God’s law. Mourning does not last for a moment and then fade into acceptance with time as will most grief. I continue in a conflict, a war between sin and righteousness, waged within for as long as I am exposed to sin. How quickly will I reach a state where I hate this conflict and see the only avenue of escape as death, a longing for eternity with God, guaranteed by His indwelling Spirit. This war is evidence my Master is God and not sin., a conflicted assurance mocked by the world.

The question remains, how do I know my true Master? Our answer is found in the word “serve.” Those in the world are legally “bound” either as “slaves” to sin or “bond-servants” to God. The root word “bound” or “to bind” is a legal term describing a legal contract or covenant which cannot be broken or absolved except by death. So, the marriage covenant is a legally binding decision to unite a man and woman as husband and wife [See Romans 7:1-6]. Breaking this binding before death violates the moral law of God and forces the violation of other laws within the moral law. In fact, breaking the smallest part of the law breaks the whole law. God’s moral law is binding on everyone created in His image under the law. Death is judgment for violating the law of God. We are under a legally binding contract with God to abide by His moral law. Death does not free us from the contractual obligations to God but is a sentence for rebelling, resulting in separation from God.

Christ, the sinless “bond-servant” of God in a way we cannot understand, took upon Himself the consequences of my sin, which is separation from God, breaking the binding of the law and rebinding once again under the law. I cease being a “slave” bound by sin to sin and become a “bond-servant” bound to God by God. My place is secured in nothing I have done, for my master is either sin or God.

A “slave” is someone bought and owned by another having no rights, living and working at the whim of the master. A slave’s entire existence is bound to that of the master. The Western world has grown to abhor the reality of slavery. We despise the implication of the word and have been taught to hate the existence of slavery knowing there are places in the world, even in the Western world, where slavery continues to thrive. Slavery is part of the corrupted nature of sin which desires to control others. This mindset has diluted the concept of slavery to the place where the one controlled by sin refuses to acknowledge their own slavery.

A “bond-servant” on the other hand, is someone who was a slave, been given the opportunity for freedom and has decided to remain in the service of their Master. Again, there is a great chasm between understanding the concept of a “bond-servant” and the freedoms available in the Western world. In a place where I can change jobs at will for whatever reason, I learn to serve only myself. I must learn to relinquish control (which is a subject of upcoming, when I’m finished rambling through this discussion, posts). Christ had the morphe of a bond-servant. Since I am hidden in Him I am freed from the binding to sin as a slave and bound to God as a servant.

I have been bought out of the slave market of sin and placed into service to God. Perhaps a better metaphor is I have died and been resurrected. Death breaks the control of sin over me and resurrection makes me new. This is a future, eternal truth which seems to conflict with the present reality. My fate depends not upon me but upon the One who owns me.

Repentance

      My sin put Jesus on the cross. 

      No, that’s not completely true. Jesus gave His life willingly. It was because of my sin He was crucified and died but doing this was His decision. He was under no compulsion to take upon Himself the sentence for anyone’s sin. Yet, in a real sense, it was my sin which brought Jesus to the place where He was sacrificed, suffering agonizing torture and ultimate death. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” [1 Corinthians 521 ESV].

      Sin is the breaking of the God’s moral law. He placed this moral law in everyone He created as an integral part of His image given to man. My rebellion against God, predicted in the rebellion of Adam, does not negate God’s image in me, though it does corrupt it. Still, God, deciding to continue the relationship with His rebellious creature, me, makes a way for that relationship to be reestablished. Since sin brings death, a justified sentence for rebelling against Him, only through death will sin lose its power.  Either must die for my sin which would separate me from the eternal source of life in God, or the death of a substitute who is sinless. I can do nothing for myself, including pay for my own (plural) sins.  Only Jesus, both God and Man the way God originally intended, can possibly do this.  In the same way Adam brought sin to all so Christ brings forgiveness of sin to all. [See Romans 5:12-21.]

      Simply because Christ substituted Himself for me, taking upon Himself the sentence for my crimes does not mean I have no responsibility, or accountability, or that I do nothing. I was created in God’s image for obedience to Him. Jesus took my responsibility for sin upon His shoulders. He is held accountable for my sin.  I can do nothing.  Except obey.  I’m not to the discussion on obedience, yet.  I’m talking about what my sin cost God.  I’m talking about the consequences of sin, not just mine sin, or the consequences to me.

      My tendency is to concentrate upon what I lost, how I was affected, that I am impacted by sin. Certainly, I lost fellowship, a real, vital relationship, with God, broken because He cannot abide sin in His presence.  Over time, as I continue to contemplate Scripture, I discover more and more the cost, to God and to me.  This realizing the consequences of sin brings me to a state of mourning, of grieving in the true sense, because of death.  For though I will not “die” spiritually, I will die physically. The stages of grief, from anger to acceptance, pertain to every part of my life.  It is not what I have lost which causes grief, but at what cost God’s sacrifice was made for me.

      Nothing I do has any spiritual bearing upon what God has already done.  I must still do something.  I must repent.

      Repentance means to change one’s mind, to be so displeased with one’s past the desire to not repeat takes hold and controls what one does in the future. Turning away from that which causes grief, mourning, abhorrence is repentance. Grief, mourning and abhorrence for the consequences of sin is not repentance but the evidence of it.  Repentance involves more than the cessation of doing.  There must also be a cessation of thinking and feeling, of planning and conspiring to continue in a behavior or thinking which is detrimental to physical, mental, moral, and spiritual health and well-being. Since we cannot stop or change the corruption of our fallen nature we must, as a continual act of repentance, war against the immorality which attacks us from within and from without. Repentance is responsible obedience.

      I am so used to sin I have become desensitized to its affects and ignore its consequences.  My sin, and that of everyone else who has ever lived or will live, costs God.  We can know a little of what it cost Him, and have been examining questions which, I hope, will lead to a better comprehension of that cost.  God drags me through a fire designed to show me how sin has affected me and the world in which I live.  I can become either impervious to the pain of that fire, and continue in sin to death, or I can allow that fire to show me, and cleanse me, of sin.  I will never, this side of heaven, be cleansed of sin. This means, I will continue to suffer because of sin. Will my suffering be a cleansing from or a sinking into sin?

      “Blessed are those who mourn.”  Mourning is the deep spiritual, moral and emotional grief caused because of sin when I realize the consequence of sin, especially in myself.  I have been looking at the moral code designed by God, of which I am to adhere.  Rebellion against God is violation of His moral code and the consequence of sin is codified in His divine character.  I have also briefly looked at Jesus’ divine and “human” nature.  On the human side He had the form, or morphe, of a Servant.  Servants do not rebel against their masters.  Jesus’ divine, dual nature is in complete accordance with the eternal nature of God.  This is because Jesus is God.

      Repentance accompanies mourning.  Repentance is evidence of action done to reverse the devastation caused by sin.  This action is not what brings repentance but is the evidence that repentance has actually happened.  There is a change.  This change is brought about by spiritual death and spiritual rebirth and is final and complete.

      Jesus began His ministry echoing the words of John who proceeded Him, announcing Him to the world the need for repentance. “From that time Jesus began to preach, saying, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand’” [Matthew 4:17 ESV]. Is this not enough reason for us to struggle with repentance because of the consequences of our sin?

Jesus Christ, God and Servant

Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. [Philippians 2:5-11 ESV]

At the beginning of Jesus’ ministry, before calling his disciples, before people were attracted to Him in large numbers, He was baptized then tested in the wilderness. During His baptism God verbally declared “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased” [Luke 3:22 ESV].  While in the desert He was tempted by Satan to deny His divine rights, to believe a lie. His anger toward Satan reached intolerance as He ordered the deceiver away with the words ” ‘You shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve’” [Matthew 4:10 and Luke 4: 8 ESV]. Notice God declares in an absolute statement who His creation is to serve.

Toward the end of His ministry, before entering Jerusalem, two of His disciples sought special privileges when all finally entered the eternal kingdom. They thought they deserved more, having obviously been more faithful than the others, done more for Jesus, been more passionate about His perceived purpose. They even declared their abilities were equal to their Master’s. In response, Jesus made two startling statements.  “Whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave, even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” [Matthew 20:26-28 ESV]. Do you want greatness in the kingdom? Don’t look for it or expect it. Do not think of the Kingdom of Heaven as simply more of the world. It is not. You must think differently about yourself and about Jesus.

Those who serve God do not think of themselves as great. They are servants. Jesus started His ministry saying all must serve God. He ended His ministry saying even He did not come so those who are His would serve Him. His service to God was also service to us. He gave His life to ransom, to redeem, to buy back those who belong to God. These are statements of absolute fact and are not debatable.

Jesus is a Servant. In the Old Testament every theophany, every time God revealed Himself to someone in a physical form, easily understandable by those witnessing, it is Jesus and He is doing what God wants done. But He is also serving those He was sent to serve by God, the Father.

Wait. Isn’t Jesus God? Yes. He is also Man, the way God originally intended. He has a dual nature. Paul uses a word to define these two natures in Philippians 2:6-8. The word is “morphe” translated “form” in most English Bibles. Christ’s two natures is an eternal mystery yet is one of the most basic of doctrines of Scripture, of Christian theology. Most, I think, do not understand this doctrine, thinking of it more like the world does and less like the recreated mind must. The word morphe means that which makes something what it is. It is an indescribable characteristic without which the thing cannot be. Paul borrowed from the philosophical thinking of his day.  Morphe describes the essential quality of anything and everything individually without which it, the thing, would not be what it is. This can be confusing.

Think of a butterfly or a lion, borrowing from Charles William’s Place of the Lion, and what you see is only an imperfect image, even a simple reflection of the real, perfect butterfly or lion of which there is only one. What you see is a real, solid, felt, living and dying animal. But somewhere out there are the perfect butterfly and the perfect lion. Every other butterfly and lion has the essential, unidentifiable quality carried by the single perfect butterfly and lion. The butterfly has the morphe of a butterfly making it what it is. A lion with the morphe of a lion cannot be anything else. It must be a lion.

Man is created in the image of God. Image and morphe are not the same. Do not think of them as the same. Man does not have the morphe of God. We are not little gods. We are Men who carry a likeness allowing us to have an intimate relationship with our Creator.

Jesus has the morphe of God and the morphe of a servant. Notice, Paul did not say Jesus has the morphe of Men. He has the homoioma, the likeness, made after the scheme, the fashion, of Men. He has the outward appearance of a man with all of the internal, uncorrupted workings of man as God  originally intended, before Adam sinned, rebelled, and was corrupted. Jesus is perfect God of which there is no other representation. If there are gods they are counterfeits lacking the essential quality which is God. There can be only one God. Jesus is the perfect servant. All those who belong to Him carry in them the essential quality which makes a servant a servant.

He looked like other men, who are sinful and rebellious, who carry in them the characteristic of sin. Jesus had no sin. He was Man the way God intended before Adam fell. He began His ministry acknowledging His place as a servant. He ended His earthly ministry fulfilling His purpose for coming, which was to serve. Those He gathers to Himself are given the nature of a servant. He does not just take us back to what God planned in Adam, but takes us forward for what God planned all along for us.

This is only a brief, rudimentary explanation of a complicated theological doctrine, a mystery which cannot be grasped without the illumination of the Holy Spirit. It is a stumbling block for those who would explain away God, Jesus and our place in creation.

Jesus is God, eternal.  Jesus is a Servant of God, eternally. Jesus came as a man identifying with all me. He has the outward appearance of a Man. His physical self, down to the essential DNA of His physical being identifies Him as a Man. As God His eternal and His physical nature is sinless. He decided from eternity to identify with Man without compromising His eternal being as God.

Remember this: He is not ours. We are His.

Note: I have been on a four month hiatus taking care of a meth exposed foster baby boy, now toddler. I will continue to post as I am able.