Tag Archives: eternity

Refuge

Meditations on the Psalms

Blessed are all who take refuge in him. (Psalm 2:12 ESV)

God begins the Psalms by singling out One Man who is blessed, happy in His relationship with God because He is just and righteous and does not rebel against Him in any way. This last verse of Psalm 2, echoes the beginning declaration of blessedness. But instead of speaking about One Man, God is speaking about all people who identify with that One Man.

Refuge means to trust, to confide in or hope for, to flee to for protection. Trust is an emotional response to the promises of the object of faith. God is the object of true faith. Only He is completely and justly capable of fulfilling the promises made. What are God’s promises? His promises are both comforting and terrifying.

God promises to give His Son the earth and all it contains. God promises to bring to an end all who rebel against Him. God promises to bless those who He brings into eternity with Him.

Jesus Christ is God the Son, born a man the way Man was originally intended. He was a Servant of God, who came to serve those who rebel against God. He was God in the flesh, who came to die for the sins of the world. He is the King of kings and His kingdom is eternal. His subjects are those who, created in the image of God yet rebelling against Him, repent of their mutiny and identify with Him, rejecting the wickedness of the world.

He is a refuge, a sanctuary for those who are His, who are persecuted by the world. He is a refuge for those who trust Him, relinquishing control of their lives to Him, becoming His servants, the citizens of His kingdom. It is not that He removes any from the world once they are aligned with Him but that He leaves them in the world to witness to the world about Him, but also to prepare them for eternity with Him. Those who are His are identified with Him.

Jesus, in His prayer just before His death, tells us His intent for all who are His.

“I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me. Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world. O righteous Father, even though the world does not know you, I know you, and these know that you have sent me. I made known to them your name, and I will continue to make it known, that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.” (John 16:20-26 ESV)

He wants us with Him in eternity. He wants us to know Him intimately. He wants us to know we are known by God. He wants the world to know we belong to God, that God has chosen us, that He will bring us into eternity with Him. Eternity is ours in Christ.

Nothing can separate us from God. Instead, we are separated from the world for God. We believe, with Paul, “that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:38-39 ESV). Being in Christ, hidden in Him, protected by Him, enjoying His presence, growing in our knowledge of Him, means we receive all that is His purposed for us. All who are hidden in Christ receive the blessings of Christ.

Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. (Colossians 3:2-4 ESV)

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Heritage and Possession

Meditations on the Psalms

Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage, and the ends of the earth your possession. (Psalm 2:8 ESV)

God has set His Son on the throne, decreeing He is sovereign of all creation. He brought His Son into His creation as one made in the image of God yet without the sin which corrupts the nature of all other people. His name is Jesus Christ and God promises Him all creation is His. Jesus, the man, exercises dominion over creation the way Adam and Eve were assigned dominion over the earth. Yet, His dominion extends beyond the physical control of the world to governing and giving purpose to those in the world. To rebel against the Son is to rebel against God.

Ask means to inquire, to beg, to seek. Jesus uses a Greek word, which means the same as the Hebrew ask, when He tells His disciples to ask God to give them what they need to live in this world. “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened” (Matthew 7:8 ESV).  Make means bestow and is translated give. God will give these things to His Son, the King of kings, because Jesus seeks God with every ounce of His being.

What does God give His Son? He gives the nations and the ends of the earth. Nations is translated heathen and includes all people, not just the chosen of God. Everyone belongs to Him. Ends of the earth is everything on the earth. Jesus is given dominion over the earth and government over the people of the earth.

John, in the opening statements of his gospel, describes who Jesus is and that He came for a specific reason.

He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. (John 1:10-13 ESV)

All people includes the Gentiles, disdained by the Jews at that time as unworthy of receiving the salvation of God. Simply being a descendant of Abraham does not guarantee a place in eternity with God, the Giver of Life.

But it is not as though the word of God has failed. For not all who are descended from Israel belong to Israel, and not all are children of Abraham because they are his offspring, but “Through Isaac shall your offspring be named.” This means that it is not the children of the flesh who are the children of God, but the children of the promise are counted as offspring. (Romans 9:6-8 ESV)

All people have the image of God and are worth His Son’s sacrifice. During His ministry, Jesus did not specifically try to draw attention to Himself but to God the Father, whom He served. He actively tried to discourage people from holding Him up as the answer to all their worldly problems. Instead, He focused His attention on their relationship with God, that the relationship could be reestablished and wholesome. He is confrontational but also compassionate. He is the benevolent King whose purpose is to bring those who are His into a righteous relationship with God.

This was to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet Isaiah: “Behold, my servant whom I have chosen, my beloved with whom my soul is well pleased. I will put my Spirit upon him, and he will proclaim justice to the Gentiles. He will not quarrel or cry aloud, nor will anyone hear his voice in the streets; a bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not quench, until he brings justice to victory; and in his name the Gentiles will hope.” (Matthew 12:17-21 ESV; see Isaiah 42:1-4)

Jesus created all things for Himself. By His word, all things are sustained. God established His authority over all things. This is not some future event but that which is done and completed in eternity, though we still await its completion in space-time history. To rebel against Jesus ultimately brings failure to those who rebel, for He cannot fail and will not abdicate His authority to another.

Tree of Life

Meditations on the Psalms

He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers. (Psalm 1:3 ESV)

The Psalmist continues to describe the blessed Man who does not follow the ungodly into their sin but actively seeks to intimately know God through Scripture. We are given an illustration, a metaphor, of who Jesus Christ is in this world and throughout eternity. He is like a tree planted in the one place where that tree will always bear fruit and will always be healthy. The tree is planted next to streams of water for abundant nourishment. It is hard to not think of the trees planted next to the nourishing river coming from the Garden of Eden.

Scripture begins and ends describing the tree of life (see Genesis 2:9) planted in the Garden of Eden. Before the fall, Adam was given permission to eat from the tree of life. After the fall, Adam and all men are excluded from the Garden so they could not eat from the tree of life and live for eternity in their fallen state. “Then the LORD God said, ‘Behold, the man has become like one of us in knowing good and evil. Now, lest he reach out his hand and take also of the tree of life and eat, and live forever—’” (Genesis 3:22 ESV). People were created in the image of God for relationship with Him. When sin corrupted that relationship God’s justice required they be excluded from His presence. Yet, God provided a means for people to be righteous before Him through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, God the Son and who is also the perfect Man.

Scripture ends with the tree of life. “Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb through the middle of the street of the city; also, on either side of the river, the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit each month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations” (Revelation 22:1-2 ESV). From this tree those who dwell in eternity may eat and be healed.

We have already seen, in Jesus’ response to the temptation of the Deceiver, that “‘man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God’” (Deuteronomy 8:3). Jesus then tells us that “unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day” (John 6:53-54 ESV; see John 6:55-58). Jesus Christ is the source of life for those who belong to God. This suggests that Jesus was present in the Garden of Eden as the tree of life. People are now commanded to accept Jesus and in doing so will receive life.

One sin excluded Man from the presence of God. That sin was committed by one man, Adam, when he ate the forbidden fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Because of his action all men are condemned. “Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned” (Romans 5:12 ESV; see Romans 5:12-21). So, because of the sacrifice of one Man, Jesus Christ, redemption is offered to all men.

Yet death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those whose sinning was not like the transgression of Adam, who was a type of the one who was to come. But the free gift is not like the trespass. For if many died through one man’s trespass, much more have the grace of God and the free gift by the grace of that one man Jesus Christ abounded for many (Romans 5:14-15 ESV).

Adam was a type of Christ. Now, the command is to eat from the tree of life, which is also a type of Christ. One act of disobedience excludes those who disobey from the presence of God. That act of rebellion is to not obey God’s command to eat His flesh and drink His blood. God’s command to all is to eat from the tree of life, which is the body and blood of Christ, and live spiritually with Him in eternity.

Introduction to Psalm One

Meditations on the Psalms

[This is the beginning of a series of my thoughts on the Psalms.]

Introduction to Psalm 1

In the Psalms, we see two spiritual entities, one struggling with the other, with their respective followers. One, the Deceiver, is at war with the other, God the Creator, having begun the conflict and obsessively refusing to end or concede defeat. God fights an unsought war with every necessary tool, eternally knowing His victory is assured. His opponent also fights with every deceptive trick and contrivance available, knowing it has no chance of victory. It is a war which should not have happened but is raging and cannot be stopped until the time is right. It is the Deceiver, a created being, rebelling against God, the Creator of His foe.

War should bring fear and trembling to every sane and reasonable person. In war is destruction and death. There is no safety and security in a war zone. There is constant terror and unsought courage, debilitating fear and selfless bravery, premeditated loss from destruction and deliberate self-sacrifice. War brings out the worst in people. War brings out the best in people.

Why would any created being wage war against the Creator, knowing there was no hope of victory, knowing at the end of the conflict it would face utter destruction? Would this knowledge not change the face of war? Would not tactics and strategies change? There is no hope of victory for the Deceiver, and no chance of surrender because judgment is irrevocably and eternally decreed. Still, the war rages.

This is not a war as physical, space-time history would define war. In war, there are sides of combatants fighting to control people, land or whatever is at stake. There is ultimately a winner and a loser. All sides will suffer loss but eventually one side will capitulate to the other and sue for terms of peace, or a cessation of conflict. Or, one side will so totally dominate the other the overshadowed side will face annihilation.

This war is not in heaven. It is not an eternal struggle but has an end. It is on Earth. Though it is two spiritual beings, one eternal and omnipotent and the other having a beginning and powerful but still not God, the war is fought in space-time.

Over what is the rebellion being raged? Ultimately, there is no prize. God, existing before the beginning and after the end of time, is the object of the Deceivers wrath. But God is not a prize which can be won or lost. Temporarily, the trophy is the souls of people made in the image of God, whom God loves. Those who belong to Him cannot be lost while those who rebel against Him cannot be saved.

But do not think anyone born is a passive participant or an innocent bystander. Nor think any person choses sides. Every person born is thrust into the war against God, for the sinful bent and corruption of Man propels all away from their Creator. Yet, God’s image drives each person toward God. It is a true war, with eternal consequences fought within the soul of each person given the image of God while inhabiting a vessel corrupted by sin.

Those who are known by God are the battlefield, continually threatened and assaulted by those who do not belong to God. Most in the world will not even recognize there is a war raging. It is not an awareness of position for or against God which defines the war. It is the justice and righteousness of God judging those who rebel against God, which sets the stage. The war we face moment by moment is a rebellion against God and all He represents.

There is only one champion. His name is Jesus Christ. He is God who was born in flesh as a righteous, sinless man. He took upon Himself the punishment for rebellion and sin for all so all might be reconciled to God. He, and He alone, has fought the war and claimed victory over the consequences of sin, not just the entities who rebelled against Him.

Still, the Deceiver, knowing its own end is annihilation, eternal separation from that which creates and sustains life, is bent on wreaking as much havoc and destruction as possible. There is no prize. It, the Deceiver, is called the prince, or ruler, of this world but it is not the king and supreme ruler of hell. God still rules hell, for it is a place He created for those who rebel against Him, beginning with the Deceiver.

Psalm 1 describes the conflict and ultimate resolution between the only Righteous One, and those who are His, and the Deceiver, and those who follow it.

God’s Calling

Studies in Genesis 3

But the LORD God called to the man and said to him, “Where are you?” (Genesis 3:9 ESV)

God “called” to the first man, Adam, who is the representative of Man, all humans. To call means to summon, to invite, appoint, endow, and also to cry out, proclaim, to call by name. God did not ask where he was. He knew Adam was hiding among the trees. He also knew Adam had rebelled against Him by eating the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. God called to Adam to present himself before his Authority.

God does not ask anyone to do anything. Nowhere in Scripture will you find God asking for our obedience. Even in our rebellion God demands obedience. God does ask questions of those who are His. His questions are designed to teach us about Him and about ourselves before Him. While Adam was hiding from God, He began asking a series of questions designed to elicit specific answers.

“Where are you?”  This question is full of meaning and points to many other questions. Why are you hiding? Why aren’t you coming to greet me? What are you feeling? Are you afraid? How did you come to know fear?

Some have suggested God went in search of Adam after the rebellion. This is certainly possible. However, God knows everything and does not act quickly as we judge necessary timeliness. He stands outside of time while knowing all which occurs constrained by time. Nor, is God going to allow sin and rebellion to change Him or His actions. He knew before they sinned not only that they would rebel but what He was planning to do because of their disobedience. All God does is for His purpose, not ours. We are created to serve Him, yet His eternal nature is to serve without losing or compromising His authority and place.

God’s call to man, whether Adam or anyone else who has, does or will live, is a summons into His presence. It is not a request to come but a command to present oneself before God. Since God created Man for relationship, yet still has authority over Man, His call is to come and be with Him in a loving, intimate way. It is the nature of sin to be repulsed by God. With the act of rebellion by Man and the summons of God the war raging within Man because of sin is defined.

God’s image in Man is an irresistible striving to know and be with Him. Man’s now bent and corrupted nature is an overwhelming revulsion toward God and a terrifying desire to flee from Him. God’s image in Man is not corrupted because God cannot be corrupted. Yet, the vessel holding the image is broken and compromised and no longer wants that image. God’s image cannot be expunged from Man. It will always, forever in eternity, be there, driving Man toward his Maker. Unless Man is recreated, not fixed or patched but made new, the war between the corrupted flesh and the incorruptible nature of God, will rage out of control, even in eternity.

God Blesses and Makes Holy

Studies in Genesis 2

So God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it God rested from all his work that he had done in creation. (Genesis 2:2-3 ESV)

This is now the third time God uses the word “blessed.” On the fifth day, when God created the sea creatures and the birds of the air He blessed them, saying they were to “be fruitful and multiply” (Genesis 1:22 ESV) and fill the earth. Then, on the sixth day God “blessed” Adam, Man, to not only fill the earth but to have dominion over all earthly living creatures. “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth” (Genesis 1:28 ESV). I think it of no consequence that God refrained from blessing the wild and domesticated animals and those creatures that creep. His blessing is to all earthly living things, that they are fruitful and multiply, according to their kind, and fill the earth.

“Blessing” means to kneel before and give that which cannot be had otherwise. Where God blessed living creatures during creation, here He blesses, not a period of time but the totality of the end result of His work of creation. If we read the first six days as periods of time with definitive beginnings and endings, then God’s seventh “day” has a beginning but no end. Or, the seventh day is the end of creation where all is accomplished according to God’s eternal purpose and He will do nothing else. God is eternal, unconstrained by time. For us to view Him in time helps us understand Him in a limited, space-time manner, but ultimately our understanding of Him will never define Him.

God uses His eternal character to define His blessing of the seventh day. He declares it “holy.” He set apart the seventh day from all the rest. He sanctified it and dedicated it to Himself. Holiness carries all of the eternal attributes of God for His use and according to His design and for His direction ad purpose. Nothing holy is defiled or corrupted, bent or broken, unable to fulfill its purpose and design because of a flaw. Nothing God creates is flawed or broken or unable to fulfill the purpose for which it was created. Holiness is integral to God. It does not surround Him, or direct Him or force Him to conform to its purpose. Holiness is God. All which God does is holy.

God’s Sabbath is holy and all created by God are designed to recognize Him as such. Holiness cannot be ignored. Man, created in the image of God for intimate relationship with Him was given an immediate and eternal disposition to love God and enjoy Him in peace and rest. Now, God tells Man to view and treat Him as holy and to keep, as a reminder and promise, the Sabbath set apart for intimate relationship with Him.

Light Overcomes Darkness

Studies in Genesis 1

And God said, “Let there be lights in the expanse of the heavens to separate the day from the night. And let them be for signs and for seasons, and for days and years, and let them be lights in the expanse of the heavens to give light upon the earth.” And it was so. (Genesis 1:14-19 ESV)

This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. (1 John 1:5-7 ESV)

Where there is darkness God gives light. There is a spiritual element to light and darkness as well as a physical element. God does nothing arbitrarily but thoughtfully, with ramifications which cross physical boundaries into the spiritual, eternal realms. Man, whom He created for eternity, is embedded with the eternal light of God. But darkness corrupted Man. Darkness cannot corrupt light.

Where there is darkness He brings light. On the fourth day of creation God filled the heavens with lights. He made the Sun to “rule the day” and the Moon and stars to “rule the night.” He separated day from night but did not allow complete darkness to rule the night. Night was dark but there was always some light. At times the light reflected by the Moon would be strong or dim. When the Moon was hidden by the earth there were the stars. Until God rolls up the heavens, bringing an end to the universe, stars will shine. Only when eyes are hidden from the light will there be no light to see.

A brief look at history will show God working according to the principle of light and darkness, and of separation. God separated out a people from the rest of the population, not because they were special but because through them would come His Son. Yet, He gave these people His laws, both civil and criminal, and rules for living. He made them different than from the rest of the people of the world. Giving them His law made them a light to the world. His law was the light and the people were the instrument used to shine the light. No matter how hard they tried to suppress God’s light, to exclude any not “chosen” according to their traditions, God used His light in them to bring many people to Himself.

Through the nation of Israel came His Son, God’s absolute light to a world enveloped in darkness. God’s chosen are not the nation through which Christ came but those who are citizens of the kingdom of heaven, chosen by God. Jesus is not simply a vessel or instrument of light but the actual, spiritual light to physical people corrupted by sin, filled with darkness. His righteous light overcomes the spiritual darkness of sin.

Finally, God set His Church in the world, scattered throughout as many points of light. Each person filled with the Spirit of God is not only the vessel but a source of light.

God separated people from Himself because of the darkness of sin. Yet, His purpose since the fall is to draw people toward Himself. He came and dwelt with the nation of Israel, shining His light through them to a world enveloped in darkness. He sent His Son, completely God and completely Man as God originally intended in Adam, as the absolute source of light, both physical and spiritual. When Jesus ascended, God sent His Spirit indwelling those who are His while they continued living in a world covered in darkness. Throughout history God has provided light, even a dim light, to a world darkened by sin. Until the end of time, which will come, God shines light in darkness. Ultimate separation from God is absolute darkness while absolute inclusion with God in eternity is refulgent light.