Tag Archives: Herod

Shield of Faith

My shield is with God, 
who saves the upright in heart. (Psalm 7:10 ESV)

True faith in God is one of the major themes of the Psalms and of Scripture. God draws those who are His into His refuge, protecting them and then, in eternity, removing them from the assaults of His enemies. “But let all who take refuge in you rejoice; let them ever sing for joy, and spread your protection over them, that those who love your name may exult in you” (Psalm 5:11 ESV). God’s protection comes through faith. Faith is believing the evidence of God’s work, trusting Him to deliver on His promises, and obeying His commands. Believing is an action of the mind or the intellect. Trusting is an action of the moral-emotional self. Obeying is an action of the will. The whole person is involved in the act of faith. Jesus embodied true faith as both God and Man in the flesh, the way God intended from creation.

As Jesus walked through His ministry, He fully obeyed God’s will. Jesus found security in nothing provided by or found in the world. A shield is a buckler, a small, round piece of armor carried to protect the person from the attacks of an enemy. David used the word to describe God’s protection even when surrounded by an overwhelming force. Jesus, when standing trial before the three worldly judges, the Religious leaders, Herod and Pilate, trusted God. Though He died, God lifted up His head from death. “But you, O LORD, are a shield about me, my glory, and the lifter of my head” (Psalm 3:3 ESV). Abraham was credited with righteousness, because he believed God, who kept His promises. God protected Abraham and his descendants, from whom Christ would descend. “After these things the word of the LORD came to Abram in a vision: ‘Fear not, Abram, I am your shield; your reward shall be very great’” (Genesis 15:1 ESV).

Only God saves those who are His from all enemies. God’s enemies pursue the life of the righteous to destroy them. To savemeans to be delivered or liberated, to be victorious in battle. Surrounded by sin and sinful people, and constantly tempted by the Deceiver, Jesus was relentlessly pursued by His enemies during His earthly ministry. His enemies continually sought something, anything they could use to destroy His influence and discredit His authority. “O LORD my God, in you do I take refuge; save me from all my pursuers and deliver me” (Psalm 7:1 ESV). God will not only deliver from the assault of the enemy, He strikes down those who wage war against Him. “Arise, O LORD! Save me, O my God! For you strike all my enemies on the cheek; you break the teeth of the wicked” (Psalm 3:7 ESV). God has no obligation to save any who sin. He saves because of His love. “Turn, O LORD, deliver my life; save me for the sake of your steadfast love” (Psalm 6:4 ESV). God created people in His image for an intimate, eternal relationship with them. His love is eternal, evidenced by His mercy in sending His Son to die for sin and cover those who are His with His righteousness. God’s compassion is boundless.

Our actions, shown through our obedience to His commands, carry no merit before God. No one can work their way into heaven. God has no obligation to any person because of what they have done or will do, or who they are. 

Still, part of the image of God in Man is dominion. God gave man, Adam and Eve, dominion over His earthly creation. “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth” (Genesis 1:26 ESV). Dominion is control over a part of creation. Where man lived under God’s authority, the earth and all in it came under the authority of Man. When Adam and Eve rebelled against God, He did not remove from them His image. Nor was His image in them corrupted. They were corrupted, the vessel which held the image of God, but His image remained whole and complete. Because of sin, no person exercises the image of God appropriately, or in a godly fashion.

Rebellion brought a war between the corrupted self, which wants control without God, and the image of God, which naturally wants to serve and obey God. Self wants all to focus all attention on self. God’s image wants the bearer to focus all attention upon God. The battle between the two forces is devastating. God’s image irresistibly draws every person toward God while the rebellious, sinful nature, drives away every person from God. We are our own worst enemy.God’s shield is the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. “In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory” (Ephesians 1:13-14 ESV). Nothing can remove those who are His from His presence. 

Advertisements

Peter, an Apostle

Studies in First Peter

Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ (1 Peter 1:1 ESV)

Jesus is a real person and real people encountered Him. The full humanity of those who live in far-away places or long-ago times is often lost on those currently living. Most people are so involved in their lives they do not think or visualize that the names they read in Scripture are attached to a person who lived and breathed, who ate and slept, who felt emotions like love and happiness. Real people saw Jesus and walked with Him, ate with Him, listened to Him. They were His friends and enemies. They watched Him work and heal. They heard Him teach, rebuke and lead. Many either loved Him deeply or hated Him passionately. Many went about their business, seemingly unaffected by His presence. Yet, everyone was and has been affected by Him.

Jesus taught pointed lessons, through word and action, building into the lives of those who are His, qualities and characteristics God’s children throughout history could see and emulate.  Jesus confronted people who fought against him, those who rejected and finally murdered Him.

Peter, one of the apostles, and the author of two epistles in the New Testament, was taught and disciplined by Jesus. Trials and testing are the most effective means God uses to build into Christians the character of the citizen of His kingdom. Peter had a wild and aggressive personality God tamed before his death. He was impulsive, jumping into circumstances without understanding the consequences of his actions. God changed Peter, building discipline and Godliness into his life.  The words in his epistles come from the indwelling of the Spirit and personal experience with the Son of God.

What do we know about Peter? We know he was married. Before Peter was called by Jesus and began following Him, He healed Peter’s mother-in-law (see Matthew 8:14; Mark 1:29-30; Luke 4:38).His wife was with him during his ministry years after Jesus’ ascension (1 Corinthians 9:5). We know he was a fisherman who worked the Sea of Galilee and partnered with his brother Andrew, and James and John Zebedee, who also would become apostles (see Matthew 4:18; Luke 5:1-7; John 21:3). He was called by various names including Simon Barjona and Cephas (see Matthew 16:16-19; Mark 3:16; John 1:42, 1 Corinthians 9:5

Peter was a disciple of Jesus, someone who followed Him and learned from Him. He became and apostle, chosen by Jesus after a night of prayer.  Apostle means delegate, messenger, one chosen and sent out with a specific message. Many people followed Christ during His earthly ministry. Jesus chose twelve men to receive specific instruction and direction in preaching the gospel.

In these days he went out to the mountain to pray, and all night he continued in prayer to God. And when day came, he called his disciples and chose from them twelve, whom he named apostles: Simon, whom he named Peter, and Andrew his brother, and James and John, and Philip, and Bartholomew, and Matthew, and Thomas, and James the son of Alphaeus, and Simon who was called the Zealot, and Judas the son of James, and Judas Iscariot, who became a traitor. (Luke 6:12-16 ESV; see also Matthew 10:2; 16:18-19; Mark 3:16; Acts 1:13.)

As a disciple and apostle of Christ he Peter was commissioned to take the gospel to his own people, the Jews, while Paul carried the gospel to the Gentiles (Galatians 2:8). During Peter’s ministry, after Jesus’, ascension, he faced hostility and persecution by the Jews and those opposed to the message of Jesus. He was imprisoned and beaten after his encounter with the same high priest who had Jesus murdered (see Acts 5:17-42). He had a vision which disrupted the traditional Jewish understanding of clean and unclean, learning that God had also chosen the Gentiles for citizenship in His kingdom (see Acts 10:1-48). Again, he was imprisoned and scheduled for execution by Herod, who had already killed James, the brother of John (see Acts 12:1-19). But, he was miraculously released from prison by an angel without the knowledge of any of the guards.

He was martyred, probably with Paul, in Rome during the time of Nero. There is no Biblical evidence showing the deaths of either man. Extrabiblical evidence, specifically Origen, suggests Peter was crucified upside down at his own request because he felt himself unworthy of dying like Jesus.

The Gospel of Mark, though written by John Mark, who was not an eye witness of the life of Christ, used Peter as his source of information. As a man who followed, helped and even interpreted for Peter, an eye-witness of Jesus and one of the inner circle of disciples, Mark’s gospel carries both the integrity of an eyewitness and the teachings of one of Jesus’ Apostles. In addition, Peter penned two epistles, entitled First and Second Peter. As an eye witness Peter is an important and critical observer of the teachings of Christ for those who are citizens of the Kingdom of Heaven.

Unafraid

Meditations on the Psalms

I will not be afraid of many thousands of people who have set themselves against me all around.(Psalm 3:6 ESV)

Jesus faced both great acclaim and heated opposition throughout His earthly ministry. Those who hated Him included the Deceiver, who did everything possible to frustrate, obstruct and stop His ministry, and the religious leaders of the nation. These religious leaders hated Jesus because He challenged their authority and position of leadership over the people. In addition, the Roman’s hated anyone, not particularly Jesus, who might incite the people under their dominion to rebel against Rome and the emperor.

Those who opposed Jesus were not just politically or religiously motivated. There were many who simply did not care about Him. Or, they cared about His words and ideas for a moment but when He confronted their covetous attitude toward what they considered their stuff, they would turn their backs upon Him and walk away. They cared more for their place in the world than their place in eternity.

God tells us to not be afraidof those who oppose Him because Jesus was not afraid of them. Afraid means to dread, fear, stand in awe, as well as to have reverence and to honor. To setthemselves against means to station, to take a stand, to lay waste, fix their mind in opposition to whatever Jesus represents or commands be done. Those who are hostile toward the authority of the King of kings, either actively fight against Him or passively ignore Him. In either case, their actions, or inactions, destroy the foundation of the relationship they have with God.

We have already seen those who mutiny against God will come to a physical and spiritual end. Their defiant words and works are judged and they are sentenced, then separated from God, the Giver of life. His judgment is a completed action from eternity, yet still works out in space-time history. For God it is done. For those living in the world it will be done but is not yet completed. Jesus was not afraid to stand before the religious leaders, Herod and Pilate, because He foreknew the outcome. He willingly endured the torture of crucifixion because He knew the final and absolute results brought the greatest glory to God.

During Jesus’ ministry, He chose and trained twelve disciples. These disciples, whom He also called apostles, were given responsibility to exercise authority in His name. “And he called to him his twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal every disease and every affliction” (Matthew 10:1 ESV; see also Mark 3:13-15, Luke 6:12-16). As Jesus trained them He was forthright in telling them what they would face and endure. Their and our temptations and trials are myriad and used to test. God does not test anyone to discover what they know. He tests so we can discover what we do not know, especially about Him. Throughout our training we are His and there is no reason to fear.

So have no fear of them, for nothing is covered that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known. What I tell you in the dark, say in the light, and what you hear whispered, proclaim on the housetops. And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell. Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows. (Matthew 10:26-31 ESV; see Luke 12:4-7)

Jesus’ disciples, throughout history, whomever they are and whenever they live, stand before those in worldly authority and give testimony about Him. Instead of removing us from the world He leaves us to declare, through words and actions, the evidence of His grace in the gospel. He also leaves us in the world to train and fit us for eternity. Being a Christian in the world brings trails and persecutions. The thinking of our hearts is on full display before the world and before God as we face the same opposition Jesus endured.

Fear is both debilitating and freeing. When we fear we can see that which is in the thinking of our heart. Fearing the world tells us we do not trust God and want that which the world offers more than what God gives. When we fear God, by honoring Him as Creator, placing Him first, then nothing we encounter in this world can potentially or actually remove us from His presence.

God, My Protector

Meditations on the Psalms

But you, O LORD, are a shield about me, my glory, and the lifter of my head. (Psalm 3:3 ESV)

Though surrounded by those who demean Him, give false testimony against Him, and mock Him, Jesus knows with whom the ultimate authority and control resides. Nothing done by the Deceiver, the world or those who follow their own sinful flesh will impact Him or keep Him from accomplishing His eternal purpose.

Again, Jesus uses the proper name for God, YHWH, as He addresses the One who protects Him. He declares God is a shield surrounding Him. Shield is a small or large defensive weapon, flat and covered with leather, used to deflect the blows of a sword or stop arrows from reaching their target, the soldier carrying the shield. Smaller shields were used in hand-to-hand combat, both defensively and offensively. God is His Protector.

God is not just a Protector. God is His glory, His honor, abundance, dignity, reputation. And God is the lifter of His head, which means God raises Him up, with the dignity and splendor due His royal position.

This claim seems diametrically opposed to the previous account where Jesus is surrounded and mocked by His foes, by those who are torturing Him to death. We must not forget the beginning of His history in the space-time universe, nor the conclusion of His ministry before He returns to His rightful place in eternity.

After the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem of Judea, He and His parents were visited by worshippers from an Eastern country. These visitors saw in the heavens the imminent birth of the king of the Jews. Traveling from their country, they sought out Herod the Great, a non-Jew, who was the leader and overseer of Judea under the Roman empire. “Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him” (Matthew 2:2 ESV). Herod was not delighted with the proclamation of these men but did not show his anger to them. He was a ruler who conspired against the Lord and His Anointed. “The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the LORD and against his Anointed” (Psalm 2:2 ESV). He deceptively instructed the men from the East to find the child and return to him, so “I too may come and worship him” (Matthew 2:8 ESV).

They left Herod’s presence and found Jesus and worshipped Him as God. Jesus was with His mother, Mary, and they gave Him “gifts of gold and frankincense and myrrh” (Matthew 2:11 ESV), gifts suitable for a recognized King. They did not return to Herod to tell him about Jesus. “And being warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they departed to their own country by another way” (Matthew 2:12 ESV). God warned them to not return to Herod, just as God warned Joseph, Jesus’ earthly father, to flee their country.

Now when they had departed, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Rise, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you, for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.” And he rose and took the child and his mother by night and departed to Egypt and remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet, “Out of Egypt I called my son.” (Matthew 2:13-15 ESV; see Hosea 11:1)

Herod’s intent was to slaughter the child. He was shrewd and ruthless in keeping his political and personal power, murdering members of his own family. He cared only for those who would advance his authority over the land he ruled. He wanted to kill Jesus but did not know how to identify the child. So, he slaughtered all of the children in the vicinity of where the men from the East said Jesus lived. “Then Herod, when he saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, became furious, and he sent and killed all the male children in Bethlehem and in all that region who were two years old or under, according to the time that he had ascertained from the wise men” (Matthew 2:16 ESV). None of the children he murdered, or any of their family, were guilty of a crime against him or their country.

Throughout the ministry of Jesus, God shielded Him from the assaults of a world that hated Him, until the end of His ministry. Then He felt the brunt of the world’s hatred toward God and died. After He died, God lifted His head, raised Him from the dead, and brought Him into His presence, returning to Him the glory He set aside to become a man. “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 2:9-11 ESV).

Before Herod

Meditations on the Psalms

Blessed is the man… nor sits in the seat of scoffers; (Psalm 1:1 ESV)

Finally, the person who is righteous before God does not scoff nor is He trained by, or accepts the teaching of those who do scoff.

A scoffer is someone who heaps scorn, mocks or view another person with disdain. Those who sit in the seat of the scoffer actively teach others to disregard and rebel against God. To sit in the seat suggests the person teaches or trains others. In the ancient world, including Israel, teachers sat while their students stood before them. Everyone who lives is a teacher, having been trained by family and friends and society to live and think and feel in the ways of the group. Yet, the person who sits in the seat of the scoffer has greater influence over those who gather around them. Think of sitting in a classroom where one learns the ways of the scornful, and is given the tools of the trade.

Herod, perhaps the most worldly and wicked, was the third jurist. None of the Herod’s were Jewish, yet they ruled over the Jewish nation.

Herod Antipas was the son of Herod the Great, who sought to murder Jesus when a baby, murdering all the children in the vicinity of Bethlehem two years of age and under just to make sure. Herod Antipas, after a feast where his wife’s daughter danced, agreed to have John the Baptizer beheaded. Previously, John had confronted him about his adultery so he had John arrested and thrown in prison.

He was s superstitious man, thinking Jesus was John raised from the dead (Matthew 14:1-11). Jesus was warned once that Herod wanted to kill Him (Luke 13:31). Jesus warned His disciples about the teaching of Herod. “Now they had forgotten to bring bread, and they had only one loaf with them in the boat. And he cautioned them, saying, ‘Watch out; beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and the leaven of Herod’” (Mark 8:14-15 ESV).

Herod had followers called Herodian’s, who were not religious but held to the political worldview of Herod, which appears to encompass sensuality and corrupt living. Herod’s life was a mockery of everything godly.

Jesus stood moot before Herod, refusing to speak to the man. Herod wanted Him to perform, to entertain him and those with him. Herod had murdered Jesus’ cousin, the forerunner of the Christ. Jesus’ refusal to answer suggest His utter disdain for the man and what he represented. Herod’s life was one of scoffing and mockery, so his reaction to Jesus, who would not perform on command and who treated him with disrespect, was to mock and treat with contempt.

When Pilate heard this, he asked whether the man was a Galilean. And when he learned that he belonged to Herod‘s jurisdiction, he sent him over to Herod, who was himself in Jerusalem at that time.

When Herod saw Jesus, he was very glad, for he had long desired to see him, because he had heard about him, and he was hoping to see some sign done by him. So he questioned him at some length, but he made no answer. The chief priests and the scribes stood by, vehemently accusing him. And Herod with his soldiers treated him with contempt and mocked him. Then, arraying him in splendid clothing, he sent him back to Pilate. (Luke 23:6-11 ESV)

Herod, a worldly leader, mocked and scoffed at Jesus because he could not control Him.

What does the godly man not do? He does not walk in his whole being with those whose every word and action contradicts God. He does not stand as a student before a teacher learning how to violate God’s will. Nor does he sit as equals with those, taking part in their blasphemous thinking and comments. Everything the godly man does is diametrically opposed to everything done by the wicked, sinful scoffer.

Head and Heel

Studies in Genesis 3

I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.” (Genesis 3:15 ESV)

What does the word “seed” or “offspring” mean? How is it used in relation to both creatures? What does it mean to “bruise” heel and head.

For the woman, the word offspring means children. But not just the immediate children of the woman. It means all of the descendants which will come from her because she is the first woman. It could also mean one individual who will come from her somewhere down the line of descendants.

For the Deceiver, the word seed or descendants is not it’s offspring through physical union of male and female but those who decide to follow, emulate and be trained by the Deceiver to hate God. Many of the descendants of the woman will also be descendants of the Deceiver.

To bruise means to fall upon or crush. God, through one of the descendants of the first woman, will finish the war begun against Him. The Deceiver will strike out and hurt the One who is coming. It will wound Him but will not defeat Him. He will fall upon the Deceiver’s head, crushing it and ultimately defeating the being who rebelled against God.

We now know this statement is a prophecy of Messiah, fulfilled in the birth, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. From the moment Jesus was conceived by the Holy Spirit the Deceiver began its assault against Jesus in the vain exercise of trying to kill Him.  From requiring a pregnant woman to move a great distance riding a donkey, to Herod seeking to kill Him when he was a child, to the temptations of Christ and His passion, the Deceiver sought ways to stop God from fulfilling His promises. Nothing can hinder God’s will. He used all of the devious tricks of the Deceiver to fulfill prophecy and finish His will.

Ultimately, the Deceiver struck at Christ’s heel, hurting Him but not killing Him. Jesus was tortured to death on a Roman cross. But His resurrection followed His death and finished His work of redemption.

We are still deeply embedded in a struggle, a rebellion, fueled by the hatred of the Deceiver. God has tried, judged and sentenced the Deceiver, who is not awaiting the execution of the sentence. During this time, the conflict rages as God separates those who are not His from those who are.

God Is Not Mocked

Now the men who were holding Jesus in custody were mocking him as they beat him. They also blindfolded him and kept asking him, “Prophesy! Who is it that struck you?” And they said many other things against him, blaspheming him. [Luke 22:63-65 ESV]

People mock that which they do not know or care to understand. People who mock think they have the upper hand over someone they consider inferior, undeserving of respect or compassion and mercy. It is the guilty who mock the innocent, the strong who mock the weak, those who have control who mock those who have no control.

It is the Jewish Temple guards and authorities who mock Jesus. Soon, the Roman guard will mock Him and put Him to death. Their mockery shows they are aware of what others have claimed about Him and what He has claimed of Himself.

Like His cousin John, Jesus was deemed a Prophet similar to those of the Hebrew Scriptures. In Hebrew history it was God’s prophets who came to the rulers and peoples of Israel and Judah telling them to stop sinning and return to worshipping only God. They stood before kings and priests, before the thrones and inside the city gates, telling all that if they did not return to worshipping only God they would die or be taken into exile to die away from their land. These who spoke for God were held in contempt because God is held in contempt. They were treated shamefully because the people did not believe their words. They did not believe God. Those who speak for God will encounter those who would silence them because of the hatred they have toward God.

Others suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were killed with the sword. They went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, afflicted, mistreated—of whom the world was not worthy—wandering about in deserts and mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth. [Hebrews 11:36-38 ESV]

Writing through David 900 years earlier Jesus told what would happen to Him. “All who see me mock me; they make mouths at me; they wag their heads; ‘He trusts in the LORD; let him deliver him; let him rescue him, for he delights in him!’” [Psalm 22:7-8 ESV]. Pilate examined Jesus and found no guilt in Him. Pilate’s solution is to “punish and release Him” [Luke 23:22 ESV]. Pilate’s punishment is physical abuse. If Jesus is not guilty of anything why punish Him? Pilate’s punishment is a mockery.

Herod examined Jesus because he wanted to see Jesus perform a sign, a token miracle, as if Jesus were a performer sent to entertain. Jesus would not perform for Herod. “Herod with his soldiers treated him with contempt and mocked him” [Luke 23:11 ESV]. Pilate and Herod were enemies until they stood before the condemned Jesus. Afterward they became friends.

When Jesus was delivered over for crucifixion the Roman guard treated Him with their fullest contempt. These men were experienced at dehumanizing their prisoners and making sure they died in excruciating agony.

Then the soldiers of the governor took Jesus into the governor’s headquarters, and they gathered the whole battalion before him. And they stripped him and put a scarlet robe on him, and twisting together a crown of thorns, they put it on his head and put a reed in his right hand. And kneeling before him, they mocked him, saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!” And they spit on him and took the reed and struck him on the head. And when they had mocked him, they stripped him of the robe and put his own clothes on him and led him away to crucify him. [Matthew 27:27-31 ESV]

A sign was made and placed over Jesus as He died on the cross. “This is the King of the Jews” [Luke 23:38 ESV]. Pilate ordered the sign inscribed and placed above the condemned man. While Jesus hung on the cross many of the people there challenged Him to take Himself off the cross miraculously. Even those crucified with Him (at least one of them) suggested He save them when He saved Himself.

Jesus did not come to save Himself. Everything which happened to Jesus was predicted in the Hebrew Scriptures.

Perhaps the most insidious and disturbing evidence of hatred for God is the motives and actions of the religious leaders tasked with upholding the Law of God. In their zeal for looking superior before the people they violated the Law they were responsible for knowing and enforcing. Jesus taught against the hypocrisy of the Jewish religious leaders, quoting Isaiah written 700 years earlier, to show He knew their hearts from eternity.

So for the sake of your tradition you have made void the word of God. You hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophesy of you, when he said: “‘This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.'” [Matthew 15:6-9 ESV; quoting Isaiah 29:13]

Jesus’ life, His motives and actions, His teaching and healing, His miracles culminating in His resurrection from the dead, show He is God, the Author of the Law and the Prophets come to fulfill them. God will not be mocked.