Tag Archives: theophany

Giving Respect

Now Moses was keeping the flock of his father-in-law, Jethro, the priest of Midian, and he led his flock to the west side of the wilderness and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. And the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush. He looked, and behold, the bush was burning, yet it was not consumed. And Moses said, “I will turn aside to see this great sight, why the bush is not burned.”

When the Lord saw that he turned aside to see, God called to him out of the bush, “Moses, Moses!” And he said, “Here I am.” Then he said, “Do not come near; take your sandals off your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.”

And he said, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” And Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God. [Exodus 3:1-6 ESV]

We cannot stand before God as we are. Only those who are pure have the privilege of being in God’s presence. Sin made us impure, filling the thinking of our hearts with the corruption of evil desires against God and toward others. However, on occasion in Scripture God, the Son, appeared to some treating them as pure. These appearances of the preincarnate Christ are called theophanies.

God, the Son, first appeared to Moses in a burning bush. Moses, probably 80 years old at the time, Had been a shepherd for 40 years and saw everything the desert offered. When he saw something unusual, a bush on fire but not burning, he investigated.

From the bush God spoke to Moses, saying his name twice. Moses answered, not knowing with whom he was speaking. “Here I am.” This was the proper way to answer an authority summoning a servant. “I am here, at your disposal.” When God called, Moses answered with a submissive voice, a posture of respect before God.

God declared the ground upon which Moses standing holy. There is no indication the ground was forever holy. Wherever God is, is holy. God met Moses on Mount “Horeb” which means a “desolate wasteland.” From then on Moses identified it as the Mountain of God. Moses removed his sandals, an act of obedience and great respect. God demands respect and has the authority to expect both obedience and respect from those who belong to Him.

Responding respectfully to God’s summons is evidence of training but not purity of the thinking of the heart. Obedience with selfless motives shows the heart God is preparing for eternity.

God identified Himself and Moses responded without being told what to do. “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” What was Moses’ response? “And Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God.” Standing in the presence of Holy God exposed his true sinful self. Before God makes anyone pure they must first acknowledge their sinfulness and recognize the consequences of their sin. Then they must relinquish control of themselves to the God they serve.  God will use whom He will.

In the exchange which follows God never asked Moses to do His will. Always, even when Moses made excuses, God commanded him to go and speak. Obedience is expected.

Training has its place. Responding correctly and respectfully is proper and necessary. True humility before God reveals the changing thoughts of the heart of the one chosen by God. Do not mistake how God uses those who are His. Few are given the challenge of doing something spectacular for God. Mostly, it is obedience in the daily and mundane which brings the most glory to Him. For the daily and mundane reveal the true person. We are called to uninterrupted obedience to His commands and continual respect for His Person.

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Jesus’ Mercy Toward a Father and Son

And when they came to the crowd, a man came up to him and, kneeling before him, said, “Lord, have mercy on my son, for he is an epileptic and he suffers terribly. For often he falls into the fire, and often into the water. And I brought him to your disciples, and they could not heal him.”

And Jesus answered, ‘O faithless and twisted generation, how long am I to be with you? How long am I to bear with you? Bring him here to me.’ And Jesus rebuked the demon, and it came out of him, and the boy was healed instantly. [Matthew 17:14-18 ESV].

A father’s cry. “Lord, have mercy on my son.” And then, and honest rebuke. “O faithless and twisted generation, how long am I to be with you? How long am I to bear with you? Bring him here to me.” Does our Lord have no compassion on the pitiable condition of either the father or the son? Have they done something wrong to receive such a strong rebuke?

Yes.

Both father and son had done something wrong. They sinned. Perhaps, a better explanation is they could do nothing but sin. Although the ultimate consequence of sin is eternal separation from God there are immediate, short-term effects. For the boy, one such effect was demon-possession. For the father believing at any time, anything other than God is capable of fulfilling his needs. They, and we, are members of a fallen people living our lives in a way and manner which excludes God from His rightful place. Even living under the illusion we are within His expectations when we  are not and never have been.

Jesus uses the word “faithless” means the exact opposite of “faith”. Faith always encompasses three elements, belief in God’s truth, trusting His decisions and obeying His commands. Faith involves the whole person, mind, emotions and will. “Twisted,” another word Jesus uses, means perverse, distorted, misshapen, and is the obvious consequence of sin. Every generation is twisted by sin cutting off the flow of God’s provision received through the conduit of faith. Twisted and faithless describes everyone affected by sin, which is everyone except Jesus, the Son of God.

Faithlessness breeds desperation and hopelessness as seen in the father’s distressed request. Like everyone around him he showed no faith. And like everyone alive at that time the son was twisted. Yet, the father was also twisted and the son, no matter his age, was also faithless. They were twisted by sin and taught to not place faith in the ultimate Object of faith. Those standing around were equally faithless and twisted. His disciples, standing with the crowd, unable to do anything, were like all the rest. They had God in their midst and still they twisted their thoughts about Him declaring Him something other than the Great I Am.

Does this sound harsh and merciless? Is my thinking wrong? Should we put aside truth because of circumstance, conveniently forgetting the truth of sin because the obvious effects of sin capture our attention and prick our own wounded spirits? No father or mother should ever have to watch one of their children suffer. No son or daughter should have to suffer. Isn’t this the way we think? How could God be so cruel to allow such hopelessness?

What do we do with God’s word and the charges against us?

“None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.”  “Their throat is an open grave; they use their tongues to deceive.” “The venom of asps is under their lips.” “Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness.” “Their feet are swift to shed blood; in their paths are ruin and misery, and the way of peace they have not known.” “There is no fear of God before their eyes.” [Romans 3:10-18 ESV; Psalm 14:1-3 and 53:1-3; 5:9; 140:3; 10:7; 36:1]

What do we do with Jesus’ words “O faithless and twisted generation”?

Peter, James and John had just witnessed something few people throughout history had seen. Moses and Elijah were the only others in recorded history to actually see Jesus, a theophany of God, in His glory. Both men were hidden from the face of God but saw His back or His hand. No sinful person can look upon the face of God and live. This does not mean sinful man could not see the glory of God. Many saw God’s glory in visions and dreams. Peter, James and John saw the momentary metamorphosis of Jesus, into what He truly is.

Then they came down the mountain into the sinful world.

Mark’s Gospel in 9:20-22 gives more detail. Jesus asked how long he had suffered and his father responds from childhood. The demon, recognizing Jesus convulses the boy, throwing him into what appears as an epileptic fit. Again, the father asks if Jesus can do anything. “But if you can do anything, have compassion on us and help us” [Mark 9:22 ESV].

Jesus’ response pinpoints the father’s lack of faith, of believing God, trusting Him and obeying His command. “If you can’! All things are possible for one who believes” [Mark 9:23 ESV]. This is another astounding statement directed at everyone within hearing. The word “believe” is the word for having faith. The object of such faith must be God and nothing else. Such faith cannot be corrupted or twisted by sin. The result of such faith is always God’s will, never the will of any man.

Follow the discussion between Jesus and everyone around, everyone involved in the circumstance. The father immediately recognized the war between his faith, “I believe” and that faith twisted by sin, “help my unbelief” [Mark 9:24 ESV]. Jesus, having mercy on both the father and son and all watching commands the demon remove itself from the boy. We know nothing else about the father or boy. We never see them again.

Afterward Jesus’ disciples come to Him and ask why they could not do what He just did. Jesus’ answer confirms their twisted faith. The word used is the same as “faithless.” The ESV is generous in its translation and gives the wrong impression, suggesting they had even a little faith. “Because of your little faith (faithlessness). For truly, I say to you, if you have faith like a grain of mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move, and nothing will be impossible for you” [Matthew 17:20 ESV]. They did not have little faith. They had no faith.

God’s mercy is not dependent upon our faith, our works or our good standing before Him. His mercy is active love extended to those undeserving of His love. His mercy is given to those who rebel against Him, who fight Him, but who still acknowledge His sovereignty over their lives. His mercy is given to those He has chosen for His reasons and according to His will. Extended to all, His mercy is received by those who cry out “I believe. Help by unbelief.”

God’s Mercy to David

(Posted 1-14-14 and revised 1-15-14)

So the LORD sent a pestilence on Israel from the morning until the appointed time. And there died of the people from Dan to Beersheba 70,000 men. [2 Samuel 24:15 ESV]

Of all of the Kings of Israel David carries the most renown. He was a truly sinful yet devoted servant of God, knowing God both intellectually and intimately. His arrogance and sinfulness are unabashedly displayed in Scripture. So, too, was His deep worship of God whom he served. His poetry in the Psalms reveal the depth of worship from his heart. He would sin boldly and repent openly. God used David and his family, and through his genealogical line gave us His Son while preparing Israel and the world to receive Messiah.

In the story found in the last chapter if 2 Samuel God is open about His determination to teach and discipline His people. “Again the anger of the LORD was kindled against Israel, and he incited David against them, saying, ‘Go, number Israel and Judah'” [2 Samuel 24:1 ESV].

First Chronicles 22 tells us a slightly different story. It is one of the supposed contradictions in Scripture. Then Satan stood against Israel and incited David to number Israel” [1 Chronicles 21:1 ESV]. Satan stood against Israel before God just as he stood against Job before God. Listen to what God says to Satan after his first round of tormenting Job. And the LORD said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, who fears God and turns away from evil? He still holds fast his integrity, although you incited me against him to destroy him without reason.” [Job 2:3 ESV] In all three verse, 2 Samuel, 1 Chronicles and Job, the word “incite” means to seduce or to persuade. God incited David to count the fighting men. Satan incited David to count the fighting men. Satan incited God to torment Job. We are faced with a conundrum.

How can God be manipulated by Satan? Why would God manufacture a reason to be angry with Israel by persuading David to sin? He didn’t need to manufacture a reason because Israel continually rebelled against Him. Before we question God’s motives, assigning Him a place as Tempter, let us remember He is God and not the author of sin or temptation. He is not manipulated by Satan but uses Satan’s lies to further His kingdom. How often in Isaiah 45 does He declare He is God and there is no other (see Isaiah 45: 5, 14, 18, 21, 22).

David knew Scripture and knew he was not allowed to count the fighting men. God instructed Moses and Aaron to count the fighting men, once after they left Egypt and again after their wandering in the desert when all the fighting men from the first census had died, except Joshua and Caleb. David’s reason for counting the fighting men was to feed his vanity not out of trust and obedience to God.

Remember this and stand firm, recall it to mind, you transgressors, remember the former things of old; for I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me, declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose,’ calling a bird of prey from the east, the man of my counsel from a far country. I have spoken, and I will bring it to pass; I have purposed, and I will do it. “Listen to me, you stubborn of heart, you who are far from righteousness: I bring near my righteousness; it is not far off, and my salvation will not delay; I will put salvation in Zion, for Israel my glory.” [Isaiah 46:8-13 ESV]

We are His servants just as David was His servant. He is not our servant. So, when David decides to sin by numbering the people it is David’s sin, not God’s. The word “incite” means to move or provoke. God takes complete control placing David’s sin within His divine decree from eternity to eternity and says it will happen. But, it is still David’s sin, not God’s.

Even if we are tempted by Satan our sin is still our sin.

David ordered his Commander, Joab, “Go through all the tribes of Israel, from Dan to Beersheba, and number the people, that I may know the number of the people” [2 Samuel 24:2 ESV]. David had been thinking, feeling, musing or pondering, perhaps in his old age, how strong he really was not how strong is his God. Joab, a strong and powerful man in his own right, saw quickly the folly of his king’s request. “May the LORD your God add to the people a hundred times as many as they are, while the eyes of my lord the king still see it, but why does my lord the king delight in this thing?” [2 Samuel 24:3 ESV]. David insisted, Joab obeyed and the fighting men were counted. And God’s wrath was kindled against Israel because of His anger against David’s lack of faith.

David, after the fighting men were numbered, knew exactly what he had done. “But David’s heart struck him after he had numbered the people. And David said to the LORD, ‘I have sinned greatly in what I have done. But now, O LORD, please take away the iniquity of your servant, for I have done very foolishly'” [2 Samuel 24:10 ESV]. God gives David a choice of disciplines. This is unusual in Scripture, for God being God does not normally give choices nor ask what we want. Through the prophet Gad God delivers David’s options.

So Gad came to David and told him, and said to him, “Shall three years of famine come to you in your land? Or will you flee three months before your foes while they pursue you? Or shall there be three days’ pestilence in your land? Now consider, and decide what answer I shall return to him who sent me.” [2 Samuel 24:13 ESV]

Shall everyone in the land be subjected to severe, lingering famine?

Shall everyone in the land be uprooted, their property destroyed, by an enemy?

Shall God inflict on those He has chosen a severe disease?

David’s choice reveals his heart. “Then David said to Gad, ‘I am in great distress. Let us fall into the hand of the LORD, for his mercy is great; but let me not fall into the hand of man’” [2 Samuel 24:14 ESV]. God’s mercy is great. Let Him choose those who will suffer and die, and live. Let God’s active love toward His people, those who love Him because He first loved them, be shown and seen. Let Him chose to discipline or punish, to use His servants and perhaps differentiate between those who willingly serve Him and those who willfully hate Him. Let us fall into the mercy of God, for those who do not know God, and have not received His mercy will not, cannot fully, show mercy to other.

And when the angel stretched out his hand toward Jerusalem to destroy it, the LORD relented from the calamity and said to the angel who was working destruction among the people, “It is enough; now stay your hand.” And the angel of the LORD was by the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite. Then David spoke to the LORD when he saw the angel who was striking the people, and said, “Behold, I have sinned, and I have done wickedly. But these sheep, what have they done? Please let your hand be against me and against my father’s house.” [2 Samuel 24:16-17 ESV]

We do not know if those who died because of the plague were people who hated God. We do know that all people are sinful and deserve death. We can also see David’s heart in begging for mercy for those facing God’s judgment.

David saw God, the angel of the Lord, a theophany of Jesus. God’s Son does not judge but does execute judgment. He comes to testify to the truth. Jesus responded to Pilate’s sarcastic statements of who He is at His illegal trial. “You say that I am a king. For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world–to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice” [John 18:37 ESV].

David, though he sinned grievously recognized his sin and realized the consequences of hi sin and repent quickly and completely. He never shirked accepting the responsibility for his actions though at times he had to be confronted by God using a prophet. God’s showed mercy to Israel and to David and his family and stopped the plague.

God showed mercy to all through His Son Jesus by placing upon His shoulders the sin of all. He received the punishment for our sin. The plague inflicted upon Israel because of David’ sin still killed 70,000 men. So too, are those who will die, be separated from God because of sin, even though Jesus died for their sin. There is more at work here than simple discipline and redemption. For, God has determined what He will do from eternity to eternity, for He is eternally God. God’s mercy is both  immediate and eternal.

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.