Month: May 2013

Psalms

Psalm 22, written by David hundreds of years before Christ, prophesies particular details about Jesus’ crucifixion.  The church has known this for centuries, including the authors of the New Testament.  Consider this statement from the NASB study bible:

(It is) The anguished prayer of David as a godly sufferer victimized by the vicious and prolonged attacks of enemies whom he has not provoked and from whom the Lord has not (yet) delivered him.  It has many similarities with Ps 69, but contains no calls for redress such as are found in 69: 22 – 28.  No other psalm fitted quite so aptly the circumstances of Jesus at His crucifixion.  Hence on the cross He took it to His lips, and the Gospel writers, especially Matthew and John, frequently alluded to it (as they did to Ps 69) in their accounts of Christ’s passion.  They saw in the passion of Jesus the fulfillment of this cry of the righteous sufferer…No other psalm is quoted more frequently in the NT.

If you have never thought this way about Psalm 22, consider then the parallels with Matthew 27.

David wrote

“My God, my God, why have You forsaken me?”  Psalm 22: 1

Jesus quoted that verse from the cross:

About the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?”  that is, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?”  Matthew 27: 46

David wrote about mocking:

“All who see me sneer at me; they separate with the lip, they wag the head, saying, “Commit yourself to the LORD; let Him deliver him; let Him rescue him, because He delights in him.”  Psalm 22: 7 – 8

Matthew records the mocking of Christ, with similar language:

“He saved others; He cannot save Himself.  He is the king of Israel; let Him now come down from the cross, and we will believe in Him.  He trusts in God; let God rescue Him now, if He delights in Him; for He said, ‘I am the Son of God.’”  Matthew 27: 42 – 43

David alludes to crucifixion, although Roman crucifixion would not have been known to him, and references the dividing of garments.

They pierced my hands and my feet.  I can count all my bones.  They look, they stare at me; they divide my garments among them, and for my clothing they cast lots.  Psalm 22: 16 – 18

Matthew indicates they crucified Jesus and then cast lots for His clothes.

And when they had crucified Him, they divided up His garments among themselves by casting lots.  And sitting down, they began to keep watch over Him there.  Matthew 27: 35 – 36

The gospel of Matthew contains more quotations and allusions to the Old Testament than any of the other gospels – a clue that as he wrote he intended his words to be particularly meaningful to Jews, for they were the ones who knew Scripture and could weigh the evidence as to whether Jesus was the Messiah.

I wonder what it would have been like to be a Jew in the first century, familiar with Psalm 22, reading Matthew 27 for the first time and seeing the words of the psalmist fulfilled in the crucifixion of Christ.

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Job

From Genesis to Esther, the books of the Biblical narrative have pretty much proceeded in chronological order, starting with the creation of the world and ending with the return of the Jews from their exile to Babylon.  The book of Job breaks that pattern, for although it is placed after the book of Esther, it is considered to coincide with Genesis and the days of the patriarchs.

Consider, for example, that Job performed sacrifices on behalf of his family, functioning as a priest – just like the patriarchs did prior to the Mosaic Law and the God-ordained priesthood and sacrificial system.  His wealth was also measured in flocks and herds, just like Abraham.

Knowing now the era in which Job is presumed to have lived, it is fascinating to think of how early in history God had started to prepare the world for the idea of the suffering servant.  Although Job was not sinless, the text makes it perfectly clear that it was not Job’s sin that brought disaster upon him, but rather it was God allowing Satan to afflict Job due to Job’s faith in God.

We are all familiar with how Job was afflicted, losing his children and his health and enduring the theological speculations of his friends.  But when all is said and done, Job was vindicated and established as the prototype suffering servant.  How many times did the Lord refer to suffering Job as “My servant”?

The LORD said to Satan, “Have you considered My servant Job?  For there is no one like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, fearing God and turning away from evil.”  Job 1: 8

The LORD said to Satan, “Have you considered My servant Job?  For there is no one like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man fearing God and turning away from evil.  And he still holds fast his integrity, although you incited Me against him to ruin him without cause.”  Job 2: 3

It came about after the LORD had spoken these words to Job, that the LORD said to Eliphaz the Temanite, “My wrath is kindled against you and against your two friends, because you have not spoken of Me what is right as My servant Job has.  Now therefore, take for yourselves seven bulls and seven rams, and go to My servant Job, and offer up a burnt offering for yourselves, and My servant Job will pray for you.  For I will accept him so that I may not do with you according to your folly, because you have not spoken of Me what is right, as My servant Job has.”  Job 42: 7 – 8

The Biblical concept of the suffering servant is not unique to Job, being further developed by the prophet Isaiah, who spoke of a man who would be crushed by God as a guilt offering for the sins of the people.

By oppression and judgment He was taken away; and as for His generation, who considered that He was cut off out of the land of the living for the transgression of My people, to whom the stroke was due?  His grave was assigned with wicked men, yet He was with a rich man in His death, because He had done no violence, nor was there any deceit in His mouth.  But the LORD was pleased to crush Him, putting Him to grief; if He would render Himself as a guilt offering, He will see His offspring, He will prolong His days, and the good pleasure of the LORD will prosper in His hand.  As a result of the anguish of His soul, He will see it and be satisfied; by His knowledge the Righteous One, My Servant, will justify the many, as He will bear their iniquities. Isaiah 53: 8 – 11

The fulfillment of the suffering servant, established in Job and prophesied by Isaiah, is of course Jesus Christ, who, being the Lord of all creation ruling over a sinful people, came as a servant and not as a tyrant, to save His people rather than destroy them.

But Jesus called them to Himself and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great men exercise authority over them.  It is not this way among you, but whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave; just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.”  Matthew 20: 25 – 28

Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.  Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men.  Philippians 2: 3 – 7

How did Jesus serve us?  In His own words, just quoted, He gave “His life a ransom for many”.  He served us by being crushed by God, as Isaiah foretold, so that our sins might be forgiven.  He bore the wrath that we deserve, He took the punishment we earned through sin.  He served us by being the servant of Isaiah 53.

Because Jesus’ great service to us required suffering unto death, He is greater than Job, whom God did not allow to be killed.

So the LORD said to Satan, “Behold, he is in your power, only spare his life.”  Job 2: 6

Because Jesus’ suffering accomplished our salvation, He is greater than Job, who is not our savior.  Job’s suffering teaches us important theological doctrines regarding the nature of God and human suffering, and we can relate to him when we suffer for reasons not related to our own sin.  But Job is not our savior and there are limits to what we can learn from the suffering of Job. 

But the suffering of Christ – and the glory of His resurrection – the learning is limitless!  We will ponder Him for eternity – an eternity in which there will be no more suffering, but only inexpressible joy.

Hallelujah!

Michael Jordan is YHWH?

During my lunch break at work today, I was reading an issue of ESPN magazine, as it featured an article on Michael Jordan turning 50 (I think the magazine was a few weeks old).  Like many, I was a huge Chicago Bulls fan in the 90s and was intrigued by what the story might have to say about that American icon.

The story was very sad, for it painted the picture of a man with no regard for God and no knowledge of Christ, whose power and fame have led him to a lifestyle of narcissism and childish behavior.

Although it is not surprising that his inherent sin nature is corrupted even further by his power and fame, I was surprised to learn that Michael Jordan’s code name amongst his security team is “Yahweh”.  The writer says that Michael is “used to being the most important person in every room he enters”.  Below is an article commenting on the ESPN article.

http://dailycaller.com/2013/02/15/michael-jordans-private-security-code-name-is-yahweh/

Michael gets what Michael wants.  If he is on his private jet, and his entourage is trying to sleep, but he is awake, he will turn on the lights and blast the radio.  There are other things revealed in the article that make it clear the revered and beloved Michael Jordan is nothing more than a typical tyrant of the earth, in the manner of Pharaoh or Herod, men who both ruled from on high and claimed divine status for themselves.

Whether or not the nickname of “Yahweh” is a literal claim of divinity is not the point, for I think one can deduce that functionally Michael thinks he is a god, even if he doesn’t say it out loud.  The mere fact that he allows himself to have the nickname of Yahweh says a lot about who he thinks he is.  Is it a normal thing for a regular man to have a nickname of “god”, let alone the divine name of “Yahweh”?

It is easy to look up to athletes.  Sports are fun to play and fun to watch.  When we see someone excelling in a sport we like, it is easy to reduce our perception of them to merely what we see on the field of play.  Yet athletes, including Michael Jordan, are not gods.  They are not even heroes, at least not by Biblical standards.  Professional athletes play a sport well and often get well paid for it.  Have they done anything worth boasting about before God?  Have they done anything to earn the adoration of the church of Jesus Christ?

As it stands now, despite all he has accomplished on this earth, Air Jordan will end up six feet under ground, like most others who have lived (Elijah being a rare exception).  Make no mistake – MJ will suffer an eternity of torment under the wrath of God for rejecting God’s chosen Son, Jesus Christ.  But should MJ believe he is a sinner, and turn to Christ, he will be forgiven, despite his bearing the code name of Yahweh, a claim to divinity which is a total offense to the real YHWH and a sin worthy of death.

Should the infamous 23 turn to Jesus, that would truly be something worth cheering about, just as it was when all current Christians, who once were pagan and thought themselves to be gods (except without the money or power of MJ), turned to Christ and were born again.

Jesus said:

I tell you that in the same way, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.  Luke 15: 7