The Scarlet Thread

Proverbs

The Scripture speaks of two types of righteousness in regards to humanity.  The first type is referenced in the proverb below.

He who justifies the wicked and he who condemns the righteous, both of them alike are an abomination to the LORD.  Proverbs 17: 15

The wicked and righteous in this proverb are distinguished as we would expect – by their character, their moral performance.  It is almost self-evident to state that the righteous should not be condemned, and that the wicked should not be justified.  It makes sense that such practices would be an abomination to God.

This type of righteousness, based on moral character, is one that we all should fear, for the Bible says the following words:

There is none righteous, not even one; there is none who understands, there is none who seeks for God…Romans 3: 10 – 11

Now we know that whatever the Law says, it speaks to those who are under the Law, so that every mouth may be closed and all the world may become accountable to God; because by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified in His sight; for through the Law comes the knowledge of sin.  Romans 3: 19 – 20

If the type of righteousness spoken of in the proverb was all that we had, we would be a people without hope, because God’s law would show us our sin and show us to be wicked, and we would have no grounds for thinking we should be justified before God.

Yet there is a different type of righteousness, and it is applied independently of human works.  It is a type of righteousness that flips the proverb upside down, where the wicked are justified before God, where a truly righteous man (Jesus) is condemned, and where rather than being an abomination to God, this occurs according to God’s will.

He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.  2 Corinthians 5: 21

The great mystery of God revealed in Christ, and foreshadowed in the sacrificial system of the Levitical priesthood, is that sin can be atoned for and that righteousness can be granted to humanity outside of the law due to Jesus Christ.

But now apart from the Law the righteousness of God has been manifested, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, even the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all those who believe; for there is no distinction; for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus; whom God displayed publicly as a propitiation in His blood through faith.  This was to demonstrate His righteousness, because in the forbearance of God He passed over the sins previously committed; for the demonstration, I say, of His righteousness at the present time, so that He would be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus…Romans 3: 21 – 26

Therefore they said to Him, “What shall we do, so that we may work the works of God?”  Jesus answered and said to them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He has sent.”  John 6: 28 – 29

So with this logic that comes only by means of revelation, the righteous are those who have faith in Christ, regardless of their works, and the wicked are those who disbelieve in the Son that the Father sent, regardless of their works.  Make no mistake about it, there is still a judgment of the righteous and the wicked.  But the terms of the judgment are different than what was anticipated by Old Testament Judaism, since the Prophets did not receive the full revelation of Christ.

Praise be to God that we are not bound by the truth of the proverb and moral righteousness, but rather are freed through the truth of the gospel, in which the righteous Christ stood in our place, doing a work we could never do, and bearing the wrath that we deserved.

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.

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!

Esther

God did not intend to completely destroy the Jews when He exiled them – He promised the exile would only last seventy years.  However, while they were exiled, Satan attempted to kill all the Jews.  If he was able to accomplish the task, the Messianic line would have been wiped out, and therefore the promises of God to His people.

The man Satan used to attempt a Jewish genocide was Haman, a servant of the king of Persia.  One day he became incensed at a Jew named Mordecai, and his anger at Mordecai extended to all Jews.

All the king’s servants who were at the king’s gate bowed down and paid homage to Haman; for so the king had commanded concerning him.  But Mordecai neither bowed down nor paid homage.  Then the king’s servants who were at the king’s gate said to Mordecai, “Why are you transgressing the king’s command?”  Now it was when they had spoken daily to him and he would not listen to them, that they told Haman to see whether Mordecai’s reason would stand; for he had told them that he was a Jew.  When Haman saw that Mordecai neither bowed down nor paid homage to him, Haman was filled with rage.  But he disdained to lay hands on Mordecai alone, for they had told him who the people of Mordecai were; therefore Haman sought to destroy all the Jews, the people of Mordecai, who were throughout the whole kingdom of Ahasuerus.  Esther 3: 2 – 6

Haman convinced the king to allow him to annihilate God’s people.

Then Haman said to King Ahasuerus, “There is a certain people scattered and dispersed among the peoples in all the provinces of your kingdom; their laws are different from those of all other people and they do not observe the king’s laws, so it is not in the king’s interest to let them remain.  If it is pleasing to the king, let it be decreed that they be destroyed, and I will pay ten thousand talents of silver into the hands of those who carry on the king’s business, to put into the king’s treasuries.”  Then the king took his signet ring from his hand and gave it to Haman, the son of Hammedatha the Agagite, the enemy of the Jews.  The king said to Haman, “The silver is yours, and the people also, to do with them as you please.”  Esther 3: 8 – 11

But it just so happened that God caused a Jewish woman to rise to the position of queen – Esther.  Esther was able to talk with the king and stop Haman’s plot before it got under way.

Then Esther spoke again to the king, fell at his feet, wept and implored him to avert the evil scheme of Haman the Agagite and his plot which he had devised against the Jews.  The king extended the golden scepter to Esther.  So Esther arose and stood before the king.  Then she said, “If it pleases the king and if I have found favor before him and the matter seems proper to the king and I am pleasing in his sight, let it be written to revoke the letters devised by Haman, the son of Hammedatha the Agagite, which he wrote to destroy the Jews who are in all the king’s provinces.  For how can I endure to see the calamity which will befall my people, and how can I endure to see the destruction of my kindred?”  So King Ahasuerus said to Queen Esther and to Mordecai the Jew, “Behold, I have given the house of Haman to Esther, and him they have hanged on the gallows because he had stretched out his hands against the Jews.  Now you write to the Jews as you see fit, in the king’s name, and seal it with the king’s signet ring; for a decree which is written in the name of the king and sealed with the king’s signet ring may not be revoked.”  Esther 8: 3 – 8

So Esther was able to save her people by appealing to the king – this is the summary of the story.  But there is a story behind the story, when you take a deeper look at Esther.  Consider the following details:

  • She was raised by someone who was not her biological father.
  • She had a lowly upbringing but was raised up to a position of authority and power.
  • She was specifically raised up by God to save His people.
  • She went directly to the sovereign king, and had his edict of wrath repealed.
  • She saved God’s people from an evil one who desired to kill and destroy them.

These details should sound familiar, for if you replace the “she” with “he” and the “her” with “his”, you would have a summary of Jesus Christ.

He was raised by someone who was not his biological father.

When He began His ministry, Jesus Himself was about thirty years of age, being, as was supposed, the son of Joseph…Luke 3: 23

He had a lowly upbringing but was raised up to a position of authority and power.

And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name Him Jesus.  He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David; and He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and His kingdom will have no end.  Luke 1: 31 – 33

He was specifically raised up by God to save His people.

She will bear a Son; and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.  Matthew 1: 21

He went directly to the sovereign king, and had his edict of wrath repealed.

Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him.  Romans 5: 9

He saved God’s people from an evil one who desired to kill and destroy them.

All who came before Me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not hear them.  I am the door; if anyone enters through Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture.  The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.  I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep.  John 10: 8 – 11

How amazing were the things that God enabled Esther to accomplish.  And how amazing it is that those things also partake in the Messianic plot line – the Scarlet Thread – found throughout Scripture!

Nehemiah

The book of Nehemiah, for whatever reason, is often taught in an allegorical manner.  Pastors like to imagine they are a contemporary Nehemiah and the church they are planting or leading is a Jerusalem with walls in need of repair.  Or the average church-goer reads Nehemiah and thinks it is teaching them how to rebuild the walls of their hopes and dreams, which to date have been destroyed by the various circumstances of life.  Consider this quote taken from an American evangelical pastor:

The book of Nehemiah is designed to teach us that only with God’s help can we actually change ourselves and recover from the damage and ruin of the past. In an individual’s life the rebuilding of the walls is a picture of re-establishing the strength of that life.

The question we all must ask is “why did the Holy Spirit inspire the words of Nehemiah thousands of years ago?”  Was it to inspire church planters to plant churches against all odds?  Was it to inspire laity to get off of their duffs and change themselves or the city in which they live?

If one takes the words of Jesus seriously, the words He spoke in the fifth chapter of John’s gospel, where He proclaims Scripture is about Him, then one cannot think Nehemiah was written as an inspirational self-help allegory promoting leadership and life change.  Rather, the events detailed in Nehemiah have a direct relation to the ministry of Jesus.

If God never called the Jews back to Jerusalem, if God never allowed the temple to be rebuilt by Zerubbabel or the city walls to be rebuilt by Nehemiah, then how would Jesus have been able to minister in Jerusalem?  How could He have been crucified outside the gates of a city that was never rebuilt and repopulated?  How could His death have torn the temple curtain in two, if the temple was never rebuilt and refurnished? 

When one considers the Son of God – His sacrificial death and vindicating resurrection – it is far more fun, it is far more beneficial, it is far more edifying, it is far more inspiring, to read Nehemiah and all of the Scriptures with Christ in mind, rather than ourselves.  For without God arranging all of history to enable Christ to come to earth, minister in Judea, die in Jerusalem, and be raised on the third day, we would have no hope as sinners and we would be condemned.

But God provided for us salvation, and it is a salvation that even the book of Nehemiah points towards, if one reads it with a discerning mind.  As we read Scripture, we must increase our thoughts about Christ, and decrease the thoughts about ourselves.

He who has the bride is the bridegroom; but the friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly because of the bridegroom’s voice.  So this joy of mine has been made full.  He must increase, but I must decrease.  He who comes from above is above all, he who is of the earth is from the earth and speaks of the earth.  He who comes from heaven is above all.  John 3: 29 – 31

You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; it is these that testify about Me; and you are unwilling to come to Me so that you may have life.  John 5: 39 – 40

For I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified.  1 Corinthians 2: 2

For we do not preach ourselves but Christ Jesus as Lord, and ourselves as your bond-servants for Jesus’ sake.  2 Corinthians 4: 5

Ezra

God fulfilled His word to the Jews, returning them to their homeland seventy years after the exile.

Now in the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, in order to fulfill the word of the LORD by the mouth of Jeremiah, the LORD stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia, so that he sent a proclamation throughout all his kingdom, and also put it in writing, saying: “Thus says Cyrus king of Persia, ‘The LORD, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth and He has appointed me to build Him a house in Jerusalem, which is in Judah.’”  Ezra 1: 1 – 2

Upon their return, the Jews began to rebuild Jerusalem, including a new temple; a physical structure not as impressive as the first temple built by Solomon.  The second temple’s construction took twenty years, beginning in approximately 536 B.C.  Playing a primary role in the construction of this temple was Zerubbabel, the son of Shealtiel.  In fact, the second temple is known as “Zerubbabel’s temple”. 

Now in the second year of their coming to the house of God at Jerusalem in the second month, Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel and Jeshua the son of Jozadak and the rest of their brothers the priests and the Levites, and all who came from the captivity to Jerusalem, began the work and appointed the Levites from twenty years and older to oversee the work of the house of the LORD.  Ezra 3: 8

Zerubbabel was no random person.  He was of the tribe of Judah, the Messianic tribe.  And he was a son of David, the Messianic line.  And according to Matthew and Luke, he was an ancestor of Christ.

After the deportation to Babylon: Jeconiah became the father of Shealtiel, and Shealtiel the father of Zerubbabel.  Zerubbabel was the father of Abihud, Abihud the father of Eliakim, and Eliakim the father of Azor.  Azor was the father of Zadok, Zadok the father of Achim, and Achim the father of Eliud.  Eliud was the father of Eleazar, Eleazar the father of Matthan, and Matthan the father of Jacob.  Jacob was the father of Joseph the husband of Mary, by whom Jesus was born, who is called the Messiah.  Matthew 1: 12 – 16

When He began His ministry, Jesus Himself was about thirty years of age, being, as was supposed, the son of Joseph, the son of Eli, the son of Matthat, the son of Levi, the son of Melchi, the son of Jannai, the son of Joseph, the son of Mattathias, the son of Amos, the son of Nahum, the son of Hesli, the son of Naggai, the son of Maath, the son of Mattathias, the son of Semein, the son of Josech, the son of Joda, the son of Joanan, the son of Rhesa, the son of Zerubbabel, the son of Shealtiel…Luke 3: 23 – 27

So the Lord used an ancestor of Jesus to build the temple in preparation for His first coming.  The second temple stood for many years, but was replaced by Herod’s temple, the temple that stood in the time of Christ.  This is the temple in which the following occurred:

And He made a scourge of cords, and drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and the oxen; and He poured out the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables; and to those who were selling the doves He said, “Take these things away; stop making My Father’s house a place of business.”  His disciples remembered that it was written, “Zeal for Your house will consume Me.”  The Jews then said to Him, “What sign do You show us as your authority for doing these things?”  Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.”  The Jews then said, “It took forty-six years to build this temple, and will You raise it up in three days?”  But He was speaking of the temple of His body.  So when He was raised from the dead, His disciples remembered that He said this; and they believed the Scripture and the word which Jesus had spoken.  John 2: 15 – 22

In seven years Solomon, an ancestor of Jesus, built the first temple (using many laborers).  In about twenty years Zerubbabel, an ancestor of Jesus, built the second temple.  It took Herod, an unlawful king of the Jews, forty-six years to build the third temple.  It took Jesus of Nazareth three days to raise up the temple of His body; a feat far more impressive, and far more important, than the building of the previous three temples.

Why is it more important and how is it more impressive?  For in the death and resurrection of Jesus is the fulfillment of the temple and the temple sacrifice and the priesthood, for He is the priest and the sacrifice and the temple, all in one.

For it was fitting for us to have such a high priest, holy, innocent, undefiled, separated from sinners and exalted above the heavens; who does not need daily, like those high priests, to offer up sacrifices, first for His own sins and then for the sins of the people, because this He did once for all when He offered up Himself.  For the Law appoints men as high priests who are weak, but the word of the oath, which came after the Law, appoints a Son, made perfect forever.  Now the main point in what has been said is this: we have such a high priest, who has taken His seat at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens, a minister in the sanctuary and in the true tabernacle, which the Lord pitched, not man.  Hebrews 7: 26 – 8: 2

2 Chronicles

God exiled the Jews to Babylon according to Scripture, although to the unbeliever it would appear to be just one more circumstance of a nation attacking another, a situation that has occurred many times throughout world history.

Therefore He (God) brought up against them the king of the Chaldeans who slew their young men with the sword in the house of their sanctuary, and had no compassion on young man or virgin, old man or infirm; He gave them all into his hand.  All the articles of the house of God, great and small, and the treasures of the house of the LORD, and the treasures of the king and of his officers, he brought them all to Babylon.  Then they burned the house of God and broke down the wall of Jerusalem, and burned all its fortified buildings with fire and destroyed all its valuable articles.  Those who had escaped from the sword he carried away to Babylon; and they were servants to him and to his sons until the rule of the kingdom of Persia, to fulfill the word of the LORD by the mouth of Jeremiah, until the land had enjoyed its sabbaths.  All the days of its desolation it kept sabbath until seventy years were complete.  2 Chronicles 36: 17 – 21

This exile was neither a random event nor a secular war; it was a spiritual event deriving from the covenant that God made with Israel through Moses.  Hundreds of years before the exile, these words were recorded by Moses and known to the nation of Israel:

But if you do not obey Me and do not carry out all these commandments, if, instead, you reject My statutes, and if your soul abhors My ordinances so as not to carry out all My commandments, and so break My covenant, I, in turn, will do this to you:…I will lay waste your cities as well and will make your sanctuaries desolate, and I will not smell your soothing aromas.  I will make the land desolate so that your enemies who settle in it will be appalled over it.  You, however, I will scatter among the nations and will draw out a sword after you, as your land becomes desolate and your cities become waste.  Then the land will enjoy its sabbaths all the days of the desolation, while you are in your enemies’ land; then the land will rest and enjoy its sabbaths.  Leviticus 26: 14 – 16, 31 – 34

So the exile was a covenant curse enacted by God after many, many years of Israel consistently disobeying God’s word and refusing to bow to Him alone.  It was not as if God just chose to do this thing with no warning to the people.  God, after withholding this curse for many years, and after putting up with the people and their sin, finally enacted the covenant curse, and it was just and right for Him to do so.

Now, concerning these things that happened to Israel thousands of years ago, they are a lesson to us.  For the apostle Paul says that what was written in earlier times is for our benefit and instruction.

For whatever was written in earlier times was written for our instruction, so that through perseverance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.  Romans 15: 4

How does the exile of the Jews instruct us, and how might it give us hope?

We learn from the exile that God is a covenant keeper.  He enacts both the blessings and curses of the covenant in accordance with the stipulations of the agreement.  This is both a good and a bad thing.  It is good when you receive the blessing, but bad when you receive the curse.  But whether blessing or curse, we can be confident that God honors His covenants and is not capricious; He does not give a curse when He promises to give a blessing.

You and I, and the whole world, are in a covenant with God.  It behooves us to believe that it is His will to keep His promises.  The covenant God made with us is different from the one He made with Israel.  The terms of this covenant contain one fundamental blessing and one fundamental curse.

The blessing is complete forgiveness of sins to those who believe in Jesus Christ, resulting in eternal life with Him.

For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.  John 3: 16

Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.  Romans 8: 1

But what does it say?  “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart” – that is, the word of faith which we are preaching, that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation.  For the Scripture says, “Whoever believes in Him will not be disappointed.”  For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, abounding in riches for all who call on Him; for “whoever will call on the name of the Lord will be saved.”  Romans 10: 8 – 13

If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us.  If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.  1 John 1: 8 – 9

The curse is receiving the just penalty for our sins: eternal damnation, separation from God, everlasting torment.

He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.  This is the judgment, that the Light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil.  John 3: 18 – 19

Now as to the times and the epochs, brethren, you have no need of anything to be written to you.  For you yourselves know full well that the day of the Lord will come just like a thief in the night.  While they are saying, “Peace and safety!” then destruction will come upon them suddenly like labor pains upon a woman with child, and they will not escape.  1 Thessalonians 5: 1 – 3

See to it that you do not refuse Him who is speaking.  For if those did not escape when they refused him who warned them on earth, much less will we escape who turn away from Him who warns from heaven.  Hebrews 12: 25

But by His word the present heavens are earth are being reserved for fire, kept for the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men. 2 Peter 3: 7

Just as the Jews were exiled for disobedience in accordance with the old covenant, people will receive eternal exile in accordance with the new covenant, if they do not believe in Jesus Christ.

But if you believe in Jesus the Messiah, you are saved from God’s wrath and will not be eternally exiled.  You will be a part of God’s family forevermore, dwelling with Him in pure joy and jubilation.  

No matter how awful your sins have been, no matter how unworthy you feel to receive God’s blessing, His promise of salvation is independent of your own work and worthiness.  God has made an oath to save all those who call upon His name and the name of His Son.

This is God’s promise to you and to me and to the whole world.  And He always keeps His word.  The Scripture proves it.

1 Chronicles

Forever is a long time. 

Forever is so long, in fact, that when one uses the term in normal conversation, it is probably meant to be taken as hyperbole rather than literally.

“This car ride is taking forever.”  “We’ll be friends forever.” 

But God used the term literally in a covenant He made with David.  Forever is how long God told David that David’s house would stand.

When your days are fulfilled that you must go to be with your fathers, that I will set up one of your descendants after you, who will be of your sons; and I will establish his kingdom.  He shall build for Me a house, and I will establish his throne forever.  I will be his father and he shall be My son; and I will not take My lovingkindness away from him, as I took it from him who was before you.  But I will settle him in My house and in My kingdom forever, and his throne shall be established forever.”  1 Chronicles 17: 11 – 14

God was not exaggerating when He said “forever”.  David’s response clearly shows that he received the promise in faith and took it literally.

Now, O LORD, You are God, and have promised this good thing to Your servant.  And now it has pleased You to bless the house of Your servant, that it may continue forever before You; for You, O Lord, have blessed, and it is blessed forever.  1 Chronicles 17: 26 – 27

Further evidence of the eternal throne of David is found in a Psalm.

The LORD has sworn to David a truth from which He will not turn back:  “Of the fruit of your body I will set upon your throne.  If your sons will keep My covenant and My testimony which I will teach them, their sons also shall sit upon your throne forever.”  Psalm 132: 11 – 12

God promising David an eternal house is astounding.  How would God fulfill His promise?  There are two possible ways. 

The first way is that God would bless the fruit of the womb so that a son of David will always beget a son of David, and every time a son of David dies, God will raise up a different son of David to replace him.  However, this solution does not comport with the other teachings of Scripture, for this earthly life does not go on forever.  There will be a final judgment of God where men are sent to everlasting life or everlasting contempt.  Once the judgment occurs, there will be no more death for the living, and therefore there will be no need to replace a son of David due to death.  Therefore this cannot be the ultimate fulfillment of the covenant.  Another way is needed.

The other way, the second possibility, is that there will be a son of David who will not relinquish the throne due to death (and who would technically negate the need for further sons to be born in David’s line).  This son of David could either be born and never die, or could die but be resurrected from the dead by God, never to die again.

Now what is the point of saying all these things?  Quite simply, there are only two groups of people who legitimately believe in the Davidic covenant: Jews and Christians.  Jews are waiting for the son of David to be born and to take David’s throne forever.  As Christians, we believe that Jesus of Nazareth is the Son of David that has assumed the throne forever.

Here is the lineage of Jesus of Nazareth showing that He is a son of David:

The record of the genealogy of Jesus the Messiah, the son of David, the son of Abraham:  Abraham was the father of Isaac, Isaac the father of Jacob, and Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers.  Judah was the father of Perez and Zerah by Tamar, Perez was the father of Hezron, and Hezron the father of Ram.  Ram was the father of Amminadab, Amminadab the father of Nahshon, and Nahshon the father of Salmon.  Salmon was the father of Boaz by Rahab, Boaz was the father of Obed by Ruth, and Obed the father of Jesse.  Jesse was the father of David the king.  David was the father of Solomon by Bathsheba who had been the wife of Uriah.  Solomon was the father of Rehoboam, Rehoboam the father of Abijah, and Abijah the father of Asa.  Asa was the father of Jehoshaphat, Jehoshaphat the father of Joram, and Joram the father of Uzziah.  Uzziah was the father of Jotham, Jotham the father of Ahaz, and Ahaz the father of Hezekiah.  Hezekiah was the father of Manasseh, Manasseh the father of Amon, and Amon the father of Josiah.  Josiah became the father of Jeconiah and his brothers, at the time of the deportation to Babylon.  After the deportation to Babylon: Jeconiah became the father of Shealtiel, and Shealtiel the father of Zerubbabel.  Zerubbabel was the father of Abihud, Abihud the father of Eliakim, and Eliakim the father of Azor.  Azor was the father of Zadok, Zadok the father of Achim, and Achim the father of Eliud.  Eliud was the father of Eleazar, Eleazar the father of Matthan, and Matthan the father of Jacob.  Jacob was the father of Joseph the husband of Mary, by whom Jesus was born, who is called the Messiah.  So all the generations from Abraham to David are fourteen generations; from David to the deportation to Babylon, fourteen generations; and from the deportation to Babylon to the Messiah, fourteen generations.  Matthew 1: 1 – 17

Here is evidence that Jesus is the King of the Jews ruling from on high.

Now Jesus stood before the governor, and the governor questioned Him, saying, “Are You the King of the Jews?”  And Jesus said to him, “It is as you say.”  Matthew 27: 11

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.  And above His head they put up the charge against Him which read, “This is Jesus the king of the Jews.”  Matthew 27: 35 – 37

“Men of Israel, listen to these words: Jesus the Nazarene, a man attested to you by God with miracles and wonders and signs which God performed through Him in your midst, just as you yourselves know – this Man, delivered over by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God, you nailed to a cross by the hands of godless men and put Him to death.  But God raised Him up again, putting an end to the agony of death, since it was impossible for Him to be held in its power.  For David says of Him, ‘I saw the LORD always in my presence; for He is at my right hand, so that I will not be shaken.  Therefore my heart was glad and my tongue exulted; moreover my flesh also will live in hope; because You will not abandon my soul to Hades, nor allow Your Holy One to undergo decay.  You have made known to me the ways of life; You will make me full of gladness with Your presence.’  Brethren, I may confidently say to you regarding the patriarch David that he both died and was buried, and his tomb is with us to this day.  And so, because he was a prophet and knew that God had sworn to him with an oath to seat one of his descendants on his throne, he looked ahead and spoke of the resurrection of the Christ, that He was neither abandoned to Hades, nor did His flesh suffer decay.  This Jesus God raised up again, to which we are all witnesses.  Therefore having been exalted to the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, He has poured forth this which you both see and hear.  For it was not David who ascended into heaven, but he himself says: ‘The LORD said to my Lord, “Sit at My right hand, until I make Your enemies a footstool for Your feet.”’  Therefore let all the house of Israel know for certain that God has made Him both Lord and Christ – this Jesus whom you crucified.”  Acts 2: 22 – 36

…Jesus, the author and perfect of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.  Hebrews 12: 2

God fulfilled the Davidic covenant in a most spectacular way.  Jesus fulfilled the bloodline requirement since He is a son of David.  And Jesus fulfilled the eternal requirement because He, as God, took on human flesh forever and will live forever, reigning as king.

2 Kings

God used the prophet Elisha to heal a Gentile, a non-Jew. 

Now Naaman, captain of the army of the king of Aram, was a great man with his master, and highly respected, because by him the LORD had given victory to Aram.  The man was also a valiant warrior, but he was a leper.  Now the Arameans had gone out in bands and had taken captive a little girl from the land of Israel; and she waited on Naaman’s wife.  She said to her mistress, “I wish that my master were with the prophet who is in Samaria!  Then he would cure him of his leprosy.”  Naaman went in and told his master, saying, “Thus and thus spoke the girl who is from the land of Israel.”  Then the king of Aram said, “Go now, and I will send a letter to the king of Israel.”  He departed and took with him ten talents of silver and six thousand shekels of gold and ten changes of clothes.  He brought the letter to the king of Israel, saying, “And now as this letter comes to you, behold, I have sent Naaman my servant to you, that you may cure him of his leprosy.”  When the king of Israel read the letter, he tore his clothes and said, “Am I God, to kill and to make alive, that this man is sending word to me to cure a man of his leprosy?  But consider now, and see how he is seeking a quarrel against me.”  It happened when Elisha the man of God heard that the king of Israel had torn his clothes, that he sent word to the king, saying, “Why have you torn your clothes?  Now let him come to me, and he shall know that there is a prophet in Israel.”  So Naaman came with his horses and his chariots and stood at the doorway of the house of Elisha.  Elisha sent a messenger to him, saying, “Go and was in the Jordan seven times, and your flesh will be restored to you and you will be clean.”  But Naaman was furious and went away and said, “Behold, I thought, ‘He will surely come out to me and stand and call on the name of the LORD his God, and wave his hand over the place and cure the leper.’  Are not Abanah and Pharpar, the rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel?  Could I not wash in them and be clean?”  So he turned and went away in a rage.  Then his servants came near and spoke to him and said, “My father, had the prophet told you to do some great thing, would you not have done it?  How much more then, when he says to you, ‘Wash, and be clean?’”  So he went down and dipped himself seven times in the Jordan, according to the word of the man of God; and his flesh was restored like the flesh of a little child and he was clean.  When he returned to the man of God with all his company, and came and stood before him, he said, “Behold now, I know that there is no God in all the earth, but in Israel; so please take a present from your servant now.”  But he said, “As the LORD lives, before whom I stand, I will take nothing.”  And he urged him to take it, but he refused.  Naaman said, “If not, please let your servant at least be given two mules’ load of earth; for your servant will no longer offer burnt offering nor will he sacrifice to other gods, but to the LORD.  In this matter may the LORD pardon your servant: when my master goes into the house of Rimmon to worship there, and he leans on my hand and I bow myself in the house of Rimmon, when I bow myself in the house of Rimmon, the LORD pardon your servant in this matter.”  2 Kings 5: 1 – 18

So even though Israel was God’s chosen nation during the days of the Old Testament, the Lord did show kindness and mercy to the Gentiles.  Yet over the years the Jews lost sight of God’s mercy for all people, and this false belief influenced their thoughts on who the Messiah would be.  They expected a military or political leader, who would free the nation of Israel from their oppressors.

Yet Jesus the Messiah did not come to free the nation of Israel from its Roman occupiers, but He came to free all people from their sins and save them from the wrath of God.  This is one of the great facets of the gospel – that God’s good news was intended for the Gentiles and not only the Jews. 

Jesus used the account of the healing of Naaman the Aramean to foreshadow the fact that His gospel would be given to the Gentiles.  He referenced the account after standing up in a synagogue and reading Scripture.

And He came to Nazareth, where He had been brought up; and as was His custom, He entered the synagogue on the Sabbath, and stood up to read.  And the book of the prophet Isaiah was handed to Him.  And He opened the book and found the place where it was written, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He has anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor, He has sent Me to proclaim release to the captives, and recovery of sight to the blind, to set free those who are oppressed, to proclaim the favorable year of the LORD.”  And He closed the book, gave it back to the attendant and sat down; and the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on Him.  And He began to say to them, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”  And all were speaking well of Him, and wondering at the gracious words which were falling from His lips; and they were saying, “Is this not Joseph’s son?”  And He said to them, “No doubt you will quote this proverb to Me, ‘Physician, heal yourself!  Whatever we heard was done at Capernaum, do here in your hometown as well.’”  And He said, “Truly I say to you, no prophet is welcome in his hometown.  But I say to you in truth, there were many widows in Israel in the days of Elijah, when the sky was shut up for three years and six months, when a great famine came over all the land; and yet Elijah was sent to none of them, but only to Zarephath, in the land of Sidon, to a woman who was a widow.  And there were many lepers in Israel in the time of Elisha the prophet; and none of them was cleansed, but only Naaman the Syrian.”  And all the people in the synagogue were filled with rage as they heard these things; and they got up and drove Him out of the city, and led Him to the brow of the hill on which their city had been built, in order to throw Him down the cliff.  But passing through their midst, He went His way.  Luke 4: 16 – 30

Why did the people rage?  Because Jesus pointed back to Scripture and demonstrated a time in which God healed a Gentile leper and did not heal Jewish lepers.  They raged because they did not believe in God’s love for all people, and they had made false assumptions about why God had chosen them as a distinct nation.  They didn’t want to think that God’s love could so abundantly be given to Gentiles and they misunderstood the ministry of the Messiah.

Yet this is the teaching of the New Testament, that the gospel has no boundaries.  No one is beyond its reach.  God will never say “that type of people should not have the gospel preached to them”.  God will never exclude someone because of their race.

Perhaps talking about the gospel not being racist seems elementary.  But I can assure you there is racism in the church today, operating at different levels. 

Just from my own personal experience, I have witnessed such things.  When I joined the Christian dating service where I met my wife, one of the questions asked was “Would you date someone of another race?”  I was surprised a Christian service would ask that question, and I was even more surprised how many of the women answered “No”.  Surely this is the sign of someone with a gospel that needs maturing.  And even within the last few years, I had a former pastor who was Korean and who was discriminated against by certain congregants due to his race.

So the rage of the Jews against Jesus for pointing out God’s healing of Naaman was not an isolated historical incident.  Racism and people’s shallow view of God’s grace is an on-going problem and will always need to be addressed in each generation.  Only the gospel can truly address racism, for only when understanding that God Himself died for the sins of all people, can one begin to see how God gives righteousness independent of tribe or nation or tongue.

But now you also, put them all aside: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and abusive speech from your mouth.  Do not lie to one another, since you laid aside the old self with its evil practices, and have put on the new self who is being renewed to a true knowledge according to the image of the One who created him – a renewal in which there is no distinction between Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave and freeman, but Christ is all, and in all.  Colossian 3: 8 – 11

Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit…  Matthew 28: 19

…and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth.  Acts 1: 8

1 Kings

Solomon, son of David, was chosen by David to succeed him as king.  Solomon became king and was blessed greatly by the Lord. 

Now God gave Solomon wisdom and very great discernment and breadth of mind, like the sand that is on the seashore.  Solomon’s wisdom surpassed the wisdom of all the sons of the east and all the wisdom of Egypt.  For he was wiser than all men, than Ethan the Ezrahite, Heman, Calcol and Darda, the sons of Mahol; and his fame was known in all the surrounding nations.  1 Kings 4: 29 – 31

So the fame of Solomon extended beyond the borders of Israel, resulting one day in a visit by a dignitary from a foreign land.

Now when the queen of Sheba heard about the fame of Solomon concerning the name of the LORD, she came to test him with difficult questions.  So she came to Jerusalem with a very large retinue, with camels carrying spices and very much gold and precious stones.  When she came to Solomon, she spoke with him about all that was in her heart.  Solomon answered all her questions; nothing was hidden from the king which he did not explain to her.  When the queen of Sheba perceived all the wisdom of Solomon, the house that he had built, the food of his table, the seating of his servants, the attendance of his waiters and their attire, his cupbearers, and his stairway by which he went up to the house of the LORD, there was no more spirit in her.  Then she said to the king, “It was a true report which I heard in my own land about your words and your wisdom.  Nevertheless I did not believe the reports, until I came and my eyes had seen it.  And behold, the half was not told me.  You exceed in wisdom and prosperity the report which I heard.  How blessed are your men, how blessed are these your servants who stand before you continually and hear your wisdom.  Blessed be the LORD your God who delighted in you to set you on the throne of Israel; because the LORD loved Israel forever, therefore He made you king, to do justice and righteousness.  1 Kings 10: 1 – 9

The wisdom of Solomon and his prosperity impressed the queen, and she attributed such things to the blessings of God.  This account of Solomon and the queen of Sheba is the context for a rebuke that Jesus gave to the scribes and Pharisees.

Then some of the scribes and Pharisees said to Him, “Teacher, we want to see a sign from You.”  But He answered and said to them… “The Queen of the South will rise up with this generation at the judgment and will condemn it, because she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and behold, something greater than Solomon is here.”  Matthew 12: 38 – 39, 42

It was quite the claim for Jesus to call Himself greater than Solomon, at that particular time to that particular audience.  The Pharisees thought Jesus was a false prophet and a blasphemer, not a king and not the Son of David.  But Jesus performed great miracles and demonstrated tremendous wisdom; for like Solomon, Jesus was able to respond to any question or argument brought His way. 

So in wisdom and wonders, Jesus should have been considered equal to Solomon, if not greater, by the scribes and Pharisees.  But their hearts were hardened and they could not see.

To us now, with the Scriptures and the benefit of hindsight, we should be able to clearly see how Christ exceeds Solomon’s glory.  But, there is one aspect to focus on, more than Christ’s wisdom and more than Christ’s wonders.  When comparing the humanity of Jesus to the humanity of Solomon, the thing that truly makes Him greater is His fidelity to the God of Israel.  Solomon became corrupt; his wisdom and power led to hubris which led to him turning from God and turning to false gods and foreign women.  But we cannot say such things about Jesus.  All the miracles, all the wisdom, all the power, and He remained undefiled.  He never sinned, He never denied God, He never bowed to Satan.  He did not do as Solomon did, and therefore He was, and is, greater.

The sinless Christ is a very important doctrine.  For when Jesus was put to death by the Jews for the sin of blasphemy, He was vindicated by God in that He was raised from the dead.  For if the wages of sin is death, how could He remain dead who never sinned?  And if He truly blasphemed the Holy One of Israel, then how could God let Jesus be resurrected?  And if Jesus had sinned, like Solomon sinned, what good is it to say His righteousness is imparted to us?

But He who never sinned and raised Himself from the dead declares that He is greater than Solomon.  Who could possibly argue with His logic?