Archive for January, 2008
If you will indulge me for a moment, I want to do something a little different this week. I want to ask for your prayers, encouragement, and support for a community that I hope to befriend, interact with, and continue to minister with.
In my post Is That You God: The Attack, I described the church as an interconnected spider web of people, groups, organizations and ministries. I also described the parallel between the church as a web and the internet as a web. As you may know, I have also been writing for an internet community of writers called HubPages. I publish there many of the Hebrew posts I publish here, and I also write on other subjects: computers and the internet, humor, and others at the request of the HubPages community. I have recently published a hub entitled How to Read the Bible: A Lighthearted Look at a Serious Question. The traffic and responses generated by that hub have been quite good.
To my pleasant surprise, there are quite a lot of good hubs on religion, faith, Christianity, spirituality, and the like. There are also quite a lot on agnosticism, atheism, and other non-Christian religions, and every subject imaginable. I believe many in this community are hungry, searching, and exploring. I also know that most are kind hearted, intelligent, witty and thoughtful.
I understand that the Spirit will guide, tug or outright push us toward a particular city, country or people group to expand our ministry. I also believe that this community is that type of ministry opportunity. Therefore, I ask two things: (1) in place of reading a blog entry this week, please read How to Read the Bible: A Lighthearted Look at a Serious Question; and (2) when you pray next, please include me and the HubPages community in those prayers. Specifically, pray for the opening of hearts and minds among the hubbers, and wisdom and guidance for me.
By the way, if any of you are interested in writing or sharing thoughts, ideas, stories, articles, swapping recipes, or just wanting information on any subject imaginable, I encourage you to check out HubPages and join if you like. It really is a great place to share, learn or just hang out.
I wait with anticipation the chance to help my children learn to walk. I know when they take their first few steps they will inevitably fall, and I will smile and help them up, all the while knowing the process will be repeated over and over. I know, too, that as our children grow, they will invariably experience missteps of some sort throughout the formative years and into young adulthood. What I most hope for, though, is that my children know I will love them just as much after a fall than before, if not moreso.
Is this not a characteristic of our Father? Actually, is this entire process not us making our own children into our image? “Then God said, ‘Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness…’” Genesis 1:26. And then man fell, and ruined everything so God had to spend the next 4000 years teaching man the error of his ways.
I think the theology of “the fall” has been infected by sin consciousness. Eve just ruined everything, and Adam went right along, now we are separated from God.
I do believe there is an element of truth in this, but I believe this picture is incomplete. Human nature is best expressed when? Before someone makes a mistake? No. In this respect, Alexander Pope got it right, “To err is human, to forgive divine.” An Essay on Criticism (1711).
A more literal rendering of Genesis 1:26 is probably, “And He is saying, Elohim, we shall make man in the image of us…” Although I believe man was made in the image of God, I also think that God is continually saying, “let us make man in our image”. In other words, being made in the image of God was not a one time thing that Adam and Eve ruined for the rest of us. God knew all along this would be a process. How better to express one of his many natures(?): that of a redeemer.
Which man most resembles the image of God, Adam or Jesus? Adam fell, Jesus did not. Had Adam and Eve been what Jesus was, mankind would be quite different to be sure, but man would not be what man was intended to be: redeemed.
Notice that after “the fall” God says, “‘Behold, the man has become like one of Us, to know good and evil. And now, lest he put out his hand and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live forever’ – therefore, the Lord God sent him out of the garden of Eden…” Genesis 3:22-23. If the process of making man in God’s image was complete before the fall, man would not have become “like one of Us”.
After man knew good and evil, he was banished from the Garden so he would not eat of the tree of life. Why? Because this would circumvent the process. When do we get to eat of the tree of life? When Christ returns and we have overcome. Revelation 2:7.
Before the knowledge of good and evil, Adam walked with God. After Jesus died on the cross, “the veil of the temple was torn from top to bottom”, and the barrier between man and God was removed forever. Now, through faith in Christ we are able to walk with God again, and not just side by side, but with His spirit in us.
Jesus was truly man made in the image of God, and “as He is, so are we in this world”.
Imagine the uproar if an unbeliever were to call a pastor preaching about the 10 Commandments a “Minister of Death”. The battle lines would be drawn, would they not? Ah, but would the unbeliever be right?
…ugh! Yes, I was as horrified to write it as you were to read it. I cannot even imagine a Christian thinking such a thing…except one. In 2 Corinthians 3:7 the Apostle Paul writes: “7 But if the ministry of death, in letters engraved on stones, came with glory… 8 how will the ministry of the Spirit fail to be even more with glory?”
I have read this before, probably more than once, but this latest time I was stopped dead in my tracks. I could not leave it. I read, and reread, and reread. I read commentaries on this passage, read different translations, I tried breaking down the Greek, I even resorted to reading blogs about it, imagine that (just kidding), and still, nothing. I felt completely unsatisfied.
I have been very blessed in my life to have been exposed to amazing teachers and lecturers. I have also been fortunate to have heard extraordinary preachers and teachers of the gospel. And yet, I have never once heard a sermon or teaching on the “ministry of death”. So, I turned to the greatest teacher of all, the author Himself. Not Paul, although that would have been really cool, but here is what I believe the Holy Spirit had to say on the matter. For now.
“What is death?” It’s funny how the Holy Spirit answers a question with a question. Where better to find the answer than the first place death is mentioned in the Bible. Genesis 16 “And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, ‘Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat; 17 but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.’”
Interesting: you die only after the knowledge of good and evil. Please note, God did not say you die after you commit evil, rather when you first know about good and evil. The Hebrew word translated “evil” is rah, spelled in Hebrew RESH AYIN. The ancient Hebrew pictograph for the letter RESH is a man’s head and its symbolic meaning was the first or highest person. For AYIN it is an eye meaning to see, and not simply to see but to see with divine sight, to see how God sees. Thus, to know evil is for the FIRST MAN (or Adam) to SEE as God sees.
Why would the knowledge of good cause death? For that matter, why would the knowledge of evil cause death? Simple: none of us are perfect, yet we are.
And this paradox hurts our brain so much that it just kills us. No, not really. You see, none of us are righteous, and no amount of attitude adjustment, behavioral modification, or religious rule following will ever make us so. Yet, at the exact same time, we in Christ are wholly and completely justified before God. Spotless. Washed whiter than snow. Otherwise, Jesus’ sacrifice was insufficient.
The intent was never for man to be perfect, contrary to popular opinion. How could we? We are not God. Man’s ability to be in the presence of God, walk with God and fellowship with God was always a matter of divine gift. It is the knowledge that we are unable to do this on our own that causes us such grief. Therefore, God, in his mercy, asked man to not partake of the knowledge of good and evil, so that we would never realize our unworthiness.
Once man did obtain this knowledge, the process of teaching man this lesson began. Now, through Jesus’ sacrificial life and death, we are worthy again. Jesus was perfect, and as “He is, so also are we in this world.” 1 John 4:17. We can walk with God, fellowship with God and even be in the presence of God, and once again it is as a matter of divine gift: God’s gift of grace.
So, the ministry of death is aptly named, it is God’s 4000 year long lesson about overcoming death, or the knowledge of good and evil.
And Jesus said to the Syrophoenician woman, “…’I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.’” Matthew 15:24. Later, as Jesus is lamenting the fall of Jerusalem, he says, “How often I wanted to gather your children together, the way a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were unwilling.” Matthew 23:37.
Jesus knew his mission, and we know his heart. All He wanted was a receptive audience. Actually, I believe He got what He wanted, but as historical irony rather than historical fact. That will change one day.
Imagine what the Jews in Jesus’ day expected the coming of the Messiah to look like: the promised Messiah perched triumphantly on a palatial balcony in Jerusalem overlooking a boisterous crowd cheering for the Son of God. It sounds great, doesn’t it?
Well, in a manner of speaking, this is exactly what happened.
Matthew 27:17 “So, when the people gathered together, Pilate said to them, ‘Whom do you want me to release for you? Barabbas, or Jesus who is called Christ?’” (…) 21 …’Which of the two do you want me to release for you?’ And they said, ‘Barabbas’.”
Again, imagine Jesus, Pilate and Barabbas standing over the crowd, and the crowd yelling “Barabbas”. Can you picture a mob of first century Jews standing below Pilate yelling, shouting, screaming, “give us Barabbas”? I bet the movies don’t do it justice.
The name Barabbas is a Greek transliteration of what would have been the Hebrew name Bar Abba. Frequently, when Hebrew or Aramaic words were transliterated into Greek, word endings were changed in the transliteration to be “more Greek”. For example, the name Judas is a transliteration of Judah. Thus, Barabbas is more appropriately Bar Abba.
Recall from earlier posts that “bar” is the Hebrew/Aramaic word for son. Recall, too, that when Jesus was addressing His father, he called him “Abba”. Mark 13:36. “Abba” is simply an informal word for father, more like “dad” or “daddy”.
So, in one of God’s irony of ironies, at the moment when Jesus is to be freed or condemned, a crowd of the lost sheep for whom Jesus had come were crying out for what they needed most, the Son of the Father. When they cried, “Give us Barabbas,” they were really crying “Give us the Son of God.”
What must Jesus have thought as He stood there listening?
Just like the first century Jews, I think we often cry out for Jesus not knowing what we are crying out for, and we have no idea that what we need most is right in front of us. For the first century Jews, it didn’t appear as though their Messiah had come even though He was right in their midst. I think the same is true for us today, Jesus is right in our midst when it least appears He has come.
Most men I know have spent way too much time developing their signature. And why not(?), it is their public “mark” for life. But it’s not our fault, ladies, really. We are made in the image of God, and I think this is something we have inherited from our Father. Even having signatures that are difficult to make out is, I think, something given to us by God…why else? Let me explain.
Have you ever wondered what Jesus meant when he said, “I am the Alpha and the Omega”? I think we have some idea that this is just another way of saying, “I am the first and the last, the beginning and the end.” And that is correct, certainly, but He is really saying so much more. Jesus is saying, “I am the signature of God.”
As you are aware, most of the New Testament was originally written in the ancient Greek. However, Jesus spoke Aramaic. So, while John writes in Revelation, “I am the Alpha and the Omega,” what Jesus would have said was, “I am the ALEPH and the TAV.”
Alpha is the first letter of the Greek alphabet, Omega is the last. The first letter of the Hebrew alphabet is the Aleph, the last is the Tav. But the essence of what Jesus meant is lost in translation.
This phrase, “I am the Alpha and the Omega,” first appears in Revelation 1:8 and last appears in Revelation 22:13. However, the depiction of Jesus as the Aleph and the Tav is first made in Genesis 1:1. When Jesus says to John before the grand revelation, “I am the Aleph and the Tav,” He is, in fact, referencing the first sentence of the Bible, and, in the process, clarifying a mystery that has existed since the Torah was first written.
The first sentence of the Bible is most frequently translated, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” The original Hebrew reads as follows (remember, Hebrew reads right to left):
Right in the middle is an untranslated word. In fact, it is untranslatable because it is not a word at all. It is simply the ALEPH and the TAV. Why? It seems very strange. This is a mystery to rabbis and mystics as well.
Actually, it is to this ALEPH and TAV that Jesus was referring. Just as the book of Revelation begins and ends with Jesus saying, “I am the Alpha and the Omega,” so too does the Bible.
The Hebrew alphabet has 22 letters or characters. This is reflected in the 22 chapters of Revelation. “I am the Aleph and the Tav” is a clue to this parallel. That there are 22 letters in the Hebrew alphabet necessarily means that 22 letters are sufficient for what God needs to say, otherwise there would be more.
When John writes, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being.” John 1:1. Jesus as “the Word” is really Jesus as every word: the ALEPH and the TAV and everything in between (the whole Bible).
In Hebrew, the first sentence in the Bible is comprised of seven words. Within those seven words, the ancient Hebrew pictographs tell the story of the entire Bible. The seven words needed to depict the entire Bible parallel the seven days needed for creation. I have shown this in part in prior posts: In the beginning, God (The Lord is My Shelpherd), created (On Creation), and “the heavens” (Oh, My Heavens! Part 1 and Part 2). I will develop “the heavens” further in later posts, as well as “the earth” to show the entire picture of Genesis 1:1.
The first three words are all about Jesus (1) as Messiah, (2) as creator, and (3) as the shepherd. The last three words contain all of God’s covenants, old and new. However, right in the middle is this untranslatable Aleph-Tav. Actually, this is the most important part.
The ancient Hebrew pictograph for the letter Aleph is an ox head, meaning strength or God, as in “the Lord is my strength”. The pictograph for the letter Tav is two crossed sticks, meaning a mark or covenant. Therefore, when Jesus says, “I am the Aleph and the Tav,” what He is saying is that He is the MARK of GOD, or God’s signature. When God has Moses write the Aleph and the Tav into Genesis 1:1, what God is saying is, “You see, this Jesus, He is the Messiah who is going to die on the cross for your salvation, He is the creator who was in the beginning, He is the shepherd prophesied about in the Old Testament. He is My Word, He is My Covenant, He is My Signature.”
In contract law, it is the signature of the person to be bound that is required. We have God’s contract, and it is signed, sealed and delivered. What more could we ask for.
The Rest of Genesis 1:1:
- In the beginning
- God (The Lord is My Shepherd)
- Created (On Creation)
- The Heavens (Part 1 and Part 2)
- And the Earth
- God’s Signature