Thursday, August 20, 2015

23—The Shadow of Death

And Sarah died in Kirjatharba; the same is Hebron in the land of Canaan: and Abraham came to mourn for Sarah, and to weep for her.
Genesis 23:2

The Bible is clearly an intricately woven work sharing God’s ultimate plan of redemption which is found only in Jesus Christ.  His fingerprints are clearly seen from the beginning to the end of this Holy Spirit inspired masterpiece.  Not only does the plain text give us a consistent message about the work and person of Jesus Christ, but the types and shadows throughout the Word also consistently share the same plan of salvation found in Jesus.  The Bible truly is an amazing revelation of the infinite mind of the loving Creator.  (Fingerprints--The Number 22)

Looking at the symbolic meaning of the number 22, the product of 2 and 11, it was noted that there is an essence of Christ’s fellowship with the suffering caused by our sin.  The Word says it best when it comes to the suffering of Jesus for our benefit, “For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him (2 Corinthians 5:21).”  In short, 22 points to the ministry of Christ, God’s ultimate prophet, who would share the plan of salvation while shedding His blood as a propitiatory sacrifice for all humanity to purchase salvation.  If 22 shares about His death, then 23 takes us through the shadow of death as it seems that 23 has a shadow of death to it. 

Take a few moments and read Genesis 23.  Who is conspicuously missing from the narrative of Sarah’s death?  There is much there about the grief of Abraham and his arrangements for the funeral of his beloved wife, but where is Isaac?  He was the joy of her heart and the center of God’s promise.  Yet, he suddenly disappears mysteriously from the account.  Given the years she longed for a child, he certainly would have been mama's baby always! A real close reading of chapter 22 will reveal that he was last seen on the altar, but it never mentioned him leaving Mt. Moriah.  Only Abraham is mentioned coming down the mountain.  “So Abraham returned unto his young men, and they rose up and went together to Beersheba; and Abraham dwelt at Beersheba (Genesis 22:19).”  What happened to Isaac?

Seeing that Isaac is a type of the ministry of Jesus, he purposefully disappeared from the storyline by the LORD’s inspiration.  Just like Genesis 22 had a counterpart in the Genesis book of Psalms (Psalms 1-42), so does Genesis 23.  It is this pair that reveals why Isaac mysteriously vanished.  Everyone seems to know Psalm 23 and its precious message about the LORD our Shepherd.  Many verses in the Old Testament openly reveal that the priests of the LORD are often called shepherds, so Psalm 23 would be the Psalm of Christ our Priest.  In Psalm 22 He is Christ the Prophet, but in Psalm 23 He is Christ the Priest.

What a beautiful pair of Psalms.  In Psalm 22 we see the shame of the cross, but Psalm 23 is the care of the crook.  In Psalm 22 Jesus dies for His people, but in Psalm 23 Jesus lives to intercede for them.  In Psalm 22 we see Christ made low, but in Psalm 23 we see Christ mighty to save.  In Psalm 22 we see our Savior’s yesterday of suffering, but in Psalm 23 we see His today of grace.  In Psalm 22 we see Jesus dying for our sin, but in Psalm 23 we see Christ hidden from the world at the right hand of the father making intercession for His saints. What a beautiful pair of Psalms.

Did you catch that last comparative sentence above?  Jesus is hidden from the world and the overwhelming majority of humans think He is dead.  The last place the world saw Jesus was on the cross lifted high between heaven and earth, but the church knows better as they see the risen Christ.  He is momentarily hidden in the Holy Place of Heaven serving as our Great High Priest.  This is why Isaac was hidden in His role as a type of the ministry of Christ.  Jesus is in the heavenly tabernacle guiding us through “the valley of the shadow of death” while an unsuspecting world goes on with its vanity fair.   He is still on duty for you and for me who will take time in prayer to speak to Him and who read His words of comfort endearingly.  While there is a Revelation 22, there is no Revelation 23 as God recreates all and there will be no more shadow of death. Of course we also know that He is Soon2Come for us too.  More on this with a look at 24. 

Monday, August 17, 2015

Fingerprints--The Number 22

And Abraham called the name of that place Jehovahjireh: as it is said to this day, In the mount of the LORD it shall be seen.
Genesis 22:14

Fingerprints.  For decades they have been used to prove the presence of an individual at a certain location.  Fingerprint evidence has foiled many criminals over the years.   Since the ridge patterns on fingers are unique to the individual and they remain the same over a lifetime, they are perfect for identification.  So, has the Almighty God left any fingerprints anywhere?  Could we possibly ascertain that He touched something leaving divine evidence of His involvement in human affairs?  It is certain that He has and the most obvious place to look is in the 66 books of the Bible that claim to be His work.

Most ardent students of the Word of God understand that numbers often play an important part in the text of scripture.  Some numbers, like 3 or 7 or 40, are so obviously repeated that it is nearly impossible not to realize that they play some significant symbolic role.  Other numbers take a little detective work to lift their meaning, work that must always be reliant on much prayer.  At other times, numbers are just numbers used to give an accurate count in a narrative and they have no typology attached to them at all. Again, much study and much prayer are needed to detect their message.

The number 22 is such a number.  The product of two primes, 2 x 11, it has a rich meaning revealing something wonderful about the work of Jesus Christ.  One should note that an accurate interpretation of the scriptural symbolism of numbers revolves around the purpose and person of Christ.  If He isn’t the centerpiece you are probably misdirected.  Jesus and His redemptive work are the master focus of the Bible from Genesis 1 to Revelation 22 (There’s that number again).  Considering the work of Christ, let’s investigate this number just a bit. 

As noted above, 2 and 11 are both factors of 22.  The number 2 has much significance.  First, it represents fellowship.  Did not the prophet Amos record, “Can two walk together, except they be agreed?”  In order to have a meaningful relationship with someone there needs to be mutual and beneficial fellowship.  How does a man or woman have fellowship with God?  Is it not through the person and work of Jesus (Again, the entire theme of the Bible)?  Why can we have a relationship with God in Him? It is because Christ is the 2ndperson of the Godhead.  Jesus was the middle man (2) on the cross. He is the mediator of the New Covenant in His blood standing between God and Man.  We are fully bound to God in and through Him alone.
Eleven is not really a good number in the Bible.  It has to do with chaos, confusion, and disarray.  In what chapter of the Bible do we see mankind creating chaos that results in the confusion of language at a place called Babel?  Genesis 11, of course.  Its first use as a number is in Genesis 32:22 where 11 sons of Jacob with their mothers cross the Jabbok ford ahead of Jacob on their way to a rendezvous with Esau.  Why were there 11 sons only and not 12?  The confusion of sin in the family led to Joseph being sold into Egyptian slavery.  After the death of Judas Iscariot how many apostles were left?  Was it not sin’s chaos that left only 11?  Oh that I had the space here to tell why there were 11 panels of rams skins dyed red in the coverings of the holy place of the tabernacle, but I’ll have to save it for another day. 

So what does the product of these two numbers, 22, represent?   It is certain that it has to do with multiplied sufferings of Christ and His fellowship with human sin. 

In Genesis 22 we see one of the first major shadows of the future suffering of Christ for our sin.  Remember, Jesus was foreordained to suffer at the cross before Adam ever willfully ate from the forbidden fruit.  In this chapter we see Isaac walking up Mt. Moriah destined to die.  Abraham was being tested with one of the greatest trials of his faith in God.  As Abraham lifted the knife, God spoke and spared Isaac.  In the bushes nearby was a ram that God had sent which would shadow the vicarious atonement of Jesus.  Abraham clearly saw Christ that day (John 8:56)!  Abraham was correct when He said that God would provide himself a sacrifice.  In the mountain called Calvary GOD’s sacrifice was seen—it was Jesus who would be substituted for us.  It was at the cross where Jesus brought us fellowship with God while He took our sin, chaos, and confusion.

In a Divine repeat that only the true author of scripture could plan, the Holy Spirit spoke through David giving us a clearer picture of the sufferings of Jesus on our behalf.  Want to guess where that is?  It is in the Genesis book of Psalms (Psalms 1-42).  It is Psalm 22. This song begins with the quote Jesus cried in agony from the cross, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?”  Written 1000 years before the cross, it is the one of the most graphic prophecies about the suffering of Jesus for sin in the entire Old Testament.  There is no doubt that in this precious Psalm we see Jesus in fellowship with the confusion of man’s sin that we might be made whole in Him?  Coincidence?  Just who worked all of this out so precisely anyways?  Can you see the fingerprints of God on the plan of salvation?

When will Christ’s work for sinful man end?  Will it go on forever?  No!  The fellowship of man’s suffering and Christ’s mediation will end in a creation of a new earth.  The story that begins in Genesis 22 with grace extended to Isaac and continued through the prophetic Psalm 22 ends in Revelation 22. Christ’s work is completed there.  What a day that will be!  You can be there.  Accept the atoning sacrifice God provided for you in Christ by faith.  Call on Him today…He is mighty to save.  The evidence of God’s lover for you is proven by His fingerprint clearly on the Bible’s message of salvation.  It is all there to allow you to see Jesus and accept Him as your one and only Savior.  May you accept Him today as He is Soon2Come!
The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen.
Revelation 22:21