Dream

Misery awaits those who ignore the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ

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Read: James 5

You too, be patient and stand firm, because the Lord’s coming is near. (James 5:8)

Reflect:

[This post is going to be a bit different from my usual meditation on the Bible. Bear with me, please!]

This morning, I woke from a terrible dream.

I dreamed that I was in a giant, colourful store with large glass windows all across the front, a store with everything necessary for life.

A woman was there, and when a man came furtively into the store, she pointed him out to me. “He comes here often,” she said. “Watch him.” She called out to the other people who worked in the store and they came to speak to the man, gathering at the front of the store.

But the man snuck off to another room, grabbed an immense painting, gilt-framed, a portrait of a family, and tried to take it. He would not listen to the others as they crowded around him, trying to speak. In the end he left the painting and slipped way out the door.

The woman spoke again to me: “If only he would listen! Everything in this store is available for free, if only people will receive it as a gift. Nothing here can be stolen, yet he always tries to steal, when he could have all this for free.”

She gestured around the store, and I saw that it was filled with food and clothes and all things that are needed for a good and pleasant life.

Next, I looked out the large glass windows that made up the front and side of the store. Outside, all was black and grey, stark and sombre. A black bitumen road lay in front of the store, coming right up to the window panes.

At first, I thought there was some sort of procession going past, but then I saw that no one was moving. Rather the road itself, beneath them, was moving, carrying them along as if it were a conveyor belt.

On the moving road, people stood and sat and even lay down, still and static as if in a tableau. No one made any attempt to leave or get off. Everyone was in shades of black and grey, there was no colour in them. It was as if I was watching a black and white movie panning from right to left, but there was no white, no lightness anywhere. Somehow I knew that some were Mormon, some Muslim, some of no recognised religion at all.

On the faces of the people were expressions of such misery and agony that I could barely look at them. I saw two men on the ground, lying as if dying or dead, but no one stooped to help them.

I turned to the right and my attention was caught by another man, outside the store but out of place because he was colourful and cheerful. He was green all over, and he looked like a living tree.

This man saw me looking at him, opened the door of the store and came over to me. He leaned over, looked me straight in the eyes and asked me, “Would you like me to explain what this means?”

All at once, I needed no explanation. I stared back aghast at this Man of Life and, through sobs, I spoke: “I will be so sad, so very sad, when my father dies. Then there will be no more hope for his escape.”

And then I woke, shuddering.

This morning Jeff preached on Revelation 8-10, including the seven trumpets of Revelation 8:6-9:21. The woe of which the trumpets warn is one and the same with my dream (Genesis 41:25).

crux:

Misery awaits those who ignore the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Read: James 5

Remember this: Whoever turns a sinner from the error of their way will save them from death and cover over a multitude of sins. (James 5:20)

Respond:

LORD God Almighty,

You are full of compassion and mercy. Please have compassion on my father and extend mercy to him. Please grant him repentance and faith.

You are the Judge, standing at the door. Please do not judge my father until you have first justified him and granted him your forgiveness and your righteousness.

Please help me to speak to my father today. May my words always give you glory.

Amen.

 

Teachers

The imperfections of my teaching are covered by the perfection of Christ

Read: James 3

Not many of you should become teachers, my fellow believers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly. We all stumble in many ways. Anyone who is never at fault in what they say is perfect, able to keep their whole body in check. (James 3:1-2)

Reflect:

I’m on a break from teaching with the school holidays, so now is a good time to meditate on this verse, before I head back into my two teaching roles: teaching men to read and women to read the Bible.

James has a warning for me (3:1): that, as a teacher, I “will be judged more strictly.” It is absolutely imperative that I teach rightly and righteously.

In my reading, writing and spelling classes, this means teaching consistently the patterns of the English language: phonemes, graphemes, blending and segmenting and word classes, syntax and punctuation. It also means teaching my students as my ‘neighbour’ with respect, humility and compassion.

In my Bible study small group, I must prepare diligently so I know the text (2 Corinthians, next term) thoroughly and have allowed God to speak to me through the text before I attempt to help my group members hear God’s voice through his word. It again means treating my small group members as my ‘neighbour’ with gentleness, kindness and understanding.

In all this, there is a reminder that although the standard is very high, God knows “we will all stumble in many ways” (3:2). I am not perfect, not faultless in what I say. There is only one who was perfect, the greatest Teacher, Jesus Christ. Thanks be to God, for Jesus died to grant his perfection to me and to all who believe in him. [This is the doctrine of imputation of righteousness.] Trusting and relying upon Christ’s perfection, therefore, I set out to teach.

crux:

The imperfections of my teaching are covered by the perfection of Christ.

Respond:

LORD God Almighty,

I know I’m not perfect, and I’m certainly not a perfect teacher. I slack off, or have down days – sometimes even weeks or months where I struggle to feel the passion for teaching words and teaching your Word that I’ve felt before.

Thank you that Jesus was a perfect example of teacher for me to model my own teaching upon. Thank you that he was not just a model; thank you that he justified me and made me righteous.

May your Spirit empower my teaching. Make me bold, enthusiastic and godly.

Amen.

Awesome

Jesus Christ arose in Israel, mighty and awesome

Read: Deuteronomy 34

Since then, no prophet has risen in Israel like Moses, whom the LORD knew face to face. (Deuteronomy 34:10)

For no one has ever shown the mighty power or performed the awesome deeds that Moses did in the sight of all Israel. (Deuteronomy 34:12)

Reflect:

Moses was indeed a singular character. He was brought up in a palace, yet intervened for the life of a slave. He fled Egypt in fear of Pharaoh, yet returned to Egypt to confront him. Moses was a man of faltering lips yet God chose him to speak God’s laws to his people. Moses was a man of prayer and poetry, anger and frustration. He was a leader, continually facing opposition; a husband and father, whose wife was left behind. God spoke to him and his face was radiant; but he overstepped God’s instructions and God judged him.

The author of Deuteronomy’s epilogue says Moses was unique, but Moses was later surpassed by another. Jesus showed more mighty power and performed greater awesome deeds throughout his years of ministry. Jesus not only knew God face-to-face, he was the fullness of God’s deity in bodily form (Colossians 2:9), the radiance of God’s glory and exact representation of God’s being (Hebrews 1:3). Jesus’ face, too, was transfigured by God’s glory, but Jesus never overstepped God’s commands. And Jesus was also judged: not for his own transgressions but for Israel’s, for Judah’s, for the Church’s, for mine.

And since Jesus rose again in Israel, the mighty power and awesome deeds of the LORD Almighty are preached to the ends of the earth, that all might see and know that the LORD is great.

crux:

Jesus Christ arose in Israel, mighty and awesome.

Respond:

LORD God Almighty,

Thank you for speaking to me through the words of your prophet Moses, in the book of Deuteronomy. Thank you for the mighty power you exerted in Moses’ life. Thank you for the awesome deeds you did through Moses’ obedience. Thank you for the Law you gave through Moses, the law that exposes my sin and my great need for your Son’s sacrifice.

Thank you for not stopping with Moses but granting your Spirit of Wisdom to Joshua. Thank you for continuing your work with your people throughout the years until you gave us Jesus, your Son. Thank you for his ministry and service. Thank you for making it plain that he was a prophet far more mighty or awesome than Moses.

Thank you for your ongoing work in my life. Please grant me the wisdom of Moses and Joshua, that I may serve and love Jesus.

Amen.

Held

The LORD holds his holy ones in his hand

Read: Deuteronomy 33

“Surely it is you who love the people;
all the holy ones are in your hand.
At your feet they all bow down,
and from you receive instruction.” (Deuteronomy 33:3)

“There is no one like the God of Jeshurun,
who rides across the heavens to help you
and on the clouds in his majesty.
The eternal God is your refuge,
and underneath are the everlasting arms.” (Deuteronomy 33:26-27a)

Reflect:

As I fly home across the vast expanse and emptiness of the Pacific Ocean, it is a marvellous comfort to me to read these words: “All the holy ones are in your hand. … Underneath are the everlasting arms.”

Truly the LORD has blessed us, his holy people, greatly with his written word. He reveals himself and speaks to us with promises and encouragement. The LORD Almighty, the God of the universe, does this! He constantly shows himself to be caring and compassionate. The LORD is a good, good Father; a good and gracious God.

It is – I can only say wonderful, marvellous, awesome – that he, the Creator and Sustainer of all things, should deign to hold one such as me cupped within his hand, cradled within his arms.

Through Moses, God has made known his plans for his people. These are good plans, which were brought to fruition through the obedient ministry and willing death of God’s Son. Through Jesus, the people of Israel, “Jeshurun” the upright one, have become “a people saved by the LORD” (33:29). Truly, there are none so blessed as those the LORD saves.

crux:

The LORD holds his holy ones in his hand.

Respond:

LORD God Almighty,

Who am I that one such as you should care for me, have compassion on me and comfort me? Who am I that you, who are Lord of All, should seek me, save me and succour me?

I bow down in worship and love before you, LORD God Almighty; you who ride across the heavens to help me, you who stride upon the clouds in all your majesty.

From you I receive instruction and I am blessed.

Keep me safe LORD, and bring me home to those I love. Bring Ari and Alistair and Anastasia home to your kingdom as well. Save them and make them your holy people.

Amen.

Alive

The LORD’s people are alive forever

Read: Deuteronomy 32

On that same day the LORD told Moses, … “There on the mountain that you have climbed you will die and be gathered to your people, just as your brother Aaron died on Mount Hor and was gathered to his people.” (Deuteronomy 32:48, 50)

Reflect:

What did the LORD mean when he said, “You will die and be gathered to your people”? How was Moses to be “gathered”? Surely in death he would be separated from his people, the Israelites who would enter the Promised Land without him. So how can I understand this prophetic speech by the LORD to Moses?

It is necessary first to understand that Moses’ people were not only the Israelites who travelled with him. They were also the Israelites who had gone before. The patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and their wives Sarah, Rebekah, Leah and Rachel, together with Jacob’s concubines, Zilpah and Bilhah. The twelve sons of Jacob and Dinah, their sister. The 70-odd descendants who went down to Egypt and the tens or hundreds of thousands who left Egypt when the LORD opened the sea before them. These were Moses’ people.

And when the LORD gathered Moses to them, he did so to a living people; people who had died yet were (and are) still alive. As Jesus said (Matthew 22:31b-32), “Have you not read what God said to you, ‘I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, the God of Jacob’? He is not the God of the dead but of the living.” God’s people are alive forever, because Jesus paid the price for our eternal life with his blood.

crux:

The LORD’s people are alive forever.

Respond:

LORD God Almighty,

You are immortal, the Alpha and Omega, beginning and the end, who was and is and is to come. LORD, you live forever.

Thank you for the gift of eternal life in perfect relationship with you, which you have given to me through your Son Jesus Christ. Thank you for your promise that I shall spend my eternity with you, in the radiant splendour of your Son, with all my Christian brothers and sisters, through faith in Christ.

Thank you for Peggy and Daryl, who share this flight with me and will also be alive forever in your presence.

Amen.

Home

Jesus brings spiritual exiles home to God

Read: Deuteronomy 30

Even if you have been banished to the most distant land under the heavens, from there the LORD your God will gather you and bring you back. (Deuteronomy 30:4)

Reflect:

I know it is not good hermeneutics, good biblical interpretation, to read a verse like this and jump straight to its apparent applicability to my present situation, a foreigner half a world away from my home, for which I shall depart tomorrow.

The context  is Moses’ sermon series before Israel enters the promised land. It is clear that this verse was spoken and recorded as a promise to Israel that although their faithless descendants would be exiled, yet a remnant who returned to faith would also return to the land. Biblical theology enables me to see the Jesus connection, whereby it is Jesus’ death that brings spiritual exiles home to a reconciled relationship with God their Father. It is Jesus’ Spirit who enables faithful righteousness among an otherwise unfaithful, unrighteous people.

Now, I had a small upset today. I got mild hypothermia swimming 500m in Lake Ontario and very nearly fainted as I got on the bus to return to my hotel. (Yes, the world really does go black when you are on the verge of fainting.) So, despite my knowledge of proper biblical hermeneutics, I am comforted by the immediacy of the promise in this verse.

God will bring me home. Whether to my temporary home in my hotel, with my head between my knees as I pray silently, “LORD, help me,” over and over; or to my earthly home half the world away via a mis-booked airport shuttle, 25 hours of flights plus ten hours more of layovers and a five-hour drive; or to my heavenly home, through the veil of death or through my Lord’s glorious return. The LORD my God will bring me home.

crux:

Jesus brings spiritual exiles home to God.

Respond:

LORD God Almighty,

Once again I am overwhelmed by your loving-kindness, your grace and mercy, your compassion. You comfort me and reassure me.

You know what I need before I cry out to you. You brought an ambulance-trained bus driver to collect me from the lake just as I was starting to realise the full effects of my frigid swim. Never was I alone, though it may have appeared so to those who saw me walking and swimming and shaking. You were with me as you always will be.

Oh, how eagerly I look forward to coming home to my family! Make me just as eager to see you face-to-face when the time comes for me to come home to you. I love you. May I love you always.

Amen.

Grants

The LORD grants his people perfect rest through Jesus Christ

Read: Deuteronomy 28

The LORD will grant that the enemies who rise up against you will be defeated before you. They will come at you from one direction but flee from you in seven. (Deuteronomy 28:7)

Reflect:

The thing about Bible reading is that the more you do it, the more you get out of it. Even a simple, short passage like this single verse has more to it than a surface reading would suggest.

The basic interpretation is that the LORD would ensure that Israel’s enemies will be defeated, as the first sentence states clearly. From the second sentence, the enemies would approach from one direction, but after they are defeated they would scatter:

from one direction = unity, cohesion
flee … in seven = disunity, disarray

There’s a bit more depth here; though it takes careful reading and biblical thinking to see it. It has to do with significant numbers in the Bible story. The word seven becomes, through the course of the Bible, shorthand for the seventh day of creation. On the seventh day God rested from the work of creating. Upon this seventh day pattern, God ordained sabbath rest for all his people.

seven (7) = sabbath; perfect completion, peace, rest, no work

So, while the enemies approach together and leave scattered, the more important concept here is that God will grant his people sabbath rest from their enemies. This is rest from work, rest from the struggle to achieve, rest from the battle to overcome. Far more than the temporary amelioration of hostilities, this is true, eternal rest.

So what’s the Jesus connection? It is Jesus Christ who grants this true and complete rest from our enemies: from Satan and his demons, from our past sins, from our character flaws, from our sinful nature. It is Jesus who grants rest from the battle with our enemies, within and without. It is Jesus who grants rest from the struggle to win our own salvation, because he provides it for us.

crux:

The LORD grants his people perfect rest through Jesus Christ.

Respond:

LORD God Almighty,

You are a good, good God. You are a good, good Father. This is who you are.

You take great delight in granting good things to your people who are called by the Name of your Son Jesus Christ, the Christians. We are your new covenant people, the people redeemed and rescued by your only Son Jesus, whom you sent to die in our place.

LORD, you saved me from out of the clutches of the enemy Satan, that liar and deceiver. He fled before me because you drove him away. You have kept me safe, LORD, and you have granted me the sweet restoration and refreshment of fellowship with your people in Wichita, in Indianapolis and now here in Toronto.

LORD, may I long abide in the peace you have granted to me. Keep me safe from my enemies. Keep me safe because Jesus has defeated sin and death so I have nothing to fear. Make me a hope dealer.

Amen.