Tuesday, February 26, 2013

God's Messages in Stone #1.

The Sign of the Stones

My Grandchildren went to a gemstone exhibition and display and went home stone enthusiasts. Now they looked at every pebble with a new interest.  Maybe the next rock they kick will turn out to be a precious gem.

After talking with them, or rather listening, I thought about various mentions of stones in Scripture.  It turns out that God is keen on lapidary also. The word comes from the Latin ‘lapidarius’ meaning working with stone.  Our Lord has used stone to tell His dealings with His people in history. This was especially true  before the advent of paper. It was also more durable.

Monuments such as Stonehenge in England are still speaking. The trouble is as yet experts are unsure as to what is being said. This isn’t true with God’s stones. Their meanings have also been recorded on parchment and paper so that we may ponder their words.

Joshua led the fledgling nation of Israel across the Jordan river. He then had one representative from each of the tribes collect a stone from the river. These twelve stones were to become two types of silent witnessing and reminders to all people. Were they arranged in a circle or a cairn or other pattern is not mentioned. Did they have some writing on them? Probably!

The book of Joshua says these stones were a ‘sign and a memorial’ of God fulfilling His promise. As the nation in coming months faced opposition, frustration, failure and victory these stones stood as a reminder of God’s faithfulness and power. They would be sources of encouragement in the tough times and reminders to praise God for the good times. These stones also were a witness to the surrounding nations of the Sovereignty of the Eternal God.

Centuries have come and gone. The dust of history has covered the original stones but their message lives on in God’s Word.  Their significance for us today is to point us to the fact that God keeps His word. There is one stone which highlights this more than anything else. It has been rejected and defaced but it cannot be destroyed. This ‘stone’ has become the Bible’s metaphor for Jesus the Christ.

In coming weeks we will consider this ‘Stone’ and its implications for us. We will also discover that by the mercy of the Father, Christ’s followers have become ‘chips off the block’ and are called ‘living stones.’

So I hope you will come along with me and read ‘The Messages in the Stone.’

Ray (a pebble being polished) Hawkins

Monday, February 18, 2013

Consider the Clouds...#8.

`The Cloud and the Mercy Seat

sunrise with clouds over Beauty Point

Teaching aids allows students to grasp what is being taught through something visual or tangible. The idea is symbolised and becomes more readily understood. This is a method God has used frequently in the Bible. A case in point is the Tabernacle and its furniture. Each aspect of this magnificent structure actually symbolises some aspect of Jesus Christ

For this closing devotional on ‘Consider he Clouds’ I’ve chosen the cloud which  covered the Mercy Seat in the Tabernacle’s Holiest of Holies. Leviticus 16:2: Tell Aaron not to come just at any time into the sanctuary inside the curtain before the mercy seat that is upon the ark, or he will die; for I appear in the cloud upon the mercy seat.

The mercy seat was hammered gold sitting as a lid upon the box (ark). It contained the Ten Commandments and the rod of Aaron which budded. At either end were Cherubim. Between them and undoubtedly enveloping them was the cloud of God’s presence. Into this space behind a thick curtain the High Priest could only come on the Day of Atonement.

Remember that the Lord God led the people out of Egypt and through the wilderness by the awesome visual expression of His presence. What was that? The cloud by day and the cloud of fire by night! His presence protected the people. However there was not any intimacy in the relationship. The High Priest knew that special relationship but only on a yearly basis.

What was all this pointing too? God’s plan of redemption which Jesus Christ secured at Calvary! The Gospel tells us that when He died on the Cross the thick curtain in the Temple  was split from top to bottom. The implication is clear. Christ had made the way open for people to enter the presence of the Father. Jesus as our High Priest has invited us to enter into the Father’s presence not once a year but as regularly as possible. We don’t go there in our own virtue or authority. Jesus has made His disciples fellow priest of the Most High God. Therefore we enter the Father’s presence in the company of Christ and in the role of commissioned priests.

This means the Eternal God is no longer remote from us or unapproachable. Because of Christ Jesus' victory at Calvary we can have an intimate relationship with the Creator, Redeemer Everlasting God. We do this by faith. One day it will be with sight.  At this moment it is as though we talk with the Father in the cloud. We see Him not but know He is there. When we leave this intimate time we don’t realise what has happened, but others see it. The ‘cloud’ has made our face reflect the glow of our heart. Now that is mercy bestowed because of intimacy enjoyed.

Ray (the Cloud lover) Hawkins

References if required. Hebrews 1:1 – 2:18.  4:14-16. 
                 2 Corinthians 3:12-18.  Matthew 27:30-31.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Consider the Clouds #7.--- The Cloud of the Lord

The Cloud of the Lord.
view from Poatina, Tas. Western Tiers.

Israel journeyed under a cloud. In Numbers 10:34 it says ‘the cloud of the Lord being over them by day…’ as they journeyed. The cloud was a demonstration of the Lord’s presence. From other references it is easy to see that the association of God and  clouds points to an atmosphere, an environment..

In Matthew, Mark and John are their accounts of Jesus’ transfiguration. Each has their own peculiar way of retelling the event. This comes out in some minor but expressive descriptions. When slotted together they present a  majestic revelation of Christ.

Why did Jesus go to the high mountain considered to be Mt. Hermon?  Luke says it was to pray. This took place after Jesus had asked them who they thought He was. It also came after He explained to the 12 about His forthcoming death. Remember even though Jesus is the Creator the world had been enslaved by the Devil. Jesus was in a foreign and hostile environment.  In going to the top of Mt. Hermon the Lord sought a taste of home.

Luke informs us that Peter, James and John were weary, possibly after the climb and in the rarefied air.  They soon came fully awake when Jesus entered into a conversation with Moses and Elijah. More dramatically a cloud began to envelope them. Would we be far off the mark by thinking that Jesus was absorbing the atmosphere of home? I don’t think so! Why was this so important?

The cross was now uppermost in Christ Jesus mind. In fact Moses and Elijah were discussing this fact with the Lord. Luke uses the Greek word translated as Exodus. Jesus was about to go out of His journey. How? He would leave this earthly realm by fulfilling the symbolism of the Passover Lamb. As that historical event began Israel’s exodus to the Promised Land so the cross would achieve a spiritual deliverance. After the resurrection we know Jesus ascended to glory. He is the forerunner of those who will join Him there.

From out of the cloud the voice of the Father came. It must have petrified the three disciples. Flat on the ground they heard ‘This is my Son, the Beloved, with Him I am well pleased; listen to Him.’ Once again the grace of God protected the disciples from beholding His consuming glory. However they did catch a glimpse of what it as like when Jesus was transfigured before their eyes. At home in His environment He was seen as He really is. Luke in fact uses adds a graphic word to the whiteness of Jesus appearance. He wrote it flashed with the brilliance of lightning. 

From here two more mountains awaited Jesus. Mount  of Olives and Mount Calvary. There is no account of clouds there until after the resurrection. Then we see Him ascending back into His environment. His waits until He mounts His chariot clouds to come conquer and claim His creation. Marana tha!  ‘Our Lord come.’

Ray (waiting to see Jesus in His environment) Hawkins.

Next week… The Cloud and the Mercy Seat. (This wil conclude our series.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Consider the clouds #6. The Chariot Ride Home.

The Chariot Cloud Ride Home

It was going home time. The conquest by Christ and the cross was complete. Satan’s kingdom had been shattered and plundered. After spending time with the disciples Jesus was going to His heavenly realm. A victory parade was waiting. There was a new role to undertake. Preparation for the promised return was now to be put into operation.

When a Roman general returned victorious from a campaign he rode on a chariot to the cheers of the populace. The army would march behind displaying the booty. Then would come the prisoners. Acts 1:9 ‘As they (the disciples) were watching, He was lifted up, and a cloud took Him out of their sight.’ Psalm 104: tells us that the Lord has made the clouds His chariot.  The inference is clear. Jesus was returning home as the conqueror.

When Jesus returned home notice what was in His train. ‘When He ascended on high He made captivity itself a captive; He gave gifts to His people.’ (Ephesians 4:8) In the Greek the word for captive means ‘to take by the spear.’ Do you see the grace of Christ in that? What [pierced His side on the cross? The Roman soldiers spear!  When that happened Jesus had won. He had taken captivity captive. Now it was possible for men and women to know freedom from the bondage of sin, Satan and death.

The heavenly messengers broke into the awe struck gaze of the disciples. They declared ‘Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking up toward heaven? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw Him go into heaven.’ Take stock of their words.

‘This Jesus…’ Not  one similar to Him. It will be the same Jesus who  was born in Bethlehem, crucified and rose again.
‘Will come in the same way as you saw Him go…’ How was that? Visibly. No invisible coming is implied. Tangible. He isn’t a ghost. With the clouds. His chariots will bring Him back. It is a warrior description. From what site did Jesus ascend? From the Mount. of Olives. (Acts 1:12) This is important.

Zechariah 14:3 ‘The Lord will go forth and fight against those nations as when He fights on a day of battle. On that day His feet shall stand on the Mount of Olives…’ Can you tie the two passages together? They are saying the Lord of the Old Testament is the Jesus of the New.

The testimony of the clouds has many facets. Here we perceive Jesus as the Lord God of Hosts returning as conqueror with the promise to return and establish His rule.

Next week. The chariot clouds of wrath.

Ray (glad to belong to Jesus) Hawkins