Sunday, July 26, 2015

The Untouchable Name

Babylon is the city and power, spiritually, militarily and politically, spoken against in the Bible. Its history as recorded details a concerted attempt to oppose the Yahweh and His purposes. Genesis 10:8-12 and 11:1-9. This city became the foundation and the fountain-head of the occult. Isaiah and Jeremiah have strong word to say about and against Nimrod’s creation. The book of Revelation lays plain Yahweh’s wrath and judgement stored up for a coming day.

Why is the Lord so implacable towards Babylon? It is more than its opposition to the person of Yahweh, for such can be forgiven. The issue is expressed through personalising the city’s boast. Such inflammatory words became a declaration of war. Isaiah 47:8 ‘Now then, listen, you wanton creature, lounging in your security and saying to yourself, “I AM, and there is none beside me…” (Nineveh had same spirit ‘she said to herself, “I AM, and there is none besides me”’ Zephaniah 2:15). To use the words ‘I am’ in such a way is to claim the untouchable Name. It is to challenge the legitimacy of the Lord God’s right to be God alone.

We become aware of God’s unique, untouchable Name in His call to Moses at the burning bush. ‘God said to Moses, “I AM THAT I AM:” and he said, “Thus shall you say unto the children of Israel I AM has sent me to you.”’ Exodus 3:14. Here also is His framework for the Covenant the Almighty made with Israel, for it is bound up in His Name. In giving to the Nation (and through them to us) the Ten Commandments God stresses ‘You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain; for the Lord will not hold him guiltless that takes his name in vain.’ Exodus 20:7.

Mystery Babylon (Revelation 17:5) not only takes Yahweh’s Name in vain, it wants to, plans to, and will fight to claim it. That is why the Scriptures are so loud in their call for people to get out of this city. Its defeat and doom is spelt out in Yahweh’s word. To ignore such a call is to share in the consequences of the judgement.

The Eternal’s defence of His untouchable Name has implications for Jesus. It is recorded, especially in the Gospel by John that the Man of Galilee lay claim to being ‘I AM’. His use of such terms as ‘I am the Bread of Life’ or ‘I am the Good Shepherd’ may seem unthreatening, however, there is no getting away from John 8:58. ‘Jesus said to them, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, Before Abraham was, I AM.”’ To His disciples in John 13:19 He makes a similar claim. In the Greek it reads “From now I tell you before it happens, that you may believe when it happens I AM.” Then in Gethsemane when Judas and soldiers came to capture Jesus He twice mentioned that He was ‘I AM’. On the second occasion the soldiers fell backwards and tumbled over.

Now how do we as followers of Jesus Christ know he isn’t on the same trajectory of judgement as Babylon? Have we sure and certain evidence that His claim is valid? Here is where the battle ground of faith is fought. The Bethlehem Baby, the Calvary Christ, is He the Son of God and the ‘I AM’? If so how do we know? By His resurrection from the dead! His claim is vindicated as well as His mission of redemption. Once again we are confronted by the words of Thomas in the upper room when he said “My Lord and My God.”

The untouchable Name will have no rivals. Nor will it allow those who take it in vain or pollute its holiness escape discipline and loss of reward. I AM is the unique revelation of our eternal God and the wonderful, wonderful and amazing fact is, by faith in Jesus as the Christ, the Son of God, our Saviour, we honour that Name (Philippians 2:10-11). In it we are baptized according to Matthew 28:19; Go...teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit…’


©Ray Hawkins 27th July 2015

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Yahweh in O.T. = Jesus in N.T.

Job, in the book which bears his name, expressed many a person’s dilemma. In chapter 23 are these words ‘Oh, that I knew where I might find him, that I might come even to his dwelling! I would lay my case before him, and fill my mouth with arguments. I would learn what he would answer me, and understand what he would say to me.’

There is expressed Humankind’s problem regarding God. Where can he (if God is ‘He’) be found. Where would a person look? If someone stumbled across him, how would he be recognised? What if God never wanted to be found? When all of creation and life is considered, the greatest of all mysteries remains God. Unless he chose to reveal himself we would never find him.

Here is the most awesome, wonderful, and at the same time, disturbing claim of the Judeo-Christian Bible. The unseen God has revealed Himself. How? His existence is proclaimed through creation (Romans 1:20). His character and intent He made known to specific people, beginning with Adam and down the line to Noah, Abraham, Moses and the prophets (Amos 3:7). The Lord God’s self-revelation culminated in the Babe of Bethlehem, Emmanuel (God with us) who was given the Greek name Jesus (in Hebrew, Joshua).

To us, the strange revelation concerning God is that He is a tri-unity. That blows our mind. Some parody the concept (to their judgement) others sidestep it as too hard to grasp. However, God hasn’t left us in the dark on this. Genesis 1:26 and 31 begins the unveiling. The Aaronic threefold blessing stresses this mystery, as does Isaiah’s vision (6:3) Daniel in 9:19, Paul (2 Corinthians 13:13 and the Angels in Revelation 4:8. For me, it is when Jesus cries in agony on the cross “my God, my God, why have you forsaken me” undergirds the uniqueness of the eternal. Why did Jesus break the three fold emphasis? Emmanuel was on the cross!

In John 10:30 Jesus makes an astounding claim: “The Father and I are one.” The Greek word for ‘one’ is in the neuter gender and implies essence. Jesus asserts the Father and He (and the Holy Spirit) are of the same essence.  Here was a charge of blasphemy requiring death. It didn’t happen then but it was the charge that the High Priest used to justify the death penalty on Jesus (Matthew 26:63-65). The writer to the Hebrews in chapter one makes the most astounding statements regarding Jesus. As you read and examine what is written it takes your breath away and at the same time (should) make you bow in gratitude and wonder. It amplifies what Jesus said about Himself in John 14:8-11.

As those who are disciples of the Lord Jesus we may find the doctrine of the Godhead beyond us. It is to be accepted by faith. What we are called upon to believe is the great faith statement of Thomas in John 20:28 “My Lord and my God!” (Psa 35:23). Jesus never refuted it. How then does this Jesus measure up to the revelation of Yahweh in the Jewish Scriptures (the Old Testament)?

Yahweh                                           Title                                       Jesus

Exodus 3:14                                      I AM                                       John 8:58. 18:5-6

Isaiah 40:28.  66:2                          Creator                                  John 1:3. Col.1:16

Isaiah 45:22. 43:11                           Saviour                                  John 4:42. Titus 1:3-4

Isaiah 60:19-20.                               Light                                      John 8:12

Isaiah 41:4.                                        First & Last                           Revelation 22:13

Timothy 1:17. 6:14-16                      Lord of lords                         Revelation 17:14.19:16

                                                            King of kings

These are a selection of passages showing the identity of Yahweh and Jesus to be one and the same. The big issue which determines the truth of this comparison has to be the resurrection of Christ Jesus, bodily. If He didn’t arise then the high Priest was right. It is His resurrection which verifies who He is and what He has achieved.

Next week we will have a brief look at the defining word relating to God. That is ‘I AM’ and Jesus claim on it.


©Ray Hawkins. July 2015.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Jesus is no pacifist!

War is sometimes necessary to curb, control and conquer evil. This is so evident with such devilish groups as IS and the Islamic Caliphate rampaging in the Middle East. We may wish it wasn’t so but we know they, and others, will not be stopped by reason but by force. The Bible revealed God commissioned men such as Joshua to deal with the evil by the sword. In Canaan were seven nations corrupt and degenerate who had despoiled the Lord’s special ‘patch.’ (Genesis 15:1-21) It is often overlooked that these nations were given over 500 years of grace to change their ways. They didn’t! God would need to bring judgement upon them.

There is a principle evident here. Grace precedes judgement. Evidence of that is Rahab and her family in Joshua 6. How she heard of Yahweh’s intentions and what brought her to faith is not amplified. This woman grasped God’s grace and was, with her family, spared the sword. How many others at that time had a similar opportunity but spurned it we will never know.

I find it intriguing how some spruik the notion that the God of the Old Testament is a warmonger. They then compare Him with Jesus in the Gospels who talks about love and loving your enemies. In actual fact The Yahweh (Jehovah) of those 39 books is the Jesus of the Gospels and the other New Testament books. In a later blog I’ll show some of the unbreakable links.

God has surrounded Himself with numerous titles. The one most fitting for this blog is the title ‘Lord God of Host’. It is a military term. His legions are the angels of Heaven. When Jesus was taken to be crucified He declared that with a command they would come to His aid, immediately! Matthew 26:53. Once again grace preceded justice. Our Lord, however, forewarned His antagonists and supporters in Matthew 24 of events which would lead to the final showdown between the Kingdom of Light and the Kingdom of Darkness.

Christmas steals our hearts with its message and images of a baby in the manager. In Micah’s prophesy (5:2-15) relating to this event we stop at verse two and often try and ignore the rest. Christ’s coming as a baby to live amongst Israel and be delivered as a ransom in fulfilment of Scripture is love made tangible. The message He gave His disciples was and is of grace offered to be received by faith. Should that be spurned they put themselves on a war footing. This is highlighted by the angels to the disciples on the Mount of Olives (Acts 1:8-11). When the Lord returns He will comes on the clouds and to the same mountain from which He ascended to Heaven. Zechariah 14:4. Speaks of that event. Those angels were verifying the fact that the period of grace will end one day. When that happens the Lord Jesus returns as the Lord God of Hosts.

What then elevates Jesus from out of the ranks of tyrants? What lifts Him above all the mythological gods and such claimants to allegiance as blood thirsty and cruel Allah? A number of facets from His revealed character makes Jesus more than a noble warrior, more than a crusading general and more than God with a mission of wrath. From the Scriptures Jesus is shown to be holy, without sin and this saturates everything He is and does. His love (which we enjoy dwelling upon) is holiness expressed. His mercy is holiness extended to its utmost limits (for which we should be thankful). Therefore, when He makes war on those who trample underfoot His Name, desecrate His temple, murder His followers, deny His existence, cross and resurrection, His wrath is not simply an emotional vendetta. It is Justice, controlled by holiness and dictated by giving His opponents time to repent. This allows them to accept the grace of forgiveness. But, when Christ’s patience runs out, His sword of judgement will be raised. Rest assured it too is controlled by holiness.

Individuals and nations rant and rave against the Lord God revealed in the Bible. Religions such as Islam dishonour, discredit and disfigure the Jesus unveiled in the Bible. They place themselves on a collision course with Christ Jesus.

Such a meeting will either take the moment after death or in the ‘valley of decision,’ Armageddon!

God has the last word and what it will be depends upon our trust in Jesus who entered our world to save us from His sword of judgement. His holy patience has its own timetable which allows you and others to own Him as your personal Lord and Saviour. But always remember this, His holy love and mercy doesn’t make Him a pacifist. Neither will it allow Him to bend His word or be bribed by so called ‘good deeds.’ His holiness motivates justice to gird on His sword to conquer and eliminate evil. Until that day the Gospel of Grace unleashed at the cross is offered. To shun the message is to place yourselves under the threat of the sword. That time is drawing ever nearer when it will be wielded.


©Ray Hawkins July 2015

Sunday, July 5, 2015

What made the King become the Servant?

What would turn a King into a servant? And more than that, one who washed the feet of His disciples! John 13. What would motivate the King to become the ransom price for His subjects? Matthew 20:28.

Love in its true and pure form. As the song says ‘Love, love changes everything…’ which is very true when considering the word ‘minister.’ It means servant, but in the Bible, this derogatory term in the eyes of so many is elevated to a great height. How? Because it is applied to Jesus and His role that He lived out whilst on earth.

He made ministry a love relationship. It is to this relationship our Lord and Saviour calls His followers.

Ministry is a love affair with Jesus. It covers more dimensions than being a preacher. Included is every aspect of a person expressing His or her love for the Lord in some form of service. A Biblical example is that of Dorcas who used her dress-making skills to benefit others (Acts 9:36-41)

The special call to the Ministry of preaching has certain pressures and demands which will only be handled by a strong love for Jesus. When He calls a person to this role it becomes a burden unable to be relinquished without a sense of loss. Paul cried out ‘…I am compelled to preach. Woe to me if I do not preach the Gospel.’ 1 Corinthians 9:16.  The burden, no matter how great is not really noticed because of love for the Lord. It is when our love for Christ Jesus is weak that we notice the burden. Once our eyes are off the Lord we see the magnitude of the task: the wretchedness of sinfulness: the fickleness of people and our own weaknesses. Such burdens are simply too much to  bear.                                            
When my devotion to the Lord is weak and waning then too my capacity to love others is weakened. From a Biblical viewpoint all relational breakdowns really stem from fading love. When John said we love because Christ first loved us it also implies the reverse. When our love for the Lord is dim so too our capacity to love others. When we refresh our love for Jesus the statement by Paul to the Thessalonians will happen. ‘May the Lord make your love increase and overflow for each other and for everyone else…May he strengthen your hearts so that you will be blameless and holy in the presence of our God and Father when our Lord Jesus comes with all his holy ones.’ 1 Thessalonians 3:12–13.

When Jesus took Peter aside after the resurrection, it was to love a failure back into his calling. Peter thought he could find fulfilment back on the water, catching fish, being unencumbered by apostolic responsibilities. Would he have ever been satisfied? He had tasted the Lord’s call. Love may have a price tag but a bigger price is paid when love’s call is sidestepped. Was that what Peter was realising when the Lord appeared on the scene? Peter’s exuberance of jumping overboard and wading ashore to be in Jesus’ presence could point to this fact. But the terrible hash Peter had made of things the days before the crucifixion needed healing attention. Would his mouth and behaviour cancel out any prospects of serving the Lord?

We will all have our own imaginative scene of Jesus and Peter sitting on the sand side by side and the Lord getting Peter to probe his own heart. The question ‘Simon, son of John, do you truly love me more than these?’ cuts deep. In other words, ‘would you really be happy doing anything else than following me in service?’ Here the challenge of love’s commitment was being offered anew. Here was grace dealing with the defeatism of guilt, shame, self-pity and self-interests. ‘Is there anything you would rather do than accept my invitation to follow me’ seems to be what Jesus is getting at. This is ever the battle ground in the soul. Do we love the Lord more than ‘these’ – whatever ‘these’ may be?  Ministry first and foremost has to be an affair of the heart.

The instructions Jesus gave to Peter about future ministry are informative. He was to feed the lambs, shepherd the little sheep and feed the little sheep. Imagine that. A fisherman is turned into a shepherd. It worked. Years later Peter writes to Church leaders and tells them to shepherd the flock of God. This should not be by compulsion or, worse still, because of monetary gain or for ego domination. (1 Peter 5:1–4)  Love won the day on the sands of Galilee and we are the richer for it.

Reflection: As lovers of the Lord and His people how well are we shepherding and feeding those in our care?

Request:  Lord, refresh my heart in your love. May my ministry express the heartbeat of my love for you in word and deed! Amen