Fots #36 ISRAEL’S INTENDED ROLE AS LIGHT OF THE WORLD AFFIRMED BY THE PROPHETS

 

This series of posts is intended to complement what I have set out in my book “The Fellowship of the Secret” the title being an abbreviated form of “the fellowship pertaining to the secret (plan) or mystery hidden in God through the ages” (cf. Eph3:9). That secret plan was somewhat inscrutably revealed by the apostle Paul, appropriately so for it concerned the reason for his calling as thirteenth apostle (Matthias having replaced Judas as #12 by Peter who had no real understanding of God’s  purposes for the Gentiles until he received a personal revelation – Acts11:5-9;17-18). It was a secret or mystery (Greek: musterion) that pertained to the reconstitution of God’s “Holy Nation” by the establishment of a world-wide Church; something that was a revelation even to the authorities of Heaven (Eph3:10 strictly Greek). The enactment of this hidden strategy effectively subverted Old Testament prophecy, impacting also upon the interpretation of Jesus’ prophetic statements within the “Olivet discourse” (cf. Mt24). It not only explains why the gospel/church age has taken the intricate and protracted course that it has but also why Old Testament prophecy has  usually been interpreted in an allegorised and spiritualised rather than literal sense. Paul’s intimations are more explicitly affirmed in Romans chapter11, verses11, 12, 15 and 30, but these have typically been taken to be another example of “Paul being Paul” rather than the possibility that he might mean exactly what he wrote concerning gospel salvation being made available to the Gentiles as a result of the Jewish rejection of their Christ. He had warned his fellow Jews in Antioch:

We had to proclaim the Word of God to you first, but since you have rejected it, since you do not think yourselves worthy of eternal life, here and now we turn to the Gentiles (Acts13:46NJB)

The key word being “it” – i.e. Paul was not about to entrust this glorious invitation to the Gentiles because the Jews had crucified Christ but because they were rejecting the apostles’ message concerning it. The crucifixion had been foretold in scriptural prophecy and it led to the Jewish nation forfeiting its promised political peace and security as Jesus had told them (Lk19:42-44NKJV). However, their negative response to the message concerning the risen, ascended Christ had not been foretold and resulted in their forfeiting their status as sole inheritors of the Kingdom.  This is just one of a number of areas in which the great apostle has historically been misunderstood by the Church, which I now understand to be in accordance with the path of discovery set for her. It does not directly affect the ability of the true Apostolic Church to have fulfilled her gospel mission throughout her history; it has however impacted negatively upon her understanding (and therefore teaching) concerning broader providence, i.e. how God regards and will ultimately deal with the vast majority of people who are not a part of that “holy nation and royal priesthood” which is Israel and the Church (Ex19:5, 6 cf. 1Pet2:9).

And here is such an example: typical of Old Testament prophecy concerning the restoration of the world through Israel had been set out in Isaiah:

It will happen in the final days that the mountain of Yahweh’s house will rise higher than the mountains and tower above the heights. Then all the nations will stream to it, many peoples will come to it and say, Come let us go up to the mountain of Yahweh, to the  house of the God of Jacob that He may teach us his ways so that we might walk in his paths. For the Law will issue from Zion and the word of Yahweh from Jerusalem. THEN He will judge between the nations and arbitrate between many peoples. They will hammer their swords into ploughshares and their spears into sickles. Nation will not lift sword against nation, no longer will they learn how to make war. (Is2:1-4NJB)

Such was God’s Israel Project: to establish a holy nation of kings and priests amongst whom He would personally reside, initially through His spiritual Presence in the Ark, later through the physical presence of His Son Emmanuel (God with us). The nations who had oppressed His people were to be judged, but as outlined in Joel, the Spirit would be poured out and the good news of the kingdom proclaimed as a witness to all nations before the final judgement came (Mt24:14). Many Gentiles would come to Israel’s light and kings to the brightness of her rising (Is60:3NKJV). That Israel Project was effectively aborted or more strictly deferred as a result of “the fellowship of the secret”. In Paul’s language, Gentiles were to be grafted into the good olive tree that is Israel AGAINST THEIR NATURE so as to put the natural branches to shame and make them jealous (Rom11:11). Yet, Paul affirms, this is to be a temporary state of affairs, albeit one lasting a couple of thousand years to date. It will continue a little longer until the full complement of Gentiles fitted for the Kingdom has been recruited (Rom11:15, 25).

FOTS #35 – THE WISDOM LITERATURE, THE DANGERS OF “PROOF-TEXTING” AND THE NATURE OF THIS WRITING

 

Much is written about broader providence and Israel’s role as a light to the Gentile nations within the Psalms and Wisdom literature. However at this point I should acknowledge the limitations, indeed the positive dangers of “proof-texting” to highlight particular passages that appear to support a particular emphasis or personal standpoint.

The background to this series of posts is that I have come to a quite new understanding of certain scriptural passages (especially within the writings of St Paul) following an extraordinary ten-day encounter with the Holy Spirit late in 2013, the results of which I have set out in my book. These posts are intended to supplement that work by drawing out sequentially from Scripture the passages to which my attention was directed within that process. That is a form of a “proof-texting” nevertheless but the text pertaining to the subject of each post is I trust considered within the context of each particular narrative.  The reason I am confident in my assertions (apart from the nature of the experience itself) is that the new interpretations resolve all the key scriptural “tensions”, at least to my own satisfaction; and that is in spite of my adopting a quite literal approach to the Hebrew/Greek text throughout.  Such a strategy is in marked contrast to the hyper-allegorical approach especially to the Old Testament practiced by the supremely influential Augustine (Hippo), whose particular understanding of Paul acted as the prism through which he believed the remainder of Scripture must be wrested. That might not be so much of a problem if he had understood the great apostle aright in the first place, which as a result of what I have  been shown by the Spirit I am convinced with all my mind, heart and soul that the Roman-African bishop was profoundly in error in his interpretation of Paul’s teaching on Israel’s relationship to the Law, the economy of grace, anthropology and effectual free will.

So who is one to believe – the most influential Christian thinker of the first millennium or this retired London bus-driver? I suggest neither in and of themselves whatever either may claim for himself or is contended on their behalf within the churches. What I shall say is this: we will know we have arrived at the fullness of truth when its final arbiter, Holy Scripture is seen to cohere at last; i.e. a reading is provided in which Paul no longer appears to contradict himself (e.g. Romans 2:6-11 and 7:14-25 versus the rest of Romans and Galatians); each apostle is demonstrated to agree with each other and their Master before them (especially regarding the individual’s role in his salvation and the criteria to be applied at final judgement); the seeming disparity between OT prophecy and the outworking of the gospel/church  age can be explained from within Scripture itself; and last but not least, God ‘s compassion, the equitable nature of His justice and His depiction as “Love personified” is seen to be consistent with the perceived cosmic outcomes. I believe this has now been achieved and that such is itself a fulfilment of prophecy.

 These matters are re-affirmed in my own mind the more I read through Scripture, not least the genre we have reached in these posts being the so-called Wisdom literature. Solomon for example, assumed to be the author, wrote of those who effectively go in the way of Cain by “LEAVING the paths of uprightness to walk in the way of darkness (Prov2:13 Masoretic) as opposed to those who CONTINUE to “walk in the way of good men and who keep the paths of the righteous” (v20); also that the day shall come when “ the upright shall dwell on the earth and those who are perfected will remain (or have pre-eminence) in it whereas the wicked shall be cut off from the earth and the treacherous ones rooted out of it”  (vv21,22). Of course if the physical and spiritual aspects of the human person were an inseparable union and rotten to the core none would be in a position to “leave the paths of righteousness” for they could never have been on them in the first place. The reason that a certain category (the seed of Satan Mt13:38-39) do leave is because they are no longer directed by what God provides to those who are made in His own image. In a sense these people cease to be fully human, reflecting instead the nature of their adopted father (Jn8:44); yet they have a role within God’s purposes for the current age (cf. Jn6:70; Rom9:22b; 1Jn3:12). Such people reject or become oblivious to the light of reason a.k.a. Logos, the Word, the seed (1Jn3:9), the light of Christ in the conscience (my preference) or simply “Christ” (e.g. Origen and Justin Martyr). So those who are heading for perdition are not those who have failed to apprehend the grace and healing of Christ as it is offered through the gospel, for contrary to the teaching of Arminius, man has no innate ability to respond to the grace of Christ (Jn6:44). The “damned” are rather those who irrevocably reject the Word’s interior witness, in other words not those who have “failed to come” but those who have departed. Unlike agnostics and those of other faiths rejecting the gospel, they are without excuse for all have such an enlightening deposit in their nature (at least to start with) so those who turn their back on it, evidenced by the misery, despair and often destruction such people cause to their fellows, will be afflicted with appropriately severe punishment after their death. [They may in due course be restored and purified after a prolonged period of punishment a la Origen and other Universalists – I simply do not know, it is beyond current revelation, as are many other details pertaining to future ages]. Regardless, their judgement will be seen to be right and just to those who do possess sound reason, as it was to many of the other pre-Augustinian Fathers who commented on the matter.

FOTS #34 – PSALM 32 THE CONTEXT OF “IMPUTED RIGHTEOUSNESS”

 

In an earlier Psalm King David had asked Yahweh to “judge him as his righteousness and integrity deserved” (Ps7:8). That could only be referring to his OWN righteousness: but in Psalm 32, almost certainly penned after his grievous sin against Uriah to gain his wife Bathsheba, he wrote “I confessed my offence to Yahweh and He took away my guilt and forgave my sin” (v5). He continued: “For blessed is the man to whom Yahweh IMPUTES no guilt AND in whose spirit is no deceit”(v2). God had forgiven his sin, accepted him as righteous or vindicated him because he confessed it from a pure heart, although he was punished through the death of Bathsheba’s son (2Sam12:14) which caused him great grief. That is the only sense in which righteousness can be imputed (cf. Rom4:11+22); it is not God’s own Righteousness but His declaration that an individual or group are vindicated and accepted by Him, or in the formulation of the Psalmist God no longer imputes guilt to them for a specific offence.  This is affirmed by the fact that before that sin was brought to his attention by Nathan the prophet, David WAS guilty in God’s sight of murder (2Sam12:9) and liable for punishment even as God’s servant. Had David not confessed such a mortal sin, his spirit would have been tainted; his guilt would have remained as would his broken communion with His Lord and the Spirit that he enjoyed as anointed king.

The good news for David and God’s chosen people today is that “IF we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness”(1Jn1:9). Forgiveness whether human or divine is effectively an imputing of righteousness – treating someone as if they had not committed a particular offence, which God is willing to do providing sins are confessed from a pure heart like David. But as Jesus makes abundantly clear throughout His ministry it will be a person’s own character and legacy that will determine their future estate. Paul affirms as much in one of the more straight forward passages of his Magnus Opus (Rom2:6-11) where he is definitively referring to final judgement as opposed to his references  to “justification” in the context of acceptance within covenant or the marking out of God’s chosen people, and the fact that this was now be through faith in Christ, not Torah observance (circumcision and other such “works of the Law”) that infiltrating Judaisers were insisting upon; an area I cover in detail in my book that no doubt will feature in future posts.

FOTS #33 BOOK OF JOB (cont.): THE PATIENCE OF JOB; THE WISDOM OF ELIHU

 

job

 

Job’s undeserved suffering had not been aided by three of his would-be comforters Zophar, Bildad and Eliphaz. Their line was that his suffering must be due to his own sin for God would only permit suffering to those who deserved it. Once Job had convinced them of his integrity they gave up the argument concluding effectively that God must be in the wrong. Elihu on the hand would have none of it. He identifies the fact that God sometime brings suffering to individuals for their own good (33:18), using every means possible to enlighten and show mercy to as many as will receive it (33:29,30). He concludes with a hymn of praise to God – mysterious in His ways yet One whose nature accords with the thoroughly intelligible “divine theology” referred to in my earlier post:
  •   “God is clothed in fearful splendour; El Shaddai is far beyond our reach. Supreme in power, in FAIRNESS, excelling in righteousness, yet never the Oppressor – no wonder that people fear Him: every thoughtful person holds Him in awe” (37:22-24).
  That paved the way for the assessment that really mattered, the Creator’s Himself. He firstly chides Job for effectively impugning His justice. His ways are not man’s ways and Job should bow to His infinitely superior wisdom. There then follows a remarkably  prolonged monologue in which God in reminding Job of His greatness exhibits the greatest delight in His own earthly creation, especially the manifold splendour of the animal kingdom and His  providence towards it (38:36-41:26). Our God who is spirit delights in His majestic but material Earth, and why not indeed? As for Job’s three would-be comforters, there is a satisfying twist in which having called on Job to repent they are rebuked for misrepresenting God’s character as much as Job’s (42:7) and are required to provide a burnt offering for themselves by which they would be forgiven through Job’s prayerful intercession. Elihu however was not so rebuked and his very name (meaning “He is my God”) further suggests that his words were wise and truly inspired, just as he had claimed (32:8,18,19).

 

 

 

FOTS #31 BOOK OF JOB – A HEAVENLY COUNCIL WITH A SURPRISING ATTENDEE

satan

 

We are given a rare glimpse into the courts of eternity in the opening chapter of Job, and an occurrence that I could scarcely get my head round in the past; only recently has it begun to make any sense to me. That is a meeting chaired (so to speak) by God Himself with Satan amongst the attendees. Then there’s the seemingly genial dialogue: you can read it for yourself (1:7) it seems almost flippant to relate it here. Yet it speaks of a mystery that is essential to grasp if one is to comprehend some of the concepts covered in my e-book, namely that an arrangement exists between two cosmic enemies in order that its Facilitator may fulfil His extraordinary purposes for His creation, more especially mankind. Of course it is a one-sided affair for these are no equal opponents: the One is the Creator, the other an immensely powerful but corrupted creature entirely at His mercy. That became evident in the Eden incident where Satan in the form of a serpent was placed under the curse of destruction. Nevertheless in the meantime he fulfils a purpose and is allowed, as it were, to be himself for that very end.

In the case of Job, Satan was given authority to inflict misery upon him but within set boundaries. It was primarily to test Job and prove his faith; centuries later he would be employed to test a far greater Man, again to no avail, but he would be instrumental in bringing about His betrayal and death (cf. Luke22:3). Yet although this spirit of evil has no inherent rights whatsoever over God’s property (I.e. everything), his impact goes beyond merely testing man; he has been granted authority to sift him, own him and destroy the very seed of his humanity under certain circumstances. In the Apostle Peter’s language Satan is like a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour.  All (apart from One) may have at some time fallen for his wiles, but it is something else to be devoured, owned  and (effectively) employed by the devil as was Cain, the prototype of those who willingly succumb to his mastery (Gen4:7KJV; Jud1:11). Yet even this is for an entirely good end as St Paul for one well understood (Rom8:20-21; 9:22-23). It is one of the more surprising aspects of what the apostle refers to as “the multi-faceted nature of God’s wisdom”; the other being  what in the same passage (Eph3:9-11 Greek) he  described as “the fellowship of the secret  hidden in God through the ages” which I explain in my e-book pertains to the constitution  of the people of God and their role within broader providence.     

FOTS #30 1KINGS – SOLOMON’S WISE PRAYER: THAT ISRAEL’S GOD BE REVERED THROUGHOUT THE WORLD

 

salomons_dom

Great David’s greater Son would later become the embodiment of wisdom; his lesser son and heir Solomon at least began well, praying above all else for that divine quality from which all virtues flow. His prayer was granted together with immense wealth and prestige that he had not sought and would later regrettably become a stumbling block to him.  His greatest honour was undoubtedly to have overseen the building of God’s Temple. After the Feast of Dedication, Solomon blessed the people, yet his prayer was not restricted to his subjects alone. He recognised that God wished Israel to become a divinely disciplined and holy nation that would act as a salvific bridgehead to the rest of creation. He therefore prayed not just for his own people but the whole world:

EVEN THE FOREIGNER, NOT BELONGING TO YOUR PEOPLE ISRAEL BUT COMING FROM A DISTANT COUNTRY ATTRACTED BY YOUR NAME – FOR THEY TOO WILL HEAR OF YOUR NAME, OF YOUR MIGHTY HAND AND OUTSTRETCHED ARM – IF A FOREIGNER COMES AND PRAYS IN THIS TEMPLE, LISTEN FROM HEAVEN WHERE YOU RESIDE, AND GRANT ALL THAT THE FOREIGNER ASKS OF YOU, SO THAT ALL THE PEOPLES OF THE EARTH MAY ACKNOWLEDGE YOUR NAME AND, LIKE YOUR PEOPLE ISRAEL REVERE YOU (1kings8:41-43NJB) 

Note those “foreigners” who would come to revere Yahweh would not become a part of “Your people” (Israel) to do so (v43). It had never been intended under the Old Covenant that the whole world “become Jewish” but neither was it destined for the cosmic waste-paper basket; many in the world would be enlightened by the Jews and come to revere Yahweh once they had understood Him to be not just the God of Israel but Lord of the Heavens and Earth (see also Deut4:5-6).

FOTS #29    1SAMUEL – KING DAVID, A MAN AFTER GOD’S OWN HEART

 

david

“What more shall I say (concerning faith)? There is not time for me to give an account of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, or of David, Samuel and the prophets. These were men who through faith conquered kingdoms, did what was righteous and earned the promises” (cf. Heb11:32, 33). I will though comment briefly on David, described as a man after God’s own heart. Was that statement in the context of “imputed righteousness” or the preparation of Spirit? No, it was the boy David by nature as God perceived him.  After his repeated episodes of disobedience, King Saul was informed by Prophet Samuel that his sovereignty was to come to an end and that Yahweh had discovered a man after His own heart who would replace him. It was not until his anointing as king that “the Spirit of Yahweh seized upon David from that day onwards” (1Sam16:13). In the context of earlier posts, the fact that David or ANY man or woman may “have the heart of God” (or indeed the mind of Christ) must mean they reflect His nature in terms of for example what qualities and actions God finds pleasing or distasteful. It affirms once again that comprehending God’s NATURE is not beyond the grasp of human reason for it is reflected in measure within man when he is at his best. The extent and indeed the outworking of divine love and holiness may well surpass human imagining, but not its nature or essence. Love is love; Holiness is holiness: it is as Scripture and all true wisdom defines these qualities both FOR GOD AND MAN. I am bound to re-emphasise this as certain theology such as I have depended upon in the past contradicts such a principle. Of course having the heart of God or the mind of Christ is one thing; living a life entirely free from sin is quite another which neither David nor any man but One has achieved.

Unravelling the mystery of divine providence and the resolution of Scripture