Wednesday, November 1, 2017

The Names of God: Father

I have heard it often said, that how one pictures their earthly father, is how one views the heavenly Father. There is some truth in that statement, however, that is not sufficient for me. I want to know the Father better and deeper. In my quest to know the Father, I have found books and references on Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit in abundance, but there seems to be a deficiency in resources on the Father—outside of Bible dictionaries and commentaries. So I am going to share as much with you as I can about the Father. I don’t know if it is possible to do that in one blog post, I will see how far I get.

There are three names for Father in the Bible; Ab, Abba, and Pater. Smith’s Bible Dictionary defines Ab as: (father), an element in the composition of many proper names, of which Abba is a Chaldaic form, having the sense of “endowed with,” “possessed of.” 

Easton Bible Dictionary describes the word Abba: This Syriac or Chaldee word is found three times in the New Testament ( Mark 14:36 ; Romans 8:15 ; Galatians 4:6 ), and in each case is followed by its Greek equivalent, which is translated “father.” It is a term expressing warm affection and filial confidence. It has no perfect equivalent in our language. It has passed into European languages as an ecclesiastical term, “abbot.” 

Finally, the third word for Father, Pater, in the KJV New Testament Greek Lexicon, defines the word in several forms; 1) generator or male ancestor; 2) metaph: the originator and transmitter of anything; one who has infused his own spirit into others, who actuates and governs their minds; one who stands in a father's place and looks after another in a paternal way; a title of honour as in teachers, as those to whom pupils trace back the knowledge and training they have received; the members of the Sanhedrin, whose prerogative it was by virtue of the wisdom and experience in which they excelled, to take charge of the interests of others; 3) a) God is called the Father: of the stars, the heavenly luminaries, because he is their creator, upholder, ruler; b) of all rational and intelligent beings, whether angels or men, because he is their creator, preserver, guardian and protector; c) of spiritual beings and of all men; d) of Christians, as those who through Christ have been exalted to a specially close and intimate relationship with God, and who no longer dread him as a stern judge of sinners, but revere him as their reconciled and loving Father; the Father of Jesus Christ, as one whom God has united to himself in the closest bond of love and intimacy, made acquainted with his purposes, appointed to explain and carry out among men the plan of salvation, and made to share also in his own divine nature by Jesus Christ himself and by the apostles.

Throughout the Bible, God is depicted as a father; the picture though, is rare in the Old Testament. In the Old Testament, God is called the Father of the nation of Israel {Deut. 32:6; Isa. 63:16; 64:8; Jer. 3:4, 19; 31:9; Mal. 1:6; 2:10}. He is also called the Father of specific individuals {2 Sam. 7:14; 1 Chron. 17:13; 22:10; 28:6; Ps. 68:5; 89:26}. In other places the imagery of a father is used rather than the term Father, {Exod. 4:22-23; Deut. 1:31; 8:5; 14:1; Ps. 103:13; Jer. 3:22; 31:20; Hos. 11: 1-4; Mal. 3:17}.

The usage for Father in the New Testament was use by Jesus; Father was His favorite term for addressing God. It flowed from the lips of Jesus some sixty-five times in the Synoptic Gospels {Matthew, Mark, Luke} and over one-hundred times in John. The exact term Jesus used is found three times in the New Testament {Abba-Pater Mark 14:36; Rom. 8:15; Gal. 4:6}. Jesus usage of Father in addressing God was unique in several ways. One, the rarity of this designation for God is striking. There is no evidence in pre-Christian Jewish literature that Jews addressed God 
as Abba.[1] 

Another reason this term is so unique is the intimacy of the term. Abba was reserved for children addressing their father. Earlier scholars and interpreters found the nearest English equivalent to be “daddy,” however, recently, it has been found to have been used by children and adults, as a result it is best to understand Abba as father rather than daddy.[2] This usage of the Abba Father was also unique because of the frequency of the metaphor in the Old Testament and other Jewish literature. It is found over 165 times in the New Testament and fifteen in the entire Old Testament. This was not only a way in which Jesus taught His disciples to address God, it was the only way. When teaching the disciples to pray, He instructed them, “Father, hollowed be your name” {Lk. 11:2}. The Greek-speaking Gentile churches in Galatia and Rome continued to address God as Abba.

I wrote earlier that one views their earthly father, is how they view their heavenly Father. If this is true, and you don’t have a good relationship with your earthly father, there is a deficiency in your relationship with God. How then can we get a healthy Biblical perception of the Father? We must remember, our earthly fathers are only a snapshot of who our true Father is. We cannot judge God by the example of our earthly fathers—whether they were good fathers or not.

When we address God as our Father, we come by relationship; no one can approach God as Father but by Jesus Christ His Son, and His sacrifice at Calvary {Jn. 14:6}. The love the Father has for all that He created is matchless. He loves us so much that He sent Christ to redeem and restore us.

Divine Fatherhood begins not with man, but with the Godhead, in whose eternal depths is found the spring of that Fatherly love that reveals itself in time. It is first of all in relation to the eternal Son—before all time—that the meaning of Fatherhood in God is made clear (John 1:18). In ‘God the Father’ we have a name pointing to that relation which the first Person in the adorable Trinity sustains to ‘Son’ and ‘Holy Spirit’—also Divine (Matthew 28:19). From this eternal fountain-head flow the relations of God as Father (1) to the world by creation;(2) to believers by grace.[3]  

Man was created so that his true nature resembles the Father, and revealed in sonship. Sin unfortunately, frustrated mans relationship with God, and now can only be restored by Christ’s redemption. That is why the place of sonship in the gospel is a privilege not to be taken for granted, and we should bow in humble worship at His love, “See how great a love the Father has bestowed on us, that we would be called children of God; and such we are. For this reason the world does not know us, because it did not know Him” {1 Jn. 3:1 NASB}. Our sonship was obtained by grace {Jn. 1: 12-13 NASB}, and through adoption by the Father {Rom. 8: 14, 19 NASB}. We are Sons of God which is true of no others. It is a relation, not of nature, but of grace. For this reason I bow my knees before the Father {Eph. 3:14}.

God our Father is the source of all life—all creation. Take time and admire all that God has created—the vast, beautiful, world—it would not exist without Him. God is the Father of Lights—the light of the natural world, the sun, the moon, the stars, shining in the heavens. “He is the light of reason and conscience; the light of His Law; the Light of Prophecy, shining in a dark place.”[4]

He lovingly corrects us, true discipline is always done out of love for His children {Heb. 12:3-11}, if He did not, we would not be true children. As our Father, He provides for our needs, and He desires for us to enjoy everything He has provided through His marvelous creation:

For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened. Or what man is there among you who, when his son asks for a loaf, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, he will not give him a snake, will he? If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give what is good to those who ask Him!” {Matt. 7:8-11 NASB}.

His provision is not only for our material needs, but for our spiritual needs as well. Jesus said that if we ask for the Holy Spirit, God will give Him abundantly. Luke’s Gospel gives a similar account:

For everyone who asks, receives; and he who seeks, finds; and to him who knocks, it will be opened. Now suppose one of you fathers is asked by his son for a fish; he will not give him a snake instead of a fish, will he? Or if he is asked for an egg, he will not give him a scorpion, will he? If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him?” {Luke 11: 10-14}.

The Father loves you so much; Sometimes it is hard to fathom. Whatever you have done and however far you have run from the Father, He will take you back. He is the ultimate model of forgiveness. He will stand out on the porch and stare down the road—waiting for you to come back to Him. Upon first glance of your return He will run to meet you. He will put a clean robe on your back and a ring on your finger {Luke 15:11-32}. He will protect you and shelter you. He will feed you and take care of you. He will wash you clean and restore you as His son or daughter.

The Return of the Prodigal Son by Rembrandt

God revealed through Christ that it is possible to have a personal relationship with Him that goes far beyond just acknowledging Him as the One who created us. We are children in God’s eyes and enjoy a special relationship and love that only a father and his children can share. We are no longer servants having a master, but sons and daughters having a Father.

But when the fullness of the time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law, so that He might redeem those who were under the Law, that we might receive the adoption as sons. Because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” Therefore you are no longer a slave, but a son; and if a son, then an heir through God” {Gal. 4: 4-7 NASB}.

[1] Walter A. Elwell ed., Baker Theological Dictionary Of The Bible (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1996), 247.
[2] Ibid.
[3] James Orr, ed., “Father, God” in International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, 1915.
[4] Herbert Lockyer, All The Divine Names And Titles In The Bible (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1979), 67.

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Sabbath Sanctuary: He Holds Our Breath

God is wise and all-powerful. Who has opposed Him and come out unharmed?  He removes mountains without their knowledge, overturning them in His anger. He shakes the earth from its place so that its pillars tremble {Job 9: 4-6 HCB}.

He commands the sun not to shine and seals off the stars. He alone stretches out the heavens and 
treads on the waves of the sea. He makes the stars: the Bear, Orion, the Pleiades, and the constellations of the southern sky. He does great and unsearchable things, wonders without number {Job 9: 4-10 HCB}.

The life of every living thing is in His hand, as well as the breath of all mankind {Job 12:10}.
Don’t you know that ever since antiquity, from the time man was placed on earth, the joy of the wicked has been brief and the happiness of the godless has lasted only a moment? {Job 20: 4-5}

Take it from a man {Job} who was enduring terrible grief and suffering, that though the wicked seem to be wreaking havoc, and the universe appears to be a spinning ball of chaos⸺a place where mercy and justice are fleeting⸺The Almighty is in control. 

Rest in God this Sabbath weekend. Sit in His presence; admire His creation and offer Him worship for the mighty works of His hand. He has done great things for you.

Friday, October 13, 2017

The Feast of Tabernacles and The Tabernacle of David

Wednesday night at sundown, the Feast of Tabernacles drew to a close. This feast is my favorite to study because of the symbolism that speaks to the Lord’s person and ministry, who came and tabernacled with us. The reason I love examining the feasts, is to celebrate the Christology in them and the fulfillment of them in Christ. I do not “keep” the feasts, but I study them to gain an understanding of end-time events. Not all of the feasts have been fulfilled. The fall feasts, (The Feast of Trumpets, The Feast of Tabernacles, and the Day of Atonement), speak to future events.

 “Nothing that has yet taken place, answers to this season of festive joy; its answers are to be found in the future day of glory when Christ and His risen saints shall fill the heavens above, reigning and rejoicing over  the world.” [1]

For believers in Christ, He is our atonement, but there is coming a day when all Israel will look upon Him who they pierced {see Zech. 12:10} and receive Him as the Messiah.

Leviticus 23 describes the Lord’s command for the Feast of Tabernacles. The people are to build temporary tents, or as The NASB renders it, Booths; it is the Lord’s appointed time to remind the Israelites of their season in the wilderness, of living in tents, and how the Lord sustained them (Lev. 23:33-44). It is also a time to celebrate in awe and wonder that the Creator of the universe came to dwell with His people

God spoke to us in His Word through the Tabernacles of Moses, David, and the Temple of Solomon. They all speak to the life, work, and ministry of Jesus Christ. The Gospel of John uses the Feasts of Israel to demonstrate that Jesus is who He claimed to be—the Messiah, and the fulfillment of all the symbolism they contain.

On the close of the of the first day of Tabernacles, worshipers descend to the Court of Women where great preparations for the feast are made.[2] In the court there were four large golden menorahs (lampstands) each with four bowls. Four young men of priestly descent, climbed ladders with a pitcher of oil to fill the bowls. The Gemara (rabbinical commentary on the Mishnah) on this passage says, the menorahs were seventy-five feet high (Sukkah 52b).[3] “There was not a court in Jerusalem that was not lit up by the light of the ‘house of water-pouring.’”[4] This is the ceremony of the Illumination of the Temple, and the lampstands could be seen throughout Jerusalem.

It is in the sight of these large lampstands that Jesus heals a man born blind. Jesus is the fulfillment of the symbolism in the Feast of Tabernacles as the Light of the world. When He saw the blind man He said, “As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world” (Jn. 9:5). Jesus applies mud to the man’s eyes and instructs him to wash in the Siloam pool; the man followed Jesus’ instructions and was healed. It is no accident that water, blindness, and joy are symbols in the feast and in the ceremonies, and that they correlate with the events in Jesus’ ministry.

Just before the lighting of these lampstands the priest announces, “He who has not seen the joy of the place of water-drawing has never in his life seen joy.”[5] The ceremony was a time of great joy and celebration, and it happened in the light of the Temple court. “The Levitical orchestras cut loose, and some sources attest that this went on every night of the Feast of Tabernacles, with the temple area shedding its glow all over Jerusalem.”[6] This is the context for Jesus’ declaration, “I am the light of the World (Jn. 8:12). John, at the beginning of his testimony, declared Jesus to be the light of men (Jn. 1:4). The light has Old Testament allusions of the glory of the very presence of God in the cloud that led the people in the wilderness. This may have other allusions as well:

“That Jesus offers his light to the whole world, to all the nations, may suggest an allusion to Isaiah 42:6; 49:6. Walking in darkness (cf. Jn. 9:4; 11:9) is a natural metaphor for stumbling (Is. 59:10; Jer. 13:16), falling from the right way (Jer. 18:15; Mal. 2:8) or being destroyed (Ps. 27:2; Jer. 20:11).”[7]

The light may be an allusion as well to the Shekinah glory that filled the Temple (1 Kgs. 8:11). John uses this symbolism to testify to Jesus’ christological claim to be the light of God to the world. Jesus is the very embodiment of this feast.

The idea that Jesus is our Tabernacle, is support throughout Scripture. John 1:14 states that Jesus came and tabernacled (dwelt among us).  Peter and Paul both encourage us that our bodies are tabernacles as well {2 Pet. 1: 13-14; 2 Cor. 5:1-5}. Acts 7:44 and Heb. 9:2-8 affirm that the Tabernacle of Moses was a tent of habitation {Acts 7:44Heb. 9:2-8}, but that Jesus is a Tabernacle not made of men {Heb. 8: 1-6}.

Why was the Tabernacle of Moses built? Because God desired for them to make Him a sanctuary so that He can dwell among us (Ex. 25:8). He instructed the building of the tabernacle in order to establish and foster the covenant relationship between Him and man. The Ark of the Covenant, which rested inside the Holy of Holies, was where God’s glory dwelt. This also speaks of the ministry of Christ as He is the glory of the Father {Heb. 1:3}.

At the dedication of Solomon's temple during the festival of Sukkot, Solomon asked, “Will God indeed dwell on the earth?” (1 Kings 8:2, 27) This was fulfilled when Yeshua became flesh and dwelt (tabernacled) among us (John 1:14). At His first coming, He came to earth and dwelt among men for more than thirty years. He dwells in us now through the Holy Spirit. When He comes again, we will dwell with Him forever.

The Feast of Tabernacles came to be associated with eschatological hopes (cf. Zech. 14:16-19).”[8] Jesus was the fulfilment of the feast, however, it holds future eschatological implications as well. This Feast “represents the completed or finished work of God in both this present age in which we live and the lives of individual believers.”[9] The Feast of Tabernacles represents the Lord’s shelter in His future Tabernacle during the Kingdom Age. He will establish His Tabernacle in Jerusalem (see Ezek. 37:26), and the world will appear before Christ and worship Him (see Zech. 14:16-17). “Tabernacles is the one Old Testament feast that is specifically singled out for observance in the eschatological context of the testament of peace.”[10]

The Tabernacle of David
How then does this relate to the Tabernacle of David? Of the two tabernacles mentioned in Scripture (Moses and David), only one of them will be rebuilt. The Tabernacle of David.

Old Testament reference:

“‘In that day I will raise up the fallen booth of David, and wall up its breaches; I will also raise up its ruins and rebuild it as in the days of old; That they may possess the remnant of Edom and all the nations who are called by My name’ Declares the Lord who does this” {Amos 9:10-12}.

New Testament reference:

After they had stopped speaking, James answered, saying, ‘Brethren, listen to me. Simeon has related how God first concerned Himself about taking from among the Gentiles a people for His name. With this the words of the Prophets agree, just as it is written, ‘After these things I will return, And I will rebuild the tabernacle of David which has fallen, And I will rebuild its ruins, And I will restore it, So that the rest of mankind may seek the Lord, And all the Gentiles who are called by My name,’ Says the Lord, who makes these things known from long ago” {Acts 15: 13-18 NASB}.

David’s Tabernacle was simply a tent, pitched in Jerusalem on Mt. Zion. It is important to know that David’s Tabernacle and Moses’ Tabernacle were functioning at the same time. In 1 Samuel we read about the capture of the Ark of the Covenant, which represented God’s presence Himself, as it was taken into battle presumptuously. It was never again to return to the Tabernacle of Moses. However, the priestly service and sacrifices continued. King David, was a worshiper; a man after God’s heart. He desired to bring the Ark back to Israel to restore God’s honor and presence to its rightful place. David lived in Jerusalem and he wanted to make Jerusalem the “worship center of the world.” David set up a tent in Jerusalem to bring the Ark—God’s presence—to rest.  

In 1 Chronicles we read about David bringing the ark to the new Tabernacle. The Levites had purified themselves in preparation, and though sacrifices were not part of David’s Tabernacle, seven bulls and seven rams were sacrificed to the Lord, as the ark was moved from Obed-Edom’s house to its new resting place. It rested there for forty years until Solomon’s Temple. David’s Tabernacle was a new established order of worship. Moses’ Tabernacle did not have musicians and instruments. The form of worship was in obedience and sacrifice. In John 4, the Samaritan woman argued with Jesus about where the proper place of worship should be. The Samaritans worshiped at Abraham’s well, the Jews worshiped in Jerusalem. Jesus told her that true worship was not about a place, but worship must come from the heart: 

 Woman, believe Me, an hour is coming when neither in this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. But an hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for such people the Father seeks to be His worshipers. God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth” {Jn. 4: 21-24}.

The rebuilding of the Tabernacle of David is not only speaking of the expansion of the Kingdom to the Gentiles, but also to a revival of the kind of prayer and worship that existed when David’s Tabernacle stood in Jerusalem.

The verse in Amos 9:10-12  tells us that God will reestablish David’s tent over both the Northern and Southern Kingdoms. David’s reign had been a protective covering (tent) over all the people of Israel. It fell with the split between the ten Northern tribes and the two Southern tribes {1 Kgs. 12}. The “tent” had been broken in two, but God promised to unite the two kingdoms again under David’s rule {Jer. 30:3-10; Ezek. 37:15-28; Hosea 3: 4-5}. This means the Jews and the Gentiles. The “remnant of Edom” and “all the nations who are called by My name,” directly reference the Gentiles.

“The united kingdom under its Davidic King will then become the source of blessing to all Gentiles. Edom, a nation perpetually hostile toward God’s people {cf. Num. 20:14-21; Ps. 137:7; Obad. 1}, and therefore representative of all Israel’s enemies, will become a sharer in the promises to David: Israel will possess the remnant of Edom {cf. Obad. 19}. In fact, all…nations will be brought under the dominion of the Davidic King, for they too bear God’s name.[11] David was a symbol and type of Christ; the Davidic Kingdom speaks to the Kingdom of Christ.

The Feast of Tabernacles is the one feast that the Bible declares that the remnant of all the nations that went against Jerusalem will celebrate in Jerusalem, Then it will come about that any who are left of all the nations that went against Jerusalem will go up from year to year to worship the King, the Lord of hosts, and to celebrate the Feast of Booths {Zech. 14:16 NASB}.

The depth and richness of the theological implications of the Tabernacle of David cannot be treated in one blog entry. Nor can the Tabernacle of David. The connection between the Feast of Tabernacles and the Tabernacle of David are remarkable to me. I have spoken before about eventually discussing the Tabernacle of David, and the Temple of Solomon, now that we are finished with the Tabernacle of Moses. More on the tabernacles will come.

[1] John Ritchie, Feasts Of Jehovah: Foreshadow Of Christ In The Calendar Of Israel (Grand Rapids: Kregel Classics, 1982), 67.
[2] Alfred Edersheim, The Temple: It’s Ministry And Services As They Were In The Time Of Christ (Peabody: Hendrickson Publishers, Inc., 1994), 224.
[3] David H. Stern, Jewish New Testament Commentary (Clarksville: Jewish New Testament Publications, Inc., 1992), 182.
[4] Edersheim, 224.
[5] D.A. Carson, The Gospel According To John (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1991), 337.
[6] Ibid.
[7] Craig S. Keener, The IVP Bible Background Commentary (Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 2014), 271.
[8] Andreas J. Köstenberger, Encountering John, 2 ed., (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2013), 90.
[9] Richard Booker, Celebrating Jesus In The Biblical Feasts (Shippensburg: Destiny Image Publishers, 2009), 141.
[10] Barton J. Payne, The Theology Of The Older Testament (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1962), 405.
[11] John Walvoord and Roy Buck, eds., The Bible Knowledge Commentary: Old Testament (Colorado Springs: David C. Books, 1985), 1451.