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In Ezra, Christ is the ruler of Kings

26 May

A Scarlet Thread is a hint in the O.T. that gave us a picture of what the Messiah would be like. While not a picture of Jesus Himself, the book of Ezra does paint an allegorical picture of the gospel invitation and the Christian’s walk in the face of enemies.
In this book, we see Christ as the ruler of kings. He moves earthly monarchs to fulfill His will. Behind the movements of men and nations, there is the unseen and omnipotent hand of God. Three pagan kings are presented in this book, each one doing what he desires to do, yet fulfilling the purposes of God in their plans. God stirs up the spirits of those people by regeneration and makes them willing. God raises them out of slavery to sin into the liberty of the children of God. This is how the heavenly Canaan will be filled. God first calls, then He enables us to respond. Some choose to stay in Babylon, unwilling to leave behind the familiar world they’ve always known.
Cyrus’ proclamation is itself a picture of the general call of the gospel for people to leave this world and go to the Promised Land. The bringing back of the Jews from captivity represents the redemption of sinners by Jesus Christ.
An account is kept of the names of the people of the kingdom. Likewise our names are written in the Book of Life. “And anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire.” Rev. 20:15
Some who had no evidence of their priesthood were rejected. Ezra 3:62 If people have no evidence that by the new birth they are priests to God, through Jesus Christ, they have no rights to the comforts and privileges of Christians. See the parable of the marriage feast in Matthew 22:11-13.
When the tabernacle was being constructed in the wilderness, the people gave more than was needed, and had to be restrained from giving. When the first temple was constructed, the people gave generously at all stages of the construction and later for the worship. Now again, they are giving (Ezra 2:69) 25 tons of silver, 4 tons of gold, and 100 priestly garments.

In the New Covenant, we are not living in a theocracy. Our taxes support our society, and our givings are never referred to as a tithe, but only ever as offerings and gifts. We are to give cheerfully, willingly, deliberately, as God has prospered us.

In the Book of Malachi, Jesus is the Messenger of the Covenant

11 May

John the Baptist preaching
The people had just asked, “Where is the God of justice?” God responds by saying, He is coming. How will they recognize Him? A messenger will be sent on ahead of Him, to prepare the way.
“Behold, I send My messenger, and he will prepare the way before Me.” Mal. 3:1a
The idea here is of an envoy sent ahead to smooth out the path before a monarch arrived. He would make sure all was ready for the arrival of the king.
He is called My messenger, which is the meaning of Malachi’s name, but he is not referring to himself. This messenger will come in the spirit and power of Elijah. This is not Elijah himself, returned to earth. But someone much like him in appearance and in message.
The fact that “he will prepare the way before Me,” would remind them of Isaiah’s prophecy, which John the Baptist quotes to describe who he is.
“The voice of one crying in the wilderness:
‘Prepare the way of the LORD;
Make straight in the desert
A highway for our God.
Every valley shall be exalted
And every mountain and hill brought low;
The crooked places shall be made straight
And the rough places smooth;

The glory of the LORD shall be revealed,
And all flesh shall see it together;
For the mouth of the LORD has spoken.’” Isa. 40:3-5
Each of the gospels quotes at least part of this text and Matthew also quotes from Malachi, linking the two in reference to John the Baptist.
“Then they said to him, ‘Who are you, that we may give an answer to those who sent us? What do you say about yourself?’
He said: ‘I am
“The voice of one crying in the wilderness:
‘Make straight the way of the LORD,’“ as the prophet Isaiah said.’”
John 1:22,23
We know that John the Baptist, who preached in Judea prior to Jesus’ public ministry was similar in appearance to Elijah.
“Then he said to them, ‘What kind of man was it who came up to meet you and told you these words?’
So they answered him, ‘A hairy man wearing a leather belt around his waist.’
And he said, ‘It is Elijah the Tishbite.’” 2 Kings 1:7,8
“In those days John the Baptist came preaching in the wilderness of Judea, and saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!” For this is he who was spoken of by the prophet Isaiah, saying:
“The voice of one crying in the wilderness:
‘Prepare the way of the LORD;
Make His paths straight.’ ”

“Now John himself was clothed in camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist; and his food was locusts and wild honey. Then Jerusalem, all Judea, and all the region around the Jordan went out to him and were baptized by him in the Jordan, confessing their sins.”
Matt. 3:1-6
The content of John the Baptist’s preaching is described; it will reach men’s hearts and change them. He will prepare the way for the Saviour.
“Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet
Before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD.
And he will turn
The hearts of the fathers to the children,
And the hearts of the children to their fathers,
Lest I come and strike the earth with a curse.” Mal. 4:5,6
The angel Gabriel announced this to John the Baptist’s father, Zacharias:
“But the angel said to him, ‘Do not be afraid, Zacharias, for your prayer is heard; and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall call his name John. And you will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth. For he will be great in the sight of the Lord, and shall drink neither wine nor strong drink. He will also be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother’s womb. And he will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God. He will also go before Him in the spirit and power of Elijah, ‘to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children,’ and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.’” Luke 1:13-17
Jesus clearly says that John is the fulfillment of this prophecy:
“And His disciples asked Him, saying, ‘Why then do the scribes say that Elijah must come first?’
Jesus answered and said to them, ‘Indeed, Elijah is coming first and will restore all things. But I say to you that Elijah has come already, and they did not know him but did to him whatever they wished. Likewise the Son of Man is also about to suffer at their hands.’ Then the disciples understood that He spoke to them of John the Baptist.”
Matt. 17:10-13
For this is he of whom it is written:
‘Behold, I send My messenger before Your face,
Who will prepare Your way before You.’
“Assuredly, I say to you, among those born of women there has not risen one greater than John the Baptist; but he who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he. And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and the violent take it by force. For all the prophets and the law prophesied until John. And if you are willing to receive it, he is Elijah who is to come.”
Matt. 11:10-14
So, since we know that this prophecy was fulfilled 400 years after it was given, in the person of John the Baptist, it tells us that the Messenger of the Covenant would follow behind. He did. It’s one thing to send a messenger, which He had been doing up until this point, but quite another thing to come Himself.
“’Behold, I send My messenger,
And he will prepare the way before Me.
And the Lord, whom you seek,
Will suddenly come to His temple,
Even the Messenger of the covenant,
In whom you delight.
Behold, He is coming,’
Says the LORD of hosts.” Mal. 3:1
Malachi tells us a few things about Him: He is the Lord. He will come suddenly (unexpectedly), to His temple. He is the Messenger of the covenant.
First, He is the Lord. Isaiah’s prophecy said to ‘prepare the way of the LORD.’ And ‘a highway for our God.’ We saw in the book of Zechariah that God promised several times that He would come and dwell in their midst.
Second, He will come suddenly, to His temple. For it to be His temple and not just to the temple, means that He is the Lord. Jesus first public appearance after His baptism was to cleanse the temple. Three of the gospels record this. (Matt.21:12, Mark 11:15, and John 2:13).
Finally, He is called the Messenger of the covenant. He came to establish the new covenant.
“And He took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, ‘This is My body which is given for you; do this in remembrance of Me.’
Likewise He also took the cup after supper, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in My blood, which is shed for you.’” Lu. 22:19,20
So if the messenger who comes before is John the Baptist, then we know that Jesus is the One he was preparing the way for, as John also testified.
“The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, ‘Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! This is He of whom I said, “After me comes a Man who is preferred before me, for He was before me.”’” John 1:29,30
The next description of what He would come to do was in reply to their question, “Where is the God of justice?” He says He is coming near for judgment, and to purify with fire and with soap. This refers to both His first and second coming, as in the first advent, He dealt with our sin problem. This resulted in offerings made that pleased Him. When He comes the second time, it will be for judgment, and all wrongs will be made right, because He is a God of justice.
The image of a refiner’s fire is that when a metal worker is refining silver, he heats it up, then scoops away the dross which rises to the surface. He keeps peering into it until he can see his reflection in the silver. Then he knows it is pure.
Likewise, God refines us in the fire of affliction, removing our sins, until He sees His image reflected in us.
When Jesus read from the prophecy of Isaiah in Nazareth, He read,
“The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon Me,
Because the LORD has anointed Me
To preach good tidings to the poor;
He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted,
To proclaim liberty to the captives,
And the opening of the prison to those who are bound;
To proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD,” Isa. 61:1, 2a
He then announced that this remarkable prophecy had been fulfilled in Himself. (Lu. 4:18,19) But if you look at what He didn’t read, the next line, it shows that a day of grace would precede the final judgment.
The next verse was, “and the day of vengeance of our God.”
This is similar to what we see here in Malachi’s prophecy. When prophets were given messages, they didn’t know which parts would be fulfilled when. Even John the Baptist preached themes of judgment that didn’t occur during Jesus’ ministry.
We are now in that day of grace between Jesus’ first and second advent. We should never demand justice, only cry for mercy.
Just as there were 400 years of silence till these prophecies were fulfilled, we are experiencing the silence of God for 2,000 years. Don’t be anxious for Him to speak again. He has said all that needs to be said through His Son. The next time He speaks will be when He comes to judge the earth. Today is the day of grace. Come to Him while there is still time.

In Zechariah, Jesus is the Smitten Shepherd

9 May

scattered sheep
“Awake, O sword, against My Shepherd,
Against the Man who is My Companion,”
Says the LORD of hosts.
“Strike the Shepherd,
And the sheep will be scattered;
Then I will turn My hand against the little ones.” Zech. 13:7
This would not be so surprising if it was against the three false shepherds of Zech. 11:8 or the foolish shepherd of 11:15-17. But here we have God Himself giving the order to the sword of justice to awake against His Son, here called ‘My Shepherd’, and ‘the Man who is My Companion’, or equal. In this we see both the incarnation and the atonement.
We know this was His plan. “Yet it pleased the LORD to bruise Him; He has put Him to grief.” Isa. 53:10a “Him, being delivered by the determined purpose and foreknowledge of God, you have taken by lawless hands, have crucified, and put to death.” Acts 2:23

Jesus was the Good Shepherd, who would lay down His life for the sheep. “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd gives His life for the sheep.” John 10:11
The second part of the verse was fulfilled the night before Jesus was crucified. Jesus told His disciples in advance that this would happen. Then Jesus said to them, “All of you will be made to stumble because of Me this night, for it is written: ‘I will strike the Shepherd, And the sheep of the flock will be scattered.’ Matt. 26:31 They didn’t believe it, and instead boasted that they would die for Him. But Peter denied Him that night, as Jesus prophesied, and the rest forsook Him in fear for their own lives. “But all this was done that the Scriptures of the prophets might be fulfilled. Then all the disciples forsook Him and fled.” Matt. 26:56
The final portion of the verse, “Then I will turn My hand against the little ones.” This may refer to the persecution that would follow, or the destruction that would come upon Jerusalem for the rejection of the True Shepherd.


In Zechariah, Jesus is the Firstborn Son over whom they will Grieve and Mourn

8 Dec

pierced hands
“And I will pour on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem the Spirit of grace and supplication; then they will look on Me whom they pierced. Yes, they will mourn for Him as one mourns for his only son, and grieve for Him as one grieves for a firstborn.” Zech. 12:10
This is a prophecy that was fulfilled in small measure at the time of the early church when thousands of Jews, many of whom had called for Jesus’ crucifixion, later repented and recognized they were guilty of murdering the Messiah. But a greater fulfillment awaits. God promises to pour out a Spirit of grace and supplication on them. Because of His grace (unmerited favour) they will cry out to Him (supplication). God refers to Himself as the One pierced. This refers to the deity of Jesus. He was pierced on the cross, both in His hands and feet, and the spear in His side.

This was foretold centuries earlier in Psalm 22, a Messianic psalm.
“For dogs have surrounded Me;
The congregation of the wicked has enclosed Me.
They pierced My hands and My feet;
I can count all My bones.
They look and stare at Me.
They divide My garments among them,
And for My clothing they cast lots.” Psalm 22:16-18
It’s important to remember that when this Psalm was written, the practice of crucifixion was completely unknown.
The result of their recognition of guilt for the death of the son of God will be to grieve and mourn. This confirms that this piercing resulted in death. The grief will be of the worst kind; mourning as for an only son, and grieving as for a firstborn. And Jesus is God’s only begotten Son, and He is the firstborn, both literally, and in status. He is also called the firstborn from the dead, relating to His resurrection.
This is a promise of salvation to a remnant of Jews. In the book of Revelation there is a similar recognition of who Jesus is, but it comes too late.
“Behold, He is coming with clouds, and every eye will see Him, even they who pierced Him. And all the tribes of the earth will mourn because of Him. Even so, Amen.” Rev. 1:7

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