The Davidic Covenant 5 - The Seed

The Davidic Covenant 5 – The Seed

When your days are fulfilled and you rest with your fathers, I will set up your seed after you, who will come from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for My name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. I will be his Father, and he shall be My son. If he commits iniquity, I will chasten him with the rod of men and with the blows of the sons of men.” –  2 Samuel 7:12-14 (NKJV)

The seed of David is a descendent of David. The Davidic Covenant goes beyond the lifetime of King David himself. Yet, it is not descendants, but a particular descendent as it is singular in all mention of him.

I want to first establish that King Solomon is NOT the descendent referred to in this context based on the few conditions stated in this covenant.

  1. “Build a house for God’s name” – Solomon did build temple for God but it never carried God’s name. It was called the Temple of Solomon.
  2. “Establish the throne of his kingdom forever” – We know historically that after Solomon, the Kingdom of Israel was in a decline and eventually lost her sovereignty.
  3. “I will be his Father, and he shall be My son” – Solomon was known as the son of David, never as a son of God.

I will be his Father, and he shall be My son

This one line blew my mind. God adopts David’s son as His own. This is a singular individual adoption of a son of David. We as believers are children of God as a collective through Jesus Christ, i.e. a second degree adoption. The Davidic Covenant is a first degree direct adoption by God with David the father. This means that this son will be called both son of David and son of God. Based on this, we know the only person carrying this dual identity is Jesus Christ. Jesus’ genealogy traces back to David (Matthew 1:1-17, Luke 3:23-38, Romans 1:3-4, Revelation 5:5 & 22:16).

Following this declaration, God went on to talk about chastening this son. God was clear that He will not give special concession to His son from earthly human discipline for trespasses. The son of God is not spared of the consequences of sin as the son of David, a man, no concession or exemption. It is hard to reconcile this as we know that Jesus was sinless on earth. The Son of God should not have sin on him. Yet as the son of David and as the king over all nations (as discussed in Part 4 on Rest), the responsibility of the sin of all his subjects in the kingdom is upon him. This is what great leaders do. Jesus did exactly this. He went on the cross for the sin of all in His Kingdom, suffering the “rod and blows of man”.

Throne of His Kingdom Forever

The only possible kingdom that will last forever, literally eternity, will be one of God. No earthly king could ever achieve this, even the greatest empires and kingdoms. This is impossible by human means and effort. Therefore God promised to establish this kingdom. God repeated “I will establish his kingdom” and “I will establish the throne of his kingdom” with the emphasis of His sovereignty in this matter.

House for God’s Name

God stated that this house will carry the name of God. This makes complete sense as the kingdom and throne will be established by God Himself. The Tabernacle of David was named after David, similarly the Temple of Solomon after Solomon. We know that historically, Temple of Solomon was destroyed 586 BCE when the Babylonians captured Jerusalem. The Ark of the Covenant was also lost. There was no physical house built for God since then till present. So what might this house be?

Jesus answered and said to them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” 20 Then the Jews said, “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and will You raise it up in three days?” 21 But He was speaking of the temple of His body.           22 Therefore, when He had risen from the dead, His disciples remembered that He had said this to them; and they believed the Scripture and the word which Jesus had said.” – John 2:19-22 (NKJV)

Jesus talked about destroying the Temple and rebuilding it again in three days. Verse 22 interpreted it for us as Christ’s death and resurrection. John Piper’s exposition on this passage provided a second level of understanding that “this temple” that Jesus was referring to can also mean the physical temple that He was in at that time (https://www.desiringgod.org/messages/destroy-this-temple-and-in-three-days-i-will-raise-it-up). The Pharisees were on the road to destroying the temple when they hide their love for money behind religion. The temple is only truly a temple when the presence of God in the temple, otherwise it is an empty shell. Based on this definition of a temple, Jesus is the temple of God as He embodies 100% of God here on earth.

I love the word used in this covenant is house and not temple. House is God’s abiding place with relationship and intimacy. Whereas a temple is more ritualistic that is distant and formal. This covenant is a paradigm shift. The house of God is moved from place to person, represented by the shift from temple to house, which I see as from ritualistic to relational.

Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?” – 1 Corinthian 3:16  (NKJV)

Based on the same rationale that the temple of God is where God presence is, followers of Jesus Christ who are filled with the Spirit of God are also temple of God. The temple of God has now been decentralised and scattered where geographical location is no longer a limitation. The “seed” has multiplied!

Jesus is the Seed

Conclusion of the matter is that Jesus is the seed or descendent referred to in the Davidic Covenant. As straight forward as this conclusion is to some, I appreciated the multi-levels and depth of this implication to my revelation of Jesus Christ’s purpose of birth, life, death, resurrection, and second coming.

The Davidic Covenant Series:

The Davidic Covenant 4 - The Rest

The Davidic Covenant 4 – The Rest

I will also appoint a place for My people Israel and will plant them, that they may live in their own place and not be disturbed again, nor will the wicked afflict them any more as formerly, I will give you rest from all your enemies.” – 2 Sam 7:10-11a

The context of the Davidic Covenant was God’s response to David’s desire to build Him a house when Israel was in a place of prosperity and peace. It was a time of rest for David and Israel. It is a little baffling to promise rest at this point. From a human’s need point of view, the promise would have given more assurance and comfort before the battles fought for the land?

Was the rest King David enjoyed permanent? Historically, we know it was not. David’s absence from war when he decided to stay in Jerusalem led him to adultery with Bathsheba (2 Samuel 11:1). Even with the established Kingdom of David at that time, he still had to go out to war to maintain peace as the enemies were not at rest. When the enemy is still at work, there is no true rest. The kingdom reached its peak during King Solomon’s days, after which it was a slippery road of loss. Israel eventually lost its sovereignty as a nation and its land. Closer to our times, the Holocaust is a horror in history to the Jewish people that the world is still left wondering how it happened. The modern nation of Israel is also constantly at war with its neighbours now. The promise of rest from all enemies in the physical has not come to pass till today as the nation of Israel is still at war.

True Rest from all the Enemies

When can true rest from all the enemies be experienced?

One way of looking at true rest is when we are sure of victory. As strange as it may sound, a battle can be fought from a place of rest rather than from a place of fear or survival. The mime below shows the “restedness” of Daniel, Peter and Jesus despite their threatening circumstances. King David had this rest when he fought Goliath and all the other battles. If David already had this rest, what is the rest that God promised him in this covenant?

I believe the rest promised here is the literal rest from all enemies, both psychologically and physically. There are prophecies about Israel’s eternal sovereignty and complete victory over her enemies like Zechariah 14:3-9, which points to complete rest for Israel so this perspective aligns with other prophecies.

It is interesting that God changed from “they” and “them” in reference to Israel, to “you” in reference to David within this same verse and sentence. The rest given is to the whole of Israel. For a king, there is no guarantee of rest even when the nation is at rest as the king bears the responsibility of maintaining the rest. Therefore, God addressed David directly with “you”, promising him a complete rest where the king does not need to fight anymore. For this true rest to come, David and/or his descendents cannot be just the king of Israel but as king over all i.e. no more enemies. This promise is yet to be fulfilled till now.

The beauty of God’s covenant is that there is surety of the fulfilment of rest now in Jesus Christ, the Son of David. It is not a down payment as it is paid in full. Paid but not fully claimed might be more appropriate. Even though Jesus has not stepped into the full glory as King over all the nations, His victory on the cross and death gives all who believed in Him a guarantee of this promise to come.

This is another instant where “Now and Not Yet” co-exist Biblically.

Meanwhile, thought I will share this verse with you all that popped up while I was meditating on this topic… =)

2019-04-03 11.05.32.jpg
This is the Verse of the Day on 3 April 2019 in the Bible app while I was still meditating on “REST” while writing this. Says it all that Jesus is the answer for the REST.

The Davidic Covenant Series:

The Davidic Covenant 3 - The Name

The Davidic Covenant 3 – The Name

I have been with you wherever you have gone and have cut off all your enemies from before you; and I will make you a great name, like the names of the great men who are on the earth.” – 2 Sam 7:9 (NASB)

What’s In A Name?

With the promise of a great name in the Davidic Covenant, the first question that arose in my mind is “what’s in a name?” Biblically, a person’s name is a reflection of the person’s destiny in God. This explains why God specifically told Mary to name her son Jesus (Matthew 1:21), which means God is salvation. Jesus is the Saviour of the world through his birth, death and resurrection. There are many more Biblical names that we can discuss but here, our focus is on David, and in relation to the Tabernacle of David.

The Name of David

The Hebrew characters of David is דָּוִד which can be pronounced as “da-wid.” David means “beloved”, derived from the root דּוֹד dôwd, which had an etymological meaning of “to boil”. Interestingly, it evolves in Biblical Hebrew only in figurative usage “to love” and also specifically a term for an uncle (father’s brother).  The two meanings of “beloved” and “uncle” of David bears significance in the calling of David.

The Tabernacle of the Uncle

Tabernacle of the Uncle sounds really strange. I was ready to put this aside until I felt a prompting to dwell on it a little more. I am going to try to explain a complex relationship between God, David and the Son of David/God, Jesus here. God and David have a common son, Jesus, who is both called the Son of God and Son of David. As absurd as this may sound, in this context, God and David are in the same generation standing in a family tree. God and David are both fathers of Jesus, and in a sense uncles, “brothers” of each other.

This relationship from the name paints a picture of close kinship – family. To the Israelites who related to God through the Tabernacle of the Lord, to consider God as family will be sacrilegious and complete dishonouring of God. The Tabernacle of David was erected before the Davidic Covenant was given though. One might see the name as prophetic to the Davidic Covenant that is to come. For me, I am more convicted that the relationship David had with God already reflected kinship and the covenant was a seal of what had already developed.

The Tabernacle of the Beloved

When I put the word “Beloved” into the phrase Tabernacle of David, my whole being leaped in joy. Here we see a deepening in relationship from kinship to intimacy. Embedded in the simple name of David, the significance of the Tabernacle of David came to light. Two popular verses immediately came to mind:

  • Song of Solomon 6:3 “I am my beloved’s and my beloved is mine, He who pastures his flock among the lilies.
  • Revelation 22:17 “The Spirit and the bride say, “Come.” And let the one who hears say, “Come.” And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who wishes take the water of life without cost.

The image of the end time bride of Christ emerges from these verses. In Song of Solomon, the beloved is often times allegorically interpreted as the end-times church. The bride in Revelation is also interpreted as the church of Christ (ref Eph 5:25-32; 2 Cor 11:2). Notwithstanding that in the Old Testament, Israel is often referred to as wife and God as the husband (E.g. Hos 2:7; Isa 54:6). There is an intimacy suggested by the name of the Tabernacle of David, an intimacy that lasts through the end of time of this earth and beyond.

Beloved pronounced the status of relationship of intimacy. In the Tabernacle of David, there was no ceremonial sacrifice and separation between God and man. David was able to meet with God face to face, and others who seek Him bypassing required rituals. It baffled me why God allowed David to break the laws punishable by death to erect this tabernacle without instruction from God like with Moses, but simply by David’s initiation. David had the audacity to do so because he knew God intimately. The Tabernacle of David was birthed from a place of intimacy and not of legality. This intimacy is expressed through joy instead of the solemn fear portrayed in the Tabernacle of the Lord with Moses.

A Great Name

He shall build a house for My name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever.” 2 Samuel 7:13 (NASB)

The Davidic Covenant promised a great name. As we read further to verse 13, the name of David will be great because it is tied to God’s name. The Davidic Covenant is not solely about David but God. God has willingly tied His name intricately to David’s, where the house of David bears the name of God. This is seen in Jesus who is known as both Son of David and Son of God.

How can David’s name not be great when it is so intimately tied to God? It is not the great name, or fame that is the key here. I believe the key lesson here is the relationship that David has with God. The great name is simply a byproduct of intimacy by rubbing off the greatness of God, but never a goal or objective to be achieved.

The Davidic Covenant Series:

The Davidic Covenant 2 – The History

The Lord came to Nathan in the same night as a response to the expressed desire of King David. This response is the Davidic Covenant. God starts off with a reminder of His history with Israel and David.

History with Israel

In the short 3 verses of 2 Sam 7:5-7, God made it clear about His view on a house on earth that was consistent.  God started with a rhetorical question, which in closer examination made David’s proposal sounded ridiculous in the grand schema of things. Let us compare the greatest splendour on earth to heaven, God’s dwelling. Of course, most of us have never seen heaven. Yet it is heaven because it is nothing like earth. A perfect place that cannot be found here on earth. This explains why God has never once commanded the Israelites to build Him a house. A dwelling on earth cannot match up to heaven.

God commanded the Israelites to build the Tabernacle of the Lord through Moses with detailed specifications. He moved from place to place with the Israelites in the Ark of the Covenant carried by the priests and rested in the Tabernacle. He even went into battles with the Israelites. Yet there was no demand of a temple or a permanent house. This is in great contrast to the other pagan gods in the region where the gods require extravagant temples. Just check out the structures left standing in Karnak of Egypt and we can see how grand those temples stood and the building were required of their worshippers. This love of God went beyond Himself to dwell among Israel in a tent, forgoing heaven. How can anyone forgo heaven? Only God who is completely secure in Himself.

It blows my mind to consider the God of heaven and earth would choose to confine Himself in the Ark of the Covenant in a tent to journey with Israel. How humbling can this be? He could have demanded a more extravagant set up and Israel will have to build it. Yet, no matter how extravagant, it still pales in comparison to His heavenly abode with angelic host giving Him full worship day and night, where everything is what it is meant to be. Here on earth, He had to deal with complains, grumblings and disobedience from the very people He was pouring out His love on. It is acceptable for the kings on earth to have extravagant setup, advance security, protocol and honour, even in our current times. For the God of Heaven, the Tabernacle of The Lord, together with His Laws, which also covered the well-being of the Israelites, should receive the honour that is due even though we have the New Testament.

The expectation of His love was not in physical return of a physical dwelling, but the heart of obedience. As deep as this Love runs, the expectation of return is one that runs deep, beyond the physical. The reincarnation of Christ in human form was an extension of this self-giving love that was exhibited right from the time with God in Old Testament. This is the heart of God that has never changed.

History with David (2 Sam 7:8-9a)

God reminded David of his humble beginnings as a young shepherd boy. I love the phrase “from following the sheep” used in NKJV & NASB versions in verse 8. In some other versions, the word “tending” was used but the richness of the role of a shepherd is lost. The phrase “leading from behind”, a leadership concept in the marketplace that is rather revolutionary or even debatable, is derived from the how shepherd’s the lead the sheep from the rear. Thought this blog post is a great read about leading from behind: https://saffold.com/blog/2016/12/15/leading-from-behind-the-shepherds-way/. Shepherd walks at the back of their sheep to help them navigate and allow the sheep to run ahead. Yet when danger comes, the shepherd will move to the front to protect. For someone who does not understand the workings of a shepherd, it will look as though the shepherd is following the sheep as he is at the back.

In a single sentence, God included both leadership of the sheep and the nation of Israel. It is no dispute that God moved David from insignificance to significance, from sheep to nation. Perhaps deeper than this, God is saying the principle of leading for both is the same. Moreover, the nation of Israel is often times alluded as sheep in the Bible. The nation of Israel needed protection and someone to fight for them at the forefront to secure a land that is safe for their dwelling. David fulfilled the role in the years of war as king of Judah, and then king over all Israel. Now that Israel is at rest, it is time for the shepherd to move to the rear to allow the sheep to roam and enjoy. The ability to know when to be at the back and in the front is crucial in leadership and also for the leader. As we read on in chapter 11, we realised David stayed in the rear when he was supposed to go out for battle, leading to adultery with and murder.

The training David received as a young man in the fields with his sheep was the exact transferable skills he needed as a king. This brings to mind how God orchestrated and planned every single detail in David’s life. I believe this is true for each one of us as well. God equips the called, even before the call.

God did not stop there. God showed David how He was the Shepherd to him in verse 9a, “I have been with you wherever you have gone and have cut off all your enemies from before you.” Such a beautiful image here that God is the lead Shepherd. The abiding presence of God was His way of leading in an unassuming way, working behind the scene. This brings a different perspective to understand John 20:27 where the sheep responds to the voice of the shepherd from behind, without the shepherd having to be right up in front. God never fails to show up when dangers come because He is near even though not always visible in the front. So let’s rest in our Shepherd’s leading and protection.

The Davidic Covenant Series:

The Davidic Covenant 1 - The Context

The Davidic Covenant 1 – The Context

As I study more about the Tabernacle of David, the Davidic Covenant is at the core. Instead of trying to define and discuss the Tabernacle of David, I want to start with the Davidic Covenant. Everything about the Tabernacle of David comes back to this covenant.

We are probably familiar with the Abrahamic Covenant, the Mosaic Covenant and the New Covenant. The Davidic Covenant is not taught or discussed very often in church, at least I haven’t heard of a sermon on this in the services I have been to, not including online since we search out topics we are interested in. I only delve into the Davidic Covenant a little more when I was trying to understand the Tabernacle of David. As I took time to study and mediate on the Davidic Covenant, I am deeply convicted that this covenant has deep significance to us as Christians today, almost as important as the New Covenant or even on par.

The Davidic Covenant is found in 2 Samuel 7:5-17.

I was pleasantly surprised by what I found when I read some theologians on the Davidic Covenant in 2 Samuel 7.  There is an acknowledgement that the Davidic Covenant has a key role to play in the Old Testament. Below are a few quotes:

  • Ronald Youngblood’s understand is that 2 Samuel 7 is “the center and focus of . . . the Deuteronomic history itself.
  • Walter Brueggemann regards it as the “dramatic and theological center of the entire Samuel corpus” and as “the most crucial theological statement in the Old Testament.
  • Robert Gordon called this chapter the “ideological summit . . . in the Old Testament as a whole.

King David’s Stage of Life

After all the years of battles both personal and national, King David in 2 Sam 7:1 is described as “settled” and the LORD had given him “rest from his enemies”. Rest is a good place to be. It is a place of blessedness and shalom. Perhaps even being fulfilled, in the sense of fulfilling God’s purpose in his life.

King David’s cedar palace stood in stark contrast to the simple tent the Ark of God rests in. His love and respect for God led David to desire to build God a proper house, rather than a tent.

“Nathan replied to the king, “Whatever you have in mind, go ahead and do it, for the Lord is with you.”” – 2 Sam 7:3

When we examine the word that came to Nathan in the night after his conversation with King David, God’s focus is not in this house that David wanted to build as nothing was mentioned about this house except for 2 Sam 7:6-7. If we examine Nathan’s response, the key was “the Lord is with you“. Again, nothing about the house David wanted to build.

King David’s Heart

I believe it was David’s desire to honour God that led to the Davidic Covenant following. For many believers, we have instances of guilt in forgetting God when we are having a great time, especially in a place of rest and comfort. Yet for King David, in his greatest rest and comfort, he thought of God. David was willing to get up from his place of rest and comfort to work on building a house for God, as much as God did not need or desire it. God never once stopped David from doing it. In fact He allowed David to do it. God commanded that David will not be the one who built the temple but his son Solomon due to the blood shed in his life as a man of battle. David did all the preparation needed to build the temple in his lifetime.

Stage for the Davidic Covenant

I wondered why the David Covenant was given when David was enjoying success and rest.  Would it not be a greater encouragement and motivation to David if the David Covenant was made at the point when he was first anointed king as a forgotten little shepherd boy? Or perhaps when he got his victory over Goliath? There were so many instances that if I was the storyteller will insert the covenant to give a boost this young man in all the circumstances and situations he encountered. The key is this – David made it through without the Davidic Covenant. He made it through without any promise of “greater things”. His focus was on God and His purposes. This intimacy with God carried him through all the tumultous challenges that most of us probably will never experience. He did not need the covenant and promises to succeed. God was the greatest thing for David.

It will be presumptuous of me to speculate that if King David did not remember God and offer to build Him a house, the Davidic Covenant will not be given. Yet, the heart of David made it impossible for me to consider him forgetting God in his time of rest and comfort. I believe that it was because God was above anything in this world that the Davidic Covenant was made.

The Davidic Covenant was not given as an encouragement or motivation to David. It was not given as a reward for David’s heart for God since God was his reward. As I discuss the Davidic Covenant further, these points will be driven deeper. So come journey with me on this. Feel free to leave your thoughts below and I am happy to engage in discussion as I am still learning and seeking understanding.

P.S. I will try and post weekly on the Davidic Covenant until what I have learnt is shared here. I am convicted that this is something I need to discipline myself to work on and share for this season. =)

The Davidic Covenant Series:

Sealed and Guaranteed

Sealed and Guaranteed

My heart was so full and rejoiced deeply on 12 Aug 2018 (Sun) for the baptism of two very dear brother and sister in Christ, Tim and Ruth. The Lord gave me the privilege to journey with them for the past months and it was such an encouragement. My pastor tasked me to deliver a short messge for their baptism. The message is titled Sealed and Guaranteed.

Key Scripture Passage

Ephesians 1:13-14 New King James Version (NKJV)
“In Him you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also, having believed, you were sealed with the HOLY SPIRIT OF PROMISE, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, to the praise of His glory.”
Emphasis mine.

Baptism and Salvation

Water is used for washing and to make clean. Water baptism is more than just a public declaration. It is also a symbolic act of our old self being washed away by the water and emerge as a new person. All the past regrets, shame, pain, loses, victories and achievements, are taken away, far away from us. This is the time to start anew, afresh. A second chance whereby a clear line is drawn. I am so thankful that God uses the physical elements to help us understand and internalise spiritual truths that might be too abstract at times for us.

Baptism is the beginning of our jouney and the end is when our physical body is laid to rest or when Christ comes back, whichever is earlier. Therein lies the challenge of finishing this journey. This is a long marathon and not just a 100m sprint, which we do not know the distance nor the duration of our individual journey.

The beautiful part of it is that we are not alone in this journey, sealed with the Holy Spirit. We are SEALED and GUARANTEED in Christ until He comes back!

Seal

Let’s go a little deeper to understand what it means to be sealed by the Holy Spirit of God. We will look at the instances whereby the concept of seal is used in the Bible to gain insights to the function of a seal.

  1. Locking something within. E.g. how the tomb of Jesus was sealed (Matthew 27:66). This is to keep something precious seperated from the outside within so that there is no access from outside. Each believer’s whole being, spirit, soul and body is “wrapped” by the Holy Spirit to be seperated from the world. Holiness is defined as being separated from the world. The role of the Holy Spirit is to keep us pure and holy, untainted by the world, till Christ comes back for us.
  2. Sign of Authenticity. E.g. circumcision is a seal of righteousness of Abraham (Romans 4:11). Hologram seals for many products, like medication, supplements and even some IT products indicate its authenticity from the original manufacturer or brand. This is to help people identify the genuine products and differentiate from the imitations. The Holy Spirit within a believer marks the authenticity that the believer is of God.
  3. Identification and protection. E.g. Seal of God in the forehead of God’s servants as protection (Revelation 7:3-4). As long as the seal remains intact on a product, we know that they are new and not tampered with. A buyer will safely take the products whose seals are intact and those with broken seals are left to be trashed or heavily discounted for quick clearance. The same for Jesus. He has already paid for us in full and sealed us so that he can come back for us. The seal will be the identification used to protect us and take us home with Him.

Guarantee

Let’s illustrate guarantee through the rental of bicycle at East Coast Park (location where the baptism was held, by the beach). The rental shop requires customers to put in a refundable $200 cash deposit or personal ID as guarantee. The guarantee must be valuable enough for the customer to return their rented bicycles. What does it mean when the Bible says the Holy Spirit is a “guarantee of our inheritance”? God deposited Himself, the Holy Spirit, in us. The Holy Spirit is more than a valuable  guarantee for Jesus to return for us as promised?

Thus, the Holy Spirit as a seal and guarantee locks in our faith, validates us as true children of God and protects us from judgment/destructive forces that are not meant for us.

This implies the completion of our walk and journey with God is only possible by the grace of God.
God sets us on the journey with the assurance of completion. He gives us the resources and security for SUCCESS. God makes provisions for our slips, weariness, ignorance, “blur-ness”, idiosyncrasies and weaknesses.

The ability to continue to the end is NOT based on our own strength. We take the responsibility of our lives, but we are still not perfected yet. This means we stumble and fall. This means we can still fall short.

Our Responsibility – The Cross

Luke 9:23 “Then He said to them all, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me.

Jesus states three requirements that is expected of those who wants to follow him, these make up the part that we have to play in this journey.

  1. Deny himself
  2. Take up his cross daily
  3. Follow Jesus

I will start from the middle requirement, which is to take up our cross daily. Carrying the cross is not equivalent to wearing a cross around our neck. Jesus carried the cross for a few hours to Calvary and here he commanded us to carry it for our whole journey. Does it even make sense that since Jesus already carried our sin on the cross that we need to carry our cross for the rest of our lives after accepting Him? Is the cross that Jesus ask us to carry similar to the cross He carried to Calvary?

The cross was a symbol of shame, a punishment that was given to the worst criminals. Jesus’ death changed the cross from a symbol of shame into a symbol of victory after His resurrection. Jesus carried the cross of shame, with our sin on it, to Calvary. The cross Jesus told us to carry is the cross of victory.

The cross that Jesus carried was heavy, especially with his beaten body, so heavy that Simon had to help him with it (Matthew 27:32). My next question is, “How heavy is the cross that Jesus calls us to carry?” If the cross represents the victory of Christ, it should carry the weight of Christ’s power. If Christ power overcame sin, it should be weightier and thus heavier. If we are unable to even carry the cross of our own sin without crumbling, how then are we able to carry the cross of Christ’s power?

Only God can carry Himself. No one else can.

Sealed and Guaranteed
I used the float found at the baptism site to illustrate the cross. We had a “Jesus” who carried the “cross” bent double. The other who represented us had some fun with it and even put it over her waist. What a contrast in how the cross was carried.

This leads me back to the first step Jesus instructed. To deny ourselves, which in other words, to die to ourselves. The reason why we need to die to ourselves is so that the Holy Spirit in us can fully come alive to enable us to carry the cross! This journey is not to Calvary but to Jesus. It is not to death but to life. So, our responsiblity is not to carry the cross but to deny ourselves to allow the Holy Spirit to carry the cross. This is a very reasonable demand Jesus made of us, possibly the smallest part to play in this narrative.

Is Our Cross Really Neccessary?

I find myself asking God if carrying our cross is really necessary since we already have the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit can serve to remind us of Jesus’ death and resurrection, lead and guide us. The cross seems a little clumsy in this whole works. I realized the “clumsiness” of the cross is exactly what God is looking for. The cross is a large visible object that everyone can see, more of cannot miss. The Holy Spirit within is not visible to the physical eyes and its existance is proven by its workings within a person and through a person. Therefore, this clumsy cross is the testimony of Christ’s victory at work in our daily lives.

Conclusion

The only way to complete this journey is by dying, not just humbling, ourselves. This is the exact same journey Jesus took to obtain victory and glory. To be able to carry the cross daily, we need to die to ourselves. Our victorious completion lies in the cross we carry daily. We can only carry the cross daily when we have the Holy Spirit within us as a seal and guarantee.

The ultimate goal is for the GLORY OF GOD as stated in Ephesians 1:14 and we share in it. Not just at the end of the journey, but throughout the journey as we carry our cross of victorious power.

Phil 1:6b – “He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ;”

Daniel’s Friends in the Furnace

Daniel’s Friends in the Furnace

Daniel’s Friends in the Furnace

Many of you would have read or heard of the story of Daniel’s three friends, Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego survived the fiery furnace of King Nebuchadnezzar. You can read Daniel 3 for the full story.

Where is Daniel?

I always wondered where is Daniel in this story. Chapter 2 ended with Daniel’s promotion to the Chef ruler over Babylon and his three friends were made Administrators. In Daniel 3:8-12, the accusation was directed at the Jews but more specifically at his three friends. Daniel was not mentioned at all. Maybe because Daniel was at the king’s court so they didn’t, or couldn’t include him in the target list. The absence of Daniel baffles me. Even though Daniel was spared of the accusation, news about the incident would have reached him considering they were his friends. Would this not be a matter urgent enough for Daniel to drop everything to help or at least be there for his friends? Yet he was nowhere to be found or mentioned in this whole episode.

Faith in Who?

The three friends had never once uttered Daniel’s name at the impending judgement of death through fire. They could have requested to appeal to Daniel or at least request to see him for the last time before their deaths. Perhaps by mentioning Daniel, Daniel might be implicated into the accusation and they did not want Daniel to be part of what they were going through. Whatever possible reasons there can be, these three friends chose to be on their own with God. Clearly for the three friends, their trust and faith is in God alone, not even in their best friend, the brilliant and powerful Daniel. The call for help is solely and directly to God. They did not placed an ounce of faith on a person. More than this, they do not even consider their lives more valuable than the honour of God. Their absolute alligence to God makes them insolence to King Nebuchadnezzar with an upfront statement of not answering the king’s question about his soverignty. Their reply to King Nebuchadnezzar was the epitome of their faith:

O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to give you an answer concerning this matter. If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the furnace of blazing fire; and He will deliver us out of your hand, O king. But even if He does not, let it be known to you, O king, that we are not going to serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.” – Daniel 3:16-18

Their faith is NOT determined by what God will do for them. It is amazing how steadfast they were even though they did not know if God will definitely deliver them from the fiery furnace.

Such faith is a strong magnet for God’s miracle deliverance.

Personal Reflection

I imagine myself in a situation like this, having to deny God and worship an idol or lose my life through fire, my instinctive reactive will be nothing like the three friends. I will probably:

  • Become a covet believer of Jesus Christ. I will bow to the idol but rationalise that my heart is not bowing to the idol so I am still faithful to God.
  • If I was brave enough to stand up against bowing to the idol, I will send a SOS message to “Daniel” for emergency aid, hoping he can intercept the fiery furnace punishment.

My coward, self-protecting instinct points me to reactions totally different from the three friends. Somehow, there is still hope as I have Christ in me, the Holy Spirit within. In moments like these, if I am able to release control to God, He can give me the ability to have faith like Daniel’s friends. I pray that I am able to let go and let God when the time comes.

The House of David and the House of God

As modern Christians, we generally do not think much about the House of David and the House of God as related entities. Perhaps because the House of David perceived as an Old Testament concept, more in relation to the nation of Israel. The Scriptural passages of ‭‭2 Samuel‬ ‭7:8-29‬ and ‭‭Mark‬ ‭3:20-35 can help us understand how this Old Testament Israel King’s house is of importance to our current faith in Christ Jesus.

Jesus is at Home (Mark 3:20-35)

I will start with the Mark passage in the New Testament. I love the opening of this passage, “And He came home.” There is no mention of which house was home for Jesus, but Jesus was HOME. It was in this context that Jesus addressed the accusation of Him operating under the power of Beelzebul. Jesus started by establishing the importance of unity in a kingdom, whether of Satan or of God. He quickly shifted from unity to the focus of a strong man in the house. The assumption here is that the unity of a house is held by the strong man. This is rather true as I can see often how the death of a patriach/matriach in a family can affect the family’s unity even in our current days. Jesus gave the best tip in how to bring down a house, that is to first take down the strong man. Simple strategy!

The Strong Man

Jesus seemed to be jumping from a topic to another very quickly. Suddenly from strong man, He talked about blasphemy against the Holy Spirit. In closer examination, Jesus was still on the same train of thought. The Holy Spirit keeps the unity of the Kingdom of God (Ephesians 4:3). The Holy Spirit is the strong man in God’s house. The Scribes were trying to bind the strong man in the Kingdom of God by discrediting the strong man in the house of God, i.e. the Holy Spirit. I love how Jesus indirectly implied the Scribes’ intent to rob God’s House in their attempt to stop the Holy Spirit. It is obvious that the Scribes were unsuccessful in this attempt. Instead they hurled on themselves an unforgivable sin for eternal condemnation.

Mark did not stop at this victory of Jesus. The timely arrival of Jesus’ mother and brothers provided opportunity to further illustrate this object lesson. Jesus’ question of “Who are My Mother and My brothers?” sounded unfiliel taken outside of this context. In fact, He did not deny the blood ties He had with His mother and brothers. He extended the definition and boundaries of His family. In fact Jesus was home without his natural family at the beginning of this passage. His rhetorical rebutal to the Scribes regarding kingdom and house highlighted the importance of unity. Jesus concluded His lesson that the unity in the house of God is in doing the will of God. Unity through obedience is the mark of God’s family.

The Davidic Covenant (2 Samuel 7:8-29)

Let’s now dive into this Old Testament passage now that narrates God’s response to King David’s desire to build God a house on earth. This passage seems unrelated to the Mark passage before. The focus verses are verses 12-16, which is known as the Davidic Covenant.

When your days are complete and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your descendant after you, who will come forth from you, and I will establish his kingdom.He shall build a house for My name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. I will be a father to him and he will be a son to Me; when he commits iniquity, I will correct him with the rod of men and the strokes of the sons of men, but My lovingkindness shall not depart from him, as I took it away from Saul, whom I removed from before you. Your house and your kingdom shall endure before Me forever; your throne shall be established forever.” – 2 Sam 7:12-16 (NASB, emphasis mine)

The Genealogy of King David to Jesus

While talking about the House of God and the House of David, there is an important geneology we cannot miss in Matthew 1:1-17. The symmetry of the three fourteen generations accounted (verse 17) for this genealogy shows that it is an intentional planned design and not a random occurance. This is the evidence of the outworking of the Davidic covenant God made in 2 Sam 7:12-16, and also to Abraham which is not in discussion here. It is commonly known that Jesus is the son of David, but let’s go deeper to understand the significance of this blood tie that God holds it .

A significant event or person is marked by the fourteenth generation – from Abraham to David, from David to Babylonion exile, from Babyonion exile to the coming of the Messiah Jesus. There is such a poetic pattern found in this genealogy, from patriach (Abraham) to king (David), slavery (Babylon) to saviour (Messiah). As you can see, a pattern is emerging. God chose the house of David and made it a kingdom. God allowed slavery as judgement so that salvation can come.

Kingdom Forever

The significance of the Davidic Covenant can be seen in two folds, the house and the kingdom. Using the before and after examination, we can see the impact of the Davidic covenant.

The House of David and the House of God

The House of David referred to here is not a physical building to live in. The House of David in the Bible refers to the lineage and descendents of David, i.e. the family of David. David is a mere man just like his predecesors like Abraham. The phrases “He shall build a house for my name” and “I will be a father to him” are indication that God has adopted David’s family to be His. Adoption is not a new concept in modern day Christianity as we are all adopted as sons and daughters of the most High God. Yet, in the Old Testament, this is unthinkable. Even in the New Testament, Jesus calling God His Father was considered a blasphemy worthy of death to the religious (John 5:18). Here we see a coming together of David’s family into God – a natural earthly with the spiritual heavenly as one. This covenant prepares the way for the son of God to become the son of Man.

The Kingdom of David and the Kingdom of God

The second impact was on the kingdom. David’s kingdom was in Israel, not the world, even in its greatest under King Solomon. It was a small kingdom here on earth amidst many kingdoms. Such kingdoms rise and fall and the kingdom of David no longer exists. It is interesting that the genealogy included the Babylonion exile as a key event, showing that the fall of the kingdom of David is not a surprise to God. In fact, this is a process of translating the physical kingdom of David into a spiritual kingdom of God – from slave to savior. The beauty of this transformation is one of eternity.

Conclusion

With the emphasis on individualism, it is hard for many of us to think beyond our nuclear family of perhaps three generations. It is Biblical to view the extended family, those of the past, present and future with one calling, and yet each person also has a more specific appointment and assignment from God. We often consider our Christian faith is based on the New Covenant found in the New Testament. From these few Bible passages, we can see that the New Covenant was set in motion by the Davidic Covenant. The House of God we know now started with the house of David, an archetype.

The Fourth Commandment - Sabbath

The Fourth Commandment – Sabbath

It has only been almost three months into 2018 and I felt as though I have ran a year’s worth. I am exhausted. I see the same exhaustion in many of the members in my church group. Yet, there is still so much more to be done. When I related this weariness to my spiritual mother, first thing she said is “keep the sabbath”. Not a reply I expected. Took me a while to let it sink in. When it did, it was the best and most practical advise anyone can give with regards to exhaustion.

Not sure about you, I have always thought the fourth commandment of the ten commandments (Exo 20:1-17) about keeping the sabbath a little odd and out of place among the other nine. All the nine makes total sense to me and I wondered what is the big deal about the Sabbath to make it to DE ten. I caught a glimpse of why when I read Numbers 15.

I am going to quote Numbers 15:32-41 here as it was the key passage that brought understanding to me.

Sabbath-breaking Punished

32 Now while the sons of Israel were in the wilderness, they found a man gathering wood on the sabbath day. 33 Those who found him gathering wood brought him to Moses and Aaron and to all the congregation; 34 and they put him in custody because it had not been declared what should be done to him. 35 Then the Lordsaid to Moses, “The man shall surely be put to death; all the congregation shall stone him with stones outside the camp.” 36 So all the congregation brought him outside the camp and stoned him to death with stones, just as the Lord had commanded Moses.

37 The Lord also spoke to Moses, saying, 38 “Speak to the sons of Israel, and tell them that they shall make for themselves tassels on the corners of their garments throughout their generations, and that they shall put on the tassel of each corner a cord of blue. 39 It shall be a tassel for you to look at and remember all the commandments of the Lord, so as to do them and not follow after your own heart and your own eyes, after which you played the harlot, 40 so that you may remember to do all My commandments and be holy to your God. 41 I am the Lord your God who brought you out from the land of Egypt to be your God; I am the Lord your God.”

Death Sentence?

I find it really harsh for death sentence when the man was just gathering wood on the sabbath day. No harm done to anyone. In fact it was productive and necessary work. What is it about sabbath that God takes it so seriously. Note, the judgement of death was from the Lord directly as the people did not know what to do with him.

The Fourth Commandment - Sabbath

Harlotry?

To understand God’s heart in this, verses 37-40 are key. It is interesting that the blue tassels (the Jewish calls them tzitzit on their prayer shawl called tallit) on the prayer shawls that the Jewish people use was instituted after this incident of the sabbath breaker. The purpose of the tassels is to visually remind them to obey the commandments to prevent harlotry. Harlotry, I believe refers to spiritual harlotry i.e., idols. For the nine commandments, they are quite instinctively against idolatry. What does keeping the sabbath have to do with harlotry?

Sabbath is the day in a week whereby God specifically says it is holy unto the Lord (Exo 16:23). It is consecrated to Him. Meaning we cease our daily activities to focus and spend time on Him. It is His day, literally. The Lord takes this commandment and commitment to Him seriously. When we are not able to withdraw ourselves from our world to Him, our world takes His place of importance in our lives. Anything or anyone who takes the place of God in our lives is an idol and it leads to halotry, a dishonoring of God.

Of course there are other reasons why keeping the sabbath is good for us as it is the rhythm of life God has set and God rested on the seventh day during creation and so we should. I will not go into these in details as my focus here is the fourth commandment. Like any of the other commandments, there are blessigns and benefits in obedience. Yet it is important to understand the heart of God behind His Commandments.

 

P.S. I do not want to engage in debates about which day of the week is sabbath which can be very long drawn. This is not the crux of the matter here. My advise here will be to observe sabbath the best way you can honour God in the precepts or cuture set by your church or spiritual community. 🙂

Mount of Temptation – Jericho

I was leading a group in Israel and Jordan and one of the sites we visited was Mount of Temptation – Jericho. We entered into Jericho in the evening of 7 Dec, a day after Trumph’s announcement of acknowledging Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. Jericho is Palestine and not Israel. The streets in Jericho were quiet as there was an economic protest where all shops and restaurants were closed. I have been to Jericho many times and this silence was unusual.

Somehow the silence reminded me of the silent march of the Israelites around the ancient city of Jericho. We did not go to take over the city neither were we on the march. Yet the silence in the streets indicated that something was to come. In the Biblical story it was conquering the Promised Land. We were there to see the land. 😊 On 8 Dec after we left Jericho early morning, protest and demonstrations broke out in Palestine, including Jericho. Thank God for His divine protection and timing for everything.

“When Joshua had spoken to the people, the seven priests carrying the seven trumpets before the Lord went forward, blowing their trumpets, and the ark of the Lord’s covenant followed them. The armed guard marched ahead of the priests who blew the trumpets, and the rear guard followed the ark. All this time the trumpets were sounding. But Joshua had commanded the army, “Do not give a war cry, do not raise your voices, do not say a word until the day I tell you to shout. Then shout!” So he had the ark of the Lord carried around the city, circling it once. Then the army returned to camp and spent the night there. Joshua got up early the next morning and the priests took up the ark of the Lord. The seven priests carrying the seven trumpets went forward, marching before the ark of the Lord and blowing the trumpets. The armed men went ahead of them and the rear guard followed the ark of the Lord, while the trumpets kept sounding. So on the second day they marched around the city once and returned to the camp. They did this for six days. On the seventh day, they got up at daybreak and marched around the city seven times in the same manner, except that on that day they circled the city seven times. The seventh time around, when the priests sounded the trumpet blast, Joshua commanded the army, “Shout! For the Lord has given you the city! The city and all that is in it are to be devoted to the Lord. Only Rahab the prostitute and all who are with her in her house shall be spared, because she hid the spies we sent. But keep away from the devoted things, so that you will not bring about your own destruction by taking any of them. Otherwise you will make the camp of Israel liable to destruction and bring trouble on it. All the silver and gold and the articles of bronze and iron are sacred to the Lord and must go into his treasury.” When the trumpets sounded, the army shouted, and at the sound of the trumpet, when the men gave a loud shout, the wall collapsed; so everyone charged straight in, and they took the city. They devoted the city to the Lord and destroyed with the sword every living thing in it—men and women, young and old, cattle, sheep and donkeys.” Joshua‬ ‭6:8-21‬ ‭NIV‬‬ (emphasis mine)

On 7 Dec, our Jericho guide waited for almost 2hrs as we were late. Our itinerary was to head straight to Elisha Spring, Seed of Hope and to the hotel. Instead, without asking for our consent, he brought us to the foot of Mount of Temptation. Yes, there is a big shop right at the foot of Mount of Temptation. I was not too concern since shops were supposed to be close. A quick stop to see the mount from the base should not be a problem even though we were tight for time. When approaching, I saw the shutters of the shop down so there shouldn’t be any distraction. Guess what? The shop assistants came out in the dimly lit road with samples of dates and half the group were more interested in the dates than the significance of the Mount of Temptation. A side note, Jericho does produce good dates!

Mount of Temptation - Jericho<

was reminded of Achan who were tempted by the spoils of Jericho and secretly kept some despite God’s command against it. I find it rather interesting that the temptation of Jericho is still at work now, even in small things like dates and shopping. 😅

“But the Israelites were unfaithful in regard to the devoted things; Achan son of Karmi, the son of Zimri, the son of Zerah, of the tribe of Judah, took some of them. So the Lord’s anger burned against Israel.” Joshua‬ ‭7:1‬ ‭NIV‬‬

I believe it is a personal warning God has for me this season even as I have come out of the wilderness and the first battle of “Jericho” comes with temptation in the most unexpected manner. Temptation is waiting in the dark corner to spring a surprise offer that I might not be prepared to resist. The spoils of the first battle, just like the first fruit, belongs to the Lord. Don’t even think about touching them as the consequences will be dire, just like the battle of Ai.

I pray that myself or anyone of us will not fall prey to such temptations. Let us fix our eyes on our Lord Jesus lest we be distracted.