Saturday, August 10, 2013

Thoughts on the Book of Joel (in many parts); Chapter 1, Part 1

“The word of the LORD that came to Joel, the son of Pethuel: hear this, O elders, and listen, all inhabitants of the land.  Has anything like this happened in your days or in your fathers' days?  Tell your sons about it, and let your sons tell their sons, and their sons the next generation” (Joel 1: 1-3).

A Generation of Vipers

‘So he (Jesus) began saying…“You brood of vipers, who warned you to flee from the wrath to come?  Therefore bear fruits in keeping with repentance, and do not begin to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham for our father,’ for I say to you that from these stones God is able to raise up children to Abraham.  Indeed the axe is already laid at the root of the trees; so every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire”’ (Luke 3: 7-9).

From the first blast of the trumpet (the prophet’s initial declaration) a fire is ignited and we, His people, are but wood beneath an altar in its path!  “The word of the Lord that came” is enough to set the world on fire, but we are just getting started!  His word came to Joel, which means “the Lord is God;” seems benign enough…right?  Combine that meaning, however, with the meaning of Joel’s father, Pethuel: “opened or enlarged of God” or “ingenuousness of God.”  Now, ingenuousness is not a commonly used word, so what does it mean?  Answer: “Free from deceit or disgrace; open; artless; innocent” or “great simplicity of mind.” So, the Lord is God, there is no other, and we have been enlarged to receive the magnitude of His person within as we maintain our singleness of purpose.  But how have we been enlarged and how do we escape the inevitable flames that are coming?  Answer: tears of repentance.

Internal enlargement only occurs when we allow ourselves to be hollowed out by sorrow over the destruction that sin brings.  When we allow ourselves to be habitually moved, we sacrifice ourselves by allowing internal erosion at the margin of our being.  Our emotions are like a subterranean sea ever pulling down our intractable and stubborn nature into itself to be drowned there, and in the process, hollowing out a cavernous home within our bodies which is likened to a cavern formed in limestone beneath the surface of the earth.  Just as fire has little effect upon limestone and water and tends to get snuffed out by the suffocating atmosphere of caverns, so fire has no fuel and little oxygen to long burn the soul that has been purged by sorrow.

And “Sorrow is better than laughter: for by the sadness of the countenance the heart is made better.  The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning; but the heart of fools is in the house of mirth” (Ecclesiastes 7:3-4).  Many think to circumvent God’s way of the cross and sorrow today, and unfortunately, this nearing Day of the Lord, the Brightness of His Coming, will expose every false way and lay open all the secrets of every heart.  Thieves and robbers, those that thought they could come up into life another way, will be caught red handed; the very sorrow they tried to avoid will come upon them suddenly and intensified.  Indeed, “Their sorrows shall be multiplied who choose another god” (Psalm 16:4).

Friday, August 9, 2013

Thoughts on the Book of Joel (in many parts); Part A: Introduction

Much has been said about “The Dark Night of the Soul” as of late (as of 2009); it is a quote, actually a title to a book, by a Christian mystic named St. John of the Cross who lived during the Reformation of the mid-to-late fifteen hundreds.  Suffice it to say that his Dark Night of the Soul preceded his Light Day of the Lord; likewise, if we are to participate in the near coming Reformation of our day we must also go the way of the cross into the pure light of His presence in the Holy of Holies.

Every generation, it seems to me, is confronted with a day of scrutiny, a day of judgment, when God shows up to examine His work within the hearts of His people.  I am entirely too blind, without sufficient breadth of knowledge to see across enough horizons to substantiate this point, but I have come to think that the Day of the Lord is many days only culminating in one grand day at the end of the age (and every generation thinks their day is that day; and of course, for them, it is!).  A Day of the Lord, an allotted timeframe within each generation at a designated point of their maturity, appointed by God,wherein He inspects His work within their hearts, is their final window of opportunity to right themselves with God in their particular generation or lifespan.

It is only theoretical that a soul can still be saved while there is breath in it; God alone knows when someone is irredeemable.  Though God’s hand is never too short, enough wrong choices can so desensitize a conscience as to make His hand seem nonexistent.  Every soul from every generation is therefore sealed or labeled for God (as bondservants of God upon their foreheads) or for themselves (as named after the beast or marked with the number of his name, 666, upon their foreheads).  I believe a sealing of our generation has begun to occur; and whose mark will we receive?
I believe, that like a sunspot eruption, a sudden flash of brilliance has just shown forth as a clarion call to our generation; this brilliant explosion of light is the emanation of the golden crown upon our Lord’s head and is a sure sign that He is about to execute His authority and punish any subject that is not really a subject, e. g., those that feign subjection but are not genuinely subject to Him from the heart.  He has arisen from off His throne and is about to either hold the scepter up or down in favor or disfavor, mercy or judgment, concerning this generation.

A wonderful Reformation is, indeed, coming, and God is scrutinizing His people so as to fit them for it.  Those that have been judging themselves regularly will need no further judgment; those that have been slack and indulgent will suffer loss and much sorrow, but even now, if they will repent, God can, and will, rescue and restore them.  “But who can endure the day of His coming?  And who can stand when He appears?” (Malachi 3:2).  “And this is the judgment, that the light is come into the world” (John 3:19). 

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Divine Government Universally Applied

“For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea” (Habakkuk 2: 14)

The Israelites, having just been extracted from Egypt and slavery by an amazing extraction wherein God demonstrated His Almighty power by bringing them through the Red Sea and drowning their enemies in it, were now three days into the wilderness and without water.  Dying of thirst, they finally come to a water source only to find that source unfit to drink, thus they call the place Marah, which means bitterness and which accurately reflects their souring disposition and defines the exact reason the waters are unfit to drink.  Then, having begun to lose faith in the leadership of Moses, they grumble at him, and sarcastically ask, “What shall we drink?” (Exodus 15: 24).

Moses, being made of flesh just like those who grumbled at him, must have been just as thirsty and desperate as they, but rather than revert to or fall back into himself as an expression of giving up and losing faith in a God who had only three days prior to this crisis set them free with mighty deliverances, called out to Him for help instead.  And God answered Moses by showing him a tree and instructing him to throw it into the waters; he does so, and the waters become “sweet,” or fit to drink and slake thirst (Exodus 15: 25). 
By interpretation, these bitter waters represent our inner mainspring and its tributary-like expressions—our heart and its gushings or tendrils—which are at the core and behavior we exhibit, and which also proves who we are to the core (making manifest our true nature, our true disposition).  The tree represents the cross of Christ, and is the remedy for our sin nature herein expressed by these Israelites as embittered hearts and distemperate dispositions.  But throw the cross into their mainsprings and watch God miraculously sweeten their dispositions.  And when our internal mainspring is sweetened by the cross of Christ it bleeds into every internal tributary and affects all of our sentiments, thinking, and ultimately all of our actions.  Ultimately it is God’s method of saving us that He submerges Himself, that he baptizes Himself, in us; death and life now flowing from the same fountain and out through our veins together with an assurance that life will eventually swallow up death and remove its perpetual sting.

But this idea of judgment (the end of death) and mercy (the counter demand of life) running together—commingling in one stream—may seem counterintuitive and impossible to some, however, the blower that blows is controlled by the hand that heals and both the wind and the hand originate from God.  Let us therefore dig a little deeper that we might draw forth the purest draughts of the triumphant concept of mercy rather than just digging down to superficiality and the oil-slick-like depth of judgment.  A too shallow a well or heart from which a fountain springs—a too shallow a view of God’s word and revelation—will, no doubt, result in mixture of silt/flesh and water/spirit.  A murky opaque flow of understanding has the one who tries to remove the stings of rebukes and offences of the cross before their poisons are denuded, diluted, and absorbed into life; eternal life emerges from natural death. 
However, “Does a fountain send out from the same opening both fresh and bitter waters?” (James 3:11).   Earlier in the book of James, the idea that “mercy triumphs over judgment” is made in light of those who are to be “judged by the law of liberty” (James 2:13 and 2:12 respectively).  Often, just before the well is tapped and made useful for constant sweet water, the murkiest sludge is extracted; likewise, judgment is darkest right before it is itself judged and  extracted from the stream of God.  God’s mercy will prevail; our wells will be re-dug and clarified.  God’s judgment is a judgment on our behalf; it is a judgment unto victory.

But we are getting ahead of ourselves as we have more to learn from these early Israelites.  After they slaked their thirsts there in Marah, “they came to Elim where there were twelve springs of water and seventy date palms, and they camped there beside the waters” (Exodus 15: 27).  Elim (meaning to strengthen) was a place designated by God to refresh and reinvigorate His people, to empower them for further works of service, viz., to strengthen them on the way through more wildernesses—to reach a desired end—the Promised Land.  It is noteworthy here that one of God’s ends is about covering the whole earth with His glory.  Indeed, eventually “the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea” (Habakkuk 2:14).  And the twelve (12) wells and seventy (70) date palms represent some significant things related to God covering the entire earth with His presence.

First, let us look at the number twelve (12).  Twelve is the number most related to “rule” and is the fourth perfect number (4 meaning the world number and therefore representing the scene or stage upon which God will eventually come to cover or rule over).  It is the product of 3 (the perfectly Divine and heavenly number) and 4 (the imperfect/insufficient human and earthly number).  Three and four are both prominent in twelve, and as such lend to it their respective meanings; thus twelve comes to represent the fullness of their compound meaning: God coming into the world (which, of course, was completely realized when Christ came to earth).  Said another way, 12 is the product of Divine Completeness (3) and His Creative Works (4) and thus is about God restoring order over His creative works. 
Twelve is also the number of Israel, and it is found throughout much of those things which pertain to them specifically.  Some examples are, the 12 tribes they were divided into, the 12 gates of their primary city Jerusalem, and under Jesus Christ, the 12 Apostles; much illumination can be obtained by studying out these relationships to the number twelve, but time and space will not allow for it today.  But noteworthy is the fact that the Israelites were once meant to be representative of all mankind; they were to be like the leaven which is put into a peckmeasure of dough, an agency of influence and rule which was to permeate the whole staff of mankind.  Covering the earth with His glory was to have been accomplished through the agency of Israel’s ministry; now it is left to the Christian which is the Israel of God today.

Now let us look at the number seventy (70).  Seventy (70) is the product of 7 (perfect spiritual order) and 10 (testimony, law, and responsibility) and therefore suggests those who spiritually adhere to the demands of God’s law, as opposed to those who adhere to it in the flesh in some religious or pharisaical sort of white-knuckle-like-grasp way.  It has a universality element that applies to everyone and suggests a threshold level of obedience to God.  It is the New Covenant rule.  Jesus, after He dealt more elaborately with His 12 disciples, deals sufficiently with 70 disciples by commissioning them to go before Him in order to pave the way—a preliminary ministry like John the Baptist had—for His entrance into peoples’ lives.  Thus 70 represent the universal appeal and the initial stages of Christianity.   In other words, evangelism and the minimum requirement of salvation—a baptism into Jesus Christ alone—seems to be what this number represents: the universal call of God to mankind everywhere insisting they repent and believe in the gospel. 
Thus, 12 and 70, taken together, is the divine government universally applied, or The Lord accomplishing His overarching purpose of covering the earth with His wings like as a mother hen covers her chicks (loving rule).  It is Thomas Bromley (1629-1691), in his writing “The JOURNEYS of the Children of Israel, as in their Names and Historical Passages, they Comprise the Great and Gradual Work of Regeneration,” retrieved from on 5/31/09 who said much on this matter; he said, and I quote:

“After God’s proving them at Marah, they came to Elim, viz. Powers, Strengths, God’s strong Angels.    Marah was a Bitter, this a pleasant Station, a Place of reviving and strengthening. Isai. 40.31.   They shall be assisted by the Angels:  'Tis said, Jacob went on his way and the Angels of God met him [Margin Note: Gen. 32.1.].    So we proceeding in the strait Way, in constant Self-denial, shall have protection from, and may have Perception of the holy Angels: For are they not all ministering Spirits, sent forth to Minister for them, who shall be Heirs of Salvation? Heb. 1.14.    The chief of which, the Presidential Angels that govern the World under God, might be represented by the Seventy Palm-Trees, which was the number of the Sanhedrim, or Seventy Elders, and of the Seventy Disciples, which Christ sent forth by two and two before his Face [Margin Note: Luke 10.1.].    Both which Numbers might be pattern’d and calculated according to the Order of the Angelical Government:   The Jews generally Believing, that things Beneath are representative of things Above, and that there are Seventy Angels attending the Throne of Glory, set and made Presidents over the Nations;  as may be seen in Rabbi-Menachem, on Gen. 46.    In this Place also were twelve Fountains of Water, signifying, Refreshments derived from the holy Ghost to the whole Church, represented by the twelve Tribes of Israel; as also the instrumental Conveyance of those Streams of Light, Life and Comfort, thro’ the twelve Apostles of our Lord and Saviour, whose pure Doctrine and Choice Examples do much assist the Christian Travellers, those holy Pilgrims, in their Journey towards the good Land;  as these twelve Fountains did the Israelites in their way to Canaan.”

The overall application of these things to our lives is as follows.  First we get extracted from the world (Egypt), delivered from sin (slavery), separated from the flesh (God parting the Red Sea), and then we go three days under a blazing sun without water only to discover Marah, or bitter waters (God gives us a flash insight about the true nature of our hearts in the hope that we would see ourselves as sinners in need of repentance and to feel the requisite amount of sorrow to transform us, not drown us).  Quickly God intervenes (represented by the tree—the cross—being thrown into [applied to] the waters [our heart]); God sweetens (cleanses and perfumes) our dispositions by separating soul from spirit (the true circumcision).  Then He lays down the law, tests us, and informs us about how He is our healer and would not put any of the diseases on us which He placed on the Egyptians (after the initial salvation experience God begins to instruct, prove, and demonstrate, or provide us with knowledge about the true nature of things, people, and God).  Now we come to Elim where He refreshes and strengthens us for service.  And there we are commissioned to go out 2 by 2 to preach and demonstrate the arrival of the Kingdom of God—the divine government universally applied.