Saturday, September 24, 2016

The Armor of God

have had this subject floating around in my head for weeks now.  And the Lord keeps putting things in front of me to remind me to write it down!  Just this week, the kids and I were reading about the ancient Greeks and Cretans and how they were workers of iron to make weapons that were better than bronze.  And last Saturday, I heard a keynote speaker on the Armor of God.  Ok, ok, I get it, Lord.  So here goes...

Most believers are quite familiar with Ephesians 6:14-17, which speaks of the Armor of God.  For reminder's sake, here it is:

Stand therefore, having girded your waist with truth, having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; above all, taking the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one.  And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

As I was studying the words, I realized that the first three pieces of armor are already in place. They were provided to us at the moment of redemption, when we are born again in Messiah. We are already armed with the truth (by which we realized Yeshua IS our savior), the breastplate of righteousness (Yeshua made us righteous), and our feet have been prepared with the good news of peace in Messiah. At the moment our justification, we were armed with good armor!

The Bible instructs us then, having been armed thus far, to take up the remaining pieces. We must arm ourselves with that shield of faith day by day, because those fiery darts are constantly aimed at us. The helmet of salvation is a picture of renewing our mind and taking every thought captive to Yeshua (Romans 2:12, 2 Corinthinans 10:5). And finally, the sword - the Word of God - is our spiritual bread that sustains and arms us. These three pieces are available to us as we are sanctified (a lifelong process), but we must actively take them up. We need them as we work out our salvation (Philippians 2:12).

Notice that there is no armor for our backs. I believe it is because God does not want us to retreat from the battle, and also because He has got our back!

I find it interesting that spiritual armor was not just a clever idea made up by Paul in Ephesians. He was a Torah scholar, and was well familiar with the concept. Here is a passage from Isaiah 59, which is clearly foreshadowing the Messiah:

Then the Lord saw it [man's sinfulness] and it displeased Him
That there was no justice. He saw that there was no man,
And wondered that there was no intercessor;
Therefore His own arm brought salvation for Him;
And His own righteousness, it sustained Him.
For He put on righteousness as a breastplate,
And a helmet of salvation on His head;
He put on the garments of vengeance for clothing,

And was clad with zeal as a cloak.

Isaiah clearly shows that our Intercessor - provided by the LORD'S own arm, was armed and clothed for the job that He was sent to do. I love that Isaiah included a piece of armor for both justification and sanctification in this passage, showing that salvation is not simply a one time deal, but an ongoing process that began the moment we were justified. Our salvation will be complete at the resurrection when we receive our new imperishable bodies.

Another piece of the Ephesians armor can be found in Isaiah 52:7:

How beautiful upon the mountains
Are the feet of him who brings good news,
Who proclaims peace,
Who brings glad tidings of good things,
Who proclaims salvation,
Who says to Zion,
“Your God reigns!”

In closing, let's go back to the beginning of Ephesians 6 and be reminded of just Who is in charge and who we are battling:

Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age,against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.

Saturday, September 3, 2016

Burning the Bones and Tearing Down the High Places

God's timing makes me smile.  Again.

Last night, my daughter and I were having a conversation about cremation.  I shared with her that I don't believe it's God's first choice for us.  As an example, I talked about the bones of Joseph being carefully brought up from Egypt, and also the imagery of the dry bones in Ezekeil resurrecting and coming to life.  I also mentioned that the remains of King Saul were burned and that the connotation was negative.  Saul's body had been desecrated by the Philistines, and the valiant people of Jabesh Gilead came and burned the body of Saul and his sons because of what had been done to them.

Also, Jewish law requires that the body of a dead person be buried within 24 hours of death.  The remains of cremated individuals are not allowed to be interred in a Jewish cemetery.  Additionally, I was surprised to learn that the traditional Jewish laws of mourning are not observed in orthodoxy if a person's remains were cremated.

Finally, the Shoah (the Jewish term for the Holocaust).  Not only were the Jews tattooed with numbers- which was in itself an affront to what was written in the Torah - but also, the bodies of murdered Jews were burned in crematoriums.  I believe the cruel men who came up with this atrocity knew exactly what they were doing, and knew how this would be such an evil insult to the victims and their families.  Even if the Nazis didn't know it, the demonic beings working in the spiritual realm and influencing their actions certainly knew.

Let me just stop right now and say, if you are reading this and have different convictions on cremation, I am not condemning you.  My mother and stepfather were both cremated, and I believe that God can and will put them back together out of the dust of the earth at the resurrection.  After all, He formed man from the dust of the earth in the first place.  But it's never too late to learn what the Word of God has to say about any given subject.

So anyway, back to God's timing...

My reading today took me to 2 Kings 23, which recorded the major reforms of King Josiah.  He was one of only two kings of Judah who were willing to tear down the high places.  Many kings previous to Josiah had been good kings, but they left the high places alone, not wanting to stir up trouble among people who were so attached to their traditions.

The high places were generally up on hills, and in groves of green trees.  If you have ever studied what went on in these places, you know what an affront they were to the Lord God.  On the high places, all manner of fornication took place under green trees.  If you have ever been to Cesaerea Phillipi in Israel, you can still see remnants of where some of this pagan worship took place.  It is also the location of a giant cave, which in ancient days was known as the Gates of Hades.  How fitting it is that Yeshua was in that very place when Peter declared Him to be Messiah, and Yeshua declared that the Gates of Hades would not prevail against His ekklesia.

The former pagan grove of Banias, temple of Pan, home of the Gates of Hades in Caeserea Philippi

In 2 Kings 23, verse 7 speaks of how the king tore down the houses of the qadeshim that were in the house of the Lord - the temple!  Qadeshim were literally sodomites... male prostitutes.  So you get an idea of how depraved the pagan worship had become, and why Josiah was so diligent to eradicate it.

Verse 10 tells us that King Josiah also wrecked the places in the valley of Hinnom, which is a place in Jerusalem where people would actually sacrifice their children through burning them (known in Greek as Gehenna, which is also translated into the word hell in some versions of the New Covenant),  Perhaps this is another reason why the burning of bodies is such an affront to God.  Here is a link to another blog post in which the writer tells of the process a pagan worshipper had to go through to sacrifice their child to Molech.

The pagan practice of child sacrifice to Molech in the Valley of Hinnom
Josiah was so thorough in tearing down the high places that he even stepped out of his jurisdiction. He went to Samaria, where the first king of the divided kingdom of Israel -  Jeroboam - had established a high place of worship so that his people would not go down to Jerusalem to worship.

In verse 16, we see Josiah taking the bones of those idolaters out of their tombs and burning them on the altar there.  Suddenly, he came to a gravestone that made him stop.  Look at verses 17-18:

Then he said, “What gravestone is this that I see?” So the men of the city told him, “It is the tomb of the man of God who came from Judah and proclaimed these things which you have done against the altar of Bethel.”And he said, “Let him alone; let no one move his bones.” So they let his bones alone, with the bones of the prophet who came from Samaria.

My study Bible led me back to 1 Kings 13, where we read of a righteous and unnamed prophet foretelling this very incident, 300 years earlier, even naming King Josiah by name!  This is what it says:

And behold, a man of God went from Judah to Bethel by the word of the Lord, and Jeroboam stood by the altar to burn incense. Then he cried out against the altar by the word of the Lord, and said, “O altar, altar! Thus says the Lord: ‘Behold, a child, Josiah by name, shall be born to the house of David; and on you he shall sacrifice the priests of the high places who burn incense on you, and men’s bones shall be burned on you.’” 

So the bones that Josiah refused to burn were the bones of the very prophet who had prophesied that all the other bones would be burned by someone from the line of David named Josiah!  

Is that mind boggling, or what?

In closing, I just want to say one more thing about the high places, and this one will definitely step on toes.  Consider the connection of pagan worship to the green trees, and all that was associated with that worship.  As I mentioned earlier, only two kings were willing to tear down high places... most were not.  They didn't want to upset the proverbial apple cart among their people.  But consider the words of Jeremiah 10 and ask the Lord if this might be a high place that needs tearing down in your life.