Continuing to focus on the similarities of the Church of the Bygone Covenant (Acts 7:38) and the One of the existing Covenant, today we come to the following sub-topics…
The depth of relationship of Almighty God had with the Jews in the Old dispensation and we Christians have with Christ in the New One can best be envisaged by pondering on the following Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments, respectively…
“…for he who harms you sticks his finger in Jehovah’s eye!” (Zech. 2:8 TLB)
“Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” (Acts 9:4 NLT)
Anyone fiddling with God’s covenanted people would be fiddling with the Almighty Himself (See also:Deut. 32:10/Ps. 17:8/Esther 6:13). For Christ, as “…the head of the church, which is his body…” (Col. 1:18 NLT), would feel both the joys and pain brought forth upon His “body” by ones outside that “body”.
“Rather, the land you will soon take over is a land of hills and valleys with plenty of rain — a land that the LORD your God cares for. He watches over it through each season of the year!” (Deut. 11:11-12 NLT; See alsoJohn 7:37-38)
The people of Israel would be settled in the “Promised Land”, which was virtually a foretaste of Heaven (See Deut 11:11-12 above). In due time, through their anointed Servants of God, they would come to know that there is a better “permanent Heavenly home” awaiting the righteous (SeePsalm 23:6/Eccl. 12:7,14/Daniel 12:2). They would learnthat their physical “Promised Land” is not be viewed as the “be all and end all” of their “spiritual walk with God”. The Blessed land of “milk and honey” for the Jews would in a way only foreshadow the glorious Heavenly Home.
By the time of Jesus’ birth, there was a zealous religious sect, namely the Pharisees, who would subscribe to the “Doctrine of After-life” as their key supportive scriptural declaration for their spiritual ideological stand about being “…gathered to his people…” (Genesis 25:8; See alsoGenesis 35:29/Judges 2:10). Though by and large, many of this ilk had become hypocritical during Jesus’ Ministry, several, including one gent named Saul (sic), would later on become Christians (SeeActs 6:7,Acts 15:5,Acts 23:6).
Ditto with the Christians! Though we may not physically see the future Heavenly home, the “mini-heaven” the good Lord has placed in our hearts (ie: the perpetual peace and joy of the Holy Spirit and the needed strength to overcome trials — SeeRomans 14:7,Eph. 1:13-14,John 7:37-38,1 Peter 1:6-8) foreshadows the “real heaven” that we would enjoy one day (SeeRomans 8:18-25).
Difficulties next door…
A careful scrutiny of the first epistle of the Apostle Peter would reveal that our Heavenly Father, in His Sovereign wisdom, permits “prickly neighbourhood” of 5 categories in the lives Christians. Besetting difficulties in the form of unsaved neighbours, unsaved government, unsaved boss, unsaved family members and unsaved former friends always surround us (See1 Peter 2:12-23/1 Peter 3:1-5/1 Peter 4:4). This is in order that we might live a greater God-dependent life, drawing from His infinite spiritual strength, even whilst being transformed into a Christ-like image (SeeRomans 5:3-4/James 1:2-3/2 Cor 3:18). Enduring those “thorny” conditions is what cross-bearing (being at the receiving end of injustice and lies) is all about. Perceiving the utility of these conditions, Sadhu Sundar Singh wisely observed “Cross bears those who bear the Cross”.
And our Old Testament counterparts? Well, they could “count” on their difficult neighbours (Philistines, surviving Canaanites…and hmmmm…even their hostile “cousins” across River Jordan)to make them live a more God-dependent life (SeeJudges 2:21-23)! While on the paramount subject of “God-dependence”, let it be said that this is — and will always be — the original purpose of God-man relationship. Adam was created for it but he “declared” his independence and paid a heavy price (SeeGenesis 3).
At this point, it would serve us well to distinguish the pain wrought by tribulation (suffering being righteous) and retribution (read punishment-suffering being a sinner). While both kinds of pain have a common refining effect (“He will sit like a refiner of silver, burning away the dross. He will purify the Levites, refining them like gold and silver, so that they may once again offer acceptable sacrifices to the Lord.” Mal. 3:3 NLT), we ought to prefer only the one associated with tribulation, for cross-bearing is indispensable in a Christian’s life (SeeRom 5:3-4).
Prayer: Father, once again we praise and thank Thee for Thy wisdom in leading us in the straight and narrow path. Make us trust thee at all times through thick and thin. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.
An unworthy servant
J and SM Ministries