Posts Tagged ‘Sacrifice’

REDEEMER’S ENDGAME 

Recently I took my oldest grandson to the movies. Both of us love the Super Hero movies and so I took him to AVENGERS: ENDGAME. (If you haven’t seen the movie and intend to, then stop reading this now.)  

I realised that my Grandson has been playing Superheroes from these movies for the last 10 years, but this movie brings the Avengers team to an end. The story concludes. We have reached the ENDGAME.  

Beginning with IRON MAN in 2008, the drama has unfolded, movie by movie, to this: half a team of superheroes, fighting to save the world. Now they fight the seemingly invincible enemy, THANOS. The 22 movies have led us to a final battle.  

This series of superhero movies has been part of our lives. I remember TARZAN, SUPERMAN, PHANTOM AND BATMAN. My grandson grew up with IRONMAN, SPIDERMAN AND THE AVENGERS. A good part of his play as a child was racing around the house chasing bad guys. I was inevitably cast as the bad guy.  

Which makes one of the anticipated themes of the final chapters of ENDGAME slightly unsettling: SACRIFICE.  

As a Pastor, watching the movies; Avengers Infinity War last year and then recently Endgame, I couldn’t help but be reminded of the Endgame of which the Bible speaks and how the earth will go through a time called the Great Tribulation, when a guy called the Antichrist will come with his prophet.  

THANOS  

When the Infinity Gauntlet was activated by Thanos, half the population of the world disintegrated, including half of the Avengers. That’s troubling, to say the least!  

It reminded me of another “Snap” in the Biblical narrative of End times when Christ followers will disappear from the earth “in the twinkling of an eye”, an event now called “The Rapture of the Church”, before the Second Coming of Christ. 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17 (NLT2) says, “For the Lord Himself will come down from heaven with a commanding shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trumpet call of God. First, the Christians who have died will rise from their graves. Then, together with them, we who are still alive and remain on the earth will be caught up in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. Then we will be with the Lord forever.”

Thanos, however, is like the Antichrist figure in the Biblical Endgame.  

Many prophesies in the Bible describe the Antichrist. Daniel 9:26 (NLT2) simply calls him, “… A RULER will arise whose armies will destroy the city (of Jerusalem)...” 

The Antichrist is a global political leader. He is called… 

“The seed of the serpent” (ie from Satan), “The Ruler who will arise,” “The man of sin,” the “son of perdition” or the “man of lawlessness” and in the book of Revelation he is called “The Antichrist.” 

The book of 2 Thessalonians 2:3-4 (NLT2) in the Bible says, “Don’t be fooled by what they say. For that day will not come until there is a great rebellion against God and the man of lawlessness is revealed—the one who brings destruction. He will exalt himself and defy everything that people call god and every object of worship. He will even sit in the temple of God, claiming that he himself is God.” In a godless age, where Christianity is more and more reviled and persecuted around the world, it seems very plausible that such a world ruler would arise. 

Apparently, this ruler will emerge from a revived Roman Empire (from Europe). It was amusing that the Antichrist figure of Endgame, Thanos, should be dressed in armour similar to a Roman soldier though I’m sure no association with Antichrist was intended by the film-makers. 

EBONY MAW 

Also like Antichrist, Thanos has a Prophet called Ebony Maw who first appears in Avengers: Infinity Wars, who acts as Thanos’ herald. He says those under siege by Thanos are actually being saved and the citizens should “rejoice” in their deaths bringing balance to the Universe (It’s a definitely Green agenda so it must be OK). In Infinity wars, we get an insight into this False Prophet of the Endgames Antichrist by his pronouncements … 

Ebony Maw: [kneels before Thanos] My humble personage… bows before your grandeur. No other being has ever had the might, nay the nobility, to wield not one, but two Infinity Stones. The universe lies within your grasp. 

Ebony Maw: (to the people) Hear me, and rejoice. You have had the privilege of being saved by the Great Titan (Thanos) … You may think this is suffering… No. it is salvation. Universal scales tip toward balance because of your sacrifice. Smile… For even in death, you have become Children of Thanos. 

This reminds me of John 8:44 (NLT) when Jesus confronts the religious leaders who insisted they were right because they were descendants of Abraham. He says “For you are the children of your father the devil, and you love to do the evil things he does. He was a murderer from the beginning. He has always hated the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, it is consistent with his character; for he is a liar and the father of lies.”

The False Prophet, the second beast of Revelation 13, will be a religious leader who will point people toward the Antichrist. The Antichrist’s focus is politics while the False Prophet’s emphasis is religion. Like Ebony Maw, the False Prophet will have great power over people.  He will be like many false prophets of our own day—enforcing their own perverted form of ethics. 

I AM 

The Antichrist of the Bible will receive a fatal wound but miraculously recover. Thanos also survives impossible odds in order to impose his rule. At one point in Infinity Wars, Thanos says, I know what it’s like to lose. To feel so desperately that you’re right… yet to fail, nonetheless. It’s frightening. Turns the legs to jelly. I ask you, to what end? Dread it. Run from it. Destiny arrives all the same. And now, it’s here. Or should I say… I AM.” 

Terrifying words. When Thanos says, “I AM” I was reminded that in Genesis 3 God describes himself as the great I AM. God’s destiny for the world is very different to the world leader who is called the Antichrist, whose idea of destiny for the world is destruction rather than salvation. Moses asks God … 

 “If I go to the people of Israel and tell them, ‘The God of your ancestors has sent me to you,’ they will ask me, ‘What is His name?’ Then what should I tell them?” 

God replied to Moses, “I am who I am. Say this to the people of Israel: I AM  has sent me to you.”  

I AM in the Bible is also a description of Christ, King of kings and Lord of lords.  

In Mark 14:60-63 (NLT), the high priest takes Jesus into custody on charges of blasphemy. “Then the high priest asked Him, “Are You the Messiah, the Son of the Blessed One?” 

Jesus said, “I AM. (In the original language a deliberate choice of words and to make it clear, He says…) And you will see the Son of Man seated in the place of power at God’s right hand and coming on the clouds of heaven.” 

In the Book of Revelation, the Antichrist tries to usurp the authority and rule of Christ. But it is a destructive power like that of Thanos.  

In Infinity Wars, various parts of the script give us the Character of Thanos. 

Bruce Banner: “Thanos. He’s a plague, Tony. He invades planets. He takes what he wants. He wipes out half the population. He sent Loki. The attack on New York. That’s him. 

Gamora: The entire time I knew Thanos, he only ever had one goal: To bring balance to the Universe by wiping out half of all life. He used to kill people planet by planet, massacre by massacre… 

(Conversation with Thanos and Gamora…) 

Gamora:  you murdered half the planet. (Her planet) 

Thanos: A small price to pay for salvation. 

Gamora: You’re insane. 

Thanos: Little one, it’s a simple calculus. This universe is finite, its resources finite. If life is left unchecked, life will cease to exist. It needs correction. (Sounds like a very Green agenda) 

Gamora: You don’t know that! 

Thanos: I’m the only one who knows that. At least, I’m the only one with the will to act on it. … (Not an uncommon sentence for arrogant political and social engineering leaders) 

THE PLAN 

Tony Stark is the somewhat dubious “Christ figure” of the Avenger disciples in Endgame and the team formulates a plan to steal the Infinity Stones back from Thanos and use them to reverse his actions. All seems lost when they find Thanos and discover the Infinity Stones have been destroyed. 

However, five year later Scott Lang (Antman) escapes from the quantum realm, and it seems like 5 minutes. This experience leads to the possibility of travelling back in time. Stark eventually agrees to grapple with the possibility of building a quantum time machine and miracle of miracles, discovers that it works. The Avengers are reunited with a plan – get back the Infinity Stones. 

6 INFINITY STONES 

There are six Infinity Stones: The Space Stone (blue), the Reality Stone (red), the Power Stone (purple), the Mind Stone (yellow), the Time Stone (green) and the Soul Stone (orange). A rainbow of destructive power in the wrong hands. 

The Time Stone is in a necklace, the Mind Stone in a scepter, the Space Stone in the Tesseract, etc. Thanos needs to wear a special golden glove to hold all the stones, basically, it’s a fancy golden glove that can hold all the Infinity Stones. When all the stones are united in the Gauntlet, the wearer wields unlimited power.  

This quest for absolute power is similar to the Antichrist’s quest for a world, seeking to usurp the Sovereignty of God.  

In the Bible, the number 6 symbolizes man and human weakness, the evils of Satan and the manifestation of sin.  

Three 6’s in the book of Revelation is a very evil number and 666 is associated with the mark of the Beast used as a means of conducting business in a world which ignores the rulership of God (the Antichrists pin number). 

Revelation 13:15-18 (NLT2) says, “… He (the Antichrist) required everyone—small and great, rich and poor, free and slave—to be given a mark on the right hand or on the forehead. And no one could buy or sell anything without that mark, which was either the name of the beast or the number representing his name. Wisdom is needed here. Let the one with understanding solve the meaning of the number of the beast, for it is the number of a man. His number is 666.  

SACRIFICE 

In Infinity War, Thanos travels with Gamora to the planet Vormir, where the Soul Stone is kept. There they encounter Red Skull, the villain from the first Captain America movie. He tried to handle the Space Stone himself and has now been doomed to guard it. Red Skull tells Thanos that he needs to sacrifice something he loves to attain the gem, and so Thanos relunctantly but deliberately kills Gamora, his step daughter. 

The Avengers divide to travel back in time to retrieve various stones in Endgame. Barton and Romanoff travel to Vormir to retrieve the Soul Stone. Once again the Red Skull, keeper of the Soul Stone, informs them that the stone can only be obtained by sacrificing someone they love. The two fight over who will make the sacrifice, with the Black Widow (Romanoff) ultimately “winning” (dying in sacrifice). Barton returns to Earth with the Soul Stone totally distraught.  

The theme of sacrifice and Martyrdom also play an important role in the Great Tribulation of which the Bible speaks. Such Martydom demands vindication. 

Revelation 6:9-11 says, “When the Lamb broke the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of all who had been martyred for the word of God and for being faithful in their testimony. They shouted to the Lord and said, “O Sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long before you judge the people who belong to this world and avenge our blood for what they have done to us?”  Then a white robe was given to each of them. And they were told to rest a little longer until the full number of their brothers and sisters—their fellow servants of Jesus who were to be martyred—had joined them. 

ENDGAME BATTLE 

Thanos’ army lands on Earth and we have the Endgame battle. In the Bible, this equates with the battle of Armageddon, where it is the armies of the Antichrist who gather in a futile attempt to overthrow Christ.  

Psalms 2:1-5 (NLT2) prophesies the event. “Why are the nations so angry? Why do they waste their time with futile plans? The kings of the earth prepare for battle; the rulers plot together against the Lord and against His anointed one. “Let us break their chains,” they cry, “and free ourselves from slavery to God.” …” It’s kind of like an all-out attack on Christianity and all Christ stands for. 

The Battle of Armageddon will take place in the Valley of Jezreel, just below Mt Megiddo, North of Jerusalem. Jerusalem will fall and half the city will be taken into slavery by Gentile forces of the Valley of Jezreel. 

Similar to when the Avengers and their allies return from the past in Endgame just at the point of despair, the Second Coming of Christ occurs. In 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 (NLT2) it says, “And now, dear brothers and sisters, we want you to know what will happen to the believers who have died so you will not grieve like people who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and was raised to life again, we also believe that when Jesus returns, God will bring back with Him the believers who have died. …”  

Revelation 19:11-16 (NLT2) speaks about Christ returning to battle with the forces at Meggido (the Battle of Armageddon), Then I saw heaven opened, and a white horse was standing there. Its rider was named Faithful and True, for He judges fairly and wages a righteous war. … He wore a robe dipped in blood, and His title was the Word of God. The armies of heaven, dressed in the finest of pure white linen, followed Him on white horses. From His mouth came a sharp sword to strike down the nations. He will rule them with an iron rod. He will release the fierce wrath of God, the Almighty, like juice flowing from a winepress. On His robe at His thigh was written this title: King of all kings and Lord of all lords.”.  

In Endgame, all of the Avengers reappear along with other allies revived by Bruce Banner, coming through various portals before launching an assault on Thanos and his army. It’s like a second coming of Avengers. 

When Christ returns, the Bible says the Battle of Armageddon is over before it starts, but in Endgame, there is a lengthy battle during which Thanos wrestles with numerous Avengers for the Infinity Stones. Captain Marvel reappears, taking out Thanos’s ship while fighting for control of the gauntlet.  

Isaiah 14 prophesies the demise of a king who is very Thanos-like. This passage refers to Lucifer (Satan). 

“The mighty man has been destroyed. Yes, your insolence is ended. For the Lord has crushed your wicked power and broken your evil rule. You struck the people with endless blows of rage and held the nations in your angry grip with unrelenting tyranny. But finally the earth is at rest and quiet. Now it can sing again! “How you are fallen from heaven, O shining star, son of the morning! You have been thrown down to the earth, you who destroyed the nations of the world. For you said to yourself, ‘I will ascend to heaven and set my throne above God’s stars. I will preside on the mountain of the gods far away in the north. I will climb to the highest heavens and be like the Most High.’” 

Endgame © Image by Ross Cochrane

IRONMAN DIES TO SAVE THE WORLD!  

Like the Endgame movie with Thanos and Ebony Maw, in the Biblical Apocalypse, the False Prophet and the Antichrist will also ultimately perish together.

Stark maneuvers the Infinity Stones from Thanos’ hand to his own and uses them to turn Thanos and his entire army into dust, triumphantly stating “I am Iron Man.”

But there is a high price. Parker and Potts console Stark as he dies from overexposure to the Stones.  

My grandson came away from the movie in tears, saying “I don’t believe it. Ironman is dead.” He was actually feeling grief for his childhood superhero. 

We know from the news that not all good guys will make it out alive in any given wartime confrontation. But with superheroes, you just don’t expect that one must perish that others might live. They might get battered, but at the last minute it’s always the bad guys that die! How could IRONMAN DIE?  

PEACE AND SACRIFICE 

I am reminded that Peace with God does not come cheaply either, but involved a sacrifice. It cost one Warrior everything. The greatest of all Good Guys died so that we could receive peace with God. “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13).  

The story of Christ is the story that tells of God Himself being the only one willing to battle evil itself, dying for us, paying the ultimate cost as a sacrifice for our sins. “While we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person — though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die — but God shows His love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:6–8).  

Deep down, the theme of self-sacrifice rings true with us. The horror of death mixed with the beauty of supreme love:  At the end of the highest-grossing franchise of all time, peace is purchased through the highest love — SACRIFICE. Yet still it pales into insignificance when compared to the greatest sacrifice of all paid that we could find peace and forgiveness with God. And it is offered as a free gift.

In Endgame we are given a brief flashback which shows Rogers and Carter finally sharing the dance they never got to have in their living room, truly happy at last.  

Revelation 21:1-5 describes eternity for those who have believed in Christ. It says, “… I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, ‘Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them … And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.’ Then He who sat on the throne said, ‘Behold, I make all things new.’”   

The invitation is to receive what Christ has done on the Cross for us by placing our trust in Him. 

John 3:16-17 (NLT) says, “For this is how God loved the world: He gave His one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life. God sent His Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through Him.” 

Pastor Ross 

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Risk and Reward © Image by Ross Cochrane using GetPaint. net

Matthew 19:28-29 – WHAT WILL I GET FOR FOLLOWING JESUS? Part 2 

And everyone who has given up houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or property, for My sake, will receive a hundred times as much in return and will inherit eternal life (Matthew 19:28-29 NLT). 

Jesus says that … 

2. ETERNAL LIFE WILL ALSO BE A REWARD FOR ALL THOSE WHO HAVE GIVEN UP EVERYTHING TO FOLLOW CHRIST 

The Apostles and all followers of Christ who are willing to pay that price know that it is worth the risk, whatever they go through; a hundred times better, even in this life, but the reward of knowing Christ is multiplied beyond this in eternity.  

He’s saying that some followers of Christ may lose possessions and even families through persecution, so the sacrifice is great. The risk is great. The reward in knowing Christ and honoring Him, however, is even greater. The blessings of this earth are precious but always held in the light of seeking first the Kingdom of God (Matthew 6:33).  

When we come to Christ, we hand over everything to His rulership. Coming under His authority means everything we have is under new management. 

We know that no matter what happens in this life, we serve a sovereign God, who understands and who is working out His purposes in us and in the world, until Christ returns and this world is made new. Christ is pre-eminent for those who follow Him and life is full (John 10:10), beyond possessions and even relationships. 

The invitation of Christ is to trust in Him and the work He has done on the Cross in paying the price for our sins and then continue to serve Him. The by-product of knowing Christ and living under His rulership is great reward and life everlasting. 

In John 5:22-26 (NLT) Jesus says, “I tell you the truth, those who listen to My message and believe in God who sent Me have eternal life. They will never be condemned for their sins, but they have already passed from death into life.” 

John 17:3 says “And this is the way to have eternal life—to know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, the One You sent to earth.” 

Pastor Ross 

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What on earth…? © Image by Ross Cochrane using Blender and GetPaint.net

Matthew 19:27-29 – WHAT ON EARTH IS JESUS TALKING ABOUT? Part 1

It’s interesting that one of the questions that come to our minds when we give our lives to Christ is WIIFM? (What’s in it for me?). What compensation will I receive for my sacrifice of everything? Like you can invest in sacrifice. Like following Jesus isn’t fulfillment enough.

In Matthew 19:27 the rich young ruler has just walked away with sorrow in his heart, unwilling to forsake his riches to follow Christ. Jesus tells His disciples how impossible it can be for a rich person to receive eternal life and come under the authority of God.

Peter must have thought, Well, if it is impossible for this young man, with his life ahead of him, blessed with riches, living a good life, and gifted leader to receive eternal life then what about us?” So Peter says to Jesus, “We’ve given up everything to follow You. What will we get?” (Matthew 19:27 NLT). Apparently, even for Peter, following Christ is not return enough?

One thing is always sure about Peter. He doesn’t worry too much about appropriateness. Caution and tact aren’t obvious character traits in Peter.

Is Peter being mercenary or just wanting assurance about whether he and his fellow disciples will have eternal life? Is that why Jesus holds back from rebuking Peter directly for having selfish motives?

YOU CAN INVEST IN SACRIFICE

In fact, Jesus says you can invest in sacrifice.

“Yes,” Jesus replies, “and I assure you that when the world is made new and the Son of Man sits upon His glorious throne, you who have been My followers will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. 

And everyone who has given up houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or property, for My sake, will receive a hundred times as much in return and will inherit eternal life (Matthew 19:28-29 NLT).

Wow! That was unexpected! But what kind of reward is this? Strange kind of reply. 12 disciples, 12 thrones, 12 tribes. How are the Apostles judges over the 12 tribes of Israel? Are the tribes going to be re-established? Is this a metaphorical picture or is Jesus being sarcastic or exaggerating to get a point across and if He is, what is He trying to say? Is this a future prophecy?

WHAT ON EARTH IS JESUS TALKING ABOUT?

What about the hundred times in return? In what way? The apostles would experience persecution and execution. How is this a hundred times as much return for the sacrifice they have made? Sure, eternal life afterward is more return than anyone could hope for, but what is Jesus getting at?

Some commentaries suggest that all this judging of the 12 tribes on 12 thrones happened with the early Church with the Apostles judging Israel by the inclusion of the Gentiles and ushering in the understanding of the New Covenant. Others suggest this is somehow linked to the writing of the New Testament. How they arrive at this, I don’t know. It seems to me if Jesus meant all that, He would have said it.

BUT WHAT DID HE MEAN?

I’m left with more questions than answers with this reply of Jesus. Perhaps you are too. So in the next few blogs I am on a quest to discover what on earth Jesus is talking about? I invite you to come with me. 

Pastor Ross

 

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The Cost © Ross Cochrane 

 

Matthew 18:5-6 – THE COST

Jesus says in Matthew 18:4-6 (NLT) “So anyone who becomes as humble as this little child is the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven. And anyone who welcomes a little child like this on My behalf (Greek: in My Name) is welcoming Me. But if you cause one of these little ones who trusts in me to fall into sin, it would be better for you to have a large millstone tied around your neck and be drowned in the depths of the sea. 

Many people look at this verse and think it is talking about treating children well. It is not, although it goes without saying that we should do so. This is not talking about receiving little children in general, but receiving those who become like little children and who have believed and trusted in Christ.

To welcome those who humbly respond in obedience to Christ with a childlike faith as new followers of Christ is like welcoming Christ Himself. Jesus brings equality to a new level when He makes these statements. He says in effect these new Christians represent Me.

The old man could not escape it. It would be a sin not to allow Christ to direct his life.

Becoming a Christian would mean certain ostracism by his family and by his community if it became known. Even Jesus said, “A brother will betray his brother to death, a father will betray his own child, and children will rebel against their parents and cause them to be killed” (Matthew 10:21, NLT). This was true in his community when someone responded to Christ.

He had seen it before. Unbelieving family members would become like a cult, applying pressure in the form of psychological and physical abuse. He knew that if he gave his life to Christ he would face the possibility of death, and the certainty of rejection.

“How can you do this?” his wife shouted at him, “What about our children? If you become a Christ-follower, we will all be in danger. I will let the authorities know. I warn you. If you love your family, please don’t do this!”

What will I do now? he thought, l love my family but I also love Christ! How awful it is to be forced to choose between them, and even worse to face being betrayed by my own family, but, deep down, I know that I must follow Christ. The love for my family will never diminish but I must ask, ‘To who do I owe my allegiance?’ And if it is Christ, then I must ask for His help to keep my family from suffering?

In the days to come he would read the words of Jesus in the book of Matthew (10:37, 40 NLT) “If you love your father or mother more than you love Me, you are not worthy of being Mine; or if you love your son or daughter more than Me, you are not worthy of being Mine.”…”Anyone who receives you receives Me, and anyone who receives Me receives the Father who sent Me.”

In Matthew 10:32-33 (NLT) he read, “Everyone who acknowledges Me publicly here on earth, I will also acknowledge before My Father in heaven. But everyone who denies Me here on earth, I will also deny before My Father in heaven.” (Matthew 10:15, 28).

He read of others who were persecuted for becoming Christians in Philippians 1:29 (NLT) “For you have been given not only the privilege of trusting in Christ but also the privilege of suffering for Him.”

Jesus said in Matthew 10:22 (NLT) “And all nations will hate you because you are My followers. But everyone who endures to the end will be saved.” He still longed to have peace with God. Perhaps God would help him bear persecution and rejection!

In Matthew 16:24 (NLT) Jesus said to His disciples, “If any of you wants to be My follower, you must give up your own way, take up your cross, and follow Me.” It doesn’t sound all that rewarding, Lord, he thought, but then in John 16:33 (NLT) he read, “Take heart for I have overcome the world”. And in Romans 8:37 he read “I am more than a conqueror in Christ.”

In Matthew 10:39 (NLT) he read how Jesus says “If you cling to your life, you will lose it; but if you give up your life for Me, you will find it.” He thought, The key to handling pressure in my life is not to compromise in terms of my allegiance. It will mean standing firm in my resolve to trust in the Lord Jesus Christ and come under His authority and direction no matter what the world throws at me. It will mean finding victory over every circumstance in this life in Him.

The invitation that Christ gives to follow Him will involve a cost. The choice you make will change your life forever.

Pastor Ross

WHEN THE WOLF HOWLS

Dagger for When the Wolf Howls

© by Ross Cochrane

Chapter 64

When Ahithophel arrived in Hebron, Absalom was already offering sacrifices. The animals had been taken from the royal flock. Absalom saw each animal as a symbol of all that he would make his father sacrifice to fulfil his own destiny. More blood is yet to be spilled.

As soon as he discovered that Absalom intended a military coup, Ahithophel pledged his allegiance. The conspiracy grew stronger. Men of Israel had only praise as they spoke of this handsome young king and they continued to spread the word about Absalom.

The trumpets blew and the crowds gathered. Some thought that David himself was announcing his son as king and that Absalom had his blessing, but for whatever reason, they began to flock to Hebron – the innocent sheep of Absalom’s sacrifice.

No-one noticed the man who returned secretly to Jerusalem to report to Hushai. Hushai warned David of the conspiracy immediately.

Not wanting any bloodshed, King David decided an immediate evacuation of the city. Hushai remained in Jerusalem waiting for further information on Ahithophel from a second messenger. He was still there when all who had chosen to follow king David left the city. Dagger for When the Wolf Howls

David wept. As he had approached the summit of the Mount of Olives, head covered and barefoot he had looked across to the city of Jerusalem and could no longer contain his tears. He spoke prophetic words that found their truest expression many years hence in the voice of the Son of David, Jesus, who stood in the same place and wept over the city.

This day it seemed that both voices, centuries apart, cried in unison, “Jerusalem, Oh, Jerusalem, who kills her prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I have wanted to gather your children together, the way a mother hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were unwilling. Behold, your house is being left to you desolate. For I say to you, from now on you shall not see me until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!'”

The presence of God descended upon this place of worship and all the people who were with the king covered their heads and wept also.

Dagger for When the Wolf Howls

On the Mount of Olives, Ziba met David with a couple of saddled donkeys. David could not see Mephibosheth and so he had asked, “Where is your master?”

“He has decided to stay in Jerusalem, I could not convince him to come with me, my lord king. He kept saying, ‘Now that David is gone, Israel will restore my father’s kingdom to me.'” Ziba looked embarrassed. David was annoyed. I treated him well and he repays me with such disrespect.

King Saul’s son, Jonathan, had proved to be David’s most faithful, trusted and loved friend. It had been an honour to show kindness to his son, Mephibosheth. The land that belonged to king Saul was given to him and Ziba had been instructed to cultivate it. Mephibosheth ate at David’s own table.

“My lord, I have brought you some of the produce of my master’s land.” Ziba proceeded to unload the donkeys. He had brought two hundred loaves of bread, a hundred clusters of raisins, a hundred summer fruits, and a jug of wine. “The donkeys are for the kings family to ride, and the bread and summer fruit for the young men to eat. The wine is for those who become faint in the wilderness.”

Although David was disappointed with Mephibosheth, he was grateful for the supplies. “Because you have shown me kindness despite your master’s unfaithfulness to me, all that belongs to Mephibosheth is now yours.” Ziba could not believe his ears. He prostrated himself on the ground to show his gratitude and loyalty.

“Let me always find favour in your eyes, my lord, the king!”

It seemed as if Hushai had entered into a sanctuary as he walked into camp that day and made his way through the guards to David. He presented himself by prostrating himself before the king. As a sign of his grief for his king, he had torn the top section of his garments and put the dust of the road upon his head. David took him by the hand and raised him up, giving him the hug of a respected friend. Hushai said, “My lord, it has been confirmed that Ahithophel is one of the conspirators with Absalom.” David turned again towards Jerusalem and said, “O Lord, I pray, make Ahithophel’s counsel be foolishness.”

David trusted Hushai and wasted no time in giving him a special mission for the sake of intelligence. He said, “You will be of no use to me here, Hushai. Go back to Jerusalem. You must thwart the counsel of Ahithophel in whatever way you can. Be my ears. Whatever you hear from the king’s house, report it to Zadok and Abiathar the priests. Their two sons, Ahimaaz and Jonathan, will be your feet and will send me everything that you hear.”

Hushai left immediately and found another way back to Jerusalem so as not to arouse the suspicion of Absalom’s spies. He walked into Jerusalem just before Absalom arrived.


 

WHEN THE WOLF HOWLS

Dagger for When the Wolf Howls

© by Ross Cochrane

Chapter 62

Absalom could think of no better time to make his move than now. His plan was perfect and his father would be so easily deceived. Going to the king, he said, “I made a vow to the Lord while I was in Geshur. I told Him that if ever He brought me back to Jerusalem, then I would serve Him. God has answered my prayer and I need to go to Hebron, to my birthplace, to offer sacrifices. May I take leave from my duties here?”

“Of course!” I am delighted. This was the first time he knew his son to speak so openly about serving the Lord. He decided to postpone his celebration and would not make his announcement of Absalom’s reinstatement as a counsellor until he had returned.

Had Absalom known the plans of his father to re-instate him, perhaps he would have adjusted his own strategy for power. “Thankyou, my lord.”

David placed his hand on Absalom’s shoulder and said, “Son, when you were born in Hebron, I named you Absalom, “Father of peace.” Now return to your birthplace in peace.”

This struck Absalom as rather ironic. Peace is not exactly what I have in mind, Father. Far from it. You are such a fool! Israel’s 40 years of wilderness wanderings under your rule is almost over and you can’t see it! It is time for a new generation to enter the promised land! Now you will watch from the battlements of your Jericho as your kingdom collapses around you and you will be forced to witness the coming of a new sun rising in Israel!

Messengers were sent immediately throughout all the tribes of Israel, to spread the news that Absalom was succeeding David as king.

The message was well received. “Finally, a man who will give justice to Israel”, they said. They would listen for the sound of the trumpet and pay allegiance to Absalom as king in Hebron.

To achieve his purposes through a sacrifice seemed appropriate, he thought, as he rode out of Jerusalem in magnificent splendour. He had planned things well. One step at a time. Now the finale.

As his hair had continued to grow, Absalom, now back in a position of influence, had begun drawing more and more attention to himself. Riding in a chariot that he had acquired  along with some of the best of the king’s horses, the image was complete. Fifty of his best men ran before him. On this occasion, two hundred men followed as they moved out of Jerusalem and towards Hebron. The sight was impressive. He gained the attention of everyone in David’s kingdom as a young man of importance. The son of king David. Is this the man next in line to be king? they thought.

The sacrifice is being prepared.

Each of the fifty men who were running at a steady pace before the chariot had been specially trained for months. They would obey Absalom without question and had pledged their loyalty to him. For over two years they had been his secret intelligence, informing him of everything that went on in and around the palace. It was now time to dispatch one of them as a messenger back towards Jerusalem. He could think of no-one more suited or trusted to send than a man from Gallim.

“You will be my eyes and ears. Do your job well and I will soon return to you that which is rightfully yours.” His name was Paltiel. He had been one of the best of Absalom’s spies, mature and clever, but with a cold heart like the man he served. His wife, Michal, had been forcibly taken from him by the king and with a little help from Absalom, he had maintained his rage towards David ever since. “You have the eyes of a hawk and a quick mind, but for now, you must fly in the shadows.”

Pastor Ross

P.S. Don’t forget to purchase a copy of Above the Storm, my new e-book on the ancient book of Job, full of short stories to help you understand some deep truths. This is a creative exploration which doesn’t avoid the question, “Why do bad things happen to good people?”

WHEN THE WOLF HOWLS

Dagger for When the Wolf Howls

© by Ross Cochrane

Chapter 58

The plan had taken months of preparation and even before his triumphal entry back into David’s presence, Absalom knew the pathway he intended to take. Firstly he had to gain for himself a reputation as one who cared for the people. Easy enough. It may take some time, but it will be worth the effort.

His father, the king, refused to see him face to face. As he had walked home, fuming with revenge, he devised an additional strategy. It was simple but effective, and fetched the faint flicker of a smile to his otherwise dark demeanor.

Absalom went immediately to the Tent of Meeting, his long hair blowing in the breeze and a good size crowd gathered out of curiosity. They had all heard of his return and he was now a celebrity.

As he stood before the priest he asked for the razor and the kings scales to be brought. He was there to complete his Nazirite vow but so much more interested in symbolising his father’s injustice. “My banishment is at an end!” he shouted and the atmosphere was electric with cheering and well wishes.

Some of the women were crying as Absalom presented offerings as if he was presenting them to the Lord: a lamb without defect, a ewe-lamb without blemish and a ram without fault, as the law required. He saw these animals not as sacrifices but as symbols of himself. Flawless. I am the innocent victim of your injustice, father, and you will pay! “Behold, the sacrifice!” he shouted. He was handsome and without guile and the people saw him as a hero returned, and many thought he was despised unjustly by his father the king.

Then at the entrance to the Tent of Meeting, he shaved off his hair and weighed it according to the Royal standard of king David before the people, as a measure of his humiliation. It was then burned in the fire as a sacrifice. It was a very moving event. It worked. It gave him much favour in the eyes of the people. His hair weighed about 200 shekels worth of pity by the kings own scales.

He felt like Samson, shaved of his hair and now imprisoned in his own house, blinded to the sight of his father’s favour. And like Samson, he determined to get his revenge. You will pay, father. You will pay.

Another vow was made that day. His hair began to grow again, along with his popularity, but for him, each inch represented the growing resentment he felt towards his father. He endured two full years in Jerusalem, without any contact.

Absalom took great pains to associate himself with the important people of David’s court and spent time building relationships. Ahithophel was a key target, since he was the grandfather of Bathsheba.

Although David had apologised to Ahithophel for the disgrace brought on his family through adultery with his granddaughter, Surely, you want revenge, thought Absalom, to avenge the loss of reputation. What about the murder of your son-in-law? Absalom knew he could work on these areas of hurt.

Rising early each morning, Absalom stood beside the road that led to the city gate. He was here to greet anyone who came to the city with a case to be heard by the king for judgement. Most of them knew who he was, so his attention to them in a time of need made them feel important and cared for.

Those who recognised Absalom immediately came and prostrated themselves on the ground before him. He reached down and lifted them up, hugged and kiss them in the warm greeting of an equal and a friend.

“What city are you from?” he asked, because he was only interested in those who were from Israel. If they were, he questioned them about their case and showed great interest in what they had to say. Then he added, “I can see that your claims are valid. As you are probably aware, I am a man who has been trained through the hard process of justice. If you know anything of me you will know that to be true. But my journey so far has made me well acquainted with the law. You have a very good case but I’m not sure that you will get the justice you deserve. It’s a pity that you have no advocate before the king.”

It worked each time. The man would look to him and say, “My lord, are you not able to defend me before the king?”

Absalom would laugh and then look seriously at the man. He would say, “If only what you are saying could be done. If I were appointed as judge in the land, then every man who has any suit or cause could come to me, and believe me, I would give him the justice he deserves.” And so the scenario had been repeated each day.

I have stolen the hearts of the men of Israel from you, father. He was seen as a man of justice and great wisdom, but also as a friend. Now the deception was almost complete.

Pastor Ross

P.S. Don’t forget to purchase a copy of Above the Storm, my new e-book on the ancient book of Job, full of short stories to help you understand some deep truths. This is a creative exploration which doesn’t avoid the question, “Why do bad things happen to good people?”


 

WHEN THE WOLF HOWLS

Dagger for When the Wolf Howls

© by Ross Cochrane

Chapter 44

“I have come to sacrifice to the Lord. Consecrate yourselves and come with me.” Samuel had said.

Shimeah was in a melancholic mood as he spoke with his older brother Eliab in the presence of Shimeah’s son, Jonadab, who listened with avid interest as they remembered the day, long ago, when Samuel the prophet arrived at Bethlehem.

“The elders of our district wondered why this prophet of the Lord had come. Samuel made a point of consecrating my father, Jesse. And then each of my brothers.” Why did my knees begin to shake when he came to me? “We had all been invited to the sacrifice. No-one asked why. The authority of this man was too great to ignore, so our father obeyed without a word of argument.”

“When he looked at each of us,” said Shimeah, “… it was something about his eyes. They seemed to look into your soul. When he came to Eliab it was as if he was just about to speak some great word of prophecy.” What made him hesitate? He seemed confused.

“Samuel looked to our father, Jesse. Jesse called Abinadab, the second eldest of my brothers and had him pass in front of Samuel. I heard him say very clearly, ‘The Lord has not chosen this one either.’”

“It was only then, at that moment that I realised Samuel was here on a mission, and that I was next in line. I thought, ‘If it wasn’t Eliab or Abinadab, then it must be me he wants’. I really thought he was going to choose me”. He laughed. Why did he pass by me? “After all, the three of us had been chosen for king Saul’s army recently, but that didn’t seem to make any difference to Samuel.” He simply dismissed me. ‘Nor has the Lord chosen this one.’ “I am relieved in a way, I suppose,” But why didn’t he choose me? His heart sank again as he remembered how his father continued to parade his sons before Samuel.

Eliab took up the story, “I remember it like it was yesterday. Each time Samuel said, ‘The Lord has not chosen these.’

“But David wasn’t there, was he?” said Jonadab. He knew the story well but loved hearing it again since his father and uncle had actually been there.

No. Samuel said to Jesse, ‘Are these all the sons you have?’

Our father replied, ‘No. My youngest is still tending sheep.’

‘Send for him; we will not sit down until he arrives.’ Jesse had obeyed.

 “David looked so bewildered when he saw Samuel,” Eliab said. “Somehow they seemed to recognise each other but I’m sure they had never met. David had an air of expectancy and excitement like someone who has come home after a long time away. Samuel had looked into the handsome face of David and finally knew. “He reached for the horn of oil that he carried and anointed him in the presence of us all.”

“I did not understand fully the implication of what Samuel was doing all those years ago. It all makes sense now, of course,” said Eliab. Does it? thought Shimeah.

Shimeah knew that it had been Samuel who had once anointed Saul as king and although he too did not quite understand the significance of what Samuel had been doing that day with David, he felt a pang of resentment rising up towards his younger brother. Why did the Lord choose him? “He was not experienced in warfare in Saul’s army. He just tended sheep, which of course has it’s challenges,” but hardly enough to qualify David to be chosen by God to be king. “But it’s true. David was somehow different from that day on.” A difference that showed up when Shimeah had been at war with the Philistines.

Genesis 4 – Part 1 – “HOW CAN I KNOW THAT I AM ACCEPTED?”

Unacceptable!

They had behaved badly in class but they were equally disruptive in the detention room, swearing, acting tough and defying anything I said with a smart comment. Unacceptable behaviour. I have never really had a problem with anger, but the closest I came was in that classroom. Teaching in a highschool can be stressful at times, and I was being hooked into their GAME.

It was a game that is commonly played in a classroom and if you could give it a name it would be “Make me!” or “I don’t care and there’s nothing you can do about it!”

If these guys had been in the garden of Eden and told not to eat the fruit they would have said to God “You can’t make me do anything! I’ll do what I like and I don’t care what you think!”

In Genesis 4 Cain reminds me of those guys, because he is playing a REBELLIOUS GAME with God, only things get way out of hand and he ends up killing his brother Abel. It hasn’t taken very long for the first murder to be committed, only one generation away from Adam and Eve. Cold blooded, reckless, callous, uncaring and unacceptable.

It’s interesting that Cain and Abel BOTH bring an offering to the Lord. Why? God didn’t tell them to do it. There’s no law that says they MUST do it. They just did. Abel’s offering was ACCEPTED and Cain’s offering was not.

Why is Cain’s offering UNACCEPTABLE? Does he bring rotten fruit and veges in defiant rebellion against God rather than bringing the best of the crop? Or is this a sin offering where he needs animals for SACRIFICE? We are not told, but we are told that God considers that Cain has not done the right thing and his attitude is also out of line.

Why does he come in the first place? It beats me! Why do some people come to Church when it is clear that their lives are up the creek and they don’t really have any relationship with God, nor desire one? I don’t know! To gain points with God? Maybe.

Whatever reason Cain has, it doesn’t go down well with God. Nobody can expect to come to God with their own agenda, their own works, efforts, fruits, ways, religion, or ritual. It doesn’t work that way. You have to come to God on His terms, not by trying to impress Him with our imperfect thoughts and ways.

A woman I visited yesterday in hospital asked me “How do I know that I am ACCEPTED BY GOD?” It seems that God establishes something with Cain and Abel that’s important. He will never accept you apart from the SHEDDING OF BLOOD of substitutionary innocent sacrifice. The BLOOD OF CHRIST Himself is shed so that you can be accepted by God, and He is the perfect and only substitutionary sacrifice necessary.

You want to bring something to God? Try to bring the fruit of your own good works and it won’t cut muster with God. First go to the Cross and accept the sacrifice that was made for you. Then instead of trying to impress God with your good works you will serve God because you see yourself for who you really are, a sinner saved by grace. Ephesians 2:8-9 (NLT) says, “God saved you by His grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it.”

The “POSB Commentary” says “The clearest explanation as to why Abel offered an animal sacrifice and was approved by God is that God did institute salvation by animal sacrifice with Adam and Eve. Adam and Eve were bound to have taught their sons to approach God through animal sacrifice. But only Abel approached God properly. Cain, as so many down through history, rebelled and did not.”

God bless you Church as you realize you can know for certain that you can be ACCEPTED by God! My acceptance is based on what Christ has done for me, not on my own good works.

Pastor Ross

Part 5 – Genesis 22:1-19 – CHRISTMAS SUBSTITUTES!

Christmas Substitute

In the very centre of Christmas cheer, amidst the silver bells, coloured baubles and lights, enormous sparkling chandeliers, banners and wreathes and beside a gigantic Christmas tree, there in the middle of everything stands a huge throne that dominates the centre of the plaza. No, it’s not for Jesus. It is for Santa Claus, enthroned as the CHRISTMAS SUBSTITUTE of a naughty and nice world.

The nativity scene is hard to find, tucked away in a glass case around the corner somewhere. At least in Australia we still have them. It’s not that we don’t want to include Jesus, the Saviour of the world, in the celebrations, it’s just that there is no room in the … well you know what I mean. It seems you still have to search for Jesus, like wise men of old, without the help of the star. So much for Matthew 6:33 (NLT) “Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and He will give you everything you need.” 

I’m not sure Jesus would go for the big red throne adorned with tinsel and holly anyway. The stable seems to indicate that God is less interested in all the frills and more interested in ruling over the hearts and lives of those willing to love, honour and obey the real King of kings and Lord of lords, people such as Abraham.

In Genesis 22, Isaac is the promised son, whom Abraham loves. It is interesting to me that this is the first time the word “love” is used in the Bible and it is in connection with the love of a father for his son. The New Testament makes it clear that this real life story is also a picture of Christ, the Son of God, whom God loves. In Matthew 3:17 (NLT) God says about Jesus “This is my dearly loved Son, who brings Me great joy.”

You know the story. God stops Abraham from killing his only son at the last minute and provides a SUBSTITUTE SACRIFICE. In Genesis 22:13 it says, “Then Abraham looked up and saw a ram caught by its horns in a thicket. So he took the ram and sacrificed it as a burnt offering IN PLACE OF his son.” God provides for us even in the most dreadful of circumstances.

Substitution. Isaac is Abrahams only son of the promise. Jesus is God’s only Son, the promised Messiah. The ram SUBSTITUTES for Isaac. The lamb of God, Jesus Christ, SUBSTITUTES for me. Isaac carries the wood. Christ carries the cross. Abraham offers Isaac on Mt. Moriah. Years later, Solomon’s Temple is built on Mt Moriah, where many sacrifices take place. Christ is offered up on the same mountain ridge, once and for all for my sins. Abraham travels three days and received back his son. Christ spends 3 days in the tomb and He is resurrected. Abraham calls Mt. Moriah Jehovah-Jireh, “the Lord will provide.” God provides for Abraham. God provides a SUBSTITUTIONARY SACRIFICE for me in the Lord Jesus Christ.

God says to Abraham in effect, “Because you have not withheld anything from Me, even the one person you loved the most, then I will not withhold anything from you concerning my purposes.”

Abraham’s submission to God’s will, in an ultimate act of worship, pictures beautifully the SUBSTITUTIONARY WORK of Christ. In Matthew 26:39 (NLT) Jesus says “My Father! If it is possible, let this cup of suffering be taken away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine.” Hebrews 5:8 (NLT) says “Even though Jesus was God’s Son, He learned OBEDIENCE from the things He suffered.” 

Abraham’s obedience to God is a direct application of Proverbs 3:5 (NLT) in the most trying of circumstances “Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding.” 1 Samuel 15:22 (NLT) asks, “What is more pleasing to the Lord: your burnt offerings and sacrifices or your OBEDIENCE to His voice? Listen! OBEDIENCE is better than sacrifice, and submission is better than offering the fat of rams.”

God bless you as you as you abdicate the throne this CHRISTMAS. I object that Santa has become a SUBSTITUTE for Jesus, but on closer inspection behind the beard and the red suit, if you look hard enough you will see me, bowing to culture and the “naughty and nice things” of the world. Sitting on a throne of my own making.

But I choose to abdicate! I choose to take off the mask and look for the manger. Forget the naughty and nice. I just want to be Ho, Ho, Holy! (Sorry, couldn’t resist). I choose His righteousness as a SUBSTITUTE for my sinfulness. I realise that all I have to offer Him is more akin to a stable, not a palace, or some fancy throne, yet here in this place, without all the frills of a Christmas substitute, I choose to recognise Jesus as my King.

Now with that established, let’s have a lot of fun! Have a happy holiday but most of all a Merry CHRISTmas!

Pastor Ross