|BIBLE STUDY SERIES #161, 162 and 163|
18 December, 1994
By Douglas C. Nesbit, B.A.
This present series of Bible Studies began with God's Call to Abram, and as we progressed through this series we saw, first, how God made great promises having age-long validity to that Patriarch. Later, in fulfilment of those great promises, we saw how a son called Isaac was born to Abraham and his wife, Sarah. Isaac being dedicated to The Almighty God upon an altar on Mount Moriah, then became, as Scripture tells us, the son in whom Abraham's "seed" would be called. Isaac would, in turn, have two sons, Esau and Jacob. Through Jacob, (or Israel as he was later re-named), there was to come a multitude of nations in which the whole world would find blessing.
In our imagination, as we read the Scriptural account, we accompanied the Israelite family down into Egypt, first in the company of Joseph, and later all the Israelite clans as they came to the fertile deltaic soil of Goshen, there to become a multitude. Later we watched as they were forced to serve Pharaoh as bond-servants. We saw how The Almighty brought them out of Egypt through a miraculous series of signs and wonders, in an Exodus which led them to the foot of Mount Sinai. There they received the Law and there we watched as they made an agreement of national marriage to Yahweh, the God Who would prepare and use them and their descendants to His mighty purposes. The nation would, through its religious forms and ceremonies, prepare for the coming of The Word made Flesh, Jesus Christ, Who would be born as prophesied, and die upon Calvary in substitution for all those who repent, but whose lives fall short of the perfection which alone will allow a person to stand before The God of the whole earth.
We have followed the Scriptural account as Moses received God's instructions regarding the construction of The Tabernacle; the tent and its contents, which were to become the focus of national worship and meeting between God and His people. Last week we were examining part of Exodus 26, a Chapter in which the curtains and boards which formed the walls of this tent were detailed. Towards the end of that programme we had barely time to inquire into that section of the description which outlines a very significant and important curtain, called "The Vail", and I explained at that time that this "Vail" separated the Holy place from the Most Holy. I further stated that it was the veil occupying the equivalent position in Herod's Temple which was torn from the top to the bottom at the time when Christ died upon the Cross of Calvary, thereby demonstrating in symbol that the pathway into the presence of The Almighty God was now open to all who would approach in reverence.
I have, on a former programme, explained the significance of the tabernacle colours Red, White and Blue. It was these colours which were to be used in the working of the magnificent tapestry of the curtain. Let us review the verses which end Exodus 26, starting at verse 31.
31. And thou shalt make a vail of blue, and purple, and scarlet, and fine twined linen of cunning work: with cherubims shall it be made:
32. And thou shalt hang it upon four pillars of shittim wood overlaid with gold: their hooks shall be of gold, upon the four sockets of silver.
33. And thou shalt hang up the vail under the taches, that thou mayest bring in thither within the vail the ark of the testimony: and the vail shall divide unto you between the holy place and the most holy.
34. And thou shalt put the mercy seat upon the ark of the testimony in the most holy place.
35. And thou shalt set the table without the vail, and the candlestick over against the table on the side of the tabernacle toward the south: and thou shalt put the table on the north side.
As with other fittings within this Tabernacle, as the Ark of the Covenant with its covering Mercy Seat was approached, all metal surfaces were to be of gold. Silver, and then copper or bronze, which is called "brass" in the AV, were assigned more distant uses. The Door to the tent is, like the vail, to be of the colours Red, White and Blue, accompanied by purple and gold, but here the sockets were to be of the more lowly metal, copper or bronze. Again, we find the three colours, Red, White and Blue, which symbolise in turn Salvation through Sacrifice, Purity bestowed thereby, and the Keeping of God's Law "as it is in heaven." These are accompanied by, and sustained by, the purple and gold of God's Royal presence. Let us read the remaining verses of the chapter to see that this is so, keeping in mind that the fine twined linen would be white.
36. And thou shalt make an hanging for the door of the tent, of blue, and purple, and scarlet, and fine twined linen, wrought with needlework.
37. And thou shalt make for the hanging five pillars of shittim wood, and overlay them with gold, and their hooks shall be of gold: and thou shalt cast five sockets of brass for them.
As I have just mentioned, the metal which, in the AV, is rendered "brass" is explained as being "copper" or "bronze" in a number of Biblical references. There are differences between this "door" and the "vail" which separates the Holy of Holies from the Holy place. The "vail" within the Tabernacle was to be decorated with "cherubims", while no such elaboration is to appear on the outside "door", and we may be led to inquire why this may be so. The Cherubims which are mentioned in Genesis 3:24 were equipped with "a sword which turned every way, to keep the way of the tree of life" at the time of the exclusion of Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden. Was the intent, therefore, to symbolise upon the inner vail that the Holy of Holies was not to be entered by any except the purified High Priest, while the generality of the Israelites who qualified were to be allowed within the outer door? In this connection, Hebrews 9:24-28 says:
24. For Christ is not entered into the holy places made with hands, which are the figures of the true; but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us:
25. Nor yet that he should offer himself often, as the high priest entereth into the holy place every year with blood of others;
26. For then must he often have suffered since the foundation of the world: but now once in the end of the world hath he appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself.
27. And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment:
28. So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation.
There were, in fact, three doors to the entire structure. The third door was that which must be passed if one was to enter the court beyond the actual Tabernacle, and we shall look at that third door later. We may note the difference in the number of the columns which support the two door hangings of the actual tent. The inner door or vail upon which were worked the figures of the guardian cherubims was hung upon four posts, and four is the number of the material creation. The outer door was supported by five posts, and as we have learned in a previous lesson, five denotes Divine Grace, which would allow passage to those in need of, and seeking the same. Five and its multiples is an expression of that Grace throughout the Tabernacle.
In connection with the whole subject of doors, we ought to remember that the Israelites had been given the directive to dip hyssop into the blood of the Passover lambs, and then to place that blood upon their doorposts and lintels (Exodus 12:22) so that, being thus covered by the blood, the Angel of Death would not visit their dwellings as the terrible plague of death upon the Egyptian firstborn proceeded. The Egyptians did not have that covering sacrificial blood, and all their firstborn - human and animal - died that night.
The knowledge of their Passover experience as a nation, and of the Tabernacle doors or curtains would be at once brought to mind by His faithful Israelitish listeners as Christ, in John 10:7, spoke these words: "I am the door of the sheep." The protection of Christ, and His watchful care over His flock was thus symbolised. He cares for even one, the ninety and nine being already found, He searches for that lost one. The sheepfold would have an entrance through which a wolf would have to pass, and the practice, I understand was for the shepherd to lie down across that entrance, in order to block an invader from entering.
The doors to the New Jerusalem, the heavenly city, are described through symbolism in Revelation 21. It is a totally Israelitish concept, with pearls for the twelve gates, and each gate is to bear the name of one of the twelve tribes of Israel. It is presented as being open to those who are saved, and who would be enabled to enter. Angels are at every gate, and nothing which defileth or which is an abomination or maketh a lie can enter therein. Let us read part of the passage found in Revelation 21:25-27:
25. And the gates of it shall not be shut at all by day: for there shall be no night there.
26. And they shall bring the glory and honour of the nations into it.
27. And there shall in no wise enter into it any thing that defileth, neither whatsoever worketh abomination, or maketh a lie: but they which are written in the Lamb's book of life.
Let us consider the New Testament revelation of the relationship of Our Lord to His own people, and let us consider the part which falls to ourselves if we are to enjoy this fellowship with Him. Next week, I shall have a meditation relating to Christ's advent.
25 December, 1994
By Douglas C. Nesbit, B.A.
As we are, once again, at that spot chosen on the calendar to remember the First Advent of Our Lord, otherwise called Christmas; a time when the thoughts of most of Western Society are enjoying a holiday break, it seemed appropriate to step aside, so to speak, from our ongoing series of Bible Studies for a short interval in order to consider the occasion which is thus marked.
I thought on this matter as I prepared this week's talk, and I decided to review some of those things which I have said on former similar occasions. If I say some things which long-time listeners to these broadcasts think sound familiar, please bear with me, for I believe they bear repeating.
The commercial interests all across the land would, I feel sure, panic at the mere suggestion, or even the thought, of giving up the lucrative Christmas market and so those aspects of the encrusted social rituals which appear innocuous to the establishment are cultivated with lavish intensity. It has, in fact, become a bit like Hallowe'en in this respect.
No doubt the whole commercial community desires to sustain the pagan aspects of the hour, in order to stimulate the sale of gifts which are nice, but not really essential to one's existence. This pagan distortion of the true intent of the holiday becomes obvious when the God-given Law, requiring the observance of a weekly Sabbath for rest and a time for the whole national community to worship, is totally dismissed and set aside in the interests of intensified avaricious commercial activities which nominally are supposed to be supportive of, and to reflect, a Christian occasion.
But just as the glorious and mighty hand of God intervened at the Exodus, God has promised the second time to bring His people out from the present forms of bondage. This Second Exodus would appear, however, to be of another order. This emergence will be out of the present un-Godly economic, spiritual, cultural and governmental bondage which presently acts to fetter the fullest expression of a truly Christian, God-serving Israelitish community. As regular listeners know, we in British-Israel hold that the present day descendants of the vast majority of ancient Israelites are to be found among the main racial groups of the British Commonwealth, the Americans, and kindred folk of North-West Europe.
Such a community, with the Throne of David at its centre, must come, for in Luke 1:32 the angel Gabriel speaks to Mary of her son, saying that "the Lord God shall give unto him the Throne of his father David." But if Jesus was to be given the throne of His father, David, and to rule over the house of Jacob, as stated by the Angel Gabriel to Mary, let me leave a question with you. Where is that throne which God shall give to Jesus Christ? He didn't receive it at His First Advent for in John 19:15, John tells us that the chief priests answered Pilate "We have no king but Caesar." The story concerns that fateful stone called Jacob's Pillow, which is also called Lia Fail, and The Stone of Destiny, and today, the Coronation Stone.
As Jesus did not receive that throne at His First Advent, it awaits the Second. However, we should apply the name "Emmanuel" at both the First and the Second Advents. Matthew 1:23 simply says "They shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us." Incomparably, the Christian world has historically fulfilled this prophecy by applying the name exclusively to Jesus Christ.
Young's Concordance, under the word "Immanuel", informs us that the word means "God is with us". The Concordance notes that this was "A symbolic name given to the child who was announced to Ahaz and the people of Judah as the sign that God would give them deliverance from their enemies... ."
Although the name used in Matthew's Gospel is spelled using an initial letter "E" where the Old Testament uses an "I", the passage in Matthew is almost a direct quotation of Isaiah 7:14, a passage which states "Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel."
In the time remaining, I want to see if we can determine an answer to the question "What purpose was served by Jesus' coming into the world of human experience?" Why did Christ come and why must He come again?
Christ is described in the symbolic language of Revelation 13:8 as "...the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world." This statement reveals that, from the very first concept in the mind of The Creator, it was His intention to create men and women possessing the ability to think rationally and so to make decisions involving expressions of love and of commitment to Himself. That over-riding requirement necessitated granting permission to test immature selfish decisions, some of which have resulted in savage calamities during the present age. We call these decisions "Sin".
Incidentally, the ability to make any such decisions is not possible without the ability to project the results one should expect from those decisions. Such rational thoughts must enjoy a totally rational environment in order to develop. Thus, Natural Law had to be built into the Creation and apply in all aspects of the physical universe. It is this natural law which forms the subject-matter of the Sciences.
Do not be fooled by concentration on this aspect alone. As the Psalmist said in Psalm 14:1, "The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God." Fulfilled prophecy demonstrates that God exists. As Peter wrote in II Peter 1:19, "We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts."
But that ability to sin required, in love, the availability of some means of healing the breach, and re-constituting the whole environment to one enjoying fellowship with God Himself. For guidance, man needed a statement of Law, The Commandments, and penalty for the defiance of sinful experiments. Survival of the created, however, requires the payment of that penalty through some means available to mankind. The Cross is that means of payment. Do not despise it.
We read in Genesis of the fall from Grace of Adam and Eve. Their experimental rebellion was foreseen by God, and this necessitated on God's part, right from the very beginning, the advent of a "Second Adam" who would serve, much as Noah's ark, to take the waves and storm and shield the occupants. (Incidentally, the "nave" where the congregation sits in a church takes its name, like the "navy", from the Latin "navis", a ship, as it is intended, symbolically, to serve that very function!)
Thus only those sinners who, so to speak, "come into the ark" of Christ's "body", are safe from the ultimate consequences of their inadequacy because He alone could fully satisfy the penalty of Law-breaking on The Cross. That act had to occur on a separate occasion from His Advent as King, when He would finally establish God's rules as a Law written in our hearts and thus in Israel, His Nation.
Christ told us to pray to Our Father that His Kingdom would come or be developing on earth as it is at all times effective in heaven.
From this we see that two Advents were required right from the first planning stage of the Creation. The First Advent must be as the perfect suffering penalty-bearer, the silent Lamb of God, to Whom the ordinance of Old Testament sacrifices pointed. Only thus would Christ earn the right to lay claim upon the hearts and loyalty of His people at the Second Advent.
The Second Advent, then, must follow the First. Christ, as the Lion of Judah, the all-powerful King of kings, must establish society under the congenial and gracious rule of The Almighty God, free of the attacks of those who refuse to abide by that Law.
Revelation 5:5 speaks in symbolism thus: "...behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, hath prevailed to open the book, and to loose the seven seals thereof. And I beheld, and lo, in the midst of the throne and of the four beasts, and in the midst of the elders, stood a Lamb as it had been slain, having seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven Spirits of God sent forth into all the earth."
It is the selfless act of Jesus, condescending to be humbly yet royally born of the Virgin Mary to initiate this sequence of Advents, which the herald angels gloriously announced to the shepherds of Bethlehem.
There is a further aspect which we ought to explain. The Northern House of Old Testament Israel, the people whom God formed for Himself, as His "wife" (Isaiah 54:5, and Jeremiah 3:14), the "example nation", had sinned to the point of national divorce from Him (Hosea 2). They were deported by Assyria. Judah was not at that point divorced from God (Hosea 1:7).
By Deuteronomy 24:4 and Matthew 5:32, God could not, prior to His Own death, re-marry His divorced wife, Israel. There was only one way that a marriage could take place along the lines of Hosea 2:19-20 and Revelation 21:2. Paul explained it in Romans 7:1-3. God, the husband, incarnate in Christ, had to pass through death first.
Thus, in Matthew 10:3, we read Christ's words "I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the House of Israel...". It is the so called "Ten Lost Tribes" to whom Jesus stated that He was specifically sent at His First Advent, and to those same "lost sheep" the Apostles were sent in Matthew 10:6, to preach the Gospel explaining this central aspect of His two Advents.
May these thoughts add meaning to your Christmas.
1 January, 1995
By Douglas C. Nesbit, B.A.
At this season of transition, the time when one year slides into the next, I usually take the opportunity afforded by that break in the normal weekly cycles of our Bible Studies to consider some aspect of Biblical insight which does not fall easily within the usual sequence of those Biblical lessons.
For this programme and the next, I have been led to consider a topic which has hovered in the background of my meditation for a long time. I think it is a topic which holds importance for many people, but somehow the proper occasion never seemed to present itself.
In most societies, I believe, a common experience of individuals is that of desiring to be seen as desirable; to be accepted among others of our own family, clan, tribe or national group, and if possible far beyond the perimeter of any group; in other words, to be held in high esteem and respect by our fellow human beings. Indeed it seems, from time immemorial it has always been so.
Especially is this so in regard to qualities which may be seen as attractive by those of the opposite sex. Consequently, any personal aspect which tended to curtail or limit that esteem has always been considered a draw-back; a sort of curse and a burden which one had to bear, and from which one sought release.
These considerations may even be found to apply in both a personal and a national sense, so I have reserved the next programme to investigate more than can be included in one single talk.
Even among creatures of the avian and animal kingdoms, the individual that is markedly different from the flock is sometimes singled out by the rest for rough treatment and exclusion. We have probably all heard of the experience of "The Ugly Duckling", the small bird which appeared ugly to others of the brood in the duck-pond, but in fact, as the story unfolded, was revealed as bearing the beautiful potential of its own genetic heritage which later developed the "ugly duck" into a creature of a different order, a beautiful swan.
Indeed, numerous studies have been made on the effects which such things as a smaller patch of brilliantly coloured plumage or a certain size of beak or horn, or some other physical aspect of anatomy may have; inducing potential mates to prefer another, and so to reject the individual thus marked.
Research reported in "Science", the journal of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, for 20 April, 1990 indicated that computer generated faces which were composed by averaging the features from a number of faces together tended to be judged as more attractive than most of the individual faces contributing to that average. In the 17 July, 1992 issue, researchers were indicating the possible connection between the desirability of an average face and the corresponding symmetry which such a face would exhibit, while the 15 October, 1993 issue dealt with the effects of a genuine smile upon the brain and the emotions thus generated.
The sequence of development in this field is reflected in an article in The Toronto Globe and Mail of February 19, 1994 entitled "Sex Appeal - Beauty In The Beasts" which relates that among elks, the "Males with the largest and most symmetrical racks of antlers have the largest harems." Among barn swallows, it seems, females "prefer long-tailed mates with a symmetrical wishbone pattern of feathers on both sides of the tail." It also explains that "A male scorpion fly with symmetrical wings can be detected not only by sight but by scent. For unknown reasons, there is an association between wing symmetry and hormone signals." All such manifestations of desirable traits must have some positive creative design. The article goes on to relate that the expression "Beauty is only skin deep" may not be true. It states that "In the view of a growing number of researchers who study animal attraction, a beautiful face and figure may be alluring not for whimsical esthetic reasons but because outward beauty is a reasonably reliable indicator of underlying quality." I might summarise the article's conclusion by saying that, while there are some detractors, there is evidently a positive influence artistically speaking, in the symmetry of a structure, which has been explored for at least 5,000 years by painters, sculptors and artists.
The Globe and Mail of March 22, 1994 carried a further report on this study pertaining to the normal perceptions of beauty in the human face.
With some, especially in Biblical days, the limitation upon one's access to power or wealth, or social status have been of a physical nature such as the impediment of blindness, or perhaps a disease like leprosy, or some other obvious disability such as some deformity of birth which caused one to be shunned or at least avoided where possible, as if somehow one had been imprinted forever by deity with the result of one's own sin. Indeed, Biblically, certain forms of leprosy, being at the time an incurable disease, could be viewed as symbolic of Sin.
It ought to be at once conceded that in some situations there is good reason to shun a person who is "different" because clearly that "difference" may be one indicating a tendency towards eccentric demeanour; a characteristic which corresponds to a certain unpredictable or totally unsocial, and consequently dangerous aspect to others.
However the tragic consequences of rejection are often found among student bodies towards an innocent student who is either "too bright" or "too dumb", or in some aspect, rejected as eccentric. Especially is this so in a society or national group which has come to value uniformity of status and appearance more highly than the potential contributions which may be made to society by unique individuals. Resultant student suicides ought to be a cause for great concern.
Let us return to consider that aspect of finding a mate. Sexual gratification is one of the most insatiable of physical characteristics. Indeed, I understand that advertisers are aware that two words are sure to fasten upon the attention of the masses. One is the word "Free", and the other is the word "Sex"! The Creator had designed it so, for sexual fulfilment was evidently designed to guarantee the perpetuation of the race. Our own generation, and most of those of our ancestors, would not have existed without it. Linked to this indwelling natural desire there is the related inclination to seek out a mate having characteristics which seemed to offer some agreeable prospect for successful procreation and protection of the young. At the very least, any sign of a disability in this regard would commonly be seen as presenting a diminished prospect as a good provider of food and protection to a potential mate.
With many, and perhaps this would apply especially in more modern days, the quality lacking to an individual might consist of, or at least be signalled by, some odd aspect of personal appearance. I think that the vast majority of people would know something of that which I am describing. We may feel that we are cursed by the ugliness of a countenance which we did not create and for which we bear no ultimate responsibility.
Most of us have some idea of our outward appearance as seen by other members of humanity, and we realise that we might improve our social prospects if we hide our deformities or less desirable characteristics. I realise that some who hear my words are blind, and I ask that those so afflicted will bear with me in this. Most of us can see our reflection in a mirror, and we can to some extent judge the possible reasons for our rejection or failure to acquire the most desirable among potential mates. Teen-agers sometimes spend hours viewing their image in the mirror and seeking to eliminate blemishes towards that objective.
There is an aspect of the matter which ought to be considered. Strange as it may seem, our "ugliness", which marks us apart from the commonality of mankind is necessary to our own distinctive individuality as human beings. If every man bore a "perfect" male face and physique, like a mass-produced hallowe'en mask and likewise every female bore the mask of a "perfect" female face and figure the whole of society would seem to be composed of mass-produced non-entities, wearing millions of perfect masks, but in consequence being incapable of inter-action because there would be no means of identification. We would not be recognizable! We could recognize no family relationships.
Our age would go undetected until death unaccountably removed us from among the multitude, seemingly without warning. We would not know our own family from absolute strangers! We would be lost, and quite soon incapable of any intelligent communication even if somehow we had at birth acquired the capacity. There is need for individuality, even at the cost of supposed "ugliness" of feature! God has so provided. Do not despise His gift! That "ugliness" is a treasure, for it makes us distinctive, and allows us to interact with one another in a meaningful way. The mob would be faceless, but the individual is unique in the sight of Almighty God and also among the rest of humanity.
Strange as it may seem, we know one another because we are "different" and it is important that we be so. We must not try to force humanity into the Communist "perfect mold" nor make ourselves faceless through fakery. There are considerations we must consider next week which, for example, involve important supports to self esteem in reducing the degree of our physical eccentricity through plastic surgery but that is another matter. Let us take from today's talk the point that those who appear ugly to ourselves may surprise us with the shining light of their Godly individuality if given a chance to do so. It is the part of a Christian to observe the inward man, rather than the exterior. We shall consider more on our next programme.
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