The Mystery Of the Gospel (Part 6)

Complimentary Story
June 2024

   The gospel seems to be even more of a mystery today than it was in Paul’s day, with the subjects of grace, works, the law, and forgiveness, much debated, yet misunderstood by so many.

   Grace is what one does for another, having nothing to do with whether one deserves it or not.  It is the work of God’s love (26-“agapa” perfect love) that He has done to provide for our every need: To sustain the life of every living creature as they were all created to live.  One cannot add to it, for as John 1:3, 4 states, “All things were made by Him; and without Him was not any thing made that was made.  In Him was life; and the life was the light of men.”  It is all of God’s grace that provides for an abundant life!

   In Exodus 34:6-7, God gives the gospel to Moses, proclaiming, “The Lord, the Lord God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abundant in goodness and truth.  Keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgressions and sin, and that by no means clear the guilty (those who have not turned from, and repented of their sins); visiting the iniquity (the knowledge of evil) of the fathers upon the children, and upon the children’s children, unto the third and fourth generation.”  Note… Iniquity, the knowledge of evil is not sin, but it is what gives us cause to sin when we embrace it.  Children are not accountable for their father’s sins, but only accountable for what they do with the knowledge of evil.

   Moses responded in Exodus 34:9, “If now I have found grace in thy sight, O Lord, I pray Thee, go among us; for it is a stiff necked people; and pardon our iniquity and our sin, and take us for Thine inheritance.”    What did Moses understand about God’s character as expressed in verses 6 and 7?  He correctly surmises that because the Lord is merciful to thousands, forgiving their iniquity and by no means clear the guilty.  His purpose is, as Peter states in II Peter 3:9, “The Lord is not slack concerning His promise(s), as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance,” thereby to clear the guilty by forgiving their sins.  Therefore Moses made a plea to the Lord God of mercy and grace, that the children of Israel would turn from their wicked ways that they would not perish!

   In Exodus 34:10, the Lord God states His plan for this people.  “Behold I (am cutting a covenant); before all thy people (to meet the needs of this stiff necked people).  I will do marvels, such as have not been done in all the earth, nor in any nation: and all the people among which thou art shall see the work of the Lord: for it is a terrible thing that I will do with thee.”  Yes, to destroy the reprobate from the land of Canaan is not a pleasant thing.

   God then gives Moses His expectations of the people in verses 11-14, to make His plan in “truth and goodness” to work out perfectly for them. “Observe thou that which I command thee this day: behold, I drive out before thee the Amorite, and the Canaanite, and the Hittite, and Perizzite, and the Hivite, and the Jebusite.  Take heed to thyself, lest thou make a covenant with the inhabitants of the land whither thou goest, lest it be a snare in the midst of thee: But ye shall destroy their alters, break their images, and cut down their groves: For thou shalt worship no other god: for the Lord, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God.”

   Jeremiah, in Lamentations 3:21-23 recalls the hope given to Moses concerning the children of Israel, called out for a purpose to be a light to the Gentile nation around them as first stated in Deuteronomy 4:1-9.  He states, “This I recall to my mind, therefore I have hope (even though by this time most had turned their hearts to the gods of the world.)  It is of the Lord’s mercies that we are not (all) consumed (for some were, with the rest taken into captivity, just as they had previously been in Egypt), because His compassions fail not.  They are new every morning: great is Thy faithfulness.”  This was written after he witnessed the destruction of Jerusalem and its temple by Nebuchadnezzar and his Babylonian armies.  Though he had predicted it, it was to him much sorrow to see his prophecies come to pass.  This did not happen because God failed to fulfill His promise, and not because they had failed to keep God’s commands: But because they turned their hearts away from a faithful God, putting their faith in the gods of the world, to believe, trust, and obey them instead.

   Jeremiah also states his continued faith in the God of Creation in Lamentations 3:24-26.  “The Lord is my portion, saith my soul; therefore will I hope in Him.  The Lord is good unto him that wait for Him, to the soul that seeks Him.  It is good that a man should both hope and quietly wait for the salvation of the Lord.”  Salvation has nothing to do with our works of the flesh to please God!  Jeremiah continues in verses 27 and 31-38.  “It is good for a man that he bears the yoke in his youth,” to learn from his wrong choices and take responsibility to make something good out of these experiences…”For the Lord will not cast off forever:  But though He cause grief, yet will He have compassion according to His multitude of His mercies.  For He doeth not afflict willingly nor grieve the children of men (not willing that any should perish, but all come to repentance II Peter 3:9).  (Not) to crush under His feet all the prisoners of the earth (but only those who refuse to repent Jeremiah 8:4-6; 26:12-24):  To turn aside the right of a man before the face of the most High, to subvert a man in his cause, the Lord approveth not.  Who is he that saith, and it commeth to pass, when the Lord commandeth it not?  Out of the mouth of the most High proceeds not evil and good?”  When God allows evil in one’s life, it is always for our good to bring us to repentance.  It is our choice that we alone are responsible for.  

   Jeremiah accepts God’s vengeance upon the unrepentant in Lamentations 3:39-49 and 57-66.  “Wherefore doth a living man complain, a man for the punishment of his sins?  Let us search and try our ways, and turn again to the Lord (in repentance).  Let us lift up our heart with our hands unto God in the heavens.  We have transgressed and have rebelled: Thou hast not pardoned.  Thou hast covered with anger, and persecuted us: Thou hast slain, Thou hast not pitied.  Thou hast covered Thyself with a cloud, that our prayers should not pass through (for You to hear).  Thou hast made us as the offscouring (5501-swept up refuse) and refuse in the midst of the people.  All our enemies have opened their mouths against us.  Fear and a snare (just as God had warned) is come against us; desolation and destruction.  My eye runneth down with rivers of water for the destruction of the daughter of my people.  Mine eye trickleth down, and ceaseth not, without any intermission.”  Thus he is called the weeping prophet.

   In spite of his remorse, with emotional and physical pain, Jeremiah still had hope, and a right perspective.  (Verses 57-66) “Thou drewest near in the day that I called upon Thee: Thou saidst, Fear not.   O Lord, Thou hast pleaded the causes of my soul; Thou hast redeemed my life.  O Lord Thou hast seen my wrong:  Judge Thou my cause (O let me know if there be any wicked way in me).Thou hast seen all their vengeance and imagination against me.  Thou hast heard their reproach, O Lord, and all their imagination against me; the lips of those that rose up against me, and their devices against me all the day.  Behold their sitting down, and their rising up; I am their musick (4485-satire, something to make fun of).  Render unto them a recompense (a reward), O Lord, according to the reward of their hands.  Give them sorrow of heart, Thy curse unto them (that they may come to repentance.  But if they don’t) persecute and destroy them in anger from under the heavens of the Lord.”

   Jeremiah tells of the end of those who refuse to return in repentance in Lamentations 4:6.  “For the punishment of the iniquity of the daughter of my people is greater than the punishment of the sin of Sodom, that was overthrown as in a moment, and no hands stayed on her.”  (Verses 9-10) “They that be slain with the sword are better than they that be slain with hunger: for these pine away, stricken through for want of the fruits of the field.  The hand of the pitiful woman have sodden (1310-to cook by boiling) their own children: they were their meat (food) in the destruction of the daughter of my people.”  This had also happened again in 70 A.D. according to the works of the Jewish historian Flavious Josephus.

   Jeremiah continues in verses 11-17, “The Lord hath accomplished His fury; He hath poured out His fierce anger, and hath kindled a fire in Zion, and it hath devoured the foundations thereof.  The kings of the earth, and all the inhabitants of the world, would not have believed that the adversary and the enemy should have entered into the gates of Jerusalem.  For the sins of her prophets, and the iniquity of her priests, have shed the blood of the just in the midst of her, they have wandered as blind men in the streets, they have polluted themselves with blood.  (They have persecuted and killed the prophets of God), so that men could not touch their garments (for fear of becoming unclean).  They (the faithful remnant) cried unto them, Depart ye; it is unclean; depart, depart, touch not: when they fled away and wandered, they said among the heathen, they shall no longer sojourn there.  The anger of the Lord hath divided them; He (the Lord) will no longer regard them: they respected not the person of the priests, they favored not the elders,” for they have departed turning their faith away from the God of covenant.  “As for us (the faithful remnant), our eyes have failed for our vain help: in our watching we have watched of a nation that could not save us.”

   Salvation has always been as a result of one’s faith in the work of God abundant grace; not in a nation or its government, nor in an army with the best of weapons. When Jesus, the promised Messiah came, even the most faithful remnant was deceived into thinking He was come to set up His earthly kingdom to redeem them from Roman bondage.  Jesus gives a vivid description of what the Scribes and Pharisees are thinking in Matthew chapter 23.  (Verse 2) “The Scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat.”  What did Jesus mean by this?  They took the position of Moses who was given the authority by God to speak as the authority of God, in speaking only the truth of God:  “Not (to) add unto the word which I command you, neither shall ye diminish aught from it, that ye may keep the commandments of the Lord your God which I command you.” (Deuteronomy 4:2). Then repeated again in Deuteronomy 12:32. 

   Jesus then describes what they are really doing.  (Verse 3) “All therefore whatsoever they bid you observe (according to the scriptures), that observe and do; but do not ye after their works: for they say, and do not.”  In verse 13, he says “But woe unto you, Scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For ye shut up the kingdom of heaven against men: for ye neither go in yourselves, neither suffer ye them that are (seeking and) entering to go in.”  (Verses 14b-15) “And for a pretence make long prayers: therefore ye shall receive the greater damnation (2917-sentence, verdict, condemnation).  Woe unto you, Scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites!  For ye compass sea and land to make one proselyte, and when he is made, ye make him twofold more the child of hell than yourselves.”  What are they made proselytes of?  Hell, not Christ.

   (Verses 23, 24, 28,)  “Woe unto you (blind guides) hypocrites! For ye pay tithe of mint and anise and cumin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, (which are) judgment (discernment by the wisdom of God), mercy (kindness shown to victims, wrongdoers or opponents, having no right to it) and faith (to live by every word out of the mouth of God): these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the others undone.”  Without the weightier matters the rest are just deed of the flesh, and not of faith in every word out of the mouth of God.  “Ye blind guides, which strain at a gnat (because it is easy to impress blind people) and swallow a camel, (because blind people will not even notice you had swallowing a camel)…  Even so ye outwardly appear righteous unto men, but within ye are full of hypocrisy and iniquity.” Blind fools see nothing!

   (Verses 30-36) “And say, If we had been in those days of your fathers, we would not have been partakers with them in the blood of the prophets.  Wherefore ye be witnesses unto yourselves, that ye are the children of them which killed the prophets…  Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers, how can ye escape the damnation of hell?  Wherefore, behold, I send unto you prophets, wise men, and scribes: and some of them ye shall kill and crucify; and some of them shall ye scourge in your synagogues, and persecute them from city to city:  That upon you may come all the righteous blood shed upon the earth, (from the beginning of Abel).  Verily I say unto you, All these things shall come upon this generation…” (Verses 39-39) “Behold your house is left to you desolate, for I say unto you, Ye shall not see Me henceforth, ‘til ye say, Blessed is He that cometh in the name of the Lord.”

   Why was the gospel again at the time of Paul still a mystery as it was when Christ walked the earth?  I will address this next time.  In the meantime re-read this part with this question in mind; How are we any different today? Would we have killed the prophets?

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