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The Nature of God

God As Prophet

The LORD your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your fellow Israelites. You must listen to him.

Deuteronomy 18:15

This is one of the two most important prophecies of the Old Testament. So important was it that the Pharisees had this question of John the Baptist when they met him:

They asked him, “Then who are you? Are you Elijah?” He said, “I am not.” “Are you the Prophet?” He answered, “No.”

John 1:21

Moses’ prophecy about another prophet was taken so seriously that the people of Israel devoted themselves to studying what Moses meant and to look for this coming prophet. Prophecy is a serious issue in Judaism and in Christianity.

One Of A Kind

In the Old Testament, the prophet would have been akin to the position of apostle in the New Testament. Paul makes a new distinction between apostle and prophet in his epistles, but what Moses was speaking of was something else entirely. In the same breath, Moses had spoken of other prophets, but he set this one Prophet apart. He was going to be different. He was going to be special. He was going to be one of a kind.

This coming Prophet was someone that the Israelites would be required by God to listen to. What Moses was saying was that if the people of Israel didn’t listen to him, God would have mercy on them, but if they chose not to listen to this coming Prophet, God would not have mercy on them. What He would have to say would be life and death to them.

The Prophet

We know now that Jesus is that Prophet, but we can take for granted the depth of the meaning in that. To gain a better understanding of how Jesus is that Prophet, let’s take a look at one more statement about Him.

And I fell at his feet to worship him. But he said to me, “See that you do not do that! I am your fellow servant, and of your brethren who have the testimony of Jesus. Worship God! For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.”

Revelation 19:10

The context here is that John was speaking with an angel, became overwhelmed by what he saw and fell down at the angel’s feet to worship. What the angel then tells him seems to have nothing to do with worshipping God. Why is the testimony of Jesus the reason to worship God?

The Spirit of Prophecy

Jesus was the Prophet sent from God Moses spoke about, but in more ways than simply foretelling the future. The very spirit of prophecy itself is contained within the testimony of Jesus—our knowledge and allegiance to Him.

Jesus not only embodied with His words this coming Prophet Moses spoke of, but He Himself was the Prophet by who He was. That is because God sent Himself to show us who He is. There is no greater prophecy than knowing God. All prophecy is aimed at turning our hearts to God and nothing else. Jesus Himself was the spirit of prophecy because He was God and His goal was to turn our hearts to God.

God came as a prophet, the Prophet, and showed us the prophetic word we all need: how to know God.

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The Nature of God

God As Lawgiver

7What shall we say, then? Is the law sinful? Certainly not! Nevertheless, I would not have known what sin was had it not been for the law. For I would not have known what coveting really was if the law had not said, “You shall not covet.” 8But sin, seizing the opportunity afforded by the commandment, produced in me every kind of coveting. For apart from the law, sin was dead. 9Once I was alive apart from the law; but when the commandment came, sin sprang to life and I died. 10I found that the very commandment that was intended to bring life actually brought death. 11For sin, seizing the opportunity afforded by the commandment, deceived me, and through the commandment put me to death. 12So then, the law is holy, and the commandment is holy, righteous and good. 13Did that which is good, then, become death to me? By no means! Nevertheless, in order that sin might be recognized as sin, it used what is good to bring about my death, so that through the commandment sin might become utterly sinful.

Romans 7:7-13

Did They Earn Their Righteousness?

God did not give us the Law to make us righteous. This is a misconception that I have heard over and over in recent years. “The Law was how the people in the Old Testament were made right with God, but it is through Jesus in the New Testament.” This is wholly untrue. The Law was no more a means of grace in the Old Testament than it is today.

The Law is not a set of rules God intended us to follow. It was a set of standards by which one is proclaimed perfect. His kind of perfect. We are not His kind of perfect, and only One has ever fulfilled the Law. We are not Him.

In that way, the Law was not a standard we had to live up to, but a mirror that showed us our true selves. God’s commands were righteous, because they were largely descriptive of Him, but when we view ourselves in light of the law, we are utterly sinful.

Lawbreaker!

Think of it this way: have you ever, even unintentionally, driven faster than the speed limit? I dare say I’ve never met a person who hasn’t. That means that one of the most basic and ever-present laws we have as human beings today proves that we are all lawbreakers. No one is justified as a law-abider, because the moment you go over that speed limit by a fraction, you have broken the law. It doesn’t matter if you get caught, you have broken the law.

We are wholly unjustified by the Law today just as those who heard it the first time were. God is a lawgiver not because He intended us to be justified in following it, but to show us the true sinful nature inside us. The Law was a way for Him to help us see our need for His grace, not a means to attain it.

The Mirror of the Law

God gave us the Law that we might see ourselves as we are: sinful and unrighteous. God also gave the promise—that those who seek Him in faith will forever be made righteous. And we know that the Promise is greater than the Law.

For if the inheritance depends on the law, then it no longer depends on the promise; but God in his grace gave it to Abraham through a promise.

Galatians 3:18

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The Nature of God

God As Enforcer

18Still another angel, who had charge of the fire, came from the altar and called in a loud voice to him who had the sharp sickle, “Take your sharp sickle and gather the clusters of grapes from the earth’s vine, because its grapes are ripe.” 19The angel swung his sickle on the earth, gathered its grapes and threw them into the great winepress of God’s wrath. 20They were trampled in the winepress outside the city, and blood flowed out of the press, rising as high as the horses’ bridles for a distance of 1,600 stadia.

Revelation 14:18-20

Woah. Just Woah.

This is often one of the most difficult passages for people who want to believe that the God of the Old Testament and the God of New Testament are somehow different. People today have been sold on a lie that says the God of the Old Testament is a homicidal maniac bent on genocide and ethnic cleansing. Well, the Richard Dawkins of our day say that.

The Old Testament has nothing on the God of Revelation.

Behold, The Lord Your God Is One

The trouble is He is the same God. He is the same God who shed His very own blood to cover your sins and redeem you to Himself forever. He is the same God who says if you believe in Him you will forever be clothed in white for your righteous actions. He is the same God who set the adulteress free and offered eternal life to a wicked man on a cross next to Him.

You cannot separate God the enforcer from God the lover. Or from God the King. Or God the Creator. He is one and the same, never contradictory.

So why would God enforce His great wrath with such zeal? Why the death? Because, as we find out throughout Revelation, the entire world at the time of the great tribulation will be bent on killing all Christians and Jews and then they’ll turn their attention to Jesus Himself. That’s right, in the end times, people will actually rise up together and try to destroy God.

God is an enforcer of His requirement that all men, great and small, bow down and recognize His Son as God.

It is written: “‘As surely as I live,’ says the Lord, ‘every knee will bow before me; every tongue will acknowledge God.'”

Romans 14:11

Every Knee

The Lord meant this when He said it. We will either choose of our own free will to bow our knee to God, or He will choose it for us. Either way, He will enforce the one law required of humanity: that we bow to Him. We can do it out of love, or out of coercion, but we will do it.

As we look at the whole nature of God, though, there is no reason we should need to be coerced into bowing to the One who loves, honors and redeemed us. Not only did Jesus shed His own blood for us, but He offers us all the rights God the Father gave to Him. The right to rule, to be called by a new name, to be acknowledged before God and the angels, and to sit on a throne (the promises to the victorious saints in Revelation 2-3).

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The Nature of God

God As Lover

God As A Lover?

In recent years, the Song of Solomon has become viewed as an instruction manual for romantic relationships. Whereas there are some good points to be learned from it for that purpose, most of Christian history has not treated it that way.

Solomon, whose proverbs, psalms and other wisdom writing is all aimed at turning people to God through the lens of his personal wisdom or folly. For his greatest work, he titled it the “Song of All Songs.” Given how much he spoke of the vanity and deception of romantic love throughout his proverbs, it seems highly unlikely that he intended it to be anything but an allegory of Israel’s relationship to God, and as such, an allegory of the church’s (called the bride by Jesus Himself) relationship to Jesus.

If we can overcome a Westerner’s view of some of the book’s language and see it through an Eastern mindset (from which it was written), we can more clearly see Solomon’s intent. Solomon’s Song of All Songs is intended to show God in His most amazing form: as a lover.

Can We Call Him That?

Again, looking past the scandalous way a Westerner perceives that, God truly is above all else a lover. He, from the depths of His deep love, created us all, gave us a planet to inhabit and subdue, gave us a creative nature like Him to express ourselves with and has even made a way for us to approach Him.

When we consider our truly wretched, sinful, fallen nature, there is nothing greater that can describe God than a lover when we understand what He has done to redeem us. Not content to rightly condemn us for our sins, He has made a way for us to approach Him by shedding His own blood.

Jesus, consumed with His great love for us, first stepped away from the unapproachable glory (1 Timothy 6:16) where He lived to become a human—the very beings that rebelliously rejected Him. Next, He spent years on earth teaching a rebellious people the truth of God that they had perverted, only to meet rejection after rejection. Finally, overwhelmed by His passionate desire to have a “bride,” as He called us, to be forever joined to, He willingly offered His flesh and blood on the cross to atone for our sins so that God the Father would accept us into His presence.

The Greatest Love

God is not only a lover, but the greatest of lovers who has ever existed. It was, is and will forever be His great love that invites us into His presence and gives us eternal life. I encourage you to read the Song of Solomon (it’s a short book) through the lens of God’s great love for you. You will see God and yourself anew as you explore the magnificent glory of His deep love for you.

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The Nature of God

God As Avenger

Revenge is one of the most basic human instincts. When we are wronged, we want to lash back at people and let them have what is coming to them. Go to any preschool and watch two and three year-olds play and you will quickly see that revenge is one of the first things we learn as humans.

Why then would God ask that we not take revenge for ourselves?

It is mine to avenge; I will repay. In due time their foot will slip; their day of disaster is near and their doom rushes upon them.”

Deuteronomy 32:35

Paul reiterates this as a fundamental Christian doctrine:

Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord.

Romans12:19

Why All This Revenge?

So why doesn’t God want us to take revenge for ourselves? The answer is found in three words from the Deuteronomy passage. “In due time” is the key phrase that God uses to describe His vengeance. Go back to that preschool and watch Sally gain instant retribution for Johnny taking her toy away and you will understand our problem.

People are inherently bent toward revenge and fundamentally incapable of exercising it well. We want instant retribution. We want our revenge and we want it now. The only thing worse than our instant desire for revenge is when we let it foment over time. The Count of Monte Christo tells all about the evils of delayed revenge.

Giving Up Our Rights

When we give the right to vengeance over to God, though, He will act when He sees fit. He is the only one fair enough to give true justice. If each of us received the due penalty for our sins when we committed them, no one would escape the fires of hell, but because God is merciful and patient, we breathe today. And that is how the Lord does this.

God is patient. He is kind. He will let wickedness persist for a time while He offers them the opportunity to repent. As believers we must completely release our desire for revenge over to the Lord. We must never plan to take it, even if we don’t see God act. Some of us will never see that vengeance in this life.

9When He opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God and for the testimony which they held. 10And they cried with a loud voice, saying, “How long, O Lord, holy and true, until You judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?” 11Then a white robe was given to each of them; and it was said to them that they should rest a little while longer, until both the number of their fellow servants and their brethren, who would be killed as they were, was completed.

Revelation 6:9-11

Final Vindication

This is a reference to God’s final act of vengeance on behalf of His saints. Every single misdeed perpetrated upon God’s people will be answered for one day. The book of Revelation is primarily about God bringing justice to a world of injustice, and His primary concern is the vengeance due His people.

How great to be someone safe within Jesus’ arms! He will take vengeance for us, for He is our sole avenger. How scary to be one whom He takes vengeance upon. That is why Jesus told us this:

44But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? 47And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? 48Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

Matthew 5:44-48

God’s perfection is in His great patience and forgiveness. We enter into that perfection with Him when we forgive and leave vengeance to Him.