Wednesday, February 29, 2012

our favorite leap of faith

The Word for today:
Luke 1:41 (below)

After 993 days without one, Stand in the Rain knows what to do with a day off:  Take it!  

There is no February 29 on our reading schedule, so we thought we’d leave you with our favorite leap year verse (John the Baptist’s prenatal leap of faith) and call it a day…

When Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the baby leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit.  (Luke 1:41)

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

mercy seat: the connection between the inside and the outside

The Word for today:
Hebrews 9:16-28

mark this: (from Hebrews 9:3-5)
Behind the second curtain was a second section called the Most Holy Place…having the Ark of the Covenant.  Above it were the cherubim of glory overshadowing the mercy seat.

mark this: Romans 3:23-25/NET
For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. But they are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus. God publicly displayed him at his death as the mercy seat accessible through faith.

Haven’t I seen you somewhere before? Do you have a twin?

These are questions that come to mind when we meet someone who looks so familiar that we could swear we must have met him before.

There are certain scenes in the Bible that should evoke the same questions.  Yesterday, we showed pictures--from Genesis, Exodus, and the gospel of John--which looked strikingly alike. In each one of them, angels were stationed at the place where man and God might meet.

One scene took place at the Garden of Eden. Man and God were together in the garden, but man's sin soon separated them. As Adam and Eve left the garden, cherubim with a flaming sword guarded the way to the tree of life. On the ground next to the entrance was the blood of an animal whose skin provided a temporary covering for their nakedness.

The next scene was from the tabernacle. In the inner compartment--the Holy of Holies--the Ark of the Covenant was covered with a golden lid, called the “mercy seat.” There, only once per year, when the blood of an animal was sprinkled on that lid, God met with one man for just a moment. Cherubim, fashioned from pure gold, were at either end of the mercy seat keeping watch.

Finally, we saw two angels stationed at the tomb where Jesus’ body had lain. But this time something very different happened. Instead of standing between the people and God (as they did at the Garden of Eden); instead of admitting only one person per year (as at the Tabernacle) the angels at Jesus’ empty tomb invited a common person--Mary of Magdala--to come right in and see for herself where Jesus’ body had been.
These three pictures, though much the same, are slightly, progressively, different. They are examples of a poetic technique called “incremental repetition” (which sounds oxymoronic--How can something change while staying the same?)  The many resemblances between the scenes actually enhance the few slight differences between them.

In the first scene, man was shut out of the Garden altogether, though the sword which kept them out also lighted the way for their future return. Almost unnoticed, a blood atonement (the animal skins) is foreshadowed.

In the second scene, though the blood atonement is ceremonially observed, its effectiveness is limited to just one person and just one moment every year. Nonetheless, the steps of Adam and Eve are retraced in reverse as the high priest enters the Presence of God.

In the third scene, the angels beckon a woman (a picture in reverse of Eve’s banishment) to enter the tomb--which itself is a picture of the Holy of Holies in the tabernacle, which itself was a picture of the Garden of Eden where man once enjoyed unhindered access to God.

To emphasize how Jesus, who is the mercy seat (1), had forever obliterated the sin barrier between God and man, the thick curtain that shut the people out of the Holiest Place had been torn, at the moment he died, from top to bottom as if by invisible hands.

The cherubim, who long to look into such things (2), finally got to see what they’d been waiting for. The Garden, the Holy of Holies, Paradise itself (all pictures of God’s Presence) would be closed no more.

Man and God meet at the mercy seat. Like other tabernacle furniture—the lampstand, the laver, the altar, the ark itself, etc., the mercy seat pointed to a person. As both Son of Man and Son of God, he is the connection between God and man whom Job had longed for—someone who might lay his hand upon us both (Job 9:33).
On that first Easter morning, when Mary Magdalene thought she’d seen the gardener, she was right. This last Adam will never let thorns and briers choke the Garden again.

And if Mary should encounter the subtle speech of a serpent, she’ll tell him to go speak to her Husband, this time.


(1) See Romans 3:23-25/NET (above); (2) 1 Peter 1:12

Monday, February 27, 2012

you'll meet him at the mercy seat

The Word for today:
Hebrews 9:1-15

Mark this: Hebrews 9:5
Now even the first covenant had regulations for worship and an earthly place of holiness. For a tent was prepared, the first section, in which were the lampstand and the table and the bread of the Presence. It is called the Holy Place. Behind the second curtain was a second section called the Most Holy Place, having the golden altar of incense and the ark of the covenant covered on all sides with gold, in which was a golden urn holding the manna, and Aaron's staff that budded, and the tablets of the covenant. Above it were the cherubim of glory overshadowing the mercy seat.  (Hebrews 9:1-5)

Pictures can “rhyme” just as well as words can, and maybe even better. Here are three pictures that rhyme:

From Genesis 3:24:

From Exodus 25:18-22:

From John 20:11-13:

These pictures don’t resemble each other by accident. God is visually rhyming theses scenes in order that we see the connection between them. He wants to stir within us the sense that we’ve seen these scenes before and that they are meant to be seen as reflections of each other.


Let’s view them one at a time, with brief captions:

East of Eden, cherubim stand guard at the entrance to the garden. As Adam and Eve looked back, the blood of an animal, slain to provide a covering for their nakedness, darkened the ground just inside the entrance. See Genesis 3:24.


The Ark of the Covenant (in the Tabernacle’s innermost compartment, known as the Most Holy Place) had a golden lid that was known as the “mercy seat.” Cherubim, fashioned of gold with overspreading wings, were stationed on either side of this lid, gazing down upon the place where the blood of the sacrifice was sprinkled on the Day of Atonement. It was here, between the cherubim, where God met with man. See Exodus 25:18-22.


Angels are stationed at the tomb where Jesus’ body had been. See John 20:11-13.


These pictures perform the same function as the chorus (or refrain) does in a song.  When we think of the Bible (as we should) as one long song with many verses, these visually repetitive scenes hold the verses together and give the whole “song” a coherent meaning.

Let them do just that for the rest of the day until we reconvene tomorrow, when I will provide some further commentary and connective material (which by that time you won’t even need!)

But before we go, I want to leave you with a pivotal passage that will help you make the connections God wants you to make:
For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. But they are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus. God publicly displayed him at his death as the mercy seat accessible through faith. (Romans 3:23-25/NET)
Let these pictures make their way into your heart and head. Let them settle (as pictures will) deep beneath your consciousness. And may you meet God there, in the innermost compartment between the cherubim.


Sunday, February 26, 2012

I don’t want to

The Word for today:
Hebrews 8

mark this: Hebrews 8:10
For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put My laws in their mind and write them on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people.

Jesus, Hebrews tells us, is the mediator of a better covenant (8:6).

This better covenant is the new covenant that was prophesied in Jeremiah 31:31-34, and is quoted in Hebrews 8:8-12:
"Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will establish a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah, not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt. For they did not continue in my covenant, and so I showed no concern for them, declares the Lord. For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my laws into their minds, and write them on their hearts, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. And they shall not teach, each one his neighbor and each one his brother, saying, 'Know the Lord,' for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest. For I will be merciful toward their iniquities, and I will remember their sins no more." (Hebrews 8:8-12)

A covenant is like a contract. It states the terms and conditions of the relationship between God and man.

If you trust in Jesus for salvation, he takes your place. Where we failed to meet the terms of the covenant with God, Jesus succeeded. At the cross, our failures (sins) became his, while his “success” (righteousness) becomes ours.  Jesus paid it all, and we receive the benefits.

Because he fulfilled the conditions of the covenant to the last letter, we are completely forgiven: I will remember their sins no more (8:12).

But that’s not all. There’s far, far more than just subtraction. In addition, we are baptized (saturated through and through) with Jesus’ very own Spirit.

Which means we have a new nature—his nature.  Which means this:

But this is the new covenant I will make with the people of Israel on that day, says the Lord: I will put my laws in their minds so they will understand them, and I will write them on their hearts so they will obey them. I will be their God, and they will be my people. (Hebrews 8:10/NLT)

The new covenant means that you are new. It means that you don’t want to sin like you used to. It means that because Jesus fulfilled the covenant by paying the price, you’ve got a new Spirit and a new nature that delights to please God.

You are no longer who you were. You are different, new, and transformed. At the very core of who you are--even though your flesh wages war against you and you will from time to time sin--you’ve got a brand new heart that wants to trust and obey God.

You should re-introduce yourself to yourself, because by the terms of the new covenant there’s a new person where you once stood.

You don’t want to sin and you’ve got the power (of the Holy Spirit) not to.

Go, then, and find out who you are.  But remember, the only way to accomplish that is to find out who He is.


Saturday, February 25, 2012

the power to do what his heart desires

The Word for today:
Hebrews 7:15-28

Yesterday, we went to the far side. We had some fun with the mystical side of Melchizedek, because I wanted you to get a sense of what we don’t know before I tell you what we do know. We wanted to let you hear deep calling to deep before we brought the subject of Melchizedek back down to earth.

Here, then, is what we know we know, what we need to know, about Melchizedek:

And Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine. (He was priest of God Most High.) And he blessed him and said, "Blessed be Abram by God Most High, Possessor of heaven and earth; and blessed be God Most High, who has delivered your enemies into your hand!" And Abram gave him a tenth of everything. (Genesis 14:18-20)

That is the only historical record of Melchizedek in the Bible. What we have just read is all we know of him! That was around 2000 B.C., and for a millennium there is no mention at all of Melchizedek. But in 1000 B.C. the Holy Spirit inspired King David to write—

The LORD has sworn and will not change his mind, "You are a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek."
(Psalms 110:4)

There, God declared that he was going to do something so old that it was new. He would bring into history a priest, like Melchizedek, who would also be king. And his priesthood would last forever.

The next mention of him in scripture occurs here in Hebrews:
For this Melchizedek, king of Salem, priest of the Most High God, met Abraham returning from the slaughter of the kings and blessed him, and to him Abraham apportioned a tenth part of everything. He is first, by translation of his name, king of righteousness, and then he is also king of Salem, that is, king of peace. He is without father or mother or genealogy, having neither beginning of days nor end of life, but resembling the Son of God he continues a priest forever. (Hebrews 7:1-3)

The dual role of priest-king is shown to be both before the law and above the law (otherwise, it would be against the law!). Priests were to be descended from Aaron (of the tribe of Levi) while kings must be of the tribe of Judah.

But Jesus, from the tribe of Judah and the order of Melchizedek, fulfilled what was promised through Zechariah regarding the Messiah:
He will build the LORD's Temple, and he will receive royal honor and will rule as king from his throne. He will also serve as priest from his throne, and there will be perfect harmony between the two. (Zechariah 6:13)

“Melchizedek” means “King of righteousness.” He is also the King of Salem (‘Shalom’), the King of Peace. This fulfills the prophecy of Psalm 85:10, where righteousness and peace meet (literally, they “kiss each other”) in the person of the Messiah.

No genealogy.
Melchizedek was “without father or mother, without genealogy.” His priesthood, like Jesus’ priesthood to come, was based solely on the call of God, not on heredity.

No beginning / end.

All Levitical priests served limited terms of office—no more than thirty years. Melchizedek, like Jesus to come, would be a priest forever.

Tithing and superiority.
In the ancient world, paying tithes to another was recognition of the other’s superiority. Thus Abraham recognized Melchizedek as a person of transcending preeminence.

Blessing and superiority.

In a formal biblical blessing the superior always blesses the inferior. Abraham, the supreme blesser, through whom all the peoples on the earth will be blessed (Genesis 12:3), nonetheless sees himself as inferior to Melchizedek and receives his blessing.

Bread and wine.
Melchizedek gave Abraham bread and wine, symbolic of the flesh and blood of Christ, which have secured our righteousness and peace.


Summary: the Priest out-of-order

Year after year, century after century, the priests served God under the Mosaic "economy" (God's specific procedure at any given time). Then suddenly David, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, cries out concerning the Messiah, "You are a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek.” (Psalm 110:4)

Amazingly, a priest is coming who is not after the order of Aaron. His priesthood nullifies the Old Testament sacrifices; consequently, to hang on to the Levitical economy in the time of Jesus Christ is to hang onto something that God has put away. This seemingly out-of-nowhere cry signals a new day and a new way. It marks a radical departure from the past (and should be marked in your Bible!)

The Aaronic priest was only a priest, whereas Jesus is a King Priest.
He not only has compassion, but he has the power to do what his heart desires for his own.

Thou art a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek…
Jesus died to bring us into fellowship with God and He lives to maintain that relationship. Since life in scripture is a relationship with God, Jesus not only saved your life yesterday, but he's saving it today.


Friday, February 24, 2012

Mystery Man, revealed!

The Word for today:
Hebrews 7:1-14


Some names belong on a marquee. ‘Melchizedek’ is certainly one of them.

Melchizedek is a whisper, a promise, a prophecy, and (probably!) a person. He is a King and the Priest of God Most High. He seems to have dropped by on his way from eternity past to eternity future. He offers Abraham, Father of Israel, bread and wine.

His name means "King of Righteousness." He is also King of Salem (‘Shalom’), which means he is the King of Peace.

We learn all of this from a few scant (but loaded) lines in Genesis:
And Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine. (He was priest of God Most High.)
And he blessed him and said, "Blessed be Abram by God Most High, Possessor of heaven and earth; and blessed be God Most High, who has delivered your enemies into your hand!"
And Abram gave him a tenth of everything.
(Gen 14:18-20)

He comes from out of the blue, stays long enough for three verses, then disappears back into the wild blue yonder from whence he came.

He is not heard of again for a thousand years, until the Holy Spirit loads King David’s pen with this:
The LORD says to my Lord: "Sit at my right hand, until I make your enemies your footstool."
The LORD sends forth from Zion your mighty scepter. Rule in the midst of your enemies!
Your people will offer themselves freely on the day of your power, in holy garments; from the womb of the morning, the dew of your youth will be yours.
The LORD has sworn and will not change his mind, "You are a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek."
(Psalm 110:1-4)

His name then disappears from scripture for another thousand years, until all the dots are connected in Hebrews chapter 7 (which we will attempt to summarize tomorrow).

So by the time scripture closes, Melchizedek the marquee mystery man is mentioned once in Genesis, once in Psalms, and 8 times in Hebrews. Which, of course, makes it perfectly clear (to me) that another great Bible mystery man has been identified.

You may want to sit down and perhaps attach your heart monitor, because today, in your hearing, it is being revealed, for the very first time, that the heretofore-unidentified author of Hebrews is none other than…….Melchizedek!

How do I know? I don’t, but you tell me who would have the inside track to all this insight about the High Priest of God Most High other than the High Priest of God Most High, Himself? Who better to reveal the mysteries of Melchizedek than the Mystery Man, Himself?

The book of Hebrews has ‘Melchizedek’ written all over it. Remember that you heard it here first.


Thursday, February 23, 2012

by the time he gets to Phoenix

The Word for today:
Hebrews 6:9-20

mark this: Hebrews 6:17-19
Because God wanted to make the unchanging nature of his purpose very clear to the heirs of what was promised, he confirmed it with an oath. God did this so that, by two unchangeable things in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled to take hold of the hope offered to us may be greatly encouraged. We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure.

I've spent the last few days on the road, traveling from college to college, touring the campuses, meeting with professors and coaches and financial aid representatives.

It's nearing crunch time for our son Frankie, who will soon decide where to go to college this September. I, of course, have advised him to go to the University of Phoenix, which has a branch in our house! I'll bet there's a branch in your house, too, because wherever there is a computer with an internet connection, there is the University of Phoenix!

You've heard the phrase "student-athlete.” Well, Frankie is all of the above. His college decision will be driven by a mix of faith, academics, and athletics.

One of Frankie's priorities--athletics--puts the University of Phoenix at a competitive disadvantage, seeing that they have no teams in any sport. But I've tried to convince Frankie that I am the track coach for the University of Phoenix Mice (their mascot, get it?)

Except for the fact that I'm lying, there could be some credibility in my claim. I was a high school track and cross-country coach for a long while, and achieved more than modest success in those positions.

So, embellishing the lie, I tell Frankie that I am the coach of the undefeated U.P. Mice. And not only are my teams undefeated, but every one of my runners is undefeated as well!

As you can see, and as I've often said before, I don't want my sons to go to a college any further away than the little room we call our "library." I'm even thinking of having some "U. P. Mice Track & Field" t-shirts made up; maybe even a hoody (kids love 'em) with "There's a U.P. Mouse in the House" emblazoned across the front and back. That oughtta keep him here.

But, though I’m loath to admit it, even if I were to do all of that, I know one handsome lad, now 18, who won't be at U.P. next year.

And so I've got to ready some advice for the day in late August when Frankie will start the next chapter without his Mom and I there to help him turn the pages.

What I think I might write in his graduation card is Hebrews 6:17-19:

Because God wanted to make the unchanging nature of his purpose very clear to the heirs of what was promised, he confirmed it with an oath. God did this so that, by two unchangeable things in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled to take hold of the hope offered to us may be greatly encouraged. We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure.

These verses have some great nautical imagery, which Frankie will find meaningful. (Frankie and I have done a lot of fishing in an aluminum utility boat that we gussied up to look and perform like a real bass boat. We even home-made our anchors with cement and #10 cans.)

The two unchangeable things that form the flukes of the anchor are God's promises (His Word) backed by God's character (Himself). The guarantor of God’s promises is no less than God. To confirm his promises he swore an oath by himself because there is nothing or no one higher to swear by. To swear by anything lesser would have the effect of making his oath less permanent.

Everyone knows what an anchor is, but a fisherman knows what an anchor means. So, along with a card with these verses written inside, I think I'll give him a homemade anchor and a real man-sized reference Bible in a box. That will make the perfect graduation gift, don't you agree?

Meanwhile, our other son, Eddy, will be entering his senior year in September, so I'm going to make sure he meets the undefeated U.P. track coach. Maybe I won't have to make another anchor next year.


Wednesday, February 22, 2012

controlling context

The Word for today:
Hebrews 5:11-6:8

mark this: Hebrews 6:1-9 (see above)

Hebrews 6:1-9 is one of the most variously interpreted passages in scripture. By various interpretations, I mean a real variety show. Commentators weave all over the road (and off the road) on this one.

Some well-known commentators emphasize the ifs in the passage--as if this were all just a hypothetical situation. Amateur that I am, may I say 'balderdash!'

Some well-established commentators have said this is speaking only about professors (not believers) who just mouth the words of belief but don't believe in their hearts. Amateur commentator that I am, may I say 'poppycock!'

Some renowned commentators have said that this refers only to the times in which it was written, when some believers reverted to the Temple worship and sacrifices that were still enacted there. Amateur that I am, may I say, 'hogwash.'

And, worst of all, some commentators say this passage refers to saved believers who have lost their salvation. For these I reserve my best epithet of all: 'bullwhipple!'

Hebrews 6:1-9 is for many Bible readers the most horrifying passage in scripture. And our commentators have done nothing to help them get through it without shattering their spiritual confidence.

Stand in the Rain will not shy away from this passage. (Many of our noble commentators opt to make no comment on these verses.) Stand in the Rain does not approach this passage with the academic and spiritual angst that others have told us this passage deserves. This is due to either one of two premises:
a. Either Stand in the Rain is too obtuse to properly appreciate how inscrutable these verses really are; or
b. Stand in the Rain is too smart to be intimidated by a passage whose context guides us to a clear and authoritative interpretation.

Fearlessly (as always) assuming Premise "b" to be true, we are going to de-mystify this passage by posting a picture of the verses with the important contextual clues circled. Then we are going to guide you through a proper, contextually derived interpretation.

As you can see, there are three phrases circled. We hope you circle them in your Bible as well:

1. Circle this: "A foundation of repentance from dead works"

This first circled phrase is the controlling context for the rest of the passage! It tells us that the "repentance" being spoken of is repentance from a works-based relationship with God instead of a trusting, faith-based relationship. We are not saved by good works, but by trusting in what Jesus achieved for us. So don't slide back to faith in "works." And if you do, repent!

2. Circle this: "It is impossible to restore again to repentance those who have once been enlightened…"

Enlightened about what? About the uselessness of the dead works which were spoken of in circle #1, above. Those who keep drifting back into that fallacy will find it harder and harder -- and eventually impossible -- to fully trust in God's grace-based plan of salvation.

3. Circle this: "We feel sure of better things--things that belong to salvation."

This phrase makes it clear that what has been discussed above is not salvation itself, but the rewards that those already saved will earn through the faithful use of the spiritual gifts they have been given. Such rewards belong to salvation (or, as the KJV says it, accompany salvation.) So accompanying rewards are in question here--not salvation itself.


Make no mistake, the warning of Hebrews 6:1-10 is sobering and should cause us to reflect on whether we are slipping back into a relationship with God that we've based on whether we have our halos shined and our goody-goody shoes polished (wrong!) or whether our relationship with God is based (as it should be) on the death and resurrection of his Son, Jesus Christ.


Tuesday, February 21, 2012

talk the talk, part 2

The Word for today:
Hebrews 4:14-5:10

mark this: Hebrews 4:12
For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.

Yesterday, we discussed the poetic power of scripture in general. Today, we will look at one image--the Sword of the LORD--which shines, cuts, saves, defends, delivers, lances, and conquers all the way from cover to cover in your Bible.

We live in the most graphic of ages. The words "logo" and "icon" are readily understood by school children. My email program no longer uses words like "save" or "delete" or "forward." Instead it uses a disc, a trash can, and an arrow. We get the picture.

We get the picture. But do we give the picture?

The Bible is the most graphic and iconic and theatric of books. It opens in a darkened theater, as it were. Suddenly, somewhere, as if a switch were flipped, a brigade of light invades the darkness, then gives way to a riot of color, sound, and scent as Eden unfolds.

But it's not too long before the idyllic garden is shaken to its roots.

A single tree in the midst is seen, and a single command is heard: "Don't."

But a woman, her judgment twisted by the tactics of the prince of darkness, leader of a moral counterinsurgency, Does.  Doubt and death had entered the garden.

She and her husband are banished from the garden. But as they leave, an astounding sight is seen--a flaming sword which guards the way into the garden:
So He drove the man out; and at the east of the Garden of Eden He stationed the cherubim and the flaming sword which turned every direction to guard the way to the tree of life. (Genesis 3:24)

That is the first mention of what will become one of the great pictures in all of scripture. It is a picture of the Bible itself--the Sword of the Spirit, the Word of God.

When we see what the sword means, we understand what the Bible's purpose really is.

Let's look closely at the picture. It's a sword, which keeps sin out. But it's also a light that shows the Way for faith to enter.

The Bible's purpose is to show both edges of this two-edged sword:
That the wages of sin is death, and that the free gift of God is life through Jesus Christ (1);

That the soul that sins shall die (2), and that by grace we are saved through faith in Jesus Christ (3).

Also notice that the image of the sword (just like the Bible it represents) is saturated with Christ:
As the light of the world, Jesus shows the way.
And  as the Way, the Truth, and the Life, Jesus is the way.

The Sword, then, reveals Jesus as the way and the means, the cause and the effect, the all in all.


Eve had fatally succumbed to the Word of the World, the "sword" wielded by Satan, in the garden. The word of the world misrepresents, twists, and distorts God's Word. The word of the world is summed up in Satan's opening line: "Did God really say?" (4)

When Jesus was tempted by Satan (5), Satan used the same tactics. But the word of the world is no match for the Word of God when wielded in faith. The Word of God tore the word of the world to shreds.

Psalm 44:3, my life verse if I have one, contrasts the powerlessness of our own word--
For not by their own sword did they win the land, nor did their own arm save them…

--with the power of the sword-wielding right hand of God:
but your right hand and your arm, and the light of your face, for you delighted in them.

Later on, Paul will remind us that, like Eve, we are no match for the legions of darkness without the Sword of the Lord, sharpened and always at the ready:
Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. (Ephesians 6:14-17)

Finally, in a fearsome sight, the Son of God will return to enforce his word on the whole world. What Satan had seen in single combat, the world will witness at large:
Then I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse! The one sitting on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he judges and makes war. His eyes are like a flame of fire, and on his head are many diadems, and he has a name written that no one knows but himself. He is clothed in a robe dipped in blood, and the name by which he is called is The Word of God. And the armies of heaven, arrayed in fine linen, white and pure, were following him on white horses. From his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations, and he will rule them with a rod of iron. He will tread the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty. (Revelation 19:11-15)


When we think of the Bible as a book, we are not wrong; we are merely prosaic and ineffective, falling short (as we have since Eden) of the glory of God.

But when we think God-thoughts, seeing the Bible as God sees it, then the book in our hands fills the world with light, making sure that the door to the garden is always open.

(1) Romans 6:23; (2) Ezekiel 18:20; (3) Ephesians 2:8; (4) Genesis 3:1; (5) Matthew 4:1-11

Monday, February 20, 2012

talk the talk, part 1

The Word for today:
Hebrew 3:7-4:13

mark this:  Hebrews 4:12
For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.

Over the next couple days, we are going to look at the image of the sword as it slashes and flashes from cover to cover in your Bible, all the way from Genesis to Revelation.

But before we do, we must mention that the sword in scripture is hardly ever a sword at all.  It is instead a powerful and beautiful poetic device, used to convey deeper truths about the meaning and function of scripture itself, the Word of God.

So, why doesn’t the Bible just come out and say “the Bible” when it means “the Bible.”  Why does it say sword instead?

It says sword when it means scripture because poetic imagery has far more emotional, intellectual, and spiritual impact than prose expression can muster.

So today we will consider the power of poetics in general.  Tomorrow, the sublime sword of the LORD (an extended metaphor) will flash, cut, lance, conquer, divide, save, deliver, and defend its way all the way from Eden to Gethsemane, from Eve to Jesus, from preincarnation to second Advent--and beyond.


A couple days ago, promoting the benefits of daily deeply diligent Bible study, I wrote this:

And you will keep up, too, if you set before you the great rewards to be had for the struggle: the new vistas of thought; the lilting lyrical language; the deeply profound poetics; the sheer hope and the inexhaustible inspiration that your sweat and tenacity will discover.

“Deeply profound poetics?”  What, pray tell, is that all about?

I’ll tell you what that’s all about if you’ll allow me to put it this way:  the greatest training for a person who wants to understand the Bible, love the Bible, live the Bible, teach the Bible, or spread the soul-saving Good News is not seminary training but literary training.

The scripture is first of all a story.  It has a central character around whom its plot revolves and and resolves and it is never understood until it is understood as a story.  Until it is understood and taught in that way, it remains a hodgepodge of loosely connected (if connected at all) statements about God-knows-what.

When I came to faith, later in life than most, and began to study scripture, I was shocked at three things:
1. How powerful the narrative (story) flow of the Bible,
2. How profound the poetics of the Bible,
3. How self-defeating it was that the book was taught with no attempt to incorporate its literary elements.

Is this going to be a screed about the Bible as literature?  That phrase—“the bible as literature” – has gained a bad rep because it’s been the traditional title of the Bible courses taught by unbelievers in secular universities.

But if the Bible were taught by believers--by churches, Sunday schools, and seminaries—as literature instead of as theology (as it is taught) we’d have doubled the saved souls in the kingdom by now.  I mean it when I say that until we tell the Bible as it is written—as a story told in poetic, figurative language—then we will never reach this generation.


What do I mean by poetics?  'Poetics' basically means that we say abstract things in concrete ways.  For example, “I love you” is nice, puppy-love sentiment.  But it is pure abstraction, and after little Susie hears it 100 times from little Johnny, “I love you” loses whatever freshness and impact it might have once had.  So when little Bobby Burns moves into the neighborhood, Johnny loses Susie to a boy whose “I love you” sounds like this:

My love is like a red, red rose
   That’s newly sprung in June:
My love is like the melody
   That’s sweetly played in tune.

As fair art thou, my bonnie lass,
   So deep in love am I:
And I will love thee still, my dear,
   Till a’ the seas gang dry.

Till a’ the seas gang dry, my dear,
   And the rocks melt wi’ the sun:
And I will love thee still, my dear,
   While the sands o’ life shall run.

And fare thee well, my only love,
   And fare thee well a while!
And I will come again, my love,
   Tho’ it were ten thousand mile.  (1)

When the great Groom came to seek his Bride, he did not sound like a theologian, or a philosopher.  Instead his language was freighted with figurative speech:

I am the Bread of Life;
I am the Door;
I am the Vine.
You are the light of the world;
You are the salt of the earth.

And with story:

The Prodigal Son;
The Good Samaritan;
The Sower;
The Lost Sheep;
The Great banquet.

And with imagery:

A speck and a beam;
Blind men and a ditch;
Wheat and weeds;
Garments, wineskins, and patches.

In fact, he once proclaimed (2) that he would not teach certain audiences at all unless it was through parable (a form of figurative language.)  His figurative expression was so constant that in one instance his exasperated disciples expressed relief (3) to hear him speak “plainly” (without using a figure of speech!)

He is our great Teacher, but we don’t teach like he taught, with story and poem.  I wonder why?  Meanwhile, as we’re saying “I love you” (which is what theology sounds like)  little Bobby comes along with a red rose (which is what Jesus sounds like) and steals Susie (and her salvation) out from under our prosaic little noses, kicking sand in our faces to boot.

The church makes a big deal about walking like Jesus.  If we want to save souls, we ought to try to talk and teach like Him, too.

So let’s not just walk the walk.  Let’s talk the talk.

(1) "A Red, Red Rose" by Robert Burns, Scotland, 1794; (2) Mark 4:34; (3) John 16:29

Sunday, February 19, 2012

if ever I saw an angel

The Word for today:
Hebrews 3:1-6

mark this: Hebrews 1:4-6
This shows that God's Son is far greater than the angels, just as the name God gave him is far greater than their names.
For God never said to any angel what he said to Jesus: "You are my Son. Today I have become your Father.”
And again God said, "I will be his Father, and he will be my Son."
And then, when he presented his honored Son to the world, God said, "Let all the angels of God worship him."

I don’t get as excited about angels as a lot of other people seem to get.

I just searched through nearly one thousand Stand in the Rain articles and found that the word angel occurs 31 times.

About half of those 31 ‘angels’ are mentioned as part of a phrase, “the angel of the LORD,” which is a title for the pre-incarnate Christ.

So that leaves about 15 more ‘angels’ in three years of daily articles. And almost all of them are in articles that mention angels only because they happened to be on the scene when Jesus was born, or when he resurrected.

That is as it should be--as the angels would be the first ones to tell you! They seem to spend most of their time at the throne of God proclaiming “Holy, holy, holy” (1) — and might actually be embarrassed, even offended, by the attention they receive from some Christian circles.

My reluctance to delve into angel-ology (there’s a real word for that) might be the “Catholic” in my background. When I was a kid, my family went to a church where there were so many statues of saints, Virgin Marys, and angels that you’d be hard pressed to find the statue of Jesus.

(Don’t get your hackles up if you’re a Catholic. I know churches with problems that are a lot worse than an overabundance of statuary, and I know a Bible blogger who has more problems in his single soul than all the rest of the Catholics and Protestants combined.)

Anyway, when I came to the rabid faith I am now subject to (and sometimes enjoy), I determined, like Paul did, to know only Jesus Christ and him crucified (2).  So while I tip my hat to many of you living saints, and while I practically have a thing for Mary myself, and while I have a biblical appreciation for angels, regular readers will notice that they are seldom on my mind.

I have even developed a personal theological position on angels that puts them, I think, in their proper biblical place. I won’t bore you with the entire thesis, but I will quote a footnote (from the November 15, 2011 edition of Stand in the Rain) that gives you the gist:
This writer is of the opinion that angels accompanied Israel, but have been supplanted by the resident presence of the Holy Spirit in the lives of believers today. However, I am not dogmatic on this issue, and would not be surprised to find out I'm wrong! But right or wrong, the protection and guidance of the omnipotent and omniscient Spirit cannot be enhanced by the presence of a created being, so the question of angel involvement with the church today (while interesting) is merely academic.
I tell you all this for one reason—to establish my angel-cred! Because all my angel skepticism makes me the most credible source for a possible angel sighting, which happened once upon a time, on a hot midsummer afternoon, in a state far, far away…

I once spent a summer at Indiana University, mooching off my sister who was a graduate student there. Her academic advisor was a young medieval classics professor who was said to be brilliant. I don’t know about all of that, but she sure was good-looking for a professor in Indiana. (In fact she would have stood out as strikingly good-looking among all the starlets in Hollywood.) Anyway, this young professor was writing a book about, of all things, angels.

Unregistered, unmatriculated, not at all interested in angels, and only somewhat interested in medieval classics, I still found my way into the back row of this professor’s lectures. They were graduate summer classes, which can be notoriously laid back, so she often digressed about her book-in-the-making. (She could have talked about the Transylvanian commodities market and half the class would have remained attentive.)

I can’t remember much, in particular, of anything she said except for her response to a question she was asked by the quiet guy who always sat in the back row right next to me. It was toward the end of the summer, maybe the last class before exams, when he stood up (unusual in itself) and asked, “Is there anything in your book about Jesus?”

“No, of course not,” she smiled dismissively, “my book is about angels.

The young man sat down. You could feel that the entire room resented his intrusive and invasive question—loaded, as it was, with the unsettling J-word and transported behind secular lines.

For the next couple minutes, while the class was winding down, I studied his face for what I expected would be signs of embarrassment or fluster. What I saw instead was something quite like nobility and even majesty, yet without a hint of arrogance or condescension. He looked, as they say, like he owned the joint---and the ground it was built on.

When the class was over, he bent to pick his books off the floor. When he straightened up and rose to leave, he turned directly toward me and said, “Angels exist to exalt Jesus. They have no other mission.”

And then he was gone.

I can’t remember now what the beautiful professor even looked like, whether she was blonde or brunette. But I have never forgotten the deep and unwavering gaze of the quiet man in the back row who saw right through the situation and brought honor to the name of Jesus in the most unlikely of places.

If ever I saw an angel, it was he.

(1) Isaiah 6:3 and Revelation 4:8; (2) 1 Corinthians 2:2

Saturday, February 18, 2012

pre-requisite to a bigger Jesus

The Word for today:
Hebrews 2

The theme of the book of Hebrews, boiled down to one phrase, is “Jesus is better.” (‘Better’ is used 13 times in Hebrews; ‘perfect’ 15 times.)

Or, if you prefer a visual word (as Stand in the Rain does) you could just as correctly say that the theme of Hebrews is “Jesus is bigger.”

But at the same time, one of the great verses of this great book is found in 13:8—
Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.

How can both be true at once? In today’s article, Stand in the Rain pursues that paradox…
If ever you go to college, you will have to endure registration.

Registration is when you sign up to take the courses you need to take. It can be very discouraging to attempt to fit the courses into the cracks between the hours you work, or to schedule them so they coordinate with the local bus schedule.

Most frustrating of all is when you find the course you are required to take, on a day you can take it, at a time you can be there, only to fine that the course has a pre-requisite.

So you scramble to get into the pre-requisite course, which is inevitably full by the time you get there. Which means you can’t take the requisite course next semester either.

In my last semester of college, when I was just a few courses shy of graduation, I waltzed into registration without any worries, because the college I attended had a policy which said that last-semester students could waive pre-requirements for courses they needed to take in order to graduate.

That meant that I could sign up for course X without having taken course Y.  So I did.

Well, I want you to know that my final semester was hell on wheels because of that one course. The other students, who had all taken the pre-requisite course, were having no problem with it. But I was barely able to stay afloat.

Hebrews is like that.  Hebrews should come labeled like this:
The student seeking to enroll in this course must verify, prior to registration, the successful completion of the following courses:

“Intro to the Books of Moses (Genesis to Deuteronomy)”
“Leviticus, part I”
“Leviticus, part II”
“Survey of the Historical Books (Joshua through Esther)”
“Survey of the Prophets (Isaiah to Malachi)”
That doesn’t mean you can’t get through Hebrews without those prerequisites. (I mean, I managed to graduate --barely -- after struggling through Hell on Wheels 201 in that last semester.) We’ll guide you through and you’ll learn a lot--but nowhere near what you’ll learn someday, after mastering those prerequisites.

Make no mistake about it, Bible study is not easy. It’s a big book and the concepts are supernatural, so they do not come naturally to us. Real Bible study comes down to raw sweat and tenacious diligence.

I don’t mind telling you that for me to stay with the concepts presented by Isaiah or Hebrews is intellectually akin to a sparrow trying to fly with eagles. I’m just not that smart.

But I have a good Teacher who poured some of his Spirit on me to help me keep up:
But you have been anointed by the Holy One, and you all have knowledge. (1 John 2:20)

And you will keep up, too, if you set before you the great rewards to be had for the struggle: the new vistas of thought; the lilting lyrical language; the deeply profound poetics; the sheer hope and the inexhaustible inspiration that your sweat and tenacity will discover.

And all of those are as nothing compared to the real reward: the ever-deepening relationship with an ever-bigger Jesus.

That’s why we complete the prerequisites, sign up for the course, show up for the course, take the course, run the course, finish the course, and keep the faith.

Because every time you make your way ‘round the circuit of those 66 books (each one a prerequisite to every other) you will be met at the end by a bigger Jesus, so much bigger that you might hardly recognize him.

And you’ll wonder, every time through, how the great book of Hebrews can say Jesus stays the same (13:8) when you know for a fact he’s grown two miles taller since you two first met.

Paradoxically, the book of Hebrews is right about him never changing, while at the same time your eyes aren’t lying as they see him ever increasing. What you’re experiencing is the same thing Lucy, in the Chronicles of Narnia (1), experienced when she saw the lion Aslan – Christ—shining white and huge in the moonlight:
“Welcome, child,” he said.
“Aslan,” said Lucy, “you’re bigger.”
“That is because you are older, little one,” answered he.
“Not because you are?”
“I am not. But every year you grow, you will find me bigger.”

(1) The quotation is from Prince Caspian by C.S. Lewis.

Friday, February 17, 2012

sweet dreams are made of this

The Word for today:
Hebrews 1

mark this: Hebrews 1:1-2
God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, has in these last days spoken to us by His Son.

Did you ever notice that (unless you jump into the air) your shadow is always attached to you?

That’s why it is perfectly appropriate that the book of Hebrews follows directly upon the heels of the book of Leviticus in our reading schedule.

We should think of the book of Hebrews as the substance (the real thing) that casts the shadow we know as “Leviticus.” (Or, to say it another way, Hebrews is the substantiation or embodiment of Leviticus.)

This pattern — shadow turning into substance, prophecy turning into performance -- is the pattern followed throughout scripture:
  • The Passover was a shadow and prophecy of the cross to come.
  • Aaron the high priest of Leviticus who enters the Holy Place to offer the blood sacrifice is a shadow and prophecy of Jesus our High Priest.
  • King David, representing all of Israel in the battle against Goliath, is but a shadow and prophecy of the great King to come, who will single-handedly defeat sin and death on behalf of all the people.
  • Over the past three days, we watched the concept of Jubilee (in Leviticus) turn into a Person (in the book of Luke) who then walked into a Nazareth synagogue and said so.


Two of Hebrews’ great verses touch on the relationship of a shadow to that which cast it; and of a word to that which it expresses:

Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.  (Hebrews 11:1/NKJV)

God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, has in these last days spoken to us by His Son. (Hebrew 1:1-2)

Hebrews teaches us that the covenant promises God made to Abraham and to Israel have turned into the real deal, Jesus.

Hebrews shows us that longing, dreams, hope and desire have a Name.


Thursday, February 16, 2012

looking for Jesus in Leviticus: "Jubilee," part 3

The Word for today:
Leviticus 27

mark these!!! -- Leviticus 25:8-13 / Isaiah 61:1-4 / Luke 4:16-21
(These three passages should be forever linked in the Bible student’s mind. Carrying, as they do, the idea of Jubilee from seed to flower to fruition, they are so much a part of each other that none of the three makes any biblical sense without the other two.)

God rested on the seventh day, but that was just the beginning.

God then commanded the people to observe a Sabbath rest. Then God decreed that every seventh year the land should rest, as well.

Then God told Israel that following the 49th year (the seventh seven-year period) there would be a year, called Jubilee, when everything was reset to its original condition. The land would be restored to the original owners, servant/slaves would be freed, and debts would be forgiven.

But while the twice-a-century Jubilee hearkened all the way back to God’s original design, it looked forward, prophetically, to the ultimate Jubilee—a day when not just debts and property rights would be forgiven and restored, but sins would be forgiven and sight would be restored and everything would be renewed and reset.

In order to understand the profound and startling spiritual truths which Sabbath and Jubilee are meant to teach us, the Bible student must range from cover to cover in his Bible. So Over the last couple days, we looked at these topics in the beginning--in Genesis, Exodus, and Leviticus.

Today, in our concluding article, we’ll need to make a few stops near the middle, at 2 Chronicles and Isaiah, before we arrive at the ultimate Jubilee in the New Testament book of Luke.
Sadly, what we have learned from scripture and from history is that while the people of Israel obsessively, compulsively (even anally) observed their Sabbath rest every seven days, there is no record that they ever observed the 7th-year Sabbath rest for the land, or the Jubilee reset which was to follow the seventh seven-year period.

Another great truth that we can learn from scripture and from history is that while we might delay God’s program, we never alter it.

So, despite the people’s failures to fulfill God’s directives, the land would get its rest. When Israel was exiled to Babylon they were there for 70 years. Why 70? Here’s why:

The LORD, the God of their fathers, sent word to them through his messengers again and again, because he had pity on his people and on his dwelling place. But they mocked God's messengers, despised his words and scoffed at his prophets until the wrath of the LORD was aroused against his people and there was no remedy. He brought up against them the king of the Babylonians, [7] who killed their young men with the sword in the sanctuary, and spared neither young man nor young woman, old man or aged. God handed all of them over to Nebuchadnezzar. He carried to Babylon all the articles from the temple of God, both large and small, and the treasures of the LORD's temple and the treasures of the king and his officials. They set fire to God's temple and broke down the wall of Jerusalem; they burned all the palaces and destroyed everything of value there. He carried into exile to Babylon the remnant, who escaped from the sword, and they became servants to him and his sons until the kingdom of Persia came to power. The land enjoyed its sabbath rests; all the time of its desolation it rested, until the seventy years were completed in fulfillment of the word of the LORD spoken by Jeremiah.  (2 Chronicles 36:15-21; see Jeremiah 25:9-12; 29:10)

Scholars think there were 490 years without Sabbath rest for the land, so God took it upon himself to enforce his plan for the land. (If ever we think that God might have forgotten his own Word, God’s delayed enforcement of Sabbath rest for the land should cause us to think again.)
Prior to the exile, Isaiah had reminded Israel that God had not forgotten the day and idea of Jubilee--when the captive would be released, debts forgiven, and (adding something not predicted in Leviticus) even broken hearts restored:

The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me, because the LORD has anointed me to bring good news to the poor;
he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound;
to proclaim the year of the LORD's favor, and the day of vengeance of our God;
to comfort all who mourn; to grant to those who mourn in Zion-- to give them a beautiful headdress instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit; that they may be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, that he may be glorified.
They shall build up the ancient ruins; they shall raise up the former devastations; they shall repair the ruined cities, the devastations of many generations. (Isaiah 61:1-4)

Before we turn to the final leg of our journey, let’s pause to remember how far we’ve come. We’ve come from pre-history, where God rested; to the Ten commandments in Exodus, where the people were commanded to rest; to Leviticus, where it was decreed that the land should get it’s rest and communities should be periodically restored to their original design and intent. We’ve been in 2 Chronicles (where we saw that most of these directions were ignored, so God took it upon himself to fulfill his own word!) Then on to Isaiah, who reminded us that God had not forgotten the promise of Jubilee, when everything -- even broken emotions! – would be restored and reset.

God put Jubilee into place with his people because he was painting a prophetic picture that ultimately would be realized in Jesus—who took Isaiah’s Jubilee passage as his mission statement when he launched his public ministry. Thirty years old and still relatively unknown, he walked into the synagogue in his hometown of Nazareth. We’ll let Luke tell the rest:
And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up. And as was his custom, he went to the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and he stood up to read. And the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written, "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor."

And he rolled up the scroll and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. And he began to say to them, "Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing." (Luke 4:16-21)
This scene from the Word of God shows human expression to be incompetent, inadequate, and impotent; our language falls forever short of conveying this scene’s significance. In an out-of-the-way synagogue in the middle of nowhere, Jesus had clearly and unmistakably proclaimed,

I AM the Jubilee.

I am rest for the weary soul.
I am the one who forgives every sin.
I am the one who can re-create the image that has fallen.

I am the restoration, the refreshment, the resurrection, and the reset. Everything starts over again as of now.

Jubilee, ladies and gentleman, is here.

For further study, a postscript:

Matthew had already proclaimed (in his gospel--written for the Jewish mind, for people of The Book) that Jesus was the Jubilee:

So all the generations from Abraham to David were fourteen generations, and from David to the deportation to Babylon fourteen generations,
and from the deportation to Babylon to the Christ fourteen generations.
Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way… (Matthew 1:17-18)

“3 x 14” would be thought of in the scripturally-literate Jewish mind as “6 sevens.” Which leaves Jesus as the seventh seven…
There are other hints of Jesus as Jubilee in Leviticus 25, including the picture of the kinsman redeemer which will be enacted in the book of Ruth and in, of course, the person of Jesus Christ.

The early church lived out and celebrated the reality of Jesus as our Jubilee, pro-actively resetting their lives and property. (See Acts 2:42-45 and 4:32-35).
Jesus is the Sabbath of God: “It is finished!” (Genesis 2:3; John 19:30)
Jesus is the Jubilee: “He is risen!” (Matthew 28:7; Psalm 68:18; Ephesians 4:8)

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

looking for Jesus in Leviticus: “Jubilee,” part 2

The Word for today:
Leviticus 26

Stand in the Rain is following the Sabbaths all the way from original creation to the restoration of Jubilee. We started yesterday in Genesis and we’ll finish tomorrow in the New Testament. Sabbath and Jubilee illustrate profound and startling spiritual truths, so we hope you’ll come along.


In Genesis, God rested on the seventh day.

In Exodus, Israel was commanded to observe their own Sabbath day, when they should cease from their striving to trust and enjoy God for who he is.

Here in Leviticus, Israel is commanded to let the land rest every seventh year:

Speak to the children of Israel, and say to them: 'When you come into the land which I give you, then the land shall keep a sabbath to the Lord. Six years you shall sow your field, and six years you shall prune your vineyard, and gather its fruit; but in the seventh year there shall be a sabbath of solemn rest for the land, a sabbath to the Lord. You shall neither sow your field nor prune your vineyard.  (Leviticus 25:2-4)

This series of sevens does not end with the seventh year. The cycle compounds one more time:

Count off seven sabbaths of years--seven times seven years--so that the seven sabbaths of years amount to a period of forty-nine years.
Then have the trumpet sounded everywhere on the tenth day of the seventh month; on the Day of Atonement sound the trumpet throughout your land. Consecrate the fiftieth year and proclaim liberty throughout the land to all its inhabitants.
It shall be a jubilee for you; each one of you is to return to his family property and each to his own clan.
The fiftieth year shall be a jubilee for you; do not sow and do not reap what grows of itself or harvest the untended vines. For it is a jubilee and is to be holy for you; eat only what is taken directly from the fields.
In this Year of Jubilee everyone is to return to his own property.  (Leviticus 25:8-13)

The word jubilee means, literally, the sounding of a ram’s horn (which happened on the Day of Atonement in the 50th year.)

But it also carries the idea of a release from bondage.  After seven “sevens” of years, in the fiftieth year, they were to proclaim liberty to all the inhabitants. This liberty was to include everything that goes on in their world:

If someone had lost their land (which had been distributed to their clan) because they’d fallen on hard times and had to sell it away, then in the 50th year, everything resets and the land goes back to the clan who owned it originally.

Some people had to sell themselves into servitude/slavery when they fell on hard times. (Their slavery wasn’t like racial slavery, but it was a type of employment arrangement, whereby you sold yourself into the hire of a family.) But in the Jubilee year, RESET.  The servitude was ended, and that person returned to his own land where he could start over again.

So once every fifty years, the land is restored to the original owners, servant/slaves are freed, and debts are forgiven.


Jubilee was representative of a larger narrative that looks all the way back to the original creation and anticipates its future restoration.

Jubilee tells us that hope and justice aren’t too far away. There is always, for everybody, light at the end of the tunnel. No matter a person’s plight, it would not be that way forever. Everything becomes new again in the year of Jubilee.

The Jubilee Year is proclaimed – the ram’s horn is sounded -- on the Day of Atonement, signifying that the basis and precedent for the freedom and reset of Jubilee is what happened on that great Day, when the high priest entered the Holiest Place with the blood of the sacrifice.

Hope, opportunity, and second chances are all based upon the High Priest mediating, as God had prescribed, on behalf of the people.


Ultimate Jubilee is just ahead, so we hope to see you tomorrow.


Tuesday, February 14, 2012

looking for Jesus in Leviticus: "Jubilee," part 1

The Word for today:
Leviticus 25

mark this: Leviticus 25:2-4
Speak to the people of Israel and say to them, When you come into the land that I give you, the land shall keep a Sabbath to the LORD. For six years you shall sow your field, and for six years you shall prune your vineyard and gather in its fruits, but in the seventh year there shall be a Sabbath of solemn rest for the land, a Sabbath to the LORD. You shall not sow your field or prune your vineyard.

In Israel, what was the most important day of the week?

Everybody knows that the answer is “the Sabbath day.”

But do you know why the Sabbath was such a big deal?

No, the Sabbath was not a big deal because that’s the day they went to “church” (synagogue). In fact, it’s the other way around: they went to church on the Sabbath because the Sabbath was a big deal in its own right.

Which brings us back to the question: What made the Sabbath such a big deal—such a big deal that one of the Ten Commandments is dedicated to its observance? (1)

If you are not quite sure, know that Stand in the Rain is not in the business of making you feel dumb. We are in the opposite business—of making you scripturally smart, smarter, and smartest.

We have only three days left in Leviticus, so we saved the best for last. Over the next three days, we are going to make you smart--about the Sabbath (the seventh day).

Then we are going to make you smarter—about the sabbatical (seventh) year.

Then we are going to make you smartest—about the greatest of them all, the year of Jubilee, which occurred in the Sabbath year squared (seven times seven).

If you stand in the rain for the next three days, you will be 7 x 7 x 7 times smarter (about the Sabbath and Jubilee, anyway) than you are right now!


I wrote all those sevens just to knock them down. So here goes: Sabbath does not mean seventh, it means rest!

It was commemorated on the seventh day, but only because that’s when God rested:

On the seventh day, having finished his task, God rested from all his work.
And God blessed the seventh day and declared it holy, because it was the day when he rested from his work of creation.  (Genesis 2:2-3)

“Seventh day” has been so closely associated with “Sabbath” that people (including Yours Truly) sometimes think that’s what Sabbath means. It does not!

Let’s say it this way: If God had rested on the fourth day, then the Sabbath would have been commemorated on the fourth day.

So we must always equate Sabbath with rest (or cessation from work, however you want to say it.) If we can get that equation embedded into our understanding, then rest assured that the rest of our discussion (which will have everything to do with rest and absolutely nothing to do with when we should go to church) will be beneficial.

Sabbath is a condition of the soul. It is a reflection of our relationship to God. It is not confined to a day or even to time itself.

We’ll see you tomorrow, when we will pick up right here where we left off.  Between now and then, we hope the rest of your day is wonderful and that you get some rest tonight.

(1) Exodus 20:8-11

Monday, February 13, 2012

Looking for Jesus in Leviticus: “Anointed," part 2

The Word for today:
Leviticus 24

Good morning, super sleuths of Scripture. Let’s jump right in where we left off yesterday…

Stand in the Rain has chosen a few “minor” verses from Leviticus chapter 8—verses that even the most avid Bible reader tends to skim over—to show that even the little things have a lot to say about Jesus.

Yesterday, we noted how the oil was poured over the head of the high priest, but only sprinkled over the rest of the priests.

Because oil is Scripture’s most prevalent symbol of the Holy Spirit, we concluded that the pouring was a prophetic picture of the true High Priest, Jesus, who was given the Spirit with out measure (1).

Before we leave that image, we want to point to some identical Old Testament images of Jesus the Anointed:

You love what is right and hate what is wrong. Therefore God, your God, has anointed you, pouring out the oil of joy on you more than on anyone else.  (Psalm 45:7)

Psalm 45 is one of the many great "Messianic" Psalms. (Messiah is the Hebrew equivalent of the Greek “Christ,” which means “anointed.”) Here we again see the word poured, which we focused on yesterday.  The one upon whom the Spirit was poured, not just sprinkled, would be the Promised King, Prophet, High Priest, and Deliverer—the Messiah.

Let’s turn to another remarkable image of the oil being lavishly poured out on the head of the high priest:
It is like the precious oil on the head, running down on the beard, on the beard of Aaron, running down on the collar of his robes!  (Psalm 133:2)

Along with the symbol of oil and the office of high priest, there is another subtle but definite hint of Jesus in that verse.  Can you find it?  (I’ll leave this one for you to track down.  The answer can be found below in footnote #2.)


Let’s conclude our basic Bible detective training by going back to where we started--with another major Jesus sighting that can be found among the “minor details” of Leviticus 8.   A very careful reading reveals that the anointing oil is poured over Aaron before the blood is applied to his ear, thumb, and toe. This is uniquely typical of Jesus Christ--our High Priest--who needed no sins forgiven before empowerment (anointing) for service.

Every other priest--representative of you and me as priests--has the order reversed: first the atoning blood and then the anointing.  Needing no forgiveness of sins, Jesus stands uniquely apart.


Do not be discouraged if some of the clues escape you on your first trips through Leviticus or any other “uneventful” portions of scripture.  For example, it took me about twenty readings before I first saw the prophetic pictures of Jesus in Leviticus 8 that we have examined over the last couple days.

On the other hand, don’t ever get to the point where you think you’ve seen it all. Experience tells me that -- miraculously -- the more pictures we find, the more we’ve yet to discover!

(1) John 3:34

(2) The clue is the word head  (upon which the oil is copiously poured) because Jesus is the head of the body, the church  (Colossians 1:18).  Note how the oil (Holy Spirit) then falls upon the rest of the body, which is true of the church as well.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Looking for Jesus in Leviticus: “Anointed," part 1

The Word for today:
Leviticus 23

As we’ve been looking for Jesus in Leviticus, we’ve seen words that may as well be shouting out, “That looks just like him!”

Lamb and blood and fire and offering and flawless and high priest and mediator and substitute and holy and bread and goats and birds and law and access are each telling us more and more about him.

But there’s one word that might as well be shouting out his Name. That word is anointed…


When we are looking for Jesus in the prophetic pictures of the Old Testament, we have to be (like any good detective) very observant of things that, to the untrained eye, might look like mere details. These seemingly minor details can contain our biggest clues.

Let’s carefully read the following often-overlooked verses from Levitcus 8.  I’ve been a detective for a long time, so I will help out by highlighting some details that might otherwise go unnoticed:

Then Moses took the anointing oil and anointed the tabernacle and everything in it, and so consecrated them. (Leviticus 8:10)

He sprinkled some of the oil on the altar seven times, anointing the altar and all its utensils and the basin with its stand, to consecrate them. (Leviticus 8:11)

He poured some of the anointing oil on Aaron's head and anointed him to consecrate him. (Leviticus 8:12)

First of all, whenever we see the word anointed, you can be sure that Jesus is lurking nearby!  (You’ve no doubt heard the word "Christ."  Well, Christ is a Greek form of the Hebrew word Messiah, which means anointed.  Let’s put it this way, if we were to say “Jesus Christ” in pure English, it would be “Jesus Anointed.”)

Which means he’s very near in this passage.  So we’ll look even closer.  Notice the word "poured"
Poured is a crucial clue. But it’s only understood relative to the word "sprinkled," which we find in Leviticus 8:30:

Then Moses took some of the anointing oil and some of the blood from the altar and sprinkled them on Aaron and his garments and on his sons and their garments.  So he consecrated Aaron and his garments and his sons and their garments.

Note that oil (the most prevalent symbol of the Holy Spirit in scripture) is poured on the high priest. So, when we are told in the New Testament that Jesus has “the Spirit without measure (1),”  it means he’s the real High Priest--the one upon whom the Spirit is poured.

But the oil is only sprinkled on the other priests--who are like the high priest in essence, but not in degree.


Aaron, anointed, high priest, Christ, poured, and sprinkled.  Just minor details to many Bible readers, but not to the super sleuths who stand in the rain every day!

Well, that’s enough to process for one day. So come on back tomorrow when we will find more unmistakable clues among the “minor details” of Leviticus chapter 8.

(1) John 3:34

Saturday, February 11, 2012

looking for Jesus in Leviticus: "in the dark"

The Word for today:
Leviticus 21, 22

The Tabernacle was divided into three sections.

There was a large outer court, then a smaller enclosed area that included two sections. These two sections were known as the Holy Place and the Most Holy Place, respectively:

In the outer court were the altar of burnt offering and the laver (a basin of water for ceremonial washing.)

In the Holy Place were a table with bread, an altar with incense, and a golden lamp stand.

A few days ago, we wrote about the word alone. On the Day of Atonement, some of the priests accompanied the high priest into the Holy Place. They performed their ceremonial duties in the light that shone from the lamp stand:
Now when these things had been thus prepared, the priests always went into the Holy Place, performing the services. (Hebrews 9:6)

But that was as far as any of the priests could go, except for one:
But into the Most Holy Place the high priest went alone once a year, not without blood, which he offered for himself and for the people's sins. (Hebrews 9:7)

That one—the high priest—went beyond a thick curtain into the Most Holy Place (also known as the Holy of Holies.) No one else could enter there; no one ever witnessed the high priest’s work. The light from the lamp stand could not penetrate the veil.

When Jesus the High Priest offered himself as sacrifice, his time on the altar was in two stages. For the first three hours, he suffered the wrath of man.

But then Jesus entered, alone, into another compartment of time, behind a veil of darkness:
From the sixth hour until the ninth hour darkness came over all the land. (Matthew 27:45)

During those three hours, Jesus suffered the wrath of God in the cosmic Holy of Holies (of which the Tabernacle was but a shadow).

And no one except the Father and the Son witnessed his work. Even scripture leaves no record of their transaction.

The Holy Spirit, it seems, has it permanently sealed. More than that, I believe the Holy Spirit is the seal of the record. We would have to break the bonds of Trinity to be able to see into that darkness.


We talk about the cross, we make movies of the cross, we wax poetic and rhapsodic about the cross.

As if we were there.

We Christians are supposed to tell the truth. So here it is: we know a few things about the ultimate Day of Atonement. But about that Day’s ultimate hours, we know nothing.

Father forgive us for speaking so glibly about things we know not of.


Friday, February 10, 2012

looking for Jesus in Leviticus: “priest”

The Word for today:
Leviticus 19, 20

The book of Leviticus derives its title from “Levi,” the tribe from which the priests of Israel came.

We see the book of Leviticus on a prophetic level, but when first written it was seen on a practical level, as a manual for the priests who served in the temple.

We hear the word “priest” differently than the people of Israel heard it. For us, “priest” often has a slightly stuffy, detached-from-reality connotation. Priests, in our experience, don’t work in the real world with bankers, bricklayers, and bridge builders.

“Priest” also carries, in our hearing, a hint of the ridiculous. I mean, they wear costumes to work. And funny hats. And some of them can’t even get married, for heaven’s sake.

But the odd fellows of our experience were not what the average Israelite thought of when he heard the word “priest.”

When Jacob Six-Pack, in the time of the Levitical priesthood, envisioned a priest, he thought of a man in the prime of life (they served only from 30 to 50) whose daily duties left him blood-stained, world-weary, and spiritually spent.

Approaching the temple with a lamb for his offering, Jacob looked into the eyes of a man who, at the end of his shift, was up to his elbows in blood, and up to his eyeballs with killing. Priests in those days didn’t welcome you into their paneled offices, offer you tea and a seat on the couch, discuss your feelings and failings, and leave you with a feel-good message.

Jacob Six-Pack saw, instead, a man who was an instrument of atonement. He was literally steeped in the bloody wages of sin:
For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it to you upon the altar to make atonement for your souls; for it is the blood that makes atonement for the soul. (Leviticus 17:11)

He longed for the day he could retire, when he would never have to wring the neck of another pigeon, or subdue another lamb as its throat was slit.

When we think of Jesus as our high priest, we experience his priesthood technically, as if he were our authorized proxy with power of attorney.

If only we could look into the sin-sickened eyes that Jacob Six-Pack saw when he handed his lamb, or pigeon, to the priest.


Thursday, February 9, 2012

Looking for Jesus in Leviticus: “alone”

The Word for today:
Leviticus 18

In our current series of articles, which we’ve called “Looking for Jesus in Leviticus,” we’ve seen pictures and prophecies and fore-shadows and symbols and types and analogies of Jesus.

So far we’ve seen Jesus in the offerings, in the fire, in the grain, in the substitute, in the laying on of hands, in the leprosy, in the sin, in the scapegoat. And we’re just getting started. In the next week or so, we will look for Jesus—and find him—in the garments, in the feasts, in the Sabbath, in the Jubilee, in the blood, and in the birds (if we’ve got the time).

But there’s one word, “alone” —which is illustrated in Leviticus 16, spelled out in Hebrews 9:7 -- that is often overlooked, even though it says as much about Jesus as any of the pictures which we previously mentioned:
Now when these things had been thus prepared, the priests always went into the first part of the tabernacle, performing the services;
But into the second part the high priest went alone once a year, not without blood, which he offered for himself and for the people's sins committed in ignorance.  (Hebrews 9:6-7)
Most of you know the context of the passage—that on the Day of Atonement, the Holiest Day of the Year, only one person, out of all the people, went into the Holiest Place to offer the blood of the sacrifice. Surely we see Jesus, the lone Lamb and the High Priest, in this prophetic context.

But what about the word alone, alone? When taken out of its spiritually prophetic context, is it still personally prophetic of Jesus?

Was he unique, and thereby misunderstood? Certainly:

When Jesus returned to the house where he was staying, the crowds began to gather again, and soon he and his disciples couldn't even find time to eat.
When his family heard what was happening, they tried to take him home with them. "He's out of his mind," they said.
(Mark 3:20-21)

When he said these things, the people were again divided in their opinions about him.
Some of them said, "He has a demon, or he's crazy. Why listen to a man like that?"
(John 10:19-20)

Was he sometimes lonely? I think so:
At this point many of his disciples turned away and deserted him.
Then Jesus turned to the Twelve and asked,  "Are you going to leave, too?"
  (John 6:66-67)

Was he forsaken? I know so:
My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? (Psalm 22:1)

In the book of Hebrews—the reality, of which Leviticus is just the shadow—we read a statement that we should never forget about the Son of Man:
Our High Priest is not one who cannot feel sympathy for our weaknesses. On the contrary, we have a High Priest who was tempted in every way that we are, but did not sin.
Let us have confidence, then, and approach God's throne, where there is grace. There we will receive mercy and find grace to help us just when we need it.  (Hebrews 4:15-16)
When we talk (as we do) so learnedly and so profoundly about our high priest (which he is) who became one of us (which he did) in order to offer himself (which he did) and intercede for us (which he is doing right now), let’s not forget that when he took upon himself our frail covering (our flesh), he took within himself our frail inner lives, as well.

Never forget that Jesus is all the big-deal things that “alone” implies: unique, unparalleled, peerless, incomparable.

But while we’re never forgetting all of that, let’s remember that “alone” also means he knew — like most of us some of the time, like some of us most of the time — what it’s like to feel alone.