Tag Archives: Bible

The Picture Book

God…..testified….by signs, wonders and various miracles, and gifts of the Holy Spirit.          Hebrews 2:4

God’s Word is a book full of pictures.  For example, Jesus often taught by means of stories that we call parables, and they are full of pictures.

More important, God made things happen in Bible pictures so that He could teach us important truths.  In I Corinthians 10:11, the apostle Paul says that certain things happened to the children of Israel so that we might be instructed by those events.

In the book of Hebrews we see many Old Testament pictures revived.  And many of these  pictures we call “types” because they typify a person or event that perfected God’s plan of salvation.  Types are ancient forerunners of salvation facts found in the New Testament.

When we study the Bible, then, we should study it typologically — according to types.  This is different from studying the Bible allegorically — or, by drawing moral teachings from Bible pictures.  Old testament pictures are not allegories but types.

Those who want to grow spiritually enjoy studying the Bible.  Inspired by God, the Bible was written so that readers could observe the ages-long history of God’s salvation.  Through pictures, we can see Jesus in that salvation plan, and we can discover where He is in our lives today.

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Sharing In Christ

Editor’s Note:  This month’s devotional readings were originally published by “Today – The Family Alter” for February, 1985.  The editor at that time was Dr. Joel Nederhood who wrote the following introduction about my dad.

Much of the Bible has been captured in brilliant church documents throughout the ages.  Those of us who are members of confessional churches have benefited greatly from a rich treasury of biblical insight that has been caught within our creeds.  But there is also much in the Bible that goes beyond what any of us are accustomed to think of as we read it.

When people of various backgrounds receive the Bible and its blessed gospel, they astonish their brothers and sisters with their insights.  Each Christian reads the Bible differently — and even differently at different times.  There are things in it that suddenly come alive, that leap up from the page; they have always been there, but sometimes special circumstances bring new elements of the Bible to light.

In this month’s meditations, we will view the dynamic biblical book of Hebrews through the experience of a veteran minister of the gospel.  Rev. Rolf Veenstra has served conventional churches (if there are such) and he has been a missionary in Nigeria.  The latest years of his life have been spent among native Americans in the Southwest.  His personal and family experiences have been rich and varied.  And he has always been fascinated by Scripture.

His is a man who lives in Christ, and Christ lives in him.  We will learn much as the splendor of Hebrews enters our lives through his perspective.  May God create in us a living faith so that we may benefit richly from what we read and study here.

The Beginning of Compromise

Lot moved his tent as far as Sodom.           Genesis 13:12

There are many people in the world who have no use for Christianity.  There are a comparative few who are genuine Christians.  But in between is a great crowd who claim to be Christians but are nothing of the sort.  They belong to some church, but hardly ever attend it and they regard the Bible as God’s Word, but rarely read it.  Their number is so large and the dangers for belonging to it are so great that the Bible devotes a number of chapters in Genesis to stories about compromise.

Until the appearance of Lot in the Bible record it was comparatively easy to distinguish between apparent believers and unbelievers.  But with Lot and his family we come to persons who want to hold with one hand to the kingdom of heaven, and with the other to what we call “the world.”

Actually, such compromise is impossible, as Jesus said, “No man can serve two masters.” A person can straddle the fence for a while, as Israel tried to do in the days of Elijah, but if he does not soon abandon the world in his affections he is bound to abandon God.  (I John 2:15)

When Lot chose to live in the lush alley of the Jordan, it is said that he pitched his tent in the direction of Sodom.  But the next that we hear of him is that he is living in the town itself.

Psalm 1:1 says, “Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners…..”  That’s the Bible’s ideal.  Those who ignore it and walk the way of compromise invite disaster.  Lot found that out, and so will you.

The Beginning of Public Worship

At that time men began to call upon the name of the Lord.       Genesis 4:26

Sometimes silence says more than words which are actually spoken.  This is true also in the Bible.  Genesis records the names of five descendants of Cain and then it stops.  That is the last you hear of him or them.  It is just as though that family ceased to exist.

Meanwhile, the Almighty God who can raise the dead and create men from the ground, gave Eve a son to take Abel’s place.  She called him Seth, which means substitute.  From this point on, the only people the Bible ever mentions are the children of Seth.  It is just as though nobody else mattered.  This was God’s family.  This was the true human race.

Very little is told us about the members of this new family tree, but one thing that is said about them is highly important.  They “called upon the name of the Lord.”

Obviously this means that they said their prayers as individuals.  These people had personal devotions, even as you and I ought to.  Any one who is too busy to have a daily “quiet time” is indeed too busy.

But individual worship had been going on already for some time before this. The first children of Adam and Eve worshipped God by means of sacrifices.  (Genesis 4:3,4)  But in the days of Seth something new was introduced into the worship of God.  People began to join one another in united or public worship.

Benjamin Franklin said of political affairs that if people do not hang together they will certainly be hanged separately, and this is surely true of spiritual exercises.  Satan has an easy time picking off a “loner.”  The person who does not care for the assembly of God’s people here upon earth will not be part of it in heaven.

The Book of Numbers

 

The fourth book in the Bible, the book of Numbers, is the saddest…if I may use the inelegant expression, perhaps the baddest book in the whole Bible.  I made a list of the contents of the chapters and just about every one contained something unhappy.  To mention nothing else, everyone that was living at the beginning of the book was dead at the end of the book, save Caleb and Joshua.  That included a lot of people, at least 1 million of them.  Literally they were the lost generation.  A handy thing to remember is the Book of Numbers is about the 40 years in the wilderness.  And literally they got nowhere, they went round and round until finally they all died.  The Bible summarizes this sad book in two places, the first of which is I Cor. 10 and the second is Hebrews 3:7-19.

The word “Numbers” may seem inadequate to describe any book of the Bible, specifically this one.  “Genesis” says something – origin, beginning.  “Exodus” means the departure from Egypt with all its drama and Leviticus is about the law.  But Numbers seems so meaningless.  True, it starts off with a census and it ends with another enumeration, the second generation.  And there are no duplications or charter members who appear in the second census except for Caleb and Joshua. And then there are lists of names in connection with order of march in which they would bivouac around the tabernacle.  The book does have a lot of enumerations but there is a more basic reason why the book is called that and we discover that when we first talk about the nature of this lost generation.

We see that Numbers really fits when we talk about this 40 year period.  The basic character of this time and this people is really indicated by that simple word “Numbers”.  Because “Number” means three things:  First, it means limitations.  If we say of a certain man, “His days are numbered,” we mean they are few.  When I was born my days were numbered and so were the days of Methuselah, but that isn’t what we mean when we say, “The days of our country are numbered.”  We’re talking in solemn, apocalyptic tone.  They aren’t very many.  There is an awful solemnity in the writing on the wall of Belshazzar.  “Numbered.  Weighed and found wanting.”  They are being counted out, tick-tock.  It’s the countdown.  That’s the idea.  And in that sense these people could be described as numbered.  God had promised that their descendants would be innumerable like the stars or sand.  But this generation, for all their large number, they are countable, not innumerable, they are all listed in a census and their days were numbered. Forget the people now, their days were numbered.  Suppose I were to say that all the people in a given congregation would be dead in 10 years. The inexorable nature of that would frighten…10 years!  They knew that not a one would leave the wilderness.  Moses, Miriam, Aaron, the princes of each of the 12 tribes, all of them would be dead before the 40 years were over.  And there was a special solemnity in that the year was 40.  Why that seemingly arbitrary number?  One year for every day that the 12 spies were looking around in Palestine.

There is a second reason for Numbers and that is that it is impersonal.  That is what prisoners hate about jail.  That is what’s so Orwellian about social security.  I think that is unconsciously part of the shame or anger provocation when a basketball player is called for a foul.  “Foul on 21.”  I think unconsciously the player is thinking, “I’m somebody, I got a name.  Don’t call me 21!”  That number they carry with such pride.  “Don’t identify me as a number.  I’m somebody.”  Even when we die we put the person’s name on a tombstone.  We don’t put number such and such.  Though he is gone from this world we perpetuate his identity by carving into stone, “Here lies the body of so-and-so.”  But here, in Numbers, no tombstones, no acres of crosses or markers, nothing but sand.  All buried in the sand and forgotten.  A whole generation, the whole of it lost.  Like the doleful dirge in Genesis, “so-and-so lived so many years, he bore so-and-so, he lived so many more years, and then he died.”

But worse of all, number is nothing.  Mathematicians tell us that zero is something and just as much as any number for sure.  But all numbers are basically nothing, a pure abstraction.  Accountants, I’m sure, are good at their jobs, but I would never want to do what they do, sitting all day running numbers on things.  They couldn’t care less what the numbers represent, it is just a pure abstraction.  That’s all a number is.  If I say, “2+2 is 4”, we accept that as a universal truth.  But you would say, “2 what?  4 what?  Apples? People?  Dollars?”  That makes a world of difference.  This book is numbers, that’s all.  Pure abstraction.  So the fourth book of the Bible, this lost generation, is well described by that providential title.  That’s their nature… lost, nothing, impersonal.

But now, what qualifies them for that dubious distinction.  They didn’t have to be a lost generation, a cypher, a mere number.  It was contrary to the will of God, this 40 years.  It’s regrettable enough when through no fault of its own there is a given group of people who are just lost, erased.  Those of us who have lived through World War II were told to remember Lidice, a town in Czechoslovakia that for the sake of psychological warfare was just wiped off the face of the earth; fathers, mothers, children, all obliterated.  A lost generation.  A town in the United States renamed themselves to perpetuate the name of that unfortunate town that was lost.  I say that is regrettable enough – or like the Depression generation was sometimes called “the lost generation”, or the protestors of Viet Nam were sometimes called “the lost generation” – but that was all our fault.  That was not the fault of the victims, but this was something that they deserved.

First of all, because of their ingratitude.  I say this deliberately and advisedly; no people in all of history had been so endowed with divine benediction.  Movies have been made about them like “The 10 Commandments”.   No people had more miracles, like the plagues or water out of the rock, and yet all they did was gripe and complain.  In the Book of Numbers it says, “Ten times you have come to me with this complaint…”  When you read the story instinctively you think how is it possible that a people could have so much but complain so greatly?  It shows that if you want to complain there will always be something to complain about.  If you don’t want to be grateful then no amount of benediction, joy or blessings is going to make you grateful.  They single out the most insignificant annoyance.  And they exaggerated the good old days in Egypt.  It would be one thing if they said how much they missed T-bone steaks, but instead you read “Oh how we miss the onions and garlic..”  Grasping at straws, “We’re so tired of this manna.”

They were preoccupied with themselves, that was basic or their big fault.  There is one central theme to all the sorry incidents that I’ve listed here and that is self-centeredness.  It is cut across the entire population, from the highest echelons with Miriam and Aaron, and then other leaders of the tribe with Korah, Dathan and Abiram  (Numbers 16) and it filtered down to the lowest levels until finally the people were picking up stones to throw at Moses.  There was no reason for it other than their pride, which is false humility in disguise and vice versa.  Pride and humility are the two faces of self-centeredness, being preoccupied with yourself.   So these same people who were saying, “Who do you think you are, Moses,” come to the gates of Canaan and say, “Oh, we’re just nothing.”  Because they were looking to much at themselves.  In themselves they were nothing but if they had frankly faced that fact that in themselves they were nothing then like Caleb and Joshua they could have said but “with God we are everything” and they would have been, which is a lesson for us.

They lacked trust, which is another way of saying they weren’t looking to God.  They didn’t believe His implicit promises.  God not only said He was on their side but He showed it time after time.  If they had any problem He just took care of it with a miracle. He was almost a magic man in their presence.  Fire by night, cloud by day, water from the rock, shoes that never wore out.  And then when they get into any new problem, and I see myself in that, some novel problem they say, “Oh God can’t solve this one.”  Or if He can, “I’m sure He won’t.”  They did not enter, says Hebrews, because of unbelief.  That alone was enough to disqualify them.  And because they didn’t, God stopped talking.  And there is a clue to that story of Balaam and his talking donkey.  God says, “You won’t listen to me, you listen to an ass.  I’ll make the donkey talk to you.”  The people weren’t listening to God or to Moses, so God sent a false prophet who was later killed for his immorality.  He spouted forth divine revelation.  Just like the Pharisees wouldn’t praise Jesus on Palm Sunday and he said, “Out of the mouths of babes and nurslings I’ll get my praise.”  And Isaiah says when they didn’t praise God and listen to his prophets, “By men of strange tongues will I shame you.” That is what happens here.

And then they were disobedient.  That is unbelief in action.  God had laid out their lives clearly.  He told them exactly what they should do.  Moses, in his farewell address in Deuteronomy said, “You could never say back there in the wilderness that ‘We couldn’t figure it out, it was too hard for us. God was to obscure.’ It was right there, big as the nose on your face. The word is right in your mouth.  Don’t say it was too hard.  A child could have done it.”  They didn’t have to dam up the Jordan when they came there.  All they had to do was start walking.  God would take care of it, just like the Red Sea.

When you fail to do the good, that is when you are going to do the bad.  So we read in Numbers about the Moabites, the descendants of the incestuous relationship between Lot and his daughters, who approach the Israelites.  Next thing you know there is all this immorality in the camp.  If they weren’t going forward in faith, then they were going to be sitting around and getting in trouble, which is what we see in the Book of Numbers.  Satan finds things for idle hands to do.  And not just hands but minds and the rest of our bodies.

How doth the little busy bee
Improve each shining hour,
And gather honey all the day
From every opening flower!

In works of labor or of skill,
I would be busy too;
For Satan finds some mischief still
For idle hands to do.

Now the most important part is that of it’s repetition, it’s recurrence. It’s duplication today.  You know it is tragic when something happens like a train rail breaks and the train rolls, but if it happens again next week we think that they need to throw somebody in jail for not keeping up the equipment.  Someone is a fool if they make the same mistake twice and that is our problem if we don’t profit from this.  Paul says in I Cor. 10 “these things happened onto them for our example…on whom the fulfillment of the ages has come.”  We think that the Israelite trip they took was very real.  You could go there today and find where they camped and marched, that was real and now our life is kind-of like that. “No!” says the Bible.  That is done and is history.  That is all forgotten so to speak, but the real is the Christian life of which that is just a picture.   A textbook to teach you something.  God made it to come off that way, the way I just told you now, so that we wouldn’t make the same mistake.  Here it is:  Egypt is a picture of sin, of slavery and Satan, the condition of the natural man, call it total depravity of whatever you want to, and the Red Sea is our conversion or baptism into Christ.  At this point there was no need to cross the river Jordan, to wander around for 40 years.  They could have gone straight up into Canaan and God could have taken care of all their enemies, wiped them out or made them sue for peace.  They didn’t have to go in the back door so to speak over the river Jordan.  That was the second best.  They had to be baptized again, see this miracle.

Canaan is not a picture of heaven.  That’s a common misconception.  There are songs that talk about Jordan as death and then we get to Canaan.  Eden is a picture of heaven.  Paradise and Eden way back in Genesis, that is a picture of heaven.  Canaan is a picture of the here and now.  If we want to, we will enter in, into the land of happiness, blessing, fullness, abundance.  Battles, sure, it wasn’t going to be a pushover.  There was work to be done.  They weren’t going to lie around the grape arbors.  It was going to be life, but life more abundantly.  That is what they were going to enter into and that is what God wants us to enter into.  Not when we die, but right now.  God wants us to enter directly from conversion into Canaan.  Some of us spend half our lives wandering around getting nowhere, on a spiritual treadmill.  One year is no better than any other.  Are you growing in grace?  The wilderness is a picture of self-effort, trying to get somewhere by myself.  The same God that said, “I am the Lord your God who took you out of the land of Egypt…”,  we all believe that, that salvation is by grace alone. He says, “I want to bring you to the promised land.  To wholeness, to life abundant.”

 

Holy Spirit

The similarity between the Holy Spirit and the wind or breath and air is so close that you could almost say that it is not a simile or a metaphor but it’s a definition.  In fact it’s his name.  Most of us know more Greek than we realize.  I think almost as many words come from the Greek as from the Latin, so we are using them all the time.  One of them is the word for spirit, whether mine or yours or the Holy Spirit, and that is pneuma.  Everywhere in the New Testament where you read about spirit, whether it is what Jesus gave up to God on the cross or the Holy Spirit that came from heaven.  Of course we use it in pneumonia, or pneumatic tools and so on.  Jesus naturally in talking to Nicodemus made use of that figure in John 3 when he says, “You must be born of the Spirit.”  And this is fulfilled beautifully in Acts 2 on Pentecost.

The words wind and breath and air are virtually synonymous.  Sixteen of our high school boys took part in a track meet and talking about their breath they would say, “I’m just winded.”  Or, “I got my second wind.” Or we use the expression, “I got the wind knocked out of me.”  And there was a great amount of wind that was at the track meet that had to be accounted for or reckoned with.  Records can not be established if there is a greater wind velocity than this or that.  But as I started to say, if there is no wind we don’t say that, we say, “there was not a breath of air.”  So there you have all three words, which are virtually interchangeable.  And all three of them are used to describe the Holy Spirit.  There is bound to be some overlapping as we look at these three words, much like ice can become water and can vaporize and become steam.  Just like that is often used as a symbol of the trinity, so too with the Holy Spirit as a symbol of himself, so He is air and wind and breath all at the same time.

Let’s look at the Holy Spirit first as air.  Three characteristics:  It is invisible, and it’s universal – omnipresent if you want to use that term – and it is essential.  And there you have three perfect descriptions of the Holy Spirit who is the breath or the air of God.  With regards to his invisibility, here is something, air now, which is very real. It is one of the most real phenomena in the world.  Yet no one has ever seen it.  We are sitting in the midst of it like a giant ocean but no one has ever seen it, not even with electronic microscopes.  It is just invisible, and isn’t that a perfect picture of the Holy Spirit?  No one will ever see it, at least with physical eyes, and yet we know it exists.  One of the first experiments we had in physics in high school was to weigh air and we had to laugh thinking that air had no weight.  But we found out by weighing flasks that had a vacuum with those that were pressurized that air had real weight.  So here we sit in this ocean of air, we sleep in it, we work in it.  We got to, and how we take it for granted, the way we do God, His Holy Spirit, in whom we live and move and have our very being.

He is also universal.  Water is found in most parts of the earth, but in some parts of the world it is almost nonexistent like the Sahara desert.  Air on the other hand is virtually everywhere.  One couldn’t venture into areas without air unless they had some sort of artificial air. Houdini used to allow himself to buried and through control of his respiration would be able to eventually escape unharmed.  There is air in water.  Fish through their use of gills can extract the air out of the water.  And although water is impressive in its scope with oceans that extend from California to China, it is nothing compared to the universality, the homogeneity, the commonness of air.   So that the air we are “swimming in” today may be half was across the country in a matter of hours and in weeks may be in China.  It is just one, singular.  We demonstrate the unity of the human race by the fact that we are of one blood.  Paul says to the Greeks who were rather snobbish, “God has made of one blood all nations of men to dwell on all the face of the earth.”  So we can transfuse blood from one person to another and yet there are different types of blood.  But in contrast to that, we all breathe the same air.  The same oxygen goes into our blood.  So it is a perfect picture of the omnipresence of God.  Psalm 139 says, “Where can I go apart from your Spirit.  Where can I go where you are not found?”   We can go without bread and water, which Jesus compared himself to, but we can not go 5 minutes without air.  Is it any wonder that Jesus to Nicodemus talked about his spirit, the Holy Spirit, as air.  It is universal, indispensable and absolutely essential.  And it is free, available, unlike water.  I wonder if there isn’t poetic appropriateness in this age of culture pollution if it isn’t sort of a scientific nicety that our air is polluted, contaminated, irreversibly.  And there is something very appropriate about the statement in scripture, “Let everything that has breath praise the Lord.”

Air in motion is first of all a breath like what we breathe, take in. And here we take in this wonderful ocean of God’s creation that he brought into being in paradise. Isn’t that thrilling too? It’s always new yet eternal. Changing form and reusable, same air as Adam breathed, you might say.  Now we personalize it, individualize it and call it breath.  That’s called God’s breath; the Holy Spirit becomes part of our being, a very part of us.  You don’t have to be a doctor to know that what you breathe in is passed from the lungs to the blood and taken to all the various cells in the body.  Now the amazing thing is that the air all around us wants to get into our lungs.  There is almost something alive about air.  It wants to get into our lungs and we have to repel it, keep it out.  I’m over simplifying now but one of the reasons why we can go to sleep at night and not worry about having to breathe is that it is instinctive to expel air. But it is an impulse of nature to fill our lungs.  Nature abhors a vacuum and so there is a space, a cavity in our body and air rushes in.  Then instinct takes over and we expel it but right away that vacuum is created and in rushes the air.  There is pressure in the world, pressure around us.  The air presses to get in, to be used.  You know why people are lost without the gospel, who are lost for lack of oxygen, for spiritual oxygen now, God’s breath, that He breathed into man in paradise, that he chose to reject? You know why people die?   It is because they hold their breath. They resist the Holy Spirit.  It is as simple as that.  He yearns after all men.  Genesis says His spirit is jealous of us, longs to envelop us, as He does, possess us and indwell us.  We got to pinch our noses and that is why Jesus said in John 16 that when the Holy Spirit is come he will convict the world of judgement.  Why? Because they are such bad people? Walking corpses, because they are spiritually dead? No. It is because they believe not in me, they don’t breathe.  They hold their breath.  They would rather smell the decaying offal of the world.

The wonderful thing is is that we can pass on that breath.  Or really prompt others to breathe since everyone has to do their own breathing.  We can be the means of communicating the very breath of God. In John 20, the first day of the week or actually the new creation, when things first started again as a counterpart to Genesis, Jesus first appeared to his disciples who were gathered together.  And after finishing saying, “As the Father has sent me, so send I you,” he breathed on them.  Didn’t just raise his hands over them, or body to body contact.  He wanted to indwell them, his very breath to possess them. “Receive ye the Holy Spirit.”  We have all heard of artificial respiration but do you know it is relatively modern?  When I was a boy I was in a club much like the cub scouts and we practiced the Red Cross scheme of aiding a drowning victim with them face down and straddling their back with compresses, “Out goes the water, in goes the air,” being the rhythm.  But now that is obsolete and we have improved upon it.  Even the home-made, rule-of-thumb respiration is mouth-to-mouth.  And what is one to say of inhalation therapy that has revolutionized modern medicine. We tend to think of advances in medicine in regards to surgeries or antibiotics or cancer treatments, vaccines, and so on.  But a lot of credit in surgery belongs to inhalation therapy.  Many of us wouldn’t be here without that oxygen that man has learned to can, so to speak.  And so when Jesus said to his disciples, “Receive ye the Holy Spirit,” he was giving them artificial respiration and they would in turn pass it on to others.

This can become power, and that is air or breath in motion.  We know that hot air rises and more recently we have become aware of the movement of air on temperature.  We have known for sometime how humidity can affect the feel of a given temperature, but now we know that the affect of air movement, which we call the wind chill in winter, can have just as much effect if not more on our comfort.  So the movement of air or breath has so much to do with our well being and that is true in the spiritual realm as well.  One of our greatest sources of energy is just this thing of moving air.  I’m thinking of the windmills that dot the landscape in the Netherlands, and it isn’t just that they are quaint and picturesque but they are kept there despite the amount of land that they occupy or require.  They are somewhat crude compared to our American windmills, but they persist in using them not because of sake of tradition but rather because every year they reclaim acres and acres of land for this nation.  Holland is growing because of the windmill.  They move oceans of water through the use of the air.  Farmers get energy to light their humble cottages because of these devices. There is always ongoing studies to figure out better ways to harness moving air, which is wind, of course.  Or air brakes that stop mile long trains just by the application of air.

Now then, applying it to the Holy Spirit who is air in motion, who is breath, who is wind – the only way in which we can be recipients of that power is to be in a right relationship to Him. You have to be in the center of God’s will, or everything that I have said about life, movement and energy and power is moot.  We’re all aware that airplanes’ flight patterns for landing change on account of the wind.  Children flying kites can stand in one direction one day and a different direction the next to get their kites in the air, depending on the wind.  Now, how often are you and I powerless, bucking the wind or rowing upstream to change the figure, just because we are not moving along with the Holy Spirit, capitalizing on His power.  That’s what Jesus was talking about when he was talking to Paul, [sic] “Saul, you are a man of motion, energy and power but you are kicking against the bricks. You should be going along with me. We are at a standstill so to speak, cancelling each other out. You are fighting my work.  Why do you persecute me?”  And then we read this pretty expression “that he who had (been) breathing out threatening” – I think it is very deliberate that the Holy Spirit who inbreathes the Bible use that expression – “breathing out threatening” – like a dragon sort of smoke and fire – “began to breathe out blessings.”

Well one form that we can exert this power, that we can share this life that we have is through prayer.  Prayer is the Christian’s breath, his native air.  And by means that we can reach around the world. We would never think of someone taking down a windmill because he didn’t have enough air to make more than one of them run.  Air is free.  You can have as many windmills as you want.  That is what the Bible means when it says, “Pray without ceasing.”  Why settle for 5 minutes in the morning or 5 minutes at night, if that.  We should always be praying.  It is our very breath.  Whoever thought of just breathing for a little while, getting hyperoxygentated, then rushing to school and holding their breath the rest of the day.  Breathe constantly.  Pray without ceasing.  And you can reach out that little windmill of yours and because you are facing the Lord, you are in tune with His power, you can change people behind the Iron Curtain and behind the Bamboo Curtain that you will never see until glory.  Artificial respiration.  Another form of this is the Word of God, which is the power of God unto salvation.  Why does this book change lives, change people, unlike self-help books that may change your thinking or lifestyle?  Books about racism may change your whole attitude towards others but doesn’t change you into those other races. What’s the difference between the Bible and other books?  The Bible is God breathed, it’s in-spired.  And so when the Gideons are distributing their books into the motels they are breathing out the gift of life.  They are a vehicle, bottled oxygen, containing God and passing it on to others.  It is said that one Bible in a motel room can reach 3000 people.  What power we possess.  We are the spiritual mid-wives for the world.  I say again, everyone has to do their own breathing.  I wish we could breath for others.  We are the spiritual obstetricians that make them spark that first breath, makes them gasp for life.  So say, “Lord,” like Saul, “what would you have me do?”  We are the nursery for the new humanity.  What an honor, what a job.  So we ought to have for our first prayer be the hymn, “Breathe on me breath of God, ’til I am wholly thine, ’til all this earthly part of me, glows with Thy power divine.  Breathe on me breath of God, so shall I never die, but live with Thee the perfect life of Thine eternity.”

Typology, Part I

Definition:  The study and interpretation of types and symbols, originally especially in the Bible. 

Typology is a very important type of expository preaching which, throughout the entire history of the church, has been used profitably by many outstanding preacher/Bible students.  Typology itself, especially in the form of the sacraments (the Word made visible) is an important part of the Christian ministry (leading to all kinds of disagreement as to who can administer them, etc.)

Just as doctrine is often formulated (and distorted) through songs, our theology is weak and even wrong on account of incorrect typology, especially the great doctrine of the “exchanged, new, fuller life” which is ignored and even denied because of misconceptions as to Canaan and the significance of the meaning of baptism and the Lord’s Supper.

First of all, the entire creation, God’s general revelation, his Word in the world, is typological.  God built the physical, visible, world along spiritual, “invisible” (even redemptive) lines. (Plato believed this.) Even “numbers” figure in this revelation; Scripture makes a great deal of the symbolism to be found in numbers (but, again, beware of extreme applications); Numerology can become as bizarre as astrology (or palm-reading, which capitalizes on the scientific fact no two finger-prints in human history are identical), but in this area too it is worth observing the difference between Western and Eastern worlds in the very form of numbers, so that the regimented and structured Roman numerals is unusable for higher mathematics, while the fluid, artistic, Arabic “figures” of 1-0 can be used to infinity, have intrinsic attractiveness as to form, and yet are adaptable to modern digital use.

Secret of the Universe is an entire book about the Trinity in Creation.  We practice the principle in this paragraph by using hearts to symbolize love, or flags to represent political entities and inspire patriotism.  “Mere” color has much meaning and psycological significance, and is used accordingly in the Bible. Scripture, accordingly, makes a great deal of the “revelational” character of creation. (See Romans 1:18-23; 2:12-16; 10:18-21.)

The entire Bible is a typological book, whether you use the word parable, symbol, story, or what Paul calls an “allegory” in Galatians 4:21-ff; also called a “figure”.  Entire volumes have been written about the types in Scripture alone.  In a certain sense, the prophecies of Scripture are “typical”; certainly contain types.  This is especially true in the Old Testament, which is God’s “primer”, picture-book of spiritual truth.  Paul sums it:  These things happened and were recorded for us. (I Cor 10:11; Also see Hebrews)

Ordinarily we think of the New Testament as being the fulfillment, the reality, of the truths for which the Old Testament is full of types, or pictures.  But the New Testament, in turn, is crammed full of types, some of present reality, others for the future and/or of eternal significance.  Think of the so-called sacraments (an unfortunate term), over which there is so much disagreement as to meaning.  Think of the “I Am’s” of Christ, plus the literally countless other figures – Lamb of God, serpent in wilderness, and the Rock of Matthew 16:18 (often applied wrongly to Peter and who not).  The Church is symbolized by marriage, a house (forgotten by those who persist in calling a building “God’s house”, as though He and it were some kind of idols), a human body, salt, light, etc.  Miracles are acted-out sermons, and parables, of course, are earthly pictures of spiritual truths.  The Sermon on the Mount is almost nothing but a series of metaphors, analogies, illustrations.

So, true preaching (following the example of Jesus) is basically “typological”, by taking “abstract” truth “visible”, understandable, convincing, and motivating, by means of parallels, “morals”, and illustrations between Scripture and the preaching situation.

There are three basic methods of approaching the Bible, all of which can be “expository” of sort, and all of which, of course, are subject to the pleasures of their users, including “heretics” as well as the orthodox.

  1. There is the “Bible as literature” approach, often used at the Sunday School level, in which the stories of Scripture (and the Bible is undeniably one continuous story, from creation to eternity) are learned, apart from whether they are true and really happened (e..g. Jonah, Job, even Adam), and various lessons are drawn from them as to our temporal and eternal welfare.
  2. An opposite extreme is the systematic theology treatment, in which all the material in Scripture is neatly and logically organized under different doctrines, whether it be Providence (as shown in the lives of Biblical characters) or God (which runs the danger of reading back into the Old Testament what is really revealed only in the New), or Salvation (which often overlooks the fact that Old Testament “saints” were not regenerated and did not go to heaven when they died).
  3. Biblical-theology preaching studies the Sacred record exactly according to the way and the purposes in which it was written, namely, a progressive unfolding of God’s revelation as to himself, man, salvation, etc.  It is, naturally, Christological at heart (in the fashion that all of human history is dated B.C. or A.D.).  It stresses the basic unity of Scripture (as to theme and contents), while still pointing out the drastic differences between the two Testaments.  (Unger sums it nicely: Old Testament is preparation for the Redeemer; Gospels record his manifestation; Acts the propagation of the gospel; Epistles contain the explanation, and Revelation summarizes the consummation of the ineffable plan.)  This does not mean that the only system or sequence by which the Bible can profitably be studied (or read) is from cover to cover (as in the case of other books), but it does mean that every part of all 66 books must be studied in terms of the whole.  Identical words in David’s mouth mean something radically different from Paul saying them (And, of course, it makes a difference whether the same words are in a psalm, an epistle, a prophecy, or historical book.)