The Bible: The Analogy of the Three Testaments

Recently, a friend of mine told me that he believed the church should prioritize Paul’s teachings over Jesus’. Another friend told him that can’t be right. After all, if Paul learned from Jesus, we should prioritize Jesus’ teachings right? I believe this is a wonderful question and I believe the answer can be found by comparing the Old Testament Law and Prophets.

Old Testament

In seminary I learned that the Old Testament has three sections (Torah or Law, Prophets, and Writings) but the last two of those sections are exposition or explanation of the first section. One professor put it this way. “The Old Testament is the Torah and the rest of it is exposition of the Torah.” Another way to say this is that the Torah gives us the definition, the boundaries, the seed of what is to come, and the rest of the writings (The prophets and the writings, or just “the Prophets” for short) just explain how it happened in real life. Example: In Deuteronomy, Moses tells the people, “You are going to go into exile, and God is going to bring you back.” (Deuteronomy 29-31). Read 2 Kings 17. You’ll see why He sent them into exile, and read Nehemiah and you will see what happens when God brings them back. Again, I will say it. The Old Testament = Torah + Exposition of the Torah.

Now if this is the case, which should we prioritize in the Old Testament? My answer is this: The Old Testament is set up in such a way that you need both of them to make sense of it. If you just prioritize the Prophets, chances are you’re not going to have much guidance to understand the plot of what’s happening. Why after all, did Elijah shut up the heavens in 1 Kings 17? (The Prophets) Because in Leviticus 26:18-20, God said he would shut up the Heavens if the people disobeyed. (The Law). If however we just prioritize the Law, then we will get lost in semantics and not know how it is rightly to be applied. Example: Leviticus 25 said you should give your land rest every 7th year. (Law) but we see in the Prophets what happened to the land when the land was NOT given rest every seventh year. (The Prophets) Within the Old Testament God does not leave us in the dark but gives us not only the seed of the tree, but also what the tree looks like when it is full grown. The seed of the Tree is God reaching out to love Israel. The Tree itself is God being faithful, and the people of God being faithless. We need both of these to rightly handle the word of Truth. We also need to use both rightly so we don’t get the cart before the horse.

New Testament

Now, this wonderfully simple pattern of understanding God’s word couldn’t possibly be the pattern for the New Testament could it? What major sections of the New Testament are there? The Gospels and the Writings (History, Epistles, and Prophecy) In essence, we have a repeated pattern of the New Law and Prophets.)

Does it work the same way? Is the New Testament, the Gospels and the rest of the New Testament exposition on the Gospels? Yet again, we find that God’s Word in the New Testament not only gives us the seed, but also the Tree. It shows us the Teachings of Jesus in their powerful demonstration and the proof of their truth, and then we are given in the writings what those teachings applied looked like in historical and instructive ways. Paul applied the teachings of Jesus in Matthew 6 during the sermon on the mount about worry when he wrote tot he Philippians, “Don’t be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.” But Jesus’ teachings about how to treat your neighbors would not make as much sense to us who are not Jewish unless Paul and Luke expounded on them for us who are the nations outside of Israel.

So then, which do you prioritize? The teachings that directly apply to the nations (The New Testament Prophets) or Jesus’ words themselves (The New Law)? I see how I would lean personally, but once again, I must keep the whole in perspective. Just as the Torah is expounded in the Prophets, and both are essential for a right understanding of God’s Word, so the Gospels are expounded in the Writings, and both are essential for a right understanding of God’s Word. Both have a relationship that must be rightly kept in humble interpretation of each other.

But still there is one more layer to peel back, which I find rather wonderful and sobering

Our Testament

Now that we have a canon of Scripture, the Church is interpreting the Scriptures to the World in every culture, tribe, tongue, people, and nation. We have, in both Testaments, the pattern of the house, and now we are responsible to enforce, to explain, to bring into reality God’s Word as it is revealed through both Testaments. The question left to us is how is this Scriptural revelation of God going to brought to full expression in the world. Or to put it in another way:

What is the Kingdom of God today? Our blueprints are established, and the writings of the Prophets both old and new have shown God’s way of bringing His word to fruition. It is the power and leading of His Holy Spirit that brings God’s kingdom here on earth among his people. And this Kingdom is going to be the final testament to the nature and character of the God we serve before He comes again.

What a tremendous privilege and responsibility!

To show it visibly, I came up with this Analogy of the Testaments. Can you solve the analogy?

What is the answer?

The rule of humor is you give two similar things one after the other, and then the third, you bend slightly to get a laugh. May the church not make God’s Kingdom the biggest cosmic joke that will make those watching to mock our God! Instead, may we be led and empowered by the Spirit to make of the church what the Spirit seeks to make of the Kingdom of God.

Lightning Rod

I see him scrambling to the top of the building.
The lightning flashes all around him, but does not strike home.
He is the only hope they have for power
Because the rest of the people stay inside the lower building praying
And he is the lightning rod.

The classic architecture white and sturdy
Bears him up as he slowly reaches the highest point.
He had passed the gates and open field
He was admitted at the door of the house and allowed to serve
He submitted his appeal to the Highest office in the land.

The wizened Ruler had stared back at him incredulous
“What makes you think you could restore power?
Don’t you believe that your God can help you out without your sacrifice?
Let me give you the power you need, you can stay alive.
Just be my servant, and I will give you everything you want.”

The young man had looked him in the face
Unwilling to surrender that charge which he had carried thus far:
A lightning rod in his hand connected to his darkened home.
He told him, “The power is not yours to give.”
“I go to seek the One who is ruler over you.”

With permission, he had broken forth into the rain like hail.
His charge in hand, his clothes drenched with Heaven’s tears
Now at the top, he stretches himself upwards
And blazing from the sky above the connection is made
Power without limit surges through his brittle frame.

The prayers of the people are answered with self-sustaining light
All the house is enlightened by the revelation of Heaven’s power
The young man knew what this would cost him,
And now charred and scorched like a rag in the ashes
He crumples to the roof and rolls off to the ground far below.

When the Ruler looks out the window, he sees something good:
A power above that could not be rivaled
And one young man who gave his all.
So that others might live in the light of life
He closed the curtains and made a call.

The Joy of Persecution

I saw joy’s fire burning white
In a heart of flesh hidden from sight
Cruel thorns slashed gashes gaping wide
And there spilled out a glorious light

What mystery is brought to bear
When crushed plants’ perfume fills the air
The sweet aroma soft and fair
Arousing those fellow-crushed to care

I heard a spirit blowing past
Being split upon the metal cast
To rend the air with full-lunged blast
That screamed the music breathed at last.

What other ways, has He made known
The joy of new life, despite death grown?
To the humble of heart, proof He has shown
That the joy of the cross can be my own.

“For the joy that was set before him…”~Hebrews 12:2a

The Cynic and the Gospel

“But there’s no happy endings
Not here and not now
This tale is all sorrows and woes
You dream that justice
And peace win the day,
But that’s not how the story goes” ~Nick Urata — Netflix’s “A Series of Unfortunate Events

My response: What? Yes it is! Haven’t you heard the Gospel?

Cynic: Pipe Dream.

Me: How Love is the Supreme Ethic?

Cynic: Child’s Play.

Me: It wasn’t child’s play for Jesus who died on the Cross to make it so.

Cynic: Too long ago.

Me: *remembers Legend of Bagger Vance, where Matt Damon’s tells his beloved that their love life was “too long ago.” And the girl says, “No it wasn’t. It was just a moment ago.”

*Considers that this is the very reason for the Church today: to bring Christ’s death on the cross into the here and now. This is the message of the Lamb’s unsealed scroll in Revelation: the only thing that will bring repentance is when the impenitent world sees the followers of the lamb imitating the same loving sacrifice of the Lamb, giving their lives for others.

*Looking lovingly at the Cynic and says, “No. No it wasn’t. It was just a moment ago.”

The Mountain

A young mountain grew taller and taller. The rocks grew stronger and stronger. The mountain took its shape, and started oozing with lava out the sides. One part of the rock split from the pressure, and the weakness of the stone. Another part of the rock split with a burst of flame and lava, and so another rock sculpture was being formed. The wind and rain beat against the rocks, and lightning struck from stormy clouds, and some rocks broke from the mountain. Some rocks refused to bend and be consumed, and they were covered over by the new waves of the same lava which formed the whole mountain. The shape of the mountain now was becoming a monstrous mass of various peaks and crags, but no single mountainous shape.

Then, all of a sudden, up the original central shaft, a burst of fire exploded from the top of the mountain. It spewed such a mighty and rapturous noise of New Earth, that the sidelong peaks crumbled and fell inwards toward the center, and the lava from the top filled in the crags and shapes with its blessing, until at last, it stood: a mountain reaching the heavens, filling the whole earth.

The Trench

In prayer I saw You
I knelt at the altar
Weak, in pain, sick
And weeping from anxiety

You said, “It will be beautiful.”
“What will be?” I asked.
“My ministry through you.
Do you want to see it?”

My heart struggled
I felt so lacking in will.
I felt no desire
Only the tendrils of Your grace
Still holding me

At length I said, “Yes.”
Though it was not fully my own will.
Then He said, “Go ahead and look up.”
I looked up at the ornate covering of the altar
And looked through them.

I saw a grey landscape before me
Surrounded in white mist
And the path was delved into the ground
Like a trench waist then chest high.
On either side a wall of shallow ground.

And I saw You.
You were white clad
Though I could not see Your face.
Your arms were outstretched.
Hands open, above the trench.

I suddenly felt this aching truth
Leap with tears from my heart.
Not only was my path on either side marked out for me
You moved onward on the path facing me
You invited me forward.

The single truth is hard to put in words.
I found myself longing to go towards you
Weeping with longing to be in Your arms.
All the while You guided me forward.
The way forward was simply getting close to You.

I’ve Glimpsed Him. (Poem)

It takes faith to believe that God is.
Once you have this, you can see him.
I do not promise that you will
Because He must decide to reveal Himself.
It takes a pure heart, with no guile.
Some believe that this is impossible,
But all things are possible with God.
How will you recognize him?
You won’t be able to ignore.
No more than a stick can ignore an all consuming flame.

How did I see Him?
I waited.
He spoke.
I looked.
He stood.
I bowed.
He is.

Music purged my heart of unexpressed filth.
Writing arranged my thoughts according to biblical specification.
Love set my heart on fire for another.
Joy surged in my creative freedom and pleasure of wisdom.
Peace quieted me in His approval.
Translation laid sticks of explosive dynamite end to end.
The Holy Spirit’s voice was the match.
The prizing and valuing of His own personal being.
And Jesus the Living one of all my life came.

T. Austin-Sparks~ “God’s answer to strengthen His people for Suffering.”
Is a new unveiling of the glory of the person of Jesus Christ.”

“What is the answer?
A new grasp of His greatness
That’s all.
And then if we are suffering
If we are knowing adversity, trial
And the clouds seem to be gathering, Accumulating, increasing.
How will we get through?
Only thus: by this:
Getting away
And asking
And seeking
And pursuing
In prayer
A new heart revelation–unveiling
of Jesus Christ.
And I am sure that will do it.
God give it to you.”
~T. Austin Sparks

 

Vision: God and the Scientist

I saw a man in a grey room typing at his keyboard. He was sitting in front of a computer, but his head I couldn’t see, except for a black square to mark out one whose face I could not see. He was a scientist. He was doing research on something.

I realized that he is being fed misinformation by those who do not acknowledge God, and who become foolish in their dark hearts.

And suddenly I knew. The answer is not better teaching.

The answer is God Himself intervening in the life of this scientist to bring Him to the knowledge of the Truth of Himself, in which all science is appropriated.

And as the Kingdom of Heaven latches onto him and lays hold. He passionately shares his findings and his way of thinking winsomely to the people in the scientific community.

Slowly the teaching in Science is changed back to a wisdom that advances the causes of science far into the reaches of unknown space. The galaxies were explored at greater depth. The human genome. The arch-robin and finches of the Galapagos are not classified separately anymore. A piece of flesh is sold in the marketplace for more tissue cells than ever before.

The Lord spoke to the scientist and he heard Him. He spoke and began to work wonders in his midst. A Christian who knew God but man knew not healed a nurse in a hospital.

How did you do that? “You ask because you will not believe. Ask and you will believe.” said the old man.

The scientist read his Bible and began to pray, and God found in his heart a pure passionate fire to live for him. The seed of rebirth was born in his heart, and flowered in living salvation. He began to speak to others about the revelation he found which was a light bulb to all his scientific teachings in darkness.

This is all I saw.

Interpretation: I believe it is the only answer to true salvation of the scientific community. God has to personally intervene. You who complain that the teaching must be better, and groan under the weight of misinformation called fact, and limited perspective called exhaustive, just take heart. All it takes is God intervening, and He will intervene in answer to the cry of His people, and He will remember His new Covenant in Jesus Christ. He is the Savior. Science is not the answer. Jesus truly is the answer, because only when God Himself intervenes to save, do we see the lasting powerful change and know in our hearts the goodness of God.

 

A Vision about the Persecuted Church

Yep. Sometimes I have visions. Acts 2:17 is my justification for it. This vision came to me August 11, 2014 in the back room of my Grandmother’s house right before I visited with Grandmother before bed. I’ve heard it said that visions are not always to be shared because sometimes it’s just for the one seeing it to know how to pray. But this is one God has permitted me to share. I do not claim this as orthodoxy. It is a manifestation of artistic reflection upon the nature of the world, the Church, and God. Ultimately, may God be found true and every man a liar.


In my availability
I sought the Lord about evil’s rise.
And at Grandmother’s before our talk.

I asked if We could take counsel.
He said “We can now.”
And I saw with other sight.

I saw the World before me like a globe.
And saw the Darkness spread abroad.
Then a light gathered together,
It was pressed, squeezed by the darkness around it.
I cried out as I understood,
“O Lord the Darkness proves Your glory
You are greater than all Your Word
And what is built upon Your word rebels against you
(It raises its fist)
It proves that You are what You proved to be when victorious
Even the darkness: the light has been tinted,
Even that dark is great, it is not as Great as You!”

In my sitting with Grandmother I considered this,
And drew on the orb, a circle of the light in the dark
The result was the dark inside it turned to light.
Like Joshua surrounding Jericho,
Like Gideon surrounding Midian.
Your glorious light filled the void
Because the Earth is filled with Your glory.
Like the world filled with magma.

I continued to draw circles, and light filled them.
But the darkness retaliated and I saw orbs darken.
Darkness continues to prove its power
The only answer is God Himself.
Not a church, not a word, not a book,
But God Himself.
And Jesus came so that we might take part in God Himself
As the Bride of Christ in communion with Him.
And I am joined with Him, and He entrusts Himself to me.
For we shall be Holy as He is holy.

O God, I am Yours. I look to You.
Let none of it be of me, but You all in me.
As you make yourself known
I worship and praise You.
For my heart is full of Your grace
And it resounds with Praise.

O God, deliver us!
Be our Deliverer
Show Yourself mighty
Show Yourself worthy.
Rescue Your beloved.
Redeem her, yea even in blood.
The blood she readily spills
For the World Jesus bleeds for today.

With humble awe, I marvel at this:
Jesus is still bleeding for the World.

Such is the love of husband and wife
They as one bear love for the same thing.
And the love of the World Jesus feels
Is the love of God and the Church for the World.

O Lord, my beloved are dying!