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“And God spoke all these words: ‘I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. You shall have no other gods before me. You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below.” Exodus 20:1-4
Writers often use figurative language to help readers visualize their words by comparing one thing–possibly new or unknown–to something that is well known. Scriptures use many metaphors and similes to help us gain an understanding of who God–who is beyond human comprehension–is and what He is like.
A metaphor attributes a quality to an object or action to which it is not literally applicable, as in, guilty people, whose own strength is their god [Habakkuk 1:11]. Human strength is not God. And even if people choose to treat their brawn with the same worth-ship, as should belong to God alone, it does not make our muscle a god.
A simile describes an object or action by comparing it to something else using the words like or as. For example, we should not think that the divine is like gold or silver or stone–an image made by human design and skill [Acts 17:29]. Even though God’s feet are compared to polished bronze refined in a furnace [Revelation 1:14], He is not actually made of the metals and rocks that He created. Even the stones that we call precious gems can never begin to attain to the worth of our shared Creator God.
The human mind is so desirous to comprehend and appropriate Godhood, that we all too willingly accept metaphor and simile–figurative language for literal personage. We give our affections to created materials fashioned to represent the unportrayable Godhead. We accept Satan’s lie that we ourselves can be our own god [Genesis 3:5; Isaiah 14:14].
As A.W. Tozer put it, the heart of idolatry is assuming that God is something other than who and what He truly is. It is substituting an understanding of God that is made in the likeness of the Creation, rather than conforming our lives to His likeness as Creator.
But God said, don’t do it! Don’t have other gods ‘al pa-na-ya, literally, before the face of me. In other words, don’t have any other gods at all. Not, don’t prioritize or favor others over me. Don’t create anything at all to worship. Recognize me for Whom I Am, the One True God who created and loves you.
Are you guarding your heart against idolatrous notions? Ask the Holy Spirit to reveal God to you through His Word. Has Satan’s lie seared your conscious? Refuse to accept counterfeits and substitutes for the power and love of the One True God in your life.
“Therefore since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand.” Romans 5:1-2a
So many wish for peace on earth. And rightly so. Though human understanding of what this means and how it is accomplished is often far from God’s truth.
Does world peace mean no more war or even hostilities between bullies and their victims? Does it mean no more sadness, hunger, sickness and dying? Or does it mean just an internal state of being despite the external conditions? And is any of this really possible?
To find the true answer to peace on earth, we need to first understand why there isn’t peace here to begin with. In short, sin. Sin causes sadness, hunger, sickness, dying, hostilities, wars and the accompanying inner turmoil [Genesis 3:14-19]. If we could totally eradicate sin from the world, then we would have perfect peace.
And it is God’s will that we do return to the peace that He created us for. Right from the entrance of sin into the world, God set His plan of redemption in motion to restore peace among human beings and between humans and Himself [Genesis 3:15]. A plan that included coming to earth as a God-man in the form of the baby Jesus, living among us and dying both by and for our sins.
Jesus came to save the whole world through His death [John 3:16-17]. When He is Lord of our life and we grow more like Him, we learn to love one another as He loves us [Matthew 22:36-39; Mark 12:30-31]. As far as it depends on us, we live at peace with our fellow human beings [Romans 12:18].
More importantly, Jesus restored the peace between human beings and our Creator God. For where sin is, God cannot be also [Isaiah 59:2; Habakkuk 1:13; 1 John 1:5-7]. So before salvation we were God’s enemies [Romans 5:10 & 8:7; Colossians 1:21; James 4:4], and when by faith we accept Jesus’ forgiveness for our sins, it is Jesus’ righteousness that covers the sin in our lives so that we can be at eternal peace with God.
More than that, we look forward to the hope of eternal life. At that time, everyone who loves God and lives by His peace will inhabit the New Creation where peace on earth will finally be restored. No more sadness, sickness, war, death, inner struggles with sin or the like [Revelation 21:4].
As we sing our songs of peace, joy, love and hope this Christmas, understand what it all truly means. Understand that this is God’s will for your life and mine. Understand that we can begin to experience each of these virtues in some measure by God’s Spirit in our life in this world, and their perfect fullness in eternity to come.
Do you live the peace of Christ for all the earth to see God in you?
“Then a mighty angel picked up a boulder the size of a large millstone and threw it into the sea, and said: ‘With such violence the great city of Babylon will be thrown down, never to be found again. The music of harpists and musicians, flute players and trumpeters, will never be heard in you again. No workman of any trade will ever be found in you again. The sound of a millstone will never be heard in you again. The light of a lamp will never shine in you again. Your merchants were the world’s great men. By your magic spell all the nations were led astray. In her was found the blood of prophets and of the saints, and of all who have been killed on the earth.” Revelation 18:21-24
Perhaps this is the same mighty angel who asked to know who was worthy to open the seven-sealed scroll [Revelation 5:2]. Picking up the donkey millstone [Matthew 18:6; Mark 9:42] to represent the sinking of Babylon is significant. It is better to meet this end by our own choosing, than to lead the faith of others–and children in particular–astray.
Jeremiah prophesied this millstone sinking [Jeremiah 51:63]. And Revelation assures us that once Babylon, and all that she represents, have been destroyed, the sinful systems of the world will never rise again. No music, career, daily chore or light will come from those who made their homes in false religion and sinfulness, though once earthly fame abounded therein.
By Babylon’s deceptive promise to influence fortune and fate–for that is what the rebellion of sorcery and witchcraft is–many, many, many lose their way on the straight and narrow [Matthew 7:13-14]. Our flesh is weak and easily tempted to behave according to our sinful nature [Galatians 5:19-21]. But by His spirit in us, God calls us to overcome the fleshly temptation and sin in our lives, just as He overcame this world [Genesis 4:7; 1 Corinthians 10:13; John 16:33].
All those who live by the world’s ways, bear the bloodguilt of the prophets, saints and martyrs. That is, if we live like the world, sinning against God, then we are guilty of the world’s bloodshed because we are a part of those who oppose God’s people.
But those who–by faith–live by God’s word, will be forgiven the guilt and penalty of their sin, and will be counted among the just and the righteous by God [Habakkuk 2:4; Romans 1:17; Hebrews 10:38]. They will be like a city on a hill whose light shines for all to see the truth of their way in the darkness [Matthew 5:14].
Are you bearing your own sin and guilt and that of a complicit world? Or have you been saved through faith by grace?
“Then from his mouth the serpent spewed water like a river, to overtake the woman and sweep her away with the torrent. But the earth helped the woman by opening its mouth and swallowing the river that the dragon had spewed out of his mouth. Then the dragon was enraged at the woman and went off to make war against the rest of her offspring–those who obey God’s commandments and hold to the testimony of Jesus.” Revelation 12:15-17
In the beginning, God’s spirit hovered a formless and void deep [Genesis 1: 2], the same waters that He separated and from which He called forth dry ground [Genesis 1:9-10]. About 2,000 years later God broke open the springs of the great deep and, working them together with the floodgates of heaven, flooded the whole earth [Genesis 7:11 & 19-20]. He pulled them back so that Noah and his family could begin again.
His word came through the prophet Jeremiah, tell Israel that they have forsaken Me, God, their source of living water [Jeremiah 2:13, 17:13]. Habakkuk was told that the knowledge of the glory of God would fill the earth as waters cover the sea [Habakkuk 2:14]. Jesus is living water [John 4:10-11].
As believers, we have streams of living water flowing from within us [John 7:38]. Ezekiel had a vision of a river flowing from the Temple [Ezekiel 47] that was so wide and so deep no man could swim it [Ezekiel 47:5]. Which, of course, was only a copy and a shadow of the river of life that will flow through the tree of life down the center street of the New Jerusalem in heaven [Revelation 22:1-2].
So of course Satan spews water to try to take out the woman. The devil tries to counterfeit everything that is God’s. But the earth, God’s physical creation, helps God’s chosen nation. To the point that Satan is, once again, furious and stomps off to war against the rest of humankind–well, those who have faith in God anyway. He doesn’t concern himself so much with those who already deny God’s existence or those who have walked away from their faith to pursue worldly pleasure. But if you believe there is a God and you live to honor and glorify Him, then you have a spiritual target on your back. That’s why Ephesians talks about donning the full armor of God so that you can stand your ground in your faith [Ephesians 6:13].
Do you feel attacked? If not, are you actively standing for and sharing your faith? If yes, are you daily donning your armor and taking up your cross to make the stand again and again?
“When the Lamb opened the fourth seal, I heard the voice of the fourth living creature say, ‘Come!’ I looked and there before me was a pale horse! Its rider was named Death, and Hades was following close behind him. They were given power over a fourth of the earth to kill by sword, famine and plague, and by the wild beasts of the earth.” Revelation 6:7-8
Jesus slips His finger under the center seal, and the final living creature–which is His throne–beckons a fourth horse and rider. Pale, the color of lifelessness. Death. And right behind this personification of Death comes Hades.
Now Hades is the Greek underworld, but also the name of the god in Greek mythology that rules there. The Bible is not corroborating the existence of such a one as this. Rather, since the New Testament was written in Greek, it was using the Greek word for the Hebrew term Sheol that was used throughout the Old Testament to describe the grave and the gated depths of the dead [Job 17:16]. Death and Hades often appear together in scripture, showing the twin ends of life, death and grave.
So here, when Death is allowed to consume one-fourth of humanity, its fellow Hades is permitted to lock these dead in the depths of the grave. It is interesting to note that Sheol is sometimes portrayed in the Old Testament as a fearful beast with gaping jaws [Isaiah 5:14, 14:9; Habakkuk 2:5] and in each case this reference is to the grave.
As humans, it is our sinful natural tendency to fear death, but as Christians we should place our faith and trust in Jesus instead. He conquered death, hell and the grave [Sheol/Hades] [Revelation 1:18]. He holds the keys to them. No one who has died or will die will remain dead in the grave. And everyone who has believed on the Lord Jesus Christ will be present with the Lord when they are absent from the body [2 Corinthians 5:8]. That is to say that we can be assured, like the thief on the cross who accepted Jesus’ lordship, that the day we are parted from our mortal bodies we will be with Jesus in paradise [Luke 23:43].
But woe to those who perish without acknowledging Jesus as Lord. Now that is something to truly fear [Matthew 10:28; Luke 12:4], because those who refuse to bow their knee to Jesus will face a second death in the lake of fire [Revelation 2:11, 20:6, 20:14, 21:8].
It is interesting to note that Jesus rides out first [Revelation 6:2], a merciful opportunity for people to recognize and accept Him as Lord. Then war, famine, and death come next [Revelation 6:4, 6, 8]. Still opportunities for unbelievers to recognize God for who He is and repent, though many will further harden their hearts against Him instead. It is also, unfortunately, a time when believers who are not firmly rooted in faith, will fall away [Mark 4:15-20].
We are living in such times. There are wars and rumors of wars, though these may intensify before the end [Matthew 24:6]. There are famines [24:7]. There are people and nations turning to slay one another [Matthew 24:7; Revelation 6:4]. There is death and the grave seemingly for more all the time. Though again, these things may yet intensify before the end.
Is Jesus Lord of your life? Do you have faith that will persevere in the tough times ahead, even to death [Revelation 2:10? Hold onto Jesus through it all, and He will hold onto you.