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“Oh, the unspeakable greatness of that exchange,—the Sinless One is condemned, and he who is guilty goes free; the Blessing bears the curse, and the cursed is brought into blessing; the Life dies, and the dead live; the Glory is whelmed in darkness, and he who knew nothing but confusion of face is clothed with glory.” Trailady

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A person God turned around many times.

Friday, November 11, 2016

From crown of thorns and infinite cursings to crown of horns and infinite blessings

Thorns and thistles stood in symbolic opposition to the butter and honey of God’s justice and mercy character. The Garden of Eden had no stickers because the Father filled Adam’s world with beautiful grace and beautiful obedience to His Law. But, the rebellion of Adam and Eve resulted in a permanent infestation of their world with painful pricks to remind them of their rejection of God. Yet, Christ had redeemed them and they gladly accepted those prickly and painful spiritual reminders as the true characterization of their new fallen nature. But, without His redemption and the impartation of His Spirit of peace, the thorns and thistles would bring Adam and his descendants exhausting aggravation and anger until each soul must decide to fall in repentance and confession of God’s righteous punishment, or shake its fist at Him forever.

“Wherefore the LORD brought upon them the captains of the host of the king of Assyria, which took Manasseh among the thorns, and bound him with fetters, and carried him to Babylon.” (2Chron. 33:11).

Dragging Manasseh through the agonizing bramble was a perfect reflection of God’s perspective upon his reckless and destructive life. Yet, his father’s earlier training, combined with the torture he endured by his heavenly Father’s thorns and briers, turned him around. Thank God for His merciful justice! His mercy endureth forever.
 
“If they shall confess their iniquity, and the iniquity of their fathers, with their trespass which they trespassed against Me, and that also they have walked contrary unto Me; and that I also have walked contrary unto them, and have brought them into the land of their enemies; if then their uncircumcised hearts be humbled, and they then accept of the punishment of their iniquity: then will I remember My covenant with Jacob.” (Lev. 26:40-42).

But, most do not turn around at the visitations of God’s judgments. Manasseh’s was a rare conversion. Most resist the strong convictions of their wrongs, which “the Father of mercies” (2Cor. 1:3) and truth presents to their conscience, conviction of sin which He combines with assurances of forgiveness and the blessedness of His promised, restored Spirit. Convicting consequences of our own sin is the only method that our Schoolmaster, “the God of all comfort” (2Cor. 1:3), can provide to create repentance in His people (see Acts 5:31). Yet, with many their uncircumcised hearts will not let them accept the punishment for their iniquities. As the interesting prophecy of Isaiah revealed:

“Therefore the Lord Himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel.
Butter and honey shall He eat, that He may know to refuse the evil, and choose the good.
For before the Child shall know to refuse the evil, and choose the good, the land that thou abhorrest shall be forsaken of both her kings.
The LORD shall bring upon thee, and upon thy people, and upon thy father’s house, days that have not come, from the day that Ephraim departed from Judah; even the king of Assyria.
And it shall come to pass in that day, that the LORD shall hiss for the fly that is in the uttermost part of the rivers of Egypt, and for the bee that is in the land of Assyria.
And they shall come, and shall rest all of them in the desolate valleys, and in the holes of the rocks, and upon all thorns, and upon all bushes.
In the same day shall the Lord shave with a razor that is hired, namely, by them beyond the river, by the king of Assyria, the head, and the hair of the feet: and it shall also consume the beard.
And it shall come to pass in that day, that a man shall nourish a young cow, and two sheep;
And it shall come to pass, for the abundance of milk that they shall give he shall eat butter: for butter and honey shall every one eat that is left in the land.
And it shall come to pass in that day, that every place shall be, where there were a thousand vines at a thousand [pieces of silver], it shall even be for briers and thorns.
With arrows and with bows shall men come thither; because all the land shall become briers and thorns.
And on all hills that shall be digged with the mattock, there shall not come thither the fear of briers and thorns: but it shall be for the sending forth of oxen, and for the treading of lesser cattle.” (Isa. 7:14-25).

Looking carefully at this prophecy we see that the “butter and honey” diet of Jesus was the diet of other Israelites, but not for most of them. The northern kingdom’s apostasy away from the redemptive covenant of the God of their father Abraham ended in Israelite hearts filled with the spirit of Satan and possessed of his bitterness, “briers and thorns”. As the Lord’s prophetic song to Moses foreknew:

“For their vine is of the vine of Sodom, and of the fields of Gomorrah: their grapes are grapes of gall, their clusters are bitter: their wine is the poison of dragons, and the cruel venom of asps.” (Deut. 32:32,33).

Paul gave a detailed description of every child of Adam who Satan controls.

“Being filled with all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity; whisperers, backbiters, haters of God, despiteful, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, without understanding, covenantbreakers, without natural affection, implacable, unmerciful: who knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them.” (Rom. 1:29-32).

Another description of the Roman world by Paul supplements the one above, and is commented on by Ellen White: “Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.” (Gal. 5:19,20). “The senses, the nerves, the passions, the organs of men, were worked by supernatural agencies in the indulgence of the vilest lust.... Rebellion had struck its roots deep into the heart, and the hostility of man was most violent against heaven.” Desire of Ages, p. 36.
 
At their crucifixion of the Son of God, the people shook their fist at Jesus just as they had always been shaking their fist at God and at each other. They providentially adorned the head of the Prince of peace with a visible metaphor that represented their own malignant minds. Each thorn of the bramble crown screamed the anger and hatred, the pride and revenge enthroned in those outraged hearts of Satan’s possession. Once again, at the height of Roman prosperity, “the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and…every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.” (Gen. 6:5). Every thought of their wicked minds they projected onto the Son of God. And, by the crown of thorns, their animosity toward Himself Providence displayed mercifully in parable form for them all to learn from.

Without the manifestation and conviction of their hostility toward the world’s best Friend, Jesus could not be their Saviour. He must not only share in their affliction from Satan, He must take it away from them. He must absorb their abusive hostility toward God and release them from it. Jesus became the present focus of Jew and Gentile, the good and the bad, the “holy” Sanhedrin and their “righteous” execution of a Criminal, and the vulgar Romans and their aggressions against everything holy. In complete, glad submission to the forbearance and love of God toward a world that the Godhead came to regain, Jesus said, “Surely they are My people, children that will not lie: so He was their Saviour.” (Isa. 63:9).

“In all their affliction He was afflicted.” (Isa. 63:9). Jesus felt their pain because He came for the very purpose of letting them unleash all their pain upon Him; and His infinite charity bore it all. “In His love and in His pity He redeemed them; and He bare them, and carried them all the days of old.” (Isa. 63:9). He let them cast all their abuses upon Him, because He knew that without their unburdening the gall and wormwood from their Beelzebub-controlled minds, they could never be delivered from Satan’s control. He did for them what they couldn’t do for themselves. They must witness, for the first time in their lives, someone who would take all their godless, venomous, inner wrath, but would not and could not throw it all back on them in greater measure. Only the goodness of the divine One toward their worst vengeance could bring them to repentance.

This was His method and His goal. “They shall look upon Me whom they have pierced” and “I will pour upon the house of David, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the spirit of grace and of supplications.” (Zech. 12:10).

God’s living parable in His providential crown of thorns represented the thorny hearts of the Jewish and Gentile world and their barbed epithets which He was absorbing through His Son, though now with His Father’s ear no longer near to weep into He could not have their aggressions all washed away from His memories. All the world’s offensive sins adorned the Son of God until sin was all that His offended Father could see. The Son was a captive in the eye of a hurricane of hate, anger, and evil that pricked and ripped Him by both human and demonic personalities. Thus, the Father made Him to be sin for us, in our place and for our sakes. The crown of thorns symbolized the Son caught in the crosshairs of  the world’s concentrated resentment toward God and irritation toward His holy will.

“Satanic agencies were incorporated with men. The bodies of human beings, made for the dwelling place of God, had become the habitation of demons…. The very stamp of demons was impressed upon the countenances of men. Human faces reflected the expression of the legions of evil with which they were possessed.” Desire of Ages, p. 36.

Faith and mercy had departed from the world. And, day after day, all that the expressions of those assaulting, angry hearts ever received from everyone around them came from other platonic, violent, fallen natures in their brothers, neighbors, soldiers, and the state. Earth had become a world where each man’s hand was against everyone around him (see Genesis 16:12). No mercy was accorded to humanity in its frustrations and emotional suffering derived from the lack of unending love and affection. Without a Saviour who was filled with supernatural love, all the venomous wrath of human hearts could only be expressed in more tumultuous venom reflected back on them by others like themselves. Cursed is the man who trusts in mankind! Blessed is the man who trusts in the omnipotent love of the unchanging God! Unrelenting, pure justice without mercy is the foundation of Satan’s kingdom, and that was the inescapable, tormenting enslavement in which the despotic Roman Empire trapped its people during their  70 year human existence.

By rejecting service to God and His eternal, selfless and self-denying Law, they must serve Satan and his abritrary, selfish and self-indulgent laws. Humanity was serving under their possession by hell because they had unanimously voted for hell to reign over them.

“When they knew God, they glorified Him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened…. And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient; being filled with all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity; whisperers….” (Rom. 1:21,28,29).
 
These are the wretched and miserable, thorny character traits that filled the world in Christ’s day and which was demonstrated by the thorny crown jokingly platted and mercilessly and carelessly jammed upon His head. On Christ alone could they heave unrestrained fury with all their insults, and hear in return the only feeling aroused in Him, “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.” (Luke 23:34). Yet, without all the hatred that they could unfurl abounding upon their Victim, without the unlimited railing expressions of the violence that raged in their unholy hearts toward God, Jesus could not regain their trust and stanch their violent hatred, “nailing it to His cross.” (Col. 2:14). His willing absorption of everything they could throw at Him was their only victory over Satan; and it was God’s only victory also. And under the same conditions our High Priest is still wrestling with His murderers today until He can gently remove the knife out of our repentant and surrendered hands.

For some who Satan could fully imbue with his self-exaltation and vehement belligerence, Christ’s absorption of their rage made them even angrier, emboldened to do more evil. But, for others the stark difference between the world’s wicked norms, and the muted love streaming from the blood running down Christ’s head, struck their conscience with lightning force. They saw Him as the precious berry in the wretched bramble. To them the infamous laurel of thorns became the famous diadem of His omnipotent Spirit of grace and supplication, as seen in Revelation 5:6. “Lo, in the midst of the throne and of the four beasts, and in the midst of the elders, stood a Lamb as it had been slain, having seven horns… which are the seven Spirits of God sent forth into all the earth.”

The mercy and faith of self-sacrificing love displayed in the crown of thorns loudly preached the effort and message from Jesus and His Father. Humanity’s unforgettable, undeniable demonstration of its wickedness upon a Victim possessing unforgettable, undeniable forgiveness was the only powerful reality that could overthrow the corrupted norms from Satan and present to mankind a new paradigm of loving and being loved. If they could taste and see the difference between all that earth has to offer contrasted with all that heaven offers, they would receive an irresistible drawing to righteousness and holiness. Messiah’s willingness to sacrifice Himself to deliver us from our angry torments condemned their haughty self-righteousness which was against humanity, “which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way.” (Col. 2:14).

“That which beareth thorns and briers is rejected, and is nigh unto cursing; whose end is to be burned.” (Heb. 6:8). In the parable from Isaiah, the promise was that world empires would subjugate Israel until all the Israelites could see their worthless Baal-Ashtoreth, self-made righteousness as God sees it— being thorny to themselves and to everyone around them, irritating, upsetting, unsettling, abrasive, destructive to others as well as self-destructive.

“And it shall come to pass in that day, that every place shall be, where there were a thousand vines at a thousand [silver pieces], it shall even be for briers and thorns. With arrows and with bows shall men come thither; because all the land shall become briers and thorns. And on all hills that shall be digged with the mattock, there shall not come thither the fear of briers and thorns: but it shall be for the sending forth of oxen, and for the treading of lesser cattle.” (Isa. 7:18-25).

Each Israelite would become caustic and abrasive, just like the pagan.  “He will be a wild man; his hand will be against every man, and every man’s hand against him.” (Gen. 16:12). And the reality of Assyrian punishment would declare to each Israelite conscience their thorny character that dishonored God. But, some who, like their Saviour, ate of the milk and honey that surrounded them in God’s earthly resting place found that the approaching world empires would give them an increasing need to drink deeper of the sweetness and fatness of God’s gracious mercy and truth. By faith through the sacrificial and ceremonial system that Jesus gave them they continued to see the glorious offering of their God to save them from satanic oppression. They were “enlightened, and…tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost, and…tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come.” (Heb. 6:4,5). Of them Paul could use the similitude, “the earth which drinketh in the rain that cometh oft upon it, and bringeth forth herbs meet for them by whom it is dressed, receiveth blessing from God.” (Heb. 6:7).

Likewise, the Messiah would come ever feeding on an exalted, princely, heavenly diet of His Father’s butter-and-honey Law and grace, “meat to eat that ye know not of.” (John 4:32). His mental, spiritual, emotional food, was far different from the forced, abrasive, painful, enervating and unsatisfying diet from Baal and Ashtoreth that harassed the world’s hearts every moment with a constant jab.  “You worthless idiots! You should have never been born.”

“This I say therefore, and testify in the Lord, that ye henceforth walk not as other Gentiles walk, in the vanity of their mind,
Having the understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart:
Who being past feeling have given themselves over unto lasciviousness, to work all uncleanness with greediness.
But ye have not so learned Christ;
If so be that ye have heard Him, and have been taught by Him, as the truth is in Jesus:
That ye put off concerning the former conversation the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts;
And be renewed in the spirit of your mind;
And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness.” (Eph. 4:17-24).
 
The crown of thorns probably did not have the excessive spikes that Hollywood has shown in movies. Nevertheless, a more accurate crown of bramble is still “nigh unto cursing”. It was designed to add to the torment of the “King of the Jews”; and it still is the reversed picture at Calvary which Jesus gave to win a thorny, rebellious humanity back to His Father’s righteous requirements. Won’t we go to ground zero of our redemption —Calvary— where the greatest battle was ever fought against our Lord, with all the “contradiction of sinners against Himself” (Heb. 12:3)? Won’t we see our Lord driven to endure everything unclean that comes with an eternal ministry to win and sanctify the world God so loved in order to “fetch home again His banished” (2Sam. 14:13)? “I will be surety for him; of My hand shalt Thou require him: if I bring him not unto Thee, and set him before Thee, then let Me bear the blame for ever” (Gen. 43:9). Won’t we see the joy from “the eternal Spirit” (Heb. 9:14, cf Zech. 6:13) that compelled the Son to take up His cross, “despising the shame” (Heb. 12:2)? Won’t we survey the wondrous cross where One “was marred more than any man... more than the sons of men” (Heb. 12:2)? Won’t we see “the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (2Cor. 4:6)?

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