Category Archives: Marriage

The Four Faces of God

Discovering Biblical Personhood

I recently attended a men’s breakfast at our church where we heard an excellent lecture from Dr. Robert Lewis on “The Four Faces of Manhood”. Dr Lewis describes the four faces of biblical manhood as follows: King, Warrior, Lover and Friend. He plots these on a graph as follows:

King

Lover —————–  Friend

Warrior

 

God has intended for the King to lead, for the friend to be faithful, for the warrior to be a protector and for the lover to love sacrificially as Christ loves the church (Ephesians 5:25). He then describes how God’s design for man can be perverted by “ugly caricatures”. The King becomes a cruel tyrant or a weak abdicator. The friend becomes a loner or a user of others. The warrior becomes a destroyer or a wimp and the lover becomes critical or cold.

It seemed to me that an unbalanced man would tend to lean in a circular direction and that the ugly caricatures would follow in a predictable pattern so that a tyrant king would be a using friend, a destroying warrior and a critical lover. On the other hand, if the unbalanced man leaned in the other direction he would be a weak abdicator, cold lover, a wimpy warrior and a loner rather than friend.

As I contemplated this, I was reminded of some scriptures about “four faces”. The first was in Ezekiel chapter 1 where Ezekiel has a vision of God’s throne and he describes four creatures (some call seraph) that stand guard around God’s throne:

As for the likeness of their faces, each had the face of a man; each of the four had the face of a lion on the right side, each of the four had the face of an ox on the left side, and each of the four had the face of an eagle. Ezekiel 1:10 NKJV

The Apostle John had a similar vision described in Revelation chapter 4:

Before the throne there was a sea of glass, like crystal. And in the midst of the throne, and around the throne, were four living creatures full of eyes in front and in back. The first living creature was like a lion, the second living creature like a calf, the third living creature had a face like a man, and the fourth living creature was like a flying eagle. Revelation 4:6-7 NKJV

It is interesting that the two visions vary slightly, but to my mind it only lends credibility to the authenticity as the scriptures are inspired by God and penned by men with different perspectives. One can only imagine how frightening such a vision might be and how each might have a different memory of it, just as two people observing a horrible accident might have different accounts. If John had meant to copy Ezekiel he would have done it word for word, but he didn’t. But the two accounts are so similar as to confirm that they were seeing the same throne room.

We must understand that all creation is intended to glorify God as originally created. The creatures guarding God’s throne can be considered to display the character and nature of God just as mankind is made in the image of God. So, what do these creatures tell us about God and how does that apply to mankind?

I believe that the seraph show us that God relates to us as a man and a friend. God came to earth in the form of the man Jesus who referred to Himself as “the Son of Man.” God relates to us as King over all creation as the lion rules over all other creatures. Jesus is referred to as the Lion of the tribe of Judah and revelation assures that He will reign over all creation forever and ever (Rev. 11:15). An ox or a calf is a sacrificial animal. Jesus is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world (Jn 1:29). An eagle is the swiftest of hunters and warriors. In the Psalms God describes Himself as an eagle protecting His flock.  He shelters us beneath His wings (Psalm 17:8).

So the new chart is this:

King/Lion

Lover/Ox —————– Friend/Man

Warrior/Eagle

As I have repeatedly read these scriptures in Ezekiel and Revelation I have wondered at their meaning and significance. I believe through this study that the Lord has granted me a measure of revelation. The four fold nature of God is even displayed in the different gospel accounts. Matthew depicts Christ as King beginning with His royal lineage (Mt. 2:2). Mark, written from Peter’s memories (Mark was Peter’s scribe), describes Jesus as a friend and a brother (Mark 3:35). No one was closer to Jesus than Peter. Mark reveals Jesus as a man (Mark 9:12).

Luke, written from Paul’s memories (Luke was discipled by Paul), displays Jesus as the warrior, the defender of the faith and the faithful. We see in the gospel of Luke the accounts of Jesus’ battles with the religious leaders and Pharisees (those accounts don’t name Paul, but I believe that he was among those who followed Jesus constantly seeking to trip him up; Luke 6:7). It is interesting that Jesus chose Paul, a fanatical defender of Judaism, to be the primary evangelist and his Acts and his letters portray how he battled like an eagle to defend the gospel.

John, the mystic, the romantic, depicts Christ as a sacrificial lover. He tells us that God so loved the world that He gave and describes Jesus as the Lamb of God. John records Jesus saying, “A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.” (Joh 13:34-35)

These scriptures revealing God’s nature and our response pertain to all mankind, including women. They show us what biblical personhood is. Women are created to reflect God’s image as well. Women are called to lead, love, protect and befriend all be it in a unique way.

As I looked further into Ezekiel’s vision I discovered that it reveals not only the nature of God, but it speaks about how we must walk with God. The vision shows us how not to become unbalanced, fall into sin and display a false, ugly caricature. I noticed that the creatures walked in the Spirit, that is they followed the Holy Spirit. They didn’t become unbalanced and turn to the left or right.

And each one went straight forward; they went wherever the spirit wanted to go, and they did not turn when they went. Ezekiel 1:12 NKJV

The vision goes on to tell us that a strange object followed each of the creatures.

Now as I looked at the living creatures, behold, a wheel was on the earth beside each living creature with its four faces. The appearance of the wheels and their workings was like the color of beryl, and all four had the same likeness. The appearance of their workings was, as it were, a wheel in the middle of a wheel. When they moved, they went toward any one of four directions; they did not turn aside when they went. Ezekiel 1:15-17 NKJV

The scripture goes on to describe how the wheels are covered with eyes, depicting the all seeing, all knowing nature of God. This strange object, like the Seraphim, does not turn to the left or right, but follows the straight path, the narrow way. It reminded me of a gyroscope. I searched the definition/ function of a gyroscope.

Gyroscope: an apparatus consisting of a rotating wheel so mounted that its axis can turn freely in certain or all directions, and capable of maintaining the same absolute direction in space in spite of movements of the mountings and surrounding parts: used to maintain equilibrium, determine direction, etc.

Gyroscopes are used in aircraft instrumentation to show relative position to the earth. They help the pilot to know where straight and level is. A gyroscope has two perpendicular axes. One is perpendicular to the earth and the other is parallel. The axes of a gyroscope make a cross.

Our church has recently been studying the book of Romans. Last week I heard a message from chapter 7 by pastor Keith Knight. Chapter 7 is about struggling with sin. The conclusion is that there is deliverance from sin through Jesus Christ. At the climax of the message Keith turned to a cross on the stage and told us that when the struggle is there, he turns to the cross and reminds himself what Jesus did there to save us from sin. That is the key! That is what will keep us on the straight and narrow road.

I know that this vision is meant to show us that God has provided us with a holy gyroscope to help us follow Him. If we focus on what happened on the cross we will keep our spiritual bearings and not wander off to the left or right displaying an ugly image.

It’s interesting that such a mysterious vision should boil down to such a simple truth that is spelled out in the New Testament: that the way to overcome is to walk in the Spirit and keep your focus on Christ’s finished work on the cross. That is exactly how God revealed Himself in the old covenant. Jesus spoke in parables because He searches for seekers who will find revelation in ALL of scripture.

 

 

 

 

 

THE EXAMPLE OF RUTH

The Book of Ruth has often been described as an allegory pointing to the redemptive relationship between Christ and His church, with Boaz the kinsman redeemer representing Christ and Ruth representing His church. An additional allegory exists in the story. Ruth the Gentile represents the Gentile church while Naomi, her Jewish mother-in-law, represents natural born Israel under the old covenant. It is noteworthy that the adoption of Ruth by Boaz occurs during the harvest and the celebration of Pentecost that is also associated with the birth of the Now Testament Church.

In the account, Naomi, her husband and two sons are refugees from a famine in Bethlehem who have settled in Moab. Naomi’s husband dies and her two sons marry Moabite women one of them being Ruth. Subsequently, Naomi’s sons also die leaving her fruitless and in exile. This situation adequately portrays the spiritual condition of natural born Jews today. They are exiled (even today there are more Jews in New York City than in Israel) without a spiritual husband and without spiritual descendants. They are dead in their sins and trespasses and, having rejected their Messiah they are without a sacrifice to atone for them. God has even taken away their temple so that they cannot perform the Old Covenant sacrifices. Naomi claims that, “the Lord’s hand has gone out against me!”[1]  and, “The lord has testified against me.”[2]

Naomi attempts to persuade her daughters-in-law to leave her and go back to their own people. At first, they refuse, but Orpah eventually concedes. Ruth begs Naomi to allow her to stay and makes the famous statement, ‘Your people will be my people and your God my God.” [3] Ruth thus recognizes that she has no natural right of access into the Kingdom of God and that it is she that must be adopted.

The Gentile church should adopt the attitude of Ruth. We must understand that we are not natural branches and that we have been grafted into the Vine who is vastly different from us. We must understand that the bride will not be complete without the natural branches. We must recognize that the Jews as a people, at least a great many of them, are predestined to eventually heed the call of the Spirit and accept their Messiah. Romans chapter 9 makes it clear that the natural branches were rejected or cut off because of their unbelief. In their pride they stumbled over the Stone and thought that they could earn salvation by their own righteousness. So, they were cut off and left barren like Naomi.

Naomi and Ruth return to Bethlehem (Judea) at the beginning of the Barley harvest. Their return coincided with the celebration of the Feast of First Fruits that occurred on Abib 16 or two days after the Passover. It is interesting to note that Christ was crucified on the eve of Passover and rose on the first day of the week or the Feast of First Fruits. The barley harvest is also a symbol of God’s harvest of the Jews. Ruth goes out to the fields to glean and meets Boaz the lord of that field. He shows her favor and she returns to Naomi full of his praises. Naomi encourages Ruth to go to Boaz’ threshing floor and to lie with him, which she does. They fall in love (perhaps this threshing floor in Bethlehem was to be the place of Christ’s manger centuries later). Boaz promises to redeem Ruth under the customary Hebrew laws of kinship. He sends Ruth back to Naomi with six measures of barley, exhorting her not to go back to her mother-in-law empty handed.[4] This act is symbolic of the gentiles bringing in the harvest of the Jews. This exhortation is to the Gentile church.

Next Boaz goes to the town gates, where the elders meet, in order to redeem Naomi and Ruth in accord with the Hebrew laws for kinsman­-redeemer. Naomi’s closest relative declines to redeem her because he does not want Ruth, as he is already married. So Boaz agrees to redeem Naomi and her property and to take Ruth as his bride. The elders of the village pronounce a great blessing upon Boaz and Ruth:

“May Ihe Lord make the woman who is coming into your home like Rachel and Leah, who together built up the house of Israel. May you have standing in Ephrathah and be famous in Bethlehem. Through the offspring the Lord gives you by this young woman, may your family be like that of Perez, whom Tamar bore to Judah”.[5]

Ruth bears a son to Boaz. Her son was the grandfather of David and stood in the lineage of Jesus. This prophetically pointed to the inclusion of both Jew and Gentile in the body of Christ. The response of the women in the village is interesting. They tell Naomi:

 “Praise be to the Lord, who this day has not left you without a kinsman-redeemer. May he become famous throughout Israel! He will renew your life and sustain you in your old age. For your daughter-in-law who loves you and is better to you than seven sons has given him birth.”[6]

The women of the village report that “Naomi has a son[7] and they name him Obed, which means: “a worker, a servant; one who perfectly does the will of him who sends him.” It is interesting that Ruth’s child is equated as Naomi’s kinsman-redeemer and is seen as the one who will renew Naomi’s life and sustain her in her old age. In the allegory, we can see the prophetic allusion that the gentile church, adopted by Christ and in union with Him will bring forth a child, in this case a people, who will be seen as the fruit of the previously barren Jew and be known as the perfect servant. These redeemed ones will be Christ’s end time army that will walk in holiness, humility and power. They will fulfill the call of the bride. Christ, as Boaz redeems both Jew and Gentile, but it is the child of the gentile that helps to sustain the Jew in her old age. It is the fruit of the gentile womb, filled with the Spirit of Christ that will be seen as fulfilling the call of God’s people to be a blessing to the whole earth. We must cooperate with the Holy Spirit’s plan foreshadowed and typified in the Book of Ruth, to re-graft the natural branches back into the Vine.

We must come to understand that the natural branches had the manifest presence of God revealed to them. Our modem, materialistic, rationalistic culture hinders us gentiles in relating to God. The Hebrew spiritual, mystical culture was an outgrowth of their knowledge of God. Jesus is the complete revelation of God and we cannot completely understand Him or the things He did apart from the culture and traditions of the ancient Jewish people. Other than the life of Christ the greatest volume of revelation about God and His character and nature occurs in the Old Testament. If the revelation found in the Old Testament is minimized the result is a failure to completely know God to the extent that He has chosen to reveal Himself. To properly understand that revelation, we must properly understand the culture of the Old Testament Jew. God revealed Himself to them in a way that they would understand. Our understanding of scripture can be greatly enhanced by a study of their culture. A study and practice of the biblical feasts helps us to do so as well.


[1] Ruth 1:13, NIV.

[2] Ruth 1:21 NIV.

[3] Ruth I:l6, NIV

[4] Ruth 3:17, NIV.

[5] Ruth 4:11-12, NIV.

[6] Ruth 4:14-15, NIV.

[7] Ruth 4:17, NIV.

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What’s Wrong With Pre-marital Sex?

We have reaped the results of the sexual revolution that was encouraged by easy birth control, including elective abortion. The fruit of this revolution has been marriage and family breakdown, to the point that roughly half of all marriages end in divorce and 42% of children have no father in the home. This breakdown has and will have devastating consequences for society. As in a typical downward spiral, this bad experience with marriage has resulted in an increasing unwillingness to marry, further encouraging people to be sexually active outside marriage.

What does God say about sex outside marriage? How should Christians respond to non-Christians who ask the common question, “What’s wrong with sex before marriage?” We have to make it clear from the start that God, in love, has given us a good plan to enjoy sex. Unfortunately, some Christians have given the impression that all sex or any physical enjoyment is evil. We have to belay that notion, which really has more to do with early Greek pagan dualism than what God reveals in his Word, the Bible. The physical body is not evil. In fact, God says we are “fearfully and wonderfully made…” (Ps. 139:14) God created a physical universe, including sex, and He said it was all good. Adam and Eve were naked and felt no shame. They had no guilt attached to their sexuality. Jesus took upon Himself a physical body, thus revealing God’s plan to redeem the physical universe. The “kingdom to come” is not in heaven, but will be here on earth! The sexual urge is God-given. Pleasure is God’s idea, not the devil’s. One writer has likened sex to fire: it’s a very pleasing thing in the fireplace, but if you start a fire in the middle of the living room, you may burn the house down.

The Bible teaches that sexual intimacy should take place within the bounds of a covenant marriage.  In fact, in the Bible, sexual intimacy is revealed as a form of communication. When referring to married people having sex, it will often say that so and so “knew” their spouse. The Bible teaches that sex is much more than just a physical act.

Being equipped to answer someone about this question requires an understanding of what sex really is. Sex is not just a bodily function as with animals. Do you know what is wrong with most public school sex education programs? They start in science class by teaching that we are just animals that evolved, that we are not specially created in the image of God, with a spirit and that we are intended to be a reflection of our Creator. Once they have the children convinced that they are just animals whose lives have no special purpose, then they teach them all about sex as just another “natural” bodily function. So, why not indulge?

We are not like the animals. We are made in the image of God. We are spiritual creatures.  We have a soul. Sex is not just a physical act, but a life uniting act. 1Cor 6:16 says, “Do you not know that he who is joined to an harlot is one with her? For the two shall become one flesh, says the Lord.” God knows that sex must involve commitment to work properly. Therefore, His plan is that sex take place only in marriage.

That leads to the question of what is a marriage in God’s eyes. As described in God’s word, marriage is intended to be a life long covenant. A true biblical covenant is witnessed and confirmed in submission to God ordained authority, that is, the church and the state. A wedding is a public expression of commitment. Marriage is intended to be a reflection of God’s relationship with His people. It should be public and permanent. When Jesus spoke on marriage, He referred back to the creation account: “A man will leave his father and mother, cleave to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” (Gen. 2:24) This creation account reveals an intended progression. Leaving comes first. It implies a public act of commitment first. Then there is uniting. This is more than just sex. It involves communion. Only then do the two become one. Marriage is God’s plan for commitment. It is not just a piece of paper as some so glibly state in seeking to dodge commitment. Life uniting intent is evidenced by marriage, not engagement.

God warns against distortions of His plan. God’s plan was distorted by sin, which affects every area of our lives, including sex. Adultery includes all rebellion against God. Spiritual adultery is the root of all sin. As the heart wanders from God, it will surely wander from the mate. Sinful sex is just a symptom of an adulteress heart. As the heart grows cold towards God, there remains a void which leads the sinner to start looking for something to replace God. This cycle leads to compulsions, addictions, and even demonic control.

What’s wrong with premarital sex between singles? The answer requires an understanding of what sex really is. Sex is a life uniting act. It unites body, soul and spirit. Without life uniting commitment, both parties get injured. Any dissociation of the physical from the spiritual aspects of sexual activity invariably leads to dissociation of sex and commitment. Sex outside of God’s plan in marriage brings physical and spiritual death. God is not a kill joy. He warns against premarital sex because it hurts people. People hurt themselves. Premarital sex destroys a person’s understanding of who they are. 1Cor. 6:18 says that a person who commits sexual immorality sins against their own body. Illicit sex destroys one’s understanding of what we are created for, to be the temple of God.

Unfortunately, many people have already made the mistake of not following God’s plan and have been hurt. As believers, we need to make sure that people understand that the good news is that God has sent Jesus to restore us. He came to save us from sin. He didn’t come to condemn the world, but He brought forgiveness and healing, and the power to resist temptation.

We are not called as Christians to go about condemning pagans for their sins. As unbelievers come to know us and desire to have the spiritual peace that we know, they will ask about these difficult topics, such as pre-marital sex. When they ask, speak the truth in love. You must present both the law and the gospel. The good news is not good news until people know the truth and recognize their sinful condition. Only then can we offer forgiveness and grace.

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