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GOD IS A SPIRIT
Illimitable in Wisdom, Power and Glory
THE WORK AND WITNESS OF THE TRINITARIAN LORD
The Australian (February 19-20, in 'the forum')
See also Chapter 5 below.
The Way, Work and Witness of God
God is a Spirit. Hence readily He can bring atmosphere, inter-personal entente, accord, the bloom of fellowship or the sense of outrage, as the case may be. Directly He can operate on our spirits. Through conscience He may also elect to alert. This is a sort of knowledge together, though in this indirect matter, conscience itself may have been degraded so that a more direct distancing or rapproachement may be the spirit of the meeting, the relationship.
He is not limited by hardware, prepared, published, subject of procreation. He can act entirely directly, though man himself, as one HAVING spirit, though within bounds of operational facility, can to some extent make direct spiritual impact. God can hearten, though He uses no eyes, comfort though no arm goes upon the shoulder, enliven, though there is no chemical water, revive though there is no oxygen addition to the air.
He operates also by His word which, unlike the talk of the devil, that mountebank, it is something fixed in heaven, indited on earth and invariable in authenticity (cf. Psalm 119).
In addition, He operates by His spiritual Word, that eternal expression of Himself which is more than a bunch, a collection of words, as in the Bible: it is a living Person who in expressing Him who is infinite, has Himself an infinite and eternal place, position and task, as in John 1 (cf. The Bright Light and the Uncomprehending Darkness Ch. 1).
God expresses and executes for God: God the Word for God the Speaker, God the Son for God the Father, when it comes to human terms and incarnation mode. You see this relationship most clearly in Isaiah 48:16, in the preceding and succeeding context. There is the trinitarian harmony in action, like an enterprise exposed. It is beautiful in operation, sensational in beauty, irreplaceable in truth, poignant in pity, commanding in deliverance. That deliverance is pinpointed into just one, when HE came as a man, incarnate, as you see in Isaiah 49, where HE is seen as the only Saviour for all the earth, it being "too small" a thing to be limited to Israel.
The Strange Article in The Australian
On the other hand, far is He from expelling Israel from this earth, destroying it or annulling it altogether as one commentator so ignorantly asserted in a strange article found in The Australian (February 19-20, in 'the forum').
Let us pause with this article for a moment as it is very revealing of the cultural shocks and rockings aborad. Aptly reviewing some of the many nice sounding but not convincing art forms seeking enthusiasm about Islam and its art, and this as a message of 'peace' of some sort, not readily discerned in this present world from that quarter, the writer of the article in The Australian notes one volume to his hand, 'Apocalypse in Islam'. It is stated to be one that depicts an "imminent end to the world." It is in that article reported to envisage America as the Beast, "whose demented hordes hurl themselves in waves on to the lands of Islam and whose arrogant towers collapse under the blows of the faithful."
As a matter of fact, one must note, various religious ideas emanate from here and there, and it is often convenient for some to have them deal with their enemies. However this does not alter anything except perhaps the hostility of their hatred, giving it a religious turn-out.
It is with the next statement in the article under review, that we find something more fascinating by far. "Contemporary Islamic imagination" is stated to find roots in "the Judeo-Christian tradition and in individual works such as the Book of Revelation." It is difficult to find any shred of evidence for such a concept. It is true that those who disbelieve in the salvation of God are to receive the result of their resistance to repentance and divine pardon purchased and made available at infinite cost with infinite love from God; but this does not concern any particular nation as its basis, though it is true that Israel was used at first to furnish the Old Testament with its predictions concerning Christ, and incidentally, Israel's then coming rejection and crucifixion of Him. However, this is not the criterion of judgment, for whether it be for Jew or Gentile, pardon is biblically obtainable on non-racial lines, from God via the atonement wrought by one Man, Jesus Christ (Romans 5:1-20).
You are to be saved from perishing through HIM alone as Saviour, or lost through preference for darkness in the light of this truth. That is the Judeo-Christian message. Thus in Isaiah 65:13-15, so far from being told that it depends on one race, we learn that Israel, for one, will get nowhere when it comes to judgment, unless and until it comes back to the slain Messiah as Saviour. That is of course from a book written by a Jew in Israel, and it is assigned by Him to the Almighty as source, as its fulfilment in detail abundantly attests. Again, we learn in Isaiah 42:6 and 49:6, that precisely the same Light applies to Jew AND to Gentile, so that there is no national or nationalistic basis for anything whatsoever in judgment.
Repent or perish (Luke 13), one and all, towards just One who is the only Saviour. It is no question of any mindless hordes here, for it is of One, who is THE JUDGE, who judges all on one basis and on one criterion only: reception of Himself as the Son of God, deity, ransom, redemption, the very express image of God whose body has borne the sin and resurrected body attests the breach of death. It is HE who will judge, not hordes. If invaders are to be resisted as in Ezekiel 38ff., after Israel's return, these are not a matter of hordes of Americans attacking the assailants in the Middle East, who knock out towers, but God in PERSON dealing with the arrogant intruders. THAT is after millenia of patience as the effort, as from Iran, is made to take over Israel: rather a different picture, like that of England before Hitler, rather than Russia in Poland!
In this same prescription of the Bible, you LOVE and do not hate your enemies. If they throw themselves in the end at God as enemy (as in Revelation 19:19), in a final effort to take over this earth, this is non-racial and non-horde. It is God who responds for the earth which He made.
Hordes have nothing to do with this finale, apocalyptic in kind, though they appear a peculiarity of current practice of many in Islam, and of the declared intent of some, such as the President of Iran, who apparently plans something like that for Israel.
The Book of Revelation, long enough found in the Bible to be known, is dealing with having your sins washed in the blood of the Lamb and large numbers (Revelation 7) of Jews and Gentiles alike finding rest in the God who created the lot of them. It is well to get the facts clear and straight, and no waft or waffle in a suggestive way which tends to countermand them. This is important, to know the gen. As for the addition of "far Right" into the equation, as is done in the article under review, where "Christian enthusiasts for the apocalypse, no less than their Muslim antagonists, envisage the extinction of the Jews at the moment of Armageddon...", one is hard put to find anything biblical in this, except to the point that it is flatly contradicted, a possible point of contact!
Now one has not psycho-analysed all the "far Right" to know what may be in their minds, and hazards the guess that the writer of the article has not done so either. This being so, it is hard to know how "Christian enthusiasts" for "the apocalypse", with any measure of factual basis, may be associated with the book, for example, just mentioned, and others in the Bible - that is Revelation et al., in terms of the ravishment, indeed "the extinction of the Jews." Some like the leader in Iran, may be said to envisage extinction of the Jews, whether or not "at the moment of Armageddon," but those conversant with the Bible cannot find there basis for such anti-Christian dream.
It is certainly not found in that book, or any other in the Bible. Rather it is the forces of the antichrist, the beast, the last of the several huge, world-dominating or similar bodies in history to be engaged, who are ravaged. These have no particular race assigned to them, and perhaps may include many Jews, idolaters, Arabs, Muslims, secularists. It is only guessing, though other biblical passages make it clear that it is a very versatile phenomenon that is involved, what races may figure and in what percentage in the mêlée; but Jews assuredly are not its pith. In fact Micah 7, Isaiah 59 and Deuteronomy 32 show a vast deliverance to be coming.
It is simply rejection of Christ by this or that person, program or particular which leads to devastating results. The reason is equally simple. Sin kills and without pardon judgment is executed, whatever the colour of your hair, the character of your genes or the nation of your choice or birth. The Jews, many of whom are Christians, are not specifically mentioned as special victims in this apocalypse, and no doubt many of many other races are Christians likewise, and with all who believe, will be delivered at the last. To import therefore a racist myth into the situation does not help very much.
In fact, if we are dealing with '' Christian enthusiasts,' perhaps we may hope that they have at least taken a look at the Bible, where as in Micah 7, Israel in its repentant phase is to be delivered, as in Zechariah 12, against the forces of a vast and motley group, a thing likewise seen in Ezekiel 37-39. It is not however a dominating and dynamic Israel, full of glory, which will be so delivered (NOT slaughtered), but one in which a massive repentance for crucifying Christ will specifically have taken place (as in Zechariah 12:10-13:1). It is then that a fountain for pardon is opened in Jerusalem (Zechariah 13:1). If we are going to talk of Christian, and of books, let us then see what is written, as Christ made a practice in His exemplary and substitutionary work of atonement.
There is before the apocalyptic front comes, a movement, then, to rescue Israel from its unmannerly neighbours, and at that, for many indeed within it, from their own sins as noted in Romans 7:25ff., in context.
Then comes a deliverance which is laid on the heart of the Lord as more persecution admittedly the norm in Europe in many centuries where Hitler was the culmination, and Russia through pogroms a keen competitor, not to mention the Inquisition - is deployed against it. In fact, earlier in Zechariah 12, Israel is noted for the divine assistance to be given to it BEFORE its repentance (following in 12:10), in terms of grace. This is as seen in the multiple triumphs of defence of its existence in 1948, 1967, 1973. It is foretold that those who seek to interfere and mess with Jerusalem (like now Russia, the EU, the UN and the UK) will have trouble enough in their attentions to it, for it will be to them a 'heavy burden.' This has been of course, precisely fulfilled!
That and what follows can be differentiated from the extinction of Israel in two ways: it is the opposite, and it is done with a divine tenderness for the ... at last ... returning people. As the prophecy of Ezekiel 36-37 shows, the return is FIRST to be to their land (as has occurred in formal reality from 1948), and THEN to the Lord, on the part of a large portion.
As in Isaiah 19, and Zephaniah 3, it is no proud Israel, however, which will be delivered, but one which has had to learn like all Christian Gentiles, the lessons of humility. Indeed, it is not when Israel is STRONG in itself, but when the LORD SEES that its strength is GONE, that He directly acts in person to deliver them. It is to one Christ all return as in Isaiah 53-55, with one message, and it is too small for Israel, but in spiritual reality, equally involves all the earth, and then those who believe from within it.
The endeavour therefore to make some kind of match between Islamic ideas, recent in the concept of some in terms of hordes and assault from America, on the one hand, and the Bible on the other, to present these things in some parallel sort of way, and to attire biblical statements with the garments of extermination of Israel is a wonder and a work of art; but has nothing of the truth in it.
The concept of race, American or other,
is also vainly used, or implied. Actually, the one idea, as presented,
is racial and the other is NON-RACIAL and inclusive in its criterion of all the
earth on ONE basis, which relates to GOD HIMSELF very directly as the sacrifice
poured out in Christ, sufficient for one and all and effectual for those who by
faith receive Him. Any sort of man-made, man-wrought apocalypse in the final
show-down, in biblical terms, is make-believe. The two are at
opposite ends of the spectrum, and even more than that, the Christian
perspective which has been out for millenia, neither changes nor fails to
be testable. It comes to pass with relentless precision, for God is no respecter
of Persons, in terms of the New Covenant and the conditions of the Old, as
they are met. God does not change. History does. It does just what He has said
form the start.|
The Splendid Uniqueness of God
God resolves on what is to be, the Word of God makes it happen, and the Spirit of God applies what is needed. Thus it is all sent FROM the Father THROUGH the Son, TO the earth, and applied BY the Spirit of God who can act directly as we have seen, but in view of the Trinity, does in fact act in such a way as not to do so in His own name, but rather in that of the Son, of the Executor. Thus the Spirit of God moves as inspiriting what is dead, awakening that which dies, summoning that which sleeps, while the word of God surrounds like an army, or nurtures like a nurse, or mourns as a comforter, as you see in that moving passage for example just noted in Isaiah 48.
In fact, Israel has had a special history as conveyor of the word of God in the Old Testament, of the prophecies of Christ, of the word to Israel both specifically blessing and cursing (both of which have had enormous results for that nation), and its fulfilments of the biblical predictions is exemplary. It is however one more entry line for the New Covenant in Jesus Christ, Himself a Jew of course, along with the Gentiles to whom the offer is extended. When it comes back, in large measure as in Zechariah 12 and Romans 11:25ff., then the nations will KNOW what has been happening (Ezekiel 39:23ff., 25ff.), not only the Jews will know, but the Gentile nations also will begin to awaken to fact, to which for so long in so many ways, so many of them have been as blind as black curtains.
This then has been an excursion, a divagation from our theme on the actions of God, and the nature of God as Spirit; but it is far from irrelevant, as His meaning and His word and His Spirit figure in various ways in these intervals and dealings, and this provides something of an illustration. Indeed, in Zechariah 12:10, we read this:
"And I will pour on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem
the Spirit of grace and supplication:
then they will look on Me whom they pierced.
Yes they will will mourn for Him as one mourns for his only son...".
From the Spirit of God comes this intensive movement of grace to bother with the fallen, to enliven the lost, to seek the forlorn, to grant pardon to the sinner, for Jew as for Gentile in principle; but here, in the special Jewish case we see it at a zenith, perhaps not unlike some of the massive Gentile revivals which occurred both in the British Isles and in the USA, in the mid to later 19th century, as so well attested by Dr Edwin Orr in his work, "The Second Evangelical Awakening." It is not only, however, a spirit of GRACE which is outpoured, but one of SUPPLICATION.
Here we are moved to see that just as God is liberal in so sending His reviving Spirit, so man is moved so that he makes supplication, for this is engendered in his heart, moved in the stream of his life, like a flood moving into a river bed. So does God the Spirit apply the salvation to be found only in the Lord (John 14:6, Galatians 1), as He sees fit.
The Spirit, who is God, thus diversifies His actions as befits an infinite Being, yet all three Persons of the trinity are in one harmonious enterprise of unlimited depth, wholly expressive. It is one wholly relevant to man in his fallen state, moves in a way wholly averse to sin which breaks the Word in His goodness, and did so at Calvary, and He brings the divine redemption to the threshold of the heart itself. The Spirit of God can move even into that rebellious spirit of man who revolts against His particular words in the Bible.
That is especially the target in this modern era, when for God to have said various particular things is deemed almost irrelevant by many, even though they affect to believe in Him, and in Christ. Moral and doctrinal teaching for many appears caught in the dust of the excavations man makes, ignoring the pit from which he was dug. Indeed,many regard such things as dust to an excavation enterprise. The actual words of God, being not desired like the living Word Himself, are flicked away as perspiration drops allow the blow to be wiped.
Man is busy excavating a new hole from which to come, but in fact this will never alter the way in which God created Him, relates to Him and offers salvation, since there is simply no other way with God. He is Himself, and as Paul points out (Galatians 1:6ff.), he is not here to bring God to the ideas of man, but man to the provisions of God. He is not a mutual salesman: Look, ahem, God, I say, this would be better, don't you know - one side. I say, ah man, you see there is more point in this than you realise ... and so on. NO! Paul is not a visiting Secretary of State, but an emissary, an ambassador offering mercy in return to the changeless God, as spoiled creation, redeemed, by faith. It is not something else.
As to God, He does not get rattled, equivocate, diversify His character or mutate His will. Knowing the end from the beginning (cf. Isaiah 46, James 1:17), He is not built on emerging things, but has already built from His ultra-time eternity, the world and those in it. Knowing the beginning and the end: in both, HE is there!
Thus in Isaiah 43:13, He says:
"Indeed before the day was, I am He;
And there is no one who can deliver out of My hand; I work, and who will reverse it?”
With this, in 43:10-11, goes the fact that
"I, even I, am the Lord, and besides Me there is no saviour. I have declared and saved, I have proclaimed..."
Just so, He announces in Isaiah 45:22-23 that all the ends of the earth should look to Him and be saved. The reason is most clear, and it is this: "for I am God and there is no other."
How great is the vitality, perspicuity and wisdom of the God who works, speaks and precedes the creation of time, space and man, from whom all comes, to whom it goes, for its various destinies! Yet HE has gone to the ultimate destination, being accursed, accused for man, upon the Cross, that we might enjoy the destination apt for man, not with heavy-hearts, but those which live in joy at Him who has enjoined us to come, and to whom, in repentance and delight, we have come.
For a further exposition on Israel and what the Bible portends and predicts for it, see the next Chapter, and use this link.