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Delighting in the Apple Tree

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I am convinced that delighting in the Lord Jesus, as the Father delights in Him, is key to progressing in God’s things, to maturing to where God wants each of us to be, and in having victory over sin in our lives in its various forms. If our primary source of delight is Him, why would we look for satisfaction elsewhere? For example, you see it as one of the shining beacons of the Psalms, starting in the first Psalm, that the delight of the blessed man is in the law of the LORD – he loves it. He can’t get enough of it – meditating on it day and night. Delight drives him to it. And what I want to think about briefly in this post is of rooted in this idea of delight.

What I specifically want to look at is the apple tree in the Song of Solomon.

 

As an apple tree among the trees of the forest,

so is my beloved among the young men.

With great delight I sat in his shadow,

and his fruit was sweet to my taste.

He brought me to the banqueting house,

and his banner over me was love.

Sustain me with raisins;

refresh me with apples,

for I am sick with love.

Song of Solomon 2:3-5.

 

We are all aware, I’m sure, of the relationship that is portrayed in the Song of Solomon – that love and intimacy described between the bride and her bridegroom. And in the picture painted we see glimpses of the relationship of the Lord Jesus as Bridegroom, and His bride (the redeemed), that He will be joined to eternally. So we pay attention in the Song of Solomon to how the Bridegroom feels about the bride, because it tells us something of how the Lord Jesus feels about the redeemed – it is a book cherished by many because of that. And, likewise, we pay attention when the bride speaks of her love for the bridegroom, because we should see our love for the Lord Jesus mirrored there – and perhaps that is a challenge to us.

The bride says of Him, He is like an apple tree, among the trees of the forest.

There is something unique about Him, standing out from all others. You’ll remember elsewhere in the song, she says that he is distinguished among ten thousand. So what distinguishes the apple tree from the other trees of the forest?

  • The first is the simple point that it is a wonder that He would be found at all among the trees of the forest. The trees of the forest of course speak of other young men, and perhaps more widely of the whole human race. That our true bridegroom, the only Son of God, would become a man, and be found living among us, as an apple tree among the trees of the forest, is a remarkable thing.
  • The apple tree she is speaking about is likely to be the citron tree, which is evergreen – its canopy doesn’t fail, its shadow is always cast, providing protection. So this is the second reason why it stands out from the trees of the forest. And here is this word, delight. She sits down there in His shadow with great delight. You remember elsewhere when the word shadow is used in the Old Testament, it is about being concealed, safe, protected. You see it in the Psalms, where the Psalmist declares, “How precious is your unfailing love, O God! Both high and low among men find refuge in the shadow of your wings”. That unfailing love is seen in the shadow cast by the evergreen – always there, always overshadowing us. And elsewhere the Psalmist praises God saying, “I sing in the shadow of your wings”. Do you delight to find yourself in His shadow? His unfailing love and protection overshadows us every day – do you sing in His shadow in appreciation of it? There may also be an aspect of this to do with our quiet times as well – though in one sense His shadow is always over us, we can consciously seek it out to delight in Him in our quiet times. I sat under your shadow with great delight – there is a sense there of lingering, of not rushing away from our quiet times with the Lord Jesus.
  • Maybe the most unique thing about Him, as He stands in contrast to the trees of the forest is His fruit. You notice there is no fruit spoken about from the other trees. But she says, His fruit was sweet to my taste. This is really where the delight comes in for us – when we taste and see that He is good. So we have had the thought of sitting in His shadow, just enjoying His presence – but we go beyond that now to taste the fruit that comes from the Lord Jesus. It is speaking about His characters and His accomplished work, and our enjoyment of His character and work – His perfect righteousness, and absolute balance of grace and truth, His gentleness, His unparalleled wisdom. The fruit of the Spirit as expressed and embodied in the life of the Lord Jesus. And how that character is worked out in the giving of Himself to redeem us for God. Is it sweet to you? Do you find yourself wanting to go back to Him for more? You know, our palate changes depending on our eating habits. If His fruit isn’t sweet to you, perhaps you (perhaps I) have been consuming the wrong things. But the more time we spend enjoying aspects of His character and work, the sweeter His fruit becomes to us. Notice what the bride says in verse 5 – the apples refresh her. If we are not with Him, enjoying His character and work, and how they have enriched our lives, we will grow tired in our lives of service. What is it that refreshes us? I sat under His shadow with great delight and His fruit was sweet to my taste. If we are not consciously doing that, enjoying that, delighting in that, we won’t be refreshed in our service for God.

 

I want look at another aspect, here, and it is moving from the words of the bride to the words of the Bridegroom this time:

Oh may your breasts be like clusters of the vine,

and the scent of your breath like apples,

and your mouth like the best wine.

Song of Solomon 7:8

 

Of course, I want to just mention the scent of her breath. Of apples, because of what she has been eating – she has been feasting on the fruit that refreshes her, that is sweet to her taste. And the bridegroom can tell – it’s obvious that she has been doing that, he can smell apples on her breath.

Can others tell that we have been with the Lord Jesus, delighting to sit in His shadow, refreshed by the fruit that He bears? Is the scent of His fruit on our breath, as it were, in our speech, in our actions? Can people see His character in us? More importantly, can the bridegroom Himself, the Lord Jesus, see His character developing in us, see that we have been feasting on His fruit? It brings Him joy to see it.

The last mention of the apple tree in Song of Songs is chapter 8:5:

Under the apple tree I awakened you.

There is some confusion here as to who is speaking. The context suggests it is the bridegroom, but the text doesn’t make it clear. But it makes sense for it to be the bridegroom, because he says, “under the apple tree I awakened you”. The literal translation is, “under the apple tree I began to woo you”. We have found love with God under the apple tree, under the person of Jesus Christ, and if we lose our love for Him, this is where we will find it again, it is there that we are wooed – under the apple tree, under the unique tree that stands out from the other trees of the forest, that always casts its protective shadow over us, that provides for us fruit that is sweet to our taste. Let’s consciously seek out His shadow and delight in those things.

 

I want to finish with a poem, Jesus Christ the apple tree (author unknown), which is very beautiful in the light of the consideration of Song of Songs:

 

The tree of life my soul hath seen,

Laden with fruit, and always green;

The trees of nature fruitless be,

Compar’d with Christ the Appletree.
 

This beauty doth all things excel,

By faith I know, but ne’er can tell

The glory which I now can see,

In Jesus Christ the Appletree.

 

 

For happiness I long have sought,

And pleasure dearly I have bought;

I miss’d of all; but now I see

‘Tis found in Christ the Appletree.
 

I’m weary’d with my former toil—

Here I will sit and rest awhile,

Under the shadow I will be,

Of Jesus Christ the Appletree.
 

With great delight I’ll make my stay,

There’s none shall fright my soul away;
Among the sons of men I see

There’s none like Christ the Appletree.
 

I’ll sit and eat this fruit divine,

It cheers my heart like spirit’al wine;

And now this fruit is sweet to me,

That grows on Christ the Appletree.
 

This fruit doth make my soul to thrive,

It keeps my faltering faith alive;

Which makes my soul in haste to be

With Jesus Christ the Appletree.

“…they may be one” – the Churches of God facebook page

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Hi all – just a quick post to draw your attention to the Facebook page of the Churches of God. Click on the image to visit the page, and hit the ‘like’ button to receives news and teaching resources on your Facebook News Feed.

Screen shot 2013-10-09 at 18.57.47

Christ crucified (4)

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Then one of them, named Cleopas, answered him, “Are you the only visitor to Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?” And he said to them, “What things?” And they said to him, “Concerning Jesus of Nazareth, a man who was a prophetmighty in deed and word before God and all the people, and how our chief priests and rulers delivered him up to be condemned to death, and crucified him. But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel. Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since these things happened. Moreover, some women of our company amazed us.They were at the tomb early in the morning, and when they did not find his body, they came back saying that they had even seen a vision of angels, who said that he was alive. Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but him they did not see.” And he said to them, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.

Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, and said to them,“Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem.

Luke 24: 18 – 27,  46 – 47.

 

It was necessary, by God’s design, that the Christ, Messiah, must suffer, and then enter into His glory – in fact, the cross was a part of the setting up of that Kingdom that will never end, and of the nations being His possession (the promise of Psalm 2) – so how wonderful that His Kingship was displayed over His head as He endured God’s wrath over the sin of the world.

I want to think for a moment about what the Lord was speaking about when He referred to the prophesied sufferings of the Messiah. I’m sure He took the disciples to the Psalms, for example.

Psalm 22, written by King David – the Lord’s anointed: My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me and from the words of my groaning?… For Dogs encompass me; a company of evildoers encircles me; they have pierced my hands and my feet. The suffering of the Messiah, and a suffering described in Psalm 22 that went beyond anything great David suffered – prophetically looking forward to the suffering of his greater Son. Forsaken by God as He laid on Him your sin and mine, and poured out His anger and punishment on Him.

I’m sure, too, that the Lord took His disciples to Isaiah’s servant songs (each Messianic in content). I don’t have space to quote them all in full, or to think about them in any detail here – maybe another time. But here is a very short summary:

  • Isaiah 42, the servant is the chosen One, who will bring justice to the nations.
  • Isaiah 49, the servant is the One who will redeem Israel, and in fact that redeeming act will be so potent that it will spill over to all the nations so that God’s salvation will reach the ends of the earth.

Familiar language in terms of Messiah so far, but now things start to change:

  • Isaiah 50, the servant is the One who is obedient to God, even in the face of those who pull out His beard and spit in His face.
  • Isaiah 53, the servant is the One who will bear the suffering and the punishment due to others, to bring them peace. A man of sorrows and acquainted with grief.

 

Yes, Messiah must suffer – and then, equally, He must enter into His glory. And He has done that too! God has ensured it. The writer to the Hebrews says when Christ [that is, when Messiah] had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, waiting from that time until his enemies should be made a footstool for his feet. Yes, He has entered into His glory.

—-

 

So, I hope we have scraped the surface of what Paul was trying to evoke when he put down those words – Christ crucified. A stumbling block to the Jews. For sure, it was.

But what is ‘Christ crucified‘ to you?

To those who believe, it is everything. To those who believe, Christ crucified is what we have built our lives on, our very identifies, our hopes and dreams are anchored right there. To us who are called, Paul says, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. God’s power and wisdom are displayed in the crucified Christ. Not maybe how we would have tried to rescue the human race – but God’s salvation comes by no other means than believing in that the Christ, the everlasting King who has all things as His inheritance, was crucified to take God’s punishment for my sin so that I would never have to face it.

Of course, just because He was crucified, doesn’t mean He isn’t still the King – the sign above His head was true before, during and after His crucifixion. In fact, His suffering only means that He has a higher place now – He has redeemed people for God, worshippers, who will be to the praise of His glory eternally. And we have the honour of serving that King, in His Kingdom – a Kingdom that cannot be shaken, where His rule is overall, and where we are obedient as subjects. But it’s not an oppressive regime, is it? It’s not about rules, but about love, joy and peace in the Holy Spirit, in acceptable service.

Let us serve Messiah King to the best of our ability, by God’s grace.

Christ crucified (3)

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And what does it mean that Jesus was crucified?

I quote from historian Martin Hengel:

“Crucifixion was a political and military punishment… the Romans used it on the lower classes – slaves, violent criminals, and unruly elements of society. Crucifying an individual satisfied principally a lust for revenge and brought great sadistic pleasure. By displaying the victim naked, at a prominent place, crucifixion represented the uttermost of humiliation. Jesus did not die a gentle death… much less passing on “old and full of years” like the fathers of the Old Testament. Rather, he died like a slave or a common criminal, in torment, on the tree of shame… Jesus did not just die any death; He was “given up for us all” on the cross, in a cruel and contemptible way”.

 

We preach Christ crucified.

The Messiah, chosen for glory, the King who will have everlasting dominion – we preach that He died like a criminal in torment.

So they took Jesus, and he went out, bearing his own cross, to the place called The Place of a Skull, which in Aramaic is called Golgotha.There they crucified him, and with him two others, one on either side, and Jesus between them. Pilate also wrote an inscription and put it on the cross. It read, “Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews.” Many of the Jews read this inscription, for the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city, and it was written in Aramaic, in Latin, and in Greek. So the chief priests of the Jews said to Pilate, “Do not write, ‘The King of the Jews,’ but rather, ‘This man said, I am King of the Jews.’” Pilate answered, “What I have written I have written.” John 19:17-22.

 

Christ crucified. To the Jews, it was unthinkable. It would have seemed paradoxical, oxymoronic, that the Christ should be crucified. That is why Paul says it is a stumbling block to Jews. Something they just could not get their heads around.

The Christ, Messiah, the King, crucified? How could that possibly be? You remember what David said about stretching forth his hand against Saul, then the Lord’s anointed… something you would never do. The LORD forbid it, David said. Unthinkable. And yet here we are, with the ultimate Anointed One, true Messiah, being nailed to a cross in the horrific manner described by Martin Hengel. The King of the Jews written above His head – an irony deeper than Pilate could have realised. Here was the One chosen to be King of an everlasting Kingdom, hanging on a cruel Roman cross.

The gospels are, or should have been, the climax of the story of Israel being God’s possession – the time when God Himself reached into their situation to buy them back for good. But they would not. Because they could not accept the chosen One and the manner in which He would redeem them – by giving Himself to death on a cross, taking God’s punishment for their sin, and thereby liberating them with God. Rather, they sought a Messiah who would set up His Kingdom forever, liberating them from Roman oppression. Messiah, after all, is the one chosen for everlasting dominion – we’ve thought of what the Old Testament says of Messiah. So wasn’t that a reasonable thing to be looking for?

But there is more to this puzzle…

Christ crucified (2)

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Why do the nations rage

and the peoples plot in vain?

The kings of the earth set themselves,

and the rulers take counsel together,

against the Lord and against his Anointed, saying,

“Let us burst their bonds apart

and cast away their cords from us.”

He who sits in the heavens laughs;

the Lord holds them in derision.

Then he will speak to them in his wrath,

and terrify them in his fury, saying,

“As for me, I have set my King

on Zion, my holy hill.”

I will tell of the decree:

The Lord said to me, “You are my Son;

today I have begotten you.

Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage,

and the ends of the earth your possession.

Psalm 2:1-8

 

Kings and rulers set themselves, and take counsel, against the LORD and against His anointed. The word ‘anointed’ there is the Hebrew word mashiah, where we get our word Messiah. They have set themselves against the LORD and against His Messiah.  The Messiah is the central theme of this Psalm, and we see that it is linked closely to kingship. Israel, of course, would have seen it as a reference to their contemporary king. Israel placed huge importance on having peace and prosperity in the land that God had given to them – that is what they saw as their inheritance from God. So it was very important for them that a king was on the throne in Zion, Jerusalem, and that king was placed there by God.

That is what Messiah was chosen for, anointed for. For glory. For the throne. For kingship. For Zion!

But, as I’ve said before, the Psalm spills over from simply referring to the contemporary king of Israel – there are things in here that find their ultimate fulfillment in God the Son, in Jesus Christ. He it is whom God has set in Zion – not just earthly Zion, but the Heavenly, true, eternal Zion – the throne room of the universe, if you will. He it is to whom YHWH said, ‘You are my Son, today I have begotten you’, or revealed you (NLT). He it is that God will gave the nations to, and the ends of the earth as His possession. Those verses don’t really apply to the then king of Israel, except perhaps on some aspiration level. But they find their fulfillment in Jesus, called Christ.

The Messiah King was chosen to rule, chosen for glory, for the throne, for Zion.

 

That is a recurring them about Messiah as we look through the Old Testament. For example, look at Daniel 7:

“I saw in the night visions,

and behold, with the clouds of heaven

there came one like a son of man,

and he came to the Ancient of Days

and was presented before him.

And to him was given dominion

and glory and a kingdom,

that all peoples, nations, and languages

should serve him;

his dominion is an everlasting dominion,

which shall not pass away,

and his kingdom one

that shall not be destroyed.”

 

Daniel sees one like the son of man coming before the Ancient of Days (God). And to that one was given dominion and glory and a kingdom so that all peoples and nations and languages should serve Him – and His dominion will be everlasting and His kingdom will never end. That’s the language of Messiah and the glory that awaits Him!

 

When we say that Jesus is the Messiah, or the Christ, that is what we mean. He is the LORD’s anointed – chosen to be King of a Kingdom that will never end, and all things will be His, ruling from Zion.

Christ crucified (1)

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Over the coming days I want to consider a little two-word phrase used by the apostle Paul – a phrase that is far reaching it is in its meaning.

Let’s start by reading the verses were it is found:

 

For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to uswho are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written,

“I will destroy the wisdom of the wise,

and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.”

Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe. For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.

1 Corinthians 1: 18 – 25 (ESV).

 

Paul was writing to the Church of God in Corinth about how difficult it was for people to accept the message of the cross . It is important to grasp that God’s wisdom isn’t the same as the wisdom of the world. God’s way of bringing people back to Himself, of redeeming lost men and women, of purchasing them back from ruin (we might say bailing them out), of rescuing us, is far outside this world’s way of thinking, and far outside people’s concept of what a typical rescue plan might look like.

The phrase I want to unpack a little is Christ crucified. Two words that, by human way of thinking, should never be put together – and I can’t stress that strongly enough; we’ll thinking about why in a moment. Two words that sit very uncomfortably side by side, by our human standard of wisdom. But by God’s grace, they, and the truth that they represent, in the person of the crucified Christ, contain the explosive power to bring us out of the darkness of our sin and into the glorious light of God’s love and plan for us.

Christ crucified. Let’s think about what it means.

First of all, what does it mean that Jesus was the Christ? The Greek word that is translated as ‘Christ’ in our New Testament is Christos, which means ‘anointed’, or ‘chosen’. But a key to understanding the significance of what Paul was saying is the fact that the Septuagint (the Greek version of the Old Testament that would have been widely read by Christians and Jews at the time of Paul’s writing) translates the Hebrew word masiah, where we get our anglicised ‘messiah’, as christos. Why is that important? It means that the New Testament word translated as ‘Christ’ is the direct counterpart of the Hebrew Old Testament word translated as ‘Messiah’ (also meaning ‘anointed’ or ‘chosen’).

So, to say that Jesus is the Christ (as He is revealed to be in the New Testament) is to say that He is Messiah, and is to acknowledge that God made Him (His Son) to be the Christ. God the Son is God the Father’s chosen One.

Chosen for what? Tomorrow we’ll look at some Old Testament texts that will help us to answer that.

Christ in the offerings – notes on the Levitical offerings from Mixed Week 2013. PART 5

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The Guilt Offering (Leviticus 5:14-6:7, 7:1-7).

What caused the offerer to bring it?

Unintentional sin in regard to holy things, or deceiving your neighbour (something that the offerer must have been aware they were doing – but once they recognized their guilt, they acted and brought their offering).

 

How might it relate to us experientially?

Particularly relevant to us in what it teaches us about interpersonal relationships – the problems that arise when we put ourselves first, when we deceive and when we damage our relationship with others (and especially those with whom we serve).

…forgive us our debts,

as we also have forgiven our debtors.

And lead us not into temptation,

but deliver us from evil.

For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses. Matthew 6:12-14

“If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.Truly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. Again I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.” Matthew 18:15-20

Both passages speak about restoring our relationship with those whom we have offended or who have offended us. This should be done (as in Leviticus 6) before offering to God (we’ll return to this briefly when we think about our application to worship in the Remembrance).

What was the unique characteristic?

The offering was about making restitutionplus 20%! This offering does not seem to be ‘means-tested’ as other offerings were (when an offering could bring a bull, a sheep/goat, or a turtledove – whatever they could afford). The offering to God needed to be a ram – specified in Leviticus 5 & 6.

 

What does that indicate that God valued about it?

But the Lord was pleased
To crush Him, putting Him to grief;
If He would render Himself as a guilt offering,
He will see His offspring,
He will prolong His days,
And the good pleasure of the Lord will prosper in His hand. Isaiah 53:10

What I did not steal must I now restore? Psalm 69:4

God valued the fact the offerings spoke of restitution being made by the Lord Jesus at Calvary – He restored that which He did not take (and what we could never, ever, have restored ourselves), as the Psalm prophetically refers to. And it wasn’t just restitution – it is restitution PLUS! God is eternally advantaged by Calvary. The end, when He will eternally have worshippers brought by His Son who has redeemed them, and Christ will have the highest place because of the eternal value of His cross work, is better even than Eden!

We sometimes sing:

Thou findest in that spotless One

Where all perfections dwell,

All that Thy heart could wish for us,

All that Thou ‘ere couldst tell.

Thou findest righteous, ransomed, fair,

Where all Thy joys transcendent are,

In Him, a People for Thy praise,

Thy glory through eternal days. 

Because of Calvary, God (in His Son) has a People for His praise, eternally. Restitution indeed!

 

How might we try to emulate Christ in this?

Perhaps the spirit of Zacchaeus – restitution and much more besides! Going beyond His requirements with a willingness to give much more.

 

How was it conducted at the Tabernacle?

Application to worship at the Remembrance?

These two questions go together today – the offering was conducted at the Tabernacle when the offerer had already made peace with His neighbour (Leviticus 6). We are back to Matthew chapters 6 and 18 – the need to resolve problems with those with whom we serve before we go to offer our thankgivings to God.

———–

I know this week has been a bit of a whistle-stop tour of the Levitical offerings – it is really all I had time to do! These notes, as I said on Monday, came from a week of study with Brian Johnston, a full time Ministering Brother in the churches of God. Despite the speed with which we have covered things this week, I hope it has been helpful in someway.

The Lord talked with those disciples on the Emmaus Road about the things concerning Himself in all the scriptures – perhaps He talked about Christ in the offerings that day! May our hearts burn within us (as those disciples) as we look into these things further and more deeply.