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Our prayers are important

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Aug 31, 2014

ripples-in-water

And why should we pray for these things – joining Anne Lotz in prayers for Jerusalem as requested below? Won’t God do just exactly what He chooses regardless of what we say to Him in prayer?

In the second chapter of Daniel, we see a plan of God that He was setting in motion. He revealed some deep, significant things to the greatest ruler of the day, Nebuchadnezzar King of Babylon. He gave the king a dream. Only He didn’t give the king any understanding of its meaning, because another piece of His plan was to use these events to raise up the Hebrew captive Daniel to a place where he could be fully used for God’s purposes. So we can see God’s plan here. Surely God will just put everything in place, right?

But notice this – for it to all come together, Daniel would have to know both the dream and its meaning… and Daniel didn’t have a clue – not until he had asked God in prayer for mercy and understanding, and asked his friends to do the same. Only then did God reveal the mystery and its interpretation to Daniel. So Daniel’s submission to God in prayer was part of God’s plan – without which the plan would not have come together.

Our prayers are important. Possibly an important key to the accomplishment of all that God has ordained.

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As a result of Daniel’s prayers, God’s purpose was accomplished – to deliver Daniel, his friends, and the other wise men from execution; to put Daniel in a position where the King would respect and listen to him; and to pass on an important message to the King of Babylon.

But the message of the dream – it feels so obscure and abstract. Why was this an important part of the plan? Wouldn’t a person have to be a Bible scholar to understand it?

Well, if we take a close look, maybe it really isn’t all that complicated. A statue, representing first the kingdom of Babylon, and then three more kingdoms to follow, after which the God of heaven would do an unexpected thing, establishing the beginning of an eternal Kingdom – a rock which would grow into a huge mountain filling the whole earth.

Bible scholars say that it’s clear from history what three kingdoms followed Babylon. After Babylon the head of gold, came Persia – the chest of silver, and then Greece – the belly and thighs of bronze, and finally Rome – the legs and feet of iron and clay.

And the rock cut out without the help of human hands, which in the end takes the place of all these previous kingdoms?

Well, we know one very significant thing which happened while Rome was in power. That’s when Yeshua, Jesus, the Messiah was born. He came and accomplished probably the very most significant thing ever, which had been on God’s agenda since the dawn of time. He made a way for us all to be delivered from the power of darkness and the power of sin. He was crucified by Roman soldiers, died, and was laid in a tomb, but for an important purpose – so that He could defeat death once and for all, not only for Himself but for all who would believe in Him, and rise again victorious.

Notice that Yeshua is referred to in many places as a rock, or stone – in Matt 21:42-43, Mark 12:9-11, Luke 20:17-18, Acts 4:10-11, and the original reference that these all refer to, Psalm 118:22-24, which says “The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone. The Lord has done this, and it is marvelous in our eyes. This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.” A very special day – this day which the Lord had ordained from the foundation of the world – the day of His victory over sin and death.

And this stone’s, or rock’s, being cut out without the help of human hands – Perhaps this refers to Yeshua’s supernatural origin – that He existed long before He was born, and was born of a virgin, with no human father.

Pondering this thought… Isaiah 51:1-2 provides a helpful insight into what it means to be cut out of a rock: “Listen to me, you who pursue righteousness and who seek the LORD: Look to the rock from which you were cut and to the quarry from which you were hewn; look to Abraham, your father, and to Sarah, who gave you birth.” It’s talking about human birth in terms of being “cut out of a rock” – with a human father or ancestor being the “rock” from which we were cut. Now, to also think of God the Father as a “Rock” is quite familiar from Scripture, occurring in Gen 49:24, Deu 32:4, 15, 18, 30, 31, 1 Sam 2:2, 2 Sam 22:2, 3, 32, 47, 23:3, Psa 18:2, 31, 46, 19:14, 28:1, 31:2-3, 42:9, 61:2, 62:2, 6, 7, 71:3, 78:35, 89:26, 92:15, 94:22, 95:1, 144:1, Isa 17:18, 26:4, 30:29, 44:8. (Also one reference in Deu 32:37 uses “rock” in a more generic sense, referring to any “god” that men try to take refuge in.)

So the Messiah was cut from a Rock – with God the Father being this Rock. The fact that this wasn’t an ordinary human conception, entirely supernatural, is reflected by the statement that this Rock was cut out “without human hands”. This Rock was cut from a Rock – from a very large rock – from a mountain (Dan 2:45). And this Rock after having been cut out was to become a mountain itself – a huge mountain that would fill the whole earth (Dan 2:35)

The new Kingdom starting out small, but then growing into a mountain which filled the whole earth – This is paralleled by Yeshua’s parable of the Kingdom of Heaven in Matt 13:31-33, Mark 4:30-32, and Luke 13:18-21, in which He says that it would start out like the smallest of seeds, but grow to become a large tree which lets the birds perch on its branches. This picture of a large tree providing nesting places for birds is another normal symbol for a kingdom, as seen in Ezekiel 17:22-24 and Daniel 4:9-12 & 20-22.

And after Yeshua was raised again to life, spent 40 more days with His disciples, and then ascended to heaven, notice what happened next. We’re told in many places – in Mark 16:19, Acts 2:32-33, Heb 1:3, Heb 8:1, Heb 10:12, and Heb 12:1-2, that after He had completed the atonement for sin, he ascended to heaven and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. This tells us that the eternal Kingdom had begun. When the Holy Spirit was poured out on the first believers at Pentecost, at this point the Kingdom had already begun. Still small, but growing like that mustard seed, and like that supernaturally-formed stone which had struck the feet of the statue in Nebuchadnezzar’s dream.

So this message to Nebuchadnezzar, and to all of us through the details that Daniel recorded, really is an important message. It’s a very significant message, telling us of the coming work that would be accomplished by the Lord of heaven and earth, to begin a restoration and healing process for this world which had gone so sadly astray.

Maybe it’s most important of all to us who are now able to look back on it, and to recognize the significant work of atonement accomplished for us by the Messiah, so that if we simply put our faith and trust in what He’s already done for us, we will stand among the redeemed, delivered from sin, and restored to relationship with the Father, with our names now written forever in the Lamb’s book of life.

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So – soon after the Messiah’s resurrection the eternal kingdom had begun.

But how long would it take for this Kingdom to grow, and to fill the whole earth as seen in Nebuchadnezzar’s dream? In the Scriptures we find many references to the words ‘The Lord said to my Lord: “Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet.” ’ We find these words in Matt 22:44, Mark 12:36, Luke 20:42, Acts 2:34-35, Heb 1:13, and Heb 10:13. They refer to the same event we just talked about – Yeshua’s sitting down at the right hand of the Father after His atoning work had been completed. These words originally come from Psalm 110:1.

But for how long? “Until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet”. The Kingdom had begun, with the Father and Son reigning side by side from Heaven. It had started out very small – and from the perspective of most men on earth didn’t seem to be anything at all. But the Messiah’s role was now to wait patiently for the Father’s remaining work on earth to be completed. Not until then would the Messiah begin His visible earthly reign.

So when would this happen – the beginning of His visible earthly reign?

We can clearly say that it hasn’t happened yet. For almost 2000 years the Father has been working to complete what He promised, setting everything in place for the Messiah’s reign to begin in earnest. But we can get a bit more information if we go back to where the words originally came from in Psalm 110:1-4 —

1 The LORD says to my Lord:
“Sit at my right hand
until I make your enemies
a footstool for your feet.”

2 The LORD will extend your mighty scepter from Zion;
you will rule in the midst of your enemies.

3 Your troops will be willing
on your day of battle.
Arrayed in holy majesty,
from the womb of the dawn
you will receive the dew of your youth.

4 The LORD has sworn
and will not change his mind:
“You are a priest forever,
in the order of Melchizedek.”

Beginning not long before His crucifixion, Yeshua became our High Priest, in order to offer the final sacrifice to atone for our sin once and for all. He is our High Priest, not from the Levitical line of Aaron, but after the order of Melchizedek; our priest forever. Then after His resurrection, between His ascension and the day of Pentecost, Yeshua sat at the right hand of the Father’s throne. These two pieces, from verses 1 and 4, have already been set in place.

Verses 2 and 3 are the part that is yet in our future, to happen when the Father has completed His task of putting the Messiah’s enemies under His feet. The Father will extend the Messiah’s scepter from Zion – from the city of Jerusalem – beginning His time of earthly rule.

Maybe this is one good reason to join in the prayers for Jerusalem tomorrow. We don’t know when the Messiah’s earthly reign is to begin, but we do know that it is on the Father’s agenda, that when it happens it is to be from the city of Jerusalem, that right now things are not going all that well for Jerusalem, and that the Father wants to hear from us about these things and let us be a part of the solution just as He intends for us to be.

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Oct 25, 2015 – some followup thoughts, more fully outlining the references to Yeshua as our cornerstone. Speaking to the Pharisees who oppose Him, in Matt 21:42-43 and Luke 20:17-18 Yeshua is warning them what will happen to them – that if they continue in their opposition Him, they will fall and be broken. Then some years later looking back on these things, the apostle Paul confirms in Romans 9:30-33 that this is exactly what has happened.

Psalm 118:22-24
The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; the LORD has done this, and it is marvelous in our eyes. This is the day the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.

Isaiah 28:16
See, I lay a stone in Zion, a tested stone, a precious cornerstone for a sure foundation

Isaiah 8:14-15
and he (Yahweh Almighty) will be a sanctuary; but for both houses of Israel he will be a stone that causes men to stumble and a rock that makes them fallAnd for the people of Jerusalem he will be a trap and a snare. Many of them will stumble; they will fall and be brokenthey will be snared and captured.”

Matt 21:42-43
Jesus said to them, “Have you never read in the Scriptures: ‘The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; the Lord has done this, and it is marvelous in our eyes’? Therefore I tell you that the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people who will produce its fruit. He who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces, but he on whom it falls will be crushed.

Mark 12:9-11
“What then will the owner of the vineyard do? He will come and kill those tenants and give the vineyard to others. Haven’t you read this scripture: ‘The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; the Lord has done this, and it is marvelous in our eyes’?”

Luke 20:17-18
Jesus looked directly at them and asked, “Then what is the meaning of that which is written: ‘The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone’ ? Everyone who falls on that stone will be broken to pieces, but he on whom it falls will be crushed.”

Acts 4:10-11
It is by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified but whom God raised from the dead, that this man stands before you healed. He is ‘the stone you builders rejected, which has become the cornerstone.’

Rom 9:30-33
What then shall we say? That the Gentiles, who did not pursue righteousness, have obtained it, a righteousness that is by faith; but Israel, who pursued a law of righteousness, has not attained it. Why not? Because they pursued it not by faith but as if it were by works. They stumbled over the “stumbling stone.” As it is written: “See, I lay in Zion a stone that causes men to stumble and a rock that makes them fall, and the one who trusts in him will never be put to shame.”

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