If Your Eye is Single

The other day I was driving in my car and bring something before the Lord. What I heard in my spirit in answer to my question was, “If your eye is single your whole body will be full of light.” This is from Jesus teaching in Matthew 6:22. The word ‘single’ comes from the old KJV. The NKJV translates it below as ‘good.’

21  For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. 22  The lamp of the body is the eye. If therefore your eye is good, your whole body will be full of light. Matthew 6:21-22 (NKJV)

Over the years I have spent a good deal of time reflecting on verse 21 as I see our heart as the capacity to treasure things, more particularly either the things of the spirit or the things of the soul. At the same time I had spent little time on verse 22. I have casually thought of it as needing to pay attention to what we look at. This time what the Holy Spirit brought to me over and over again was the role of our thinking/imagination in relation to our looking. How and what we see is greatly determined by how we look.

To bring this point home let me share a story I read. This fellow described being on the subway and seeing a father and two young children get on. The children were bothering the other passengers and the father was doing nothing to intervene. The author made some judgments and decided to intervene and get the fellow to be a responsible father. He said, “Excuse me, I don’t know if you noticed but your children are bothering the other passengers.” The ‘neglectful’ father sort of came out of a fog and responded, “I’m sorry, we just came from the hospital where their mother died.” What do you think happened to the first man’s view? What changed in the situation? One thing only. How he thought about this father.

This took me back to Philippians 4:8. If we want our eyes to be single we need to be intentional about our thinking.

8  Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy – meditate on these things. Philippians 4:8 (NKJV)

If we train our minds to meditate, to think deeply on things that are noble, just, pure, lovely and good that is the filter through which we will see the world around us. How are things looking?

And He Became Flesh

We have just celebrated Jesus death and resurrection. Obviously neither would have been possible without His birth. Let’s reflect a bit on what happened.

We know from the scriptures that Yahweh’s nature is revealed in creation.

20  For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse, Romans 1:20 (NKJV)

1  The heavens declare the glory of God; And the firmament shows His handiwork. Psalm 19:1 (NKJV)

Yet in addition to creation we needed a fuller revelation of the Godhead which came about through Jesus becoming flesh.

14  And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth. John 1:14 (NKJV)

8  Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ. 9  For in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily; 10  and you are complete in Him, who is the head of all principality and power. Colossians 2:8-10 (NKJV)

God’s glory is his character (see Ex. 33:18-19, 34:5-8). Jesus coming into the world was also a further unveiling of the Father’s heart and Jesus told Thomas, and by extension us, that to see Him was to see the Father (Jn. 14:9). So to both understand and experience the glory of God we need to simply meditate on how Jesus interacted with people, for in those interactions we also have the Father and Spirit revealed.

What is Jesus like? He displayed no tolerance for religion and deception when, for example, He cleansed the temple and exposed false motives. At the same time He was infinitely patience and compassionate with the sincere and broken hearted and revealed a deep love for all who sought truth. So, let us reflect on His character (glory) as revealed in the gospels and sit with Him and experience His love and tender heart and in return pour out our love for Him and seek His face.

What a Beautiful Name by Hillsong unveils this somewhat.

Camping in the Wrong Place

Have you ever had a bad experience camping? You picked what seemed like a good spot and then due to bad weather, bad camping neighbours or a variety of other things it turned out to not be as good as it looked?

What does camping have to do with our spiritual walk? At times where we want to camp is the wrong place. Look at the passages below.

1  Now after six days Jesus took Peter, James, and John his brother, led them up on a high mountain by themselves; 2  and He was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and His clothes became as white as the light. 3  And behold, Moses and Elijah appeared to them, talking with Him. 4  Then Peter answered and said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good for us to be here; if You wish, let us make here three tabernacles: one for You, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” 5  While he was still speaking, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them; and suddenly a voice came out of the cloud, saying, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. Hear Him!” 6  And when the disciples heard it, they fell on their faces and were greatly afraid. 7  But Jesus came and touched them and said, “Arise, and do not be afraid.” 8  When they had lifted up their eyes, they saw no one but Jesus only. Matthew 17:1-8 (NKJV)

2  Now after six days Jesus took Peter, James, and John, and led them up on a high mountain apart by themselves; and He was transfigured before them. 3  His clothes became shining, exceedingly white, like snow, such as no launderer on earth can whiten them. 4  And Elijah appeared to them with Moses, and they were talking with Jesus. 5  Then Peter answered and said to Jesus, “Rabbi, it is good for us to be here; and let us make three tabernacles: one for You, one for Moses, and one for Elijah”- 6  because he did not know what to say, for they were greatly afraid. 7  And a cloud came and overshadowed them; and a voice came out of the cloud, saying, “This is My beloved Son. Hear Him!” Mark 9:2-7 (NKJV) 

28  Now it came to pass, about eight days after these sayings, that He took Peter, John, and James and went up on the mountain to pray. 29  As He prayed, the appearance of His face was altered, and His robe became white and glistening. 30  And behold, two men talked with Him, who were Moses and Elijah, 31  who appeared in glory and spoke of His decease which He was about to accomplish at Jerusalem. 32  But Peter and those with him were heavy with sleep; and when they were fully awake, they saw His glory and the two men who stood with Him. 33  Then it happened, as they were parting from Him, that Peter said to Jesus, “Master, it is good for us to be here; and let us make three tabernacles: one for You, one for Moses, and one for Elijah”-not knowing what he said. 34  While he was saying this, a cloud came and overshadowed them; and they were fearful as they entered the cloud. 35  And a voice came out of the cloud, saying, “This is My beloved Son. Hear Him!” Luke 9:28-35 (NKJV)

In the three parallel passages above we see some different aspects of the story. We know from all three that while speaking with Moses and Elijah Jesus was transfigured before Peter, James and John. We also know from all three that Peter suggested they build three tabernacles (small temporary shelters). Putting the three together we know that Peter spoke out of fear and a desire to ‘do’ something and that they were sleepy and awoke seeing His glory. At the same time the desire to build the three tabernacles points to Peter’s desire to ‘camp’ at this experience. It was good and Peter wanted to prolong it. Yet when the Father spoke His it was clear that Moses and Elijah, representing the law and the prophets, were there to point to Jesus. They were prophets, Jesus is the Son, the eternal preexistent One.

Have we ever had experiences with Jesus that we seek to replicate or camp at? A good meeting or worship experience? A key experience during a prayer time? These experiences are a byproduct of being with Jesus so if our focus is on them rather than Jesus we can miss our purpose and calling. This glorious experience of the transfiguration was part of preparation for the horror of Gethsemane and the Cross. They both led to something much greater, the resurrection, yet had they “camped” with Jesus on the mountaintop they would have never come back to the valley to the most important event in human history. Jesus sacrificial death and resurrection.

At times we need to stop ‘camping’ at the good to get to the best. In referring to Jesus Paul said, “25  who was delivered up because of our offenses, and was raised because of our justification.” Romans 4:25 (NKJV) They both needed to happen and neither would have without leaving behind the transfiguration. So the only place we can ‘camp’ is in our relationship with Jesus and then going where He leads. Our lives are to be reshaped and transformed through the power of the resurrection. That is the ultimate experience – being found in Him.

After all, if our faith does not affect how we live, then pray tell what does it affect?

Intimacy Opportunities Part 7

I have one more intimacy opportunity to share. The power of reading and meditating on the word of God. I believe that while we easily acknowledge the value of the scriptures I am not sure how much we actually understand their value in practice. As a side note, a key way we can value the scriptures is by embracing what Isaiah spoke and wrote.

20  To the law and to the testimony! If they do not speak according to this word, it is because there is no light in them. Isaiah 8:20 (NKJV)

Whatever experiences we may have need to be filtered through and weighed against the truth of scripture. Yet the scriptures are also designed to lead us to experiencing Jesus.

18  But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord. 2 Corinthians 3:18 (NKJV)

12  For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. Hebrews 4:12 (NKJV)

As we sit with and interact with His word He changes us. We encounter Jesus and begin to differentiate between the desires of our soul and the leading of His Spirit. At times we may feel the change and at other times we may only know it because others observe it.

As we read ( I recommend reading aloud, there is a different dynamic) and meditate on Jesus word we encounter life. In fact Jesus is very explicit about what His words contain, we simply need to habitually eat this food for our spirits.  

63  It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing. The words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life. John 6:63 (NKJV)

As a further example, below is something I have written for myself and though I am not 100% successful I desire to do it every day and recognize that some days are better than none. My goal is to meditate on these verses and encounter Jesus in the process, which I regularly do. Join me if you like. 

  • Sit in the light of Your presence and be renewed and restored. See You healing every part of me. Practice Is. 40:31 and Rom. 8:11 each day. Carry this throughout the day. Remember, Jesus is never in a hurry, He walks in His Father, I walk in Him. Spirit, soul and body are designed to live in and from a state of repose.

31  But those who wait on the LORD Shall renew their strength; They shall mount up with wings like eagles, They shall run and not be weary, They shall walk and not faint. Isaiah 40:31 (NKJV)

11  But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you. Romans 8:11 (NKJV)

Intimacy Opportunities Part 6

How does humility make intimacy accessible? Humility is generally understood to be holding a modest or low view of ourselves. Scripturally many of us would be drawn to the passage below.

1  Therefore if there is any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and mercy, 2  fulfill my joy by being like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind. 3  Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Philippians 2:1-3 (NKJV)

In the passage above the phrase in verse 3, ‘lowliness of mind’ refers to humility and is described below.

The term is found seven times in the New Testament, and there only in Acts and the Epistles. True “humbleness” (tapeinophrosunē) is encouraged for the believer (Acts 20:19; Ephesians 4:2; Philippians 2:3; Colossians 3:12; 1 Peter 5:5). This “humility,” however, has nothing to do with “groveling” or “weakness.” It describes a humility that naturally evolves out of a heart of love for the exalted Lord. It is the attitude of the Christian servant, first exemplified by Jesus. In fact, it is only in an attitude of humility, a contrite heart, that the spiritual life can prosper. Humility should characterize relationships among the children of God (Philippians 2:3). Complete Biblical Library Greek-English Dictionary

This is a great description of both humility and the benefits yet I think we at times miss them because we stop too soon in Philippian’s 2. Look at the next verse.

4  Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others. Philippians 2:4 (NKJV)

Humility is neither being arrogant nor an ascetic. It is having a proper assessment based on scripture and recognizing the need to look after our interests as well as others. We need to know what the scriptures say about us. At the same time, I have had a recurring experience the last couple of weeks. I often listen to satellite radio in my car and one of the popular feel good television and radio preachers has an ad on my regular station. I want to like him but I find the message ‘smarmy’ (I don’t know the Greek for that!) though he professes to be teaching what the scriptures teach. My recent recurring experience is wondering if Paul listened to one of his sermons whether Paul would try to convert him to Christ? I think Paul would try to convert him because he would not be able to reconcile this preacher’s message with the gospel.

I said that to highlight that I am not advocating a hyped up message or perspective. Yet if I do an honest assessment of who I am based on His word I find myself experiencing intimacy with Jesus. What is an honest assessment? Here are some examples.

17  Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new. 2 Corinthians 5:17 (NKJV) 13  I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. Philippians 4:13 (NKJV) 10  And if Christ is in you, the body is dead because of sin, but the Spirit is life because of righteousness. 11  But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you. Romans 8:10-11 (NKJV)

When I sit with Jesus and meditate on verses like these the door to intimacy swings open and I experience His presence resting upon my heart and moving within me because I am feeding my spirit on His Word and presence. However a balancing factor and important aspect of humility is also meditating on the verse below.

5  I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing. John 15:5 (NKJV)

What this verse tells me is that to be effective in His kingdom (His not mine) I need to humbly depend on Jesus. It also frees me because I recognize my responsibility is obedience and Jesus responsibilities is results! So, if you are not already doing so I invite you to spend a couple of weeks making friends with these few verses and monitoring how it affects your friendship with Jesus.

Intimacy Opportunities Part 5

In my last post I referenced Paul’s perspective and how it kept him from a relationship with Jesus and intimacy with Him. So what actually was his perspective? As Saul, prior to his conversion he tells us that he was a Pharisee.

5  circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of the Hebrews; concerning the law, a Pharisee; Philippians 3:5 (NKJV)

The basic meaning of the word Pharisee is a ‘separated one.’ The sect of the Pharisees arose after the Jews returned to Babylon under Nehemiah and Ezra. They were people who sought holiness through separating themselves from things that did not accord with Godliness.

After his conversion Paul seems to use a play on words to still describe himself as a Pharisee but a Pharisee of a different sort.

1  Paul, a bondservant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated to the gospel of God Romans 1:1 (NKJV)

A Pharisee in Jesus day identified himself by what he was separated from. After his conversion Paul identified himself by what he was separated to – a very critical distinction.

What does this mean for us? As Christians we are not called to define ourselves by what we are not (Jesus said we would be known by our love). Think of a marriage. Would it make sense if I provided a long list of women and said to my wife I am a good husband because I don’t love all of these other women? No! While some odd people may believe me, I know that what my wife wants to know is that I love her, not that I don’t love others.

If you want to make this spiritual shift with Jesus make the prayer below your own.

25  O righteous Father! The world has not known You, but I have known You; and these have known that You sent Me. 26  And I have declared to them Your name, and will declare it, that the love with which You loved Me may be in them, and I in them.” John 17:25-26 (NKJV)

This comes at the end of what is referred to as Jesus High Priestly Prayer before He goes to Gethsemane and the cross. A way to make it our own is to pray something like, “Jesus You said You would reveal the Father’s name to us, that You would unveil His character. Jesus I ask that by the touch of Your Spirit upon my heart You would enable me to love You the way Your Father, and my Father loves You.”

In my next post I will look at what humility means and how it opens the door for His love to flood and transform our hearts.

Intimacy Opportunities Part 4

The example from the Song of Songs was about convenience being able to distract or block us from intimacy. What about perspective? The greatest example of this in the NT is the apostle Paul. Have you ever wondered what it was like for Paul when he was still known as Saul and persecuting the young church as an angry and passionate Pharisee? Here he was passionately pursuing what he thought was the right thing and praying for help. Who was he praying to for help? Yahweh, the very one he was persecuting. Talk about wrong perspective!

What was available to Paul? He himself tells us what he was missing with his wrong perspective.  

10  that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, 11  if, by any means, I may attain to the resurrection from the dead. 12  Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me. Philippians 3:10-12 (NKJV)

We see this same passage unveiling much more in the Amplified version.

10  [For my determined purpose is] that I may know Him [that I may progressively become more deeply and intimately acquainted with Him, perceiving and recognizing and understanding the wonders of His Person more strongly and more clearly], and that I may in that same way come to know the power outflowing from His resurrection [which it exerts over believers], and that I may so share His sufferings as to be continually transformed [in spirit into His likeness even] to His death, [in the hope] 11  That if possible I may attain to the [spiritual and moral] resurrection [that lifts me] out from among the dead [even while in the body]. 12  Not that I have now attained [this ideal], or have already been made perfect, but I press on to lay hold of (grasp) and make my own, that for which Christ Jesus (the Messiah) has laid hold of me and made me His own. Philippians 3:10-12 (AMP)

As Saul, Paul had great passion, just wrongly directed. I think in his description of the lost in Israel he was also describing his pre conversion state.

1  Brethren, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for Israel is that they may be saved. 2  For I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge. 3  For they being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and seeking to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted to the righteousness of God. Romans 10:1-3 (NKJV)

Why did Saul and the others in Israel hold such a wrong perspective? Was the truth not available? The truth was available but they refused to humble themselves and submit to this truth and so held stubbornly to wrong views. Also, at conversion all of our wrong perspectives don’t immediately vanish. Study Paul’s post conversion life. He still had to transition from arrogance to humility. Why do you think that both directly and indirectly he wrote so much about the need for the renewing of our minds? Simple, he experienced it.

My prayer is that we will ask the Holy Spirit to pull back the veil and reveal to each of us the things we are holding onto that are keeping us from deep intimacy with Him. I regularly pray to Him to show me strongholds in my own life that I may tear them down and see more clearly. Please join me.  

Intimacy Opportunities Part 3

There is a passage I have commented on a number of times as one of the saddest in scripture.

2  THE SHULAMITE I sleep, but my heart is awake; It is the voice of my beloved! He knocks, saying, “Open for me, my sister, my love, My dove, my perfect one; For my head is covered with dew, My locks with the drops of the night.” 3  I have taken off my robe; How can I put it on again? I have washed my feet; How can I defile them? 4  My beloved put his hand By the latch of the door, And my heart yearned for him. 5  I arose to open for my beloved, And my hands dripped with myrrh, My fingers with liquid myrrh, On the handles of the lock. 6  I opened for my beloved, But my beloved had turned away and was gone. My heart leaped up when he spoke. I sought him, but I could not find him; I called him, but he gave me no answer. Song of Songs 5:2-6 (NKJV)

What is happening here? If we look from a purely natural perspective it is clearly a missed intimacy opportunity between the Shulamite and her beloved. What if we look from a spiritual perspective, viewing the Song of Songs as an interaction between Jesus and His church, between He and us? To that end I will refer to the characters here as the Bride (us/church) and the Bridegroom (Jesus).

The passage above begins with the Bridegroom seeking the Bride. However, the precursor tells us something key.

16  THE SHULAMITE Awake, O north wind, And come, O south! Blow upon my garden, That its spices may flow out. Let my beloved come to his garden And eat its pleasant fruits. Song of Songs 4:16 (NKJV)

The Bride has invited her Beloved to a place of intimacy and in 5:2-6 we see what happened when He responded.

What is the issue for the Bride? The Bridegroom shows up at an inopportune time. She does not want to be inconvenienced? What happens? She hesitates in her response and rationalizes why she can’t respond. Then the yearning of her heart wins out over her rationalization and she finally responds. However He is gone. She is left with only reminders of His presence but doesn’t have Him. The oil and fragrance represent a left over anointing without a living presence. So that leads us to some reflective questions.

  • Have we invited Jesus to draw near then not responded when He came?
  • Do our busy lives/things keep us from intimacy with Jesus?
  • Are we willing to be inconvenienced to be with Him?
  • Do our hearts long for His presence when He draws near?
  • Are we satisfied with some level of anointing without His actual presence?

Intimacy Opportunities Part 2

Here is a NT example of a missed intimacy opportunity, the occasion of Jesus being anointed by Mary, Martha’s sister.

1  Now a certain man was sick, Lazarus of Bethany, the town of Mary and her sister Martha. 2  It was that Mary who anointed the Lord with fragrant oil and wiped His feet with her hair, whose brother Lazarus was sick. John 11:1-2 (NKJV)

We know Mary of Bethany anointed Jesus yet what can we learn from the incident itself?

1  Then, six days before the Passover, Jesus came to Bethany, where Lazarus was who had been dead, whom He had raised from the dead. 2  There they made Him a supper; and Martha served, but Lazarus was one of those who sat at the table with Him. 3  Then Mary took a pound of very costly oil of spikenard, anointed the feet of Jesus, and wiped His feet with her hair. And the house was filled with the fragrance of the oil. 4  Then one of His disciples, Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, who would betray Him, said, 5  “Why was this fragrant oil not sold for three hundred denarii and given to the poor?” 6  This he said, not that he cared for the poor, but because he was a thief, and had the money box; and he used to take what was put in it. 7  But Jesus said, “Let her alone; she has kept this for the day of My burial. 8  For the poor you have with you always, but Me you do not have always.” John 12:1-8 (NKJV)

 1  After two days it was the Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread. And the chief priests and the scribes sought how they might take Him by trickery and put Him to death. 2  But they said, “Not during the feast, lest there be an uproar of the people.” 3  And being in Bethany at the house of Simon the leper, as He sat at the table, a woman came having an alabaster flask of very costly oil of spikenard. Then she broke the flask and poured it on His head. 4  But there were some who were indignant among themselves, and said, “Why was this fragrant oil wasted? 5  For it might have been sold for more than three hundred denarii and given to the poor.” And they criticized her sharply. 6  But Jesus said, “Let her alone. Why do you trouble her? She has done a good work for Me. 7  For you have the poor with you always, and whenever you wish you may do them good; but Me you do not have always. 8  She has done what she could. She has come beforehand to anoint My body for burial. 9  Assuredly, I say to you, wherever this gospel is preached in the whole world, what this woman has done will also be told as a memorial to her.” Mark 14:1-9 (NKJV)

There are a few key things in these two passages. The event took place in Bethany at the house of Simon. He is called Simon the leper in the Matthew and Mark accounts (Matt. 26:6-16, Mk. 14:1-11). Given the close proximity of the meal together is it likely that he had been healed by Jesus and was a former leper as under Mosaic Law active lepers could not be around uninfected people. John 12:4 also tells us that Judas was Simon’s son. So we have Jesus and His followers having supper with Simon who appears to be the father of Judas. This would heighten Judas sense of offense as Jesus publicly rebuked his attitude in front of his father and friends (Jn. 12:4-7) and immediately after this event he went to the priests to betray Jesus (Matt. 26:14-16, Mk. 14:10-11).

In this scene Jesus friends Lazarus, Martha and Mary are there. Lazarus is a guest at the table, Martha is serving and so is Mary. However Mary’s service is of a different sort and has been spoken of over and over again since it took place. In this event Mary had an intimate encounter with Jesus through her brokenness. Those sitting around the table had the same opportunity but unlike Mary failed to see their need. It is a bit like a verse in Luke 5.

17  Now it happened on a certain day, as He was teaching, that there were Pharisees and teachers of the law sitting by, who had come out of every town of Galilee, Judea, and Jerusalem. And the power of the Lord was present to heal them. Luke 5:17 (NKJV)  

In the scene described in this verse it appears based on their judgements that what the Pharisees and teachers of the law needed was to have their hearts healed. The context and their attitude certainly point to that. Yet they missed their appointment with Jesus because they were offended and focused on the wrong things. This was the same issue in the meal at Simon’s house in Bethany.

So how do we apply this? When we sit in a place of judgment we are unable to sit in a place of intimacy and thus miss the opportunity to receive life (see Ps. 1:1-3). If the guests really wanted to minister to the poor they would have had plenty of opportunities. It appears they thought Jesus would be impressed with their alleged concern for the poor but they misjudged both Jesus and Mary. Mary’s actions are not a license for wasteful living. They are an encouragement to pour out our lives on Jesus. As I once heard Jack Deere say in a message, “We are all going to waste our lives on something. Why not Jesus?”

NOTES – Luke 7:36-50 describe a similar event. There has been much debate down through the centuries whether this is a different perspective on the same event or another event earlier in Jesus ministry as it appears to have happened in the region of Galilee not Judea. Also there has been great debate whether Mary Magdalene and Mary of Bethany are the same person or two individuals. My own belief is that they are one and the same. See my rationale below.  

There were two Mary’s at the cross, two who anointed Jesus body with spices and two who went to the tomb at the time of His resurrection.  If there are three Mary’s, Jesus mother, Mary of Bethany and Mary Magdalene, then who does not go?   Mary Magdalene is clearly identified as being at the cross along with Mary the mother of James and Joses (Matt. 27:55-56).  Mary Magdalene and the other Mary are both involved in preparing Jesus for burial (Matt. 27:61) and both go to the tomb Sunday morning (Matt. 28:1).  Matthew notes in both 27:61 and 28:1 that there are only two Mary’s, Mary Magdalene and “the other Mary.”  Who is the other Mary?  She is identified by Mark as the mother of “James the Less, and of Joses and Salome” (Mk. 15:40, 47, 16:1).  If we identify the mother of these three people we identify the Mary.  We find in the gospels that Jesus had brothers and sisters (Matt. 13:55-56).  In this passage his sisters are not named but four of His brothers are, James, Joses, Simon and Judas.  Two of these four are named as children of “the other Mary.”  We also know that of the twelve original apostles, James, with Peter and John, was part of the inner circle (Matt. 17:1, Mk. 5:37).  However, after the church in Jerusalem was established James the brother of John was the first apostle martyred (Acts 12:2).  Later the key apostle in Jerusalem was another James.  Jesus’ half brother James (Acts 15:13, Gal. 1:19).  In fact early in Paul’s ministry James, Peter and John were perceived by Paul as the key apostles in the early church (Gal. 2:9).  This would explain why the son of the “other Mary” was referred to as “James the Less.”  As Jesus half-brother he took over in Jerusalem the apostleship of the “greater” James, John’s brother.  

Intimacy Opportunities Part 1

I am starting a new series that will look at some of the opportunities the Holy Spirit creates for intimacy. I will look at a few examples from the Old and New Testaments and the opportunities they provide. I will begin with Exodus 33. I have heard many messages on this passage over the years and with one exception they all focused on the need for Yahweh’s presence to go with the Israelites when they went into Canaan and the application is then made that we need the Lord’s presence to go with us when we enter into something. While that application is a truth, in truth it misses the point of this passage.

Understanding this requires both context and a bit of digging into the passage itself. In looking I have a question. Have you ever spent a lot of time with or around someone then realized when they shared something personal that you didn’t know them nearly as well as you thought? Keep that in mind as we look at this passage. I will start with the verses below.

2  And I will send My Angel before you, and I will drive out the Canaanite and the Amorite and the Hittite and the Perizzite and the Hivite and the Jebusite. Exodus 33:2 (NKJV) 11  So the LORD spoke to Moses face to face, as a man speaks to his friend. And he would return to the camp, but his servant Joshua the son of Nun, a young man, did not depart from the tabernacle. Exodus 33:11 (NKJV) 14  if My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land. 2 Chronicles 7:14 (NKJV)

14  And He said, “My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.” 15  Then he said to Him, “If Your Presence does not go with us, do not bring us up from here. Exodus 33:14-15 (NKJV)

Here I have bolded six words, before once, face three times and presence twice. The interesting part is that each time it is the same word in Hebrew.

The noun pānîm, “face,” “countenance,” is derived from the verbal root pānāh (HED #6680), “to turn toward,” and is found in the OT only in its plural form. The noun is well attested throughout the Semitic languages. When combined with le (HED #3937), the term may also function as a preposition, literally meaning “facing,” and often translated “before” or “in front of.”

The Complete Biblical Library Hebrew-English Dictionary.

What does this mean? A couple of things. First verse two could be translated as The Angel Presence or Angel of His Face/Presence. The point in this passage isn’t Moses being worried about Yahweh in the form of the Angel of His Presence going with them. He did affirm he didn’t want to go without him but that had already been assured. The key is what Moses requested, he wanted to see Yahweh’s glory. Why is that significant? Moses had his burning bush experience, saw all the miracles in Egypt, their deliverance in the exodus, had spent 40 days and nights on the mountain with Yahweh (Ex. 24:16-18), regularly heard Yahweh’s voice and spent time face to face with Him in the tent of meeting. In fact Exodus 24 says Moses had already seen Yahweh’s glory and spent 40 days and nights in it.

16  Now the glory of the LORD rested on Mount Sinai, and the cloud covered it six days. And on the seventh day He called to Moses out of the midst of the cloud. 17  The sight of the glory of the LORD was like a consuming fire on the top of the mountain in the eyes of the children of Israel. 18  So Moses went into the midst of the cloud and went up into the mountain. And Moses was on the mountain forty days and forty nights. Exodus 24:16-18 (NKJV) 

So, why the request to see His glory? That is the question we need to answer. We tend to read the bible backwards. That is we look at OT passages from what we know. Moses however had to look forward. Up to this point he knew Yahweh was powerful, demanded obedience to His law and had a place He was taking His people to for a purpose. What Moses didn’t know, in spite of all the time already spent in Yahweh’s presence, was anything else about His character. Glory is more than just a tangible presence, it is a visible expression of character and nature (which is why Paul said “Christ in you, the hope of Glory” (Col. 1:27).

Moses needed a revelation of the character of the One he had already spent so much time with. When he had this experience his face glowed when he came down from the mountain the second time and it continued to happen when he spent time in Yahweh’s presence in their continued relationship. That is what Exodus 33 is about, not needing His presence with them, it is about knowing the one we are with.

So, present day application. When His presence becomes manifest in a worship service or prayer time what do we do? Do we simply enjoy it or do we see it as an opportunity to press in for more? In these opportunities if we press in we can experience what Paul experienced and longed for others to experience. See the verses below and the words in bold.

15  But when it pleased God, who separated me from my mother’s womb and called me through His grace, 16  to reveal His Son in me, that I might preach Him among the Gentiles, I did not immediately confer with flesh and blood, Galatians 1:15-16 (NKJV)

19  My little children, for whom I labor in birth again until Christ is formed in you, Galatians 4:19 (NKJV) 18  But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord. 2 Corinthians 3:18 (NKJV)

Moses needed to get to know the One with Him. We need to get to know the One within! Then we need to follow His continual leading. Barrett Browning captured this in what she wrote.

Earth’s crammed with heaven, And every common bush afire with God: But only he who sees, takes off his shoes, The rest sit round it, and pluck blackberries… from Aurora Leigh by Elizabeth Barrett Browning

It reflects Habakkuk’s heart,

14  For the earth will be filled

With the knowledge of the glory of the LORD,

As the waters cover the sea. Habakkuk 2:14 (NKJV)

So, here is one Intimacy Opportunity, let’s take it and see His glory manifest through His people!