Tuesday, October 27, 2009

The Centrality of Death
Death & Redemption in the Heart of God


Each fall amidst the beauty and wonder of the changing season; as parts of nature fade and change, I find that I occasionally contemplate the brevity of life and even the nature of death itself. As the sun sets earlier and the wind catches a chill, the world around also takes on a tone of darkness as the earth is purged of its flourishing overgrowth. Thankfully, this is not the end for nature, this purging although a form of death, is also a process whereby the world is prepared and changed for winter preservation. We know, because we have seen this over and over. We know that nature will once again be renewed.

However death as a subject, when thought of more vividly is not at all pleasant or inviting, for it embodies the ultimate end of all human fears. If you have ever lost a loved one or had a near death experience, you might have tasted this fear yourself. It is truly devastating and from the human eye, seemingly uncaring, absolutely and ultimate. Without God speaking His Truth into these situations, the change can be overwhelming and entirely devoid of meaning.

However scripture also speaks of an extremely vivid death, one that has ultimate meaning beyond all others, one that transcends all tragedy. However, more than this, it is a death central to the heart of God. Of course I am speaking of the death of Jesus, God the Father's only son.

You see, every day we might see daily symbols that remind us of death, we might feel pains in our own bodies that might remind us yet again how brief life is. Yet we must ponder whether this is to our detriment or meant to bring us to the feet of our Lord moment by moment. Thus moreover, we must further evaluate whether we ought not to view these as our friend and rejoice in them!

YHWY - A Name of Sacred Death

What is so moving to me is the fact the very nature of our life sustenance is rooted in this central message. You see God has put at the very heart of His message to mankind the "centrality of death". It is so intimate to Him, that you might be surprised how close it really is!

Take for example the name that God gives for himself in the Old Testament, YHWY. It was so sacred that it was rarely written and in a lot of text it was replaced with other word Adonai. What some people don't know is that each of these letters have a meaning.

The name YHWY is in fact made up of four letters from left to right:
"Yod Hey Vav Hey" or Yahweh.

- Hey - Vav -Hey - Yod
- Behold - Nail -Behold - Hand

When read in English from left to right, it says:

"BEHOLD THE NAIL, BEHOLD THE HAND!" Or, "Behold the nailed hand."

All of Redemptive History starts with His name, "In the Beginning God..." it is a name of sacred death, the death of His Son. Moreover, there is no more clear statement of God's Sovereignty than His very name!

Just as was spoken by the prophetic voices! Messiah!

"And I will pour upon the house of David, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the spirit of grace and of supplications: and they shall look upon me whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for him, as one mourneth for his only son, and shall be in bitterness for him, as one that is in bitterness for his firstborn." (Zechariah 12:10)

"Dogs have surrounded me; a band of evil men has encircled me, they have pierced my hands and my feet." (Psalm 22:16)

Jesus - The Son of Death

The Hebrew name for Jesus, "Yeshua" means "YHWH is salvation." Thus his name would literally mean "BEHOLD THE NAIL, BEHOLD THE HAND IS SALVATION".

See Also: http://jeffjenkinsocala.blogspot.com/2008/06/yahweh.html

Scriptures - The Word of Death

One might say that the letter Vav used in the name of God above is just a clever coincidence however consider how that the Biblical scholars utilized the letter Vav.

"The word Vav is used in Exodus 27:9-10 to refer to the hooks of silver fastened to posts (called amudim) that were used to hold the curtain (yeriah) that encloses the tabernacle:

Just as the tabernacle was the habitation of God while the Israelites traveled in the wilderness, so the Torah is the habitation of His word today. Therefore, the scribes developed the idea that the Torah Scroll was to be constructed in the manner of the tabernacle. They called each parchment sheet of a scroll a yeriah, named for the curtain of the tabernacle (there are roughly 50 yeriot per scroll) and each column of text an amud, named for the post of the tabernacle’s court.

Now since each curtain of the tabernacle was fastened to its post by means of a silver hook (vav), the scribes made each column of text to begin with a letter Vav, thereby “hooking” the text to the parchment:"

"An oversized Vav marks the “center” of the entire Torah (Leviticus 11:42): Appropriately enough, the word in which this Vav occurs is gachon, meaning 'belly.'"

Now, just as the scriptural "word" was fashioned after the tabernacle. When Jesus, "The Word", came into the world He in turn desired to "tabernacle with us". Scholars point out that the words "dwelt amoung us" in John 1:14 actually means "to tabernacle".

John 1:14

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.

Parts of this portion were taken from:

The Biblical Covenant Valley Of The Shadow of Death

One illustration of death that has comforted many Christian throughout the years is the 23rd Psalm. Yet, there is more to it than we have soften been taught.

Psalm 23:
1 The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
2 He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters.
3 He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name's sake.
4 Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.
5 You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.
6 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

Yet it has long been held by some scholars that this passage is using an idiomatic phrase. The words "Valley Of The Shadow of Death" are in fact symbolic language utilized in ancient covenant treaty. In such treaties a greater king ("suzeran king") would make a unilateral covenant treaty with a lesser king ("vassal king"), which in many cases had been conquered by the suzeran king. The two kings would participate in a vivid ritual whereby animals would be sacrificed and layed open in such a way as to form a valley. In fact the very Hebrew word for covenant is "berith" which means "to cut". Hereby they would "cut" a covenant. The suzeran king would then declare the stipulations of His covenant(the terms or "Words"). These would embody both blessing and curse. Blessings to the lesser king if he obeyed and curse if he did not, which was often a depiction of very elaborate penalty. Such a covenant breaker who received the penalty of the covenant would be termed as having been "cut off" from the covenant. One notable violation of covenant recounted by Herodotus' in his History of the Greek and Persian Wars documents Darius marching his entire army amidst the separated body of a captain who broke covenant with him. Herein we can see that the symbol was not only real and vivid but it could be exacted in judgment at the suzeran king's discretion.

One such illustration of this type of treaty in scripture is the depiction in Gen 15 where Abram is told of God to prepare the sacrifice. Yet upon doing so God instead puts Abram to sleep. He then brings down a smoking furnace and burning flame which cooks the sacrifice in Abrams presence, signifying that he alone would bare the full weight of the covenant. So then it is no mistake that Dan 9:26 declares that the "anointed one will be cut off". He will be "cut off" on our behalf.

You see even the stipulations or "Words of the Covenant" are symbolic. The Ten Commandments are in fact the "Ten Words" (Decalogue) of the Mosaic Covenant. So it is no mistake when John refers to Christ as THE WORD.

John 1:1

"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God."

He is the ultimate fulfillment of all Covenants and the granter of a better covenant (New Covenant/Covenant of Christ/Christolic Covenant).

Exod 34:27-28

27 And the Lord said to Moses, “Write these words, for in accordance with these words I have made a covenant with you and with Israel.” 28 So he was there with the Lord forty days and forty nights. He neither ate bread nor drank water. And he wrote on the tablets the words of the covenant, the Ten Commandments (literally "ten words").

We Know that the Victor has Overcome Death.

Ps. 16:9-10
9 Therefore my heart is glad, and my whole being rejoices; my flesh also dwells secure.
10 For you will not abandon my soul to Sheol, or let your holy one see corruption.

1 Corinthians 15:55
55 "O death, where is your victory?
O death, where is your sting?"

Romans 5:10
"For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life."

Our Response to Death

The title of this article is the title "The Centrality of Death" of a chapter in Francis Schaeffer's "True Spirituality". In this chapter he identifies what the Death of Christ means to the Christian. We do not merely believe that Christ died for us but that the result of His death affects is our own mortification. We die to self in response to all that God has done for us in His wonderful and exhaustive plan of redemption.

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