Fighting Goliath

David, in convincing Saul why he should be allowed to be Israel’s representative on the battlefield says,

“Your servant has struck down both lions and bears, and this uncircumcised Philistine shall be like one of them, for he has defied the armies of the living God.”

And to Goliath he says,

You come to me with a sword and with a spear and with a javelin, but I come to you in the name of Yahweh of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. This day Yahweh will deliver you into my hand, and I will strike you down and cut off your head. And I will give the dead bodies of the host of the Philistines this day to the birds of the air and to the wild beasts of the earth, that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel, and that all this assembly may know that Yahweh saves not with sword and spear. For the battle is Yahweh’s, and he will give you into our hand.”

So, in both of these, David gives his reason for wanting to fight as an opportunity for God to show His hand, to have victory or vindication over the gods of the Philistines. In the next chapter, David doesn’t demand the promised reward. Even when the promised daughter is given to another man, he doesn’t push the matter.

And David said to Saul, “Who am I, and who are my relatives, my father’s clan in Israel, that I should be son-in-law to the king?” But at the time when Merab, Saul’s daughter, should have been given to David, she was given to Adriel the Meholathite for a wife.

Later, Saul offers him another daughter and still David waits. He recognizes the weight of being the king’s son-in-law and doesn’t just pounce on his opportunity to “climb the ranks”. Also, throughout the rest of Saul’s reign David has several chances to take the throne, but waits. His actions support the stated motive.

East of Eden

Moving eastward seems to relate to exile, while moving westward is a return to the garden and the presence of God.

The garden is planted in the east of Eden

The garden is the primeval meeting place between God and man. It is the first sanctuary, where man is placed to work (serve) and keep (guard) (Gen 2:15). These are the same tasks of the priests and Levites with regard to the tabernacle (cf. Num 18:1-7).

Cherubim are stationed on the east side of the Garden of Eden

When Adam and Eve are exiled from the presence of God and from access to the tree of life, they are sent out eastward. To re-enter the garden, they would have to travel west and pass the cherubim and flaming sword. Also, after Cain murders his brother, he is driven even further east, further from the garden. By implication, the cherubim are also guarding the way into Eden itself, which is higher up and further west than the garden. I’ll come back to this.

Parts of the burnt offering are to be thrown to the east side of the altar

This is part of the fowl Ascension ritual. It is the ‘crop’, which is somehow associated with the tail feathers. So, the rear of the bird is thrown to the east, while the head and body move westward, into the fiery presence of God.

The tabernacle's entrance faces east

This implies that the tabernacle is a new, more glorified garden sanctuary. Armed priests and Levites guard the tabernacle (Num 18:4) just like the cherubim who guarded the entrance of the garden. They also wield the flaming sword. In order for a worshiper to draw near to God, he would have to pass through the knife and the fire. He can’t do this without dying, so he leans his hand on the head of an animal to commission it to go as his representative (cf. Num 8:10-18, 27:18-23). The animal passes through the knife and fire, moving westward and upward into the presence of God (it is “burned up” Lev 1:13—lit. transformed into smoke, thus joining the glory cloud over the tabernacle)

In Ezekiel's vision God's glory comes from the east and enters the temple from the east.

Earlier (ch 10), we see the glory of God depart from the temple, traveling eastward to join the exiles in Babylon. Here, in chapter 43, Ezekiel sees a restored, more glorious temple, and the glory of God moves back in.

The same temple faces east with a river flowing east from it

This goes all the way back to the garden. A river flowed out of Eden—that is, from higher up and further west—through the garden and then out to the outlying lands. This seems to imply that moving west into the land of Eden would be desirable and would be moving closer to the throne of God (at least symbolically). Solomon’s temple was also a garden sanctuary, with carvings of trees and fruit on the walls (cf. 1 Kings 6). It had a great bronze sea and bronze water chariots, which lined the north and south sides of the courtyard (1 Kings 7:23-39). The chariots with wheels imply a flow of water and correspond to the river that flowed through the garden. This is expanded further in Ezekiel’s vision in chapter 47 to an increasingly deep and wide river coming from the temple and flowing to the outlying lands. This is picked up again in Revelation 22, where an angel shows John a vision of the New Jerusalem, the Church, the City-Bride of Christ, and “the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb through the middle of the street of the city; also, on either side of the river, the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit each month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.”


Man of Sin

If we look at the law for kings in Deuteronomy 17, it prohibits the king from multiplying horses and chariots, wives, and wealth. This is exactly what Solomon is doing in 1 Kings 10-11. Chapter ten begins by commending his great wisdom, but then steps through his decline—that is, he begins violating the rules for kings by multiplying gold (666 talents a year), multiplying horses and chariots, and finally multiplying wives who turn his heart away from following Yahweh. He sets up centers of false worship for all the foreign gods of his wives. So, the number 666 is associated with Solomon in his fall, his abuse of power, and his turning away from true worship of Yahweh.

In Revelation, Jesus sets up worship interactions under the symbol of business transactions—buying and selling.

I counsel you to buy from me gold refined by fire, so that you may be rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself and the shame of your nakedness may not be seen, and salve to anoint your eyes, so that you may see.

This is picked up in chapter 13 with reference to worship in the false temple—the image set up by the beast which must be worshiped on pain of death. Everyone must worship the image, but no one may do so without the mark. The buying and selling referred to here is of the same kind established by Jesus in chapter 3. It is worship—spiritual transactions.

This kind of forced worship of an image set up also has ties back to Nebuchadnezzar.

King Nebuchadnezzar made an image of gold, whose height was sixty cubits and its breadth six cubits… And the herald proclaimed aloud, “You are commanded, O peoples, nations, and languages, that when you hear the sound of the horn, pipe, lyre, trigon, harp, bagpipe, and every kind of music, you are to fall down and worship the golden image that King Nebuchadnezzar has set up. And whoever does not fall down and worship shall immediately be cast into a burning fiery furnace.”

Nebuchadnezzar is acting as a beast (and later, even more so) and sets up an image to be worshiped. Again, we have six and sixty associated with worship of a false image on pain of death.

All of this comes together in the name and number of the man—666. This sums up man in his fallen state. The number carries with it the fallen glory of Solomon, his degraded wisdom, his failure to follow the word of God, his abuse of power, and his allowing himself to be turned aside to the worship of impotent gods.

Seeing God

John 8 is a major discourse between Jesus and the Jewish leaders. Verse 19 – “You know neither me nor my Father. If you knew me, you would know my Father also” – could be taken as the theme verse not only here, but probably for the whole book. In chapter 1, John says, “No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known.” John isn’t just saying that we can’t see God with our eyes. Seeing God is knowing God. The Son has come from the Father to show the Father, to make Him known. In chapter 14, Jesus reproves Philip for asking to see the Father, “‘Have I been with you so long, and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?'” He really lays into the Pharisees in chapter 8 for their unbelief. He tells them that they are not sons of God or sons of Abraham, as they suppose, but are sons of the devil because they refuse to see Jesus as the I AM. They do not know him, so they cannot know the Father.

A Kingdom that Cannot Be Shaken

Daniel chapters 2 and 7 both relate dreams that cover the same progression of kingdoms from different perspectives, and both serve to contrast the succession of fleeting manifestations of the City of Man with the solid, eternal City of God.

In chapter 2, Daniel interprets a dream that troubled Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon. The dream was of a great image, a giant metal man with a head of gold, chest and arms of silver, belly and thighs of bronze, and legs of iron. A stone not cut by human hands struck the image and crushed it all to pieces so that it blew away like chaff in the wind, and then the stone grew to be a mountain that filled the earth. Daniel tells Nebuchadnezzar that he and his kingdom are the head of gold and that after him would arise other kingdoms: a kingdom of silver, and one of bronze, and one of iron that would break in pieces and shatter all things. But after these, Daniel says, “the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that shall never be destroyed, nor shall the kingdom be left to another people. [This kingdom] shall break in pieces all these kingdoms and bring them to an end, and [this kingdom] shall stand forever.” This kingdom is the stone that grows to be a mountain that fills the earth.

Daniel 7 is a parallel passage, a dream that comes to Daniel and troubles him. He sees four beasts rise out of the sea: the first, a lion with the wings of an eagle to whom is given the mind of a man — this again is Nebuchadnezzar and Babylon; the second, a bear raised up on one side — the coming Medes and Persians; the third, a leopard with four heads — four stages of the Greek Empire; and fourth, a great iron beast that devours and breaks in pieces all things — Imperial Rome. He sees a court of judgment set up and books opened and the iron beast killed and all their dominion taken away. The he sees one like a son of man presented to the Ancient of Days and to him is given a kingdom and dominion that will not pass away and will not be destroyed.

This “one like a son of man” nearly jumps off the page as a reference to Christ, but it is explained in verse 18 that, “the saints of the Most High shall receive the kingdom and possess the kingdom forever, forever and ever,” in verse 22, “judgment was given for the saints of the Most High, and the time came when the saints possessed the kingdom,” and again in verse 27, “the kingdom and the dominion and the greatness of the kingdoms under the whole heaven shall be given to the people of the saints of the Most High; their kingdom shall be an everlasting kingdom, and all dominions shall serve and obey them.” It is true that this is Christ, but it is the total Christ, the head and the body.

Paul, writing to the saints in Ephesus, says that we are blessed in Christ and adopted as sons; the saints are made sons of the Most High God. The church is both the “one like a son of man” who obtains an inheritance and the one who is given as a glorious inheritance to the Son. The power of God raised Christ “from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.” This is an amazing statement: the church, the body of Christ, is the fullness of Him who fills all in all. The total Christ, the head and body together, is the mountain kingdom that grows to fill the earth, a kingdom that cannot be shaken.

Heart of Flesh

Ezekiel 36 talks about the uncleanness of Israel, not just in the land but in the presence of all the nations to which God had driven them out. This uncleanness is not dirtiness but death, the death of empty idolatry, of exposed flesh, the death that Jesus says comes up from the inside, from the heart, and flows out to defile a person (Mat 15:1-20). They had defiled the land and the name of God, carrying His name in vain, profaning it among the nations. But God says that He will vindicate His holy name by gathering Israel again to her own land, cleansing her from her uncleanness, removing her heart of stone and giving her a new heart, a heart of flesh, and blessing her in the land with abundant fruitfulness. He will vindicate His name by restoring His covenant with His people.

About this new heart, God says, “I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.” The Word of God had been given to them, and this was their heart: statutes and rules written on stone tablets. But now we have the Word written in human flesh, the very Son of God incarnate, and the Spirit of God indwells us and causes us to walk uprightly. And this is what Paul is addressing in Galatians 3. How can we, who have Christ and His Spirit in us, return to the stone law? How can we expect to merit our own perfection? Can we make this stone heart alive? Life is given in Christ and we receive it through faith. Just as God established His covenant with Abraham, so He establishes His covenant with us through baptism. What was promised to him — that in him all the families of the earth would be blessed — is fulfilled in us. We put on Christ and in Him we are heirs.

So All Will Know

Leviticus 19 includes the phrase that Jesus quotes as the second great commandment, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” God gives examples of what this means, anticipating the pharisaical question, “Who is my neighbor?” He includes the poor, the sojourner, the hired worker, the deaf, the blind, the great, the one living near you, and any of the sons of your people. This would pretty much include anyone you might happen to meet or do business with in your daily life.

The whole passage is structured with the refrain, “I am Yahweh.” Why do we love our neighbor? Because Yahweh is who He is and we are His people. In Exodus, Pharaoh refused to let the Hebrews go, saying, “Who is Yahweh? I don’t know Yahweh.” When Moses brought this to God, He responded, I am Yahweh; I have heard the cries of the people of Israel in their slavery and I have remembered the covenant I made with their fathers. I am Yahweh; I will deliver you from your slavery. You will be my people and I will be your God. I will bring you to the land that I swore to give to your fathers. I am Yahweh.

God’s deliverance of His people — the exodus from Egypt — was an answer to the question, “Who is Yahweh?” He does this so Israel would know Him, so Egypt and the surrounding nations would see and know that He is God over all. Likewise, when He says, “You shall be holy, for I Yahweh your God am holy,” or, “Love your neighbor as yourself. I am Yahweh,” it is a reflection of His character, a witness to us and the surrounding world that He is who He says He is. Jesus says, “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

Paul says it this way, “We are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.” We love one another because we are one body. “Love your neighbor as yourself.” The gifts we’ve been given, whether it’s service or teaching or generosity or any other thing, are given for the benefit of the whole body. The hand has the gift of grasping and the eye the gift of seeing, but these only make sense in the context of the body. The eye doesn’t see just for the sake of the eye, but for the rest of the body. So we love one another because we are members of one another. We love one another so that the world will see and know that Jesus is Lord over all.

Though He Slay Me

The book of Job fits in with the book of Proverbs as a book of kingly training. It begins with the familiar story of this great and wealthy man who loses everything he has — his family, his home, his servants, animals, and crops — all in one day. He is plagued with sores from head to foot and his friends, the advisers or counselors of this great, powerful man, come to sit with him and comfort him. But they don’t. They sit with him for seven days without saying anything. When Job finally speaks, saying, It would be better if I’d never been born, they pounce on him and begin to attack, accusing him of unbelief and unrepentance. The innocent are not torn down like this, they say; you are guilty of sin. Repent! “God exacts of you less than your guilt deserves.” A man reaps what he sows.  This at least is certainly true. But Job’s friends reason backwards. If we sin and try to cover it up, we can expect trouble to find us. But it doesn’t follow that if we have trouble, then it means we must have sinned.

Job maintains his innocence, rejecting their false accusations, and longs to plead his case before God, the Judge. The beginning of the story — the part we get to see that Job didn’t, the conversation in heaven between God and the Accuser — shows us that Job is not just being caught in the machinery. “Have you considered my servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, who fears God and turns away from evil?” He is not being punished for sin. He is not being crushed merely on the whim of a capricious devil. God initiates and maintains a watchful eye over the whole process. The trials that He sends Job, and the accusers He sends to wrestle with him, are for his training in kingly rule. Job gains his victory by clinging to God in trust. “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return. Yahweh gave, and Yahweh has taken away; blessed be the name of Yahweh.” “Shall we receive good from God, and shall we not receive evil?” “Though he slay me, I will hope in him”

Certainly Paul recognizes this same progression in his trials. “I am being poured out as a drink offering… I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness.” Victory and kingship come through our suffering, our struggles, our wrestling because in our suffering we follow Christ. He has gone before us in this; He leads the way, and He is our hope.

As the Waters Cover the Sea

Isaiah 45 is addressed to Cyrus, king of the Persians, whom God calls His anointed — His messiah, His christ — the one who would shepherd His people. God tells him that He will give him the nations so that all will know that Yahweh is God and there is no other, so that all will know that He is the one who declares the end from the beginning and salvation to the ends of the earth. This is fulfilled initially during the time of Ezra, Nehemiah, and Esther when Cyrus was given the nations to rule and released the Jews from their exile to return and rebuild the city of Jerusalem and the temple. Of course, this pushes beyond Cyrus and points ahead to Jesus, the Anointed, to whom the Father gives all the nations. It is Jesus who says, “Turn to me and be saved, all the ends of the earth!” and “To me every knee shall bow, every tongue shall swear allegiance.”

This salvation that is declared to the ends of the earth, to all the gentile nations, is set in motion by Jesus through his church in the book of Acts. He gathers them together to pour out His Spirit on them and to send them to be His “witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” This is just how the book plays out. The first seven chapters take place in Jerusalem, and then persecution arises with Saul and the Jews against the church and it is scattered throughout Judea and Samaria. After Paul’s conversion, he begins to push out, taking the gospel into Asia, Greece, and what is now Europe. This is still the charge of the church, to take the gospel to the ends of the earth so that “the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea.”