Micah the Prophet & John Denver

Each year I teach on the book of Micah as we cover the minor prophets in my Old Testament survey class. In general, we don’t read or know much about these “minor” prophets. This includes Micah.

In particular was speaking to the small towns “out in the country,” if you will (what they called the Shephelah). And, so, to introduce this small book, I always kick off with John Denver’s “Thank God I’m a Country Boy.” I am no country music fan, but I love this song.

And, hopefully, some students will now remember even a little about the prophet Micah.

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Lamentations: Prophetic Wisdom for Our Day

Recently our church finished out its series on the book of Lamentations.

This poetic dirge is not one to which many run. Yet, I believe it has a clear and pertinent message for us today. I would contend that it is prophetic wisdom into what we are walking through—not only with the pandemic, but speaking even wider into the church.

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The Throne of David Today

I have spent quite a few articles looking at aspects of eschatology, that is, the study of last things. I think this will be my last one for a while with the intent of writing some more devotional blog entries over the next week or so.

I have already looked at these topics:

Whoa! That’s a lot of things to consider. I might revisit some things on eschatology down the road, but for now, this will be my last article. In this article I want to consider the throne of David and its prophetic fulfilment. Many people hold to a belief that says, not only will God have the Jews return to the land of Israel and rebuild a temple in Jerusalem, but the Lord will also have David’s throne set up again from which the Messiah will reign during a future millennium. So, let’s look at this a little more in depth at this topic of David’s throne.

In God’s covenant bond with David, the Lord tells him this:

When your days are fulfilled and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring after you, who shall come from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. (2 Samuel 7:12-13)

Most will recognize that this was initially fulfilled as Solomon, David’s son and descendant, received the kingdom from his father (see 1 Kings 2:1-4).

Yet, as the story of 1 & 2 Kings unfolds, it becomes increasingly apparent that the descendants of David are not walking in the ways of Yahweh. After the reign of Solomon, the kingdom was divided into the northern kingdom of Israel and the southern kingdom of Judah, and by 586 BC, both nations had been swept away into captivity. This was the judgment of God for their unfaithfulness to His covenant ways. Thus, the eternal establishment of David’s throne still lacked fulfilment.

‘Indeed, God chastened David’s sons according to the provisions of the covenant. But never did he remove his lovingkindness as he did from the house of Saul. Even as the last of David’s line languishes in prison [Zedekiah in 1 Kings 25:7], God does not forget his covenant mercies.’ (O. Palmer Robertson, Christ of the Covenants)

Here, once again, with the Davidic throne, Old Testament types and shadows point to greater things to come in Jesus Christ and the new covenant. Ezekiel prophesied that one day, ‘My servant David will be prince among them’ (Ezekiel 34:24), and, ‘My servant David will be king over them’ (Ezekiel 37:24). More and more, the Jews began to look with eager expectation for the coming Messiah, the Anointed One. Isaiah even prophesied that the coming One would sit on David’s throne:

Of the increase of his government and of peace  there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom,  to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness  from this time forth and forevermore. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will do this. (Isaiah 9:7)

Thus, you can see an expectation and desire to see the Messiah come and, once again, sit on a physical throne of David in the city of Jerusalem. But, if we stopped there, I believe we would miss the whole picture. For the prophets even foretold that, not only would this coming King rule over the land of Israel, but His ‘dominion will be from sea to sea, and from the River Euphrates to the ends of the earth’ (Zechariah 9:9-10). God’s rule was going to be established in all the earth…

Not only do we get this picture from the prophets of old, but again, we must remember that Christ and the New Testament are the ultimate interpreters of the words found in the Old Testament. And so, at the great Pentecost in Acts 2, we read these words of Peter:

Brothers, I may say to you with confidence about the patriarch David that he both died and was buried, and his tomb is with us to this day. Being therefore a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him that he would set one of his descendants on his throne, he foresaw and spoke about the resurrection of the Christ, that he was not abandoned to Hades, nor did his flesh see corruption. This Jesus God raised up, and of that we all are witnesses. Being therefore exalted at the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he has poured out this that you yourselves are seeing and hearing. (Acts 2:29-33)

Peter proclaimed that, because David was a prophet, he knew that when God swore to seat one of his descendants of his throne, he was, in all reality, looking ahead to the resurrection of Jesus Christ (Acts 2:30-31), and His subsequent ascension to the right hand of the Father. Therefore, when Jesus was ‘exalted to the right hand of God’ (Acts 2:33), He was seated on the greater throne of David.

Consider it this way: When one is seated on a physical throne in a specific nation, that ruler is only given authority over that one nation. But when one is seated on a heavenly throne, like that of Christ’s, then the declaration is that this one has authority over all heaven and earth. When we use the word heavenly, we don’t refer to some immaterial and ethereal entity. Rather, we refer to that which is of God’s kingdom rule.

As a prophet, David knew that the promises would ultimately be fulfilled in the coming of the Anointed One. And this is confirmed through Peter’s words that the promise to David has already been fulfilled. The Messiah sits on David’s throne, but it has happened in a much grander way than could have ever been imagined.

Christ has been given all authority in heaven and on earth (Matthew 28:18), and He is now ‘far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and every name that is named’ (Ephesians 1:20-23; see also 1 Corinthians 15:25; Hebrews 1:13). This is not something we await to take place in the future, for Christ is now able to establish the kingdom of God from ‘sea to sea’ (Zechariah 9:10) as He is seated on David’s greater throne at the right hand of the Father. Not every knee has bowed or every tongue confessed. But we know who is on the throne – the King above all kings! All the promises of God truly find their ‘Amen’ in Christ Jesus (2 Corinthians 1:20)

The Land of Israel in the New Covenant

In my last article, I looked at what I believe is a healthy and Biblical understanding of the temple of God. My main thesis was that, in the new covenant, God is not so much interested in currently seeing another temple built of brick and stone. Rather, God’s Son incarnate was the great temple which housed the glory of God (John 2:19-22). And not only that, but God is now ultimately dedicated to the temple of His people being constructed as a beautiful masterpiece in which He could dwell by His Spirit (Ephesians 2:19-22; 1 Peter 2:5).

No doubt the topic of the temple brings much debate with it. Yet, there is one that might cause even more debate – Who does the land of Israel belong to? This question is usually answered in one of two ways: 1) Jews or 2) Palestinians. And you might find someone every once in a while claiming it should be for both.

In Genesis 15:7, the LORD promised ‘this land’ to Abram [his name later changed to Abraham] as part of the covenant ceremony. And only a few verses later, He promises it ‘to your offspring’ (Genesis 15:18). Obviously, the land referred to in the passage is the land of Canaan. And because God promised it to Abraham and his descendants, it thus became known as the promised land.

In actuality, God had already promised the land of Canaan to Abraham before the actual covenant ceremony:

The LORD said to Abram, after Lot had separated from him, “Lift up your eyes and look from the place where you are, northward and southward and eastward and westward, for all the land that you see I will give to you and to your offspring forever. I will make your offspring as the dust of the earth, so that if one can count the dust of the earth, your offspring also can be counted. Arise, walk through the length and the breadth of the land, for I will give it to you.” (Genesis 13:14-17)

The promise of the land would be initially fulfilled 400 years later as the Israelites crossed over the Jordan River and began to conquer the land of Canaan, as described in the book of Joshua. And it would be David who would fully expand and establish the borders of the people of Israel, this being described in the first half of 2 Samuel.

As I acknowledged in my last article, many things in the Old Testament foreshadow a greater fulfillment to come in Christ and the new covenant. Or, as I also stated, it is the type that awaits the anti-type. Thus, as I recapped earlier, the temple in the Old Testament pointed to the greater temple of Christ and His body. Consequently, in regards to the land promised to Abraham and his descendants, I am convinced that it also pointed to and foreshadowed something greater to come in the new covenant.

So, what is that greater land now promised to the descendants of Abraham? I believe is the whole earth! The true descendants of Abraham, those Jews and Gentiles who have faith in Christ, are now promised the earth, as Jesus announced in the Sermon on the Mount:

Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. (Matthew 5:5)

More than likely, Jesus was referring back to Psalm 37:11, which said:

But the meek shall inherit the land.

Interestingly enough, Jesus took something from the context of the Old Testament that spoke about ‘the land’ and expanded the definition to ‘the earth’. The Greek word used in Matthew 5:5 is , which is usually translated as ‘earth’ (e.g., see Matthew 5:13; 5:18; Ephesians 1:10; Philippians 2:10; etc). And, considering Jesus’ statement, I believe it is God’s desire to give His Bride the whole earth. It is the poor in spirit that gain the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 5:3); it is those who truly mourn over their sin that are comforted (Matthew 5:4); and it is the meek that receive the gift of the earth (Matthew 5:5); and, in Jesus’ discourse known as the Beatitudes, the blessings continue for those who are truly God’s (see Matthew 5:6-11).

To continue to see this great expansion in the promise of land for the people of God, we can consider John’s words near the end of his great vision:

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. (Revelation 21:1-3)

Here we see the Bride, the people of God, inheriting a new heaven and new earth. And interestingly enough, the Greek word John used for ‘earth’ in Revelation 21:1 is also , as found in Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount.

Just as God has always wanted a temple in which to dwell, God has also always wanted a land to give His people. And as we saw the greater temple of God being that of His Son and the body of Christ, I also believe God’s ultimate heart in the new covenant is not to grant His people a plot of land in the middle-east, but rather give them the greater gift of the whole earth. In the end, the land of Israel/Palestine pointed to the greater promised land of the new earth.

Many will point out that, in Genesis 17:8, God promised the land of Canaan to Abraham as an ‘everlasting covenant’. Thus, the land still belongs to the Jews. But, consider this: God also spoke to Abraham that circumcision was to be an ‘everlasting covenant’ for his descendants (see Genesis 17:13). But we have come to see through the New Testament that circumcision is really about being circumcised in heart (see Romans 2:28-29). It’s not that God has changed His mind about circumcision being part of an everlasting covenant. However, that everlasting covenant is now fulfilled in a much greater way through circumcision of the heart by the Spirit of God!

Thus, I believe the same stands true in regards to God’s everlasting covenant about the land promised to Abraham. This is not a political or national question. This still remains a Biblical question. God is maintaining His faithfulness to His covenant. Yet, the promise is to be fulfilled in a far greater way than Abraham could have imagined. It was beyond all that he could ask or think (Ephesians 3:20). The new covenant in Christ was ‘enacted on better promises’ (Hebrews 8:6). And one of those better promises is that God is now going to give His Bride a new heaven and new earth. Thus, God has kept His word to both Abraham and us! And, with Jesus, we cry, ‘Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.’

The Temple of God Built Today

Many things in the Old Testament are what we call ‘types’, that is something that foreshadows or points to another, yet greater, thing to come in the future. Types are given with the ultimate intention of waiting for the anti-type to come, or another way stated, waiting for that which completes and fulfills the type.

It is true that God has always wanted a place in which He could dwell. In Exodus, He first gave the plans for the tabernacle, the mobile dwelling place of God of which His glory was to rest between the two cherubim. But it was only temporary until something of greater grandeur would be built once Israel had settled in the land of Canaan. We see this more ‘permanent’ dwelling place with the construction of the temple in the days of Solomon. There is no doubt its glory surpassed that of the tabernacle. It stood as a superior dwelling of God in His glory. But again, this was only temporal until something greater would come. These were both types, pointing to a greater temple, a more excellent dwelling place of God.

When Christ arrived on the scene, He made this interesting statement:

Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up. (John 2:19)

Unfortunately, the Jews of the day assumed Jesus was speaking of the physical temple based in Jerusalem, hence their response in verse 20. But John clarifies that Jesus was speaking about Himself when penning these subsequent words:

But he was speaking about the temple of his body. When therefore he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this, and they believed the Scripture and the word that Jesus had spoken. (John 2:21-22)

Therefore, we must first recognize that Christ is the great temple of God in which all the glory, splendor, power, character and fullness of deity was to dwell in bodily form (see Colossians 1:15; 2:9). And no doubt the Son of God fulfilled such. Eugene Peterson had this to say about John’s words in chapter 2 of his Gospel:

‘So when John tells us that Jesus, the flesh and blood Jesus that everyone can see, dwelt among us, he clearly means us to understand that Jesus is the new tabernacle and temple of the Hebrew people. Do you want to see God present among you, do you want to come into the presence of God and worship him? Here he is making himself at home among you: Jesus – pitching his tent, building a house, setting up shop.’ (Christ Plays In Ten Thousand Place, p99-100)

Yet, we must also consider another beautiful temple which God is building today. As stated in my previous article, God is currently in the process of forming a people of the kingdom who would produce the fruits of the kingdom (see Matthew 21:43) – one of both Jew and Gentile submitted to Christ. Thus, in regards to the topic of the temple of God, we read these words of Paul:

So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole building, being fitted together, is growing in to a holy temple in the Lord, in whom you also are being built together into a dwelling of God in the Spirit. (Ephesians 2:20-22)

You see, it is the body of Christ that is being built into a holy temple, for Peter stated it this way:

You yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. (1 Peter 2:5)

And we can even consider the words of Stephen that, in actuality, ‘the Most High does not dwell in houses [or temples] made by human hands’ (see Acts 7:48-49).

Some might claim, ‘Well, that is good and all, the spiritual temple God is building. But He still desires to build a physical temple, for the prophets proclaimed such.’ To this, I would agree that God did promise that a new and beautiful temple would be rebuilt (see Ezekiel chapters 40-48). But we must consider that, in the days of Zerubbabel and Ezra, a physical temple was rebuilt (see Ezra chapters 3, 5, and 6).

Yet, some would argue that Zerubbabel’s temple was not as glorious as described by Ezekiel, thus we are still awaiting another temple to be built in Jerusalem. But, I would remind us that we cannot read the Old Testament promises without viewing them through the lens of the New Testament. We have to ask, ‘What did Christ and the writers of the New Testament say?’ For as I quoted one theologian in another previous article:

‘The Old Testament is no longer the last word on end-time prophecies since the Messiah of prophecy Himself has come as the last Word. The New Testament has been written as the ultimate norm for the fulfillment and interpretation of Israel’s prophecies. A Christian would deny his Christian faith and Lord if he reads the Old Testament as a closed entity, as the full and final message of God for Jews irrespective of the cross and resurrection of Jesus, the Messiah, and apart from the New Testament explanation of the Hebrew writings.’ (Hans K. LaRondelle, The Israel of God in Prophecy: Principles for Prophetic Interpretation)

The truth is that God has kept His promise to fulfil the words prophesied by Ezekiel. Initially, this fulfillment came in the days of Zerubbabel and Ezra. But, even more, based upon the New Testament passages we looked at earlier, God is building a different kind of temple today. As I claimed earlier in this article, God has always wanted a temple – a place of dwelling for Himself. But, in the new covenant, God has shown that He is building something greater than a temple made of brick and stone. The physical temple pointed to something greater – a people who are being built together as a holy temple, a dwelling of God, in the Spirit.

Though this is a lengthier quote, Christopher Wright made it clear through this illustration:

‘Imagine a father who, in the days before mechanized transport, promises his son, aged 5, that when he is 21 he will give him a horse for himself. Meanwhile the motor car is invented. So on his 21st birthday the son awakes to find a motor car outside, “with love from Dad”. It would be a strange son who would accuse his father of breaking his promise just because there was no horse. And even stranger if, in spite of having received the far superior motor car, the son insisted that the promise would only be fulfilled if a horse also materialized, since that was the literal promise. It is obvious that with the change in circumstances, unknown at the time the promise was made, the father has more than kept his promise. In fact he has done so in a way that surpasses the original words of the promise which were necessarily limited by the mode of transport available at the time. The promise was made in terms understood at the time. It was fulfilled in the light of new historical events.’ (Knowing Jesus Through the Old Testament)

The horse is like the temple of the old covenant; the motor car is like the temple of the new covenant, that is, the body of Christ. For God knows that a temple made of His people shines with a beauty and magnificence far greater than that of one constructed of stone. Thus, God has been faithful to fulfill His promises, and He is fulfilling them in greater ways than could have ever been imagined in the days of Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel and the rest of the prophets. And, even more, when the fulfillment of any type comes, we are to never go back to the type. Thus, with Christ and His body as the great temple, God does not call us back to construct a physical temple. The promise has been fulfilled!

Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think…(Ephesians 3:20)

Next time, I will look at the land of Israel as a type of something greater to come in the new covenant.