Embracing Grace: The New Covenant, Part 5

A 365 Day Devotional Journal

Day 66

Scripture: 1 Peter 4:1-11; Revelation 20:11-13; Jude 1; Revelation 1:17-18; Romans 14:8-10; Revelation 3:5; Titus 1:15; 1 John 3:3.

Bethlehem, nave of the Basilica, circa 1920. Matson (G. Eric and Edith) Photograph Collection, Library of Congress

The period between Good Friday and Resurrection Sunday is known in some circles as Silent Saturday. This is the time between Jesus’ death and resurrection when, by all human accounts, nothing is going on. We know from scripture that this is far from accurate, but since we on this side of eternity did not see it, to us it remains “silent”.

Peter wrote about this:

Therefore, since Christ suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves also with the same mind, for he who has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, that he no longer should live the rest of his time in the flesh for the lusts of men, but for the will of God. For we have spent enough of our past lifetime in doing the will of the Gentiles—when we walked in lewdness, lusts, drunkenness, revelries, drinking parties, and abominable idolatries. In regard to these, they think it strange that you do not run with them in the same flood of dissipation, speaking evil of you. They will give an account to Him who is ready to judge the living and the dead. For this reason the gospel was preached also to those who are dead, that they might be judged according to men in the flesh, but live according to God in the spirit.

But the end of all things is at hand; therefore be serious and watchful in your prayers.  And above all things have fervent love for one another, for “love will cover a multitude of sins.”Be hospitable to one another without grumbling.  As each one has received a gift, minister it to one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God. If anyone speaks, let him speak as the oracles of God. If anyone ministers, let him do it as with the ability which God supplies, that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belong the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen.1

Rooftop view of Old City, Jerusalem. Photo courtesy: Imagesunion / Public Domain.

John writes in his revelation about the dead, all of them, small and great, standing before God and being judged according to their works. I personally struggle with this scripture because of being taught so many years about Grace. Yes, I know God has abundantly pardoned us, if we received this free gift, yet there you have it. Scripture says we all, each one of us, will be judged according to our works. My conclusion, then, is that what I do in the body after becoming part of the Bride does matter in the eternal scheme of things.

Then I saw a great white throne and the One Who was seated upon it…, And the dead were judged (sentenced) by what they had done [their whole way of feeling and acting, their aims and endeavors] in accordance with what was recorded in the books…. and all were tried and their cases determined by what they had done [according to their motives, aims, and works].2

Tiberian Mikvah, Speyer, circa 1128. Photo Credit: Chris 73 / Wikimedia Commons / CC-By-Sa 3.0

In the ancient Jewish marriage ritual, the long period of time the bride awaited her bridegroom was not intended to be idle time. She was expected to prepare herself for married life. She was already set aside, sanctified, but it was during the time she waited that she was to purify herself.

 

“And it shall be, in that day,” says the LORD, “That you will call Me ‘My Husband,’ And no longer call Me ‘My Master,’For I will take from her mouth the names of the Baals, And they shall be remembered by their name no more. In that day I will make a covenant for them with the beasts of the field, with the birds of the air, and with the creeping things of the ground. Bow and sword of battle I will shatter from the earth, to make them lie down safely. “I will betroth you to Me forever; yes, I will betroth you to Me in righteousness and justice, in lovingkindness and mercy; I will betroth you to Me in faithfulness, and you shall know the LORD.3

Photo credit: Anna Cervova. Public Domain.

Something exceptional is contained in this last line, above – The Hebrew word for “know” in the above passage from Hosea 2:20, is yada’ [yä·dah’, Strong’s H3045], the exact word used in Genesis 4:1, “And Adam knew Eve his wife; and she conceived, and bare Cain, and said, I have gotten a man from the Lord.”4

One of the events the bride attended to prior to her wedding ceremony was that of the mikvah, a purification ritual done by dipping into water three times. When I learned of this ancient ritual, I initially thought of first, the salvation experience, then water baptism, but there is more to it than this. Entering into the waters of mikvah is practiced when converting to Judaism, for a wife’s monthly purification, and yes, for men and babies in various purification rituals. It would be safe to say that to the Jews, purity is everything, for it is tied into everything they do. To the minds of western believers not from Jewish origins, all this ritual seems a bit much, but one thing to me stood out like a neon light, and that is the great importance placed on purity.

For us as believers and followers of Jesus, we can immediately grasp the significance of spiritual purity for the bride of Christ.

If you study some of the laws pertaining to the priesthood in the Old Testament, you will find that the high priest entered into the waters of mikvah once a year, during Yom Kippur, right before he went into the Holy of Holies. Leviticus 16 describes Yom Kippur and the directives for the High Priest regarding purification before going into the presence of God. I recently read an article on the archeological discovery of the mikvah of the high priest underneath Hezekiah’s tunnel which was dug to divert the Gihon Spring.5

I wonder how often we examine our hearts at this level, if at all, before we enter into God’s presence. Jesus’ death and resurrection forever paid for us the privilege to do as the high priest did and go into the holy of holies, presenting ourselves before God. Do we even realize the significance of what privilege He gained for us through His death?

Mikvah means “collection”, as in a pool. In Jewish culture, “a mikvah is any body of mayim hayim, literally, “living water.”6 This refers to running water, not stagnant. Underground freshwater springs, rivers, and seas are natural mikvaot. It cannot be standing water or water touched by man, who by nature is impure.

It must be pure.

Photo credit: Petr Kratochvil. Public Domain.

If you look at Genesis chapter 1, you will read this in the creation account, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was formless and void, and darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was moving over the surface of the waters.”From the very beginnings of creation, God was involved with water. The river of life flows in heaven, and there will be a living river that flows out from Jerusalem. Even our bodies reflect the importance of water by being mostly comprised of this substance.

Jesus said that He is the source of living water and that from our innermost being rivers of living water would flow. This is a reference, then, not just to a conversion baptism experience but also to the flow of the Holy Spirit in the life of the bride, signified by her bathing in the mikvah, the living waters.

It is about encountering the power of the Holy.

Now on the last day, the great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scripture said, ‘From his innermost being will flow rivers of living water.’” But this He spoke of the Spirit, whom those who believed in Him were to receive; for the Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.8

Photo credit: Bobby Mikul. Public Domain.

I once asked a former pastor of mine, Rev. William Mark Bristow, if he would share a good analogy for explaining the baptism of the Holy Spirit to someone who believed that you received the Holy Spirit automatically with salvation. What he said has stuck in my mind ever since. He took a glass of water and held it up, saying that when we are saved it is like drinking (living) water, but when we are filled with the Holy Spirit, it is like taking this glass of (living) water and throwing it into the an ocean (of living water).

This sounds a lot like going into the waters of mikvah, spiritually speaking.

The Jewish book of rabbinical law has something to add to our understanding on this subject: “The Talmud (Berachos 55a) teaches that all water ultimately has its source in the rivers emanating from the Garden of Eden.”9

God refers to Himself throughout scripture as the fountain of living waters.

Photo credit: Michael Drummond. Public Domain.

For My people have committed two evils: they have forsaken Me, the fountain of living waters, to hew for themselves cisterns, broken cisterns that can hold no water.10A glorious throne on high from the beginning is the place of our sanctuary. O LORD, the hope of Israel, all who forsake You will be put to shame. Those who turn away on earth will be written down, because they have forsaken the fountain of living water, even the LORD. Heal me, O LORD, and I will be healed; Save me and I will be saved, for You are my praise.11

For it will be a unique day which is known to the LORD, neither day nor night, but it will come about that at evening time there will be light. And in that day living waters will flow out of Jerusalem, half of them toward the eastern sea and the other half toward the western sea; it will be in summer as well as in winter. And the LORD will be king over all the earth; in that day the LORD will be the only one, and His name the only one.12

Jesus answered and said to her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is who says to you, ‘Give Me a drink,’ you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water…” Jesus answered and said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will thirst again; but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him shall never thirst; but the water that I will give him will become in him a well of water springing up to eternal life.”13

Remember the gift of God?

It is not just that Jesus purchased for us salvation, or forgiveness for the genetic sin into which we were born, but He is our bridegroom. He extends to all men an offer of Ketubah, or betrothal, which when we agree, sets us apart and sanctifies us to be His bride. When we agree to the bride-price (bought by Jesus’ blood) and drink of the cup (done first at the Passover, but now we do in communion in remembrance of what Jesus did for us), we sealed the betrothal of marriage covenant with Jesus. And now, as a holy and sanctified bride (the church), we are purifying ourselves, so that we may present ourselves to Jesus as His spotless bride.

Photo Credit: Teodoro S Gruhl. Public Domain.

How do we purify ourselves? By being filled with the Holy Spirit continually. When we walk in the Spirit, we do not fulfill the lusts of our flesh (Galations 5:16.)

Scripture is clear that those who walk with Jesus in white (who are pure) are those who are worthy, that he who overcomes will be clothed in white garments (the bridal garment) and the promise from the Bridegroom is that “I will not blot out his name from the Book of Life; but I will confess his name before My Father and before His angels.”14

Not blot out his name from the Book of Life?

Well, that nixes the once-saved-always-saved doctrine, doesn’t it? No wonder Paul said to work out our salvation with fear and trembling.  My prayer for each one of you on this Resurrection Sunday is that you will be ready when the Bridegroom returns.

We rejoice in celebrating this day, Resurrection Sunday, but as the bride of Christ we still await the day when Jesus, the Bridegroom makes His triumphant return for the church, His Bride. And here is the best news of all: this is not the end of the greatest love story of all time. We still have a wedding to attend.

…This is just the beginning.

Read: 1 Peter 4:1-11; Revelation 20:11-13; Jude 1; Revelation 1:17-18; Romans 14:8-10; Revelation 3:5; Titus 1:15; 1 John 3:3. Journal your private thoughts.

Abba God, purify Your bride until we live for You alone. We cannot be Your spotless bride without Your Holy Spirit enabling us. Make it so, for Jesus’ sake, and the kingdom’s, amen.

__________________
11 Peter 4:1-11. Scripture taken from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. www.nelsonbibles.com
2 Revelation 20:11a, 12b, 13b. Scripture quotations taken from the Amplified® Bible, Copyright © 1954, 1958, 1962, 1964, 1965, 1987 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission. www.lockman.org
3Hosea 2:16-20. Scripture taken from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. www.nelsonbibles.com
4Blue Letter Bible. “The Minor Prophet Hosea 2” – (NASB – New American Standard Bible).” Blue Letter Bible. 1996-2011. http://www.blueletterbible.org/Bible.cfm:b=Hsa&c=2&t=NASB (Accessed April 23, 2011.)
5“The Mikvah of the High-Priest Discovered Under the Tunnel Dug by King Hezekiah to Bring the Water from the Gihon Spring.” Temple Mount & Eretz Yisrael Faithful Movement – Jerusalem. http://www.templemountfaithful.org/News/20020212.htm (accessed April 23, 2011.)
6Wikipedia contributors, “Mikveh,” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia,http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Mikveh&oldid=424637607 (accessed April 24, 2011).
7 Genesis 1:1-2. Scripture taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1960,1962,1963,1968,1971,1972,1973,1975,1977,1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission. www.lockman.org
8John 7:37-39. Scripture taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1960,1962,1963,1968,1971,1972,1973,1975,1977,1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission. www.lockman.org
9“Torah Attitude: Parashas Tazria-Metzora: Purification powers of the mikvah.”  Shema Yisrael. Rabbi Avraham Kahn. http://www.shemayisrael.co.il/parsha/kahn/archives/tazria69.htm  (accessed April 23, 2011.)
10Jeremiah 2:13. Scripture taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1960,1962,1963,1968,1971,1972,1973,1975,1977,1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission. www.lockman.org
11Jeremiah 17:12-14. Scripture taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1960,1962,1963,1968,1971,1972,1973,1975,1977,1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission. www.lockman.org
12Zechariah 14:7-9 Scripture taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1960,1962,1963,1968,1971,1972,1973,1975,1977,1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission. www.lockman.org
13John 4:10, 13-14. Scripture taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1960,1962,1963,1968,1971,1972,1973,1975,1977,1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission. www.lockman.org
14Revelation 3:5b. Scripture taken from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. www.nelsonbibles.com

Copyright © 2011, Érin Elise

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