Sunday, January 25, 2009

THE GREEN TREE AND THE DRY TREE


Daughters of Jerusalem (Luke 23:26-33, Zechariah 9:9, Romans 2:28-29)

Luke 23:26
And as they led him away, they laid hold upon one Simon, a Cyrenian, coming out of the country, and on him they laid the cross, that he might bear it after Jesus.

Luke 23:27
And there followed him a great company of people, and of women, which also bewailed and lamented him.

Luke 23:28
But Jesus turning unto them said, Daughters of Jerusalem, weep not for me, but weep for yourselves, and for your children.

Luke 23:29
For, behold, the days are coming, in the which they shall say, Blessed are the barren, and the wombs that never bare, and the paps which never gave suck.

Luke 23:30
Then shall they begin to say to the mountains, Fall on us; and to the hills, Cover us.

Luke 23:31
For if they do these things in a green tree, what shall be done in the dry?

Luke 23:32
And there were also two other, malefactors, led with him to be put to death.

Luke 23:33
And when they were come to the place, which is called Calvary, there they crucified him, and the malefactors, one on the right hand, and the other on the left.

Have you ever wondered what the meaning is of verse 31?

“For if they do these things in a green tree, what shall be done in the dry?”

These words have troubled me for a long time. The entire section of verse 28-31 is one package. These four verses belong together, because they are connected by the words “For” and “Then” and “For”. And thus our goal today is to find the meaning of the bottom line, which is verse 31.

When we consider verses 28-31, we know that this passage must be related to the crucifixion of the Lord Jesus Christ, for the context demands it.

Who is the Lord addressing in this passage?

Is He literally speaking to women and bemoaning their children?

Is He calling the women blessed if they have not borne any children?

But that is a very unbiblical idea.

And, if you insist on the literal interpretation, how are you going to relate this unbiblical idea to calling the mountains and the hills to fall on us, and how are you going to relate this to the green tree and the dry tree, and how are you going to relate all this to the crucifixion of the Lord Jesus Christ?

And so, we understand now that this is not a passage that can be interpreted literally, for the Lord speaks here in allegorical language. And so, the first question that comes up is this:

Who is the Lord Jesus addressing here? Who do these daughters of Jerusalem represent?

Except in the Song of Solomon, which is a highly allegorical prophecy, all other references to the “Daughters of Jerusalem” indicate that these are the same people who are called “The daughter of Zion”. For example, God says in Zechariah 9:9, “Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion; shout, O daughter of Jerusalem: behold, thy King cometh unto thee: he is just, and having salvation; lowly, and riding upon an ass, and upon a colt the foal of an ass.”

The Lord Jesus came riding into Jerusalem as the King of the Jews; not the King of the Old Testament Jews, but the King of the New Testament Jews who are defined in Romans 2:28-29. And thus, the Lord Jesus is addressing the church, the invisible eternal church, whose members are the remnant chosen by grace out of all nations and kindreds and peoples and tongues, throughout both the Old Testament and the New Testament time. This agrees very well with other passages of Scripture, for wherever in the Bible a woman is interpreted spiritually, she always represents a religious organization, or she represents the church. And notice that the Lord Jesus in Luke 23:28-29 is addressing multiple women, so that we cannot say that He is addressing the eternal church as one woman, like in Galatians 4:26. There were many women following Him to the place of execution, and thus the Lord is speaking about many churches.

Weep For Your Children (Luke 23:28, 21:23, Matthew 24:19,21,24)

Luke 23:28
But Jesus turning unto them said, Daughters of Jerusalem, weep not for me, but weep for yourselves, and for your children.

If the women represent churches, who do the children represent?

The children represent those who are being fed by these churches. The children represent the people in those churches who are being fed false doctrines, because the churches have gone apostate. They adhere more to the words of men than to the Word of God. And this applies both to the Old Testament church as well as to the many New Testament churches that have been stamped out of the ground.

For example, did you notice that the Lord Jesus cleansed the temple twice during His ministry, once in the beginning and the second time at the end of His ministry?

It is pointing to the fact that the Old Testament church at the beginning of His ministry was thoroughly apostate, and the New Testament church at the end of the New Testament period of time will also be thoroughly apostate. The Bible is full of evidences of that fact. In Luke 21:23 the Lord Jesus is speaking the same language as in Luke 23:28-31, parabolic language. We read in Luke 21:23,

Luke 21:23
But woe unto them that are with child, and to them that give suck, in those days! for there shall be great distress in the land, and wrath upon this people.

Is He speaking about literal children and about literal babies?

No! The great distress in the land near the end of time is the great apostacy, which is the cause of God’s wrath upon this people. Perhaps you may remember that we read about the same subject matter in Matthew 24, which is speaking about the conditions of the world near the end of time. Here again the Lord is not speaking about literal women and children, for that would give us the unbiblical idea that women are blessed when they did not bear any children. The women represent churches, and the children represent people in those churches who are fed false doctrines by the preachers and teachers in those churches. We read in Matthew 24:19,

Matthew 24:19
And woe unto them that are with child, and to them that give suck in those days!

And then notice that the Lord followed this up with declaring in Matthew 24:21 that there will be great tribulation that will be worse than any other tribulation the world has ever known. Then the Lord explains what that tribulation will be like in Matthew 24:24, where He says,

Matthew 24:24
For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall shew great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect.

You see, this is the great tribulation that churches will proclaim false gospels that are O-so-close to the true Gospel that even the elect might be deceived, if that were possible. But by the grace of God the elect cannot be deceived. But the majority in the churches will fall for it, and they will end up worshipping Satan instead of Christ. That is why the wrath of God rests upon them. Please return now to Luke 23:29,

Blessed Are the Barren (Luke 23:28-29, John 14:6, Revelation 13:7-8, Galatians 4:25, Psalm 8:2)

When the Lord Jesus speaks about “Blessed are the barren” He is always combining this thought with “The days are coming”.

Luke 23:29
For, behold, the days are coming, in the which they shall say, Blessed are the barren, and the wombs that never bare, and the paps which never gave suck.

Which days are coming?

First of all the Lord is addressing the apostate Old Testament church, the church that denies the Lord Jesus as their Messiah, the church that claims that they are saved by being sons of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the church that claims that they are saved because they are obeying the Law of Moses. Those doctrines were never true, for they ignored the grace of God, and they ignored that God only saves through the mercy of the Lord Jesus Christ, for the Lord Jesus said in John 14:6, “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.”

The meaning of this is very plain: “No man cometh unto the Father, but by me,” and that means absolutely “No Man”, either in the New Testament time or in the Old Testament time. People in the Old Testament, like David, were saved by looking forward to their Messiah, and by putting their trust in Messiah to take care of their sins, not by putting their trust in the work of obeying the law. That is why those women should be weeping for their children, for they are being raised to be children under the wrath of God. The women represent synagogues who are teaching their people a false way to salvation. Those days started immediately after the Lord Jesus died on the cross, for this was the moment in time when the Old Testament economy turned to the New Testament economy of the Gospel. There is only one Gospel of salvation. Salvation is all by grace, for all the glory of salvation must always go to God, through the saving work of the Lord Jesus Christ. And thus, the Old Testament church that continues to proclaim the false gospel of works, and makes proselytes, is under a curse. Blessed is the Old Testament church that does not make proselytes under this false gospel.

Secondly, the Lord is addressing the church toward the end of the New Testament dispensation. When churches go apostate and preach works gospels that cannot save, fewer and fewer people are being saved, and then it is time for the Lord to return and judge the people of the world for their ungodliness. There are many references to the apostacy of the end time, but the clearest statement comes from Revelation 13:7-8, “And it was given unto him to make war with the saints, and to overcome them: and power was given him over all kindreds, and tongues, and nations. And all that dwell upon the earth shall worship him, whose names are not written in the book of life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.”

In other words, except for a remnant chosen by grace, the great majority of the world shall worship Satan. Satanic doctrines will be preached in most churches, especially in mega-churches that seem to flourish all over the world. And the multitudes of converts that are joining those churches are trained to be children under the wrath of God. That is why the Lord is addressing those churches with the words, “Daughters of Jerusalem”, for they are descendants of the Jerusalem that is, and are in bondage with her children (Galatians 4:25). That is why the Lord says in Luke 23:28, "weep for yourselves and for your children." Blessed are those churches that do not make converts under these false gospels.

And so, what does the Lord Jesus mean when He is speaking about “the paps which never gave suck”?

Who are:

Those Who Suck the Breasts? (Luke 23:29, Isaiah 66:10-12, 60:16, Galatians 4:25-26)

Luke 23:29
For, behold, the days are coming, in the which they shall say, Blessed are the barren, and the wombs that never bare, and the paps which never gave suck.

The Bible speaks many times about those who suck the breasts. For example, let's turn to the Prophecy of Isaiah, Isa 66:10. We find in the Prophecy of Isaiah many statements that definitely need spiritual interpretations, for it is impossible to attach a literal meaning to those verses. Let us turn to two examples where the Lord speaks of those who suck the breasts. We read in Isaiah 66:10-12,

Isaiah 66:10
Rejoice ye with Jerusalem, and be glad with her, all ye that love her: rejoice for joy with her, all ye that mourn for her:

Isaiah 66:11
That ye may suck, and be satisfied with the breasts of her consolations; that ye may milk out, and be delighted with the abundance of her glory.

Isaiah 66:12
For thus saith the LORD, Behold, I will extend peace to her like a river, and the glory of the Gentiles like a flowing stream: then shall ye suck, ye shall be borne upon her sides, and be dandled upon her knees.

Is this speaking of a literal woman nursing a literal child?

Is this the literal city of Jerusalem of bricks and mortar?

Is this a literal baby borne upon her knees?

No, obviously it is not. But this is the woman of which all who are in Christ have come into, and at this time it is a woman who gives suck, because verse 12 says that this refers to the time when the Lord is expanding the New Testament church with converts who are truly saved and who are being fed with the true Gospel of grace by the church, for the Spirit of God will guide the church.

Which Jerusalem is the Lord talking about?

He is talking about the Jerusalem that is above (Galatians 4:26), for the Jerusalem that is, is still unsaved and is in bondage with her children (Galatians 4:25).

Isaiah 60:16 is also is a verse that speaks of the faithful church that feeds its members the true Gospel of salvation in the New Testament dispensation. And notice that it is impossible to interpret this verse literally. We read in Isaiah 60:16,

Isaiah 60:16
Thou shalt also suck the milk of the Gentiles, and shalt suck the breast of kings: and thou shalt know that I the LORD am thy Saviour and thy Redeemer, the mighty One of Jacob.

This verse speaks of the Lord Jesus Christ, for He alone is our Savior and our Redeemer, and He is the mighty One of Jacob. The saints “shall suck the milk of the Gentiles”, which means that there will be Gentile teachers in the New Testament church which will feed the congregation with the true milk of the Gospel. And this is also the meaning of thou “shalt suck the breast of kings”. As long as we are faithfully declaring the true Gospel of grace alone, through Christ alone, we are the kings and priests of the New Testament era.

And so we see that when the Lord Jesus turned to the women who followed Him, He uttered a parable to them, which they did not understand, but which He uttered for us so that we would search it out. And He began this parable by saying that the time would come when most of those that are in the churches are being trained to be under the wrath of God. And then Christ followed this up with a statement that reflects the wrath of God on all those who have been led astray by their churches at the end of time. He said in verse 30:

Fall on Us, and Cover Us (Luke 23:30, Revelation 6:16-17, Isaiah 2:12-21)

Luke 23:30
Then shall they begin to say to the mountains, Fall on us; and to the hills, Cover us.

This is a clear statement of the timing of the end of the world. People are hiding from the Lord Jesus Christ when He is coming as the Judge of all the earth at the end of time, to take vengeance on those that know not God and that obey not the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. For example, we turn to Revelation 6:16. The Lord Jesus is opening the sixth seal of the scroll, which contains the decree of God for all the history of this earth, from the beginning of creation until the end of time. The opening of the sixth seal declares to us the appearance of Christ at His second coming. The seventh seal contains the last trumpet call, and the rapture, and the seven vials of the wrath of God. And then we read in Revelation 6:16-17, “And said to the mountains and rocks, Fall on us, and hide us from the face of him that sitteth on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb: For the great day of his wrath is come; and who shall be able to stand?”

This is exactly what the Lord Jesus is saying in Luke 23:30. The people of the world will be surprised by the coming of the Lord, and they will be surprised by the fact that the end of time has come. Some are surprised by the fact that the Lord’s return is announced so early in the Prophecy of Revelation, already in Revelation 6. But this is no surprise to a student of the Bible, for the Lord’s return is already spoken of in Isaiah 2:12,

Isaiah 2:12
For the day of the LORD of hosts shall be upon every one that is proud and lofty, and upon every one that is lifted up; and he shall be brought low:

The Day of the Lord is generally referring to the Last Day.

Isaiah 2:17
And the loftiness of man shall be bowed down, and the haughtiness of men shall be made low: and the LORD alone shall be exalted in that day.

No more loftiness of man, for the Lord alone shall be exalted in that day.

Isaiah 2:19
And they shall go into the holes of the rocks, and into the caves of the earth, for fear of the LORD and for the glory of his majesty, when he ariseth to shake terribly the earth.

Isaiah 2:20
In that day a man shall cast his idols of silver, and his idols of gold, which they made each one for himself to worship, to the moles and to the bats;

Isaiah 2:21
To go into the clefts of the rocks, and into the tops of the ragged rocks, for fear of the LORD, and for the glory of his majesty, when he ariseth to shake terribly the earth.

Clearly, this is speaking of the end of the world, and all the people of the world shall know that Christ has come to judge all those who have not been taken up in the rapture. And so we see that the Lord Jesus in verses 28, and 29, and 30 of Luke chapter 23 is warning the church, yes He is warning the people in the churches, that the majority of churches will go apostate, and that judgment will be waiting them when Christ returns. And now we are ready to talk about:

The Green Tree and the Dry Tree (Luke 23:31, Matthew 3:11-12, Ephesians 1:4)

Luke 23:31
For if they do these things in a green tree, what shall be done in the dry?

In the context of verse 30, what would the dry tree refer to?

Yes, it would refer to the state of this dry tree near the end of time, when judgment will be meted out by Christ the Judge. This is the direction we should go. Luke 23:31 speaks about a good tree, in a time when the tree is still green, and about a dry tree, in a time when that same tree is very dry. When John the Baptist announced the coming of the Lord Jesus, he described Him as One who shall baptize His people with fire.

What does baptism by fire mean?

We read in Matthew 3:11-12,

Matthew 3:11
...He shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire:

Matthew 3:12
Whose fan is in his hand, and he will throughly purge his floor, and gather his wheat into the garner; but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.

The Lord Jesus speaks of His crucifixion as a Baptism. And for sure it was a baptism by fire. When the Lord Jesus went to the cross to pay on our behalf what we owe to God, He had to pay the penalty that we would have to pay, which is an eternity in Hell. Thus Christ paid the penalty that was equivalent to an eternity in Hell, for only then will God’s righteousness be satisfied. We cannot understand how great His sufferings were in His soul, but we do believe what the Bible says in ephesians 1:4, which states that we were chosen in Christ before the foundation of the world.

In fact the Bible says that we were still in Christ when He went to the cross, and when He paid the penalty of the equivalent of an eternity in Hell. And so, when Christ endured a baptism by fire, referring to the torments of Hell in His soul, we were in Christ, and thus we also endured the baptism by fire with Christ as our representative. This is the meaning of Matthew 3:11.

According to Luke 23:31 the tree was still green then. But when we turn to Matthew 3:12, when “He shall burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire” refers to the time when the tree was dry.

And so, what tree did the Lord Jesus refer to in Luke 23:31?

It could not be the Tree of Life, for the tree of life does not turn dry. It could not be the Fig Tree, for the fig tree represents the nation of Israel, and the nation of Israel ceased to be a special nation in the eyes of God after Christ died on the cross.

Could it be the Olive Tree?

Let us look at:

The Olive Tree (Luke 23:31, Romans 11:1-24)

Luke 23:31
For if they do these things in a green tree, what shall be done in the dry?

And remember the word “For”, because the word “For” relates the actions done in the green tree and in the dry tree to the previous three verses. And notice the preposition “in”. In other words, the green tree cannot refer to the Lord Jesus Christ Himself, since He said, “For if they do these things in a green tree”. He did not say, “For if they do these things to a green tree”. But it is possible to do things in an olive tree.

In Romans 11 God is not speaking about a future glorious nation of Israel during a glorious millennium, for that is contrary to all that the Bible has to say. We have seen this several times during our studies in Matthew. In fact, Romans 11 is in full harmony with God’s plan of salvation as outlined in Romans 9 and 10, where God shows that He saves only those who are His elect, the remnant chosen from before the foundation of the world. And so, Romans 11:1 states with whom God is dealing through this entire chapter. We read in Romans 11:1, “I say then, Hath God cast away his people? God forbid. For I also am an Israelite, of the seed of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin.” In other words, God has not cast away the remnant from the nation of Israel, for I am also an Israelite, and I am not cast away.

Romans 11:11
I say then, Have they stumbled that they should fall? God forbid: but rather through their fall salvation is come unto the Gentiles, for to provoke them to jealousy.

Romans 11:12
Now if the fall of them be the riches of the world, and the diminishing of them the riches of the Gentiles; how much more their fulness?

Romans 11:13
For I speak to you Gentiles, inasmuch as I am the apostle of the Gentiles, I magnify mine office:

Romans 11:14
If by any means I may provoke to emulation them which are my flesh, and might save some of them.

Romans 11:15
For if the casting away of them be the reconciling of the world, what shall the receiving of them be, but life from the dead?

Romans 11:16
For if the firstfruit be holy, the lump is also holy: and if the root be holy, so are the branches.

Romans 11:17
And if some of the branches be broken off, and thou, being a wild olive tree,
wert graffed in among them, and with them partakest of the root and fatness of the olive tree;

Romans 11:18
Boast not against the branches. But if thou boast, thou bearest not the root, but the root thee.

Romans 11:19
Thou wilt say then, The branches were broken off, that I might be graffed in.

Romans 11:20
Well; because of unbelief they were broken off, and thou standest by faith. Be not highminded, but fear:

Romans 11:21
For if God spared not the natural branches, take heed lest he also spare not thee.

Romans 11:22
Behold therefore the goodness and severity of God: on them which fell, severity; but toward thee, goodness, if thou continue in his goodness: otherwise thou also shalt be cut off.

Romans 11:23
And they also, if they abide not still in unbelief, shall be graffed in: for God is able to graff them in again.

Romans 11:24
For if thou wert cut out of the olive tree which is wild by nature, and wert graffed contrary to nature into a good olive tree: how much more shall these, which be the natural branches, be graffed into their own olive tree?

In other words, the fall of the nation of Israel was that they crucified their Messiah. But through their fall salvation is come to the Gentiles. Then, beginning in verse 16 God is setting up the parable of the olive tree. There we read, “For if the firstfruit (which is Christ) be holy, the lump (the eternal church) is also holy: and if the root (which is Christ again) be holy, so are the branches (the eternal church again).”

What is the eternal church?

The eternal church consists of all those whom the Lord has made born from above; and thus the eternal church consists of all those among the remnant chosen by grace who have already been saved in their soul. There are others who are still going to be saved, and this is a process that continues until the last day, for only then is the temple of God complete when all the elect will have been saved. Then in Romans 11:17 God speaks about “branches were broken off.”

Branches Were Broken Off (Luke 23:31, Romans 11:17,20, Revelation 11:3-4, Revelation 1:20)

Romans 11:17
And if some of the branches be broken off, and thou, being a wild olive tree, wert graffed in among them, and with them partakest of the root and fatness of the olive tree;

About what point in history is the Lord speaking off when He says that some of the branches were broken off, and others were grafted in?

This took place when the olive tree was still green. The olive tree represents the eternal church.

Can we say that the olive tree was a green tree when the Lord Jesus was led to Golgotha?

Absolutely yes, for a few days later we see 120 faithful assembled in the upper room, and these were only the faithful ones in Jerusalem. There were many more in Galilee. The Old Testament church represented by the scribes and Pharisees was dead as a doornail, but the New Testament church was alive and well, and was about to grow by leaps and bounds. And so, which branches were broken off from the olive tree of which Christ was the root. Verse 20 says that they were broken off because of unbelief. The Jews who remained in their Judaism, and refused to believe that they crucified their Messiah, were broken off from the olive tree because God brought in the New Testament economy without the ceremonial law, and most of the Jews did not like that. They preferred to hang on to Moses, for they did not believe Christ.

And which branches were grafted in?

Those to whom God the Holy Spirit gave the faith to believe the words of Christ, and trust in the saving work of Christ on the cross, those were the branches that were grafted in.

Revelation 11:3-4 further proves that the olive tree represents the eternal church, consisting of people that remain faithful witnesses for Christ. Even though Revelation 11 is rather steep in allegorical language, we can still understand that the two faithful witnesses represent those that are faithful in the eyes of God.

Revelation 11:3
And I will give power unto my two witnesses, and they shall prophesy a thousand two hundred and threescore days, clothed in sackcloth.

Revelation 11:4
These are the two olive trees, and the two candlesticks standing before the God of the earth.

The faithful witnesses represented by the two olive trees are referenced in Romans 11:16-24, and the two candlesticks are referenced in Revelation 1:20 where we read, “The seven candlesticks which thou sawest are the seven churches.” And so, we now understand that in the first half of Luke 23:31 the green tree is the green olive tree, where something is done IN the green olive tree: Branches were broken off, and wild branches were grafted into that same olive tree. Now we come to:

Judgment on the Dry Tree (Revelation 11:7, Luke 23:31, Jeremiah 17:5)

Luke 23:31
For if they do these things in a green tree, what shall be done in the dry?

And now we must remember that this verse ties into the previous three verses. The word “For” tells us that the people who are in consternation witnessing the Lord’s return as the Judge of all the earth, the ones that are crying to the mountains and hills to fall on them, are those that are represented by the dry tree. They thought they were safe and secure in their apostate church, but their church belonged to the dry olive tree. In fact, God prophesied that the two olive trees of Revelation 11 would end up to be dry and dead trees, for God says in Revelation 11:7, “And when they shall have finished their testimony, the beast that ascendeth out of the bottomless pit shall make war against them, and shall overcome them, and kill them.”

When the two witnesses have completed the work for which God had appointed them, then the two witnesses would be killed; which means that their faithful witness would be silenced, and that the remainder of the church from henceforth is only spouting false gospels. Most of the church has then become a dry olive tree. What is left of the church is ripe for the judgment of God, which means it is to be burned in the fires of Hell.

And so, this is how the parable fits together: The Lord Jesus warns us for the great apostasy which is surely going to come, or is with us already. The women to whom He seems to be talking to represent the New Testament churches, and their children are the people in the churches who are fed works gospels that do not save anyone.

They will see their error on the last day, but then it is too late, for the time of salvation has passed. And then the Lord summarizes the whole parable in verse 31 with the green tree and the dry tree.

And how does all this fit within the context of the Lord Jesus Christ going to the cross?

The Bible tells us that the atonement of the Lord Jesus Christ was a particular atonement for the particular sins of a particular group of people. Most churches these days preach a gospel where the Lord Jesus has paid for the sins of the whole world, and now it is up to us to make the decision if we want to be saved.

That is why the women were to weep for their children, for near the end of time most of the church-going crowd would remain unsaved, for they love to hang on to the words of their pastor, or Bible teacher, rather than to the Word of God. Very few people these days are interested in knowing exactly what God said, because they are lazy, and are satisfied with the words of their pastor or Bible teacher. A long time ago God warned His people for this very same error, for God said in Jeremiah 17:5, “Thus saith the LORD; Cursed be the man that trusteth in man, and maketh flesh his arm, and whose heart departeth from the LORD”.

Those who trust their pastor rather than the actual Word of God are under a curse.

Did you hear what I said?

Please let this be a warning to all of us. Do not put your trust in my words. Put your trust in the Word of God, and God the Holy Spirit will guide your thoughts and intends of your heart to give you the guidance that you seek. Do not be lazy. Do your own Bible study. Search the Scriptures, for therein you will find treasures and revelations of the Lord Jesus Christ that you never even dreamed of.

AMEN.

By Alfred J. Chompff


Thursday, January 15, 2009

HIGH PLACES


When we search the Bible, we find 120 times that God speaks about High Places. If God mentions High Places that often, we have to conclude that these must be very important places.

Just before the children of Israel entered into the Promised Land, God gave them some definite instructions through Moses. God said in Numbers chapter 33:

Numbers 33:50
And the LORD spake unto Moses in the plains of Moab by Jordan near Jericho, saying,

Numbers 33:51
Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them: When ye are passed over Jordan into the land of Canaan;

Numbers 33:52
Then ye shall drive out all the inhabitants of the land from before you, and destroy all their pictures, and destroy all their molten images, and quite pluck down (Lit: destroy) all their high places:

Numbers 33:53
And ye shall dispossess the inhabitants of the land, and dwell therein: for I have given you the land to possess it.

This was God's command to the children of Israel. They had to drive out the Canaanites and destroy all their high places. They had to destroy all the places of idol worship of the Canaanites. The idolatry of the Canaanites was an abomination in the sight of God.

Whose High Places Were These? (Numbers 33:50-53, Leviticus 26:14-17, 30)

In Numbers 33 God was speaking about the high places of the Canaanites.

The children of Israel were forbidden to build to themselves new high places of idol worship. God warned them that if they would depart from worshipping Jehovah and turn to idols, then God would destroy them. God said in Leviticus 26:14,

Leviticus 26:14
But if ye will not hearken unto me, and will not do all these commandments;

Leviticus 26:15
And if ye shall despise my statutes, or if your soul abhor my judgments, so that ye will not do all my commandments, but that ye break my covenant:

Leviticus 26:16
I also will do this unto you; I will even appoint over you terror, consumption, and the burning ague, that shall consume the eyes, and cause sorrow of heart: and ye shall sow your seed in vain, for your enemies shall eat it.

Leviticus 26:17
And I will set my face against you, and ye shall be slain before your enemies: they that hate you shall reign over you; and ye shall flee when none pursueth you.

And then God pronounced a long list of curses that would come upon them if they would depart from worshipping the only true God. We'll now drop down to verse 30. Here: the 1st time high places in the Bible.

Leviticus 26:30
And I will destroy your high places, and cut down your images, and cast your carcases upon the carcases of your idols, and my soul shall abhor you.

Did God Permit High Places? (1 Kings 3:2-5)

From the passages I just read, the answer is: NO! And yet, if we look at the history of the nation of Israel, it seems that God tolerated high places for a while.

As you may already know, 2 Samuel begins with the reign of king David, and 1 Kings begins with the reign of king Solomon. But between the beginning of the entrance of the children of Israel into Canaan and the beginning of the reign of Solomon, 436 years passed by. 436 years is a very long time. The children of Israel erected many high places in those 436 years. And God tolerated that, because we read in 1 Kings 3:2,

1 Kings 3:2
Only the people sacrificed in high places, because there was no house built unto the name of the LORD, until those days.

That was the reason: Because there was no house built unto the name of the LORD, until those days. Before the temple was built Solomon also worshipped the LORD on the high places. We read:

1 Kings 3:3
And Solomon loved the LORD, walking in the statutes of David his father: only he sacrificed and burnt incense in high places.

1 Kings 3:4
And the king went to Gibeon to sacrifice there; for that was the great high place: a thousand burnt offerings did Solomon offer upon that altar.

1 Kings 3:5
In Gibeon the LORD appeared to Solomon in a dream by night: and God said, Ask what I shall give thee.

At that time God tolerated that Solomon still worshipped on the high places, and God appeared to Solomon in a dream, and God said: "Ask what I shall give thee". Then Solomon did not ask for earthly riches, but Solomon asked for wisdom and an understanding heart. And God granted that request. God gave him great wisdom and riches too.

This event, in 1 Kings 3, was the last time God had anything good to say about the high places. Shortly thereafter the temple in Jerusalem was built, and this was the place where God wanted to be worshipped. From this time on God had nothing good to say about the high places in Judah and in Israel. From this time on the high places in Israel and Judah only meant spiritual wickedness. From this time on the high places were identified with idolatry. Holy men of old had erected the high places, and the people did not want to tear them down. But God did not tolerate them any more.

And does this history not run parallel with the history of the New Testament Church?

The reason God gave us the Old Testament is so that we get a good birds eye view of how God deals with the New Testament Church. The temple was a picture of Christ, because the Lord Jesus said in John 2:19, "Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up".

The temple was also a picture of those who are in Christ, because God says in 1 Corinthians 6:19, "Know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you?"

In the Church the utterances of holy men of old and of the saints have been crowding out the Word of God. These preserved utterances of the past have become high places. Over the past 1968 years many such high places were erected in the New Testament Church. It seemed that God tolerated that for a long time. During what is called by many as the Reformation most of those high places were torn down, but at the same time new high places were erected. And God tolerated those high places to some extent. But there comes a time when the Spiritual Temple, the body of believers, will be completed, and then God will not tolerate these high places any more, and God will destroy those high places when He judges the visible Church near the end of time.

Please turn with me to 1 Kings 15, and to 2 Chronicles 13. In the New Testament Church as well as in Old Testament Israel:

The High Places Were Not Removed (1 Kings 15:14, 2 Chronicles 14:2-3, 2 Kings 17:9-11, Ezekiel 16:39)

In 1 Kings 15 we read about Asa, king of Judah. Asa was a good king. But we read in 1 Kings 15:4,

1 Kings 15:14
But the high places were not removed: nevertheless Asa's heart was perfect with the LORD all his days.

But now, let us compare this with 2 Chronicles 14:2-3,

2 Chronicles 14:2
And Asa did that which was good and right in the eyes of the LORD his God:

2 Chronicles 14:3
For he took away the altars of the strange gods, and the high places, and brake down the images, and cut down the groves:

What does this mean?

Obviously it meant that God gave Asa credit for removing high places, but God could not give him a clean slate. Asa did not remove all the high places. There were 40 kings after Solomon, 20 kings in the nation of Israel and 20 kings in the nation of Judah. Only two of these 40 kings removed all the high places: Hezekiah and Josiah. All the other 38 kings either partially removed the high places, or they themselves built more high places. This went on for hundreds of years. This was terrible. These high places were the main reason for the wrath of God coming on the nations of Israel and Judah, and their resulting destruction. The first one to go was the Northern kingdom of Israel. God speaks about their destruction in 2 Kings 17,

2 Kings 17:9
And the children of Israel did secretly those things that were not right against the LORD their God, and they built them high places in all their cities, from the tower of the watchmen to the fenced city.

2 Kings 17:10
And they set them up images and groves in every high hill, and under every green tree:

2 Kings 17:11
And there they burnt incense in all the high places, as did the heathen whom the LORD carried away before them; and wrought wicked things to provoke the LORD to anger:

About 100 years later God gave to Ezekiel the prophecy of the destruction of Judah in Ezekiel 16:39,

Ezekiel 16:39
And I will also give thee (Judah) into their hand (the hand of Babylon), and they shall throw down thine eminent place (the temple), and shall break down thy high places: they shall strip thee also of thy clothes, and shall take thy fair jewels, and leave thee naked and bare.

God's patience had run out on Israel and Judah. They did not remove their high places, so God now called the Babylonians to do the job for Him.

O yes, there was Josiah who tore down the high places, but his three wicked sons and one wicked grandson build up those high places again. And o yes, there was Hezekiah who tore down the high places, but his wicked son Manasseh build up those high places again. Just to give you an idea of how entrenched the children of Judah were in their high places I have to tell you about:

Nehustan (2 Kings 18:4)

Hezekiah was a good king. Hezekiah did that which was right in the sight of the Lord. Hezekiah removed the high places, as we read in 2 Kings 18:4,

2 Kings 18:4
He removed the high places, and brake the images, and cut down the groves, and brake in pieces the brasen serpent that Moses had made: for unto those days the children of Israel did burn incense to it: and he called it Nehushtan.

"He broke in pieces the brasen serpent that Moses had made". How dare he do that! God had commanded Moses to make that serpent on a pole. This serpent on the pole had saved the lives of a multitude of people in the wilderness. But over time the people began to worship this serpent on a pole and burn incense to it. Something good and holy has been turned into an idol. Therefore Hezekiah destroyed it and called it: "Nehustan", meaning "just a piece of brass". That brass serpent was in existence at least 700 years. Even during the years of Samuel and David and Solomon it was in existence and it may have been worshipped already. That is amazing.

How could such a blatant error live that long?

But compare this now to our time.

How can people believe that something written by holy men of old must be retained as a standard of the Church because of its antiquity?

That is just as well a high place, and if we do not toss it, then God will.

Where did the nations of Israel and Judah go wrong?

The fact is they had forgotten that God said:

Leviticus 26:30
And I will destroy your high places, and cut down your images, and cast your carcases upon the carcases of your idols, and my soul shall abhor you.

This is a warning for us that we do should not fall into this trap. We must worship the only true God.

Where Must Our Focus Be? (John 3:30, 6:37, 44)

The Lord Jesus said to the Samaritan woman: We must worship God in Spirit and in Truth. We do not worship God by going to a particular place. We do not worship God in the things that we do or in the ceremonies that we do. We worship God in our heart. We praise Him in our heart. God looks upon the heart. We do not worship God because we are sincere. We can be sincerely wrong. For example, we cannot have a picture of Jesus on the wall. Jesus is God, and God has forbidden making images of God. If we have Jesus in a picture on the wall, then we tend to worship God in that picture on the wall. Then that picture has become a high place. But high places are taking away from the glory of God. High places give glory to another god, or they give glory to man.

We must refuse to give glory to man. We must apply to ourselves the words of John the Baptizer, who said in:

John 3:30
He must increase, but I must decrease.

Where must our focus be?

We must go to the Bible and seek for God on the pages of the Word of God. There is where we find our Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. There is where we find what God has done to save us. We did not do anything. He did everything. The reason why we worship Him is because He drew us to Himself. The Lord Jesus said it so plainly and so clearly in John 6:37,

John 6:37
All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.

In a nutshell the Lord Jesus is telling us here the whole Gospel: "All those whom the Father has chosen to become saved, the Father has given to me, so that I may atone for their sins on the cross and save them from Hell. And at sometime in their life God the Holy Spirit shall give them a new soul. They shall hear the preaching of the Gospel and shall be drawn to me. Therefore, him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out." This is what God has done to save us. He did everything.

Do you find within yourself that you are drawn to the preaching of this Gospel straight from the Bible?

Then in time you will understand that it was God who made you spiritually alive and made you able to hear this Gospel and believe the Bible.

Do you realize that there are very few people who actually want to read and know what the Bible says?

Most people just pick and choose from the Bible. Most people take for granted what their Church teaches them. For many their Church teaches them that they must accept Christ as their Lord and Savior. They do not realize that they are following a man made gospel. God says in Jeremiah 17:5, "Cursed be the man that trusteth in man".

God says in Isaiah 43:11, "I, even I, am Jehovah; and beside me there is no Savior."

We do not give God a helping hand. We do not do any accepting of Him. He alone does the saving, 100%. Just to make sure we understand this God repeats this thought in John 6:44,

John 6:44
No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day.

This verse says that: No one has the ability to come to Jesus, on His terms, believing that God alone chooses whom He will save and that the Father will draw to Jesus whom He intends to save. God does the saving, and He saves mightily. He is not dependant on the feeble decisions of man. This is the God on whom our focus must be. And therefore:

Whom Do We Worship? (Revelation 22:18-19)

We worship the God who gave us the Bible. We worship the God who is described by the Bible and by the Bible alone. God did not give us any other Divine revelation than only the Bible. As soon as we claim to have additional information from God, other than the Bible we have proclaimed God a liar, because God said in Revelation 22:18,

Revelation 22:18
For I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book:

If anyone adds to these words from God by claiming he had a message from God in a dream, or in a vision, or in an angel visitation, or in a tongue, or he heard God speak to him, then that person is still in an unregenerate state before God. Anyone following that person, believing that he indeed had a message from God, is likewise still in a lost state before God, and is still unregenerate.

Likewise God says in Revelation 22:19 that we should not take away from the Word of God.

Revelation 22:19
And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book.

These two verses clearly spell it out that God's entire message of salvation is circumscribed by the whole Bible, and by the Bible only, nothing more and nothing less. We don't worship a Book. We do worship the God who gave us that Book and who is described by that Book. God's message is also a revelation of Himself to mankind. Therefore if anyone adds to the words of the prophecy of this Book, or if anyone takes away from the words of the Book of this prophecy, then he is by definition worshipping another god, who does not exist, and is believing another gospel, that does not save.

What is the Gospel that saves?

God says, it is the message of:

Only Christ Crucified (1 Corinthians 2:1-2, Leviticus 26:30).

1 Corinthians 2:1
And I, brethren, when I came to you, came not with excellency of speech or of wisdom, declaring unto you the testimony of God.

1 Corinthians 2:2
For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified.

Why is the message of Christ crucified so central to the message of salvation?

Because that is the only way anyone can be saved: Christ has to take the place of man and pay the penalty for man, because sinful man is unable to pay such an enormous penalty, to satisfy the righteousness of God.

But all those whose sins have not been paid at the cross, will try to find their own paths to righteousness, and they will try to find their own way to heaven by trusting in their own idols, and they will build their own ceremonial high places, because they are spiritually blind. God says to them:

Leviticus 26:30
And I will destroy your high places, and cut down your images, and cast your carcases upon the carcases of your idols, and my soul shall abhor you.

This is a dreadful warning from God. We do well to search ourselves and see if we are perhaps guilty of these evils.

What are our high places?

What are the things that we call:

Our Holy Places?

Do we have any high places?

Do we have any things that take away from the true worship of Christ?

Do we have writings of wise and holy men that we consider so valuable that we cannot live without them, even though they contain errors?

We struggled with this question about 1½ years ago when we saw the errors in our Confession of Faith, also known as the Belgic Confession. Keeping the Confession of Faith would elevate this document to one of our high places. Our response was that we should do away with this Confession of Faith, because it is more a hindrance to our faith than an asset. That was a right decision we made, because the works of men may never be so holy that we do not dare to toss it out.

But why did we not continue to clean house?

The Heidelberg Catechism is another possible source of promoting error. I do not quote the Catechism in my sermons. I do not like to put myself in a straitjacket. The Catechism should not dictate what I must be preaching, because the Catechism does not have the authority that the Bible has.

But when we hear someone on the Radio stating that sacraments increase our faith, and when we discover that the Heidelberg Catechism may have something to do with that idea, then we should take a closer look at the Catechism.

Is it possibly promoting error?

Let us make sure that it does not become one of our high places.

Is there someone here who believes that the sacraments, like the Lord's Supper, increases our faith?

You must throw that idea out as quick as it comes. Baptism and the Lord's Supper should not become a high place. We should heed the warning that Old Testament Israel was snared by the Ceremonial Law so that we don't let these things snare us. If we assign spiritual value to any ritual that we do, then we are on dangerous ground.

Why do we celebrate the Lord's Supper?

Because the Lord Jesus said: "This do in remembrance of me". We remember His suffering and death, but the bread and the grape juice do not suddenly become magic potions which increase our faith. The Bible does not teach that at all.

Think of it:

If we indeed have become saved, do we lack anything before we partake of the Lord's Supper?

NO!

Have we become more holy after partaking of the Lord's Supper?

NO! There is no special grace in the Lord's Supper.

Our children may think so, because you can hear a pin drop during the Lord's Supper. Our children may think that the Lord's Supper is more holy than the preaching of the Word of God. But the truth is that it is just the other way around. When God's Word is opened and preached, that is when you should hear a pin drop, because the spoken words from the Bible are God speaking.

Now, can we set our priorities straight?

Another high place, of course, is the Westminster Confession where divorce and remarriage are condoned, and where our faith is described as an instrument of our salvation. This is where the idea of "saving faith" comes from. But check your computer program. "Saving faith" does not appear anywhere in the Bible, because it is not our faith, but it is Christ who saved us.

Whenever we discover errors in our ancient documents, we should be willing to throw them out, or else they will become high places, and these high places are taking the place of the Word of God. When we have high places, we are worshipping other gods in those high places. That is why we want to spend time learning about those high places and we want to teach our children right.

Now let's talk about:

Our Holy Rituals (Leviticus 26:30, John 6:63)

Do we have any rituals that we think are so holy that we think they are from God?

Let's get down to earth about our rituals, or else we are in danger of changing our rituals into high places. We do have rituals. Every Church has them. But rituals can be very dangerous when we value them for the wrong reason. For example, when I give the parting blessing at the end of the service, I say very clearly: "Receive the Lord's parting blessing" and then I read a doxology from the Bible. I do not make something up, but I read aloud God's words, because it is God who is giving these blessed words. I am not blessing you, but God is speaking the blessing, and God is speaking to whosoever He intends the blessing to go to. But this does not mean that we become more filled with the Holy Spirit after the blessing. Rituals do not fill us with more of the Holy Spirit.

How can we be more filled with the Holy Spirit if the Holy Spirit already dwells in us?

Did we leak, and now we need to be filled up again?

You can see that this is getting ridiculous.

One of our rituals is that we sing from this blue hymnal. But did you know that singing these hymns is like singing praises and prayers to God.

Do we mean what we sing?

Do we check the words against what we believe the Bible teaches?

If we just sing to get into a spiritual high, then we do not understand what we are doing. It is vital that we get a spiritual understanding of the things that we do. When a Church does not teach these fundamentals, then the rituals become high places, just like they are in the Roman Church where rituals have completely taken over everything.

From earliest times people have chosen high places on top of hills or mountains.

Why did people choose these high places?

Because they felt there to be a little closer to God. They thought of their Deity as someone dwelling in the heights. These days we are a little more sophisticated. We don't go to a mountain, but we build these high places in our mind. We are imagining that a special grace is attached to our ceremonies. And we do that because we want so much to reach out and touch Him. That is what people do with Baptism and with the Lord's Supper. We do it more subtle than the Jews did with their ceremonial laws, but it is just as bad.

High places are places where we serve other gods. High places are most often created sincerely, but we are sincerely wrong. High places are made from spiritual items. We like to exalt these things. However, we must not lift up anything but God. Our God is a jealous God. God says in Exodus 34:14 that His name is "Jealous". We have more Biblical information than any of the generations that were before us, and so we will be held more accountable. God warned us way back in Leviticus 26:30,

Leviticus 26:30
And I will destroy your high places, and cut down your images, and cast your carcases upon the carcases of your idols, and my soul shall abhor you.

Paraphrased God says, "If you do not put down these high places, then I will."

For some people a big high place is their stubborn determination to view the Bible simply as a history book. They will avoid spiritual interpretation at any cost. They think that believing the stories in the Bible is sufficient unto salvation. But the Lord Jesus said in John 6:63,

John 6:63
The words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life.

In fact, the whole Bible are the words of Jesus. Therefore Jesus said, "It is the spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing".

Therefore we must remember:

The Things Which Are Not Seen (Rom 15:4, 1 Corinthians 10:11, 2 Corinthians 4:18-5:6)

Are more important than the things which are seen. God did not write the Bible to satisfy our curiosity about the history of the nation of Israel, or about the number of miracles Jesus did, or about the fearful and wonderful travels of the Apostle Paul. God wrote the Bible for us, to make us aware that without the Lord Jesus Christ we are on a slippery slide into Hell. God says in Romans 15:4,

Romans 15:4
For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope.

And God says in 1 Corinthians 10:11,

1 Corinthians 10:11
Now all these things happened unto them for ensamples: and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come.

In other words, there is a spiritual dimension in all these things that have been written. They were written to teach us some aspect of the Gospel of salvation. That is why we now read in 2 Corinthians 4:18,

2 Corinthians 4:18
While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal.

Do you know what myopia is?

Myopia is another word for nearsightedness. You can only see things that are close by; you cannot see things that are far away. When we develop myopia we tend to develop high places, because we do not see the important things that are far away. We humans are inclined to focus on the things that are seen, and not on the things that are not seen.

For example, when we grieve about the 6,000 or more people who were killed in the terrorist attacks last week in New York and in Washington D.C. but we do not grieve that every day about 145,000 people die all over the world and most of those will stand for judgment on the Last Day, then we have developed myopia. We do not see God's salvation plan clearly.

When we believe that the Bible was written mainly to teach people how to better get along with each other, then we have developed myopia. This is a high place for many people. They do not see God's salvation plan clearly, and they worship a god, which is not the God of the Bible.

Our God teaches us in the Bible that the life hereafter is far more important than the life we live in this vale of tears. That is the future we live for. That is our Hope. God continues in 2 Corinthians 5:1,

2 Corinthians 5:1
For we know that if our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved, we have a building of God, an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.

2 Corinthians 5:2
For in this we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed upon with our house which is from heaven:

Now, drop down to verse 6,

2 Corinthians 5:6
Therefore we are always confident, knowing that, whilst we are at home in the body, we are absent from the Lord:

If we are feel at home in this earthly body, we have developed myopia, and we tend to look at the Bible as a good book teaching us good morals through the examples given by the moralizing stories in the Bible, and before you know it we will be developing a list of Do's and Don'ts, which is another high place for many people. This is another example that the flesh profiteth nothing.
It is the Spirit that gives life.

But where should our focus be?
Our focus must be altogether on the Lord Jesus Christ, the Word of God, the one whom we worship in Spirit and in truth. And He gave us the task to be His witness in the world, so that we are testifying to the world what He has done for us. We are His Ambassadors.

By Alfred J. Chompff