Four Pictures of One Reality

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KEY TEXT
Isaiah 31:4-5 (NKJV)

V4- For thus the LORD has spoken to me: “As the lion roars, and a young lion over his prey (When a multitude of shepherds is summoned against him, he will not be afraid of their voice nor be disturbed by their noise), so the LORD of hosts will come down to fight for Mount Zion and for its hill.

V5- Like birds flying about, so will the LORD of hosts defend Jerusalem. Defending, He will also deliver it; Passing over, He will preserve it.

There are many instances in the Bible, especially in the Old Testament where we see Yahweh using pictures to convey His nature, His character and even His promises to the children of Israel.

In the New Testament, we see Jesus using the parables to illustrate His gospel truths to the people of His time.

Our Key text today carries very remarkable promises of God all enwrapped in pictures. The immediate occasion of these remarkable promises is, of course, the peril in which Jerusalem was placed by Sennacherib’s invasion and the fulfillment of the promise was the destruction of his army before its gates.

Isaiah boldly declares in the opening verse: “For thus the LORD has spoken to me…..”

How does the LORD speak to the nation of Israel in their harsh reality of war and unrest?

The Lord speaks to the children of Israel of His sure promises in the form of 4 pictures.

This morning I would like to share a message entitled ‘FOUR PICTURES OF ONE REALITY’.

In this message, there are three things I would like to raise up to your attention:

• The Four Pictures of God
• The Reality of These 4 Pictures
• How to Make the Reality of These 4 Pictures Ours?

(I) THE FOUR PICTURES OF GOD

1. AN ANGRY ROARING LION
V4- For thus the LORD has spoken to me: “As the lion roars, and a young lion over his prey (When a multitude of shepherds is summoned against him, he will not be afraid of their voice nor be disturbed by their noise), so the LORD of hosts will come down to fight for Mount Zion and for its hill.

The first graphic and remarkable metaphor of God is an angry roaring lion.

The enemies of Israel on the other hand, are picturesquely and poetically represented as a crowd of shepherds vainly trying to scare a lion by their shouts. The lion stands undaunted, with his strong paw on his prey and the boldest of the shepherds (enemies) dares not venture to drag it from beneath its claws.

So Isaiah by using this daring image of God is to promise Israel that GOD WILL PUT ALL HIS STRENGTH INTO KEEPING FAST HOLD OF ISRAEL AND NO ONE CAN PLUCK HIS PEOPLE FROM HIS HANDS.

This picture is one of the extreme fierceness of God.

Application: Has the devil summoned a multitude of “shepherds” or enemies against you? Have these multitude of shepherds been intimidating you with their bully talks and loud voices? Remember, you are the prey of the young lion, Yahweh. His paws are on you and he is growling ferociously against any of the shepherd or enemy who tries to snatch you from his hand. The Lord will keep you in His hands. He will come down to fight for you.

2. THE NEST AND THE MOTHER-BIRD
V5a-Like birds flying about, so will the LORD of hosts defend Jerusalem.

The form of the words in the original shows that it is the MOTHER-BIRD that is thought about here.

The picture here is the mother bird fluttering over her nest where the fledglings are, unable to fly and to help themselves. It is a kind of echo of the grand metaphor in the song that is attributed to Moses, which speaks of the eagle fluttering over her nest and taking care of her young. Jerusalem was like a nest on which, for long centuries, that INFINITE DIVINE LOVE had brooded. It was a poor brood that had been hatched out, but yet ‘as birds flying’ He had watched over the city. In this picture, you can see the mother-bird, made bold by maternal love, swooping down upon the intruder that sought to rob the nest and spreading her broad pinion over the young fledglings that lie below.

Application: That is what God does with us. We are that poor brood that is hatched out. That does not matter. Still the LOVE bends down and helps. Nobody but a prophet could have ventured on such a metaphor as that, and nobody but Jesus Christ would have ventured to mend it and say, “As a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings,” (Matthew 23:37) when there are hawks in the sky. So He, in all the past ages, was the One that “as birds flying….defended His people,” and would have gathered them under His wings, only they would not.

Are you dwelling under the pinions of God’s wings today? Are you under the tender and maternal care of God? Or have you strayed from that covering of God’s tender care and have now exposed yourself to the flying hawk and danger above you? God wants you to run into the safety of His wings and hide there. God wants you to make Him your hiding place. God wants to gather you under His tender loving care. But are you like the Jews who would not want that?

This picture of God as the mother bird flying over her nest of fledglings is a picture of TENDERNESS AND MATERNAL CARE and it is the total opposite of the first picture of God as a young angry lion roaring on his prey. Look at these two pictures side by side – on the one hand the lion, with his paw on his prey and the angry growl that answers when the shepherds vainly try to drag it away from him. That is God!!! But that is only one aspect of God. “As birds flying, so the LORD will defend Jerusalem.” We have to take that into account too. This generation is very fond of talking about God’s love; does it believe in God’s wrath? It is very fond of speaking about the gentleness of Jesus; has it pondered that tremendous phrase, “the wrath of the Lamb’? The lion that growls and the mother-bird that hovers – God is like them both.

3. THE BATTLEFIELD AND THE SHIELD
V5- Like birds flying about, so will the LORD of hosts defend Jerusalem. Defending, He will also deliver it;

The two words “defend” and “defending” literally means SHIELDING.

Thus we have the same general idea as that in the previous metaphor of the mother-bird hovering above the nest: God is like a SHIELD HELD OVER US and He is flinging off front the broad and burnished surface of the Almighty buckler (round shield), all the darts that any foe can launch against as, “Our God is a Sun and Shield” (Psalms 84:11).

Application: In our lives, there are always darts of wrong thoughts, insults, accusations and slanders flung at us. Whether it is flung by the enemy of our soul or by evil people, the effect is the same – it wounds us. But thank God, when we are in Christ, He becomes our broad SHIELD to protect us from all these darts that are launched against us.

E.g. Looking back at the last 3 years of spiritual battle, I dare say there were torrents of poisonous darts launched against Pastor Toh Nee and me. Poisonous darts in the form of character assassination, false accusation and deceitful and twisted lies. It wasn’t a pleasant experience to be on the receiving ends of all these poisonous and seditious words and insults. But what kept us alive and kicking till today and what held our heads high up like a he-goat was this broad shield that Christ held over us. I dare testify that Christ really DEFENDED and is STILL DEFENDING us till today because He is our BROAD SHIELD. How broad you want this shield of Christ to be will depend upon your faith in Him and His promises – “besides all these, taking the shield of faith, with which you can quench all the flaming darts of the evil one” (Ephesians 4:16).

4. EGYPT AND THE DESTROYING ANGEL
V5b-Passing over, He will preserve it.

The words “passing over” are a technical word in the Old Testament because it is used in reference to the PASSOVER. We had the angry young growling lion; we had the nest and the mother-bird; we had the battlefield and the shield; now we are swept away back to that night when the Destroying Angel stalked through the land and “passed over” the doors on which the blood had been sprinkled. And thus this God, who in one aspect may be likened to a fierce father protecting his child like a young lion protecting his prey from the shouting shepherds; and in another aspect may be likened to the mother-bird hovering with her little breast full of tenderness and made brave by maternal love conquering natural timidity; and yet in another aspect may be likened further to a broad shield behind which man stands safe, may now also be likened to that Destroying Angel that went through Egypt, and smote wherever there were not the tokens of blood on the door posts and “passed over” wherever there were.

The original fulfillment of this fourth picture is the historical case of the army of Sennecherib, outside the walls, widespread desolation; inside the walls, an untroubled night of peace. That night in Egypt is paralleled, with the other night when Sennecherib’s men were slain. In the morning when the children of Israel arose, all the army of Sennecherib had become dead corpses.

Application: When you are in Christ, He will preserve you from the Angel of Death. He will cause it to pass over you, thus preserving you. The Angel of Death is the Spirit of Death. Without the blood of Christ smeared over you and your household, you will always experience destruction and death.

Application: Some of you today may have the spirit of death in you. It is Angel of Death. There are so many near death encounters in your life. There are some of you who are always thinking of dying or committing suicide. It is the Angel of Death attacking you. You need to cover your spirit by the blood of Christ so that it will preserve you. Today, Christ wants this spirit of death to pass over you. He wants to preserve you from death. You have to smear the blood of Christ over your soul, body and spirit and family. Are you under the blood of Christ today?

(II) THE REALITY OF THESE 4 PICTURES
What do these four pictures of God mean in our reality? They mean the ABSOLUTE PROMISE FROM GOD OF PROTECTION FOR HIS PEOPLE FROM EVERY EVIL.

This protection of God is for the spiritual world as well as for our temporal world.

You have to rise to the height of God’s conception of what is good and what is evil in regard to outward things, before you can understand how completely this promise is fulfilled to every man that puts his trust in Him.

Now this angry young growling lion, this hovering protector; this strong Shield, this Destroying Angel that passes by our houses if the blood is on our door posts, does not guarantee us any exemption from the common “ills that flesh is heir to.” We all know that well enough.

But what does it guarantee? It guarantees that all the poison shall be wiped off the arrow; that all the evil shall be taken out of the evil; that it will change its character; that if we observe the conditions, the sharpest sorrow will come to us with this written on it by the Father’s hand, “With My love to My child”; that pain will be discipline, and discipline will be blessed.

Many of us can attest to the fact that God’s rod does blossom and that our sorest sorrows have been our greatest mercies; drawing us nearer to Him;
“Defending He will deliver, and passing over He will preserve.”

The reality of these 4 pictures is fulfilled in Jesus Christ. Jesus came to us as:

• Lion of Judah
Genesis 49:8-12- Judah is a lion’s whelp; from the prey, my son, you have gone up. He stooped down, he couched as a lion, and as a lioness; who dares rouse him up? The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, until he comes to whom it belongs; and to him shall be the obedience of the peoples, Binding his foal to the vine and his ass’s colt to the choice vine, he washes his garments in wine and his vesture in the blood of grapes; his eyes shall be red with wine and his teeth white with milk.

Judah means PRAISE.

Judah is A LION’S WHELP.

From the prey (i.e. sacrificial lamb), you have gone up (i.e. was resurrected) to lie down as a lion (i.e. from the whelp to the full grown Lion of Judah).

The scepter shall not depart from Judah means Judah’s lineage will rule forever.

Jesus has fulfilled the law so now the lawgiver is between His feet until Shiloh (another name for Jesus comes).

The prophecy about binding the donkey to the vine is about the Palm Sunday.

Washed his garments in wine and his clothes in the blood of grapes means By his blood we are healed and saved.

But when He comes back as the Lion of Judah, His eyes are darker than wine means Jesus will return again as the consuming fire.

But his teeth are whiter than milk means Jesus is totally pure- the fullness of righteousness.

God gave me another interpretation for Jesus as the Lion of Judah. When we praise Jesus as what Judah symbolizes, Jesus will be like a lion to us. He will protect us, he will growl and attack our enemies. He will war for us – a fierce picture of Christ.

• Mother bird
Matthew 23:37-“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, killing the prophets and stoning those who are sent to you! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not!

Here Jesus compares himself to a mother hen who longs to gather her young under her wings. Jesus here shows tender, yearning mother love. The picture of Jesus as a mother hen recalls loving mother bird images of God in the Hebrew Scriptures (Deuteronomy 32:11-12). God, like a mother-hen gathers us near for protection and warmth and helps us to grow. This biblical mother hen image led early Christian writers to equate Christ and feminine Divine Wisdom and to refer to Christ as “Mother.”

• Broad Shield
Psalms 18:2- The LORD is my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer, my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge, MY SHIELD….

David was a military man and thus he often borrowed military vernacular to express his great security from the Lord. He described the Lord as His shield. Jehovah The Father was a shield to Christ, in his infancy, from Herod’s rage and fury and afterwards from the insults of the Pharisees and their attempts to take away his life before the time and in his suffering and death, so as that his faith and confidence in him were kept up, and he got the victory over sin, Satan and the world. Today, we as believers are also kept up by the power of Jesus and encompassed about with Jesus’ favor like a shield. Jesus’ faithfulness in his promises and his truth are our shield and buckler. And when we have faith in His words and promises, we broaden that shield of protection and covering. Yes it is the shield of our faith in Christ that holds up the shield, defends ourselves against the charges of the law, the accusations of conscience and the temptations of Satan and which are a security from the justice of God and wrath to come. Christ is our shield of faith.

• Passover Lamb
The Passover lamb was the animal God directed the Israelites to use as a sacrifice in Egypt on the night God struck down the firstborn sons of every household (Exodus 12:29). This was the final plague God issued against Pharaoh and it led to Pharaoh releasing the children of Israel from slavery.

The New Testament establishes a relationship between this Old Testament Passover Lamb with Jesus Christ. John the Baptist called Jesus the “Lamb of God” (John 1:29) and Apostle Peter links the lamb without defect to Jesus as a “lamb without blemish or defect” in 1 Peter 1:19. Jesus was qualified to be called that as his life was completely free from sin. In Revelation 5:6, John the apostles sees Jesus as “a Lamb, looking as if it had been slain.” Jesus was crucified during the time that the Passover was observed (Mark 14:12).

The Bible says believers have symbolically applied the sacrificial blood of Christ to their hearts and thus have escaped eternal death (Hebrews 9:11,14). Just as the Passover Lamb’s applied blood caused the “destroyer” to pass over each household, Christ’s applied blood causes God’s judgment to pass over sinners and gives life to believers (Romans 6:23).

As the first Passover marked the Hebrew’s release from Egyptian slavery, so the death of Christ marks our release from the slavery of sin (Romans 8:2). As the first Passover was to be held in remembrance as an annual feast, so Christians are to memorialize the Lord’s death in Holy Communion until He returns (1 Cor 11:26).

(III) HOW CAN WE MAKE THE REALITY OF THESE 4 PICTURES OURS?
All the promises and prophecies of the Old Testament are conditional.

So what are the conditions we have to fulfill?

1. PERSONAL TRUST IN CHRIST
Take the second metaphor of the hovering mother-bird. In Psalms 91:4, it says, “He shall cover thee with His feathers, and under His wings shout thou trust.”

The word for “trust” here means “to fly into a refuge.”

Can you not see the picture? A little brood round the mother bird, frightened by some beast of prey or hovering hawk in the sky and fluttering under its wings, and all safe and huddled together close against the warm breast. “Under His wings shalt thou trust.” PUT YOUR TRUST IN GOD AND GOD SHALL BE TO YOU THE HOVERING BIRD, THE BROAD SHIELD, THE ANGEL THAT PASSES OVER.

Take the other picture of the Passover night. Only by our individual faith in Jesus Christ as our individual Savior can we put the blood on our door-posts so that the Destroying Angel shall pass by. So, if we would have the sweetness of such words as these fulfilled in our daily lives, however disturbed and troubled and sorrowful and solitary they may be, the first condition is that under His wings shall we flee for refuge and we do BY TRUST IN HIM.

2. CONTINUAL COMMUNION
Once we have fled to Christ, we must CONTINUE THERE so that we could continue under His protection. Such continuance of safety because of continuous faith is possible only by CONTINUED COMMUNION. Remember our Lord’s expansion of the metaphor in His lament in Matthew 23:37: “How often would I have gathered thy children together as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not.” We can resist the drawing. We can get away from the shelter of the wing. We can lift up our wills against Him. And what becomes of the chicken that does not run to the mother’s wings when the hawk is hovering? This is what becomes of the man that stops outside the refuge in Christ or that by failure of his faith departs from that refuge. “Ye would not; therefore your house is left unto you desolate.” That house, in the Jerusalem which God ‘defends’, is not defended.

3. OBEDIENCE
We cannot expect God to take care of us and preserve us when we do not ask God’s permission to get into the dangerous place that we find ourselves in. Many of us do the opposite of what the Apostle condemns. We begin “in the flesh” and think we shall end “in the Spirit.” That means we do not ask God’s permission to do certain things, to enter into certain engagement or arrangements with other people and then we expect God to come and help us in or out of them. This is really a delusion. You remember what Jesus Christ said when the Devil tried to entice Him to do a thing of that sort, by quoting Scripture to Him – “He shall give His angels charge concerning Thee, to keep Thee in all Thy ways. Cast Thyself down” (Matthew 4:6). Satan was actually advocating to Jesus that trust to the promise as a kind of parachute to keep Him from falling bruised on the stones of the Temple-court. Christ’s answer was: “Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God.” In other words – You will not get God’s protection in ways of your own choosing.

CONCLUSION
In reality, what is Christ to you?

In the midst of your chaotic reality of opposition and trouble, Christ wants to tell you that He is your:

• Lion of Judah – he growls at anyone who tries to snatch you away from him. He protects you fiercely from any bully or enemies or even shepherds for that matter.
• Mother-bird – always fluttering over your helpless state and he will tenderly shelter you provided you run to him for covering and protection.
• Broad shield – His promises and truth are your shield but to broaden that shield you have to have faith in what He has promised you and so shall you quench every fiery dart hurled against you.
• Passing Angel – who passes over you because you have Christ’s blood over you. He will preserve you.

Let’s put our individual trust in Him and continue in our communion with Him. Don’t walk out of that covering. Don’t walk out of the fellowship with Christ. Obey God. God is not responsible for you if you willfully walk out of the will of God.

End
PREACHED AT ETAB 1ST SV ON 26 APL 2015

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