When Jesus sent out His disciples He told them that there are two possible reactions to them preaching the gospel: either they would be received, or they would be rejected.
This is a fact, for God has given humanity freewill, and as such every one of us is free to accept or reject the prophetic Word of God. However whilst we do have this freedom, it must be acknowledged that with every exercise of our freewill, every decision and every action we take there is a consequence in the spiritual realm which alters the material world. And it is true in this case as well.
God has laid out in His Word the specific consequences for both receiving the prophetic Word and the rejecting of it. In fact, He holds the reception of His Word as so important that He has said :
“He who receives a prophet in the name of a prophet shall receive a prophet’s reward…” Matthew 10:41
Why is the reception of a prophet so important to Him? And what is the prophet’s reward?
The Importance of the Prophetic
The prophet represents God. He goes forth from the presence of God and speaks what God has given him to speak. The prophet speaks the Word of God in the power of the Holy Spirit. It is not just speaking the Word, it is speaking it forth in the power of an anointing borne out of intimacy with Jesus Himself. The prophet is the ambassador of Christ in this world, and so the prophet and his message are inextricably linked. A true prophet cannot be separated from the message he brings.
We see this with Ezekiel. God had a message for Israel and He had His prophet to act out what he was proclaiming to Israel. He had to lie down for a certain number of days as a sign against rebellious Israel. (Ezekiel 4)
One cannot receive the prophet himself, whilst rejecting the message he brings. And vice versa is true.
Neither can the true prophet be separated from God. When God sends someone to speak forth His Word, then he/she is speaking it on God’s behalf. Rejection of the prophet and his message therefore is rejection of God and His Word.
“He who receives you receives me, and He who receives Me receives Him who sent Me.” Matthew 10:40
The Way of the Flesh
The rejection of the Word of God is normal. What I mean by that is that it is the way of human flesh. The flesh always resists the Spirit. It always has and it always will. The flesh has its eyes blinded and its heart hardened.
“But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.” 1 Corinthians 2:14
I don’t know about you, but since I was born again I left behind “normal”. I don’t want the way of the flesh anymore, I am desperate for the way of the Spirit. As followers of Christ, we who are now living by the Spirit should be able to receive and hear what the Spirit is saying to the Church regardless of whether it is a message of encouragement/edification or whether it is a message of correction/reproof. You see, the Holy Spirit wants to work in us to conform us to the image of Christ and sometimes the old needs to be torn down first before the new can be built.
Rejection of the Prophetic Word
The consequence of the rejection of the prophetic Word is judgment and death.
This may sound harsh, but there is a spiritual principle at work here.
“For he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption, but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life” Galations 6:8
Because the Word of God is alive (Hebrews 4:12) when it is received it takes root in order to bring forth life, just like a little seed.
However when the Word of God is rejected, that place where life was meant to dwell becomes a vacuum. Nature abhors a vacuum and something has to take that place. What enters in is corruption. When Christ is actively rejected after the Word has been preached, a new level of corruption enters into that individual/church/city.
Jesus told the disciples what action to take with those who reject them and their words:
“And whoever will not receive you nor hear your words, when you depart from that house or city, shake off the dust from your feet. Assuredly I say to you, it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorra in the day of judgment than for that city!” Matthew 10:14, 15
The action of the shaking of dust from one’s feet is an act of judgment against that place.
“The Jews thought the land of Israel so peculiarly holy, that when they came home from any heathen country, they stopped at the borders and shook or wiped off the dust of it from their feet, that the holy land might not be polluted with it. Therefore the action here enjoined was a lively intimation, that those Jews who had rejected the Gospel were holy no longer, but were on a level with heathens and idolaters.” John Wesley
Jesus brings Sodom and Gomorra into the picture as a picture of God’s judgment. It was an awful judgment of fire and brimstone against awful sin. Yet they were judged apart from the gospel of Jesus Christ – it had not been preached to them. How much more severely will God judge the place to which the gospel has been sent and rejected?
It is the same with us. Now that we are followers of Christ, partakers of the grace of God, born again from death into life, how much more should we be able to hear from God?
As the Parable of the Sower demonstrates, the result of that seed of the Word not being able to penetrate and take root is
You see if God wants to speak something to you and me, then He wants us to have ears to hear it. There is always a purpose to God speaking – and that is to bring forth life. To close our hearts and our ears to Him is actually an act of disobedience. Remember Saul – he shut his ears to God’s instructions and because of his disobedience was rejected as king. Remember Lot’s wife. She was specifically told not to look back at Sodom. She did, and became a pillar of salt. Death entered in. Remember Adam and Eve. Specifically instructed not to eat of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. God warned them of the consequence of disobedience : death.
“You shall not eat it….lest you die” Genesis 3:3
They ate it and death entered in.
Jesus Himself exhorts us to be able to hear. Over and again He says “He who has ears to hear let him hear what the Spirit is saying to the Churches.”
Why? Because He knows that faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God. He says that seeing and hearing leads to understanding in the heart, conversion and healing. (see Matthew 13:14-15).
It Is Not Too Late
I want to encourage you that God is merciful It is not too late to hear Him.
I feel that there are some in the Body of Christ who have rejected a Word from the Lord because it didn’t sit well with their flesh. Perhaps it seemed too big, perhaps you felt inadequate to receive it. Perhaps it was a reproof against a specific sin you didn’t want to give up or didn’t know how to give up. This rejection of God’s Word has brought about a measure of death in your spiritual life and you are now stagnating.
Let me tell you that until this has been dealt with you will not move forward. If you have any controversy with God then it needs to be sorted today. Get in His presence and be honest with Him. Let go of pride, let go of inadequacy. Let go of Self altogether and just allow Him to minister to you. Confess your sin of disobedience and ask Him to open your ears. And then do what He tells you to do.
This is the way Life will flow again.
Reception of the Prophetic Word
“He who receives a prophet in the name of a prophet shall receive a prophet’s reward….” Matthew 10:41
Wow – this is almost too amazing to believe! God cares so much about the reception of His Word and His messenger that whoever receives a prophet, because he is a prophet, shall receive the same reward a prophet receives.
Whilst this is amazing it is also quite logical. Considering that the rejection of God’s word is the norm of human flesh, then the one whom can receive it the Spirit of Life must already be working on in some measure. The one who can receive from God has not a hardened heart nor deafened ears. Whoever receives a prophet because he is a prophet of God, is receiving the prophet as an ambassador of Christ. Therefore whoever is receiving a prophet ultimately receives God Himself.
“He who receives you receives Me, and he who receives me receives Him who sent Me”
Once again from the Parable of the Sower: “But he who received seed on the good ground is he who hears the word and understands it, who indeed bears fruit and produces, some hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty.” Matthew 13:23
When the seed of the Word is received in fertile soil, God is able to move and new life springs up as a consequence.
So What is the Prophet’s Reward?
Jesus said to His disciples “He who finds His life will lose it, and he who loses his life for My sake will find it.” Matthew 10:39
This the reward of a prophet. One who goes forth and speaks the Word of God, not fearing man but fearing God. One who stands up against the forces of evil and declare God’s truth. One who loses his reputation for the sake of Christ. One who confesses Christ in the face of persecution and rejection. One who does not bow to the pressure of man. One who puts Christ before himself. This is a true prophet and this one will find eternal life because, for the sake of the gospel, he has laid down his temporary life in this world.
And the one who receives the prophet and his words will share in his reward of eternal life because he has received him. Because rather than resisting the prophetic Word in the flesh, he has heard by the Spirit.
Because in his humility he has identified with the prophet, God will identify him with the prophet’s reward.
This is a wonderful topic with much depth. I cannot cover it all in this one post but God willing I am going to write more on this. It needs to be stated that not all “prophets” are true prophets of God. There are many false prophets in the world whom we should not receive, nor receive their words.
Next post…. false prophets and testing the spirits
So far in our study of the typology of the Brazen Altar we have seen :
The word “altar” literally means “slaughter place”, “high” or “lifted up”
That it was made from Bronze/brass representing God’s judgment against sin; and acacia wood representing the incorruptible humanity of Christ.
That the Brazen altar is a picture of Christ Himself and His blood atonement
The Brazen Altar is Also a Picture of the Cross
A Place of Substitutionary Death
As we saw in the last post, the altar was a place of shed blood, a place of death. The place where God’s judgment on sin was poured out upon the innocent animal, whom took the place of the sinner. There the blood was poured out and the fire of God consumed the sacrifice.
Of course at the cross Jesus’ blood was shed and He took the judgment and wrath of God upon Himself for our sins. Jesus’ death upon the cross fulfilled all of the Old Testament sacrifices and did away with them once and for all.
“Not with the blood of goats and calves, but with His own blood He entered the Most Holy Place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption.For if the blood of bulls and goats and the ashes of a heifer, sprinkling the unclean, sanctifies for the purifying of the flesh, how much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?And for this reason He is the Mediator of the new covenant, by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions under the first covenant, that those who are called may receive the promise of the eternal inheritance.” Hebrews 9:12-15
Outside the Camp
Once an animal had been sacrificed on the altar, the remaining ashes and the offal were taken outside the Israelite’s camp to be discarded and burned.
“And the priest shall put on his linen garment, and his linen trousers he shall put on his body, and take up the ashes of the burnt offering which the fire has consumed on the altar, and he shall put them beside the altar.Then he shall take off his garments, put on other garments, and carry the ashes outside the camp to a clean place.” Leviticus 6:10, 11
This also points to Jesus Christ who suffered “outside the camp”. Calvary was outside of the walls of Jerusalem in a place of shame.
“For the bodies of those animals, whose blood is brought into the sanctuary by the high priest for sin, are burned outside the camp. Therefore Jesus also, that He might sanctify the people with His own blood, suffered outside the gate.” Hebrews 13:11,12
As followers of Jesus Christ we are to gladly bear His reproach too. Sometimes we are persecuted, shamed and rejected because we follow the Lord. This means we are following in the footsteps of our Master. Let us not try to court the world’s favour, instead “let us go forth to Him, outside the camp, bearing His reproach” Hebrews 13:13
The Horns of the Altar
Horns signify the strength or power of the animal. The altar had one on each corner. The animal sacrifice would be bound to the Brazen altar by these four horns. So too was Christ nailed to the cross. Whilst the animal that was sacrificed had no choice in the matter, Jesus Himself did, and He willingly laid down His life for us.
““Therefore My Father loves Me, because I lay down My life that I may take it again. No one takes it from Me, but I lay it down of Myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again….” John 10:17,18
The four horns of the corners of the altar speak to us of Christ’s sacrifice being for all of humankind – the power of His grace extending to the four corners of the earth. They also signify the power of the gospel going out to the four corners of the earth.
The Fire on the Altar
God Himself lit the fire on the Brazen Altar. It was a divine fire, sovereignly started by God, wholly initiated by Him. As we see in Leviticus 9:24 the fire came out from the Most Holy Place and consumed the burnt offerings on the altar:
“Then the glory of the Lord appeared to all the people, and fire came out from before the Lord and consumed the burnt offering and the fat on the altar. When all the people saw it, they shouted and fell on their faces.” Leviticus 9:23-24
It was unacceptable for man to light his own fire, in fact it was a crime was punishable by death. We see this with Nadab and Abihu upon whom the judgment of God fell when they tried to offer profane fire (Leviticus 10). This is a very clear picture for us and one we do well to heed.
You see God has a proscribed way of worshipping Him. It is always on the basis of the blood of substitutionary atonement.
It is always and only the way of the cross.
God sending the fire of judgment upon the Brazen Altar was His acceptance of the offering presented there. God’s fire of judgment falling upon Christ at the cross showed forth His acceptance of His Son as the perfect offering for sin. Our sin was judged at the altar of the cross by the divine fire and because of that we are able to stand before God. If we bypass the fire of that altar, then we are choosing to stand before God apart from the death of Christ and be judged according to our own works. Of course the judgment that has to fall on the flesh is death because “the wages of sin is death”.
God commanded that this fire was to never go out.
“A fire shall always be burning on the altar; it shall never go out” Leviticus 6:13
The fire was lit sovereignly by God but was to be maintained by man. It was to never go out and so it was the responsibility of the priests to bring the wood every day to keep the fire burning for the morning and evening sacrifices.
We saw previously that the fire signified God’s judgment on sin. However this fire also speaks to us of the Holy Spirit. When we accept Christ as the divine substitution for our sin, and subsequently lay down our lives for Him, God sends the Holy Spirit to live within us. The basis for the Holy Spirit coming to live within us is always the altar or cross of Jesus Christ. It can never be initiated by us and our fleshly good works. His divine life enters our spirit by His Spirit only when we have been to the cross, and suddenly a fire is kindled within.
Although God sovereignly ignites the spark it is our responsibility to maintain the divine fire every day, just as the priests did. We are to pray and read the Word of God daily. This is the way in which we keep the fire of God burning within.
One of the very first things the Lord taught me when I started street-preaching was that I am not responsible for how people respond. My work was to simply speak forth the Word
Sorry….I just had to…
of God. He showed me that I am not to consider how or even if the message will be received, I am simply to speak it forth in obedience.
If people respond well, praise God. If they don’t, praise God anyway.
I have seen many different responses to the preaching of the gospel. Sometimes there is conviction by the Spirit and sometimes reception to the Word of God. But most often it is this:
Demonic manifestations, including cursing Jesus, foul/sexual language and personal abuse
Shaking heads sadly
Turning off the PA or trying to steal my microphone from my hand
Laughing and mocking
Hardness of heart, those who are completely unreceptive/unresponsive to the gospel
The Parable of the Sower (Matthew 13) demonstrates that there is a variety of different grounds of reception to the word of God. Whilst many different responses are possible, the one I dislike encountering the most is the last one. I would much rather encounter demonic manifestations or outright aggression to the Word of God than the completely unresponsive, hard-hearted receptions I get from some. Why? Because with the aggressive/demonic I know something of the Word has penetrated somewhere and it is bringing about a response.
But the proud, unreceptive person is just that – unreceptive. Unable and unwilling to receive of God. They are able to stand right in front of me while I am preaching about hell or about the amazing love of God and send a text message. Nothing penetrates.
Whilst I must keep going and not let that deter me from my mission, there is One who cares deeply how His Word and how His prophetic voice are received. That is, of course, God.
Standing right between the parable of the Sower and Christ’s explanation of that parable is this passage:
“Though seeing, they do not see; though hearing, they do not hear or understand.In them is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah: “‘You will be ever hearing but never understanding; you will be ever seeing but never perceiving. For this people’s heart has become calloused; they hardly hear with their ears, and they have closed their eyes. Otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts and turn, and I would heal them.’
But blessed are your eyes because they see, and your ears because they hear.” Matthew 13:13-16
And so I have to ask: Do our eyes see? Do our ears hear?
You see, each of those responses listed above from unregenerate sinners, I have also encountered in the church (excluding the cursing of Christ).
Beloved, this should not be so.
“He who has ears to hear, let him hear what the Spirit is saying to the Churches.”
Are we able to receive of God? Am I able to?
Oh yes I know we are Christians. I know we know lots about the Bible and about God. But are we able to actually receive from Him?
Have we learnt so much over the years, and been to church for so long that we now know it all? Has the earth of our heart become stony again?
Can the seed of the word of God still penetrate? Or is it only possible when we hear a “positive” word that is complimentary or affirming to our flesh in some way?
Can we be reproved? Or are we immediately on the defense? What if God wanted to correct us and what if He sent an “unlikely” prophet to do it? Would we be able to receive from Him?
Or would we reject the prophet and his words?
God takes very seriously the reception or rejection of His prophetic Word and there are consequences to both responses.
the consequences of the reception and the rejection of the prophetic word
“Now I ask you, what is the philosophy of mission? What is the philosophy of evangelism? What is the philosophy of a Christian? If you’ll ask me why I went to Africa, I’ll tell you I went primarily, to improve on the justice of God. I didn’t think it was right for anybody to go to hell without a chance to be saved. And so I went to give poor sinners a chance to go to Heaven. Now, I hadn’t put it in so many words. But if you’ll analyze what I just told you, do you know what it is? It’s humanism. But I was simply using the provisions of Jesus Christ as a means to improve upon human conditions of suffering and misery. And when I got to Africa, I discovered that they weren’t poor, ignorant, little heathen running around in the woods, waiting for, looking for someone to tell them how to go to Heaven. That they were monsters of iniquity. They were living in utter and total defiance, of far more knowledge of God than I ever dreamed they had. They deserved hell because they utterly refused to walk in the light of their conscience and the light of the law written upon their heart and the testimony of nature and the truth they knew.
And when I found that out, I assure you, I was so angry with God that one occasion in prayer, I told him that it was a mighty, little thing He’d done, sending me out there to reach these people that were waiting to be told how to go to Heaven and when I got there I found out they knew about Heaven, didn’t wanna go there. And they loved their sin and wanted to stay in it. I went out there motivated by humanism. I’d seen pictures of lepers. I’d seen pictures of ulcers. I’d seen pictures of native funerals. And I didn’t want my fellow human beings to suffer in hell eternally, after such a miserable existence on earth.
But it was there in Africa that God began to tear through the overlay of this humanism. And it was that day in my bedroom, with the door locked, that I wrestled with God. For here was… I was coming to grips with the fact that the people I thought were ignorant and wanted to know how to go to Heaven, and were saying “someone come and teach us” actually didn’t wanna take time to talk with me or anybody else.. They had no interest in the bible and no interest in Christ. And they loved their sin and wanted to continue in it. And I was to the place at that time where I felt the whole thing was a sham and a mockery and I’d been sold a bill of goods. And I wanted to come home. And there alone in my bedroom as I faced God honestly with what my heart felt, it seemed to me I heard Him say, “Yes, will not the Judge of all the earth do right? The heathen are lost and they’re going to go to hell not because they haven’t heard the gospel. They’re going to go to hell because they are sinners who loved… their ..sin.. and because they deserved hell. But, I didn’t send you out there for them, I didn’t send you out there for their sakes.”
And I heard as clearly as I’ve ever heard though it wasn’t with physical voice but it was the echo of truth of the ages finding its way into an open heart. I heard God say to my heart that day something like this:
“I didn’t send you to Africa for the sake of the heathen. I sent you to Africa for My sake. They deserved hell but I love them and I endured the agonies of hell for them. I didn’t send you out there for them. I sent you out there for Me. Do I not deserve the reward of My suffering? Don’t I deserve those for whom I died?”
And it reversed it all. It changed it all and righted it all. And I wasn’t any longer working for my cup and ten shekels and a shirt but I was serving the living God. ” Paris Reidhead
One thing that bugs me about the debate over gay marriage is that when both sides bring the Bible into the discussion they always seem to miss something. And it’s something HUGELY important.
One side says it is about justice and equality. The other side says it is about the family and the rights of the child. Both sides are passionate, heated and emotional.
But it is important to see something bigger is going on: whilst there is much emotional rhetoric on both sides, the battle is actually spiritual.
There are two people who care more about marriage than even the most verbal and passionate of activists:
These are of course God and Satan.
I have heard both sides discuss Leviticus 18 & 20, the story of Sodom and of course Romans 1. I’ve heard Christians and non-Christians, gay and straight argue these scriptures.
And of course, whilst these scriptures are valid, something vital is constantly overlooked. And that is the fact that the whole Bible, the whole story of redemption is about marriage.
It begins with a marriage – the Garden of Eden
It ends with a marriage – the marriage supper of the Lamb
And in between is the great and wonderful story of the redemption of humanity through marriage.
The Eternal Truths of Marriage
As followers of Jesus Christ in this post-modern age it is easy to miss the beauty and significance of the eternal truths displayed in marriage.
It is oft-repeated that Jesus never said anything specifically against homosexuality, thus saying in effect, that He condoned it. Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact everything Christ said and did was in order to institute a covenant marriage-relationship between Himself, the Bridegroom, and His Church, the Bride.
Jesus used the Jewish marriage customs of the day to illustrate to His Jewish disciples the significance of why He came. We need to remember that Jesus is a Jew and it was to other Jews that He spoke. We, as non-Jews who have been grafted in, can often miss the significance of Christ’s words. (I have written extensively about this here)
In point form here are just a few of the Jewish marriage customs showing forth Christ’s redemption:
The Bride-Price (Mohar)
In ancient Jewish customs the Bride-price was agreed upon by the father and the Bridegroom-to be. The Bride-price was a very high price to pay. The higher the price that was paid, the less incentive for a young man to divorce his betrothed. This gave the young woman comfort that her betrothed would in fact return for her after he had finished preparing a place for her in his father’s house.
Jesus Himself paid a very high price for His bride, the ultimate price – He paid with His own blood. His life was poured out for her. No higher price has ever been paid than what He paid.
Paid in Full
When the young man paid the price in full to the father of the bride the marriage covenant was established….
…and so we see Jesus. Upon the cross He cries out with a loud voice “It is finished!” (John 19:30)
There He paid in full the debt owed, our debt, for the sin of mankind to the Father.
The Glass of Wine
After the bride-price was agreed and paid, the Jewish bride-to-be would be called in and offered a glass of wine to drink. To drink from the cup would show her acceptance of the covenant with the groom.
So too Jesus, the Bride-Groom, offered His disciples a cup of wine.
“Then he took a cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them, and they all drank from it. This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many,” he said to them. Mark 14:23
This was Christ’s “marriage proposal” to His Bride. Jesus offered to His disciples the Cup, and in doing so He was instituting the New Covenant.
The Old Covenant was between Jehovah and His Wife, Israel.
The New Covenant is between Christ and His Bride, the Church.
And every time the gospel is proclaimed throughout the world it is Christ once again issuing His marriage-proposal to the lost sinner.
Satan Hates Marriage
And of course, this is why Satan hates marriage. Because every time a man and a woman enter into a marriage-covenant with each other it is proclaiming the victory of the Bridegroom and the redemption of humanity through Christ’s Bride. Marriage is a prophetic sign-post pointing to Christ and His Bride. And more than anything Satan wants that sign-post removed from the earth. This is the reason he is pushing the gay-marriage agenda so vehemently.
God Loves Marriage
And of course, this is why God loves marriage. Because He designed it to be a pointer to His beloved Son, Jesus Christ. He put it in this earth to point to the true marriage of Christ and His Bride. He wants people to see marriage and to know there is something deep and mysterious shown forth that cannot quite be grasped. Something that will turn people to Christ and be saved.
“For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.”This is a great mystery, but I speak concerning Christ and the church.” Ephesians 5:31, 32
Marriage is the fight of our day. I urge you not to become side-tracked with emotional rhetoric, but to see this issue as it truly is – a spiritual battle. And one in which the Church must be engaged. Care about this. Pray. Write to your MP’s too. Encourage church leaders to speak up. Pray, pray, pray.
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