Thursday, August 27, 2015

How The Holy Spirit's working is pictured in the giving of bread in the Old and New Testaments

Nehemiah 9:20 "You, in Your great compassion,Did not forsake them in the wilderness; The pillar of cloud did not leave them by day, To guide them on their way, Nor the pillar of fire by night, to light for them the way in which they were to go. 20 “You gave Your good Spirit to instruct them, Your manna You did not withhold from their mouth,
And You gave them water for their thirst."

Today's post is a continuation from the past couple of posts, wherein we have been exploring how the Lord's table pictures not only the Person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ for the Christian, but also the ongoing work of the Holy Spirit in the Christian. Yesterday we concluded by noting how Christians partake of and enjoy the Person and work of Jesus Christ by their union with Him, and He with them by the Spirit of God. The Holy Spirit from the inception of salvation takes a sinner upon their reception of Christ through Divinely wrought faith and places them "in Christ" (1 Corinthians 12:12-13). It is being set forth in these posts that the Lord's table portrays the Spirit's manifest work in the life of the Christian in bringing the reality of the Person and work of Christ to the Christian and the Christian's life to fuller realization of Jesus Christ. 

Today's post wants to consider the Old Testament background that informed the backdrop of Jesus' institution of the Lord's table. It will be proposed that if we can find evidence of the Holy Spirit's working in those instances where God fed his people, or where He gave them institutions like the passover, then the link between the Spirit's ministry and Christ's ministry should follow in a fuller and richer way.

How we know the Lord's supper was the fulfillment of what was pictured in the Passover
The Jewish Passover feast was initiated by God in Exodus 12 to commemorate His deliverance of the children of Israel from their bondage in Egypt. Exodus 12:6 reads - "You shall keep it until the fourteenth day of the same month, then the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel is to kill it at twilight." In context we discover several important details that point the way to God's ultimate passover lamb - the Lord Jesus Christ. 

First, the "it" in Exodus 12:6 is noneother than the Passover lamb, that every family was to slaughter and later on in the Mosaic law would specifically be done by a qualified Levitical priest (Leviticus 23; Deuteronomy 16:1-2). 

Second, the "fourteenth day" of the month corresponded to March or April on our calendars. Now with the details thus far seen, we have foreshadowed the Lamb of God, spoken of by John the Baptist in John 1:29 and the timing of when He was to be crucified. 

The third detail we find in Exodus 12:6 is with reference to the whole congregation of Israel. The Passover lamb was given on behalf of each family and in a representative way the whole of God's people. We know when Jesus came to this world, He did indeed come to die for the whole world in one respect as the Historically given Savior who is offered to all men indiscriminately in the Gospel (1 John 2:1-2). However in a specific, saving way, Jesus died for His church, composed of all whom God set His Spirit to work and who by faith responded to such work (Acts 20:28; 1 Timothy 4:10). 

All of these details revealed in the Passover meal foreshadowed what would be the final passover and thus - the Ultimate Passover Lamb - the Lord Jesus Christ. Mark 14:12 tells us the timing of the institution of the Lord's Table - "On the first day of Unleavened Bread, when the Passover lamb was being sacrificed, His disciples said to Him, “Where do You want us to go and prepare for You to eat the Passover?” As we noted earlier, Jesus Christ was called by John the Baptist the "Lamb of God" in John 1:29  "The next day he saw Jesus coming to him and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!" So Who was it that was revealing the Passover and events like it? Notice what the Apostle Peter writes in 1 Peter 1:10-12 "As to this salvation, the prophets who prophesied of the grace that would come to you made careful searches and inquiries, 11 seeking to know what person or time the Spirit of Christ within them was indicating as Hepredicted the sufferings of Christ and the glories to follow." The Holy Spirit is the One who revealed the Passover and also connects it to what would be its culmination in the Person and activities of the Lord Jesus Christ.

How we see the Holy Spirit working in the giving of manna and Jesus' preparation for the giving of Himself
As the Israelites made their way through the wilderness following their deliverance out of Egypt, God began fedding them Manna or bread from heaven. God gave them this celestial - but nonetheless physical - bread, knowing full-well they would rebel against Him and would have to be sustained by Him in the wilderness of Sinai for 40 years. 1,000 years after those events, Nehemiah retells the entire history of God's dealings with the people of God and connects the Holy Spirit's leading to the giving of manna. Notice Nehemiah 9:20 “You gave Your good Spirit to instruct them,Your manna You did not withhold from their mouth,
And You gave them water for their thirst." Jesus would 450 years after Nehemiah reveal how He was the fulfillment of the meaning foreshadowed in God's giving of Manna. In John 6, Jesus revealed Himself to be the Bread of Life. To be more specific, John 6:58-63 records Jesus saying - "
This is the bread which came down out of heaven; not as the fathers ate and died; he who eats this bread will live forever." 59 These things He said in the synagogue as He taught in Capernaum.
60 Therefore many of His disciples, when they heard thissaid, “This is a difficult statement; who can listen to it?”61 But Jesus, conscious that His disciples grumbled at this, said to them, “Does this cause you to stumble? 62 What then if you see the Son of Man ascending to where He was before? 63 It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing; the words that I have spoken to you are spirit and are life."

Bringing home the main point of today's post - the Holy Spirit works to illuminate the believer's heart and mind to their ongoing connection to Jesus Christ
What is the point? The point is to show how the Holy Spirit in both the giving of the manna and in Jesus' revelation of Himself as the bread of life works to illluminate minds and hearts to the implications of all that is being said. When we see the giving of the Passover and then the later giving of the manna of Heaven, we come to realize how both actions foreshadowed the ultimate giving of Jesus Christ - both the Bread of Life and Lamb of God. The significance of such realities would not be possible without the Holy Spirit. In the same token, when we consider the Lord's supper, the signs of the bread and fruit of the vine serve to portray the reality of which the Holy Spirit is communicating to every Christian. Each time we partake of the Lord's supper, we are in that instant reminded in a fuller way of the profound, daily reality of our union to Jesus Christ. 

Such a union with Jesus, wherein we "partake" or "enjoy" the benefits of His still remaining in a physical body on our behalf while being God, is all made possible by the Holy Spirit. The bread and the juice do not contain such realities, but rather are signs and symbols signifying the fact that Christians are the ones possessing such realities. Bible teachers of old expressed rightly that the Spirit's work in the Lord's supper includes making clear our unbreakable connection to the Lord Jesus Christ. We as it were are brought up to where He is positionally at salvation (see Ephesians 2:6-8). What the Lord's supper does is set the occassion whereby the church of the living God enjoys that reality in the fullness and richness of what it means to be in fellowship with the risen and exalted Christ. 

Where is Jesus when the Lord's Supper is celebrated? In Heaven and by the Spirit's working - in us. Where is Jesus after the Lord's supper has concluded? In Heaven and by the Spirit's working - in us. The only distinction here is that in the Lord's supper - the Holy Spirit amplifies our awareness of this truth - which is one reason Christians so often sense the solemnity of such an observance. The Holy Spirit's work and ministry is included in all that is portrayed by the bread and fruit of the vine. He points the way to what Jesus did, will do and is doing in us. Praise be to God, by the Spirit's working, we are in union with the Lord Jesus Christ - and He with us. As 1 John 4:13 and 17 states - (13) "By this we know that we abide in Him and He in us, because He has given us of His Spirit." (17) "By this, love is perfected with us, so that we may have confidence in the day of judgment; because as He is, so also are we in this world."

More tomorrow.....

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