Saturday, September 24, 2022

The Best Seat

 

Photo by scarletgreen 2007   


News of the seating arrangements for Queen Elizabeth II’s funeral caused quite an online stir. Some were miffed that US President Biden was seated in the 14th row, far from the royal family, directly behind the current president of Poland, and five rows from the back of Westminster Abbey.

Former President Trump seized on the opportunity to mock President Biden, saying that if he were still president, he would be seated in the front row, for America would still command respect.

But it turns out that the seating plan was not a political statement or a reflection of respect (or lack of it) for various countries and their leaders. It was merely specified by protocol that the royal family had the best seats, followed by monarchs, UK leaders and officials, Commonwealth leaders and officials, and finally, other world leaders and foreign dignitaries. Much ado about nothing!

Jesus warned about taking the best seats (in the highest rooms) when invited to a wedding or other formal function, for we should respect others ahead of ourselves. If we choose the best seats, we may be embarrassed if the host asks us to move to make room for a more honored guest. But if we voluntarily sit in the worse seats, we may be pleasantly surprised if the host invites us to sit closer to his table (Luke 14:7-11).

Jesus also exposed the hypocrisy and self-promotion of the scribes and Pharisees who chose the uppermost rooms at feasts, and the chief seats in the synagogues, wanting admiration from others without helping or serving them.

Yet anyone in a position of Christian leadership should have a servant’s heart and put the needs of others above their own (Philippians 2:5-9). If we humble ourselves, Christ will lift us up, but if we promote ourselves, Christ will humble us (Matthew 23:1-12). The Virgin Mary sang the Magnificat to praise God, for “He hath put down the mighty from their seats, and exalted them of low degree (Luke 1:52).”

Jesus even went so far as to say that the Pharisees choosing the best seats would receive the greater damnation (Mark 12:38-40; Luke 20:46-47). The worst such offense was when Lucifer, the most glorious anointed cherub created by God to lead worship to Him, rebelled because of pride and wanted to exalt himself above God, even to sit in God’s seat, which led to his ultimate downfall and destruction (Ezekiel 28:1-19).

At school lunch, where you sat sometimes spoke volumes about your social standing. The popular girls flocked to the same table, and if anyone outside the clique dared ventured near, she would soon regret it, as she would become the object of their ridicule. The trouble makers also banded together, and if you sat there, you would likely come under scrutiny by teachers and staff – guilty by association.

The book of Psalms begins with advice to avoid such situations, and to be blessed in return:

Psalm 1:1 Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful.

In the theatre, you can sometimes purchase the best seats, with the closest and least obstructed views of the stage, at a higher cost. Often these are available only to patrons of the arts or those in prominent families who have inherited season passes left as a legacy from generation to generation.

But this is ironic, for actors, singers and dancers are trained to aim their performances at the “nosebleed” section in the highest balcony, amplifying their voices, gestures, expressions, and even makeup to be visible and experienced optimally by those at the furthest distance.

Patrons in the box seats may be able to see clear into the wings on the side of the stage furthest from them, which may interfere with the illusion of reality the production is attempting to create, and yet they may miss action near the wings closest to them and see center stage action in profile. The most ostentatious and expensive seats are not always the most ideal, if we truly want to see rather than to be seen.

So what is the best seat? For those who are saved by trusting in the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 15:1-4) as the only Way to Heaven (John 14:6), the best seat is the one where He has seated us, for being in His perfect will is the best place to be. That way, we need not fear meeting Him at the Judgment Seat for believers (Romans 14:10; 2 Corinthians 5:10), where He will judge and reward us, if appropriate, for our actions once we are saved (1 Corinthians 3:10-15).

Far better to face Him there than at the Great White Throne Judgment, where those who rejected Him will be given punishments appropriate to their misdeeds, and ultimately thrown into the lake of fire for all eternity (Revelation 20:11-15).

Jehovah God spoke to Moses from the mercy seat upon the ark of testimony (Numbers 7:89). Until our Lord Jesus Christ comes again, we can rest assured that He is seated at the right hand of the Father (Mark 12:36), where He continually intercedes for us!  (Romans 8:34)  

© 2022 Laurie Collett

Saturday, September 17, 2022

In the Beginning: The Word

 

Photo by Esther Monzo-Nebot 2021

As the ladies’ Bible study that I am blessed to teach continues in the Book of John, I often find myself meditating on its opening verse:

John 1: 1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

The Greek for “Word” is “logos,” meaning the Word of God, or principle of divine reason and creative order. In John’s Gospel, the Word is Jesus Christ, the second Person of the Trinity, incarnate. We know that Jesus is the Word, for that is revealed as His Name when He appears in Revelation 19:13 as King of Kings and Lord of Lords.

In simplest terms, Jesus Christ was present since before the beginning of time, in the company of God the Father and God the Holy Spirit, and He Himself is equally God.

To me, John 1:1 is the most deeply profound sentence ever written. It refers to our Lord Jesus Christ, God in the flesh, and also to His spoken word communicated through the Bible. It is reminiscent of:

Genesis 1:1 In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.

These two verses together Identify the Word as being God Who created everything (Psalm 90:2). God is eternal, self-existent, not created, present in eternity past since before the beginning of time. The Hebrew word used in Genesis 1:1 is Elohim, which is a plural noun referring to the Trinity. From John 1: 1, we know that Jesus, God the Son, was present in the beginning, with God the Father and God the Holy Spirit. The Word was God, because Jesus the Son is equally God with God the Father and God the Holy Spirit.

It is fascinating to consider why Jesus Christ is called the Word. In the beginning of creation, “God said, Let there be light: and there was light (Genesis 1:3). “God said” repeats throughout the account of creation of heaven, earth, and all its inhabitants. God, Jesus Christ the Word, spoke everything into existence.

As we are made in God’s image (Genesis 1:26-27), the spoken word is also of crucial importance to our existence. Thought involves words. What we think governs our speech, and what we say determines our actions and their outcomes.

God has in these last days spoken to us through His Word, and has directed us to hear Him, as God the Father’s voice commanded during the Transfiguration of His Son (Matthew 17:5). Jesus is the Word speaking from God the Father to us, first through the prophets (Hebrews 1:1), then through Himself during His earthly ministry (Hebrews 1:2), and now through His written Word. Jesus Christ the Word also speaks to God the Father for us as He sits at His right hand, interceding for us in prayer (Hebrews 1:3; Romans 8:34).

The very instructions for each of our lives, and the instructions from which God will create our heavenly bodies, are composed of words. King David referred poetically to the directions for how our body parts are formed being recorded in God’s book long before we are even born (Psalm 139:16).

Millennia after this was written, scientists discovered that our genetic code is composed of 4 “letters,” or base pairs in our DNA, making up “words,” or genes, on our chromosomes, that control all our biological characteristics.

Words are not only essential for thought, communication with God through prayer, and even our very biology, but also for our salvation. Being saved requires hearing or reading the words of the Gospel (Romans 10:14), then calling on the Name of the Lord (Acts 2:21; Romans 10:13) and confessing that He is God and rose from the dead:

Romans 10:9 That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. 10 For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.

Once we are saved by believing that Jesus Christ died on the cross to pay for our sins, was buried, and rose again on the third day (1 Corinthians 15:1-4), proving His divinity, and we speak these words in our heart and aloud, Jesus will use His words to tell God the Father that we are His own, granting us eternal life. Alternatively, if anyone who uses words to deny Jesus, He will deny that person before His Father, leading to condemnation (Matthew 10:32).

Having confessed verbally that Jesus is Son of God, our Lord and Savior, we become His ambassadors, representing Heaven (2 Corinthians 5:20). Like any earthly diplomat, we represent our Leader through our words as well as our behavior. Jesus Himself warned us not to speak any idle words (Matthew 12:36), for life and death are in the power of the tongue (Proverbs 18:21). James warned us to control our tongue, for our words have the power to build others up or to tear them down (James 3: 1-13).

In the beginning was the Word! His words created all that exists. His Word saves us! May we allow His Word to govern our heart, thoughts and actions, and share it with others so they too can be saved!

© 2022 Laurie Collett