Saturday, January 30, 2021

Lamprey: Lamp of the King

As my husband and I walked along the beach, we spotted a man standing by the waves, staring down into his cupped hands.

Our approach evidently interrupted his deep meditation, as he looked up and asked, “Are you folks from around here?”

“Well, we spend a lot of time here,” my husband answered. “How can we help you?”

He again peered into his hands, directing our attention to a tiny creature swimming in his palm. It was about 1 inch long, and narrow like a worm, silvery and translucent. It had two eyes, each placed laterally on either side of its head, and seven black dots on each side of the body in a straight line behind the eye.

“Any idea what this is?” he asked. “I’ve never seen anything like it.”

Sadly, we hadn’t either, so we weren’t able to shed much light on the matter.

“One of God’s creatures,” my husband said. The man smiled. We continued our brisk morning walk and turned around a short while later to head back to the condo, but the man had disappeared, and we did not see him again during our stay.

After returning to our home a few days later, I picked up a magazine at random from an untouched pile of mail. It fell open to a picture of exactly what we had seen – a lamprey, apparently newly hatched given its small size. I believe that with God, there are no coincidences, so I resolved to investigate the matter further.

The article in which the photo appeared was from a creation science magazine, citing the lamprey as an example of a jawless fish (Agnatha). The seven gill slits, corresponding to the seven dots visible behind the eye, are separated from each other internally by cartilaginous arches, which are uniquely hinged and engineered skeletal features allowing the gills to pull in oxygenated water so that the lamprey can “breathe.”

There are no transitional forms linking the lamprey to jawed fishes or to armored jawless fish, and all three types of fishes are equally complex, supporting intelligent design of all three types at the same time and arguing against evolution. As is the case so often in nature, whether in a vast galaxy or a diminutive sea creature, God’s creation declares His glory, wisdom and creativity (Psalm 19:1; Romans 1:20).

So what might God be saying to me through this little lamprey, revealed to us by divine appointment?  I learned that the etymology of “lamprey” is obscure, but it may derive from the old French words meaning “lick rock,” referring to the raspy tongue of this parasite that allows it to attach to and feed off other fishes. So this worm-like parasite seems ignoble at best, much like man (Job 17:14; 25:6) in his unregenerated, sin-cursed state (Romans 3:10-23) before he is 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).

When Christ died to pay our sin debt, the Holy, sinless Lamb of God took on the whole weight of all of mankind’s sin, past, present and future (Hebrews 9:28; 2 Corinthians 5:21). He was so disfigured by this putrid burden that all were revolted by His appearance (Isaiah 53:2-12), and even His Holy Father could not bear to look at Him (Psalm 22:1; Matthew 27:46). The King of Kings, Lord of Heaven became as a lowly worm (Job 25:6; Psalm 22:6), just to save us from the penalty of sin while we were yet His enemies (Romans 3:25; 5:6-11).

Before I researched the etymology of “lamprey,” which turns out to be unclear anyway, the word brought to mind a combination of two words: the English word “lamp,” and “rey,” the Spanish word for “king.” God’s Word is a lamp unto our feet (Psalm 119:105), and the Lord Himself is our lamp, lighting the darkness (2 Samuel 22:29). God’s commandment is a lamp, showing us the way we should go (Proverbs 6:23). His salvation is likened to a burning lamp (Isaiah 62:1). The prophet Daniel’s vision of Jesus Christ revealed His eyes to be like lamps of fire (Daniel 10:6).

So “lamprey” reminded me of the Lamp (Word, commandment, law) of the King, Who is our Lord Jesus Christ! (1 Timothy 6:15; Revelation 17:14; 19:16). He will reign over His coming kingdom with perfect righteousness, justice and peace (2 Timothy 4:1; 2 Peter 1:11, Revelation 1:5, 11:15, 12:10).

And yet, born-again believers (John 3:3-8) could also be considered to be lamps of the King, for Jesus said that we are the light of the world (Matthew 5:14). He is the true Light (John 1:9), and once we are saved, His light shines through us and is reflected from us.

The same morning that I spotted the magazine article, one of our daily devotional readings was about the need to keep our lamps filled with oil and burning brightly as we await the return of Our Lord and King. Like the wise virgins whose lamps were prepared (Matthew 25:1-13), believers should be filled with the Holy Spirit, ready for Christ’s imminent return for His Bride, or the Church, at the Rapture (1 Corinthians 15:51-57; 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18).

That same afternoon I listened to a prophecy TV broadcast, which “just happened” to compare the Rapture to the Galilean wedding tradition. Like the betrothed Hebrew bride, we do not know the day nor the hour when Our Lord will return for us (Matthew 24:36), flying us up to His Father’s house for the Marriage Supper of the Lamb! (Revelation 19:9).

The number seven in Scripture is God’s perfect number of completion, preceding the number eight, which marks new beginnings (much like the seven notes of the musical scale, with the eighth marking the beginning of a new octave). The seven gill slits of the lamprey, appearing as seven dots behind the eye, is a reminder of God’s perfection, with the eight “dot” surrounded by the silvery orb of the eye suggesting the new beginning we have in Christ.

The seven dots also suggest Christ’s warnings and encouragement to the seven churches, depicted in Revelation as seven lamps, or candlesticks He holds in His right hand (Revelation 1:20; 4:5). Those exhortations include not forgetting our first love, Who is Christ; rejecting false doctrine; seeking spiritual rather than material blessings; and being on fire for Christ with zeal rather than indifference (Revelation 2-3).

God prescribed that His tabernacle should be lit with seven gold lamps (Exodus 25:37; 37:23), to be filled continually with olive oil (Exodus 27:20; Leviticus 24:2-4), which is a foreshadowing of how Jesus would be crushed for our sins like an olive put through the press to extract the life-giving oil. At the Garden of Gethsemane, which means “olive press,” He agonized so fervently in prayer over His imminent work on the cross that He sweat drops of blood (Luke 22:44).

It is amazing how God speaks to His children through His creation, and through divine appointments. May we always be attuned to His still, small voice! (1 Kings 19:12). May we follow His Word and law and keep our lamps burning brightly, radiating His Holy Spirit as we await the return of our Bridegroom and King!

© 2021 Laurie Collett



Saturday, January 23, 2021

Can You Walk Away from the Faith?


Photo by Liftam 2008

God’s freely given gift of salvation and eternal life, once received, changes us forever. Born-again believers who have placed their faith in the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 15:1-4) as the only Way to Heaven (John 14:6) cannot return to eternal death, any more than a butterfly can go back to being a caterpillar or than a child can return to the egg and sperm from whence he came.

How then can we explain those who say they are saved but then appear to walk away from the faith, as brought up by a dear reader of this blog in her comments on the post, “Who Needs the Law?” If a person trusts Christ but then chooses to walk away from the faith, can they lose their salvation, as some Scripture verses appear to suggest at first glance?

One of these verses is 1 Timothy 4:1 Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils.

The verse refers to false teachers preaching heresy, perverting the truth of the Gospel and telling lies to delude others without even feeling guilty, because their conscience is seared as with a hot iron (1 Timothy 4:2)

For example, they preach salvation by works, saying that to be saved, it is necessary not to marry and to follow strict dietary laws, implying wrongly that we are saved not by God’s grace, but by our own self-righteousness in keeping the law (1 Timothy 4:3).

Or, the product of false belief may be a reprobate mind that rebels against God’s authority, not only wanting to sin, but taking pride in it (Romans 1:28).

Even though a born-again believer in Christ has the Holy Spirit within (2 Corinthians 1:22; Ephesians 1:13), and hence the mind of Christ (1 Corinthians 2:16), he still has the sin nature of Adam (Romans 5:12). He may fall prey to these lies, particularly if he neglects Bible study, prayer, and worship. He may have quenched and grieved the Spirit (1 Thessalonians 5:19; Ephesians 4:30) within him so many times that he no longer hears His warning against false teaching and against sin.

In this case, some souls who appear to have accepted Christ, to have been born again (John 3:3-8), and even show evidence of a changed life (2 Corinthians 5:17) suddenly “walk away” from the faith. In the movie Signs, a faithful preacher and man of God “loses” his faith when his wife dies in a car accident.

No doubt we all know of real life examples where someone we thought was a born-again Christian becomes a Jehovah’s Witness, Muslim, or Mormon and even tries to convert Christian friends to these religions. If they were born again into God’s family, have they now lost the salvation that God gave them (Ephesians 2:4-9) and that only God can keep (John 10:28-29) for them? Have they lost the gift He promised them of “eternal” life? Would not that negate almighty God’s total, complete and perfect power? 

The apostle Paul said it is possible for a believer to “deny the faith” by not providing for his family, making him worse than an unbeliever (1 Timothy 5:8). Does that mean that a Christian father who can no longer earn money because he loses his job or becomes disabled is no longer saved? What about the Christian father who makes bad business decisions motivated by greed, or who falls prey to a drug, alcohol or gambling addiction that consumes his earnings?

And Paul added that young widows who were once faithful in serving Christ may “cast off their first faith,” turning to idleness, gossip, and worldly ways, resulting in their “damnation,” meaning not eternal damnation, or loss of salvation, but rather reproach (1 Timothy 5:11-15). The analogy would be to a student getting a demerit on his record, but not getting expelled from school.

Sadly, many who are saved do not live as if they were saved, and sometimes we refer to these as “backslidden” (Jeremiah 2:19; 5:6; 8:5). Yet when the nation of Israel was backsliding, God asked her to return to Him, for He would be merciful and no longer angry, and He would love, heal and provide for her (Jeremiah 3:12,22; Hosea 4:16;14:4)  

If a son walks away from his father; disrespects him, his faith, and his heritage; and squanders his inheritance, as in the parable of the prodigal son, he is still his father’s child, and nothing can change that fact. When the prodigal came to his senses, his father welcomed him back with loving arms, ran to meet him, and celebrated his return  (Luke 15:11-32).

But what if the prodigal had died while he was still in the pig pen? Would that have made him any less the son of his father? In modern times, sadly we hear all too often of a son rebelling against his father, running away, stealing from the family and even murdering his own father. But can all these evil wrongs change the biological fact that the two are inexorably united as flesh and blood?

Once we are saved, we are God’s children (Romans 8:16-21). Just as a father cannot do away with the fact that his son is biologically his, so Our Father does not expel us from His family even if we walk away from Him. Once we are saved by His grace (Ephesians 2:8-9), we become His child forever. Similarly, He did not disown His chosen people Israel even when they were repeatedly unfaithful and served false gods.

A loving father would not simply ignore his disobedient or runaway child, but would do all within his power to restore their relationship. Similarly, God will never abandon His rebellious child, but will remain faithful and true as He guides him back to loving fellowship using all measures at His disposal. 

Let us listen to God's still, small, voice when He lovingly entreats us to return to fellowship with Him, and not wait until He has to smack us on the head with a 2 x 4 to get our attention!

© 2015 Laurie Collett
Reposted from the archives