June 22, 2012
As a child, I was enthralled by the story of "Ali Baba and the 40 Thieves."
This ancient Arabian story tells of an everyday working guy, Ali Baba, who happens to overhear thieves discussing their hidden treasure. He follows them to their cave, hears the magic words Open Sesame (our English version of what they said, no doubt) which opens the door, and follows them inside. There he discovers a king's ransom in jewels and gold. Later, using the (ahem) password, Ali Baba returns and helps himself to the treasure.
You can see why a child would love that story. It contains so many of the elements we all like in a good story: free gold, easy living, the bad guys are conned, and simple words that do wondrous things.
I don't know any magic words other than I love you, thank you, you're beautiful/you're important/you are smart, and please. However, in studying the Holy Scriptures, I have come across a few which seem to work like Ali Baba's door. We open it and find all kinds of treasures inside.
Here are a few such scriptures. See what they open up for you.
I will make you a great nation, and I will bless you....and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed. (Genesis 12:1-3)
The first promise God gave to Abraham contained the gist of all that was to follow: great blessings upon him and his household, a name known everywhere, and "all the families of the earth" to be blessed.
The last part--blessing all the families of the earth--is the open sesame.
Even though subsequent generations of Abraham's descendants were to forget this and assume that the blessings of Heaven were theirs and theirs alone, from the beginning the Father in Heaven had the entire human family on His heart.
The Psalmist sang of this great promise: All the ends of the earth will remember and turn to the Lord (Ps. 22:27). All nations whom Thou hast made shall come and worship before Thee, O Lord (Ps. 86:9).
Isaiah spoke of this: But there will be no more gloom for her who was in anguish...but later on, He shall make it glorious, by the way of the sea, on the other side of Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles. The people who walk in darkness will see a great light; those who live in a dark land, the light will shine on them.... (Isaiah 9:1-2)
Likewise, see Isaiah 49:6 and 60:3. Daniel 7:14 and Hosea 2:23 repeat variations of the same promise.
Why, one wonders were the Jews of the New Testament period so closed to the idea of God loving the Gentiles and that the message of Jesus was intended for them also? You can see it all through the gospels....
In Matthew 8, just after the Sermon on the Mount, we see Jesus with the Roman centurion--a Gentile--and we find the Lord's comment to His followers which felt like a slap in the face to some. I have not found such great faith with anyone in Israel. And I say to you, that many shall come from east and west, and recline at the table with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of heaven; but the sons of the kingdom shall be cast out into the outer darkness.
How plain is that?
In the Acts of the Apostles, three buzz-words set off the enemies of the faith. As soon as Paul and his colleagues spoke of Jesus or the resurrection or the Gentiles, their fury was unleashed. (See Acts 4:18; 5:33; 7:55-57; 11:1-3)
In Acts 9, God calls Saul of Tarsus as an evangelist to the Gentiles.
How patiently the Heavenly Father nurtured His weak apostles along as He opened their eyes to the world-wide scope of His love. See the vision God gave Simon Peter in Acts 10. It's all about fulfilling His promise to Abraham.
Finally, at the culmination of it all, we have this heavenly picture: After these things I looked and behold, a great multitude, which no one could count, from every nation and all tribes and peoples and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, and palm branches in their hands; and they cry out with a loud voice, saying, 'Salvation to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.' (Revelation 7:9-10)
All God is doing is carrying out what He had said from the first.
His plans are always bigger than we can imagine, include far more people than we know, and achieve much more than we would have thought to ask.
Then the Lord passed by in front of (Moses) and proclaimed, 'The Lord, the Lord God, compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in lovingkindness and truth; who keeps lovingkindness for thousands, who forgives iniquity, transgressions, and sins; yet He will by no means leave the guilty unpunished, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the grandchildren to the third and fourth generations. (Exodus 34:6-7)
Moses had asked something more than he was able to receive. "Lord," he said, "show me your glory" (Exodus 33:18).
Moses could no more see the glory of God--and survive the experience-- than a housefly can take in all the dimensions of sunlight from about a half-mile out.
God would have to tone down what He would show Moses. He would require a transformer. (Interesting metaphor: as the transformer on the light pole down the street from your house gentles the electricity to the point that it can enter your home without burning it down, and once inside it can run your computer or brown your toast, so the Lord Jesus gentled the glory of God to the point that we could see and marvel. John wrote, "We beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth" (John 1:14). )
What the Lord did for Moses was to reveal only one facet of His glory, His goodness. (33:19).
This revelation--Exodus 34:6-7--is unique in Scripture. There is nothing like it anywhere else, with the exception of all the places where it is quoted or alluded to
From the very mouth of God, we have His confession of what He is like, His very character. These verses are well worth memorizing and meditating upon. They truly are life and nourishment to the soul.
God's very nature is compassion and grace. He is slow to anger, so patient with wrong-doers (see II Peter 3:9). He abounds--literally, overflows--with lovingkindness and truth.
This is His nature, who He is. These are not aberrations, exceptions to the rule, but they are the rule. On the surface and all the way down, God is grace and love and faithfulness.
The enemy attacks God the Father at this very point. In the Garden, the serpent called God a liar and assured Eve that He did not want the best for her (Genesis 3:1-5). One of the primary purposes of the Lord Jesus in coming to this rebellious planet was to straighten people out about the Father's nature. He said, "If you being evil know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the Heavenly Father give good gifts to those who ask Him" (Matthew 7:11).
When God said He "keeps lovingkindness for thousands," scholars believe He is saying "for thousands of generations." That would contrast with His "visiting the iniquity" of fathers to only three and four generations (Exodus 34:7).
So, in what way then is Exodus 34:6-7 an "open sesame" scripture? Answer: in that it is quoted, applied, and treasured throughout the Old Testament.
Moses claimed this promise in Numbers 14:18. It was the basis for his intercession.
Nehemiah sang it in Nehemiah 9:17.
Jonah confessed it in Jonah 4:2. This was the root of his rebellion (meaning he did not want God to forgive but "just knew" it was like Him to do so).
Joel preached it in Joel 2:8. It gave him hope.
And the Psalmist sang it in Psalms 86, 103, and 145 as a great treasure.
You'll also find bits and pieces of those two great verses cropping up in the writings of the prophets. For instance, we read in Jeremiah 33:11, "...for the Lord is good, for His lovingkindness is everlasting" and in 51:56, "For the Lord is a God of recompense, He will fully repay."
And then we come to Jesus, the very definition of "Open Sesame."
Ah, but where to start. I can go long or short here, but there is hardly an in-between since the Scriptures Old and New are all about Jesus. He truly is the "open sesame" to all the riches God has.
"On the tenth of this month they are each one to take a lamb for themselves, according to their father's households, a lamb for each household" (Exodus 12:3).
So begins the story of the original Passover Lamb.
Every lamb slain in the Old Testament time anticipated Calvary and the "Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world" (John 1:29).
"Christ our Passover," Paul called Him (I Corinthians 5:7).
In Heaven, Jesus is the "Lamb standing, as if slain" (Revelation 5:6). The saints of the ages sing, "Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power and riches and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing" (Revelation 5:12).
"Follow the Lamb" (Revelation 14:4). That is one of the great studies of Scripture.
Human language bursts at the seam trying to announce all that Jesus is in God's eternal program of salvation. He is the Great High Priest and He is the offering on the altar. He is the Judge and He is our Advocate. He is both the lamb on the altar and the scapegoat driven into the wilderness. He is the victim on the cross and the Victor over the grave. Jesus is Lord.
Finally, my brethren....
There are so many other themes found in the Old Testament which we may trace throughout Scripture with great benefit. To mention a few....
--The House of God. We go from no house at all to a portable tabernacle to the luxurious Temple of Solomon to the economical version rebuilt after Babylon into the New Testament where we read, "You are the temple of God" (I Corinthians 6:19; II Corinthians 6:16; I Peter 2:4-9). The dwelling place of God was with Jesus (John 1:14) and is in us (Colossians 1:27).
--The Word of God. In the beginning, God spoke the worlds into being (Genesis 1). Jesus is the Word (John 1). Nowhere does Scripture call disciples God's Word but we are to take His Word to the world.
--The Light of the World. God spoke the light into being (again, Genesis 1). Jesus was the Light (John 1:9) and called Himself "the light of the world" (John 8:12). Believers are sent into the world to be its light (Matthew 5:14).
--The grace of God. Those who say the Old Testament is all about law and the New Testament all about grace reveal a serious gap in either their knowledge of the Word or their understanding of it. Grace is found on every page of this book. In particular, Exodus 20, where we find the Ten Commandments (called "Ten Words") presents God as a Lord of grace. It was gracious of Him to give us these commands, and more than amazing that in the same chapter, He gives provisions for an altar (Ex. 20:24-26) since He knows we are going to be unable to live up to His standards. Exodus 34:6-7 has it just right.
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