YHWH is the living God, and He is the Divine Architect of all human history. In fact, He declared the way history will end, from the very beginning (Isa. 46:8-10). Let’s connect some dots today. Noah’s prophetic glimpse of “Blessed be the LORD God of Shem” points to the founding of the Jewish nation – the coming of Messiah – Christ’s death and resurrection – and the delivery and spread of the gospel – and the promise of Christ’s coming kingdom (Gen. 9:26). The prophecy of Japheth’s dwelling in the tents of Shem – another small glimpse – points to the many ways that Japheth will help Shem accomplish his goals. Both prophecies (Shem and Japheth) are still alive and active (Gen. 9:27). In our last post we left Israel in God’s woodshed – smelling the smoke of their burning temple, battered, scattered and struggling under His fifth cycle of discipline (Lev. 26:33). Israel may have forgotten God, but God will never forget her – never.
Assisted by a pair of Japheth’s feet (Greece and Rome) stepping into the tent of Shem, the Jews had sufficient help to get Jesus Christ to the cross and to an empty tomb. These same countries assisted in giving the gospel the inertia necessary to move throughout the ancient world. For their part in rejecting and killing the Messiah, God allowed Satan to destroy the Jews along with their magnificent temple leaving them hated and homeless in Satan’s world. No people on the earth have been persecuted like the Jews. As the Jews began to disperse throughout the world, the truth of the gospel was turning the world upside down. Satan slowed this move by ramming paganism like a battering ram headlong into the growing church – confusing the gospel and silencing its voice.
During the medieval age of darkness, the public gospel was plunged into a sea of religious confusion for one-thousand years (476-1453). Japheth once again put his foot into Shem’s flailing tent – coming to the rescue. The public gospel amazingly reappeared in Germany – ground zero of Japheth’s homeland. Amazing! This should come as no surprise to the reader by now. The fires of the gospel of God’s grace quickly burned from Germany through England and the surrounding countries of Scotland, Wales, France, and Spain. The gospel, standing on the backs of many martyrs, found its way to the outer banks of America. God’s truth will never be chained.
I believe that there are two amazing reasons that God raised up America, and both are connected to Shem and Japheth, and Abraham’s cursing and blessing promise (Gen. 9; Gen. 12). The first reason is to be used of God to give the Jews a homeland. Over a century ago, on December 6, 1916, Great Britain’s prime minister David Lloyd Jones introduced the Balfour Declaration. Jones believed that the Jews deserved a homeland. The declaration was designed to restore Israel to their God-promised land of Palestine. Through a series of absolutely incredible historical events – all having to happen in mysterious yet miraculous ways – the document was written and signed off as a small part of British foreign policy (Japheth’s toe in Shem’s tent). Prime Minister Jones knew that is was not yet a done deal. It needed some special help. On October 6, 1917, president Woodrow Wilson signed the declaration, putting the powerful political clout of the USA behind the plan. It was not a popular political move for Wilson, but he did it for the Jews. Japheth strikes once more! Prime Minister Jones said that in his opinion the Balfour Declaration would have never passed without that single signature. It passed through the United Nations in 1922, and on May 14, 1948 Israel became a nation again.
Almost every president in American history from that time until now, has stood with Israel. This country has provided the financial support and military technology necessary to keep a democratic presence in the Middle East. This has been done at some peril, making the USA a target for terrorism. In my opinion based on God’s blessing and cursing promise to Abraham, God began to make America great in the eyes of the world – in this patriot’s opinion “the greatest.” Paul’s words also silently echo in the back of my mind: “I say then, have they [the Jews] stumbled that they should fall? Certainly not! But through their fall, to provoke them to jealousy, salvation has come to the Gentiles. Now if their fall isriches for the world, and their failure riches for the Gentiles, how much more their fullness” (Rom. 11:11-12). The full story of Israel is yet to be told.
The other reason that this country has prospered greatly is also connected to Japheth. God opened a huge window for the movement of God’s powerful gospel of grace around the modern world. Because of our freedom to publicly practice religion, the gospel breeze just keeps blowing through this window. God raised up seminaries and Christian colleges, training thousands upon thousands of missionaries who are being equipped and sent to every language group on this planet. Wow! The gospel has burned hot here for years and years. But alas, the window is slowly being shut. We now live in a generation that has forgotten Joseph. Blessings!
Jesus’ final word from the cross was “tetelestai” and it should be the final word (Jn.19:30). It is translated into the English “It is finished.” These words ring just as fresh, sweet, and glorious today, as when they were spoken. God’s penalty for sin has been once and forever paid in full. Jesus Christ’s body was buried, and God the Father miraculously raised Him bodily from the dead. Christ stood up and walked out of that tomb – alive, to die no more. He ascended back to the throne of God and was seated there. He lives today at the Father’s right hand to be a continuous Mediator – our faithful High Priest – mediating for us.
These miraculous facts are all reflected in seed form in Jesus’ words “it is finished.” The final exclamation mark was added. The precious benefit of what the God-Man had achieved on the cross can only be received today by personal faith in Him and personal faith in Him alone (Eph. 2:8-9). Nothing needs to be added or removed; it has been finished.
The truth of this gospel of grace was unleashed and was moving through the world at amazing speed. It was being spoken throughout the world and turning the world upside down (Acts 17:6; Rom. 1:8). Satan had to act and act quickly. He had to stir the pot. He knew of man’s prideful lust for power. Many religious works and traditions were added to the gospel. The perpetrators of these religious acts were not any worse than this writer. I am a sinner. The people involved were sinners, and they became trapped – ensnared by Satan. They could not free themselves. Satan used these people to add human works to the finished work on the cross but in humanly pleasing ways. They began to deify human beings as saints; they painted and displayed eye-appealing, heart-touching pictures of Mary holding little Jesus; they added graphic heart-wrenching images of Jesus hanging from the cross; they created the mystic worship of the Lord’s Supper, teaching that the bread and wine actually become the real body and blood of Christ. They added sacraments – visual signs reflecting that only the church could extend grace and only the priest could read and teach the Bible. And they included the worship of the rosary (prayer beads), supposedly started by St. Dominic when Mary mysteriously appeared him and asked him to pray the “hail Mary’s.”
All of these additions became religious traditions that strongly appeal to man’s lusts: lust of the flesh, lust of eyes, and the pride of life (Jn. 2:16), and all quietly whispered that Christ’s death on the cross was insufficient to pay man’s sin debt. Did I mention that wealth came pouring in? Satan knows that religious traditions, once instilled become engrained – implacable, almost impossible to lose. This became Satan’s weapon of choice. Add pride-stimulating, eye-appealing, heart-wrenching, power-enhancing works to the finished work of Christ and then make these works strongly traditional, and your snare is in place (Rom. 11:6). The result led to a landslide of religious works being added to grace – stimulating man’s pride, but nullifying grace.
Satan’s knowledge of man’s prideful lust for power never ceases to amaze. Stop and think! How in this world could salvation be truly finished if it is then weighted down by human works – any works. This should shout to the readers that any religious system that adds human works to Christ’s finished work – no matter how well intended – does not truly believe that Christ’s death and resurrection was enough. All of the Christian martyrs discovered that it is – it is enough – it is finished. They protested against any added human work. They became Protestants. These protests were at first private and quiet. But they could not help but speak. They became public and loud. How did the religious crowd respond? They shut them up! And they had to send a message. They burned and beheaded the them.
When the smoke from the burning martyrs settled, the church in England (the Anglican Church) had not fully made the trip. They still reflected a blend of Catholic ceremonies and Reformed teaching. But two strong groups of believers came out of the fires of the martyrs: the Puritans and the Separatists. What I know of each group comes as a result of the writings of the Puritans and studying the history of the Separatists. The Puritans were truly purified by the fires of their burning brethren. They wanted the church to change. They became believers who – like the Reformers – had a passion to know God only through His Word. They wanted the church to reflect this passion. They were committed to Biblical scholarship, and a knowledge of Greek, Hebrew, and Latin because they believed that a knowledge of these languages could be tools to know the Bible better. Then there were the Separatists who became the first pilgrims to America. They – like the Puritans – had a hot heart to know the word but were a little less enamored with scholarship and more with knowing and doing the word (James 1:22). The Separatists wanted a simpler Christianity where the Word of God was not only revered and read but was also reflected in the life – and they longed for the freedom necessary to truly live a Christian lifestyle. It seems to this writer that they would fit more snugly in the “not wise, not strong, and not noble” category. This would have probably been my group. Said simply, many in England had come to know God’s grace and the freedom that it brings, and because of this they also saw more clearly the malicious tyranny that can come from religion run amuck. Both groups had experienced the refreshing freedom from the penalty of sin that grace affords, and they had also witnessed with their own eyes the tyranny. Now they wanted freedom – they wanted to be really free.
On to America! Blessings!
What is not repeated will soon be forgotten. It is time for a little theological mucilage: repetition. When God gave His eternal word to the human race, each word was guarded and guided by the Holy Spirit as it passed through the minds of sinful men down through their pens and onto the pages of paper (2 Pet. 1:20-21). These words are being preserved and reserved for those who receive the precious benefits of the gospel accompanied with the gift of the Holy Spirit (Gal. 3:2). These receivers are taught by the same Spirit the meaning of words (1 Cor. 2:10-13). God breathed each word into its very spot in the Scripture for this very purpose (2 Tim. 3:16-17). Not one word is missing. Every word has a meaning intended by the Creator to be understood – and taught – every word.
The Bible contains the precious and powerful seed of the gospel of His amazing grace (1 Pet. 1:23-25). The gospel is the priceless worth of Christ’s true identity as the God-Man, His substitutionary death on the cross, and the amazing power of His resurrection. This combined truth is God’s seed (1 Pet. 1:23-25; 1 Jn. 2:8-10). This seed is guided by the Holy Spirit and being planted into the soil of human minds all over the world (Isa. 55:10-11). This seed is then germinated by faith, and faith alone, in Christ, and in Christ alone (Jn. 3:16; Eph. 2:8-9). This seed can be heard and believed, but without mixing the truth with personal faith in Christ, the seed will never germinate. This seed cannot be added to or taken from, or it will give no life. This seed results in a spiritual birth and baptism in the one in whom it germinates.
Upon hearing the gospel, the moment faith is placed in Christ, the seed explodes, bringing a heavenly birth into a new world and an unseen immersion into the person of Christ. Wow! The believer is instantly reborn into God’s Kingdom (Jn. 1:13; James 1:18) and baptized (immersed) into God’s Christ (Rom. 6:3; Gal. 3:27). Both mysterious events occur at the moment of faith. The believer instantly receives Christ’s life (1 Jn. 5:11-13), Christ’s citizenship (Phil. 3:20-21), Christ’s righteousness (Phi. 3:9; 2 Cor. 5:21), Christ’s relationship (Gal. 3:26-29), and Christ’s home (Jn. 14:1-3). Said simply, the believer in a moment receives Christ’s destiny and His identity. This is why the phrase “in Christ” became the apostle Paul’s favorite name for Christians. The believer is born into God’s forever family as a babe in Christ. Time and teaching spent in the Bible are necessary to grow to spiritual maturity (1 Pet. 2:2; 1 Cor. 2:12-13).
The Holy Spirit alone has the power to teach us the living words on the paper (John 14:26-27; 16:13-14). It was pleasing to God to reserve and unpack the Bible’s truth for a special group – not many wise (human wisdom), not many mighty (strong or powerful), and not many noble (with royal blood) are called to Him. Said clearly, God called those that the world thinks are fools, weak, worthless, to become His own special trophies. God did this to suppress man’s pride so that His glory only would shine through (1 Cor. 1:25-31). It was God’s genius to not allow a human being to come to know His Word through human wisdom. In fact, the world though its own wisdom will never know Him. To the contrary, it pleased God through the foolishness of the message preached (the gospel) to save those who believe (1 Cor. 1:21). This is a fact that must be hidden in our hearts as we observe God’s seed moving through history.
With these words in mind, go back to the Reformation. The Reformation in England was burning hot. Not with just the burning of the flesh of evangelical martyrs but with the white-hot power of true line-by-line and word-by-word teaching of the Word of God. The true gospel of the grace of God was being preached and believed. This proved to be a lethal combination and began to diminish the darkness of Satan and bring to light the immense value of God’s love. But no doubt confusion still reigned. Satan had not left the building. Many were giving their lives for the value of the truth of Scripture (1 Cor. 2:7-16), while others were taking lives; burning or beheading them. Some were teaching that salvation comes in its fulness through the true identity of Jesus Christ alone, His death as payment for sin alone, and His bodily resurrection from the grave alone (1 Cor. 15:1-8), yet others hated this message along with those who were giving it.
The message had the power to destroy the magnificent stained glass buildings, the beautiful rituals and religious services, the gorgeous robes and crowns of the clergy, the heart-stopping sound from the huge pipe organ, the smell of burning candles and incense, and the great financial gain that followed these religious acts. Ah, follow the money! Think hard once again about the powerful words connected to Noah’s prophecy. “Praise be to the LORD God of Shem.” The LORD God of Shem is the Lord Jesus Christ. This is prophet-speak pointing to the fact that the Lord Jesus Christ was going to come through the line of Shem – which He did. Think also about Noah’s prophecy concerning Japheth. Japheth is going to dwell in the tents of Shem (Gen. 9:25-27). This is prophet-speak saying that Japheth is going to help Shem accomplish his task. Japheth helped get Mary and Joseph to Bethlehem and is continuing to help spread the gospel around the world. The gospel launched by the Lord Jesus Christ through what is called “the great commission” began to spread. But it spread upon the backs of the many martyrs who were dying for their faith. In a time of persecution, the fire spreads. The gospel was moving so quickly around the world that Satan counterattacked. The public proclamation of the gospel was submerged and confused under a sea of truth mixed with paganism. God resurfaced the public proclamation of the gospel in Germany (a land of Japheth) and it burned through England (a land of Japheth) and is headed for the USA. Blessings!
Where? Germany – the land of Noah’s son, Japheth. Who? Martin Luther, a part of Japheth genealogical heritage. Why? God promised that Japheth would dwell in the tent of Shem (Gen. 9:27). It should be no surprise that the gospel of God’s magnificent grace was publicly and powerfully rediscovered by this struggling Catholic monk, and its light pierced the darkness of Satan’s domain once again. God guides His Word (Isa. 55:10-11). God orchestrated Luther’s spiritual transformation by guiding an edition of Erasmus’ Greek translation of the New Testament into his hands. Let’s connect the dots.
Erasmus finished his translation in 1516. It came into Luther’s hands shortly after. The words that forever changed his life were from the apostle Paul: “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, ‘But the righteous man shall live by faith’” (Rom. 1:16-17). Luther’s eyes must have carefully weighed the words that the gospel is the dynamite of God for salvation to everyone who believes. His eyes then followed the reason that the gospel brings salvation. Because “in it” (the gospel), is the righteousness of God revealed. Ah, righteousness! Dikaiosune” (pronounced dik-ai-o-soo-nay)! That rang Luther’s bell. He may have been familiar with the word. It was used both in the Greek and Roman court systems.
“Dikaiosune” eventually came to mean “adjustment to the standard of the law.” When a law was broken, the one convicted of the crime had to be adjusted to the standard imposed by the law. This adjustment was to be made by meeting whatever requirement the law demanded. If the law required a fine, the fine had to be paid. If the law demanded death as the just settlement, then death it was. We would call this “justice.” When the penalty was paid, justice was satisfied. This is precisely what the word means. However, the justice that Paul had in mind had nothing whatsoever to do with man’s legal system. The word used in the Bible means “adjustment to God’s standard.” The gospel made known God’s adjustment to His own righteous standard. God’s righteousness and justice had both been forever satisfied by Jesus Christ on the cross. The single word dikaiosune makes this truth clear.
In order for God to be true to His word, all who have sinned must die – be spiritually separated from God forever. Why? The God of the Bible is the author of righteousness (1 Jn. 1:5). God is also absolutely just (Deut. 32:4). Because God is totally just, He must always adjust that which is not right back to His righteous standard.Why? God must be true to Himself. He cannot compromise who He is. Someone said, “God’s required righteousness is that righteousness which His righteousness requires Him to require.” This is why all sinners must die! God cannot allow one into His presence without the penalty being paid. In order to reveal the riches of His glory and motivated by an indescribable love, God elected to pay man’s sin debt of death. But God is eternal life and could not die (Psa. 90:2). In order to die, God became a man. He bypassed Adam’s sin by coming into this world through a virgin. In all His life, Jesus Christ never sinned. He then died – the just for the unjust; the righteous for the unrighteous. The death of God’s perfect Son paid in full God’s demand for righteousness.
God’s demand of death for sin was adjusted to in Christ. God’s righteousness and His justice came together in perfect harmony in Christ. This is all said clearly with one word: Dikaiosune! It is this “righteousness” that the gospel makes known. This the truth that Luther saw. When we believe in Christ, we are immediately placed into union with Him – that which human eyes never see. The payment for sin is death, but it makes all the difference in the world where we die. We die in Him. Halleluiah!
Paul said that he was crucified with Christ, nevertheless he lived (Gal. 2:20a). God credits us the immeasurable benefits of His death the moment we are placed “into Christ.” God forever adjusts us to His absolute righteousness “in Christ.” “And being found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness (dikaiosune) which comes from God on the basis of faith” (Phil. 3:9). God does not make us right; He declares us to be right “in Christ.”
“He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness (dikaiosune) of God in Him” (2 Cor. 5:21). We are declared forever right (righteous) before God the moment that we believe in Him. Can God remain just and at the same time be gracious to those who are in His Son? Yes! In Christ we are justified before God.
This justification comes to all who believe in Him. “Being justified freely (as a gift) by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 3:24). This is why the gospel is the power of God unto salvation. This is what Luther saw! The just (those who have been adjusted to God’s righteousness by faith in Christ) shall live (Rom. 1:17). History says that when this truth hit his mind, God removed his blindness and he stood up. He put his mop away and began to preach the gospel of God’s magnificent grace. This ultimately led to Martin Luther nailing of his famous 95 thesis on the door at Wittenberg which started the Reformation of 1517. This reformation literally changed the world. Why must we believe in Christ? “God has fixed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness (dikaiosune) through a Man whom He has appointed, having furnished proof to all men by raising Him from the dead” (Acts 17:31). Where do you stand? Blessings!