Sometimes I do the dumbest things.
The last time I was in Florida, I was sitting in the shallow part of the ocean atop a ceramic plate from the bathroom of our hotel, praying it wouldn’t break as delicate waves broke over my legs and passed me. I was trying to protect my bathing suit from the onslaught of sand that had slammed me the previous day.
You’d think I’d never been to the ocean.
I chronicle this crazy story as a reminder of the way God sometimes works. Because sitting in those cascading waves, reverential to the mysteries of God, awed by an expanse of water sustaining creatures and oddities that leave even scientists baffled, a thought came to me. It seemed crazy even to me. And my imagination makes vivid seem dull.
Metaphorically, the ceramic plate represented the Ten Commandments, the only thing in the Bible written by God’s hand. And I imagined them, not on a slab of stone, but on that plate! Like the Israelites obedience to the Commandments, the plate was supposed to protect me from the sand, or rather, the metaphor the sand now represented—sin! Certainly, these aren’t original or brilliant metaphors and I wondered what this had to do with anything I hoped to convey.
Avoiding sin, of course, is as difficult as leaving the beach in a bathing suit free of sand. Yet, while a beach could represent a minefield from Satan for those who believe, there is good news from God. No, that plate of Commandments doesn’t protect us, however, that sinful sand . . . it just vanishes!
Finally, I had found my story.
The Bible, with its sixty-six books, was written in two or three languages, had forty authors from at least three continents, and spanned a few thousand years. Extraordinarily, it has one unifying theme: the Christ. The metaphors, poetry and prose beautifully written by Old Testament prophets depict the Messiah as being born of a virgin in the town of Bethlehem of Judea. Someone who would establish King David’s throne forever.
The prophets portray a miracle-performing Messiah who would live a sinless and humble life, who would teach his followers through parables. They show His triumphant entry into Jerusalem on a donkey, His betrayal for thirty pieces of silver, and His further betrayal by friends. For His kindness, healing power, and love, they show us how He was ultimately despised, scorned, mocked, and tortured to death: His hands and feet pierced, His thirst quenched with vinegar, His side pierced as blood and water flowed. Unlike the two thieves on either side of Him, but like the Jewish Passover Lamb, His bones were unbroken. We see from these prophets that the Messiah’s accusers cast lots for his clothing, and as He died impaled on that stick, He cried out to God, “Into your hands I commit my spirit.” Amazingly, the Psalmist and the prophet Isaiah describe crucifixion hundreds of years before it was ever a means of torture.
Old Testament prophecies also support the good tidings of the New Testament. The Messiah, who Christians know as Jesus Christ, conquers death, pours out His Holy Spirit, ushers in a new covenant, is a light to the Gentiles, that is, His blood redeems all who believe, everyone not a Jew, but also the Jews.
Over 300 Messianic prophecies, many depicting a suffering Messiah, are woven throughout the Old Testament, much like a puzzle. Yet, astoundingly, Jesus Christ fulfilled them all! It’s titillating to find them and compare them to New Testament writings, these events that scribes hundreds of years earlier divined. How could the light and life of Jesus be predicted so perfectly unless Jesus is God’s Son, the Christ?
Mathematically, the odds of one person fulfilling even 48 prophecies are one chance in 10 to the 157th power. Consider that these Old Testament mysteries, shadowing the Messiah, were more enigmatic than the sea Jesus walked on. Also consider—these mysteries have a path.
God had to lead us through sin and the Ten Commandments and through stunning prophetic anonymities in order to magnify His Son and His divine plan for mankind. From Genesis to Malachi, God carefully uncovered the dignity of Christ’s lowliness, the glory of His majesty, the wonder of His holiness, the depth of His love. And those who, through Holy Spirit, have decrypted these shadows, parables, metaphors, and poetry, know, KNOW, that Jesus is God’s Son.
Once, an atheist friend told me he thought Jesus was a hoax. That the weaving of a Messiah throughout the Old Testament and His resurrection in the New Testament was manufactured. A lie schemed up by men. I replied that if that were true, it would be the most magnificent lie ever conceived. It would involve multitudes of people playing into it over a span of several millennia. It would require men to not only be shunned and maligned, but also tortured and suffering death so they could what? Play this game?
We weren’t led to this point in our lives by a God who isn’t real. He made a path for us. And it isn’t always easy. He implores us to “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.” His path wasn’t easy either.
But He also promises, “If you seek me, you will find me, if you search for me with all your heart.” We have a part in this triumphant, glorious mystery. And He will keep His promise, revealing Himself to those who seek Him, most especially through prayer, Bible study, and believing on His Son.
Had the Jews, and now the world, never been given the Ten Commandments, we’d have never known a true “goodness” statute—God’s standard. And had the world never experienced Jesus, it would never have known true forgiveness, mercy, and love—God’s grace. If a standard is all we have, we have no heart for that standard. But when God became man, He became our paradigm, showing us how to live out His statutes—by loving His enemies, by forgiving those who wronged Him, by treating people equally, by allowing the Father to shine through Him. “Love each other as I have loved you,” Jesus said. We couldn’t begin to understand this if we’d never seen God’s statutes and never witnessed Jesus’ love. Let us also consider, we can’t adopt the world’s standards and look to God for our strength.
I thank God for allowing His glorious Son to live amongst sinful man–delivering us, redeeming us, and making us saints. Finally, Jesus promises to meet us in heaven. “Let not your heart be troubled,” He implores. “You believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many mansions. If it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you, and if I go, I will come again, and receive you unto myself, that where I am there you may be also.” Such reassuring words.
Stay prepared to meet our holy and eternal God. Because one glorious day we will leave this earth, escape our mortal bodies, and step into the spirit realm, into the arms of Jesus and others we know. I love this ending. I hope to well know the first Face I’ll see when my eyes witness heaven.
Meanwhile, as I looked out over the vast expanse of the ocean that day on my plate of Ten Commandments, I knew that the God of the Bible, this Jesus who was shunned and loved and worshiped and abhorred, had also carved His own heart-rending path. And He had done it for unholy, selfish me, and for all of us. So that we might step into a mystery greater than the ocean—God’s grace through the redemptive blood of Jesus Christ.
Old Testament prophecies had come alive through Jesus’ birth, death, and resurrection, making us children of most holy God.
One step remains to complete God’s plan for those who believe. From 1st Corinthians 15: “Where O death, is your victory? Where O Hades, is your sting? The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Mystery officially solved.