Dear Joe and Sally,
Much has happened during the past month. The matter concerning Brett Murray and President Zuma sure had opened a debate concerning ‘the thoughts of men’. It reminds me of, Joh 1:45-, “And Philip found Nathaniel, and said to him, ‘We have found Him, of whom Moses wrote in the law, and the prophets, Jesus the son of Joseph, who is of Nazareth.’ Nathaniel said to him, ‘Can there be any good thing from Nazareth?’ Philip said to him, ‘Come, and see.’ And Jesus saw Nathaniel coming towards Him, and said of him, ‘Behold a real Israelite, in whom is no deceit.’”
In whom there is no deceit. Had Jesus said, “Behold, a real Israelite, an honest man,’” I don’t think it would have had the same effect. Deceit covers a multitude of sins. Sins like intentionally misleading someone, fooling oneself into believing what is not true, being unfaithful to one’s partner or, in religious terms, pretending to be a Christian.
What is noteworthy is that Jesus did not appoint such an honest man, as Nathaniel, as one of the Twelve. Instead, Jesus appointed Judas, a thief and Peter a self-confessed sinner, Luk 5:8, “When Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, ‘Depart from me; for I am a sinful man, O Lord.’”
What passed through Brett’s mind to portray President Zuma in such a way? What makes that President Zuma is so upset? What passed through Nathaniel’s mind that he was sceptic concerning the idea that Jesus could be He of whom Moses wrote? Moreover, what makes one think that God is just a God of love; that He will not condemn those that are disobedient?
Peter, one of the Twelve, who betrayed the Lord, ‘at the end of the day’; (after his ‘conversion’?) wrote, 1Pe 1:13-, “So make your minds ready, and keep on the watch, hoping with all your power for the grace which is to come to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. Like children ruled by God, do not go back to the old desires of the time when you were without knowledge.
“But be holy in every detail of your lives, as He, whose servants you are, is holy. Because it has been said in the Writings, ‘You are to be holy, for I am holy.’ And if you give the name of Father to Him who, judging every man by his acts, has no respect for a man’s position, then go in fear while you are on this earth. Being conscious that you have been made free from that foolish way of life, which was your heritage from your fathers, not through a payment of things like silver, or gold that comes to destruction. But through holy blood, like that of a clean and unmarked lamb, even the blood of Christ.”
“Then the Jews had an angry discussion among themselves, saying, ‘How is it possible for this Man to give us his flesh for food?’ Then Jesus said to them, ‘Truly I say to you, If you do not take the flesh of the Son of man for food, and if you do not take his blood for drink, you have no life in you. He who takes my flesh for food and my blood for drink has eternal life: and I will take him up from the dead at the last day. My flesh is true food and my blood is true drink.
“He who takes my flesh for food and my blood for drink is in me and I in him. As the living Father has sent Me, and I have life because of the Father, even so he who takes Me for his food will have life because of Me. This is the Bread, which has come down from heaven. It is not like the food which your fathers had: they took of the manna, and are dead; but he who takes this Bread for food will have life for ever.’
“Jesus said these things in the Synagogue while He was teaching at Capernaum. Then, hearing this, a number of his disciples said, ‘This is a hard saying. Who is able to take in such teaching?’ When Jesus became conscious that his disciples were protesting about what He said, He said to them, ‘Does this give you trouble? What then will you say if you see the Son of man going up to where He was before? The spirit is the life giver; the flesh is of no value: the words which I have said to you are spirit and they are life.’
“But still some of you have no faith. For it was clear to Jesus from the first who they were who had no faith, and who it was who would be false to Him. And He said, ‘This is why I said to you, No man is able to come to Me unless it be granted him by the Father.” Because of what He said, a number of the disciples went back and would no longer go with Him. So Jesus said to the twelve, ‘Have you a desire to go away?’
“Then Simon Peter gave this answer: ‘Lord, to whom are we to go? You have the words of eternal life. And we have faith and are certain that you are the Holy One of God.’ Then Jesus said, ‘Did I not make a selection of you, the Twelve, and one of you is a son of the Evil One?’ He was talking of Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot. It was he who was to be false to Jesus–one of the Twelve.”
How is one to understand, “This is why I said to you, ‘No man is able to come to Me unless it be granted him by the Father’”? Is there, after all said and done, somewhere in ‘the fine print’ a matter of ‘selection’? Why did Jesus select those twelve, why not Nathaniel instead of Judas Iscariot? This is how it happened, Luk 6:12-, “Now it was in those days that Jesus went to a mountain to pray, and He spent the whole night in prayer to God. When daylight came, He called his disciples and chose twelve of them, whom He also called apostles.”
Jesus might have wished to appoint Nathaniel but God did not grant his wish because it is written, Mar 2:16-, “When the scribes and the Pharisees saw him eating with sinners and tax collectors, they asked his disciples, ‘Why does he eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?’ When Jesus heard that, he told them, ‘Healthy people don’t need a physician, but sick ones do. I did not come to call righteous people, but sinners.’”
On the other hand, them being Jews, one must not overlook, Joh 12:37- “Although He had performed numerous signs in their presence, they did not believe in Him, so that what the prophet Isaiah spoke might be fulfilled when he said: ‘Lord, who has believed our message, and to whom has the Lord’s power been revealed?’ This is why they could not believe: Isaiah also said, ‘He has blinded their eyes and hardened their heart, so that they might not perceive with their eyes, and understand with their mind and turn, and I would heal them.’ Isaiah said this when he saw his glory and spoke about Him.”
Concerning this ‘glory’, Rom 11:25-, “For I would not, brethren, that ye should be ignorant of this mystery, (lest ye should be wise in your own conceits) that blindness in part hath happened to Israel, until the fullness of the Gentiles shall be come in. And so all Israel shall be saved, as it is written, ‘There shall come out of Sion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob.’ For, this is my covenant to them, when I shall take away their sins. As concerning the gospel, they are enemies for your sakes: but as concerning the election, they are beloved for the father’s sakes. For, the gifts and calling of God are without repentance.”
Moreover, Isaiah wrote, Isa 49:5-, “And now, saith the LORD that formed Me from the womb to be his servant, to bring Jacob again to Him. Though Israel be not gathered, yet shall I be glorious in the eyes of the LORD, and My God shall be My strength. And He said, It is a light thing that thou shouldst be my servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob, and to restore the preserved of Israel: I will also give thee for a light to the Gentiles, that thou mayest be my salvation to the end of the earth.”
This prophesy was fulfilled, Act 13:46-, “Then Paul and Barnabas became bold, and said, It was necessary that the word of God should first be spoken to you: but seeing ye reject it, and judge yourselves unworthy of everlasting life, lo, we turn to the Gentiles. For so hath the Lord commanded us, saying, I have set thee to be a light of the Gentiles, that thou shouldst be for salvation to the ends of the earth. And when the Gentiles heard this, they were glad, and glorified the word of the Lord: and as many as were ordained to eternal life, believed.”
The Gentiles, those who are now the ‘ordained’, too, have the opportunity to believe unto salvation, Mar 16:15-, “And he said to them, ‘Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned.’”
Of more importance is, Luk 18:8-, “I say to you, that He will execute the justice to them quickly; but the Son of Man having come, shall He find the faith upon the earth?” Concerning the Jews it is written, Mal 1:10-, “Oh that there were one among you that would shut the doors, that ye might not kindle fire on mine altar in vain! I have no pleasure in you, saith the LORD of hosts, neither will I accept an offering at your hand.” Concerning the faith it is written, 2Ti 4:3-, “For the time will come when they will not endure the sound doctrine; but, having itching ears, will heap to themselves teachers after their own lusts; and will turn away their ears from the truth, and turn aside unto fables.”
Now, concerning the Brett/Zuma scenario, who of the two, if any, had acted in accordance to the faith? Of the faith it is written, 1Co 13:1-, “If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but I do not have love, I have become as sounding brass or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophecies, and know all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith so as to move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. And if I give out all my goods, and if I deliver my body that I be burned, but I do not have love, I am not profited anything. Love has patience, is kind; love is not envious; love is not vain, is not puffed up; does not behave indecently, does not pursue its own things, is not easily provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices in the truth. Love quietly covers all things, believes all things, hopes all things, and endures all things. Love never fails.”
One may say, “Yes, it all sounds laudable but according to our custom, we do it this way…” It is written, Gal 3:25-, “And the faith having come, no more under a child-conductor are we, for ye are all sons of God through the faith in Christ Jesus. For as many as to Christ were baptized did put on Christ; there is not here Jew or Greek, there is not here servant nor freeman, there is not here male and female, for all ye are one in Christ Jesus. And if ye are of Christ then of Abraham ye are seed, and according to promise–heirs.”
Knowing that we are ‘living in the last days’ need we not pay closer attention to, Php 2:1-, “So then, as Christians, do you have any encouragement? Do you have any comfort from love? Do you have any spiritual relationships? Do you have any sympathy and compassion? Then fill me with joy by having the same attitude and the same love, living in harmony, and keeping one purpose in mind. Don’t act out of selfish ambition or be conceited. Instead, humbly think of others as being better than yourselves. Don’t be concerned only about your own interests, but also be concerned about the interests of others.
“Have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had. Although He was in the form of God and equal with God, He did not take advantage of this equality. Instead, He emptied Himself by taking on the form of a servant, by becoming like other humans, by having a human appearance. He humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, death on a cross. This is why God has given Him an exceptional honour—the Name honoured above all other names—so that at the Name of Jesus everyone in heaven, on earth, and in the world below will kneel and confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father.
“My dear friends, you have always obeyed, not only when I was with you but even more now that I’m absent. In the same way, continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling. It is God who produces in you the desires and actions that please Him. Do everything without complaining or arguing. Then you will be blameless and innocent. You will be God’s children without any faults among people who are crooked and corrupt. You will shine like stars among them in the world as you hold firmly to the word of life.”
The challenge: Let us dare to be a Nathaniel,
A letter to my Afrikaans friends, Jan and San:
Liewe Jan en San,
Ja, Meimaand was inderdaad ‘ons’ maand in die tyd toe die 31ste ŉ vakansiedag was. Jammer om te sê, dis net herinneringe. Tye het verander. Dit gesê, moes ek nie liewers gesê het; “Gelukkig het ‘tye verander’”?
Daniël en sy vriende vind hulself in ŉ vreemde land met vreemde kulture waar hulle nie tuis voel nie. Hulle eerste hekkie is die kos wat vir hulle voorgesit word. Ons lees; “God het aan Daniël guns en barmhartigheid verleen by die owerste van die hofdienaars. En aan die einde van tien dae het hulle voorkoms beter en hulle voller van vlees gelyk as al die jong seuns wat die spys van die koning geëet het. En aan die einde van die dae wat die koning vasgestel het om hulle in te bring, het die owerste van die hofdienaars hulle voor Nebukadnésar gebring. En in enige saak van wyse insig waarin die koning hulle ondervra het, het hy bevind dat hulle al die geleerdes en besweerders in sy hele koninkryk tien maal oortref het.”
Op ŉ nag het die koning ŉ droom gehad; Daniël en sy vriende was toe nog ‘vakleerlinge’. Omdat die wyse manne van Babel die droom nie kon uitlê nie het die koning bevel gegee dat al die wyse manne gedood moes word. Daniël en sy metgeselle was ook, uit die aard van die saak, ingesluit. Daniël kon dit nie verstaan nie toe die saak aan hom meegedeel is.
Ons vind onsself ook ‘onder ander tye’. Nuwe kulture word, as te ware, op ons afgedwing. Miskien kan ŉ mens kersopsteek by Daniël. Daarop het Daniël ingegaan en die koning versoek dat hy hom tyd moes gee om die uitlegging aan die koning te kenne te gee. Toe gaan Daniël na sy huis en maak aan sy metgeselle, die saak bekend, en dat hulle barmhartigheid van die God van die hemel moes afsmeek oor hierdie geheim, sodat hulle Daniël en sy metgeselle saam met die orige wyse manne van Babel nie sou ombring nie.
Daarop is in ŉ naggesig die geheim aan Daniël geopenbaar. Toe het Daniël die God van die hemel geloof. Daniël het toe gespreek en gesê; “Mag die Naam van God geprys word van ewigheid tot ewigheid, want die wysheid en die krag is syne. Hy tog verander die tye en die geleenthede; Hy sit konings af en stel konings aan; Hy verleen wysheid aan die wyse manne en kennis aan die wat insig het. Hy openbaar ondeurgrondelike en verborge dinge. Hy weet wat in die duister is, en die lig woon by Hom. U, God van my vaders, loof en prys ek, want U het my wysheid en krag verleen, en nou het U my bekend gemaak wat ons van U afgesmeek het, want die saak van die koning het U ons bekend gemaak.”
Ons weet nou van al ‘die tye’, ook van die ‘voete, gedeeltelik van yster en gedeeltelik van klei’ (Daniël 2). Is dit moontlik dat ons nou dáárdie tyd beleef waarvan gesê is; “Dat u die yster gemeng met kleigrond gesien het—hulle sal deur menslike gemeenskap onder mekaar vermeng raak, maar hulle sal nie aanmekaar vasklewe nie, net soos yster nie met klei meng nie.”?
As dit so is gelukkig vir ons want in die dae van dié konings sal die God van die hemel ŉ koninkryk verwek wat in ewigheid nie vernietig sal word nie, en die heerskappy daarvan sal aan geen ander volk oorgelaat word nie; dit sal al daardie koninkryke verbrysel en daar ŉ einde aan maak, maar self sal dit vir ewig bestaan; “Maar die klip wat die beeld getref het, het ŉ groot rots geword wat die hele aarde gevul het.”
Die vraag, wat smeek om ŉ antwoord, is wat staan ons nou te doen? ons, ons wat nie ‘inpas’ in die verandere tye nie. Ons weet wat Daniël en sy metgeselle gedoen het. Ons weet ook wat ons voorgesê is; “In die eerste plek vermaan ek dan dat smekinge, gebede, voorbedes, danksegginge gedoen moet word vir alle mense; vir konings en almal wat hooggeplaas is, sodat ons ŉ rustige en stil lewe kan lei in alle godsvrug en waardigheid. Want dít is goed en aangenaam voor God, ons Verlosser, wat wil hê dat alle mense gered word en tot kennis van die waarheid kom. Want daar is een God en een Middelaar tussen God en die mense, die mens Christus Jesus, wat Homself gegee het as ŉ losprys vir almal, as die getuienis op die regte tyd.” Solank ons net kan onthou dat God verander die tye en die geleenthede. Mag ons ook so kan sê ; “Ek het die goeie stryd gestry; ek het die wedloop voleindig; ek het die geloof behou,” Johannes.