Sunday School Notes: Church 4

CHURCH: A Heavenly Host

“Who is this who looks down like the dawn, beautiful as the moon, bright as the sun, awesome as an army with banners?”

– Song of Solomon 6:10

The Church as an army:

–        The people of God described in military terms: 1 Thess. 5:8-11

–        Clothed in military garb: Eph. 6:11-13, Rom. 13:11-12

–        Riding out in victory: Rev. 19:11-16

Why?

What is the nature of our battle and how do we fight?

“Odysseus… realizing the peril besetting him and his companions… stopped their ears with wax… while he had himself bound firmly to the mast so that he might hear the song of the Sirens without danger… [On the other hand] Orpheus… himself produced music of such superior charm that no one gave the slightest attention to the Sirens.”[1]

What is our song?

–        The answer is found in the description of God as “LORD of Hosts.” And in the prophetic witness.

 

O LORD of hosts, God of Israel, enthroned above the cherubim, you are the God, you alone, of all the kingdoms of the earth; you have made heaven and earth.”

 – Isaiah 37:16

LORD of Hosts:  Also translated, “Jehovah of armies.”[2]

He is a king (Ps. 24:10) described often in relation to his possessions:

–        A place: Is. 18:7

–        A time (particularly, a day): Is. 13:13; 22:5

–        A city: Ps. 48:8 (12-14)

–        A house: Ps. 84:1-2

–        A feast: Is. 28:5

–        A people:

  1. Israel: Ex. 12:50-51; 1 Sam. 17:45
  2. Not just Israel: Is. 19:25
  3. What is the distinction? Why is there a distinction between his army as Israel and as that which is composed of Gentile nations? The distinction is holy/invisible and must be revealed for it is spiritually discerned – heaven must send a messenger.

Joshua chapter 5:13-15 help to provide an answer:

  • 13 When Joshua was by Jericho, he lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, a man was standing before him with his drawn sword in his hand. And Joshua went to him and said to him, “Are you for us, or for our adversaries?” 14 And he said, “No; but I am the commander of the army of the Lord. Now I have come.” And Joshua fell on his face to the earth and worshiped and said to him, “What does my lord say to his servant?” 15 And the commander of the Lord‘s army said to Joshua, “Take off your sandals from your feet, for the place where you are standing is holy.”
    • And Joshua did so.
    • This host, as God’s heavenly army divides Israel from Israel and further his people from the nations (or the world). For as the commander of the army says – he is neither for nor against Israel but comes as a captain of the LORD (later echoed by Joshua, 24:15). There is Jew and Gentile, and there is the people of God’s own choosing from Jew and Gentile who “serve the LORD.” Those like Joshua who bows to the revelation of the LORD of hosts who is neither for or against us.

The Prophetic Word and the Host:

Clearly God’s ways are not our ways; his war is not like our war, thus his army is peculiar. A series of readings in Isaiah demonstrate this. He is Holy, Sovereign, and Good – and, importantly, hidden apart from the announcement (the prophetic ministry of his word).

  • Isaiah 2:12ff; 3:1-5; 13-15 – God’s purpose is judgment upon Israel (in his day, and at his place), see 1 Peter 4:17.
  • Isaiah 5:24-30; 13:1-6, 10; 44:28 (Cyrus)– It is composed of other nations (which act very much like Israel invading Canaan).
  • Isaiah 1:24-28 – There is a good and just purpose at work in the judgment
  • Isaiah 6:3-5 – He is holy (his judgment reaches to each of us individually).
  • Isaiah 8:11-15 – He alone is to be feared.
  • Isaiah 9:6-7 – This is his means to establish his King (see also Psalm 2:6ff)
  • Isaiah 10:21-23 (recall 19:25 above) – It is a means to gather a people for the King; a bride for the Son.
  • Isaiah 44:3-8 – We are witnesses to this LORD of Hosts, and our witness serves to further the warfare.

 

Example/Illustration: Willaim Blake’s, The Garden of Love

I went to the Garden of Love,

And saw what I never had seen:

A Chapel was built in the midst,

Where I used to play on the green.

 

And the gates of this Chapel were shut,

And Thou shalt not. writ over the door;

So I turn’d to the Garden of Love,

That so many sweet flowers bore.

 

And I saw it was filled with graves,

And tomb-stones where flowers should be:

And Priests in black gowns, were walking their rounds,

And binding with briars, my joys & desires.

 

–        This poem is meant to be a condemnation on organized religion. It is said to smother all that is good, “the garden of love.” But, the smothering is actually a witness to the truth.

–        Because this is a reality that often alludes our sense of sight it must be proclaimed and presented. Blind eyes must see… The invisible is made visible (Elisha’s prayer, 2 Kings 6:8-23).

 

The Witness: Word and Sacrament (Proclamation and Presentation)

And the angel said to me, “Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.” And he said to me, “These are the true words of God.” 10 Then I fell down at his feet to worship him, but he said to me, “You must not do that! I am a fellow servant with you and your brothers who hold to the testimony of Jesus. Worship God.” For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy. Revelation 19:9-10

  1. Word: His “roar from on high (Jeremiah 25:30-32, see also Matt. 10:34)
    1. He is Sovereign – gathering and sending the army in judgment (Joel 2:3; Nahum 1:2-6; Jer. 51:20-23)
    2. He is Good – he saves those who call upon him in the midst of the judgment Joel 2:32; 3:16; Nahum 1:7-15)
      1. See also Jer. 17:12-18 for a parallel to Is. 6; 31:2-3, 8-9 for a description of the remnant; 33:10-13 for flocks gathered in the burnt over district.
    3. We are those who know salvation through judgment. We who can witness this in truth, know it in truth for we have known him who is the Truth – Jesus (Rev. 19:10-16ff).
      1. Our witness is the witness of the prophets – God has decreed an end.
      2. That end has come (1 Cor. 10:11, 1 John 2:8)
  2. Sacrament: see Joel 2:14 – part of the remnant is a means for worship (think of Noah and the seven pairs of the clean animals).
    1. Working righteousness (faith that lives) – Mark 16:16 (Matthew 3:15).
    2. An affirmation of judgment and the instrument of the judgment. It is, in our way, an ‘Amen’ to death (Is. 22:12-14), particularly our death in Christ Jesus. The Lord’s Supper is notably referred to as a remembrance and proclamation of that death until His coming.

The weapons of our warfare are not the weapons of the world. Instead, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ…

I Corinthians 10:4-5

 

 

[1] Kuiper, The Glorious Body, 275; compares Odysseus to the Church in flight from the world (the Sirens) and Orpheus to the Church overcoming the world.

[2] HALOT, 996, statistics; “285 times (missing from Genesis-Judges, also from Joel, Job, Daniel, Nehemiah, 2 Chronicles); 1S five times, 2S six times, 1K three times, 2K twice, Is 62 times, Jr 82 times, Hos once, Am nine times, Mi once, Nah twice, Hab once, Zeph twice, Hag 14 times, Zech 53 times, Mal 24 times, Ps 15 times, 1C three times.”