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In the kingdom of God, the way up is down.
According to God’s kingdom dynamics, Moses can never enter the Promised Land. God says: “The older shall serve the younger.” (Genesis 25:23). The law came first and is therefore the older. Grace came second and is therefore the younger. Therefore, grace must supersede the law.
Moses, the lawgiver, must give way to Joshua whose name is the shortened form of Jesus’ Hebrew name, Yehoshua, which means God saves. God’s providence must somehow trip up Moses, because the first, the law, cannot take anyone to God. Only the last, grace, can do so.
The law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one comes to the Father except through Jesus. No one can come to the Father through Moses.
The law of death for sin came first through Moses. But this has been superseded by the law of the spirit of life in Christ Jesus, which came second. The law brings death, but the spirit brings life.
The flesh came first in natural man. But the spirit came second in the born-again man. Since God says: “the older shall serve the younger,” then the flesh must ultimately succumb to the spirit in the man who is born-again. He will finally totally relinquish the sinful part of his nature on his deathbed: “For he who has died has been freed from sin.” (Romans 6:7).
Accordingly, Paul points out that: “The body is sown in corruption, it is raised in incorruption. It is sown in dishonour; it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness; it is raised in power. It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body.” (1 Corinthians 15:42-44).
God says: “Israel is My son, My firstborn.”
Therefore, Israel must become last. The Gentiles who were last must become first.
God’s firstborn must reject the gospel. Therefore, God sent Isaiah to Israel with a strange directive: “Go, and say to this people, ‘Listen carefully, but do not understand. Watch closely but learn nothing.’ Harden the hearts of these people. Plug their ears and shut their eyes. That way, they will not see with their eyes, nor hear with their ears, nor understand with their hearts and turn to me for healing.”
Thus, when Jesus went to His hometown of Nazareth, He was rejected. “He came to His own, and His own did not receive Him.” (John 1:11). “He could do no mighty work there, except that He laid His hands on a few sick people and healed them. And He marvelled because of their unbelief.” (Mark 6:5-6).
Jesus said to His disciples when He sent them to preach the gospel: “Do not go into the way of the Gentiles, and do not enter a city of the Samaritans. But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” (Matthew 10:5-6).
Because the Jews are God’s firstborn, the gospel must be preached to them first. They would then reject it and become last. Thereafter, the gospel would be preached to the Gentiles, who would receive it. So doing, the Gentiles, who were last, would replace the Jews and become first.
First became last
For this reason. Jesus points out that: “Many widows were in Israel in the days of Elijah, when the heaven was shut up three years and six months, and there was a great famine throughout all the land; but to none of them was Elijah sent except to Zarephath, in the region of Sidon, to a woman who was a widow. And many lepers were in Israel in the time of Elisha the prophet, and none of them was cleansed except Naaman the Syrian.” (Luke 4:25-27).
Therefore, he observed that: “The stone which the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone. This was the LORD’s doing, and it is marvellous in our eyes. Therefore, I say to you, the kingdom of God will be taken from you and given to a nation bearing the fruits of it.” (Matthew 21:42-43).
Last became first
Jesus was unimpressed with the faith of Jews. He said to them: “Unless you people see signs and wonders, you will by no means believe.” (John 4:48). However, the Samaritans believed in Jesus without him having to perform any miracles whatsoever. (John 4:39-42). When He healed ten men of leprosy, the only one who came back to give thanks was a Samaritan.
When Jesus found “great faith,” it was not among Jews but among the Gentiles. He said to a Canaanite woman who adamantly sought healing for her daughter, despite Jesus’ feigned reluctance: “O woman, great is your faith!” (Matthew 15:28). He also commended the faith of a Roman centurion who recognised that He did not have to go physically to the sick to heal them but could decree healing from anywhere.
The centurion said to Jesus: “Only speak a word, and my servant will be healed.” (Matthew 8:8). Jesus replied: “I have not found such great faith, not even in Israel!” (Matthew 8:10).
Following this pattern, Jesus only revealed himself as Messiah to two people in the scriptures, and they were both “outsiders.” The one was a woman by Jacob’s well. She was a Samaritan and, therefore. was last. But by giving her a privileged revelation of Himself, Jesus made her first. (John 4:25-26).
The other was a man he healed of blindness. Although that man was a Jew, Jesus only revealed Himself to him after he had been excommunicated from the synagogue. (John 9:35-38). This made him last, thereby positioning him for promotion in Christ.
He became first through his commitment to Christ his healer, even in the face of religious persecution.
Grace in action
With Jesus, the worst sinners received the warmest welcome, while the most scrupulous law-abiders received the greatest castigation. (Matthew 23:13-36).
Jesus dined and consorted with sinners. He appointed a thief, Judas, as His treasurer. He invited another thief on the cross to be with Him in paradise. He called Matthew, a despised tax collector, to be one of His disciples. He befriended prostitutes and women of easy virtue, insisting they would enter the kingdom of God before the religious leaders. (Matthew 21:31).
This shows that in the kingdom of God, the way up is down. The only way the first in the world can be first in the kingdom is if the first in the world becomes last in the world. Then from last, it can become first in the kingdom.
Going by these same kingdom dynamics, Christians who are now first will become last. Unbelievers, who are now last, will become first. God says prophetically: “It shall come to pass in the place where it was said to them, ‘you are not My people,’ there it shall be said to them, ‘you are sons of the living God.” (Hosea 1:10).
This is Jesus’ warning to entitled firsts: “Many will come from east and west, and sit down with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven. But the sons of the kingdom will be cast out into outer darkness. There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” (Matthew 8:11-12).
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