Deuteronomy 10-11 / Ecclesiastes 4 / Acts 1
Only your fathers did the LORD desire to love them, and He chose their seed after them, chose you from all the peoples as on this day. And you shall circumcise the foreskin of your heart, nor shall you show a stiff neck anymore.
God chose a certain people out of all the people who were alike enough to form groups and together call themselves a certain people. They formed themselves randomly, based on what worked for them and the survival of their clan, which grew into whatever group they became. From the very beginning, God had initiated what would become the Israelite group, which was just one big extension of that original family that He particularly selected from Abraham. He did not choose those humans who became Israel, but the seed of Abraham, which at the time of His choosing wasn't an entity that had any characteristics to actually show whether good so as to be chosen or bad so as to be rejected. It was all on the merit of the one man who was God's friend. God chose Abraham and Abraham chose God back by believing Him who didn't seem to be (because He was hidden but revealed Himself to Abraham), which is why Abraham's reciprocity of choosing God, after God had chosen him, is worth so much to God—because even though it didn't seem like God was there—because He kept Himself hidden and secret as far as the natural things are perceived—nevertheless God had revealed Himself to Abraham and he believed Him even though much of the time it was sketchy and doubtful that God was there. But rather than allowing himself to be bowled over by what seemed to be, he hung on to that barely visible and recallable hair of truth that God had set in his heart to follow Him instead of remaining in Sumeria where all the civilized humans were.
And you, my child, will be called a prophet of the Most High;
to give his people the knowledge of salvation
because of the tender mercy of our God,
to shine on those living in darkness
And the child grew and became strong in spirit; and he lived in the desert until he appeared publicly to Israel.
The desert was where there weren't any or many humans because they lived in the city, together as a group. They gave each other the agreement of the validity of the group and the safety that their numbers provided to each other, whoever participated in that agreement by staying with the group. The humans form themselves into groups so they can survive better, yet God wanted His prophet to be raised in the desert because He didn't want him to be at all influenced by the humans. The evil that's naturally in them can't help but jump out onto each other because that's how they're made to be, to learn from whatever they're exposed to. The humans at large don't matter any more than any other animal (much to their disagreement), nor do the groups they form which just reinforce that opposite agreement—that they do matter more than they assume.
Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted by the devil.
The animal nature in the humans is what God didn't want John exposed to while he was young and impressionable. It is what makes the humans simply what they are according to God, just like it makes a squirrel a squirrel and a goose a goose. It is the friend of the humans because it is what rules and guides them, helping them to survive in their hostile world full of competitors and potential enemies. However, it is the adversary of God's sons because it keeps them from Him like it's supposed to, as God created it to work. As we notice its ubiquitous presence in the humans—especially us, as the friend we embraced before when we were strangers to God, but now the enemy we must starve and make weak in us by denial so that it doesn't rule and therefore define us as just another common animal—then we start to see it all over the preserved words. Starting with its inception in Genesis, the reason for its institution and maintenance in the humans throughout time and how it works for God's ultimate intended purpose becomes clearer.
Take your son, your only son, Isaac, whom you love, and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains I will tell you about.
Like the adversary for Job, Satan was created by God for His purpose, to be the viable alternative and choice against Him, to test the son and refine his heart. In that respect God's request of Abraham was also a manifestation of Satan because it was for His good purpose, to test him. We don't know how long Abraham struggled and suffered with God's request before he came to the decision to do it, but it was probably a long, excruciatingly hard time for him to actually go through with the request by God to Abraham to kill the child he had waited for so long to get. The animal nature has the same type of purpose for all the sons, and so we have many examples of the OT being copies for the sons of God's ultimate reality.
Do not lay a hand on the boy, do not do anything to him. Now I know that you fear God, because you have not withheld from me your son, your only son.
If God created this adversary—the serpent was no doubt a component of the human's thought process for the first Adam similar to how it was for the second Adam in the temptation record—then of course it's going to work for Him. A common error in thought is that it was just His plan gone awry, with the bad god momentarily getting the upper hand, nevertheless the good god winning in the end despite the power of the fallen angel, which might make good sense as the plot of a comic book, or the basis for a mythological institution built around the good gods and the bad gods. What matters is that God created an adversary for His purpose, to test His sons, and these are all records of that fact—talking snake, Satan tempting Job, God commanding Abraham, the Devil tempting Jesus—they all come from the same place and point to the same purpose, to exist as a viable choice against God so there is no strong hand forcing the son to love the Father. Knowing this doesn't minimize the viability of the power of the choice to be alluring. It obviously isn't a minor thing, or it wouldn't be effective.
They went to a place called Gethsemane, and Jesus said to his disciples, "Sit here while I pray." He took Peter, James and John along with him, and he began to be deeply distressed and troubled. "My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death," he said to them. "Stay here and keep watch."
Going a little farther, he fell to the ground and prayed that if possible the hour might pass from him. "Abba, Father," he said, "everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will."
The Son's faithfulness to the Father and what he will choose is the story of the value of Jesus to the Father, and the model for the other sons. If one accepts the lie that he was a god, then one can separate himself from that model as the thing he must also conform to, because Jesus was some kind of a god who had special powers that he (the one who believes the lie) doesn't, so he shouldn't be obligated to having the same mind and attitude as he had. If one considers the Son as a god that was and is so far above him, then one cannot ever identify himself with the Son as the model for the way he must also become—so totally devoted to the Father and finding the truth about how to please Him so he can come near to Him, that everything else about this natural existence which seems to mean so much to the humans can just fall away because nothing means anything, and everything is meaningless as Solomon noted later in his life.
And I saw that all labor and all achievement spring from man's envy of his neighbor. This too is meaningless, a chasing after the wind.
The adversarial relationship which develops when the son is chosen is what the Lord was teaching the disciples in the later chapters of John. They hadn't entered into the realization of that promise and warning yet, but they had seen the opposition to Jesus within themselves and others. It produces a separation from the world which hasn't been chosen to see and know, and the reality of what the Father wants for His sons so that their lives do not remain merely theoretical.
If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you. Remember the words I spoke to you: "No servant is greater than his master." If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also. They will treat you this way because of my name, for they do not know the One who sent me.
If there's no real cost or consequence for choosing the right and rejecting the wrong, then the choice for God is a theoretical mind game, just some mouth babble you offer while you actually choose what you love, which is living your life the way you want to, like all the other animals who either spew the same or contradictory mouth babble. The point is this: it doesn't matter what you say, it matters what you choose, and that choice can be observed by how one lives their life, for themselves like all the other animals or as Jesus actually did, for the Father and the family of sons it was his job to save, by choosing the Father and rejecting himself.
If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it. What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul?
Jesus could have recognized who he was by the spirit's teaching and theoretically chosen to follow God, while actually fulfilling his own destiny, which is what the tempter tried to persuade him he could do. Notice the similarity between how the talking snake convinced the human to go its way instead of the Father's. "You won't die, everything will be fine—you can remain as you are, God's son, and still have this other thing too, which is good, not bad—you can be like He is! Why would God want to deprive you of what you want, what would make you better, smarter, wiser?" Same thing happened with Jesus: "You can be God's son and still have what you want. You don't have to give that up. God didn't say that, did He? Why would God want to deprive you of what you want, that which would give you glory, honor and respect? Why would God want you to suffer?"
Also contained within the record is the temptation about not believing that he was indeed God's Son, and sort of guaranteeing it by proving to himself through the power that should have been available to him if that were true. The first 2 temptations indicate this by starting out, "If you are God's Son...then prove it by doing this or that." The first was prove it to yourself (to create the belief by his own power, so as not to have to wait for the Father and believe by what he was given by the Father, which was enough), the second was prove it to the Jews and reveal your identity to all Israel (to get human honor, respect and glory by the validation that he was the One all Israel had been waiting for for hundreds of years).
After his suffering, he showed himself to these men and gave many convincing proofs that he was alive.
The writer recognized what Jesus had already told the men, and what the spirit had been telling God's holy prophets for a long time:
He said to them, "This is what I told you while I was still with you: Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms." Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures. He told them, "This is what is written: The Christ will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day."
What is the point of having to suffer? We have to understand how the animal nature works first; without that it's difficult to comprehend the point of what seems arbitrary. The animal nature's primary and overpowering objective is to do everything in its power *not* to have to suffer,as per its ever-present need to always survive. That's not just to physically survive, but to make things as good and comfortable as it possibly can for itself as is conducive to whatever level of survival one is able to enjoy. Removing all threats to its good while doing whatever it can to build things up around itself to accomplish its goal of appeasing its instinctive and overwhelming fear is what it's always engaged in, and the avoidance of suffering is just a given as part of that process. It's such an integral part of the human condition that it's taken for granted as "just the way things are." Few ask why the humans are the way they are, and none but those who are given eyes to see (sons of God) think that the way the humans naturally and instinctively are with all their animal fears, cravings and the need to hide all the time might be an adversary.
During the days of Jesus' life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with loud cries and tears to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission.
Although he was a son, he learned obedience from what he suffered and, once made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him and was designated by God to be high priest in the order of Melchizedek.
We have much to say about this, but it is hard to explain because you are slow to learn.
This "slowness to learn" was in their not comprehending that the OT was a copy for them to be able to understand the secret mystery of God, intended for His own sons, and not a rule book by which one can live their life, keeping that truth far away from them. Embracing the suffering of being separated from that which keeps us unclean and therefore far from the Father, but which we love so much because it's all we learned to know and love, what we learned to manipulate and control to make us feel safe and secure, is what the more mature son must continue to do in order to be being pleasing to the Father. Continuing to choose the old way makes us have to go back through that same process of repentance and forgiveness, having to reestablish the bond with the Teacher because choosing the animal makes the Teacher go away, as another aspect of the same process of suffering so we learn to stop choosing the wrong and rejecting the right.
Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as sons. For what son is not disciplined by his father? If you are not disciplined (and everyone undergoes discipline), then you are illegitimate children and not true sons. Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of our spirits and live! Our fathers disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in his holiness. No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.
It's easier to think of the enemy as some external thing we can identify and move away from, because the nature of the animal is to protect itself, and it can't protect itself from itself, which is why there is suffering inflicted by God onto His own sons. It does what we cannot do, because if it were up to us we would remain in this theoretical realm the rest of our lives, saying, "Oh yes, if I had the opportunity I would choose correctly, for my Father." But we wouldn't have the chance to actually do it if not for the opportunity He provides us—we wouldn't do it on our own.
For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for him, since you are going through the same struggle you saw I had, and now hear that I still have.
The point of making His sons suffer is to directly combat this enemy of His, because it subjects them to what their nature instinctively hates most and tries to constantly run from, when left to itself. If he is chosen then God will provide it, and it will be a journey he makes for the purpose of losing what makes him unclean. The writer is able to write about it after he has been on the journey for a while, and so knows it is better to encourage his brothers as something they can look at as a vehicle for getting them where they want to be, as opposed to keeping them where the flesh wants to keep them by avoiding it.
I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead.
If we know what the animal nature is about, and we have gotten to the point of seeing at least partially how it has a stranglehold on us, then we are nearing toward seeing suffering not as something to avoid but something which can actually make us whole and acceptable to our Father—a thing to actually love instead of hate. Why was it necessary for Jesus to suffer? A better question would be: Why do we think we are above our master who we know, for whatever good and righteous purposes of the Father, did suffer? Because that's what the animal *always* chooses.
If we trust our Father then we should know that anything He desires us to have is for our good and not for our bad, so we should welcome and embrace it instead of run from it. Learning to trust Him is the whole point of the process of being transformed. It is a work we have to continue to go through for the good purpose, so let's try to embrace it as a good thing, not something loathsome. The ability to do this comes with endurance, the losing of our knee-jerking ignorance and the decisions we make, little by little, to choose the right and reject the wrong. Even when we know the truth, the wrong will still be in us. We have to learn what the wrong is before we can begin to reject it.
Who has believed our message and to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed?
He grew up before him like a tender shoot, and like a root out of dry ground.
He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering.
Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows,
But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities;
We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way;
He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth;
By oppression and judgment he was taken away. And who can speak of his descendants?
He was assigned a grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death,
Yet it was the LORD's will to crush him and cause him to suffer, and though the LORD makes his life a guilt offering, he will see his offspring and prolong his days, and the will of the LORD will prosper in his hand.
After the suffering of his soul, he will see the light of life and be satisfied;
Therefore I will give him a portion among the great, and he will divide the spoils with the strong,