Bearing His Mark

There is no doubt that humankind was created for holiness and to participate in relational living, not only with one another, but also with God, our Father. His desire from the beginning was for us to earnestly desire His ways and His laws/instructions (Torah/mitzvot).
I have mentioned this numerous times in other writings, but it is so essential to remember that the Bible is a Hebrew book. What we call the New Testament, contains so many of the pictures and metaphors that are based in the Hebrew scriptures. And so much of the time, it leads back to the Torah.
It is also no secret that Paul uses the idea of “vessel” to communicate something about ourselves/bodies, especially when relating to God and the spiritual man. Where did Paul and other writers get this idea? There are many references to this and, interestingly enough, they make some unique connections. Adamah is a word in Hebrew that basically means dirt/earth. A clay or earthen vessel is something that is out of earth (adamah). In Genesis, God formed Adam (man) out of dirt, as a potter forms pottery. He animated us by putting His breath, or wind, in us. Humans became a living, moving, earthen vessel as a result of God’s breath (neshamah). It is the same for the animals. No creation has the breath or wind of God, other than man and animals.
It is noteworthy that later on in Greek thought, the idea of a “vessel” became a common metaphor for “body”, since Greeks taught that souls lived temporarily in bodies. Contrastingly in Hebrew thought, mankind do not have souls, we are souls (nephesh).
Here is Paul, “If a person keeps himself free of defilement by the latter, he will be a vessel set aside for honorable use by the master of the house and ready for every kind of good work” (2 Timothy 2). There are several places in the Hebrew scriptures and New Testament, where humans are described as earthen vessels. One such example is in a prophetic picture of the Messiah to Abram, “After the sun had set and there was thick darkness, a smoking fire pot and a flaming torch appeared, which passed between these animal parts” (Gen 15). We have the smoke/fire (God), in an earthen vessel (called a pot/oven, which I believe represents the Messiah). God is shown in the role of the Potter by Isaiah’s prophecy of chapter 29, “How you turn things upside down!- Is the potter not better than the clay, Does something made say of its maker, “He didn't make me”? Does the product say of its producer, “He has no discernment?” Isaiah 64, “But now, ADONAI, you are our father; we are the clay, you are our potter; and we are all the work of your hands.” Jeremiah also insinuated the same picture, “...can't I deal with you as the potter deals with his clay?- says ADONAI. Look! You, house of Isra'el, are the same in my hand as the clay in the potter's hand” (Jeremiah 18). Paul, in obvious harmony with God as the Potter, and us as vessels, then says in his letter to the Romans (chapter 9), “has the potter no right to make from a given lump of clay this pot for honorable use and that one for dishonorable?” I do realize the context of Romans 9 is not about this, but Paul is using this metaphor to speak of free will/predestination, which is not my intent for writing this piece. Rabbi Akiva once said, “all is foreseen, and free will is given.”
My point thus far has been to show how the Bible speaks of mankind as vessels (earthen) for use in the hands of God. Paul, in the second letter to Timothy, also stated, “In a large house there are dishes and pots not only of gold and silver, but also of wood and clay. That is, some are meant for honorable use and some for dishonorable.
With the idea that we are considered in some metaphors “earthen vessels”, I want to look at Exodus. Moses was told in detail how to make all the “vessels” of the tabernacle. Exodus 27 states, “Make its pots for removing ashes, and its shovels, basins, meat-hooks and fire pans; all its utensils you are to make of bronze.” While there were many vessels “set aside” for sanctuary use, mere metal was not the only thing that was consecrated. There is much written about the consecration of Aaron and “his sons” (the priesthood), Exodus 29 then says, “The holy garments of Aaron will be used by his sons after him; they will be anointed and consecrated in them…Exodus 30, “you are to anoint Aaron and his sons- you are to consecrate them to serve me in the office of priest.” In addition to all of that, God also gave specifics about Aaron’s vestures, in Exodus 28, “You are to make an ornament of pure gold and engrave on it as on a seal, ‘Set apart(holiness) for ADONAI’...Fasten it to the turban with a blue cord, on the front of the turban, over Aaron's forehead…this ornament is always to be on his forehead, so that the gifts for ADONAI will be accepted by him.”
Later on, the prophet Zechariah prophesies using these same pictures, because ultimately the physical, outward manifestations are only a shadow of a greater fulfillment. Zechariah 14, “When that day comes, this will be written on the bells worn by the horses: Consecrated to ADONAI; and the cooking pots in the house of ADONAI will be [as holy] as the sprinkling bowls before the altar. Yes, every cooking pot in Jerusalem and Judah will be consecrated (holiness) to ADONAI-Tzva'ot (of hosts).” Likewise, Ezra in chapter 8, “two vessels of fine burnished bronze as precious as gold. Then I told them, "You are consecrated to ADONAI, the articles are holy, and the silver and gold are a voluntary offering for ADONAI the God of your ancestors.”
Another thing which is fascinating to me, but a slight deviation of my main objective, is that some of the creatures that serve in the proximity of the throne of God and the “heavenly temple” are often times described as having “metal” characteristics. An example of this is found in Ezekiel 1, the creatures “glittered like burnished bronze”. Ezekiel 40, “there in front of me was a man whose appearance was like bronze”. In Daniel 10 he states, “when I looked up, and there before me was a man dressed in linen wearing a belt made of fine Ufaz gold. His body was like beryl, his face looked like lightning and his eyes like fiery torches; his arms and feet were the color of burnished bronze.” In Revelation 1, the description of the “son of man” is “his feet like burnished brass refined in a furnace”. In Revelation 2, the “Son of God” is described as one whose “feet are like burnished brass”.
It is important to remember that bronze is mentioned much in the Torah as a heavily used metal in the tabernacle, and then later in the Writings for Solomon’s temple. There are additional materials as well, that are referenced, such as precious stones, among other things. Ezekiel is especially loaded with “tabernacle talk”, and Torah images, such as the throne of God, the rainbow, and Safire that was seen on the mountain of God.
There are metal vessels in service to God, and there are earthen vessels in service to God. The vessels are engraved with “holiness”, or “set apart” for service.
Now in the Torah, specifically Deuteronomy, Moses is told, “Now this is the mitzvah, the laws and rulings which ADONAI your God ordered me to teach you for you to obey… fear ADONAI your God and observe all his regulations and mitzvoth… Hear, Isra'el! ADONAI our God, ADONAI is one… love ADONAI your God with all your heart, all your being and all your resources. These words, which I am ordering you today, are to be on your heart… teach them carefully to your children… put them at the front of a headband around your forehead.
Back in Ezekiel, we see the man clothed with linen (linen is another heavenly picture being implemented in the tabernacle) being told by God, “Go throughout the city, through all Jerusalem, and put a mark on the foreheads of the men who are sighing and crying over all the disgusting practices that are being committed in it.” Then Revelation 7, which contains remarkably similar language to that of Ezekiel, an angel states, “Do not harm the land or the sea or the trees until we have sealed the servants of our God on their foreheads,” and then again in chapter 9 the locusts “were instructed not to harm the grass on the earth, any green plant or any tree, but only the people who did not have the seal of God on their foreheads.” Also in chapter 14, “Then I looked, and there was the Lamb standing on Mount Tziyon; and with him were 144,000 who had his name and his Father's name written on their foreheads.” Lastly in chapter 22, which is a description of the New Jerusalem (loaded with Torah), “The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and his servants will worship him; they will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads.”
There is a connection between vessels chosen and set apart for service (a royal priesthood) and the inscribing of the vessels (the servants of God; in their foreheads). The sealing or consecrating in the foreheads is a mark defining the kingdom with which we are identified. That might be what the writer of Revelation is trying to communicate. Instead of focusing on “what the mark is” (as contemporary Christianity so prevalently does), perhaps the writer’s aim is more along the lines of “whose mark”? Which kingdom?

It takes us back to the Maccabean Revolt against the Assyrians. They did not want to adopt the pagan Greek ideologies which violated Torah in every facet. They were not going to take the “Assyrian” mark (comply with the Hellenic kingdom). They were going to “Sh’ma,” and keep the “mark/seal” of their God (YHVH) in their foreheads because, like Exodus 28 states, “Aaron bears the guilt for any errors committed by the people of Isra'el in consecrating their holy gifts, this ornament is always to be on his forehead, so that the gifts for ADONAI will be accepted by him.” Aaron is the High Priesthood, a shadow and representation of the Messiah.
Then we come to the 1st and 2nd centuries A.D. where Greek thought and Platonic philosophy is as predominant as ever. The writer of Revelation then speaks about the “mark,” not just in the foreheads of God’s people, but there is another mark identifying another group. This “beast”, “forces everyone- great and small, rich and poor, free and slave- to receive a mark on his right hand or on his forehead, preventing anyone from buying or selling unless he has the mark, that is, the name of the beast or the number of its name.” There is no participation in the culture and system, unless one is identified with this kingdom which is in opposition to God’s. Rev 14If anyone worships the beast and its image and receives the mark on his forehead or on his hand, he will indeed drink the wine of God's fury poured undiluted into the cup of his rage.” Participation and identification with this kingdom results in suffering with it when it is destroyed. Regardless of your eschatological view, the principle is the same. It was the same in antiquity, demanding assimilation and participation in all that is ungodly. It continues to play out the same way in our day. We have to be very watchful, because it has crept in and done a lot of damage. I can very safely say, most of us have little or no idea of just how connected, trapped, or engrained we are in every aspect of our culture. We are enamored both physically and sociologically, as well as being spiritually and ideologically deficient.
There is another hint that the writer of Revelation gives us, and that is “the mother of harlots”, the name written on the forehead of this symbolic mystery woman. Now this is a huge study in and of itself, and I definitely don’t claim to have an adequate interpretation of this, but if someone does a serious read of the Tanakh (Old Testament), you will find that Israel, Judah, Samaria, and especially Jerusalem are the bulk of references to: whore, harlot, and any type of prostitution. The prophets are replete with symbolism showing how God’s people have, and are, committing spiritual harlotry with the god’s of this age.
I am not trying to imply that this is the only interpretation to the “mark of the beast”, but it is challenging to step back and ask myself, “with which kingdom am I more heavily associated”? Which name does my forehead bear? How close am I to the anti-kingdom that our adversary is using to ensnare so many? The God of Israel is not interested in sharing thrones, nor does he want His people committing spiritual harlotry.
John Bunyan in his classic work “Pilgrim’s Progress,” alluded to the idea at Vanity Fair that our adversary has done his work well if he keeps us busy and amused, instead of focusing on that which our Father desires of us. Apart from what we might think, or in practicality live out, good things are often bad things when they detract from the best things which are done in harmony with the will of the Father. To say it another way, our relationship with our Father in Heaven is where our focus should be; even good things are bad things when they distract us from the best thing.
God’s people had better start heeding the words God has spoken through the prophets in relation to this harlotry: “My people, come out of her! so that you will not share in her sins, so that you will not be infected by her plagues, for her sins are a sticky mass piled up to heaven, and God has remembered her crimes” (Rev 18).
To the one who triumphs it is said in Rev 3, “I will write on him the name of my God and the name of my God's city, the new Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from my God, and my own new name”.

The walls are being restored, one stone at a time.
"You will rebuild the ancient ruins, raise foundations from ages past, and be called "Repairer of broken walls, Restorer of streets to live in." Isaiah 58:12