Reflections From 2 CHRONICLES: 19-20 “WHEN KINGS RULE WELL”

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          The ruled and those ruling have a long history.  Those oppressed by rulers groan, those with power too often wield it foolishly.  King Jehoshaphat instituted two reforms worthy of note and demonstrated one act of desperation as war was upon him.

First, the king appointed judges in all of the fortified cities of Judah.  He said:

“Consider what you are doing, for you do not judge for man but for the Lord who is with you when you render judgment. Now then let the fear of the Lord be upon you; be very careful what you do, for the Lord our God will have no part in unrighteousness or partiality or the taking of a bribe.” (19:6-7)

When kings rule well judges are appointed to represent God’s authority under which justice is administered.  A judge’s dealings are meticulously before God’s gaze and the corruption of justice will not go unpunished.  Only the fear of the LORD in these judges will assure they act justly, not wickedly.  Note they must be men who can’t be bought, who are not partial, and who do righteousness.

Today it’s no different.  Judges in power will give an account to God for how they have administered their sword of influence (lawyers too), for this power does not originate in man, but in the God of creation they are to mirror.  Yet, when there’s no fear of the LORD, justice is aborted and perverted, folly is exalted, and equity is deplored.  What an ominous thought.  Oh God! may the judges in this nation judge righteously, may those in the three branches of government tremble with the power bestowed on them, and may the righteous truly shine.

Second, Levites and priests were also appointed to judge in Israel.  The king warns these judges that the fear of the LORD, the law ordinances and statutes are to be faithfully upheld to avert God’s wrath and thus assure peace is in the land:

In Jerusalem also Jehoshaphat appointed some of the Levites and priests, and some of the heads of the fathers’ households of Israel, for the judgment of the Lord and to judge disputes among the inhabitants of Jerusalem. Then he charged them saying, “Thus you shall do in the fear of the Lord, faithfully and wholeheartedly. 10 Whenever any dispute comes to you from your brethren who live in their cities, between blood and blood, between law and commandment, statutes and ordinances, you shall warn them so that they may not be guilty before the Lord, and wrath may not come on you and your brethren. Thus you shall do and you will not be guilty. 11 Behold, Amariah the chief priest will be over you in all that pertains to the Lord, and Zebadiah the son of Ishmael, the ruler of the house of Judah, in all that pertains to the king. Also the Levites shall be officers before you. Act resolutely, and the Lord be with the upright.”     (19:8-11)

The LORD is a God who loves justice to be done in the land and His people are to also love it.  When a king rules well his main concern—along with the securing of borders—is for justice to be executed in the land.  When this does not occur, the moral fabric of a people eventually deteriorates.  The reason I think is unfortunately quite simple—as the leadership of a home, city or nation goes, so too do those who follow.  People are deeply impacted in their behavior from what they see modeled more (it seems) from what they are “told to do”.

Third, when war was upon the king he cried out to the LORD God of his fathers:

“Now it came about after this that the sons of Moab and the sons of Ammon, together with some of the Meunites, came to make war against Jehoshaphat. Then some came and reported to Jehoshaphat, saying, “A great multitude is coming against you from beyond the sea, out of Moab and behold, they are in Hazazon-tamar (that is Engedi).” Jehoshaphat was afraid and turned his attention to seek the Lord, and proclaimed a fast throughout all Judah. So Judah gathered together to seek help from the Lord; they even came from all the cities of Judah to seek the Lord.” (20:1-4)

His nation-wide fast and prayer is an illustration of desperation for divine aid that is utterly dependent on a positive response from God or else hope vanishes.  It is an act of desperate measure appropriate for the occasion.  The king rehearses in his prayer the covenant and its application of being in the land which was now being threatened.  The word of the prophet assured Jehoshaphat that the battle belongs to the LORD God.  The deliverance comes and worship is expressed led by the king:

They have lived in it, and have built You a sanctuary there for Your name, saying,‘Should evil come upon us, the sword, or judgment, or pestilence, or famine, we will stand before this house and before You (for Your name is in this house) and cry to You in our distress, and You will hear and deliver us.’ 10 Now behold, the sons of Ammon and Moab and Mount Seir, whom You did not let Israel invade when they came out of the land of Egypt (they turned aside from them and did not destroy them), 11 see how they are rewarding us by coming to drive us out from Your possession which You have given us as an inheritance. 12 O our God, will You not judge them? For we are powerless before this great multitude who are coming against us; nor do we know what to do, but our eyes are on You.” 13 All Judah was standing before the Lord, with their infants, their wives and their children.  (20:8-13)

Often I feel utterly doomed with the lack of resources in my life (even though I live in America) be they physical or spiritual, and I have the occasion to seek Him through prayer and fasting.  May I seize those moments and not let them go to waste.

(SDG)

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Reflections From 2 CHRONICLES: 9-10 “THE QUEEN OF SHEBA AND THE GLORIES OF GOD”

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          Looking at a picture of the Eastern Sierra Mountains with snow-capped tops is a delight to behold.  At times it seems as if the photographs taken of these majestic peaks have been tampered with in order to make them look better than they are in reality.  But then seeing, smelling, and walking the base of such mammoth rocks illuminates the reality that its pictures are a faint glimmer of the actual glories they possess.   And, the joy of both experiences can’t compare for the former is a taste in abstraction, whereas the latter is a plunge into actual elation.

The queen of Sheba had a similar experience when she heard of king Solomon’s fame.  After answering all of her questions with absolute clarity all that was in her heart, the text reads:

When the queen of Sheba had seen the wisdom of Solomon, the house which he had built, the food at his table, the seating of his servants, the attendance of his ministers and their attire, his cupbearers and their attire, and his stairway by which he went up to the house of the Lord, she was breathless.(9:3-4)

Note that to “hear” or to “see” through the words eye picture is one thing, but to actually taste and see the reality is incomparable.  The text continues to unfold her experience:

“ Then she said to the king, “It was a true report which I heard in my own land about your words and your wisdom.Nevertheless I did not believe their reports until I came and my eyes had seen it. And behold, the half of the greatness of your wisdom was not told me. You surpass the report that I heard. How blessed are your men, how blessed are these your servants who stand before you continually and hear your wisdom. Blessed be the Lord your God who delighted in you, setting you on His throne as king for the Lord your God; because your God loved Israel establishing them forever, therefore He made you king over them, to do justice and righteousness.” (9:5-8)

There are many lessons here to note.  First, there’s a difference between hearing about, as opposed to seeing and tasting this wisdom.  Now while Solomon’s riches astounded her, it was the wisdom with which he answered and disclosed to her every question that threw her over the edge.  How about Jesus’ wisdom, do we ever consider him as a top tier thinker among the great thinkers in recorded history?  According to Mathew 12:42, not even Solomon can compare to Christ’s wisdom and knowledge:

“The Queen of the South will rise up with this generation at the judgment and will condemn it, because she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and behold, something greater than Solomon is here.” 

 This wisdom and knowledge that’s from another age came in Jesus’ proclamation of the kingdom of God where much confusion had to be corrected for the Jews regarding the Torah (Mt.11-12).  Unlike any Old Testament prophet, Jesus preached himself as the message; he was God incarnate and thus superseded the splendor of Solomon.

Second, when the queen says, “the half of the greatness of your wisdom was not told me”, reveals that there’s so much more that words could have described.  Solomon serves as a shadow example of the breath, width, height and depth of God’s wisdom and splendor that surpasses our ability to imagine or think.  It’s precisely this wisdom that culminates in the cross of Christ and its preaching that’s hidden from all of us until God the Holy Spirit opens our eyes to see and taste the glories of God’s majesty revealed in Christ Jesus (1 Cor.2:1-16).

Third, to be continuously before said wisdom is cause for deep happiness in the soul.  “How blessed are your men…servants…”  Why, because it’s utterly rare and delightful.  That is, the knowledge and wisdom of God was given to Solomon by God because the king feared the LORD.  If the notion of God’s wisdom and knowledge conjures up a boring notion, then we haven’t tasted said knowledge or wisdom.

Jesus said that he was greater than Solomon (Mt.12); the Hebrews writer explains that Jesus upholds creation by the word of his power (Heb.1:1-3) and thus by virtue is better than the rest of creation combined.  And the reason the generation of Jesus will be judged more strictly than other generations is based strictly on the ontological status of the one speaking.

Fourth, the place of power belongs to God always, but Solomon is placed as God’s vice regent to do justice, and righteousness (v.8).  The qualities of love and delight, justice and righteousness are what moved God to make Solomon king over Israel.  God delighted in Solomon and thus set him up on the throne of power which ultimately belongs to God, not man.  Moreover, it was God’s love for Israel that moved Him to choose Solomon to be their king (v.8.c) for the purpose of doing ruling justly and righteously.

Since God by virtue of being the Creator, is the ground of what is just, right and true, when a nation departs from His ways and ignore the Designers understanding of reality, what ultimately awaits is misery, not bliss.

(SDG)

Reflections From 1 CHRON: 27-29 “THE ORDER OF THE KINGDOM”     

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Every tribe and part of the land was organized under King David.  The commanders of the army, the chief officers of the tribes and the many overseers made life in Israel ordered and prosperous (27).  Part of human thriving comes from order, not chaos and this too comes from the LORD.  I tremble at the thought of disorder in our country today from the top down.

The temple was also to be built under Solomon’s reign not his father David because of the blood of war on David’s hands:

“Now David assembled at Jerusalem all the officials of Israel, the princes of the tribes, and the commanders of the divisions that served the king, and the commanders of thousands, and the commanders of hundreds, and the overseers of all the property and livestock belonging to the king and his sons, with the officials and the mighty men, even all the valiant men. Then King David rose to his feet and said, “Listen to me, my brethren and my people; I had intended to build a permanent home for the ark of the covenant of the Lord and for the footstool of our God. So I had made preparations to build it. But God said to me, ‘You shall not build a house for My name because you are a man of war and have shed blood.’ Yet, the Lord, the God of Israel, chose me from all the house of my father to be king over Israel forever. For He has chosen Judah to be a leader; and in the house of Judah, my father’s house, and among the sons of my father He took pleasure in me to make me king over all Israel.  (1 Chron.28:1-14)

 As God chose King David so also he chose Solomon to rule over Israel.  However the stipulation for ruling righteously was simple—obey the LORD and you’ll be blessed, reject God and he’ll reject you:

Of all my sons (for the Lord has given me many sons),He has chosen my son Solomon to sit on the throne of the kingdom of the Lord over Israel. He said to me, ‘Your son Solomon is the one who shall build My house and My courts; for I have chosen him to be a son to Me, and I will be a father to him. I will establish his kingdom forever if he resolutely performs My commandments and My ordinances, as is done now.’ So now, in the sight of all Israel, the assembly of the Lord, and in the hearing of our God, observe and seek after all the commandments of the Lord your God so that you may possess the good land and bequeath it to your sons after you forever.  “As for you, my son Solomon, know the God of your father, and serve Him with a whole heart and a willing mind; for the Lord searches all hearts, and understands every intent of the thoughts. If you seek Him, He will let you find Him; but if you forsake Him, He will reject you forever. 10 Consider now, for the Lord has chosen you to build a house for the sanctuary; be courageous and act.” (1 Chron.28:5-9)

 The time to build and move forward with the temple required courage and action and the means for said items were Gods very presence:

“All this,” said David, “the Lord made me understand in writing by His hand upon me, all the details of this pattern.”  20 Then David said to his son Solomon, “Be strong and courageous, and act; do not fear nor be dismayed, for the Lord God, my God, is with you. He will not fail you nor forsake you until all the work for the service of the house of the Lord is finished. (1 Chron.28:19-20)

I often feel timid with life’s challenges and need the reminder to act through with courage God, the LORD has not abandoned me, but is rather graciously ever with me.

LORD, I need a renewal in my soul of the reality of Your presence in my life for I feel bowed low and weary, my sins are ever before me so hear my cry for mercy and lift me up from the miry pit and cleanse me from idolatry and the anxiety it produces in me.  Also help me live in light of life’s brevity before Your face, my LORD and my God:

“But who am I and who are my people that we should be able to offer as generously as this? For all things come from You, and from Your hand we have given You. 15 For we are sojourners before You, and tenants, as all our fathers were; our days on the earth are like a shadow, and there is no hope… 28 Then he died in a ripe old age, full of days, riches and honor; and his son Solomon reigned in his place.(1 Chron.29:14-15, 28)   

Reflections From JUDGES 17-21: WHEN TRUTH IS DEAD AND GOD FORSAKEN RELATIVISM RULES!

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          What a sad dreadful account of a people who have forsaken the LORD and thus, “…everyone did what was right in his own eyes.” (21:25). Twice is the following refrain found in this account of Israel’s history:

“…There was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in his own eyes”

 After the account of Samson’s life, this book recounts the idolatry of a mother (17:3-6), the cruelty done to a concubine (19:22-30), and the war among Israelites. It’s as if being leaderless (no king) leads Israel into lawlessness (21:25) which ends in the unbridled slaughter of many—anarchy.

This book is a reminder to me that when the Creator is forsaken, human flourishing does not obtain, but dehumanizing acts against image bearers result.  This happens incrementally and gains momentum to the point that cruelty is out of control and mayhem is the fallout.

(SDG)

Reflections From JUDGES 13-16: DO UNBRIDLED PASSIONS BRING LIFE OR DEATH?

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          These chapters speak of Samson and his family.  As I read the account it’s clear that Samson’s strength came from the LORD rather than muscles depicted in many cartoons (14:6, 19; 15:14).  The sad reality however is that Samson wasted his calling (his strength) by being man-centered not God absorbed and was thus characterized as a bratty womanizer.  How many in God’s kingdom have sadly destroyed their lives and those around them because of such desire?

His life’s call was to be Israel’s deliverer from the Philistines.  However, the wretched reality is that this call was short lived and mostly wasted because he was a man of unbridled passions (16:1-31) who played the harlot with another harlot and thus his strength became compromised:

…But he did not know that the LORD had departed from him”                                  (16:20)

Dabbling with sexual promiscuity and illicit sexual pleasures is nothing new, momentarily delightful but utterly disastrous.  The LORD is said to have “departed from Samson”.  The way this term is contextually used, it seems that what it means is that God’s presence to bless him and through him was removed.  This certainly goes along with what happened to Samson after this account.

Today the pleasures of promiscuity and pornography have a whole generation bound by its rotten morsels.  It tastes good for a while, but in the end it dehumanizes persons and fragments the soul.  Unbridled passions ruined Samson and continues to ruin millions of men and women through the passage of time.  When we hear of pastors having to step down from their positions of ministry because of sexual promiscuity, our hearts ache, our families bruised, and our witness weakened.

So, believer, if you are bound in the arms of sexual promiscuity, pornography, or same sex attraction: flee!  Run to Christ who is there to embrace much of the loneliness and fear that catapults you into said states and enjoy the real lover of your soul.  Guard your eyes and your mind from wandering into traps of temporary pleasure that will eventually leave you numb to God and may prove to be the shipwreck of your faith.

May we as believers teach a new generation of men and women young and old to pursue You LORD not the dainty morsels hell sends our way.  May we not waste our lives by polluting our hearts and forfeiting your power LORD with this world’s death-traps.  LORD, give your people a vision of you!

(SDG)

Reflections From JUDGES 3-5: THE CYCLE OF IDOLATRY BRINGS BONDAGE…YET MERCY

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In these chapters the persistent theme is that of God testing Israel’s faithfulness to Him by the pagan nations that surrounded them:

The sons of Israel did what was evil in the sight of the Lord, and forgot the Lord their God and served the Baals and the Asheroth. Then the anger of the Lord was kindled against Israel, so that He sold them into the hands of Cushan-rishathaim king of Mesopotamia; and the sons of Israel served Cushan-rishathaim eight years.  When the sons of Israel cried to the Lord, the Lord raised up a deliverer for the sons of Israel to deliver them, Othniel the son of Kenaz, Caleb’s younger brother. 10 The Spirit of the Lord came upon him, and he judged Israel. When he went out to war, the Lord gave Cushan-rishathaim king of Mesopotamia into his hand, so that he prevailed over Cushan-rishathaim. 11 Then the land had rest forty years. And Othniel the son of Kenaz died. (3:7-11)

This pattern repeats itself over and again.  First, Israel is indicted for worshipping demons, not the one true God (3:12; 4:1-2) and God sells them into the enemy’s hands:

Now the sons of Israel again did evil in the sight of the Lord. So the Lord strengthened Eglon the king of Moab against Israel, because they had done evil in the sight of the Lord.” (3:12)

“Then the sons of Israel again did evil in the sight of the Lord, after Ehud died. And the Lord sold them into the hand of Jabin king of Canaan, who reigned in Hazor; and the commander of his army was Sisera, who lived in Harosheth-hagoyim.” (4:1-2) 

If we don’t worship the Deliverer, He will deliver us into the hands of our tormentors.  This is exactly what Paul argues for in (Rom.1:18-32) where God gives over those who exchanged His glory for the creatures: He gave them over in the lusts of their hearts (1:24), gave them over to degrading passions (1:26), and gave them over to a depraved mind (1:28).  The heart, passions and mind were all affected.  It happened then, it happens now.

Second, when God’s covenant people cry out for rescue, He hears their sobs and acts through sending Othniel, Ehud, and Deborah in order to save them (3:9, 15; 4:4).

Third, their slavery to these foreign “gods” and nations is never more than the rest they receive in the land by God’s hand (3:8 eight years of bondage, forty years of rest 3:11), eighteen years of servitude (3:14) followed by eighty years of rest (3:30), twenty years of bondage (4:3) followed by forty years of peace (5:31).  When one generation’s sin plunders them into bondage because of idolatry, the LORD’s rest given to the people is far greater than the time of servitude.

I think this shows us that where sin abounds, God’s grace does much more abound toward vessels of mercy.  God’s mercy endures forever, his wrath is but for a moment.

(SDG)

Reflections From JUDGES 1-2: A REBELLIOUS PEOPLE FORSAKE THE GOD OF THE COVENANT

46638940.cachedREFLECTIONS FROM THE BOOK OF JUDGES: My goal in writing reflections from Judges are the following: First, to encourage you the reader that if you will pay attention to the words on the page and listen carefully you will mine a lot of truth for life without the need of a commentary or any secondary source.  That is, “take up and read” to enrich your soul Christian.

Second, I write to give you a model of how observations can be done in scripture that do not read into the text something foreign to the author’s intent.  This will help you experience the joy of discovery and increase your confidence in your ability to comprehend God’s word.

Third, by doing the above my hope is that you will be able to hear God’s voice all the more clearly and follow Him all the more closer.  For, it is the word of God that is forever settled in heaven, and not our subjective impressions however valid they may be.  That is, we have a more sure word of prophecy according to Peter—meaning the inscripturated word of God—then a glorious experience we may claim to have (2 Peter 1:16-21).  Too often we Christians have bizarre ideas of what “God” is supposedly speaking to us and when it contradicts the Bible, be assured we are not hearing his voice.

JUDGES 1-2: A REBELLIOUS PEOPLE FORSAKE THE GOD OF THE COVENANT

            Joshua the son of Nun is dead (2:8), most of Israel does not take complete possession of the land (1:27-34), because they had forsaken the God of the covenant and wandered in their hearts to worship and serve the gods of the nations they had conquered (2:1-5).  Israel continuously served the Baals, thus forsaking the LORD, the God of their fathers and thus provoked God to anger (2:11-13).

Just as the LORD fought for Israel against her enemies, now He was in a sense Israel’s enemy and would fight them (2:14-15).  God’s anger rightly burned against Israel because they exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for the worship of created things—“gods”—which are no gods at all but rather demons leading them astray from worshipping the pone true God.  Thus, God gave them over and yet, in their rebellion, God still sends them judges to rescue them from their enemies (2:16-18).

But the cycle of unbelief returned on the death of these judges and Israel’s wickedness would increasingly outdo the previous generation’s unrighteousness because they forsook the LORD:

19 But it came about when the judge died, that they would turn back and act more corruptly than their fathers, in following other gods to serve them and bow down to them; they did not abandon their practices or their stubborn ways. 20 So the anger of the Lord burned against Israel, and He said, “Because this nation has transgressed My covenant which I commanded their fathers and has not listened to My voice, 21 I also will no longer drive out before them any of the nations which Joshua left when he died   (2:19-21)

When rebellion is at an all-time high Gods anger will be kindled against unrighteousness and would result in God no longer fighting for Israel in order to test whether or not Israel would be faithful to the LORD:

23 So the Lord allowed those nations to remain, not driving them out quickly; and He did not give them into the hand of Joshua.(2:23)

 Forever God’s word is settled in heaven, thus what He promises to do, will be fulfilled whether or not it’s favorable to us (2:1-5).  His faithfulness which springs from his holiness is such that God will always keep His promises (even if it hurts His people for a time).  This is because from Him, and through him, and back to Him are all things.  God’s the author of the drama, people are the players in this redemptive story and when God’s own forsakes Him, death awaits—except for mercy.

This scenario of rebellion and restoration, sin and salvation, and victims becoming victors is a biblical theme.  It reminds us that when the God of creation decrees a thing and choses a people, there’s never a dull moment because the choices people make are significant and thus have real life consequences.

(SDG)