Reflections From 2 CHRONICLES: 15 “WHAT HAPPENS WHEN THE SPIRIT OF GOD BRINGS HIS WORD TO THE PEOPLE?”

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           Why do men need a word from God?, because we’re in the dark without it,   because our bent toward self ends in death and the Almighty cares for those creatures in His household.  The prophet Azaiah, Obed’s son came to King Asa and sounded the warning:

 Now the Spirit of God came on Azariah the son of Oded, and he went out to meet Asa and said to him, “Listen to me, Asa, and all Judah and Benjamin: the Lord is with you when you are with Him. And if you seek Him, He will let you find Him; but if you forsake Him, He will forsake you.(Vvs.1-2)

He then reminds them of their past where God was forsaken by their forefathers without a teaching priest and without the law (v.3), yet when in their distress Israel turned to the LORD God “they sought Him, and He let them find Him” (v.4)

Idolatry ever lurks in the land especially in the fertile soil of our souls that is bent toward death!  To forsake the fountain of life for murky waters is what all people do without divine aid.  To forsake the God of creation for idols was evident then as it is today.  It’s nothing new.

But God has conditions for His inheritance to be in proper relationship with Him and it’s, “if you seek Him, He will let you find Him”.  Note the relationship of choice between the Creator and the creature, “if you…He will let you.”  But if one forsakes Him for another “god” (which is no god at all) He will also forsake them.

Here there’s an amazing interplay between God and man of “Hide and seek”.  I think the reason this obtains is because God deals with our desires, “how much do we really desire Him?”  An answer often given affirmatively is behind the soul’s curtain and the requisite work to find Him is exposed where we behold our real motives before God.  We need to face the fact that we do what we want in order to attain the prize we believe will bring us happiness.  Unfortunately when the object of said prize is not God, our end is misery but then it’s too late.

May I seek my joy in You LORD God today and not in some worthless idol that promises what it can’t deliver—true, lasting, joy.  Teach me to love you and follow you more consistently.

(SDG)

Reflections From 2 KINGS 19-20: “WHAT MADE HEZEKIAH ISRAEL’S BEST KING?”

crown-8-persian-persepIt’s painful reading through Hebrew history, beholding Israel’s continued cycle of rebellion, idolatry and waywardness.  To see this lifestyle in her leaders is especially difficult to behold.  This was their legacy, a people chosen by God who for the most part hated Him.  They instead chose to worship and serve the creature not the Creator who is blessed forever.

Today however reading about Hezekiah felt like a breath of fresh air, for unlike most of the previous monarchs and unlike any of the rulers in Israel’ history, Hezekiah’s heart was fully devoted to the LORD God as the text reads in (18:3-6):

“He did right in the sight of the Lord, according to all that his father David had done. He removed the high places and broke down the sacred pillars and cut down the Asherah. He also broke in pieces the bronze serpent that Moses had made, for until those days the sons of Israel burned incense to it; and it was called Nehushtan. He trusted in the Lord, the God of Israel; so that after him there was none like him among all the kings of Judah, nor among those who were before him.For he clung to the Lord; he did not depart from following Him, but kept His commandments, which the Lord had commanded Moses.”   

He did not hold syncretistic sympathies with Yahweh, but was instead a faithful ruler in both word and deed.  His loyalty to God, according to the text, surpassed all the kings in Israel’s history because he never stopped following God whole heartedly (This includes king David and Solomon who are authors of sacred texts).

And yet, this truth did not keep him insulated from troubled times.  On the contrary, evidenced through the Assyrian kings’ taunts of Israel and Yahweh (19:8-13):

“Then Rabshakeh returned and found the king of Assyria fighting against Libnah, for he had heard that the king had left Lachish. When he heard them say concerning Tirhakah king of Cush, “Behold, he has come out to fight against you,” he sent messengers again to Hezekiah saying,10 “Thus you shall say to Hezekiah king of Judah, ‘Do not let your God in whom you trust deceive you saying, “Jerusalem will not be given into the hand of the king of Assyria.” 11 Behold, you have heard what the kings of Assyria have done to all the lands, destroying them completely. So will you be spared? 12 Did the gods of those nations which my fathers destroyed deliver them, even Gozan and Haran and Rezeph and the sons of Eden who were in Telassar? 13 Where is the king of Hamath, the king of Arpad, the king of the city of Sepharvaim, and of Hena and Ivvah?’”

Sennacherib defied God including him with the rest of the gods of the nations conquered by Assyria.  Despite all this, Hezekiah prays for the glory of God’s name to be upheld (19:15-19):

“Hezekiah prayed before the Lord and said, “O Lord, the God of Israel, who are enthroned above the cherubim, You are the God, You alone, of all the kingdoms of the earth. You have made heaven and earth. 16 Incline Your ear, O Lord, and hear; open Your eyes, O Lord, and see; and listen to the words of Sennacherib, which he has sent to reproach the living God. 17 Truly, O Lord, the kings of Assyria have devastated the nations and their lands 18 and have cast their gods into the fire, for they were not gods but the work of men’s hands, wood and stone. So they have destroyed them. 19 Now, O Lord our God, I pray, deliver us from his hand that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that You alone, O Lord, are God.”

The zeal of God had consumed Hezekiah and God answered his prayer because it was offered to God (19:20) and the angel of the LORD killed 185,000 men in the Assyrian camp (19:35).

I’m so grieved over the leadership in our country who; daily deny Your name, oppress Your people, and conspire to harm them.  Oh LORD, arise and rectify that which is so twisted in the land.  My heart grieves, my soul aches so for the sake of Your glory and Name, act now and don’t delay.

(SDG)

Reflections From 2 KINGS 10-13: “OF KINGS AND YAHWEH—IDOLATRY PERSISTS”

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The history of the kings of Israel is primarily a mixture of a few good ones and the rest abysmal, some righteous but most of them were evil.  The meaning of evil comes to bear through illustration of the people of God abandoning the covenant.  Evil is faithlessness to the God of creation especially from His rescued people Israel.

Often the refrain, “and he did evil in the sight of the LORD” speaking of a kings’ rule because they, “…departed not from the ways of Jeroboam’s sin the son of Nebat…”  The accusation was making Israel worship Baal which is no god at all, and the first commandment was continuously being violated, “You shall have no other gods before me.”

Doing evil in the sight of the LORD is not being careful to walk humbly before Him which is in accordance to the law of the LORD God of Israel (done with all the heart—10: 28-31).  Image bearers are created to worship their Maker, but when He is ignored idolatry is inevitable.  Consider the text;

28 Thus Jehu eradicated Baal out of Israel. 29 However, as for the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, which he made Israel sin, from these Jehu did not depart, even the golden calves that were at Bethel and that were at Dan. 30 The Lord said to Jehu, “Because you have done well in executing what is right in My eyes, and have done to the house of Ahab according to all that was in My heart, your sons of the fourth generation shall sit on the throne of Israel.” 31 But Jehu was not careful to walk in the law of the Lord, the God of Israel, with all his heart; he did not depart from the sins of Jeroboam, which he made Israel sin.

Acute is the sad reality that for most of Hebrew history, the LORD God of Israel is not loved by Israel as a whole.  Instead He is despised seen in the berating, hating, persecution and death of Israel’s prophets which God sent to the people.  This evil resulted because God’s word was rejected.

This theme is increasingly clear to me as I read the Scriptures and I must confess it never ceases to perplex me.  I’m perplexed at the relentless idolatry they fall into and God’s relentless tender mercies in spite of their treason.  This mercy of course is because of the covenant God made with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob to bless the nations through his seed (13:22-23).  What am I missing here in the text?

22 Now Hazael king of Aram had oppressed Israel all the days of Jehoahaz. 23 But the Lord was gracious to them and had compassion on them and turned to them because of His covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and would not destroy them or cast them from His presence until now.

Perhaps it’s the sad reality of our rebellion in the Garden where we are created to rule and reign as God’s vice regents but we’ve treated that glorious mandate like sewage excrement.  What glory has been given to mankind and the tragedy is deeply lamentable.

In Christ the effects of The Fall are being reversed and yet in this present evil age we the covenant people go to our own “high places” of porn sites, work places or play places.  The idolatry is ever lingering and yet Yahweh for His names sake demonstrates mercy toward us.

(SDG)

Reflections From 1 KINGS 16-18: “DARK TIMES REQUIRE SWIFT MEASURES”

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To provoke the LORD God to anger, to do evil in the sight of the LORD, is to lead people into idolatry—the worship of other gods that don’t exist; it’s to embrace and value the creature over the Creator; it’s the snubbing of our nose to God by embracing acts of worship that deny His name—Elohim, Yahweh (16).

Kings like Baasha, Zimri, Omri, Ahab Omris’ son caused Israel to sin (16:19, 26) by worshipping the imaginary “gods” of the surrounding nations.  All the while, God is faithful to bring His word through the prophets in season.  Elijah comes on the seen as God’s mouth piece and says:

“Now Elijah the Tishbite, who was of the settlers of Gilead, said to Ahab, “As the Lord, the God of Israel lives, before whom I stand, surely there shall be neither dew nor rain these years, except by my word.”  (17:1)

These words come from one greater than the king, they are sourced in Yahweh, in God who owns Israel and everything on earth.  At a time when idolatry was at an all-time high, God is faithful to bring His word, He does not leave himself without a witness—from a word man.

The colorful and dramatic unfolding of Elijah’s story is fascinating.  First, God provides food through a raven (a bird) and a widow (weak woman) to demonstrate to Elijah that God’s sovereignty over all creation includes Him feeding His own in famine.  Here we see that “lack” plus “God” equals “I shall not want” (consider Psalm 23).

Second, idolaters despise God’s heralded word.  The truth of God’s word to the non-believer is an abomination to them (18:17) but Elijah pushes back with whose really the abomination; “you [King Ahab] have forsaken the commandments of the Lord and you have followed the Baals.”  (18:18).

Third, worship that’s acceptable to God is specifically revealed by Him.  God will not be approached cavalierly through the whims of the creature revealing both God’s holy character and skill for design (18:22-46).  That is, because God is creator of everything, by divine right he says what worship is and how it is to be done.   To rebel against Him is to embrace death, and each one of us will give a personal account to Him who is!

(SDG)

Reflections From ROMANS 1:18-32 “WRATH REVEALED BECAUSE OF UNRIGHTEOUSNESS”

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            Paul reminds us that the gospel is Gods power for salvation to everyone who believes, regardless of status or nationality (V.16) because in it God’s righteousness is revealed from “faith to faith” (V.17).  That is, this gospel is sourced in Gods’ righteousness and believers who walk by faith in this God show His righteousness in their lives.  How can anyone be saved apart from this gospel?  Note that this gospel produces obedience sourced in righteousness and is thus lived out by faith or trust.

Why this view?  Because the next section explains and describes the results of a life that’s antithetical to this gospel, this righteousness and this faith:

18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, 19 because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them.”   

 Note the following: First, God’s wrath is revealed—unveiled—through the sentence decreed by heavens’ court.  It’s against the unrighteousness of men (mankind) not of animals.  This argues for a quality possessed only by humans created in God’s image (i.e., the ability to morally reason).  As many already intuitively know, our pets are not the problem, we are.

Second, wrath is revealed because the truth is suppressed. This argues for a state of affairs that’s actually real not illusory, where the creature deliberately resists the Creators demands.  This “unrighteousness” which is contra God’s “righteousness” Paul will soon explain.  Contextually however, righteousness can be described as the activity of living dependently on God through submitting to His gospel, to His Son and is thus “the obedience of faith”.

Third, evidently rebels possess the knowledge of God because God has made it plain to them.  Thus, one can’t justifiably say, “not enough evidence”, a la Bertrand Russell.  In fact, ignorance is impossible to claim before the judge of heaven and earth who sees all.  Paul continues and explains why:

20 For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse.”          

Fourth, this knowledge comes through creation.  Not only does God place the knowledge of Himself in every one ever born, He provides nature as a secondary means to such knowledge.  This sentence goes contra the Darwinian evolutionary noetic structure that denies any immaterial realities and affirms only that physical (i.e., matter) entities exist.  Creation reveals God’s invisible attributes, such as a mind which is required to explain the design detected in this world.  It reveals God’s artistic acumen through the myriad of creatures, landscapes and starry heavens.  Clearly the earth is a masterpiece calling for particular usage and care which requires a delicate balance between humans and all creatures.

Creation also reveals God’s “eternal power and nature”.  An accident is not the cause of creation, but an all-wise, all-powerful, all-benevolent Creator is.  He provides the necessary conditions for the earth to flourish (e.g., sun, rain, seasons, etc.).  The point here is that God’s wrath is justly revealed from heaven because the creature knowingly decided to rebel against the LANDLORD of creation by not acknowledging His existence.  These choices had horrible results plundering rebels into a state of “abnormality”, i.e., contra their intended design:

21 For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened. 22 Professing to be wise, they became fools, 23 and exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man and of birds and four-footed animals and crawling creatures.

When the creature is the measure of all things, humanity ends up trading in gold for glitter, life for death.  That’s what idolatry produces.  The road to idolatry is marked by a dishonorable and thankless heart.  Idolatry can be defined as, “the act of disproportionately treasuring created things over against the Creator”.  I can’t think of any greater insolence than ignoring the One responsible for our existence.  But that’s exactly what happened here.  Idolatry comes from an ungrateful heart and results in a darkened mind—they became futile in their thinking….  It’s ironic and sobering that those who fancy themselves “enlightened” are too often blinded by their own rebellion.  The creature here becomes obtuse not astute revealed through what they love.

This foolishness is evident by what was exchanged; the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man….  The eternal One was replaced by the temporal creature or image of it such that destruction resulted.  We have been created and designed to worship God alone for our highest good, but when the reverse occurs (i.e., worship the creation, and thus commit idolatry) we are plunged into the abyss.  When people dishonor God they do so at the expense of dishonoring themselves and their loved ones.  So God in response to such rebellion does something:

24 Therefore God gave them over in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, so that their bodies would be dishonored among them. 25 For they exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen.” 

God’s response here is to “give them over” to what they crave.  That’s sobering.  Dishonor the giver of your life and what you “crave” He will make sure you indulge in.  The craving of course is the lusts of their hearts to impurity so that these lusts become the cause of their bodies being dishonored.  If God is dishonored (i.e., not being properly related to as Creator and master) then the creature is dishonored by how they use their bodies (v.24b), that is, by not properly relating to each other as image beaers.

God gave them over for a purpose and the reason is that they exchanged the truth of God for a lie.  Again, this unrighteousness of suppressing the truth arises which makes much of the creature and ignores the Creator.  There’s a key sentence here revealing how ludicrous the exchange is to worship the creature rather than the Creator, “who is blessed forever. Amen”.  Somehow, the lie is believed by the creature (who is temporary) that true happiness can only be found by rebelling against the Creator (who is eternal).  Paul says that the opposite is true.

This Creator is blessed, happy, joyful, content, etc., always and forever, not miserable, grumpy, or discontent like the creature too often seems to be.  Why the misery? Because the creature when worshipped is not living according to design and thus self-destructs.  Lasting joy eludes them because they lack the resources the Creator only possesses.

This dishonor/honor, truth/lie, corruptible/incorruptible dichotomy is demonstration the contrast between righteousness and unrighteousness.  There’s a way things ought to be according to Paul, and because of the creatures rebellion, God’s wrath has justly been revealed, as he further explains:

 26 For this reason God gave them over to degrading passions; for their women exchanged the natural function for that which is unnatural,27 and in the same way also the men abandoned the natural function of the woman and burned in their desire toward one another, men with men committing indecent acts and receiving in their own persons the due penalty of their error.

28 And just as they did not see fit to acknowledge God any longer, God gave them over to a depraved mind, to do those things which are not proper, 29 being filled with all unrighteousness, wickedness, greed, evil; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, malice; they are gossips,30 slanderers, haters of God, insolent, arrogant, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, 31 without understanding, untrustworthy, unloving, unmerciful; 32 and although they know the ordinance of God, that those who practice such things are worthy of death, they not only do the same, but also give hearty approval to those who practice them.”   

The wrath of God is manifest by Him giving human beings over to their own lusts, be it; homosexuality, expressed murder, strife, gossip, slander, etc.  The point is that because the great exchange took place between the creature and their Creator, death rather than life resulted.  Why?  Because the creature rebelled against the Creators design of how to live (dependently on Him), God thus expressed His wrath, and continues to do so.

This state of affairs is precisely why the gospel is such good news and Paul is so eager to preach it.  The gospel must be preached because all men are without excuse and have rebelled against the righteous Creator God whose final revelation is with the gospel of His Son, Jesus of Nazareth.  (SDG) 

Reflections From JUDGES 6-8: THE CYCLE OF IDOLATRY AND BONDAGE…CONTINUE

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          The same old song and dance continues as Israel participates in “doing evil in the sight of the LORD” (6:1), their oppressors cruelty is unbearable (6:2-6), and God again responds to Israel’s cry for rescue (6:7) by sending them a prophet (6:8-10) foretelling what God would do (6:11-7:25).  What results?  Israel again experiences peace for forty years until they again forsake the LORD (8:1-35).

Israel’s faithfulness was abysmal, absolutely horrid.  But the cycle is very predictable: forsake the LORD God by neglecting His word, forget therefore His past tender mercies through acts of power, and the result is death.  It’s always death.  God’s word was not heeded by our first parents Adam and Eve that resulted in the death of all mankind (Gen.3); God’s word was not heeded over and again in Hebrew history and the result is always death.  Why?

Perhaps it’s because the Designer knows best how the creation best flourishes.  Perhaps it’s because the soul that’s created to delight in the Creator ultimately instead choses to delight in the creature ultimately, that the problems predictably snowball.

NOTE: usually the cycle of peace and bondage lasted a generation or two.  Each generation has the responsibility to pass on God’s word to their kin and friends, when that is neglected, death is embraced.  Solomon wrote that those who despise wisdom love death and this theme is repeated a billion times over daily in the lives of broken human beings.

May we as believers not emulate Israel’s idolatry o God!

(SDG)        

Fools Talk: CHAPTER 5: ANATOMY OF UNBELIEF (Pgs.79-105)

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In this chapter Guinness tackles the issue of unbelief.  What often is held to be the case is actually the converse when it comes to why people don’t believe the Gospel.  The reason many modern thinkers don’t come to faith is not because of philosophical reasons but for ethical ones.  Eminent contemporary philosopher Thomas Nagel admits his deepest objection to Christianity is not rational but visceral—fear:

“…I want atheism to be true and am made uneasy by the fact that some of the most intelligent and well-informed people I know are religious believers.  It isn’t just that I don’t believe in God and, naturally, hope that I’m right in my belief.  It’s that I hope there is no God!  I don’t want there to be a God; I don’t want the universe to be like that.” (Pg.82)

It’s not about the truth, facts or evidence, Nagel, like many people, have psychological, not rational barriers that cause them to resist faith in God.  That is, instead of conforming their thinking to reality, many choose to conform reality to their thinking because something is at stake.  Guinness mentions that Huxley is one such example of a person who embraced a philosophy of meaninglessness because morality interferes with “sexual freedom”, and Pascal is quoted to say that: “Men despise religion.  They hate it and are afraid it may be true.

Guinness continues and points out that the philosophy of meaninglessness twists the truth into deception and makes reality conform to its thinking rather than the converse.   Thus, at its core, unbelief is the suppression of truth (Rom.1), and because Gods truth won’t go away, self-deception results.  This self-deception comes about ultimately because the creature rather than the Creator is worshiped.

Moreover, in a meaningless existence diversion turns out to be king, the examined life is neglected and thus the numbing effects prevent us from pondering the realities of faith and death.  The many diversions are swallowed up by the greatest of them all—false religion—which clothes lies in the garb of “truth” and fools people into thinking life has meaning.

According to Guinness, at the end of the day, unbelief is an act of the will choosing and how to deal with unbelief requires much wisdom.