Reflections From 2 CHRONICLES: 2-7 “THE TEMPLE DEDICATION POINTS TO GOD’S FIDELITY”

top-10-jewish-warriors-660x350

The conditions for blessing and cursing are directly linked to our obedience or disobedience.  God clearly stipulates this to Solomon after the dedication of the temple:

11 Thus Solomon finished the house of the Lord and the king’s palace, and successfully completed all that he had planned on doing in the house of the Lord and in his palace.  12 Then the Lord appeared to Solomon at night and said to him, “I have heard your prayer and have chosen this place for Myself as a house of sacrifice. 13 If I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or if I command the locust to devour the land, or if I send pestilence among My people, 14 and My people who are called by My name humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, will forgive their sin and will heal their land. 15 Now My eyes will be open and My ears attentive to the prayer offered in this place. 16 For now I have chosen and consecrated this house that My name may be there forever, and My eyes and My heart will be there perpetually. 17 As for you, if you walk before Me as your father David walked, even to do according to all that I have commanded you, and will keep My statutes and My ordinances, 18 then I will establish your royal throne as I covenanted with your father David, saying, ‘You shall not lack a man to be ruler in Israel.’  19 “But if you turn away and forsake My statutes and My commandments which I have set before you, and go and serve other gods and worship them, 20 then I will uproot you from My land which I have given you, and this house which I have consecrated for My name I will cast out of My sight and I will make it a proverb and a byword among all peoples. 21 As for this house, which was exalted, everyone who passes by it will be astonished and say, ‘Why has the Lord done thus to this land and to this house?’ 22 And they will say, ‘Because they forsook the Lord, the God of their fathers who brought them from the land of Egypt, and they adopted other gods and worshiped them and served them; therefore He has brought all this adversity on them.” (2 Chron.7:11-22)

 And yet, what we see in King David’s life are glimpses of the new covenant where God’s mercy to the king seemed to be a travesty of justice (E.g., Uriah and Bathsheba).  If our hope was not on the heart of flesh God would put into those He chose, we would be in utter despair:

“Behold, days are coming,” declares the Lord, “when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah, 32 not like the covenant which I made with their fathers in the day I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, although I was a husband to them,” declares the Lord.33 “But this is the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel after those days,” declares the Lord, “I will put My law within them and on their heart I will write it; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. 34 They will not teach again, each man his neighbor and each man his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they will all know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them,” declares the Lord, “for I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more.”  (Jer.31:31-34)

 And yet, this new covenant demands the holiness of God in those professing to be believers, in order to warrant its genuineness.  That is, in the new covenant God brings dead sinners to life through Christ’s work on Calvary’s cross.  This new life is God’s life which necessarily produces the fruit of holiness in his children.  That’s the power of the gospel.  That’s what Jeremiah prophesied would take place, and that’s what Christ accomplished for His own.  The genuine believer does have a sin problem, but in Christ it can no longer prevent us from loving God and neighbor as ourselves.  That is, where once before Christ all we could do was sin, now after being in Christ through new birth, we actually have a choice of whether or not we will obey.  May we choose life always.

(SDG

Advertisements

Reflections From 2 CHRONICLES: 1 “GOD GRANTS WISDOM AND KNOWLEDGE”

top-10-jewish-warriors-660x350

I have often ruminated in the proverbs over the acquisition of knowledge and wisdom, qualities for the soul to attain and develop or so I think.  But when texts like the following appear something foundational to these qualities seem to elude me:

 Give me now wisdom and knowledge, that I may go out and come in before this people, for who can rule this great people of Yours?” 11 God said to Solomon, “Because you had this in mind, and did not ask for riches, wealth or honor, or the life of those who hate you, nor have you even asked for long life, but you have asked for yourself wisdom and knowledge that you may rule My people over whom I have made you king, 12 wisdom and knowledge have been granted to you. And I will give you riches and wealth and honor, such as none of the kings who were before you has possessed nor those who will come after you.” (2 Chron.1:10-12)

This text accounts Solomon’s prayer to God for aid in ruling Israel.  The proverbs often speak of wisdom and knowledge being superior to anything else one may desire or possess.  Why?  Because it comes from fearing the LORD (Prov.1:7); it is true treasure (Prov.8:11) not riches, wealth, honor, revenge nor a long life.

That which is so dear to our society is shown to be vain by this text for it is fleeting and in the end incapable of satisfying our deepest longings and desires.  To rule the people of God Solomon understood that he needed nothing less than the all-knowing God’s wisdom—the proper application of knowledge for the flourishing of a thing or person according to its divine design.

When I prepared to do a seminar on “Darwin, Design & Origins” I was both nervous and perplexed at the amount of study and preparation I needed to execute.  But Solomon’s prayer is an insightful model of asking God for these qualities and rigorously applying oneself to the task of said acquisition.  Consider the following texts:

“Wise men store up knowledge, But with the mouth of the foolish, ruin is at hand.”   (Prov.10:14)

 “Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge,
But he who hates reproof is stupid” (Prov.12:1)

 “My son, if you will receive my words
And treasure my commandments within you,
Make your ear attentive to wisdom,
Incline your heart to understanding;
For if you cry for discernment,
Lift your voice for understanding;
If you seek her as silver
And search for her as for hidden treasures;
Then you will discern the fear of the Lord
And discover the knowledge of God.
”   (Prov.2:1-5)

 We see here that hard work is indispensable and nevertheless through it knowledge and wisdom are granted.  That is, God is the source of that which is given even if we (and we must) labor rigorously.

We’re so desperate for you LORD God in our lives, our hearts may fail but nevertheless you remain faithful and true.  Often we are derailed from fixing our eyes upon you yet this is not hidden from your sight.  Our passions, sloth and the resulting misery have brought us low.  Yet, for your Names sake lift us up so that we might enjoy the delights purchased for your children by your son.  For the sake of your renown give us wisdom and knowledge to rule well in the lot apportioned for us.

(SDG)

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

top-10-jewish-warriors-660x350

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 1 CHRONICLES 16-21 “OF KING’S & WAR: DAVID’S EXPLOITS RETOLD”

top-10-jewish-warriors-660x350

When Israel worshipped the LORD under David’s command, the song of the LORD God of Israel was skillfully sung with instruments, cymbals, trumpets, harps and lyres 16:1-7:

“And they brought in the ark of God and placed it inside the tent which David had pitched for it, and they offered burnt offerings and peace offerings before God. When David had finished offering the burnt offering and the peace offerings, he blessed the people in the name of the Lord. He distributed to everyone of Israel, both man and woman, to everyone a loaf of bread and a portion of meat and a raisin cake.  He appointed some of the Levites as ministers before the ark of the Lord, even to celebrate and to thank and praise the Lord God of Israel:Asaph the chief, and second to him Zechariah, then Jeiel, Shemiramoth, Jehiel, Mattithiah, Eliab, Benaiah, Obed-edom and Jeiel, with musical instruments, harps, lyres; also Asaph played loud-sounding cymbals, and Benaiah and Jahaziel the priests blew trumpets continually before the ark of the covenant of God.  Then on that day David first assigned Asaph and his relatives to give thanks to the Lord

The ark of the presence reminded Israel of their God who acts in space time history and reveals His covenant to the chosen ones.  These revelations are to be in song (16:8-36) so that a telling and remembering of Him could be passed down to the generations.  This is why God raised David up as leader, and it’s also obvious to David that his successes are based on the God who is there (17:16-27) not through the arm of man.

Moreover, this warrior-king David, was God’s chosen to administer justice and righteousness for all His people 18:14-17:

“So David reigned over all Israel; and he administered justice and righteousness for all his people. 15 Joab the son of Zeruiah was over the army, and Jehoshaphat the son of Ahilud was recorder; 16 and Zadok the son of Ahitub and Abimelech the son of Abiathar were priests, and Shavsha was secretary; 17 and Benaiah the son of Jehoiada was over the Cherethites and the Pelethites, and the sons of David were chiefs at the king’s side.

Why do rulers rule?  They should do it so that justice and righteousness reign, not for self-aggrandizement.  Rulers should recognize that they serve those who they rule, but too often, the converse is true.  David as warrior-king was also ruthless when it came to dealing with his enemies and a bloody scene transpired 20:2-8:

David took the crown of their king from his head, and he found it to weigh a talent of gold, and there was a precious stone in it; and it was placed on David’s head. And he brought out the spoil of the city, a very great amount. He brought out the people who were in it, and cut them with saws and with sharp instruments and with axes. And thus David did to all the cities of the sons of Ammon. Then David and all the people returned to Jerusalem.  Now it came about after this, that war broke out at Gezer with the Philistines; then Sibbecai the Hushathite killed Sippai, one of the descendants of the giants, and they were subdued. And there was war with the Philistines again, and Elhanan the son of Jair killed Lahmi the brother of Goliath the Gittite, the shaft of whose spear was like a weaver’s beam. Again there was war at Gath, where there was a man of great stature who had twenty-four fingers and toes, six fingers on each hand and six toes on each foot; and he also was descended from the giants. When he taunted Israel, Jonathan the son of Shimea, David’s brother, killed him. These were descended from the giants in Gath, and they fell by the hand of David and by the hand of his servants.”  

Perhaps the puzzling to me was the numbering of Israel and the severe punishment meted out by God (21:1-17) toward David.  Why did God allow Satan to move David to number Israel?  (See: Gleason Archer: Bible Difficulties).  According to Archer:

“God’s anger was unleashed on Israel because of their pride thinking their numbers are what gave them victory and prominence as a nation, rather than God’s sovereign grace.”

Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we will trust in the name of the LORD our God.  Whenever we as a people move away from the bedrock of the Savior as our protector, deliverer and our Good Shepherd, we inevitably fall into self-reliance and pride swells up the soul.  This ends in judgement always depicted in the Angel of the LORD’s destruction through pestilence.

After the judgment was met out, David was terrified of the Angel’s sword before the altar of God.  It’s as if his pride melted away before the God of creation, the God who redeems Israel (21:18-30).  We must thus tell and remember with thankful hearts the deeds of the LORD God so that we don’t forget the Creator/creature distinction and His good acts toward His people and opposite wrath toward His enemies.  Today this is very instructive.

(SDG)

Reflections From 1 CHRONICLES 1-4 “WHAT’S IN A GENEALOGY?” Part 1

00188 IMG_0633 tuff

My goal in writing reflections from 1 & 2 CHRONICLES 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 even thought at times I’ll reference said works for help.  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 because 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.

I’ve often glanced through my Bible and not really paid much attention to this portion of holy writ.  A seemingly endless bouquet of names, attached to each other, I’ve thought to be laborious at worst and not relevant at best.  I was wrong!

According to Gleason Archer, scholar of Old Testament Studies and languages, genealogies are space-time-history events that occurred in redemptive history.  That is, God is revealing a specific word through these people and we would do well to heed their message.

First, these chronicles were compiled by either Ezra or one of his contemporaries after the Babylonian captivity of Israel came to an end (586-539), where Jewish colonists were returning to Jerusalem to establish a new commonwealth of Israel [Gleason Archer, Bible Difficulties, Pg. 216].

Second, because all that remained in Israel was ruins, the people had to hold on to only their memories, traditions, Scripture and their God.  This is the God who promised to them the restoration of the land after the termination of their exile [Gleason Archer, pg. 216].  They thus had to establish their lines of descent from Abraham and the twelve sons of Jacob so that the apportioned territories of the land could be allotted to the proper heirs.

Third, Yahweh Elohim (LORD God) personally made a covenant with Abraham and his “seed” through which Israel would live consecrated lives to the LORD.  Only a tenth of the people are believed to have returned to the land which was in shambles, the rest of Israel chose to die in Babylon.  God’s redemptive plan was bound up with those who returned to the land.

Fourth, emphasis in genealogies culminates in the New Testament where Christ is the rightful heir in the Davidic line (Mt.1) and by right has the authority to demand complete obedience of both Jew and gentile alike [Bible Difficulties, Pg. 216].

What’s in a genealogy?  Identity!  The identity of God’s people is wrapped up in God’s work in redemptive history which climaxed in the incarnation, Christs arrival in the fullness of time.  Here God is revealed as one who strategically, specifically and skillfully redeems a wayward people who owe their blessings entirely to mercy.

For what does this genealogy argue against?  It first argues against a cyclical worldview which eradicates any “telos” purpose, from existence and holds to a circle of events which endlessly repeat themselves.  It secondly argues against a mechanistic worldview that considers matter as eternal—thus there’s no designer, no mind to consider, no person with which to reckon.  Third, it argues against a polytheism that has endless finite gods needing to be appeased so their egotistical needs are met and it goes well with their subordinates—us.  Fourth, it argues against a radical monotheism (Islam) where the divine God can’t be known personally but must nonetheless be served and obeyed.

What does this genealogy point to ultimately?  This genealogy points to the personal, triune, self-existent, all-knowing, all-wise, all-good, all-powerful, ubiquitous God to whom we owe our very existence and to whom we will all give an account.

That’s significant, maybe laborious but with much reward, it’s not irrelevant but utterly pertinent to making sense out of the Scriptures and what the author of sacred writ (God the Spirit) is revealing.

(SDG)

Reflections From 2 KINGS 21-24: “WARNING COMES BEFORE…JUDGEMENT IS REALIZED”

crown-8-persian-persep

            The last chapters of 2 Kings, concludes with God’s judgment being exacted on idolatrous Israel and Judah.  The word was given at Sinai, God’s dealings in Israel were known, but the people followed their “hearts” to exile.  The patience of God was taken for granted such that the mind of the nation became mad due to their calloused hearts.

We’re no different.  As God used the Assyrians and Babylonians to discipline back-sliden Israel, so He may very well do it again today…even if it’s not as clear from a written text.  When the herald proclaims his masters will, eventually it will come to pass.

Idolatry at the core propels us to ask, “Has God said?…” or question what He has already clearly revealed.  We doubt His integrity and treat Him as the creature.  The creature ends up calling the creator a liar by implication and decides to become His judge.  But those who ontologically and epistemologically are finite can’t be trusted to become the infinite One’s judges, nor should they be trusted.  But as it was then so it is today.

Nothing has changed and nothing will until God transforms the stony heart into one of flesh by His Spirit.  In all my studies, I must give myself over to intercession and guard my soul from idolatrous bents the creature constantly encourages.  So must the church in a day where what is wrong is called right, what is evil is called good, and what is righteous is labeled wicked.

(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 6-7: “ELISHA’S MIGHTY DEEDS CONTINUE”

crown-8-persian-persep

            This man of God continues to work God’s wonders in the most colorful and extravagant ways.  First, he makes a sunken axe float to the water’s surface.  He does this by using a stick of wood (6:1-7).  We know that wood does not attract metal magnetically, a magnet does.  Somehow, the “laws of nature” are superseded by God’s doing.  Some may frown on this as mere fable, but if God created everything that exists out of nothing through his word (Gen.1), most certainly then “bending” or “suspending” his creation’s usual function for his purposes is not only plausible but no big deal to him.

Second, Elisha hears the king’s war plans.  The Arameans were plotting against Israel but the God who is everywhere revealed it to the prophet and the nation of Israel was spared from calamity (6:8-12).  Again, there were no “bugs” or high tech devices to hear the enemy’s strategy, but the God who is in control of history and the affairs of man hears everything.            

            Third, Elisha petitions the LORD to open his servant’s eyes.  Israel’s enemy’s surrounded it and the ominous sight terrified the prophet’s servant so Elisha asks God to open his eyes to see the chariots of fire surrounding Israel’s enemies (6:14-17).  This reminds me that while I may be unaware of God’s help, it is always present.

Fourth, Elisha petitions the LORD to blind Israel’s enemies.  In every step of the way this man of God’s prayers steer how the enemy is crippled such that the blindness is only removed after it is to Israel’s advantage (6:18-23).  This reminds me of how critical it is for me to do battle in the unseen realm relying on God’s power and word manifested through believing prayer.  The times were so bad that famine drove many in Samaria to boil their children to death in order for others to live (6:24-29).  That is desperate times.

Fifth, Elisha promises the end of the famine.  But he also promises the death of the king’s messenger who doubted Gods word (6:32-7:1-2, 15, 20).  Whether it’s a word foretelling future events or a demonstration of that words’ power to make objects respond in ways contrary to their nature, God nevertheless moved powerfully through Elisha.  This was the LORDs doing.

In similar ways God moves through His people even though it’s often not spectacular, but common.  We may not raise the dead, call fire from heaven, multiply food, or even float axe heads, but we are still called to follow this eternal magnificent God who alone is worthy to be worshipped and adored.

(SDG)                

 

Reflections From 1 KINGS 20-21: “THE LORD’S WORD COMES, BUT THAT DOESN’T NEGATE THE VALUE OF OUR ACTIONS”

crown-8-persian-persep

            When it comes to the issue of divine sovereignty and human responsibility, historically Christians of all stripes have differed and often very passionately.  The issue of how these two biblical truths interact can be very puzzling.  Generally one aspect of the issue is emphasized over the other (i.e., divine sovereignty vs. human free choice) and when this occurs, biblical passages usually end up contradicting the position(s) held.

This issue is particularly vexing for the thinking person who wants to faithfully make sense out of scriptural texts and get to know God more intimately.  Consider the life of Israel’s King Ahab which says:

“Surely there was none like Ahab who sold himself to do evil in the sight of the LORD…acted abominably in following idols according to all the Amonites had done…” (vv.25-26)

Nevertheless, he experienced a measure of Gods’ grace because he decided to humble himself before the LORD (vv.27-29).  God promised to eradicate Ahab’s name from the earth because he made Israel sin (21:19-22) and provoked the LORD through his idolatry.  The point is that Ahab put on sackcloth and ashes (a mark of repentance and humility) before the LORD.  God’s response to this:

“Do you see how Ahab has humbled himself before Me?  Because he has…I will not bring the evil in his days, but I will bring the evil upon his house in his son’s days.” (21:29)  

Even this wicked king received mercy from the LORD because of his choice to humble himself.  His decision was significant indeed and God responded to this image bearer with kindness.

While our choices matter, God is nonetheless absolutely sovereign and in the wise council of the Trinity there’s always much more happening than we can immediately recognize.  Much like a play where the focus is on the main character, it’s usually the less obvious character(s) which gives the lead role a nuanced landscape of color, depth, breadth, length and height in order to make the story come alive.  So it is with the story of Ahab and even in our own.  The choices we make effect and affect not just the main character but a string of individuals in the grand scheme of things.  Of this I am often not aware.

(SDG)

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

crown-8-persian-persep

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)