The Old Testament is full of Israel’s failure and refusal to do missions. Generally, they were inward focused and had no desire for God’s blessing to go to all the people’s of the earth. Somewhat ironically, perhaps, there seems to be a great conversion of people in the book of Esther, but not because of the people’s evangelistic endeavours. In Esther 8.17 we read, “And many from the peoples of the country declared themselves Jews, for fear of the Jews had fallen on them.” Whether these people were God-fearing Jews and true worshippers of Yahweh, we don’t know; but this is perhaps the greatest spread of the knowledge of Yahweh outside of the land of Canaan. And it happens because the people of Israel are almost annihilated. God’s ways are not our ways. He will be honoured and glorified in all things, even though we often don’t see the whole picture.
Archive for January, 2009
We recently finished up our series on 2 Chronicles so I thought I’d finish off my thoughts on the superiority of Jesus to the Kings of Judah (previous posts here, here, here, and here). There are 6 kings left, but I am combining the last 4.
First up, Amon. Not too much is said about him, but there is much to see in contrast to Christ. First, Amon’s servants conspired against him and killed him. Christ, the servant King, however, was conspired against and killed by those he came to serve. In contrast to Manasseh, Amon did not humble himself, even though forgiveness was offered to him just like it was to Manasseh. As we thought about Christ dying so that Manasseh might be forgiven, Christ also died that forgiveness might be offered to Amon, even though he refused it. The death of Christ is the grounds for a universal gospel call to everyone to come to Jesus and find forgiveness.
The next king is another bright spot, Josiah. A few thoughts here. First, God withheld his judgment because of Josiah’s humility, obedience, and righteousness (2 Ch 34.26-28). In glorious contrast God poured out his judgment upon Christ, the sin-bearing substitute, precisely because of his humility, righteousness, and obedience. Sadly, Josiah finishes on a bit of a down note. He chose to fight the wrong battle at the wrong time and he ended up losing his life(2 Ch 35.20-27). In contrast Jesus refused to stray from his mission and true opponent. He wouldn’t become king early, by alternate means avoiding the cross, or according to people’s expectations. The Jews were expecting something a bit different than what Jesus brought. At times they wanted to make him king, but in the end he was not what the wanted in a king. Rome was the only oppressor they could see, but sin was the real oppressor. The patience of Jesus and trust in God’s timing and ways in incredible.
Lastly, there is Jehoahaz, Jehoiakim, Jehoiachim, and Zedekiah. In 2 Chronicles 36.15-16 we read, “The LORD, the God of their fathers, sent persistently to them by his messengers, because he had compassion on his people and on his dwelling place. But they kept mocking the messengers of God, despising his words and scoffing at his prophets, until the wrath of the LORD rose against his people, until there was no remedy.” These words sound strangely familiar in Mark 12.1-12, the parable of the tenants. This parable picks up where 2 Chronicles left off. God sent messengers and servants. In the end he sent his Son. He too was despised and rejected. He suffered on the cross, but in God’s grace his rejection did not mean that there was no remedy, but rather, Christ’s rejection was the remedy.
Jesus is the better king. The kings of Judah had their moments, but only to point us to the one who was to come, God’s forever King.
Apart from grace-driven effort, people do not gravitate toward godliness, prayer, obedience to Scripture, faith, and delight in the Lord. We drift toward compromise and call it tolerance; we drift toward disobedience and call it freedom; we drift toward superstition and call it faith. We cherish the indiscipline of lost self-control and call it relaxation; we slouch toward prayerlessness and delude ourselves into thinking we have escaped legalism; we slide toward godlessness and convince ourselves we have been liberated.
D. A. Carson, For the Love of God vol. ii, January 23
A few thoughts from Philippians 3.1-4.1 that have helped me refocus again.
A key question that all people must answer concerns how we may be made acceptable before God. The glorious answer God gives us is that we cannot accomplish this. But then, we don’t have to. God has accomplished it for us in Christ. Following on, a common plague that has clung to the people of God through the years deals with the assurance we have in regards to this question. Why is it that we sometimes wonder if we are acceptable before God, or perhaps question our salvation? Surely we often need our faith increased and God’s Spirit to bring this assurance to us, but often the questions arise from misplaced faith or seeking assurance from the wrong things. The short answer is to believe the promises of God, but what does that mean? Paul begins this passage by stating that true believers ‘put no confidence in the flesh’ (vs 3). The moment we put our confidence or seek our assurance in the flesh (in our determination, our decision, our will, or our performance) trouble is headed our way. Paul had the most reasons to put confidence in the flesh (vss 4-6), but he considered those things refuse/rubbish. Our faltering faith and assurance can spring from our lofty estimations of our works and ourselves. I don’t often think of my achievements as bin-worthy, but I should. The alternative, and the only place of true and unshakable assurance, is found in the righteousness that is from God by faith, the righteousness of Jesus Christ (vss 8-11). His work and righteousness are full and complete, such that, if I am faltering in my assurance the first question I should ask myself is ‘What part of Christ’s work is lacking or inadequate?’ Of course, no part is. It is perfect. If you are in Christ we have nothing to fear. There are no questions. Our assurance is neither in our works, our determination, promises, our decisions, or ourselves nor in our faith or the strength of it; our assurance is in Christ and his work, the object of our faith. And it is when our hope and assurance are in the perfect Son of God and his great redeeming work that we will then be able to ‘stand firm’ (4.1). To seek our assurance from our standing firm is to put the cart before the horse. We have tragic illustrations of this throughout the history of the church where churches or denominations abandon the gospel to focus on works and become places of social work and help, but not places of salvation. Let’s not forget the key question we started with!
The Washington Post has moved the news article (I will try to link to it). TD Jakes (among others) spoke at a private church service for the new US President and he finished his talk with the words, “May the force be with you.” Wow.
You should find it HERE.
The registration forms are now available (with online registration coming soon). This looks to be a feast. I hope to be able to make it, we’ll see how things work out.
In many corners of the church the singing of Psalms is faint, if even visible at all. Over the last months my soul has been encouraged listening to Sovereign Grace Music’s Psalms CD. The first half of the album is quite upbeat and actually very nice for jogging (as are the slower ones too). Some of the songs are fairly close paraphrases and others are probably more ‘inspired’ by a particular psalm. There is also some New Covenant lyrical additions that, depending on your view, complete some of the psalms. Both musically and lyrically I could listen to this album over and over. Without question, my favourite song on the album is Glorious and Mighty, based on Psalm 96.
You can buy the album as a download at the above link for only £6 ($9). That’s as good as it gets.
If anyone knows how to post audio without it being downloadable I’ll post Glorious and Mighty.
How exactly does Manasseh relate or prepare the people for Jesus? Primarily in contrasting ways. Here are a few thoughts. First, Manasseh filled the temple with idols during his reign (2 Ch 33.4-5). Conversely, Christ cleared the temple when he came (Jn 2.13-22). Secondly, Manasseh adopted the ways of his enemies and the pagan nations surrounding him (33.2). Christ, on the other hand, had the opportunity to live according to the ways of his enemies, most notably, when he was offered a new way of life by Satan in his wilderness temptations. Jesus could have had the kingdoms of the world without going to the cross if he worshipped Satan, but as God’s perfect and righteous Son he always did the Father’s will. And finally, forgiveness and salvation were offered to Manasseh even though he was at the top of the list of evil kings in Judah (2 Ch 33.12-19); even though his sins were many and didn’t deserve to be forgiven. And Christ, he sinlessly suffered for sin so that Manasseh might be forgiven. Amazing love!
In his preface to the institutes John Calvin is writing to the King of France and is largely dealing in regards to the Roman Catholic Church, but he has an interesting paragraph on “custom” (or culture) and why it doesn’t determine what is right. I found it helpful in thinking about so much of western society and culture and why Christians ought not too hastily accept cultural norms. Calvin writes:
Even in their appeal to “custom” they accomplish nothing. To constrain us to yield to custom would be to treat us most unjustly. Indeed, if men’s judgments were right, custom should have been sought of good men. But it often happens far otherwise: what is seen being done by the many soon obtains the force of custom; while the affairs of men have scarcely ever been so well regulated that the better things pleased the majority. Therefore, the private vices of the many have often caused public error, or rather a general agreement on vices, which these good men now want to make law. Those with eyes can perceive it is not one sea of evils that has flooded the earth, but many dangerous plagues have invaded it, and everything is rushing headlong. Hence, one must either completely despair of human affairs or grapple with these great evils–or rather, forcibly quell them. And this remedy is rejected for no other reason save that we have long been accustomed to such evils. But, granting public error a place in the society of men, still in the Kingdom of God his eternal truth must alone be listened to and observed, a truth that cannot be dictated to by length of time, by long-standing custom, or by the conspiracy of men.
Institutes, Prefatory Address, 5
Previously I have posted on how Jesus is better than all of the kings of Israel, which in most cases is extremely easy because so many were such poor kings. Well, what about Hezekiah, one of the best? The chronicler spends 3 chapters focusing on Hezekiah’s reforms and really what is his reinstating of the means of grace for the people of Israel. And God blesses him (2 Chronicles 31.21). But, instead of responding in humility, Hezekiah became proud. He did repent of his pride, but strangely he didn’t seem too bothered when evil times were promised for his children and those who would come after him (2 Chronicles 32.26, 2 Kings 20.16-19). So long as my days are safe, I am satisfied, he thought. He didn’t care what the later days held for his children.
Jesus, on the other hand, was willing, for himself, to see hellish days, that our later days might be glorious and blessed. Christ would take the curse during his days that we might be blessed for all our days. Christ would bear the wrath that we might be saved. Christ had great care for what the later days would hold for his children, and we was willing for his days to be dark that ours might be bright. As good as Hezekiah was, he reminds us that it is Christ we want, not him.