God’s Reign over a Broken World

IMG_3173Psalm 9:3-12

Last night Sharon and I attended an informational meeting about Social Security. The presenter went over recent changes and how they can affect a person’s financial strategy. But a couple times he mentioned that changes can be made to the system at any time by Congress. The old adage that goes something like this came to mind: “Past performance is no indicator of future returns.” With that in my mind, I thought about if and how that saying applies to the truth of our Lord’s reign over our broken world.

In one sense it is definitely not true, because many times in the Bible God assures us that what he has done for his people in the past, he is surely able to do, and will ultimately do, to rescue us from the brokenness of our world. However, in another sense it is true, because we cannot expect our sovereign God to act in our lives in exactly the same way that he acted in David’s life, or in the lives of many others. Some misuse the narrative portions of the Scriptures as guarantees that God will do the same for us, “if we have faith”. That is false teaching and clearly not supported by the God’s word. The Lord delivers some, while others he helps to endure severe suffering. (Read carefully Hebrews 11:32-38). For example, though Elijah prayed and God ended the drought does not mean that you or I can pray and God will end droughts. Elijah acted in faith on the orders that God gave him, and not on his own desires. With that in mind, let’s think about what God did for David and his kingdom, as God pursued his plan of sending the Messiah.

  • David thanked God for acting for his deliverance (9:3-4). Notice how David presented God as the powerful Judge. David’s enemies had to retreat, because they could not stand in God’s presence. The Lord is honored for the righteousness of his rescue of his chosen king. God was faithful to the promises he had made to bring the Messiah, Jesus, through his line. This required deliverance for David. His thankfulness echoes down to our day and into eternity.
  • David acknowledged the doom that fell upon the nations (9:5-8). We must recognize the justice of the Lord’s act of judgment on them. They chose to walk away from the true God to follow idols, and God acted to punish them for their rebellion and rejection of him. Since God is holy, sin must be punished, either on the sinner or the substitute, Jesus Christ. They opposed God’s chosen king, and so they suffered the consequences. As David sang about God’s judgment, he leads us to think about how extensive and lasting God’s justice is. He contrasted the end of the wicked nations with God’s enduring throne, and he stressed the rightness of God’s justice.
  • David celebrated the happy condition of God’s people (9:9-10). The rebellious nations met their doom, but God never abandons those who belong to him. Observe four characteristics of those who belong to God: they are people who need refuge, who know God’s name (who he is), who trust him, and who seek him. They might be in a situation where they are presently oppressed. David was in such circumstances many times. But the Lord God never abandons his own.
  • David called worshipers to join in mission with him (9:11-12). He led those singing this psalm to praise God and to tell the nations what the Lord had done for them. As we noted in our last article, in our day we are to tell the world the good news of what Christ has done to save those who turn from their sins and trust in him for eternal life. We are responsible to spread the word about salvation.

So then, David leads us to worship the God in charge of this broken world. We need this big picture, because at times all we might see and think about is the pain and sorrow of brokenness. Perhaps you are in a rough situation today, or you might have family and friends that are. If so, look at an enduring reason for hope: the sovereign God rules over the nations. He will bring all his people to the refuge they need.

Grace and peace, David

Praise in a Broken World

IMG_3174Psalm 9:1-2

I will give thanks to the Lord with my whole heart;
I will recount all of your wonderful deeds.
I will be glad and exult in you;
I will sing praise to your name, O Most High.

Psalms nine and ten are companion pieces, telling two sides of what God does in his world to bring about the ultimate victory of his plan in Jesus the Messiah. (In fact, some versions, following the ancient Septuagint, combine them into one Psalm.) Both sides are just as real, and we need to hear both to be spiritually balanced. David, who experienced suffering and triumph, was used by God to write these psalms and to teach us to sing about both sides of reality. The Lord Jesus walked this same path (Philippians 2: 6-11). Today, we’ll listen to how Psalm Nine opens.

Before David talks about God’s rule in the world, he presents four active attitudes that we express in our relationship with the Lord of all. That might sound a bit redundant, but we must realize our responsibility to God. To follow the Lord requires us to follow him with praise and worship. In a broken world this will not simply happen. Many times we will feel far from desiring to praise our God and Father. The brokenness around us, which we can see every day, will seem too horrible. But hope (confident anticipation in God’s promises) will enable us to see more than the immediate situation we and others we love are in. Then we can act and praise.

  • Thankfulness heads the four active attitudes. When we do not thank the Lord for the many blessings he continually gives, it is a sign that our part of our relationship with God is faltering. One of the core issues of those in rebellion against God is a lack of thankfulness to the Creator (Romans 1:21, 25). Those who delight in God and his mercies willingly thank him for who he is and what he does for his people. Thanksgiving should be more than an item from a list about how to pray. It ought to flow from our hearts, the core of who we are.
  • Testimony follows thankfulness. When we appreciate God’s blessings from our hearts, we will want others to know. We will tell or recount them to others. “Wonderful deeds” translates a Hebrew word that is frequently used for the redemptive miracles that the Lord did for his people. For the people of God before Christ came, they would recount all God to make a people, including the events of the exodus and the giving of the Promised Land. For new covenant people, we can recount not only Christ’s miracles but the four core events of the good news: Christ’s crucifixion, resurrection, ascension, and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. All four transform us, and so we should tell others about them.
  • Next is joy in the Lord. While it is easy to rejoice in circumstances, David sings about being glad because of the Lord himself. This is part of any healthy relationship. If you are in a friendship, you do not merely rejoice in the benefits of that friendship, but also in your friend. You enjoy being with your friend simply because he or she is your friend. If your joy is only in the pleasant circumstances God sends you, what will you do when your situation is suffering? Since David’s joy was in the Lord himself, he could exult in the Lord at all times.
  • Finally, David encourages artistic expression in praise. Specifically, he tells the Lord that he will sing praise to God’s name (a frequent way of speaking of God personally). Some people have been given beautiful voices, which are nice for the rest of us to listen to. And we ought to try to sing our best. But the point is to sing to the Lord. This is becoming a lost art in many churches, where people are entertained by a “praise team”. Surely, there is no problem with having people with skill lead others in singing, but today many are silent while a few up front sing. But the Lord desires to hear your voice joining in the overflowing joy of all he is and has done in our Lord and Savior.

Praise does not make the ugliness of a broken world disappear. It does not lessen suffering. But it is a very important part of our relationship with the Lord of all. May we all praise the Lord!

Grace and peace, David

Stubborn Attitude

IMG_10122 Chronicles 16:11-14

None of us likes to admit that we are wrong. It seems that the worst flaw a person can have in the minds of many is to admit that he or she sinned, failed, had wrong ideas, or made erroneous decisions. “You changed your views!” is the damning indictment to such people. Consistency, even it means driving over a cliff, is the applauded way of action. Such an opinion is foolish and very destructive. The infinite God and his word are unchangeable. People must be ready to amend their opinions and actions to conform to the truth, though we might be ashamed to confess, “I sinned. I was wrong.” Stubbornness is not a virtue.

Asa was stubborn. He refused to change his mind and confess his sin when the Lord sent his prophet to rebuke the king. This brought suffering to God’s people. It also brought personal tragedy to King Asa. Even a severe disease could not induce him to change his mind.

It might surprise us how quickly a person can turn from a life of faith to rebellion against the living God. Part of the problem stems from this: We imagine that sin is a little matter and can be played with. But sin and unbelief are very destructive. His unbelief was not a trifle. His anger (16:10) ripped apart his teachable spirit. James later wrote: My dearly loved brothers, understand this: Everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak, and slow to anger, for man’s anger does not accomplish God’s righteousness (James 1:19-20 HCSB). You and I must be willing to receive rebuke and correction. It can be unpleasant, but to act in anger gives Satan opportunities. Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil. (Ephesians 4:26-27 ESV)

In his stubbornness, Asa refused to seek help from the Lord in his illness. His problem was not consulting medical doctors. The Bible nowhere condemns that, but rather encourages us to seek God’s good gifts in medicine. His problem was that he would not pray to the Lord for mercy. Asa became set in his ways. Why not humble himself before the Lord? His stubborn heart had launched into other sins, like pride and unbelief. His life ended in this sad way.

Yet Asa received public honor. Asa was remembered by his people, not for his sins, but for the many good things he accomplished. While we ought to learn from the sins and errors of others, we must have a generous attitude toward others. Every person, even the most committed follower of Jesus Christ, has been ruined in some way by the evil of sin. We must be able to look at others and appreciate God’s work of grace in them. It can be easier to notice their sins than their graces, especially when their particular set of sins clashes with our desires. Remember that love keeps no record of wrongs (1 Corinthians 13:5). It is right to give honor to whom honor is due, even if he or she lacks perfection.

However, we can sorrow over what King Asa could have accomplished, if he had lived continually by faith (cf. 16:7). His own lack of faith caused him to lose an opportunity to lead God’s people in a fresh adventure of faith. He could have set an example by humbling himself before the Lord when the prophet rebuked him. How much Israel and Judah might have profited if Asa had zealously sought the Lord.

Don’t waste your life—even a part of it!

Grace and peace, David

Decrease in Spirituality

IMG_09932 Chronicles 16:7-10

Last time we remarked about the honesty of God’s word. The Holy Spirit does not cover-up the sins of believers. This is far from the course of this world, where political parties hide, cover-up, explain away, and blame shift the sins and errors of their candidates. You will never hear political parties admit, “Yeah, we’re asking you to vote for a deeply flawed person.” But God wants us to see that he graciously works with and through sinful people. Asa is one example. He was loyal to the Lord God his whole life; he didn’t turn from the Lord to false gods. Asa’s heart was fully committed to the Lord all his life (15:17 NIV). Yet in his latter days, Asa refused to listen to God’s Word.

For this reason, God sent a prophet to rebuke Asa for his lack of faith. As we have already observed, there were many sins connected with what Asa did. But Hanani the prophet focused on the crucial point: Asa’s unbelief in God’s power. Unbelief is the epitome of evil, because it worships what is created rather than the Creator. Unbelief also leads to foolishness, since it turns from the faithful God to humanity, which is weak and undependable. Consider the words of Jeremiah. For My people have committed a double evil: They have abandoned Me, the fountain of living water, and dug cisterns for themselves, cracked cisterns that cannot hold water (Jeremiah 2:13 HCSB).

The prophet reminded Asa about God’s previous mercy. He told Asa that he had acted against his own experience of what the Lord could do. Every time we experience an answer to our prayers, it remains as a witness of God’s all-ability to needs yet to come. For example, over many years, I have seen God supply financial needs for various gatherings of Christ’s people. Those local churches experienced this year after year. But at the end of one year would come the cry, “Where will the money come from for the next year?” Why do we do this? What don’t we depend on the Lord? It’s like we want to see God’s provision in hand before we have the need or pray. I have truthfully said, “I don’t know where the money (or whatever the need is) will come from, but I am certain that we can always trust God, who is able to do much more than we ask or imagine” (Ephesians 3:20).

“But see how deceitful our hearts are! We trust in God when we have nothing else to trust to, when needs drives us to him; but, when we have other things to stay on, we are apt to stay too much on them and to lean to our own understanding as long as that has any thing to offer; but a believing confidence will be on God only, when a smiling world courts it most” (Henry).

The prophet told Asa that he had acted against the truth of what God is. God was well aware of what his people needed. The schemes of Baasha were no surprise to him. And God was committed to help his people in their need (cf. Philippians 4:19), when their hearts are committed to him. Asa forgot the truths of God’s sovereignty, omniscience, faithfulness, and mercy to his own hurt. Sound theology is important to a healthy walk with God. The prophet also told Asa that he had acted against his own best interests. Asa had turned from the God of peace; therefore, from that point he will experience trouble.

Tragically, Asa rebelled against God’s message. He did not repent but hardened his heart.

He persecuted God’s prophet. This initiated a course of action in Israel that the Lord Jesus later condemned (Matthew 23:29-39). When we open the doors to sinful ways, we have no idea what the end will be. He oppressed some of the people. In a sinful world, many otherwise innocent people are adversely affected by the sins of leaders. The sinful actions of political leaders of both major parties in our nation are ruining the lives of many people. It is time for God’s people to turn from political hopes to fresh dependence on the living God.

Grace and peace, David

A Sad Decline

20150710_1657532 Chronicles 16:1-6

So far in this series of articles, we have seen Asa’s faith in and zeal for the Lord. In the first two thirds of his reign, he was able to accomplish much for the cause of God and truth. But in the final part of his life, the wheels seemed to fall off, spiritually seeking. Yes, he would be honored and esteemed by his people at the end. But the Holy Spirit presents his spiritual problems to us. The Bible never hides the sins and flaws of the people of God. It always shows humankind for what we are: people in desperate need of God’s grace and mercy. We ought to remember the perspective of the NTS on what is written in the OTS (1 Corinthians 10:11-13; Romans 15:4). These words are for our benefit. They are to teach us as we live in our part of the story of God’s glory in Jesus Christ. May we listen with responsive hearts!

First, we should see that expedient policy guided Asa in his decline (16:1-6). I use “expedient” in the sense of contributing to advantage or interest, as opposed to right. Asa decided to pursue a course of action that made political and military sense, instead of doing what was right before God. The point is not how terrible Asa was to act this way. The point is for you and me to look at our decisions in the light of God’s word and to evaluate whether we pursue what is right or what is merely expedient.

A crisis developed for Judah (16:1). The king of Israel had a plan to oppress Judah. Such events are common for nations in this fallen world. Greed is more than an individual sin. It controls whole people groups, who long for what others possess. You can trace political evil and war back to greed (James 4:1-2). Eliminate human greed and you end war. (In other words you won’t end war by peace conferences, resolutions, and a lot of handshakes among world leaders.) The love of money is the root of all kinds of evil (1 Timothy 6:10).

Ancient writers dated events in various ways. Though it might seem strange to our western minds, evidently the writer of Chronicles was dating this event from the time of the division of Israel and not from the start of Asa’s reign. Since they lacked an agreed on system of dating, the ancients would do this type of thing at times.

The action of Baasha, king of the northern kingdom of Israel, was a clear threat to the well-being of its sister kingdom, Judah. Here is a sad situation. One group of God’s people was trying to harm the other. But Asa missed the way at this point. It was an opportunity for diplomacy, not for political intrigue. Asa started to act according to worldly ways rather than according to God’s Word. Overall, he was still loyal to the Lord (cf. 15:17). But his mind began to seek so-called wisdom that was contrary to what he claimed to believe. He also decided to act contrary to his own experience of God’s ability to deliver his people (cf. 14:12-13). Always remember the ways that the Lord has helped you in the past.

Asa’s thinking shifted from being God-centered, and so he made his own plans (16:2-3). Consider the course he turns to (cf. Henry):

  • He sought an alliance with an ungodly king and nation. This tore down the wall of separation that God had erected in the law covenant to keep Israel devoted to him (cf. Ephesians 2:11-14).
  • He weakened the other nation (Israel), which was at least publicly was part of God’s people. This would lessen God’s honor among the nations. It was a great change from the height of Solomon’s reign.
  • He paid for alliance out of the money stored up for the worship of the Lord. This weakened his country spiritually. He misused resources for political purposes that were set aside for God’s honor.
  • He set in motion an attitude of independence from the Lord. Instead of relying on what God could do for his people, he set an example of solving problems from fleshly wisdom. This is hard to eradicate from the way people think.

Asa achieved apparent success by his worldly policy. Israel was weakened in the north and had to shift its attention to combat the Arameans that had conquered several of its towns. This gave Asa the opportunity to strengthen his defenses. Instead of Ramah being a thorn in Judah’s side, the strong points he built would prove troublesome to Israel. Though worldly wisdom might apparently “work”, it brings in other destructive tendencies that weaken the worship of God and the faith of God’s people. Let us learn from Asa’s mistakes.

Grace and peace, David

Responding to God’s Word (Part Two)

20150523_1439292 Chronicles 15:8-19

In our last article, we mentioned a couple wrong responses to God’s word: ignoring it and failing to apply it to ourselves. The last mentioned can happen because of distraction, laziness, or some other reason. In today’s text, we learn three good responses to the Word. Anytime that people respond positively to God’s message is a time to give thanks and worship, because it is only God’s grace that makes us live godly.

The right response is renewed reformation or better, transformation (15:8). Do not be conformed to this age, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may discern what is the good, pleasing, and perfect will of God (Romans 12:2 HCSB). We must see our lives, worship, and fellowship transformed in conformity with the Holy Scriptures. This is a task that is never completed in this world. Churches and the people who are the gospel partners in them too easily get stuck in tradition, being unwilling to transform their beliefs and practices according to God’s Word, the Bible. Brothers and sisters, we must be willing to walk in the light of the Word that the Spirit of God gives us!

  • The starting point of this renewed reformation was the effect of the message on the leader, Asa. “When Asa heard these words… he took courage.” He had courage to lead his people in change. When we know that we are mired in the ways of tradition and unbiblical practice, we must act courageously and change. The lack of this courage yields churches that are in steep decline. To how many people is your local gathering actively reaching out now? Can you name them? Does your group pray for these people? Please don’t complain about the decline in church attendance if you aren’t involved in outreach. Being filled with the Spirit produces boldness in God’s people.
  • Asa responded by acting to remove the objects of false religion from the land (cf. Deuteronomy 12:4). We must clean out evil, the thorns that choke out the fruit, so that the good fruit may flourish. Anyone who has ever had a garden knows this truth. You must always be after the weeds, or soon the good plants will die. Yet people fail to apply this truth to spiritual matters. If you allow the weeds of false teaching or ungodly living or unrestrained desires for worldly matters to remain in your heart, they will choke out the good fruit of the Spirit.
  • Asa also sought to restore true worship by repairing the altar. Here we must think for a moment according to the old covenant. The altar at the temple was crucial for old covenant worship. The Israelites had to offer their sacrifices there for worship and fellowship with God. If it was in a state of disrepair, their worship would have been hindered. We worship properly when we keep in step with the Spirit (Galatians 5:25).

The response of covenant renewal (15:9-15). Such assemblies had occurred earlier in Israel’s history (Deuteronomy 29:1ff; Joshua 8:30-35; 24:25; cf. 1 Samuel 11:14-15) and also later (2 Chronicles 23:16; 34:31-32; cf. 29:10). Here are the parts of such a gathering: First came the call and gathering of a great assembly (15:9-10). It this case it was around the time of the Feast of Weeks (or Pentecost), which was one of the three times of the year that all the men were required to assemble in Jerusalem (Deuteronomy 16:16-17). Asa probably took advantage of this time to impress the truth upon his people. Second, it was a gathering to worship of the Lord (15:11). They presented sacrifices from the plunder that the Lord had given them (14:13-15). In this way they would be acknowledge God’s goodness according to the manner of worship of the law covenant. We should be bringing a sacrifice of praise to the Lord (Hebrews 13:15).

Third, their commitment to the Lord was reaffirmed (15:12-14). This recommitment touched the roots of their being as God’s people. We see:

  • Essence of true commitment ­– They agreed to seek the Lord with all their heart and soul (Deuteronomy 6:5; 11:13, 22; 30:2, 6, 10). The Lord Jesus calls us to the same kind of commitment today (Mk 8:34).
  • Expectation of true commitment – They saw that God was serious about total devotion to him, as he had stated in the Law (Deuteronomy 13). In a physical nation, the penalty was severe. New covenant people are to enforce commitment to the Lord in a spiritual manner, since we are a spiritual people (1 Corinthians 5:1-5).
  • Excitement about true commitment – They were glad about the whole-hearted commitment that they saw others make. When we see commitment to the truth in other, we should rejoice, too (2 John 4; 3 John 3-4). Are you making other believers rejoice because of the commitment they see in you? Total commitment leads to great joy!

The Lord God responded to their faith (15:15). He gave them rest!

Asa was affected by the act of reaffirmation. He responded by cleaning his own house (15:16-19) in two ways. He removed the queen mother from her position. She was a descendant of David’s son Absalom and was a source of much evil. She had to be removed. He also contributed financially to the worship of the Lord. Asa got around to giving to the Lord what he had promised. What should you give? The old trite phrase is “put your money where your mouth is.” Generous giving, including the giving of money, should be a priority matter among a people transformed by the grace of God. Give for the glory of God!

Grace and peace, David

Responding to God’s Word (Part One)

20150520_1401262 Chronicles 15:1-7

My usual practice in these articles is to look at a passage from God’s word, whether we go through an entire book of the Bible like Ruth or part of a book, like our articles from the Psalms. Right now we are in a brief series on the life and times of Asa, king of Judah, from the book of 2 Chronicles. In our English arrangement of the Old Testament Scriptures, this book is in the “History” section in the first half of the Old Testament. But Chronicles in the Hebrew Bible is in the section called the Writings and is the last book in the OTS (cf. Matthew 23:35).

Our subject from this section of scripture is something that all of us do in our Sunday morning or small group gatherings. We respond to God’s Word. For some, their response is sudden and complete. They simply ignore God’s Word and turn their attention to other matters. Others listen but fail to apply the Word to themselves. It is just an involvement in ritual. Hopefully, all of us will act more wisely and will listen to what the Lord says, and then by the grace of the Spirit, apply the Word to ourselves.

Before we respond, we listen to the preaching or teaching of God’s Word (15:1-7). Most of us are used to one man, the pastor, stand before a group and present God’s message to them. The group was probably Asa and his advisors and perhaps some of the elders of his kingdom. The “pastor” was a man named Azariah son of Oded. The presentation of the word can be an extended monologue or a discussion. There is a place for both, though I think that it is best that a monologue is followed by discussion. People need the opportunity to ask questions and to interact with others about the message of God’s word. It is hard to benefit spiritually if you listen and then run out the door as fast as you can. Invest time in the consideration of God’s message with others.

The prophet prepared the message (15:1-2a). Behind every message delivered, whether by prophet or preacher, you will discover prior preparation of some kind or another. For the pastor-teacher, this ought to include a walk with God that includes the study of the word and prayer, and certainly also the work of the Holy Spirit in illumination and empowerment. Please pray for your pastor and Bible teachers! Observe the act of the Spirit of God. He came upon Azariah son of Oded. The Spirit would come upon a man to speak through him (cf. 2 Peter 1:20-21). When the Spirit did this, the prophet would be speaking the exact words of God. Now we speak from the Bible, which is the written yet living voice of God to us.

This gave God’s authority to the prophet. “Listen to me….” Azariah can command attention, since he declared the exact words of God. This included the king and all the people. There are many voices demanding our attention, but you and I must listen to God’s Word and submit to his authority in the written word. This means that we must look at life in conformity with God’s word. For one example, we learn that we must do everything for the glory of God (1 Corinthians 10:31). So we choose to speak words that honor God; we seek attitudes that reflect his character; we live as Christ’s ambassadors.

Next, there is the content of the message (15:2b-7). Every message must have truth content or it is worthless; the preacher’s message must communicate God’s message. When it is God’s message, the intent is change in a godly manner. Azariah preached for change. When you teach, your goal must be that the Spirit will bring about Biblical change in people. Otherwise, it is merely an act of entertainment.

  • He delivered a conditional promise (15:2b). This was how God’s promises came to people during the law or old covenant.
  • He provided encouragement from history (15:3-6). Azariah told about their need in the past. He wanted to reacquaint them with the ways of God. The intent was to give hope in God in their present situation.
  • He added direct application (15:7). He called for change in their way of life. In this case, the change was to avoid the trap of discouragement and wanting to give up.

You and I must listen to God’s word with an awareness that God desires us to respond with new thoughts, ideas, attitudes, desires, and actions.

Grace and peace, David

The Cry of the Powerless

DSCN34112 Chronicles 14:9-15

God brought Asa and his people to the time to act in faith (14:9-15). God constantly does this. Part of his purpose for his people is to declare his praises (1 Peter 2:9), and we do this when we trust God and demonstrate his surpassing glory by a life of faith. Do not be surprised when trials come when you must rely on the living God. Be ready to believe; be expectant of God’s grace.

I repeat, in a fallen world, times of crisis and fear will come. This world is not heaven. The people in it are marked by rebellion against God. Therefore, they do not love God or people. They are greedy and lust for what others have. Those who have worldly wealth try to get more at the expense of those who are weak. Those who lack worldly wealth assume they are right in trying to take from those who already have. How did this happen to King Asa and his people?

An attack came from the area southwest of Israel. Zerah led a very large army against Judah. Although Asa had prepared wisely, he could not absolutely prevent the greed of others who wanted to rape and pillage. Do not think that if you follow Christ, then others will join with you or respect you for doing so. If you stand in the way of their lusts, they may try to ruin you to enrich themselves.

The approaching attack required Asa to lead his army to a defensible position southwest of Jerusalem. Mareshah had been fortified by Rehoboam years before (cf. 11:8). It was wise to put his army in the best forward place for defense, before the enemy could do additional damage.

In a time of fear, Asa exercised faith in the Lord (14:11). Though he acted responsibly with his army, he did not rely on his own strength. Instead, he also did the best thing he could do. He prayed to the living God, who rules over all.

  • In humility Asa confessed the Lord’s holy power. There is no one like the Lord to help the powerless against the mighty. Here is theology (the right teaching about God) put in action.
  • In humility Asa confessed their dependence on the Lord.
  • In humility Asa asked God to remember his covenant relationship with Israel and to defend his honor and his people.

What happened? Many in our time are not convinced about the significance or prayer. Yes, I know that people ask for prayer when they think there is no other hope. But do they actively seek the Lord as able to act in space-time history as a usual part of life? What do even most Christians do? They strategize; they put out calls for action from like-minded; they dream of political solutions. But pray? Faced with Zerah’s army, would today’s western Christians call out to the Lord in faith, or would they melt away in fear. My friends, the “armies of Zerah” are coming, they will always come, and the followers of Jesus Christ must call upon Lord in faith!

In his faithfulness, the Lord defended his people (14:12-15).

  • The Lord acted against the attackers in some unstated way. Whatever the action, God struck them so that they could not recover. Fear overtook them and they fled.
  • Since armies in that time carried a great deal of wealth with them, the victory also provided Judah with a great deal of worldly wealth. And so the Lord completely reversed the intentions of Judah’s enemies. Not only were they safe, they were also wealthy.

We serve the living God, who is able to do much more than we ask or imagine (Ephesians 3:20-21). If we consider only our own resources and live according to opinion polls, we can get very discouraged. But if we trust in the Lord and call on him, as Asa did, then we may see him act in unexpected ways for his glory and our good. Now is the time to exercise strong faith in the living God. Desperate situations call for fervent prayer to the Lord of all. We might be powerless, but we serve the all-powerful, Sovereign Lord. Let us call upon him now.

Grace and peace, David

Days of Preparation

DSCN34372 Chronicles 14:6-8

Asa’s early reign was a time of preparation. If we are wise, we prepare for the future. Early preparation is the best for we have time to adjust, to correct, or to repent of our plans entirely. For example, it’s better to buy a car when you are not pressured to make a purchase because the “old clunker” is in its last useful days. As I learned in years gone by, the time to get your wood cut, split, and stacked is in the summer and early fall, before you need it when cool days arrive.

Consider Asa’s sound ideas. He reasoned that they needed to protect and preserve what the Lord had given to them (14:7a). He saw their country, not as an item to be consumed, but as a trust to be guarded. This is forward thinking that is rarely considered in our time. There is more to human life than our brief time here and how many precious resources we can consume. If we are self-centered, we will only think about pursuing pleasure for ourselves, rather than considering how to build a strong future for others. While the world squanders its resources, the church has to think about generations still to come. Now assuredly we should be looking for the return of Jesus Christ. And many question, “Can things get any worse than they are now?” I’ve been in the ministry for over forty years and was a pastor for thirty-five years. I’ve heard that question for more than that time, back to the days of my childhood. Many back in the sixties and seventies were sure that things couldn’t get worse. But they have. Yes, look for the Lord’s return, but don’t waste your life idly looking into the sky (cf. Acts 1:8-11). We must use days of peace to make preparations for the future of God’s spiritual family. We must seek to build a godly heritage for those who will follow us, if the Lord does not return in our time.

Asa understood the principles of life for his old covenant nation. The old covenant was given with an “if” (Exodus 19:3-6). Israel’s life before God depended upon them seeking the Lord and walking in his ways. He pointed back to the reformation in worship that the Lord enabled him to accomplish (“because we have sought the Lord our God”, 14:7 NIV). Now they needed to improve the opportunities provided by that reformation.

Asa demonstrated wise leadership to protect his kingdom.

  • He built fortifications. For most of human history, forts and strong defensive points dominated military strategy. If you were unable to take such positions, you were unable to conquer a land, because they enabled the defenders to be safe and to launch an attack. So Asa had a comprehensive plan for a strong future.
  • He trained a military force. Fortifications are useless, unless one has trained troops to man them. So Asa developed a form of universal military training, so that in a time of need, he had capable soldiers to call up to defend against any attack.
  • By taking these steps, Asa led his people into a situation of prosperity. We prosper when we are strong.

Think of the early church in Acts. How did so few people become ready, strong and able by God’s grace to change the world? The Lord Jesus had built a strong core, and that small core group in turn strengthened others who became followers of Christ (Acts 2:42, 46). They were full of faith, wisdom, and the Holy Spirit (Acts 6:3, 5). Then they followed Christ’s plan, even when life got tough (Acts 8:4). All we need to do in our time is to prepare and live continually according to their example record in God’s word and invest time in prayer for the Spirit of the living God to act powerfully, very powerfully, through the Lord’s people.

The key to Asa’s actions is recorded in 15:7. And he said to Judah, “Let us build these cities and surround them with walls and towers, gates and bars. The land is still ours, because we have sought the Lord our God. We have sought him, and he has given us peace on every side.” So they built and prospered (ESV). He pointed them to the source of their security. Yes, they needed to do what was wise, but they realized that their greater hope was in the Lord God. He gave his people peace.

Grace and peace, David

A Promise Forsaken (Part Two)

DSCN32041 Kings 12:25-33

After Solomon died, his son Rehoboam became king, but he acted foolishly. He followed the advice of his young friends and rejected the counsel of older men who understood the mood of the people for change. Jeroboam led the revolt of the people against Rehoboam, and as God had determined, he became the king of the ten northern tribes of Israel. Rehoboam was left with two tribes, Judah and Benjamin, and he wanted to start a civil war to regain the other ten, but the Lord ordered him not to do that (12:1-24). This meant that Jeroboam could set up his kingdom in peace.

He had a good opportunity, and his first steps were necessary and wise. Though the Lord had restrained the aggressiveness of Rehoboam, Jeroboam had to act wisely to protect his people from a hostile neighbor. He fortified two cities and made one of them his capital. The Lord expects his people to act prudently in a troubled world. However, prudence can too easily cross the line to fear. This is the outward occasion for Jeroboam’s turn from the Lord God.

To understand Jeroboam’s fear, consider the covenantal context in which they lived. God had made Jeroboam king over the majority of the old covenant people of God. Having a king outside of the line of David did not terminate that covenant relationship. The men were still obligated to journey to Jerusalem three times of year for God’s appointed festivals. The worship of God took place in Jerusalem, where every sacrifice was to be made. The temple made by Solomon was extremely impressive, which would affect everyone who attended worship there. With that in mind, listen to what the Holy Spirit tells us in God’s Word.

Jeroboam thought to himself, “The kingdom will now likely revert to the house of David. If these people go up to offer sacrifices at the temple of the Lord in Jerusalem, they will again give their allegiance to their lord, Rehoboam king of Judah. They will kill me and return to King Rehoboam” (12:26-27 NIV)

His fears came from his own thoughts, and they were filled with fear rather than faith in the living God. The Lord had promised Jeroboam an enduring dynasty. In a short time, he feared the loss of both his kingdom and his own life. How ready we all are to trust our own fears rather than the promises of God! The Lord’s promises are used by the Spirit to build hope; unbelief fuels distress and despair.

His fears impelled him to seek advice, but he clearly did not seek the Lord’s counsel. Jeroboam invented a new religion! Notice how he accomplished that evil.

  • He made two golden calves (12:28a). Idolatry was direct disobedience against the Lord and his covenant law (Exodus 20:4-7). Idolatry is the “evil exchange” that people make when they turn their backs on the Lord (Romans 1:21-23).
  • He appealed to the people’s love of ease (12:28b). He posed as their benefactor, who was troubled that they had to take such a difficult trip to Jerusalem. He built shrines in many places to make worship “easier” (12:31a)
  • He referred to the Scriptures, though in a twisted way (12:28c). His words about the two golden calves he made are almost an exact quote from Exodus 32:8. Please understand that the quotation of a few Bible verses does not mean that the teacher is telling the truth. Jeroboam intended them to pursue evil. He put the golden calves at the two extreme ends of his kingdom: Dan in the north and Bethel in south (12:29-30).
  • He made people priests that were not from the tribe of Levi (12:31). God had restricted the priesthood to the tribe of Levi, and Israel had suffered greatly in the wilderness when they had rebelled against God’s will in this matter (cf. Numbers 16-17).
  • He instituted a new religious festival as an alternative to what the Lord had ordered (12:32-33). The purpose was to deflect the people from the longtime worship of the Lord. And it was easier: they didn’t have to go three times a year, but only once!
  • He set an evil example (12:33). Jeroboam practiced the evil imaginations of his heart. He showed people that they could do his new religion and “get away with doing it”.

In all this, we are not told of any objection made by his people. They readily bought into their new king’s new religion. By all this, Jeroboam strengthened their desire to forsake the Lord. And he abandoned the promise that God had made to him.

We need to ask ourselves, “Am I on a course of my own fears and the love of personal ease? Are we determined to follow the Lord Jesus? Read Mark 8:34 for his way.

Grace and peace, David