Isaiah 53:3

He was despised and rejected by mankind, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain. Like one from whom people hide their faces he was despised, and we held him in low esteem (NIV).

Most people can understand the bitter pain of rejection. It is often experienced in childhood on various levels. We might have felt rejection in being the last person picked for kickball or because we wore glasses at a young age. Teen years might have brought the rejection of being “shot down” or never asked regarding dates, being excluded from the “in” social groups. Young adulthood might have brought rejections by colleges and employers, or even the rejection of a broken engagement. Adults experience a multitude of rejections, until finally, older adults sit alone in nursing homes, rejected by most everyone. If you feel rejected, you may weep.

Our verse, however, points us not to what bitterness we might feel from rejection, but to one who came into this world to be rejected, in order that his people might be accepted. The bitter cup of rejection he accepted for our benefit. Take a few minutes to ponder the depths of rejection that Jesus the Messiah felt to bring us salvation and joy. The baby in the manger became the despised man and held in low esteem on the cross. If you sense somewhat of the rejection he received, you may weep.

I wish that his rejection had ended, and that all people everywhere might accept him, bowing before the Lord Christ in repentance and faith. But most of the world prefers to reject him continually, despising both him and his offer of saving grace. Father in heaven, pour out your Holy Spirit, that people might see the glory of your dearly loved Son and turn to him!

While we pray that fervently, we must face the ways that we his people still reject him. This is ugly, but we must understand this ugliness, in order to turn from it.

  • The Lord Jesus is rejected in the theological systems people build. Our knowledge of God and the story of his glory ought to be built on and formed by the Lord and his work. Yet too often, the church’s viewpoints have been crafted around things like covenants, dispensations, rituals and rules, and church structures. I am glad for a few recent books about seeing Christ in the whole Bible, but most fall woefully short in presenting the Bible in line with the Lord of glory.
  • The Lord Jesus is rejected in the way we worship. Someone will object, “But we sing about Jesus in our songs and say, ‘in Jesus name’ when we close our prayers.” Yes, I know that, and I also know that most cannot explain what ‘in Jesus name’ means. Worse still, Christ is our high priest and mediator (1 Timothy 2:5; Hebrews 8:1; 9:11; etc.), but we do not consciously worship the living God through him. When was the last time that your church was called to worship God through Jesus Christ our mediator? Jesus is the latest forgotten member of the Trinity.
  • The Lord Jesus is rejected in our goals and purposes, both individually and corporately. I’m not talking about church mission statements, which are crafted by people who know they ought to say such things like, “Our mission is to make followers of Jesus Christ.” I’m speaking of the attitude of the local congregation. Too often, a church caters to the whims of church shoppers that want their perceived needs satisfied. We ought to say and to mean, “We gather to make you think like Christ, have his attitudes, and make choices that express his glory and goodness.” Philippians 2:1-11 might be preached and admired, but it is rarely performed.
  • The Lord Jesus is rejected in our love. Listen to what Jesus himself said to the church at Ephesus long ago. Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken the love you had at first (Revelation 2:4 NIV). It is one thing to sing, “O come, let us adore him.” It is another to adore him with the choices you make. Will we choose to love Jesus today in our hearts and way of life? He desires our love, and he wants us to share his love with others. Let us return to him today.

Grace and peace, David

A Good Restart

DSCN38002 Chronicles 14:1-15

Along with our thoughts on the psalms, we will also do a short series from 2 Chronicles on the reign of Asa, king of Judah. Asa was David’s great-great grandson; his reign began 60 years after David’s ended. He is listed as a good king of Judah. Asa’s reign divides neatly into three periods: his early years, a middle period of peace and progress, and the final six years of steep decline. Today, we will look at his good start as ruler of God’s people. And let us recall that all of this is written for our instruction. For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. (Romans 15:4 ESV; cf. 1 Corinthians 10:11).

Asa’s reign began with repentance and return to the true worship of the Lord (14:1-5). It will help us to know the setting of these early years of Asa’s reign in Judah (14:1). He came to the throne after years of spiritual decline during the later years of Solomon and the reigns of Rehoboam and Abijah. As we consider this decline, it makes us ask, “How did the southern kingdom of Judah sink into such a condition?” Part of the answer lies in the passage of time; it is about 40 years after the midpoint of Solomon’s reign. A generation has passed since the building of the temple. Grace does not pass from parents to children. Godly parents may have spiritually apathetic children and godless grandchildren. Mostly, this spiritual condition sprang from the reintroduction of idolatry into Israel from Solomon’s many wives. The people were led astray from the Lord. Although their way of life was not good, God gave Judah a time of peace. Peace is a great blessing, and we ought to praise God for every day of peace we enjoy. God provided a young man with an opportunity to concentrate on the true worship of the Lord his God (cf. 14:6b). I make an appeal to our younger readers. Use your days of youth to serve the Lord. Everything you do by grace through faith when you are young can be a building block for greater service later. Hours of worship, prayer, Bible reading, and meditation provide resources that you can draw upon when you have less strength and are much busier.

Asa led his people in through repentant actions (14:2-5). A godly world and life view produces godly actions. When the Lord brings you to know the truth, he wants your way of worship to be transformed to agree with the Bible. We live in a day when people assume that worship style and forms are ruled by human pleasures and preferences. Yes, I know that one aspect of worship flows out from who we are, but the other aspect must be what the living God desires. A worship service is not to satisfy the felt needs of those present. “I like…” or “I don’t like…” are heard far too often in most churches. What does God like?

Asa had to remove false worship from his kingdom. First of all, this meant getting rid of the worship of false gods. The people had sunk deep into spiritual and sexual sin. The “sacred stones” were fertility gods, and Asherah was the supposed wife of El, the chief god. Worship of fertility gods involved sexual immorality. Asa also had to remove the incorrect worship of the living God. During the old covenant, the people were to bring all their offerings to the tabernacle or later the temple. But from the time of Eli, they had started to offer sacrifices on high places. This was contrary to what God had ordered; God was not pleased by this false worship. In the new covenant, all our worship must only be through the Lord Jesus Christ on the basis of his finished, once for all sacrifice. This is why we pray in Jesus’ name to the Father, and not to anyone else or on account of anyone’s merits but Christ’s; for example, wrongly assuming that fasting on some supposed holy day or during a holy season gives you a better position with God.

Asa had to reestablish a proper old covenant relationship with God. So he commanded them to seek the Lord (not other gods) and to obey God’s laws and commands (regulations about both the way of worship and the way of life). Consider Deuteronomy 4:29-31, 39-40.

Again, this requires us to live in God’s presence in Christ and his better covenant. Every part of our life and worship must be in Christ, with Christ, for Christ, and through Christ.

Grace and peace, David