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MORALS AND SPIRITUALITY FOR MAN
IN RETROSPECT, IN PROSPECT, IN BOLD RELIEF
There are in Kings and Chronicles, in the Bible
enormous stretches of historical data which are INTERPRETED
as to the ways of man and of God, and the result!
Several Kings in Judah and Israel
are excellent targets for investigation,
to find and indeed see principles of participation of man
in the world God made, and man mars.
Indeed, Israel as one whole
provides a massif of exemplification.
It shows brilliantly the ways of the Lord with our race, and it witnesses to mankind
as a select test might to a scientist, a controlled experiment,
for the call, commission, remission, rebuke, overthrow, restoration
and coming deliverance of Israel,
already in great part accomplished, but humanly hanging by a thread
though divinely guaranteed,
is before our eyes.
Moreover, as it has come in the
precise predicted pattern,
so that our eyes can see what is yet to be, as we seek to discern more clearly
the moral kind of calling for man,
amid God's spiritual creation, the reality of human responsibility.
We shall start with the last, Israel, and then proceed to more particular personalities as shown in the books of Kings and Chronicles, before finding what we see, and covering the situation more broadly from these sublime sources, and historical happenings, so many eminently testable, in that book of the Lord, the Bible. It is this which alone stands up logically to investigation as to its validity and verification, among all that man has in terms of the word of the living God. Indeed, it even is demonstrably His, who is exhibitable as demonstrably there, as well as operationally performing what He predicts.
(cf. SMR, TMR
The gods of naturalism have no go!
Scientific Method, Satanic Method and the Model of Salvation
The Meaning of Liberty and the Message of Remedy,
Light Dwells with the Lord's Christ
Deity and Design
Scientific Method, Satanic Method and the Model of Salvation).
TERMINAL VELOCITY FOR ISRAEL,
TIMELY ADVICE FOR ALL, NOT ON THINGS POLITICAL BUT FINAL
Recently, there was on News Radio (November 3, 2007), a presentation on the topic of religion as taking back a major focus in the world. About 1/3, it averred, of the world professes to be Christian, some 21% Moslem and so on. But why was this new focus arising ? It was partly of course the Islamic use of force from their numbers, newly re-focussed, partly Hindu nationalism and so on. As to the Middle East, where of course the situation is even if possible more obvious, there is a dispute about land, said the speaker, and religion enters in.
If ever there was a missing of priorities, it was here. The ‘dispute about land’, even if you think of it in terms of whether as in the Bible, God gave the West Bank to Israel, or as in the mind of various men, something different was done by some invention called Allah, one who does not bother, it would seem, to show his power by his actions, or his truth by any verifications and who must therefore be left in the realm of the productions of false prophets in terms of the Bible’s predictions (Matthew 24:24), as indeed of scientific method: it is not a land matter primarily. It is a matter of who is God and who is a false prophet. ALL else is merely derivative.
This is a religious matter, always has been and will be; for the documents of the case bear no comparison, the Bible only being verified and validated continuously in all things, and not least in this very Middle Eastern arena. So great is the propaganda, whether for religious purposes or for 'world peace' by pillorying Israel again, since it is MUCH smaller than the Islamic hordes and vast land masses and has little oil, and MUCH more easily contained (God apart, which of course He is not, but this trifle is often forgotten in the muddle of non-truth which passes as dissertation): that many might think that this itself is mere propaganda. It is not.
It is fact. God said that Israel would be chastened cumulatively for its sins, eventually removed from its land for a long period, would kill the Christ when He came and abhor Him, that He would rise from the dead and it gave the Gospel in advance in terms of which His word would travel the world, spoke of the return of Israel, its victories in disproportionate wars, its failure even then to believe in its own crucified Christ, the continuation of all but unbearable tensions in the Middle East and the arising of powers of determination and thrust to settle the matter once for all, with God's response also itemised, with catastrophic results for many. Nothing on earth matches that. It is quite simple (cf. SMR Ch. 9). It is a predictive series now nearly complete, sequence, now fact.
God has done what He said, and as former Malaysian President Mahathir declared, it is astonishingly unsatisfactory (in his view) for 50 years or so to have past with Israel still very much alive and active and uncontained. As seen in SMR pp. 829ff.,that is simple verification. Similarly, Muhammad, though citing as righteous the Jewish prophetic line, is hideously and rampantly contrary to their major thrust, and hence invalidated (cf. SMR pp. 1080ff.). You can kill or emote, but facts remain. Where the Bible is concerned, they always do; that is why it has its place, loved by some, hated by many, but impervious to all assault.
This focus on Israel, which appeared in the dissertation on the radio, and in the gun sights of much of Islam, as in the Pan-Islamic Conference of 1991 which pondered its destruction, and in the words of the President of Iran, which say rather more and not less! this is not new. The wrath and froth of the nations was earlier aroused, and God even used it in the discipline of Israel, as shown in Jeremiah 30, today's text. God foretold moreover the eventual return of His people to their land, as was formalised as late as 1948, an event in the last days, to move on to the Messiah.
It is not really Israel, ultimately, but God. It is not that Israel is great, but God; it is not that Israel is to be vindicated (it has in much done woefully, but in some other things splendidly), but God's word concerning it will be. It is all really an affront to, attack on, assault upon God, in spirit as much as in the case of Calvary. It is, this time, Gentiles of one kind or another (defined as non-Jews) who are the focus of attack on the Lord, as they peck at His word, as if blind, and wonder at the predicted results of turmoil and confusion, which duly HAVE COME TO PASS. Hence this is one of the key points in the News item on the new forefront for religion in international affairs.
We will move into a realm of analogy, that of speeding: ‘the speed that thrills is the speed that kills,’ and follow an imaginary court case resulting, while applying this to ourselves, our world and God's Gospel of grace.
I THE SPIRITUAL SPEED THAT KILLS AND LEADS TO CONVICTION
Before the calamities are outlined in Jeremiah 30, the Lord indicates the result in due time, that the soon to be exiled people would be brought back to their own land (30:3). But in the meantime, WHY, asks the Lord, does He see every man with his hands on his loins, and all faces pale - it is like a woman taken with child labour pains. Indeed, Jeremiah brings the future near and judgment close, indicating a DAY OF JACOB'S TROUBLE, "for it is great"! “But he will be saved out of it” (30:6-7). Deliverance from that searing scourge will be sure, God will deliver Israel from fiery foreigners, and the nation will at last under this liberating hand of the Lord, serve the Messiah, "David their King" ( 30:9, as in Psalm 72, 2, 110). This has yet to be, when in His power and regality, He will deliver them from their enemies and break their yokes imposed for so long as they are scattered among the nations (30:16-17,20,24, cf. 33:11-16).
Indeed, Israel's coming to their New Covenant (Jeremiah 31:31ff.) is also yet to come. Yet the conditions are ripe, the furies of the nations are ready for His action (as in Ezekiel 38-39) and what has transpired since 1948 is what has been prescribed by Zechariah 12, as a prelude to the vast, national recognition of Jesus Christ the crucified, as their Messiah, Lord and Saviour, yes the God of Israel whom they pierced when He came (Micah 5:1-3), from eternity to time to endure the impact of sin to secure the result of salvation (Isaiah 53). The prelude, not only in the return of Israel to its land (as indicated in Luke 21:24 and here in Jeremiah as in Isaiah 42, Micah 7), but in its horrid suffering before the blessing culminates, is now in place.
What then is that terrible day of vast tragedy which was to hit Israel before the Messiah at last came (Jeremiah 30:9,23-24), when stark horror would rule in an unparalleled manner ? It is not hard to see its infamous and inglorious name. It is the Auschwitz, of the death camp matter of killing around half of Jews in the world, in ways as carefully sought out by their captors, as a scientific experiment. What power the Jews had obtained in their scattered state throughout the world at that day, that their destruction should occur at the hand of a demagogue by the name of Hitler, and to such an extent! This day of trouble, it is GREAT indeed! (Jeremiah 30:5-7).
So had many in Israel achieved real progress in Europe, only to be ditched in this ONE MORE shameful assault, crowning centuries of affliction, precisely as Leviticus 26 and Deuteronomy 32 had foretold from Moses. Harden your neck often, and your destruction comes, says Proverbs 29:1.
"He who is often rebuked and hardens his neck will be destroyed suddenly,
and that without remedy!"
we read. Mercifully, the remedy for Israel, being selective for the remnant (Isaiah 11:11), is as extensive as the Gospel (Jeremiah 31:31ff., Isaiah 49:6, 42:6, Jeremiah 19-21) which is to all people by what might be called an amnesty, based on mercy, expressed in sacrifice in the temple of the body of Christ (Isaiah 52:12ff.). Only direct divine action could produce this remedy for Jew or Gentile, obliterating the irremediable in the Remedy that is God in His own Being, wrought in this same Messiah of Jeremiah 30:5ff., Isaiah 49-55, freely.
But what of the fall of Israel before the God whom they crucified in the format of flesh, and the years since, for that nation ?
It is in one sense like falling, from a high craft in the upper air, until you increase to your terminal velocity. Here your mass in wrought on by gravity, and in due course the wind resistance is such that you reach the fastest you can go. It is in the spiritual sense, terminal in both regards: it is a fall so fast it could go no more, and its end is sure! It is so unless of course a parachute of grace opens when the air moves fast past you as you fall further down, and there is an ABRUPT HALT to the furious decline because you are born up, and let down gently.
Yet it is not air but the word of God which alone can buoy you up, since His power is on promise and His offer is in grace, and it is founded by pardon in peace from repentance with the SORT of faith which SIMPLY RECEIVES His grace without addition (Matthew 18:1-3), His blood offering without other fluids (Galatians 1, 3), His pardon freely (Romans 5:15, Isaiah 55) and His resurrection as the ground of faith that never moves (Romans 10:9, I Corinthians 15:1ff., Isaiah 26:19). Israel has already reached that velocity, and God is already intervening before its great day of grace. The Gentile world, as if over-hungry, is seeking to replace her with great effort; yet individuals have the opportunity to avoid both disasters and receive the Lord by faith through grace NOW.
Thus Israel is not alone in this predicament, although scripturally focussed for all to see the accuracy and reliability of the word of God, whether for catastrophe, if you harden, or for good. The Gentile world is now acting as if programmed to parallel Israel's performance in securing the due, deserved and inalienable wrath of God, except His mercy be invoked where it may be found (Isaiah 55). Hindu nationalism, Islamic lust for world domination on the part of many a nation and group, utter intolerance of Israel by seething nations, fearless interference by the Madrid Quartet, playing God without success in the Middle East: these things mean Gentiles are increasingly qualifying as the next recipient of major trouble (cf. Matthew 24:8,22)! The hardening of the neck is in them now apparent abundantly!
Events have come to pass rather suddenly.
A picture in The Advertiser on October 31st., 2007, shows horsemen and memorialises the splendid courage of Australians in a battle in October 31,1917, horsemen against machine guns! which opened the way later for the British to liberate Palestine. So could the Jew freely return to his millenial homeland. Thus came the point for the British Balfour Declaration of 1917, giving this same Palestine to Israel, partly in gratitude for the vastly helpful work of the Jewish explosives' expert, Dr Chaim Weizmann. How different would history have been if this promise had been kept - and note that it later became an international promise on the part of the victor nations, shortly after World War I! Now is trouble...
Hard was the heart that betrayed Israel, in handing 2/3 of this to Jordan around 1920. Hard was the heart in Britain that blockaded Jewish hired vessels, bringing back survivors and more to Israel, after Hitler had been defeated. Harder yet are the hearts that try now to induce Israel to give back part of the Jerusalem they conquered in 1948, 1967, in the face of NO help from the world in the former case! Hard is the way for those who dare to ignore Zechariah 12, and the fact that Jerusalem is to become a heavy stone for those who try to intervene and direct things!
Thus Jeremiah's message to the Israel of his day, which showed in advance the peak point of Israel's persecution, is one applicable to the Gentile world of our time. Indeed, what does Jeremiah 30:16 say of Israel:
" 'Therefore all those who devour you shall be devoured; and all your adversaries, every one of them, shall go into captivity; those who plunder you shall become plunder, and all who prey upon you I will make a prey. For I will restore health to you, and heal you of your wounds,' says the LORD, because they called you an outcast, saying, 'This is Zion: No one seeks her.' "
This is in the very context of the breach of Gentile dominion as the rule of the Messiah becomes apt, relevant and practical to their plight (Jeremiah 30:8-10): it is not for all, but for a substantial remnant that the spiritual result obtains, but the nation is delivered from its habitual enemies, oppressors and invaders, its plunderers who preyed on it shamelessly. The deliverance is from overwhelming power of nations by the supervening, supernal power of the Lord (cf. Deuteronomy 32:34-43, Micah 7). The one is the butt for His power, as Israel was for theirs; the other is His power for His people.
While that was more closely uttered to the Israel of that day, and had a preliminary point, yet it is applicable in principle to the uttermost in the transition time when this same Lord intervenes to rule the world (cf. Isaiah 11), overcoming the prolonged works of others who try to make THEIR discipline 'help' Israel by adding murder and horror, lust and greed as they seek to expropriate more and more of the land from the people, whose enclave in the Middle East, even now, is pitifully small. What great nations are this Madrid Quartet, to seek to make the successful mouse deliver up more of its crumbs to the vast, stomach heavy cat, which eats amply in principle. Alas, America has already suffered once allied with Islam in the USA, and others so conspicuously at the famous Prayer Breakfast of Bush... Is it just that this time it will have companions, unless it relents, not from Islam but from afflicting the true God! (Jeremiah 30:16-17).
Indeed, what would Islam have had to do, to threaten, if TWICE Germany et al., and later Germany plus Japan, had not sought to gain this and that, and so greatly weakened Europe that it has become vulnerable, and will doubtless seek heavily to close the gap. Its time comes (as in Revelation 13, 17-18) when the home-bred antichrist to be in its midst is up for destruction (Daniel 7, Revelation 19 SMR pp. 886ff., 502ff., Biblical Blessings Ch. 1, The Wit and Wisdom of the Word of God ... Ch. 6). Russia helped to precipitate all this by its vast cruel, heartless and fairy-tale philosophy (cf. News 98, SMR pp. 925ff.) so that all clashed in vain, to make way for what is far worse than any! the very spirit of fraud in god-affirming format! (cf. II Thessalonians 2:4ff.). The precursors were clothed in symbols: this becomes direct!
II THE DAY IN COURT
We return from application of these things, to Israel itself, set in the spiritual sights of the prophet Jeremiah. Thus God declares of Israel, as He specifies its judgments to come, "There is no one to plead your cause … you have no healing medicines." It is like the day in court after being convicted (cf. John 16:8ff.), of speeding! Yet there is One in Court, the Judge of all men whose day comes swiftly (cf. Acts 17:31). In fact, Israel's return to Jerusalem after the crucifixion is one of the chief indications of the nearness of Christ's return (cf. Luke 21:24).
How many feel much the same as beleaguered Israel! They are caught in court, without shelter, merit or feature, only dependent on mercy! Amazingly, in fact before the mercy of God, it is PRECISELY then that there is hope. "Behold," says God in Jeremiah 3:35, "I will plead My case against you, because you say, 'I have not sinned.' " Mercy is not for mouthings but for repentance. How lovely that it is by promise given in Jesus Christ rather to him who pounding his chest cries, "God have mercy on me a sinner," than to the one who in uplifted pride and self-importance thanks God he is not as other men (Luke 18:9ff.)!
Repentance FROM sin (Luke 13:1-3) INTO life (Acts 11:18) if like knocking on the door. It will come to Israel soon (Zechariah 12:10-13:1); it must come soon to any, for the time is short now the pattern is complete (Luke 21:28ff., cf. Answers to Questions Ch. 5).
III THE BARRISTER COMMISSIONED
Finally, let us note, in Jeremiah 30:21, the amazing expression of the divine commission of Christ, the Messiah - rather like that found in Revelation 5:1-6, where only Christ is good enough and potent enough to take the scroll of coming history and open it: without HIM, it would have been all horror; because of Him, mercy is entwined in the roots of the tree and brings life where the sap goes. Hence being merciful, He takes this sealed scroll of coming events, opens it and so earth history moves to its end.
" 'For who is this who pledges His heart to approach Me ?' says the LORD.’ ”
It is He whom God will cause to draw near, the governor in their midst, the Incarnate Christ, the crucified One (as in Philippians 2). In Jeremiah 50:44, you have a similar question posed regarding the LACK of any shepherd to safeguard Babylon's interests, for NONE can withstand the Lord who acts to devastate it. Teaching is by contrast.
Thus, here, it is the LORD Himself, who comes! In victorious humility (as in Zechariah 9:9), and having as there salvation, He comes to govern. It is He who not only is acceptable, but is CAUSED to draw near, exactly as in Daniel 7:13 - "they brought Him near..."
HE is MOST acceptable (as in Isaiah 41:28-42:7), for indeed He delights in Him. He comes in flesh as His beloved servant, the One born of a virgin (as in Isaiah 7, Jeremiah 31:22, Isaiah 40,42,49-55), an eternal delight (cf. Proverbs 8, John 17), so that it is HE who is Almighty God, incarnate from the Trinity (as in Isaiah 48:16), who is the acceptable SHEPHERD. It is He who comes. When He rules, it is for one and for all, whoever will, and whoever will not, that one is not of His flock (cf. Isaiah 26:10), and if his heart remains obdurate, yet Christ's rule comes to the once so sullen and ebullient earth (like a bipolar patient) to bless it, both in power and in pastoral felicity (cf. Micah 7, Isaiah 11, Psalm 72). In this glory to Jew and to Gentile, to this earth, it forms a prelude of wonder to the new heaven and new earth (Isaiah 65, Revelation 21), where the remnant of Jew and the chosen of the Gentiles are one flock with one Shepherd (Revelation 7:1ff.,14ff.)
What power is here, what protection comes. Indeed the very Redeemer Himself will come in person (as in Zechariah 14:5). It is THIS God who IS sufficient for our every need, to pardon, empower, enlighten, envelop in kindness and cultivate us like soil, that we bear much fruit in the sunshine of His heartening presence: He in the Father and we in Him, in His glowing radiance and kindness, both vast and intimate.
It is He who as in I John 2:1-2, is the barrister in court, it is He who pays by His own blood (as in Hosea 13:14, Isaiah 53, Ephesians 1:7), who IS the ransom (Matthew 20:28, Psalm 22,49), who in redeeming both denotes the cost by the very blood of His veins, and the love by the willingness to have them broken. It is He who having come near, goes far by His Spirit to find His own.
It is He who makes history move and salvation occupy the hearts of His people, each one in Zion appearing on an individual basis before God! (Isaiah 44:1-5, Psalm 84:7). It is He who makes many of the Gentiles rejoice with His people (Deuteronomy 32:43). Remember, he who believes in Him does not make haste, for HE goes before you (John 10, Isaiah 28:16).
We turn now to King Jehoshaphat, from the book of Chronicles, to find what moral and spiritual dimensions, historically expressed, the Lord has for our minds and hearts, to follow, pursue, find.
INPUTS, OUTPUTS AND OUTREACH
II Chronicles 17-21
Jehoshaphat was a great king. To be sure, he became rich, his children were too, and one of them killed the others (II Chronicles 21:4). There is a message in that. Their upbringing included such choice morsels as their father marrying the daughter of one of the most dissolute characters of all time, Ahab of Israel; and worse, that whole country had formal idols in gold, calves, an ironic reference INSTEAD OF FAITH to the follies of their hearts' lingering leaving of Egypt.
That would not help the kids. Again, this rich king Jehoshaphat gave great gifts to his children, not always wise; and worse again, he actually joined his father-in-law in a battle in which, quite justly, he nearly lost his life. If you play with snakes, you tend to get bitten. But we'll come to all that.
For the moment, we simply want to note that this King as we read in 19:4, was zealous in outreach, going to the mountains of a neighbouring country (the northern segment of original Israel, which retained the name 'Israel'). He went out among the people of a vast range in the territories of Israel and brought many back to the Lord. What a work for a king! What a great king he was, to take so seriously the power and peace of all who know Him...
That was the ultimate outreach, broad and zealous. He set up judges, exhorting them to be just and keen, and to consider well what they were doing. He appointed men to determine controversies. The work of the Lord was to be done in equity and peace, and its scope to be increased. This is what is to be desired, not retraction but expansion of the kingdom, not narrow little programs involving your 'faith' if it is one, but that natural application which betokens a living and a true faith, not the bogus artificiality which James so justly condemns in his epistle.
Jehoshaphat however did not reach this beauty quickly, and on the way there were terrible mistakes, as we saw above, which may well have brought the disaster on his children of one of them after the King died, becoming murderer of the rest. Let us then look well to what we do, to the seed we sow, and avoid compromises and conveniences which are not holy in any field and at any time. Crops tend to come from seed.
It is good for us to see how close to destruction this Jehoshaphat for all his godliness, came in one of his illicit slackness phases.
Ahab, the father in law had told him of a battle he himself had to fight, and Jehoshaphat with an almost mad haste, agreed to fight with him. It is rather like rushing off to fight in Iraq without questioning whose war it is, and why. This is just that tendency for fellowship with what is as far from godliness as idolatry from truth, which you see in many churches today.
These either promote sexual perversion, like the Uniting Church, or tolerate it in its ranks, like the Anglicans, so that the Archbishop of Canterbury had a special communion for people of this persuasion, who are church workers, while the Primate of Australia at one recent time indicated that it is not necessary, if you want God, to come by Jesus: a blasphemy total and antichristian, unbiblical and unfounded. In this, there is nothing short of a declaration of war on Jesus Christ (John 14:6), and yet the Church remain with him, and he with them! … as their Primate. If the skies should fall, would they notice, when the truth lies slaughtered before them, who remain in fellowship as a denomination with a crash attack on Christ! Does light have fellowship with darkness ? asks Paul, as in the verses next noted.
It can be most costly like all disobedience (cf. II Corinthians 6:14ff. I Corinthians 5:9-13, Ephesians 5:1-7, II Corinthians 11, I Timothy 6, II Chronicles 19:2-3, 16:8-9 to which we come shortly, Isaiah 8:20, II John 7-11, and of course Romans 16:17ff., Psalm 94:20-21, II Chronicles 25:6-8). It is not permitted, it is impure, it is putting man's impotent desires above the fruitful ones of God. Indeed, it was only through divine mercy that Jehoshaphat was not killed by treachery during the battle with Ahab at his side, which followed. That would have cut short all his good works, once and for all! To trade on the mercy of God, however, is less safe than playing with uranium, as it is purified for the bomb. God does not like deceptive deviousness and wilful arbitrariness (Proverbs 16:18 - "pride goes before disaster, and a haughty spirit before a fall" - NASV).
Already Jeshoshaphat had been zealous in many practical ways for the Lord (II Ch. 17). Now he is tested. Going then to battle alongside his gross and evil father-in-law, he finds a suggestion. Before they actually fight, the latter tells his son-in-law, this Jehoshaphat, that he for his part will fight in ordinary dress, while his son could fight in full regalia. Obviously, this would distinguish for the enemy a TARGET and probably lead to his being sought and killed, while the plain clothes king, who gained help in his war from an innocent party, his relative, would escape. Play with radioactivity and expect radiation disease; or death. Play with the commandments of God and expect them to work on you!
It was a great mercy alone which saved him, and that through no goodness of his own. As the enemy, seeing their target from his clothes, closed in on him, he cried to the Lord. Here is another lesson. EVEN IF you have done some crazy thing, like continuing in fellowship with a church which is against the word of God in any basic matter or adds to its word, yet in the midst of your troubles, cry to the Lord. OF COURSE separate from it, from the evil, but in the meantime, CRY.
God heard him and delivered him. Indeed, He did more. The evil and ungrateful Ahab who in a very broad sense was simply making use of his son in law, was given his come-uppance. Despite his guile and selfishness, his cunning and heartlessness, God took him. Thus an enemy soldier, deciding to shoot upwards into the heart of the opposing troops (rather an odd thing), did so and it hit Ahab the king. What a coincidence ? Not at all. God knows what he is doing. He knows how to protect his own and expose subtlety. Besides, Ahab had done so much evil, that the time was up. Wounded, he was carried off to die. Jehoshaphat escaped.
There was, however, an input for trouble, despite the deliverance. God does not reward oafishness, though he hears prayer for pardon.
Into this mêlée, now there comes a personal word from God for Jehoshaphat. This, incidentally, reminds us NOT to take lightly what is said or shown to us from time to time. It is altogether too easy to dismiss some sound counsel or advice, because we THINK we have a case covered, or are too sure of ourselves. The listening ear definitely has its points.
In this case, the speaker was the prophet Jehu. Returned from battle, having wrought amiss, Jehoshaphat now faces another battle. This fearless prophet let a word from God penetrate the ear of the king.
"Should you help the wicked and love those who hate the Lord ?
Therefore the wrath of the Lord is upon you. Nevertheless good things are found in you,
in that you have removed the wooden images from the land,
and have prepared your heart to seek God."
What was the response of the King to this daring confrontation from the man of God (whose jugular was as vulnerable as ever) ? We read of it in II Chronicles 19:4, the verse with which we started. This King became EVEN MORE zealous than he had been, even more consistent in his spiritual work, missionary now and with great outreach and he increased his concern for justice.
That was a good answer, that was indeed to bring forth fruits worthy of repentance. Praise God for such a response as that. Instead of mingling with evil, as if it could not hurt him and he could help it in general senses, even among his relatives, he now mingled with good and reached out with it, to extend the very kingdom of heaven. Luke 14:26 puts the point crisply! It stands and many fall on it.
Then, thus prepared, when later Ammon and Moab together decided to attack his land, the southern sector of the original Israel, now called Judah from one of the tribes in it, he was given a role which has gone down in history as one of the most amazing wars of all time. SO does the Lord reward good with goodness, and contrition with counsel.
What did the King do this time, faced with his own foes, but use FAITH and purity of heart as the preliminary in meeting their challenge. This is his prayer.
"O Lord God of our fathers, are You not God in heaven, and do You not rule over all the kingdoms of the nations, and in Your hand is there not power and might, so that no one is able to withstand You? Are You not our God, who drove out the inhabitants of this land before Your people Israel, and gave it to the descendants of Abraham Your friend forever? And they dwell in it, and have built You a sanctuary in it for Your name, saying, ‘If disaster comes upon us—sword, judgment, pestilence, or famine—we will stand before this temple and in Your presence (for Your name is in this temple), and cry out to You in our affliction, and You will hear and save.’
"And now, here are the people of Ammon, Moab, and Mount Seir—whom You would not let Israel invade when they came out of the land of Egypt, but they turned from them and did not destroy them— here they are, rewarding us by coming to throw us out of Your possession which You have given us to inherit.
"O our God, will You not judge them? For we have no power against this great multitude that is coming against us; nor do we know what to do, but our eyes are upon You."
Notice his method. He presents the truth concerning who God is and how great is His power, he reviews the relevant history of the case and God's part in it (if you are a Christian, you should be continually consulting the Lord so that your history is overwhelming precisely what He has given for you to do). He brings up a promise, regarding the temple as a symbol of the presence of God, its patterns depicting the divine name (Christ at last to BECOME the temple and BE the sacrifice for sin needed); and he ASKS God to hear and to judge the unjust neighbours who return evil for good and who are trying to dispossess them of the land which God gave them.
LIFE IS MORE THAN PUT-PUT
The Lord heard. They went to battle with singers in order, praising God and when they reached the site, the enemy had gone because ... they had fought each other, each nation against others in the union of nations invading. Hence Israel found not fighters but booty. They then continued to praise God, and so the nations feared the people whose God could do such things.
Even more, Jehoshaphat in his power, was careful neither to parade it nor rely on it, but to put glory where alone it is. Thus before the battle, did not a prophet, find had liberty to speak to his people, these memorable words:
"Tomorrow go down against them. They will surely come up by the Ascent of Ziz, and you will find them at the end of the brook before the Wilderness of Jeruel. You will not need to fight in this battle. Position yourselves, stand still and see the salvation of the Lord, who is with you, O Judah and Jerusalem! Do not fear or be dismayed; tomorrow go out against them, for the Lord is with you."
I have put in red, as above, the words which are such a stimulus, give such an insight to ourselves today. It is the same God. Position yourselves in HIS side with HIS people to do HIS will and to FOLLOW His WORD, be bold, and rely on the Lord. This is the prelude to exploits such as great and small have done since the Church began, and His people were called.
Life is more than inputs and outputs. It is RELIANCE on the REALITY OF THE LORD. It is action according to His gracious word; it is to trust in Him and follow Him, not as a poetic interpreter of commands, as if DO NOT HAVE FELLOWSHIP with spiritual or physical harlotries meant,
Do as you please, just try to be nice!
It is to stand and fight for the children currently being assaulted daily in schools with vicious anti-Christian propaganda, with neither a cent of truth nor reality in it. It is to love your enemies, but NOT to follow them!
May God give to us a heart that can learn from the life of Jehoshaphat, to follow the good example and avoid the mix! Are we not here to learn, from the Lord, to hear, heed and so!
Otherwise, what is the use of wisdom ? It is then like an antibiotic left on the shelf, though provided freely, it has the power we need.
We turn now to King Asa, a complex and rewarding study in zeal and variability, the praiseworthy and the polluted, as the Lord works in Israel of old. He does not change. His messages apply now.
His case is more complex than that of Jehoshaphat, who therefore serves as a good introduction for a more overall view from these fields of our target of moral and spiritual dealings between man and God, where these are characterised and specified by God in His word, so giving us unique kind of perspective, to collate, one case with another.
But now, let us look back to an earlier King to find some settings of the way, some initial perfumes and repulsive odours, and find the perspective provided by the word of God.
VICE AND LIBERTY
I Kings 15, II Chronicles 14-16 - King Asa as an Example
I Barney with Hanani
What change can be wrought in the heart and mind of man! King Asa of Judah as you see in Kings, was a man of notorious faith, industrious, zealous, moral-minded. He banished the perverts (often found in ritual religious mode), removed his grandmother from the post of Queen because of her indulgence in immoral idolatry, and the image with her, brought dedicated things back into the house of the Lord, initiated reform in a polluted nation. Indeed he built fortified cities in Judah and they had rest, and this he did while speaking of seeking the Lord (II Chronicles 14:7).
Into this realm of righteous rule came Zerah the Ethiopian with a massive army. Asa, bright in peace, was not dimmed in war.
he cried, "it is
nothing for You to help,
whether with many or with those who have no power.
Help us, O Lord our God, for we rest on You,
and in Your name we go against this multitude.
O Lord, You are our God: do not let man prevail against You" (II Chronicles 14:11).
The victory over this vast army was great, and indeed they invaded the area of the attack.
One might have thought that this brilliant beginning to the reign of Asa would mark him as a hero for all time, Yet in I Kings 15, II Chronicles 16:1-5, we see his foolish seeking of help against an aggressive act of Israel to the North of Judah, by asking the pagan Syrian King to help. That king attacked Israel of the North and so delivered beleaguered Judah; but at what cost! Was this not exactly that fellowship and co-operation with the godless in action that was the cause of Jehu, the son of Hanani's rebuke to Jehoshaphat! (II Chronicles 19:2), later in the line of kings.
Indeed, Hanani himself came to Asa after this evil, declaring the result of his faithless action to the erring King, who had taken the easy and culturally clammy way, and did so after earlier finding the power of God to deliver.
"Because you have relied on the king of Syria and have not relied on the Lord your God, therefore the arm of the king of Syria has escaped from your hand."
He could have advanced the security of Israel, but in this way sent a message of dependence, where he ought not depend. It is the triune Lord on whom one depends. He is one Being and not two!
Hanani reminded Asa of the signal way in which the Lord had delivered him in the overthrow of the vast Ethiopian army, and made that beautiful declaration concerning the Lord which enthralls us still:
"For the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth,
to show Himself strong on behalf of those whose heart is loyal to Him."
There was the known path which Asa had ignored in his troubles, and what a challenge that is, that we must never rely on this world and its ways, or our own thoughts, but on the Lord whose thoughts are above our thoughts as the heavens are above the earth, and who has TOLD us what to do (Micah 6:6-8, Isaiah 55).
This Hanani, the prophet added a word to Asa who had succumbed to what is not spiritual, in this major episode, to the damage to his own name and to the results of faith which might have been obtained: "From now on you will have wars" (II Chronicles 17:7-9). Worse, Asa, angered at the prophet, actually put him in prison, and oppressed some of the people. He went off course, like the Challenger space ship in its day, which likewise was dashing off into a realm not given to man (Psalm 115:15-16). It was only from the Lord's mercy that King Asa did not have a similar end to that suffered by that 20th century crew!
However, discipline he did receive, who had so lowered the glory of the Lord and the testimony in Israel, by failing to act in faith at challenge coming from the threatening moves of idolatrous Israel. Alas for him, in the 39th year of his reign, he became diseased in those feet which had so erred, and he died in the 41st year. He himself was ‘imprisoned’ by a failure in his feet! Asa went, but the word of the Lord continued!
As Paul showed, you can imprison the servant of the Lord, the prophet, but not the word of God which is so given (as in II Timothy 2:8-10):
"Remember that Jesus Christ of the seed of David was
raised from the dead
according to my gospel: in which I suffer trouble, as an evil doer, even to bonds;
but the word of God is not bound. Therefore I endure all things for the elect’s sakes,
that they may also obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory."
How sad when someone not only strays, but taking offence at correction, attacks the very servant of God who is sent to help! In the case of John the Baptist, it led to his beheading. But what is it like ? It resembles trying to strangle a surgeon as he seeks to remove a tumour. The prospect from that is not good; nor was the result for Asa good. He had time to repent at leisure at this, his combination of errors and folly. This did nothing to undo the good he had done, but it served as a reminder that sanctification is not to be assumed; it must be sought. If the Lord keeps those who are His (II Timothy 1:8ff., Romans 8:32ff.), yet from discipline, due, deserved and even exemplary, they are not exempt. Therefore let us all humble ourselves under the mighty hand of God, and not be carried away in superficial acts, unbelieving approaches or counter-attacks on grace!
II Asa and Jacob
In sum: Asa made the profound mistake of fighting with God as a baneful episode in his life (II Chronicles 16:10). It followed a slack episode in which he trusted in worldly means for what should have been in the first place, spiritual objectives (16:1ff.). Indeed, godly response to challenge, this was not something new to him, but he fell with success, and became slack with habituation. Complacency is not another name for faith. We who are Christians need to fight, not in order to be saved (already done by the Lord alone, Ephesians 2:5-8), but to be sanctified. We all need as one looks for the upper air after a smog-filled city, to seek God and for the knowledge of His will. Paul declares this, “
Do not be thoughtless, but know what the will of the Lord is” (Ephesians 5:17).
The Greek word here could be rendered perhaps vague, senseless, unreflecting, rash! Wisdom is not like that. It seeks godly knowledge and understanding, not rash human act to settle a matter speedily or simply! Care and prayer is needed, in faithful consultation with His Word, the Bible.
"And everyone who competes for a prize is temperate
in all things.
Now they do it to obtain a perishable crown, but we for an imperishable.
Therefore I run thus: not with uncertainty. Thus I fight: not as one who beats the air; but I discipline my body ..." (I Corinthians 9:24-25).
The horror of the pit can assail a man, because of its putridity, as when he passes a stench which seems at times to enter into one's very being. Hating such things, one avoids them; loving holiness and godly health, he seeks it. So saved, and seeing the pit, one avoids it, since the love and life of God within one, makes it clear and His power enables one (Romans 8:32ff., James 1:5).
Asa had grown slack, like an athlete with flabby muscles; and though declared a righteous king, had a trough in his sine curve, a pit on his premises, and suffered a sustained bout of an inflamed spirit. Consider by contrast, the patriarch Jacob when he wrestled with the angel, and declared, "I have seen God face to face, and my life is preserved" (Genesis 36:22ff.).
Gratitude was his, and not sloth and conceit. Indeed, in this, his famous 'wrestling' with the angel, in the form of a man - as indicative of the incarnation to come, when he was deeply challenged in his life, he worked hard. He acted manfully, being fortified by grace. Searched out in the struggle with the angel, he was touched in the socket of his hip, so that it went out of joint, and he limped thereafter. Better than that dying from intestinal decay! Better have faith’s reward of cleanliness than the income of injustice or the godless guilt of going astray.
Jacob did not repudiate the word of God, but was tested by it. After all, this wrestling happened on the night before he had to meet once more that Esau, his brother, whom he had cheated out of the blessing of his father, by pretending to be he, as his father came near to death. Then, he had fled; but now the meeting was to come, at long last. So do events challenge us which reach us after a time; but if we have been near the Lord, HE is there before us, and though we may have to wrestle free, yet in His mercy, He will not let us be tested beyond what we can bear (I Corinthians 10:13).
In integrity of heart and purity of mind and intention, therefore, let us live with all sincerity before God, for there is none who is not a sinner, and all must overcome. Moreover the peace of His rule and the beauty of His pardon, in the strength of His purchase (Matthew 20:28, Romans 3:23-27), which makes salvation free: these things give grounds for vitality and resource in every spiritual war.
III Asa and War
Let us reflect.
Where did the decline start with Asa ? It was in the triumph of success, the acme of reputation and strength, victory and established rest! Thus fortified by an excellent beginning, he strayed badly. Fancy in all the earth a man of God asking someone who is NOT a Christian, or some government or agency, to HELP him in a spiritual war, a godly matter, a divine duty! Is the devil an ally then ? Imagine, for that matter, anyone staying in a Church where the word of God is not honoured! (Isaiah 8:20, Psalm 94:20-21, II Chronicles 25:7-8,19:2-3, 16:7-9*1).
Is the competitor and adversary an ally then ? Imagine, again, seeking to follow this world's shallow and sallow ways in an emergency, as if to trust in one's own wits or worldly enterprise, and taking counsel in one's own desire! Imagine trusting in this, doing this and not looking to the word and will of God, sought as Jacob sought Him, even if it involves a wrestling of heart and conscience!
What is the good of being a verbal Christian and a vital fraud, equipped with loss or relying on rubble! Why console yourself with rubbish, or regale yourself with atomically radiating waters, when the pure waters from the high and massive mounts and massifs of Christ Himself are available to those who follow His word, ways, witness, truth and covenant! Consider the wisdom given to Jeremiah, the word of the Lord Himself.
"And now what hast thou to do in the way of Egypt,
to drink the waters of Sihor? or what hast thou to do in the way of Assyria,
to drink the waters of the river? (Jeremiah 2:18-19).
"Thine own wickedness shall correct thee, and thy backslidings shall reprove thee:
know therefore and see that it is an evil thing and bitter, that thou hast forsaken the LORD thy God, and that my fear is not in thee, says the Lord GOD of hosts" (Jeremiah 2:18-19).
"For my people have committed two evils; they have forsaken me the fountain of living waters, and hewn them out cisterns, broken cisterns, that can hold no water" (Jeremiah 2:13).
"Will a man leave the snow of Lebanon which cometh from the rock of the field? or shall the cold flowing waters that come from another place be forsaken?" (Jeremiah 18:14).
But let us turn from water to fire, for our God is a consuming fire, as Hebrews informs us. If you want the rubbish act, then is the fire apt.
"They have lied about the Lord,
And said, "It is not He.
Neither will evil come upon us,
Nor shall we see sword or famine.
1And the prophets become wind,
For the word is not in them.
shall it be done to them."
Therefore thus says the Lord God of hosts:
"Because you speak this word,
Behold, I will make My words in your mouth fire,
And this people wood,
And it shall devour them."
The word of God means exactly what He says and His wisdom is precisely what appears. When He says, Go! He does not mean, Come! and when He says, Mark those who depart from the apostolic testimony, He does not mean ignore them; and when He commands AVOID THEM (Romans 16:17, II John, I Corinthians 5-6), He does not mean continue where they preach! Moreover when He says that abiding in His words is the prelude to promises (John 15:7). He does not mean that playing with fire is a wise action, and countermanding His words in a sloppy pseudo-spirituality is the way to go and to be. Says Jeremiah from the mouth of the Lord:
"Even the stork in the heavens
Knows her appointed times;
And the turtledove, the swift, and the swallow
Observe the time of their coming.
people do not know the judgment of the Lord.
"How can you say, ‘We are wise,
And the law of the Lord is with us’?
Look, the false pen of the scribe certainly works falsehood.
The wise men are ashamed,
They are dismayed and taken.
Behold, they have rejected the word of the Lord;
So what wisdom do they have?"
This is precisely the wisdom of Isaiah 8:20. There is no wisdom where the word of the Lord is countermanded, ignored, bypassed, qualified, aborted, replaced, given gussets for other emplacements or made to mix with imported gush. But what shall be said of simply disobeying it and worshipping where it is abused, consorting where it is reviled, having fellowship where it does not rule, pretending that grace is another name for revulsion from truth, or rank rebellion!
Thus in asking Syria, a pagan and idolatrous nation, to help him by paying them money from what should have been for the LORD, King Asa entered into multiple collision with the Lord. Firstly, in this, he was demeaning the name of the Lord. Secondly, he was seeking help from what is weak instead of from Him whose strength has NO limits (as Asa well knew and had seen); and thirdly, he was doing despite to the glory of the Lord by trying to perform a spiritually discerned task, by secular means!
That had been the challenge: Aggression against the people of the Lord, in Judah, was this not an obvious matter for divine aid! Would earthly means suffice ? Is a cigarette paper a good present to a bride, instead of a diamond ring ? and is a form of words a presentation to God, instead of one's very mind and body and spirit as a godly sacrifice, as Romans 12:1ff., and I Thessalonians 5:23 so eminently declare.
It is no superficial spirituality that fits with the Lord, any more than superficial love fits in a marriage, or superficial reliability in a friend! A friend loves at all times, we read; and the friend of God loves HIM at all times; and if at a moment, a man of God errs, then the repentant response is sure and must be soon! Spirituality not only must touch practical life, but inhere in it, like a light in a dark house at night. Is it so hard to love the source of love, and to delight in its great Original, for God is love (I John 4:7ff.), and sent His Son into this world, that many might be saved, as many as received Him. From Him, from His love shed abroad in our hearts (Romans 5:5), love gains force, faithfulness, delight and felicity. It is not impure, but savoury, not gross but seemly, not a parade, but a reality.
In Christ the emphasis is both a joy and a duty: profound spirituality and persistent practicality (cf. James 2). Liberty is not gained from putting Christ's light in prison, but by repelling invasion of vice, of mind, spirit, body by faith - as exemplified in Asa's early and beautiful cry, shown in II Chronicles 14:11.
The sort of true totality of commitment and involvement in the Lord is shown by a more recent illustration. Thus Churchill, the British war-time PM, for years in the 1930s warned and exhorted the British nation to prepare, seeing that Hitler was a menace. It did not. It wanted peace. PM Chamberlain came back from Munich with a paper, signed, in his arm, declaring "Peace in our Time". This was one of the most inept proclamations of all time; for it brought war for years, then a cold war, and now there has come more war from rising Islamic militarists, who desire to grab power after Europe has now long laboured in its woes and wars.
Churchill however, though right in this, was wrong on one vital point. He wanted, he declared, to make things simple and so he found them, since he had but one ambition, to destroy Hitler, that bad man! If, he said, Hitler were to attack hell, he would say a good word about the devil in the House of Commons. To be sure, it is good to have one major objective in life, but it must be comparable to life itself!
It is not for the destruction of this or that, that one must live, with total commitment. It is for CHRIST, who "both died, and rose, and revived, that He might be Lord both of the dead and living" (Romans 14:9). ONE THING, said David (Psalm 27:4), have I desired and THAT I will seek after - "that I might dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to enquire in His temple. In trouble, He will hide me, He will set me upon a rock,” said the King.
Thus not variability, but victory, not vice but liberty comes to make of life a prized possession, held in trust by the Lord, on whom one actually relies, in whom is the height for faith, who from the depth of futility hides, as from the vacuities of what is not worth the sight. In Him is abundant life, for He is the source of it, both to create and to redeem (John 10:10, Colossians 1:15, Galatians 3).
A STUDY IN INVITATIONS
ASKING FOR TROUBLE AND GETTING IT
ASKING FOR MERCY AND FINDING IT
We look at several Old Testament Kings, to help us
the way trouble can be invited, and the astute way it can arrive,
to cover an error or evil. We consider one other, to see how mercy
can engulf the evil, and bring back righteousness.
THE KING THE FAULT - OR REQUEST THE RESULT
Killed son of benefactor
Small Syrian army defeated
Needlessly sought confrontation with Israel, was defeated. Rebuked prophet who reproved him (25:15-16) for taking false gods, and so it was foretold that he would be destroyed.
Fled but his servants killed him;
Exalted himself in the Temple (26:16), acting as a priest in his own right and name (since priests were but types of Christ the high priest to come, this was pride indeed!).
He gained leprosy while in
Expert in equivocation, master in mischaracterisation, declined one of the greatest offers of all time from the Lord, and instead decided to rely on the gods of a nation which defeated him, in his dissidence (Syria)
Instead of finding the
Leading the land into
passing children through pagan fires in extreme cruelty
In THIS CASE, when he had been
beaten at war and taken to Babylon
as a captive, he earnestly sought
the mercy of the living God
against whom he had offended
so hideously, and being pardoned,
was returned to Jerusalem.
Then he removed idols,
repaired the altar and made
thank offerings and peace offerings,
transforming his testimony.
(II Chronicles 21)
Morally, the case of Jehoram is instructive; for as he suddenly killed, in amazing dereliction of family feeling, of thankfulness for the godly life and ways of his father and for the immense gifts he had given him materially, so he slowly died from bowel disease. It was as if he would act in lust and longing for greatness, and find the action ricocheting to give him just his deserts, in littleness both as a military leader and a physiological disaster area.
(II Chronicles 23-24)
Here is glamour in godlessness, the contrast of the inward and the outward, the case of someone delivered as a child, groomed as a man (by his spiritual protector and indeed physical defender, the priest Jehoiada), one who for a time under tutelage acted as a seemingly godly king, and a wreck when governing alone.
Indeed, he became a murderer in the follies of his evacuated heart, not only in the mass through foolish war, of many of the young of his country, a thing some other misled kings might do, but the killer in a select case, as well. When Jehoiada, that priest who for so long was his protector, that quasi-father to him, was at long last gone from this world, his real son faced a task. Apostasising on an extravagant scale after Jehoiada's death, Joash's idolatries and imported images became a matter of transformation. Saved from death in an earlier rebellion by Jehoidada in a way most remarkable for resolve and courage, he now abused the office to which this enabled him to cme. He had been made king by kindness! He acted in folly, not with the favour received.
Not only was this so, but SEVERAL prophets indeed progressively warned Joash concerning his foolish waywardness. As King, it affected not only himself, but many of his subjects. There was a kind of kindness, of protraction of appeal to him, in all this; but his heart hardened.
Zechariah, the son of Jehoidada warned the former ward, now King, Joash,
Indeed, we find that God Himself became exceedingly decisive and incisive with him, then; and that His Spirit came on this same Zechariah, whose murder Christ mentioned as an example of the sins which progressively came on an unrepentant Israel (as a nation) in His own day.
"Why," asked Zechariah, of this King Joash, "do you transgress the commandments of the Lord, so that you cannot prosper ? Because you have forsaken the Lord, He also has forsaken you."
A conspiracy, a royal one such as some assert related to Princess Diana, came about. In this ancient case, it was not what some imagine, but what actually happened. The conspiracy went on to its evil flower at the COMMAND of King Joash. Imagine a king conspiring against someone in his realm. What an unregal act! Here was a subversive extraordinary, an insurgent in the moral realm, a victory for vice; for what had happened was this, that the external ruler should be an internal fraud. The King was a killer, a conspirator, a subversive sovereign, an illegal lawmaker.
How is authority abused, and how much is the disgrace of superabundant grace, shown to him in the past, turned to its full horror!
What was the result of this unregal but kingly conspiracy ? It was this.
They stoned Zechariah, as though he were a false prophet. Secondly, they actually dared to do it in the "court of the house of the Lord", a sacred place, one providing for the ostensible religion of the State! Thirdly, they stoned the son of the one who had saved the child, Joash as he then was; and fourthly, they stoned him in the very precincts where his delivering father had worked, indeed in the site of the place of mercy. It was like killing a child in the Save the Children offices.
Thus did apostasy, ingratitude, sharper than a serpent's tooth as Shakespeare has it, sophisticated pretence and blatant evil combine in a surgical slaughter of the most eminent kind. Morality was put aside as in many nations now, where males may marry or sexually group together in inglorious gregariousness, that cannot produce children, except by further distortion or needless departure from what God has provided by His own nature. The Bible is multiply explicit in condemning (in the Old Testament to death), these design-snouting practices, these assaults on the God of the Bible, the word affirmed by Jesus Christ (cf. I Timothy 1:10, I Corinthians 5:10-11, 6:9, Leviticus 18:22-24, 20:13).
Romans 1 spells this out of simply ONE of the multiple vices arising when man who knew God, makes gods of what is not God, and so becomes inveterately foolish (1:17-24).
The TYPE of the thing is found here in Romans, not only in its spiritual setting, where before is unbelief, and afterwards the whole arena of social iniquity and vanity, but in the specific illustration of lesbianism, where woman are seen "exchanging the natural use for what is against nature", while men commit "what is shameful," from a "debased mind". It is one thing to commit the fraud of naturalism, worshipping the stone and the bone which have no power to make themselves (Jeremiah 2:27), and this is the very acme of folly (cf. Evidence and Reality ... Ch. 5, The gods of naturalism have no go!); but it is quite another to despise the actual channels which God having made, are there to function!
This moves in a forbidden realm, which overall gets mixed with what is in many ways wrong, such as is illustrated in
"all unrighteousness, sexual immorality, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness"
where people come to be
"full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, evil-mindedness". They become "whisperers, backbiters, haters of God, violent, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things,
disobedient to parents, undiscerning, untrustworthy, unloving, unforgiving, unmerciful".
Such is the bag which the departure from the living God provides (1:18-21), with perversion of spirit, mind and body all part of what becomes an increasing apparent social ensemble.
This is the teaching in the word of God, and this is the sight in the society of man; and it is so prominent, so conspicuous that it is almost as if man was trying hard to justify the word of God by doing in increasing numbers, now this, now that, now in larger and larger segments, now in this person or group, now in that, precisely what God foretold of this overall error.
Does not our generation, even in some bodies still called churches - though of what there is a question, show a similarity of a sort to the action of Joash on Zechariah ? Thus in the very site sacredly sanctified for the ways of the Lord Jesus Christ, there is approbation of sexual perversion, persons preaching in pulpits openly so practising, while the things of authority become the scenes and scenario for rebellion, biblically defined.
What then was the reward of Joash ? There was a reversal to match his reversal of moral righteousness and spiritual duty.
The Lord enabled in Joash, a reversal of the military norm as you see it in Jehoshaphat in particular.
We need to review a little to see this in perspective. Thus there was power given to the nation of Israel, called by God to invade the land against which it was sent in judgment, as in the amazing day of Joshua. After they had done this, sins unsublime helped them go through periods of disgrace, as shown in the book of Judges, and beyond; and what a consummation of it there came to be, summed up as a moral rehearsal in II Chronicles 37, II Kings 17. There was affliction or even exile.
This shows the cause and effect relationship over time, where God with much patience waited, until the end came. It has one relationship to a tennis match: if someone is constantly just managing to return certain balls with spin and depth, and just hitting the edge of the line in returns, there is likely to come a time when the opponent, whose shots well clear the net and the lines, a result obtained by constant practice, will win; and this may come suddenly indeed.
So it was with Israel as seen in the two references above. The opponent, sin, won at this time, and Israel lost; and in the end, for some 1900 years, it lost Israel! It was dispossessed as foretold in Leviticus 26! What a contrast to the victories!
Yet as so clear in the case of Jehoshaphat, where they had victory with prayer and praise as they proceeded to battle, the principles crisply stated and faithfully proclaimed, it is sin which reduces a nation, righteousness which exalts it.
As the triumphant victory of King Jehoshaphat was notorious impactive, remarkable and even unique, so was the reverse clear with Joash. As godly kings in godly ways were waiting, in their own day, on the God of truth, salvation and exemplification as the day of Christ drew ever nearer, power for spiritual pursuit to protect the people was amply present, and shown with delightful clarity! Many found this to their delight.
With Joash, however, the Lord expressly saw to it that a large army of this King was defeated by a little army of Syrians. If you are nominal only, what do you expect of your protection in the path of service ? Is a nominal soldier given munitions ? Only if his superiors do not know.
Not only so, as this ward of Jehoiada the priest, had arisen to take the life of the son of the priest's household, after the father's death, so the servants of the king, Joash, arose to take his life when he was wounded. Instead of tender care of the wounded warrior, he got the death sentence from the hands of servants. As he had stabbed morality, so it stabbed him; as he had provoked principles, so they were invoked against him.
How very long the Lord waits sometimes, before judgment arises, even in this earthly scene, a mere prelude, as the Bible so constantly affirms, to what is to come. In the very initial case of the invasion of Canaan, because of the sins of the people, which as Ras Shamra shows, were indeed of an outstanding virility, there had been a wise deferment of what came. God exhorted, stressed, illustrated, send prophets, different forms of message (cf. Hosea 12:10). They did not heed in the end. Israel eventually was dispossessed, and even though (as in Section A above), they have come back as in the mercy of God was forecast (cf. Luke 21:24), yet with what squandering of resources, what pain, what anguish has their anti-Messianic path (for Jesus is He) been found! Did not Zechariah 12:10 with Isaiah 49:7, not to mention the rest of Isaiah to follow, make it eminently clear that they would do this! Were they not warned ...
In the case of Canaan, itself, to go back to the earlier times of the invasion, God did not act quickly. Quite to the contrary did He deal.
It was only after a delay in the mercy of God for 400 years, a patient time for repentance - Genesis 15:12-17, that the invasion in its categorical judgment, came on that strenuously sinning people of Palestine as it now is.
Of this we read in Genesis 15, for at the time of the Lord's speaking to Abram (name of his before Abraham), He indicates that time must pass before the entry to the land, because as to its inhabitants of that day of Abraham, "their iniquity of the Amorites is not yet complete". It was only when all restraint abandoned, all hearing finished, all time ripe, did God act.
There is a time for action, and for mercy, and there is in much, almost a rhyme, of cause and effect as it is trifled with, though sometimes, so complex are the tissues of evil, so manifold the purposes of principles and the intricacies of many things operating jointly, that it is not seen. Yet often enough it is trumpeted as in the Spanish Armadas, the result for Hitler, the demise of the USSR, the weakening of the USA as it dips far from its foundations, and some of its churches increasingly provide the statistics of unbelief.
However, what now is given focal concentration in the books of Kings and Chronicles - where the divine decisions are express and so seen in these books which act in this as moral handbooks: this will be perfected in times to come (Proverbs 11:31, 12:38, Ecclesiastes 3:17, Acts 17:31).
Moreover, as the day of the end of this our Gospel Age comes near, the moral provocations and incessantly rising moral results are not only increasing, but doing so in parallel to the predictions. It is a case of divine diagnosis of sin, prognosis of its results INTERNATIONALLY, just as much was given as we have seen above, in the normative case of Israel NATIONALLY (Section A above). It is a case of our ability now to witness both of these as the foretold end is furnished, to complete the foretold beginning (cf. SMR Ch. 8).
(II Chronicles 25)
With Amaziah, we seem to come to what is close to being a family failing. It is perhaps that strange mixture of initiative and drive, pride and ambition, loyalty and zeal which can constitute a sort of mirage of righteousness. It is not a simple case at all. The zeal here is genuine, as is the drive; but the uplifting of the spirit comes at this or that time with disastrous results on stand-by!
Uzziah, number 4 below, will be seen to be just as conspicuous in a singular, public and munificently foolish addition to things that started as excellent. It is like mould on fruit, or on roses. If the roses or fruit were not there, then the blight of mould could not defile them; but they are as assuredly there as is the mould.
Amaziah "did what was right in the sight of the Lord, but not with a loyal heart" (25:2). Here the twin dangers of externalism and formalism together conceivably even with sacramentalism, concur (cf. Questions and Answers 2 ).
However, this did not clearly appear at the outset. Indeed, in much he did well. Firstly, he did not execute the children of those who killed Joash, the preceding King; but spared them in terms both of mercy and justice (cf. Ezekiel 18 and Deuteronomy 24:16). Restraint featured here, since a vindictive streak in those days, could well have manifested itself, for reasons of family feeling on his OWN part; but it did not. The word of God ruled him.
Further, externally, he did well also, organising defence; but he exceeded, lacking sufficient sensibility in terms of spiritual principles. How did he do this initially ?
The apostate Israel, to the North, without the Temple but instead with golden calves as idols, was his source for hiring no less than 100,000 proficient soldiers. He should have realised, as should Jehoshaphat in his day, that you do not help the enemies of the Lord or mingle in your pursuits at the spiritual level (cf. II Chronicles 19) - and Israel itself had a spiritual task as a nation (Isaiah 43:21).
For this fundamental failure to separate the sacred and the profane, Jehoshaphat nearly lost his life, as we saw in Section B above. In the present case, this notorious fact should have been realised, even if the principles were not all separately conceived! How diligently the Lord had warned them not to mix with the peoples of the land they were to occupy, in the day of Moses and Joshua; and how they had paid for ignoring this cultural clamp, and letting the polluted potions flow, if you will, into their own blood. To seek a transfusion at that time, from Israel in its blatant and official idolatry, was like asking for blood from a patient with known pollution from AIDS, as a donor for a blood transfusion.
Purity is what it is, and vulnerability is what it is also; so that rank pretence that nothing matters is the same as virtually disowning the Lord.
Accordingly a man of God (II Chronicles 25:7) told King Amaziah to let these hired soldiers, these servants go. Despite the loss of money in the ill-conceived hiring, this was the requirement. As an alternative, he could by all means go on and fight with them at his side, but this forbidden military fellowship was such that a word to cover the case came from this man of God to the erring King.
"But if you go," that is, if you despite this warning and this implied principle, go on with these hired servants, these soldiers from the idolatrous nation, go by all means, but know this one thing.
What thing ? This:
"But if you go, be gone! Be strong in battle!
Even so, God shall make you fall before the enemy;
for God has power to help and to overthrow."
The ironic contempt with which the Lord dismisses rebellion for what it is worth, bravado and braggadocio for its arrogant and pretended piety or reckless and needless heedlessness is profound. If you must kill yourself by impaling your folly on the sword of history, then do so! Use power to your very uttermost, initiative and drive, but the Lord Himself will intervene, and secure the sedition of your expedition, the exposure of your unruly ruthlessness and the poverty of your toothless frenzy.
This was the message, and it does not alter for all those who make light of His warnings and fool with His wisdom, whether in the world then, or now, whether in the Middle East then … or now! (cf. Evidence and Reality, The Prince and the Proof Ch. 5, Journey to God or Fantasy’s Flight to the Infernal Ch. 6, Of the Earth, Earthy... Ch. 3).
The King saw the point at this stage.
Amaziah then dismissed them, showing once again a readiness to conform at cost, and it did cost him, as error well may. However, Amaziah had a great victory (25:11ff.), taking many captive.
This Amazing Amaziah however did not fail to take some of the gods of the defeated people, and actually bowed down before them and burned incense to them. Imagine if England, having won against Germany in World War II, had started using the Nazi symbol, the swastika, and the PM had used it in State functions! Apart from the religious side of it, there is the monumental folly of bowing to the beaten nothings of a race astray! Further, it was to insult the God who put them there as a last movement in His long patience, an act of judgment on the moral disaster area that was Canaan. This action of Amaziah was confused and confusing; and God did not let it pass, for indeed, it was an entire pollution of the principles of truth, justice and mercy, judgment and joy which are involved.
A prophet came to speak. We need to note that this is also advising us in retrospect, to LISTEN to those who at times confront us in our errors, and to seek diligently to find whether divine mercy is behind it, rather than mere affront. Humility is a NECESSARY aspect of holiness! We are not gods; and the children of God know this, Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. God made it; we who are His inherit from Him, because it is His and so are we, as in any family, who live in the same house.
"WHY," asked the prophet, "have you sought the gods of the people, which could not rescue their own people from your hand ?" Like it ? With strident sarcasm the amazing Amaziah answered the prophet.
"Have we made you the king's counsellor ? Cease! Why should you be killed ?"
"I know," responded the prophet, "that God has determined to destroy you, because you have done this and have not heeded my advice."
If there were any pangs in Amaziah at hearing this, we do not hear of them. There is a case when pride comes, and wilfulness mixes with guilt; so that if power is to hand, a certain insulation from reality may arise, one which can make life into a kind of delusive dream. So did Amaziah ask for what came.
As his words were rough, so was the answer to come, not this time in words, but with deeds from above. Amaziah, filled with derring-do, which did not, in effect, stop even at God now, confronted Israel to the North, and suggested battle. Now it is important to realise this, that Rehoboam had been warned by God, in the first generation after the separation of Israel into two portions, following the latter day follies of Solomon with false gods. This bad patch toward the end of Solomon's career had come as a result of having so many wives of odd faiths (a lesson in itself in principle, forget the number of them - II Corinthians 6:14).
This son of Solomon in the past history of the land, this King Rehoboam was told from the Lord that he was not to pursue war with the North. The thing had been done, and it was a penalty, and a development from the mind of the Lord. Now however, in a later generation, King Amaziah would take things into his own hands. Power was his, and he would use it.
The Lord even let the King of apostate Israel to the North mock this aggressive King. Sometimes, if soft words do not reach you, astringent ones may do so. Stay at home, now, came the reply from the North. Why should you meddle with trouble ? The King of the North, of Israel, even gave a little parable to Amaziah of Judah, in the South
It went like this.
The thistle in Lebanon proposed marriage to the cedar in Lebanon - 'Give your daughter to my son as wife!' What then ? In the story, the next step is taken by a wild beast which treads down the thistle. Yet Amaziah did not listen either to parable or to appeal. He forced the foolish conflict (a matter appropriate for the mere force of man's might); and he lost badly. Indeed, not only were the lives of the young, sacrificed in this pointless conflict, lost but temple silver and gold were looted. Much therefore wascompromised as much was removed by the victorious king of Israel to the North. He had warned; he had taken; he had won.
After this loss of life and treasure, and indeed holy things signifying the holiness which had in these matters and affairs been betrayed by wilfulness and spiritual blindness in the very face of light offered again and again by different sources, King Amaziah's servants eventually conspired against him.
As if this were not enough, the unpopular king fled from them, to Lachish. There however, in his impotence, brought on by his breach of divine and revealed principles with such blatancy, he was pursued and killed. The death of the king at the hands of his servants was like the death of so many in Judah, young people, soldiers, needlessly sacrificed at the hand of the king who made wholly unnecessary war. Morality not only showed itself with clear and clean face, but it did it in steps, in stages, with deliberate irony and magnificent teaching force!
(II Chronicles 26)
Next came King Uzziah. Had he learned something from the faults of his father ? At his accession, a mere 16 years of age, he was active, like his father, constructive, as had Amaziah been at the first. He reigned 52 years in Jerusalem, a major accomplishment in those days. He built up Elath, and brought it back to Judah. He sought God, in the days of Zechariah the prophet, and. "As long as he sought the Lord, God made him prosper."
In battle, he defeated dangerous and often impinging enemies, such as the Philistines, and built cities in their midst. Surely this was a Judah of joy and order, organisation and address. He was doing what needed doing, and doing it for long. Things prospered, harmony was in the air; for the Lord was doing it for them. Ammonites gave him tribute, and his fame was far-reaching. He built fortifying towers in Jerusalem, and even in the desert, had wells dug, with extension of farming, being a practical man who loved the soil.
His army was impressive, with nearly 400,000 soldiers of various kinds. Armaments were prepared for them, so that they were especially well-equipped. Specialised defence equipment was mounted on the walls of Jerusalem and all seemed extraordinarily good in preparation on all sides.
"But when he was strong, his heart was lifted up, to his destruction, for he transgressed against the Lord his God by entering the temple of the Lord to burn incense on the altar of incense" (II Chronicles 26:26).
What possessed him ? one might ask. How on earth could he be so foolish, who had been so careful, so diligent, so conscientious, so practical ?
It was the priest's part to deal with the matters of the sacrificial system, by divine appointment in a regime where even the singers were specified and ruled with care! (Exodus-Leviticus, I Chronicles 24-25). Who did what, when, how and so on, in the various religious exercises, all had a certain symbolic significance, in the way Hebrews at length specifies (Hebrews 4-10). How could a man simply bypass both the will and the word of God to make it otherwise and do something given to a specialised tribe, and selection of men ? How indeed could he take over this office in his own name, just because, quite irrelevantly to the point at issue, he was King!
The ONLY One who was give the right to both rites, not onlyl to rule but also to be priest, was the Messiah as you see spelled out in the book of this same Zechariah the later prophet, in 6:12-13. Here was that Messiah who should "bear the glory."
"Then speak to him, saying, ‘Thus says the Lord of hosts, saying:
"Behold, the Man whose name is the BRANCH!
From His place He shall branch out,
And He shall build the temple of the Lord;
"Yes, He shall build the temple of the Lord.
He shall bear the glory,
And shall sit and rule on His throne;
So He shall be a priest on His throne,
And the counsel of peace shall be between them both." ’
"Now the elaborate crown shall be for a memorial in the temple of the Lord for Helem, Tobijah, Jedaiah, and Hen the son of Zephaniah. Even those from afar shall come and build the temple of the Lord. Then you shall know that the Lord of hosts has sent Me to you. And this shall come to pass if you diligently obey the voice of the Lord your God."
Here was the Messiah, for which one of the officers had been used as a pointer, prelude or preliminary depiction; and here was that all but incredible combination but glorious God of truth, incarnate, set in HIS office, even His who would be pierced and through whose blood there would come pardon to the people (as in Isaiah 49-55, Zechariah 12:10-13:1). It was an office most holy and wholly beyond the reach of mere men (cf. Micah 5:1-4). Yet Uzziah acted to take the symbolic role of priest, even while king!
So it was done. Efficient, proficient, fatherly, long-reigning King Uzziah came in and scooped the pool. He would be multi-partite, omni-competent ? or would he!
Hardly. The offence did not last long.
It is rather like the effort since my own young days and before, till now, to make 'new christs', as happened earlier in Paul's day (II Corinthians 11), liberal ones without power, silly ones who amused as clowns, revolutionary ones who helped people rebel (cf. Romans 13), being wholly mutated by the mind of man, which worked to make its own gods, and used Christ's name as an appalling effrontery, for their own creations.
Such has happened in many churches for generations, and now it proceeds with appalling force; and this is the sort of thing that Amaziah did, not only in provoking the Lord by taking over some of His own functions (symbolising those of Christ Himself in the Temple liturgies and procedures), but daring to do so IN the Temple, just as these recent churches do so in HIS name, even Christ's! Paul calls this sort of mental mutation of the merciful Christ in the mind of man the work of "false apostles"! They now abound (cf. Matthew 24:24) as foretold. Let us however return to Amaziah, who in thoughtless regality invaded the sphere not his. Much WAS his, and how great were the initiatives he was able to make; but much does not mean all, and gratitude for greatness does not include arrogation of what is not your own!
He was quickly confronted as he waved the censer of incense, by the priest.
Get out, he exclaimed, for you have trespassed! Thus spoke the priest as King Uzziah was burning incense on the altar of incense. These words however were not as incense to the heart of Uzziah.
Furious at this priestly confrontation, Uzziah turned ... but the Lord struck the erring King right then with leprosy, a matter at that time for priestly inspection. So was he led out of the temple into which he had so presumptuously comes with arrogated authority, how reduced to an ignominious degradation. His fury turned into shame. His exaltation became humiliation. In fact, the King "hurried to get out" of the temple, seeing the disaster, public and horrible, which had struck. That is a good point: he was aware of the health and religious areas, and sought to conform. Sense returned. As a leper, he was cut off from the house of the Lord.
Both he and his father had done much good, moved close to the Lord, but in sudden efflorescence of folly, had wrought grave and strange evils on themselves; and in the case of his father, many had been killed in the process.
How closely one needs to walk with the Lord, for discipline is better than folly, and correction than continuance in evil (Hebrews 12); but better yet by far, is the undisturbed cultivation of the religious fields, the abiding in the Lord Jesus Christ, while His words abide in you. Better in this way, is the uneroded function of faith!
(II Chronicles 28)
It is hard to believe readily that Ahaz COULD
have been the physical father of that gracious and good, that remarkable and
enterprising King Hezekiah; but so it is recorded, showing us that not
only from the good does good come, but from the worst there can arise some of the best! This
gives hope to those downcast from circumstances, for with the Lord there is no limit to what His
pity, mercy and anointing may provide.
With Ahaz, there came on the regal scene in Judah
a slick, slithery, equivocal, ambivalent,
wearisome wanderer. Faced with assault from Israel and Syria (neither of these even the major power of the time, for Assyria held the strong secular sceptre of the period), he was met by Isaiah the prophet (Isaiah 7) and offered illimitable gifts of grace and help from the Lord.
"Ask," said Isaiah in the Lord's name, "ask a sign going deep down to hell, or high up to the height above," but ASK! (Isaiah 7:13, translation of Delitzsch in the Old Testament Commentaries of Keil and Deliitzsch).
The two kings confronting Judah and Ahaz its king at this time had the brazen effrontery to plan to take over the place and set up a king of their own there.
It will not happen, Isaiah had first of all
declared; and added that in 65 years both of the kingdoms now planning assault
on Judah would be broken. He added this: "If you will not
believe, surely you will not be established." If you will not be MADE
firm you will not BE firm, was the sense. If reality will not enter you by
faith, you will lack its strength; if the Lord is not received according to His
word, so there is you weakness, then it is not your enemies but your own decline
which is basic
to what will then follow.
But King Ahaz seems settled in verbal quirks if
Told TO ASK, as we have just seen, to the heights
or depths, he replies,
"I will not ask nor will I tempt the Lord!" From the false appearance of morality, hypocrisy, was a lunge into the realms of the lost.This was hi-tech mutable morals: was he not APPEALING to what was GOOD (not tempting the Lord, something you were by law forbidden to do), in order to do what was evil (that is, not to trust Him to both mean and be willing to do what He had ALREADY OFFERED). More than that, the Lord had already warned Ahaz that if he did not believe, he would not be established. Then the offer to faith was made. It was not without preparation!
That offer in fact FOLLOWED the categorical word concerning the failure of the king-making efforts of the kings then threatening Judah.
In other words, he had been told of what the Lord would not let happen; he had been warned of the results of not accepting what the Lord had to offer, and THEN he had been offered one of the most startlingly liberal gifts you could imagine. Ask going up, going down, in the heights of wonder or in the depths, positively or negatively: ask ANY sign from God you want. You find your faith weak ? then ask for something strong. You believe only a little, then ask for something stupendous. You feel negative, the need to remove something, then ask in that field. You feel positive, ready to seek a downpour of mercy from above, then ask in the domain. ONLY ASK.
No, not really! that was the calibre of the response. Now what depths of folly overtook the poor King that he could so pretend. It is however a good contribution that he has made for us, a warning, an example of what NOT to do, in this, that it is a stern rebuke that comes for such equivocation. How often does a weakened Christian fail to ASK with robust faith for what is NECESSARY for life and godliness, and so find a place of powerlessness! II Peter I TELLS us that by great and precious promises, we are assured of ALL needed for godly life. Is it much better than with Ahaz, if we do not ask!
There is no assurance that there will not be suffering; there is no guarantee against pain; tribulation is not excluded, nor is life to be made into a travel agent's paradise. That is not here its purpose (cf. JOB, in Trials, Tests and Triumphs in Temptation).
However where the grace of God and His power is needed to do His work and will, to preserve the quality of spiritual life, NOTHING can block it. If you do not believe, as Isaiah told Ahaz, you will not be established. Faith is like that. It is self-selective. If you have it, it works; if you don't, then what is lacking does not substitute for it. You find the result, precisely as when you step into your car and turn on the keys. If the car is there; if it is not, but a cardboard image, it does not go.
In this there is something that concerns those who are concerned about 'falling away'. That is excluded in so many ways, for a CHRISTIAN (as distinct from someone engaged in mere tasting and touching, and shrewdly without faith testing), that it is all but incredible that anyone talking even of believing the Bible could imagine it. Thus II Timothy 1:8ff., John 5:24, Romans 8:17,29-30,31-38, I Peter 1, John 10:9,27-28, I John 5:11-12, John 4:14, Romans 5:1-11 thunder to the contrary. What happens to a church over time, or to an Ahaz is another matter. It is not form but fact which matters, and to take the Lord's Christ and not another, is the point (as Simeon so well knew - Luke 2:26, cf. II Corinthians 11).
Yet some seem to fail to believe the scriptural signs already given, but to discount them as if they would be presuming to receive what had already been FREELY OFFERED, and indeed confirmed, just as it had been confirmed that the two attacking nations would IN FACT be broken within 65 years.
Now Ahaz could have asked for this or that NOW; but he did not. He could have asked for this or that mess or mass to be removed; but he did not. Worse, he in sanctimonious plausibility and implacable unbelief presumed to pretend that in doing this horrible thing, he was acting on divine command. He would not PRESUME! Is it to presume to take what is given, or is it not rather to presume when you refuse ? To refuse in the NAME of the One offering, what is that ? It is hypocrisy compounded, folly multiplied and sadly, to seek trouble with both hands imploringly.
All this, Ahaz successfully did, if you can call it 'success' to fail! He did what he wanted; he LOOKED good at a superficial glance, seeming to obey the cited commandment, not to tempt the Lord. If a teacher is offering you free coaching so that you can pass, and you refuse, at least it would be better not to declare that it was in order not to give undue stress to the teacher (whom you may well be stressing by ruining your chances in this way), that you declined the offer.
The Lord replied to this stutterance in reply to the divine utterance,
"Hear now, O house of David! Is it a small thing for you to weary men,
but will you weary my God also ?"
The Lord then proceeded to give His own sign in His own way, since the signal to faith was not even being asked for, in the immediate present, as provided for. He told of the coming of the Messiah through virgin birth, the One who would be the mighty God (as in Isaiah 9 and 10), and hence would HAVE to be of divine stature by human means (cf. SMR pp. 770ff., Bible Translations Ch. 3#20 and Ch. 20). This was the scope of divine strength and mercy toward man, even if Judah in that day had declined to receive a mercy so profound as this coming event would in due course attest. The irony of course is as intense as was the equivocal declivity of King Ahaz. As the faith of Ahaz symbolical of much in Israel, was far off, so would the babe be; but when the babe DID grow a little, by then indeed, in the realm of categorical mercy, the kings of the two lands opposing him would be forsaken by them. Indeed by that time, Israel to the North would not even BE, and Syria would be under the control of Rome.
Thus the Lord made sure that the invasion did occur, though the enemies were not given power to instal a king of their own in Judah, as they had planned. A multitude of captives were the result of the defeat, and in ignominy were these brought to Damascus. Israel also defeated Ahaz, slaying 120,000 in Judah in one day, and not only so, but 200,000 women, sons and daughters, they took also to Samaria.
Great is the gift (I John 3), and great is the result of its refusal (John 3:36), whether then or now, whether for the nation or the individual! whether before the Lord PAID when He came, or after it, when it all being revealed. Indeed, in the latter, the case is if possible, because of more light and even more fulfilment, worse for unbelief.
So what now ? Now, we see the great failures in modern life, through lack of faith, even among nations.
|Thus Britain, having been
delivered once more with might and miraculous power
in response to vast prayer in World War II as at Dunkirk, with some 300,000 soldiers saved -
|and when you read of the speeches of
one made Field-Marshall,
Viscount Montgomery, in the biography of that name by Alan Moorehead,
you see just how frequent and deep were the references to the Lord, mighty in battle,
sometimes by that very name, and to the need to trust in Him, put in exhortations to the troops
by this amazingly triumphant, and immensely influential military leader, before or in the face of battle -
|what does that great country then proceed to do ?|
Why it offers itself to the European Community as the latter develops from Common Market days. It joins in 1972, participates in the European Parliament founded in 1979, and then 'has to' accept directions to provide amply for homosexual liaisons in the Army (cf. Wake Up World! ... Ch. 3), and comes to participate in what is to be a foreign policy for Europe. The Europe both of Rome and secularity in atrocious mix (cf. SMR pp. 912ff., 1032ff., ) is becoming its king without invasion, and its crown without defeat is morally moving to what denies the principles of British faith. It is defeating itself. The glorious victories and might which it began to gain, are kept in war and lost in peace. What a tragedy is there, that Protestant Biblical Christianity is being hunted as by frenzied witches, North Ireland is being forsaken in its Protestant position, weakness is bought for strength, and folly for faith.
Nor is it only in nations who so act, but individuals in the various modes and moods of unbelief, often seeking like Ahaz, to make it appear that they would not presume by taking what God offers in Christ, in the Bible, but would merely take this or that part of the faith, while adding, like Ahaz, things contrary at the same time.
Ahaz even decided that since Syrian gods had been called on for his defeat, he would take one of them and put it in the divinely sanctioned sacrificial place. You see here the heights of equivocation. Asa had swept all before him in mighty battles, and when he defeated Syria, he gratuitously took one of their gods DESPITE the fact that he had beaten them. For this he received a just rebuke from the prophet Hanani (( Chronicles 16:7ff.). Now Ahaz, having forsaken the Lord EXPLICITLY, imagines that the gods of nothingness (what the Bible calls 'vanity', emptiness) did it! How perverse can you be, that you reject the Lord and then attribute the plain result of this rejection to some idol, when the fault lies within yourself, and the rebuke is virtually predictable!
So far does the human heart act, as if to fulfil mightily the pronouncement from the Lord through Jeremiah (17:9ff.):
"The heat is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it.
I, the LORD search the heart, I test the mind..."
Thus Ahaz for his part started cutting, not as some do now, parts out of the Bible, but sacred objects in the Temple (some that he did not given to Assyria - II Kings 16:8). He put in idolatrous things as is now the fashion, making even what is sacred, secular and vain at the same time, monstrous pseudo-religion replacing the unaltering truth of the Lord. It was like a re-run of the post-modernist Age for pseudo-churches.
He received in addition the defeat at the hand of the Philistines which was so fitting for such Philistine behaviour!
He asked, but not what the Lord promised. He pretended, by not receiving, to be virtuous and religious. He received, what he deserved, a ruin so utter and from so many sources that he became like a leaking pipe in a public road, providing a fountain indeed, but of waste.
(II Chronicles 33)
For a moment, let us have relief in thinking back to the relatively good case of King Uzziah. It is sad that man, even when on the right path, can so stray. It teaches us that the fear of the Lord - that clean and lovely, that realistic and godly thing which sees the power of the fire and its incandescent purity and does not play with it, but rather gathers strength and warmth from it (Psalm 19, Hebrews 12:29), is as necessary as love. It is as in Psalm 85:10:
"Mercy and truth are met together; righteousness and peace have kissed.
Truth shall spring out of the earth, and righteousness shall look down from heaven.
Yes, the Lord will give what is good..."
If you love your patients as a doctor, well; but you must also be very careful in prescribing the right medicine, its dose and this selection in the right frame of mind, with careful awareness of the particular weaknesses or strengths, and ways of that patient.
Manasseh, however, here was a completely different case. Here was the 'logical conclusion' of the Ahab approach. Here was the ultimate in horror coming intransigently into the realm of the holy! Here was Part II even for Ahaz as Part I!
This man was a monster of mischief, a fountain of immorality, and a hideous exemplar of child evils, for he was one of those who sacrificed children to the molten arms of mutant gods, gods who were mere symbols and figures, with no blood of their own, nothing to shed, no power to enable, no peace to impart.
His riotous irreligious episodes made of him the champion of corruption, the prince of pollution and the legend of lawlessness. When in due course he was captured and taken to the land of an enemy, in prison, in which his soul had long been, through his swelling sins, he sought the Lord and called upon Him; and with that amazing reality which is the love of God, the Lord heard Him!
He prayed to the Lord and
"He received his entreaty, heard his supplication,
and brought him back to Jerusalem into his kingdom.
Then Manasseh knew that the Lord was God."
He showed the sincerity of his repentance by his later actions. Thus he broke down, destroyed, cut up as the case might be, the altars of false gods, the images, both carved and molded. Of images he made dust, scattering it on the graves of those who had sacrificed to them. Here was thought, here counsel, here teaching. Dust to dust, the dust of the false worshippers now to mingle nearby, with that of the useless vanities, the false gods they had worshipped in one disowned and futile marriage of marring.
He was forgiven, pardon was his.
Here is a magnitude measure, for the mercy of the Lord is profound, deep, and while His truth is intolerant of error (option: walk in error, and live in feebleness of spirit and necessity of judgment at the end), His pardon prevails over sins when He is sought as He is, according to His word, the Bible, His work, on Calvary, His power, in the resurrection of the body of Jesus Christ, and His offer. Which offer ? This:
"for God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself ,
not imputing their trespasses to them,
and has committed to us the word of reconciliation"
(II Corinthians 5:19).
But how is sin paid for ? How is it covered It is like this (II Corinthians 5:21):
"For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us,
that we might become the righteousness of God in Him"
(cf. Romans Chs. 3 & 5, and Micah 7:19ff.). The 'sin' which He became was the 'sin-offering' in which as in the case of the goat of old, the 'scape goat, the sin of the repentant is by faith placed on Him, who bears it (as in Isaiah 53:4-6), for those who come in faith, and so as there written, are healed.
Here is morality (unchanged) met with mercy, and here their friendship is founded anew, the deficiencies met in Christ, and the efficiencies of repentance marked by the power of His Spirit (Romans 8) in those who having received Him by faith, acting now in that same faith.
This being the channel to the grace of God in Christ Jesus, is the supply line of the power which, friend of peace, is in the company of the Lord Himself. It is His sacrifice which meets morals, makes sublime the gift of His Spirit, and enables the children of sin to become the children of God (cf. I John 3).
Isaiah 8:20, Psalm 94:20-21, II Chronicles 16:7-9, 19:2-3, 25:7-8,, are interesting foci for learning on the necessity of separating between the sacred and the secular, the godly and the ungodly, the consecrated and the profane, the permitted and the impermissible, the ordained and the excluded in matters of Christian co-operation and fellowship. While this topic has been treated almost exhaustively in Separation 1997 (the year before this author was forced at his own initiative entirely to separate from the PC in America, which had authorised what was incontestably not warranted by the Bible, thus becoming confessionalistic and traditionalistic cf. Let God be God Ch. 12), it is useful to study the special items arising from the current special field of study in Kings and Chronicles.
Our aim having been to find the sort of criteria and instruction, by which in an INTERPRETED history supplied by the Lord, we might gain perspective and insight, we shall do it here.
1) Isaiah 8:20.
Thus in Isaiah 8:20 we find that IF they do not SPEAK according to the book of the Lord there is NO LIGHT in them.
This is a comparatively simple matter. God is light; Christ is the light of the world. Christ sent the Holy Spirit from the Father into the disciples midst and into their hearts (John 16:8ff., Luke 24, Romans 5:5). If God speaks, it is in and of the light. Again, as I Corinthians 2 tells us, WHO has known the mind of the Lord! It is of Himself to divulge His thoughts (cf. Isaiah 55 - they are above ours as the heavens above the earth). Thus what He tells us is exclusive to Himself (even our OWN thoughts, as far as our fellows are concerned, in their depth are known to us, not to them), understood in entirety in Himself and divulged at will, how He will, to whom He will.
Therefore to seek to curtail or 'interpret' by addition or subtraction or allowing what is not demonstrable is a pointed attack on the very word, and hence on the heart of God Himself. It betokens a lack of understanding that is comprehensive in scope, perilous in kind and worthy of the word of Christ as seen in Mark 7:7-13. It not only makes the word of God void by adding unauthorised accretions, a virtual rejection of the word of God that "you may keep your traditions."
Famous for this, the Jewish scholars in the main, scribes, Pharisees and the administrative Sadducees, the liberals of their days, not only did just that with their traditional interpretations given such weight in such detail and such applications going so far into the mind of man beyond the word of God. They even applied it in principle when it came to the Author, the Word of God Himself, living, the Creator of man, sent from God in personal individuality, from the reaches of infinity and eternity, of truth and trinity.
Thus just as they hacked His word, by their accretions and counter-thrusts, so they hacked into the Word of God Himself, in perfect concurrence, as to method. The one was a type of typescript murder, if you want to put it in modern terms; the other a type of truth murder. Why, asked Christ of such, do you go about to kill Me, a man who told you the truth! (John 8). Though they said He had a devil (showing the absolute declivity between their fallen and polluted ways and His), yet it was the murderer from the beginning, the devil who thoughtlessly wrought the murder OF Christ. He ? He did not murder, but healed in masses and raised the dead, continuing the process in the interstices of the Trinity, by being raised Himself, completing the transition from truth to THE TRUTH, in being RESURRECTED while as to the Bible, it CONTINUED to stand, whatever any one did.
2) Psalm 94:20-21
"SHALL the throne of iniquity which devises evil by law,
Have fellowship with You ?
They gather together against the life of the righteous, and condemn innocent blood.
But the Lord has been my defence."
This is clearly close to II Corinthians 6:14, forbidding unequal yoking between believer and unbeliever, as between light and darkness. It is like that in the Bible on this topic: BLACK AND WHITE. Obey or not, steal or not, stay in Bible attacking, ignoring, supplementing denominations or not. It is all one: offend in one point and in all. INTENDED departure from the orders of God is rebellion, in the domain of parity with witchcraft, as Samuel told Saul, so keen also on liason with the forbidden, that he even consulted a witch to seek Samuel. That is like sending a telegram to a Japanese whaling ship by means of a cannon firing it into its side. Not to be recommended! The fact that God is kind and merciful does not alter the affront, but makes it the more intemperate.
Well then, will it ? WILL the throne of iniquity, the Bible attacking, saint slandering, truth resisting throne in hell which seeks to parade its polluted wars, subvert the saints (as Professor C.S. Lewis's Screwtape Letters so aptly treats), the one that is ever on the side of cultural collusion, worldly wisdom and ecumenism without due regard to the commandment-Church position of the other party, WILL it have fellowship with God ?
Is Christ in alliance with the devil ? That was what the Christ-killing approach in Jerusalem in His day thought or at least alleged (John 8:43-48). If then HE is not in such alliance, how on earth can HIS BODY be so ? It is so simply sinful and so ostentatiously rebellious to ignore these things. Habit is no excuse - any more than is that of a drunkard. Perhaps he started with soft drink and graduated to brain-destroying alcohol. So perhaps someone started with an undue regard for the Church as if it were ultimately and affair of man, and had no Head. A slain chook may be headless and run; but it is not pretty. Neither is a slain Church which headless asserts its ideas and applies them.
Especially however is this so when it is not application but repudiation, not conformity to His word - which is appropriate in exposition, but misalliance with other words, whether sly and silky, or robust and obviously rambunctious (that is whether Barthian, for example, or plain, old-fashioned outmoded and repudiated Liberalism).
As one's own life (cf. A Time to Praise God) so often, so abundantly, in so many countries and fashions attests, it is nothing at all short of what the Psalm 94 declares:
"They gather together against
the life of the righteous, |
and condemn innocent blood."
Equally, this story of the spiritual side of my life in some of its main episodes, reveals the next part of that Psalm:
"But the Lord has been my defence."
3) II Chronicles 16:7-9
The word to King Asa is likewise imperiously clear. An Empire of Express Wisdom is here: both to show the way and to deny the error, as in those highway, "Wrong way, go back!" signs. Hanani did not fear the King, nor did he fail in the message. It is in total concert with what else God says on this topic.
"Because you have relied on the king
and have not relied on the Lord your God,
therefore the arm of the king of Syria has escaped from your hand."
The prophet put the positive case for separated and meaningful devotion to the Lord, not to a team of devil and deity!
"For the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to show Himself strong on behalf of those whose heart is loyal to Him."
"From now on, continued the prophet, "you will have wars."
4) II Chronicles 19:2-3
"Should you help the wicked and love those who hate the Lord ?
Therefore the wrath of the Lord is upon you."
This was the word to King Jehoshaphat, who should have known MUCH better by then! Moreover as the method of putting the proposition shows, once you have the divine perspective, so often and so rigorously, so reasonably and so righteously shown, there is not even a question.
Here what is in view is not the merciful forgiveness to those who repent, but the misguided sentiment which puts first the kingdom of convenience and its unrighteousness, and only then seeks to find, if possible in practical terms, a place for the word, wisdom, way and righteousness of the Lord.
5) II Chronicles 25:7-8
Indeed, the glory of the Lord is compromised, His purity is invaded and His name is hijacked when people put the things of God and those of man, the works of God and those of man, the will and ways of God and those of man into some sort of unholy communion.
Thus in the case of King Amaziah we have a monumental message, inscribed in the stone of history. This King, having successfully triumphed over a massive enemy through faith which was followed closely by an astonishing impact of the power of God while the people of Judah praised Him, turned to Syria for professional soldiers with which to repel an invasive thrust into Judah's face on the part of marauding Israel.
He was told to DISBAND the paid soldiers, and SUSTAIN THE LOSS from having already paid them! THAT was how dramatically essential it was not to mix the name of the Lord with that of the pagan, the secular and the unspiritual, or spiritually erroneous, what is not of God but from the idols of men's hearts.
It is better than having joint services, where the written word of God is smitten, or synthesised with other materials, or chopped, to have a service that is spiritual where the word of God actually rules.
It is better that the body of Christ, if only so-called, an ecclesiastically synthetic and syncretistic one, should not separate from the Lord, or join what is separated from Him, in order to make a spastically uncontrolled collation of disparate objects, or a hacked residue, paralysed in pollution (cf. II Corinthians 11). If you are subscribing therefore to an alien pastor, or church, whose words are not constrained by the word of God, whose way is not biblical, whose thoughts are intruded and extruded from some other faith, way, wisdom, witness, morality, authority, who mixes the waters, whose work is not that of a servant of the Lord but of men, whether in ecclesiastical dress, like Judas, or not, put paid to those soldiers and decamp while you may. Go where the Bible is not labelled wrong, and the Lord of the truth it provides is not libelled (cf. Mark 7:7ff.).
Learn wisdom from God who has it, and from HIS word who gave it, whose Son affirmed it categorically to the slightest and least part (Matthew 5:17-20), which does not vary in its teaching or alter, but will be enforced.
Why is it so ? It is because God does not alter, nor does He change, nor does He need to grow up, for from everlasting to everlasting He is God and His ways do not change (Habakkuk 3:6, Malachi 3:6, Hebrews 1:10-12, Psalm 102:26-27). HE is the same and His years will not fail, His ways do not change. That is what He says, and god-makers can go to their place, but the God who creates has a place prepared for HIS people.
It is because He does not change that in His everlasting mercy, man in His covenant may continue at all (Malachi 3:6). It is not by changing God that you escape the living fires for rubbish when He tests (Malachi 3:1-6, 4:1-3, John 5:45-47, 12:48-50), it is not by turning any of His words to rubbish that you avoid the pit; and the fear of God is not in avoiding His mouth, or seeking as at Calvary to alter His form, will or way. Nor is it by extinguishing what He says, that you find at His testing, relief. All this Malachi makes so clear. Because He is changeless, they are not consumed; and YET they have rebelled. In Him is their hope and YET they have turned away. Indeed, though His word is forever settled in heaven, yet they would alter it on earth (Psalm 119::89).
When God makes man and makes speech, it is not in order that man should make hay while the word shines, but make peace by that same word. They have rejected the word of the Lord, says Jeremiah, and so what wisdom do they have! If they do not speak according to this word, says Isaiah 8, there is no light in them. Their light is but will-o'-the-wisp, and is darkness amid shadows and phantasms of their own creation. Thus do they desecrate the creation and adhere to their flammability, fearless of flames, ready for destruction.
Truth does not bend, and it is only because God does not change and His mercy does not fail, nor does His temper flare nor does His reliability melt, that man can live at all. In His light however one does not stumble, and by His word one is advised. These are those words given by inspiration of His Spirit so that both in inspiration and verbalisation, in understanding and expression, His is their authority, His their source, and HE is the One who supervising, secures expression (I Corinthians 2:9ff.), and His words, these are they given to the prophets (I Peter 1:25, 3:2, Matthew 4:4).
How puny is the philosophy which contends with the wisdom of the Almighty, which inhabits the ruins of former churches, which imagine they continue while they preach another doctrine, gospel, word, truth (II Corinthians 11), and seek to separate some 'gospel' which is immune to command even from the word of God, countermanding commandments, avoiding instruction, where their own will is their witness and their own wisdom is their light. How great is that darkness, when the light which is in you IS darkness!
Let us therefore walk in the light of the Lord and learn from the Kings, His ways as He shows both word and work, in history.