AUSTRALIAN BIBLE CHURCH - August 10, 2008
OF THE ORIGINAL THRUST AND BASE OF
THE PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH OF AUSTRALIA,
ON CHANGELESS BIBLICAL LINES …
The COUNSEL THROUGH HISTORY
CONQUEST THROUGH FAITH
FAITH IN HIM WHO IS FAITHFUL
Sermon Notes: From II Chronicles 20-32
with New Testament Parallel
For a broader coverage follow this link.
I. Jehoshaphat Sees the Splendour of God's Faithfulness
II Chronicles 20
The flaws in the character of the mighty King Jehoshaphat were focussed last time.
Today we shall see his FAITH in operation, a conduit for the gloriously total impact of the power of God.
The event before us follows that spectacle of the treacherous Ahab, illicitly partner to Jehoshaphat in a needless war, where Jehoshaphat escaped by immediate divine grace from being surrounded as the only visible king, and killed; but tricky Ahab, despite his guile, was hit by a STRAY arrow which someone had sent into the sky in a general way. It led to his death. So does the fox find the end of his wits, before his Maker. After that Jehoshaphat secured a working judicial system in Israel, admonishing the judges,
"Now therefore, let the fear of the LORD be upon you, take care and do it,
for there is no iniquity with the Lord our God, no partiality, nor taking of bribes...
Thus you will act in the fear of the Lord, faithfully, and with a loyal heart."
They were to warn and judge righteously as for and before God.
THEN, after this faithfulness, Moab and Ammon decided to war against the land. Great was the multitude of the aggressors. First, the people gathered TOGETHER to ask help from the Lord, then the King prayed. Power is yours, he submitted to the Lord, and it is You who drove out the inhabitants of the land - long cited by the Lord for this judgment, to Abraham in Genesis 15 - and gave it to the descendants of Abraham (Genesis 17). Referring to the Temple built in His name, a focus for faith in its symbols, he brought to God the fact of the promise made if only His people come before Him in faith, with this defined faith in Him in mind and in view. From the general to the particular, he proceeded, and cited Ammon and Moab, yes and Mt Seir also, peoples whom God did not allow Israel to attack on the way in, rewarding Israel for its restraint by seeking to take it!
"O our God, will You not judge them ?
The WHOLE covenant people stood before the Lord, including the little ones (as in Deuteronomy 29:10-12), since God not only deals with individuals, atoms, but a people, with all that is their own (molecules), and the covenant is not applicable only to those who are conscious of its meaning, for are they not people in the household of faith, though faith has not yet come! So much confusion comes on this issue that it is worth a moment's tarrying. Of course, in general there is not faith where there is not the mental equipment to know what it is about; and equally, the relationship of God depends on His will, not our wits. If HE sees fit to look upon whole FAMILIES, as relevant to Himself, the children being those of the ones who trust Him in ALL their ways and in ALL their belongings, then this is kind and realistic.
It does NOT of course bring the children to heaven, for we are justified by faith, and He knows who are His own before ever time was (Ephesians 1:4), but it does bring something of heaven to the child in the presence of God with their parents and about their household. In these spiritual things the child grows, surrounded if not yet inhabited. It is foolish to deny what is manifest, simply because some go too far, in both directions, to become sacramentalists whose baptism is more than a sign, or oblivionists, who would preclude it*1.
When the whole assembly, old and young, were thus before the Lord (II Chronicles 20:13-14), a prophet spoke, Jahaziel by name. To them all, he spoke, King included,
"Do not be afraid nor dismayed because of this great
That is the way with the Lord: you DEPEND on Him, and do not imagine that it is praise the Lord and pass the ammunition, a derogatory sounding dictum; for in fact, your ammunition may be dud, or misdirected, but the Lord acts. Indeed, in this case, He did not even require other action, so emphasising the ultimate source and faithful recourse which must always be uppermost in the mind and spirit. GO DOWN, they were told, and the site to attend was given.
"You will not need to fight in this battle:
position yourselves, stand still and see the salvation of the Lord."
POSITION YOURSELVES! what a word is that. Remember how it says of Jesus, on occasion, that when HE WAS SET, He spoke! To position yourself, to gain a sharp awareness of your orientation relative to duty, discipline, need, challenge, power, peaceableness, fearlessness, wisdom, in faith, is no minor matter. Taking courage, you act in faith, and believing, with love not irritation, with strength and not instability. What then was to follow ? Let us see.
The next morning, setting off, the King admonished the people,
"Believe in the Lord your God, and you shall be established…"
He appointed SINGERS to praise God "for His mercy endures forever." When this crusading choir and army reached the site told them, they found the armies were no more evident, for there had been internal fighting and vying during the night. The spoil was then collected in triumph!
FAITHFULNESS on the part of Jehoshaphat, who had ruled well (apart from his weakness), and faith with the prophet of the Lord speaking in the midst of the unified people committed to precisely what the Lord had promised! This had led to victory. The divine gift was so elaborately provided that it makes the point: fight or not, it is not you but God who is the determinant. This applies not only when we are attacked by unbelievers, wolves in the church or elsewhere, but also to the testimony we are enabled to give (Luke 21:14-19, Proverbs 3:5-6, 16:3).
2. Hezekiah Sees the Certainty of God's Power
We turn now to the other end of our series of 7 kings examined in Part I, to find the later King Hezekiah. His father, King Ahaz, was as we have seen, deplorable, just as his son, Manasseh, was almost definitive of devilries, though he DID repent after leading to nation to lip of the pit. Hezekiah however was different as light from darkness; and though there were specks of darkness here and there, the contrast was total. Faith worked in him by love (Galatians 5:6).
He had the temple cleansed and made fully functional, following the follies of idolatrous King Ahaz (29:5ff.), challenged the priests to faithfulness, the more keenly in view of the corruptions preceding his reign, removed the follies, restored the sacrificial system, the music of praise and the assembly worshipped faithfully once more (29:29). The King proceeded with his missionary messengers to idolatrous, Israel of the North and invited all to come to a vast Passover, that central symbol of the coming of the Redeemer as so abundantly shown in Isaiah 49-55.
"May the good Lord provide atonement for everyone,"
he prayed, only to follow on (italics added),
"who prepares his heart to seek God, the LORD God of his fathers,
though he is not cleansed according to the purification of the sanctuary."
Notice two things: the result came to FAITH only, and faith is not idle, for faith without works is dead, so that there was a real transaction between the people of God and the God of the people, in the heart, in view of the sacrificial atonements made. The reason for the addition about not being formally complete came because so great was the multitude and so remiss had been the previous king that some had not prepared themselves with personal sacrifices as they should have done. Despite strong efforts to cover all cases, Hezekiah with care asked the Lord in mercy to overlook any ritual failures, provided the hearts were keen and ready!
Such were the ways of merciful King Hezekiah. Then his test came, his also. How different is the message of Isaiah 7 from that of Isaiah 37, regarding the 2 Kings. Ahaz equivocated, Hezekiah personally went with the letter of challenge from the King of the mighty Empire of Assyria, to the Temple. He individually spread it out before the Lord, and asked for the way (Isaiah 37:14-20).
It cannot be too strongly pressed that minds are given us from the Lord for a purpose, and like Jehoshaphat, Hezekiah gave grounds for his prayer, and those from the word of the Lord. Just as Sennacherib of Assyria had boasted of overcoming nations, and their gods, and had put Israel in prospect for the same treatment, SO he had given King Hezekiah fatal ammunition against his rampaging and attacks (Isaiah 37:10ff.). The King could and now did present these things to the Lord, their elemental religious relativism providing a glorious opportunity for divine rebuttal:
Thus the King could and did present these things to the Lord:
"You are God, You alone, of all the kingdoms of the earth.
You have made the heaven and earth ...
Hear, open Your eyes, O LORD,
and see, and hear all the words of Sennacherib
which he has sent to reproach the living God."
Indeed, said the King, the gods of the nations consumed by this assailant were no gods at all:
"Now therefore, O Lord our God, save us from his hand,
that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that You are the LORD, You alone" (bold added).
Notice his private devotions, his self-discipline before all of this in multiple services to his nation, his care not to merely wrangle with the crusading Assyrian King, his care with the facts of the case, his humble petition to God on the basis of truth and fact, and in terms of what would be shown by the divine intervention which he sought; and got!
The case resembled that of Jehoshaphat in this, that a strange devastation hit the Assyrian camp and the army was largely destroyed, the proud monarch having to retreat, only to be killed, according to report, by his sons, some 18 years later: ironically, it seems in one of the temples of the false gods in his own land. This defeat is noted in the National Geographic, February 2008 in an article on the black African kings who for a notable time took over Egypt. It may be that one of these Nubian kings pressed Sennacherib hard enough, and indeed Ethiopia menaced him (II Kings 19:9); but that Assyrian was soon demolished in his pride and power, in an amazing defeat, foretold by the Lord, and acknowledged as pivotal in the Geographic coverage, so giving Judah time over many more years, to strengthen herself.
The words of the Lord are magnificent, as given by Isaiah to Hezekiah before the fight:
"Do not be afraid of the words which you have heard,
with which the servants of the king of Assyria have blasphemed Me.
"Surely I will send a spirit upon him, and he shall hear a rumour and return to his own land, and I will cause him to fall by the sword in his own land."
This fits superbly with possible Nubian menace, but the devastation of his camp was a vast work of the Lord, the angel of the Lord killing of his host, 185,000, leaving but corpses (Isaiah 37:36). Notice the tenor of Isaiah's retort to the proud King, a glimpse of Hitler before his time, as he sought to smash Judah:
"The virgin, the daughter of
Has despised you, laughed you to scorn,
The daughter or Jerusalem has shaken her head behind your back!"
It is glorious to read this prelude to the Lord's pre-emptive strike in Isaiah 37:21ff..
We must learn to fear nothing, but God; to bring our cases to Him in His own terms and in those of His word, and to await what is best to bring His name, glory and grace to those with whom we have to do.
3. Christ Shows the Sublimity of Divine Faithfulness
A short look
at the Divine Faithfulness of Christ,
who as God showed God, remains.
How faithful was He who outfaced the confronting devil himself, met him decisively and incisively with the covenantal word of God, in the temptation (Matthew 4), who when confronted with the educated wits of unbelieving religious savants, confounded them with His answers till they did not dare to query Him any more (Matthew 22:46). In this case, He had just asked THEM a question: How is it, was the thrust, that IF the Christ is simply a descendant of David (that is, not God as man but mere man), that David in the predictive Psalm 110 concerning Him, calls Him Lord! What father does this to his son! The point: Christ is the LORD of all, and using the seed of man for incarnation, requires faith in Him by all, not as some man, but as God definitive in flesh.
‘Faithful and true’ is His name in Rev. 19, and such it is! Rely on HIM! Thus having loved His own, we read in John 13, He loved them to the end. Judas only was lost, foretold devil and deceiver, as in John 6:70, known to Christ long before the betrayal, and indeed shown in Zechariah 500 years before – (11:12-13, with Psalms 41, 69, 109). Jesus Christ did not grow too disgusted to serve and to save, when betrayed for a little time even by Peter, nor did He waste time haranguing that disciple, but just LOOKED at him (Luke 23:61).
As good shepherd, He did not merely talk about laying down His life for the sheep, or go only so far, but went to the Cross, well able to have denied that He was the Son of God (Mark 14:61ff.), but keen to the end to be true to His people, to His godly vocation as Saviour, His work as Shepherd, His sacrificial act of atonement, providing redemption freely by being bound (Titus 2-3, Romans 3:23ff., Galatians 3).
“Mercy shall be built up for ever: Your faithfulness You will establish in the very heavens,” (Psalm 89). God never fails (Zephaniah 3:5).
If judgment must begin at the house of God*2, let us be ready like Hezekiah and cleansed, that we may serve instead of being spiritual hospital cases! Let us be faithful, for what is worse than NOT being so! to be in word one thing, in deed another, to be in aspiration on one path, in conduct on another, to be vested with responsibility and to forsake its calling, to be envisaged as sound and to be frittered into mere fancy! If perfection cannot be expected (I John 1:7-8), yet sincerity must be, and if failures occur, yet these are to be short-circuited in pardon and power (I John 1:9-2:2, 5:4), and not allowed to defile the result.
There is work to be done, for the night is coming when no man can work! (John 9:4). Let us rejoice and exalt the Lord, and let HIM be worshipped, His word followed and no other! Let God be God, and the Lord be Lord, and no other! “For there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12) and as to those who will not receive Him, the wrath of God looms over them (John 3:36)*3.
“For there is no other name
The world crumbles under its own spiritual
Its resources are polluted, rifled, and
wars erupt to spoil them further;
Its civilisation exalts itself, while
Its philosophies destroy themselves in
ambiguities, equivocations, contradictions;
It laughs at life, but cannot make it;
it distorts life and cannot correct
its own mischiefs;
it soars to the skies, and falls to the pit:
for there is no other name but One,
Jesus Christ who foreseeing all, foretold what was to be, and now that it is,
is soon to return, the conditions fulfilled.
It is as if an aircraft coming to a city, passed first this, and then that of many landmarks, making the situation clear. In this case, for the unbeliever, appallingly, so that eyes must be closed; for the believer, refreshingly clear, so that the heart must be kept open, keeping ourselves in the love of God (Jude 21), looking with faith to eternal life (Philippians 3:20-21) and seeking the lost to the end.
*1 Cf. Colossians 2:11-13.
On these and related issues, see more fully:
Questions and Answers 2.
Baptism and Covenant -
Questions and Answers 11 for a fuller and more general treatment, as also
The Pitter-Patter of Prophetic Feet Ch. 5 and
What is the Chaff to the Wheat Ch. 1.
It is good to be steeped in the Bible's testimonies, just as it is well to know acutely a computing 'language' for conscientious programming. It is well to see the point of 'rejoicing with trembling' as in Psalm 2, before the most delightful, holy and pure God, as in I Peter 4, and to see the aspects, like fiery facets of a brilliantly lit diamond, that relate to persecution and purification, to keep all things in the divine perspective. As when driving, it is an encroachment of folly, if one begins to lose it, seeing some things, and ignoring others!
"Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you: But rejoice, in that you are partakers of Christ’s sufferings; that, when his glory will be revealed, you may be glad also with exceeding joy.
"If you be reproached for the name of Christ, happy are you; for the spirit of glory and of God rests upon you: on their part he is evil spoken of, but on your part he is glorified.
"But let none of you suffer as a murderer, or as a thief, or as an evildoer, or as a busybody in other men’s matters.
"Yet if any man suffer as a Christian, let him not be ashamed;
but let him glorify God on this behalf.
For the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God:
and if it first begin at us, what shall the end be of those who do not obey the gospel of God?
"And if the righteous scarcely be saved, where will the ungodly and the sinner appear? Therefore let them that suffer according to the will of God
commit the keeping of their souls to him in well doing,
as to a faithful Creator."
See Outrageous Outages ... Ch. 10.