AUSTRALIAN BIBLE CHURCH January 28, 2007
Micah 4:6ff., II Chronicles 16:9, Luke 19:11
A CONTINUATION OF THE THRUST
AND BASE OF THE
OF AUSTRALIA ON BIBLICAL LINES …
MERCY THAT PHASES IN JUDGMENT,
SEEKS ITS AVOIDANCE and COMES TO GIVE ITSELF!
1. Phasing in the Way Out – Amos 4
Israel was coming to the end of the line, the place where the crops were assessed and payments made.
Citing idolatry, inequity, oppressing the poor, crushing the needy, love of drink, religious ceremonialism and ostentatious gifts, the Lord here foretells that He will give them “cleanness of teeth”. Much more is to follow from Him, much less for them (4:12). In Sydney railway stations, they used to have posters such as this, which is from Amos 4, “Prepare to meet your God,” or as in our II Chronicles text,
“For the eyes of the Lord move to and fro throughout the whole earth
to show Himself strong on behalf of those whose heart is loyal to Him.”
Reverse gear is for renegacy, reckless disregard of your Guard: if in this, at once disperse the reverse, and proceed where peace lies and the governance of God places you. It is HE who keeps His people (John 10:27-28). Many however are the lands which now are turning in their generations, to gyrate godlessly.
How changed the vision, when Christmas scenes have to be removed, Biblical testimony is being shadowed by law suits and terrorism seeks to deprave the land. As then in Israel, so now in Australia, laxity becomes the author of folly, and straying spirits become the passive introduction to liberty lost by force of law. A sleepy people forgets the steeple, and far worse, has reconstruction point it downward, changing direction, forsaking protections, insolvent in spirit, trusting in its own will, ways and wisdom.
Let us return to Amos 4. The Lord protests at their blindness, surveying what He has done. He carefully withdrew rain, allowing only some cities to be relieved; yet they did not discern His judgment. Blight and mildew ruined crops, but they were as heartily heedless as ever. Locusts swallowed food for them; but they did not return to the Lord. Plagues such as those that struck Egypt enveloped them, but the Egyptian style treatment did not register in their besotted consciences. Some were overthrown, indeed they were like a firebrand, a reminder of the overthrow of Sodom: but still they did not return to the Lord. Was it then a case of blind-deaf-mute-paralysis!
Notice that it is not the GOODNESS in gifts of the Lord to a rancorous and rebellious nation, that the Lord is stressing, but MINOR judgments before the exile and devastation to come! Still they choose to ignore the source of goodness in His chastening ? Very well: “Prepare to meet your God!” If you will not listen to reminders, then face to face receive judgment itself! The Lord, who earlier in Amos has been shown many times (9) to be giving His word to Israel, now generalises the matter:
“For behold, He who forms the mountains and creates the wind,
Who declares to man what His thought is, and makes the morning darkness,
who treads the high places of the earth – the LORD God of hosts is His name.”
That is the signature to His speech! Indeed, in Amos 3:7 He focusses the field: “Surely the LORD God does nothing unless He reveals His secret to His servants the prophets.” This is the theme and here is the thematic core: God declares His mind. Man finds the validity, the verification and the virtue of it, sometimes by investigating, at others by defying it and finding its truth unchanged (cf. Celestial Harmony for the Terrestrial Host, SMR).
Later, the destruction of Jerusalem, ruin of the Temple and the exile of Judah in the South was the execution of it, and before that, the entire displacement of the northern kingdom of Israel, which was repopulated from abroad, with those who were later to be called Samaritans,
Thus was judgment phased in; and as in our Australian drought, a massive challenge to a multiply-channeled river system is a reminder. Let us seek for our brethren lest like Israel, they too sink themselves in a psychological stupour, foundering on the formation of contrary cultures, which know not God, but portray another Gospel or another Lord, or none, unable to compete by fact but able to deploy force to a people replacing the Lord, or moving with a meaningless relativism, as if knowing no absolute truth, they could know anything, or even that to be so Force is never relevant to the nature of faith, and fiasco follows its deployment in frustration or ambition, to capture what it cannot obtain!
2. Phrasing the Folly of Faithlessness – II Chronicles 16
It is not merely that someone or some nation ignores the Lord, is slow or wilful. It is with them as with this nation, that there is first a soporific unspirituality which uses churches for purposes far from those of the Bible; then an active rebellion which assaults the Bible while training ministers, with no more ground than that of the abyss; and then a turning to the gods of foreign lands, as if they had prime time rights, and could be given power to demand of society, their peculiar ways. It is one thing to be tolerant, and allow others to follow their opinions; it is quite another to dis-establish the Constitution’s reference to Almighty God, and the founding faith of this land, so that it becomes a crime to voice it with fervour and accuracy. This is the direction of change. It is as in Israel of old, a direction to be noted, before it impacts as it did there.
Thus King Asa at first showed a considerable fervour of faith, and overcame an invasion by a million men, but later, becoming shrewd and knowledgeable, he sought aid from an ungodly, indeed an invasive nation, Syria and gained this rebuke from the prophet Hanani, already cited regarding the eyes of the Lord, and His help to those loyal to Him. That is the way as you wait on Him! But Asa ? he had leaned to his own understanding in a vast military-political movement, and inherited rebuke: “In this, you have done foolishly. Therefore, from now on, you will have wars.” Is it not so with many who take the wrong turning, and mouth new morals neither made in heaven for man, nor exhibiting the truth without fear! Correction can come, if need be, like an epidemic.
How poor Asa suffered for his false sophistication, for a disease broke into his feet, and again sophisticated, he sought physicians and not the Lord. It is one thing to GO to a doctor; it is quite another to put your trust in one. You should always as a Christian, whether it is a matter of finance or physique, FIRST go to Him, as with ALL troubles, and find how it is to be treated, and by whom, trusting in HIM for the entire matter, and committing it to Him! (Proverbs 3:3ff.).
3. Praising the Presence of Salvation –Luke 19:11
It is however not only the sadness of crushing or chastening that we must consider. It is the strength of the Lord’s PERSONAL coming to seek and to save what was lost. He did it in His own day on earth, and He does it still by the power of His Spirit and the Gospel of His mouth, precisely as foretold in Isaiah 53-55,61.
Thus in Luke 19 we read of a man without God, hated by many for his abuse of his nation, acting as a tax-collector on behalf of the occupying Power, Rome. Many would take their cut in the matter, and use extra cash flow for their private wealth. Excited and drawn to Christ when he passed through his town, Zacchaeus, small of stature but heavy of heart, climbed a tree in order to see over the heads of the people and find the direct observation of the Lord that he desired. Christ, knowledgeable as only God is, saw him, called to him, came to his house, and met a man who received Him not only to his home but to his heart. At once, Zacchaeus, knowing his faults, restored moneys taken wrongfully and gave yet more to the poor. “Today,” said Christ, “salvation has come to this house, because he also is a son of Abraham.”
On another occasion, Christ told His Jewish listeners not to imagine that being a child of Abraham (physically, by generation down the Ages) meant salvation; for eyes to kill the Lord were no part of the historical Abraham, nor did they relate to his spiritual children! (John 8:39ff.). His meaning here is parallel: BECAUSE through faith and a repentant heart, Zacchaeus showed this by what he did, it was verified that he was indeed a spiritual child of Abraham, believing as that patriarch had done, in the Lord of all practicality and action. In spiritual essence, a Jew is one inwardly (Romans 2:29). SO is a Christian!
Thus we see the MERCY that grades action, successively phasing in rebukes to allow repentance while there is yet time, as in Amos 4; the rebuke to weakening ways and straying heart, as in II Chronicles 16; and the relish for reality of heart, as in Luke 19, where a SPIRITUAL POPULATION INCREASE was recorded by Him, in Israel. Here was THIS MAN who could have his birth recorded in that spiritual Jerusalem which is above us all.
Each aspect of mercy, judgment and grace matters intensely; and if like fish eggs, a mass that might have come to fruition, die unused, what matters most is the one that is fertilised, that lives!
“ ‘Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, let not the mighty man glory in his might,
nor let the rich man glory in his riches: but let him who glories, glory in this,
that He understands and knows Me, that I am the LORD, exercising lovingkindness, judgment and righteousness in the earth,
for in these I delight,’ says the LORD.”
You know the principles, but you know Him whose they are. You find mercy, but you know Him whose it is. You abhor evil, but you know the One who is good. You scurry from folly, but you serve Him who is wise. You delight in Him, and in His word ? good, Having trusting in Him, and entrusted yourself to Him, “Delight also in Him and He will give you the desires of your heart” (Psalm 37:4). Fancy meeting such a delightful Person in judgment, when He is available in mercy, issuing goodness like a leaping stream, and faithful as a granite house in a tempest; for “he who dwells in the secret place of the Most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty” (Psalm 91:1). He came to give, but must be received, by Arab and Jew, me and you. Omission is not a viable option: and this not by the force of man, but the word of God (John 3:36).