AUSTRALIAN BIBLE CHURCH - August 17, 2008
A CONTINUATION OF THE ORIGINAL
THRUST AND BASE OF
THE PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH OF AUSTRALIA, ON CHANGELESS BIBLICAL LINES …
CONQUEST THROUGH FAITH : FAITH IN HIM WHO IS FAITHFUL (cont.)
Sermon Notes: From II Chronicles 20-32 with New Testament Parallel
CHRIST and HEZEKIAH
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 the slippery surface at the lip of the pit. Hezekiah, however, was different in his way of life, from these, as light from darkness; and though there were specks of darkness here and there in the later part of his life, they did not seem at all wilful, and 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 (II Chronicles 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. In fact, as with many another evangelical appeal, this one was to a northern section of Israel in her prime, which would soon be demolished, dispersed! Time to dismiss dismissal was here, and it would not last long, after this. But Hezekiah was in merciful abundance of heart.
"May the good Lord provide atonement for everyone," he prayed, only to follow on with this distinctive (here set in italics)! "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 attending, 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 to the erratic King Ahaz, from that of Isaiah 37. Where Ahaz equivocated, Hezekiah, on the contrary, personally went with the letter of challenge from the King of the mighty Empire of Assyria, to the Temple of God. Man then seems so small! as indeed, in that sphere, he is! He individually spread out the letter, 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 were taken 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, before the God of power and glory, against his rampaging and attacks (Isaiah 37:10ff.). The King could and now, in prayer, did present these things to the Lord, their elemental religious relativism providing a glorious opportunity for divine rebuttal (Isaiah 37:16ff.):
"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 is added.)
Notice his private devotions, self-discipline before all of this in his multiple services to his nation, his care not to merely wrangle with the crusading Assyrian King, or to allow his subjects to be drawn into the propaganda. Consider 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 to all 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 this assassination occurred in one of the temples of the false gods in his own land. The military 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 Ethiopia (II Kings 19) indeed menaced him; 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, so giving Judah time to strengthen herself before her own later battles.
The words of the Lord are magnificent, as given by Isaiah to Hezekiah before the fight (II Kings 19:6): "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." That is the spirit! there is faith. It is desperately needed by many who languish in the lands forbidden, churches awash with infidelity (II Timothy 3, I Tim. 6, Romans 16:17, I Cor. 5-6).
This divine prediction fits superbly with possible Nubian menace and Ethiopia’s threat: 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, in the name of the Lord, before this battle, to the proud King. That royal person was like a glimpse of Hitler before his time, as he sought to smash Judah (Isaiah 37:22):
"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.. It reminds one of His work in deliverance Israel on its return, in 1948, 1967, 1973, 1991, to fulfil his promises in Zechariah 12. 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 to His name, glory and grace as it its objective due, a testimony to all, as also to those with whom we have to do. It is HE who saves, who needs sharp FOCUS by faith.
With such a God as this, so powerful, compassionate and covenantally related, what faithfulness have many shown in response (I John 4:10). Thus the English martyr , Thomas Bilney, persuaded of Christ when a student, became a preacher, and near the start of the English reformation in its brusque phase, so presented Christ that the corrupt Romanish body had him arrested for the truth. Indeed, exposing the folly of Romanism, he cried that with the pope in this exalted and unbiblical place (Matthew 23:8-10), it was all awry, the foot being made the head, and the head the foot! Rome’s workers had no patience! With death sentence declared, and some time to ‘repent’ (like repenting of being godly), he was persuaded by constant streams of friends seeking to have him just point the other way and take back what he had said.
At last, seeking to use the life he would in this way get back, to preach, he recanted foolishly and after one year’s imprisonment, felt such a chill and barrenness, as if nothing mattered, as if there were neither heart nor life nor spirit, that he sought again to resume his vast and fruitful testimony. He did so with such wonderful results, even in prominent area with a glorious fearlessness, that again he was arrested. This time he had the fortitude, and made no false deals, no longer seeking to save his life that he might serve Christ better. Indeed, on one occasion, a day before the burning of his body, he held one finger in the flame of a candle, to test himself, and apparently burnt off the top digit. He was not going to cringe, or flinch this time! Thus was faithfulness with a little flickering, but overall, most bold! But with Christ, there was not even a quiver.
The servant is not greater than the Master, He declared, and so Christians MUST suffer; but how well do we live ? Here is the challenge to conscience and the crux for devotion (Luke 14:27ff.)
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.
He is no mere image, but the very light of God is His, not consultant-philosopher, but the word of God is He, not some arrival, but Eternal is He (John 8:58).
‘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. You see this not only in Zechariah11:12 -13, where the sale of God, incarnate, is noted before it happens with due divine splendour of wisdom and exposure of man’s futile works, even the sum of money for the sale being noted in advance! This with Psalms 41, 69, 109, the last cited in Acts 1, when a replacement for Judas was in view, shows the treachery of man summed up and brought to culmination in that of the traitor who gave this ‘fine price’ for his Lord.
It is very beautiful how in Psalm 69 you not only find the anguish of the crucifixion, but the judgment on those who, unrepentant, must face reality at last. When Christ was there, His prayer was for their pardon, but when there is no more mercy, then only due destiny remains. In Psalm 109, the final curse on the besotted Judas is seen in its strength; but in Psalm 69, you have the curse on Christ as Redeemer in its impact:
“Reproach has broken My heart,
And I am full of heaviness.
I looked for someone to take pity, but there was none;
And for comforters, but I found none.
They also gave me gall for My food,
And for My thirst, they gave M vinegar to drink.”
Coming to those depths, He could have groaned and failed; but He did not.
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 (I John 4:17), let us be ready like Hezekiah and cleansed, that we may serve instead of being spiritual hospital cases! 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, 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).
v The world crumbles under its own spiritual weight; but there is no other name.
resources are polluted, rifled, and wars erupt to spoil them further; but there
no other name.
v Its civilisation exalts itself, while millions fall, but there is no other name.
philosophies destroy themselves in ambiguities, equivocations, contradictions;
but there is no other name.
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 closer to a city,
passed first this, and then that of many landmarks, making the situation clear.
In this case, for the unbeliever, appallingly near, so that eyes must be closed; but 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.