AUSTRALIAN BIBLE CHURCH November 20, 2011
Presbyterian Church following the Bible without Qualification
and the Lord Jesus Christ without Compromise by Faith
in accord with the thrust of the Constitution of 1901 of the Presbyterian Church of Australia
TIME UNDER ARREST
Manasseh, Amon and Josiah: Kosciusko Amidst Kinks
How much the Lord loves the individual, and not merely the State! Thus after the massive, complex and yet inspirational regality of Hezekiah, came a case of supernal mercy in the thoroughly corruptive Manasseh, a quick despatch of the next King,
Amon, who did not learn from the repentance of his father, profligate in religious evil, humdrum in unholiness, and then the jubilant, jutting and joyfully industrious man of God, King Josiah, "the breath of our nostrils," as Jeremiah called him in Lamentations.
His passing came after vast reformations, and at the hand of the Lord for his own deliverance! Never to be forgotten was his practical zeal from his youth. Such souls are not common.
We see him now in his life and in his nation.
While repentance of an individual may deliver that person from wrath in the
cumulative consequences can rise like a storm for the unclean countries that regale themselves in self-righteousness, while working evil with both hands
THE PERSONAL BEST FOR RECKLESS, HEEDLESS ABANDON
There must be a place for drag-racing, we are told, so that wheelies and the like, may be less frequent with such provisions for explosive thrust in screeching cars, now in set places made legitimate, or at least legal.
There must be a lesser drug to help people abandon a worse one. So we are told.
In other words, you may spoil your body with government aid, if this helps you spoil it less.
You may lie to the electorate if this helps you get and use power contrary to its mandate; why ? It is that the best people may have power, and not the people. Who are the best ? Why of course, those who stop at nothing to get power, and then summoning illicitly given aid, use it. What wins is best. Is that so ? Then Hitler was best for several years, and Communism with dead millions for several decades, and sundry perverted tyrants, like dirtiest of coal fires at the moral level, can burn up people and pollution is not there because they have power ? And sin can be ignored because of power ? It is as if the panzer divisions of Hitler - so sweetly taking over a staggered Europe which in much, almost tumbled into his arms, though he was not doing quite what he had advertised, but rather exceeded it - could innocently represent sin, deemed fine so long as he was still in power. HE KNEW. STALIN KNEW. MAO KNEW. Millions, and tens of millions knew the other side of that knowledge, in torture and death.
SIN KNOWS. It does not need to be told when it is in power. It was so with the atrocities of Manasseh, king in Judah after the blessed Hezekiah. He ran up a list of atrocities like Saddam Hussein, allegedly Gaddafi and now new exposed tyrants in the Middle East, and because the answer waited, he did not wait. He roved and rampaged and became outrageous in pollution of the holy with the sacrilegious profane. He put an idol in the temple. He burned his son in the ritual religious fires, built altars according to his desire even within the prescribed architecture of the Temple, used the slithery spirits of evil in séance-type consultation, and then WOULD NOT LISTEN when the prophet challenged his rampage, like a bull incensed and caring nothing for any word! (II Chronicles. 33:10).
When God Himself speaks into the very midst of your self-made laws, culture-ridden riddles, empty-clichés of thought, and you do not heed, what CAN you expect, even if gulled and seduced by empty propaganda! This is taught in schools, pushed by politicians, in educational revolutions, which though bloodless, do not stop at the torture of the rational mind, and the oppression of the vulnerable students. Meanwhile millions await the latest pre-occupations of folly in the thoughts of man, before having new wars for this or that wonderful idea, which routinely brings death. It tends to do this, either directly as in Hitler and Stalin, as with Mao, or indirectly, as with Nietzsche, as with Kant, who made a rainbow of wonder out of severance from the directly revealing word of God, so that a generation could scamper about with religious exteriors and empty hearts, in a world of impossible make-believe.
King Manasseh of Judah was very like that: in fact, we read that he
"seduced the people"
( II Kings 21:9), and both he and the nation regressed from righteousness, more and more. Indeed, the Lord spoke not only to the King but to the people also (II Chronicles 33:10): those who in our land, ELECT the ruling junta or powers as the case may be.
THE PERSONAL BEST OF THE MESSIAH
SUBDUING THE MOST SCOUNDRELLY SIN
The flippant fulness of his empty dreams, issuing like volcanic ash in preliminary earth-quakes, as a mountain prepares to blow its top off, filled the polluted scene; and it led to the invasion of his land. THEREFORE the Lord sent in the Assyrian power which captured the King in person, and bound him in chains, taking him off to Babylon, at that time under Assyrian control, two brothers ruling both in Nineveh and Babylon. Manasseh however in exile was still not under the Lord's control; but change came. He "humbled himself greatly" and In an eruption of heart, he repented and sought the Lord who in amazing grace, heard his prayer and returned him to Jerusalem.
Nevertheless, the overall national yielding time and again to sin, in this tempest, led to an irreversible divine judgment on the people and the city (II Kings 21:11-16), just as happened with Hiroshima, Nagasaki, Berlin and in its then soon to come day, ancient Babylon, yes this also! In the heyday of revolt from objective morals into subjective desires, as with both idolatry and atheism, Manasseh had killed many for his keep (II Kings 21:16) , a work of tyrants such as currently, the slaughterous Assad in Syria.
It is almost like this even in democracies now, though perhaps not quite all, where it is as if the rulers of Sodom wish to be resurrected here. THAT is precisely the judgment of the Lord on Israel at one of its worst times, for in Isaiah 1:10, in addressing Israel, He declared: "Hear the word of God, you rulers of Sodom, give ear to the law of our God, you people of Gomorrah... Cease to do evil. Learn to do good." It is true that He proceeded, where the impact of His judgment was heeded, and any REALISED the justice of these words, to say:
"Come now, and let us reason together, says the LORD,
though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be white as snow;
though they are red like crimson, they shall be as wool.
"If you are willing and obedient,
you will eat the good of the land; but if you refuse and rebel,
you will be devoured by the sword."
But WHO would believe concerning the sacrifice that saves, of the Messiah (Isaiah 53:1)! Some would, and so too in our land, some will. Yet then in Israel, Judah was destroyed, not merely for its sins, but for its failure to repent, its brazenness. Why does the Lord do this, do that? a querulous people often asks! WHY do YOU continue impenitent, the Lord asks! Why blame your car when you refuse the service it needs, or your Maker when you live by indifference, revolt, or your 'own morals' invented in the imagination and applied as lust will, whether of mind, spirit or body...
Israel we read, had done WORSE than the people on which it had brought judgment back in Joshua's day, and would it escape judgment itself! (II Kings 21:9). Israel was like a batsman who did a personal best in innings after innings, at the spiritual, social and moral level, scoring not one but several in the realm of golden ducks, while carrying the bat high, and refusing to go out, until the grounds themselves were burned. If they Jews were used, their case was not fused. They paid.
You wonder HOW they could have been so obtuse, for whom the Lord had for so long done so much so often; but if you do, wonder HOW Australia can tread this ever more record-breaking path of self-sufficient, self-centred, moral-mouthing, blind wilfulness fulfilling horror, which defiles the name and work of God as if by obsessive compulsion, and thinks of more ways to limit liberty, indoctrinate the unwary and cash in on the heritage of past things. These tended to build up a name and a system based in Almighty God, and at that, in the One to whom they related, as a PART of their making a Union at all, and SAYING SO in the Preamble.
Oh but we couldn't change this or that, comes the cultural obsession; but why not ? Is it not precisely as in ancient Israel, because idols, foreign to the birth of this nation, have become the lusty loves of multitudes, government in much forwarding and fostering this, like Manasseh. And does God not heed this superior savvy, this emptiness of heart, this presumption of pretence, based on nothing and going nowhere assignable, except by God... They will NOT listen! Alas if this continues! Yet the same offer remains as was grasped in great humiliation, indeed self-humbling by Manasseh, with great effect. It was not too late for him, when he so made his cry to the Lord, from captivity. It is never too late, if you want to come; for the thirsty to the end (Rev. 22:17), are given drink when they trust the water-source, not in the Murray but in the Messiah, by His Spirit, gained not by new releases from the States to the East, but by faith, from the Lord above.
NEW PROGRAM: AFTER AMON,
JOSIAH, THE TOWER THAT DID NOT FALL,
BEING HELD UP BY GOD
Devious revolutions that despise the morals of the only One capable of having them objectively, God Himself, who passes them on, are not the only way to proceed. We have had more than enough educational revolution in this formerly fair land, and elevation of the warring of colliding forces by careful adjustment of powers enabling unremitting warfare between workers of different function! There is no necessity for decline. Thus, after the successor of Manasseh had briefly burnt out his evil, the next generation saw Josiah, made King early, with his a glorious testimony of truth, honour, sincerity, restoration and faith.
This King, like Hezekiah, removed idols, and went further into fulfilling a specific prophecy against the golden calves of Samaria, set up as a substitute altar to that commanded by the Lord in Jerusalem. Back then, centuries before, a prophet had come to Samaria, the new Northern capital, and given a sign of coming sorrow. The altar would split apart and ashes flow out! he asserted and crying to God, had this happen just as Elijah had had fire from heaven come when he called, to consume the sacrifices that the false priests could not consummate!
One from the house of David, by name Josiah, he cried, would come and sacrifice the priests of the false places of worship, burning men's bones on the altars. Josiah was careful to fulfil this, and noticing the tombs of the false priests, and taking bones of these deceased, he proceeded to do precisely that, even burning them upon the altar! Thus was the image fulfilled (synecdoche), on those who had violated the conditions of their covenant by following false gods and misleading the people (Deuteronomy 13). He crushed the altar, the alternate one at Bethel, and he pulverised the falsities, sprinkling the ashes also on the graves of many, for many had been misled.
He removed the religious provocation of booths for perverts, the sun-dedicated horses, the priests from the high places, and the high places in the Mount of Corruption which Solomon, astray as he aged, had built for the goddess Ashtoreth, apparent consort of Baal, whose worship was associated with lewd rites, even religion made a conduit for corruption: and "he made all who were present in Jerusalem and Benjamin make a stand,": (II Chron. 35:31-32). Truly he purged the foul works of contempt for the Lord, works of generations, in a restoration. It is this, not revolution, that this land needs, if it is to stop its headlong plunge into the seething waters of cultural gods, and return to the Almighty God of truth and reason, yes and mercy and tenderness, who has given to man the way to another heart, that he might have, one desperately needed (John 14:6, Hebrews 2:1-3, 8:6-12).
Indeed in Josiah's clearing out of the temple, there was exposed the book of the Law, perhaps Deuteronomy, and horrified by the acute realisation of all they had NOT been doing, in the midst of their revolutionary innovations, in terms of the covenant, the King tore his clothes and sent to the prophet, to find out what was to be done, for he was appalled. The destruction of the land was foretold, and so too the deliverance of Josiah himself from having to see it, and its final plunge, like a rocket which, misdirected, the Challenger for example, finds its seething rest in the tumultuous seas. Till he died, time was under arrest.
As his time of departure drew near, King Josiah sought to inhibit Egypt in its cavalier seeming movement by his land, to the battle of Carchemish. Like Paul, who knowing he would be imprisoned if he went on to Jerusalem, and being told the same, nevertheless did it, so this courageous King did what he could to inhibit international dangers to his land. Indeed, we learn that he disguised himself that he might fight Egyptian forces (II Chronicles 35:22). Why ? one may ask, did he do this ? It may be that he felt impelled to do his uttermost, not as a king in the distance, but even as if a more ordinary soldier, sharing to the uttermost in the prophesied perils to his people. Christ did this to the uttermost in even taking the format of a man that as man he might for man bear the imprint of guilt, for those who came to and with Him!
Josiah died in his valour; but his name did not. Not only did Jeremiah lament for him ("the breath of our nostrils"), in Lamentations, as he mourned for Jerusalem's devastation when that time came, but "all the singing men and singing women speak of Josiah in their lamentations. They made it a custom in Israel," II Chronicles 35 25. So was Josiah removed in lamentation of the people, from his post, before it became a ghost post, a relic under ruin, a tragedy soon to follow. God honoured him in this, for NEVER would this grandly reforming King, who spared nothing for his task, be allowed to endure the subjection to Babylon. Never may any man, woman or child who is born of God, endure the shame of sham worship and false teaching in the "Babylon", type of apostasy today (Revelation 13); but rather at any cost to comfort, let believers endure with his people what it takes to obey (Romans 16:17, II Chronicles 19:1, I Corinthians 5-6), seeking harmony 'outside the gate' in the word of God amongst the believers, but never default on it.
There used to be a saying, Better dead than red! but how much more, better called to heaven now than linger on an earth where your task done, and there is only the companionship of betrayal left. Let each perform his/her task with distinction, single-minded, attention to detail, vision and a functional fixation, like a pilot on a city to be bombed, here with the word and the will of God the load: but this bombing, it is not with blight but with blessing in the testimony of Jesus the Christ.
As Hebrews 12 puts it:
"Therefore we also, since we are surrounded
by so great a cloud of witnesses,
let us lay aside every weight,
and the sin which so easily ensnares us,
and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,
looking to Jesus, the author and finisher of faith,
who for the joy that was set before Him
endured the cross, despising the shame and has sat down
at the right hand of the throne of God.
For consider Him who endured such hostility from sinners against Himself,
lest you become weary and discouraged in your souls...
Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom which cannot be shaken,
let us have grace, by which we may serve God
acceptably with reverence and godly fear..."
This world is not the end; it is the beginning. A good entry, a better exit, a good grace, a wise counsel, a fearless testimony, rejoicing in the Lord, an acute sense of duty, punctilious care in doing right in the very midst of evil: these are things to inspire us in the life of Josiah; and the more so, in view of Manasseh before him, whose evil works he largely undid: except for this, that the LORD took account of the heart of the people. Their lusts growing subject to such loves, like souls adrift, like Romeo and Juliet, in confusion and lack of self-control, they drifted into the irretrievable. At last, while love might weep, for a whole generation, all was lost, the end sealed. Disjoin then from all confusion, and in single-mindedness serve the Lord Jesus Christ, like living flames (Psalm 104:4). God grant us our prayer to serve Him acceptably, knowing Him and doing all His will