Default Position Reset

Today’s reading: I Kings 12-13; Luke 24:36-53

26 And when the prophet who had brought him back from the way heard of it, he said, “It is the man of God who disobeyed the word of the Lord; therefore the Lord has given him to the lion, which has torn him and killed him, according to the word that the Lord spoke to him.”                                                                                                               I Kings 13:26

45 Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures,                      Luke 24:45

Our readings today demonstrate that our natural, human, default position on the Truth is to hold it loosely, discard it easily, and trust in our own reasoning.

The bold prophet from Judah went in obedience to God to Bethel and confronted the King of Israel, Jeroboam. He refused Jeroboam’s invitation to come to his home based on God’s command to leave Bethel and return home without eating or drinking there. So far so good.

But then another old prophet told the bold one that God had given him new instructions, to come to the old prophet’s home and eat bread and drink water. It was a lie. The bold prophet gave in and accepted the invitation. Then the old prophet told him he would die for his disobedience. That happened. Apparently, despite his bold stance before Jeroboam, his default position on the Truth was to question what God had said to him clearly and trust another man.

In the case of the disciples, Jesus graciously corrected their misunderstanding of the Scriptures, He opened their minds to understand them, and He promised them the Holy Spirit. He also gave them a mandate, commonly called “the Great Commission,” to be His witnesses proclaiming repentance and forgiveness of sins in His name to all nations. Without the Lord’s correction they would have muddled on in doubt and disbelief, in their default position on the Truth.

Praise God He does not leave us in confusion. If we are His own, He resets the default position of our human hearts and minds. Pray that you will not doubt, not second guess, what He clearly says. Study His word diligently to believe and obey it.

The Heart is the Problem

Today’s reading: I Kings 10-11; Luke 24:1-35

9 And the Lord was angry with Solomon, because his heart had turned away from the Lord, the God of Israel, who had appeared to him twice 10 and had commanded him concerning this thing, that he should not go after other gods. But he did not keep what the Lord commanded.

25 And he said to them, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! 26 Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” 27 And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.

Often the problem of our lives is not our lack of knowledge but the resistance in our hearts to believe God and to love Him more than anything or anyone else.

JC Ryle wrote: “True faith does not depend merely on the state of man’s head and understanding, but on the state of his heart. His mind may be convinced. His conscience may be pierced. But so long as there is anything the man is secretly loving more than God, there will be no true faith.” ( http://hopefaithprayer.com/true-faith-matter-heart-ryle/)

Solomon’s heart “had turned away from the Lord” and he had gone after other gods. Did all those pagan wives and concubines have anything to do with this? Of course (I Kings 11:3-4). But no one forced Solomon to marry all those unbelievers. He did it because his heart was either already turned away from the Lord or he was willing to be turned away. As a result, he worshiped other gods and the true and living God greatly limited the kingdom that his descendents would inherit for centuries to come.

The disciples walking to Emmaus admitted that they had lost hope that Jesus, recently crucified, would redeem Israel. They seemed to doubt the reports that the Lord was not in the tomb where he had been buried. Jesus told them they were foolish and “slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken.”  How many times had He told them He would rise on the third day? So Jesus spent the rest of the evening explaining to them how the Scriptures pointed to Him and the things that had happened. Nothing had gone wrong except the hearts of the disciples that were slow to believe the truth of the resurrection both before it happened and after it happened.

How’s your heart? Is it turned toward the Lord? Is it quick to believe Him and His Word? Check it out. Let His truth hold you fast in His promises. Do not be swayed by circumstances or powerful influences. Love Him more than anything else. An unbelieving heart brings foolishness.

The Way to Paradise

Today’s reading: I Kings 8-9; Luke 23:39-56

8 And this house will become a heap of ruins. Everyone passing by it will be astonished and will hiss, and they will say, ‘Why has the Lord done thus to this land and to this house?’ 9 Then they will say, ‘Because they abandoned the Lord their God who brought their fathers out of the land of Egypt and laid hold on other gods and worshiped them and served them. Therefore the Lord has brought all this disaster on them.’”      I Kings 9:8-9

42 And he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” 43 And he said to him, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”                  Luke 23:42

Above the euphoria of celebrating the completion of the Temple and the installation of the Ark of the Covenant, there was a certain ominous cloud, the possibility that the people of Israel might not be faithful to their God. There still existed the allurement of other gods. There was no guarantee that the nation would not abandon the God who had delivered their fathers from the land of Egypt and thus incur judgment. That beautiful temple could end up a heap of ruins.

In fact, it did.

The kingdom would be divided; the kings and the people would incorporate pagan worship either in place of or alongside their worship of the Lord. God would turn them over to foreign powers. We will come to that later in our reading. You see where this story is going. We may as well rain on the parade.

Then we turn to Luke. Jesus, the Messiah, has been officially rejected by the rulers, tried before them and the Roman governor, and crucified beside two criminals. One of them calls out for mercy. Jesus assures him, in those famous words, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”

Indeed, the euphoria of the temple dedication would not last. Israel made a mess of their worship and executed their Savior. But God is able to do far above what we ask or think (Ephesians 3:20-21) and He made their greatest evil the ground for their salvation beginning with the repentant criminal.

Do not put your hope and confidence in your own ability to be perfectly faithful to God, to keep all His holy commandments without fail. Trust in the only One who did, Jesus Christ. He ushered a guilty criminal into Paradise, and He can usher you in too, by grace alone through faith alone.

Two Kings

Today’s reading: I Kings 6-7; Luke 23:27-38

51 Thus all the work that King Solomon did on the house of the Lord was finished. And Solomon brought in the things that David his father had dedicated, the silver, the gold, and the vessels, and stored them in the treasuries of the house of the Lord. I Kings 7:51

38 There was also an inscription over him, “This is the King of the Jews.”

Solomon spared no expense in building and furnishing the temple of God in Jerusalem. As you read the details of the construction, the quality of the materials, the description of the workmanship, you have to marvel at the care that was taken. This was as it should be. The building was not for common use, nor for a common person. It was to be for the Lord. It was to be the permanent site of the sacrifices offered to God, the home of the Ark of the Covenant.

The completion and dedication of the temple was undoubtedly the finest hour in the golden age of the United Kingdom of Israel. So it comes as a jolt to turn to Luke and read about the crucifixion of the King of the Jews, Jesus Christ. It also occurred in Jerusalem, not far from the second temple (Solomon’s temple was burned during the Babylonian captivity).

Never was the sinfulness of mankind and the mercy of God seen more vividly side by side. On that most awful day, Jesus was watched by the crowd, scoffed at by the rulers, and mocked by the soldiers while He prayed, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.” Above His head was a sign, “This is the King of the Jews.”

Solomon and his temple had not failed. His temple was as good as could be made, but it wasn’t enough.   The offerings in the temples in Jerusalem merely pointed to the true Offering that would be made not by a king but of the King, Jesus, the perfect Lamb of God, the perfect offering for sin.

Think about it. If you are a believer, your King offered Himself that day in your place. Be amazed.

Height of Wisdom; Depth of Foolishness

Today’s reading: I Kings 3-5; Luke 23:1-26

29 And God gave Solomon wisdom and understanding beyond measure, and breadth of mind like the sand on the seashore, 30 so that Solomon’s wisdom surpassed the wisdom of all the people of the east and all the wisdom of Egypt. 31 For he was wiser than all other men,                                                                                                            I Kings 4:29-31a

24 So Pilate decided that their demand should be granted. 25 He released the man who had been thrown into prison for insurrection and murder, for whom they asked, but he delivered Jesus over to their will.                                                                                     Luke 23:24-25

It would be hard to find a more drastic contrast of wisdom and foolishness in human rulers than the one we see in today’s readings: Solomon vs. Pilate.

Solomon is said to have “loved the Lord” and was walking in the statutes of his father, David (3:3). He did violate worship laws, but God mercifully came to him in a dream and offered to answer his prayer for whatever he desired. Solomon asked for an understanding mind to govern the people God had given him. God was pleased with the request. He granted it and much more to Solomon. Solomon was known for his wisdom both within the kingdom and internationally.

Under this wise king, Israel reached the pinnacle of its glory. Never before and never again would there be such a wise king and a prosperous kingdom. This golden age of Israel would continue until Solomon himself stopped obeying God and followed other gods.

By stark contrast, at Jesus’ trials (before the Jewish Sanhedrin and then before Pilate and Herod) the depth of foolishness is seen.   The Sanhedrin found Him guilty on trumped up charges and spun those to imply some sort of revolutionary terrorist status to Jesus. Neither Pilate nor Herod found him guilty, but Pilate succumbed to the pressure of the crowd and sentenced Him to death by crucifixion.

As so often happens in history, the glory and wisdom that seemed promising in the early days of Solomon’s reign would not last, and the foolish and evil rulings of the Jews and the Romans that seemed to destroy Jesus’ ministry turned into the basis for the message of good news for all mankind. His Church has spread to every corner of the earth. Praise God that He is glorified in the crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus Christ. He is glorified in the ongoing proclamation of the gospel throughout the world. He has shown how great is His power and wisdom in all the earth.

God’s Wisdom and Sovereignty

Today’s reading: I Kings 1-2; Luke 22:54-71

So the kingdom was established in the hand of Solomon. I Kings 2:46b

61 And the Lord turned and looked at Peter. And Peter remembered the saying of the Lord, how he had said to him, “Before the rooster crows today, you will deny me three times.” 62 And he went out and wept bitterly. Luke 22:61-62

Human history is filled with foolishness and wickedness, but God rules over all and uses even the wrath of man to praise Him (Psalm 76:10).

Adonijah, yet another spoiled son of David, like his brother Absalom, attempted to grasp the throne of his elderly father. He had significant support from Joab and Abiathar. David acted quickly and successfully to thwart Adonijah and set up Solomon as the new king. Solomon did not immediately put Adonijah to death, but he did put him on probation.

It wasn’t long before Adonijah made his move. He asked permission to marry Abishag, the beautiful Shunnamite woman, who had cared for David on his death bed. Solomon saw where Adonijah was going with that request. He had him executed immediately.

Adonijah’s death led to Joab’s. Within three years, Solomon had cause to execute Shimei for his violation of probation. The result of all this: the kingdom was established in the hand of Solomon. God used the evil of people to bring about His purpose for the kingdom.

In a similar way, God used Peter’s denial to contribute, in a small way, to the purpose of salvation through the offering of Jesus Christ on the cross. Perhaps even more importantly, God used Peter’s denial to teach him how great his need for mercy and salvation was. Peter was so sure of himself a few hours earlier (Luke 22:33), but he had to learn the depth of his sin and the greater depth of God’s grace toward him. God again used evil to bring about His good purposes both for Peter and for all His elect people.

Do you despair when confronted by sin in yourself and in the world? Remember that God is wise and sovereign. He will do all that He decrees. He will be glorified even in the evil that goes on day in and day out. His kingdom will be established  forever.  It will far exceed that of Solomon in every way.

 

Just and Unjust Rulers

Today’s reading: II Samuel 23-24; Luke 22:31-53

3 The God of Israel has spoken;
the Rock of Israel has said to me:
When one rules justly over men,
ruling in the fear of God,
4 he dawns on them like the morning light,
like the sun shining forth on a cloudless morning,
like rain that makes grass to sprout from the earth.         II Samuel 23:3-4

But this is your hour, and the power of darkness.”            Luke 22:53b

Unjust rulers have their day, but ultimately God will bring justice on them and blessing on those who have ruled justly. Woe to the ruler who ignores his date with the Judge of the whole earth.

David, at the end of his life, had reassurance from God that just governance would not be overlooked. The Lord blesses the king who rules justly, that is, in the fear of God. The despot is a law to himself. The tyrant recognizes no higher authority than himself. He rules without fear of a final judgment day before a completely informed eternal deity.

The blessing of God on the god-fearing leader is described in terms of beautiful weather and a lush harvest. There is sun and rain in just the right amount. The human heart fills with energy and joy in the anticipation of a good day and a good future.

By contrast, in the darkest moment of human history, the Son of God was surrounded in the Garden of Gethsemane with hard-hearted, treacherous rulers who had come to escort Him to His death. They epitomized unjust rulers, lacking in any fear of God.

Jesus was not surprised. He was not fearful. He spoke directly to them showing that their actions were cowardly, done under cloak of night, away from the crowds of attentive listeners who sought His teaching. He made it clear that they operated only by permission of God the Father, Who allowed them their hour to act and freedom to carry out the dark deeds they had contrived.

Give thanks that just rulers will not be forgotten and unjust ones will not escape unpunished. Their hour and power will end. Live and exercise your authority in the fear of God.

Timing and God’s Providence

Today’s reading: II Samuel 21-22; Luke 22:1-30

1 Now there was a famine in the days of David for three years, year after year. And David sought the face of the Lord. And the Lord said, “There is bloodguilt on Saul and on his house, because he put the Gibeonites to death.” II Samuel 21:1

22 For the Son of Man goes as it has been determined, but woe to that man by whom he is betrayed!” Luke 22:22

The mature disciple of Jesus Christ knows that nothing happens by chance or luck, but God orchestrates all of life down to the minutest detail. This occurred in David’s time, Jesus’ time, and in our time. We can be reassured as we grasp the truth of God’s providence in our lives.

A famine came upon Israel. David understood that it was not due to bad luck or some unfortunate coincidence. He knew that God ruled over the harvest whether it be light or heavy. David turned to the Lord for answers and guidance. The Lord revealed to Him the reason for the famine. It had to do with the guilt incurred by Saul over the breaking of a treaty with the Gibeonites and the attempt to annihilate them. Though the treaty itself was foolish and based on deception, God held Israel responsible to maintain their integrity and honor the treaty perpetually (Joshua 9). Seven of Saul’s descendents were executed to satisfy the demand for justice. The famine ended.

In Luke’s account of Jesus final days before His arrest, trial, and crucifixion we are allowed to see all the forces at work to bring about His sacrifice at that time and in that place. The chief priests and scribes were plotting to kill Him; Satan was entering into Judas; the disciples were preparing for the Passover and arguing about who of them was the greatest. Meanwhile, Jesus was serving and teaching them the meaning of His death.

In a matter of a few hours all these protagonists would converge in the Garden of Gethsemane, and the final act would begin on Jesus’ earthly ministry. Was it a coincidence? No, not at all. It was by God’s decree that all this would come about for the salvation of the nations.

What about the apparently random incidents in your life? Are they really random or are they carefully sent by God according to His plan? How would it change your attitude toward interruptions and “bad luck” to have a clearer conviction about the providence of God in your life? We may not always understand what God is doing in the midst of the happenings of our day, but we can always be sure it is Him who is doing it, and He has a purpose and plan for our good and His glory.

Handling Chaos

Today’s reading: II Samuel 19-20; Luke 21:20-38

2 So all the men of Israel withdrew from David and followed Sheba the son of Bichri. But the men of Judah followed their king steadfastly from the Jordan to Jerusalem.                                                                                                                                       II Samuel 20:2

34 “But watch yourselves lest your hearts be weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and cares of this life, and that day come upon you suddenly like a trap. 35 For it will come upon all who dwell on the face of the whole earth. 36 But stay awake at all times, praying that you may have strength to escape all these things that are going to take place, and to stand before the Son of Man.”                                           Luke 21:34-36

Faithful men and women know the Word of God and are thus prepared for whatever may come their way.

There was chaos in Israel. There will be chaos in all the world when the end comes. How can we be prepared? We can learn from what happened in the past and we can learn from what Jesus taught us.

After Absalom was overthrown, the kingdom of Israel did not simply pick up where it left off. David created a problem immediately by going into such grief over the death of his son that Joab had to sternly exhort him lest the nation reject his return to the throne. David wisely responded warding off a dangerous situation. But then there was a conflict between Judah and the other tribes over who should reinstate the king. That resulted in another civil war. David named Amasa as a commander and Joab promptly assassinated him. The kingdom was coming unglued on every level. Chaos reigned. David seems to have held steady through all of this until his kingdom was restored.

That would not be the last time the world would see such turmoil. Jesus prophesied that there would be a time of destruction of the temple. This occurred in 70 AD.   He further indicated that there would be worldwide terror that would come upon all people. No one would escape the distress of nations, the cosmic upheavals.

What are we to do? Jesus said, “Watch yourselves. Stay awake. Pray for strength.” He promised that if we did we will stand before the Son of Man.

Are you in terror about the trajectory of the world today? Jesus said, “Watch your hearts.” Take comfort in God’s Word. Get guidance from His Word. Hold to the Lord who promised that we who do will stand before Him.

 

The Providence of God

Today’s reading: II Samuel 17-18; Luke 21:1-19

14 And Absalom and all the men of Israel said, “The counsel of Hushai the Archite is better than the counsel of Ahithophel.” For the Lord had ordained to defeat the good counsel of Ahithophel, so that the Lord might bring harm upon Absalom. II Samuel 17:14

19 By your endurance you will gain your lives. Luke 21:19

God is providentially active at all times in the lives of all people preserving or punishing according to His wise counsels.

As we saw yesterday, Absalom put together a foolproof plan to overthrow his father’s throne and make himself king. Well, it was not really foolproof, was it? God gave David wisdom to send the loyal Hushai back as a mole in Absalom’s cabinet. God gave Hushai an amazing ability to vividly describe the consequences of following the advice of Ahithophel and to make a convincing argument for delaying the pursuit of David. God turned the heart of Absalom toward Hushai’s advice so that the Lord could carry out His will to bring harm to David’s mutinous son (Proverbs 21:1).

The outcome? Absalom was defeated and killed, and David’s throne was saved.

Jesus foretells things yet to come in the lives of the apostles. He describes the destruction of the temple, the false “christs” that would appear, wars, tumults, national uprisings, earthquakes, famines, pestilences, terrors, and great signs from heaven. These things would occur after the disciples had suffered arrest, persecution, imprisonment, and examinations by religious and political authorities. They would be “turned in” by close relatives. Some would be killed. All would be hated.

Could this be God’s will?  Yes, and it had a purpose. “This will be your opportunity to bear witness,” Jesus told them. Furthermore, God would be with them through all their trials. He told them not to concern themselves about what to say. They would be given the wisdom and words when the time came, and their statements would be irrefutable. He promised that not a hair of their heads would perish. Their lives would be saved.

Do you know that God is providentially preserving you? Do you know that you are safe to do His will and nothing can harm you? Can you trust Him no matter what forces mount up against you? Will you stand up and bear witness with the wisdom and words He gives you in that day?

Stand firm in Him. He rules the universe. He will keep you down to the last hair on your head. Fear nothing. Fear no one. Trust God alone.