2 Sam. 18
The Greek word evangelion translated 'Gospel' means, strictly, 'good news that is being passed on'; for example, the good news of a victory was passed on by runners to the capital city (cp. the Hebrew association of carrying tidings, and good news: 2 Sam. 18:20). Once it had been spread around and everyone knew it, it ceased to be evangelion ; it was no longer news that needed to be passed on. But in that time when there was a joyful urgency to pass it on, it was evangelion. Notice, heralding is not the same as lecturing. Our community for far too long equated preaching , good newsing, with lecturing. Lecturing seeks no result; whereas the herald of God has an urgency and breathlessness about his message. There must be a passion and enthusiasm in us for the message of Christ and His Kingdom. More to be feared than over emotionalism is the dry, detached utterance of facts as a droning lecture, which has neither heart nor soul in it. Man’s peril, Christ’s salvation…these things cannot mean so little to us that we feel no warmth or passion rise within us as we speak about them. Remember how the early preachers were so enthusiastic in their witness that they were thought to be drunk. We are insistently pressing our good news upon others- evangelizing. And the Spirit has chosen this precise word to describe that understanding and hope which has been committed to our trust. If we have the Truth, the Gospel, it is of itself something that by its very nature must be passed on. For this is in fact what the evangelion is- good news in the process of being passed on.
Just as the Father thought that His people “surely” would reverence His Son, so He was ‘certain’ that if His people went to Babylon in captivity, “surely then shalt thou be ashamed… for all thy wickedness” (Jer. 22:22). But the reality was that they grew to like the soft life of Babylon and refused to obey the command to return to God’s land. Such was and is the hopefulness of God.
The spiritual effect of God upon men over and above their own strength is
indicated by the way God "left" a remnant of faithful believers in apostate
Israel (Rom.9:29). Whilst their faithfulness was obviously a result of their own
spiritual effort, God 'leaving' them from apostacy suggests that He was also
active in preserving them from it too. The record does not speak of them saving
themselves from it.
2 Sam. 19
Shimei was a wicked man who hated God's servant David. God told him to curse David (2 Sam. 16:10). Afterwards, Shimei repents and acknowledges that by doing so he sinned (2 Sam. 19:20). And although David recognized that God had told Shimei to curse him (2 Sam. 16:10), David tells Solomon not to hold Shimei "guiltless" for how he had cursed him (1 Kings 2:9). Again, a man is encouraged by God to do the sinful act in which he has set his heart. There is a downward and an upwards spiral, into which we fall each day; with God waiting to confirm us in our choices.
Our places in the Kingdom will be by pure grace alone; but we must respond to this wonder by trying as earnestly as possible to only upbuild and not to stumble our brethren. A personally ‘righteous’ believer might be excluded from the Kingdom for the effect he has had on others. Both God and the pastors of Israel are described as having ‘driven out’ Israel from their land (Jer. 23:2,3,8); the pastors’ sin resulted in all the people sinning and deserving judgment, and God worked with this system, confirming His people in the evil way they had taken. There is no doubt that we can be counted responsible for making another brother sin, even though he too bears responsibility for that sin.
Rom. 10, 11
Our word of preaching can bring others to faith. Our preaching leads to faith being created in the hearers. “The word of faith, which we preach” (Rom. 10:8) is the word (Gospel) that leads to faith; and a man cannot believe without hearing the Gospel, and he will not hear it unless it is preached by a preacher. Paul summarises by saying that faith comes by hearing [the Gospel] and hearing by [the preaching of] the word of God (Rom. 10:8,14,17). Paul’s point is that whoever believes will be saved (Rom. 9:33)- and therefore, we must preach to all, so that they might take advantage of this blessed opportunity.
2 Sam. 20, 21
Drivers can see an accident coming, but not swerve; there is a lack of cognition somewhere in the human psyche. Pilots take off at times knowing that their wings are frozen, and crash. Amasa saw the sword and must have seen the possibility of death, but didn’t take cognisance of it (2 Sam. 20:10). Samson must have known, on one level, what Delilah would do. But mankind is in amnesia, somewhere, somehow, we fail to recognize the obvious. Likewise with the nearness of the Lord’s return, with the urgency of our task in witness, with the evident need to follow God’s word- this lack of cognisance so often comes into play. We really ought to pray, earnestly, for open hearts and eyes and obedient lives before our daily reading.
Merely giving aid to the poor won't automatically make converts- true converts. It’s simply not true that desperately poor people will somehow respond more eagerly than others to the Gospel. The Jews left in the land at the time of the exile were the very poorest (Jer. 39:10). But actually these were the spiritually weaker in the long run, and it was the more wealthy who went to Babylon who were the “good figs” of Jer. 24:3-8.
A link between David and us is in Ps. 140:9,10, which speaks of burning coals
falling on the head of David's enemies; yet those words are effectively quoted
in Rom. 12:20 concerning all believers. David sets himself up in the Psalms as
our pattern. He speaks of himself and then applies the point to all of his
readers. In other words, we really are to see David as representative of
ourselves; we need to change our minds and lives so this really is the case.
2 Sam. 22
The Father really does see us as this righteous. Men have risen up to this. David at the end of his life could say that he was upright and had kept himself from his iniquity (2 Sam. 22:21-24). He could only say this by a clear understanding of the concept of imputed righteousness. Paul's claim to have always lived in a pure conscience must be seen in the same way.
aking the cup of wine is a double symbol: of blessing (1 Cor. 10:16; 11:25), and of condemnation (Ps. 60:3; 75:8; Is. 51:17; Jer. 25:15; Rev. 14:10; 16:19). Why this use of a double symbol? Surely the Lord designed this sacrament in order to highlight the two ways which are placed before us by taking that cup: it is either to our blessing, or to our condemnation. Each breaking of bread is a further stage along one of those two roads. Paul realized this in pleading with the Corinthians to examine themselves before taking the emblems.
Rom. 13, 14
We can appear to have spirituality, when in fact we have nothing, nothing at
all. The man who built his house on the sand had the sensation of spiritual
progress; he was building, he was getting somewhere, apparently. Likewise Israel
were an empty [fruitless] vine, but they brought forth fruit- to themselves. In
reality they had no fruit; but they went through the fruit-bearing process (Hos.
10:1). I write this because I have had all too many good friends in the Lord who
at one time seemed so zealous and committed; but now they don't walk with us,
and on their own admission, all their devotion and labour was somehow not really
true spirituality. The Greek word zelos means both zeal in a good sense (2 Cor.
7:11,12; 9:2; 11:2)- and also it’s translated jealousy, strife, envying (Rom.
13:13; 1 Cor. 3:3; 2 Cor. 12:20). I mean that a false spirituality can mask
itself as true spirituality- and we must examine ourselves in this area.
2 Sam. 23
“Your house and your kingdom shall be established for ever before you” (2 Sam. 7:16) suggests that David would witness the establishment of Christ’s eternal kingdom. This was therefore an indirect promise that he would be resurrected at Christ’s return so that he could see with his own eyes the kingdom being set up world-wide, with Jesus reigning from Jerusalem. These things which were promised to David are absolutely vital to understand. David joyfully spoke of these things as “an everlasting covenant... this is all my salvation and all my desire” (2 Sam. 23:5). These things relate to our salvation too; rejoicing in them should likewise be all our desire. As with the promises to Abraham, if we are in Christ, all that is true of the promised descendant of David is in some way true of us if we are in Christ (Is. 55:3 cf. Acts 13:34).
Having pleaded with Judah to repent, Jeremiah goes on to say: “But as for me, behold, I am in your hand: do with me as is good and right in your eyes” (Jer. 26:13,14 RV). It’s as if he doesn’t mind if they kill him because they misunderstand him, his passionate concern, far over-riding any desire for his own preservation, was that they should repent. Is this our passion for the lost, today?
Rom. 15, 16
We must perceive ourselves not so much as individual believers but as members
of one body, both over space and over time. We must soberly ‘think of ourselves’
as someone who has something to contribute to the rest of the body, even if
first of all we are not sure what it is (Rom. 15:3-8). We feel their weaknesses
as if they are our own. Self interest must die; their wellbeing becomes all
consuming. This is why men like Daniel and Nehemiah could feel that “we have
sinned...”- not ‘they have sinned’. The Lord Jesus didn’t sin Himself but He
took upon Himself our sins- to the extent that He felt a sinner, even though He
wasn’t. Our response to this utter and saving grace is to likewise take upon
ourselves the infirmities and sins of our brethren. If one is offended, we burn
too; if one is weak, we are weak; we bear the infirmities of the weak (Rom.
15:1). But in the context of that passage, Paul is quoting from Is. 53:11, about
how the Lord Jesus bore our sins on the cross. We live out the spirit of His
cross, not in just bearing with our difficulties in isolation, but in feeling
for our weak brethren.
2 Sam. 24
According to 1 Chron. 21:5, there were 1,100,000 “men that drew sword” in Israel. According to 2 Sam. 24:9, there were 800,000 “valiant men” in Israel, according to the same census. There is no contradiction- rather the Samuel record is perceiving that there was a higher level of commitment. There were the enthusiasts, and those who merely could draw a sword. They were all living on different levels. We today have that same choice- and surely we will chose the higher levels?
The exiles asked for ‘deliverance’- but they redefined ‘deliverance’ as meaning being allowed to live prosperously in the land of their captivity (Baruch 1:12 cp. 2:14), rather than being delivered from Babylon and returning to Judah. In a way, the book of Esther shows how God heard this prayer. But the book of Esther therefore has a sad ending, with the Jews prosperous, loved and respected, and even further away from returning to the land. Indeed, Baruch 2:21 records them misquoting Jer. 27:12 about the need to obey the King of Babylon during their captivity, and understanding this as meaning they were to remain in Babylon! Baruch 6:2 is perhaps the most serious example of misquoting and wilfully misunderstanding God’s word. Here, Baruch [as Jeremiah’s scribe] changes the prophecy of Jer. 29:10, that Israel were to be 70 years in Babylon and then return: “When you reach Babylon you will be there many years, a period seven generations long, after which I will bring you back”. The 70 years are turned into seven generations. This was precisely the mindset spoken against in Haggai 1:2, whereby the Jews reasoned that the time had not yet come to rebuild the temple. “The time” referred to the time spoken of by Jeremiah- but Baruch had re-interpreted the 70 years as meaning seven generations. And yet all this was done with a surface-level reverence for God’s word- the exiles considered themselves blessed because they had God’s law (Baruch 4:4). Indeed, much of Baruch is a condemnation of idols and a demand to worship Yahweh.
The Lord had to command those who knew Him not to speak out that knowledge
(Mk. 1:34 cp. 44)- because people knew Him, they quite naturally wanted to
preach it. One cannot truly know the Lord and not tell others of Him. This is
the power of true knowledge, believed as it should be believed.
1 Kings 1
t is possible to infer that for all their spiritual closeness, David and Bathsheba experienced a falling out of love immediately after the incident- as with many cases of adultery and fornication. In contrast to their previous close contact, she had to send to tell him that she was pregnant. In addition, before David's repentance he appears to have suffered with some kind of serious disease soon after it: " My loins are filled with a loathsome (venereal?) disease: and there is no soundness in my flesh" (Ps.38:7). It is even possible that David became impotent as a result of this; for we get the impression that from this point onwards he took no other wives, he had no more children, and even the fail safe cure for hypothermia didn't seem to mean much to David (1 Kings 1:1-4). Therefore " My lovers and my friends stand aloof from my sore" (Ps. 38:11) must refer to some kind of venereal disease. The Hebrew word translated " lovers" definitely refers to carnal love rather than that of friendship. It may be that an intensive plural is being used here- in which case it means 'my one great lover', i.e. Bathsheba. We have a choice this day to sin- and sin brings about its own appropriate punishment, and it never ultimately satisfies.
Jeremiah and the true prophets had to work in competition with Hananiah and the false prophets, who replicated his signs and just slightly changed God's word, teaching that there was peace and safety in the ecclesia, and that God was actually pleased with His people (Jer. 28:3). Paul speaks of a time in the "last days" when this will happen again within the ecclesia. We today certainly can't assume we are a) living in the last days and b) in spiritually sound shape. We need to examine ourselves and not assume all is well for us as a community.
The Lord’s men were accused of ‘threshing’ on the Sabbath because they rubbed
corn in their hands (Mk. 2:23-28). The Lord could have answered ‘No, this is a
non-Biblical definition of working on the Sabbath’. But He didn’t. Instead He
reasoned that ‘OK, let’s assume you’re right, but David and his men broke the
law because they were about God’s business, this over-rode the need for
technical obedience’. The Lord Jesus wasn’t constantly correcting specific
errors of interpretation. He dealt in principles much larger than this, in order
to make a more essential, practical, useful point.
1 Kings 2
Solomon justified himself in a very complex way, which has so much to warn us about. In Prov. 29:14 he wrote: “The king that faithfully judgeth the poor, his throne shall be established for ever”. Solomon is clearly referring to the promises to David, which he assumed were about him. He thought that because he had judged the poor harlots wisely, therefore he would be the promised Messiah. And this was just what David his father had hoped and expected of him. David had even asked Solomon to “do wisely” i.e. to show wisdom, in order that the promises to him about Messiah would be fulfilled (1 Kings 2:3 RVmg.). So this was surely one of Solomon’s motives in giving them justice and being ‘wise’; he sought to live out his father’s expectations and to fulfil the requirements of the Messiah figure. Are we merely living out others' expectations, performing what appears to be spiritual living, when our heart is far from it?
There seems no reason to think that we should break fellowship with someone for not seeking God enough, if we admit that they are not seeking evil. Repentance and seeking God are related; thus Israel's restoration came when they were seeking God and (i.e.) repented (Jer. 29:12-14). However, there is good reason to think that Israel at this time were still spiritually weak; some of them had a desire to seek righteousness, and God accepted this. The connection between repentance and seeking God means that to withdraw fellowship from someone for not repenting enough, is to disfellowship them for not seeking God enough. The implication is that the rest of us have sought God enough- and therefore found Him. This is pure self-righteousness. In conclusion, God wants us to be seeking Him, but this seeking God does not imply complete repentance and forsaking of sin.
Note how in Mk. 3:32 we read that “thy mother and brethren seek for thee”,
and in Mk. 1:37 the same word occurred: “all men seek for thee" ; and also in
Lk. 2:45, of how Mary sought for Jesus. The similarity is such that the
intention may be to show us how Mary had been influenced by the world's
perception of Him. And we too can be influenced by the world’s light hearted
view of the Lord of glory. It’s so easy to allow their patterns of language use
to lead us into blaspheming, taking His Name in vain, seeing His religion as
just a hobby, a social activity…
1 Kings 3
In tandem with a lack of conscience and real spiritual mindedness, an incredible hardness developed in Solomon. His wisdom initially made him soft and sympathetic, able to empathize with the mind of others (e.g. the mother of the baby); and even before his endowment with the gift of wisdom he had the humility to recognize that he was but a little child (1 Kings 3:7) . But as his apostacy developed, he came to whip his people (1 Kings 12:14), treating them as he thought fools should be treated (Prov.26:3)- suggesting that he came to see himself as the only wise man, the only one truly in touch with reality, and therefore despising everyone else. And what of our humility now, compared to when we were first baptized?
We read of God ‘remembering’ His covenant (Ex. 2:24; Lev. 26:42; Jer. 14:10,21); and of God ‘not remembering’ of forgetting the sins of His covenant people (Is. 43:25; Jer. 31:34). If words mean anything, this surely implies that sins which God once remembered, He then stops remembering and ‘forgets’. Such language seems on one hand inappropriate to the God who by nature doesn’t have to forget and can recall all things. But my point is, that He has willingly entered into the meaning of time which is experienced by those with whom He is in covenant relationship. He allows Himself to genuinely feel it like it is.
The light of the candlestick is both the believer (Mt. 5:15) and the Gospel
itself (Mk. 4:21). We are the Gospel message to the people we mix with.
1 Kings 4, 5
Solomon's dualism is a warning to us. "Judah and Israel were many, as the sand which is by the sea in multitude, eating and drinking and making merry" (1 Kings 4:20). This combines allusions to two different passages. Clearly there is reference to the fact that the Abrahamic promises had a primary fulfillment at this time. But the final phrase refers back to Israel's idolatry with the golden calf. It is as if the dualism within Solomon at this time - in being the primary fulfillment of the seed, and yet also being apostate - was fulfilled in Israel. We see elsewhere several indications that Solomon and Israel were closely connected (cp. Christ and the church). Another example of dualism is in Solomon's enthusiasm for Egyptian horses (1 Kings 4:26-28), although this was studied disobedience to Dt. 17:16- the very part of the law which new kings like Solomon copied out!
We read of the new covenant that was made with us by the sacrifice of Christ on the cross. Heb. 8 proves that we are under the new covenant by quoting from Jer. 31, which is a prophecy of how in the future, Israel will repent, and will enter into the new covenant. Twice the Spirit uses Jer. 31:31 to prove to us that we are under the new covenant now (see Heb. 8:6-13 and 10:16-19); yet Jer. 31 is a prophecy of how natural Israel in the future will enter into that covenant, after their humiliation at the hands of their future invaders. So we are being taught that our entering of the covenant now is similar to how natural Israel will enter that covenant in the future. The point is really clinched by the way the Spirit cites Jer. 31 as relevant to us today. The reasoning goes that because Jer. 31:34 speaks of sin forgiven for those who accept the new covenant, therefore we don't need sacrifices or human priesthood now, because Jer. 31:34 applies to us. So therefore God writing in our hearts is going on now, too. This is confirmed by Paul's allusion to Jer. 31 in 2 Cor. 3:3. God wrote with His Spirit on our hearts, He made a new covenant on the covenant-tables of our heart. Likewise 2 Cor. 1:22: " Who hath also sealed us, and given us the earnest of the spirit in our hearts" . There are several prophecies which speak of Israel entering that new covenant, and what it will mean to them. All of them, in some sense, apply to us who are now in the new covenant. All of us should be earnestly seeking to appreciate the more finely exactly what our covenant with God means, exactly what covenant relationship with God really entails.
" Why make ye this ado and weep?" (Mk. 5:39) is unconsciously alluded to by
Paul in Acts 21:13: " What mean ye to weep and to break mine heart?" . If this
is a conscious allusion, it seems out of context. But as an unconscious
allusion, it makes sense. Are we so full of reflection upon our Lord' words that
we even unconsciously allude to them in speech?
1 Kings 6
The record of Solomon's building of his own house is clearly framed to reveal the sad fact that his zeal for God's house was only an outcome of his own natural zeal and hard work; but that tremendous energy was given far more scope in achieving his own ends. So often apparently active brethren are only so because the Truth is only compounding their own naturally active characters. For example, those who naturally like travelling can seem zealous Gospel preachers. The style of the record makes this clear of Solomon:
" So was he seven years in building (God's house)...
but Solomon was building his own house thirteen years" (1 Kings 6:38; 7:1).
His own house (cp. our family and mortgage) assumed almost double the importance of God's house. In this we see Solomon's apostacy. The architectural detail given concerning Solomon's house and " the house of the forest of Lebanon" seems to be given in such a format as to compare with that concerning God's house.
The porch of Solomon's house matches that of the temple (Ez. 8:7,16), which in Ezekiel's time was a place of apostacy. Solomon's own house was undeniably larger than God's, although built with the same layout (e.g. 1 Kings 6:2 cp. 7:2; 6:36 cp. 7:12; 5:1-5 cp. 7:13). The " another court within the porch" in his house seems to have been a replica of the Most Holy within God's house (1 Kings 7:8), yet it was here that Solomon's wives worshipped their idols. Likewise the record of the foundation stones (7:10) is similar to that of the temple foundations. The two pillars with their pomegranates and lily-work seem to have matched the open flowers of the temple, and they have ominous connections with Absalom's pillar of self-glorification (2 Sam. 18:18).
With the Babylonian army besieging Jerusalem and every reason to be depressed, Jeremiah exalts in the creation record and has this as the basis for his faith that Yahweh's power is far from limited (Jer. 32:17). God's reply to this prayer is to repeat that yes, " I am the God of all flesh, is anything too hard for me?" ; His creative power is to be seen as the basis for Israel's Hope (Jer. 32:36-44). Likewise He taught Job the futility of having such metaphysical doubts about Him, of the joy there is all around us in creation regardless of our personal suffering…through an exposition of His power as creator. All this is why the disciples were inspired to faith that their prayers for deliverance would be answered by the recollection of the fact that God has created all things and therefore nothing is too hard for Him (Acts 4:24 RV). This is what our belief in creation should practically mean for us today.
There must have been certain similarities of personality type between the
Lord and His mother. Thus in Lk. 2:33 Mary " marvelled" , and the same word is
used about Jesus in Mt. 8:10 and Mk. 6:6. The Lord at 12 years old displayed
such piercing knowledge and spirituality, but it seems He returned to Nazareth
and suppressed the expression of it (Lk. 2:51). This is why the villagers were
so amazed when He stood up in the Nazareth synagogue and on the basis of Old
Testament exposition, indirectly declared Himself the Messiah. He must have
stored up so much knowledge and spirituality within Him, but hid it from the
eyes of men. This was quite an achievement- to be perfect, and yet not to be
noticed as somehow other-worldly. If we ask where He obtained this humility and
ability from, it is clearly an inheritance from His dear mother, who stored up
things in her heart and didn't reveal them to others, just quietly meditating
over the years. It has been observed that it was unusual for the villagers to
describe Jesus as " the son of Mary" (Mk. 6:3)- even if Joseph were dead, He
would have been known as Jesus-ben-Joseph. It could well be that this was a
reflection of their perception of how closely linked Jesus was to His mother.
1 Kings 7
The promises God makes involve a solemn commitment by Him to us- the serious, binding nature of His oath to us is easy to forget. God swore to David “by my holiness” (Ps. 89:35). The Hebrew for “holiness” is the very same word translated “dedication”. David’s response to God’s dedication to him was to dedicate [s.w.] all the silver and gold which he had won from this world, to the service of God’s house (1 Kings 7:51; 1 Chron. 26:26; 2 Chron. 5:1). Our response to God’s dedication to us should be a like dedication of what we have to Him. Covenant relationship with God requires much of both Him and us. The case of David is a nice illustration of the meaning of grace. David wanted to do something for God- build Him a house, spending his wealth to do so. God replied that no, He wanted to build David a house. And He started to, in the promises He gave David. And David’s response to that grace is to still do something- to dedicate his wealth to God’s house, as God had dedicated Himself to David’s house. This is just how grace and works should be related in our experience.
We read in Jer. 33:11,26 of God ‘causing’ the captives to return. The Hebrew in this phrase is intriguing and impossible to adequately translate- the idea is ‘I will cause by my very own self and will’. The whole force of God’s personality and His passions and emotions was behind His causing Judah to return to the land. But most of them withstood it. And so as we spread the appeal of God to men to return to Him, there is a huge Divine ‘will’ behind our message, God Himself in all His passion is behind our appeals.
Although the Lord was very hard in some ways upon the twelve, accusing them
of “no faith” etc, whenever He spoke about them to others or to His Father, He
was so positive about them. This is a valuable window onto His current mediation
for us. The disciples were ordinary Jews who weren’t such righteous men; they
didn’t wash before a meal, and the Pharisees criticized them. The Lord explained
why this wasn’t so important; but the disciples still didn’t understand. And yet
He justifies them to the Pharisees as if they did understand, and as if their
non-observance of ritual washing was because of their great spiritual perception
(Mt. 15:2,15,16). Surely the Lord imputed a righteousness to them which was not
their own. Jesus had asked the disciples to be obedient to every jot and tittle
of the teaching of the Scribes, because they “sit in Moses’ seat”. And yet when
they are criticized for not doing what He’d asked them to do, for not washing
hands before a meal, the Lord Jesus vigorously defends them by criticizing their
critics as hypocrites (Mk. 7:2-8). Indeed, the Lord’s passion and anger with the
critics comes out very clearly in the subsequent record of the incident; and it
is the essence of that passion which He has for us in mediating for us.
1 Kings 8
The record of how Solomon spoke of his building of the temple can now be seen as blatant pride in his external appearance of spirituality; without the foregoing analysis of the hints of Solomon's pride, this wouldn't necessarily be a correct conclusion to reach; but with all these inspired links, surely we can read the following as pure pride: " Solomon stood before the altar of the Lord in the presence of all the congregation of Israel, and spread forth his hands toward heaven (hardly praying in his closet! Was Christ alluding to Solomon in Mt. 6:6?)...the house that I have built for thy name" (1 Kings 8:22,44). Solomon's frequent emphasis on the fact that he built the house makes a telling connection with the principle that God does not live in houses built by men (Acts 17:24).
1 Cor. 8-10 and Rom. 14:23 seem to teach that what may be right for one man in his Biblical definition of conscience may be wrong for another in his conscience. According to this principle, God blessed the Rechabites for their obedience to their conscience, even regarding something He had not specifically commanded (Jer. 34:19). " Conscience" seems to be used in these passages in a way similar to how we generally use it in modern English.
The Lord “rebuked” Peter for seeking to stop Him die on the cross (Mk. 8:33).
But the very same Greek word has occurred just prior in the narrative, when
Peter has just declared Jesus to be “the Christ of God”. The Lord responded by
commending Peter for his blessed insight, but the record continues: “And [Jesus]
straitly charged them [s.w. “rebuked”] them, and commanded them to tell [i.e.
preach to] no man that thing”, and He goes on to underline to them how He must
suffer on the cross (Lk. 9:21). Why did the Lord both commend and rebuke Peter
for discerning that He was indeed the Christ of God? Surely because, in the
context, Peter understood Messiah to be someone who would there and then bring
salvation without the cross. We see how there was something in Peter as there is
in us all which somehow revolted at the idea of real cross carrying. And it was
for the same reason that the Lord “straitly charged” [s.w. rebuked] those who
wanted to blaze around the news that He was Messiah- because they didn’t
perceive that the Messiah must first suffer and rise again before being declared
in fullness “Lord and Christ”. But Peter, to his credit, did learn something
from the Lord’s rebuke and directive to follow Him in the sense of laying down
his life. When he says “Though I should die with thee”, he uses the word
elsewhere translated “must” in connection with Lord’s foreknowledge that He must
suffer the death of the cross. Peter knew that he must share the cross- but the
flesh was weak.
1 Kings 9
The hollowness of Solomon's early worship is made all too apparent by 2 Chron. 1:3-6; he worshipped in a tabernacle without the ark (i.e. the presence of God). The children of the Arab tribes “that were left after them in the land, whom the children of Israel also were not able to destroy, upon those did Solomon levy a tribute” (1 Kings 9:21) suggests that Solomon made the same mistake as Israel in earlier days- he was a satisficer, he himself married into those tribes, and he wasn’t obedient to the clear covenant of the land which was binding upon him.
The apostate religious system called " Babylon" in Revelation is evidently presented in the language of Solomon - at the time his kingdom was apparently flourishing, due to his righteousness:
1 Kings Revelation
11:1,5 (Solomon influenced 2:20 cp. 1 Kings 16:31
by Zidonian idolatry)
2 Chron. 9:15 (666) 13:18
Is our spirituality merely hollow...?
God expects us to understand much more than we think He does. Thus He condemned Israel in Jeremiah’s time because He had spoken to them but they had not understood, and therefore they had not responded (Jer. 35:17). They heard the word, as we read it, but they didn’t really hear His voice. They thought that getting to grips with Bible study was just for those who were into that kind of thing; with the result that God rejected them.
We frequently commit the horror of limiting God in our attitude to prayer.
All too often we see ourselves in the man who believed and yet still had
unbelief: " If thou (Jesus) canst do anything, have compassion on us, and help
us. Jesus said unto him, If thou canst believe, all things are possible" (Mk.
9:22,23). The man thought that Christ's power to help was limited: 'If you can
do anything to help, well, please do'. The Lord Jesus turned things right round:
'If you can believe, anything's possible' - in other words, God can do anything,
but His ability to directly respond to some particular need is limited by our
faith, not by any intrinsic lack of ability within Himself. The man hadn't
thought about this. He saw God as sometimes able to help a bit; Christ turned
the man's words round to show that God's power is infinite, limited only by our
1 Kings 10
The description of Solomon's trading with Egypt is described with an unusual phrase- he brought forth chariots and horses out of Egypt by his hand (1 Kings 10:29). But the Hebrew phrase 'to bring forth by the hand' is used so very often to described how God's might hand brought forth His people from Egypt- destroying the horses and chariots of Egypt in the process (Ex. 7:4,5; 13:3,14,16; 14:8; 32:11 and so often). This is such a major theme in Biblical history that the inspired choice of words is surely intentional and allusive in 1 Kings 10:29- for Solomon did the very opposite to what God did for His people. Solomon's hand brought forth and glorified the chariots and horses of Egypt, bringing them all the way from Egypt to Canaan. Solomon is thus being subtly set up as an anti-God figure- although apparently, all was well, the promises of blessing were being fulfilled etc. And is it the same with us...?
Jer. 34:2 was surely a conditional prophecy, even though no condition is given at the time: “I will give this city into the hand of the king of Babylon, and he shall burn it with fire”. But the Jews made some sort of repentance, releasing their slaves…and the Babylonian armies retreated (Jer. 34:21,22). Then they enslaved their brethren again- and, v.22 says, only because of this did the Babylonian armies return and burn Jerusalem. Thus the initial prophecy of burning with fire was conditional. And the Jews realized this and therefore repented. In similar vein, “the king of Babylon shall certainly come and destroy this land” was capable of not being fulfilled, if Judah would only have repented (Jer. 36:3,7,29). So many different options lay before us this day, too... and God and the Angels surely eagerly watch our decisions.
You will have noticed how often the Gospels record that Jesus " answered and
said..." . Yet it's often not clear whether anyone had asked a question, or said
anything that needed a response (Mt. 11:25; 22:1; Mk. 10:24, 51; 11:14,22,33;
12:35; 13:2; 14:48; Lk. 5:22; 7:40; 8:50; 13:2; 14:3,5; 17:17; 22:51; Jn. 1:50;
5:19; 6:70; 10:32; 12:23,30; 16:31). If you go through this list, you will see
how Jesus 'answered' / responded to peoples' unexpressed fears and questions,
their unarticulated concerns, criticisms, feelings and agendas. This little
phrase reveals how sensitive Jesus was. He saw people's unspoken, unarticulated
needs and responded. He didn't wait to be asked. For Jesus, everybody He met was
a question, a personal direct challenge, that He responded to. And of course
this is how we should seek to be too. He treated each person differently. Jesus
approved Zacchaeus' distribution of only half of his possessions- whilst
demanding that the rich young man give away literally all. And He never seems to
have demanded that those of His followers who owned houses should sell them.
1 Kings 11
Solomon's heart was "turned away", or 'influenced' by his wives towards idols (1 Kings 11:3). Yet Solomon uses this very idea of the heart being turned or influenced in Prov. 2:2; 22:17 about the need to turn our hearts towards God's word. He taught, but did the very opposite. And perhaps Prov. 21:1 explains why he did this- he says there that Yahweh turns the heart of the King wherever He wishes- and so perhaps he thought that control of our thinking and inclinations is unnecessary, because somehow God will do it for us. And there's a lesson there for us, who may assume at times that God will somehow control our hearts for us, rather than our making a conscious effort towards mind control. Solomon went off to other gods because his heart was not at peace [Heb.- not at shalom] with the one true God- so says 1 Kings 11:4,5. We see here the upward spiral of spirituality- knowing we are forgiven, being comfortable and at peace with God, means we will not go after the idols of this world. For there is an endless searching for peace in the human heart. If we don't accept the forgiveness and peace that can from God alone, we will seek peace in false ways. And that's just what Solomon did- for all his wisdom, he didn't personally know peace with God. Head knowledge doesn't give peace- for that is experiential.
When Zedekiah called Jeremiah out of the prison house to meet him and show him the word of God, he ought to have perceived that he was going through the very experience of Pharaoh with Joseph (Jer. 37:17,20). Jeremiah’s desperate plea not to be sent back to prison to die there surely echoes that of Joseph to his brethren; for Jeremiah was let down like Joseph had been into a pit with no water in, so reminiscent of Joseph (Gen. 37:24). But Zedekiah didn’t want to see all this; he should’ve listened to Jeremiah, as Pharaoh had listened to Joseph and saved himself. It was all potentially set up for him; but he refused to take note. And there are similar situations in our lives today.
The Lord knew there would not be repentance by Israel. But He went to the fig
tree seeking fruit, even though it wasn’t the time for fruit (Mk. 11:13). He
hoped against hope that there would be at least something, even though all of OT
prophecy and precedent was dead against it. We too should have a hopeful spirit
in our witness and appeals to others.
1 Kings 12
The paradox of servant leadership is found back in 1 Kings 12:7- if Rehoboam had been a servant of his people, then he would have ruled over them. In all ways, the Lord is our pattern. He was a servant of all, and so should we be. His servanthood dominated His consciousness.http://www.aletheiacollege.net/ww/a1-8servant_leader.htm
It was Zedekiah who personally 'burnt' Jerusalem- it was his stubbornness which lead to the city's destruction in the sense that had he repented, the sinful city could have been saved (Jer. 38:23 RVmg). Our decisions have huge ramifications for others...
When asked which was the greatest of the commandments, the Lord replied that it was the fact that God is one. He saw the unity of God as a commandment that elicited action; and He says [note His grammar] that this plus the command to love our neighbour is the [singular] great commandment (Mk. 12:31). And He again combines these two commandments in Lk. 10:27,37, saying that to love God with all our heart is parallel with loving our neighbour and showing mercy to him. He quoted two commandments as one, so deeply had He perceived that we can't claim to love God without loving our brother. How had He worked that out? Perhaps by daily reflecting upon what to many was merely a ritual saying of words. And we too read and have pass our lips, ideas which can work radical transformation in us if only we will put meaning into the words and reflect upon them.
1 Kings 13
God's activity for others is partly dependent on the prayers of a third party. What stronger motivation could we have to pray earnestly for each other? The prayer of the man of God caused Jeroboam's hand to be healed (1 Kings 13:6). Again, the prayers of someone else can affect the fortunes of another in a way which would not happen if they just prayed for themselves. We therefore should be deeply praying for others as much of the time as we can!
The main lying helpless on the Jerusalem - Jericho road was surely modelled on Zedekiah being overtaken there by his enemies (Jer. 39:5). That weak, vacillating man basically loved God's word, he wanted to be obedient, but just couldn't bring himself to do it. And so he was, quite justly, condemned. It's as if the Lord saw in that wretched, pathetic man a type of all those He came to save. And even in this wretched position, the Lord will pick us up and carry us home. This gives a fine, fine insight into His sensitivity to us.
Mark’s record of the Lord’s trial is not merely a historical account. It’s framed in terms of our need to testify for our faith too. The Lord’s example in His time of suffering was and is intended to be our example and inspiration, in that we are to in a very practical sense enter into His sufferings. Mark records the Lord’s prediction that His people would have to witness before both Jewish and Gentile authorities (Mk. 13:9-13)- and then Mark goes on in the next chapter to describe Jesus doing just this. The Lord asked His suffering followers not to prepare speeches of self-defence- perhaps exemplified and patterned for us in the way that He remained silent before His accusers. Peter is recorded as denying Christ three times- just as the Romans interrogated Christians and asked them to three times deny Christ. The Christians were also asked to curse, or anathematizein, Jesus. And when we read of Peter’s cursing, the same word is used. We’re left with the impression that Peter actually cursed Christ. And so Mark, who was likely writing the Gospel on Peter’s behalf, is showing that Peter, the leader of the church, actually pathetically failed to follow his Lord at this time. And yet the Gospel of Mark was being distributed to Christians who were being dragged before Jewish and Roman courts. The idea was surely to give them an example and encouragement from Peter’s failure, rather than portray a positive example of a man overcoming the temptation to curse and deny Christ. But this was how the Lord used Peter- as an example from failure for all of us.
1 Kings 14
God’s words of future prophecy are “true and faithful…they are come to pass” (Rev. 21:6 RV). They are as good as done as soon as they are uttered, so certain are they of fulfillment. Thus 1 Kings 14:14: "The Lord shall raise him up a king…but what? Even now". This is the way to understand those passages which appear to teach that both Jesus and ourselves existed physically before our birth. God doesn't completely express Himself in our terms and language (although of course to some degree He does). There is a degree to which God is God, and He expresses Himself as He is. We must bring ourselves to accept His perspective. Indeed, faith is the ability to believe that what God has said will actually happen physically, and that therefore we can live as if we see that future physical event as actually having happened. In other words, faith is about adopting God's time-less perspective.
Jeremiah chose to live with those whom he had been told were the “evil figs”who wouldn’t repent- in the hope that they would (Jer. 40:6), just as Isaiah and Ezekiel still seem to have held out hope that Israel would repent despite having been told at the start of their ministry that they would not be listened to. This hoping against hope that God will change His stated predictions about human lack of response is surely not defiance of God, but rather a recognition of His great sensitivity to human repentance, and that God changing His mind is a common Bible phenomena.
Not only did Jesus 'answer' to the needs of others, but He Himself was a silent, insistent question that had to be responded to. He came and found the disciples sleeping, and they didn't know what to answer Him (Mk. 14:40). His look, the fact that when facing super exhaustion and sleep deprivation He endured in prayer...this was something that demanded, and demands, an answer- even if we can't give it. He responds / 'answers' to us, and we have to respond / answer to Him. This is how His piercing sensitivity, coupled with the height of His devotion, compels the building of real relationship between ourselves and this invisible Man.
1 Kings 15
Asa and Jehoshaphat removed the high places, but in a sense they didn't (1 Kings 15:14 cp. 2 Chron. 14:5; 17:6 cp. 20:33). We read of how the land was purged of Baal, Sodomites etc.; but in a very short time, we read of another purge being necessary. Hezekiah, Manasseh and Josiah all made major purges within a space of 80 years. Jeremiah therefore condemns the Jews who lived at the time of Josiah's reformation for not knowing God in their hearts. Asa gathered the gold and silver vessels back into the temple- and then went and used them to make a political treaty. He apparently treated them as God's riches, but then in reality he used them as his own (1 Kings 15:18, 15). Many a Western Christian has this very same tendency. We too must ask ourselves whether our spirituality is really just a product of the crowd mentality; as the crowd shouted one day " Hosanna to the Son of David" , a few days later they wanted Jesus to be delivered rather than Barabbas, but within minutes they were persuaded to cry for the crucifixion of the Son of God. Church life, Bible studies, the breaking of bread... inevitably, there is a crowd mentality developed here. There is a feeling of devotion which wells up within us as a community, as an audience, as we sit there, as we stand in praise and worship together. But the real spirituality is far deeper than this. We must seriously ask whether our spirituality, our feelings of devotion, our true repentance, are only stimulated by these meetings?
Jer. 41:1,2 present the theme of a betrayal at the 'breaking of bread'. David lamented that his own trusted familiar friend, with whom he broke bread, had betrayed him; and this became prophetic of how the Lord was betrayed by Judas. Circumstances repeat between the lives of God's servants so that we might have comfort and hope from the Scriptures.
The faithful women who literally followed Him to the cross are described as also having followed Him in Galilee (Mk. 15:41), as if their following then and their literal following of Him to Golgotha were all part of the same walk. Our following of Him and His principles when the going is good will enable us to follow Him in the harder times.
1 Kings 16
We can limit God's plans to save others in the ecclesia by our attitude to them. We can make others stumble from the path to His salvation. Baasha made other people sin and thus provoke God to anger; his own sin and that of the people are described in identical language, to portray how he influenced them (1 Kings 16:2,7).
The tone of God’s speeches in Jeremiah varies wildly, moving abruptly from outraged cries of pain to warm entreaties of love, and then to desperate pleas for a new start. He is responding like a jilted lover, who gained His Israel by wooing them in the wilderness. He felt the pain of Israel’s rejection, and went through very human-like reactions to this. The book of Hosea shows all this lived out in a real human life. Hosea was representative of God, and yet he married a slut called Gomer, and in their life together they portrayed graphically the pain of God’s relationship with His people. The image of God as the wounded lover which we meet in Hosea and Jeremiah ought to deeply impress us. The God who created all of existence subjects Himself to such humiliation from His creation. One is almost haunted by the reality of a God who lets our response to Him count that much. It inspires us to implore Israel and all men, on our hands and knees, to not reject the love of God which is in the Gospel. I feel I want to beseech Israel for the sake of God's hurt and pain over them alone, if for no other reason. Just think of His emotional response to them. He tells them He has punished them less than their iniquities deserve; but then He feels He’s been too hard on them. He tells Jeremiah not to pray for them as He won’t hear him; but then Jeremiah does pray and God hears and changes His mind as a result of this (Jer. 42:7,10).
Whether the woman of Mk. 14:8 really understood that she was anointing His body for burial is open to question. But the Lord's positivism graciously imputed this motive to her. The women who came to the garden tomb weren't looking for the risen Lord; they came to anoint the body (Mk. 16:3). But their love of the Lord was counted to them as seeking Him (Mt. 28:5). The Lord looks at us today with this same positive spirit.
1 Kings 17
Elijah bursts upon the scene in 1 Kings 17:1, describing the Lord as the One “Before whom I stand”. ‘Standing before the Lord’ refers to prayer- Ps. 106:23; Ezra 9:15; Jer. 15:1; 18:20. To live a life standing before the Lord is to live a life of prayer. Hence David and Paul say that prayer can be continual- in that life becomes a lived out prayer, with the practice of living in the presence of God. And straight away we ask ourselves, in lives just as busy as those of David and Paul, whether our self-talk, our minute by minute inner consciousness, is “before the Lord”...or merely the sheer and utter vapidity of the 21st century mind.
The implication of Jer. 43 is that Jeremiah went down to Egypt with his people- a people who hated him and disobeyed him, considering him a false prophet. They disobeyed God by going down to Egypt, they nullified the potential for the fulfilment of the prophecies of restoration (for them, at least). And yet Jeremiah stuck with this wayward people, he didn't quit with them or show his disagreement by separating from them.
1 Cor. 1, 2
The Corinthians were converted “not [so much] through words of wisdom, but through the demonstration of the spirit” (1 Cor. 2:4). The essence of all this is the same today as it was then- the revelation of the person of Jesus isn’t solely through Bible reading and getting the interpretation right; it’s through a living community, His body. It is there that we will see His Spirit / personality in action. I don’t refer to miraculous gifts- but to the spirit / mind / disposition / essence of the Lord, man and saviour Jesus. And that’s why the saying is so true, that ‘the truth is caught not taught’- the community of believers, collectively and individually, propagates the faith and cause of Jesus by who they are, by their spirit, far more effectively than by the doctrines they teach. And yet there is a growing trend to follow the path of the Roman Catholic church- to replace live fellowship of persons by an institution, and to replace the faith which works by love by a cold creed.
1 Kings 18
Elijah really is the great example of believing that what we have prayed for, we have already received. He tells Ahab that he hears “the sound of a abundance of rain”, well before the prayer for rain had even begun to be answered (1 Kings 18:41). Elijah announced that there was not to be dew nor rain but “according to my word” (1 Kings 17:1). Here is an example of being sure of God’s will in what we pray for. If the Lord’s words abide in us, then we will ask what we will and it will be done; yet John also records that if we ask according to God’s will, it will be done for us. Our will and that of the Father come to co-incide as His word takes an ever deeper lodgment in our consciousness. And this is how close Elijah must have been to knowing the will of God.
The rejected are witnesses against themselves (Is. 44:9; Mt. 23:31). Herein lies the crass folly and illogicality of sin. Jeremiah pleaded with Israel: "Wherefore commit ye this great evil against your souls [i.e. yourselves], to cut off from you man and woman...that ye might cut yourselves off" (Jer. 44:7,8, cp. how Jerusalem cut her own hair off in 7:29). In the same passage, Yahweh is the one who does the cutting off (Jer. 44:11); but they had cut themselves off. Likewise as they had kindled fire on their roofs in offering sacrifices to Baal, so Yahweh through the Babylonians would set fire to those same houses (Jer. 32:29). Condemnation is therefore only for those who have condemned themselves... and this gives much scope for self-examination.
1 Cor. 3
Paul seems to have assumed that all of us would preach and make converts (not leave it to just some of our community): he speaks of how " every man" in the ecclesia builds upon the foundation of Christ, but how he builds will be judged by fire. If what he has built is burnt up at the judgment, he himself will be saved, but not what he has built (1 Cor. 3:10-15). I would suggest that the 'building' refers to our converts and work with other believers. If they fail of the Kingdom, we ourselves will be saved, but our work will have been in vain. This parable also suggests that the salvation of others, their passing through the fire at the judgment, is dependent upon how we build. This may be hyperbole to make a point, but it is a powerful encouragement that we are all elders and preachers, and we all have a deep effect on others' spirituality.
1 Kings 19
The whole incident on Horeb was to make Elijah see the supremacy of the still small voice; that it is in humble, quiet service rather than fiery judgment of others that the essence of God and spirituality is to be found. But God had prepared Elijah for this earlier. Elijah had to hide by the brook Cherith (1 Kings 17:3) for three and a half years (Lk. 4:25,26). Elijah was characterized by wearing a hairy garment like sackcloth (2 Kings 1:8 RV). In Rev. 11:3,6 we meet another Elijah figure- also clothed in sackcloth, with the power to bring fire down from Heaven, who for three and a half years…prophesies / preaches. We would expect Elijah to have been preaching during his time hidden by Cherith- but there is not a word of this in the record. Could it not be that the Father wishes to show us what He was then trying to teach Elijah- that the essential prophetic witness is through us being as we are, the still small voice of witness through example…? It is also significant that the triumph on Horeb involved making an offering on an altar of Yahweh which was in one of the “high places” (1 Kings 18:30)- whereas Israel were repeatedly criticized for offering on these “high places” and not in Jerusalem. Elijah even criticizes Israel for throwing down these “high places” altars of Yahweh (1 Kings 19:10,14). Surely Elijah knew that the use of the high places was not what Yahweh ideally wanted; and yet he was driven to use a high place in this way. And with us, God will work through circumstances to remove from us the crutches of mere religion, to challenge the essence of our faith and relationship with Him. The way Ezekiel had to eat unclean food and defile himself is another such example.
Jer. 45, 46
Baruch, the faithful scribe of Jeremiah 36, had to be reminded later to stop seeking great things for himself (Jer. 45:5). He couldn't maintain the intensity of commitment to the end; and we too face a constant struggle to not slip from earlier levels of commitment to the Lord.
1 Cor. 4, 5
In the context of the self-examination command in 1 Cor. 11, Paul is speaking of the need to completely focus our attention on the sacrifice of Christ. Yet this command must have its basis in the directive for Israel to search their house for leaven before eating the Passover (Ex. 12:19). "Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven...of malice and wickedness" (1 Cor. 5:8). The disciples’ question at the first breaking of bread, “Lord, is it I?” is another prototype of the command to examine ourselves at the feast (Mt. 26:22). Combining Paul's command to examine ourselves that we are really focusing upon our Lord's sacrifice, and the Exodus allusion which implies that we should examine our own lives for wickedness, we conclude that if we properly reflect upon Christ and His victory for us, then we will inevitably be aware of our own specific failures which Christ really has vanquished. But this will come as a by-product of truly grasping the fullness of the Lord's victory. The Passover was to be a public proclamation to the surrounding world of what God had done for Israel. Likewise our feast 'shows forth' (Greek: publicly declares') the Lord's death. Our memorial meeting should therefore include a degree of openly declaring to others what spiritual deliverances the Lord has wrought for us.
1 Kings 20
God tried to correct Elijah’s despisal of the other prophets of the Lord. Elijah was in a cave, and was also fed bread and water- just as the other prophets were (1 Kings 18:4). And yet Elijah didn’t see, or didn’t want to see, that connection- after having been reminded of this experience of the other prophets, he claims that “I, even I only, remain a prophet of the Lord” (1 Kings 18:22)- he wrongly believed that all other valid prophets had been slain (1 Kings 19:10). In fact the record shows how that during Elijah’s lifetime there were other prophets of Yahweh active in His service (1 Kings 20:13,35). And yet the lesson is that God still works through the conceited, the spiritually superior, those who despise their brethren. God didn’t give up on Elijah because he was like this, and neither should we give up in our relationship with such brethren.
Jeremiah responds to the prophecy he has to utter against the hated Philistines by begging the Father to limit these judgments, presumably on account of their repentance: “O thou sword of the Lord, how long will it be ere thou be quiet? Put up thyself into thy scabbard, rest, and be still” (Jer. 47:6). Think too of how he almost interrupts a prophecy he is giving to Israel about judgment to come by appealing for them therefore to repent (Jer. 4:13,14). Our handling of the prophecies of judgment to come should have a like effect upon us: they should inspire us to an inevitable witness and pleading with God for others. Each of our days cannot be just ‘the same old scene’ when we see the world in this way.
1 Cor. 6
If we believe in Christ’s resurrection, we will therefore repent, confess our sins and know His forgiveness. Thus believing in His raising and making confession of sin are bracketed together in Rom. 10:9,10, as both being essential in gaining salvation. Because He rose, therefore we stop committing sin (1 Cor. 6:14). We can’t wilfully sin if we believe in the forgiveness His resurrection has enabled. Men should repent not only because judgment day is coming, but because God has commended repentance to us, He has offered / inspired faith in His forgiveness by the resurrection of Christ (Acts 17:30,31 AV mg.). The empty tomb and all the Lord’s glorification means for us should therefore inspire personal repentance; as well as of itself being an imperative to go and share this good news with a sinful world, appealing for them to repent and be baptized so that they too might share in the forgiveness enabled for them by the resurrection.
1 Kings 21
In 1 Kings 21:21 Elijah simply announces to Ahab: “Behold I will bring evil upon thee...”. We expect this to be prefaced by a “Thus saith the Lord”- but Elijah was so close to God he assumed he was speaking directly from Him. And yet Elijah doesn’t repeat what God had told him to say in v. 19. Was he too familiar with God? Assuming he knew God’s will and words? But it must be said that he improves- in 2 Kings 1:6 he says that what he says is the word of Yahweh, and he repeats verbatim what he was told to say. We too know God’s word. We know the Bible text well. But this can lead to an assumption that we speak for God; that we must be right in all our attitudes and positions we adopt on issues.
We will appeal to men with conviction, as Isaiah’s heart cried out for Moab like a young heifer about to be slaughtered, feeling for them in what would come upon them, and desperately appealing for their repentance. Because the Moabites would cry out and their voice would be heard, “my heart shall cry out for Moab” (Is. 15:4,5,8). As the Lord Jesus is a representative Saviour, we too must feel the judgment that is to come upon others, and in that sense cry out for them as they will cry out. “Therefore shall Moab howl for Moab” (Is. 16:7)- but Isaiah, feeling for them so strongly, also howled for them; “my bowls shall sound like an harp for Moab” (16:11). And he felt the same for his own people, Israel. He repeatedly pronounces “woe” upon them (Is. 3:9; 5:8,11,18,20,21,22; 8:11), and yet in that very context he can exclaim: “Woe is me” in chapter 6; he identified with them to the point of also feeling unworthy and under woe [in this clearly typifying the Lord’s identity with us]. This level of love inspired Jeremiah to adopt the same attitude (Jer. 48:20,31-34); he too howled for those whose howling in condemnation he prophesied (Jer. 48:31 s.w.). As Moab cried out like a three year old heifer (Jer. 48:34), so did Isaiah for them (Is. 15:5). All this was done by Isaiah and Jeremiah, knowing that Moab hated Israel (Is. 25:10) and were evidently worthy of God’s condemnation. But all the same they loved them, in the spirit of Noah witnessing to the mocking world around him. Our knowledge of this world’s future means that as we walk the streets and mix with men and women, our heart should cry out for them, no matter how they behave towards us, and there should be a deep seated desire for at least some of them to come to repentance and thereby avoid the judgments to come.
1 Cor. 7
Whatever we do, doing all to the glory / praise of God, working for human masters as if we are serving the Lord Christ. But a word of caution must be sounded here. “If thou canst become free, use it rather” (1 Cor. 7:21 RV), Paul wrote to slaves. We are inevitably tied down with the things of this life; but if we can be made free, to serve God directly, as usefully as possible, then surely we should seek to do this. Take early retirement. You can chose to remain at work, and of course, you can glorify God. But you can devote your life and free time to the work of the Gospel, and bring dozens to the knowledge of Christ who wouldn’t otherwise have had it. I’d say, and I interpret Paul to say likewise: “If you may be made free, then use it rather”. We should aim to “surrender yourself to the Lord, and wait patiently for him” (Ps. 37:7).
1 Kings 22
The notion of a court of Heaven is a major Biblical theme. The visions of 1 Kings 22:19-23, Isaiah 6 and Rev. 4 show God seated on a throne with Angels before Him, bringing information and requests to Him and departing with commands to obey; the idea of a council in Heaven is clearly hinted at in Job 1; Gen. 1:26; Ps. 89:7. God sitting on a throne implies that each request or piece of information presented is 'judged' and an appropriate decision made. The 'case' of the adversaries to God is presented by a 'satan' Angel. Ps. 11:4,5 describes the scene: "The Lord's throne is in Heaven (mirrored by the Mighty Angel of Israel being enthroned over the Mercy Seat in the temple): His eyes (Angels) behold, His eyelids try, the children of men. The Lord trieth the righteous (who are in His presence by their Angel), but the wicked and him that loveth violence His soul hateth". Rev. 12:10 may be understood in this context: "The accuser of our brethren is cast down, which accused them before our God day and night". When we read that Enoch “had witness borne to him that he had been well pleasing unto God” (Heb. 11:6 RV), this is courtroom language. Could it not be that his representative / guardian Angel in the court of Heaven had made this testimony to God Almighty? Likewise Lk. 21:13 speaks of how when a believer is persecuted, “it shall turn to you for a testimony”. What does this really mean? For me, the most satisfactory explanation would be that the Angels give a positive testimony of the faithful believer in the court of Heaven. And they are discussing you, this day.
It’s often been commented that God is beyond or even outside of our kind of time. God pre this present creation may have been like that, and He of course has the capacity and possibility to be like that. But it seems to me that particularly in connection with those with whom He is in relationship, He chooses to not exercise that possibility. Instead, God Almighty throws Himself into our experience, by limiting Himself to our kind of time- with all the suspense, hope, excitement, joy, disappointment which this involves. Time and again we read of how God says He is “shaping evil against you and devising a plan” against His enemies (Jer. 18:11; Jer. 26:3; Jer. 49:20,30; Jer. 50:45; Mic. 2:3; 4:12). For the faithful, He says that He is making plans for them for good and not for evil, “to give you a future” (Jer. 29:11). The Lord Jesus had this sort of thing in mind when He spoke of how the Kingdom will have been being prepared for the faithful from the beginning of the world (Mt. 25:34; Mt. 20:23). The idea of God 'preparing' implies that there is therefore a gap between the plan being made, and it being executed- hence “The Lord has both planned and done what He spoke concerning the inhabitants of Babylon” (Jer. 51:12; Jer. 4:28; Lam. 2:17; Is. 22:11; Is. 37:26; Zech. 1:6; Zech. 8:14). This ‘gap’ is significant when we come to consider the idea of God’s ‘repentance’ or change of mind- stating something is going to happen, but then changing His mind because of human behaviour during the ‘time gap’ between the statement and its’ execution. It's an amazing thought- that we today can influence God...
1 Cor. 8, 9
The New Testament develops the theme of ‘living in the spirit’. We can often understand ‘spirit’ in the NT to mean the dominant desire, the way of life, the essential intention, the ambience of a man’s life. The idea of life in the Spirit is often placed in opposition to that of living under a legal code. We are asked to live a way of life, rather than mere obedience to a certain number of specific propositions. And yet whilst we are free from legal codes, we aren’t free to do as we like. We are under “the law of the spirit” (Rom. 8:2), “the law of Christ” (1 Cor. 9:21). The law of Christ isn’t only His specific teaching, but the person of the real, historical Jesus. This is the standard of appeal which should mould the spirit of our lives.
2 Kings 1, 2
The word for “Mantle” is translated “glory” in Zech. 11:3; Elijah wrapped his presence in his own glory, rather than face up to the implications of God’s glory. A desire for our own glory prevents us perceiving God’s glory. Perhaps Elijah was being pseudo-humble, misquoting to himself a Biblical precedent in all this, namely that the cherubim wrapped their faces (Is. 6:2). In this case. Elijah was doing a false impersonation of the cherubim, manifesting himself before God’s manifestation of Himself. Only at the very end does Elijah cast away his mantle (2 Kings 2:13), his human strength, allowing himself to merge with God’s glory. He should have cast away his mantle earlier, when he stood before the still small voice on Horeb. The question of 1 Kings 19:13 “Why are you still here, Elijah?” may imply that Elijah should have allowed himself to be carried away by the cherubim, he should have surrendered himself to the progress of God’s glory, rather than so obsessively insist upon his own personal rightness and the wrongness of others. And this was why God’s ultimate response to Elijah’s attitude on Horeb was to dismiss him from his prophetic ministry and enstate Elisha as his successor (1 Kings 19:16). Elijah seems to have finally learnt his lesson, for he calls Elisha to the ministry by ‘passing by’ Elisha as in a theophany, taking off his mantle and throwing it upon Elisha (1 Kings 19:19). He realized that he had hidden behind that mantle, using it to resist participating in the selfless association with God’s glory [rather than his own] to which he was called. But he got there in the end; hence the enormous significance of Elijah giving up his mantle when he finally ascends to Heaven in the cherubim chariot (2 Kings 2:13).
Time and again the prophets describe the judgments to fall upon Israel in the same terms as they speak of the condemnations of the surrounding nations (e.g. Jer. 50:3,13). The message was clear: rejected Israel would be treated as Gentiles. Even if we are separated from this world externally, we can still act in a worldly way, and share the world's condemnation.
1 Cor. 10
The ongoing nature of the act of baptism was outlined in baptism's greatest prototype: the passage of Israel through the Red Sea (1 Cor. 10:2). They were baptized into that pillar of cloud (cp. the water of baptism), but in fact the cloud and fire which overshadowed them at their Red Sea baptism continued throughout their wilderness journey to the Kingdom. They went " through fire and through water" (Ps. 66:12) throughout their wilderness years, until they entered the promised rest (cp. the Kingdom). Likewise, the great works of Yahweh which He showed at the time of their exodus from Egypt (cp. the world) and baptism at the Red Sea were in essence repeated throughout their wilderness journey (Dt. 7:19). Therefore whenever they faced discouragement and an apparent blockage to their way, they were to remember how God had redeemed them at their baptism, and to realize that in fact His work was still ongoing with them (Dt. 20:1).
Elisha told the apostate king of Israel: " Were it not that I regard the presence of Jehoshaphat the king of Judah, I would not look toward thee, nor see thee" (2 Kings 3:14). This suggests that our efforts for others, indeed, simply who we are, can affect God's attitude to third parties... the power and responsibility we have is aweseome.
So much of the Bible is a radical, counter-cultural call to see our present world for what it is, and to perceive that the ways of God simply can’t be mixed in, watered down or compromised with the way of this world. Naturally such criticisms of Babylon and its gods would have been a very risky thing- for Babylon had shown grace to many Jews and they were doing well in rising up the social and economic ladder there. To speak of Babylon in the hostile way the prophets do was a brave and unpopular thing (Is. 13,14,21,46; Jer. 50,51; often in Zechariah). We know from Ez. 8, Jer. 44 and Zech. 5 that many Jews had accepted the idols of their Babylonian conquerors, rather like Ahaz did after his defeat by Assyria (2 Kings 16:10). The spirit of ridiculing the idolatry of Babylon whilst living in it, waiting the call to leave, is so relevant to modern Christians working, living and waiting in latter day Babylon.
1 Cor. 11
Those who are sleeping at the Lord’s coming will be found unworthy, so says the spirit in Thessalonians. But in the Lord’s parable, all the virgins are sleeping at His coming, wise and foolish alike. They were all living on far too low a level, and yet the Lord will save them [us] by grace alone. God accepts we aren’t going to make it as we should. There ought to be no schism in the body (1 Cor. 12:25), but He realizes that inevitably there will be (1 Cor. 11:19).
Those who know God's word will find encouragement there in their experiences of life- but that encouragement is dependent upon their appreciation of the word, and their ability to see the similarities between their situation and that of others who have gone before.. Thus the Lord told the disciples to feed the crowd, when they had nothing to give them (Mk. 6:37). He was actually quoting from 2 Kings 4:42, where the man of God told his servant to do the same. He gave what bread he had to the people, and miraculously it fed them. The disciples don't seem to have seen the point; otherwise, they would have realized that if they went ahead in faith, another such miracle would likely be wrought. But it seems that God almost over-ruled them to make the response of the faithless servant of 2 Kings 4:43: " Shall we...give them to eat?" (Mk. 6:37). They were almost 'made' to do this to make them later see the similarity with the 2 Kings 4 incident. If they had been more spiritually aware at the time, the Lord's quotation would have been a fillip for their faith.
Reflect how Daniel refused to eat the food sent to him from the King of Babylon; but God arranged for this very thing to be sent to Jehoiachin as a sign of His recognition of his repentance (Jer. 52:34)! God saw that Jehoiachin wasn't on Daniel's level, and yet he worked with him. How we treat each other should be a reflection of how God treats us. We can make concessions for each other’s weaknesses, accepting that some will live on higher levels than others; or we can demand a rigid standard of spirituality from them. I would venture to say that neither of these attitudes are morally wrong in themselves; it's just that as we judge, so we will be judged.
1 Cor. 12, 13
The purpose of the judgment seat is more for our benefit than God's; it will be the ultimate self-revelation of ourselves. Then we will know ourselves, just as God knows us (1 Cor. 13:12). Through a glass, darkly, we can now see the outline of our spiritual self (1 Cor. 13:11,12), although all too often we see this picture in the spiritual mirror of self-examination, and then promptly forget about it (James 1:23,24).
Naaman was allowed to bow himself before Rimmon (2 Kings 5:18) for the sake of losing his position. Yet the higher level would surely have been, as Daniel’s friends, not to bow down to an idol. And when we ask what the rest of the Jews in Babylon did on that occasion, it seems hard to avoid the conclusion that they took the lower level which Naaman did- and bowed down. The fact God makes such concessions to human weakness is both a comfort and a challenge.
Jeremiah could say in truth that “mine eye runneth down with rivers of water for the destruction of the daughter of my people. Mine eye trickleth down, and ceaseth not, without any intermission…mine eye affecteth mine heart” (Lam. 3:48-51). What he saw with his eye affected his mind / heart. Let us not see the doom of others, the pain and suffering of another life, and walk on by not permanently moved. What we see should affect our heart- if we have a heart that bleeds. And a bleeding heart doesn’t merely bleed- it does something concrete, in prayer and action. Consider other examples of the bleeding heart of Jeremiah:
- “Mine eyes do fail with tears, my bowels are troubled, my liver is poured upon the earth [“my stomach is in knots”, the Net Bible], for the destruction of the daughter of my people; because the children and the sucklings swoon in the streets of the city” (Lam. 2:11)
- “For these things I weep; mine eye, mine eye runneth down with water… my bowels are troubled; mine heart is turned within me; for I have grievously rebelled” (Lam. 1:16,20).
1 Cor. 14
All the Corinthian Christians could have been prophets, all could have spoken with tongues (1 Cor. 14:1,5)- but the reality was that they didn’t all rise up to this potential, and God worked through this, in the sense that He ‘gave’ some within the body to be prophets and tongue speakers (1 Cor. 12:28-30). He works in the body of His Son just the same way today, accommodating our weaknesses and lack of realization of our potentials, and yet still tempering the body together to be functional. The fact we fail to realize our potentials doesn’t mean God quits working with us.