1 Chron. 15
The Truth of the Gospel of the cross is the only way to come to salvation. All other religions apart from true Christianity will not give salvation nor a relationship with God. Realising this, David pleads with his people to be a missionary nation: " Give thanks unto Yahweh, call upon his name, make known his deeds among the people...for great is Yahweh, and greatly to be praised: he also is to be feared above all gods. For all the gods of the people are idols; but Yahweh made the heavens" (1 Chron. 15:8,25,26). The more we realize the pathetic fallacy of human religion, indeed the whole and utter vanity of life under this sun, the more we will preach Yahweh's Truth to a tragically wandering, aimless world.
The mourning of the prophets over Tyre (Ez. 27:1) and Babylon (Is. 21:3,4) was an embodiment of God's grief even over those not in covenant with Him. And how much more does He weep and suffer with His people Israel in their sufferings (Jer. 12:12; 23:10; Hos. 4:2,3); "my heart yearns / moans for him" (Jer. 31:20).God mourns over the fact that He can see in the future how His people will be mourning their children in the streets (Am. 5:17,18). In all this we see that God is not only a judge, but a judge who suffers with those to whom He gives punishment. And yet how much more did He weep for His beloved Son, suffering as He did not because He had sinned. And He weeps for us too in our weeping. There are tears and the yearnings of God in Heaven. We are told to weep with those that weep- and this is a reflection of how God weeps for and with us. And what of our weeping for others?
The preacher is his message; if the doctrines of the Gospel are truly in us, then we ourselves will naturally be a witness to it in our lives. The Gospel is the savour of Christ; and yet we personally are the savour (2 Cor. 2:14,15); we are the epistle and Gospel of Christ (2 Cor. 3:3). Thus the Gospel was to be preached for a witness to all nations (Mt. 24:14); and yet “ye are witnesses...you will be witnesses” (Lk. 24:27; Acts 1:8). The preacher of the Gospel is the Gospel; the man is the message, just as the very same word / message was made flesh in the Lord.
1 Chron. 16
David’s bringing the ark to the place which he had prepared (1 Chron. 15:12) is the basis of the Lord’s words in Jn. 14:1-3. Clearly the Lord saw David as Himself, and us as the ark. The ‘bringing up’ or ‘lifting up’ of the ark (1 Chron. 15:12,22 RVmg.) to a perpetual dwelling place has evident reference to the resurrection. And when the ark was finally brought or lifted up to Zion, David / Jesus dealt bread and wine to the people (1 Chron. 16:3). One practical encouragement from this typology is that the memorial feast is a celebration that in fact we, the ark, have in prospect already been brought or lifted up into the eternal place prepared for us in the Kingdom.
The glory of God refers to His essential personality and characteristics. When He ‘glorifies Himself’, He articulates that personality- e.g. in the condemnation of the wicked or the salvation of His people. Thus God was " glorified" in the judgment of the disobedient (Ez. 28:22; 39:13), just as much as He is " glorified" in the salvation of His obedient people. God is glorifying Himself through us one way or the other, in every life situation we are in- but we need to as it were be on His side, so that we are an abiding part of that glory.
Gal 1, 2
The Peter who had come so so far, from the headstrong days of Galilee to the shame of the denials, and then on to the wondrous new life of forgiveness and preaching that grace to others, leading the early community that developed upon that basis…that Peter almost went wrong later in life. Peter and the Judaizers makes a sad story. And as always, it was a most unlikely form of temptation that arose and almost blew him right off course. As often, the problem arose from his own brethren rather than from the hostile world outside. There was strong resistance in the Jewish mind to the idea that Gentiles could be saved without keeping the Mosaic law. And more than this, there was the feeling that any Jewish believer who advocated that they could was selling out and cheapening the message of God to men. Paul has to write about this whole shameful episode in Gal. 2. It becomes apparent that Peter very nearly denied the Lord that bought him once again, by placing on one side all the evidence of salvation by pure grace, for all men whether the be Jew or Gentile, which he had progressively built up over the past years. Paul, using Peter’s old name, comments how Cephas seemed to be a pillar- but wasn’t (Gal. 2:9). Paul “withstood him to the face, because he was to be blamed” (2:11). Peter and some other Jewish believers “dissembled” and along with Barnabas “was carried away with their dissimulation”, with the result that they “walked not uprightly according to the truth of the gospel” (2:12-14). Paul’s whole speech to Peter seems to be recorded in Gal. 2:15-21. He concludes by saying that if Peter’s toleration of justification by works rather than by Christ was really so, then Christ was dead in vain. Paul spoke of how for him, he is crucified with Christ, and lives only for Him, “who loved me and gave himself for me”. These were exactly the sentiments which Peter held so dear, and Paul knew they would touch a chord with him. Is it possible that church politics likewise can rpbo of us of a simple focus upon the Gospel of grace?
1 Chron. 17
1 Chron. 17 records God's response in clear enough language: God did not want a physical house. And yet in the end He agreed, apparently even giving dimensions for it, and His glory came and dwelt in it. This is how far God is eager for relationship with us, and will go along with us even when we chose paths which are not His ideal ones.
In the Millennium, God will use a repentant Israel to achieve great things in terms of converting this world unto Himself. They will walk up and down in His Name, witnessing to Him as He had originally intended them to (Zech. 10:12); men will cling to their skirts in order to find the knowledge of their God (Zech. 8:23). “In that day will I cause the horn of the house of Israel to bud forth, and I will give thee (Israel) the opening of the mouth in the midst of them (the surrounding nations, see context); and they shall know that I am the LORD”, in that Israel will preach to them from their own experience of having recently come to know Yahweh (Ez. 29:21). But at the time of the Lord’s return, when Israel repent and enter the new covenant with Him, they will remember all their past sins “and be confounded, and never open thy mouth any more because of thy shame...for all that thou hast done” (Ez. 16:63). They will be so ashamed that they will feel as if they can never open their mouth. But Yahweh will open their mouth, and they will witness. In some anticipation of this, Ezekiel as the “son of man” prophet, a representative of his people just as the Lord was to be, had his mouth shut in dumbness, and he only had his mouth opened when Israel came to know [to some degree] that “I am the LORD” (Ez. 24:27). In all these evident connections something marvellous presents itself. Those who feel as if they just cannot open their mouths in witness are the very ones whom the Father will use; He will open their mouths and use them exactly because they are ashamed of their sins! And so it should be with us.
Gal 3, 4
In Jn. 18:37 Jesus told Pilate in the context of His upcoming death that He had come into this world to bear witness to the truth- the cross was the supreme witness and exhibition of the truth. There was no doctrine preached there, but rather the way of life which those doctrines ultimately lead to. Gal. 3:1 remonstrates with the Galatians as to how they could not obey the truth when the crucified Christ had been so clearly displayed to them; clearly Paul saw obedience to the truth as obedience to the implications of the cross. There is a powerful parallel in Gal. 4:16: I am your enemy because I tell you the truth... you are enemies of the cross of Christ. Thus the parallel is made between the cross and the truth. We are sanctified by the truth (Jn. 17:19); but our sanctification is through cleansing in the Lord’s blood. The same word is used of our sanctification through that blood (Heb. 9:13; 10:29; 13:12). Perhaps this is why Dan. 8:11,12 seems to describe the altar as “the truth”. The cross of Jesus is the ultimate truth. There we see humanity for what we really are; there we see the real effect of sin. Yet above all, there we see the glorious reality of the fact that a Man with our nature overcame sin, and through His sacrifice we really can be forgiven the untruth of all our sin; and thus have a real, concrete, definite hope of the life eternal.
1 Chron. 18, 19
After David received the promises about the future Messianic Kingdom, he went out and established his Kingdom, attacking Israel's enemies and driving them out of the land (1 Chron. 18:1-3). Our response to the future Hope of the Kingdom, which we too have through the very same promises, should be to try to live the Kingdom life now, as far as we can.
During the judgment upon Egypt, "at Tehaphnehes also the day shall withdraw itself" (Ez. 30:18). This will occur when Egypt comes to know the Lord through His judgments (Ez. 30:19)- and this can only refer to the last days. So again, it would seem that some sort of collapse of time will occur during the judgment period. For us today, time is so important; let's try to grasp something of how God sees time differently, and how different it all will be ultimately.
Gal 5, 6
To love one’s neighbour as oneself is to fulfil the law (Gal. 5:14; Rom. 13:10); and yet the Lord’s death was the supreme fulfilment of it (Mt. 5:18; Col. 2:14). Here was the definition of love for one’s neighbour. Not a passing politeness and occasional seasonal gift, whilst secretly and essentially living the life of self-love and self-care; but the love and the death of the cross, for His neighbours as for Himself; laying down His life “for himself that it might be for us” in the words of Robert Roberts. In Him, in His time of dying, we see the definition of love, the fulfilment of the justice and unassuming kindness and thought for others which was taught in the Mosaic Law. And we through bearing one another’s burdens, through bearing with their moral and intellectual and spiritual failures, must likewise fulfil the law, in a voluntary laying down of our lives for each other (Gal. 6:2). And in this, as with the Lord, will be our personal salvation.
1 Chron. 20, 21
David perceived the vital importance of truly giving, not just on a surface level: " Thou shalt grant it me for the full price, that the plague may be stayed" (1 Chron. 21:22). He saw that God's response to his request would only be if he gave fully to the Lord, rather than using another man's generosity with which to approach God. The crucial choice is serving God or mammon.
The language of being cast down to the underworld and the darkness of the grave in Jude 6 all features in the record of Egypt’s judgment in Ez. 31:16-18. Yet Egypt was not literally cast down from Heaven. The allusion to Egypt is to show how the apostate Jews in the wilderness were treated as if they were actually Egyptians- because in their hearts they turned back to Egypt. If we are of this world, we will share in its judgment; we must come out of "Babylon" lest we be consumed in her condemnation.
Eph 1, 2
We died and rose with Christ in baptism; and in a spiritual sense even
ascended with Him to heavenly places in Him, and even sit with Him
there (Eph. 2:6). 1 Cor. 15:12 reasons that there absolutely must be a
resurrection of those in Christ, simply because Christ rose. Those in
Him absolutely must rise, therefore; to disbelieve in our resurrection is to
disbelieve in His.
1 Chron. 22
We can assume that our consciences are effectively the will of God; thus we ‘play God’ by allowing our words and will to count as if they are His word. Even early on, Solomon had a way of spinning things, even God’s word, in his own selfish way. David had insisted that God had told him that he couldn’t build the temple because he had shed so much blood in war (1 Chron. 22:8). But Solomon just slightly spins this when he asks Hiram to come and help him build the temple, because, he says, his father David hadn’t had the time to get around to the job because of being busy fighting wars (1 Kings 5:3). He says nothing about David shedding blood; the moral aspect of it all is nicely ignored by Solomon.
That the cross was the judgment of the world is further brought out by reflecting upon the prophesied judgment upon Egypt [common symbol of the world] in Ez. 32. There was to be darkness at noon, and “I will make many peoples amazed at thee" (Ez. 32:7,8,10 RV), just as they were by the cross (Is. 52:14). The judgment of Egypt / the world had some elements of fulfillment in the ‘judgment of this world’ which occurred through the cross. Insofar as we seriously reflect upon the cross, we have a foretaste of the judgment. Our feelings and revealing of our conscience will be similar to that at the last day. Hence self-examination occurs naturally at the breaking of bread, if we are focused upon the Lord's death.
Eph 3, 4
The various parts of the one body supply strength to the rest of us
(Eph. 4:16). But the very same Greek word rendered “supply” occurs in the Phil.
1:19, about the supply of the spirit of Jesus Christ. How does He
supply our need and strengthen us? Through the very human members of the
one body. Which is why we so desperately need them, and to walk away from them,
reasoning that they ‘give nothing’, is in a sense to turn away from the supply
of the spirit of Jesus.
1 Chron. 23
Solomon taught that if the ants can be so zealous, well why can’t the ecclesia of God be zealous [for it was ‘believers’ that he was teaching]. The ants scurry around, working as if there is no tomorrow, to build up something so precarious that is in any case so tragically short lived. Can’t we be yet more zealous, with a like loving co-operation, building the eternal things that we are (Prov. 6:6,7)? And Solomon pressed the point further, in that ants are self-motivated; they need no “guide, overseer or ruler”. This was surely a reference to the complex system of overseers which Solomon had to place over Israel in order to build the temple and build up the Kingdom. The same Hebrew word for “overseer” is found in 1 Chron. 23:4; 26:29. Yet ideally, he seems to be saying, every Israelite ought to be a zealous worker. Prov. 12:24 says the same: “The hand of the diligent [whoever he / she is] shall bear rule [in practice]” [s.w. Prov. 6:7 “ruler”]. And we must ask ourselves, whether for whatever reason the new Israel hasn’t slumped into the same problem, of lack of self-motivation, waiting to be asked to do something before we do it, over-relying upon our “overseers”. The ants aren’t like this. They see the job to be done, and naturally get on with it.
If we do not warn the wicked of their way, "his blood will I require at thine hand" (Ez. 33:8). Some will have to give an account at the last day of their specific lack of witness. Yet we can live day after day, saying nothing to our fellows, as if it doesn't really matter, because nobody notices…
Eph 5, 6
There is no doubt at all that television has a major influence especially
upon young people- world-wide. It is far from just a Western problem. If we let
our children watch it uncontrolled, we are agreeing that we have signed them
over to this kind of influence. If we teach them bodily self control, warn them
against fornication…how can we resign our God given influence as parents and
youth workers to the television? Just so…that we can work and relax for longer
hours…? I would say that the single biggest danger for our youth is the
influence of the TV. If uncontrolled, it is a force stronger than any other
influence- including parental influence. I can understand those Christian
parents who don’t have one, and who don’t allow their children to go to the
movies unaccompanied, if at all. Immorality is not to be even thought of or
spoken of by a Christian (1 Cor. 6:18; Eph. 6:3). Let's get serious. Either
these verses mean what they say, or they don't. Do we want to bring these into
our homes and before the eyes of our children...or not?
1 Chron. 24, 25
It was promised to the family of Aaron that the priesthood would be theirs for a perpetual statute (Ex. 29:9). And yet the family of Eli, a descendant of Aaron (1 Kings 2:27; 1 Chron. 24:3), were told that they were to be cut off as they had abused the priesthood. The promise of Exodus was therefore conditional, although the conditions weren’t laid down. Indeed, just because of this fact, the Levites often assumed that they were acceptable just by reason of who they were. Our salvation has been promised; but there are still conditions. We need to reflect upon them today.
Because the priests omitted to care for Israel, they were counted as the wolves- their sin of omission was counted as one of commission (Ez. 34:9,10). What are our sins of omission today?
Phil. 1, 2
The parable of the unjust steward makes the point that in the Kingdom, the faithful will be given by Christ " the true riches...that which is your (very) own" (Lk. 16:12). The reward given will to some degree be totally personal. Each works out his own salvation, such as it will be (Phil. 2:12)- not in the sense of achieving it by works, but rather that the sort of spirituality we develop now will be the essential person we are in the eternity of God's Kingdom.
1 Chron. 26
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.
Paul twice assures his readers that he speaks the truth because he is speaking in the sight / presence of God (2 Cor. 2:17; 12:19). The fact God is everywhere present through His Spirit, that He exists, should lead us at the very least to be truthful. In the day of judgment, a condemned Israel will know that God heard their every word; but if we accept that fact now then we will be influenced in our words now. And by our words we will be justified (Ez. 35:12).
Phi 3, 4
Our task of witness may likewise seem hopeless. But we are to be prepared
(“be instant”) to preach “in season and out of season” (2 Tim. 4:2). “Out of
season” translates a Greek word only elsewhere rendered ‘lacking opportunity’
(Phil. 4:10). Whether there is apparent opportunity or not, we must still
witness- not just wait until someone asks us if we are religious. This is a
common fallacy we all fall into at times. Several times the Lord invites us to
“go” and preach- we are all to feel a spirit of outgoing witness, rather than
the defensive, tell-them-if-they-ask attitude which has dominated so many of us
for so long. We need the same spirit of heroism in our witness which Jeremiah
and Ezekiel had, as they reflected the indomitable Spirit of God in this matter
of human salvation. Our unbelieving families, our workmates, our neighbours,
seem to be stony ground to the point that it just isn’t worth bothering. But we
need a positive spirit.
1 Chron. 27
There were very specific spheres of authority in David's kingdom. 1 Chron.27 outlines how someone was over the tribute, another over the army, the camels, the asses, the flocks, the sellers of oil, the vineyards, the tillage of the ground etc. (see 1 Chron.27). It may be that Solomon's wisdom concerning the natural creation was for the benefit of those who had the charge over the different animals and elements of agriculture. There may be a similar specific subdivision in the Kingdom; one of us, or a group of us, in control of, e.g., the camels, or a certain type of animal. We will be guided by the wisdom of Solomon/Jesus in how to control that animal and the use of it to the glory of God. The natural world is presently under the control of the Angels; but it is to be handed over to us.
There is a repeated theme that Israel's entry into the New Covenant will be associated with God doing something to their hearts, confirming their own change of mind. In other words, the covenant is largely a matter of the mind. This new state of mind is in fact fundamentally part of being in covenant relationship with God: " This shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel...I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts..." (Jer. 31:33). This leads us to the paramount need for us to develop genuine spiritual mindedness, the thinking, the breathing of God's Spirit in our minds. So God will act upon Israel's heart directly, using the medium of His word to do so. The initiative is God's; He will write His word upon their hearts. He is not passively offering people the opportunity to do it to themselves; He will do it to Israel. The same heart-swop operation is described in Ez. 36:25,26: " Then will I sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall be clean: from all your filthiness...will I cleanse you (cp. our baptism into the new covenant). A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you...I will put my spirit within you (note the double emphasis), and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them" . Being in the new covenant is therefore characterized by having a new spirit, a new mind, and therefore a new way of life. And so Heb. 10:20 calls the new covenant " a new and living way" , a new, living way of life. Jer. 31:33 said that God would place His laws in Israel's heart; in Ez. 36 we read that He will place His Spirit in their hearts. So the way in which God will give Israel a new heart will be through their response to the word. Thus they too will enter the new covenant.
The Lord ‘found’ Philip, and he responded by ‘finding’ Nathanael and saying
that they had ‘found’ the Messiah. Philip found the Lord, and the Lord found
him. And he responded by going forth and finding another man for the Lord (Jn.
1:43,45). This mutuality between God
and man is going on with us today. We reach out to others in response to how the
Lord has reached out to us.
1 Chron. 28
There can be no doubt that David was proud about his sons; his soppy obsession with Absalom indicates that he cast both spirituality and rationality to the winds when it came to them. The words of 1 Chron.28:5,6 indicate this: " Of all my sons (for the Lord hath given me many sons,) he hath chosen Solomon my son to sit upon the throne of the Kingdom of the Lord over Israel. And he said unto me, Solomon thy son, he shall build my house and my courts : for I have chosen him to be my son, and I will be his father" . We have to ask: Is this what God actually said? The records of the promises to David in 2 Sam.7 and 1 Chron. 17 contain no specific reference to Solomon, nor do they speak of him building physical courts for God. We have shown that the Davidic promise is fundamentally concerning David's greater household, rather than a physical house. So it seems that David became obsessed with the idea of Solomon being the Messiah, building a physical house for God, and being king over the eternal Messianic Kingdom. The words of Ps. 110:1 are applied by the NT to Jesus, but there is no reason to think that they were not primarily spoke by David with his eye on Solomon, whom he addresses as his Lord, such was his obsession: “The Lord saith unto my Lord…” (RV), and the rest of the Psalm goes on in the language of Ps. 72 to describe David’s hopes for Solomon’s Kingdom. ‘Solomon’ was actually called ‘Jedidiah’ by God through Nathan (2 Sam. 12:25). The ‘beloved of God’ was surely prophetic of God’s beloved Son. When God said “This is my beloved Son”, He was surely saying ‘Now THIS is the Jedidiah, whom I wanted Solomon to typify’. But David calls him Solomon, the man who would bring peace. I suggest that David was so eager to see in Solomon the actual Messiah, that he chose not to use the name which God wanted- which made Solomon a type of a future Son of God / Messiah. And this led to Solomon himself being obsessed with being a Messiah figure and losing sight of the future Messiah.
The point has been made elsewhere that David seems to have become obsessed with preparing for the physical building of the temple in his old age. He truly commented: " The zeal of thine house hath eaten me up" (Ps. 69:9). The RV margin of 1 Chron. 28:12 makes us wonder whether the dimensions of the temple were in fact made up within David’s own mind: “David gave to Solomon his son the pattern…the pattern that he had in his spirit [AV “by the spirit”] for the…house of the Lord”.
The prophecy of the new covenant applies to us today. The description of Israel receiving a new heart, being spiritually re-created, is taken up in earnest in this chapter. It describes the bones coming together, the Spirit of God entering into them through the prophecy of the Son of man (Ezekiel), and their resurrection. This is all couched in the language of Adam's creation; firstly as a body, and then the spirit being breathed into him. 2 Cor.5:17 describes us after entry into Christ at baptism as a " new creation" . What all this means is that under the new covenant, we really do experience God acting upon our hearts, through His word. The very least we can do, once we are aware of this, is to read the word daily, and think upon it. As we read those words, God is writing upon our hearts, our inward parts, the handwriting of God Himself is being placed on our innermost beings. When you think of it like that, there really can be no excuse for not reading the word daily.
Jn. 2, 3
Remember the disciples' angry “Carest thou not that we perish?” (Mk. 4:38). His whole life and death were because He did so care that they would not perish (Jn. 3:16). It’s so reminiscent of a child’s total, if temporary, misunderstanding and lack of appreciation of the parent’s love and self-sacrifice. Yet this Lord is our Lord, patient with our 'moments' today as well.
1 Chron. 29
The final reminder at the end of the Lord’s prayer that “thine is the Kingdom, the power and the glory” is evidently a conscious reference to David’s prayer on gathering materials to build the temple: “Thine, O Lord, is the greatness, and the power, and the glory, and the victory, and the majesty: for all that is in the heavens and in the earth is thine; thine is the kingdom, O Lord, and thou art exalted as head above all” (1 Chron. 29:11). The context is David saying that God can do absolutely everything, because absolutely everything, past, present and future, belongs to Him. He continues: “Both riches and honor come of thee, and thou rulest over all; and in thy hand is power and might; and in thy hand it is to make great, and to give strength unto all” (1 Chron. 29:12). So what David is saying is that because the Kingdom, power and glory all belong to God, absolutely every material thing and every possible action is His and within His potential power to do for us… therefore we leave our prayer on that note. It’s not only a note of praise, but an expression of faith that, quite simply, God can and will provide, in the very end.
There is coming a time when the two worlds, the two Kingdoms, will experience their inevitable collision in the return of Christ. The stone will smite the image, and grind those kingdoms to powder. God’s anger will come up in His face against this world (Joel 3:2,13,16; Ez. 38:18-22; 39:17,20); and the world will be angry with God and His people in an unsurpassed way. The nations will be angry, and the wrath of God also will rise (Rev. 11:18). When their iniquity has reached a certain level, then judgment will fall (cp. Sodom and the Amorites, Gen. 15:16). This means that there will almost certainly be some form of persecution of God’s people by the people of this world in the very last days. The tension between the believer and the world will rise. The final political conflict in the land of Israel will be the ultimate and inevitable collision of flesh and spirit, of the serpent and the woman. As the nations will be gathered together to their day of threshing (Rev. 16:16), so will the responsible be (Mic. 4:12; Mt. 3:12). The burning up of the nations will be the same punishment as the rejected believers receive- they will in some sense go back into the world they never separated from, and share it’s destiny.
Whoever drinks of the water of life will have within them a spring that also gives eternal life (Jn. 4:15). The purpose of a spring is to give water to men. Experiencing the Lord's words and salvation inevitably leads to us doing likewise to others, springing from somewhere deep within. This was in fact one of the first things God promised Abraham when He first instituted the new covenant: " I will bless thee (i.e. with forgiveness and salvation in the Kingdom)...and thou shalt be a blessing" , in that we his seed in Christ would bring this same blessing to men of all nations by our witness (Gen. 12:2,3). When the Lord offered salvation to the woman at the well, He spoke of how it would be a spring of life going out from her. She wanted it, but apparently just for herself. Therefore when she asked to be given such a spring, the Lord replied by asking her to bring her husband to hear His words (Jn. 4:15,16). Surely He was saying: 'If you want this great salvation for yourself, you've got to be willing to share it with others, no matter how embarrassing this may be for you'. In a similar figure, the Bible begins with the tree of the lives [Heb.], and concludes with men eating of the tree and there appearing a forest of trees-of-life. Our experience of salvation will be the basis of our witness to men in the Millennium, just as it should be now. On the basis of our experience of reconciliation with God, we have been given “the ministry of reconciliation”, in that God “hath put in us [Gk. settled deep within us] the word of reconciliation” (2 Cor. 5:18,19) . That which is deeply internal issues in an outward witness. For this reason all discussion of how that outward witness should be made is somewhat irrelevant- the witness naturally springs from deep within. If it doesn’t, we have to ask whether we have anything much deep within.
2 Chron. 1, 2
The deeper our realization of God's greatness, the higher our response. Thus Solomon built a " great" house for Yahweh, " for great is our God above all gods" (2 Chron. 2:5).
In some way, the harder side of God attracts, in that men see in truth that He is God and they but men. His rod and staff of correction are our comforts (Ps. 23:4). Israel will finally realize that God’s judgments upon them have brought them to know Him: “They shall know that I am the Lord, in that I caused them to go into captivity” (Ez. 39:28 RV). It's rather like how the idea of conditional salvation, and that not for everybody but a tiny minority, I find both hard to accept and yet the very thing that clinches the actual reality of 'the truth' we hold.
Only when men were focused on their desperate need for the Lord would He answer them. The Lord further focused men’s need when he asked the lame man: “Wilt thou be made whole?” (Jn. 5:6). Of course the man wanted healing. But the Lord first of all focused his desire for it. He told the story of the man who had a desperate need at midnight, and because of his utter importunity he was driven to throw himself upon the grace of another; and, the Lord taught, so is a man with God, holding himself back from throwing himself upon Him, until the realization of his desperation compels him. And so is a man with God (Lk. 11:5-8).
2 Chron. 3, 4
Stephen saw Solomon's building of the temple in a negative, as indicated by the link between Acts 7:41 and 48: " They made a calf...and rejoiced in the works of their own hands ...howbeit the Most High dwelleth not in temples made with hands " . The word " made" is stressed in the record of Solomon's building the temple (2 Chron. 3:8,10,14-16; 4:1,2,6-9,14,18,19,21). The work of the temple was very much produced by men's hands (2 Chron. 2:7,8). Things made with hands refers to idols in several Old Testament passages (e.g. Is. 2:8; 17:8; 31:7). Significantly, Solomon's temple is described as being made with hands in 1 Chron. 29:5. And it may be significant that the words of Is. 66:1,2 concerning God not living in temples are quoted by Paul with reference to pagan temples in Acts 17:24, and concerning the temple in Jerusalem by Stephen. The building of the temple became an idol to Solomon. Human motives get terribly mixed. One is reminded of William Golding’s novel, The Spire, in which a bishop becomes obsessed with building a huge spire on his church- subliminally finding in it a phallic symbol. The temple project became an obsession with Solomon; after his death, his people complained at the “grievous servitude” which Solomon had subjected them to (2 Chron. 10:4). But the Hebrew word “servitude” is that repeatedly used to describe the “service” of the temple by the people (1 Chron. 25:6; 26:8,30; 27:26; 28:13-15,20,21; 29:7; 2 Chron. 8:14).Solomon became obsessed with making others ‘serve God’ when it was effectively serving him; he came to be abusive to God’s people, when the initial idea of the temple was that it was to be built in order to help God’s people serve Him. And such obsession, turning well motivated projects into means of personal ego tripping, with all the resultant abuse, has sadly not been unknown amongst us. Yet God still worked through Solomon's project; so eager is He to work with us.
God's experience with the Jews in exile is a classic warning to us. He set them up with the possibility to return to Judah, to establish there a Messianic-style Kingdom, giving them the commands in Ez. 40-47 for a glorious temple; but most of them preferred the soft life in Babylon, and those who did return proved small minded, selfish and disinterested in the vision of God's glory. In this context, Isaiah ends his restoration prophecies on a tragic note from God: "I was ready to be sought... I was ready to be found" (Is. 65:1) by the unspiritual exiles in Babylon. But Israel would not. He pictures Himself standing there crying "Here am I, here am I!"- to be rejected by a people more interested in climbing the endless economic and social ladder in Babylon and Persia.
The Spirit of Jesus, His disposition, His mindset, His way of thinking and being, is paralleled with His words and His person. They both ‘quicken’ or give eternal life, right now. “It is the Spirit that quickeneth [present tense]…the words that I speak unto you, they are [right now] spirit, and they are life…thou hast [right now] the words of eternal life” (Jn. 6:63,68). Yet at the last day, God will quicken the dead and physically give them eternal life (Rom. 4:17; 1 Cor. 15:22,36). But this will be because in this life we had the ‘Spirit’ of the eternal life in us: “He that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by [on account of] his spirit that dwelleth in you” (Rom. 8:11). Are we developing that spirit today...?
2 Chron. 5, 6
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.
The breaking of bread is described as eating at "the table of the Lord" (1 Cor. 10:21). This was Old Testament language for the altar (Ez. 41:22). By eating from it we are partaking of the altar, the Lord Jesus (1 Cor. 9:13; 10:18; Heb. 13:10). If we don't partake of it, we declare ourselves to have no part in Him. Yet the very fact we partake of it, is a statement that we have pledged ourselves to separation from this present world; for it is not possible to eat at the Lord's table, and also that of this world (1 Cor. 10:21).
if we behold and believe the cross, we will respond. The Lord mused that if He didn’t allow Himself to fall to the ground and die, no fruit could be brought forth (Jn. 12:24). The fact He did means that we will bring forth fruit. It could be that the reference in Jn. 7 to the Holy Spirit being given at the Lord’s death (His ‘glory’), as symbolized by the water flowing from His side, means that due to the cross we have the inspiration to a holy, spiritual way of life. It is not so that His death released some mystical influence which would change men and women whether or not they will it; rather is it that His example there inspires those who are open to it. We "have been reconciled to God" through the cross of Jesus, and yet therefore we must "be reconciled to God", and take the message of reconciliation to others. What has been achieved there in prospect we have to make real for us, by appropriating it to ourselves in repentance, baptism and a life of ongoing repentance (2 Cor. 5:18-20 cp. Rom. 5:10; 2 Cor. 5:14,15).
2 Chron. 7
2 Chron. 7:12 says that God accepted the temple only as a place of sacrifice, i.e. a glorified altar (cp. 2 Sam. 24:17,18). And yet- God didn't really want sacrifice (Ps. 40:6; Heb. 10:5). " Now have I chosen and sanctified this house, that my name may be there for ever" (2 Chron.7:16) is a conditional promise, followed by five verses of conditions concerning Solomon's spirituality which he overlooked. Like Solomon, we too can fix upon promises without considering their conditionality. There is good reason to think that communally and individually we are increasingly shutting our eyes to the possibility of our spiritual failure and disaster. God constantly warned Solomon about the conditionality of the promises, before the building started (2 Sam. 7:14), during it (1 Kings 6:11-13) and immediately after completing it (1 Kings 9:2-9). Note, too, that Solomon had the idea that if sinful Israel prayed towards the temple, they would somehow be forgiven because of this. God’s response was that if they sought Him wherever they were and repented, then He would hear them- the temple was not to be seen as the instrument or mediatrix of forgiveness which Solomon envisaged. Likewise, Solomon’s implication that prayer offered in the temple would be especially acceptable was not upheld by God’s reply to him about this (2 Chron. 6:24-26 cp. God’s response in 2 Chron. 7:12,13).
At the time of the restoration, so many of the prophecies about a Messiah figure could have had their fulfilment in Joshua the High Priest and Zerubbabel, or some other Messianic figure at that time. Everything was made possible to enable this- Joshua, who couldn’t prove his Levitical genealogy, was given “a place of access” amongst the priesthood, those who “stood” before the Lord (Zech. 3:7 RV). Ezra thanked God that they had returned and that they had “a nail in his holy place” (Ezra 9:8), a reference surely to a Messiah figure whom he felt to be among them, the “nail in a sure place” of Is. 22:23. According to Mt. 1:12 and Lk. 3:27, Zerubbabel was the Prince of Judah, and the rightful heir to David’s throne. But due to his weakness, the fulfilment was deferred to Jesus. Zech. 3:7-10 contained the same message to Joshua: “If thou wilt walk in my ways, and if thou wilt keep my charge [as so frequently commanded in Ez. 40:46; 44:8,14-16 s.w.], then thou shalt also judge my house (as prophesied in Ez. 40-48), and shalt also keep my courts (so often mentioned in Ez. 40-48), and I will give thee places to walk (s.w. Ez. 42:4 about the walkways in the prophesied temple)...hear now, O Joshua”. But he didn’t. He didn’t keep the courts, but allowed Tobiah the Ammonite to set up his office for subversion in the temple chambers. Likewise Zerubbabel was to hold a measuring line in his hand and rebuild the temple (Zech. 4:10), just as the Angels had held the same measuring line over the temple in Ez. 40 and Zech. 2:1. He is told that it will not be due to “an army” but due to God’s Spirit / Angel (Zech. 4:6 RVmg). The “army” refers to the army which the King of Babylon was willing to send with the returning exiles in order to support the returning exiles. We too are anointed through being in Christ, the anointed one. But will we rise up to it, or let the possibilities slip through our fingers?
If we “keep” in mind the Lord’s words, we will never “see death” (Jn. 8:51)- death itself will be perceived differently by us, if our hearts are ever with Him who conquered death, and is the resurrection and the life. If our view of death itself, the unspoken deepest personal fear of all humanity, is different… we will be radically different from our fellows.
2 Chron. 8
It seems to me that David didn’t challenge Solomon, nor did he teach him the spirit of cross-carrying service. His big desire was that Solomon would build a temple. But Solomon loved building. Solomon built “for his pleasure”, for his will, whereas the Kingdom of God is about doing the will / pleasure of God (2 Chron. 8:6 RV). Solomon was being taught by David to serve God in a way which only reinforced his own personality type and in ways which were already what he naturally wanted to do. It would be rather like a father teaching his young son that you serve God by playing with your train set, and nothing else is needed. Or when the son gets older, that all you have to do to serve God is to go to social events and hang out with your Christian friends. This is all too easy. The service of God is joyful, and yes it can be ‘fun’, but the essence of sinful man serving his God is struggle against his own humanity. Could it be that we in the West have often spoon fed their kids on a diet of ‘safe’ service. But if they are challenged to step out and put themselves on the line a bit more, particularly in the area of local witnessing, would not the harvest be a bit different? Brethren and sisters with initiative, with commitment, with the spirit of self-sacrifice rather than young adults who think that our faith is about ice cream and pizza and endless fun and games, with a bit of Bible reading thrown in? As my manner is, I am caricaturing. I know so, so many fine and committed young brethren and sisters. But perhaps there are fractions of truth and relevance in the caricature. For in the end, Christianity is not in books, church halls or Sunday School classes, but in the real world, where is is practiced and demonstrated. It is a reaching out from ourselves and our comfort zones to do something transformingly significant in the lives of those around us.
The knowledge and practice of the presence of God ought to keep us back from sin. Ez. 43:8 RV points out how Israel were so wrong to have brought idols into the temple: " in their setting of their threshold by my threshold, and their door post beside my door post, and there was but the wall between me and them" . How close God was ought to have made them quit their idolatry. But their cognizance of the closeness of God was merely theoretical. They didn't feel nor respond to the wonder of it. And truly, He is not far from every one of us.
Jn. 9, 10
Time and again is it stressed that the Lord did all He did “for us". Jn. 10:14,15 link His knowing of us His sheep, and His giving His life for us. It was because He knew us, our sins, or kind of failures, who we are and who we would be, and fail to be…that He did it. And knowing our brethren, building understanding and relationship with them, is how and why we will be motivated to the same laying down of life for them.
2 Chron. 9
Solomon had what we might call obsessive tendencies. We know that he became addicted to finding pleasure in women, and Ecc.2 shows him racing down the road of obsession with architecture, alcohol, food, gold etc. The historical narratives so often mention his gold and silver (eg 2 Chron. 9:13,14,15,16,17,18,20,21,24,27). This repetition reflects Solomon's obsession. The same fact explains the record's repetition of Solomon's enthusiasm for horses (1 Kings 10:26,29; 4:26,28; 9:19,22; 10:25,28; 2 Chron.1:14,16,17; 8:6,9; 9:24,25,28). Yet amassing of gold, silver and horses was explicitly forbidden for the King of Israel (Dt.17:17). There is a powerful point to be made here: we can deceive ourselves that God is blessing us, when actually we are breaching explicit commands. Would Solomon had understood the concept of self-examination.
All Israel were to aspire to the spirit of priesthood. Indeed, the Psalms often parallel the house of Aaron (i.e. the priesthood) with the whole nation (Ps. 115:9,10,12; 118:2,3). Paul speaks of us each one partaking of “the table of the Lord” (1 Cor. 10:21), a phrase used in the LXX for the altar (Ez. 44:16; Mal. 1:7,12)- the sacrifices whereof only the priests could eat. This would have ben radical thinking to a community used to priests and men delegated to take charge of others’ religious affairs. Hebrew 3:13 gets at this idea when we read that we are to exhort one another not to turn away, situated as we are on the brink of the promised land, just as Moses exhorted Israel. It was accepted in Judaism, as well as in many other contemporary religions, that faithful saints [e.g. the patriarchs, Moses, the prophets etc, in Judaism’s case] could intercede for the people. Yet in the New Testament, all believers are urged to intercede for each other, even to the point of seeking to gain forgiveness for others’ sins (1 Thess. 5:25; Heb. 13:18; James 5:15). They were all to do this vital work. The radical nature of this can easily be overlooked by us, reading from this distance.
The infinite encouragement to us in our weakness is that Christ derived such comfort and strength from men of such limited spiritual perception. His fondness for them is indicated by the tears of Mary moving him to weep too (Jn. 11:33). The Lord’s patience with the disciples as children, His awareness of their limitations, His gentleness, His changing of His expectations of them according to their weaknesses, all provides powerful comfort to the latter day disciple. So many times He didn’t correct their evidently wrong ideas, as one doesn't with children, but patiently worked with them to bring them to truth. His approach to demons is the most common single example. When He had them go with Him unto Lazarus, they mistakenly thought He meant ‘let us go and die too’ (Jn. 11:12-16)- and yet He graciously didn’t correct them, but let events take their course. And we can take a lesson from this, in how we relate to others we may see to be ‘in error’. It’s not really about direct confrontation, which ends up proving us right and them wrong, without actually bringing them to a personal conviction of the truth in question.
2 Chron. 10, 11
“He that loveth silver (as Solomon did, Ecc. 2:8; 1 Kings 10:21-29) shall not be satisfied with silver (as he wasn’t- see Ecc. 2); nor he that loveth abundance (s.w. used about the abundance of Solomon’s wives, 2 Chron. 11:23) with increase. When goods increase, they are increased that eat them (cp. the large numbers at his table, 1 Kings 4:27)” (Ecc. 5:10,11). The Hebrew word translated “not be satisfied” occurs around 25 times in the Proverbs, with Solomon warning of how the way of the flesh couldn’t satisfy. Solomon said all this with an eye on himself. He preached it to others, he felt deeply the truth of it, but he saw no personal way out of it. All he had was the accurate knowledge of his situation, but no real motivation to change- like the alcoholic or drug abuser who knows every aspect of the harm of his habit.
The idea that some prophecies are more command than prediction helps make sense of the prophecy of Ez. 40-48. When we read “my princes shall no more oppress my people…the shekel shall be twenty gerahs…ye shall offer an oblation” (Ez. 45:8,12,13), the emphasis needs to be placed upon the word “shall”. This was a command to the elders of the people- made explicit in passages like Ez. 45:9: “Let it suffice you, O princes of Israel: remove violence and spoil…ye shall have just balances”. By failing to be obedient, God’s people effectively disallowed the fulfilment of the ‘prophecy’ that could have come true if they had been obedient to it. And the same is so for us today.
Rom. 10;9,10 stresses that belief and confession are necessary for salvation. This may be one of the many links between Romans and John’s gospel, in that Jn. 12:42 speaks of those who believed but wouldn’t confess. Confession, a public showing forth of our belief, is vital if we are to be saved. It’s perhaps worth noting that baptisms tend often to be attended largely by believerss, and be performed indoors, e.g. in a bath at someone’s home, or a church hall. It’s quite possible to learn the Gospel, be baptized- and nobody out in this world ever know. It’s down to us to ensure this isn’t true in our case.
2 Chron. 12, 13 The confession of the Name is paralleled with repentance in 2 Chron. 6:24. There we read that if Israel sin and repent ''and confess thy name' they will be forgiven. But instead of ''confess thy name'' we expect ''confess their sins: the point being that to confess the name is effectively to confess sins. The name is the characteristics of Yahweh. The more we meditate upon them, the more we will naturally be lead to a confession of our sins, the deeper we will sense the gap between those principles and our own character. Likewise in 2 Chron. 12:6 the statement that ''the Lord is righteous'' is effectively a confession of sin. And thus we are not to bear or take the Name of Yahweh called upon us at baptism in vain- the realty of the implications of the name are not to be lost upon us.
There are problems problems in thinking that “the prince” is the Lord Jesus. A priest must make an offering for this “prince”, and he offers a bullock for himself as a sin offering, which the priest offers. This surely shouts out against an application to the Lord Jesus. He is subject to death (Ez. 46:17,18); and has a wife and sons (Ez. 46:16) who will succeed him (Ez. 45:8). All this is surely a prophecy of a Messiah-figure who could have arisen at the restoration. So much was made possible, God worked out the finest details- but Judah were too selfish to realize the great potential God had arranged. Today, God may well have arranged wonderful things, in great detail, for us to go out and fulfill- if we are willing.
Jn. 13, 14
‘Abiding’ is a major theme in John. Several times he records how the Lord Jesus ‘abode’ in houses or areas during His ministry (Jn. 1:38,39; 2:12; 4:40; 7:9; 10:40; 11:6), culminating in the Lord’s words that He was still abiding with them, but would leave them soon (Jn. 14:25). And yet the repeated teaching of the Lord is that actually, He will permanently abide in the heart of whoever believes in Him. And all the stories of Him ‘abiding’ a night here or there prepare the way for this. Those hearts become like the humble homes of Palestine where He spent odd nights- the difference being that there is now a permanent quality to that ‘abiding’, “for ever”. This is how close and real the Lord can come to us, if His words truly abide in us. So why not try to learn at least part of a Gospel? But above all, to let the word of Christ dwell in us richly, affecting our very core values and every aspect of human character, perception and sensitivity.
2 Chron. 14, 15
Asa in his better days did not ask God to rush in and help , when he was faced with the crisis of the Ethiopian invasion. He showed his faith in the principles of God's knowledge: " Lord, it is nothing for thee to help, whether with many, or with them that have no power: help us" (2 Chron. 14:11). There is no bleating on about the actual problem, rather does most of the prayer focus on reciting, in real faith, the characteristics of God. Coming down to earth, " Make the car start! Make the car start!" will give way, in spiritual maturity, to a praiseful recounting of God's character, with almost an incidental mention of the overbearing situation we are up against. We will request in spirit, but without making this explicit.
This chapter sounds far more appropriate to the situation at the time of the restoration, with the Samaritans living in the land, than to the Millennium. “Strangers” who have settled in the land (Ez. 47:22,23) surely refer to God’s willingness to give the Samaritans who then lived in the land a place in the Kingdom which potentially could then have been established. “The people of the land” were to have a part in the new system of things (Ez. 45:16,22; 46:3,9), and yet this very phrase is repeatedly used concerning the Samaritan people who lived in the land at the time of the restoration (Ezra 4:4; 10:2,11; Neh. 9:24; 10:30,31). God’s intention was that they should eventually be converted unto Him; it was His intention that Ezekiel’s temple be built at the time of the restoration under Ezra. And yet Zech. 7:10; Mal. 3:5 criticize the Jews who returned and bult the temple for continuing to oppress the stranger / Gentile. Israel would not. Is. 56:6 defines what is meant by “a house of prayer for all nations”- it is for those of all nations who “join themselves to the Lord, to serve him and to love the name of the Lord...every one that keepeth the Sabbath from polluting it, and taketh hold of my covenant”.
Jn. 15, 16
"These things have I written unto you...that ye may know that ye have eternal life...and this is the confidence that we have in him, that if we ask anything according to his will, he heareth us" (1 Jn. 5:13,14). Answered prayer is the confidence that we have eternal life. Answered prayer means that our joy will be full (Jn. 16:24).
2 Chron. 16, 17
The whole way of life of the righteous man is described as seeking God, knowing we will eventually find Him when the Lord returns to change our natures (2 Chron. 15:2). So many times does David parallel those who seek God with those who keep His word (e.g. Ps. 119:2). We will never achieve perfect obedience; but seeking it is paralleled with it. We are coming to know the love of Christ which passes our natural knowledge (Eph. 3:19), to experience the peace of God that passes our natural understanding (Phil. 4:7). We are asked to be perfect as our Father in Heaven is perfect (Mt. 5:48); to have the faith of God (Mk. 11:22 AVmg.). By faith in the righteousness of Christ imputed to us, we can attain these heights; but not in our own strength. In our every spiritual struggle and victory against the flesh throughout the day, we are playing out the finest and highest heroism that any playwright could conceive: the absolute underdog, the outsider without a chance, winning, at the end, the ultimate victory against impossible odds.
Mic. 2:9 clearly states that God would “take away my glory for ever”; yet Ez. 48 and other passages picture the glory of God returning to the temple from which it had departed. One can find these kinds of things all over the Bible. They are profound witnesses to the depth of God’s passion for us. We live in a passionless age. Within our community, there's a culture of well-speak arising, which masks a legalism and disregard of the person and the individual. The well-speak culture whilst of course good in a sense, leads to a community and people lacking in any passion, obsessed with keeping a status quo, and that will never grow. Judging how something is said / presented rather than WHAT is said or done appears typical of what is the case in the world at large. Passion, emotion, genuine feeling, hot blood, are all somewhat despised. But these are very clearly the character traits of the God in whose image we seek to be.
Jn. 17, 18
Like Peter, Judas likewise “went out” into the darkness. Judas is described as " standing with" those who ultimately crucified Jesus in Jn 18:5. Interestingly the same idea occurs in Jn. 18:18 where Peter is described as standing with essentially the same group; point being, that Judas and Peter in essence did the same thing, they both denied their Lord and stood with His enemies. But one repented real repentance, whereas the other couldn't muster the faith for this. Lesson: We all deny the Lord, but the two paths before us are those of either Peter or Judas. Peter of course is our pattern.
2 Chron. 18, 19
The more we begin to even faintly grasp the height of Yahweh's holiness and spirituality, the more we will be awed by His humility in dealing with us. It requires humility from Him to even behold the Angels (Ps. 113:6). And yet He lets them discuss His will and come up with their own schemes for executing it, many of which he rejects as somehow inappropriate (2 Chron. 18:17-20). The way God does not issue directives and expect robot-like execution of them, the way He suspends or changes His plans in accordance with human response, the way He sometimes allows men to live on a lower level than the ideal levels which He teaches- the depth of His humility is hard to plumb. And if He is humble- what about us?
Rev. 2:10 exhorts us to be " faithful unto death" . The prison tribulation would be for " ten days...and I will give unto thee a crown" . This points back to Daniel's 'trial' of ten days (Dan. 1:12), and his later going into prison and emerging to receive a crown. Daniel's 'devil' was Arab Babylon, and the 'devil' of Rev. 2:10 refers to a like power in the last days. The idea of ten days of affliction suggests the 10 days of self-examination and affliction of souls before the day of Atonement- as if the purpose of the holocaust is to evoke self-examination and repentance in preparation for the High Priest's appearing on the Day of Atonement.
I can only ponder the use of the imperfect in Jn. 19:25: 'There were standing' may imply that Mary and the women came and went; sometimes they were there by the cross, sometimes afar off. Did they retreat from grief, or from a sense of their inadequacy, or from being driven off by the hostile crowd or soldiers, only to make their way stubbornly back? Tacitus records that no spectators of a crucifixion were allowed to show any sign of grief; this was taken as a sign of compliance with the sin of the victim. He records how some were even crucified for showing grief at a crucifixion. This was especially so in the context of leaders of revolutionary movements, which was the reason why Jesus was crucified. This would explain why the women stood afar off, and sometimes in moments of self-control came closer. Thus the Lord looked for comforters and found none, according to the spirit of prophecy in the Psalms. And yet His mother was also at the foot of the cross sometimes. For her to be there, so close to Him as she undoubtedly wished to be, and yet not to show emotion, appearing to the world to be another indifferent spectator; the torture of mind must be meditated upon. Any of these scenarios provides a link with the experience of all who would walk out against the wind of this world, and identify ourselves with the apparently hopeless cause of the crucified Christ. The RV of Jn. 19:25 brings out the tension between the soldiers standing there, and the fact that: “But there stood by the cross of Jesus his mother…". The “but…" signals, perhaps, the tension of the situation- for it was illegal to stand in sympathy by the cross of the victim. And there the soldiers were, specially in place to stop it happening, standing nearby…
John taking Mary to his own home may not mean that he took her away to his house in Jerusalem. In any case, John's physical home was in Galilee, not Jerusalem. " His own (home)" is used elsewhere to mean 'family' rather than a physical house. This would have involved Mary rejecting her other sons, and entering into John's family. Spiritual ties were to be closer than all other. This must be a powerful lesson, for it was taught in the Lord's final moments. Whether we understand that John took Mary away to his own home (and later returned, Jn. 19:35), or that they both remained there to the end with the understanding that Mary was not now in the family of Jesus, the point is that the Lord separated Himself from His mother. The fact He did this last was a sign of how close He felt to her. She was the last aspect of His humanity which He had clung to. And at the bitter bitter end, He knew that He must let go even, even, even of her. Jn. 19:28 speaks likewise as if the Lord’s relationship with His mother was the last part of His humanity which He had to complete / fulfil / finish. For it was “after this", i.e. His words to His mother, that He knew that “all was now finished".
2 Chron. 20
Israel never really wholeheartedly committed themselves to Yahweh, and yet 2 Chron. 20:33 positively and hopefully says: " As yet the people had not prepared their hearts unto the God of their fathers" . They never did. Especially in the preaching of the word of salvation to those who they knew wouldn’t respond, the Father and Son show their hopeful spirit. Their positive spirit should be ours.
Those who had asked the King for more time before telling him his dream, had been given the death sentence; and yet knowing this, Daniel asks for more time- so that he can pray seriously for the answer (Dan. 2:8,16). He must have been tempted to just say a quick prayer; but he knew that real prayer is not merely an emotional outburst fuelled by the self-preservation instinct. This is a fine challenge to our excuses that we don’t have or don’t need much time to pray.
Jn. 20, 21
There’s a rather nice indicator of the Lord’s conscious effort to show His ‘humanity’ even after His resurrection. It’s in the way the risen Lord calls out to the disciples at the lake, calling them “lads” (Jn. 21:5). The Greek paidion is the plural familiar form of the noun pais, ‘boy’. Raymond Brown comments that the term “has a colloquial touch…[as] we might say ‘My boys’ or ‘lads’ if calling to a knot of strangers of a lower social class”. Why use this colloquial term straight after His resurrection, something akin to ‘Hey guys!’, when this was not His usual way of addressing them? Surely it was to underline to them that things hadn’t changed in one sense, even if they had in others; He was still the same Jesus. The Lord was recognized by the Emmaus disciples in the way that He broke the bread. How He broke a loaf of bread open with His hands after His resurrection reflected the same basic style and mannerism which He had employed before His death. Not only the body language but the Lord's choice of words and expressions was similar both before and after His passion. He uses the question " Whom are you looking for?" at the beginning of His ministry (Jn. 1:38), just before His death (Jn. 18:4) and also after His resurrection (Jn. 20:15). And the words of the risen Lord as recorded in Revelation are shot through with allusion to the words He used in His mortal life, as also recorded by John. Significantly, both Luke and John conclude their Gospels with the risen Lord walking along with the disciples, and them ‘following’ Him (Jn. 21:20)- just as they had done during His ministry. His invitation to ‘Follow me’ (Jn. 21:19,22) is the very language He had used whilst He was still mortal (Jn. 1:37,43; 10:27; 12:26; Mk. 1:18; 2:14). The point being, that although He was now different, in another sense, He still related to them as He did when He was mortal, walking the lanes and streets of 1st century Palestine.
2 Chron. 21, 22
The harsh treatment of the Ammonites, torturing them under harrows, is indication enough of David’s bad conscience before God being shown in his harsh treatment of others. Likewise Asa oppressed the people when he was guilty in his conscience (2 Chron. 16:10). And the wicked Kings of Israel usually died “without being desired” by their people, presumably because their broken relationship with God had led to a broken relationship between them and their brethren (e.g. 2 Chron. 21:20). By contrast a good relationship with God will be reflected in bonding with our brethren.
Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego were examples of selflessness. They told Nebuchadnezzar that they were confident that Yahweh would save them from the furnace. " But even if He does not, we want you to know, O King, that we will not serve your gods" (Dan. 3:18 NIV). Even if God didn't preserve them, they would still serve Him alone. Perhaps they had Job's words going round in their minds: " Though He slay me, yet will I trust in Him" .
The Lord Jesus Christ is the same today as He was yesterday. The Jesus of history is the Christ of faith. The same Jesus who went into Heaven will so come again in like manner (Acts 1:11). The record three times says the same thing. The “like manner” in which the Lord will return doesn’t necessarily refer to the way He gradually ascended up in to the sky, in full view of the gazing disciples. He was to return in the “like manner” to what they had seen. Yet neither those disciples nor the majority of the Lord’s people will literally see Him descending through the clouds at His return- for they will be dead. But we will ‘see’ Him at His return “in like manner” as He was when on earth. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever. The Jesus who loved little children and wept over Jerusalem's self-righteous religious leaders, so desirous of their salvation, is the One who today mediates our prayers and tomorrow will confront us at judgment day.
2 Chron. 23
The issue of fellowship is an especially vexing Bible paradox. We are commanded that we must preserve the unity of the one body of Christ, and fellowship within it. Yet to fellowship with error is serious indeed; Israel were condemned because they allowed those outside the covenant to partake of the sacrifices which symbolised their covenant with God (cp. the breaking of bread; 2 Chron. 23:19; Is. 26:2; Ez. 44:7 cp. Rev. 22:14). The problem is that we can't tell who exactly is in the body of Christ. It cannot be denied that we must separate from that which is false. The Gospel is fundamentally a call to separation, a deliverance from what is false, as Israel were delivered from Egypt. In some sense, our redemption, our eternal destiny, depends upon this. Yet our salvation also depends upon showing the softness, the love, the patience, which we will stand in need of at the judgment. For as we judge, so will we be judged. The attitude of the Lord Jesus towards us in that day will be proportionate to our attitude towards our brethren in this brief life. But perhaps the 'contradiction' is there to teach us - or try to teach us- the need for us to rise up to the challenge of showing " grace and truth" in our thinking and judging, even though we cannot fully achieve it; to realize our tragic inability in this, to recognize that within our limited nature this must be an unsolveable paradox. And thereby we should be led to appreciate more the beauty and the wonder of the way in which these two concepts are linked together in the Father and His Son, and to yearn more to perceive and enter into the glory of God's Name, which totally incorporates these two humanly opposed aspects (Ex. 34:6,7; Rom. 11:22).
One part of our message is of the Kingdom of God; we should be living witnesses to the current rulership of God over our lives, and thereby we testify with credibility and integrity to the future establishment of that Kingdom on earth at the Lord's return. If we are living the eternal life, the Kingdom life, then we are in ourselves advertisements for the good news of the Kingdom. Daniel is an example of this. The Aramaic verb habal occurs several times in Daniel, and between them we build up a picture of how Daniel was a living witness to the Kingdom. The word means to hurt / destroy. We find that the Kingdom of Babylon was to be cut down and destroyed; whereas the Kingdom of God was to never be destroyed (Dan. 4:23; 2:44). The mouths of the lions were closed so that they did not " hurt" [s.w. 'destroy'] Daniel (Dan. 6:22); and because of this, Darius praises God, saying that His Kingdom would never be 'destroyed' (Dan. 6:26). Daniel was not destroyed; and thus Darius came to believe that God's Kingdom would not be destroyed. Because Daniel was set up as a living part and foretaste of that Kingdom. To a far greater extent, " the Kingdom of God" is a title given to the Lord Jesus- because He in His mortal life was the essence of that Kingdom, the embodiment of the Kingdom life. Are we living lives today that are in essence the Kingdom life? In this sense we "have eternal life".
When about to drown, Peter our example called out: “Lord, save me” (Mt. 14:30); and He was saved. When he later preached to the crowds, he encouraged them to likewise call upon the name of the Lord and be saved (Acts 2:39). He saw himself then and there, in all his weakness and yet sincere desperation, as the epitomy of us all. If we appeal to others in terms shot through with reference to our weakness, we will like Peter be irresistably persuasive in our preaching.
2 Chron. 24
“Joash did what was right in the sight of the Lord all the days of Jehoiada the priest” (2 Chron. 24:2). But when Jehoiada died, Joash listened to, and was influenced by, the wicked princes of Judah (:17). It is clear that for all his apparent strength of character and zeal for God, Joash was simply a product of those he was with. And so it can be that 21st century mankind, our young people especially, can tend to be people with no real character, their very personalities influenced by others rather than being real, credible people. Insofar as we can break free from all these moulding influences, we will be real, credible persons. And our independence, our realness, is what will attract others to the message of Divine influence which we preach. Those raised in Christian homes need to pay especial attention to the possibility that they are where they are spiritually because of the good influence of others upon them. There is no harm in this; but we need to strive to have a faith that is not merely the faith of our fathers, but a real and personal response to the love of God which we have for ourselves perceived in the man Christ.
The record reveals that Daniel went through a yo-yo pattern of being promoted into the limelight, and then (in an unrecorded manner) slipping out of the limelight into relative obscurity, from which he was promoted again. Thus in 2:48 Daniel is made Prime Minister, in the events of Chapter 3 he seems to be strangely absent, in 4:8 Daniel is brought in to interpret Nebuchadnezzar's second dream almost as an afterthought, implying he was out of the limelight; by 5:11 King Belshazzar was unaware of Daniel, but promoted him to " third ruler in the Kingdom" (5:29). Daniel was “made master of the magicians, astrologers, Chaldeans and soothsayers” by Nebuchadnezzar; but by the time his son was reigning, this had largely been forgotten (Dan. 5:12)- because Daniel evidently was nowhere near that job to which he’d been promoted. Why did Daniel slip out of the limelight? Was it not for the sake of his conscience? As a member of the Jewish community, it would have been so easy for Daniel to stay where he was, reasoning that holding down a job like that would enable him to do so much for the Truth. But he realized that his personal conscience and devotion to the spiritual life must be given number one priority if he was to help his people. There is an exact correspondence between the mind of Daniel here and the fervent believer who refuses promotion, jumps out of a career that is rubbing too strongly against the conscience... would our community featured more examples of men and women like this.
Acts 3, 4
We cannot celebrate God's grace / giving to us without response. Because Israel had been redeemed from Egypt, they were to be generous to their brethren, and generally open handed (Lev. 25:37,38). This is why the Acts record juxtaposes God’s grace / giving, and the giving of the early believers in response (Acts 4:33 cp. 32,34-37).
2 Chron. 25
There is one theme that the Bible continually pushes: human beings, including the believers, are incredibly spiritually blind and obtuse when it comes to spiritual things. We just don't see (i.e. understand) what's in black and white. Amaziah, a man not completely without faith and the knowledge of Yahweh, worshipped the gods of Edom whom he had just defeated (2 Chron. 25:19,20). In what ways are we going to be so blind today?
Daniel was willing to die in justification of his habit of open, unashamed, regular prayer (Dan. 6:10). Do we have this habit?
Acts 5, 6
The Lord had told the cured leper to tell no other man but go and offer for his cleansing, in order to make a witness to the priests. All three synoptics record this, as if it made a special impression on everyone (Mt. 8:4; Mk. 1:44; Lk. 5:14). It could be that the Lord is using an idiom when He told the leper to tell nobody: ‘Go and make a witness first and foremost to the priests as opposed to anybody else’. Such was His zeal for their salvation. And the fact that “a great company of the priests were obedient to the faith” (Acts 6:7) shows how this apparently hope-against-hope desire of the Lord for the conversion of His enemies somehow came true. Our preaching today needs the same ambitious hope in success.
2 Chron. 26, 27
If a man prepares his way after God’s principles (2 Chron. 27:6; Prov. 4:26), then God will ‘prepare’ that man’s way too (Ps. 37:23; 119:5), confirming him in the way of escape. This process is going on in our lives today.
There is an impressive intensity in Daniel's desire to understand the prophetic word. By all means this needs to be contrasted with a Christendom growing sadly indifferent to the study of latter day prophecy. That prophecy is difficult to interpret and apparently confusing should inspire us to study it more rather than de-motivate us; Daniel was in an even worse expositional dilemma than we are, and yet this very dilemma inspired him even more to want to understand. We need to really soberly consider the force of the descriptions of Daniel's yearning to understand: " My thoughts much troubled me, and my countenance was changed in me: but (i.e. despite the trouble it gave) I kept the matter in my heart" (7:28). This suggests that it would have been easy to allow his inner turmoil to be visibly expressed in his appearance; but he kept the intellectual pain within him. Such deep pain at not being able to fully understand the word of prophecy needs to be contrasted with our easy indifference to finding prophecy a closed book. " I Daniel was grieved in my spirit in the midst of my body, and the visions of my head troubled me" (Dan. 7:15) expresses the deep physiological effects of Daniel's lack of understanding. This grief of spirit can be connected with the words of Is. 54:6, describing a woman " forsaken and grieved in spirit , and a wife of youth, when thou wast refused" . The same level of spiritual and emotional pain was seen in Daniel. It may be that Daniel felt his lack of understanding was somehow related to his own moral weakness (or that of his people).
Israel's deliverance through the Red Sea seems to be attributed to Moses' faith (Heb. 11:28,29; Acts 7:36,38). Yet in the actual record, Moses seems to have shared Israel's cry of fear, and was rebuked for this by God (Ex. 14:15,13,10). Yet in the midst of that rebuke, we learn from the New Testament, God perceived the faith latent within Moses, beneath that human fear and panic. God likewise is discerning the faith in us, even masked as it is by public failure; and we should do the same to our brethren.
2 Chron. 28
One of the many Old Testament quarries for this good Samaritan parable is found in 2 Chron.28:15. Here we read how Israel attacked Judah whilst Judah were apostate, and took them captives. But then they realized their own shortcomings, and the fact that Judah really were their brethren; then they " clothed all that were naked among (he captives taken from Judah), and arrayed them, and shod them, and gave them to eat and to drink, and anointed them, and carried all the feeble of them upon asses, and brought them to Jericho...to their brethren" . Now there is allusion after allusion to this scene in the Samaritan parable. Surely our Lord had his eye on this incident as he devised that parable. The point he was making as surely this: 'In trying to follow my example of total love for your brethren, your spiritual neighbours, remember your own shortcomings, and what the Lord has done for you by His grace; and then go and reflect this to your brethren'. The opportunities in our days for expressing this love of our brethren, with all our mind and strength, are just so numerous. Letter writing, preaching, organizing meetings, visits, above all fervent prayer for their salvation. If we are really pouring out all our heart and soul into the salvation of our brethren, after the pattern of Christ on the cross, our worldly careers will mean so little, our every practical decision will be coloured by our commitments to the body of Christ; where and how we live, what hours we work, hobbies (if any!), holidays (if any!)... our very soul, every aspect of our life, must be affected by our loving our neighbour, and thereby our God, with our whole soul and mind and physical strength.
Dan. 8:15 records Daniel seeking to understand the meaning of a vision; but two verses earlier, an Angel had asked another Angel for understanding of the same vision. Here surely we have the practical meaning, in Angelic terms, of God knowing our prayers and arranging the answers before we even ask them. Perhaps it was Daniel’s guardian Angel who asked a more senior Angel for the interpretation of the vision, knowing Daniel was going to be asking for it. Yet it was the second Angel who actually gave the answer to Daniel (Dan. 8:14). Verse 16 describes the one Angel standing at the Ulai river calling out: “Gabriel, make this man to understand the vision”. Yet at this time, Daniel himself was in vision at the Ulai river (:2). His guardian Angel was there, right in front of him. And He had foreknown Daniel’s feelings and arranged for another Angel to respond to them...and so the second Angel (Gabriel) also comes near where Daniel was standing (:17). His guardian Angel had literally called Gabriel to come over to Daniel... And all this is going on for you and me hourly in the court of Heaven! There’s another example of this in Dan. 12. There are two Angels with Daniel by the river (:2). One of them asks the other: “How long shall it be to the end...?” (:6; cp. 8:13). Yet this was exactly the spirit of Daniel! And then the other Angel gives Daniel the answer. His guardian Angel knew his unexpressed questions and desires, and passed them on to another Angel to answer. This is the kind of thing going on when we pray!
Paul’s progressive appreciation of his own sinfulness is reflected in how he describes what he did in persecuting Christians in ever more terrible terms, the older he gets. He describes his victims as “men and women” whom he ‘arrested’ (Acts 8:3; 22:4), then he admits he threatened and murdered them (Acts 9:3), then he persecuted “the way” unto death (Acts 22:4); then he speaks of them as “those who believe” (Acts 22:19) and finally, in a crescendo of shame with himself, he speaks of how he furiously persecuted, like a wild animal, unto the death, “many of the saints”, not only in Palestine but also “to foreign [Gentile] cities” (Acts 26:10,11). He came to appreciate his brethren the more, as he came to realize the more his own sinfulness. And this is surely a pattern for us all.
2 Chron. 29
Realizing that what we appear to own in life is not actually ours but God’s brings with it a great sense of freedom. No longer is there the endless anxiety about what is ‘ours’, and the need to keep it for ourselves. Indeed, the Hebrew word translated “free” is also that translated “liberal” or “generous”. Hence in 2 Chron. 29:31 we find that “as many as were of a free heart [offered] burnt offerings”. Actually that Hebrew word is usually translated “prince”, the idea being that princes were wealthy enough to be ‘free’ and therefore generous if they wished. But any of us can have this noble / free heart, we can act like wealthy people whatever our poverty, in that we are free from the ties of materialism which bind so tightly.
Prayer is a sacrifice; it demands effort. The Jews prayed the afternoon prayer at 3p.m., when the sacrifices were being offered, to make this connection between prayer and sacrifice. Both Ezra (Ezra 9:5) and Daniel (Dan. 9:21) prayed at the time of the evening sacrifice. Clearly enough, prayer isn't something we just do half-heartedly, nor as a mindless duty, nor half asleep at night...it's a sacrifice.
It is no mere pointless repetition that results in Luke recording Paul’s conversion three times in Acts (Acts 9,22,26). Paul saw in his conversion a pattern for all those who would afterwards believe (1 Tim. 1:16). Having said that he was "chief" of the tribe of sinners, Paul goes straight on to say that this "was so that in me as chief might Jesus Christ shew forth all his longsuffering, for a pattern to them which should later believe on him" (1 Tim. 1:15,16 RV). This sounds as if Paul realized that he was being set up as the chief, supreme example to us; a template for each of us, of forgiveness and zealous response to that forgiveness. Thus Paul's description of how the light of the glory of God in Christ shines in the heart of the new convert (2 Cor. 4:6) was not without reference back to his own Damascus road conversion (Acts 9:3; 22:6; 26;13). Are we following Paul's example today?