You Are Not A Revolutionary

Many rebel-rousers gladly accept the term “revolutionary.”  Some go a step further and suggest that by emulating the ethos of the Old Testament prophets and Christ, they are doing nothing more than they did: shaking convention up a bit.  Walter Kaiser provides a good rejoinder to this way of thinking, especially as it relates to the prophets.  Kaiser states:

[The prophets] were men of words: so are our present-day revolutionaries.  Many students today stand on the steps of many a university and pour out their words in an unending, and often unintelligible, stream.  Of course, the contrast to us is very obvious.  The prophets were men of God’s Word, a vast difference from man’s word.  They wrote, ‘Thus saith the Lord,’ about fifty-three hundred times; thus over and over again in the Old Testament, there is this key reference.  Today’s would-be prophets repeat, ‘I say,’ ‘I feel,’ and ‘I think that . . .’

There is another contrast.  The revolutionaries of today appeal to the masses.  They appeal to them to rise up against tyranny, against the ‘unjust establishment,’ against the social order that has gone awry.  And in many cases the appeal is justified.  The establishment has, in many instances, really turned on itself.  Later on you will see why I say that, but for different reasons than many are using today.

But the prophets of old did not appeal to the crowds.  They did not appeal to the masses.  They did call for revolution–but here comes the great contrast.  They appealed basically to the individual.  They wanted something to happen to the individual first.  They did not appeal to the institution.  They did not appeal to society in general.  They longed for something radical to happen inside of the individual person.  Then, perhaps, the institutions and society might be affected.  Certainly this is the tenor of the gospel message (Walter Kaiser, The Old Testament in Contemporary Preaching [Grand Rapids: Baker, 1973], 93-4).

So you are not a revolutionary like the Old Testament prophet, unless you appeal to the inner man with the word of God to effect change that only God can bring.  This is indeed the tenor of the gospel.

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Leading or Just Taking a Walk?

There are at least two kinds of leaders.  The first kind is the one that leads by virtue of his power and title.  The second kind of leader leads by virtue of his passion and influence.  The former exerts power, the latter garners followers.  It has been stated this way: “He who thinks he leads, but has no followers, is only taking a walk.” 

 

Many of the OT kings exerted power but little lasting influence.  I’m reading through 2 Chronicles in my devotions.  This morning I read about Jehoram’s reign.  He was the son of Jehoshaphat who is one of the greatest kings in Israel’s history; also one of my favorites.  Jehoram, however, would not hold a candle to his father.  His legacy is summarized in 2 Chronicles 21:18-20:

 

And after all this the Lord struck him in his bowels with an incurable disease. [19] In the course of time, at the end of two years, his bowels came out because of the disease, and he died in great agony. His people made no fire in his honor, like the fires made for his fathers. [20] He was thirty-two years old when he began to reign, and he reigned eight years in Jerusalem. And he departed with no one’s regret.  They buried him in the city of David, but not in the tombs of the kings.

 

It turns out that Jehoram was “only taking a walk.”  They despised him (no fire in his honor), he did not genuinely lead (“he departed with no one’s regret”), and he was snubbed (he was not buried in the tombs of the kings).  He died a fairly young man (40).  I like the message behind the title of the book You Don’t Need A Title To Be A Leader.  One does not have to live long to leave a lasting leadership legacy—consider the brief life of David Brainerd and Jim Elliot.  Jesus reminded us that genuine leadership is servant-leadership.  Let us follow our Lord’s example as we seek to genuinely lead humbly, but also with great passion and influence for the glory of God.

Costly Faith

I recently finished reading 2 Samuel.  Following David’s sin of numbering the people in 2 Samuel 24, the Lord executed judgment, but relented and had mercy upon David (2 Samuel 24:16).  David was told to raise an altar to the LORD on the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite (2 Samuel 24:18).  Araunah was loyal to King David.  When David told him he needed to purchase his threshing floor, Araunah offered to give it to him as a manifestation of honor to the king.   David’s response to this act of kindness provides us a tremendous insight for living lives pleasing to God: living the life of faith should be costly.

Then Araunah said to David, ‘Let my lord the king take and offer up what seems good to him. Here are the oxen for the burnt offering and the threshing sledges and the yokes of the oxen for the wood. [23] All this, O king, Araunah gives to the king.’ And Araunah said to the king, ‘May the LORD your God accept you.’ [24] But the king said to Araunah, ‘No, but I will buy it from you for a price. I will not offer burnt offerings to the LORD my God that cost me nothing.’ So David bought the threshing floor and the oxen for fifty shekels of silver” (2 Samuel 24:22-24, ESV).

May God keep us from presenting ourselves as cheap sacrifices (Romans 12:1-2) and may our faith be a costly one in a world that freely offers up cheap grace.

Mining Biblical Truth: Two Gems

I came across two gems from Scripture in my reading this morning . . .

Gem 1: 2 Samuel 13:3

But Amnon had a friend, whose name was Jonadab, the son of Shimeah, David’s brother:.  And Jonadab was a very crafty man.

2 Samuel 13 contains a heinous sin: Amnon raped his sister.  It is one (of many) moments in Scripture that very candidly reveals that Biblical characters were depraved men and women.  Amnon desired to have his sister but there was something in Amnon that said “no, this is not right” which is why he was so despondent (13:2).  However, I’m not so sure that it was his values restraining him, but rather an opportunity.  Nevertheless his friend persuaded him to pursue this sin against his sister.  He even gave him a plan to make it happen.  Amnon heeded his friend’s plan and violated his sister.  The gem in the midst of this dreadful account is friends are life-shapers.  Make no mistake, those with whom we spend time says much about us.  We should not underestimate the degree to which they influence us in virtue or vice.  Young people in particular need to remember this.

Gem 2: 2 Corinthians 6:7b

with the weapons of righteousness for the right hand and for the left

The Apostle Paul is about half way through a list of evidences concerning his apostolic ministry.  He employs a military metaphor to get his point across.  It is generally understood that offensive weapons were in the right hand and defensive weapons in the left (Robertson, Word Pictures in the New Testament; Plummer, 2 Corinthians, 198).  Calvin says “By righteousness you must understand – rectitude of conscience and holiness of life.” So what Paul is arguing is that his life and ministry were characterized by righteousness.  His defense was not in his words but in his life.  What a powerful lesson for every Christian.  The gem in this phrase is that the Christian’s best defense concerning the validity of the gospel will not come merely by words but perhaps more powerfully by one’s life.  This is likely what is in view when Paul wrote in Philippians 1:27: “Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Jesus Christ.”

Brothers and Sisters, Let Us Choose Life and Blessing

I read from Jeremiah 25 this morning.  Here are six observations that I made from the chapter:

  1. God always has a witness in the world and among His people (v. 4; cf. Acts 14:17)
  2. God desires to shower His people with blessings, which comes as a result of heeding the words of the Lord (vv. 5-6)
  3. Man has a heart that is so perverse that it perpetually seeks inordinate pleasure, even if what it pursues is paltry compared to what God gives and even if it brings harm due to disobedience (v. 7; cf. Jeremiah 17:9.  The phrase “stubbornly follow their own heart” is found throughout the book of Jeremiah [3:17; 9:14; 13:10; 23:17])
  4. God will not be mocked and the day of mercy will pass (v. 8 )
  5. The nations are instruments in the hands of the Lord to accomplish His purposes, including carrying out judgment on His people for their disobedience (vv. 15-16; 27-28 )
  6. The judgment of God is fatal and final (vv. 33-38 )

The message of Jeremiah 25 is sobering.  It reveals a God who desires to bless His people, but they refuse and choose to revel in the rubbish of this world rather than the rich blessings of God.  Their reward is upon their shoulders.  As Christians, let us choose life.  Christ offers us life abundant.  Let’s pursue it with great ardor.  “You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore” (Psalm 16:11, ESV).

As a pastor I was also challenged and encouraged by the faithfulness of Jeremiah.  He had been declaring “Thus says the LORD” faithfully for 23 years (v. 3a) regardless of their failure and their inability to respond (cf. Jeremiah 1:17-19; 4:22; 6:10).  I was encouraged to pray for the congregation that the Lord has set me over that they would receive the word of the Lord with great gladness and that I would with equally great delight declare it faithfully to them.

Ten Benevolent Commands for the People of God

In Psalm 105:6, there is a reference to the offspring of Abraham, children of Jacob, his chosen ones.  It is a reference to the people of God in the OT.  I would like to extend this text us, as the people of God in the NT. 

 

There are NT references to Christians that parallel the titles given to Israel in Psalm 105:6:

·         “That is why it depends on faith, in order that the promise may rest on grace and be guaranteed to all his offspring—not only to the adherent of the law but also to the one who shares the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all” (Romans 4:16).

·         “Even as he chose us in him before of the foundation of the world” (Ephesians 1:4).

·         “For we know, brothers loved by God, that he has chosen you” (1 Thessalonians 1:4; cf. Colossians 3:12).

 

From this it would be wrong however to infer that we, the Church, are Israel.  The NT simply does not allow it.  The Church is identified as a “new man.”   Paul expresses this in Ephesians 2:15 “that he [Christ] might create in himself one new man in place of the two [contextually a reference to Jews and Gentiles].”  However, it is appropriate to make some application to us since these verse are about God’s people making God great.  These benevolent commands will hopefully serve as springboards to meditate upon throughout the week.  So as we recall these verses, we can make God great to those around us.

 

In Psalm 105:1-6 there is a string of ten benevolent commands for the people of God.  The first fifteen verses of Psalm 105 are cited in 1 Chronicles 16:8-22.  Thus we find that this psalm was intended to joyously give thanks to the Lord according to 1 Chronicles 16:7. Derek Kidner, an excellent commentator on the psalms states “like a jewel turned this way and that, the worship of God displays some of its many facets here” (Kidner, Psalms 73-150, 374).  The theme is grand and overarching as the psalmist recounts God’s greatness and faithful in dealing with the nation of Israel.  Following this section, the psalm recounts various episodes in the nation’s history.  So then, here are the ten benevolent commands for the people of God:

 

1.        Give thanks (v. 1a) (hdy) (praise*).  We receive all from Him, therefore He is worthy of all our thanks.  “He who gives food to all flesh” (Psalm 136:25).

2.       Call (v. 1b) (arq) (call, proclaim).  “Proclaim His titles; thereby fill the world with His renown” (Spurgeon, The Treasury of David, 2:336). 

3.       Make known (v. 1c) (edy) (declare).  Let the nations, all those around us hear of the greatness of our God and how He satisfies above all else.  God’s works transcend race and tongue and are intended to be shared with all.  Testify of the Lord’s work, both small and great in your life.

4.       Sing (v. 2a) (ryv) (sing).  “Bring your best thoughts and express the in the best language to the sweetest sounds” (Spurgeon, The Treasury of David, 2:336).   Do it for an audience of One.

5.       Sing (v. 2b) (rmc) (make music). Our music should exalt an honor God.   Just as our words and deeds should make God great so should the music that we offer up to Him.

6.       Tell (v. 2c) (jyc) (muse, complain).   How quickly we share new and exciting stories that we come across.  I remember the days of long ago; I meditate on all your works and consider what your hands have done” (Psalm 143:5, NIV).  When we consider all the works of God, we have much to share, don’t we?

7.       Glory (v. 3a) (llh) (glory).  This means we make God our boast.  We are not ashamed of Him and we find our greatest pleasure and satisfaction in Him. 

8.       Seek (v. 4a) (crd) (resort to, seek).   “Put yourselves under His protection” (Spurgeon, The Treasury of David, 2:337).  Run to Him at all times. 

9.       Seek (v. 4b) (vqb) (seek).  This is a different word in the Hebrew but a very similar idea.  Our desire for God causes us to pursue Him, to seek Him.  The greater the affection, the more the object of one’s affection is sought after.   

10.    Remember (v. 5a) (rkz) (remember). “If we would keep these in remembrance our faith would be stronger, our gratitude warmer, our devotion more fervent, and our love more intense” (Spurgeon, The Treasury of David, 2:337).  Let us recall God’s grace and mercy.

 

In short, when God is great in our hearts, He will be great in our thoughts, words, and deeds.  Let us make God great this week.

 

*All words in parantheses are common English meanings of the Hebrew words as found in Todd S. Beall, William A. Banks, Colin Smith, Old Testament Parsing Guide (Nashville: Broadman & Holman, 2000).