Friday, April 24, 2015

The City on a Hill--Does the Light Still Shine?

Today's blog post is by Kaleigh S, one of the original founding members of the International Christian Bible Fellowship. Currently, she leads the online Scripture reading community within the larger ICBF community. She also blogs regularly at Facing the Waves

Did you hear of the city on the hill?
Said one old man to the other
It once shined bright and it would be shining still
But they all started turning on each other
You see, the poets thought the dancers were shallow
And the soldiers thought the poets were weak
And the elders saw the young ones as foolish
And the rich man never heard the poor man speak

And one by one, they ran away
With their made-up minds to leave it all behind
And the light began to fade in the city on the hill
The city on the hill

Each one thought that they knew better
But they were different by design
Instead of standing strong together
They let their differences divide

And one by one, they ran away
With their made-up minds to leave it all behind
And the light began to fade in the city on the hill
The city on the hill

I heard these lyrics a couple nights ago, and I was struck by the message they portrayed. This song addresses the subject that divides friends, families, and churches at a terrifying rate. You see, we forget that God created different individuals with different personalities and gave them different gifts and impressed on them different personal convictions. And in our pride, we sometimes see our way as the only right way, not realizing that the very gifts God gave us were exactly as different as necessary to make the body of Christ complete. We can easily point out a person’s weaknesses once we’ve known them long enough, and when we’ve known them even longer, their weaknesses seem to overpower their strengths.

I’m going to take an educated guess and suppose that these song lyrics were based off of Matthew 5:14-16 because it’s almost a direct implication to Christ’s words in this passage. And if that’s not where the lyrics come from, the passage still fits.

You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. (ESV)

This is part of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. He calls His followers the light of the world. And the city on a hill cannot hide its light. It stands at a higher elevation and shines to those down below. One doesn’t light a lamp and hide it. A light is no use when covered and hidden away, but instead it is placed on a stand, higher up to spread its rays around to those who need it.

This city on a hill in Matthew was referring to the disciples first, and then, through the disciples, churches, families, and individuals carry on the light of the Gospel to those who live in darkness. One way believers accomplish that today is by using their gifts and by living in unity with fellow believers.

The lyrics of “City On the Hill” begins with one man sharing with another the story of a city: a city full of light and goodness. But it was quickly destroyed when the citizens turned on one another. Despising each person’s differences, the once peaceful people caused the city to crumble inward. Their united front was broken, and, in division, they tore into each other, shattering the harmony. They saw, not each other’s strengths, but the weaknesses that mirrored some of their own ways of life.

Not knowing that unity created strength, the people ran from the brokenness, from their differences, thus quenching the light which had for so long shone on the hill. They would not be dissuaded. Fear had bound its chains tightly, and pride had kept them there. So they ran down the hill, instead of facing the pain and humility that healing could bring. And because they were set on a hill, the change was noticed by many. A city set on a hill cannot be hid.

Each thought they knew better than the other. The poets thought the dancers were shallow./The soldiers thought the poets were weak./The elders saw the young ones as foolish./And the rich man never heard the poor man speak. They let their differences divide them, oblivious to the knowledge that they were different by Divine design.

The body of believers today is that city set on a hill. We have the true light, and when we hold a united front, the glory of God shines out to those around. We aren’t perfect, but the pure light of Christ shines through the weakness of our flesh and portrays a redeemed brokenness, rather than an unresolved brokenness that divides relationships.

We’re called to be one body by the grace and strength of God. We cannot do without one another. If we run away in pride or fear, the light will diminish. And so we are called to stand by faith and live in unity with other members of Christ’s body. But we’re all created differently, and while walking in the liberty of grace, we’re called to live in unity to display the Lordship of Christ—for He is our Head.

Perhaps one of the best descriptions of our giftings comes from Romans 12. Paul lists seven gifts, warning the church not to let pride take control, but to use discernment in exercising their strengths. Jesus’ followers are nothing in and of themselves, and the knowledge of this keeps pride and fear at bay, knowing that it is our Head who enables us to live out our strengths for His glory. We are to be as one body, functioning together as one whole unit. Each individual carries different strengths, specifically assigned to him by the grace of God, but we all have the same function as the body of Christ: reflecting our Head in all we say and do.

Listed here are the spiritual gifts given to believers in this age. (I currently believe that some spiritual gifts given to believers at the time of the apostles have ceased. Therefore, I’m listing them as they would apply to us today.) I believe there are a few more throughout Scripture, but I’m detailing some of the main ones.

The preacher gifting is one that often desires to see a person make things right with God. Their passion is to see people’s lives align rightly with Scripture, and if that means confronting sin, then they aren’t afraid to do so. They want to see people released from sin’s chains. They might not be preachers in the sense of leading a congregation, but they love to declare the truth of God’s Word, and their joy comes from seeing people walking in that truth.

The servant is one who loves to meet the practical needs of those around them. Their strength lies in doing good for other people and being concerned with a person’s well-being. The servant would give what they don’t have if it would only fill a gap in someone else’s life. They enable others to use their strength more fully, by taking on practical tasks. They like to use their time, resources, and money to fulfill needs, and they receive joy knowing that God worked through them to help another person.

Those who are gifted in teaching desire to explain God’s truths. They go down deep, pulling up the treasures from God’s Word. They study and find the little details and explain things to people. The teacher pours his time into studying just to see the light in people’s eyes when they suddenly understand a truth. They have the heavy responsibility of declaring truth and making Christ known to themselves and others. They passionately pursue studying Scripture, and their joy comes from presenting knowledge in and understandable way to those around them.

The exhorter is an encourager. They give hope to the discouraged, and strength to the wavering. They love to tell people that God is greater than any difficulty. Encouragers exude love and compassion, and they take the time to help people see the good in a bad situation. They want a person to pick up their life and press forward in the strength of the Lord. They find joy in lifting spirits and giving people hope.

The gift of giving is one that often manifests itself in financial means. These kinds of people love to invest their money in the work of God. They can never give too much, and they desire people to find material needs fulfilled by their giving. The giver will give you the shirt off his back just to relieve a physical need because they love sharing what God has blessed them with. They find joy knowing that God uses their abilities to diminish someone’s empty resources.

The ruler is an organizer. They run around with the to-do lists. They put chaos into order and take charge in emergencies. They administrate and oversee things so the to-do lists end up with a nice row of checkmarks. The ruler’s strength lies in directing people to schedule and organize things, so everything is done on time and in the right way. The rulers have their sights set to the goal, and they take joy in seeing God’s work completed in a precise and accurate manner.

The mercy-givers empathize with others. They are emotionally empathetic with people. They cry with those who are crying, and they genuinely rejoice with those who are rejoicing. They can feel the internal emotions of a person even if they’ve never been in the situation. They are the ones who are often willing to walk with a person through the healing process. Mercy-givers take joy in bearing others’ burdens.

These are all huge strengths. And everyone has some of them as their main strengths. They are good things, God-given things. Each carries the weight of a specific mission with it. Each one includes a passion that weighs on a person’s heart until they fulfill it. Each one is different. And when you put them all together in a group, the body of Christ is supposed to work as a physical body would—in harmony with one another, and all with the goal of bring benefit and glory to the Head.

The problem comes when people turn inward and start attacking their own members. The mercy-giver says the preacher has no compassion. The ruler says the giver has no organization or restraint. The exhorter says the teacher wears people out with details. And the preacher wonders how crying with someone could ever possibly teach them truth. The person who serves tells the giver that handing out money doesn’t fix the unmet practical needs. The teacher complains that the encourager has no sense of reality. The giver is confused as to how preaching at someone shows love to them. And when a person’s gifting helps an individual, the other members are jealous that their gift wasn’t needed. They started turning on each other. Each one thought that they knew better/But they were different by design/Instead of standing strong together/They let their differences divide.

The body of Christ requires every gift and every individual in the church of Christ to work together with its strengths and weaknesses. They need each other, for without the balance, each gift would swing to an unbiblical extreme. The preacher needs the balance of the mercy-giver. The strength of serving must be balanced with the responsibility of the ruler. The teacher needs the encourager. The Exhorter needs the reality of the preacher and teacher. The giver needs to balance out with serving. The ruler needs the compassion of the mercy-giver. And the strength of mercy needs to balance with the truth of the preacher. The weakness of one is the strength for the other. To run and hide from the weaknesses is to put out the light of city on the hill. To run is to live in pride instead of accepting that others might have something you lack. To run is to ignore the gifts the Sovereign God gave and reject the command to shine the light.

We can’t do without each other. If we could, that would mean we were fully capable of meeting all needs with our gift alone. And that’s impossible. There are all different characters, personalities, struggles, and strengths, and it’s the body of believers that need to demonstrate unity through diversity. Strengths were given to benefit believers and glorify Christ. Weaknesses were given to curb pride and show us the sufficiency of Christ.

The world is searching still. It is rooted deep in people to know they need others, and even unbelievers want companionship. Let’s show the brotherhood of Christ to the unbelievers by standing strong instead of running, showing the diversity of unity when we meet the weakness of another with our strength, and accepting the strength of another when we cannot do it all. Tearing into one another, despising the gifts of one another, and fearing the unknown isn’t compatible with a God who created differences. Differences were never meant to divide, but to bring broken people together. We’re all broken in some way, and sometimes it’s the difference of another that provides the strength we need.

The body is to resemble the Head. It’s to be small likeness of the future Kingdom which will live in complete harmony under the King of Kings. But the light of brotherly unity is fading quickly all over the world. Doctrinal issues, personal convictions, deep struggles, and differing interests divide people sooner than they build them up. Is our city going to shine? Have we made up our minds to stay? Or are people going to see a darkening city with the citizens’ running in fear and pride? Are we going to face the unknown and work through it or disappear into the darkness? Does the light still shine in the city on the hill? The city is our God-given home, and if that light goes out, there may not be another to light it immediately. The light from one city creates the strength for the next city to keep on shining. One person’s strength gives strength to another. It’s up to all the believers across the world to carry the light. United we stand and divided we fall.

And the world is searching still
But it was the rhythm of the dancers
That gave the poets life
It was the spirit of the poets
That gave the soldiers strength to fight
It was the fire of the young ones
It was the wisdom of the old
It was the story of the poor man
That needed to be told
¬-“City On the Hill” (Casting Crowns)

Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity!
(Psalm 133:1)

We are to grow up in every way
Into him who is the head, into Christ,
from whom the whole body, joined and held together
by every join with which it is equipped,
when each part is working properly,
makes the body grow so that it
builds itself up in love.
(Ephesians 4:15-16)

Arise, shine, for your light has come,
and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you.
For behold, darkness shall cover the earth,
and thick darkness the peoples;
but the Lord will arise upon you,
and his glory will be seen upon you.
And nations shall come to your light,
and kings to the brightness of your rising.
(Isaiah 60:1-3)

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

The Division of a Nation and the Devastation of a Kingdom

-“I have counsel and sound wisdom; I have insight; I have strength. By me kings reign, and rulers decree what is just; by me princes rule, and nobles, all who govern justly.” (Proverbs 8:14-16)

2 Chronicles 10

-The book of Chronicles was subdivided into two different books in the Greek Septuagint before the time of Jesus. Most likely, Ezra the scribe wrote approximately 450-430 B.C. it in order to instruct the returning exiles from Babylon about the history of the Davidic kingdom.
-In contrast to 1st and 2nd Kings, 1st and 2nd Chronicles focuses almost entirely on the Davidic kingdom and excludes the history of the northern kingdom from the time of King Jeroboam to King Hoshea.
-1st Chronicles contains genealogies from 1st Chronicles 1-9, and the remainder of the book contains the history of David’s kingdom in chapters 10-11.
-2nd Chronicles recounts King Solomon’s reign in the first nine chapters, and the next 18 chapters recount the battle for faithfulness to the Lord on the part of Judah’s monarchs. Chapters 29-32 highlight Hezekiah’s reign, and chapters 33-36 describe the last few southern kings leading up to the exile to Babylon.
-The story of Rehoboam in 2 Chronicles 10 occurs approximately 930 B.C. The Israelite kingdom began in 1050 B.C. with the coronation of Saul, but enjoyed its golden age under King Solomon in 970-930 B.C. after King David defended the growing kingdom from military attacks in 1010-970 B.C.

A Developing Defection
(Verses 1-5)
Verse 1: Rehoboam went to Shechem, for all Israel had come to Shechem to make him king.

-Rehoboam (רְחַבְעָם) was the fourth king in Israel, being the grandson of David and the son of Solomon. Now, Israel will make him king (מלך) as the rightful Davidic ruler.
-1 Kings 11:1-2 lists Solomon’s departure from God’s kingly standards in Deuteronomy 17:14-20 by his intermarriages with foreign women, many of whom came from nations that were age-old antagonists of the Israelites. Solomon departed from the Lord (1 Kings 12:9-11), and the Lord raised up three adversaries against him, beginning with Hadad (1 Kings 12:14) and Rezon (1 Kings 12:23-25)
-Shechem (שְׁכֶם) was located east of Mount Ebal and Mount Gerazim, the mountains of cursing and blessing under Moses, and it possessed a good water supply, overlooked an important east-west trade route, and boasted significance in biblical history. (Genesis 12:6-7; Genesis 33:18-19; Joshua)
-David had been appointed by all the people to be king while at Hebron (1 Chronicles 11:1-3), and now his grandson appears at Shechem to be appointed by the nation as the third Davidic king.
Verse 2: And as soon as Jeroboam the son of Nebat heard of it (for he was in Egypt, where he had fled from King Solomon), then Jeroboam returned from Egypt.
-Before this scene, Solomon had appointed Jeroboam (יָרָבְעָם) to be in charge of forced labor over the tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh while Jeroboam was a young man. He had fled Solomon into the land of Egypt, as the latter tried to kill him. (1 Kings 12:26-28, 40)
-Egypt (מִצְרַ֫יִם) had harbored two adversaries to the Davidic throne prior to this: Hadad and Jeroboam.
-Many political alliances quickly shift during changing political climates and new political figures, as evidenced during David’s reign (2 Samuel 3:6-12) and Solomon’s reign. (1 Kings 1:49-53; 1 Kings 2:13-18)
-The faithful Israelites considered Egypt to be the land of their affliction, and the Davidic king was never to make anyone return there. (Deuteronomy 17:16) In fact, returning to Egypt would be a covenantal curse. (Deuteronomy 28:6)
Verse 3: And they sent and called him. And Jeroboam and all Israel came and said to Rehoboam
-The people of Israel do not consider Jeroboam a threat to national interests, for he is the “man of the people” here. In some aspects, he echoes Absalom’s character during the reign of King David. (2 Samuel 15:6, 13)
-When Samuel appointed the first Israelite king, he established the conditions of the kingship before the people, for the kingship of Israel was neither a totalitarian monarchy nor a democracy. (1 Samuel 10:25) Now the people of Israel (
יִשְׂרָאֵל) will do the same with Rehoboam.
-Rehoboam is now the figurehead from the tribe of Judah (
יְהוּדָ֑ה yehudah”), and Jeroboam is now the figurehead of Ephraim (אֶפְרָ֑יִם). Historically, these two tribes have thus far had a tense relationship at various points in Israel’s history. (Judges 12:1-6; 2 Samuel 19:42)
Verse 4:
Your father made our yoke heavy. Now therefore lighten the hard service of your father and his heavy yoke on us, and we will serve you.”
-The people of Israel now make a collective promise to serve Rehoboam, but after certain conditions have been met.
-Solomon himself recounted in his final work how he undertook massive building projects. (Ecclesiastes 2:4-6) such as the first temple in Israel, his own palace, and a great deal of cities. (2 Chronicles 8:1-6) But as with any government-sponsored building project, the people can bear the brunt of the burden.
-The people accuse Solomon posthumously of being a hard king, when in reality he did not make any native Israelite a slave (2 Chronicles 8:7-10). In some respects, their complaint here is similar to that of the Israelite complains directed against Moses. (Exodus 16:2; Numbers 14:2)
-A “yoke” (
עֹל) described as “heavy” (קשׁה) is slave language. (Deuteronomy 28:48; Nahum 1:13) “Hard” (קָשֶׁה) “service” (עֲבֹדָה) is language that finds itself earlier in history in connection with Pharaoh. (Exodus 6:6-7)
Verse 5:
He said to them, “Come to me again in three days.” So the people went away.
-The determination of the kingdom lies in the balance, so Rehoboam asks for three days in which to make an informed decision. His father often had mentioned in Proverbs how we need to look to the Lord in order to gain wisdom to make proper decisions. (Proverbs 2:1-5)
Summary Key: Unfaithfulness by the Davidic king will not establish God’s promised blessings for the Davidic kingdom.
Implication: Rulers of governments will harm political stability by being unfaithful to God and His Word.

A Dangerous Direction
(Verses 6-11)
Verse 6: Then King Rehoboam took counsel with the old men, who had stood before Solomon his father while he was yet alive, saying, “How do you advise me to answer this people?”

-During these three days, Rehoboam seeks out counsel from two groups. The first are the old men who stood before his father. These were skilled advisors (Proverbs 22:29), and Rehoboam demonstrates what his father had written about the necessity of seeking wise counsel. (Proverbs 15:22; Proverbs 20:18)
-David and Solomon each had advisors that counseled them in royal matters, such as David and Ahithophel. (2 Samuel 16:23)
-The elders of Israel often played a pivotal role during the Davidic kingdom, such as when they anointed David king at Hebron. (2 Samuel 5:3; 2 Samuel 17:4; 1 Chronicles 11:3)
-Unlike his father, Rehoboam never sought the Lord’s guidance in prayer. (2 Chronicles 1:7-10)
-Unlike his grandfather, Rehoboam never sought the Lord in earnest prayer. (Psalm 27:7-8)
Verse 7: And they said to him, “If you will be good to this people and please them and speak good words to them, then they will be your servants forever.
-The king over God’s people must be good towards them, but Samuel warned the people decades before that such would not be the case. (1 Samuel 8:10-18)
-The elders tell Rehoboam to “please” (
רצה) Israel, or to be well-disposed towards the Israelites. The idea of רצה repeatedly occurs in the Bible, with the connotations of being looked at with favor by an individual or ruler. (Psalm 40:13; Psalm 51:16; Proverbs 16:7)
-The king is to speak “good” (טוֹב) “words” (דָּבָר) to the people, which the elders tell Rehoboam to do. (Ecclesiastes 8:4)
-Benevolent and good rulers result in content and loyal people, which the elders now promise Rehoboam. (Proverbs 29:2)

Verse 8:
But he abandoned the counsel that the old men gave him, and took counsel with the young men who had grown up with him and stood before him.
-Solomon frequently wrote about how fools despise guidance and sound wisdom, and Rehoboam now demonstrates himself to be that which his father warned against. (Proverbs 1:7; Proverbs 15:32)
-Solomon wrote how one does ill to associate with foolish individuals, but Rehoboam did not heed these warnings. (Proverbs 13:20)
Verse 9: And he said to them, “What do you advise that we answer this people who have said to me, ‘Lighten the yoke that your father put on us’?”
-Solomon wrote how one does ill to listen to foolish advice, but Rehoboam listens to the foolish advice of his friends. (Proverbs 14:7)
Verse 10: And the young men who had grown up with him said to him, “Thus shall you speak to the people who said to you, ‘Your father made our yoke heavy, but you lighten it for us’; thus shall you say to them, ‘My little finger is thicker than my father’s thighs.
-The phrase “Thus you shall speak to the people” and what follows contrasts sharply with the good words the elders advised Rehoboam to speak to the people.
-“My little finger” (קֹ֫טֶן) refers in Hebrew more to the male genitalia rather than the little finger of the hand. Sexual potency was considered a hallmark of powerful kings in this era.
-Folly often exaggerates, as this statement here does. (Proverbs 22:13; Proverbs 26:13)
-Ungodly kings boast of their power. (Proverbs 27:1-2)
-Ungodly kings ignore that God Almighty is King over all the earth. (Psalm 2:1-6)
Verse 11: And now, whereas my father laid on you a heavy yoke, I will add to your yoke. My father disciplined you with whips, but I will discipline you with scorpions.’”
-Taxation had become a problem due to Solomon’s immense building projects prior to this.
-Rehoboam’s friends counsel him to threaten with that which he cannot perform, for he has not yet even been crowned king. Boasting in what one cannot do is folly. (1 Kings 20:10-11)
-Rehoboam’s friends feed on his pride, in spite of Solomon’s warnings about pride. (Proverbs 16:18; Proverbs 18:12)

-Rehoboam’s companions urge him now to oppress the people, completely ignoring God’s commitment to His chosen people. (Deuteronomy 32:36)
-“Scorpions” were leather thongs with metal hooks or sharp iron points used to punish criminals and slaves.
Summary Key: A Davidic king lacking wisdom and humility will endanger the longevity of the Davidic kingdom.
Implication: Rulers governing without the fear of the Lord will have no wisdom to govern their people rightly.

A Destroyed Dynasty
(Verses 12-15)
Verse 12: So Jeroboam and all the people came to Rehoboam the third day, as the king said, “Come to me again the third day.”

-National anticipation had now been building for three days, and the people now assembled to hear the king’s edict, with Jeroboam now at the forefront of the nation’s audience.
Verse 13: And the king answered them harshly; and forsaking the counsel of the old men,
-Rehoboam speaks “harshly” (קָשֶׁה) to God’s people. “Harshly” (qasheh) appears elsewhere in Exodus 6:9 to refer to the Israelite’s slavery and in 1 Samuel 25:3 to refer to Nabal’s spirit.
-Rehoboam also forsakes (עזב) the counsel of the elders that stood before Solomon.
-This type of “forsaking” occurs many times in Scripture, particularly with the covenantal fellowship between God and His people. (Genesis 24:27)
-The Lord declared that the Israelites would forsake Him, which the exiles returning to the Promised Land under Zerubbabel, Ezra, and Nehemiah would certainly have known deeply. (Deuteronomy 28:20; Deuteronomy 31:6)
-The Lord frequently said that He would not forsake the Israelites (Deuteronomy 31:6-8), but later said He would in order to judge His people. (Deuteronomy 31:7)
-Folly always leads to destruction. (Proverbs 18:7)
Verse 14: King Rehoboam spoke to them according to the counsel of the young men, saying, “My father made your yoke heavy, but I will add to it. My father disciplined you with whips, but I will discipline you with scorpions.”
-Fools speak forth folly, and Rehoboam demonstrates himself to be a fool here. (Proverbs 15:2; Isaiah 32:6)
-The returning exiles reading this text would have recalled the kings that did actually carry out this threat. (2 Chronicles 16:10; Jeremiah 26:20-23)
Verse 15: So the king did not listen to the people, for it was a turn of affairs brought about by God that the LORD might fulfill his word, which he spoke by Ahijah the Shilonite to Jeroboam the son of Nebat.
-The Chronicler records that Rehoboam did not “listen” (שׁמע) to the people, as he listened to foolish counsel instead, just as Adam had in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3:17), Abram had with Sarai (Genesis 16:2).
-In biblical history, a lack of listening to the right people resulted in disastrous consequences, such as when Joseph’s brothers would not listen to him. (Genesis 42:21-22)
-The Pharaoh of Egypt in the time of the Exodus never listened to God’s people, bringing upon his nation death and destruction. (Exodus 7:4, 13, 22)
-The Chronicler writes that God Himself brought about this division. The exiles would well have remembered the sovereignty of God in the kingdoms of the ancient near east, such as in Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Daniel. (Daniel 4:7)
-The Chronicler affirms that God is always on His throne ruling over the nations of men, including His covenant people Israel and the Davidic kingdom even here. (1 Chronicles 16:31; Psalm 99:1)
-The Chronicler here directs his readers to the words already inspired by God in 1 Kings 11:29-33.
Summary Key: As Israel’s King, God will not give the promised kingdom to an unworthy Davidic monarch.
Implication: God is sovereign in all the affairs of all human governments throughout history, and He does not bless political figures or political realms that do not submit to Him.

A Devastating Division
(Verses 16-19)

Verse 16: And when all Israel saw that the king did not listen to them, the people answered the king, “What portion have we in David? We have no inheritance in the son of Jesse. Each of you to your tents, O Israel! Look now to your own house, David.” So all Israel went to their tents.
-The Chronicler here uses the term “Israel” (יִשְׂרָאֵל) to refer to the tribes of Asher, Dan, Ephraim, Napthali, Reuben, Zebulun, and Simeon. These ten tribes saw that Rehoboam did not listen to them. They “answered” (שׁוב) the “king” (מֶ֫לֶךְ) with words of their own, likely led by Jeroboam as their spokesman.
-They now reverse the words that were spoken to David by the commander of David’s elite operations forces unit. (1 Chronicles 12:18)
-The people of Israel now resurrect Shimei’s words of rebellion spoken against King David years before. (2 Samuel 20:1)
-A “portion” (חֵ֫לֶק) referred to share of spoils from war or share of land and territory. (Numbers 31:36; Joshua 15:13)
-An “inheritance” (נַחֲלָ֣ה) referred to an allotted portion of the Promised Land. (Numbers 33:54; Deuteronomy 4:38)
-The Israelites declare that they no longer share the Promised Land with the Davidic kingdom and no longer view the Davidic crown as their rightful ruler. They purpose to return to their own “tents” (אֹ֫הֶל), which culminate the brewing disunity between Joseph’s tribes and the tribe of Judah since the time of Joshua. (Joshua 17:14-18; Judges 8:17-19)
-Ironically, the Israelites speak against David’s “house” (בַּ֫יִת), which the Lord had promised to David that it would endure forever. (2 Samuel 7:8-13)
Verse 17: But Rehoboam reigned over the people of Israel who lived in the cities of Judah.
-Ironically, the tribe that formerly was not in league with the Davidic kingdom now is (1 Kings 12:21), for Saul came from Benjamin. (1 Samuel 9:1) But Benjamin had remained loyal to Saul’s kingdom when Ishbosheth was made king before David reigned over all Israel. (2 Samuel 2:8-10)
-The reason that Rehoboam continues here to reign is because God promised David that His kingdom would endure. (1 Chronicles 17:7-15)
-Abijah had prophesied to Jeroboam that Rehoboam would indeed reign still over the tribe of Judah, along with the tribe of Benjamin. (1 Kings 11:34-36)
-Even in the darkest moments in Israel’s history, God kept the hope of the promised kingdom alive.
Verse 18: Then King Rehoboam sent Hadoram, who was taskmaster over the forced labor, and the people of Israel stoned him to death with stones. And King Rehoboam quickly mounted his chariot to flee to Jerusalem.
-Rehoboam tries to quell the rebellion by sending Hadoram (הֲדוֹרָם) to them as his diplomatic representative, but the Israelites stoned him. Earlier in history, Israel had threatened to stone Moses and Aaron (Numbers 14:10). Stoning was the standard method of execution directed against law-breakers.
-Rehoboam, in fear of being assassinated, now flees to Jerusalem. His grandfather David had fled from Jerusalem years before for the same reason. (2 Samuel 15:13-17)
Verse 19: So Israel has been in rebellion against the house of David to this day.
-The Chronicler indicts Israel for being in “rebellion” (פשׁע) against God’s established kingdom in Israel. Rebellion here means “to revolt; to break away; to behave as a criminal.”
-The Lord promised frequently in Scripture that He would unite Judah and Israel under the reign of their Messiah when the Davidic kingdom was restored. (Jeremiah 23:5-6; Jeremiah 33:14-16)
-In the New Testament, this hope remained alive that the Messianic Davidic king would unite the kingdom once more, for the disciples ask Jesus about this before His ascension. (Acts 1:6)
-Like the Israelites reading these accounts by the Chronicler, we also are exiles, and we also await the consummation of the Davidic kingdom when King Jesus returns to establish His kingdom on earth and fulfill God’s promises to Israel and the world. (Ezekiel 37:21-28)
Summary Key: God will give the promised Davidic Kingdom to the only King worthy of reigning forever as King of Kings and Lord of Lords.
Rulers who do not honor Christ Jesus as King will not endure in their realms.

-“There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse, and a branch from his roots shall bear fruit. And the Spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him, the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the LORD. And his delight shall be in the fear of the LORD. He shall not judge by what his eyes see, or decide disputes by what his ears hear, but with righteousness he shall judge the poor, and decide with equity for the meek of the earth; and he shall strike the earth with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips he shall kill the wicked. Righteousness shall be the belt of his waist, and faithfulness the belt of his loins. The wolf shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the young goat, and the calf and the lion and the fattened calf together; and a little child shall lead them. The cow and the bear shall graze; their young shall lie down together; and the lion shall eat straw like the ox. The nursing child shall play over the hole of the cobra, and the weaned child shall put his hand on the adder's den. They shall not hurt or destroy in all my holy mountain; for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea. In that day the root of Jesse, who shall stand as a signal for the peoples—of him shall the nations inquire, and his resting place shall be glorious.” (Isaiah 11:1-10 ESV)



Monday, April 20, 2015

Samuel--The Last Judge of Israel

In the book of 1 Samuel, the Spirit of God presents the story of major transitions in Israel's history. For the entire book of Judges, the people of Israel have lived under patterns of oppression from the Midianites as judgments against the disobedience of God’s people. However, whenever the people of God cried out to Him for deliverance, He raised up judges to deliver His people and administer justice and righteousness in the land. Now in the first chapters of 1 Samuel, that period of history draws to an end, and the kingdom era dawns.

But in 1 Samuel 7, we see the Lord deliver His people yet again under the last judge of Israel—the prophet Samuel. Samuel, born to parents living in Ephraim, became a very young servant in the house of the Lord in Shiloh in 1 Samuel 2. During this period of Israel’s history, the tabernacle resided at Shiloh which lay northeast of Jerusalem (Jebus in this time period) on the east side of the highway that traveled from Bethel to Shechem. Centrally located, this town housed the center of Israel’s worship that faithful Israelites such as Samuel’s parents offered sacrifices.

As a young boy, the Lord calls Samuel in chapter 3, declaring that Eli and his sons had been unfaithful over God’s house. In chapter 4, international trouble strikes again on Israelite soil, for the Philistines and Israelites drew up battle at a site named “Ebenezer”, where the Ark of the Covenant was captured. But the Lord quickly makes Himself known to the Philistines through a series of devastating judgments on their health, so the Philistines send the Ark of the Covenant back to Israel on one of the major highways in that time period. Therefore, in the beginning of 1 Samuel 7, we read, “And the men of Kiriath-jearim came and took up the ark of the LORD and brought it to the house of Abinadab on the hill. And they consecrated his son Eleazar to have charge of the ark of the LORD. From the day that the ark was lodged at Kiriath-jearim, a long time passed, some twenty years, and all the house of Israel lamented after the LORD.” (1 Samuel 7:1-2 ESV) As a geographical note, Kiriath-jearim is north of Jerusalem, sitting at that period in history between the border of Judah and Dan.

Now in verse 3 of chapter 7, Samuel appears to the entire assembly of Israel. He tells them, “If you are returning to the Lord with all your heart, then put away the foreign gods and the Ashteroth from among you and direct your heart to the Lord and serve him only, and he will deliver you out of the hand of the Philistines.” The Baals and Ashtaroth had long plagued the Israelites as temptations to idolatry during the history of the judges, and Samuel now calls the people to forsake their false gods, which they subsequently do.

Samuel now calls the people to gather at Mizpah, where he will intercede for the nation in prayer to the Lord. Prophets before him had done this, most notably Moses. Mizpah in this period of history was located in the land of Benjamin, south of Shiloh and northeast of Gibeon, Gibeah, and Jerusalem. The people pour water out before the Lord there and fast on that day, confessing their sin before the Lord. Samuel now is established as judge on this day…but it was not over. The Philistines, being the western raiders that often plagued Israel, hear that the people are now in Mizpah in the land of Benjamin. So now, since they could not defeat Israel’s God by capturing the Ark of the Covenant, these lords of Philistia gather against Israel in battle at Mizpah.

The people of Israel, having experienced a great deal of foreign oppression, tremble in fear from hearing the news of the advancing Philistine army. They beg Samul to cry out to the Lord on their behalf, so that they would be saved from the hand of the Philistines. Therefore, Samuel takes a nursing lamb and offers it whole before the Lord as a burnt offering. But while Samuel is offering, the approaching Philistine army arrives at Mizpah and draws up battle formation. Samuel is a prophet and priest; he is not a military leader. Likewise, the nation of Israel has not had a disciplined military for a few hundred years, for the days of Joshua’s military leadership are long in the past. So what is Samuel to do, and what is the nation of Israel to do in this dire situation?

We read in the end of verse 10, “But the Lord thundered with a mighty sound that day against the Philistines and threw them into confusion, and they were defeated before Israel.” We frequently encounter later in biblical history that the Lord has a voice like thunder, and here He thunders against the Philistines and throws their army into confusion, not unlike what He did to the Midianite army years before in the time of Gideon. “
The LORD also thundered in the heavens, and the Most High uttered his voice, hailstones and coals of fire.” (Psalm 18:13) “The LORD thunders at the head of his army; his forces are beyond number, and mighty is the army that obeys his command. The day of the LORD is great; it is dreadful. Who can endure it?” (Joel 2:11 NIV) “But the multitude of your foreign foes shall be like small dust, and the multitude of the ruthless like passing chaff. And in an instant, suddenly, you will be visited by the LORD of hosts with thunder and with earthquake and great noise, with whirlwind and tempest, and the flame of a devouring fire.” (Isaiah 29:5-6)

Therefore, in light of this miraculous victory on the part of the God of Israel, Samuel takes a stone and sets it up between Mizpah and Shen. The people of Israel often built piles of memorial stones to commemorate God’s miraculous power, such as when the Lord parted the Jordan for the Israelites to cross over under Joshua. He names the stone “Ebenezer”, meaning “Till now the Lord has helped us.” Coincidentally, this title was formerly the name of Israel’s defeat earlier by the Philistines and the capture of the Ark of the Covenant, but now Samuel and the Israelites celebrate the power of God to deliver His people from their foes.

Verses 13-17 summarize the history of the Philistines and the Israelites under the time of Samuel, for verse 13 states that the Philistines did not oppress Israel again during the time of Samuel’s administration over Israel. In fact, Israel won back towns that the Philistines had captured from them. Furthermore, Israel had peace during this time period with the Amorites. In verse 15, we read that Samuel “judged Israel all the days of his life.” He did this by traveling a circuit route year by year to Bethel, Gilgal, and Mizpah before returning home in Ramah, where he built an altar to the Lord.

What then do we learn from this story? First, that God raises up a deliver for His oppressed people, for He is faithful to hear the cries of help from His repentant people. Second, we can take great comfort in the fact that God is always faithful to preserve His people. Third, that leadership over God’s people requires faithfulness and holiness before the Lord, which Samuel exhibited on numerous occasions. Fourth, we today do not live in the land of Israel during this ancient time period, but as the Lord helped Israel that day, so should we remember that “Thus far has the Lord helped us.” Fifth, we see that God’s people need a mediator and intercessor to offer sacrifices on their behalf to reconcile them with God. And finally, one day the Lord will thunder again from Heaven and scatter the enemies of His people on a scale far larger than what occurred here at Mizpah, for He is the deliverer and mediator that will rise up and strike the enemies of His people at His return, ushering in a period of peace hitherto unknown. And on that day, we will praise Him for His miraculous preservation and deliverance of His people. 

Friday, April 17, 2015

Verses Of Hope For The Christian

Today's blog post is by Sarah S, an aspiring young photographer and member of the International Christian Bible Fellowship. 

I'll be barely scratching the surface of encouraging Bible verses, but they can be found throughout the Bible for every dire state. Our loving Lord has provided a refuge in Him. I hope the following will be a source of hope and encouragement, and a much needed reminder for you all. 

When we are weary and distressed about something, we are more prone to temptation. Satan lurks around each corner trying his best to hurt and crush the Christian, yet God has promised to always be present for us:  

Psalm 120:1 "In my distress I called to the Lord, and he answered me."
When you are hurting, and the day has been long, uneventful, or discouraging, and you feel like focusing on your own struggles, find someone who needs encouragement more than you. Find joy in knowing you've caused someone else joy. Get over yourself, think of others, and you'll be rewarded by the smile you get in return or by the spirit you have lifted. 

Philippians 4:13 "I can do all this through him who gives me strength."

The quote "God cannot use someone greatly until he has tested them deeply" is a great truth. Have you ever met a strong person with a perfect past? You cannot be truly strong until you've experienced pain, heartache, frustration, loss, or tears. This is what makes a man. It's easy to carry on when everything is going easily, but when a hurdle comes up in our path what do we do? How do we handle it?

Psalm 30:5 
"For his anger lasts only a moment, but his favor lasts a lifetime; weeping may stay for the night, but rejoicing comes in the morning."

If through your broken heart God can bring His purposes to pass in the world, then THANK HIM for breaking your heart. God never makes mistakes. Everything He does has a purpose behind it. Our job is to trust and obey him, no matter how much it hurts. 

Psalm 34:18"The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit."

The cost of following will be worth the pain, for the reward outweighs the suffering.

Part of the Lord's Prayer says: "Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven." God's will WILL be done, and He has put us on earth to fulfill His plan. The phrase “Thy will be done” is found three times in the King James Version of the Bible. God made us this model prayer, so that we would learn to pray. As we are living our lives, we need to have similar “Thy will be done” attitudes. Living in accordance with God’s will must be our top priority. To be seeking God's Kingdom must be the focus and hope of our life. 

Psalm 39:7 
“But now, Lord, what do I look for? My hope is in you."

In conclusion we are shown through the Word that through difficulties, trials, broken hearts, and pain, we have a gracious and loving Saviour who is with us and has promised to never leave or forsake us.

God is truly in control. God lets nothing happens apart from His knowledge and permission. It can be difficult to imagine why God allows some painful things to happen, yet His character, revealed in the Bible and through the testing of generations before us, leads to the conclusion that He is willing and able to sustain you during the worst of times. 

"We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers and sisters, about the troubles we experienced in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt we had received the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead." (2 Corinthians 1:8-9)

May we stay strong while looking to those who have gone before us, while living for Christ with all of our might.