Friday, July 31, 2015

More of Christ. Less of Me.

Schuyler M is an author of a forthcoming book and long-time blogger on My Lady Bibliophile. In addition, she has been a member of the International Christian Bible Fellowship since its beginning. For more of Schuyler's writing, please visit her blog at http://ladybibliophile.blogspot.com/.

By Schuyler M


“A son honors his father, and a servant his master. If then I am a father, where is my honor? And if I am a master, where is my fear? says the Lord of hosts to you, O priests, who despise my name. But you say, ‘How have we despised your name?’ (Malachi 1:6, ESV)

Mary Kassian and Nancy Leigh DeMoss, in their study TrueWoman 201, make an eye-opening explanation of reverence:

Irreverence is failing to value something of great worth. It’s making little of something we should make much of. Whenever we make more of our opinions and desires than we make of the opinions and desires of Christ, we are guilty of irreverence. It is as though we deface and desecrate the memory of his sacrifice.

The concept of reverence is a somewhat ethereal one. Most of us think of reverence as having respect and awe for a high and holy God. A fear of God. We know that God commands reverence: You shall walk after the Lord your God and fear him and keep his commandments and obey his voice, and you shall serve him and hold fast to him. (Deuteronomy 13:4, ESV) We also know that God has the right to our reverence. He is the one God. We are his people--slaves to Christ, a chosen nation, a royal priesthood, set apart to do good works.

1 Samuel 2:10b says “those who honor me I will honor, and those who despise me shall be lightly esteemed.” But on a basic level, what does honor, or reverence, even mean? Is it a feeling we summon up on the good days and pretend to have on the bad days? Not really. Reverence gets gritty and practical. Reverence means that the Master and Father we seek to honor has the right to make specific requirements of our speech and actions.

As I journeyed through their study of reverence a couple of weeks ago, I learned a lot about putting it on a practical level. Here are some specific commands about reverence I discovered:

Reverence means we love to worship.
The use of our time shows where our heart is. In Matthew 15:8, Jesus quotes Isaiah’s rebuke to the Israelites: “these people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.” Reverence means that we consider the presence of God more important than anything else on our schedule. We make time to talk to him, and listen to his Word--just like a servant listens to the word and commands of their master.

Also, reverence means that we adore the Being we subject ourselves to. In John 12, when Mary unbound her hair and poured perfume on the feet of Jesus, she revered him so deeply that her worship was extravagant and unembarrassed. She made much of Christ to show how much she loved him. Our reverence of Christ should be as extravagant and heartfelt as hers.

Reverence means we exercise self-control.
One thing my study pointed out, is that the opposite of reverence is self-indulgence, or self-worship. Reverence means that we care about the being we honor, from their commands down to their lightest preference. We live with the mindset of pleasing them in everything we do. Many of us fall into times in our lives where we reverence or honor our own desires instead of “making much” of Christ.

If Christ deserves our reverence, then that means he is Master. When we live in a mindset of self-indulgence, whether that’s too much computer time, too little help of others, too much caustic speech, too much food, too much Pinterest trolling, too much complaining--then we preach that we consider ourselves a more worthy object of honor than Christ. “They promise them freedom, but they themselves are slaves of corruption. For whatever overcomes a person, to that he is enslaved.” (2 Peter 2:19)

Any kind of over-indulgence, whether large or small, is self-reverence. Self-control keeps Christ in first place and shows that we consider him a more worthy object of worship than ourselves.

Reverence means our speech is holy.
When we use our speech to verbally uphold God and upbuild others, we reverence Christ. Reverence means that we honor our Master, and we are kind to fellow believers who are made in the Master’s image. We choose gracious and humble words. We are not wise in our own eyes, for that means we reverence our own wisdom. We verbally praise the Lord. We use our tongues to give thanks and speak wisdom. Proverbs 8:13 says The fear of the Lord is hatred of evil. Pride and arrogance and the way of evil and perverted speech I hate. (emphasis mine) Ephesians 4:29 tells us how we should speak: Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.

Reverence means we submit to one another.
Submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ. (Ephesians 5:21, ESV) The Greek word for submitting literally means that we put ourselves under those around us. In humility, we consider others better than ourselves. Put other’s interests first. Listen to other’s mindsets. In other words, everything we do to show reverence to Christ (short of worship), we do to show honor to others--not to worship them, but in order that Christ himself may be more magnified.

In conclusion, reverence is constantly saying, throughout our lives, “You first, Jesus. Me last.”

Making much of Christ puts us in a fellowship of holy intimacy with our Father. It also means that our prayers are heard (Hebrews 5:7). But by far, one of the greatest benefits of our reverence is our testimony to others. As DeMoss and Kassian said in the TrueWoman 201 teaching video on reverence, “Reverence in our lives makes the truth we say we believe more believable to others.” We can quote all the verses we want about reverence on our Facebook feeds. But people will be more convinced by our reverent behavior, relationships, and speech, that we really honor the God we say we do.

My prayer as I began that study, and one that I desire even after I have finished it, is this: Oh Lord, I am in awe of your God-ness. You are holy, worthy, sovereign. Help me always to be profoundly mindful and respectful of Your abiding presence.

The reward for humility and fear of the Lord
   is riches and honor and life.
(Proverbs 22:4 ESV)

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Philippians Week 59-The Joy in Christian Contentment

Introduction
-“But godliness with contentment is great gain, for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world.” (1 Timothy 6:6-7 ESV)

Philippians 4:11-13

Context

-Paul was born approximately in A.D. 5, and was around 27 years old when Stephen was stoned. He was about 42 years old when he began his first missionary journey, and was 44 years old when present at the monumental Jerusalem council in Acts 15. Two years later when he is 45 years old, he travels with Silas, Luke, Timothy, and others to the city of Philippi in the region of Macedonia after receiving a vision of a Macedonian man. He began his third missionary journey at 48 years old, and now is approximately 56 years old when he is imprisoned in Rome while writing to Philippi. During his lifetime, the apostle Paul had faced much persecution and hardship, and therefore had much experience with suffering and oppression during his 25 years of apostolic ministry.
-Paul begins a new section in Philippians 4:10 in order to thank them for the gift they had send with Epaphroditus (Philippians 2:26-30). However, he qualifies his reasons for thanking them in order for them to honestly know his present situation.

Verse 11
Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content.

1. The Position of Paul
-“Not that I am speaking of being in need” (Οὐχ ὅτι καθʼ ὑστέρησιν λέγω) qualifies Paul’s thanksgiving not being that of a discontent person, for ὑστέρησιν (hysteresin) refers to that which Paul needed in order to accomplish his ministry in Rome.
-Paul was not crippled in ministry while in Rome, for he lived in Roman house arrest. (Acts 28:30-31)
-Paul had a measure of public exposure, both to the Praetorian Guard and to the church in Rome. (Philippians 1:12-14)
-We know Paul did not state this because he was greedy for money or conducted his ministry for money. (2 Corinthians 2:17)
-Paul first and foremost needed Christ’s commission in order to be an apostle, which he had. (1 Corinthians 1:1; 2 Corinthians 1:1)
-Paul needed hope that his mission would not fail, which he already had. (Acts 23:11)
-Paul needed joy to sustain him during his suffering, which he already possessed. (Philippians 2:17-18)
-Paul needed partners in ministry, which the Philippians already had proven to be (Philippians 1:3-5) along with the many others with Paul in Rome. (Philippians 1:16)
-Paul needed the power of the Spirit of God, which Christ had already promised (John 14:16-17) and Paul already possessed. (Philippians 1:19)
-Paul needed perspective on his earthly ministry, which he already had. (Philippians 1:22; Philippians 1:24-26)
-Paul needed assurance of his eternal destiny, which he already firmly knew. (Philippians 1:21; Philippians 1:23)
-Paul also needed monetary support while in Rome, for he lived under house arrest at his own expense. (Acts 28:30)
-Paul was one of the few apostles that had to work to support himself while in ministry, unlike other apostles. (1 Corinthians 9:6)
2. The School of Contentment
-“for I have learned” (ἐγὼ γὰρ ἔμαθον) refers to Paul’s accumulation of experience throughout his lifetime. Γαρ (gar) here introduces a causal subordinate clause—it gives the reason for Paul’s first statement of him speaking of not being in need.
-
This learning is the same learning Paul calls the Philippians to remember in Philippians 4:9.
-There is a distinction in Scripture between learning the things of God (Revelation 14:3) and the things of the world. (2 Timothy 3:7)
-Learning in both Old and New Testaments focused on hearing the words of the Lord and obeying them. (Deuteronomy 5:1; Deuteronomy 31:12; Matthew 9:13)
-This type of learning is always to impact our Christian walk in definable ways. (1 Timothy 2:11; Titus 3:14)
-Paul calls us to continue firmly in what we have learned in our Christian walk. (Philippians 3:16; Philippians 4:9; 2 Timothy 3:14)

-“in whatever situation I am” (ἐν οἷς εἰμι) refers to Paul’s ability that extended to any and every situation he found himself in during his life.
-Learning in the Christian life can come through experience, just as demonstrated in the life of the Lord Jesus. (Hebrews 5:8)
-Nothing that happens to the believer is random, even if we do not know the reason for everything that occurs. Nothing that occurs exists outside the sovereignty of God. (1 Chronicles 29:11-12)
-Nothing that happens to the believer is outside the power of God to control. (Genesis 18:14; Jeremiah 32:17)
-Nothing that happens to the believer can separate from God’s love for us. (Romans 8:38-39)

-“to be content.” (αὐτάρκης εἶναι) is what Paul had learned in whatever situation he was in.
-
Αυταρκης (autarkes) was a term frequently employed by the Stoic philosophers and the Cynic philosophers, as it frequently had connotations of self-sufficiency and detachment from emotional trauma.
-Paul has been speaking repeatedly in Philippians 4:8 about the promise of God’s peaceful presence in the security of life. (Philippians 4:4-7; Philippians 4:9)
-Paul has already mentioned his deep affection for the Philippians (Philippians 1:8) and his heartbreaking sorrow over the enemies of the cross of Christ. (Philippians 3:18)
-Thus, Paul means that he is secure and confident as a believer in Christ, having the peace of God. (Psalm 9:10; Psalm 16:8)

Verse 12
I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need.
1. The Experience of Paul

-“I know” (οἶδα) is in the perfect tense, meaning Paul’s learning in the past produced a present state of knowledge that affected his current circumstances.
-“how to be brought low”
(καὶ ταπεινοῦσθαι) refers to Paul being humbled during his lifetime.
-“As if to make clear he is no Stoic, Paul goes on in v. 12 to say that he knows how to “be humbled.” Humility was not considered a virtue by the Stoics, Cynics, or other Greek philosophers. As Flemming puts it: ‘For the Stoics, “humiliation” was a demeaning, slave-like mentality, something to be avoided at all costs.’ Paul is also no Cynic, for he does not choose poverty or “want,” following some philosophical principle; he endures it and copes with it when it comes his way”[1]Ben Witherington III, Paul’s Letter to the Philippians: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary
-Paul has already instructed the Philippians to be humble (Philippians 2:3-4).
-Jesus commends those who humble themselves and bring themselves low. (Matthew 18:4)
-Humility brings men near to God, but pride keeps them away. (Luke 18:9-14)
-Those who humble themselves will be exalted by God. (James 4:10; 1 Peter 5:6)
-Christ Himself is the greatest example of this truth: He humbled Himself to the point of death on a cross, but has been exalted by the Father as Lord over all things. (Philippians 2:5-11) 
-“and I know how to abound.” (οἶδα καὶ περισσεύειν) refers to Paul abounding in blessing and provision.
-Paul prayed for Philippi that their love would abound. (Philippians 1:9)
-Paul wrote to Rome that their hope would abound. (Romans 15:13)
-Paul wrote to Corinth that their work would abound. (1 Corinthians 15:58)
-Paul wrote to Corinth again that God’s grace would abound so they would abound in good works. (2 Corinthians 9:8)
-Paul wrote to Colossi so their thanksgiving would abound. (Colossians 2:7)
-Paul wrote to Thessalonica so their love would abound. (1 Thessalonians 3:12)
-Paul knew how to abound in times of ministry progress and ministry suffering.
2. The Secret in Circumstances
-“In any and every circumstance” (ἐν παντὶ καὶ ἐν πᾶσιν) echoes Paul’s statement in verse 10 about “in whatever situation I am”.
-Paul faced numerous circumstances in God’s master plan for his life, from shipwrecks to robbery to suffering to flogging to beatings to riots to imprisonments. (2 Corinthians 11:23-27)
-Paul also had experienced joyful receptions from brothers in the Lord and had written many letters to various churches prior to his imprisonment. (Acts 17:11; Galatians 1:1-2; 1 Thessalonians 1:1; 2 Thessalonians 1:1-2; 1 Corinthians 1:1-3; 2 Corinthians 1:1-2; Romans 1:1-7)
-Paul had traveled through multiple cities and visited many areas in the Roman Empire from land of Palestine to Rome itself. (Acts 13:4-5; Acts 13:13-14; Acts 14:1; Acts 14:8-10; Acts 14:24; Acts 16:4; Acts 16:6-12)
-“I have learned the secret” (μεμύημαι) is a different learning than that which he refers to in Philippians 4:9 or Philippians 4:11. Here, this learning refers to being informed of a secret. This is the only time μεμυημαι (memuemai) is used in the entire Bible.
-Paul had ten years of experience from the time he first met the Philippians to the present day, and Christ had been working in his life throughout his ministry to transform him into His image. (2 Corinthians 4:16-18)
-“of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need” (καὶ χορτάζεσθαι καὶ πεινᾶν καὶ περισσεύειν καὶ ὑστερεῖσθαι) are parallelisms with one other. Plenty (χορτάζεσθαι; “eating one’s fill”) is parallel to abundance (περισσεύειν), and hunger (πεινᾶν) is parallel to need (ὑστερεῖσθαι).
-God is the supreme source of satisfaction in the Psalms. (Psalm 17:15; Psalm 107:9)
-The idea of plenty in the Psalms has connections with being satisfied with food. (Psalm 37:19; Psalm 81:16)
-The idea of plenty is synonymous with the idea of abundance. (Psalm 104:16; Psalm 132:15)
-Paul stated earlier in his apostolic ministry that he and the apostles frequently experienced hunger. (1 Corinthians 4:11)
-Jesus promises that those who come to Him will no longer be hungry in their souls. (Matthew 5:6; John 6:35; Revelation 7:13-17)
-Abundance can be in physical terms or physical terms (Mark 12:44; Luke 12:15; 2 Corinthians 1:5)
-To need something means to lack or fall short of something. Paul was already in need at different points in his ministry. (2 Corinthians 11:9)
-“But, says one, there is no need of wisdom or of virtue in order to abound.” There is great need of virtue, not less than in the other case. For as want inclines us to do many evil things, so too doth plenty. For many ofttimes, coming into plenty, have become indolent, and have not known how to bear their good fortune.[2]”—John Chrystostom, Homilies on the Epistle of St. Paul the Apostle to the Philippians, Homily XV
Verse 13
I can do all things through him who strengthens me.
1. The Power of Ability

-“I can do all things” (πάντα ἰσχύω) is a present active indicative first person singular verb.
-The idea of “doing” is to be strong. (Joshua 1:6-9; 1 Kings 2:2; 1 Chronicles 28:10; 2 Chronicles 32:7)
-The idea of “doing” is to be courageous. (Deuteronomy 31:7; Deuteronomy 31:23; 1 Chronicles 22:13)
-The idea of “doing” is to be strengthened. (2 Chronicles 19:11)
-What Paul had to do in his ministry was faithfully proclaim the Word of God wherever he went. (Acts 9:15)
-What Paul had to do in his ministry was defend the message of Christ from the Scriptures. (Acts 18:5)
-What Paul had to do in his ministry was disciple and guide the churches into spiritual growth and maturity. (Galatians 4:19; 1 Corinthians 4:15)
-What Paul had to do in his ministry was be a witness that Jesus Christ is Lord before Jews, Greeks, and Romans. (Acts 14:1)
-What Paul had to do in his ministry was endure suffering as part of his calling. (Acts 9:16; 1 Thessalonians 3:3)
-We are to proclaim that Jesus Christ is Lord before all men. (Deuteronomy 32:3; Psalm 105:1)
-We are to endure suffering as part of our calling. (Philippians 1:29-30; 2 Timothy 3:11)
-We are to defend our faith. (1 Peter 3:15; Jude 1:3)
-We are to grow in spiritual maturity (2 Peter 3:18) and aid others in doing so. (Hebrews 10:24-25)
-“All things” means everything needed for life and godliness. (2 Peter 1:3)
-“
When he says all things, he means merely those things which belong to his calling.[3]”—John Calvin, Commentary on Philippians
2. The Lord of Strength
-“through him who strengthen me” (ἐν τῷ ἐνδυναμοῦντί με) is the source of Paul’s ability to do all things and thereby be content: the Lord Jesus strengthened him to do all things in Christ.
-The Lord is mighty in power. (Psalm 24:8; Psalm 147:5)
-In the Old Testament, it is Yahweh who strengthens His people. (Exodus 15:2; Isaiah 12:2; Isaiah 35:3-4; Daniel 10:9; Habakkuk 3:19)
-In the Psalms, the Psalmist runs to the Lord for strength. (Psalm 118:14)
-In the Old Testament, the Lord promises to impart strength to His people. (Isaiah 41:10)
-In the New Testament, it is the Lord Jesus who strengthens His people. (1 Timothy 1:12)
-It is the triune God who strengthens us. (Ephesians 3:16-17; Colossians 1:11)
-The Lord’s Word is mighty in power and can greatly strengthen us. (Psalm 119:28; Acts 19:20)
-The Lord Jesus has more strength than even the strongest forces of darkness that surround us. (John 16:33; 1 John 4:4)
-We stand firm in the Lord Jesus (Philippians 4:1) in the strength of His might. (Ephesians 6:10)
-The Lord Jesus faithfully strengthened Paul even to his death (2 Timothy 4:17), and He will do the same for us as well. (2 Thessalonians 3:3)

Conclusion
-“Ascribe power to God, whose majesty is over Israel, and whose power is in the skies. Awesome is God from his sanctuary; the God of Israel—he is the one who gives power and strength to his people. Blessed be God!” (Psalm 68:34-35 ESV) 


Handout
https://drive.google.com/file/d/0BzLnbvsX8ZvgTXBWamlPN29yd1k/view

Recording
https://www.opendrive.com/files?Nl82NDU1MDE2OV9lUzdURA





[1] Witherington, B., III. (2011). Paul’s Letter to the Philippians: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary (p. 275). Grand Rapids, MI; Cambridge, U.K.: William B. Eerdmans Company.
[2] John Chrysostom. (1889). Homilies of St. John Chrysostom, Archbishop of Constantinople, on the Epistle of St. Paul the Apostle to the Philippians. In P. Schaff (Ed.), W. C. Cotton & J. A. Broadus (Trans.), Saint Chrysostom: Homilies on Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, Thessalonians, Timothy, Titus, and Philemon (Vol. 13, p. 250). New York: Christian Literature Company.
[3] Calvin, J., & Pringle, J. (2010). Commentaries on the Epistles of Paul the Apostle to the Philippians, Colossians, and Thessalonians (p. 125). Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Chariots of Fire

The foreign affairs are very tense—the spiritual situation even worse. The king of Syria (also known as Aram), Ben-Hadad II (2 Kings 6:24), has determined to send units of terror to strike fear into the heart of Jehoram king of Israel and shake the confidence of the northern kingdom during the long period of aggression and tension between Syria and Israel. Syria, not to be confused with the kingdom of Assyria (as Assyria would conquer Syria prior to leading Israel into captivity approximately 730 B.C.), was the nation descended from Aram, the son of Noah’s son Shem. (Genesis 10:22) The year is some time in the 8th century B.C. during the reign of Ahab’s grandson Jehoram, also known as Joram, and we find ourselves immersed in the prophetic ministry of Elisha. Elisha, being the natural successor of Elijah, has already distinguished himself truly as the “man of God” by which Scripture often terms him.

Thus in 2 Kings 6:8-23 do we find a remarkable passage of God’s miraculous protection of His chosen prophet. And of course, we also find where the term “chariots of fire” is usually thought of in Scripture. The writer of 2 Kings opens the narrative in verse 8 by stating, “Once when the king of Syria was warring against Israel, he took counsel with his servants, saying, ‘At such and such a place shall be my camp.’” But he immediately encounters trouble, for the “man of God” sends word to the king of Israel, saying “Beware that you do not pass this place, for the Syrians are going down there.” The king of Syria not only wants to terrorize the northern kingdom, but God’s supernatural revelation given to Elisha warns King Jehoram that Ben-Hadad II will soon attack Israelite towns and villages. So King Jehoram, warned prior to these attacks by Syrian raiders, “sent to the place about which the man of God told him.” Being able to fortify the place in time, the raiding efforts of the Syrian king are thwarted. But not only this time, but we read in verse 10 that Elisha warns King Jehoram multiple times. “Thus he used to warn him, so that he saved himself there more than once or twice.”

The king of Syria becomes greatly “troubled” because of this thing, and he fears that someone in his service is a traitor. Rather than trying to covertly identify the traitor, he gathers his servants together and says, “Will you not show me who of us is for the king of Israel?” But one of his servants answers in verse 12, stating, “None, my lord, O king; but Elisha, the prophet who is in Israel, tells the king of Israel the words that you speak in your bedroom.” How precisely this servant knew this is unknown, but Elisha’s reputation had already spread into foreign territory by this point in time. Therefore, the king of Syria now seeks to put the Israelite informant to death by instructing his servants to find and kill this man, who currently was residing in the town of Dothan, which was near Mount Gilboa in the territory of Manasseh. So during the night, he sent down “horses and chariots and a great army”—all to capture one Israelite man.

Elisha’s servant is terrified when he awakes early in the morning to see a Syrian army of horses and chariots all around the city of Dothan. He cries out to Elisha, “Alas, my master! What shall we do?” Elisha’s response shows profound trust and belief in God’s promises to protect His people, for he tells him, “Do not be afraid, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them.” And then the scene takes a dramatic look into the spiritual realm surrounding the city of Dothan.

Then Elisha prayed and said, ‘O LORD, please open his eyes that he may see.’ So the LORD opened the eyes of the young man, and he saw, and behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.” (2 Kings 6:17 ESV) While chariots and horses of men surround the city, chariots and horses of fire surround Elisha to protect him. Two notable things present themselves here. First, Elisha has already seen chariots and horses of fire surround Elijah at Elijah’s ascension into heaven. This was yet another powerful affirmation of Elisha being the prophetic successor to Elijah’s ministry. And secondly, God and angels often appeared in the Old Testament in theophanies of fire. We see God placing cherubim in Genesis 3:24 and a flaming sword to bar entrance to Eden after Adam’s fall. We read God appear in fire at Mount Sinai in Exodus 19. We read in Psalm 104:4 that God makes his messengers “flames of fire”, as they are “his servants.” And here, horses and chariots of fire surround Dothan in order to protect God’s chosen prophet from the earthly horses and chariots threatening to kill Elisha.

However, the Syrians do not see this heavenly army of fire. After the morning light has broken, they rush down to kill Elisha. What therefore can Elisha do against such a powerful force? “Elisha prayed to Yahweh and said, ‘Please strike this people with blindness.” And God answers his prayer, for “he struck them with blindness in accordance with the prayer of Elisha.” This “blindness” is not a mere loss of sight, but refers to being blinded by a dazzling display of light. The servant’s eyes are opened to the chariots and horses of fire, and now the eyes of the Syrian army are blinded by the same. But now being blinded, they do not know who now speaks to them, for Elisha says to the very band of men determined to kill him, “This is not the way, and this is not the city. Follow me, and I will bring you to the man whom you seek.” And tricking them in this way, he leads them to the capital city of Israel, the city of Samaria—straight into the jaws of potential massacre.

Elisha prays for the third time in this passage, and pleads with the Lord to “open the eyes of these men, that they may see.” And Yahweh opens their eyes, “and they saw, and behold, they were in the midst of Samaria. If not dire enough for these would-be killers, King Jehoram now sees this Syrian army planted right in the middle of his capital city. He asks Elisha whether these men should be slaughtered instantly. Elisha rebukes him, however, because he says to the king of Israel, “You shall not strike them down. Would you strike those down whom you have taken captive with your sword and your bow?” Killing prisoners of war has always been a heinous thing in the ethics of war throughout history, and Elisha sternly reminds the king of Israel of this fact. Therefore, instead of killing them, he commands Jehoram to feed them that they “may eat and drink and return to their master.” Sometimes, diplomacy can accomplish far more than mass slaughter, and the king of Jehoram heeds this advice. “So he prepared for them a great feast, and when they had eaten and drunk, he sent them away, and they went to their master. And the Syrians did not come again on raids into the land of Israel.” (2 Kings 6:23)

What then does these story teach us? That the One with us is greater than they who are in the world. We learn that God will identify and distinguish His chosen prophet among men, so that all men might know who the anointed messenger for the Lord truly is. We learn that even the armies of men are no match for the Lord of hosts, for He is Yahweh-Sabbaoth. While human rulers may command human armies bent on destruction, the Lord commands the fiery armies of heavenly chariots and horses. And it is our risen Lord with eyes like “a flame of fire” (Revelation 1:14; Revelation 19:12) who commands these heavenly hosts. Not only does the risen Lord of hosts command the armies of heaven now, He will return with His heavenly flaming armies to conquer all those human marauders that would seek to destroy God’s people. And thus we wait eagerly for Him, knowing that even know the One who is with us is greater than they who are in the world. 

Saturday, July 25, 2015

The Final Words of the Shepherd-King

Since last Saturday’s Scripture reading post, I have read through the history of the judges, the history of Saul’s fated kingdom, and the foundation of God’s promised kingdom for Israel in the selection of David of Bethlehem to be the next king. David’s story is extraordinary, for never has a humble shepherd boy, the last of his father’s family, been crowned king by God in order to begin the dynasty from whence the Messiah would one day come. David stands as the writer of half of the psalter and the warrior-king that is unmatched in biblical history. In summation of his life, King David is known as the man after God’s own heart, and in biblical history, he becomes the standard by which kings of Judah are measured in the books of Kings and Chronicles. Not only does David become the historical standard from the past, he becomes the paradigmatic king for the future, for the Old Testament prophets such as Ezekiel prophesied that a king like David would one day arise in Israel and reign over Israel in a time of blessed redemption.

Thus we come to 2 Samuel 23:1-7. Previously, 2 Samuel 22 records David’s song of deliverance earlier in his life from the hands of Saul. 2 Samuel 22 records in duplicate the words of Psalm 18 contained in the first book of the psalter. Now, years later in his life as he is now near death 2 Samuel 23 contains the last words of this great king of Israel. Verse 1 clearly tells us that “These are the last words of David”, and it describes for us the identity of this man and a description of these words. They are “the oracle of David, the son of Jesse.” Ancestry is very important in Jewish culture, and even in the time of Jesus’ day, men are still known by their fathers. Not only is David the son of Jesse, however, but he gives us “the oracle of the man who was raised on high,” being “the anointed of the God of Jacob, the sweet psalmist of Israel.” So does the author of 2 Samuel consider this man, and so does the Spirit of God who breathed out this book.

David is first introduced as the son of Jesse in 1 Samuel 16, where Samuel the seer anoints him with oil, marking him as the legitimate king of Israel. And indeed, the Lord God of Israel did indeed raise David high in his lifetime. From the fields surrounding Bethlehem to the palace that his military commander had conquered from the Jebusites, David indeed had been exalted greatly by the Lord. The man who was unlikely to ever become significant in life had become the most significant figure in Israel, standing as a fulfillment of Jacob’s prophecy in Genesis 49:10 and Balaam’s oracle in Numbers 24:17. And now, the writer of 2 Samuel records the last words of this shepherd-king.

“The Spirit of the LORD speaks by me; his word is on my tongue. The God of Israel has spoken; the Rock of Israel has said to me: When one rules justly over men, ruling in the fear of God, he dawns on them like the morning light, like the sun shining forth on a cloudless morning, like rain that makes grass to sprout from the earth.” (2 Samuel 23:2-4 ESV)

In this first stanza, we see David declare this oracle to be none other than the word of the Spirit of Yahweh communicated by David’s tongue. David says that the Spirit of God speaks by him, and he fully believes and knows that the words of God are on his tongue. These are not David’s words alone, and they are not God’s words divorced from a human communicator. They are God’s words from God’s Spirit that He has given David to speak with his own tongue. David declares Yahweh to be the God of Israel, and this God of Israel had indeed spoken. The God who spoke in the beginning in Genesis 1 now speaks directly to David. In the parallelism of Hebrew poetry, the next line is parallel to the first, for the “Rock of Israel”—a term for God since the time of the exodus from Egypt—has said words personally to him.

What therefore are those words? “When one rules justly over men, ruling in the fear of God, he dawns on them like the morning light, like the sun shining forth on a cloudless morning, like rain that makes grass to sprout from the earth.” David knows he did not do so perfectly in his lifetime, even being a man after God’s own heart, and so he looked ahead to the day when a king after him would indeed rule over men with perfect justice in the perfect fear of God. This ruler is described as “dawning on them like the morning light”, which is a phrase used by Isaiah to describe the appearance of the Redeemer fulfilled in Matthew 4:16. The king after God’s own heart not only dawns, he shines forth like the sun on a cloudless morning. Furthermore, the reign of the Davidic monarch is not only illuminating, but also refreshing. For he is “like rain that makes grass to sprout from the earth.” The reign of the Davidic monarch not only brings light, but he brings times of refreshing from the Lord.

“For does not my house stand so with God? For he has made with me an everlasting covenant, ordered in all things and secure. For will he not cause to prosper all my help and my desire? But worthless men are all like thorns that are thrown away, for they cannot be taken with the hand; but the man who touches them arms himself with iron and the shaft of a spear, and they are utterly consumed with fire.” (2 Samuel 23:5-7 ESV)

David now speaks of his “house”
(בֵּיתִ֖י) in the second stanza. Translations differ widely on how his statement should be rendered. The KJV says, “Although my house be not so with God”, following the Septuagint translation (the ancient Greek translation of the Old Testament) over the Masoretic text, which is the standard Hebrew text for the Old Testament. The NIV states, “If my house were not so with God…” The difference in meaning comes from the difference from the Septuagint and the Masoretic text; however, David’s house, while not being perfect before God, nevertheless was chosen by God to be the kingly line for Israel. “For he has made with me an everlasting covenant, ordered in all things and secure.” This covenant (בְרִ֨ית) is an everlasting covenant, and is found in Nathan’s words to David in 2 Samuel 7. God promised David that he will make for David a great name (2 Samuel 7:9), and appoint a place for His people Israel for their lasting safety and security (2 Samuel 7:10). Most greatly of all, God would create for David a man from his own line that will have an eternal throne, who would be in fact God’s son. And thus would David’s kingdom be established forever before God (2 Samuel 7:12-16) Hence David states in rhetorical form, “Will he not cause to prosper all my help and my desire?”

David concludes his last words with a warning of God’s judgment on the wicket. Worthless men are like thorns that are thrown away. One cannot safely touch them without injury, but instead uses “iron and the shaft of a spear” to throw them into the fire. No worthless men could become God’s chosen king, and no worthless men could be found in God’s kingdom.