How to doom a kingdom, part I (We serve a powerful God)

One of the passages I read today is one of the most interesting ones in the Bible, in my opinion. This is because it gives a tiny little bit of insight into the doings of our God, in a similar fashion to the books of Job or Revelation. I am always fascinated when I can see a little of God’s glory and supremacy like that!

The text is in 1 Kings 22:1-40. A few quick words on the setting: Jehoshaphat reigns in Judah. One of the better kings in history, he lives for the Lord (He walked in all the way of Asa his father. He did not turn aside from it, doing what was right in the sight of the Lord. v. 43a). He also married family of Ahab, who reigned over Israel.This is one of the most evil kings in the history of God’s people. He pretty much always did the opposite of what God had ordained. (There was none who sold himself to do what was evil in the sight of the Lord like Ahab, whom Jezebel his wife incited.He acted very abominably in going after idols, as the Amorites had done, whom the Lord cast out before the people of Israel. Chapter 21:25f)

The first part of this text can teach us a few very important things that apply in manhood, leadership, worship, life, and everything else important. Continue reading

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A feast with consequences

King Belshazzar made a great feast for a thousand of his lords and drank wine in front of the thousand. Daniel 5:1 ESV

What’s so special about what looks like any feast?
At the time, the Persian army stood before the gates of Babylon. They had just beaten Belshazzar’s father, King Nabonidus, in the Battle of Opis, effectively beating the Babylonians and clearing the path for the capital.

However, no panic is recorded to have happened at their arrival – Babylon was the most powerful stronghold of its time, and it’s inhabitants simply regarded it as impregnable. It is understandable that king Belshazzar was very self-confident, which explains with what mindset he was able to feast at a such a time.

Belshazzar, when he tasted the wine, commanded that the vessels of gold and of silver that Nebuchadnezzar his father had taken out of the temple in Jerusalem be brought, that the king and his lords, his wives, and his concubines might drink from them. (v. 2)

In his drunkenness, he becomes so proud as to utterly disregard the God of Israel, the God which the former king Nebuchadnezzar II had known to be the one true God. He ignored everything he had witnessed (He was alive during the events of chapter 4) and defiled the Lord through his abuse of the treasure.

By the time he (literally) saw the writing on the wall, it was too late – that same night, the Persians took Babylon without resistance and killed Belshazzar. Daniel, however, preserved by his Lord, lived on to serve at the court of his new master, the King of Persia.

Since most of us obviously aren’t drunken kings under siege, what does this event teach us? I, for one, often behave like Belshazzar. Not only am I constantly in danger of – or, more likely, actually being proud, but I also make mistakes of large scale. I never was drunk, but I still “feast” in war-time. I often play games or read Tom Clancy novels when I should actually be communicating with the Lord, praying, reading, singing, thinking, taking notes, … In short, I ignore the war that I live in. And it’s pretty hard (spoiler: impossible) to survive in this war as a human. We aren’t strong enough.

This chapter is a reminder to humble ourselves under our God. And to stay alert. Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak, says Jesus in Mk 14:38. Let us watch, wary of the war in us!

Where are the men? – The unbiblical principle of adolescence

This is an important matter if you haven’t heard of it yet. Paul Washer mentions it in many of his sermons because it’s so relevant.

The fact is that our society lacks men. Few generations ago, boys would work hard and grow up to become men around 12, or maybe 15. They worked, built homes, loved wives. One of Paul Washers examples is the movie “Master and Commander” in which young men aged around 15 lead the charge from a british vessel onto a french one during the Napoleonic wars. The famous Jonathan Edwards graduated from Yale at 17 – he began college at 13. What happened to our society? How did we get to the point where 15-year olds play games and 16-year olds go to the mall?

The loss of manhood in our society was caused by the changes of the ’60 and ’70, when our culture decided that feminists and homosexuals knew more about education and family than every culture that has ever existed on the face of the earth. They introduced something called adolescence, something that doesn’t exist in scripture – nor any culture prior to ours until as little as 40 years ago, for that matter. With adolescence, boys get the privileges of men without assuming the responsibilities of men. The result? They never grow up! And now, we have 40 year olds that don’t have time to take care of their wives, or to teach and train their children, because they are busy playing games with their friends!

We should strive to introduce our sons to manhood as soon as they can walk. We need to train them to become godly men according to scripture. This is what the church needs most, now.

Luke 17:1-4

I want to make 2 quick points in this passage that I read yesterday:

And he said to his disciples, “Temptations to sin are sure to come, but woe to the one through whom they come! It would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck and he were cast into the sea than that he should cause one of these little ones to sin. Pay attention to yourselves! If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him, and if he sins against you seven times in the day, and turns to you seven times, saying, ‘I repent,’ you must forgive him.”
 

1. God’s sovereignty doesn’t exclude us from being responsible.

God has a plan, and he will fulfill it. But we still have a choice in our life. God allows the devil to tempt (and really tempts himself, because he has control over everything), but we are still held responsible for our deeds, as the first verse makes clear. This isn’t the only passage you can take this from. There are probably many more, but I can think of 2:
In Luke 22:22, Jesus tells Judas that he “will die as it has been determined, but woe to that man by whom he is betrayed”. Again, we have both aspects of our life in one single sentence by Jesus.
The other passage I can think of is Romans 9:19: You will say to me then, “Why does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?” I heard a good sermon on this passage once, in which the preacher also addresses this topic – I don’t really remember what he said, though. I can point anyone to it who wants to hear it. Anyway, fact is that we are sinful and God is just and must hold us accountable to our sin – even though, in a way, he has control over it: because he gives us choice.

What can we do with this knowledge?
I take comfort in God, because I know that he is good, and just, “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28) I trust the Lord that he knows how to glorify himself. He may do with me as he pleases (he does anyway) and I am glad about it, for I know that he will do better than I would. I also work hard, fight the devil, try to die so that Christ may live in me, because: Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God,” for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one. But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death. (James 1:13-15) (By the way, everyone should have studied James 1:2-18. This passage is really, really important). Finally, I have good faith, because “No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.” (1 Corinthians 10:13).

The Word is stronger that a double-edged sword. The devil can go right back home – his future doesn’t look so good anyway!

2. Love doesn’t ignore sin in a brother.

Okay, I already wrote a lot… I’ll keep this short.
There are several passages that teach how to deal with sin in the community. Matthew 18:21-22 would be another example, if you are interested. In short, the correct response to sin isn’t to ignore it. True, there is 1 Corinthians 13, but that’s not what that passage means.

If you love your brother, then rebuke him! If he is godly, he should be glad about any guidance he can get and try to conform himself to scripture. Then, when he repents, forgive him. This is where 1 Corinthians 13 comes into play. You don’t ignore sin, you forget and forgive past and acknowledged sins. By the way, this command is old: Thou shalt not hate thy brother in thine heart: thou shalt in any wise rebuke thy neighbour, and not suffer sin upon him. (Leviticus 19:17) As you can see, Moses already taught this as a basic rule for the community. Sin has to be fought, for the Lord is Holy. Sin cannot be tolerated in the community: either the sin, or the Holy Spirit have to leave. They cannot coexist. If we tolerate sin, we ourselves sin against the Holy Spirit in us and the others, as Leviticus teaches.

It’s important to guide our brothers and sisters in Christ within their daily life, so that they may “present their bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is their spiritual worship.”