Promise Maker, Promise Keeper (2 Kings 25:27-30)
God promised king David (2 Samuel 7:11-16) that God would establish for David a ‘house’ (a lineage, a family, a clan or tribe) that would endure forever! In the context of the books of the Kings where king after king was overthrown some within days of their appointment as king, with whole lines of families being wiped out by successive kings more than once in Israel with the constant threat of invasion and capture from powerful nations all around – in that context these are massive promises to David.
And God kept His promise! As one reads through 1 & 2 Kings phrases like this are embedded in the storyline a total of eight times;
Yet the Lord was not willing to destroy Judah, for the sake of David his servant, since he promised to give a lamp to him and to his sons forever. (2 Kings 8:19)
God was faithful to His promise to David, because God is faithful, He cannot be unfaithful even though we are unfaithful to Him as Scripture declares;
“If we are unfaithful, he remains faithful, for he cannot deny who he is.” (2 Timothy 2:13 in NLT)
And so here at the end of 1&2 Kings in the midst of lament and the tragedy of the siege and sacking and the exile to Babylon, there are four verses that offer a ray of hope, a glimmer of God’s eternal promise to David – which still stands.
Jehoiachin and the royal family are deported and not killed by king Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon (2 Kings 24:15) and then after 37yrs in prison in exile king Jehoiachin (also called Jeconiah in the NT) is released from prison by Nebuchadnezzar’s successor and is given a place of honour and provision for his family! God is faithful, God is the promise keeper, not one of God’s promises fall to the ground.
And so the line of David is preserved, the promise still stands, and in Matthew 1:12 we read of Jehoiachin/Jeconiah’s place in the storyline that all culminates in Jesus the King of kings the one who ultimately fulfills the promise made by God to David, and He is enthroned as King forever and ever.
The whole Old Testament is really about Jesus, it points to Him, shows us our desperate need of Him and anticipates His coming. As Isaiah prophesied of King Jesus;
For to us a child is born, to us a son is given;
and the government shall be upon his shoulder,
and his name shall be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Of the increase of his government
and of peace there will be no end,
on the throne of David and over his kingdom,
to establish it and to uphold it
with justice and with righteousness
from this time forth and forevermore.
The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this. (Isaiah 9:6-7)
Worship, Jesus! Thank God for His unshakable faithfulness. Trust Him.
Enough! (2 Kings 17)
After a period of nearly 200yrs since Jeroboam’s succession from Judah, the northern tribes of Israel are eventually conquered by the Assyrians and deported into exile (2 Kings 17:6). Under the direction of the Holy Spirit, the writers of Scripture are very keen to make it plain as to why this happened.
“And this occurred because the people of Israel had sinned against the Lord their God…and had feared other gods and walked in the customs of the nations whom the Lord drove out before the people of Israel…” (2 Kings 17:7-8)
This was an event that came about not because of bad military or political strategy (although the passage reveals there were mis-steps made), Scripture attributes the source of the capitulation and capture of Israel by Assyria as being God Himself as the active agent.
The whole of the chapter reads like a charge sheet being read out in a court room, the list of charges against the accused, the guilty one;
- You have sinned against your God who brought you out of Egypt and into this Promised Land
- You walked in the customs of the nations whom I judged and drove out before you
- You followed wicked evil kings who lead you into sin
- You built for yourself your own places of worship, altars to false gods & served idols
- You did wicked things before me, and made sacrifices to these false gods
- You provoked me to anger (says God)
- I warned you again and again through the prophets, but you would not listen and were stubborn (vs13-14)
- You did not believe
- You despised my commands
- You even burned your sons & daughters as worship to false gods provoking me to righteous anger
And because of this the judgement comes;
18 Therefore the Lord was very angry with Israel and removed them out of his sight. None was left but the tribe of Judah only… 20 And the Lord rejected all the descendants of Israel and afflicted them and gave them into the hand of plunderers, until he had cast them out of his sight. (2 Kings 17:18&20)
23…the Lord removed Israel out of his sight, as he had spoken by all his servants the prophets. So Israel was exiled from their own land to Assyria until this day. (2 Kings 17:23)
Yes, God is ‘slow to anger and abounding in love’ (Exodus 34:6) but that does not mean that eventually God will not say; ‘enough!’ God was patient, forbearing with Israel but eventually love for all those sinned against, all those who lost loved ones, love for all those babies sacrificed to false gods looked like God judging sin. God had appealed again and again, urged them to turn from their wickedness – but they refused to with hard stubborn hearts.
So what can we learn from this for our lives?
May we not ever trust our hearts, which are so prone to lead us astray from serving the living God. May we hold on to His words, will and ways laid out for us in Holy Scripture. May we never tamper with His Word and make our own false gods suitable to our fancies and our modern culture’s preferences. May we repent when and if we have sinned against Him, and may we worship our Holy God with holy reverence and as our loving response to all the love He has poured out to us through the gift of His precious Son, Jesus.
Sin is serious & we all have a part to play in the BIG STORY! (2 Kings 9-12)
In what is a long section of brutal narrative…
Exactly what God promised through Elijah in response to Jezebel and Ahab’s killing of Naboth for his vineyard in 1 Kings 21 is now fulfilled and Ahab’s sin and Jezebel’s sin and evil is punished by God in 2 Kings 9-10 by Jehu.
What can we learn from this for our lives?
Sin is extremely serious. If we don’t recognise the seriousness of sin before a Holy God we are deluded, we cheapen grace and ultimately we don’t need a Saviour to rescue us from our sin or to forgive us for our sin.
“Salvation shines forth brightly when it is seen against the dark background of divine judgment. We cheapen the gospel if we represent it as a deliverance only from unhappiness, fear, guilt and other felt needs, instead of as a rescue from the coming wrath.” – John Stott
Don’t prematurely decide that just because people don’t seem for the moment to be accountable before God for their sin and their rejection of Him that they won’t be held accountable by the Holy One.
All people’s only hope is Jesus Christ who was the propitiation for our sin! That means, Jesus was the sacrifice that was paid in our place for our sin, the sacrifice which took away the wrath of God;
In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins (1 John 4:10)
Another feature of this section and all through 1&2 Kings are the little cameo’s in the BIG STORY of human history and salvation by often unremarkable individuals who did the work and will of God in the midst of a crooked and evil age.
Little cameo’s like;
- The little Jewish girl who was carried away by Syrians and served in the house of Naaman who believed God could heal her master (2 Kings 5:2-3)
- The unnamed servants of Naaman who helped him not miss his healing because of his reaction to Elisha’s instruction (2 Kings 5:13)
- The four lepers (2 Kings 7) through whom God ended the brutal siege of Samaria
- Princess Jehosheba who hid Joash from Athaliah for 6yrs in the house of God with the priest until the priest anointed him as king at the tender age of 7yrs old.
- Joash the young 7yr old who listened to Jehoiada who discipled and instructed him and so he did amazingly good things reforming Judah and dealing with sin and Baal worship and repaired the temple.
What can we learn for our lives?
You never do know when you are going to do the greatest thing you will ever do for God, or whether you have just done it! – Michael Eaton
God’s kingdom advances through people just like you and I doing often what might not seem like extraordinary things. Live every day as if it is the day you will do the greatest thing you will ever do for God, live on the edge in anticipation and serve God with whatever and whoever God puts before you, disciple, reach out, love, speak the words of God….
Jealous God (2 Kings 1)
What do we have here in the opening paragraphs of 2 Kings? Ahab’s son is as evil as his dad and so when he is faced with a personal crisis he sends for a prophetic utterance not from one of God’s prophets but rather enquires after Baal-zebub or the ‘lord of the flies’!
God’s is a jealous God and won’t tolerate this offence. So, God sends Elijah to meet the messengers who were on their way to seek the false god Baal-zebub, as they meet Elijah rebukes Ahaziah for his sinfulness. God’s true words can offend! This is especially true when we find ourselves in a place of sin and compromise.
Ahaziah reacts by wanting to silence Elijah and so he sends a company of 50 soldiers to threaten Elijah. God’s word, however, cannot be brought under human control, and the God of Mount Carmel sends fire from heaven which consumes Elijah’s captures twice over (cf. 1 Kings 18:10&12).
One hundred and two men are dead. Families are in mourning, children are now without their dads, women without husbands, parent’s have lost children! What’s happening here?
Ahaziah is faced with a choice, serve the One true God – Yahweh or Baal-zebub. Yahweh is the God who consumed the offering by fire just years earlier on Mount Carmel, exposing the futility of Baal worship and exposing all the 450 prophets of Baal on that day and resulting in their judgement and death.
This whole situation has come about because Ahaziah has acted as though ‘there is no God in Israel to enquire of His word’ (2 Kings 1:3&16) and because God is rightfully jealous and intolerant of the worship or trust in any other.
Ahaziah is bent on his rejection of Yahweh! After the first 51 soldiers died in fiery judgement, you would have thought Ahaziah would have relented at sending more. But he doesn’t, rather this wicked god-forsaken king sends another 51 to the same fate. More than this, his heart is so hardened that after 102 men have lost their lives and countless families have suffered he sends another 51 men!
Fortunately the carnage is stopped when the captain humbly approaches Elijah and pleads for mercy from Elijah (2 Kings 1:13-14) and he and his men are spared but king Ahaziah dies because of his sin.
Consider: Is God right to be a jealous God?
Jealousy is something that is almost always frowned upon and yet in certain circumstances it’s appropriate – like the jealous love of a husband or wife… Ten times God is described in Scripture as being jealous of our wholehearted worship, trust and love for Him – and there is nothing sinful in God (Ex 20:5, Ex 34:14, Deut 4:24 & 5:9..…)
God is jealous for your wholehearted and devoted love for Him. This is not some needy lack in God but rather an outworking of God’s holiness and God’s love for us. God knows that for us to serve, enquire after, trust in or worship anything or anyone else is entirely futile and will bring nothing but pain and bondage to us.
The jealous love of God sent Jesus to the cross to rescue you from satan and to rescue you from yourself so that He could save you for relationship with Himself. So love Yahweh, trust and worship, enquire of Yahweh alone.
Showdown (1 Kings 18)
It’s been three years since Elijah told Ahab and Israel that there would be no rain until he said so… God tells Elijah to go to king Ahab.
On seeing him Ahab exclaims; “Is it you, you troubler of Israel” (1 Kings 18:17) This is an important little moment – who is responsible for the suffering in the land? Is it Elijah’s fault because he spoke and the rain stopped? Or is it Ahab’s fault because of his sin?
Elijah greets Ahab back with the following retort; “I have not troubled Israel, but you have, and your father’s house because you have abandoned the commandments of the Lord and followed the Baals.” (1 Kings 18:18). Scripture makes it clear, the famine is the result of God’s judgement on the gross sin and idol-worship of Ahab, his foreign wife Jezebel and his predecessor’s.
Ahab might be king, but Elijah is calling all the shots! Elijah instructs Ahab to gather all of Israel and the 950 prophets of Baal and Asherah who eat at his wife’s table (1 Kings 18:19) at Mount Carmel. Elijah inspired by God, wants a showdown to help Israel choose whom they will worship.
Elijah came near to all the people and said, “How long will you go limping between two different opinions? If the Lord is God, follow him; but if Baal, then follow him.” And the people did not answer him a word. (1 Kings 18:21)
Compromise and double-mindedness is massively offensive to God. The Ten Commands start; “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. You shall have no other gods before me. You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments…” (Exodus 20:1-6)
God wants His people to choose. Either God is God, or Baal is God but they can’t both be God, because God makes an exclusive claim on being God and so makes a rightful jealous call for devoted and exclusive worship and trust. Elijah asks the people to choose therefore, but they remain silent, they say nothing, refuse to choose (1 Kings 18:21).
The stage is set and Elijah (still calling the shots and making demands on the king) tells the 450 prophets of Baal to make an altar, place an offering on it and then to pray for fire… The prophets of Baal cry out for Baal to answer them for hours from ‘morning to noon’ for Baal to send fire.
“But there was no voice, and no one answered” (1 Kings 18:26) “And as midday passed, they raved on until the time of the offering of the oblation (evening sacrifice), but there was no voice. No one answered; no one paid attention.” (1 Kings 18:29)
Poignant! No reply, nothing because Baal like all other false-gods is nothing, man made nonsense that can say and do nothing.
Then Elijah makes an altar like theirs, but does even more than them by dousing his altar and offering with copious amounts of water to underline the sign and wonder that’s about to happen.
Elijah the prophet came near and said, “O Lord, God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, let it be known this day that you are God in Israel, and that I am your servant, and that I have done all these things at your word. 37 Answer me, O Lord, answer me, that this people may know that you, O Lord, are God, and that you have turned their hearts back.”
38 Then the fire of the Lord fell and consumed the burnt offering and the wood and the stones and the dust, and licked up the water that was in the trench. 39 And when all the people saw it, they fell on their faces and said, “The Lord, he is God; the Lord, he is God.” (1 Kings 18:36-39)
The One true God, the God of Abraham, Isaac, Israel and Elijah is personal, He speaks and guides and instructs and answers prayer – He alone is God and worthy of trust & worship. He is the God they should have chosen when Elijah challenged them to make up their minds. Now, on the evidence before them, with this contrasting display of power and God’s responding to the prayer of his servant – the nation fell on their faces proclaiming the truth about God.
Baal worship has been exposed as futile, Baal’s ‘prophets’ exposed as charlatan’s and therefore executed.
What relevance does this have for your life and mine?
Confidence – God alone is Almighty God awesome in power & majesty and ready to respond to prayer!
Consider – Am I in any way compromising by being double-minded effectively, putting my trust in anything or anyone other than God?
Repent – If you’ve doubted God in any way or been dabbling with the worship/trust of anything other than God, repent and turn back to exclusive worship of God alone.
Mystery & Treasure (Colossians 2:1-5)
As people we are inquisitive by nature. You can see this clearly in children, the desire to know, to understand propels learning and growth. Many people love riddles, or stories with plots that unfold, mysteries that need resolving, that draw us in as they press on our desire to know more.
This passage describes Jesus as the mystery of God! The God of the Bible is so much bigger, more loving, more magnificent, holy, wrathful against sin, just, holy, righteous, powerful, gracious…. than we could ever imagine. What we know of God, just reveals how little we truly know of God. What we know of God simultaneously satisfies us and stirs up within us an insatiable desire, an inquisitiveness wanting to know more of our glorious God.
Here in Colossians 2:2-3 Jesus is described both as ‘God’s mystery’ and as the One in whom are hidden ‘all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge’. What an intoxicating combination. If we want to pursue the mystery of God, then we need to focus on Jesus, and Scripture here confirms that as we pursue relationship with Jesus, we will find that Jesus is the One in whom ALL the treasures of wisdom and knowledge are found.
Friend, Jesus is the answer to every problem, every need. Jesus is the only One who can truly satisfy our souls, Jesus contains the wisdom we need for life and for godliness, for parenting, for our career choices and our relationships… Jesus deserves not only all our worship but all our reflection, all our attention and as we focus our lives on Him, we discover more and more about God, who He is and what He is like, we discover treasures that will thrill our hearts and satisfy our souls and we discover wisdom and knowledge for life.
Oh may we make Jesus our vision and our pursuit.
In The Presence of the King (Psalm 24)
Who is God?
Who can appear before such a God?
Open up for God to come presence Himself with us!
These are questions this Psalm addresses.
God’s supreme authority (vs1-2)
Everything that exists in physical time and space, every atom and sub-atomic particle, every mountain range, every square metre on the planet is God’s! More than that every person who has ever existed, whether they acknowledge God as God or not, was created lovingly by God and for His glory and His purposes (Romans 11:36).
God is unmatched and unrivalled, God made everything and so God owns everything! The maker of something is its owner, they are the one who gets to determine the purpose and value. Since God created everything, God is in supreme authority.
Who can appear before such a God? (Vs3-6)
Greatness, majesty & authority necessitate respect. So, in light of God’s greatness, who can approach His awesome presence?
This God of king David’s, is not just supreme in authority but is also Holy. There is no sin in His presence and so to approach God requires ‘clean hands and a pure heart’ from anyone who enters His presence.
And this introduces a dilemma for you and I!
After all who can claim to have pure hands that have not ever done wrong and a pure heart too that has not ever thought or intended wrong?
No one! (declares Romans 3:10-12)
Yet, I love the unspoken assumption here; there is something hard-wired into us as God’s created image bearers that desires to be the presence of our God and Maker. Yet we have this dilemma, we can’t be in His presence with the state that our hands and hearts are in.
Paul writing to the Romans expresses this moral dilemma and then wonderfully reveals the solution God Himself provided to it;
Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! (Romans 7:24-25)
As Isaiah proclaimed; if we repent God will purify us from our sin and make us as white as snow (Isaiah 1:18) if we ask Him to. So thank God today for Jesus, thank God for forgiveness and therefore the ability to enter God’s awesome presence.
God wants to come close! (Vs7-10)
What an astounding idea that the God who created and owns everything is the very same God into whose presence we can come through the forgiveness Jesus offers us.
Even more astounding is this, that it is God who takes the initiative and God who wants to come and presence Himself with us!
The image in vs7-10 is of someone at the gate of the walled city of Jerusalem asking to enter and the gatekeepers calling out; ‘Who’s there?’
8 Who is this King of glory? The Lord, strong and mighty,
the Lord, mighty in battle! 9 Lift up your heads, O gates!
And lift them up, O ancient doors, that the King of glory may come in.
10 Who is this King of glory? The Lord of hosts, he is the King of glory! Selah
The mighty one, the Ancient of Days, the King of glory, the Lord of hosts that’s who is knocking, that’s who wants to dwell amongst us, presence Himself with us! It’s incredible good news. This makes me think of Jesus in Revelation saying;
Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice
and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me. (Revelation 3:20)
The King of glory wants to presence Himself with you, with us. We belong in His presence because He has removed our sin from us, given us His perfect righteousness so open the door, let Him come and presence Himself with you daily.
Invite Him now!
Jesus’ Identity & Purpose (John 18:38-19:27)
Jesus’ trial before Pilate oozes truth about Jesus’ true identity and His purpose on the earth.
“I find no guilt in him” (18:38) – Pilate said.
And yet, he released the real criminal, the sinner.
And so Barabbas walked free, a fore-runner of you and me!
Yet the innocent One was condemned – all of our gospel story.
Pilate had Jesus flogged by soldiers, they mocked Jesus mercilessly.
Jesus was silent just as had been prophesied (Isaiah 53:7)
Pilate then repeated same verdict two more times; “I find no guilt in him”! (vs4&6)
Dripping with irony, Jesus is accused of claiming to be exactly who He was – God! (vs7)
Pilate then questions Jesus again and lectures Jesus on authority!
Jesus replies; “You would have no authority over me unless it had been given to you from above.” (vs11)
Pilate shivers in his boots & tries to release Jesus again having found nothing wrong with Him, but the Jews revolt…
Pilate pronounces the truth about Jesus to those present, “Behold your King!” (vs14)
But Jesus is rejected by the Jews again, they don’t want Him as king they want him dead.
Pilate re-checks with those present, proclaiming truth as he does; “Shall I crucify your King?” (vs15)
Blasphemously they cry out; “We have no king but Caesar!” (vs15)
And so Jesus was condemned to die by crucifixion.
Pilate, God’s agent in the moment states the truth again as he inscribes on the cross; “Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews” (vs19)
The Jewish officials try to get Pilate to change the wording to soften it’s meaning
Pilate would not budge; “What I have written, I have written.” (vs22)
Jesus, King of all kings, came to die in our place for our sin, the Lamb of God, the suffering servant, He the sinless One was bound so we could be freed, He was crushed for our iniquities and the punishment that God put on Him paid the way for us to be forgiven, His death and resurrection gave you and me life! Behold your King!
As we start December, what a fitting way to begin contemplating who Jesus is and why He came to earth.
And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John 1:14)
God became flesh. Creator God entered His creation. God moved into the neighbourhood of people like you and I. God who is not constrained by time and space constrained Himself to time and space. God, who does not change, became like us so as to communicate with us, be understood by us, and ultimately so that He could die for us in our place for our sin! God the immortal One, took on mortal flesh so as to give us immortality.
Behold Jesus! Mystery, wonder, awe, worship…
And why? Why did God do this? Why did Jesus enter our humanity?
So that He could become the sacrificial atoning Lamb of God who could take away the sins of the world (vs29). He had to become like us, so that he could die for us in our place for our sin.
So that God could adopt as His own beloved children all those who believe in Jesus (vs12).
Jesus we stand amazed. Jesus there is no one like you, no one who can compare, no one who has gone to such great lengths to love us – we worship You and adore You.
Read and re-read and re-read John 1:1-34. Be in awe and wonder, worship and delight in Jesus, in God.
Majoring in the Majors not the Minors (Mark 12:18-40)
To love God fully & to love people sums up all the commandments. We can easily make following Jesus overly complicated but Jesus makes God’s will exceedingly clear.
The Scribes and Pharisees were full of questions fixating on minor issues. However in reality they were majoring on the minor and minoring in the momentous!
Jesus was and is God in the flesh in their midst. Jesus had come to seek and save the lost, however most of these Pharisees and Scribes were not loving Him but rejecting Him.
As the Westminster Shorter Catechism states; “Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.” This is our purpose, to love, to honour, to glorify God in all we do.
And Jesus connects this with how we treat others. If we truly love God, our hearts will be soft toward God and the Holy Spirit will lead us to love others as God has loved us. This is the whole message of Galatians 5:16-24.
Loving God leads to loving people, being compassionate, merciful, forgiving as we have been forgiven. That’s true godliness, true holiness. That’s what we should be majoring in!
And the only way to get to a life that truly looks like that, is to have a life that is overtaken with love for God. And the only way to love God more deeply is to see God more clearly, to see who He is and what He has done for us and to live out your whole life as a response. #moreinawe
My Jesus? (Mark 8:22-9:29)
Jesus is characterised by the unexpected. The Jesus of Scripture doesn’t fit into the box of neatly arranged human expectations. Some people walk around with “WWJD” rubber bracelets with the intention of suggesting we should live like Jesus, but what would Jesus really do in many situations?
For example: if you come across a deaf guy with a speech impediment like Jesus did in Mark 7:31-37. WHAT WOULD JESUS DO & WHAT SHOULD YOU DO? Well Jesus stuck His fingers in the mans ears, spat and then touched the mans tongue and he was healed!
Or again, if you come across a blind man like Jesus did in Mark 8:22-26. WHAT WOULD JESUS DO & WHAT SHOULD YOU DO? Well again, Jesus spat, this time on the man’s eyes, laid hands on him and he was healed after praying initially and then praying again.
I would hazard a guess that these are not suggested methods in many; ‘How to heal manuals’. You can’t put Jesus in a box you’ve made for Him.
Seeing all that Jesus was doing, people began to have growing opinions regarding who Jesus was and what He had come to do. Was Jesus, John the Baptist raised from the dead or Elijah or one of the other prophets raised from the dead? Why was Jesus here, what had he come to do?
In that moment, Peter has a revelation and exclaims; “You are the Christ (Messiah)” (Mark 8:29). In that moment, God the Father reveals to Peter WHO Jesus really is (Matthew 15:17), the long-anticipated Messiah.
But still Jesus will not be boxed by our limited expectations regarding what Jesus had come to do. The Jewish people had been anticipating the Messiah for hundreds of years, they had hoped that the Messiah would deliver them from human oppression and the national disgrace they’d endured under foreign ruling powers. Peter and others expect that the Messiah will deliver them from Roman rule and oppression…
And so when Jesus starts to teach about how he is going to suffer and be rejected and be killed…Peter can’t handle it! You can imagine him crying out; “No, Jesus”, ”This is not how it is supposed to be”. He wants Jesus to fit into his box, but Jesus won’t.
Jesus rebukes Peter, calls him out as doing Satan’s work in resisting what Jesus is saying is his ultimate mission. “For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.” (Mark 8:33)
We do this at times don’t we? We want Jesus to fit into the box we have made for Him? I sometimes encounter people who will use the phrase, “Well my Jesus wouldn’t do that/say that/expect that…”
But if He is YOUR JESUS then He is not the Jesus revealed in Scripture. Reading the Gospels it is apparent to me that the disciples were on a journey of discovery, learning more and more (often in unexpected ways) about WHO Jesus was and WHAT Jesus had come to do on planet earth.
May I, may we remain humble, open to the real Jesus revealed in Scripture.
May we always be in awe & wonder at WHO Jesus is & WHAT Jesus did for us.
And then may we worship Jesus with our whole lives.
Why trumps what! (Mark 7:1-23)
Why trumps what! Why you do what you do, matters more to Jesus than just what you do.
The Pharisees and scribes are indignant! Jesus and his disciples are not adhering to the strict codes and traditions that had built up around God’s law that regulated every aspect of life in the attempt to keep ‘pure’.
These regulations legislated behaviour in everything, here Mark mentions the scenario of coming home from the market where one could have been defiled by contact with Gentiles and the need to wash hands, pots, plates & even couches!
Jesus’ disciples were being accused of not walking ‘according to the tradition of the elders’ (Mark 7:6). Jesus rebuffs their accusations, accusing them of caring more about their human traditions than about the original commands of God that the traditions were meant to encourage obedience to (Mark 7:8-13).
So what really matters? Jesus quotes the Old Testament to them (vs6-7) which reveals what God wants from every one of us. God wants our hearts not some external compliance that’s not rooted in love for God.
You see, why trumps what! Worship/godliness that’s only skin deep or behaviour that’s not emanating from a heart of worship is not worship at all.
God is after our hearts. What we do does matter, how we live does matter but its the motivation behind the external actions that God really cares about. It’s why we do what we do that matters to God.
This is the difference between religious legalism and the gospel! Tim Keller sums it up when he says;
‘“I obey therefore I am accepted by God” = Religion
“I am accepted by God because of Jesus, therefore I obey” = The Gospel
God freely accepts those who believe in Jesus and accept Jesus’ offer of forgiveness for their sins. God then delights as those saved sons and daughters begin to obey His will for their lives, not because they must, not because they’re trying to be accepted but because they already are accepted by Him, because their hearts have been melted by His love and His mercy and His grace and transformed so that they beat now with a new desire – to please their Father who is in heaven! What results, is the motivation for all true godly behaviour. Why trumps what!
So, gaze again at Jesus! Consider who He is and what He has done for you. Be freshly impacted, amazed at Him and live your whole life as a response to His incredible love for you. What will result is observable godliness rooted in worship, and that pleases God.
Awe is a feeling of reverential respect mixed with fear, a sense of wonder, amazement, astonishment, worship, reverence, honour, love and respect.
Awe is a response to something. It doesn’t exist in isolation but rather is the result of something seen, experienced or encountered. Awe is informed by the mind yet is truly rooted in a heart that has seen and surrendered to the majesty and might of almighty God.
And therefore awe is the opposite of irreverence, familiarity, contempt and indifference. Awe is about perspective, having clarity concerning God, oneself, circumstances and others.
And yet, awe seems to be a fragile commodity. One that’s not, easily obtained, is easily lost and or replaced. In some way children seem to have a better grasp on awe than adults do. They seem to just delight in and be amazed by things, they believe easily, express freely the joy of discovery and wonder…
Why is it we who are older aren’t more like these young ones with mouths and eyes wide open?
I want to find myself looking like the girl at the top of this post more often, speechless and yet captivated by God, who He is and what He has done for me, for us.
Awe is linked to worship, we won’t worship want we don’t see, we won’t worship what we don’t revere and are astonished by. Like Moses who wanted God to reveal Himself, like Paul I pray; “I want to know Christ” (Philippians 3:10). I want to see more, know more, encounter Jesus more – whether through Scripture reading, prayer or worship with the saints, whether through ministering to people and seeing His mighty power – I want to know Him. There is a song we sing in Oasis that expresses this desire (King of Wonder) which at one point goes something like; “the more we see, the more we love you”!
But don’t for a minute think that this is some fanciful irrelevant impractical desire. Paul Tripp says;
Awe of God should be the reason I do what I do with my thoughts. It should be the reason I desire what I desire. Awe of God should be the reason I treat my wife the way I do, parent my children the way I do….should give direction to the way I live as a citizen in the wider community…
Awe of a God should lift me out of the darkest moments of discourage gun and be the source of my most exuberant celebrations. Awe of God should make me more self-aware and more mournful of my sin while it makes me more patient with and tender towards weakness in others. It should give me courage I would have no other way and wisdom to know when I am out of my league. Awe of God is meant to rule every domain of my existence. – Paul Tripp
Awe is not some peripheral thing for the Christ follower, it is central to the heart motivation of our lives. Without awe we quickly descend into mere external moralism and or a faith that is dead and dry. Tripp says that there is a spiritual danger that lurks here and it’s that when awe for God is dead, it is quickly replaced by awe for ourselves (pride) and so Tripp goes on to say that;
If you are not living for God, the only alternative is to live for yourself.
– Paul Tripp
As a leader one of my greatest responsibilities is to stimulate awe in others, yet awe is caught not only taught. Awe is based on knowledge of God but it is more about the state of ones heart in response to what one knows about God. What I have come to see is that it is impossible to lead someone to a state of awe – if such awe is absent in your own heart.
Just like a tour guide in a great city like Rome – you don’t want the person who has just read more books than you. You want your guide to also have walked the streets before, seen the city before, you want someone who knows the people, the history and the culture.
Similarly, if you’re doing an expedition in the Himalayas, surely you want the Sherpa who has scaled Everest or K2 themselves, before you’ll feel they are qualified to guide you up the slopes.
Likewise, as a leader you can’t take people where you haven’t been yourself, where you not just went years ago but where you regularly are… What a provocation, as a leader!
May I, may we, not be those in whom there is an “awe deficit” or where the wonder has been lost.
I’ll close with the lyrics of a song by Leeland called “I wonder”, words that have been my song lately;
At the stars in the night, I wonder
At Your lightning in the sky, I shudder
Your glory is a blanket that covers, every living thing
I’m in awe at the majesty of who You are
Your love is a seal burnt inside my heart
All of the day I want to be where You are
And it feels like there’s not enough praise inside of me
With all these words, all my heart can sing is holy
You are holy
You bled Your love, laid down Yourself
And gave me life
In naked shame You hung and You were lifted high
Here I lay in awe and wonder
I am afraid, for no one’s ever sacrificed and loved me this way
So on my face I fall under Your heavy grace
Here I lay in awe and wonder
And I wonder
I’m in awe at the majesty of who You are
Your love is a seal burnt inside my heart
All of the day I want to be where You are
And it feels like there’s not enough praise inside of me
With all these words, all my heart can sing is holy
You are holy
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