Repentance

Enough! (2 Kings 17)

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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.

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Showdown (1 Kings 18)

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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.

A warning (1 Kings 3-4)

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Our enemy is patient.  He is happy sometimes to bide his time, he lays down land-mines in our lives (if we let him) but then waits to detonate them at some point in the future when the impact will be greater than it is now.

Solomon becomes king as a young man, he loves God Scripture says, and is even a humble young king at this point (1 Kings 3:7).  But sadly he is already making some wrong choices, disregarding the charge given to him by his father David (1 Kings 2:3) to walk in God’s ways and commandments.

Solomon unwisely, disregards God’s commandment to not marry foreign women.  Through Moses God had warned about not doing this because these foreign wives would cause God’s people to compromise and end up worshipping their false gods (Deuteronomy 7:3-4).  Solomon however marries Pharaoh’s daughter in a political move designed to give him political allies.  

Solomon loves God (1 Kings 3:3) but again he is unwise not paying attention to God’s commandment in Deuteronomy 12:1-8 to not worship or make sacrifices anywhere they pleased but rather to only worship God in the place God had chosen (where the tabernacle was at any given time).  Solomon does exactly what Deuteronomy 12:8 specifically instructs not to be done and makes sacrifices at the ‘high places’ of worship used for worship of other gods (1 Kings 3:3).

The remainder of chapters 3-4 record Solomon’s good request from God and the blessing that flows from this request for wisdom.  God blessed Solomon in incredible ways with wisdom (we see this in his adjudication of the difficult scenario of the two women in 1 Kings 3:16-28), prolific writing and song writing and blessed the whole nation with peace and prosperity.

And yet the seeds of compromise had been sown!  Solomon didn’t know it but his compromise was germinating beneath the surface and would later result in his effective downfall.  Satan is patient, happy to sow sin-seeds and to leave them there for a later time for greater impact.

How many church leaders or prominent people have years later when they have profile been exposed for some thing that was private that they never dealt with which then later becomes public only to destroy them?

So what relevance does this have for your life and mine?

What might there be in your life that seems small to you at the moment but is in fact an area of compromise?

Is there anything in your life that you are tolerating or turning a blind eye to even though you know God’s will for you is contrary?

I urge you to never see sin-seeds as small things, but to see what they become and to deal with them as soon as the Holy Spirit points them out to you.  Remember that Satan is patient, happy to wait for the moment when detonating that land-mine, causing that seed to germinate will have greater impact on you and on others.

In The Presence of the King (Psalm 24)

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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!

Joy not sorrow… (Nehemiah 8:9-19)

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The renewal that started as Ezra read out the from the Book of the Law in 8:1-8 continues into a second day of rediscovering God’s word. In verse 13 we read that a group of people; heads of household, levites and priests got together for the express purpose of studying God’s Word together.

As they do so, they uncover a festival (the festival of Booths/Tabernacles) that had been ignored. It was a festival that looked back on the goodness of God’s care and provision for the people of God during the Wilderness years. They instruct the people to not mourn but to rejoice and to partake in this 7 day festival of feasting, sharing and joyful thanks to God.

So what? What relevance does this have to your life and mine?
Two things strike me from this verses.

1. Reading in Community

This rediscovery of God’s will for His people came about because a group of people got together to study God’s Word together. Historically, God’s word has not been read primarily in private but was more a communal activity.

We find this hard to imagine in our era which has the Bible unprecedentedly available on every device we own, and many believers frequently having more than one Bible in their homes.

There is something powerful about reading God’s Word in community, with others, allowing God to speak to you through others and to others from His Word. I love how this renewal of this festival God had initiated 1000yrs earlier was re-discovered as it were by the returning exiles as they read God’s word, studying it together.

I urge you to, not just read the bible alone, but to find ways to read it ‘in-community’. This will not only stimulate group learning but will also help to keep you from incorrect conclusions as you read and also provides some form of accountability for what you’ve felt God say through His Word.

This is one of the reasons in our church we have a Bible Reading Plan! By doing so, we are creating the context where by you and I can read the same passage in a day and share with one another even if we are not physically able to be in the same room.

You can also read in community, with your TRIO (A TRIO is 2-3 Christ followers who have committed themselves to an intentional spiritual friendship focussed on helping one another to follow Christ and His mission for their lives and the church) and or your Community Group.

2. The Ultimate Fruit of Repentance

The second stand out in this passage, is that the re-sensitisation to God’s word, the realisation by God’s people that they had sinned and failed to obey God’s commands did not only result in repentance and contrition.

When we have sinned and we see it, contrition (sadness over our sin) is appropriate but it is not appropriate to stay in that place! Contrition is part of repentance, it makes repentance possible in one sense but for repentance to be complete it needs to make way for the ultimate fruit of repentance which is JOY.

Where there has been true repentance joy is appropriate because having seen one’s sin, and having taken responsibility for one’s sin, and having asked God to forgive you of your sin, and having turned from your way of sin to a new way – then joy is the only appropriate response.

Scripture is clear that if we confess our sin, God is faithful and just to forgive us our sin and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9). Because God is faithful to forgive the repentant sinner, joy is the appropriate response for those who have been forgiven, as joy honours God as having forgiven.

Therefore, to wallow in self-pity and shame does not honour Jesus but rather implies that Jesus can’t or hasn’t forgiven you, or implies that what Jesus did on the cross was not enough or that God has withheld forgiveness from you.

Friend, when we see that we have sinned, wronged God, wronged others, contrition is appropriate but it leads to what is ultimate because of Jesus – the joy of having been forgiven and set free.

So, face up to your sin, be sad about it but then repent and be forgiven and then rejoice in your great Jesus who is able to save you to the uttermost (Hebrews 7:25). Amen.

 

 

 

God dances!

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The word picture is of the Creator of the universe, spinning and revelling in joy before and audience of angels, and more than likely calling them onto the dance floor to join Him…

“Just so, I tell you, there is joy before the angels of God over one sinner who repents.” – Jesus

Jesus has just told the second short parable of three lost-found parables that are in told sequence.  Jesus has just told the gathered hostile Pharisees and scribes is the parable about the woman who lost one of her valuable coins but then after a dilligent search finds it and throws a party!

Then Jesus makes this statement in Luke 15:10.  So, what can we learn from it?

Firstly, maybe surprisingly, God is the one who is celebrating with joy before the angels!  God Himself is compared to the woman who lost the coin, God is the primary one experiencing joy because of one person repenting!  There is joy ‘before the angels’, and who is before them? None other than God Himself.

So why does God rejoice?  What is it about sinners repenting that makes God so happy?

Just as the shepherd who receives back 1 of 100 sheep (1%), just as the person who receives back 1 of 10 coins (10%) and just like the Father who receives back half (50%) his family – so too God rejoices, celebrates greatly the text says when even one sinner repents.

Why?

  • Because every person God created, He loves.  He is their Father whom they have estranged themselves from and He wants to be reunited with them and so there is joy in every person’s repentance because repentance is the only way for people to come back to right relationship to the Father.
  • Because there is joy over every one person who repents because every person has immense value to God.
  • Because every person who repents honours Jesus’ life and work on the cross and because in repenting they acknowledge His Lordship, His rightful reign in their lives as King of kings.
  • Because another saved sinner is another true worshiper of God.
  • Because every saved sinner is another one rescued from the control of the evil one.

This second of the trilogy of lost-found parables is not the climax, the lost son is.  But there again, one of the major themes is the joy of the Father in having His son back with Him, running to meet his son, embracing & kissing him, quick forgiveness, throwing a party and calling others to join in with the Father’s joy.

God dances, delights in every single person who comes to repentance.  And therefore we know how to make God exceedingly happy while simultaneously transforming people’s lives here on earth and forever into eternity.  When we share the Gospel with people and they believe and repent – we make God happy and we bless people forever and ever.

Let’s make God happy and truly bless those all around us!