Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Waiting for the King

Judges 21:25 "In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes."

In the earliest days after Israel had taken possession of the land, the people rejected the kingship of the Lord, and followed after whatever seemed right to them. They chased after other gods, stole from their neighbors, killed one another, and defiled themselves sexually. The narrator of the book of Judges reminds the reader several times that these things were a result of there not being a king in the land. This sets the stage in 1 Samuel where one is chosen (as anticipated in Deuteronomy 18), eventually bringing the lineage of David to the throne. God's desire was that He would be the King of His chosen people, and even through Israel's rejection of Him, God providentially establishes Himself as the eternal king for His people. His plans are not foiled by their rebellion. They are established by it, as He is sovereign over all. It is through the covenant with David (2 Samuel 7) that the Lord promises a king will forever be on the throne, and we know that king to be the Lord Jesus Christ. He is the one that is foreshadowed by those who come before, including David- the king of war, and his son, Solomon- the king of peace. When the great King returns, He will wage war on those in rebellion against him, much like David, and then there will be peace for the people of God, as in the days of Solomon.

When mankind refuses to accept God's authority, he will pursue whatever seems right to him. Scripture and history are replete with illustrations. If we're really honest, we know this is true of ourselves, too. This is what the unregenerate, unbelieving heart really wants, to be left to itself- to indulge all it desires, without anyone telling it what it can and can not do. It wants to serve as its own authority. If man must have a king, he clamors for one that will lead and legislate so he can legally obtain what he wants, which eases his conscience and makes his actions more acceptable. Nothing is new under the sun. Man needs God as his king just as much today as he did more than three thousand years ago in Israel, and rejects Him still. But like then, God is merciful and patient, providing a deliverer to those who call upon Him. Though they rejected His leadership time and again, God answers the repentant when they cry out, promising their deliverance and salvation from their enemies. God still answers those cries today, promising deliverance and salvation through the Savior of His people, Jesus Christ. He promises not to leave us to ourselves; that He will change our pursuits from those that seem right to us, into new desires that accord with His Kingdom and His wonderful decrees. He is already on His throne, and is bringing hearts into joyful subjection to His rule. Enemies within and those without are still being conquered, but He will be victorious. He will complete the masterpiece of history, and rule the Kingdom of Peace forever. In the book of Judges, there was not yet a king in the land- only the expectation of one. He now rules, and we know of His glory by faith, but the promised Day will come, and we will see with our eyes "the king in his beauty" (Isaiah 33:17). We once clamored for what seemed right to us; now, by grace, we await the return of our King.

Monday, July 28, 2014

To Those Who Would Plan Well

There is great comfort in knowing what our future holds. When we have all of our ducks in a row- everything packed or planned, saved for or scheduled- our minds are set at ease. We like to believe we have everything under control, or at least try to as much as possible, looking to limit potential hazards. There is a reason why you won't find many advisers selling customers on the haphazard life. Planning seems to be good wisdom, and Scripture bears that out (Luke 14:28-33, Proverbs 21:5). We should do whatever we can to plan for the future, but we should never find our greatest comfort in the belief we have it all under control. One phone call or notice in the mail could change everything and shake the world under our feet. So, it's good wisdom to plan, but far better to ask the Lord to guide what we plan- that He would be underneath our thoughts, desires, and choices. The Bible has a great deal to say about this, since it is God who orders the events in His world (Proverbs 16:9, 19:21, James 4:13-16). Whether we'll admit it or not, we forget that He is the trustworthy, merciful, and faithful One. He has no bad days, never wakes up on the wrong side of the bed, and is never slothful. Everything He does is for the good of His people. All the days we have left on our calendar (and beyond) can be marked with His promise to be with us, no matter what else happens. Life can change suddenly, but our God never does. His love for those in Christ will never be diminished, even when we fail, since His grace in the Lord Jesus is greater than our sin. We should find the greatest of comforts in Him alone. We may ask that God would make our future clear, but generally what we'll find is that He calls us to trust Him with it, to obey in what He tells us is right for today, and praise Him no matter what tomorrow brings. So yes, plan for tomorrow, but remember who's in control of it.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Spurgeon's Lectures

A recent treasure in my life has been Charles Spurgeon's Lectures to My Students. He taught the contents of this book to those who attended his pastor's college in England with Spirit-wrought wisdom and wit on the many facets of the minister's life and work. No doubt, they are beneficial for all, not just those in vocational ministry.

On Prayer:
"One bright benison which private prayer brings down upon the ministry is an indescribable and inimitable something, better understood than named; it is a dew from the Lord, a divine presence which you will recognize at once when I say it is “an unction from the holy One.” What is it? I wonder how long we might beat our brains before we could plainly put into words what is meant by preaching with unction; yet he who preaches knows its presence, and he who hears soon detects its absence."

On Pride:
"I can, it is true, easily muster a hundred reasons why I should not be proud, but pride will not mind reason, nor anything else but a good drubbing. Even at this moment I feel it tingling in my fingers’ ends, and seeking to guide my pen,” Knowing something myself of those secret Whippings which our good Father administers to’ his servants when he sees them unduly exalted, I heartily add my own Solemn warnings against your pampering the flesh by listening to the praises of the kindest friends you have. They are injudicious, and you must beware of them."

On Praise and Criticism:
"...it is always best not to know, nor to wish to know, what is being said about you, either by friends or foes. Those who praise us are probably as much mistaken as those who abuse us, and the one may be regarded as a set off to the other, if indeed it be worth while taking any account at all of man’s judgment. If we have the approbation of our God, certified by a placid conscience, we can afford to be indifferent to the opinions of our fellow men, whether they commend or condemn. If we cannot reach this point we are babes and not men."

On Gossip:
"There are also certain persons who are never so happy as when they are "grieved to the heart" to have to tell the minister that Mr. A. is a snake in the grass, that he is quite mistaken in thinking so well of Messrs. B. and C...Never listen to such people...Let the creatures buzz, and do not even hear them, unless indeed they buzz so much concerning one person that the matter threatens to be serious; then it will be well to bring them to book and talk in sober earnestness to them. Assure them that you are obliged to have facts definitely before you, that your memory is not very tenacious, that you have many things to think of, that you are always afraid of making any mistake in such matters, and that if they would be good enough to write down what they have to say the case would be more fully before you, and you could give more time to its consideration. Mrs. Grundy will not do that; she has a great objection to making clear and definite statements; she prefers talking at random."

On Sincerity:

"We must—some of us especially must—conquer our tendency to levity. A great distinction exists between holy cheerfulness, which is a virtue, and that general levity, which is a vice. There is a levity which has not enough heart to laugh, but trifles with everything; it is flippant, hollow, unreal. A hearty laugh is no more levity than a hearty cry. I speak of that religious veneering which is pretentious, but thin, superficial, insincere about the weightiest matters. Godliness is no jest, nor is it a mere form. Beware of being actors. Never give earnest men the impression that you do not mean what you say, and are mere professionals. To be burning at the lip, and freezing at the soul, is a mark of reprobation. God deliver us from being either superfine or superficial; may we never be the butterflies of the garden of God!"