Revelation 1:4, Greetings

John, to the seven churches which are in Asia:  Grace to you and peace from Him who is and who was and who is to come, and from the seven Spirits who are before His throne, and from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler over the kings of the earth. (NKJV)

In this verse, we see those to whom John originally wrote, as well as the blessing he desired for them.

1. the seven churches which are in Asia.

First of all, the “Asia” John knew isn’t the Asia we know, that is, the Far East: China and such, but was a part of the Roman Empire in what we know as southwestern Turkey.  It sat between the Mediterranean Sea and the Black Sea.  The “seven churches” were within a fifty square mile area and are listed in order clockwise from the first to the last.  We’ll have some more to say about each of them when we get there, but it’s important to remember, whatever else might be said about them, that these were seven actual, contemporaneous, churches.

2. the blessing he desired for them.

a. its substance:  grace and peace.

Grace comes first.  Grace must come first – always, because without grace, we’re only under God’s condemnation and judgment.

A common definition of grace is “God’s unmerited favor toward us.”  That’s true, but I like to think of it more as “God’s unmerited favor toward us in spite of our merited disfavor from Him.”  Or just three words, “in spite of….”  You see, for all our supposed goodness and greatness, there’s nothing good in us Godward, Romans 7:18.  We all sin and fall short of His glory, Romans 3:23.  What does that mean: “fall short of His glory”?  I think it means that we fall short – far short, when it comes to glorifying Him, giving Him the honor, respect and worship that He deserves.  Our every breath is in His hand, and yet, like the man to whom that statement was originally made, we have not glorified Him, Daniel 5:23.  All we deserve is His condemnation and judgment.  Without grace, we would all perish in our sins.

Peace.  In John 14:27, our Lord promised the disciples, “Peace I leave with you.  My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you.”  What does this mean, “not as the world gives”?  The world’s peace depends on what is happening, on outward things, things going well,  things going “our way.”  The peace Jesus spoke of depends on none of those things.  It rests simply on the fact that God is in control of the “outward things.”  It looks up, not around.

What might this mean in the context of John’s writing, if anything?  I think it could simply mean that, regardless of what happens in much of the rest of the book, chs. 21, 22 will put an end to all of that and usher in, as Peter put it, new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells, or as it could be translated, “is at home,” 2 Peter 3:13.  It certainly isn’t at home in this world.

b. its threefold source:

From Him who is and who was and who is to come.

This refers to God the Father and describes Him as being present right now, as He present was in the past and as He will be present in the future.  In other words, there has never been a time, and never will be a time, when, or where, He “isn’t” and isn’t on the throne of the Universe.

From the seven Spirits who are before His throne.

See also 4:5, which also refers to the seven Spirits of God.  There is some discussion about who these are.  Many expositors look to Isaiah 11:2 and what they say is his seven-fold reference to the Spirit, and, so, John refers to the Holy Spirit.  Thus, it is said, we have a reference to the Trinity:  Father, Spirit and Son.  Others say, “No, it’s a reference to the seven angels (of the seven churches) who stand before God’s throne.”  There were no capital letters in the original language.  Everything was written in lower case letters.  Isaiah 11:2 is a sixfold description of the Spirit of the LORD which rests on the Messiah.

Which view of the “seven Spirits” is correct?  At different times, I’ve held to each of them.  At this time, I don’t really know which view is correct.  So I put forth the discussion, though there is more that could be said, and leave it at that.

From Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth.

the faithful witness.

This refers to His life and earthly ministry.  At His trial before Pilate, Jesus said, “For this cause I was born, and for this cause I came into the world, that I should bear witness to the truth,” John 18:28.

the firstborn from the dead.

This refers to His resurrection.  “Firstborn” refers to His priority, even in this.  Colossians 1:18, In all things, He may have the preeminence.

the ruler of the kings of the earth.

This refers to His reign as King of Kings and Lord of Lords.  The question is, is that true of Him now?  In the sense that providentially He rules in the everyday affairs even of kings perhaps it is true.  Is that all John meant?  That His rule is unseen and unacknowledged?

Perhaps the majority of Christians believe that, yes, He is ruling right now in His “heavenly session.”  It’s a spiritual rule in the hearts of His people.  Yes, but how many of “His people” are “kings of the earth”?  Where is there, right now, even one world leader who acknowledges and tries to live and govern by His Word?

“Ruler of the kings of the earth” is more than a meaningless title.  It refers to a time when He will be universally and openly acknowledged as “King of Kings and Lord of Lords.”  That title is always and only used in connection with His Second Coming.  There is coming a time, believe it or not, when Washington, London, Moscow, all the other capitals of the world, and their leaders, will submit, willingly or not, to the rule of the Lord Jesus.  We’ll have much more to say about this as we get into the book, Lord willing.

Even so, come, Lord Jesus.

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“…entitled to substantial compensation”

This title is taken from an advertisement on TV of some attorney trolling for customers, in which he says, “You may be entitled to substantial compensation.”  You’ve likely seen it yourself.  We live in a very litigious society.  If something offends or bothers someone, they are very likely to file a lawsuit, and there are multitudes of lawyers like the one we mentioned above who are more than willing to help them with it.  This doesn’t mean that there aren’t legitimate needs for lawyers and that there aren’t good lawyers.  It’s just that there are too many who aren’t.

In an earlier post, we looked at Exodus 22 and what the LORD said was to be done in the case of theft or loss of property.  We passed over a verse that might have some bearing on our subject today.  Verse 9 says, For any kind of trespass, whether it concerns an ox, a donkey, a sheep, or clothing, or for any kind of lost thing which another claims to be his, the cause of both parties shall come before the judges; and whomever the judges condemn shall pay double to his neighbor.

If our country hadn’t become so corrupt, perverse and lawless, that last clause would do a lot to fix the glut of frivolous and fraudulent lawsuits:  “whomever the judges condemn shall pay double to his neighbor.”

 

25 to 45.

The title represents what might be a sentence in a capital case, 25 to 45 years in prison.  In contrast to this, the thing that impresses me as I read through the Mosaic Law is that there is no provision for prisons or jail.  There are no sentences like the one in the title.  There are a couple of references to people being put in “ward” until it was decided what was to be done with them, and there are references to prison later in Israel’s history, but in her founding documents there are no references to prisons, no multi-layered judiciary, no defense lawyers, no plea bargains, no years and years of “appeals.”

What did they have?

Well, let’s see….

In our last post, we saw what was to happen if two men got into a fight and one of them was injured.  The other man was responsible for his healing and restoration.

In Exodus 22:1-4, we have an example of theft.  How was a “perp” handled in such cases?

If a man steals an ox or a sheep, and slaughters it or sells it, he shall restore five oxen for an ox and four sheep for a sheep.  If the thief is found breaking in, and he is struck so that he dies, there shall be no guilt for his bloodshed.  If the sun has risen on him, there shall be guilt for his bloodshed.  He shall make full restitution; if he has nothing, then he shall be sold for his theft.  If the theft is certainly found alive in his hand, whether it is an ox or donkey or sheep, he shall restore double.

If this were today, it would say something about his rights to an attorney.  He might be arraigned before a judge and bail would be set, upon payment of which he would be set free until the trial.  Nothing about the victim of his thefts; anything recovered would be held as evidence and wind up in some storage area in the police department.  It might be decades before the case is finally settled.

How different is the Mosaic view.  If the stolen items were gone, then the thief was required to return much more than the value of what he stole.  If the items were still with him, then he was required to return double to his victim.  He was required to make full restitution.  If he was unable to do this, then the one thing he still had was to be sold:  himself.  That certainly wouldn’t go over in our society, but the emphasis is not on the perpetrator of a crime, but on his victim.

There is one similarity with today.  If the thief was killed during the robbery, which was assumed to take place at night because it was unlikely that anyone would steal an animal during the day, his death was not a crime.  If, however, he was not caught, got away and was then killed, this was a crime in itself.  A victim of a crime cannot chase a thief down the street and kill him.

The emphasis was on the victim and the return of stolen goods to him, even more than was stolen.  I suppose this was to pay him, if I can put it like that, for the inconvenience of his property being stolen from him.  It also might serve as a warning to someone tempted to steal that, in the hackneyed phrase of today, “crime does not pay.”

Following this example, vs. 5 deals with a situation in which someone’s animal grazes in someone else’s field or vineyard.  V. 6 deals with destruction of another’s field by fire.  Vs. 7-14 deal with the loss or theft of personal property in several different situations.  V. 12 gives us an idea of the solemn responsibility one had toward the safety of someone else’s property entrusted to him.  None of these situations involves jail time.  All of them involve an effort to compensate the victim for what loss he might have suffered.

I don’t know that such practices could be implemented in our so much different time and culture.  At the same time, I do believe that more concern ought to be paid to the victims of crime, in some way making those who commit the crimes responsible not so much to “the state,” but to their victims.

Whose Rights?

I would like have had the title read, “Whose rights?” but I don’t know if that’s possible with this platform or how to do it.  The reason for the title is that our culture is very concerned about “criminal rights.”  Police have to bend over backwards to ensure that anyone arrested in suspicion of a crime is “read his rights,” and probably anyone hauled in for questioning knows to ask for a lawyer right away.  More than one person on trial has walked away because of some little technicality, some oversight, some “i” not dotted properly or some “t” not crossed completely.

(After I put this away last night, with just a few lines beyond this point, one of the news stations had a segment about serial rape and the problems law enforcement was having with what to do with those guilty of numerous sexual crimes.  The segment showed one individual with a dozen or more such offenses.  In the course of the discussion about what to do with such a person, the officer commenting on it said, “At some point, you run into the constitutional rights of the offenders.”

“The constitutional rights of the offenders.”

I couldn’t believe it.

The Old Testament solution would have been that he wouldn’t have lived to commit the second offense, let alone 11 more – and law enforcement puzzled about what to do with him.

There is no “constitutional right” to be a rapist or any other criminal.

And, yes, I know that’s not what’s really meant, though that does seem to be how some people view it.)

In all this, very little seems to be said about the “rights” of victims.  Nothing was said about the victims of the above predator.  What about their “rights”?

While the Old Testament is concerned about fairness and true justice, it’s also concerned about victims.

We see an example of this in Exodus 21:12-27, especially vs. 18, 19, If men contend with each other, and one strikes the other with a stone or with his fist, and he does not die, but is confined to his bed, if he rises again and walks about outside with his staff, then he who struck him shall be acquitted.  He shall only pay for the loss of his time, and shall provide for him to be thoroughly healed  (emphasis added).

Earlier in this description, it’s said that if the injured party died, or even, it seems to say, becomes bedridden, then the other man was to be executed.  If he did not die, and became somewhat able to get up and around, then the other man was responsible to see that he was restored to health and for any wages he had lost.  Not insurance, not the government, not some hospital ER having to write it off – the offender was responsible for the healing and restoration of his victim.

The offender had no “rights,” only responsibility to his victim.  He had no “debt to society,” as we like to put it, but only to his victim.  We wonder how things would be different if we had a similar view of crime and punishment.

We’ve already seen that the Mosaic Law was given to a specific people in a specific context.  As such, it doesn’t mention situations with which we are familiar, like auto accidents or cybercrime.  And it does mention situations with which we are not familiar, like harsh treatment of servants, or about which we have developed different views, like the place of a father in his family, the raising of children or the roles of men and women.

And the New Testament give further instruction.  Because of this, some have said that we don’t have to pay any attention to the Old Testament at all.  I disagree.  While we don’t live under its precepts, and we do live under the New Testament, even the Apostle Paul said that there were some things we could learn from the Old Testament.  In 1 Corinthians 10:11, he wrote, Now all these things [from the earlier part of the chapter] happened to them [Old Testament folks] as examples, and they were written for our admonition.

“Examples,” “admonition.”

In other words, “pay attention.”

There are things there for us to learn.

Hebrews: The Preeminence of Christ. Introduction

The Book of Hebrews isn’t commonly taught in the church. Perhaps some few verses, or chapter 11, are referred to, but the book itself seems to be largely ignored. Perhaps this is because it is believed that the book doesn’t really apply to us, since it speaks of the Old Testament priesthood and sacrifices.  To a large degree, this might be true, as we’ll see in a moment, however, the purpose of the writer is that we might consider Him who endured such contradiction of sinners against Himself, 12:3, and there are many things beside priests and offerings which take our mind off the Lord.  The book does indeed have a message for us.

The Nature of Hebrews.

Hebrews is a book of

1.  Worship.

It exalts the Lord Jesus.  It is, in a sense, an exposition of Colossians 1:18, that in all things He [Christ] might have the preeminence…. There are two things Satan doesn’t want:  for men to worship or to serve the true God.  If he can get them away from doing that, then they are, in effect, worshiping and serving him.  So he has introduced a great number of substitute gods and activities to draw them away from God.  So long as men don’t worship or serve the true God, Satan doesn’t much care what they believe about Him.

But Hebrews is also a book of

2.  Warning.

As we’ll see in a moment, Hebrews was written to people who were being tempted to leave Christ and to go back to the “old way” of doing things, so to speak.  While the exact historical situation is gone, still the book speaks directly to our own day, and to the diluted and distorted views of grace which allow “believers” to live pretty much as they want to, without regard to what God might want of them.

Background of Hebrews.

Perhaps about 30 years had passed since the death and resurrection of our Lord.  Persecution was rising and the Temple had not yet been destroyed.  This impressive building, with its attendant ritual and ceremony, was still there in apparent contradiction of our Lord’s prophecies of its destruction, Matthew 24:2.  The question might have arisen, “Why suffer all this?  Why not just go back to the sacrificial system of Moses?

“Why not find some ‘common ground’?”

Date of Hebrews.

Hebrews 2:3, 4 seem to indicate that quite a bit of time had passed, yet the Temple was still standing and sacrifices were still being offered, cf. 10:11.  There is no mention of that terrible war which began in 67 A.D., which resulted in the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D., and which included the leveling of the Temple.  It would seem therefore that the book was written in the 60s A.D., perhaps to prepare the Jews for the coming destruction of all they held dear, as well as to warn them to persevere in following the Lord Jesus.

Author of Hebrews.

Since the earliest days, there has been uncertainty as to who wrote this epistle.  The point is, though, regardless of whether Paul or Barnabas or Luke or Clement of Alexandria or any of the others said to be the author…, if the Holy Spirit isn’t its primary author, as we believe He is, then it doesn’t really matter who wrote it.

Key Word: “better”.

This does not mean “improved”,  The “New Covenant” is “better” than the First, or Mosaic, Covenant, and Christ, as fulfillment and benefactor of the New Covenant, is “better” than the people mentioned by the author.

1.  The New Covenant is better than the First.

a.  The First was typical, or symbolic; the New is actual.

The ceremonies and sacrifices of the First Covenant, though real, were only symbolic of the realities, Hebrews 9:9.  The New Covenant brings their fulfillment.

b.  The First was only “temporal,” temporary, or “carnal,” dealing only with the physical, 9:10; the New deals with the “eternal,” 9:12.

c.  The First dealt with the “natural,” the New with the “spiritual.”  By this, we mean that under the First Covenant, there was no provision for help or enabling  for those under it to fulfill its obligations, cf. Deuteronomy 29:4.  The New guarantees such help, Hebrews 8:10-12.

Work and run, the Law commands,
But gives me neither feet nor hands.
But sweeter sounds the Gospel brings –
It bids me fly, and gives me wings.

d.  The First demonstrates man’s guilt; the New declares God’s grace.

e.  The First is a “shadow of good things to come,” Hebrews 10:1; the New is “the good things” themselves.

2.  Christ Himself is “better.”  We see this in how the book presents Christ in relationship to the Covenant.

a.  He is THE SPOKESMAN of the New Covenant, 1:1-4.  Here He is seen as PROPHET.

b.  He  is THE HEIR of the New Covenant, 1:4-2:9.  Here Christ is seen as LORD.  Though Hebrews isn’t a book about prophecy, being more concerned that we be prepared for the future than that we be taught about it, there are things in it in which our understanding of them will be influenced by how we view the future.

It’s sadly true that often even Christians, or at least professing Christians, don’t pay much attention to Christ as Prophet or Lord, being more interested in their own affairs than His.  Perhaps that’s why the writer spends a great deal of time in the third view of Christ:

c.  He is THE MEDIATOR of the New Covenant, 2:10-10:18.  Here Christ is seen as PRIEST, as well as, in contrast to the First Covenant priesthood, SACRIFICE.

Outline of Hebrews.

 I.  Christ and the New Covenant, 1:1-10:18.
II.  The Christian and the New Covenant, 10:19-13:25.

David and Bathsheba.

Like Jephthah and his daughter, here is another incident in the Bible which causes skeptics and unbelievers to sneer at and to speak against God.  It’s one of the things which make unbelievers say that the Bible is pornographic.  I doubt, however, that you’ll find the Bible for sale on “adult” websites.  It shows the consequences of actions like David’s, not only in this life, but in eternity.

In our post on Jephthah, we said that God doesn’t sugarcoat life.  He doesn’t hide the defects of His people.  David is a classic example of this.  Though “a man after God’s own heart,” his own heart, in common with the rest of us, was “deceitful above all things and desperately wicked,” Jeremiah 17:9.  And he wasn’t a very good father, 1 Kings 1:6.  Maybe he was too busy being “king.”  It’s easy to do that, to get so wrapped up in the trivial things that we forget the important things.Perhaps we can learn some things from this sordid affair, recorded in 2 Samuel 11, 12.

David’s Conduct, 2 Samuel 11.  

1.  David wasn’t where he was supposed to be.

2 Samuel 11:1 says that it was the spring of the year, when kings go out to battle….  Joab and the army was in Ammon, besieging the city of Rabbah.  David, however, remained behind in Jerusalem.  We don’t know why, so there’s no reason to go there.  He certainly wasn’t supposed to be there.

2.  He looked where he wasn’t supposed to look.

V. 2 says it was evening and David arose from his bed and walked on the roof of his house.  Perhaps he had gone to bed and couldn’t sleep.  Perhaps it was later in the evening.  So he got up and went outside to what was probably a deck or porch on the house, to take advantage of the cooler evening air.  We’re not to imagine that he was scrambling around on the roof itself.  From that vantage point, as he was walking back and forth, he could see the surrounding neighborhood.  To his surprise, there was a woman, bathing after the end of her cycle, v. 4.  Apparently, he didn’t just look away.

There have been those who blame Bathsheba for all this.  They say she deliberately put herself where David could see her.  I think that unlikely.  It was evening, so people would be asleep, or at least inside.  She would have more privacy for this very personal action.  We admit, this is all conjecture because the Bible doesn’t give us any detail.  (If this were pornography, “detail” would be the main thing.)  The point is, David saw her, and wanted her.

3.  He did what he wasn’t supposed to do.

V. 4 says that David sent messengers, …and she came to him….  Giving her the benefit of the doubt, we believe she came in innocence, not knowing what David had in mind.  It’s unlikely the messengers knew or said anything about it. Beyond that, we really can’t say.  She came to him.  Why or what she was thinking really doesn’t matter as far as Scripture is concerned.  Scripture is concerned with the result of this one evening.  A result which is with us even this very day, as I write or you read.

She became pregnant.

Having satisfied his desire, David probably thought that was it.  She returned to her house, v. 4.  He sent her home.  After all, she wasn’t married to him.  It was just a one night affair.  

I have no desire to turn this into some Hollywood production, some “Fifty Shades of David,” glorifying and exploiting the vile things humans can do.   From here on in, things get really ugly, as if they weren’t already, though in the end, there is a surprising “twist.”  Hollywood has no monopoly on “I didn’t see that coming!”

Trying to cover his sin, David sent for Uriah, her husband, on the pretext of finding out how the battle he was absent from was going.  Really, he hoped Uriah would go home to his wife, so that he would be assumed to be the father of the child his wife was carrying, vs, 4-13.

When that didn’t work, he set Uriah up so that he would be killed in the battle, vs. 14-25.

With the husband gone, there was still the problem of the child.  After the requisite time for Bathsheba mourning her husband,  David brought her back to his house and married her, vs. 26, 27. She bore the son.

But…. In his instructions to Joab about Uriah, it was obvious that David wanted Uriah dead, v.15.  After the thing was done, and messengers had relayed the news to David, he told them to tell Joab, “Do not let this thing displease you [be evil in your sight]….” But….

David was trying to cover up and hide what he had done, but he forgot there was Another who was watching what went on: But the thing that David had done displeased [was evil in the eyes of] the LORD, v. 27.  There are no “cover ups” where God is concerned.

Nathan’s Confrontation, 2 Samuel 12.

David no doubt thought that he had “gotten away with it.”  After all, it was just a little fling.  Folks forget that it was a “little” thing that got our first parents thrown out of Paradise, and plunged the whole race into the mess it’s in.

God sent His faithful prophet, Nathan, to David with a story about a rich man who disdained to take from his own riches to prepare for a traveling visitor.  Rather than do that, he took the one “treasure” belonging to a poor neighbor.  This poor man had a lamb, which was very much the family pet, and the rich man took that to take care of his guest.  A lot of people, I suppose, could identify with the poor man and the animal “family member.”  Strange how attached we can get to a dog or cat or horse….

Anyway, David was understandably upset at the injustice of all this and decreed that the man, worthy of death, should restore the lamb fourfold to his injured neighbor.

Just in passing, OT justice knows nothing of a “debt to society.”  It talks, as here, of a criminal’s debt to his victim.

David likely was completely unprepared for what Nathan said next:

“YOU ARE THE MAN!”

That was one time when “you the man” wasn’t something David wanted to hear.

Telling all that God had done for David and, if that wasn’t enough, He would do even more, Nathan accused David of despising all that and stealing the one treasure of a poor man for his own pleasure.

Unintended Consequences,

David found out that he hadn’t gotten away with it, after all.  Though he wouldn’t die, he would still suffer the consequences of his sins. Unbelievers look down on David, and on God, for that matter, because God forgave these horrific acts simply out of His grace.  There was no sacrifice which could be given to atone for adultery or murder, the things of which David was guilty.  Yet God “put away” David’s sin.  What folks often tend to overlook, though, is the fact that God didn’t “put away” the consequences of that sin.

In writing of Israel’s experience with God, Psalm 99:8 puts it like this: You were to them God-Who-Forgives, though You took vengeance on their deeds.

In other words, God may forgive the adultery which breaks up a marriage without restoring the marriage.  He may forgive the drunkenness which caused an accident without restoring the limb that was lost because of it,.  There are consequences to every action, good or bad.  Sometimes they are significant, as in David’s case.  In his case, there were several more or less immediate consequences to what he did.  Perhaps some of them weren’t directly related to what he did, but God had taken His blessing off the family.  They suffered because of what David did.

1.  The baby conceived in this union would die, 2 Samuel 12:14.

You might ask, “Why should the baby suffer for what the parents did?”  A lot of children suffer for the sins of their parents:  a drunken father or dissolute mother.  That’s actually nothing new.  There are consequences, and it isn’t always a guilty party who suffers. In this case, Nathan gives us the answer:  it was because what David did gave “great occasion [opportunity] for the enemies of the LORD to blaspheme.”  If the child were alive, then his very presence would be a continual reminder of David’s sin, and a continual reproach because of it.  The boy was taken away from all that.

2.  The sword would never depart from David’s house, 2 Samuel 2:10.

Two of David’s sons were literally killed.  Amnon was killed by one of his brothers for the rape of that brother’s sister, Tamar.  Tamar was another innocent victim, and, as far as the record tells us, never received justice.  As we said, David wasn’t a very good father.

Though we’re told nothing further about her, it’s entirely possible that she was prevented from marrying because her virginity had been stolen from her.  She had been disgraced.  It’s nothing today, but, back then, a girl’s virtue was her most precious possession.  It’s a shame that today’s society in general places no value on it at all, valuing promiscuity rather than purity.

When Amnon was killed, David though all the royal sons had been murdered, 2 Samuel 13:30-33.  The fact that only Amnon was dead was probably little comfort. The other son who was killed was Absalom, who decided that he would stage a coup and take over the throne, 2 Samuel 15-18.  When he was killed, David was almost overcome with grief.  

Though we don’t know, one of the contributing factors to Absalom’s rebellion might have been David’s refusal to punish Amnon for his sin against Tamar, Absalom’s sister. Another contributing factor might have been David’s treatment of Absalom after he killed his brother, 2 Samuel 13:37 through ch. 14.  Absalom had fled the country and lived abroad for three years.  Though Absalom was finally able to return, thanks to the efforts of his good friend, Joab, the commander of Israel’s army, he was forbidden to see the king.  Joab again intervened, but it seems the reunion wasn’t very cordial.

According to 2 Samuel 14:32, Absalom thought he had done nothing wrong in dealing with Amnon.  After all, he had acted when his father hadn’t.  He had avenged his sister.  He was angry that David hadn’t treated him better.

3.  There would be adversity in the family, 2 Samuel 12:11, 12.

Though there was a lot of trouble in the family, these verses refer specifically to Absalom’s almost successful attempt to overthrow his father.  The whole story is found in 2 Samuel 15-18.  The specific detail of vs. 11, 12 is found in Absalom’s actions in 2 Samuel 16:20-22.

Contrariety,

Here is what I meant by “the twist” at the end of the story.  From this woman, illicitly taken and then married after the murder of her husband, Solomon was born, who became heir to the throne.  We’re not told why.  Cf. Joseph’s experiences and his explanation  of them in Genesis 50:20.

Some might look sideways at this, thinking, “That’s not very fair!”

It’s a conceit of believers and unbelievers alike that God can do and must do only those things which we approve – and only in ways we approve.  But He does what He wants, and He asks neither our opinion nor our approval.

I’d never really thought about it before, but perhaps this, too, is part of the “judgment” on David’s family.  None of his other 18 sons were privileged to sit on the throne.  Only a few of them have anything told about them, but if they’re any example of the rest, none of them were fit to rule.

________

Though, as we said, God doesn’t sugarcoat or ignore the failings and sins of His people, but then, neither does He dwell on them.  In 1 Chronicles 20:1, a parallel account, although there is a reference to David’s staying behind in Jerusalem, there is no mention of what he did there.

When God forgives, He also “forgets,” not that it’s wiped from His memory, or ours, for that matter, but that He no longer holds it against us.  Indeed, He treats us as if we’d never sinned, but had always obeyed.  This is the glory of justification, that He declares righteous in His sight those who are anything but righteous.

Is that “fair”?

Not at all.

If we got what was “fair,” we’d all be in hell.

David would be.

But because of God’s love toward us and His immeasurable grace, He gives us what could never be ours otherwise.

How could He do that?

Because He gave to Christ what could never have been His otherwise – our sins.

Tomorrow is Easter.  I really hadn’t planned it this way, but that’s how it’s worked out.  Easter isn’t about bunnies and clothes and Easter egg hunts for the little ones.  Nor, as some insist, is it a celebration of paganism, though that may or may not be where some current practices come from.  It’s about the resurrection of the One who came to take away our sins, so that they would no longer be held against us.

Naaman, the Syrian

Naaman is the person on the other side of the graciousness of his wife’s servant girl, which we discussed several posts ago.  The story is in 2 Kings 5:1-18.  Scripture paints quite a picture of him.

He seems to have been a lot less willing to receive a blessing than she had been to give it.  Or perhaps it was because he thought the God of Israel, or at least His prophet, was like Burger King:  you got it your way.  Lotta people just like him today.  Turned out he was wrong.

1.  He got the message wrong, vs. 3-5.

The servant girl pointed him to the prophet in Samaria, v. 3.  Naaman went to his own king, and told him what the girl had said, v. 4.  Scripture does say that he told the king what the girl had said.  But the king got it wrong, because he was going to send an embassy to the king of Israel.  Granted, we don’t know all that was involved in this.  Perhaps it was something of a matter of diplomacy.  After all, Syria and Israel were enemies.  (Things haven’t changed much, have they?).

Furthermore, the message to Israel’s king was wrong, as if Israel’s king could heal Naaman.  That’s not what the girl said.  Naaman was to go to the prophet in Samaria.  But the king didn’t mention that.

There are a lot of people today who believe that the answer to our problems is political.  Just get the right people in office and that will take care of it.  However, our problems aren’t political.  They’re not even economic or environmental.  Those problems are the result of our real problem, which is spiritual and moral.  We’ve told God that we’ll do things our way for the last 60 or so years in this country.  God said, “Let’s see how that works out for you.”

I don’t agree with those Christians who can’t be bothered to get involved, even to so much as vote.  But any “solution” that doesn’t deal with the root problem in our society is just a band-aid on a deadly cancer.

The king sent Naaman with an embassy to the king of Samaria, with an expensive gift.  But the things of God aren’t for sale.  A wing for a children’s hospital, large sums spent to better the poor of the world – these might be needful in their place, but they have no spiritual effect, except to make things worse for us, because we tend to trust them instead of God.  Massive amounts of money given to missions might be needful, but what is the mission?

And the king of Samaria got it wrong, too.  He was concerned that his enemy was picking a fight.  It apparently never occurred to him to seek out “the prophet in Samaria” for help.

2.  He got the method wrong.

When Namaan finally got to the prophet, he expected a show.  He thought, “He will surely come out to me, and stand and call on the name of the LORD his God, and wave his hand over place, and heal the leprosy,” v. 11.

He was furious when the prophet merely sent him a message to go wash in the Jordan seven times, v. 10.  Elisha couldn’t even be bothered to deliver the message in person.  This also made Naaman mad.

He wanted to know why the rivers of his native country weren’t good enough.  I’ve never seen the Jordan River, but I’ve heard that, as rivers go, it isn’t all that impressive.  And I certainly know nothing of the rivers Naaman mentioned.  But Naaman wanted to do things his way.

The Gospel message, in effect, is “Wash in the blood of the Lamb, and be clean.”  Cf. Revelation 1:5.  This doesn’t mean literally, but is a figure of speech.  It means to trust in the Lord’s death for sin and sinners.  It means to put our faith in Him and what He did on the Cross.

Today is Good Friday.  A lot of people will do the things they do on this day without stopping to consider what the day means.  It’s the day the Lord Jesus was put on a Roman cross.  It’s the day that He became the only sacrifice for sin that is successful.  It’s the day that God marked, “PAID” to the sin debt of believers.

Yet a lot of people want to know why their own “rivers” aren’t good enough.  They look to the river of good works, or or some rite or ceremony.  Their mom or grandma or father was a Christian.  They belong to the church.

Etc., etc.

But there’s only one “river” that can cleanse from sin:  the river of blood the Lord shed for sinners on the Cross.  He Himself said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through me,” John 14:6.  Our times, all about “diversity” and “pluralism,” don’t like what they call such bigotry.  But it’s still true that “wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it.  Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it,” Matthew 7:13, 14.

There only ever has been, and ever will, one way of salvation.

3.  He did get what he was looking for.

It’s a good thing that his servants were wiser than he was.  He was willing to do some great, heroic act to be healed.  His servants wanted to know then, why he wouldn’t just “wash and be clean?” v. 13.

It’s pretty much always been true that God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the mighty; and the base things of the world and the things which are despised God has chosen, and the things which are not, to bring to nothing the things that are, that no flesh should glory in His presence, 1 Corinthians 1:26-29.

And it’s still true that the message of the Cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, 1 Corinthians 1:18.

But there are some who, wiser than the intelligentsia of the world, will come to that river and wash in it and be clean.

Naaman was finally willing to do it God’s way.

He wasn’t just healed of his disease.  Scripture says that his flesh was restored like that of a little child and he was clean, v. 14, emphasis added.  Now, here was a man probably in his forties or fifties, a man who’d led a hard life, much of it outdoors and much of it in battle.  He probably bore the scars and evidence of that life.  I don’t want to read into it more than the Scripture says, but it’s possible that those were all gone and his skin was as soft as a little child’s.

He got more than he expected.

Likewise, for those who wash in the river of the blood of the Lamb, we get more than we expected.

Now that doesn’t mean health and wealth and all the stuff prosperity preachers preach.  I believe it’s very likely, considering the way things have gone recently, that it will soon cost to be a faithful Christian.  It already does in a large part of the world.

Things I would never have believed possible not all that long ago are happening, and they’re not going to go away.

But neither is God.

There is coming a time when, as Peter put it, we, according to His promise, look for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells, or, is at home, 2 Peter 3:13.

I have very little hope for this present world.

My hope is in God.