Monday, March 29, 2010

Bringing Forth Christ – Part 9 – King David

Skipping over Obed and Jesse of whom little is written to expound on, we come to King David. His importance is found both in his being not only a king, but also the one to whom all subsequent kings are held up to comparison. The throne which Christ occupies as Christ (the Messiah) is not one created ex nihilo, but is the throne of His father David (Luk. 1:32). Also one of the titles of Christ with which he was addressed several times was “Son of David.” Christ acknowledged this title but also showed that David’s Son was also his Lord (Mark 12:35-37).
Spiritually David is known for being a man after God’s own heart, and also for his fall and restoration. One aspect of his being after God’s own heart was his desire for God’s glory being his consuming desire. He fully set his heart to glorify God and because of that God upheld and restored him. This is seen throughout the Psalms. His being lead in paths of righteousness was to glorify God (Psa. 23:3). His prayers for guidance, kindness and even forgiveness are all tied to the idea of “Your Name’s sake” (Psa. 31:3; 109:21; 25:11).
“For Your Name’s sake” is little understood in our day. Too often our cries for forgiveness are more for our own sake to avoid our due penalty, rather than as David seeking to show forth God’s glory in His being merciful to our sin against Him. We also assume as Christians that our glory is God’s and expect Him to fight for us when it is not His battle. Even our good deeds are many times done, more to confirm to ourselves and others that we are in a state of grace rather than the biblical reason – that men might see our good works and glorify our Father in heaven (Mat. 5:16). Christ taught us to pray, “hallowed be Your Name” before anything else, because God’s glory should govern all of our prayers, conduct and religious exercise.
David’s life was lived for the purpose of bringing glory to God and because of that his prayers were heard. He tied his life to the glory of God and thus God tied His glory to the prosperity of David and his throne. We often use the excuse of God’s glory to mask our own ambitions and desires. David, however made God’s glory his ambition and desire, because of this God was pleased with him and gave him an everlasting throne.
In this he typified Christ who could say, “Father, glorify Your Name”, and receive an answering voice from heaven as His mission, life and voice resounded as one up to heaven (John 12:28). Christ’s one mission was to glorify the Father and because of this the Father has glorified Him. May we too pray with all sincerity, “Our Father in heaven hallowed be Your Name.” Amen.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Bringing Forth Christ – Part 8 – Boaz and Ruth

The next ancestors of Christ that we will look at are two whose characters shine both individually and collectively as some of the best in the Bible – Boaz and Ruth. Like many life stories though it did not start out happily. It began with a famine which caused Elimelech, his wife Naomi, and his two sons Mahlon and Chilion to leave their home at Bethlehem and live in Moab. It seems that neither Mahlon nor Chilion ever enjoyed much good health if their names are any indication – Mahlon means sickly, and Chilion means wasting away. The two sons married Moabite woman Ruth and Orpah. Elimelech died and then the two sons leaving only Naomi and the two daughters in law. It says something about Naomi’s character that both of her daughters in law wanted to return to Bethlehem with her, and this even in her time of great disappointment and grief when she by her own confession would rather have been called Mara – bitter, than Naomi – pleasant. Somehow God manages to use His people even in their struggles to draw people to Him. Naomi obviously was struggling with bitterness at this time, but yet in spite of that the light of God still shone through her life, and eventually God turned her situation.
Naomi told Orpah and Ruth the dismal prospects awaiting them in Bethlehem and tried to discourage them from going with her. At this Orpah turned back, but Ruth remained. Ruth was loyal to Naomi with no prospect of any recompense from her for that loyalty. It was a true loyalty born of love. It was here that she made her statement of devotion which irrevocably joined her to Naomi’s people and Naomi’s God.
When they arrived in Bethlehem Ruth immediately began to take responsibility to care for them. Naomi had given her no prospect of a reward for her service, yet God would not let her remain unrewarded. It says that when she went out to glean, she happened to go to a field belonging to Boaz (Ruth 2:3).
Boaz appears to be an ideal landlord in Scripture. He was a very pious man, who was diligent to see the state of his fields. He was also a caring and generous person. Rather than merely giving Ruth and Naomi food, he allowed Ruth to glean, but had his reapers intentionally drop some grain for her, and even to let her take some from among the sheaves. He also allowed her to partake of the meal he had had prepared for his reapers. His heart was very open towards Ruth because he had heard of her loyalty to Naomi and also had heard from his foreman how industrious she was (Ruth 2:7,11).
At Naomi’s instigation Ruth went down to the barley threshing floor and by asking Boaz to spread his mantle over her asked him to play the part of kinsmen redeemer. Even in this her loyalty is seen in that instead of looking for her best prospects she chooses to follow the custom of the kinsman redeemer by which the first born son would be counted heir to her first husband.
One further interesting note on this story is that both Ruth and Boaz were not chosen by default. Orpah started to follow Naomi and turned back, and there was a nearer kinsman who refused to play the part. I think this shows the importance of character. Ultimately character, which is formed in life’s little choices, determines life’s larger choices. Ruth by her loyalty and devotion to Naomi and Naomi’s God, and by her hard work set herself up to unintentionally to be noticed by a man like Boaz. Boaz by his diligent oversight of his business and generous and caring nature was disposed to help her. Thus God brought them together. It is only fitting that He that is faithful and true should have sprung from someone loyal, and that One who longed to gather Jerusalem under His wings would come from a caring and kindhearted person.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Bringing Forth Christ – Part 7 – Salmon and Rahab

Salmon was the son of Nahshon, who was the leader of Judah during the Exodus (Num. 2:3). Rahab thus married into a very honorable family in Judah in spite of her past life. This was made possible by faith. Indeed Rahab is held up as an example of active faith by James, “And in the same way, was not Rahab the harlot also justified by works when she had received the messengers and had sent them out another way? For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also” (James 2:25-26). She is also found in the heroes of faith in Hebrews 11:31.

Rahab, the Canaanite harlot, is a very appropriate example to Gentile sinners who also are made part of the seed of Israel by an active faith. It would be appropriate here to look at the faith of Rahab, and see if we can discern in it attributes of true faith. It should be noted that this Canaanite was allowed by virtue of her faith to remain in the land which her people were to be expunged from. The fact that she obtained an inheritance in this land by faith sets her apart not only from the majority of her fellow Canaanites, but also from the whole first generation of the Exodus with the exception of Caleb and Joshua.

So let us look at a few attributes of faith as we see them in Rahab’s life.

1. Faith is birthed of knowledge, but mere knowledge does not always produce faith. Rahab stated that she and all of the land had heard of the miracles at the Red Sea and the victory over Sihon and Og, yet the other Canaanites knowing these things did not have faith (Jos. 2:10). Even Israel having seen the miracle of the Red Sea did not later have faith in God.

2. Faith is more than mere belief. All of the Canaanites were deathly afraid of Israel and believed that Israel would prevail and yet they neither asked for mercy nor left the land, but instead knowingly fought against God.

People sometimes cry foul as to the destruction of children in this judgment as well as in the flood forgetting one key fact. God has given parents the responsibility for children, the reason why children drowned in the flood was because their stubborn parents had refused for perhaps one hundred years to heed Noah’s preaching. The Canaanites chose to fight against Israel and God rather than attempt to flee the land or ask mercy of Him. The unbelieving Jews endured seeing their little children dashed on the rocks because they refused to obey God’s command through Jeremiah to abandon the city and surrender to the Chaldeans. Are we to blame God for these things? God gives authority to parents and with it comes responsibility whether they want it or not. The children of those who rejected God and chose idols after the flood were greatly prejudiced towards idolatry themselves and after several generations would have had no knowledge of the true God in their national consciousness anymore. Did not those first parents in essence damn their children through their own bad example? God in His mercy can always work in men in spite of their parents, but if the parents take no thought for their own salvation or that of their children can they then blame God? God also gave man authority over the other creatures and because of that they are affected by our sins whether we believe it or not. Indeed in wars and famines and other calamities many times animals die. This is not caused by their own sin, but because as placed under man’s authority they suffer because of him, even as the servants of ungodly Egyptians suffered through being out in the hail because their masters did not believe (Ex. 9:20-21; Isa. 24:4-5; Hos. 4:1-3). Environmentalists are thus somewhat correct in blaming man for the problems of this world, yet they don’t address the underlying issue, which is sin.

3. Faith is more than acknowledging the power of God (Jos. 2:11). Every knee will bow and every tongue will confess the Jesus Christ is Lord, but unwilling confessions wrung out of impenitent hearts will do no one any good.

4. True faith involves abandoning the old life and old ways. Rahab’s true faith is shown in her willingness to appear as a traitor. If her nation was acting against God then she would be on God’s side against her nation. If her nation defeated Israel she would die with them when this agreement was found out (as it likely would have been). She forsook the world and aligned herself with the children of God. Her faith was perhaps imperfect, and I would question whether lying to the messengers when she hid the spies was the best way of handling the situation, but nonetheless it was a genuine act of faith on her part to hide the men and protect them.

5. True faith is a trust in the character of God. From the words of Rahab to the spies we gather that she believed that God was just, merciful and faithful (Jos. 2:12-14). She also expected that His followers would be the same.

Not only was Rahab saved by her faith, but all those of her family who also believed and remained in her house were also covered by the scarlet cord that she had outside the window (again any young children in the family would have been saved or not depending upon the response of the parents). This is a type of the blood of Christ which preserves those who believe.

Rahab’s faith transformed her and also her family. It made them citizens of the people of God. It changed her occupation, her friends, her nation and her entire lifestyle. True faith will always accomplish this, it will change us. It will cause us to see what others do not see, and hear what others do not hear. As a result we will make choices based on the eternal rather than following the world and making decisions based on temporal things. This is the victory that overcomes the world (in Rahab’s case and ours) even our faith. Amen.

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Bringing Forth Christ – Part 6 – Pharez

In this series it is not my intention to comment on every single name in the genealogy of Christ in Matthew, for one thing some have nothing more known of them but their name. I intend at least at present to skip at least some of the kings, though I may comment on some of them when we get there. Pharez does not have much said of him, but the circumstances of his birth were interesting. Enough so that Matthew mentions him and Zarah together to bring that to mind in his readership.
It is noted by John Wesley and others that the difficult of the birth of these twins may well have been a punishment upon the mother for her actions. This is quite possible. Only in eternity will we be able to comprehend how much God has restrained man from sin, and also how much He in love has retrained man in sin.
The birth of Pharez also reminds us that it is not of him that wills or him that runs, but of God who shows mercy. Not everyone that puts forth the hand so to speak, and begins to run in this life actually makes it. God delights in taking the underdog, and elevating him. Not many noble, wise or mighty are called by God, but God delights in calling the weak and foolish and using them to overcome (1 Cor.1:24-29). When the ones whom God has worked in and formed the character of His Son in are seen in eternity, we will see formerly fallen, now redeemed men. Many whom we would be very shocked at seeing there, so much so we could well exclaim with the midwife, “How did you break through!” How indeed.

Bringing Forth Christ – Part 5 – Judah

At first sight, Judah does not seem to be the likely son of Jacob to become an ancestor of the Messiah. Joseph certainly had better character and indeed in many areas of his life was a fore-shadow of Christ in being sold and hated by his brethren, but becoming their savior in spite of that. Yet 1 Chronicles 5:1-2 points out that while Joseph received the birthright in the place of Reuben, Judah received the rulership. Judah prevailed above his brethren. The promise of the scepter was given to him and his descendants by Jacob on his death bed (Gen. 49:8-11). So what does Judah’s life show us?
Genesis 38 is a very sad chapter of the Bible. It shows us Judah and his family life. He picks worldly friends marries a worldly woman. Two of his sons marry another worldly woman, Tamar, and by their wickedness bring down God’s hand of judgment upon them. It is good to remember that one of the main purposes God has for marriage is a godly offspring. In Judah’s marriage he was 1 for 3, probably to a large extant because of whom he married.
After his wife’s death came the incident with Tamar which seems incredible to us living thousands of years after the event. To better realize why this could come about it should be remembered that in more patriarchal societies women cannot really support themselves. They are supported by their husbands or their sons after the passing of the husbands. Jesus in Mat. 5:32 speaking in the context of Jewish society even in His day states that a husband by divorcing his wife causes her to commit adultery. Her being divorced and unable to fend for herself would almost force her into another marriage. In light of this Tamar’s conduct becomes more understandable, deeply sinful, deeply fallen, but all too human. In my mission area here in Malawi I have heard of several young women who have pursued richer men in the hope of something better in life than they have known only too often to end up with a child and no support. The god of this world has created nothing, but twists that which God has made to destroy its goodness. Thus the good of self-preservation which God instilled to protect the gift of life He gave, becomes instead the lever whereby the enemy justifies iniquity and introduces misery.
Judah, like David after him, has his sin exposed by his own hasty and harsh judgment. Apparently the shame of it all did work some measure of repentance on Judah’s part. The fact that the sin of Judah was so reproved shows that in spite of his flaws God loved him for whom He loves He chastens.
Skipping ahead to the second journey to procure food in Egypt, the brothers try to persuade Jacob to release Benjamin to go with them so they can buy food and obtain the release of Simeon. Reuben as firstborn tries first and offers the lives of his two own sons in pawn for Benjamin. Jacob is unmoved by this. Judah points out that all of them will die without the food, and then offers himself as surety. This is where Judah begins to come into the forefront. God was bringing about this circumstance to show something that was in Judah that is an essential for leadership – laying down his life for another. Reuben was willing to sacrifice his children, but not himself. Judah took the responsibility upon his shoulders. Later when tested, he took the lead of his brethren, willingly offering to take the place of the (seemingly) guilty Benjamin, so that he could be reconciled with his father (Gen. 44:32-34). As he did this he became unknowingly a type of Another One who would take our place and our punishment that we might be reconciled to the Father. Judah for all his faults had tied his donkey to a choice vine, and as a consequence he would benefit from the connection. It is not who we are, but whom we are joined to that makes the most difference. Amen.