Vision and Victory

2 Chronicles 20:1-13

I love this portrait of humble and faithful leadership. In the face of overwhelming opposition Jehoshaphat humbled himself and the whole nation fasted. They had no answer without God’s leading and Jehoshaphat wasn’t too proud to admit it. He called on God and together they were all saved by God’s mighty hand. In Australia in 2014 we do not have multitudes of warriors bearing down on us here (but spare a prayer for Christians and other people groups in Iraq and Syria). In Western countries there are more subtle threats to the faithful church such as the rising tide of Christian nominalism, religious pluralism and some efforts by Muslim people to convert others to Islam. Without a renewed vision of Christ nurtured by His word our faith is bound to become brittle and skin deep. It is incumbent on our senior leaders, the parish council and every church member to keep calling upon the Lord in our insufficiency before we can discover His vision for the local church toward 2020 and beyond.

Matthew 9:35-10:42

"Seeing the people, He felt compassion for them, because they were distressed and dispirited like sheep without a shepherd." v36. NASB

When we look around us and see distressed and harassed brothers and sisters in Christ do we see them as an inconvenience or do we see them as Jesus did? This passage comes right before Jesus sends out the twelve on mission. Healing and miraculous signs come before it and after it. He told them to go without waiting for stockpiles of money, bags, clothing or shoes. In other words he told them to trust his provision. Open the eyes of our heart Lord, to look with compassion on the harvest and trust you with provisions for the journey! May those who receive us receive you too Jesus. – cf Ephesians 1:18; Psalm 119:18

Matthew

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Justice and Mercy

“How long O Lord?” David cries out to God to save him from his enemies. They are not people that David set out to fight but to love (v13-14). A calamity no doubt yet his faith is still pulsing through his fear, even while the battle between good and evil people is reflected on the inside of David’s mind. Currently we do not face such fierce opposition in Australia but there are Christians being persecuted and killed in Syria and Iraq. It’s natural to react strongly.

Why so long? Is God not justified to judge all sinners? Are the offences merely trivial? Perhaps God is not quite sure who did it, or He was watching elsewhere in the world and did not notice? Does God need to defend His honour? Is He waiting until He is strong enough or perhaps He cannot make up His mind? No! The answer to ‘how long’ is ‘exactly long enough’. We can become self-focused in our waiting, but it is also God who is waiting.

It is a terrible thing to fall into the hands of the living God since we all deserve death. Every person on earth offends God deeply, multiple times each day. So it is by His mercy that He has delayed bringing justice to the earth. He is still holding out for those that will repent, call on Jesus and be saved. The whole reason this Psalm exists is because of the enormous depth of His grace. Otherwise heinous crimes would not be forgiven and the end would come much sooner. The magnitude of unpunished crime is injustice that speaks to the magnitude of God’s grace toward sinners, not his carelessness! And that is a good thing that we can be saved. The Lord is rich in mercy, full of compassion and His love endures forever. How can we not pray for the souls of those around us?

“He…did not destroy them; And He often restrained His anger.” -Psalm 78:38

“According to the multitude of your tender mercies, turn to me.” -Psalm 69:16 KJV

“Therefore the LORD waits to be gracious to you, and therefore he exalts himself to show mercy to you. For the LORD is a God of justice; blessed are all those who wait for him.” – Isaiah 30:18

“The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.” – 2 Peter 3:9

Reference

Plumer, William S., 1865, ‘Providence’, accessed at <www.gracegems.org>

“God intended it for good…”

Today’s reading is Genesis 50

We have here in this chapter a beautiful statement of the providence of God that comes at the very climax of the story of Joseph and his brothers. It’s a wonderful place to start our journey through Exodus, for it sets us up for the extraordinary work God would accomplish in redeeming his people (the descendants of the brothers).

Right at the end of Genesis comes this remarkable statement from Joseph, who you’ll remember was sold into slavery by his brothers out of pure jealousy. Despite their despicable act, Joseph says to them:

“You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives” (50:20; cf. 45:5-8).

It’s hard to overemphasise how huge this statement is! Two truths I hope our hearts cling to from Joseph’s words this morning:

1. God is sovereign over all things, even evil: “There is no attribute of God more comforting to his children than the doctrine of Divine Sovereignty.” says Charles Spurgeon, and I can’t agree more. To know that God is in control even when everything else fails or seems lost, that’s an immovable rock of comfort! Joseph knew this, and he even knew that God was sovereign over the wickedness of his brothers.

Really? God in control even over evil? Yes, and yes! Joseph recognises that God “intended” the brothers to act in the way they did. Matthew Henry explains it this way – “God often brings good out of evil, and promotes the designs of his providence even by the sins of men; not that he is the author of sin, far be it from us to think so; but his infinite wisdom so overrules events, and directs the chain of them, that, in the issue, that ends in his praise which in its own nature had a direct tendency to his dishonour; as the putting of Christ to death”. That last statement is central and mind-blowing – the way we that know God is undoubtedly sovereign over the evil in this world is to look at the cross. Christ’s death represented both man at his most wicked, and God at the grandest heights of His design (see Acts 2:23). We know that the suffering of our Lord Jesus was ordained by our God for our good and for his glory (see Isaiah 53). It’s truth more lofty than we can fathom, but also truth of incomparable comfort when we think about the suffering we too experience.

God is in control of everything. Meditate on this today and may it bring you to your knees in worship.

2. Redemption is wholly God’s work: The book of Exodus practically cries out on every page that God is sovereign, so it’s fitting that we’re starting with this passage before we dive in. The story is framed in terms of God’s faithfulness to the covenant he made with Abraham (Ex 2:24; see Gen 12:1-3). This covenant wasn’t established based on anything in Abraham himself, but purely on God’s mercy. Moses reflects on this later on in Deuteronomy, saying:

“The Lord did not set his affection on you and choose you because you were more numerous than other peoples, for you were the fewest of all peoples. But it was because the Lord loved you and kept the oath he swore to your ancestors that he brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the land of slavery, from the power of Pharaoh king of Egypt.” (Deut 7:7-8)

The Lord loved them! That was it. He loved them, and chose to have mercy on them. And this is God’s pattern as truly now as it was then. Our salvation is wholly God’s work (Rom 9:16; Eph 2:8-9; Matt 11:27; 1 Thess 5:9). He loved us, set his affection on us, and redeemed us, all for his glorious purpose!

I hope you’ll marvel with me at the sovereignty of God as we travel through Exodus together, and contend for it as well, as Spurgeon encourages us to do:

“There is no attribute of God more comforting to his children than the doctrine of Divine Sovereignty. Under the most adverse circumstances, in the most severe troubles, they believe that Sovereignty hath ordained their afflictions, that Sovereignty overrules them, and that Sovereignty will sanctify them all. There is nothing for which the children of God ought more earnestly to contend than the dominion of their Master over all creation—the kingship of God over all the works of his own hands—the throne of God, and his right to sit upon that throne.” (Charles Spurgeon, Sermon on Matt 20:15)

Daniel Budd

Life getting a little crazy?

Today’s readings are from Exodus 37 and Acts 19.

God does crazy things! Sometimes obviously crazy things – like using hankerchiefs that had touched Paul to bring healing to the sick. Sometimes more subtle, but equally crazy things. Acts 19 tells a couple of crazy stories with unexpected results.

The first is about “some of the itinerant Jewish exorcists undertook to invoke the name of the Lord Jesus over those who had evil spirits, saying, “I adjure you by the Jesus whom Paul proclaims.” (Acts 19:13)

These guys were trying to use a power they had seen but had no idea about. Imagine our outrage at such a blatant abuse and manipulation of the name of Jesus. I’d probably want to stop it, warn people against it and plead on God to intervene so that people know the truth of him and not see him as one to be manipulated. My plan may make sense from a human level, but God had a crazy plan. He allowed them to go about their stuff, and as they did they encountered an evil spirit who challenges them:

Jesus I know, and Paul I recognize, but who are you?” And the man in whom was the evil spirit leaped on them, mastered all of them and overpowered them, so that they fled out of that house naked and wounded. (Acts 19:15)

Fair enough. They had it coming to them. But the crazy plan isn’t how he deals with the exorcists, but how he deals with his people through it;

And a number of those who had practiced magic arts brought their books together and burned them in the sight of all. And they counted the value of them and found it came to fifty thousand pieces of silver. (Acts 19:19)

Through an abuse and manipulation of the name of Jesus, God executes a crazy plan where people voluntarily come in confession and repentance with the result being that “the word of the Lord continued to increase and prevail mightily.” (Acts 19:20)

I’m glad I wasn’t around to get in the way!

The second story is of the riot in Ephesus. We read “About that time there arose no little disturbance concerning the Way.” (Acts 19:23). No little disturbance I bet! People were scared of losing money personally as well as status for the town. This was a massive event in which the apostle Paul feared for his life (see 2 Corinthians 1 & 2 Timothy 4:14-18.).

Eventually the town clerk comes to the rescue and settles the crowd, saying;

But if you seek anything further, it shall be settled in the regular assembly. For we really are in danger of being charged with rioting today, since there is no cause that we can give to justify this commotion. (Acts 19:39-40)

Even by the town clerk’s standards, they hadn’t done anything wrong but had been treated so unjustly. Again, think of our outrage as we watch injustice play out. Yet again, God has a crazy plan (or two). We read in Ephesians of the community of Ephesus who are “faithful in Christ Jesus” of whom Paul says “I do not cease to give thanks for you”.

Through this riot and “no little disturbance”, God had a crazy plan to grow an amazing local church that worked together to display the love of Christ in Jesus. And not only that, but through this riot, God had a crazy plan to shape his servant Paul, so that in all things and at all times he would have an unshakable hope in the provision of God.

I’m glad I wasn’t there to stop the riot. (haha – would have been a funny sight though).

I’m not at all suggesting we should seek injustice or manipulation of the name and power of Jesus, nor sit idly while others do, but it strikes me how God has plans that we may think are a bit crazy. Maybe things seem a little crazy in your life at the moment. Take some time to ask God how he is shaping you, and trust that even in life’s craziness, God works for his good purposes. You never know what unexpected results he might be bringing.