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Monday, April 28, 2014

Revival and Reformation Pt 4: Building a Head of Steam


[Click on the link and listen to the Sermon Audio File while perusing the manuscript below]
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Revival and Reformation Pt. 4
Building a Head of Steam

Now, Lord God, as we move into the action of 1 and 2 Chronicles, grant us the ears to hear what we need to hear so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. Amen.

When you’re up to your eye-balls in trouble and trauma, it is very easy to get swallowed up and drown. When you can’t get your head above the water line enough to see the rescue boat speeding your way, desperation and defeat can set in and drag you under. What we need in those moments is some way to see beyond the storm so that we get our bearings, and everything is put back in proper perspective. That’s something of what is going on here in Chronicles.

Before launching into 19 straight chapters on David – his reign, feats and enterprises – the Spirit-guided editors/historians bring us – out of the blue – to the end of Saul’s life. We get plopped down, like a great Shakespearean play, right in the middle of a main scene. The suddenness is an attention-getter, which is one reason for the editors doing this. The other reason we begin at the end of Saul’s life may not at first sight be obvious – thanks to chapter breaks – but we are back to another contrast (much like 5.18-26). For the disheartened and discouraged folks returning from exile, slinking their way back into the land, (1) the message is intended to say clearly: Not that way, but this way. (2) But also, the whole David section (Chapters 11 through 29) is aimed at rekindling their hopes and anticipations that “a shoot from the stump of Jesse” will “come forth” (Isaiah 11.1). And they are to yearningly look for one who is like David.

***Observe the pattern of 10.1-11.9: Downhill flow in chapter 10 is reversed chapter 11.1-9.

Things Fall apart (10.1-12) [a title from the Southern Catholic fiction writer Flannery O’Connor]
Israel runs (1)
Sons die (2)
Saul dies (3-6)
Israel runs (7)
Philistines desecrate (8-10)
Exception (11-12) – the honorable men of Jabesh-Gilead. This story has the same kind of flavor as the story of the woman who anointed Jesus “beforehand for burial.” There Jesus promised, “And truly, I say to you, wherever the gospel is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will be told in memory of her” (Mark 14.3-9).

Faith Breaking (10.13-14). Westminster Confession of Faith 3.1: “God, from all eternity, did, by the most wise and holy counsel of His own will freely, and unchangeably ordain whatsoever comes to pass: yet so, as thereby neither is God the author of sin, nor is violence offered to the will of the creatures; nor is the liberty or contingency of second causes taken away, but rather established.” This section clears up the clutter of rationalizing, excuse-making, and spin-doctoring. (1) There’s no wiggle room; it gives no truck for lawyering-up. These two verses are like a biblical knuckle-sandwich, something of a divine jab to the solar plexus, for the purpose of knocking the wind of excuse-making and down-playing out of our lungs, so that we recognize clearly who this God is, and what he requires of us (WSC 3). (2) The people of Israel were in exile for acting just like their first king (9.1), and if they wanted to know what they needed to remediate so it didn’t happen again, this was the primary place to start. Don’t walk in the steps of Saul; turn your back on that way (and by implication, turn your face toward the Savior). (3) But, finally, it brings out the glaring contrast with chapter 11.

Things Fill Up (11.1-3). “Then” relays the contrastive connection with chapter 10. Unlike Saul, where he was experiencing diminishment and defeat, David is being filled up. // Even though this is the first anointing as king at Hebron by Judah, yet the editors (in their economizing) are making it stand for David being handed the whole kingdom (de facto then de jure). // Unlike Saul, who in his faith-breaking life experienced decline and the disapproval of God, David undergoes God’s pleasure, God’s promises, and God’s prospering.  (And so, around which star should you toss your lasso?)

Fighting Fine (11.4-9). And here is the first example that shows the polar opposite of what Saul went through. David defeats the Jebusites and captures their capital city. V.5 He took the stronghold; V.7 he lived in the stronghold; V.8 he built up the stronghold (Just as our Lord describes his launching the kingdom in earnest by his coming and defeating demons: “When a strong man, fully armed, guards his own palace, his goods are safe; but when one stronger than he attacks him and overcomes him, he takes away his armor in which he trusted and divides his spoil” (Luke 11.21-22). Already a bright day is dawning anew on God’s people, because it is dawning anew on God’s anointed one, as summarized in v.9.  And if God’s anointed one is becoming “greater and greater, for the LORD of hosts was with him” so also it is going with God’s chosen people. David’s being blessed overflows to them; David’s triumph becomes their; David’s success makes them successful; David’s satisfying walk with God spills over to them; etc (this relationship between king and country will flesh out in all the rest of 1 Chronicles).

1.     In this section we see the principle of 2 Chronicles 20.20d laid out and the anti-principle, if you will. This is meant to reassure the returning rag-tag remnants of Israel that God’s pattern was experienced by their 1st and 2nd king, and they can bank on it for themselves (Galatians 6.7). And as we saw last week, Paul tells us in Romans 15.4, that this was written for us; to spawn endurance in us and to encourage us to have hope. The offer is there: If we will turn our back on Saul’s ways and embrace David’s – and for us, the Greater Son of David, then we will know God’s stabilizing power in our church and lives.  Isaiah 26.3-4 “You will keep you in perfect peace…” and “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world” (John 16.33)!

2.     Likewise, notice that in both chapter 10 and 11.1-9, God’s people are confronted by God-resisters. Philistines and Jebusites did not want God’s kingdom to expand, grow and flourish. But because of Saul’s faith-breaking, God allows his kingdom of God to take a step back; whereas through David’s faith-keeping God furthered his dominion. This also would have been the point to the returning exiles surrounded by God-resisters like he Tobiahs and Sanballats and Geshams the Arab and the rest of their enemies (Nehemiah 6.1): Keep faith with the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and he will be with you (Psalm 44). And the message is there for us as well, as we too are surrounded by God-resisters who will use force, legislation, the judiciary, media, educational establishment, shame and ridicule, and worse, to oppose the Kingdom of Jesus. But our hope is in the name of the Lord – the Lord Jesus, to whom has been given all authority in both heaven and earth. This does not mean instantaneous triumphalism, for there will still be IEDs, Firefights, wounds, concussions and hardships until Jesus returns riding forth with the two-edged sword projecting from his mouth, treading out “the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God Almighty” (Revelation 19.15). Until that day we look to and follow the King who leads us out: cross before the crown; the gore before the glory (Hebrews 12.2-3). Nevertheless success is inevitable. Until that day, we keep faith and “share in suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus” (2 Timothy 2.3).

3.     But lastly, the deep connection between the King and the country; the Ruler and the ruled. What is his spills over to us. His righteousness before the Father cloaks us; his death for sin becomes ours, and his rising justified turns out to be for us. His being the Son in whom the Father is well-pleased transfers to those identified with him. “The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him” (Romans 8.16-17).


The Holy Spirit inspired editors are saying to us: this is the way of real, genuine revival and reformation; so walk in it, for it is the good way where you will find rest (Jeremiah 6.16).

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