Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Hear! Hear!

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Live within the hearing of God's word... but there are Three Types of Expository Preaching.

You wouldn't think it would be hard for God's people to listen to his word.... yet even today Godly men have to stand up to defend God's word from those who would undermine it. The human story is one of persistent defiance of God's word. Yet as the book of 2 Chronicles approaches it's end the tide appears to be turning... Josiah was the last of the good kings of Judah. He 'found' the law, that had been lost. And then he read it to the people! He cleared out the temple, instituted the passover. And yet within 22 years of the high point of his reign all was lost. Of all the Kings he was faithful, of all of them he knew the voice of God. Theirs was a classic case of the movement from gospel-loving to gospel-denying. But how?

For some reason he went off to the Euphrates to fight King Neco of Egypt who was there to fight someone else (Babylon?). This was a battle he didn't belong in. What was he doing? We're not told. But, surprisingly we are told that God spoke to Josiah through Neco, saying that Neco was ok to fight these guys but Josiah had to go home. Josiah refuses, disguises himself to fight and is caught by an arrow... dying just like Ahab the King who hated God by hating his word... and thus the man who would mostly have delivered God's word to Josiah, Jeremiah, is left to lament with all God's people.

Neco rearranges the furniture for Israel before Nebuchadnezzar arrives from Babylon. Not for the final blow that would destroy them (see Daniel 1) since that's not what God has yet ordained. Nonetheless Judah remain rebellions - getting through kings quicker than a football club in decline through their managers. Three months, eleven years, three months, eleven years. And amidst them the shock of a King aged eight who does great evil in God's sight, even in only 100 days on the throne - so much for innocent children.

King Nebuchadnezzar tells them to obey their God. Presumably he wants them to obey their God so that they'll be fruitful - which is good for him when he comes to skim off whatever he wants. But they don't listen to God's voice through King Nebuchadnezzar anymore than they did through King Neco. God continues in patience and compassion, sending messenger after messenger... their words unrecorded but we know the deal - "repent and all will be forgiven... turn to the temple and seek your God..." - instead they defile the place God has set for them meet with him. So finally, God sends King Nebuchadnezzar to kill them and destroy the temple. There was no other remedy for his right wrath... No remedy remained.

Where can they go from here...
  • The spluttering postscript. Words are borrowed from the start of Ezra in 36v22-23. These words make things all the more tragic. We come full circle to the start of the book - another King comes to build a temple for the LORD, speaking God's word. But this is a foreign king... and the temple he comissions will never have the glory. The years of the return from exile spell nothing but disappointment. Seventy years away but nothing will really have changed... God sanctions and leads their return but it is another false dawn. Another shadow of reality.
  • The land get's rest! Repentance would have brought a healing of the land. Now the land is left in sabbath to recover. One imagines creation breathing a sigh of relief as the evil 'people of God' are evicted.
  • Is all hope lost? The story of God's people, generations of hope for the coming of Great David's greater son end in disaster... the story ending in 2 Chronicles 36v21 with the land in rest. The King hasn't come. No totally pure king. No eternal king. Nothing has been able to stop the rot. Can there be any way back? Only when God is again merciful, not to send another prophet into his vineyard, but rather his own Son. Every other messenger has been ignored before (whether kings or prophets...) and He too will be mocked and indeed killed... but bearing wrath in his death he establishes true worship (humble orthodoxy) - because he will bring God's presence perfectly among his people - he will rule perfectly and forever - he will listen to everything his Father says, for he will be the word incarnate. Without the knowledge of the coming of Jesus Christ, 2 Chronicles is nothing but despair and emptiness... we share the laments of Jeremiah - for them, and for our own fickle hearts... and we throw ourselves upon the mercy of the Word.

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