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RMM RoundUp December 7

Wed. Dec. 07, 2016By: Paul Carter

2 Chronicles 7

According to a recent Christianity Today article the most searched for Bible verse during the 2016 American Presidential election cycle was 2 Chronicles 7:14.  The verse reads as follows in the ESV:

if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land. (2 Chronicles 7:14 ESV)

It isn’t very often that a verse from 2 Chronicles tops any kind of list so it is worth wondering why it is that this particular verse is being read and studied by so many people at this particular time.

The verse itself comes from a section of the book where Solomon is overseeing the dedication of the Temple. In 2 Chronicles 6:12-42 Solomon prays to God and asks him to attend to the prayers that will be offered in the temple. The body of the prayer finishes with the words:

Now, O my God, let your eyes be open and your ears attentive to the prayer of this place. (2 Chronicles 6:40 ESV)

In 2 Chronicles 7 God seems to respond positively to Solomon’s prayer by sending fire from heaven to consume the offering and by manifesting his Presence in the temple in a powerful and palpable sense - so much so that the priests are unable to enter. Subsequent to that, the Lord appears to Solomon in a dream and it is in that dream that God spoke the words that were so commonly searched for and studied during the recent Presidential election.

if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land. (2 Chronicles 7:14 ESV)

The most important question for contemporary Bible readers, one would assume, would have to do with the applicability of this promise to Christians living in America or Canada or anywhere else interested in national revival.

In its original context the response of God to Solomon indicated his willingness to grant forgiveness and healing in response to humble prayer made in the temple. It further indicated his “nearness” through the sacrifices and worship offered therein. When we “transpose” this passage into a New Testament key it takes on a slightly different meaning.

In the New Testament Jesus is the temple of the Lord (John 2:19) and the new meeting place between God and man. He is also “the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). Therefore, in the New Testament era I think we would want to understand this verse as promising forgiveness, healing and intimacy with God through the life and death of Jesus as well as providing assurances that God will hear every prayer offered by his people in Jesus’ Name. 

Therefore, I’m not sure that 2 Chronicles 7:14 can bear the specific weight it is being asked to bear by American Christians. The “my people” in the original context referred to the nation of Israel; transposed into the New Testament it would refer to God’s elect from every tribe, tongue and nation.

God doesn’t “heal nations” in the New Testament, he saves people. Therefore, revival in our day is to be sought in the reconciliation of men, women, boys and girls to God through the person of Jesus Christ.

May it be so in our day.

For more help on figuring out which promises in the Bible are for you, see this excellent article by Jen Wilkin.

2 John 1

John’s second epistle appears to have a single theme: the centrality of truth and love. The two words represent the twin heartbeat of this letter.

1 The elder to the elect lady and her children, whom I love in truth, and not only I, but also all who know the truth, 2 because of the truth that abides in us and will be with us forever: 3 Grace, mercy, and peace will be with us, from God the Father and from Jesus Christ the Father’s Son, in truth and love4 I rejoiced greatly to find some of your children walking in the truth, just as we were commanded by the Father. 5 And now I ask you, dear lady—not as though I were writing you a new commandment, but the one we have had from the beginning—that we love one another(2 John 1:1–5 ESV)  

In essence those are the two fixed points that any real church must maintain a firm hold of. If we loosen our grip on truth we become either idolatrous or sentimental. If we lose our grip on love we become cold and legalistic. A good church is as committed to the one as they are to the other.

But let us be careful not think of these as two separate things. They are not the same thing, but they can never be separated, in deed John says:

And this is love, that we walk according to his commandments (2 John 1:6 ESV)

We love by paying attention to the truth claims of the Bible! Luther delighted in this particular aspect of Holy Scripture. Luther abhorred the idea of a crass, sentimental, “content-less” love. He taught the children in his church to love by keeping the law. His Shorter Catechism aims to help children understand that they love each other by respecting property (commandment 8), telling the truth (commandment 9) and by meeting physical needs (commandment 6). They love God by respecting the Lord’s Day (commandment 4) and by worshipping God in the way he has prescribed (commandment 2). Each of the commandments becomes an instruction manual in the great goal of loving God and others. In this way, truth and love work together!

Christian love is never mere sentiment, as John said in his previous Epistle:

Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth. (1 John 3:18 ESV)

Sentiment is overrated - charity and truth is where its at!

Habakkuk 2

Habakkuk is a hard book to read. It isn’t a prophecy per se, rather it is the answer to a complaint made by a prophet to God. Habakkuk’s complaint had to do with whether it was just for God to use a wicked nation to punish his people for their sins. In essence the prophet had said to God: “Yes, your people are sinful, I concede that. Yes we have fallen away and fallen into idolatry and immorality but we are still far better than the Babylonians! How could you use people like that to punish us?”

In typical fashion God answered only part of the prophet’s question. God is not obligated to answer every question that we have and questions about his own justice are rarely well received. In the New Testament Paul says:

What shall we say then? Is there injustice on God’s part? By no means! (Romans 9:14 ESV)

And:

who are you, O man, to answer back to God? (Romans 9:20 ESV)

God is just and everything he does is right. We tend to view his judicial actions through the lens of our self interest and so our judgment is not given ultimate weight in Holy Scripture. Generally speaking, human beings are not the best judges of what is right and fair.

God tells Habakkuk that he knows very well what is going on in the world and he has plans in place to deal with the treachery of Babylon. He knows more about their wickedness than Habakkuk could ever imagine. God knows, God sees and God judges. In the end no one gets away with anything. But for now, Babylon remains a branch in the hands of the Lord and he will use it, as he sees fit, upon the backside of his people.

God does not answer to Habakkuk and he does what is right in his own eyes.

At the conclusion of the book the prophet has a new disposition:

I will quietly wait for the day of trouble to come upon people who invade us. (Habakkuk 3:16 ESV)

I will take joy in the God of my salvation. (Habakkuk 3:18 ESV)

In street level English the prophet says: “I will shut up now and trust you to do what is right. I will remember who you are and what you’ve done in the past and I will rejoice in the God of my salvation.”

You can always trust God to do what best serves his glory and the final salvation of his people. You cannot always trust yourself to understand His ways and means.

Luke 21

If you would like to read a reflection on the “Olivet Discourse” which dominates the second half of Luke 21 see the RMM RoundUp for July 14th where we discussed the discourse as it appears in Matthew’s Gospel. Having covered that ground already we are at liberty to reflect upon the wonderful story of the widow’s mite.

The widow’s mite is one of a handful stories in the New Testament that serve to illustrate the Christian heart for giving. The New Testament does not lay down a new set of laws for tithing and the absence of such a set of laws has inspired debates as to how much and how little modern day believers should give. Most agree that the Old Testament laws cannot carry over directly given that there the new covenant community is not a nation, as it was in the Old Testament, but is rather a cluster of people from every tribe, tongue and nation gathering together in cities and towns all over the world! Some of what was paid for by tithes in the Old Testament is now paid for by taxes and so the issue is a little more complicated than some folks tend to recognize. It isn’t as simple as saying that “Christians should give 10%” - after all, the Old Testament tithe rate was 23% if you add it all together - and a bunch of that money went to support a temple that no longer exists in doing sacrifices that are no longer required. Obviously we need to transpose this Old Testament law into a New Testament key and the widow’s mite is one of the stories that helps us do that.

Read the story (Luke 21:1-4) and then read Acts 2:42-47 and Acts 4:32-37. As those passages settle on you it is likely the following principles will begin to appear self evident:

1. Everything we “own” should be understood as a stewardship from God. It belongs to him and has been entrusted to us.

2. God expects us to use what we have to take care of the family of God and to advance the mission of the church.

3. Giving should be done through the church. Gifts were laid at the Apostle’s feet; the widow’s mite was put into the treasury - we don’t designate our gifts to one project or another so as to control the direction or focus of a ministry. There is safety and humility in submitting our gifts to the oversight of a group of leaders.

4. The Christian “tithe” rate is 100%. You give EVERYTHING to God because he has given everything to you. You spend some of your stewardship on your most immediate ministry - your family - and the rest goes into the community pot.

5. Christians should be wrestling with the question “how much should I keep” as opposed to “how much do I have to give”. The goal is to think about money from a community perspective.

To be clear, the New Testament does not outlaw private property. The fact that people could sell stuff means that they owned stuff. What it does do is outlaw selfishness and narrowness. If you see a need and you have resources, meet the need as if were your own. Because it is. The church should do such a good job of taking care of its own people that outsiders will say: “See how they love one another!”.  All of the pictures of giving in the New Testament are pictures of “all in”, “hold nothing back” giving. The widow’s mite is a big part of that picture. Technically speaking, she didn’t even have to tithe. 10% of nothing is nothing. But she found something that represented everything and she went all in. That is the HEART of Christian giving.

It is beyond law.

It is love.

Thanks be to God!

Our heavenly Father, hear our prayer through the intercession of Jesus Christ. Because of his life and his death on our behalf forgive our sins and heal our bodies. Help us to walk in truth and love. Keep us in our most holy faith and help us to love one another in tangible and practical ways. Teach us to wait for you as you work your purposes in the world. Show us your will and use us for your glory and for the good of your people. Help us to reach our friends and neighbours. They seem so hard and so far from believing. Soften their hearts and open their ears to the Gospel. Have mercy O Lord! Help us, we ask, for we are weak and humble and our eyes are upon you. Hear our prayers because of Christ, in whose name we pray, amen.

Pastor Paul Carter

N.B.  RMM Roundup assumes the Bible reading guide also known as “The M’Cheyne Bible Reading Plan”.  You can find a single page version of the 1 year plan here: http://www.edginet.org/mcheyne/year_classic_single_letter.pdf and a version of the 2 year plan here: http://www.edginet.org/mcheyne/year_carson_a4.pdf

Category: RMM, General


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