Why believe the Bible?

The history of the Southern Kingdom of Israel teaches us an important aspect of God’s character.  They had the Law with the blessings if they obeyed and the grave results if they broke the Law. 1  What does God teach us about His character in the exile of the Southern kingdom?

#  God’s covenant

God’s covenant included the Southern kingdom.  Because of sin, they rejected and neglected the Covenant.  Nothing would change their disastrous course,  ‘The Lord, the God of their fathers, sent word to them through His messengers again and again, because He had pity on His people and on His dwelling place.  But they mocked God’s messengers, despised His words and scoffed at HIs prophets until the wrath of the Lord was aroused against His people and there was no remedy.  He brought up against them the king of the Babylonians who killed their young men with the sword in the sanctuary, and spared neither young man nor young woman, old man or aged….’ 2

#  Was God unfair and cruel?

The written book of the Law was a constant reminder of the requirements of the Covenant.  Why didn’t God just pass over their rebellion, since they are His own people?  God couldn’t.  If He did, people would begin to doubt the truth of His word.  Eventually it would mean that God might decide to pass over His promise of eternal life.  If God could ‘forget’ one part of His promises, why not another part?

#  Can we trust Scripture? 

Yes, when God speaks (in Scripture) He acts,  ‘God is not a man that He should lie, nor a son of man that He should change His mind.  Does He speak and then not act?  Does He promise and not fulfil?’ 3

Whenever God warned people to obey and they refused to change, God always acted.

#  God punishes, but His compassion doesn’t stop.

Doing what He promised is a victory for God’s righteousness, integrity and faithfulness.  Yet He never closes the door to those who are sorry for their rebellion and disobediences: ‘Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for His compassions never fail.  They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.’ 4

What is the lesson?

The historical examples in the Bible teach about God’s faithfulness.   When He speaks, He acts.  That is wonderful news, because it means our hope of eternal life is very secure: God will ‘deliver.’

References

  1. Leviticus 26:14-46 and Deuteronomy 28:15-68
  2. 2 Chronicles 36:15-17
  3. Numbers 23:19
  4. Lamentations 3:22-23

One of the privileges of God’s new ‘Family’

In God’s New Covenant His family is scattered all over the world.  It is different from the Old Covenant where one man’s sin influenced the whole nation.  We want to look at the example of Achan to show the difference.

#  The ‘family’ principle of the Old Covenant

  • Israel was one big family.  In the Old Covenant the Israelite nation was one big ‘family.’  What one person did influenced the whole community.  When they made a covenant with God at Sinai, the nation as a whole was responsible to God.  All twelve tribes agreed to keep the commands of God.  The Old Testament laws specifically deal only with the nation of Israel.
  • So what Achan did influenced the whole nation.  When the conquest of Canaan began, God told the Israelites that the first city they conquered was devoted to Him.  All Jericho’s treasures belonged to God and the Tabernacle.  They could take nothing for themselves.  Nobody knew that Achan took a beautiful robe from Babylonia, two hundred shekels of sliver and a wedge of gold weighing fifty shekels. 1
  • It caused the defeat at Ai.  Subsequent to the conquest of Jericho, the Israelites sent a small contingent of soldiers to conquer Ai.  They were defeated and 36 men were killed. 2  It was a direct result of Achan’s sin that husbands and fathers died.  Even though the Israelites did not know what Achan did, the whole nation suffered.
  • The nation reacted with shock.
    • ‘…the hearts of the people melted and became like water.’ 3
    • ‘…Joshua tore his clothes and fell face down to the ground before the ark of the Lord, remaining there till the evening.’ 4
  • God was not amused.  He asked Joshua, ’What are you doing down on your face?’ 5   
      • Israel has sinned; they have violated my covenant, which I commanded them to keep.’ 6
    • They have taken some of the devoted things; they have stolen, they have lied, they have put them with their own possessions.’ 7

One man’s sin affected the nation.

#  God’s new nation

With God’s universal invitation to all nations to join His Kingdom, His people are scattered all over the world. 8  There is no way that those millions of followers of Jesus can be treated as one.  So the individual follower of Jesus, who has the Holy Spirit to guide him/her, is personally responsible to God.

Application

Even if God’s family is scattered, our walk with God still effects others.  Jesus said, ‘You are the salt of the earth….   You are the light of the world….’ 9  With the Holy Spirit’s guidance and help, we can be positive ‘Achans’ in society, spreading the sweet savour of our Lord Jesus.

References

  1. Joshua 7:20-21
  2. Joshua 7
  3. Joshua 7:5c
  4. Joshua 7:6
  5. Joshua 7:10
  6. Joshua 7:11
  7. Joshua 7:11b
  8. 1 Peter 1:1-2
  9. Matthew 5:13-14

The Parable of the Cyclist

There was a certain cyclist who loved to cycle, exercise, eat healthy food and be active.  Then there was another person: he was slightly overweight, unfit and did not like exercise, especially cycling.

#  Both were summoned to appear before the Court of Health and Fitness.

  • Number 1 passed with flying colours.  He/she raved about his love for cycling, exercise and a healthy diet.
  • Number 2 complained: they cannot be judged by the same standards!  The difference between them is too stark.  Number 1 was born with the right genes, loves discipline, exercise and has the right body frame for it.  Number 2 has different genes, lacks discipline, has a slow metabolism and  craves the wrong food.

#  If he is fair, the judge has to concede that the argument is valid.

They were not created equal.  Nobody is perfect, but some are nearer.  So the judge has a brilliant plan: because of the advance of technology, he can implant a chip into the brain of anyone who is interested.

  • The chip will cause people to love discipline, exercise (even cycling) and a healthy diet.  Nobody in his or her right mind would refuse, since science proved that the implantation of the chip has no deleterious effects.
  • The chip ‘equalises’ all people who accept it.  Those who refuse the implantation, have to find a way to escape judgement by the Minister of Health and Fitness.

#  What is the point of the parable?

It explains the difference between the Old and the New Testaments.  The Old Testament laws asked people to be disciplined, to sacrifice and to keep to the right way.  Some people might object at Judgement that it was easier for others, than for them.  The Judge (God) will have to concede their point because people are different.

#  God supplied a ‘chip.’

This is explained in Jeremiah 31:31-33, ‘The time is coming…when I will make a new covenant (the ‘Chip’) with the house of Israel…because they broke my covenant….   This is the covenant…I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts….’  Jesus is the ‘Chip’ who changes people’s hearts and gives them the personal Trainer, the Holy Spirit, to ‘tune their hearts’ to want to do what pleases God.  That makes all people equal, even though we are all different.  Nobody will be able to claim that they were unable to live the life Jesus planned.

Conclusion

People have to realise the need before they will accept the solution.  That is what the Old Testament shows: the Israelites could not make it (as explained in Jeremiah 31:31-34).  There was an urgent need for a solution to ‘equalise’ all people before God and give them all a fair chance before the Judge.  This the Judge Himself supplied in Jesus and the Holy Spirit.

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