The light spread but the darkness comprehended it not.
Hendriksen suggests four events and four words to summarise this period :
Reformation: cleansing the temple – the prophetic office takes God’s word. Preachers deviate from that at their peril and the diminishing of their authority. His zeal would make us uncomfortable today. The temple was cleansed at the start and end of his ministry -no change! John 2:23-25 discussed with reference to the miracles and the shallow faith PhD these disciples
Regeneration: the necessity of this. There is then a responsibility on our part to believe – we are without excuse.
Recessional – John 3:25-30 John the Baptist’s humility. Any suspicion of rivalry is scotched by John 3:30 contrast with his disciples’ party spirit. There are dangers here for us but we must be discerning in a day of great confusion.
My notes for these two sessions, 19th and 26th May, are contained in a mind map which you are welcome to explore, follow this link.
It was delightful to have three godly American pastors minister to us on the 28th April. Pastor Eric Maynard from Flushing, Michigan kindly agreed to take the Doctrine Class and, for once, we recorded the meeting which was about that famous verse, ‘Judge not that ye be not judged’. Follow the links below:
Israel had numerous threats and allies. Suzerainty is where a region is tributary to a more powerful entity which control over affairs of state although the suzerain allows limited domestic autonomy. Tributes and obligations were set out in treaties. Makes it easy to see what a temptation it was to make a deal with the neighbors if threatened by another. Hendriksen dates Malachi with Joel, but Calvin says Joel does not give us a date since the Holy Spirit intends the message to be timeless: i.e. of repentance. The Persian empire. Zechariah 6:12-13 And speak unto him, saying, Thus speaketh the Lord of hosts, saying, Behold the man whose name is The BRANCH; and he shall grow up out of his place, and he shall build the temple of the Lord : Even he shall build the temple of the Lord ; and he shall bear the glory, and shall sit and rule upon his throne; and he shall be a priest upon his throne: and the counsel of peace shall be between them both. At this time the there was a watering down of the Jews. Removing repentance or softening it or externalising the law’s demands they evaluate God from their religion. Perhaps for some their intentions were good. Hedging the law with their tradition. So there are dangers on many sides. We must be subject to the Word of God. It is a good test of a commentator. Matthew 5:20 For I say unto you, That except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven. Irony here of the heart being vile , utterly so in God’s okeyes, while the outward appearance is good.
Bob Lewington took today’s class. Reading Psalm 115: especially the verses about idols. The dates of the Exile are given by Hendriksen as 586BC (fall Of Jerusalem) until 536BC (fall of Babylon).
Crowns and thrones may perish, kingdoms rise and wane,
But the church of Jesus constant will remain.
Gates of hell can never gainst that church prevail;
We have Christ’s own promise, and that cannot fail….
Matt 24:35 Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass. The wonderful solidity of Christ’s kingdom!
597-586 Zedekiah: a bad king: And he did [that which was] evil in the sight of the LORD, as his fathers had done: he departed not from the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat (2 Kings 15:9).
There were actually quite a few ‘exiles’ incurred by the Assyrians and the Babylonians.
Initially some presumptuously thought their exile would be short, in spite of Jeremiah’s message to them to settle down where they were. Jehoiakim even cut and burned God’s message from Jeremiah! (Jeremiah 36) How hard are people’s hearts! When the temple was sacked, they lapsed into hopelessness! (Psalm 137). God sent Ezekiel to inspire the exiles (Ezek 33-36), and Daniel intercedes for them. Thus followed a season of revived hopefulness. But even that led to sinful indifference with many who chose to stay in exile rather than return to help restore Jerusalem.
Hendriksen says that the exile can be viewed as serving three purposes:
- Punishment for sin: we linked with this morning’s sermon which emphasised the holiness of God.
- Purging and sanctification for the remnant
- God’s people were a blessing to those whom they dwelt amongst
Micah 5:7 And the remnant of Jacob shall be in the midst of many people as a dew from the Lord, as the showers upon the grass, that tarrieth not for man, nor waiteth for the sons of men
We need heavenly dew as we dwell as dew amongst the world.
We sang 291 ‘How sweet the name of Jesus sounds’
Revolutionary times and domination for Judah – hard to imagine and a cause for doubt. Assyrian exile – 3 deportations. 1&2 was the 10 tribes, 3rd included Judah. Babylonian exile – 4 deportations
Isaiah 39 Hezekiah, blessed and delivered but pride arose in his heart: ‘my house’, ‘my treasures’
2 Chron 32 ‘his heart was lifted up’ – severe punishment? Severe sin. We can become proud if blessed! Perverse! See Matthew Henry: blessed Paul needed a thorn in the flesh to help him cope with the revelations given him. How we need to watch over our spirits when others look upon our possessions, it must be in the region of grieving the Spirit. Irony in the punishment upon the sin.
Manasseh’s wicked reign coincided with the rise of Assyria’s Empire. But his repentance was as famous, even in his old age, the mirror image of his father.
We ought not to look to a man. Hezekiah, as a king, was a bad example of godliness. The aggravation of sin! How stupid sin is, pride here – where does that emerge from.
The Lord is a Jealous God, we can measure the seriousness of sin by God’s reaction to it: the fall, the flood, etc.
Calvary itself is the best ‘view’ to get a sense of the seriousness of sin and the holiness of God.
Manasseh repented but the consequences are still in place – sin casting a long shadow.
2 Chron 36:14-17 ’till there was no remedy’ – We face a similar circumstance – as the church and nation descends into ever deeper godlessness. The grace of God sent messengers – those prophets came in a marked concentration during this period. Looking forward – the gospel thread is apparent in the prophecies of course.
Helpful books: Gareth Crossley’s OT, and Alec Motyer’s. We should understand scripture in order to read it. Challenge to read background and context of a book.
Jeremiah’s theme is the certainty of judgement and yet the eternity of God’s love. Jer 7:32-34 vs Jer 29:10-14
‘The terror of law and of God, with me can have nothing to do; my Saviour’s obedience and blood hide all my transgressions from view’.
In Jeremiah we also have the gospel foreshadowed in the way the law is written on the fleshy tables of the heart and it is here that we must guard grieving the Spirit with our pride and other such heart sins.
Looking for the Saviour in the Old Testament, we were reminded, that the Lord as well as Jeremiah wept over the temple’s destruction, both were also accused of treason.
At the Birmingham Conference.
Popular belief is chance. Biblical truth is God’s providence.
But even Christians fail to recognise providence in ordinary events and nature: we say, ‘Really providential’ for great things.
Flavel’s work on this is based on Ps57:3 but how much more needing to emphasise in this say.
‘Seeing beforehand’ and ordering events presupposing wisdom and power to perform them. See the shorter chatechism. Creation, providence and redemption but the latter is part of, the supreme work of his providence.
All is in his care. Individual Christians and as a church, and all cosmos – 3 ‘windows’ or contexts of God’s activity. Paul in Acts 27. All ships are under God’s care, but that ship was preserved. General providence over Paul’s ship and his life in particular. Rom 11:36
Elements of providence: eternal, sovereign (independence is God’s – not a single act of anyone is outside God’s providence). ‘The God who risks’ – denies foreknowledge of God! If he does not know the future, how can he help us?! Providence is also vast, holy, wise and powerful – brings good out of evil.
The observation of providence. God has two ‘books’: His Word and His Providence. Study them together. Providence is God’s word accomplished.
Also in order to avoid His displeasure. Also so as to praise God – Ps107: their plight and deliverance. We are to praise Got for this. Ps 111: we have pleaSure in these things, we marvel at His deliverance. And so that we look for answers to prayer – look for the signature of your own prayers or backsliding on providences. We come to know God better through these providences: discoving himself suitably: high over us. God owes us no explanations. We owe him implicit trust.
It gives certainty to our work: General Stonewall Jackson: as safe in a battle as in his bed.
The seasonableness of a mercy makes it so much flavour to it. Jesse sent David to the camp, led to defeat of Goliath.
Will God cure Naaman via a little maid? Will the Israelites be freed by a heathen king. Blessings come through several iron gates: Boston had so many problems!
So we must recognise the providence. To deny it is the same as denying his existence.
Flavel: so many professing Christians are practical atheists. God-fearing people think of God’s hand when hard things happen. Turning away from God whereas our forefathers would hold days of prayer and everything governed by a sense of God’s providence: saying ‘Lord willing’, or ‘if all’s well’, saying grace before and after meat. Ps 107: God delivered these people and the summons to praise Him: Ps 107:43
Captivity of Jews was for their good. Each providence comes with the love of God, personally ‘wrapped’, not fate or chance or God setting the universe in order. Warfield’s illustration of a lad playing near a windmill.
Everything is now under the feet of Christ: for his church and believers. 1000 friendly hands are working in the favour of the Christian. Rom8:28
Man-centred age wanting a problem free Christianity. Wimber wants power evangelism and faith curing. But raw perseverance in incredible suffering is the real triumph of faith. The pattern is laid down by Christ himself, leading to more use in the life and then in the glory. Spurgeon: God gets his best soldiers from the highlands of affliction. DM Lloyd-Jones: we are on too good terms with ourselves.
We are chosen in the furnace of affliction. Sickness has been of more use to the Christian than health. Workshop downstairs, showroom above (Ferguson). The dark threads are as necessary as the golden.