Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Mercy and Monarchy

This is probably one of my favourite quotes:

One day as I was passing into the field . . . this sentence fell upon my soul. Thy righteousness is in heaven. And methought, withal, I saw with the eyes of my soul Jesus Christ at God's right hand; there, I say, was my righteousness; so that wherever I was, or whatever I was doing, God could not say of me, he wants [=lacks] my righteousness, for that was just before him. I also saw, moreover, that it was not my good frame of heart that made my righteousness better, nor yet my bad frame that made my righteousness worse, for my righteousness was Jesus Christ himself, "The same yesterday, today, and forever." Heb. 13:8. Now did my chains fall off my legs indeed. I was loosed from my afflictions and irons; my temptations also fled away; so that from that time those dreadful scriptures of God [about the unforgivable sin] left off to trouble me; now went I also home rejoicing for the grace and love of God." (John Bunyan)

Isn't that grand? Not just that Bunyan said that and it's recorded but that it's true! I love how true it is, when i feel rubbish my standing before God is not diminished, when i feel on top of the world, my standing is not improved. God does not give to me because i've impressed Him, but because He is who He is.

It's also entirely scriptural, and found in some of the most unexpected places. The end of 2 Kings is really a heartbreaking affair that makes me long for Jesus eternal Kingship and makes me wnat to hate my sin more than i do. King after king does evil in the sight of the Lord, it seems that there are so few faithful left in the twelve tribes. Israel falls, but Judah doesn't learn. Then a glimmer of hope in chapters 22 and 23. The law is found, Josiah reads it and weeps because of how far he sees his country from it. He then goes on an idol smashing tour of destruction around Judah...thats theology in action right there. If you'd started reading the Bible in Genesis with no idea of what was going to happen you might be on the edge of your seat right now...'is this him? is this our 2 samuel 7 King?' No. Josiah gets involved in a battle between Egypt and Assyria, and is killed by Pharoah Neco. How foolish. Our reader is weeping. How will this line continue if the only good King for generations dies like that? His son is worse, and within a generation Judah is totally destroyed. And it gets worse still. Some royal heavies take a dislike to Gadaliah, who's been made Governor over Judah and kill him. Then they flee to Egypt fearing the consequences.

Egypt? Egypt.

Israel is tragically back where it started before the law was given. The monarchy has totally fallen, the promised land lies in ruins. It's all over. Our Genesis beginning reader would wonder about God now, His plans seem in tatters, ruined by the people He put too much faith in. Except, 2 Kings doesn't end with verse 26, there's four more. After 37 years of exile, Jehoiachin, King of Judah is 'graciously freed' from prison by the wonderfully named King of Babylon, Evil-merodach. He is given a seat about the seat of the other kings in Babylon, given new clothes and lives his days at the states expense. Still in exile then, but very much alive.

There is not explantion for this, just none, apart from the soveriegn work of Almighty God. This is, lets not forget, the King of Judah who surrendered to Babylon in the first place, there's no merit here that Jehoiachin has which explains it. It's all of God, the God who wills and works for His good pleasure.

So, 2008 shouldn't be about new years resolutions or trying harder to do good things, but rejoicing that our standing before God and His plans for us rely not on us but on Him. We are like Jehoiachin, totally lost apart from the gracious work of our soveriegn God. This God who will achieve His purposes for His glory and our benefit. Judah had totally abandoned the Lord, and yet because of His passion for His name, He kept the Davidic king alive and fed.

Jesus rules the universe. Live for Him, eat and drink of Him, because His will is being done, no matter what we do or think.

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