Categories
Theology

The Jews’ Misplaced Hope for a King

In the passage that we may call the foundation for church discipline, Jesus took care to tell his disciples that a person cannot be condemned without two or three witnesses (Matt. 18:16, 20).  Jesus accusers at his trial were not as careful, of course.  Indeed, the chief priests could not even find two witnesses whose testimonies agreed (Mark 14:56)!  Even when the false witnesses arose, Mark tells us their testimonies did not agree (14:58-59). Jesus’ whole trial was fishy on the part of the chief priests and Council.

The Jews could not condemn Jesus by their own law, so they took him to Pilate, the Roman prefect of Judea at the time.  Turning Jesus over to the “Roman phase” of his trial, the Jews used loaded vocabulary to deceive Pilate.  The Jews hated Jesus because he was claiming to be God (John 10:33).  During the Jewish phase of the trial before the Council, the chief priests and scribes were angry because in response to the question, “Are you the Christ?” (Luke 22:67), Jesus responded, “You say that I am” (Luke 22:71). Their true concern was religious and spiritual.

However, when they brought Jesus to Pilate, they twisted their accusation against him. They cleverly said, “We found this man misleading our nation and forbidding us to give tribute to Caesar, and saying that he himself is Christ, a king” (Luke 23:2, emphasis added).  This statement is loaded with political and nationalistic jargon!  When Pilate said, “Are you the King of the Jews?” (v. 3) he primarily had a political and military perspective in mind, not a cosmic, universal, spiritual perspective.  Pilate didn’t care about being saved from sin. He did not want Caesar, or himself, to be deposed. It is true that Jesus is a King–he is the King.  But the Jews did not want him killed because he was a king.  In fact, had Jesus come to overthrow Rome as a conquering national king, they would have been quite pleased with him.

They simply wanted a physical king like their ancestors did centuries before (1 Sam. 8). The thought of a God-Man who reigned as King over all creation and discerns and judges the thoughts and intentions of the heart was far to heavy to bear.

Categories
Theology

Psalm 146 and Jesus

Notes from my morning worship in the Word

The Bible calls us to sing praises to “the LORD,” Yahweh, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and nothing else. The Bible calls us to worship and trust him, and him alone. To trust in princes (v. 3) is wrong. “Princes” here literally means “nobles.” That is, do not trust in those with a lot of money, status, fame, etc. Do not trust them because they cannot give you salvation. Do not trust a noble because his breath (Hb. ruach: “spirit”) will leave his body, just like yours, and everything he planned up to that day dies with him.

Therefore, Blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the LORD his God (v. 5). Not help for material gain, but help in daily living–for every circumstance imaginable. It is better to trust in Yahweh than a noble man because God made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, who keeps faith forever (i.e. “stays faithful forever”).

Verses 8-9 catalogue the great things God does, giving him the glory and honor due his name, not a noble man or anyone else for that matter. With God there is complete justice, righteousness, love, compassion, and redemption. He cares for those who are weak and would not normally be cared for by a noble–the blind, bowed down, sojourners, widow, and orphan. Yet at the same time, he equally loves the righteous (his own people). And he brings the wicked to ruin.

Because of who God is and what he does, he will reign forever and therefore all generations should Praise the LORD (v. 10).

The ESVSB comments that the Lord’s reign makes him a sure hope for God’s suffering people. We know that God is with his suffering people because Jesus is not only Immanuel, he is also the Suffering Servant who not only suffered for us on the cross, but also suffered with us. He did this so that he might be able to say that he has gone before us and knows what we go through, because what he endured was infinitely worse than our trial or tribulation (Heb. 4:15-16; 12:3-4). When we find ourselves in the thick of a trial, we will be able to say Hallelu-yah! Praise the LORD! because we know that God is present with us, and that he has not left us. When this happens our perspective changes. Because the Father sent his curse on his Son on the cross, and turned his back on him, we are assured that God will never turn his back on us.

Thankfully, Christ did not stay separated from the Father. He rose from the dead, and was thus vindicated by God and is not seated at the right hand of the Father (Eph. 1:20; Col. 3:1; Heb. 12:2). All those who believe in Christ are perfectly accepted by God on the basis of who Christ is and what he has done, and they will reign with Christ forever. That is a better position to have and a better promise to hold on to than to trust in a so-called “noble” for help in time of trouble.

Categories
Theology

Sunday Spurgeon

From Morning and Evening:

I will sing of steadfast love and justice; to you, O LORD, I will make music.
– Psalm 101:1 (ESV)

Faith triumphs in trial. When reason is thrust into the inner prison, with her feet made fast in the stocks, faith makes the dungeon walls ring with her merry notes as she cries, “I will sing of mercy and of judgment. Unto thee, O Lord, will I sing.” Faith pulls the black mask from the face of trouble, and discovers the angel beneath. Faith looks up at the cloud, and sees that

“‘Tis big with mercy and shall break
In blessings on her head.”

There is a subject for song even in the judgments of God towards us. For, first, the trial is not so heavy as it might have been; next, the trouble is not so severe as we deserved to have borne; and our affliction is not so crushing as the burden which others have to carry. Faith sees that in her worst sorrow there is nothing penal; there is not a drop of God’s wrath in it; it is all sent in love. Faith discerns love gleaming like a jewel on the breast of an angry God. Faith says of her grief, “This is a badge of honour, for the child must feel the rod”; and then she sings of the sweet result of her sorrows, because they work her spiritual good. Nay, more, says Faith, “These light afflictions, which are but for a moment, work out for me a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory.” So Faith rides forth on the black horse, conquering and to conquer, trampling down carnal reason and fleshly sense, and chanting notes of victory amid the thickest of the fray.

“All I meet I find assists me
In my path to heavenly joy:
Where, though trials now attend me,
Trials never more annoy.

“Blest there with a weight of glory,
Still the path I’ll ne’er forget,
But, exulting, cry, it led me
To my blessed Saviour’s seat.”

Categories
Theology

What Suffering Shows Us About Ourselves

The more I think about trial and suffering, whether great or small (see James 1:2), the more I can’t help but conclude that we don’t like trials because they reveal sin.  When I see more and more of my sin in any particular place or situation, I tend to say, I want to leave.  This is hard.  I don’t like this because (fill in the blank). I fail to realize, however, that the problem is usually me, not other people or things.  Sure, there are other contributing factors to trial, and by no means am I saying that we only experience trial because of a particular sin.  However, in tribulation, we are experiencing divine discipline.  During hard times, my sin will always surface and so I sin yet again by blame-shifting.  I want to learn to realize that God is refining me with fire.  He is bringing all the nasty junk to the surface so that he might burn it away.  Suffering is supposed to produce endurance and holiness and faith.

And the sad part is that most of the time, I don’t like that, because I don’t want to know how bad I really am.

The truth is that there is more nasty corrosion under the surface of my heart than I realize.  The truth is that apart from Christ, there is no good in me (Rom. 7:18).  But, the good news of the gospel is that Jesus is cleansing, redeeming, and healing me.  He is applying his heavenly balm to my sin-sick wounds.  God does this because he loves us, and he only does this to those he loves (Heb. 12:6).  Sometimes that’s nearly impossible to believe.  But there is more good news in the gospel:  Jesus purchased the ability to believe the truth that no matter the situation, he works all things for good if we love him and are called according to his purpose (Rom. 8:28).

O Lord, let us embrace suffering, knowing that your desire is for us to glorify you and grow in holiness.  Let your discipline root out all our sin that we might truly be more conformed to the image of Christ, as we were predestined to be (Rom. 8:29).