Worship and the Davidic Kings

“In the Old Testament no credence is given to kingship which does not share the character of obedient sonship, whether this be in the kingship Psalms or in the wider kingship theology of the Old Testament. The king was Yahweh’s ‘beloved’, the son of his choosing and the object of his gracious affections. In response, the kings of Israel were to love the Lord and his Law, and lead the nation in covenantal faithfulness to him. They were to shepherd the nation with integrity of heart (so Ps. 78:70-72 cf. I Kings 9:4f.), and to walk in humble worship and adoration before the Creator God who had adopted Israel as his son, and appointed them to rule over this chosen nation….

It also laid upon the king covenant obligations to walk in obedience to the Lord, such obedience being particularly emphasized in the matter of worship. Such worship would be faithful to Yahweh’s covenant Law, as expressed externally in theTemple, but as known internally in the attitude of a humble and obedient heart (cf. Ps. 51:17)….

Thus one of the prime aspects of his shepherd/guardian role over Israel was the preservation of true worship…including the removal of the high places and the promotion of true worship in the Temple. The reigns of Hezekiah and Josiah are particularly commended in this regard…

In short: where the kings of Israel led the nation in true worship of Yahweh, blessing was the result, and their reigns were commended in the writings of the former prophets. Where they refused to lead the nation in their covenantal obligations regarding worship, they and the nation reaped the curses of God’s judgment. Their epitaph is entirely negative, often linking them with ‘Jeroboam the son of Nebat, who caused Israel to sin’ (e.g. 1 Kings 16:26; 21:22; 22:52 etc.), especially by raising up false worship centers and encouraging idolatry…

The anointing of Jesus with the Spirit at his baptism thus identifies him as the covenant king of Israel, who is both the vice-regent of God and the covenantally obligated ruler of God’s people. His mission as the great Davidic King would hinge entirely on his worship of God. Its successful outcome would be a worshiping people, led by his own faithfulness to the throne of his Father. Jesus’ role as the purifier of the Temple (e.g. John 2:13-22) and the transformer of worship (e.g. John 4:19-24) is thus fully fitting for his kingly ministry over Israel and for his construction of a new Temple, far greater than that of Solomon or Herod.”

-Noel Due, Created for Worship: From Genesis to Revelation to You, Fern,Ross-shire, Scotland, Christian Focus Publications, 2005. 10-11

Mythology of the Magi (2)

“Yesterday we looked at a few myths surrounding the visit of the Magi to the child Jesus in Bethlehem. We questioned the ideas about the sources of their knowledge of the star and the “King of the Jews” as lying in astronomical phenomena or in astrological “signs.” What is an alternative explanation for their knowledge?

It is possible that the oracles of Balaam served as the source for their expectation of a Jewish king. Of the four oracles delivered by that fascinating man from beyond the Euphrates River (Num. 22:5), the last is most expressive: “I see him, but not now; I behold him, but not near: a star shall come out of Jacob, and a scepter shall rise out of Israel…” (Num. 24:17). It is possible that the Magi from Persia had preserved the words of their “ancestor” Balaam and remembered his ancient prophecy when a “Star” did appear out of Jacob.

An even stronger source for the Magi’s scriptural knowledge comes from the Book of Daniel. In its Greek translation, one of the words translated “wise men” is the same as the Greek word used in Matthew 2 – magoi – ( 2:2,10,). These Magi in ancient Babylon served as a religious caste in the state religion. One of their functions was to interpret dreams — a role in which they failed miserably in Dan. 2:1-13. Note Dan. 2:13, “So the decree went out, and the wise men (Magi) were about to be killed; and they sought Daniel and his companions, to kill them.” Therefore, Daniel and his three friends were associated with the Magi due to their God-given ability (Dan. 1:20-21). When Daniel accurately interpreted Nebuchadnezzar’s dream (Dan. 2:17-45), he was rewarded with an even higher position among them: “Then the king gave Daniel high honors and many great gifts, and made him ruler over the whole province of Babylon and chief prefect over all the wise men (Magi) of Babylon” (Dan. 2:48).

Consider also the amazing prophecy of the “seventy weeks” in Dan. 9:24-27. Verse 26 states that “Messiah (shall) be cut off” after a total period of 69 “sevens” (483 years). Therefore, Daniel’s book provides a timetable for the coming of the Messiah. This timetable from their leader must have been kept through the years by the Magi even after Babylon was conquered by the Persians.

There must have been a growing expectancy among the Magi as the years passed by. These Magi must have been watchful since the prophecy was originally given through one of “their own” many years before. Remember that a large Jewish community continued to exist in Babylon and Persia down through the centuries. They would have cherished Daniel’s prophecies and kept alive their hope.

Some have also suggested that one of the functions of the Magi was in the role ofking-makers. It was they who went through the ritual of crowning new kings in Babylon and Persia. This would also shed light on their desire to encounter the “King of the Jews” and to “worship him” (Mt. 2:2).

Now, what exactly was that “star” that led them? Come back tomorrow!”

-Dr. William Varner, Complements of: http://dribex.tumblr.com/post/14011189562/mythology-of-the-magi-2

My Eternal King

My God, I love Thee; not because
I hope for Heav’n thereby,
Nor yet because who love Thee not
Must die eternally.

Thou, O my Jesus, Thou didst me
Upon the cross embrace;
For me didst bear the nails and spear,
And manifold disgrace.

And griefs and torments numberless,
And sweat of agony;
E’en death itself; and all for man
Who was Thine enemy.

Then why, O blessed Jesus Christ
Should I not love Thee well?
Not for the hope of winning Heaven,
Nor of escaping hell.

Not with the hope of gaining aught,
Nor seeking a reward,
But as Thyself hast loved me,
O everlasting Lord!

E’en so I love Thee, and will love,
And in Thy praise will sing,
Solely because Thou art my God,
And my Eternal King.

-17th century Latin text, Attributed to Fran­cis Xavier, Translated by Edward Caswall 

My God, I love Thee;

David a model of restoration?

Does David’s life teach us that God can restore an adulterer to ministry? After all, David was a murderer and an adulterer, as well as a liar and poor father. Polygamy aside, his family life was a catastrophic train crash matched only by the debacle in 2 Samuel 11.

Yet God did not remove him from the throne, and allowed his reign to directly last 40 years, and indirectly forever. Why? What is the lesson there?

The wrong lesson is this: God does not take sin seriously. I have heard people who commit immorality point at David and say, “See! God let him be king, so he can return me to ministry despite my unbiblical divorce and/or adultery.”

Let me be clear about two things. First, God does use sinners (those are the only kind of people there are!). At the same time, there are some sins that in the church disqualify someone from being an elder or church leader. Second, it is possible for people who have committed certain disqualifying sins to eventually be restored to pastoral ministry after an extended time away. An excellent book on that topic is The Stain that Stays, as it provides principles to apply in  those situations. This post does not want to go down the road of looking at those principles.

But I have heard Christian leaders who have committed disqualifying sexual sins point to David as justification for thier refusal to take time away from ministry. The goal of this post is to explain why David’s life does not function as an example of God blessing the ministry of a disqualified leader.

If you are familiar with David’s life, you know that after his affair with Bathsheba his reign was marked by one tragedy after another. Four of his sons died, all as a direct result of his sin with Uriah’s wife. Because David abdicated his war-time leadership to Joab, he effectively lost control of his army and his kingdom. One of his sons raped his wives on top of a platform built specifically for the purpose of showing off their violation.

David and Uriah

Because of his sin with Uriah’s wife, Absalom revolted, and David was exiled from Jerusalem. As he was fleeing his capital city, he was showered with rocks and insults. And in a sign of how far David had fallen, he could not even tell his soldiers to shield him from the attacks. Instead, perhaps thinking of Uriah’s murder, David surmised that the attacks may have been because “Yahweh has said to him, ‘Curse David” (2 Samuel 16:10). David’s life had become so broken and desperate that attacks and coups may very well signs of the Lord’s displeasure with his sin.

David is simply the wrong person to look at for comfort that saints can sin and still be used by God. Even after Joab put an end the insurrection and summarily executed the pretend king (followed by a rebuke to David for not getting the basics of being king), David’s kingdom did not end well. Years of drought, followed by the public execution of Saul’s grand-sons and a humiliating vigil by a mourning mother, David sinned again by conducting an unauthorized census. That sin directly led to the deaths of 70,000 Israelites.

David’s reign is a trail of tears, in large part brought on by his own sin. In reality, most of our OT heroes are closer to David than to Enoch. Noah was a drunkard, Abraham and adulterer, and Moses was a murderer. You have to admit that the portion of Scripture which describes the days before the Spirit of God indwelt believers does not generally contain happy stories.

Nevertheless, David was a man after God’s own heart. While Saul had the kingdom ripped from him, David’s son inherited the throne. Why? Does that say something about God not hating David’s sin?

There are two answers to that question. First, way before Uriah was murdered; God had promised David that his kingdom would endure forever. This was an unconditional covenant, and not dependent upon anything David would or would not do. It would survive even Manasseh. So David’s endurance speaks to the promise of the Messiah, not to God’s restoration of adulterers.

The second reason David is a man after God’s own heart is because he repented of his sin. When confronted by Nathan, David broke. He gave up pretense and pompousness. He did not dwell on the laziness or lusting, nor did he mention the murder or the molesting. Instead, he simply said “I have sinned against Yahweh” (2 Samuel 12:13). He repented, and threw himself at the feet of Yahweh by submitting himself to the word of God’s prophet.

The consequences of David’s sin remain—four of his sons died, his wives were raped, and his crown was stolen from him, all because of this sin. But the eternal consequence was removed (the exact phrase Nathan used was “Yahweh has put away your sin, you shall not die”). Is this because God thinks little of adultery?

The opposite is actually true. David’s sin is removed because David’s son was killed for it. Not Ammon, not Absalom, not Adonijah, and not the newborn. Because Uriah was killed and his wife was taken, Jesus was crucified. His death becomes a demonstration that God hates sin, and it simultaneously opens up a way for sinners to have forgiveness.

David’s life shows the catastrophic and irreversible consequences of some sin. It shows the hatred God has for that sin. But it also shows the power of God’s promise to bring about a king better than David, and it shows the freedom and power of forgiveness that comes through repentance, based on faith in the death and resurrection of Jesus.

David stayed king not because of God’s pattern of restoring sinners to ministry, but rather because of the strength of God’s Messianic promises, as well as the sufficiency of the Messiah’s death.

-Jesse Johnson, http://thecripplegate.com/adultery-restoration-to-ministry-and-david/

One King

In the beginning there was the Word
Pure love was spoken to reach every man
They stopped and listened but all that they heard
Was a language that they could not understand.
No joy, no peace, no hope insight
So He came with starlight and love in His eyes
No regal welcome for His infant cry
There have been many babies to become a king
But only one King became a baby
He left behind His throne of pure light
Gave up His crown that we might be free
He chose a manger that Bethlehem night
And reaching through time and space He saw me
No joy, no peace, no hope insight
So He came with starlight and love in His eyes,
No regal welcome for His infant cry
There have been many babies to become a king
But only one King became a baby
He could have chosen to break through the sky
With anthem and angel wing
But He knew we’d understand a baby’s cry
And learn love from a servant king
So He came with starlight and love in His eyes,
No regal welcome for His infant cry
There have been so many babies to become a king
But only one King became a baby.
-David Phelps, 2007