What My God Says, That Will I Speak

Then the messenger who went to summon Micaiah spoke to him saying, “Behold, the words of the prophets are uniformly favorable to the king. So please let your word be like one of them and speak favorably.” But Micaiah said, “As the Lord lives, what my God says, that I will speak.” (2 Chronicles 18:12-13)

After 400 false prophets of the god Baal had unanimously proclaimed that a great victory would be secured in the campaign of Israel and Judah against Ramoth-Gilead, Micaiah, a true prophet of the Lord, was summoned to deliver his prophecy concerning the plan. Not wishing for King Ahab’s already sour disposition toward the one true prophet in his kingdom to worsen, the messenger sent to retrieve him urges the man of God to step in line and join in with the 400 sycophants singing the victorious rally cry within the king’s throne room. But Micaiah, like every true prophet of God, can speak neither good nor bad except as the Lord leads him. “What my God says, that will I speak“, he answers.

Anyone who speaks on behalf of God, if they truly do so, will never be a popular person, at least as the world considers such. The Word of God is sharper than any two-edged sword and it cuts deeply into all who hear it (Hebrews 4:12). It is a living, healing salve to those who love God but to the natural man it is hated and despised. Micaiah knew that by telling King Ahab the truth, that the king himself would in fact die in the battle that he was now planning, he would further incur the ruler’s wrath and that his own treatment would suffer because of it. But in the words of Martin Luther, he knew that “to go against conscience is neither right nor safe” and that enduring a king’s anger is nothing compared with the loss felt in disappointing the King of Heaven.

We may not be actual “prophets of God” standing in the courts of kings, uttering  dire warnings against insolent monarchs who defy our Lord, but we are entrusted as children of God with the Word of God and must be careful stewards with that which we have been given. We are not at liberty to bend, alter, or water-down what God’s Word says, even if it goes directly against what the world believes to be right or wrong.  Today, Bible-believing Christians are called upon more and more to abandon “outdated” and “intolerant” morals in the name of acceptance and compromise, to fit in with the popular worldviews which reject the truths that God has clearly spoken. May we always remember that it is neither safe nor right to do so.

[Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are taken from the New American Standard Bible (NASB) © The Lockman Foundation and are used by permission.]

Because You Relied On The Lord

Were not the Ethiopians and the Lubim an immense army with very many chariots and horsemen? Yet because you relied on the Lord, He delivered them into your hand.” (2 Chronicles 16:8)

The prophet Hanani uttered these words to Asa, king of Judah, after the king had decided to bribe the king of Aram to break a treaty with Israel’s king, who was now at war with Judah. Though Asa, we may assume, believed that he had acted shrewdly, the prophet declares that he been foolish and that wars would plague him throughout the remainder of his reign (v. 9). The deal that he had hoped would bring his kingdom peace would spell the beginning of a series of conflicts that would last the final five years or so of his reign.

Yet in the verse before us King Asa is commended for his actions against the armies of Ethiopia led by Zerah and that consisted of over a million men (2 Chron. 14:9). Greatly outnumbered, Asa stood firm against the horde of soldiers, fortified in the knowledge that the Lord stood with his army. His reliance in that battle was on God and not the alliance of some other kingdom.

God is glorified when we choose to trust in Him, despite the odds, and rely on Him and not our own strength. The lesson given again and again throughout the Hebrews ancient wars was that God could give them victory, regardless of their being outnumbered, if they would only put their confidence in Him. We may not be fighting literal wars and military conflicts in our daily lives, but the same principles still apply. When we make the decision to trust in the Lord despite how great the odds are against us in our own battles, the Lord is pleased and the glory will go to Him.

“A man with God is always in the majority” – John Knox

[Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are taken from the New American Standard Bible (NASB) © The Lockman Foundation and are used by permission.]

New Wine And New Wineskins (Mark 2)

“And it happened that He was reclining at the table in his house, and many tax collectors and sinners were dining with Jesus and His disciples; for there were many of them, and they were following Him. When the scribes of the Pharisees saw that He was eating with the sinners and tax collectors, they said to His disciples, “Why is He eating and drinking with tax collectors and sinners?” And hearing this, Jesus said to them, “It is not those who are healthy who need a physician, but those who are sick; I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” (Mark 2:15-17)

What a remarkable scene we have at the house of Matthew! On the one hand, we have a group of some of the most despised scoundrels to be found in all of Israel. On the other, we have the religious and pious. Matthew, a publican or tax collector, belonged to an infamous profession hated by all strata of Jewish society. These were men more closely aligned with the occupying Roman government than to their own people whom they often cheated and swindled. But an interesting thing happened to Matthew one day as he sat working in his tax collection booth. The Lord Jesus Christ passed by and said to him, “Follow Me!”(Mark 2:14).

The call of Matthew is a poignant image of our Lord Jesus as the Good Shepherd, seeking out the lost sheep and calling them into His fold. How many years it had been since Matthew had even entered a synagogue is anyone’s guess, but we can be certain that he would never have found Jesus by going into one to hear Him preach. Matthew, like so many other lost sinners, had resigned himself to his assumed destiny and in all probability gave little thought to the hope that he might one day be forgiven of his sins and find Salvation and reconciliation with God. Matthew was not searching for God when their paths crossed that day, but God was “searching” for him. Jesus came to him, even in all of his vile and wicked sinfulness, and spoke the life-bringing words that would forever change the trajectory of the life of Levi, Son of Alphaeus.

Contrasted against this we have the Scribes and Pharisees, men who were highly regarded and revered in society but most of whom had absolutely no interest in the Salvation that the Lord was offering. To them, this rabble of degenerates was offensive and the idea that Jesus, a Rabbi, would condescend to eat with such people cast doubt in their eyes on His own integrity. Yet while they stood by judging Jesus’ motives and scrutinizing His actions, the sinners and tax collectors present were said to be “following” Him. They recognized in Jesus something that the Scribes and Pharisees did not.

Jesus answered the religious leaders, declaring to them that He had come to call sinners to repentance, not the righteous. I wonder what they thought when He said this. Did they hold fast to their belief that there was a vast distinction in the eyes of God between those tax-collecting miscreants who were clinging close to Jesus and themselves? Or did the words of the Lord bring to their minds the Psalmist’s diagnosis of the heart of man:

“The Lord has looked down from heaven upon the sons of men
To see if there are any who understand,
Who seek after God.
They have all turned aside, together they have become corrupt;
There is no one who does good, not even one.” (Psalm 14:2-3)

These experts of Scripture had to be very familiar with this passage, and yet it seems they somehow felt that they themselves were excluded from the “all” who have turned aside and become corrupt. The very first step in the process of Salvation is conviction and, apart from it, there can be no repentance at all. If we fail to recognize our own sin and depravity, then there is no hope for our ever being saved. For if we say we have no sin then we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us (1 John 1:8). In order for a person to call upon a Savior, he first must come to the realization that he is in need of one. There was, indeed, a distinction between the Pharisees and the Publicans present at Matthew’s house that evening, but it was not the distinction which the religious leaders imagined. The difference was that the Publicans knew that they were sinners and the Pharisees did not.

Of Garments Old And New

“No one sews a patch of unshrunk cloth on an old garment; otherwise the patch pulls away from it, the new from the old, and a worse tear results. No one puts new wine into old wineskins; otherwise the wine will burst the skins, and the wine is lost and the skins as well; but one puts new wine into fresh wineskins.” (Mark 2:21-22)

The Lord’s words here are a continuation of what we have just considered. Self-righteousness and religious ritual are not the things which will save a person, but something, moreover Someone, completely different. Verses 18-20 describe a confrontation between both the disciples of John the Baptist and the Pharisees and the Lord Jesus Christ regarding the observation of religious fasting. We should first understand that nowhere in the Old Testament is fasting prescribed as a religious observance. People would fast at times, especially when they were either mourning or humbling themselves before the Lord in petition for a need (cf. 1 Samuel 31:13, 2 Samuel 12:16). But this was not done per God’s instructions, it was a tradition the people had adopted. Fasting, of course, can have a valid place in the Christian’s experience, but we must recognize that the issue taken with Jesus was not based upon His or His disciple’s disregard for the Law, but rather for the traditions which had grown out of Judaism.

Thus His reference to garments and wineskins has to do with relying on religious ritual, traditions, and the observance of ceremonies for Salvation. “Garments”, in the Bible, often refer to a covering of righteousness. When Adam and Eve sinned, God covered them with garments (Genesis 3:21). When Noah sinned, his sons covered him with a garment (Genesis 9:23). Isaiah compares self-righteousness to a filthy garment (Isaiah 64:6). Over in Revelation, we read of white garments which the Lord Jesus provides, that is, His righteousness clothing us and making us acceptable to God (Rev. 3:5, 18, 4:4). It is to these garments which Jesus refers in His parable of the Wedding Feast when He mentions “wedding clothes” (cf. Matthew 22:11-12).

Our own garments are stained with sin and it is not possible to make them white by patching them up with self-righteous rituals and religious ceremonies. Only by being clothed in the white garments which Christ alone can provide may we enter into Salvation. Similarly, we cannot pour the new wine of the Gospel into the wineskins of man’s traditions and self-prescribed observances and expect to be saved by such things.

The old garment and old wineskin may also be seen as the Law of Moses, or the Old Testament. The work of Jesus Christ was not to patch up or repair what was wrong with the Law of Moses (not that there is any fault in God’s Law, the weakness lies in humanity who is unable to follow it — as seen in Romans 7), but to bring His own garment of righteousness with which to clothe sinners: a perfect, pure, white garment untouched by patch or stitch. His blood is the wine of the New Covenant (Luke 22:20), poured out for the sins of man and shed for new creatures (2 Corinthians 5:17), new wineskins which bear His name.

To God goes all glory. In service to Him,

Loren

loren@answersfromthebook.org

[This post was originally published May 10, 2015]

**Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are taken from the New American Standard Bible (NASB) © The Lockman Foundation and are used by permission.

[If you do not know the Lord Jesus Christ or you are not certain where you are headed when this life ends, I invite you to read the article “Am I Going To Heaven?“]