Bible reading for Nov 11.
2 Kings 24.
"Surely this came upon Judah at the command of the LORD, to remove them out of his sight, for the sins of Manasseh, according to all that he had done, and also for the innocent blood that he had shed. For he filled Jerusalem with innocent blood, and the LORD would not pardon." (2 Kings 24:3-4)
WINDING DOWN. In the last chapter we read that Joash dies in battle to Pharaoh Neco. (From time to time Egypt was another player on the international scene.) Three more kings follow in rather rapid succession-- we'll call them J-haz, J-kim, and J-chin. Babylon lays siege to Jerusalem and J-chin surrenders, and the first deportation of Jewish exiles to Babylon takes place in 605 BC. Zedekiah (J-chin's uncle) is appointed king by the Babylonians but he too will rebel against Babylon. All this time the prophet Jeremiah has been telling the nation to submit to the Lord's discipline and to not fight against the Babylonians. Sadly, the fall of the city will occur in the next chapter.
REFLECT. Sometimes it's just too late to do anything but take your licks. When we have been proud, rebellious, sinful, it does no good to try to stand up for yourself when you should be falling down in humility before God and others. Both James and Peter write, "humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you" (Jas 4:6-10; 1 Peter 5:6). Discipline -- whether it's divine chastisement or the natural consequences of our sin -- is very painful, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness if we are teachable (Heb 12:11).
"And we desire each one of you to show the same earnestness to have the full assurance of hope until the end, so that you may not be sluggish, but imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises." (Hebrews 6:11-12)
THOSE WHO FALL AWAY. This is one of two very strong warnings in this book (vv 4-8). Is the author speaking hypothetically? Is he addressing Christians or the wider, mixed group of church attenders? Can a person who falls away ever be restored again to God? Is this about losing one's salvation? Tom Constable gives a number of the options in how to interpret this difficult passage at netbible.org/bible/Hebrews+6. This Ligonier article, in my opinion gives a brief summary of the two best options: ligonier.org/learn/devotionals/what-about-hebrews/ The sin in question in Hebrews is the denial of Christ, which downgrades not only his deity but also his holy work in dying for us (v 6).
THE WIDER PICTURE. After we have studied the Bible in its entirety, and over a period of time, we usually come to embrace an overall theology that seems best to us for fitting together all the data of the Scriptures. The one I have come to accept is the Reformed (aka Augustinian / Calvinistic) system, as opposed to the Arminian (aka Wesleyan / Semi-Pelagian) system. As I shared in the last post I believe from God's perspective (and from eternity past) there is one group of people that God eternally saves through his Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, and that none are lost. The role of works, or perseverance, or fruit-bearing, is not something which saves but rather reveals one's salvation, as Jesus said, "Every plant that my heavenly Father has not planted will be rooted up" (Matt 15:13; cf John 15:1-6). Fruit-bearing reveals the identity of the plant (Matt 7:17-20).
WE HAVE HOPE. It should be noted that the author is not pessimistic about their salvation: "Though we speak in this way, yet in your case, beloved, we feel sure of better things- things that belong to salvation" (v 9). This is similar to Paul's words, "I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ" (Phil 1:6). He then goes on to encourage them, not to be doubting, but to press on in full confidence of God's sure promises (vv 11-20). Christ is the anchor of our souls, the One who has completed our salvation and gone ahead into God's presence (vv 18-20). We are connected to him by strong anchor-chains and will be drawn into God's safe, secure, and eternal harbor!
POSTSCRIPT. Through my involvement in various ministries over the years I have known many people who have tasted the goodness of the Lord and his word, who have shared in the blessing of the Holy Spirit and his gifts to the church, and who have experienced the power of God in some manner (cf Matt 7:22-23), who then have fallen away and now deny the Lord. What do I make of that? Practically, I believe one of two things must be true: a) if they are real believers (one of God's elect, born again) the Lord will draw them back to himself and they will be restored in time; or b) they were never really regenerate (born again) in the first place, and so they need to come to Christ in a true and saving way. Be assured our Lord will turn none away: "...whoever comes to me I will never cast out" (John 6:37). And, "let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who desires take the water of life without price" (Rev 22:17).
AND THANK YOU to all our veterans who have served our country! You are appreciated!
Image credit. Photo of anchor in Skalhamn harbor, Sweden, on Wikimedia Commons. We are following the Robert Murray M'Cheyne (RMM) two-year reading schedule, as arranged by D. A. Carson. Scripture quotations, unless otherwise noted, are from The ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved. One recommended resource is NETBible.org, a ministry of bible.org.