Bible reading for Nov 20.
1 Chronicles 15.
"So all Israel brought up the ark of the covenant of the LORD with shouting, to the sound of the horn, trumpets, and cymbals, and made loud music on harps and lyres." (15:28)
CELEBRATION. With great joy the Jews are bringing the ark of the covenant to Jerusalem. Consecration came first (vv 1-14), then celebration (vv 15-28). David was now more careful to walk with God in the way God directs. Consecration means to be set apart for the Lord, cleansed and separated for his will and purposes. But this is not the only or even the final purpose. Rather, it is the worship and enjoyment of God to his glory. The Levites designated musicians and singers to play a variety of instruments -- harps, lyres, cymbals, horns, and trumpets -- to celebrate and "raise the sounds of joy" (v 16). David wrote in Psalm 16, "You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore" (16:11). Psalm 16 encompasses both truths, the need for separation unto God: "The sorrows of those who run after another god shall multiply; their drink offerings of blood I will not pour out or take their names on my lips" (Ps 16:4). And then, great joy and satisfaction in the Lord (Ps 16:5-11). Notice the many words David uses in that psalm: "delight, pleasant, beautiful, glad, rejoices, secure, fullness, joy, pleasures."
THE VERY STONES. Jesus said that the stones would cry out if God's people were silent. This celebration in Chronicles reminds us of Jesus' triumphal entry into Jerusalem: "As he was drawing near- already on the way down the Mount of Olives- the whole multitude of his disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all the mighty works that they had seen, saying, 'Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!' And some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to him, 'Teacher, rebuke your disciples.' He answered, 'I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would cry out.'" (Luke 19:37-40)
ENJOYMENT OF GOD. The first question in the Westminster Shorter Catechism is, "What is the chief end [or purpose] of man?" And the answer is, "To glorify God and to enjoy him forever" (1 Cor 10:31; Psalm 73:24-28). To honor God as God, that is, to see and proclaim and live for his glory, and with that, to enjoy him fully. Consecration and celebration. Separation and satisfaction. (Sorry, that's the preacher in me coming up with clever titles!) But we cannot merely pump up the church with praise music, we must make sure we are knowing and walking with God as he directs. We need to think deeply about all the great truths he has revealed, letting them kindle our emotions. And so we worship him -- we thank him, we praise him, we enjoy him, and we sing whole-heartedly! (Even loudly!) All through life we should seek to find our satisfaction in him. And all through eternity we shall enjoy him.
"For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead." (2:26)
FAITH AND WORKS. James deals with partiality in the church meeting (vv 1-7) and then he writes of the comprehensive demand of God's will upon our lives (vv 8-13). Mercy was not being shown to the poor within their congregations, which means there was a disconnect between the mercy James' readers received and the mercy they should be showing (cf Matt 18:23-33). This introduces James' teaching on faith and works (vv 14-26). There seems to be a contradiction between what James says here and what Paul teaches elsewhere in the NT (e.g., Rom 3:20; Gal 2:15-16; 3:10-22). What may help us is to realize three differences in context:
A) A different audience. James is writing to people who have succumbed to nominalism (in-name-only Christians), whereas Paul is writing to those who are tempted by legalism. James' audience is comprised of believers by profession, but who see little connection between faith and life-change. Paul's audience is a group of believers who are being drawn back to salvation by works, that is, relying on their good works instead of, or in addition to, the work of Christ received by faith alone. James is writing to address nominalism, whereas Paul is addressing legalism.
B) A broader use of faith. James is speaking of faith in the cognitive sense, because he speaks of demons who "believe." That is, the faith James questions is merely believing that something is true. Paul, on the other hand, uses the word faith (and believing) in a narrower sense: it is believing something to be true, as well as being inclined toward it, and putting one's trust in it. This sense of "believe" is not something which the demons or nominalists do. Paul deals with saving faith; James deals with those who say they have faith (2:14).
C) Who or what is justified. Both James and Paul appeal to Abraham. Early in Genesis the patriarch is declared righteous because he believed God's word of promise (Gen 15:6). Later Abraham is tested regarding his faith (Gen 22:1, 12). The Apostle Paul uses justification as in the first event, being declared righteous by faith alone. James is referring to the second event and making the point that works demonstrate the faith one has (James 1:18). So Paul is speaking of the justification of the believer, and James is speaking of the justification (or validation) of the kind of faith the believer has.
FAITH WORKING THROUGH LOVE (Gal 5:6). When all these differences are carefully examined we see that both James and Paul are in agreement. The Apostle Paul said that we are not saved BY our works, but we are FOR good works (Eph 2:8-10). This is also reflected in Paul's letter to Titus: Jesus "gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works" (Titus 2:14). And then, "he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit" (Titus 3:5). The Protestant reformers would summarize it this way: it is faith, not works, that justifies us before God; but the faith that justifies is a faith that works. Good works are not an add-on to faith, but are the fruit of living faith.
Image credit. Photo by David Köhler on Unsplash. 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.