Bible reading for Nov 4.
2 Kings 17.
"'You shall not fear other gods, but you shall fear the LORD your God, and he will deliver you out of the hand of all your enemies.' However, they would not listen, but they did according to their former manner." (2 Kings 17:38-40)
FALL OF SAMARIA. This chapter reports the Assyrian siege against Samaria and the resulting fall of the northern kingdom in 722/21 BC. The divine explanation is given in full. The northern tribes are lost, not in the sense that they are off wandering somewhere, but that they are resettled and mixed with the surrounding peoples. Their ethnic identity will be mixed (vv 6, 24). It's a sad conclusion to the story of the northern kingdom of Israel. Here's the summary: "'And the statutes and the rules and the law and the commandment that he wrote for you, you shall always be careful to do. You shall not fear other gods, and you shall not forget the covenant that I have made with you. You shall not fear other gods, but you shall fear the LORD your God, and he will deliver you out of the hand of all your enemies.' However, they would not listen, but they did according to their former manner. So these nations feared the LORD and also served their carved images. Their children did likewise, and their children's children- as their fathers did, so they do to this day" (vv 37-41). Not just Israel, but the human race is infected with habitual, inter-generational, systemic idolatry (Rom 1:18-23).
THE REST OF THE STORY. In what seems like tragedy on top of tragedy, there's a rise in lion attacks upon those left in the land. This is recognized by the Assyrian leaders as a judgment from God, and in an ironical twist, priests are sent back to the land to teach God's law (vv 26-28). Those left in the land will become known as Samaritans. And one day a Samaritan woman will have a random conversation with a Jewish man about religion and about who the Messiah is (John 4:9-26). This woman knew enough about the hope of Israel to be able to converse with Jesus. She knew that Messiah was coming. She knew this because the pagan Assyrians had sent priests of the Law back to the land of Samaria to teach. And so salvation came to the Samaritans at long last. That's God's providence, and that's the rest of the story!
AWAITING THE ELECTION OUTCOME. I am writing this on election day in the U.S. As a Christian I can sleep peacefully at night, knowing that God is guiding history, all of it. As seen in today's reading the twists and turns of current events may seem disastrous to us, but we must remember that with God there is always "the rest of the Story."
"And let our people learn to devote themselves to good works, so as to help cases of urgent need, and not be unfruitful." (Titus 3:14)
ABOUT GOOD WORKS. Paul makes it clear that we are not saved BY good works but that we are saved FOR good works (cf Eph 2:8-10). We are not saved by "deeds done in righteousness" but according to God's goodness, kindness, and mercy (vv 4-5). We are justified by his grace (v 7). But the Apostle does not denigrate good works. He says that believers, redeemed and purified from lawlessness, should be zealous to do good (Titus 2:14). We should be ready for every good work (v 1) and devoted to good works (vv 8, 14). Meeting the needs of others is part of how we bear fruit for the Lord (v 14b).
WHAT MAKES A WORK GOOD? The good work which a believer does is not merely giving humanitarian aid. Almost every person will do this to some extent, whether a believer or atheist. Our Lord joined together the commandments to love God and to love our neighbor (Matt 22:36-40). One way we love God is by loving people; and we love people rightly when we love them in the ways (and for the reasons) God tells us. John Frame, in his book The Doctrine of the Christian Life (P & R Publ., 2008), gives three conditions for good works: a right motive, a right standard, and a right goal.
A) The right motive is faith (Gal 5:6, "working through love"; Rom 14:23). We are his children, and so in faith we seek to do good for his name's sake (Col 3:17). Works done in a legalistic, self-righteous, unbelieving, or begrudging manner are not done in faith.
B) The right standard is the word of God (1 John 3:4; Ps 119:9-11). Love is not lawless. For example, committing adultery may feel loving, but it is never a good work. God defines what is good, and his will is revealed in his Word.
C) The right goal is the glory of God (1 Cor 10:31, "do all to the glory of God"; Rom 1:21). A good work is done in order that God might be seen as the Author of all that is good. Good works are the fruit of living a God-honoring life.
So there are three conditions of good works: right motive, right standard, and right goal, according to Frame. What is good in God's sight is when his children (who trust him) demonstrate their love for him and for their fellow man in ways that God wills, so that God's glory might be seen. Or we might summarize: "doing good" means that we do what God says, by faith, for his glory.
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.