Bible reading for Dec 11.
2 Chronicles 11-12.
"And those who had set their hearts to seek the LORD God of Israel came after them from all the tribes of Israel to Jerusalem to sacrifice to the LORD, the God of their fathers." (11:16)
DRIVEN OUT (ch 11). Something we are told here that is not recorded in 1 Kings 12 is that Israelites who were faithful to the Lord and living in the north would pay a price for their loyalty (11:13-16; 13:9). Ousted from their role as priests and Levites, many gave up homes and property in the north to move to Jerusalem. This is a principle throughout Scripture -- when idolatry reigns God's people are often driven from public life and cultural influence. Both secularism and religious pluralism, supposedly tolerant and neutral, end up driving Judeo-Christian influence away from the public sector. This intolerance was seen in the northern kingdom then, and later in the Roman empire toward the early church, and today in opposition both from secular atheism in the west and from religious extremism around the world. This rejection should not surprise us, and we should always maintain our confidence in the Lord: "...you joyfully accepted the plundering of your property, since you knew that you yourselves had a better possession and an abiding one" (Heb 10:34).
HUMBLED (ch 12). After a short while Rehoboam also abandoned the law of the Lord, and in judgment was subjugated to the Pharaoh Shishak. All of the wealth of Solomon was taken off to Egypt. The nation did humble themselves before the Lord, at least for a while. True humility is to justify the Lord as righteous rather than oneself (12:6-8; Rom 3:4). It is to lay the blame for judgment solely upon ourselves rather than others. How we accept reproof and discipline says a lot about how penitent we are. In Rehoboam's case there was also generational sin -- we're told Rehoboam's mother was "Naamah the Ammonite" (12:13). With so many wives it would seem King Solomon had little personal input into his son's training. It is likely his mother brought pagan influence into Rehoboam's nurture and upbringing. It seems idolatry can seep in from anywhere! When you face humbling circumstances or conflicts, is your first reaction to find somebody else to blame? Is the dynamic of your family moving toward greater faithfulness to the Lord, or is idolatry seeping into your home? What can you do to be faithful to the Lord in such times?
"The one who conquers and who keeps my works until the end, to him I will give authority over the nations, and he will rule them with a rod of iron, as when earthen pots are broken in pieces, even as I myself have received authority from my Father. And I will give him the morning star. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches." (2:26-29)
THE SEVEN CHURCHES. Chapters two and three contain personal addresses from the Lord to the seven churches in Asia Minor near Ephesus (southwestern Turkey today). Are these churches symbolic of the church age? I think it more likely these churches were actual local churches, but the problems they faced are encountered by churches all through the church age. Each address usually contains the following: a description of the Lord Jesus, an affirmation or commendation, a reproof, a call to repentance, and a promise to those who overcome.
THE ONE WHO OVERCOMES. In Revelation, to overcome (or, "conquer; be victorious") means to prevail by being faithful to the Lord (even to death, 2:10), by maintaining our testimony before the world (not conforming to its wickedness), and by being steadfast to resist the lies, threats, and influence of Satan. The common word for believers in Revelation is "the saints" (or, "holy ones"). As we see in this chapter to overcome means to have the discernment and courage to reject false teachings that affect the church. [For more details see the NET Bible notes on this chapter.] The Apostle John wrote in his first epistle, "For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world- our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?" (5:4-5)
REFLECT. Here are some lessons... No particular church is promised perpetuity (that is, the Church will endure though individual congregations may not); a local church may only be a generation away from extinction; churches should not be smug in their success; most churches have blemishes that are offensive to the Lord, though they might be blind to them; and we are called to overcome the world, the flesh, and the devil, and so receive the blessing of ruling with Christ in the new creation. In his book Holiness, J. C. Ryle (1816—1900) included a chapter, "Visible Churches Warned!", based upon Revelation chapters 2 and 3. Here's an excerpt...
"One great lesson I want men to learn from these seven epistles is this — that if you would prove you are born again and going to Heaven, you must be a victorious soldier of Christ. If you would make it clear that you have any title to Christ's precious promises, you must fight the good fight in Christ's cause, and in that fight you must conquer. Victory is the only satisfactory evidence that you have a saving religion. You like good sermons perhaps. You respect the Bible, and read it occasionally. You say your prayers night and morning. You have family prayers, and give to religious societies. I thank God for this. It is all very good. But how goes the battle? How does the great conflict go on all this time? Are you overcoming the love of the world and the fear of man? Are you overcoming the passions, tempers and lusts of your own heart? Are you resisting the devil and making him flee from you? How is it in this matter? You must either rule — or serve sin and the devil and the world. There is no middle course. You must either conquer — or be lost. I know well that it is a hard battle that you have to fight, and I want you to know it, too. You must fight the good fight of faith and endure hardships — if you would lay hold of eternal life. You must make up your mind to a daily struggle — if you would reach Heaven. There may be short roads to Heaven invented by man — but ancient Christianity, the good old way, is the way of the cross, the way of conflict. Sin, the world and the devil must be actually mortified, resisted and overcome." (Read more here.)
Image credit. Photo of the tomb of the Apostle John at Ephesus, via 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.