Archive for June, 2015

Same-sex marriage supporters rejoice outside the Supreme Court in Washington, D.C. on Friday after the U.S. Supreme Court handed down a ruling regarding same-sex marriage.  The high court ruled that same-sex couples have the right to marry in all 50 states. (Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Same-sex marriage supporters rejoice outside the Supreme Court in Washington, D.C. on Friday after the U.S. Supreme Court handed down a ruling regarding same-sex marriage. The high court ruled that same-sex couples have the right to marry in all 50 states. (Alex Wong/Getty Images)

“When Christians go wrong,” my minister friend remarked me over coffee and doughnuts one morning, “it’s usually over something simple.” He had a good point. When a man falls into flagrant heresy, when he stumbles into gross sin, it generally is related to some simple issue. King David was a good case in point. It doesn’t require any deep knowledge of theology to understand that adultery and murder are wrong. These things were clearly condemned in the Law of Moses. They are ideas so basic that Children can grasp them with perfect clarity. Surely David did as well. But for all that, David fell and fell hard.

The past several years have seen, at least in the West, a debate over something so basic that it is astounding to this author that there was even a debate at all. Of course, I speak of the debate over the definition of marriage. Chapter 24 of the Westminster Confession defines marriage thus: Marriage is to be between one man and one woman: neither is it lawful for a man to have more than one wife, nor for a woman to have more than one husband at a time. This is not complex theology. It really is a very simple idea. And yet the entire Western world seems to have stumbled at this point. Intellectuals, government officials, legal scholars, the business community, and the mainstream media for years have waged war on the Christian definition of marriage. This past Friday, they won their biggest victory yet. For on that day, the Supreme Court of the United States voted 5-4 to dump a bucket of the vilest moral filth imaginable on the collective head of the nation. It did so by its ruling that the Constitution requires states to recognize gay marriage. The will of the American people, large numbers of whom have vehemently opposed gay marriage, large numbers of whom have spoken out against it, large numbers of whom will never accept it, mattered not a whit. This decision represents the apotheosis of decades of deliberate and sinful effort by the homosexual lobby to legalize what is an abomination in the sight of God.


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Sennacherib (as crown prince) on a relief from the Khorsabad,  now in the Louvre.

Sennacherib (as crown prince) on a relief from the Khorsabad, now in the Louvre.

Hezekiah had a problem.  And not just any old problem either,  He had a king sized problem.  Literally.  In particular, he had a problem with the king of Assyria, Sennacherib by name.

Hezekiah was a direct descendent of David and reigned as the thirteenth king of Judah from 715 B.C – 686 B.C.  The scriptures paint him in a very positive light, saying of him,

Now it came to pass in the third year of Hoshea the son of Elah, king of Israel, that Hezekiah the son of Ahaz, king of Judah, began to reign.  He was twenty-five years old when he became king, and he reigned twenty-nine years in Jerusalem.  His mother’s name was Abi the daughter of Zechariah.  And he did what was right in the sight of the LORD, according to all that his father David had done (I Kings 18:1-3).

Due to a foreign policy blunder by this father Ahaz, Hezekiah found himself on the receiving end of a blitzkrieg from the Assyrian empire at the zenith of its power.  How he dealt with the attack is a model of faith and courage from which Christians today can draw important lessons.

Hezekiah’s Trusts in the Power Egypt

One of the big takeaways from the Old Testament is this:  If the Lord doesn’t fight your battles, you’re going to lose.  From the time of the fall until the present, man has believed that he knows best.  “Forget what God says; I’m going to do it my way,” is the language of the world.   In the history of God’s covenant people, there are several instances where military defeat was the direct result of this sort of thinking.  The loss suffered by Israel at the hands of the men of Ai (Joshua 7), the Philistines’ victory over Israel recorded in I Samuel 4, and the beat down the Syrians gave the allied armies of Ahab and Jehoshaphat (I Kings 22 and II Chronicles 18) all stand as testament to this principle.

Even a godly man such as Hezekiah was not immune from the temptation of conducting the affairs of state the world’s way.  As the Assyrian threat loomed on the horizon, some in his administration had gone to Egypt to persuade Pharaoh to join in alliance with Judah against the invading Assyrians.  This worldly mindset, the sort of thinking that causes men to look everywhere for help except the one place it can be found, is rebuked by the prophet Isaiah.  He wrote,

“Woe to the rebellious children,” says the LORD, “who take counsel, but not of Me, and who devise plans, but not of My Spirit, that they may add sin to sin; who walk to go down to Egypt, and have not asked My advice, to strengthen themselves in the strength of Pharaoh, and to trust in the shadow of Egypt!  Therefore the strength of Pharaoh shall be your shame, and trust in the shadow of Egypt shall be your humiliation (Isaiah 30:1-3).

Commenting on this passage, Edward J. Young remarked,

To avoid the bondage of this enemy [Assyria], the people now look to another source of human deliverance, namely Egypt.  Indeed, there may have been a pro-Egyptian party in Hezekiah’s court.  The present prophecy, however, relates not so much to one particular act as to an attitude of the mind, which in the face of danger turns to man rather than to God; it is this attitude wherever manifested that the prophet condemns (The Book of Isaiah, A Commentary, Vol.2, 335).

In 701 B.C., Hezekiah was faced with the unfortunate fact that the mighty Assyrian army was on Jerusalem’s doorstep.  From a human standpoint, Judah was a beaten nation.  The Assyrians had overrun Israel 21 years earlier and deported the people.  No help could be expected from the northern tribes.  Further, Sennacherib’s forces had just crushed the Egyptian army sent by Pharaoh to defend Judah at the behest of Hezekiah.

It was at this dark hour for God’s people that Sennacherib sent one of his commanders to threaten Hezekiah at Jerusalem.  The Assyrian commander stood outside the wall of Jerusalem and began what today we might talking trash.  He boasted about the conquests of Assyria, blasphemed the Lord by speaking of him, “as against the gods of the people of the earth – the work of men’s hands” (2 Chronicles 32:19), and even mocked the Egyptians, saying of them, “Now look!  You are trusting in the staff of this broken reed, Egypt, on which if a man leans, it will go into his hand and pierce it.  So is Pharaoh king of Egypt to all who trust in him”  (2 Kings 18:21).  Tiny Judah was all alone and without hope in the world.  Where would its help come from?


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Jeroboam sets up a golden calf.

Jeroboam sets up a golden calf.

Among other things, the Bible is a book of examples. As God’s people, we can be thankful for this. Had he wished, God could have given his bare commandments and left it to us to draw our own lessons. But that’s not what he did. After providing very clear instructions to his covenant people in the Law of Moses, God inspired the writers of the Old Testament to record a detailed and fascinating history of his people. Some of this history was recorded as a warning to future generations. In his letter to the Corinthians, the apostle Paul highlighted several negative examples from the history of Israel and made the point, “Now all these things happened to them as examples, and they were written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the ages have come” (I Corinthians 10:11).

In a previous post, we looked at two bad examples from the Old Testament, specifically the actions of kings Rehoboam and Jeroboam. In the case of Rehoboam, his was a political failure. Instead of being a servant to his people, he instead chose to lord it over them, answering a reasonable request for lower taxes with a churlish threat to increase them. His arrogance was the proximate cause of the division of the twelve tribes into the Northern and Southern Kingdoms. On the other hand the failure of Jeroboam, the first ruler of the Northern Kingdom, was of an ethical nature. He was charged by the prophet Ahijah to walk in the commandments of God. But Jeroboam, doing what he ought not, was quick to set up an idolatrous religion in the Northern Kingdom, which corrupted the people for generations. At bottom, the failures of both kings were epistemological, for both men rejected the clear commands of God and followed the dictates of their own hearts.

As a follow up to the bad examples, over the next two weeks we will look at two good examples from the Old Testament, one of them a prophet, the other a king. Both of had this in common: they trusted in God, not themselves.


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Barack ObamaIn case you didn’t know, the time of year formerly known as June is now Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Pride Month. The president himself has said it, so it must be true. The White House proclamation announcing this momentous change reads in part,

NOW, THEREFORE, I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in my by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim June 2015 as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Pride Month. I call upon the people of the United States to eliminate prejudice everywhere it exists, and to celebrate the great diversity of the American people.

Americans have a long history of ignoring the proclamations of various and sundry potentates, but this time the whole country seems willing to bear any burden to carry out the president’s call to stamp out prejudice and celebrate diversity. As proof, consider the following stories circulating in the mainstream press at this very moment:

  • The Boy Scouts of America: After a long and successful court battle against the homosexual lobby, the leadership of the Boy Scouts of America is working overtime to bring the organization’s values in line with the spirit of the times. To this end, Boy Scouts president Robert Gates recently called for a reversal of the group’s policy of banning gay scout leaders. Gates exposed himself as an ethical relativist when he was quoted saying, “We must deal with the world as it is, not as we might wish it to be.”
  • WNBA Players’ Arrest/Gay Wedding/Baby Announcement/Annulment: Brittney Griner and Glory Johnson, two star players in the WNBA, celebrated diversity by over a period of six weeks by successively getting themselves both arrested on charges of domestic violence, going through with their planned wedding anyway, announcing a baby, and then annulling the wedding. We are truly thankful for the fine example Brittney Griner and Glory Johnson have set for us. Doubtless, their actions will go far toward eliminating irrational prejudice against gay marriage.
  • Bruce Jenner: Jenner
    once competed against world class athletes, famously winning a gold medal in the decathlon at the 1976 Montreal Summer Olympic. Jenner now competes with the Kardashian sisters, fighting it out with them to see who can garner the trashiest tabloid headlines. Yes, Bruce has now become Caitlyn, without a doubt both the highest profile transgender person to date and a great encouragement to others seeking to follow in his twisted footsteps.

Needless to say, if you find any of these items freakish, outrageous, ill-advised, or immoral, you, my friend, are an impediment to moral progress. A benighted blockhead bitterly clinging to your guns and religion, a fellow badly in need of enlightenment. And as several Christian bakers and wedding photographers have found out, God forbid if you dare act on your beliefs. You will find the full force of the law crashing down upon your head to the cheers of the Social Justice Warriors.


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The Arrogance of Rehoboam, circa 1530.  Hans Holbein the Younger.

The Arrogance of Rehoboam, circa 1530. Hans Holbein the Younger.

“Nothing is completely worthless,” or so the saying goes, “it can always serve as a bad example.” I’ve always liked this old saw and have found it oddly comforting. In my own life, God has used my sins and to teach me some painful, negative lessons, which to this day I remember. But negative lessons are not unique to me. In fact, chastening from God is the common experience of Christians, for the author of Hebrews tells us that without chastening, we are illegitimate children and not sons.

But our opportunity to learn negative lessons is not limited to our own experience. God is a gracious God. It would be enough for him to provide us with bare commandments on how we ought to live, or just enough of the Gospel to be saved. But that’s not what he did. He gave us a whole library of 66 books, in which are found, not only his commandments, but example after example of what happens to those who heed his voice as well as to those who disobey.

Today, I’d like to focus on two negative examples found in I Kings 12-14. In particular, I would like to draw the reader’s attention to the examples of Rehoboam king of Judah, Jeroboam king of Israel. Both individuals were in a position of great responsibility, both brought upon themselves the judgment of God by their own poor decision making, which in both cases was the result of their failure to take their ideas from the correct source.


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