A Book Worth Reading!

-The Bible Not Worth Reading?

Perhaps you remember when GQ magazine came under fire for saying that the Holy Bible wasn’t worth reading! It was back in their April 2018 issue, which ironically was dubbed the “Style Bible” on the cover. The Bible actually came in #12 on their list in the article titled, “20 Books That Aren’t Worth Reading.” Jesse Ball, who authored the article, wrote:  “The Holy Bible is rated very highly by all the people who supposedly live by it but who in actuality have not read it”—Unfortunately, there’s some truth to that, isn’t there? He goes on,  “Those who have read it know there are some good parts, but overall it is certainly not the finest thing that man has ever produced.” Well, #1 he’s mistaken in giving “man” credit for writing it! The authors don’t claim to have written their material by their own inspiration!

-Inspired By God!

Rather, God miraculously inspired some 40 different authors to write the 66 books, of the Bible, over 1500 years. What Mr. Ball writes is pretty subjective! It’s opinion! It’s conjecture, on his part! He added:  “It is repetitive, self-contradictory, sententious, foolish, and even at times ill-intentioned…” I would address that comment by quoting the words of the Apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 2:14. He absolutely nails the reason Mr. Ball sees the Bible the way he does:  “But the unbeliever does not welcome what comes from God’s Spirit, because it is foolishness to him; he is not able to understand it since it is evaluated spiritually.” To the unbeliever, the words of Scripture seem foolish because they can not understand them.

-The Unbeliever Can’t Understand!

It’s impossible for anyone to grasp the meaning of Scripture unless God’s Holy Spirit is their Teacher! Unless the Holy Spirit indwells them as a believer! “…he is NOT ABLE to understand it…” Paul says; and, because of his lostness, he “…does NOT WELCOME it…” But, I could get testimonials from believers in our church; and, from other Jesus followers, in every corner of the world, that the moment they placed their faith in God to save them from their sin, their eyes were opened to the Scriptures! Their ears were unplugged! They could hear the truth & it resonated with them! It became their life line! They know that God communicates with them through His Word! So, we do not read it like we read any other book; because, it is unlike any other book. I would always encourage you to pray before reading it! To ask God to transform you supernaturally, by the power of His Holy Spirit, as you read it! To open your eyes to all the eternal truths it contains!

-Ask Questions!

As you read the Scriptures, learn to ask questions:  “God, what does that mean? Please teach me!” That’s how I work through every Bible message or lesson as I prepare it! I don’t assume that I am able to plumb the depths of Scripture with just my human reasoning! For example, why did the Spirit of God inspire the Bible writers to include much of the same material the books of 1 & 2 Chronicles contains in 1 & 2 Kings? A section of Scripture that Mr. Ball, the author of the GQ article, perceives as repetitive; and, therefore boring! But, that’s the way an unbeliever would view it. If you’re a believer you should wonder what motivated God to include similar material twice! Perhaps, it is so important that God wanted it included again! So, what is there here that we don’t want to miss? That we should meditate on it! Revel in the mysteries of God!

More Lessons From Israel’s Ark!

-A Symbol Of God’s Presence!

In my last post, I talked about Israel’s Ark of the Covenant that God instructed Moses to build as a reminder of the Covenant which God had made with Israel. It symbolized God’s presence with His people; and, that’s why it was so devastating to Israel when King Saul & the army was defeated by the Philistines & the Ark was part of the plunder they stole away from Israel. After succeeding Saul as king, David’s first priority, after securing the nation militarily,, was to retrieve the Ark & bring it to the capital city of Jerusalem (1 Chronicles 13). 

-The Disturbing Story Of Uzzah!

That’s where we find the disturbing story of Uzzah. As all Israel joined King David, in celebration, as they brought the Ark to Jerusalem, Uzzah reaches out to steady the Ark as the oxen, who pulled the Ark, stumbled! And, it says that God “…struck him dead…” because he touched it (v.9).  Doesn’t that seem harsh to you? Well, it did to King David. It says, “David was angry because of the Lord’s outburst against Uzzah, so he named that place Outburst Against Uzzah, as it is still named today. David feared God that day and said, ‘How can I ever bring the ark of God to me?’” (13:11) But,  to David’s credit, his fear of God was that Holy kind of fear that drove him back to God in confession & repentance!

-Back To God’s Word!

And, ultimately back to the Word of God; where, we all need to go when we’re confused by the events that Sovereign God choreographs into our lives! Two chapters later, we read, “David built houses for himself in the city of David, and he prepared a place for the ark of God and pitched a tent for it. Then David said, ‘No one but the Levites may carry the ark of God, because the Lord has chosen them to carry the ark of the Lord and to minister before Him forever.’” (1 Chronicles 15) There’s only one place where David would have learned that— the Word of God! David returned to God’s word.  If you flip back, in your Bibles, to 1 Chronicles 13, you’ll see David’s fatal mistake, in v.1, when it says that David consulted “men” rather than God’s Word. And, Uzzah paid for David’s mistake with his own life!

-The Wrong Kind Of Worship!

There’s an incredibly important lesson here, when it comes to worshipping God! God is never pleased by our worship when we’re disobedient to His revealed will. In other words, there is a right way to worship God & there is a wrong way to worship Him. And, the only way we can know that we’re worshipping God rightly is to compare our worship with the Scriptures!  Jesus said: “God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit & truth.” John 4:24

-Worship In Spirit And Truth!

The correct posture, for Worship, includes our spirit AND TRUTH! David had the right spirit about bringing the Ark of God to Jerusalem; but, he wasn’t operating in the truth of God’s revealed will! And, let’s remember that David wasn’t in defiance of God’s Word! He was ignorant of it! God has revealed His Word to us & He makes us responsible for knowing it! Again, I can’t emphasize enough how desperate we need to be to carve time, out of our schedule, every day to read a portion of God’s Word! We’re responsible for knowing what He’s said! You and I need to learn the same lessons that David learned; and, in the truest sense it really wasn’t about the Ark at all! It’s about our attitude toward God when He speaks! It’s about elevating the message of His Word and obeying it! We need to apply, to our own lives,  the lesson David learned: “God is never pleased by our worship when we’re disobedient to His revealed will

Lessons From The Ark Of God!

-Indiana Jones!

So, have you ever seen the move, “Indiana Jones & The Raiders Of The Lost Ark”? Were you aware that the movie was actually based on the Old Testament story of Israel’s Ark of the Covenant? It was a 1981 Steven Spielberg film that starred Harrison Ford as an archaeologist who battled a group of Nazis searching for the Lost Ark of the Covenant. If you’ve never watched it, you need to! It’s iconic! Not that the movie is Biblically accurate; although, it is correct in a couple of ways— First, there really was such an item as the Ark; and, second, it really is lost!

-The Ark Of God

Back in Exodus, chapters 36 & 37, we read how God gave the dimensions for the Ark or “chest” to Moses! And, Bezalel was the skilled craftsman who actually built it from Acacia wood; and, overlaid it with gold! It’s ultimate significance was the “mercy seat” or cover of the Ark; where, the High Priest would enter the Holy of Holies once a year to sprinkle the blood of a sacrificial lamb to atone for Israel’s sins. Obviously, the act foreshadowed the ultimate sacrifice that Jesus would make for sin on the cross.  It’s in the Old Testament book of 1 Kings that we read how King Solomon built the first temple, in Jerusalem, to actually house the Ark.

-Where Is It Now?

But, somewhere during the years following Solomon’s reign— in all  chaos of a split nation & a whole lot of evil, wicked kings— the Ark vanished; and, no one knows where. Much of Jewish tradition believes that it disappeared some time before or while the Babylonians sacked the temple in 586 BC and took many of the Jewish leaders into exile in Babylon. An interesting twist, however, is the claim of Ethiopian Christians that the Ark rests in a chapel in the small Ethiopian town of Aksum. They say it arrived nearly 3000 years ago; and, has been guarded by a succession of Monks who are forbidden to step outside the chapel until they die! These Ethiopian Christians believe that once the temple is rebuilt in Jerusalem, according to Bible prophecy, that they’ll return the Ark as a gift to Israel (NOTE: They make a compelling case from Isaiah 18).

-Don’t You Love A Good Mystery?

Now, while I love a good mystery like that, I suppose God only knows for sure where the Ark is. So, just by observation, we’d conclude that the Ark was kind of a big deal to Israel! Perhaps you recall, from a reading in Exodus, that, after God had made a Covenant, with Israel; and, written the 10 Commandments on stone tablets, that He instructed Moses to have the Ark built and to place the stone tablets inside.

-God Struck Him Dead!

The Ark symbolized God’s presence with His people; and, that’s why it was so devastating to Israel when Saul & the army was defeated by the Philistines & they took the Ark away with them as they plundered Israel. But, after humiliating Dagon, the Philistines false idol; and, causing numerous plagues to strike several Philistine towns, they finally returned the Ark to the Israelite town of Kiriath-Jearim where it was when David is installed as King in 1 Chronicles, chapter 11. After securing the nation militarily, David’s 1st priority was to retrieve the Ark & to bring it to the capital city of Jerusalem (ch. 13).  That’s where we find the incredibly interesting story of Uzzah. As all Israel joined King David, in celebration, as they brought the Ark to Jerusalem, Uzzah reaches out to steady the Ark as the oxen, who pulled the Ark, stumbled! And, it says that God “…struck him dead…” because he touched it (v.9).  Harsh? Let’s come back to that next week!

Death By Neglect!

-Don’t Neglect Your Spiritual Life!

In my last post I referred to a great revival that God brought about, in Israel, under the leadership of an 8-year old king named Josiah (2 Kings 22).  Only God can spread revival, through an entire nation, by using an 8-year old boy! And, in the reforms, which King Josiah incorporated, it’s clear that neglect had been the cause of Israel’s spiritual death.  Genuine revival is evidenced when God’s people no longer neglect meeting together! Josiah was concerned with repairing Israel’s temple (v.3).  The temple was the place where God’s people gathered together to worship Him & offer sacrifices to Him!

-Signs Of Revival!

But, the temple reflected the moral condition of the nation! It had been neglected; and, rundown! It had fallen into a state of disrepair as the people had quit coming together for worship. So, one of the 1st signs of revival, in the faith community, is a renewed zeal for coming together! It is recognizing that it’s impossible to live out the Christian life in isolation from other believers! That’s something we struggle with here in the west, don’t we? We’ve been taught that the Christian life is an individual thing! It’s NOT! God’s people have always been a “community”; from, Israel, as a nation, to the local church today! In fact, it’s absolutely impossible to even live out & obey the more than 60 “one another” or “each other” commands, in Scripture, apart from a Christian community! So, when Josiah “…began to seek God…” the place of worship became a necessity once again (2 Chronicles 34:3). 

-Don’t Neglect The Word Of God!

For those of us who are part of the Morningside Bible Church community, that’s “big church” on Sunday mornings; and, “small group” gatherings throughout the week! We need each other to effectively live out the Christian life! To speak truth into one another! To hold each other accountable! Meeting together matters! There was a 2nd sign of revival under King Josiah— the nation no longer neglected the Word of God! The text reads, “Hilkiah the high priest told Shaphan the court secretary, ‘I have found the book of the law in the Lord’s temple,’ and he gave the book to Shaphan, who read it… Then Shaphan the court secretary told the king, ‘Hilkiah the priest has given me a book,’ and Shaphan read it in the presence of the king” (vs.8,10).  In the repairing of the temple, they uncovered a copy of the book of the Law. That’s a reference to Moses’ writings; or, the 1st five books of the Old Testament. 

-Proper Response To God’s Word!

And, notice the king’s response: “When the king heard the words of the book of the law, he tore his clothes. Then he commanded Hilkiah the priest, Ahikam son of Shaphan, Achbor son of Micaiah, Shaphan the court secretary, and the king’s servant Asaiah: ‘Go and inquire of the Lord for me, the people, and all Judah about the instruction in this book that has been found. For great is the Lord’s wrath that is kindled against us because our ancestors have not obeyed the words of this book in order to do everything written about us’” (vs.11-13). As the book, of God’s law, was read to him, Josiah realized how far the nation had drifted from the Lord. His shock points to the fact that the people had been unfamiliar with it for a long time! Again, I’m afraid that this is so relevant to our own nation & the church here in the West. So many sermons have become little more than the reading of a “token” Scripture verse misused to support our human efforts through self-help strategies! Josiah said, “Go inquire of the Lord.” And, so must we!