Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Orthodoxy (on Reformation Day)

To mark Reformation Day 2007 I thought I'd share some observations from the book of 2 Chronicles. This book takes us through the history of God's people from the reign of King Solomon to the exile and the decree that permits their return. We cover many centuries and darkness abounds for much of it. There are glimmers of hope, albeit flickering and imperfect. The book cries out for it's YES and AMEN in the completion of God's promises and offers many lessons for us along the way.
2 Chronicles is about Orthodoxy. Ortho meaning true, doxa meaning worship. It concerns the establishment of a place for the LORD's name with his people, a place of certain forgiveness and a place where the Word of God is found. It's about true worship.
The story begins with Solomon who desires to build a temple for the LORD. His father David had shared this desire but been barred from fulfilling it. Solomon is not held back. With the help of God-fearing foreign kings he builds a magnificient temple. A place of prayer for the nations.

The law of God is moved to be housed there. And in chapters 6-7 Solomon prays to secure this place as a place of forgiveness. God's promises that this will be the case - prayerful humble repentance will be met with forgiveness, but unrepentant rebellion will result in them being plucked from the land.

All seems well until Rehoboam ascends to the throne and somehow manages to mislay the Word of God. This isn't all that easy - it's not a pocket size Bible. Yet he does. The clouds gather from here on in. When the Word of God is lost from the People of God it will not be long before everything begins to rot away. Decline follows with occasional shafts of light but in the absence of God's word people do not drift towards trusting Him.

Then comes Jehosaphat and his friend Ahab. Jehosaphet is a good king but his reforms fall short of God's standards. He removes some idolatry but does not get rid of the high places where God's people worshipped away from God's place, the Temple. He also allies with evil Ahab who hates what God says through his Prophets. Why? Because they don't tell him what he wants to hear. Itching ears abound!

Several more evil monarchs follow before Joash becomes King. He begins to repair the temple. Later however when a prophet speaks words he doesn't want to hear he orders him to be stoned to death. A promising start is ended because the prophets God sends don't always say what his people want to hear – they're invited to enjoy great prosperity if only they will listen and repent... somehow not an attractive offer..

After half-hearted Amaziah comes Uzziah. Another shaft of light until he takes it upon himself to be a Priest-King and marches into the Temple uninvited. He is cut off from the people with leprosy. Orthodoxy matters to God.

Jotham reigns well before evil Ahaz. No good king is able to keep reigning, they all die and few are shown to have instructed their sons well. Devotion to the Lord in a king is short lived when the next generation are not taught. Hezekiah is one of the great reformers of Israel - reestablishing much of the life of the people of God. Pride overcomes him before he repents of this, and then dies. Manasseh quickly undoes the reforms before repenting. Amon then reigns with a commitment to do evil in the LORD's sight.

Josiah is the last of the reforming kings. His reformation is able to advance because he finds the law of the LORD. However he fails to recognise the LORD's word through the unexpect lips of Egyptian King Neco and is killed in battle before his time. The decline is then rapid, like a football club in decline, moving from one manager to another in quick sucession.

The LORD has sent many messengers to his people but they scoffed. The temple stood as a place of forgiveness for the repentant but they discarded the Word of the LORD and neglected his place, prefering to bow to idols in high places. Finally the LORD says enough is enough and sends them into exile under his judgement. And there they remain for a period. Until, King Cyrus of Persia is comissioned by God to return the exiles to their land to rebuild a temple for the LORD - just as Solomon had done at the opening of this book.
Second Chronicles cries out for an Orthodox King. One true to God's word, true to God's way of worshiping, true to God's place of atonement. Yet no such king is found and we're left crying out for Jesus: The Word, the Temple and the Atonement. And yet when he came, like the prophets before, the people killed the Son. Such is the darkness of the human heart.
The reforming kings were bound to fail because they were as sinful as their people. Their limited reformed bring great joy but also frustration as they fail to finish the job – either with the temple or Gods' word. Solomon and Cyrus are committed to the temple but it is only a shadow has now come.

Whilst we are moored much more tightly we too can drift just like Israel and we must be always reforming. Not for reformation's sake but that we would stay close to Jesus. Second Chronicles invites us to come to Jesus. To find Orthodoxy there. To worship in Spirit and Truth, close by Jesus, close by the Cross of Christ – there we meet with God, find forgiveness and atonement and revelation in God's word.

More on Reformation Day:
Katie Luther: Proverbs 31 Woman by Nicki, Catriona & Nita
Challies Symposium

3 comments:

  1. Sorry to off topic, but I could not find an email address. I just wanted to let you know that the link for Phil McAlmond is broken. It should be, if you want to update your link,
    http://abmi.wordpress.com

    Thankyou and Blessings in Christ Jesus!

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  2. Thanks Phil. Fixed.

    Indeed Luke. Very glad that it happened - albeit in our different streams and churches we can at least trace our story back to that point.

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