Archive for the ‘1 & 2 Chronicles’ Category

A danger was pointed out to me recently that simply being gospel-centred is not enough – for an individual, church or ministry.

Let me try to illustrate with a few diagrams.

  1. Gospel-centred but gospel-assumed rather than gospel-explicit

Gospel assumed

With gospel-assumed there is a lot of talk about gospel but we never quite get around to defining and spelling out exactly what we mean by the gospel. So very quickly not only are we not actually preaching the gospel to others (so no-one is being converted or built up), we start to forget it ourselves.

The solution: We go back to the Bible every day to remind ourselves of the good news from all over Scripture. We need to fill in the word with Bible detail.

For example in my Bible reading this morning I saw in 1 Chronicles 11 a little vignette of the gospel – one man standing against a whole army of Philistines ‘and the LORD saved’ (v14). And I see a tiny picture of the One Man who stood instead of us and triumphed over all our enemies – Satan, death, hell. And I’m reminded that the LORD saves – the most succinct summary of the gospel – salvation belongs to the LORD. His is the victory we will praise for all eternity (Rev. 7:10). I did not save myself. I was not one of David’s mighty men, I was more like a faithless Israelite or a hostile Philistine. I didn’t do a thing to move towards God. But he saved me. The Father chose me, the Son took my place on the cross, the Spirit grabbed me and united me to Christ. Sovereign grace grabbed me.

  1. Gospel-centred but gospel-small rather than gospel-big

Gospel small

With gospel-small there may be explicit regular mention of the gospel but it is a bit formulaic and anemic. I make sure I get into every sermon ‘Jesus died on the cross for us’ but that’s about it. So before long it loses its impact on our hearers or even on our own hearts. It starts to seem like a small thing and (if we’re honest) a rather boring message. So it doesn’t change lives.

The solution: we go back again and again to the Bible – all different parts of the Bible – Psalms, prophecy, letters, stories – to see the richness and depth and vastness and complexity and multi-faceted, multi-coloured beauty of the gospel from the detail of specific Bible texts.

For example in my morning devotion in 1 Chronicles 11 I see David finally acknowledged as king by his people. I see that he is of the same bone and flesh as his people (v1), that he is the shepherd of his people (v2), that he binds himself in covenant to his people (v3). I am reminded by the mention of Uriah the Hittite (v41) that this was not the perfect King. And my eyes are drawn to the Son of God who took bone and flesh that he could be the Second Adam united to his bride and the Second David, Goliath-slaying king over his people, the Good Shepherd who lays down his life for the sheep (John 10:11, 15) and makes incredible promises binding himself to his people (John 10:27-28; 11:25-26; 12:26; 14:3, 23; 15:7-8).

If I had longer I could try to explore the significance of the King winning Jerusalem for his people (1 Chron. 11:4-9), the pattern of taking advantage of something won for you at great cost (1 Chron. 11:15-10 cf. John 6:53), the need for a hero (1 Chron. 11:20-25. And this is all from one chapter. If we keep doing this from text after text we start to build up a rich, beautiful, big heart-capturing gospel picture.

It’s the difference between a little stick man picture and a 6” by 6” Klimt portrait.

Gospel small - pictures

  1. Gospel-centred but floating rather than rooted

Gospel floating

Gospel-floating is where we do a decent job of explaining the heart of the gospel but it is not rooted into the rest of the Bible text and systematic theology. The gospel is floating unmoored, unanchored, untethered. This is a subtle danger. We can appear to be ‘just wanting to preach the gospel’ and ‘just wanting to preach Bible’ but by failing to tie the gospel into broader biblical themes and doctrinal structures we can drift off into something less than orthodox and biblical. In times of increasing biblical illiteracy this is going to be a serious issue – we can’t take for granted the doctrine of God, doctrine of creation, doctrine of man.

Solution: We go back to the Bible and seek to do exposition which avoids both the danger of eisegesis (where we pour our systematic framework into every verse – a rather boring and dangerous form of exposition) but also the danger of preaching things from one Scripture that assume or are even deny the truths of other Scriptures. We need to go to the Scriptures with a view that it is one story with a consistent theology that we need to seek to learn as well as we’re able (though humbly accepting that no one of us will never see it perfectly).

For example, 1 Corinthians 15:1-10 – that great gospel summary – is actually leaning on a whole lot of stuff. That’s why it says ‘according to the Scriptures’ twice. The idea of ‘dying for our sins’ only makes sense if you know a) what sin is and b) how it is possible for one to die for sins. To really understand this gospel summary I’m going to need to dig into the Old Testament for a complex biblical understanding of sin, including particularly the fact that it is first and foremost against God and calls down the wrath of God. Then I’m going to need to unpack the sacrificial system and the whole idea of a substitute being burnt up in the wrath of God instead of me. And the same is true of ‘rising on the third day according to the Scriptures.’ I’m going to need to look at what resurrection really means – the end time, the judgment day, the need for this creation to be swallowed up in an imperishable holy new creation. Without a lot of biblical undergirding the language of ‘Christ died for you and rose again’ is almost completely meaningless.

Another example: When I look at 1 Chronicles 11:1 and think through the way in which Christ shared our human nature (bone and flesh) I need to connect it all the way back to Genesis 3:16 and the promise of one born of woman who would crush the serpent. I would also need to look forward to what the New Testament says about the human nature of Christ. I would want to be guided in that by the ancient creeds and historic confessions where the church has thought long and hard and come up with very carefully considered words to express the completeness of Christ’s humanity and the wonder of two natures in one person without confusion or separation. I might also want to think of Athanasius and Irenaeus and the huge importance of the incarnation, God becoming man that we might share in his divine nature. Then I might want to think about the ascension and the importance of Christ retaining his human nature there, right now calling me his brother.

One more example: When we read in the prophets of the LORD’s yearning for his beloved people, his heart being moved, his inmost parts (KJV: bowels) being disturbed (e.g. Jeremiah 31:20) then surely we are seeing the very spring of the gospel – the passionate love of God. I’m definitely going to want to preach that to myself and others. But at the same time I’m going to have to be careful I don’t deny the orthodox definition of God. I’ll want to give full force to the biblical language of affections but also keep respectfully in mind the ancient understanding that God is immutable, ‘without parts or passions’ and the biblical material that says that God is wholly other and ‘not like a man.’ Not to say that all this has to come into a pulpit. Most of it will stay in the study, but if I ignore this theology I run the risk of teaching fluff or heresy.

  1. Gospel-centred but DIY implications rather than Bible implications

DIY implications

Here we have a good, rich, well-rooted biblical understanding of the gospel, but when it comes to working out the implications of the gospel (for my own life or for church life) then I sort of ‘wing it’ – DIY – Do It Yourself. I assume a) that God is not particularly prescriptive about exactly how I should lead my life or how the church should be ordered and b) I assume that I am able work out for myself, from the internal logic of the gospel, how if should be applied in different areas of life.

For example I see that the gospel springs from the consistent other-person-centred love of God and so I think the implication of the gospel is ‘any stable, loving, other-person-centred relationship’. Or I see that the gospel is the salvation not only of our souls but also of our bodies and indeed the renewing of the whole creation and so I think an implication is that the church’s mission is, with equal emphasis, to a) care for souls and b) to care for people’s bodies, transform society and fight for the natural environment.

I was reading a good Christian book the other day by a fine author who knows and explains the gospel extremely well. Much of the book was excellent. But, as I read one chapter where he described the implications of the gospel for church life, I started to feel something was a little bit off. And then I realised that he hadn’t quoted Scripture for several pages. We were moving into deductions from deductions from deductions – DIY implications.

The solution: We go back to the Bible and find the implications of the gospel from the Bible itself. This is particularly clear in the Apostle Paul’s letters. Most of them (roughly speaking) start with a couple of chapters of gospel doctrine then move to a concluding couple of chapters spelling out the implications of the gospel in some detail.

Ephesians, for example, lays out the great gospel of sovereign grace – the Trinitarian God grabbing a people for himself – by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone, as revealed in the Scripture alone, to the glory of God alone (Eph. 1-3) – then Paul starts talking about the implications of that for how we live as this new community of God’s people (Eph. 4:1-5:21). Loads of detailed instructions about the role of church leaders, every member ministry, speech, sex, work, reconciliation. But even this is not specific enough. People could take ‘submit to one another’ (5:21) to mean that there is no longer such a thing as differentiation of roles or authority or respect. So then there is a section laying out how exactly different relationships should work – wives and husbands, children and parents, slaves and masters (Eph. 5:22-6:9). In each of these relationships we can see that it is the gospel which is shaping the structure and manner of that relationship (in a beautiful way) but the point here is that God doesn’t leave us to guess how the gospel shapes these relationships he tells us.

The same could be said for the ordering of the local church (1 Timothy). Not that everything is spelled out – of course not. In loads of things we are free – it doesn’t matter what colour the curtains are. And yes there will still be lots of things where we will have to make gospel-hearted decisions about what is wisest for the advance of the gospel – how long will the sermon be? But in a lot of things – in fact all the important things – we’re actually given a lot of guidance by the Holy Spirit.

Why the detail? Because I cannot be trusted to work out all the implications of the gospel for myself. I will naturally use the right doctrine in the wrong way. Like people in Paul’s day I will take the grace of God and make it a license for sin (Rom. 6:1) rather than a spring of good works (Rom. 6:2-23). I need to be taught the right out-working of the gospel and the specific good deeds I need to do. I need both the gospel at the centre of everything that teaches me to say know to ungodliness (Titus 2:11-14) and I need someone (God) to draw the lines out from that centre to show me what true godliness looks like in detail (Titus 2:2-10).


Maybe this is all just another way of saying, let’s be expository. Let’s be gospel-centred and Bible-rich – getting our gospel from the Bible – a beautiful, big, detailed, rooted, worked-out gospel of Christ Jesus who came into the world to save sinners of who I am the worst.

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2 chron logo

There are very few resources out there on 2 Chronicles so I thought I’d try to draw together the stuff that came out of our series at the First Priority prayer meeting and encourage preaching through the book – no really – it is great!



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And so in the matter of the envoys of the princes of Babylon, who had been sent to him to enquire about the sign that had been done in the land, God left him to himself, in order to test him and to know all that was in his heart. (2 Chron. 32:31)

And what is in my heart left to itself?

O God, it is amazing that men can talk so much about man’s creaturely power and goodness, when, if thou didst not hold us back every moment, we should be devils incarnate. This, by bitter experience, thou hast taught me concerning myself. (from A Bennett ed., Valley of Vision, p.4)

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In 2 Chronicles 26 at the last First Priority prayer meeting we saw King Uzziah’s reign go through a very clear trajectory:


It had been exactly the same with his father Amaziah (2 Chron. 25) and his father Joash (2 Chron. 22-24). A wonderful rise and then a terrible fall. Throughout history it’s been the shape of world empires and nations, of companies and organisations, sadly of churches and revivals, and of countless politicians and personalities. Why?

Surely the deep answer is that it’s the shape of Adam. The first word of the book(s) of Chronicles signals that search for a second Adam –  the one who will reverse the fall, bring blessing, crush evil, restore all things. And in Uzziah it looks like we may have found him: restorer (v2), crusher of evil (v6, 11-15), a great ‘name’ and spreading dominion (v8, 15 cf. Gen. 12:2; 15:18), the builder of Jerusalem (v9), a gardener (v10). But then, like Adam he breaks faith (v16), enters into a living death (v19 cf. Num. 12:12), and is separated from God’s presence (v21).

This is the pattern of Adam and it happens again and again at every level of society because we are all born in Adam. My real problem is not that I have an ‘Uzziah’ in my life (e.g. pride) that I need to kill. The problem is that I am Uzziah – I’m born in the man of death and decay and I deserve to die eternally.

What I need is the true King whom Isaiah saw the year Uzziah died (Isa. 6); the second Adam who would bring in a new Eden (Isa. 11). What was the shape of his life? Look at Isaiah 52:13-53:12:


Instead of a meteoric rise and a terrible fall, this King starts in exalted glory, descends to take human flesh, descends to a humiliating execution and then is exalted to the throne above all thrones (Phil. 2; John 13).

That is the shape of our salvation. That is what absorbs and reverses the shape of our Adamic curse. And it is also the shape of those who are in Christ Jesus. It is the shape of servant leadership. A few of the OT greats were clearly conformed to this U-shape – e.g. Joseph, Job, Daniel. And it is for us to whom Paul says: “have this mind” (Phil. 2:5).

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MTC2 group work

At the last Ministry Training Course we were looking at the Gospel according to Matthew with the apprentices and I’m due to preach on Matthew a few times in the next month so back into the first Gospel for the next few posts…

Matthew is very often called the Gospel of Fulfillment – for very good reason (e.g. Matt. 1:22; 2:15,17,23; 5:17; 13:52). But what really caught my attention recently was Peter Mead’s observation of links between Matthew and Chronicles. A major theme of Chronicles is idolatry leading the hearts of Israel away from true devotion to Yahweh. By the time of Jesus, Judaism has turned away from physical idols but replaced them with slightly more subtle idols with the same function (Matt. 6:24). Building on this, here are a few more links and similarities:

  • Genealogies – Both Matthew and Chronicles start with genealogy.
  • David and Solomon – They take up almost half of the Chronicles saga and are very important to Matthew (e.g. 1:1,20; 12:23,42).
  • Kingdom – Just as Chronicles is very obviously the story of kings and their kingdoms, so Matthew is very obviously dominated by the theme of the King and his Kingdom.
  • Adam – Chronicles is concerned to find the second Adam (1 Chron. 1:1) but never finds him. Matthew has found the Son of Man who raises up children of the Kingdom in cursed, thorny ground (Matt. 13:6-7,37-38).
  • Now-and-not-yet – For people going home from Exile and experiencing the tension that they are home and yet it is not yet the New Eden that the prophets promised, Chronicles is full of encouragements about the extraordinary glory days of old. In the same way, Matthew encourages us in our similar now-and-not-yet tension with amazing stories demonstrating what the glorious Kingdom of the King will be like (e.g.Matt. 8-9; 11:4-5; 27:52-53).
  • Temple – Chronicles was obsessed with the Temple and turning towards the Temple for forgiveness and restoration. In Matthew it is the degradation and destruction of the Temple which are the backdrop throughout chapters 21-27. Instead of turning back to the physical Temple, Jesus calls people to himself for rest (Matt. 11:28).

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The theme of 2 Chronicles is ‘Christmas hangs by a thread’. The promise of a great forever king from David’s line (1 Chron. 17:11-14) is under serious threat. Ahaziah is on the throne and all his brothers have already been killed (v1). We’re down to one man. More bad news: He’s a evil king like his father (ch. 21) and an unwise king like his grandfather (v5 cf. ch. 18). God is sovereign over his hospital visit to Joram (v6-7) so that he intersects with Jehu (a.k.a. the Terminator) as he blazes through Israel destroying everyone in his way (v8-9). Jehu terminates Ahaziah and then the evil queen mother Athaliah – a forerunner for Herod the Great – seeks to terminate ‘all the royal family of the house of Judah’ (v10). From house to house and from room to room her hitmen go. Blood. Screams. Massacre. If she finishes the job there will be no Christmas. No chance of a king from David’s line. No Joseph, no manger, shepherds or wise men. And she gets very close. One baby away. ‘But…’ (v11). Jehosheba becomes (as Ralph Davis calls her) ‘the lady who saved Christmas’ as she smuggles one of the royal sons away and hides him in a broom cupboard.

We could spend time learning from Jehosheba (God has his servants in the right place at the right time; God uses women at strategic points in salvation history; she is a woman of faith and courage; she married well). But what about the Christmas that is saved? Let’s just look at the Christ child at the end of the chapter. Can you see three things as you look at him?

  • Humanness – ‘Joash the son of Ahaziah’ (v11) He’s of the Davidic line and he’s also of the Adamic line. He goes back to 1 Chronicles 1:1: ‘Adam’. Ever since Genesis 3:15 we’ve been looking for one born of woman to crush the serpent – not a superhero from the planet Krypton but a man like us. At Christmas we are given a fully human Christ, born of woman, the second Adam. In the early Church the most common heresy was not denying Christ’s deity but his humanity. Very easily people slipped into thinking of Jesus as superhero who floated two inches above the ground, who never really fully became flesh like us but just seemed to. Today, too, in our context we can easily slip into thinking of Jesus as a mighty spirit, just another name for God (e.g. praying ‘Father Lord Jesus’), and forget his humanness, forget that he was (and still is right now) just as flesh-and-blood as the person sitting next to you. Baby Joash (and baby Jesus) got thirsty, tired, hungry, had to have their nappies changed, got coughs and colds and fevers. Do we believe that? For some religions it would be blasphemy to talk about God like that but we glory in a God who really did fully take on our flesh, who fully and irrevocably connected himself to us.
  • Helplessness – ‘Jehosheba… stole him away… and she put him and his nurse in a bedroom… so that Athaliah did not put him to death’ (v11). The Christ child is completely defenceless. He can’t fight, he can’t even run. He has to be picked up carried out of harm’s way. It he hadn’t been he would have died like all his brothers. There is huge vulnerability here. And he’s put with his nurse – why? – presumably because he is still breast-feeding, still needing nappies changed, still completely dependent. Unable to do anything, even feed and dress himself. I think our tendency (certainly mine in the past) has been to tell people – “But remember, Jesus isn’t a baby anymore – he’s the risen conquering king, mighty God, sitting on the throne of heaven.” We fear that non-Christians will see the baby in the manger at Christmas and go away thinking that Christianity is sweet and sentimental and irrelevant after 26 December – what is needed is a strong God who controls the universe and demands obedience. But now I’m changing my mind. Don’t most people already have a view of God as big and strong and mighty, in control and demanding obedience? Don’t they need to see the radical God of the manger? The God who would willingly be small and weak and helpless? That’s where you find the gospel – that’s where you find the distinctively Christian God isn’t it – the God who be naked, weak and helpless (on a Cross) for us.

  • Hidden-ness – ‘Jehosheba… hid him from Athaliah… And he remained… for six years, hidden… while Athaliah reigned over the land’ (v11-12). The Christ lives. The David line has not been cut off. There is still a Christmas. But only a handful of people know it. Most of Israel assumes that it’s all over – no more Davidic kings, no hope, just keep your head down and get used to living in a dictatorship. The Christ is hidden. A few hundred years later another Christ is hidden away in Egypt from a latter day Athaliah. Then he spends most of his life hidden from history in the carpenter’s shop. Even when he launches his public ministry he is keen to keep his identity as Christ secret and is frequently hiding himself away from public view. He even rejoices that he is hidden from the wise and revealed only by the Father to children. Finally his glory is fully revealed on the Cross, though no-one recognises it as such at the time. Then he ascends and is hidden away in heaven till the day when – like Joash (2 Chron. 23) – he will suddenly appear in the temple (Malachi 3:1). Beware of showy, flashy, visible, tangible Christs/Christianities. We are still in the days of the hidden Christ who is seen only as we look into the craddle of the Scriptures and see Him lying there.

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At the last First Priority prayer meeting Harrison preached from 2 Chronicles 20. A few things that came across very clearly…

  • The story makes the point – As Harrison said, just reading the story, from impending disaster to amazing deliverance (with the final twist of another disaster) it preaches itself. The tension builds unbearably to the great turning point – the Word of God proclaiming, “You do not need to fight in this battle. Stand firm and see the salvation of the LORD on your behalf” (2 Chron. 20:17 cf. Exodus 14:13-14). What a great Bible theme – “Salvation belongs to the Lord”, “He saved us”, “Not by works”. And here it is beaten into our heads by a wonderful story.
  • The engagement of the whole person in prayer and worship – Earlier in the prayer meeting, Harrison exhorted us to engage our mind, body and emotions in prayer for the persecuted church and mission in Egypt and Algeria. We are to engage our mind – being well informed on what’s going on in our world (see 2 Chron. 20:2) and praying specific requests (2 Chron. 20:10). We are to engage our bodies – speaking aloud (2 Chron. 20:6), maybe standing or bowing down (2 Chron. 20:5,18). And we are to engage – our emotions, praying for persecuted brothers in N. Africa not in some cold disconnected way but as if we are there with them in prison, as suffering members of our body (Hebrews 13:3). It’s this engagement of emotions that most challenged me. Wary of whipped up emotions, wary of the frantic shouting of the Baal worshippers, and wary of the idea that volume equals power, I can tend to the other extreme of avoiding emotion. But in 2 Chronicles 20, the reason the story is so powerful is largely that it is full of raw emotion. Fear drives Jehoshaphat to prayer (v3 – and Harrison gave us a personal testimony of that experience). Jehoshaphat’s prayer is full of passion (why else the ‘redundant’ ‘O’ at v6 and v12?). The overjoyed praise of the Levites is with ‘a very loud voice’ (v19). Returning from the plunder there is a God-given joy (v27). So the question is not so much, “To shout or not to shout?” The question is, are we engaging our minds, bodies and emotions in genuine prayer and praise?
  • The contradictions of a true believer – Jehoshaphat is a true believer. In 2 Chronicles 17 he leads a greater revival than his father. In chapter 19 he again goes out among the people to ‘bring them back to the LORD (v4) and he rolls out the wonderful blessing of a God-honouring justice system. In chapter 20 he turns to the Temple and prays a model prayer of humble dependence on the Lord (fulfilling 2 Chron. 7:14). So Jehoshaphat is the real thing. Even a prototype of the great Jeho-Shaphat (Jehovah-Judges). And then you get 2 Chronicles 20:35-37 and he’s in league with a wicked king of Israel again (as in ch. 18). What do we say? “He obviously wasn’t a real believer after all” or “He’s fallen from grace”?  Do we tell him to “Get born again (again!)” I don’t think so. Aren’t all Christians contradictory? Don’t we all have contradictions in our lives? We believe one thing and we also believe something else that is completely contradictory. Or we say we believe one thing but our behaviour says something else completely. Talking personally, I am a mass of contradictions. Yes we should seek consistency – a consistent mind and consistent behaviour – our life’s work must be conforming ourselves to the Word of God – but at the same time the Word itself tells me that until I die I will always be fighting the sinful nature which desires what is contrary to the Spirit. Which is why 2 Chronicles 20:17 is such good news. It’s not about me – it’s God’s salvation of sinners all the way home.

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The post on Micaiah ben Imlah and the Diet of Worms received this comment (which starts by quoting the question raised in the post by the antics of Zedekiah ben Kenaanah (2 Chr. 18:10)):

Are we more concerned for passion or for truth?

Here’s The Turth,


what da ya FEEL about that?

I decided not to accept the comment, partly because of the rather aggressive tone, partly because the atheist video to which it linked is not particularly edifying (or good), and partly because I didn’t want the blog to be hijacked by an atheist-theist debate which could distract from our focus and was unlikely to get anyone anywhere (but see here on an atheist converted through online witness).

But then, as I thought about it a bit more and watched the video, I felt there are a few points that might be worth interacting with.

  1. Finding Truth – At least we’re in agreement with our atheist friend about the importance of truth over emotion. Not that there should not be passion – there must be – but it must flow from truth rather than ignore truth. I fear that sometimes we’ve not particularly interested in whether the Bible is true so long as it works. Which means that the force of John 20:30-31 (for example) is lost on us. The whole point of John’s Gospel is to provide testimony, bring forward witnesses in the law court, to prove the case that Jesus really is the Christ, the Son of God. Atheists are right – it really does matter whether or not Jesus historically existed, historically performed miracles, historically died and rose from the dead. We don’t follow cleverly invented stories but eye-witness testimony (2 Pet. 1:16). If you just want a motivational boost or tips for business then an invented story will do. If you want Jesus you need to turn from lies to face the Truth.
  2. Finding Jesus – The video to which the comment linked is a parody of George Harrison’s ‘Awaiting on You All’. It mocks two main claims of Harrison’s song and the first is that the route to peace is to “open up your heart”. Harrison sings, “If you open up your heart, You’ll see [Jesus is] right there, Always was and will be, He’ll relieve your cares”. It’s close to the Quaker belief in a divine inner light that everyone has and just needs to look within and rekindle. The video parody points out, rather crudely, that “If you open up your heart, Blood will gush right out”. There’s some truth there. There is nothing in our hearts but blood to gush out, nothing in our natural selves but filth to gush out. There is an opening of the heart that has to happen (Acts 16:14) but it is God’s sovereign action (“the Lord opened her heart”) and it is an opening not to find something good inside but to receive something/someone good from outside.
  3. Finding Salvation – The second big thing that the video mocks is the way in which believers in different religions think that if they chant the name of their god they will be free/saved. Harrison’s original song had the chorus, “By chanting the names of the lord and you’ll be free, The lord is awaiting on you all to awaken and see”. The video lampoons this idea of a god who passively sits there waiting for people to chant his name (or names): “They’re equally worthless to help you, That’s for sure.” Interestingly, as we saw in 1 Kings 18, the Bible mocks those who chant to passive gods as viciously as the most militant atheist. The difference is only that the Bible also introduces us to the true Lord God, who doesn’t need hours of chanting, who doesn’t sit there “awaiting on you all” but comes down to save, to be the sacrifice for his people, to accomplish a unilateral and complete victory, to raise the dead, to clean the dirty, to lift us up into his divine life to enjoy him for eternity.

I’m still going to click ‘Trash’ to his comment but I’m grateful to our atheist friend for a reminder that it’s not about what works for me, it’s not about looking inside me, it’s not about my prayers, my repentance, my feelings – it’s about Jesus, the saviour who comes from outside, who came in history, to set us free. How do you feel about that?

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At the August ‘First Priority’ prayer meeting we read 2 Chronicles 18 – the gripping story of the faithful prophet, out-numbered 400 to 1, standing before the kings of Israel and Judah. Harrison provoked us to think through a number of questions:

  1. Why are we seeking the Lord’s will?  Jehoshaphat has just led a greater revival than his father Asa (2 Chron. 17) but now he’s throwing in his lot with the terrible apostate king of Israel Ahab (2 Chron. 18:1-3). Unlike the northern king, Jehoshaphat is still concerned to “Enquire first for the word of the Lord” (v4).  But why?  Is he really willing to obey it?  It turns out later that he is not (v28).  Are we looking to God’s Word to rubber stamp what we already think and want?  How different are we from Ahab who’s main concern is for someone to tell him something good about himself (v7)?
  2. Who is our master?  For the 400 prophets it’s pretty clear who’s the boss – the king – their pay master general.  For Micaiah it’s also clear – “As the Lord lives, what my God says, that I will speak” (v13).  What about for us?  Who are we ultimately trying to please – our mentor/supervisor/senior pastor/bishop, our congregation (what their itching ears want to hear), ourselves, or “the Lord sitting on his throne” (v18)?
  3. Are we more concerned for passion or for truth?  Zedekiah ben Chenaanah has a very powerful message. He ‘goes symbolic’, he declares “Thus says the Lord”, what he says is followed by multiple ‘confirming words’ (v10-11)… but it is just hot air.  What do we mean when we say that a sermon was “powerful”?  Do we want preaching that blows the roof off and sends us out pumped up to take on Ramoth-gilead or do we want the truth?
  4. Are we willing to be unpopular?  The 400 prophets have strength in numbers and the favour with those at the top of society.  Micaiah is pressurised (v12), slapped in the face (v23) and imprisoned (v26). The same happens to Jesus and then Paul and then to thousands of those who have preached the pure Word of God through the ages.  Much as we pray and work with all His energy for a revival of faithful Bible teaching we had better get used to the fact there will always be great resistance and very rarely will faithful prophets be in the majority.
  5. Are we under judgment?  When we look ‘behind the scenes’ and see why the 400 prophets are united in false prophecy (v18-22) we have to face the possibility that a rise in false teaching may be a judgment from God. Praise God that even in judgment he remembers mercy and has his true prophet in place (v7), responds to the desperate cry of the Davidic king (v31), preserves a remnant (1 Kings 19:18) and soon brings a new revival (2 Chron. 19-20).
  6. What kind of message do we have?  At first sight (or hearing) the message of the 400 prophets sounds like good news (v5-11) while Micaiah’s message sounds like bad news (v16-22).  We might start thinking, “So the prosperity gospel preachers have got all the good news and we just have bad news to tell people?” But look closer and follow where it leads and you find a different story. The message of the false prophets is, “You strive and God will give you victory” – and it leads to destruction (v34). The message of the true prophet is, “God is desperately concerned for his sheep and their shepherd who are heading for disaster and he’s graciously giving you this warning ahead of time” (v16) – all you have to do is believe this message and sit still and you will live. The words of the false prophets tie on heavy burdens and make empty promises.  But the faithful preacher has the words of eternal life, the voice of the Good Shepherd, grace and safety – words that sting at first and cut down pride but only to heal us and free us and lift us up to the throne of grace.

At the same ‘First Priority’ we looked at the country of Germany – where the Reformation began 500 years ago. We could see various parallels between Micaiah ben Imlah and Martin Luther.  Both massively out-numbered – almost lone voices preaching the truth in the midst of thoroughly corrupted and twisted religion. Both preached the inability of man and the sovereignty and love of God.  Both hauled up before the authorities (having been lent on very heavily to just go along with the official Church view).  Both declared their consciences bound to the Word of God.  And both suffered for their stand. 

Latest estimates suggest that in Berlin today only 0.1% of the population are evangelical Christians.  There is great need of a new revival, a rediscovery of the power of the Word of God, the beauty of Jesus, the good news of grace alone, justification in Christ.

  • For a good brief profile of the German mission context see here.
  • For more prayer resources on Germany see here.
  • For an example of mission from Kenya to Germany see here and here.

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James Wainaina continues on 2 Chronicles 17….


We’ve seen that the revival in 2 Chronicles 17 was preaching-driven. Jehoshaphat chooses not to bow down to Baal but seek and obey the old, neglected law of God and not only that, he is so courageous about the ways of God that he sends a team of princes, Levites and priests to teach fellow Israelites that true revival is only found in a return to the book of the law. This is preached to all in Israel and the revival started by Jehoshaphat’s father Asa is repeated but this time on a larger scale because he takes the good news of God’s book of the law to all the people of Israel.

As we look at Jehoshaphat, we might be tempted to read ourselves as Jehoshaphat – to jump into his shoes. However, we would do better to see him as the Davidic king, a pointer (an imperfect pointer when we reading on to chapter 18) to great David’s Greater Son. It is better that we see ourselves as the people of Judah, needing a king who will lead us in the ways of the Lord – a king who has not sinned but has fully and perfectly sought the Lord and walked in the ways of the Lord. That king is our Lord and savior Jesus Christ. He is the king promised in the line of David in 2 Samuel 7:12-13 who will reign forever.

  1. Isn’t he the stronger man, who has taken his throne, crushed the high places of the enemy and established his kingdom – at the Cross?
  2. Isn’t he the King who has perfectly walked in the ways of his God and Father and not after idols? He has fully obeyed God’s commandments perfectly with no iota of disobedience or wickedness fulfilling all the commandments.
  3. Isn’t he the King whose delight he says is to do the will of His father in heaven including being chastised by the rod and stripes of men (2 Sam 7:14) not because he is a sinner but because He is the substitution offering for our transgression and sinfulness? He who knew no sin became sin for us.
  4. Isn’t he the king who has come down from heaven, he who never took his Lordship as something to be grasped but came down in humility to live amongst us, teach the word of God and send out his disciples to continue being his witnesses to his teachings, suffering and resurrection which has brought forgiveness and repentance to all in Luke 24:46-48?
  5. And isn’t he the king who will come back to judge the living and the dead and his kingdom will be established forever and ever in Rev 11:15?

And as we come to a close, Is he the king who rules our life?

  1. Has King Jesus broken into our lives and established his rule?  Have we been revived by him and been given a new identity as a citizen of his kingdom? 
  2. Do we know that Christ’s perfect obedience given to us?  Do we know the assurance of being clothed in him?  That we can stand right before God not because of what we have done but because of what He has done.
  3. Do we know the joy and blessing that the king has taken the stripes we deserved, taking away all our iniquity and transgression at the Cross?
  4. Are we personally listening to the Word that brings revival?  Do we humble ourselves before the Word? In relationship to others, our work places, our families are we looking to Jesus’ Lordship or are we walking in accordance to ways of the world? And are we going out to preach the Word that brings revival? Are we totally convinced that this is how lives will be transformed?
  5. As we wait for the return of the King and the final establishing of his Kingdom and peace, are we humble enough even to serve as determined warriors and brave men on the side of the King? Standing up for the kingdom’s rule in our lives not because we have done it, but because the grace of the cross blows our mind when we think of the manner of love that Christ has loved us with and above all, the realization that His kingdom is established now and forever more.

How do we have revived hearts and lives?

It can only be so through:

  1. A focus on Jesus Christ our ultimate king.
  2. A focus particularly on his work on the Cross.
  3. Such a heart-captivating focus on the joy and blessing of Christ that the idols of money, sex, power and fame will be eclipsed and fade.
  4. A focus on Christ not through some mystical means but simply through listening to the Word (rather than ourselves or the world).
  5. Bringing others to focus on Christ through proclaiming this Word of truth.

May the Lord help us, as we focus on the Lord Jesus Christ our King. This is what will bring a greater revival in our hearts and life. It will bring rejoicing that no man can give. The joy of a greater hope that not even death can take away from us.

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