Rather than reading the Bible through the eyes of modern secularism, this provocative six-part course teaches you to read the Bible through its own eyes—as a record of God’s dealing with the human race. When you read it at this level, you will discover reasons to worship God in areas of life you probably never before associated with “religion.”
© Charles A. Clough 1997
Charles A. Clough
Biblical Framework Series 1995–2003
Part 4: Disciplinary Truths of God’s Kingdom
Chapter 1: The Golden Era of Solomon: The Discipline of Blessing
Lesson 73 – God’s Rules for Kingship, Lessons from Solomon
18 Dec 1997
Fellowship Chapel, Jarrettsville, MD
Let’s get into the continuity of Solomon. I want to cover a lot of material tonight, by way of review and to put some of this stuff that we’ve learned in the golden era of Solomon into perspective. One of the things we can’t emphasize enough is to think in terms of the progress of revelation, that God administers history like a teacher administers lessons, one after another. History has a progress, revelation has a progress, and there’s coherence to the way God works. We’re in this golden era of Solomon, shortly we’ll get into the decline of the kingdom, and the fall of the kingdom. That’s coming up, but right now we’re at this golden era of Solomon and we are trying to visualize that era, the big ideas behind what was going on in God’s mind for that era in biblical history, the time frame running 900-1000 BC.
We want to go to the notes on page 10 and turn to Deuteronomy 17:17. In Deuteronomy 17 we have the control for the king. We said when the monarchy was established that it was not a totalitarian institution; it was an institution underneath the authority of Scripture. We said the importance of that is that that means that all political institutions, biblically speaking, are under the authority of the Word of God. There’s no such thing as a secular non-biblical institution in God’s sight. Obviously there are pagan societies with the institution. That’s not what we’re saying. We’re saying that any claim by any government by any king by any administration that they are the supreme authority is a false claim. If the king of Israel could not claim for himself divine unction in his legislative and policy making, who else could possibly claim that?
Here you have the model kind programmed in a box, and that’s why this passage in Deuteronomy 17 is very important, there are a lot of political implications here, this is not just religious spiritual literature. There are deep political implications to this, that the king of all kings of all societies of all history, the one kingship that was called into existence by a direct intervention of God was not permitted absolute authority. His authority was derivative of a prior authority in God. We covered this with David, verses 15-16, “you shall surely set a king over you whom the LORD your God chooses, one from among your countrymen you shall set as king over yourselves; you may not put a foreigner over yourselves who is not your countryman.” This is after they decided they wanted a king like all the other nations and God says I’ll give you a king but it’s going to be a king according to My way of thinking.
Verse 16, “Moreover, he shall not multiply horses for himself” that’s an expression for power, horses were the military weapons of the day, they were the best weapons of the day, the “high-speed” weapons of the day, today we would say armor, but horses represented not only military power, they represented political prestige, “nor shall he cause the people to return to Egypt,” in other words, there was supposed to be a separation and this plays a role in what we’re going to say about the rot that Solomon started in the culture, “to multiply horses, since the LORD has said to you, ‘You shall never again return that way.’”
Verse 17, “Neither shall he multiply wives for himself, lest his heart turn away; nor shall he greatly increase silver and gold for himself.” Then the admonition, verses 18-19 which prescribes daily, every day, every day, a daily exercise on the part of the supreme political ruler, he is to study the Word of God. There’s the model of a political leader. Every day he is supposed to be in the Word of God. [Verse 18, “Now it shall come about when he sits on the throne of his kingdom, he shall write for himself a copy of this law on a scroll in the presence of the Levitical priests.  And it shall be with him, and he shall read it all the days of his life, that he may learn to fear the LORD his God, by carefully observing all the words of this law and these statutes;  that his heart may not be lifted up above his countrymen and that he may not turn aside from the commandment, to the right or the left; in order that he and his sons may continue long in his kingdom in the midst of Israel.”]
That’s the model for the highest authority that God ever directly authorized in history. You argue from the greater to the lesser; if that’s the control placed upon the greater king, then what are the controls placed on the lesser kings. The pagan society with a pagan king with a pagan governmental authority is in rebellion against this standard, inherently rebellious, in principle rebellious against this standard. That’s the setting.
Now we have to come over and look at Solomon’s behavior. We go back to 1 Kings 11:1-4. We want to ask some questions of the text. It says: “Now King Solomon loved many foreign women along with the daughter of Pharaoh:” and he lists some of these women in his harem, “Moabite, Ammonite, Edomite, Sidonian, and Hittite women,  from the nations concerning which the LORD had said to the sons of Israel, ‘You shall not associate with them, neither shall they associate with you, for they will surely turn your heart away after their gods.’” Then the comment of the prophetic writer of the text, “Solomon held fast to these in love.” I said last week to anticipate this question: What’s going on here, something is “rotten in “Denmark,” at the core of this biblical culture of this great golden era, something’s not right, there’s an instrument out of tune here. And it has to do with marriage, it has to do with international politics, and it has to do with idolatry.
Somehow we’ve got to tie together the text. This is the thing about Scripture, sometimes the Bible intends us to do the thinking, it wants us to put it together so let’s put these three topics up here: one is idolatry; another one is marriage; the third is international treaties. All three of these are implicated, and somehow they work together and somehow it was kind of a mutual encouragement among these three elements. What I’ve tried to do on page 10 is to weave these three things together. Follow as I read:
“An interesting observation occurs here: religious apostasy, international treaties, and religiously-mixed marriages are tied together.” If you go up a few sentences, the end of the first paragraph, I give some Bible verses which is the list of forbidden cultures, by the way, if you look at the references there, Exodus 23:26-33; 34:12-16, it’s saying don’t’ intermarry with these cultures. If you’re an astute student of Scripture you realize, wait a minute one of those laws is violated by a small book, four chapters, of the Scripture, right in the period of the Judges, the book of Ruth. Ruth, if you take a naïve view of the law, and it says “don’t marry Moabite women,” and Ruth is a Moabite woman, and not only is she married; she’s in the Messianic line. So now we’ve got to cope with a little theology problem.
What is the book of Ruth doing in the Canon; is there a conflict between what happened in Ruth’s case and what’s going on in Exodus? Earlier, in the book of Joshua, is Caleb, so you have these men marrying Gentile wives, to the glory of God. You have the law saying don’t marry them. So do we have a conflict in Scripture? Some people can say yeah, there is, but we know enough of our God that God doesn’t think that way. So if we think there’s a conflict, there’s something we’re not catching. What do you suppose is the answer to that dilemma? How do we reconcile the existence of Ruth with this commandment not to marry foreign women, and then tie it back to Solomon where he’s accused of going down the tubes because he’s married foreign women? What’s the issue?
The issue is obviously in Ruth’s case she was a woman who was converted. Think back on the days of the conquest. Of all places, when the spies went into the land, who did they meet, not a prostitute but the lady who ran the whore house. And who is it that’s the believer? It’s almost like God sort of says okay, you’d be surprised where the gospel goes, and who it converts. Of all the land, in all that area, it was the madam of the whore house who trusted in Christ. The rest of that city rejected and they were slaughtered. When the armies went in, who did they rescue? I have a friend who’s done biblical archeological work and he was telling me some of the new research on Jericho, they think they found the corner where her house was, because in the strata where the walls are out, there’s several destruction layers, there’s one corner of the city, one section that’s not fallen out, and that’s exactly what the Scriptures say. We may be within fifty feet of where this lady lived. In her case and in Ruth’s case they were women who bowed their knee spiritually to Jesus Christ, as known in the Old Testament, bowed their knee to Jehovah.
What then do we say about Solomon? That’s why in the end of paragraph one on page 10 I make that point. “Nowhere, however, do we read of Solomon’s wives converting to faith in Yahweh.” That’s the point, that’s what went wrong here besides the fact we have a harem going on. King David had a harem going on but David’s harem isn’t becoming a source of stumbling; Solomon’s harem is. That’s another issue, the multiplying of wives, etc. we’re not going to get into that.
In 1 Kings 11:1-2 we have the case where he has a harem but the harem is made of marriages to women who have not converted to faith in Jehovah. Now we’ve got a problem. So marriage has a common link with international treaties. Marriages were used to glue together international treaties. It shows you that in the ancient history this institution appeared in the common mentality to take precedence over this. Why do we say that? Why do they insist on royal marriages to cement international treaties together? Isn’t that a confession that they believed in the power of the marriage union? Surely they did, and they used and thought of the marital covenant, as stronger than the international treaties. Therefore, they used intermarrying princes and princesses to put into concrete form the international treaty. So if Pharaoh made a treaty with the Israelites the way that treaty was cemented together was for there to be an exchange of daughters going on.
The marriage cemented the international treaty. What does a marriage do? In the marriage you have to have some sort of unity of purpose, and out of that unity of purpose, out of the values in the home, these values propagate out into society from the children. This is why, when families go to pot, society goes to pot and there’s no government program that’s going to solve it, because the problem isn’t with the government program, the problem is with the families. The government has only limited resources and tools to deal with that kind of a problem, it’s just out of the league of the government.
Let’s review: Solomon has made marriages with women who aren’t converted. Why does the Bible caution against dating and marrying unbelievers? Because you have a total collision of principles. To marry an unbeliever means you have Satan for your father-in-law, and what it does is you have two powerful principles: one I will bow my knee to Christ; and I will absolutely eternally refuse to do so. How are you going to build unity on those two mutually contradictory principles? Solomon is trying to do that, and out of that we’re going to see what’s going on wrong with his wisdom. He starts with a marriage that’s compromised. Right there he’s compromised the absolute principle. When he went and used these marriages to get his international treaties, he imported into his culture foreign values, unbelieving values, and that was where it started. The rot started in the culture with a mixture of values in the home, and from there it just pfft, sprayed all over the place. We’ll see it took centuries for this to work out. Our next event is going to be the collapse of the kingdom, the fall or the northern kingdom, the decline of the whole nation. It all starts with this kind of stuff.
What is the principle that is behind the unbelief that dominates the marriage? Idolatry. First you have the principle of idolatry; idolatry enters the marriage through unbelief, the marriage sets up the international treaties and then puts all this out into society. So at the very core of the reign of King Solomon there was a rot, and the rot rotted the fruit of the culture. Why did Solomon do this? The guy isn’t dumb. Solomon is probably one of the smartest men who ever lived. How could he have been so stupid to make this kind of mistake?
Go down to the bottom of page 10. I talk about Ecclesiastes; the conclusion to the book of Ecclesiastes was basically that no man can comprehend God, and since you can’t totally comprehend God, you can only pieces of His mind, that means that to follow God requires faith at every point. In the final analysis you have to submit to commands we do not understand. God tells us things we do not understand and cannot comprehend. They’re not stupid things, they’re simply that He either chooses not to reveal everything that’s in His hands or what is in His hands is so grandiose that we couldn’t comprehend it if we tried. Our thoughts are not His thoughts and His thoughts His ways are not our ways.
That being the conclusion, wisdom of a man must be subordinate to the wisdom of God. There are two levels of wisdom. Remember when we started two years ago we kept saying you’ll see this again and again and again in the Scripture, and always go back to this, always remember this.
Unbelief believes in a continuity; there’s only one level of existence. Belief in the Scriptures believes there are two levels of existence, there’s the Creator existence and there’s the existence of the creature. Let’s apply that category to wisdom.
There are two wisdoms: there is the wisdom of God and there is the wisdom of men. Solomon confused these. He had such great human wisdom that he began to think that it was self-sufficient and you can tell he thought that way because what was he trying to do? What were these marriages purpose? It was to get international treaties going? Why did he want international treaties? Solomon was the king of peace, his name means peace. What do we have with these treaties? They’re mutual defense packs. He was trying to secure peace when God had already given them peace. God had absolutely ensured that Israel would be protected. Whose job was it, after all, to protect Israel under the terms of the Sinaitic Covenant? Who was the King? Who was charged with the physical security of these people? Who was it that opened up the land to them? Who was it that stopped the sun and the moon in the middle of a battle? Who was it that directed their armies? Who was it that knocked the walls of Jericho down? So given all these things, where does the security issue lie? The security issue lies with Jehovah.
But you see, this is such a subtle temptation, we want to create our own kingdoms, our own solutions, and Solomon felt because he was so wise, he was an astute trader, we know that he wheeled and dealt in the international currency markets. He bought and sold gold and silver by the ton. This guy knew all about international relations and he began to think like the people he did business with. And then he realized that the way to get the deal, the way to get the security is to make a treaty, after all, everybody else does it. So we will build a human construction, I will construct, in addition to the temple to God, a program (this is basically what he was doing) of security. My security lies in my programs, and I’ll build my programs. He built his program all right, and that began the foreign marriages, and then the foreign marriages imported the idolatry.
That’s how the three work together. Spiritually it was idolatry, marriage and the working out in society. But chronologically he failed to understand this issue that Solomon, yes your human wisdom can’t comprehend God, precisely which makes you a man of faith, not a man of works. But the flesh always resorts to works, gimmicks, do-it-yourself plans. The result is this kind of thing. We want to perceive what ruined the culture that could have been a golden era that would have perpetuated for centuries, a marvelous testimony to the grace of God. What undid it was not, in his case, necessarily immoral sins. It was sin of a more subtle sort; it was the desire for security on MY terms; that was the sin that led to the rot.
We want to move on, I’ve developed two charts on pages 11 and 12 because we want to, from this era of Solomon, from this golden era, we want to deal with the truths that we learn from it, that we can carry over into our lives. Every one of the events that we’ve dealt with so far has had a whole slug of doctrines and truths. We went back to creation and out of the creation event we learned about God, we learned about His attributes, we learned about the nature of man, we learned about man’s relationship to nature and the creation, all these basic, basic ideas on which everything else in Scripture is related. We went to the fall and we learned about the problem of evil; we dealt with the problem of suffering, a major problem with most people. It’s all there in the event of the fall. You can’t understand one without the other.
When we started with the conquest and settlement we embarked on a new set of events: conquest and settlement, the reign of King David, and now the golden era of Solomon. There will be more in this series. For now in this series the big idea, the doctrine that is emphasized over and over is the doctrine of sanctification, or the doctrine of how believers come into moral and ethical and spiritual shape to dwell with God for eternity. How do we acquire holiness and sanctification?
The moment we raise this question we go back to a principle, and this is why I hope maybe some of you see why I keep going back to this framework. It looks like what we’re talking about is the Christian life stuff. That’s true, this is all Christian life stuff, this is all the stuff that 90% of the books deal with when you walk in a Christian book store. But the difference is when you learn to think in terms of the framework that the truths down in this period must be built on truths of prior periods. When you learn to think that way, you realize, wait a minute, the doctrine of sanctification or Christian life hinges on prior truths, and it’s these prior truths that give the power to those truths. Whereas a lot of Christians will tend to say, well I don’t really understand sanctification, or we’ve this book, the secret to living the Christian life, and all the “secrets.” You’d think it was the most classified secret in history, everybody’s got a secret. It’s not a secret, the sanctification or the principles of the Christian life all flow out quite naturally from these prior truths.
The one thing I want to review is one of the purposes in sanctification is to solve this problem, our old problem that we inherited at the fall. Sanctification’s background is to separate good from evil. We all kind of glimpse that when we have our struggles, we have a book on prayer, or we have a book on the filling of the Spirit, and we talk about victory over the sin nature, etc. We’re really on a periphery grabbing that issue. But what we want to do is confront it boldly and directly. Sanctification is nothing less than the solution of the ultimate problem of history itself; the little trials and tribulations that I experience as a Christian in my life are cosmic problems. My little battles that I do in my life is related to this battle; this is what gives meaning to this thing.
This is not a trivial little part time exercise. What God the Holy Spirit is doing in sanctification is He’s trying to solve the problem of evil that everybody’s whining and crying about, fussing about, why does all this happen, why is God not removing evil? Well, He’s trying; He is working through us in sanctification. That’s what makes it so painful. We’re on the splitting edge, and the pain, of growth pains, and teaching pains, and stumbling and sinning and confessing and getting up and moving on and then falling apart again, all that gory lesson planning and lesson learning and training is part of the big picture. The big picture isn’t getting rid of my addiction. The big picture isn’t getting better mental health. The big picture isn’t feeling joy, those are all nice fruit but that’s not the big picture, that’s not what’s driving this thing. If that’s what was driving this thing, then the whole Christian life would be nothing more than a self-improvement plan.
But the Christian life isn’t a self-improvement plan. It does include improvement in self, but that’s not the game. The game is related to something that took place centuries and centuries ago, took place in God’s mind billions and billions of years ago in eternity past, when He contemplated the grand creation of the universe, and He decided that He would allow the creature to rebel, that He would risk His own son at the cross to permit the creature to freely choose right or wrong, and have a dramatic demonstration down through history of what rebellion against Him leads to. So whatever His reasons for decreeing certainty to history and the certainty of the presence of evil and the certainty of the ultimate separation of good and evil, whatever His reasons is to glorify Himself. Those are the reasons that are in back of this doctrine of sanctification.
Let’s go to this table. The first table summarizes what we dealt with in the past, from the past event summarizing examples. We’ve talked about five different truths of sanctification. We want to look at each of these and then come to the one that’s going to be emphasized with Solomon. We’ve got five truths, five parts, and in David’s life there was one part emphasized, in Solomon’s life there will be another part emphasized, when we go into Ahab and Jeroboam and the kings there will be other parts of this emphasized. But it will always be parts of these. So as we read this section of history, from about 1000 BC on to 586 BC, the final collapse of the nation, all that 400-year period of history has to do with a dramatic illustration of the doctrine of sanctification through the national history of the nation Israel.
So let’s look at the first one just to review and make sure we get what’s going on here. I call these the aspects of sanctification, the five aspects of sanctification. Call them what you will, that’s just a word. But the ideas are what count.
Table Showing the Aspects of Sanctification
Aspect of Sanctification
|Positional and Experiential Phases:
Position is what God does;
Experience is what He wants us to do
|Position = Abrahamic Covenant
Experience = Sinaitic Covenant commands
|Aim: to develop loyalty to God||Defeat at Ai; Victory at Aijalon|
|Means: law and grace
||Law = publicly revealed will of God—
protecting against licentiousness and
irrationalism; declaration of holy war;
Grace = God’s repeated initiative toward
sinners in hiding—protecting against
legalism and rationalism; covenant renewal
at Mt. Sinai & Moses’ intercession.
|Dimensions: long-term growth and
existentially present decisions
|Progressive occupation of the land;
|Enemies: evil to be eliminated under
God’s sovereign power (world, flesh,
|Indirect, not direct, strategy against
God’s enemies: Kadesh-Barnea & Ai
versus Jericho & Aijalon.
Table Showing Restoration to Fellowship through Confession
Step in the Restoration Process
|Illustration in David’s life|
|Conviction of Sin: being made aware
of the specific offense toward God
not just societal consequences
|Nathan’s “indirect approach” and
David’s realization that the SINS
were against the Lord ONLY (Psalm 51:4)
|Confession of Sin: repentant turning
from autonomy (excuses and
blame shifting) to submission to the
Cross as the sole point of contact
with God (responsibility for the sin
and cleansing by the Cross).
|David confesses his disobedience,
not merely feeling sorry for the
consequences and his need for being
cleansed “with hyssop” (Psalm 51:3, 7);
David aware of the profound depth of
His depravity from birth (Psalm 51:5-12)
|Restoration: eternal forgiveness of
God through the Cross but with
temporal consequences not
|David restored to witnessing to Yahweh’s
truth and grace while continuing to
suffer the “fallout” of his sin (Psalm 51:13ff)
Other Psalms during the 2 Samuel 12-24 period.
On the first row on this chart it says “Positional and Experiential.” What I mean by positional sanctification is what God does. What does God do at the point of salvation? He justifies us, He regenerates us, the Holy Spirit indwells us, these are all things we learn in the New Testament. Dr. Chafer who started Dallas Theological Seminary once did a study and he found that there were thirty-six things; other scholars have added things. There are thirty-six to forty things that happen at the time that you believe in the Lord Jesus Christ. Amazing things and we just don’t know that they’re there. The regeneration is analogous to the creation of the universe. Whatever God the Holy Spirit does at the point of faith is related in Scripture to 2 Corinthians, Paul deliberately does this, he picks up that imagery of the first day of creation and applies it to regeneration. He puts it in the same league, so there are all kinds of things that happen at the time a person becomes a Christian. People have become Christians driving a car, the car didn’t go off the road, it kept right on going. I’m sure you can give testimony to when you became a Christian, what were you doing at the time you became a Christian, what were the circumstances. Whatever they were, these things were done through the work of God. That’s the position. God has invested certain things; He has put us in His plan. That means He has a plan for us.
He has Israel in the plan. If you go to the right column you see an illustration of positional truth; the illustration is the Abrahamic Covenant. What did God promise Abraham and the promises to Abraham in this covenant were promises; were they or were they not historically guaranteed? They’re guaranteed. Can any force in history undo the Abrahamic Covenant? No. That’s God’s position. So immediately, without reading somebody’s “secret” to the Christian life, if we know a little chunk of our position we can look Hell in the face and not be intimidated. We are in a victorious position forever! What is that great hymn of Martin Luther, remember the lyrics where he says that “we tremble not for him,” Luther grasped positional truth. It wasn’t that Luther was saying he was great, it wasn’t in his experience, it was in God’s promises. The strength is in Him and His promises, not in us; in our old flesh we don’t have strength. Positional truth is illustrated by the Abrahamic Covenant.
Then we have the second part of where the action is, and that is experience, and the historical illustration of experience is the Sinaitic Covenant because the Sinaitic Covenant didn’t concentrate on what God promised to do, it concentrated on what He wants us to do. See, there’s two parts. Think about it. How are the New Testament usually organized? How is Ephesians organized? How is Romans organized? What two things are always emphasized and which one comes first? Paul always starts the epistle with reference to position. That’s always the first part of his epistles. In the very first verse, look at some of the first verses in the New Testament, how he starts out, all the saints at So and So “in Christ Jesus.” We think of that as kind of like “hello John” type thing. No-no, there’s more theology than just hi, how you doing guys. That’s a statement of position.
And then he goes on and deals with experience. But he never ever comes to experience first; he always starts from position and then goes to experience. When we get in trouble, what are we doing in our minds? We’re always wrapped around our experience trying to seek out where we are. But the progress conceptually in Scripture is quite the other way. Which came first, the Abrahamic Covenant or the Sinaitic Covenant? The logic is in the order of the revelation. First God says what He is going to do, then He details of the nation what He expected them to do. The same pattern is in the epistles.
Now the next element and ask ourselves, what is the aim of sanctification. In a nutshell what does God want of us as creatures? Loyalty, to love Him. That’s the aim, to love Him. We know that we fall short of that. It always makes me uncomfortable, that hymn we always sing, I love you Lord something … that’s true but it’s a pretty audacious claim. We do in principle only because of the grace of God in our hearts, but as you sing it, it rings hollow because we all know areas where we don’t love the Lord. So that’s the thing we want to drive home: the aim in sanctification is ultimate loyalty to God, perfect loyalty to God, loving Him with all our heart, mind and soul. That’s the aim of sanctification.
Here’s a trick question. This goes back, let’s think about this, let’s pretend there wasn’t any fall and we’re living in this first part of history, before evil. What was the aim then? This is an exercise, we’re with Adam and Eve walking about the Garden, no fall yet, no evil. God had a reason for them there; God had a reason for allowing Satan to talk to them. What was the reason? To test them, obedience. He had them in a perfect environment, no sin there. But He gave them a test to develop loyalty to Him. That gives marvelous insight into how loyalty to God is developed. It’s not developed reading a book, not even the Bible. Loyalty to God is developed by actions and by actively obeying Him in a situation. Adam and Eve could have sat there and could have studied what God told them to do, and that’s great, but where the rubber met the road was what they did in the situation. That’s where the spiritual strength of loyalty arose.
Let’s move from Eden to Jerusalem in the year AD 30. We’re following behind the Lord Jesus Christ. Here is a man who never sinned, and yet the New Testament says He learned through what? Through suffering. Jesus learned… learned, did He have to learn, He didn’t sin. Yes, but He still had to learn, He was sinless but He had to learn and how did He learn? He learned through suffering, through encountering trials and tribulations. He was sinless though. Why did He need sanctifying? Here’s something we want to point out about sanctifying, getting back to the aim of sanctification. This aim of sanctification, loyalty to God would have been there had we not sinned. Had the fall not happened, we still would had to have had an opportunity to obey under choice. Jesus did; Adam and Eve did, and both operated in a sinless environment. There was no sin involved. So what we’re looking at here is something deeper, sanctification is not just about sin. Sanctification is about doing something that was ordained for the responsible creature whether he sinned or he didn’t sin, it would have still been there.
What the sin introduced into the equation though … now we’ve fallen, now we’re sinful, is the original aim removed? No, because that’s the aim God wants for His responsible creatures. The aim doesn’t go away when sin starts. What does sin do? Sin makes it more difficult, sin makes it impossible to do it, that’s why we had to be saved. Sin is a drag on the process. If you want a picture of sanctification here’s one, and it’s a simple one a child can grasp. It comes out of Genesis 2, what did God tell Adam and Eve to do as a way of work every day? To keep and till the Garden, and they were to bring forth fruit out of the Garden. Was that because they sinned? Some people think work is because we sinned. Excuse me, but work is there prior to sin. What is the connection between sin and work? What happened to the ground at the point of sin? I curse the ground that it may bring forth thorns and thistles to you. Are they still supposed to bring forth fruit? Yes, how else are they going to eat? But now what’s the problem? The problem is the ground rebels against them, so now what has happened to the pressure. Before they had a temptation this big, now they’ve got a temptation THIS big.
Has the absence or presence of temptation changed? No, it’s still there. Is the necessity of obedience gone or changed? No, it’s still there. What’s changed? The pressure has changed; the ground resists, we have become rebels and the ground under our feet rebels against us like we rebel against God. This is why sanctification requires an action mode. Half the sin of the world, I’m willing to say all of it ultimately, is due to a strange passivity. I’m not picking on people with addictions, I’m just using it because it’s a very easy to see picture and most of you have seen this happen; drugs, alcohol, some weird behavior. I’m not picking on these people because we’re all that way in a profound sense. But think about an addict; the addict will rant and rave and say he has no other choice. And in a given situation that may be because, for example, take somebody who may be an alcoholic because they’re constantly involved in this thing they’re physiology, their whole system chemically is set up for it.
But originally, let’s go back, back to childhood, certain choices were made. This is why raising children is so difficult; choices were made when they were young people, when they just involved themselves in this and there was a conscious life that went on and said no, no, no, and they rode across it and went ahead and did it. Now the path is clearer; it’s a more well-trodden path; now the barriers are weaker, so now we do it some more. The problem in every one of these addictions is what? Every time you do it there’s less kick to it than it was the first time or the time before. So that’s why more and more bizarre behaviors get created because there’s less and less return on the investment.
What I’m trying to say is that when you analyze the pattern, it’s like I’m sitting here and I’m faced with a temptation and yeah, yeah, yeah, there’s a passivity there, a passivity in contrast to the fact “I don’t have to! I have a choice, and I intend to exercise my choice!” I may be tired, I may be emotionally whipped, my choice may have about that much strength to it, that’s all I can muster. And that’s when I call upon the Lord to amplify that. He did the bread, the kid gave Him a little box lunch and He fed 5,000 with it. Why can’t He take a minute thing, pitiful attempt, and amplify the power of it. Of course He can do that; the Holy Spirit is in that business. But He’s not going to amplify a vacuum; He’s going to amplify a choice. We have to be active to do that. So there’s a profound passivity and we induce it in our society, we’re a pill-centered society, we’ve got a pill for everything, we’ve got a medical solution for everything, it’s always something outside, it’s somehow never my choice. [blank spot]
The problem is it’s always the sick environment. Yeah, what else is new, we live east of Eden, join the club. But around us there are people in this that make the choice, the godly choice. Furthermore, in the final analysis when we come before the Bema Seat, we’re going to stand before the Son of Man and we’re not going to be able to blow smoke in His face by saying, Well, You didn’t really walk around, You didn’t experience the temptations that I did, easy for You. Will we be able to say that to Jesus Christ, that He’s never faced a temptation? Are we kidding? He faced temptations a thousand times what we face. Satan himself directly tempts Jesus. I doubt any of us have ever been directly encountered with Satan, where he offered us a bona fide offer to rule the world; and Jesus made the choice.
My point here is that this second step of sanctification is very much the center of God’s action, because over here in that right column notice the “defeat at Ai.” What was the great victory militarily before Ai? Jericho. What did God do at Jericho? He knocked the walls down. Could God have knocked the walls down at Ai? Yes. What happened? The army got defeated at Ai. God risked the lives of believers because somebody screwed up. There wasn’t loyalty to Him in the camp. And faced with a choice, do I let these guys take casualties in the next battle, or do I protect them from taking casualties, or do I deal with this loyalty problem? What was more important? The battle or the loyalty to God, the lesson at Ai. Obviously it was the loyalty to God, it always takes precedence. That’s why unless you keep this in mind, the whole aim of sanctification, a lot of things don’t make sense. Why did God allow this suffering? Why does He do this or why does He do that. We get in some sort of a mode of blaming God.
Over here, the victory at Aijalon, the believers made a big mistake, Joshua was deceived, he got locked up in a business agreement, a treaty that he should never have gotten into, and he was kind of stupid about it, foolish. But where was his heart? To obey God. And what did God do to honor his loyalty to God? Stopped the sun and the moon, and there was a day in history like nothing had ever been before it and nothing shall ever be after it. Why? Because loyalty to God was the issue, not winning or losing a battle. It was always loyalty to God. At Ai it was loyalty to God; at Aijalon it was loyalty to God. It didn’t matter what the other things were, that was always the center. That’s the centerpiece of all the work the Holy Spirit does in our lives today. It hasn’t changed.
Then we come to the third aspect of sanctification, it always features law and grace. You can’t have one without the other, and if you exalt one above the other you always ruin both of them. On the right column I’ve given some words about law and grace. “Law=publicly revealed will of God,” you have to have that, what’s the basis of faith. Faith comes by hearing, hearing what? Noises? No, hearing the Word of God, so if we don’t have any kind of revelation out there to hear we can’t believe. So law is necessary, it’s “protecting against licentiousness,” it gives us something to think about, content, content, content, so we don’t go off and like the people in Toronto, like laughing hyenas, rolling around making fools of themselves because they have nothing else to do with their minds, and they’re equating this with some great spiritual outpouring. The Holy Spirit is probably having a ball laughing at them. It’s not an outpouring of the Holy Spirit, there’s no content to it. When God speaks there’s content to it. Can you imagine sitting there sitting to Jesus and rolling around laughing; there’s something totally incongruous about this. Nowhere in the ministry of Jesus do you have everybody behaving like a group of hyenas. Yet people have the nerve to call this some outpouring of the Holy Spirit. Ridiculous! Content, there’s always content. When God speaks He is omniscient.
“Grace,” this is the other side, “God’s repeated initiative toward sinners in hiding,” do you know why I wrote that? Because I thought of the Garden of Eden and Adam and Eve hiding in the bushes, and God had to actively open the conversation. Right? Eve wasn’t going to open the conversation. God opened the conversation. Why? Because they were hiding, because they were feeling guilty, they knew they had sinned, and that’s always the same, God’s initiative, and that protects us against getting arrogant, because in religious circles we tend to become very legalistic, and get very arrogant and drive people away because of our arrogance. We don’t want that either. That’s the balance we have to have, grace and truth. What’s the illustration? The covenant renewal at Mount Sinai. What happened while Moses was up getting the Ten Commandments? There was the Law, the Law was being given, how many hours old was the law when they were having a big blast down at the bottom of Mount Sinai? In idolatry! It probably wasn’t twenty-four hours old and people were already violating the Law. What’s that a picture of? That God is very gracious, so He revealed it a second time. He didn’t have to. Remember the conversation with Moses, get out of the way Moses, I’ll blast these people. And Moses said, No, don’t, and there was an intercessor that stood up to God and plead on the basis of His mercy and grace.
So you have law and grace always combined and when a group or Christians emphasize one over the other, you destroy both of them. You have people who identify with the law and they will preach the law, the law, the law, the law, the Word, the Word, the Word, and it can degenerate into a human performance medium, with no grace. I can’t obey the Word of God, I need grace. So emphasis on the law trivializes the law because the only way you can be satisfied if you get law, law, law, law, law is to so trivialize it that it can be obeyed in the energy of the flesh. Who did that in the days of Jesus? They trivialized the law, didn’t count it to the heart, it was just externals. It was the Pharisees. And what did Jesus do in the Beatitudes? He deepened the law back to where it was, and He spoke to the heart. Why did He do that? Because that’s what makes me realize that I can’t keep the law, I need a heart transformation to do that.
There are other people who emphasize grace, grace, grace, grace, grace, and never talk about law. Then what happens to grace? Grace becomes identified as sort of, what I call an eternal laxative, which God is lax, and then His holiness is compromised. So there’s always a battle, always has been a battle, all of our lives we have a battle to keep these two in balance.
Then we come down to the “Dimensions,” where we act. There are two places where we act. We can get impatient over one and get mad about the other. One is, don’t confuse long-term growth with instantaneous obedience or disobedience. You can have a new believer, godly, heart’s in the right place, trusting the Lord, making all the right decisions, the New Testament says don’t put him as a leader. Why’s that? Because he’s not mature enough, doesn’t have the time logged yet in fellowship with the Lord, doesn’t have enough different kinds of experiences so he can meet the big trials, not proven yet. Remember David had to prove himself. So there’s two dimensions, the long term growth that takes time and we have to be patient about it, and then there’s the existential present, this moment He calls us to obey Him here, or we’re going to disobey; it’s either or, it’s one of two choices.
Then we went to the enemies, and we said that these enemies are left around in the mixed world until they’re removed, they’re going to continue. They will continue until that last moment when good is ripped away from evil. So there will always be the world, the flesh, and the devil. We learned from Kadesh-Barnea and Ai, and those different places on the right side of the chart the strategy to cope with that is indirect. Let’s think about why an indirect strategy. What did we say was the aim? The aim is loyalty to God. Is the aim the elimination of the enemies? No. The aim is loyalty to God. So when you read books talking about angelic beings, yes, they’re there. The room could be quite crowded tonight actually. But the emphasis, while we want to understand there are angelic beings good and evil in our environment, doing all kinds of stuff, observing us, certain things are done in the church service because the angels are watching… how many are in that aisle. The point is, they’re around and we don’t want to make light of them, they’re God’s messengers, they do God’s work, they’ve probably saved us innumerable times from stupid things and we haven’t even known it. But the emphasis isn’t on them.
You’ll get into certain Christian books and they are going to get everybody praying about the demons and this and that and the rest of it. Are there demons? Yes there are. I’ve had some very interesting experiences in my past watching some certain phenomena, you could detect it with an electrical circuit, watch 110 volts, a person going through this thing, a person sitting over there and twenty feet away you can put on a volt meter and watch this 110-volt line change. Figure that one out. Beats me how they do it. But there’s an obvious reference point of interference there. So yes they are there, and are they real? Yes they are real. But the emphasis in the New Testament isn’t praying against demons. They’re there, they’re recognized, we have to deal with them, but how do we deal with them? By being loyal to God! So all this works together.
We want to conclude on page 12, what we learned from David because next week we’re going to deal with Solomon, the lessons from Solomon. To give you a preview of coming attractions, next week when we get together we’re going to talk about what Solomon teaches us about the loyalty to God issue. Solomon is going to come back and we’ll deal with that one. That’s the one that’s going to be amplified by Solomon. But tonight we want to end with this one that was amplified by David. We’re going to look at each one of these and the events to come and see what those events teach us about these aspects of sanctification.
What did David teach us? He taught us about this, the present decisions that we make, the existentially present decisions. In other words, on the knife edge of time David made a choice and David showed us the right kind of choice to make. David showed us how to get back in fellowship with God, and that’s the thing we want to remember about David’s great experience. Psalm 52, quickly reviewing these three parts: the conviction of sin, the Holy Spirit convicts specifically, not a vague thing. He is made aware of the specific offense toward God, and frankly sometimes if our spiritual life is hindered it’s necessary to take some time and ask the Lord, have I done something wrong here? Bring it to light; you can’t confess what you don’t know. So be made aware of the offense toward God, and we said David had societal consequences, but that’s not the issue in the restoration to fellowship. It’s not, if you go out and kill five people, to take a gross illustration, it’s not the five people that is the problem, it’s your relationship with God that’s the problem, you’ve got jail, police, courts, you’ve got angry people, you may be lynched, you may get hung but that’s all irrelevant right now. The issue is getting back in fellowship with God.
So it’s not a societal consequences, it is what have I done before God. That’s why, when David said in Psalm 51:4, the realization that sins are against the Lord ONLY, not against society. There are social consequences, we are not denying this, but the sin is against God. We gave the illustration that when you commit a crime it’s against the state, not against the victim. If you go to a court trial it’s always the State vs. Somebody. Why is that? Who makes the law? The state does, not the victim. So you can only offend against the lawmaker. That’s just a faint image of the way God runs the universe. “Confession of sin, repentant turning from autonomy,” we have all kinds of “excuses and blame shifting, it’s the other guy, to submission to the cross as the sole point of contact with God.” Confession takes us back to the cross. That’s why before communion service we have 1 Corinthians 11. Why is that? What’s communion depicting? The cross. What do we do to prepare our hearts for it? Go back to the cross; it’s always going back to the cross. “David confesses his disobedience, not merely feeling sorry for the consequences, and his need for being cleansed ‘with hyssop,’” and we know that; people say, where’s the cross in Psalm 51? Right there with the word “hyssop.” What do you think hyssop was? What did the priest do with the hyssop? Dipped it in the blood, spread it all over the place. That’s where the cross is in Psalm 51.
And then restoration that eternally forgives… eternally forgives! But, and that’s the big “but” and that’s the thing we have to remember. “But the temporal consequences are not necessarily removed.” Sometimes they are, sometimes they’re not. We can’t confuse eternal forgiveness that God granted, just like David… again, memory drill, what did David have to go through after he confessed his sins? What were four major events? The loss of four sons: one, two, three, four. Do you suppose every time he went through that he would be tempted to think that he had not been forgiven? That God was after him? He probably was, but that’s not the truth, he was forgiven at the point he confessed his sin, Psalm 51. That sin is gone, it’s not an issue any more, but the consequences are. That’s what’s so hard. “David is restored to witnessing to Yahweh’s truth and grace while continuing to suffer the ‘fallout’ of his sin.” That’s the challenge and that’s the greater challenge, because now added to the previous problem you’ve got all this other stuff to walk through. But that becomes another test; that becomes a test of whether I’m going to trust the Lord with the stuff.
That’s the doctrine of sanctification and the parts of it. Next week we’re going to go from pages 13-17. If you look through that and look carefully at this whole issue of culture, there’s two verses on page 16, look at Isaiah 11:9, and Isaiah 41 because it’s looking forward to the kingdom that’s to come.
Question asked: Clough replies: The only comparison that I intended to make between Jesus and Adam was that both of them operated out of an initial zero sin level. There are two very useful exercises for us to think about because they were real people and they depict this issue of being under a test before God for loyalty in a sinless environment; Adam in a sinless environment, Jesus in a sinless inside environment. Both of them were tested and both of them were called to be obedient under a choice situation, an active choice situation. That’s why those two become models and Jesus particularly becomes a model because He one day will judge us. We’re going to be judged by a peer. You know, jury trial by peers and the Bible follows that principle, because Jesus must be a peer and He must have had temptations on the order of ours or greater in order to be our peer.
Question asked: Clough replies: Why was it greater in Jesus’ case than ours? To fully get into that I have to anticipate what I’m going to do when I get into the person of Christ, and it’s involved, the theological term for that is impeccability, and to make a long story short, impeccability says that the Lord Jesus Christ would never sin, and that gets involved with the eternal plan of God and all kinds of stuff. But in the area of the truth called Christology Jesus is said to be impeccable.
[Someone says something] No, the concept of impeccability is that Jesus could never sin, both would and could not sin. But it’s one of those things like the Trinity because how do you rate His temptations as real. The only way I can illustrate it is conceive of the temptation as a pressure, just like a physical pressure. The idea in Christology is that when Jesus Christ was tempted in his life by Satan and tempted at Gethsemane, that the sin pressure against Him was enormous. It was external pressure whereas ours is partly internal because of the flesh, but the pressure was immense because He was actively, at that point, isolated from the Father in some mysterious way, on His own completely, facing ALL of evil. That was a physiological reaction to His body, and He must have had high blood pressure or something because His capillaries are breaking under the pressure. So at that point Jesus is standing up to ALL evil. We never stand up to all evil. So whatever He did, we don’t know what He did. He caught the full thing, so that qualifies Him to be a peer. So there’s nobody that can ever stand before the Lord Jesus Christ and blow smoke and use that lame excuse, well you never experienced temptation like I did. Sorry! But how to explain that is another whole ball game. I’m sorry in one sense I brought it up tonight because there’s a whole background to that whole issue.
Question asked: Clough replies: It’s like the doctrine sequence, to appreciate the temptations of Jesus you have to go back and first study the hypostatic union. The hypostatic union is His undiminished deity and true humanity united in one person without confusion forever. The mystery of that has to be dealt with. What happened at the incarnation? Really, what happened at conception? How does God unify a divine and human nature, and the thing about the hypostatic union that just blows your mind, it’s just incomprehensible, is there’s only one person, there’s not two, there’s not God the Son God and God the son human and there’s two people side by side, but it’s one personality with two natures. The more you think about that the more stunning that is. What that says, it says that when God made man in His image that we are made in such close image of God that He had incarnation in mind when He designed Adam, and knew that this creature He was designing after Himself, He Himself would have to join and become it. So it’s a wonderful eloquent profound meditation on the design of man and why we should never subscribe to any kind of an evolutionary process that makes our human form a statistical accident. We’re not a statistical accident; we are the direct result of a plan that was conceived in eternity past.
Question asked: Clough replies: With all due respect to the creation/evolution controversy that I’ve been a part of for thirty-five years, I will still have to say that the evil question far exceeds the importance of the evolution question, in that if I were a skeptic and I chose to battle against a Christian, I would choose to battle on this evil question. But the problem with it is we may not have a totally comprehensible answer to the question because really what we’re asking with the evil question is, why did God make such a history at all. You can complain about Adam, but you could also complain about Satan. Why, for example, did He create angelic powers that He knew… He wasn’t caught by surprise, when God conceived this history He conceived evil as part of it; it is not an accident. So the only answer the Bible lets us finally rest with is that the whole thing is somehow to glorify Himself. C.S. Lewis comments on that in his book on the Psalms, and he says that sounds so arrogant because it’s unbecoming for us to say we’re going to glorify ourselves. But that’s precisely because we’re creatures and it’s obnoxious for the creature to act like God. But God can act like God, and that’s one of the problems. All our analogies, while they’re valid in some respects, are not 100% correspondences.
Our answer to the problem of evil, however, is an answer. It may not be a delectable answer, but the non-Christian has no answer to the problem; he’s a hopeless mess because first of all he has no basis to define evil. And if he does define evil, which he really can’t, then he faces the problem, what does he do with it after he’s defined it. He’s stuck with it forever; he never can get rid of it. We do, and if you really want to get into it sometimes, use the remark, “well I’m thankful for hell because hell solves the problem.” Hell was the garbage dump of history and it’s where evil is finally placed. Again, the skeptic says why did He create a history in which a Hell would be necessary? I know of no, there are subsidiary reasons why God created this history that we’re given, because of this, because of that, etc., but you can always say well then why did He do this, or why did He do that? You can keep pushing it back, and ultimately you fall back, time and time again, to the fact that God has His own purposes.
Another significant exercise is to read Romans 3, Romans 9, Job, and some of these places in the Bible that centrally deal with evil, and watch the answer you get back. The answer, and it sounds cruel and it sounds heartless, but the answer that you get back from God is I don’t really think you’re qualified to ask the question. That’s quite an arrogant response, but that’s exactly what He says to Job, you’re not qualified to ask me the question. Then Paul in Romans 9 says He’s not going to answer, period! So that’s when you’re left with salute and say “Yes Sir.”
Question asked: Someone else says something: Clough says: Ultimately that’s the experience pathway, but I think what he’s saying is that to the person who hasn’t taken the first step along the path, it’s a very difficult thing for him to comprehend. I think the only way, the way I try to deal with it when I get into that mess is to keep pushing, well how do you handle that, not because I think he’s got a solution but because I want him to struggle with it a little bit. First of all, it separates the people that I call the sidewalk debaters that are just bringing it up as a red flag from the people that are really struggling with it. They have to struggle with evil enough to see that there are no answers before they’re willing to get to that point. I think some of them have to struggle years with it.
Someone says something: Clough says: I’ll tell you where you also get it a lot is your Jewish people who have had relatives in World War II that were killed by the Nazi’s. It’s almost a whole subset of the Jewish community. I remember reading one Jewish thinker that said if God is alive He ought to be embarrassed forever allowing Auschwitz. There’s that response.
Someone says something: Clough says: We want Him to protect us from our own foolishness, and in one sense… I remember an author, a Christian author wrote a book, it was the study of psychology, but he was dealing with this problem, and I think the title of the book was Modern Psychology [can’t understand word] A Flight from Maturity, and his whole point was that it’s precisely that, from our point of view it’s the mature creature, man, the mature creature, who is man, who recognizes his awesome responsibility before God, and in a small scale you can see with the ecology movement. Now they’re worried about global warming of a few degrees and this sort of thing. We’re worried about global incineration at the time of the return of Christ. We’re concerned with an ecological disturbance created by the fall of man in Eden. None of these ecology people ever want to debate you on that one, that’s too radical. They’re worried about dropping garbage along I-95. We’re concerned with the alteration of the molecular structure in biological creation due to the fall of Adam. It’s like the judo thing, they’re punching this way and then you take the punch and pull it further and ooh, they don’t like that. So we actually make man far more responsible for the mess in the environment than our Vice President [Al Gore].
Question asked: Clough replies: It’s something that apparently, this is just a guess, but obviously when you read the Bible from Genesis to Revelation, apparently God wants us to go through this, for in the end the praise and the glory to God is sung, in the last part of Revelation, is two-fold, it’s in Revelation 4, we praise you O God for Thou art worthy, Thou hast created all things, for Thy purpose they were created. Then in chapter 5, Thou art the Lamb, You have redeemed us unto our God. So there’s two parts. A grace-less history, a redemptionless history would be kind of boring. In the final analysis, the worship and adoration, you could raise this question: would the worship and adoration in Revelation be genuine if it had not come through this pathway, the pathway in which yes, the creatures did sin, but they recognized the error of their ways, and when God offered them grace the creature willingly chose it, and now he can praise God in a way he could never have praised Him before. So it redounds to His glory in a greater way. Of course, if a person says why did He do it that way? Well, the reason He did it that way was because he wanted the creatures in a certain way and it’s His right to say that. There’s no nice polite answer to that.
It’s interesting, because I’ve struggled with this, how do you be nice and answer that? And every time I go into this [can’t understand word] I get the feeling that the Holy Spirit wants us to be blunt because in that Romans 9 passage, what right do you have as clay to tell a potter how to shape you? That’s not a nice gracious answer, and usually people aren’t really prone to like that. That’s why, when I went through suffering I said maybe it’s because the blunt answer knocks us loose from emotional hang-ups. Maybe that’s why God does it, but it looks like the way He answers us He just drives right into us like a Mac truck, instead of sending an ambulance out. I’ve seen that in enough passages that it’s consistent, in almost every passage where evil is dealt with, God is firm, He’s loving, but He is not sentimental, and He doesn’t sound very gracious.
Next week we’ll try to finish that up, and we’re going to be finishing Kings in the next big unit so if you want to read ahead.