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 1998
Charles A. Clough
Biblical Framework Series 1995–2003
Part 4: Disciplinary Truths of God’s Kingdom
Chapter 2: The Kingdom Divided: The Discipline of Lost Blessing
Lesson 81 – Divine Chastening, 1 Samuel 12, Summary of the Next 300 Years
05 Mar 1998
Fellowship Chapel, Jarrettsville, MD
We’ve looked at the kingdom in the Old Testament, we got up to the point where that kingdom was divided, and we have studied the patterns of rebellion that the Scripture tells us occurred when the revolution happened in the divided kingdom. From this time forward in history there are two kingdoms. God wanted one faith and two kingdoms, but thanks to Jeroboam it turned out to be two kingdoms with two different faiths, two different cultists, two different places of worship, two different patterns of worship, and the pattern really broke down. We studied the revolt with the rejection by the north of the Davidic dynasty, the rejection by the north section of the temple, the rejection of the Levitical priesthood, the rejection of the Scriptures. So it’s a study of sin inside the kingdom of God. We’re not talking here about confronting the external world, we’re not talking about Egypt, we’re not talking about the people in the land during the holy wars and that kind of thing. What we’re talking about is how God, the Great King rules His kingdom.
We will review the two models of leadership of this kingdom. We’re doing this because we’re trying to isolate what went wrong with the kingdom. We’re going to prepare for the next chapter when we start talking about the prophets and we get into the period of history just prior to the fall of the north kingdom and the southern kingdom. Just to give dates so you can kind of fix this is your mind, here’s the time line, 1440 BC, the Exodus, the time of Moses; roughly 1000 BC, David; and the two important dates coming up, and there are two of them, is the collapse of the northern kingdom, Israel, and the collapse of the southern kingdom, Judah. Israel, the northern kingdom, the magic number is 721 BC; the magic number for Judah is 586 BC. Those are very important dates in the Old Testament. That is the last of the northern kingdom as it was known in history, and it was the last of the southern kingdom. There was a restoration; there was an exile period, etc. We’ll get into that.
What we’re trying to do now is look at the spiritual decay that preceded these two dates. It was during this period that a lot of Scripture was written. You’ve got all the Minor Prophets, you’ve got the Major Prophets, and these guys were all active in this period. The question is what were these prophets doing? What was going on spiritually here? Here God had chosen the nation, had provided the assets to survive history, and yet people turned against Him. Not everyone, but by and large the nation turned against the Great King. That’s what we’re looking at. We’re trying to hone our understanding of what went wrong. Really what we’re trying to do here is understand a little bit more about sin and how it works in our life.
The first thing we want to do is review the two leadership models of the kingdom; the Saul model and the David model. Then we want to study how God chastens because we always try to go from an event of history to a doctrine that we learn from that event. The doctrine that we’re learning here is not one usually taught in many conservative evangelical churches, i.e. how God spanks His children. We ought to know that, because the problem with it is we can be spanked and under chastisement and not even recognize it. That’s why we want to look at these things, it’s not morbid curiosity, it’s just to understand the ways of our God.
The center piece of it all is 1 Samuel 12, there are several key passages in the Old Testament in this period of time, and one of them is 1 Samuel 8, the chapter that revealed the mode and the threat of the kingdom. In other words, 1 Samuel 8 was one of the great political documents of all time; never taught in school because we can’t bring the Bible into school, we might contaminate something. In 1 Samuel 8 is really the gut of God’s viewpoint of centralized power. It’s a prophecy, it’s a statement of declaration, and it’s always happened, it will always happen again, whether it’s a pagan country or whether it’s Israel, the principles are always the same—that fallen man entrusted with total power, becomes a tyrant. In 1 Samuel 12 is Samuel’s farewell address to the nation. He wanted to pass on to his generation warning and admonitions about how to control the monarchy.
Samuel was a prophet, and in the next chapter we’ll see the rise of this new class of people. We’ve had priests, we’ve had kings, and we’ve seen the prophets begin to pop up. We saw Samuel, we saw Nathan, we saw Elijah, we could have seen Elisha but we didn’t have time to deal with him. We’re starting to see these prophets pop up and we’ll see many more of them come on the scene. What are the prophets doing here? What’s their role in history? Samuel is kind of the father of these prophets, and it’s very important that we understand that he is terribly concerned about this institution of monarchy. There’s a tension going on in the Old Testament between the prophets and the kings. It’s almost like the two offices are in collision here. It’s very much like what we see in our country right now, and it’s profound rivalry between the legislative branch of our government and the judicial branch. On the one hand we have Congress entrusted by the Constitution to write law; on the other hand we have the courts effectively taking over the role of the Congress and writing its laws, doing it indirectly through court decisions of course. So there’s a rivalry and a tension between two parts of government.
There’s this tension between the prophets and the kings. The point is that in 1 Samuel 12:19-25 these are Samuel’s going away words, his farewell address, warning the nation about the danger of the monarchy. It was not a panacea to their problem, they wanted a king like all the other nations, wanted to be like everybody else, and he’s telling them, you’d better watch it, you’ve brought a Trojan horse in here and I want you to understand what the consequences are. “Then all the people said to Samuel, ‘Pray for your servants,” he’s just convinced them that they sinned when they asked for the monarchy. Now the people come, “Pray for your servants to the LORD your God, so that we may not die, for we have added to all our sins this evil by asking for ourselves a king.” There you have it, right in the prophetic books; it was not God’s will, at that point in history it was not His direct will to bring up the monarchy. God accommodated to the request of the people. The story of what went on between 1000 BC and these dates is the tragic story of the failure of the monarchy, and what was going on with that office and the men who were attempting to run that office.
Here, in a nutshell, way back in 1 Samuel 12, because this passage precedes all the other stuff that’s going on; this is ahead of the game, this is before it starts. Samuel tells them, okay, you’ve got a man that’s the problem now. He said you’ve sinned, and God has answered your prayers. This is one of those terrible kind of prayers that you don’t want answered, they’re foolish prayers and God answers foolish prayers if for no other reason to teach us how foolish the prayer was. Here Samuel is saying you guys prayed this prayer, you wanted this to happen, you wanted your way. So God said okay, we’re going to do it your way, now here are the consequences, you’ve got to learn to manage this. Here’s this older man, in retirement, he’s going to die shortly, and he’s passing his best and greatest teaching to the people.
Here’s what he says, verse 20, “And Samuel said to the people, ‘Do not fear. You have committed all this evil,” he’s saying now we’re in category two suffering, you shall reap what you sow, so you’re going to start reaping what you’ve sown, but don’t fear, don’t panic, you’ve got to learn to handle it, you can’t erase it. This is not like a video cassette where you can go back and erase history. How often have we all learned that in our lives, you can’t relive your life? You always think about gee, if I knew back then what I know now, boy would my life have been different. But you can’t go back. So this is what he’s saying. Don’t fear, you have committed the evil, “yet do not turn aside from following the LORD, but serve the LORD with all your heart.” There’s a way to manage it. Even though you have added burdens inherited by category two type suffering, you still can manage. That’s what he’s doing; it gets back to the same basic principle.
Verse 21, “And you must not turn aside, for then you would go after futile things which cannot profit or deliver, because they are futile,” or they’re vain. Notice the implication here, anything outside of the Lord, His Word, and His promises are considered to be vain. Verse 22, “For the LORD will not abandon His people on account of His great name, because the LORD has been pleased to make you a people for Himself.” Verse 22 asserts the primacy of the Abrahamic Covenant, so what he is saying is whether you have a Saul or whether you have a David, overlying this whole thing is the election, the choosing of God of this Israelite nation. That is His choice and nobody is going to change it, including the Israelites aren’t going to change it. “The LORD will not abandon His people on account of His great name,” notice what it doesn’t say. It doesn’t say the Lord will not abandon His people because they’re so good, there’s nothing in here about how good or how bad the nation is. What is in here is that He has His reputation, and He has chosen them, it is His plan, and He’s not asking for a vote.
Verse 23, “Moreover, as for me, far be it from me that I should sin against the LORD by ceasing to pray for you; but I will instruct you in the good and right way.” Verses 24 and 25 is a summary of every chapter from this point in the Old Testament on to the end of 2 Kings. You can circle these two verses because they capsulate history; for 300 coming years of history it is a playing out of these principles. “Only fear the LORD and serve Him in truth with all your heart;” then he gives the basis of it, “for consider what great things He has done for you.” What does he mean by this? Why does he say that? Notice he does not say sit there and meditate in the law day and night, even though that’s God’s will. He says, by way of conclusion, that you want to remember the great things that God has done for you. What are the great things that God has done for you? It gets back to our framework again.
We have to know these great events. There’s no getting around them, they’re there, they’re always there, and we are commanded to repetitively remember these things. God is the Creator; He is the one who we rebelled against at the fall. God is the one who judged this planet through the flood. God is the one who made a covenant with the entire human race, etc. He is the God who chose Israel; He said that with Israel I call a counterculture into historical existence through the doctrines of election, justification and faith. I am the one who calls them out from Egypt with judgment, salvation and blood atonement. I am the one who reveals My law to that nation at Mt. Sinai, the revelation, inspiration, canonicity. I am the one who advances them in history in holy war, a picture of sanctification. I am the one who provides a Messianic model of leadership. These are all the things that God has done for them, and they are to remember the things that God has done for them. That’s the motive.
Look carefully at the logic of verse 24. If you can capture the logic of verse 24 you’ve really aced the Old Testament. There are people that read the Old Testament that still haven’t got the big picture here. The big picture in the Old Testament is that men were saved by faith; they were sanctification by faith. They were never saved by the law and they were never sanctified by the law. The Old Testament saints operated the same way the New Testament saints operate, there is no difference. No difference in the plan of salvation, no difference in the broad principles of sanctification. What’s different is the content of what we know of God’s plan and some of the operating assets He’s entrusted with the Church which He didn’t in Israel.
The logic of verse 24, “Only fear the LORD,” or respect His authority, “and serve Him in truth with all your heart; for consider what great things He has done for you.” That’s to be the motive. Where do we get our drive, our energy and our motivation? It isn’t by trying to be good, that’s the result, that’s the fruit. The drive and the energy come from beholding our God at work. That’s the source of the motivation. This is why it’s so terribly lethal to be stupid as far as the Scriptures are concerned, because if you don’t know the Word of God, you can’t even get to first base. How do you know what God has done for you if you don’t see what He’s done for you through the Scriptures? So the Scripture becomes essential. Notice in verse 25, He says, “But if you still do wickedly, both you and your king shall be swept away.” In 721 BC they were swept away in the north; in 586 BC they were swept away in the south. They did wickedly; they did not listen.
Let’s also review where the kings sinned; what did their sin look like so we can identify this same thing in our lives when it shows its ugly head. Saul becomes a model here. We want to move on to a point of doctrine and it hinges on understanding what is going on wrong with these guys, what wrong thing are they doing? 1 Samuel 13:8, notice what happens here. This is the Saul model. Saul is going to be followed by Rehoboam, Jeroboam and Ahab, many others but those are the ones we studied. They all walk in Saul’s footsteps. What is Saul doing wrong? A good war is about to start, verse 5, so they see they’ve got themselves in a big problem. In verse 6 they’re starting to hide in the caves, what’s happening to Saul? Put yourself in Saul’s place; see if you can feel the pressure. You’re supposed to lead your nation into battle, you’re outnumbered, out-gunned, people are getting discouraged, and now the people that are quote “behind you,” yeah, they’re behind you, give me a pair of binoculars so I can keep them in sight. They’re all leaving, peeling out, one after another. What is that doing to Saul? The issue here isn’t some morality issue; the issue isn’t some flagrant sin, some big social sin here. It’s more subtle than that, sin comes in subtle forms and that’s why the Scriptures are so important to train us in this, recognition.
Verse 7 gives a tip, “Also some of the Hebrews crossed the Jordan into the land of Gad and Gilead,” they were going across the river, “But as for Saul, he was still in Gilgal, and all the people followed him trembling.” Now we’ve got a moral problem: the people are not trusting the Lord; their eyes are not on the Lord. Their eyes are on the Philistines. Verse 8, Saul “waited seven days, according to the appointed time set by Samuel, but Samuel did not come to Gilgal; and the people were scattering from him.” It’s kind of continuous action, they’re leaking, his army is leaking, group after group is defecting and every time he comes up and takes roll call, every day we’ve got less reporting for duty. This is not a cool situation for a leader to be in. So the pressure comes upon him to do something. Now watch sin, watch how sin stings us. The pressure—is it real? You bet it’s real. Is this a bona fide crisis? You bet it’s a bona fide crisis. Is the pressure on him? Yes it is. But what is he doing.
Verse 9, “So Saul said,” here’s the sin. Let’s reconstruct this process. He says, “’Bring to me the burnt offering and the peace offerings.’ And he offered the burnt offering.” Think of what he just did. He had been told by the prophet Samuel how to be a king. One of the things you don’t do as a king is you don’t become a priest. David drifted into this a little bit, but that’s because it was after Melchizedek, not the Aaronic. As far as the Aaronic priesthood as defined in the Torah, the king had no business messing with that office. It wasn’t his office; he’s out of line here. Why did he step over the line in verse 9? It sounds like a very innocent thing, he’s tired of waiting, and Samuel is late. What’s the pressure? The pressure is if Samuel doesn’t get here and something doesn’t happen this whole thing is going to go down the drain. What is Saul forgetting? Who installed him as king? The Lord. Who was guaranteeing the security of the nation? Because on the basis of the appearance of circumstances Saul begins, and here’s the subtlety of sin which we want to understand, the psychology of it, he is reinterpreting those circumstances according to the flesh. He is moving from a position of trusting the Lord over to a position of the autonomous man, going to solve all my problems my way. I’ve got control of the situation. Obviously God isn’t doing anything so I’m going to do something. So Saul failed.
Saul failed in 1 Samuel 13 and then he pulled the same stunt in chapter 15. Turn there, again just to see where sin starts. In 1 Samuel 15:7, Saul is in another war, this is a war with the Amalekites. “So Saul defeated the Amalekites, from Havilah as you go to Shur, which is east of Egypt.” He really defeated them, so now it’s not before the battle, this is after the battle. He’s in a position of victory, the pressure is not on. In chapter 13 it was sin under pressure; in chapter 15 it’s sin under prosperity. So whether it’s adversity or prosperity we still can fall into this way of thinking and this rebellion. Here he’s being prospered; he’s just defeated everybody, no sweat.
But verse 9, “But Saul and the people spared Agag and the best of the sheep, the oxen, the fatlings, the lambs, and all that was good, and were not willing to destroy them utterly; but everything despised and worthless, that they utterly destroyed.” What are they doing? What was one term of holy war? Total annihilation. Why was that? Because it was God’s war, and God said I want this stuff destroyed. But what they’re thinking is golly, look at this. We forget, sheep, oxen, fatlings and lambs, these are hundreds of thousands if not millions of dollars’ worth of economic assets. Oh, now we see the deal. Why can’t we spare those? The things that are useful, we’re going to throw those out, we’re going to make a big show of being very obedient to the Word of God where it doesn’t count. But when it comes down to the bottom line, then we’re going to reconsider this business of obeying the Word of God thing.
So here is a picture of how the sin takes over in these guys lives. They will not, when they’re faced either with adversity or prosperity, they are not paying attention to what God said. In this case, it’s very clear, Deuteronomy 20 gives you the policies of war, he’s supposed to carry those out, and he doesn’t. That’s the Saul model, and we studied that, we studied Ahab, we studied Jeroboam, we studied all these men and we came to the conclusion that in every one of these cases these kings sinned at the point of the crises of being leaders. When they were faced with a little pressure or a lot of pressure, or sometimes with prosperity, they chose to be in charge, I am, I am in the sense of the flesh. I am the one with the knowledge of good and evil, I will determine what is right and what is wrong, and we will interpret the Word of God underneath that authority. So it’s me first and then the Word of God. That simply is what sin’s all about. That’s what led to the downfall of this nation.
Notice again, the initial sin has nothing that we would see connected with a great social sin, it is more subtle than that. It goes back to who is Lord, and what is my ultimate authority? Am I going to do this, am I deciding it, or am I letting the Word of God decide it. That’s the issue.
We looked at Elijah and the rise of these prophets. On page 33 of the notes I want to quote from 2 Maccabees, because we’re going to start moving into this doctrine of chastening. Part of sanctification is the pressure that God brings upon us in suffering. Most of us don’t have 2 Maccabees in our Bible, unless we have the Septuagint version, but I wanted you to see this quote. 2 Maccabees is a very interesting book, it was written just prior to the time of Jesus and it’s very important for scholars because it tells us the thinking of the world at the time of Jesus. That’s why 2 Maccabees is important. If Jesus says things like “the kingdom of God is at hand,” and we know from Maccabees that to their ears the kingdom meant a physical kingdom, and Jesus doesn’t make any disclaimer, then what can we do when we say the kingdom of God is at hand? We interpret that phrase the way the people would have understood in the time of Jesus, namely they’re looking for a physical kingdom. Yes, it’s spiritual but it’s also physical; and in the land of Israel. That’s what they’re looking for; that’s what Jesus and John announced. They rejected the king, so the kingdom got postponed but the kingdom offer was the Old Testament kingdom, being offered by John the Baptist and by the Lord Jesus Christ.
2 Maccabees gives us a lot of insight into their thinking. I quote from 2 Maccabees 6:13-16, this passage is a reflection on Jewish heritage and how they felt. Often we, in the Christian church, think about election, the doctrine of election as some sort of a prideful generating thing, oh, I am chosen. But if you look carefully at the Bible being chosen means being chosen for a destiny that might not be all that great sometimes. It might be being chosen to suffer for the Lord. It might have some very undesirable characteristics to it. Here is a meditation on it:
“Not to let the impious alone for long, but to punish them immediately, is a sign of great kindness. For in the case of the other nations the Lord waits patiently to punish them” talking about the pagans now, “until they have reached the full measure of their sins; but he does not deal in this way with us,” the Jewish nation, “in order that he might not take vengeance on us afterward when our sins have reached their height. Therefore, he never withdraws his mercy from us. Though he disciplines us with calamities, he does not forsake his own people.” That is a very biblical statement; that’s learned the hard way through history.
Turn the page; I tried to summarize this in the italicized statement: “His elect instruments must arrive in shape for eternal fellowship with Him by whatever pain it takes to get there.” That’s what election means biblically. It’s not just riding a smooth train to glory. God is going to get us in shape for eternity by whatever means it takes. That’s why I love to use the example of Marine boot camp. When that DI looks at you and he tells you that in X number of weeks you will be a Marine, you still don’t understand that, yes, I guess I will be and you kind of have this fleeting feeling that it is not going be an enjoyable experience getting there. But you somehow have all the confidence that you will get there, because somebody is right behind you. That’s akin to the way God works with His people. We’ve gotten away from that in the Christian church, we’ve got this idea that we just kind of float into the kingdom of heaven, and anytime anybody experiences some suffering or setbacks it’s a big crisis, and people fall apart and wonder whether they’re saved or not.
Actually the Scriptures are quite reversed. In Hebrews 12 he says if you’re suffering, be glad, because that proves that He’s spanking, it proves who is the Father. Be very concerned if you can sin and get away with it and never feel any adversity, chastisement or something else, now you’ve got a real problem. The Bible says you’d better check out your lineage. This was expressed very well in the film, Fiddler on the Roof, and I always remember this scene where everything bad was happening to this lead character and he was always talking to God, and the scene comes up where he’s sitting there and he’s contemplating all this suffering, and he says, “God, will you choose something else once in a while.”
That’s the biblical sense of what it means to be chosen, because God has His plan, it is a very serious plan; God has a plan for history that includes the elimination of evil. This is a very, very serious operation that’s going on in history. God is going to exterminate and separate the good from the evil. Only if you are a Bible-believing Christian do you have this hope. Nobody else has it, the pagan world is down on the bottom line here; they have absolutely no hope for themselves that evil and good are going to be separated. It’s a weird hopeless sick view of the world. In the Bible we have creation to the fall when the entire universe was good, there was no evil. Then after the fall good and evil are mixed. The pagan thinks good and evil are going to be mixed forever backwards and forever forwards, there’s never a separation. But the Bible says that history is coming to a climax and good and evil are going to be separated. So it’s the preparation for that great event as God works throughout lives that He has that goal in mind, and this is why it is painful at times, why there is suffering at times. We don’t have the explanation of why is this suffering here, and that suffering over there; we don’t know, but we know this, and we know our God loves us, and He has demonstrated He’s faithful to us over the centuries. Therefore we trust that He has a method in His madness, but we don’t know all the details.
To help us in this we want to turn back to page 30 and I want you to see some ways of analyzing this. The prophets are going to do this in the kingdom. They’re going to come and they’re going to address the nation. They’re going to explain to the nation why this nation is suffering, and they are going to go through some of these categories of suffering, not all of them. Actually the New Testament goes into a lot more reasons for suffering than the Old Testament. If you look on the left column, those are patterns of suffering that are directly and clearly related to a sin. The patterns on the right side are not directly related to personal sin, and they’re ones that hurt an awful lot, because it’s like they’re floating and you can confess your sin from now until you’re blue in the face and it doesn’t remove any of those sufferings on the right. The Lord Jesus Christ suffered at least under category nine, could have suffered under eight because of that passage in Hebrews where He learned obedience to the sufferings. He certainly suffered category ten, and He obviously suffered category eleven. So the Lord Jesus Christ suffered all those things.
We, in turn, because we’re in Adam, we suffer category one, the very fact that we’re all dying, that we’re all capitally punished one way or another, so that’s under category one, right from the start, this starts with the fall. By our identity with Adam we suffer category one type suffering. We’re in an environment that’s fallen; that’s part of our destiny in Adam. We all suffer category two, this is self-induced misery. Most of our suffering is this. It’s Galatians 6, “Whatsoever a man sows, that shall he also reap.” You don’t sow corn and get beans. It’s always what we sow that we reap. That’s the effect of personal sin. Category two is going to be endemic to the kingdom of Judah, endemic to the kingdom of Israel. Most of the wars, the sufferings, the deaths, the sorrow, the plagues, the misfortunes, the adversities in this historical period are category two suffering. They are what the people have sowed they are also reaping. We want to look at that because God doesn’t remove that in every case.
Category three type suffering is another thing that strikes people as unfair, because if someone’s a nitwit in the group that you’re in, you suffer, because you’re identified in the institution with them. If a nation’s kings fail the people suffer. Think how many guys lost their lives in battlefields in the Old Testament because some jerk led them into a war that they shouldn’t have been in. Think of how many mothers lost their sons totally wasted; category three suffering, sorry. Category four suffering, the most horrible of all sufferings, eternal suffering in hell in the Lake of Fire, Revelation 22.
Category five suffering, the Fatherly chastening of believers. Category five suffering is what David went into, and we want to watch the difference between David, and this is the doctrine that we want to watch… let’s compare David and the others. David sinned. At the point of his sin he inherited category two suffering. Why? Because he had murdered one of his top army officers, he’d taken his wife, now he has three or four wives, now you have the fallout of a polygamous marriage, you have rivalry between his children because has this mother, another has that mother and they’re trying to live in the same house, so there’s inherent rivalry in that family. It goes on for a generation. He’s going to sit by and watch four of his sons die tragically. It’s just suffering, suffering, suffering, suffering. Why? Category two suffering, because of his sin.
He also suffered category five suffering, but only for a short time. We want to fix this in our mind because this is what didn’t happen in the rest of the nation. Nathan comes to him. Turn to 2 Samuel 12. Notice the prophet, here’s the role of the prophet and the king. Nathan comes to David, David has sinned and David is out of it, he’s out of fellowship. He is going to be chastened by Nathan, so Nathan comes to him and Nathan tells him the story. In verse 7 Nathan identifies David as the object of the story; David realizes it. He goes through the thing, verse 8, “I also gave you your master’s house and your master’s wives into your care, and I gave you the house of Israel and Judah; and if that had been too little, I would have added to you many more things like these!”
Verse 9, “Why have you despised the word of the LORD by doing evil in His sight? You have struck down Uriah the Hittite with the sword, have taken his wife to be your wife, and have killed him with the sword of the sons of Ammon.  Now therefore, the sword shall never depart from your house, because you have despised Me and have taken the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be your wife.  Thus says the LORD, Behold, I will raise up evil against you from your own household; I will even take your wives before your eyes, and give them to your companion and he shall he with your wives in broad daylight.” They’re going to do it right out in public. In fact, one of those men in verse 11 that took David’s wives was one of his sons.
Verse 12, “Indeed you did it secretly, but I will do this thing before all Israel, and under the sun” where everybody can watch. In verse 13, “Then David said to Nathan,” this is one of the great moments in history showing a man who responds to God’s grace. David isn’t in category five suffering longer than from the time he sinned with Bathsheba until this verse. And he cuts it off, he confesses his sin, he admits it to David, “I have sinned against the LORD,” he doesn’t say against Nathan, he says “I have sinned against the LORD.” And immediately, “And Nathan said to David, ‘The LORD also has taken away your sin; you will not die.’”
Then he announces in verse 14 there will be suffering David, but it’s not because you are unforgiven. Forgiveness happened then; it terminated category five suffering, now category two suffering continues, but not category five suffering. In other words, David quickly responded to the prophet who called him, maybe this is only a day or two, we don’t know how much the time is. Let’s say it’s two days, forty-eight hours, that’s all, and David responded. Did David have a problem the rest of his life? Sure had a problem because now he had a whole set of new problems, category two problems added to his normal problems. They just piled up. But still we know that he slugged it out, trusted the Lord to work and manage through the pile, because he kept writing the Psalms and you can trace his growth, you can trace his response, you can trace his fellowship with the Lord through the glorious Psalms, one after another. So we know David’s doing great; it’s not looking great from the outside, but as far as the Lord’s concerned David is in fellowship and managing quite well.
Let’s see what happened to the other guys. The other guys sinned, we saw it with Ahab, he goes out and marries a daughter of one of the great priests of the ancient world’s Canaanite apostasy, so he manages category two suffering and it goes on and on and on, and he inherits category five suffering because God’s blasting him with a famine, He’s hitting him with military defeat, so he gets all these things, and here comes Elijah. As a prophet Elijah’s trying to do what Nathan did to David, hey, whoa, pay attention, look what you’re doing here, think what’s happening. He made the issue with Ahab, but Ahab was kind of a clod, he let his wife run his life, then he went on and got right back into the groove. He did repent for a short time, he spent about as much time in fellowship as David spent out of fellowship, so he goes on and keeps on inheriting the mess, finally gets killed in battle, then his wife gets thrown to the dogs.
This is a failure and the tragedy is that you can line these kings up one after another, king number one, king number two, you can count them all, this guy keeps adding to the pile, they pass on the burden. So this king passes on one problem, this king passes on the first problem and adds his own to it, and every king has his own problems. So after about ten kings and the pile is getting pretty big, and it would take a super David to manage it. It’s getting totally out of hand, because sin is compounded with category two suffering, category two suffering for this guy, category two suffering for this guy, and because everybody is in the same nation, it’s category three also. So it’s suffering, suffering, suffering.
The prophets keep going after this and after this and after this. Read Isaiah, if nothing else just chapters 1 and 2, pick out at random a chapter out of Jeremiah, pick out one of the small books, Obadiah or Joel, and just look at it, it’s constant, over and over and over. You wonder, gee, did anybody listen? Over and over they kept faithfully teaching the Word of God, faithfully teaching the Word of God, people kept rejecting the Word of God, rejecting the Word of God, ignoring the Word of God, ignoring the Word of God, and finally in 721 BC God said okay, I haven’t got your attention yet, try this one on. And He brought in one of the most horrible groups in history, the Assyrians. Their idea of a ball was to spread eagle somebody out on the ground and peel his skin off. That’s how the Assyrians treated their prisoners. These are the people that came in and arrogantly decided that they were going to conquer Israel just like they conquered everybody else. There’s an exciting story of how God dealt with them one night, and wiped out about ten divisions of their soldiers. [blank spot]
… back when we studied David, we said you could summarize what David did by conviction of sin, confession of sin, and restoration. We said that what God does here under conviction of sin is not some religious hokey thing, it’s just convicting of sin, it means the same thing as being convinced of sin. It’s a convincing so that you can confess genuinely. You can’t confess something if it’s amorphous. This is one way, just a practical living piece of advice; this is the way you can spot when the evil one is speaking to you versus when God speaks to you. When the evil one wants to get you, he can use guilt but every time he does it will be sort of an unattached guilt, it’s kind of a floating cloud that isn’t really defined, you can’t get a handle on it, you just feel guilty about something, something isn’t right. If that’s from the Lord, do you know what you do? You’d have a right to do this, “see if there be any wicked in me,” it’s in the Psalms. You pray that the Lord show you the reason for the cloud. And if there’s no specific answer to that kind of prayer, then that’s not from the Lord, that’s just flack that you’re getting, ignore it. You are under the blood of Christ, Christ has forgiven you and you move on, until such time as the Holy Spirit brings to mind a specific point of conviction. That’s the key and that’s always a signal of the Holy Spirit working versus the evil one working.
The confession can’t happen until the conviction takes place, because I can’t confess what I do not know. The problem now, we’re going to push it one more step backwards. What do I need to be convicted? What do I need to be convinced of sin? I need to hear God talking. Suppose, however, I’m like Ahab and I’ve absorbed … I’ve been out of it so long that now I’ve begun to drift and I’ve got another problem. Now what’s happened? The longer I stay in disobedience… I mentioned this on page 34; follow my line of thought there because it’s really an important point about what’s being added to the conviction of sin issue.
“Why must there be such pain in divine chastening. Unbelief and disobedience damage our souls. When we fail to respond to circumstances by looking to the Lord and trusting Him to support, guide, and empower us to meet those circumstances, our flesh immediately stores up this sinful behavior pattern. Next time it becomes easier. It is like the sequence of unbelieving kings in Israel who kept increasing the sin of the nation by adding one scheme on top of another. We train our flesh in unrighteousness just as we train it for any other activity in life.” We’re always training ourselves. The second time you sin the same way is a lot easier than the first time you sin, because the barrier is down, the conscience has been offended and the roadway is slicker. The third time it’s easier, the fourth time it’s even easier, and it becomes habitual. That’s the sin damage; we are training our flesh.
“Eventually, our flesh could become so well-trained in our specific sinful behavior that the behavior would become a life-dominating problem like it was before regeneration. We could then be labeled as a ‘thief,’ or ‘adulterer,’ or ‘covetous person.’ As the Lord’s elect,” notice this, “we are not permitted to sink back into the world with such damage to our souls and spirits.” He will not permit that to happen. That’s why there’s painful chastening.
“To correct this situation is a painful enterprise. It is not a simple matter to ‘stop sinning.’ The flesh can’t stop sinning by itself.” Think of addiction, any addiction and you’ve got a picture of the flesh. “The motive to obey God’s will can’t come from an independent spirit because the independent spirit would take pride in ‘what I did.’” I got rid of my addiction by my sheer will power. No, that’s not glorifying God and He’s not going to let that happen. That’s why most addictions aren’t gotten rid of, because there is no will power. “In the Old Testament the motive to obey the Law was never the Law itself. Israel was called to remember the words and works of the Lord—the Exodus, the giving of the Law, the Conquest, and various prophesies to individuals—and focus on His character,” not the sin, God. “Israel was called back to the election, justification, and faith of Abraham. The Abrahamic and Davidic Covenants were to form the content of their faith. Only by first trusting, could they eventually obey. It was not obey, then trust.” It was trust and then obey, always the same sequence.
“Therefore, to awaken us” follow me carefully; I’m leading to the major point tonight, “from compound carnality God must first shock us into looking once again at Him. If we don’t go back to Abrahamic faith in His promises, we can never be restored to fellowship and empowerment for obedience.” Think of that chart that we showed last time when we went back through and said remember the history of Israel. We went back into the history of Israel and we said what came first, law or faith? What was the basis of Abraham? Faith. So what is he always going to call it? What is the basis, the modus operandi of this nation? The law wasn’t given until later. The modus operandi of obeying this is trusting the Lord, having a personal faith in Him.
That’s why trusting the Lord through the Lord Jesus Christ, my sins are forgiven. How else am I going to trust Him? If I’m sitting here thinking gee, God’s going to get me because of my sin, I’m not trusting Him, I’m running from Him. So I have to have that forgiveness through the cross of Jesus Christ in order to have any faith. Then it’s the motive, because He has saved me, because He love me, because I know He’s for me, I can get through this somehow. I don’t know, but I can get through it, I know that. Why? Because I’m so great? No, because I know that’s the pattern of the God I know, that’s the pattern of the Creator I know, that’s the pattern of the Savior I know. That’s how He works, and I have enough confidence in Him, I don’t have confidence in me, I have confidence in Him to work that way. Therefore, I can face the situation. That’s the idea.
But suppose you don’t have that faith, now we’re back to this diagram. What happens? If you follow in this quote, “Jeroboam and Ahab deliberately imported pagan idolatries based on the old Continuity of Being idea. The Continuity of Being” which is just a broad way of labeling all pagan faith, “arises every time man attempts to think with the mind of flesh:” please underline this next part, it’s very critical, “when he attempts to be the final judge of what is true and false, the satanic temptation in the Garden to be as God knowing both good and evil. It is the fallen soul’s attempt to be the ultimate ‘classifier’ of everything, including God Himself!” That’s why in the Continuity of Being you’ve got nature, the gods and man all classified under the auspices of the human mind. The human mind is so great that it’s even classifying God. That’s the source, whether it’s Baalism, whether it’s Astarte, Venus, Jupiter, whatever the idolatry is, whether it’s cosmic evolution of our own modern generation, it’s always we in our great intellects are defining the universe, we are saying God is like this because I say so. That’s the bottom line.
You always want to trace something to its ultimate conclusion. That’s what always reveals the satanic motives in these things. Where does this idea lead you if you pursue it far enough? Right down to the bottom, because if God is Himself part of the universe and trapped in there like we are, we’re all victims. Who are we responsible to? Nobody, nothing, we’re all victims in this mysterious void called the cosmos. That’s where it all ends. It ends very conveniently. That’s why we say in the next paragraph on page 35, “There is more to this fleshly-pagan Continuity of Being idea than meets the eye. Observe that it accomplishes two goals of the sinful agenda: (1) man is established as the ultimate standard and determiner of reality (satisfies the craving for autonomy); and (2) man is freed from ultimate responsibility (satisfies the fear of guilt).” And we can see there are many variations in this.
I quote from Milton’s Paradise Lost. John Milton is one of those great authors who probably isn’t being studied much today, it takes more than a three-minute attention span to perceive what he’s doing. He was the minister of education under Cromwell when the Puritans took over England. If you want a great video, get the one on Cromwell, it was a great time in England, when the Puritans had had enough, and the Christians all got together and said this stuff has gone on long enough. So they took over Parliament and seized control of one arm of the government. Then the King decided he was going to come in and corrupt everything, so they excommunicated him, killed him, and took over the nation. Everybody hates this; all historians in the classroom always give you this negative idea, the Puritans are nasty people. They were, in this film they came into battle singing hymns to Jesus Christ because they were predestined to kill everybody. They were religious fanatics on the battlefield. Cromwell was the first guy in military history to ever train an army apart from the Romans. Cromwell took volunteers, non-paid people and he trained them into an army and he himself never had any military training. Do you know where he got it? He went to the library. But he had it up here, and he trained an army that was so fierce that they were called ironsides, and while Cromwell ruled England, nobody, including the Germans, French or anybody else running around Europe dared to strike England, because they couldn’t believe that these fanatical Puritans were in control of the nation, mad men were controlling England.
During that time the man who was the minister of education was John Milton. He, in this section of Paradise Lost reiterates a belief of the ancient church fathers that this doctrine of Continuity, whatever form it takes, is actually a demonic spirit that slips this idea into our heads. Not only that, but they believed that the particular forms of the idols were actually shapes of demons that manifested to these people in dreams. It’s an old, old belief in church history. So Milton, if you read the passage and you have to read it out loud to get the full impact of it, but the last three lines, “And Devils to adore for Deities: Then were they known to men by various Names, And various Idols through the Heathen World.” So the Christian position on this is that there are demonic strongholds and when we’re in compound carnality, we can’t react like David did because we have this distortion of the nature of God.
So we introduce now this next section, and this is what’s going on with the prophets in Israel, it’s this top row that characterizes the ministry of the prophets of the Old Testament period. This is what they are trying to do. They’re trying to bring about conviction of sin but the way they’re doing it isn’t preaching against particular sins. They’re attacking the whole concept of God, that’s why Isaiah is so Theocentric. Like Elijah, they go after the Baalism, they ridicule the gods, they dare the gods to come out at them. We summarize this preliminary, because this is a preliminary, they can’t get to where David was because there’s so much sin compounded they’ve got to cut through all of it, and that’s what Isaiah is doing, that’s what Joel is doing.
Divine chastening is a destruction of mental strongholds of demonic idolatries to clear the vision of who God really is. That’s the danger of habitual sin; we become vacuum cleaners, we suck up all this stuff out of the world system. And it is sitting there contaminating our souls, making our spirits impotent, all that’s in there, and God has to come through His Word, like He did in the Old Testament and cut through that because if He doesn’t, we can’t genuinely… we can go through the motions, but you can’t genuinely confess sin if you’re not seeing the God who defined sin. You’ve got to get there, it’s like the gospel, I can’t believe I’m a sinner unless I believe I’m a creature of the God who defines the sin. What is the gospel? God is God, therefore He sets up the standard, I know now by His standard I’m a sinner. What’s the solution? God’s solution; the atonement through the Lord Jesus Christ, period. It’s not going to church, not going through rituals, it’s trust in the Lord Jesus Christ, His finished work on the cross. I had nothing to do with it, He did it all. The point is, I can’t get there apart from the first step.
That’s the issue of the prophets. They’re going to bang away at this thing for 300 years, over and over and over. It’s a mass of spiritual conflict going on between pagan ideas, demonically agitated and empowered, slipping into the minds of people that are sinning, sinning, sinning, making these strongholds ever stronger in their heads. On the other hand, the godly prophets banging away at this over and over, assaulting them, going after the spiritual warfare. That’s what’s going to happen and the doctrine of divine chastening can be summarized this way: that until this breakthrough occurs, category five suffering keeps on going, because God will not permit His elect people to go damage themselves irreparably. There will come ways that He has, and some of them are very rough ways, of dealing with us until He gets us looking at Him. This is not a nice thing, but in a way it’s a loving thing, because God cares enough to do this for us. He could say to heck with it, go to hell. That’s what He could say, but He doesn’t because He’s chosen us and as the apostles and the prophets say, He’s chosen us with His own reputation on the line. That’s what it means, “He has chosen us for His name’s sake.” We could translate that in our language as He’s got His own reputation on the line. He went on a limb, so to speak, by saying I’m going to redeem this person, this person, this person. Satan’s saying yeah, yeah, yeah, I believe that. No, I’m going to redeem them, you watch. Oh I don’t believe it, you couldn’t redeem that one. You watch, I’ll redeem it right out from under you Satan, right out from under you.
That’s the battle going on and that’s the thing in the next chapter we’re going to deal with this divine chastening procedure, when this first box, this divine chastening gets very intense; it’s going to intensify as we move from the chapter we’re in to the next chapter.
Question asked: Clough replies: The heart of God is revealed through the prophets and there are some very poignant passages, powerful passages in the prophets. In fact the prophets actually take on the persona of God often when they’re making their prophecies. There’s that close identification. A good example of this, to force a prophet to walk in the footsteps of God is the command He gave to Hosea, to go marry a woman that would become an adulteress and a prostitute, that way Hosea you will understand how I feel about this nation. How’s that one for a nice calling. Hosea had to do that. He had to live through that. He had to experience the emotions and the heartache that comes from that. And that made Hosea the prophet, it was a piece of potter that God was shaping in history, and Hosea could be His vehicle because Hosea managed that. Some of the other guys had bizarre experiences. If you really want something weird, read Ezekiel. God put these guys through the wringer so they could adequately communicate. You have other men. I’m encouraging you to read the Minor Prophets. There are two kinds of prophets, the Minor Prophets and the Major Prophets. You all know the major ones, Isaiah, Jeremiah and Ezekiel, those are the thick books, and the little guys like Obadiah, Joel, they’re the books that you zip through and never even know they’re in the Bible, occasionally you hear the name.
Each one of those men is an individual. What’s so fascinating and this is one of the great evidences of the inspiration of Scripture is that these men came from different backgrounds, they sometimes were contemporaneous, and hardly show any manifestation they knew each other, doing their own thing, some of them very reluctantly. The prophet Jonah is a good example, he hated his job, didn’t want to do it, God told him to move east and he went west. Just totally out of it that way, and then he winds up going in, and what was so disagreeable to him as a Jew was to go into this nation of the Assyrians, they were so vicious, so cruel, these people … we think Saddam Hussein is weird, but he actually stands in a tradition. What Saddam Hussein is doing and how he acts and behaves is considered normal for that area, that’s how rulers rule, they shoot their family when they get out of line, or kill their sons. This is just a way of life. It strikes us as odd, but not to them. Here Jonah is forced to go and evangelize the capital city of these people, and he wants them to all go to hell. Why should I bother to give the Word of God to those people, let them rot. That’s his attitude and he expresses it.
What’s so neat is you see the normal every day human emotions are there, and yet God’s working through them. If you don’t get lost in history, the problem you’re going to have reading these prophets is well, gee, I have to read this with a map. Probably, and the reason you have to read with a map is because these guys are dealing with the nations that are invading their homeland. They’re prophesying about Moab, Ammon, Assyria, and you wonder, what is all this. Do you know what it all is? Think about it, every time the prophets are crying out against Assyria, and they’ prophesying what Assyria is going to do, how does that comfort Israel? Let’s ask this question, why is it comforting in an ultimate sense, to have the prophets call on judgment from these other nations to clobber Israel, and yet that was considered part of a message. The reason is because it communicated who was in charge of those nations. Who was moving the furniture globally? God was. So the God of this little nation Israel would never permit His people to get a truncated view of who He was, but God of Israel through the prophets always said the God of the Assyrians I am; I call the Assyrians and I put them down.
In 2 Kings 19:35 you’ll find a reference where prior to 721 BC the Assyrians come in from the northeast, and there’s a passage in Isaiah that parallels 2 Kings; Isaiah 37 and 2 Kings come together at that point because it’s the same kind of history. You’ll see that one night 185,000 Assyrian soldiers are ready to lay siege to Jerusalem and the Assyrians do a very stupid thing, they send an ambassador to King Hezekiah and the guy really screws up, because probably God would have let them clobber the Jews except for the fact that they made one slip. In their diplomatic note to the King they added the phrase, “as we have done to the nations and their gods we will do to you and your God,” and that was all Hezekiah needed, because that produced a theological conflict, therefore he went to Isaiah and he complained, he says they have demeaned the name of God. Regardless of how bad we’re sinning here, they have demeaned the name of God.
It reminds you of David going out after Goliath. He made theology the issue. Watch the prophets how they deal with international intrigue. The Assyrians came against Israel, and there were over 185,000 people; this is a disaster. And God says to Hezekiah, no, you stay in here. We have archeological references because Sennacherib was king at the time, bragged, in these inscriptions we have he says I have captured Hezekiah like a bird in a cage, but strange on this Assyrian document there is never an account of what he did with Hezekiah. And all of these other brag-a-monies there’s always victory. There’s none reported in that [can’t understand word] and it’s because of a very interesting reason. His army went to bed at night and they never woke up. The King James in its marvelous way of putting things, “and when they woke up they were dead.”
The point was 185,000 soldiers died in one night without a sword, and it’s one of those little historical events that everybody wants to gloss over and forget about and can’t explain it, the scholars slip and slide all over the place dealing with that text, but something happened and in one night the Assyrian problem had been taken care of. Why? Because they blasphemed the God of Israel. So you see mighty acts in the prophets. When God wants to flex His muscles He flexes His muscles. Take me on, go ahead and see what happens, is what He says. All these stories are exciting because they hit at the basic theme, who God is. And who is He that reigns. And out of this will come prophecy. At this point we’ll start more and more into the prophecy of what’s going to happen in future history, but it didn’t start there, it starts because they’re trying to minister to people who are trapped in this adversity. Think of the thousands and thousands of believers in the nation who were suffering because they were being ruled by an idiot. The priesthood had become corrupt, the prophets had become false, and here they are, they’re suffering. So it was to deal with suffering, sorrow and heartache to give hope; that’s the context of all the great prophecies of Scripture.
We misread prophecy when we look at it like it’s God’s view of the Enquirer or something. That’s not the way it was originally intended. The prophecies of Scripture were to assure, even though the prophecies were written to be fulfilled centuries later, they didn’t care whether the fulfillment came centuries later, all they cared was that the present was connected to a victorious end. That’s what the prophecy does. It’s not date setting, it’s not doing all that, it’s to renew our faith in who God is. That’s the theme we’re going to come up with in the third and fourth chapter. We’ll deal with the fall of the kingdom and then we’re going to deal with the exile period, and it was this that once the kingdom was gone it’s gone; it never comes back in history.
Jesus offers the kingdom when He announced through John the Baptist, “The kingdom of God is at hand,” and had the nation Israel accepted the Lord Jesus Christ, they could have had their kingdom. That’s why when they rejected Christ, in all four gospels Jesus preaches in the first part of these gospels, and then you get halfway through the gospels and He starts talking in parables and things begin to shift and you wonder what’s going on. It’s almost like He’s talking in code. He does it because He taught explicitly in the first half of all four Gospels, He says I am the Messiah, if you accept Me you’ll have your kingdom. People said, No, we’re not going to accept you. So He says okay, then I’m going to call out a remnant and the kingdom of God is going to be postponed. Then finally the climactic time comes in Jerusalem and what does Jesus say? I’m not going to come back here, Jerusalem, until you say “Blessed is He that comes in the name of the Lord,” so go ahead, have it your way.
In one sense Israel, by its rejection of Jesus Christ is the impediment to world peace, because Jesus will not come again until He is officially welcomed by His nation. History is just sitting here; the clock is turning until it happens. We’ll see much more of prophecy as time goes on.
Question asked: Clough replies: I’ll try to come up with a time line to show how these prophets stand in relation to each other. It’s pretty neat to see, some of them were contemporaries of each other, and they probably stayed in their own little enclaves doing their thing, kind of an interesting approach. If you don’t have time to read any of the prophets for next time, if you only read one chapter read Isaiah 1 and notice the structure of how it starts, and compare that with what you read in Deuteronomy 30. Try to connect Isaiah 1 to Deuteronomy 30 and see if you don’t notice something going on there. We’ll talk about that next time. This is a part of the Old Testament not usually visited. Everybody knows about Genesis, but people bog down in the Kings. We could spend two years going through Kings because you have to know so much contemporary history; we’re just zipping through.