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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 3 – Kingdoms in Decline: The Discipline of Cursing
Lesson 87 – Leadership, God’s “Parenting”, and the Puzzle of the Abrahamic and Mosaic Covenants
16 Apr 1998
Fellowship Chapel, Jarrettsville, MD
Tonight we’re going to just look backwards at the events and the history that we covered because we want to prepare for next week when we’ll get into the details of the doctrine of sanctification. One of the things we need to do when we read the Bible is to remember that it’s a progressive revelation of God over centuries of time, and the period of history that we’re focusing on now is that period of the monarchy.
We’ve already looked at the failures of the nation to fully conquer the land. We’ve seen how the period of the judges ended up with “every person doing what is right in their own eyes.” The Book of Judges is the prelude to First Samuel when the monarchy is established.
Again the monarchy is almost another example of Plan B. Plan A was a tribal confederacy with maximum freedom for all. What held those 12 tribes together was supposed to be a common allegiance to the authoritative Word of God that had been given to them through Moses. Obviously, over the centuries, either they didn’t have enough copies of the Law of Moses to educate themselves, or if that wasn’t the problem, they had the availability of prophets and judges to teach them the Word of God, and they just neglected to do so. It also might be due to the local elders in the local villages and the judges themselves for their lack of allegiance to the Bible.
But the point is that when you do not have a unified worldview you’re going to have society break apart. You’re going to have anarchistic tendencies; the 12 tribes fractured; the confederacy fell apart. This is why, by the way, tyrants inevitably get involved in religious issues, because they see intuitively that you can’t have a unified kingdom if you don’t have a unified system of belief.
Of course, in past decades we’ve seen the collapse of communism, and communism under Marx and his followers, Vladimir Lenin, and so on, Stalin, they all intuitively understood that you had to teach communist doctrine in order to unify the nation. Mao Tse-tung was another tyrant who did the same thing in China. He recognized China, I guess when he came to power, had 25 or 30 different dialects, and Mao Tse-tung unified to one or two dialects: Mandarin, and I forgot what the other one is, but the point is that he recognized you had to have some sort of structure that unified people, and Christianity is not a unifier in the sense that in a given particular society you’ll have the Gospel accepted by only part of that society.
This is why thinkers like John Dewey, one of the great architects of American public education, actually went ahead and said that democracy and Christianity are incompatible, and what he meant by that was that where you have Christian influence with the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ, you have people who accept it and people who don’t, and that leaves a division in society. People who are strong leaders don’t like those kinds of divisions so they try to erase them one way or another. Tonight we’re going to get a sense of how the various kings tried to unify the nation. They were concerned with the divisions, the tribal divisions, and so on. They were concerned with their relationships with other nations.
But primarily focusing right now on the individual, two kings stand out for their contrasting characters. Devotional authors for years have always picked out David as a model of godliness and Saul as a model of ungodliness. That intrigue that went on through First Samuel and into Second Samuel went on for decades, and that period of history between David and Saul showed, by David’s behavior, how God wanted to sanctify the monarchy of Israel.
God wanted the Israelite monarchy to be a model to the nations, and as I said before, when you read the Bible, you’ll get a lot more insight into it if you contrast what is going on in the “biblical” area versus what went on in the areas outside of Israel.
We covered some of those incidents as we’ve come through this section of the Bible and the Framework. But if you recall, I made a big point over contrasting how David handled the problem of succession. Throughout the ancient near East, and actually today in a milder form, when you have a change in administration between one leader and another, and in the ancient world it was between one king and the next king, if the reigning king did not have a vibrant powerful son he felt threatened by someone outside of his family that would eventually take over the throne after he died. The political intrigue was that if he reigned he would try to kill, assassinate, however, the threatened new king from another family and save the throne for his own son.
Or, the other side of the battles was that the new leader who wanted to take over from the old leader, that new leader would try to assassinate the old leader. So you have to keep that in mind to get perspective on the narratives in Samuel; First Samuel and a little bit of Second Samuel, and that the issue here is that clearly God had rejected the kingdom of Saul, the dynasty of Saul, and would replace the dynasty of Saul with the dynasty of David. Keep in mind Saul, remember, was of the tribe of Benjamin, David was of the tribe of Judah, and Judah was the prophesied channel of blessing.
So the issue that had to be resolved for David’s dynasty to replace Saul’s dynasty was: Is Saul going to knock off David; get him killed so Saul can then pass his dynasty to his son Jonathan? That’s Saul’s perspective. David’s perspective is: God has called me to be king, do I assassinate Saul? And there were those incidents, and we covered several of them, where David could have assassinated Saul; he had him in a cave one time in sort of an embarrassing situation where Saul went into the cave, apparently to relieve himself, and David literally caught him with his pants down. He was near him, and so near him that he took his sword and cut a piece out of Saul’s royal garment just to later give evidence of how close he was to Saul and have Saul understand that he could have assassinated him. Saul should ask the question, “I wonder why David didn’t assassinate me?” just to give him a little perspective on the fact that David trusted the Lord.
David realized promotion doesn’t come from gimmicks, it doesn’t come from me trying to pull myself up with my own bootstraps; succession is going to come because God is faithful, He has called me, and I will let Him work out the details. We have to understand as Bible-believing Christians, how radical that behavior of David was in the political world of his time. Gentile kings didn’t do that. You could look at the annals of the Pharaoh, you could see what happened in Mesopotamia; it was just turmoil usually settled by murder. It was not settled by murder in the time of David succeeding Saul. Yes, there were murders around, but David did not murder Saul.
So we have two models, and these models of David’s behavior and Saul’s behavior are going to help later next week when we get involved with the details of sanctification. The model of David is that he was a sinner just like Saul, so that’s not where the model differs. Both of these men were sinners just like we are.
Here is the difference however: when David sinned, and that’s the story about Bathsheba and Uriah and Nathan coming to him, David emphasizes a humble attitude to the Lord. David, when confronted with his sin, acknowledges his sin. When Saul is confronted with his sin by the prophet Samuel, he’s always got an excuse. “Well, I didn’t kill the Amalekitic King because I was getting his booty and he’s a nice guy,” that sort of problem.
So obviously Saul does not have the same kind of spirit as David. David was a fellow who knew the Lord well enough to know that when the Lord sent a prophet to him pointing to his sin, he better listen; he better submit to the authority of the Word of God coming to him through a prophet. Saul did not have that respect for Yahweh. Saul always had an excuse because he was concerned how it would appear to the public.
You have that section just before the prophet Samuel calls out David from the family of Jesse. Basically the Lord says to Samuel, “I want you to go to Saul and tell him I’ve taken the kingdom away. I am not going to bless him, and I don’t want you to have anything to do with him.” It was sad for Samuel because Samuel had, after all, been the one who anointed Saul to start that dynasty. So Samuel is very depressed but he followed the Lord’s admonitions and broke off relationship with Saul.
Let’s think about it, we’ve got to two Jewish kings: one manifesting a certain godly behavior and another one manifesting a carnal behavior. The heart difference is that one man, David, when confronted with the Bible, confronted with the Word of God and his own sin, confessed. And we have 1 John 1:9: “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” In Saul’s case, he was just rebellious and didn’t do that. So there are the two models.
Now what happens throughout the monarchy until the collapse of the kingdom here that we we’re into now, was that progressively there was more and more idolatry. If you remember the story of Jeroboam, remember after David died, his son Solomon took over, and Solomon basically became an idolater with such brilliance. He just spiritually messed up. I want to deal with idolatry in a little bit but I want to remind us all of the sequence of historical events that happened.
You have Jeroboam authorized by Yahweh to take 10 of the 12 tribes. So in the south you have Benjamin and Judah, and those two tribes are collectively known as “Judah.” The 10 tribes of the north are known from that point on in history as “Israel.” And Jeroboam’s sin I think is referred to many dozen of times throughout subsequent Old Testament history. We have to think about, remember what the sin of Jeroboam was. Jeroboam was so afraid, so it puts you right back again here, Jeroboam had the anointing of the Lord, he knew the Lord, He had assigned him as the king of those 10 tribes, but he didn’t trust the fact that the Lord would protect him.
See, what was on Jeroboam’s mind was that three times a year in the Jewish calendar Jews would have to go down to Jerusalem, which meant they had to cross the border between Israel and Judah, and they had to go down there three times a year—that would be Passover, Pentecost, and the feast in the Fall. What Jeroboam was afraid of was that when they went down there they left his kingdom to go down into the Davidic dynasty’s kingdom; that they would lose their allegiance to Jeroboam; and would undermine his monarchy.
So what did Jeroboam do, remember? He created a phony version of Yahwehism (by Yahwehism I’m among talking about orthodox doctrine that was taught through Moses). That doctrine, that Law of Moses, laid out authorized protocols for a worship center, and the worship center was to be in Jerusalem, nowhere else, it was to be at Jerusalem. After David moved the ark there, that was the center and God blessed that place.
Well, Jeroboam didn’t like that. He was afraid of the political threat to him for some reason, and he didn’t like that. So what Jeroboam did, it’s like he wanted to create a Jewish workplace for the 10 tribes that would be easy to reach, and since the 10 tribes occupied a large area compared to Judah and Benjamin, he set up two places of worship. One was at Bethel and the other was that Ai; Bethel in the south, Ai in the north. He built pseudo-temples at those two locations, the idea being that if you are in the northern half of Israel you go up to Ai and if you are in the southern half of Israel you go down to Bethel. So first off, the sin of Jeroboam is that he violated God’s direction for one cult center. By “cult”, by the way, I don’t mean cult in the theological sense, I mean the worship center. He created two unauthorized worship centers.
Then the second thing that Jeroboam did is he needed priests. Well, he couldn’t get the Levitical priests because they were custodians of the Word of God and would’ve challenged him not to build those two centers. So since he wanted to build the two centers he now had another problem, he had to get rid of the Levitical priestly influence so he set up his own priesthood. Now we have a government-sponsored false place of worship, and a government bureaucratic organization to replace the Levites. And we could go on, but the point is that sin of creating a religious network unauthorized by God for that whole Northern Kingdom, that was never changed. So when you read in the Bible, and you can see, you can look it up in a concordance, when you see the sin of Jeroboam, the sin of Jeroboam, that’s what it’s talking about.
So there is the model of the Saul-ied kind of behavior of taking God casually. I want to address something else that happened there: idolatry. Why were kings like Solomon so tempted to get into idolatry when the first and great commandment is you should only have Yahweh and Yahweh alone? I believe that there is a very related reason why the ancient Jewish people wound up in idolatry so easily; a parallel between that and our so-called open-mindedness today.
Here it is: when Solomon had relations with other nations, international foreign policy type relations, it was customary to seal those treaties, whatever agreements that were made, with intermarriage; with royalty. Europe did that.
Those of you who know European history; that the European royal families at one time were just interbred and that’s why they had genetic problems. In fact, that’s why the czar had a son, a hemophiliac, and we had a very evil priest who had some sort of effect on that boy, that hemophiliac, so the czar became vulnerable to these weird ideas of this priest, but that’s a whole chapter in Russian history.
The point I’m trying to make is that intermarriage among royalty was a common thing back then, and Solomon then wanted to follow that custom. It was not authorized, you’re not supposed to have multiple wives, but Solomon yielded to the traditions of his time. Probably Solomon, in his rationale, did not forsake worship of Yahweh but he tolerated worship of other gods to get along with these other nations.
It’s a warning here and a lesson we can learn: if truth exists, if the Word of God is transcendent, absolute, objective truth, there is no reason to compromise that for some weird belief, some so-called truth created by speculation by man who has a limited and fallen nature.
We, and Christians in general, we can be subject to enormous peer pressure. Young people, particularly in school, in high school, even in colleges there, they can be Christians, but they yield and go passive when the peer pressure gets too strong. We have to watch that because the only way you and I can meet that kind of strong peer pressure is to think that: Greater is He that is in us than he that is in the world. We’re going to receive brickbats and we’re going to have people make nasty comments, that just comes with the turf. If we’re going to identify with the Lord Jesus Christ then we’re going to be attacked; not because of who we are, but simply because the world hates Christ.
So altering that period of history now, that we’re looking at the final collapse of the kingdom and we’re going to eventually get to the Exile, that was very much related to a social peer pressure that was operating so that they could “tolerate other religious views” to get along with them. Part of the toleration was they were to build little worship centers in high places. So if Johnny Q happened to believe in god #5 that he could feel that he could express his soul by going up to the hills, to this little sanctuary place, have a quiet time and meditate on god #5 instead of God #1, which is Yahweh. So you have those kinds of social dynamics that are functioning all during those centuries of the fall of the kingdom.
I want to move on. I think we’ve belabored the point of what was going on with the monarchy; the models of David and Saul. I want to also address something else and this is to prepare us for next week when we get into the doctrine of sanctification.
Look upon sanctification as in one sense a form of divine parenting. Think of your parents, or those of you are parents think of how you parent your children. God looked upon Israel as His son, and normally we think of God’s Son as Jesus for those of us who have trusted in Jesus. That’s true in the New Testament Church Age, but in the Old Testament God looked on Israel as His son, and several places in the Old Testament He says that.
If you’ve read the early chapters of Matthew and the other Gospels you are aware of that statement that says, speaking of Mary and Joseph taking Jesus and hiding Him down in Egypt to get Him away from Herod and then they come back. The New Testament writers say, “Out of Egypt I have called My Son.” They’re quoting an Old Testament passage, but if you look at the Old Testament passage it’s not a Messianic passage, it’s a passage that’s talking about Israel, it’s referring to the Exodus.
So you say well wait a minute, that’s not a prophecy that was just history. Why are the New Testament authors citing that element of Israel’s history centuries before, when it really doesn’t describe Jesus, Mary, and Joseph coming out of Egypt? Well here’s why: Jesus, in His personal life recapitulates what the nation went through. The nation had an exodus from Egypt. Jesus had a mini-exodus from Egypt because His mother and His father had to go down there, to take Him down there, lest He be killed. And God took Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and their progeny down to Egypt for the same basic reason, which was to save them spiritually because if they had stayed in the land they would’ve completely capitulated to Canaanitism and Baalism.
God, if you visualize Him as a parent, when you get to Mount Sinai and God explains His policies for the nation, those policies contain both blessing and cursing. Remember the Sinaitic Treaty, the Mosaic Treaty, is not the same as the Abrahamic. The call of Abraham, the Abrahamic Covenant is unconditional: God is going to bless the world period, and we don’t get any details other than the ultimate goal of the call of Abraham; that’s the Abrahamic Covenant.
When we come to Mount Sinai and the giving of the Mosaic Covenant, it has conditions in it. So you have the conditions of cursing and you have the conditions of blessing, and that’s God as a parent. Well now why are the cursings there? The cursings are there not because God is going to use them to destroy the nation Israel, He’s not going to use it to destroy His son, He’s going to use it to prod His son, by pain, a painful prod to obey Him.
Today we have a lot of permissive parents that seemingly are afraid to give their kids a hard time when their kids misbehave. Well God doesn’t do that. We know that from the Epistle of Hebrews. He disciplines us as believers because He’s trying to get us ready for life in eternity with Him. So if we’re slow learners, if we’re defiant to Him, we’re going to pay the price so that we understand reality. Remember, when we’re parenting our children we’re really concerned to parent them in such a way that they’re prepared for life in the world. When we’re gone they should be able to carry on just fine, and that’s our goal. God’s goal as the Parent of the nation Israel is to prepare Israel for its ultimate destiny.
So we have a picture, in these centuries leading up to the Exile, of divine parenting, and Israel is giving their Parent, their Dad, a hard time. Also, you want to remember during this, that this parenting and giving a hard time is part of sanctification, and the pain of sin requires an intercessor. You remember when we talked about the Sinai incident: Moses acted as the intercessor. Remember God comes to Moses and He says, “Moses, I’m tired of this nation. I’m going to destroy it, and I’ll make another nation of you.” And Moses said, “Oh, don’t do that, because if you do that the Egyptian pagans are going to say, ‘Oh, Yahweh, the God of the Jews, He wasn’t able to do what He promised.’ ” And Moses intercedes in a priestly way.
Keep in mind, remember the tribe of Moses? It was Levitical; Moses was not of the tribe of Judah. He was of the tribe of Levi so he’s an intercessor. And so God in His conversation on Sinai to Moses, He got Moses to activate and to start acting like the priest that he should be. I mention that because part of the pain of our sanctification is because of sin, and if we have a sin problem, we have a problem with God and it has to be resolved and we need an Intercessor. Thankfully we have a High Priest that can be touched with the feelings of our infirmities now. And they, Israel, during these the centuries leading up to the Exile, had priests that were willing to do intercession for them.
Another feature that was involved in this time was the unresolved tension between the Abrahamic Covenant and the Mosaic Covenant. Remember, the Abrahamic Covenant promised a glorious future for Israel. The Mosaic Covenant threatened punishment and even destruction of that nation, exile, and so forth, many die; nations reduced to a simple thread in history. So how did the prophets resolve this? Well, the tension between, on one hand, it was certain that God would bless Israel, with a tension, on the other hand, about God going to discipline Israel.
The prophets handled that, and when you read the prophets you want to notice what happens. The prophets have two themes: one is lamenting for the horrible state of the nation; warning the nation against judgment, death, disease, military defeat. But then in the same prophecy maybe sometimes only a verse or a chapter removed, all of a sudden the prophets are talking about, “And your glorious future of Israel is going to be this, all the tribes will come back to the Holy Land.”
So the prophets recognized there were these two themes. Now whether individual prophets really put these two things together we don’t know. Later, remember we covered the New Covenant. In the New Covenant, through Jeremiah and Ezekiel, God promised that, “Yes I will bless you but in order for you to be blessed you have to satisfy My righteousness of the Law, and you know that because if you don’t, you’re going to get disciplined.”
So the New Covenant, given through Moses, mentioned in Ezekiel, promises that in the future there will come a time when there will be universal circumcision of the heart; that everyone who is in Israel living in mortal bodies at that time will be a believer. The nation will have tremendous blessings because it starts off, at least in the Millennium, with 100% regenerate people.
So the prophets eventually, through the additional revelation of the New Covenant, now understand that tension between the Abrahamic unconditionality and the Mosaic conditionality. That will eventually resolve and the instrument for resolving it will be the New Covenant. You have a faint reminder of that even in the Epistle to the Romans.
Remember I mentioned Romans 3 where Paul the apostle says that God is able and willing to save. Also, He is faithful and just. In other words, He can save sinners without demeaning His holiness; without compromising His holiness. So when we use 1 John 1:9, that’s why that is phrased that way: “God is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” Being faithful means that God is going to do what He promised, but even if He’s faithful, He also has to be just, and that means He cannot compromise His own righteousness. He may feel merciful toward us but unlike all other religions, God cannot forgive us our sins without some sort of substitutionary atonement.
Those are some of the lessons we’ve learned and those are the historical points that we have covered over the last two or three evenings. So next time we’re going to deal with sanctification. I’ll review a little bit at the beginning of that, but I want to take you into the specific doctrine so we can look upon sanctification by steps. Step one, step two, step three, and understand the elements of the program of sanctification.
And I want to leave you with a distinction that’s not being made very well today in our evangelical circles. Sanctification is not the same as justification and I’ll make some comments here to show you why this is important.
Justification means that God gives me legal capacity to enter into a covenant with Him even though I am a sinner and He is absolutely holy. He is light and in Him is no darkness. Yet I am filled full of darkness because I’m a fallen creature. So how do I get the legal capacity to be a party to this covenant of blessing? Well, the answer is that God is going to provide that legal capacity, or that righteousness, by accrediting the righteousness of His own Son to my account; to your account if you’re a believer here tonight.
Sanctification is a whole other situation. In sanctification we’re talking about Christian growth and whether we’re in fellowship or out of fellowship at any given moment of time. Failure to distinguish justification and sanctification really screws you up because if you mix these two up you got the following problem, and this is where the so-called lordship-salvation thing is coming from.
I fully appreciate the fact that there are pastors out there who are troubled with the widespread sin and carnality in their congregations. The problem is in the lordship community what they do to solve that problem is to question whether people are genuinely saved or not. It’s true there can be followers and “hangers-on” in our congregations that are not generally saved, but you have to be careful because if you’re going to challenge whether someone’s a believer or unbeliever you’re basically destroying assurance.
If you destroy assurance on a Christian who’s struggling with a life-dominating sin, it may be an addiction of some sort, they need to have stability. They can’t be floating around in La La land wondering whether they’re saved or not. They need that assurance. So in order to step forward and grow you need to start with the foundation of assurance; assurance that the Lord Who is absolutely holy has no sin in Him.
Even though you have sin in you and I have sin in me we have to have the assurance that He’s for us, that He’s with us, that He’s going to help us. That comes not from sanctification, that comes from revelation at the point we’re saved; that has to do with the gospel and it is called justification. But when we deal with sanctification we’re dealing with post-justification growth. So we sharply distinguish justification from sanctification.
If you want a historical example for this, and we’ve mentioned this before, a picture of God’s saving the nation. Exodus, a picture of God entering into a relationship that will be legally demanding on Israel is Mount Sinai because at Mount Sinai God lays out the details of His parenting. You can’t have parenting before you have a birth of the child. Exodus is the birth of the nation; Mount Sinai is the beginning of the parenting program. All you have to do is remember the difference between Exodus and Mount Sinai and think that Mount Sinai does not come before Exodus, Exodus comes before Mount Sinai. So you have that benefit of thinking through the Framework and seeing how to apply that to various problems that arise.
Alright tonight what we’ve done is we’ve reviewed the 400 years or so of battle that went on from the time David took the throne; from the time the monarchy was established under Saul all through the succession years of David fleeing from Saul’s attempts to kill and murder him where Saul is simply following the same model of his pagan peers.
You have David trusting the Lord, you have David then getting the Davidic Covenant as a reward for his faithfulness and that of working out of how God chose him and how God vetted him to the public until they were convinced he was the man.
And then you have to decline of the kings, and that decline was due to a peer pressure that pressured these men, or that man allowed it to pressure them, into this conformity with all the other gods and goddesses, and we would make little high places here and there; monuments to so-and-so’s god. And we build another high place over there and that’s a substitute for another god, and that’s what was going on. Then, of course, you have the prophet, saying, “There is no other God, there’s just one who is our Creator.”
Next time we’re going to deal with the issue of the details of sanctification, but I did want to cover this history so that you’re convinced that when we start teaching about the doctrine of sanctification we’re not making this up. The doctrine of sanctification follows from actual real time, publicly observable history; the history of the nation Israel, and it’s out of that that we developed the idea of the Framework and developed the niceties of sanctification. Okay we’ll be next week and we’ll deal with the issues of the details of sanctification.