Seek the Lord

June 25, 2010

2 Chronicles 12:14: And [Rehoboam] did evil, for he did not set his heart to seek the LORD.

Why do we do evil?

Rehoboam should have been a godly king. He was the grandson of King David, a man after God’s own heart (1 Samuel 13:14). He was the son of King Solomon, whose wisdom Scripture extols (1 Kings 4:29). His father and grandfather wrote a significant proportion of the Old Testament Scriptures.

And yet, 2 Chronicles 12:14 tells us Rehoboam did evil.

What evil did he do?

The most obvious evil he did was to split the kingdom. 2 Chronicles 10 tells us of his pride and stubbornness. Representatives from the northern tribes ask him to lighten the burdens his father had put on them. Rehoboam instead tries to act tough – and the northern tribes secede.

But Rehoboam is guilty of a greater evil than splitting the kingdom. Splitting the kingdom is a secondary evil, an evil that results from something more fundamental.  2 Chronicles 12:1 tells us of that more fundamental evil: Rehoboam “abandoned the law of the LORD.” His grandfather had written that “the law of the LORD is perfect” (Psalm 19:7), but he abandoned that law.

Recall that the word “law” in the Old Testament frequently translates the Hebrew word “torah,” which has a broader meaning than our English word. The “torah” includes instruction: teaching about who God is, who we are, and how we can have a relationship with Him. Rehoboam turned his back on the instruction that had been handed down to him. Though God had created him for His glory, though God had exalted him to be king over His own people, though God had given him a father and grandfather who instructed others in God’s “torah”, Rehoboam rejected God’s instruction.

This is his greatest evil.

Why did he do this evil?

Our text tells us why: “He did not set his heart to seek the LORD.”

Jesus tells us to “seek first His kingdom and His righteousness” (Matthew 6:33). He promises that if we seek we will find (Matthew 7:7).

Yet Paul tells us that “no one seeks for God” (Romans 3:11). That is, in and of ourselves, we are all like Rehoboam. Though many aspects of God’s nature are clear from the world around us (Romans 1:20) – “the heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of His hands” (Psalm 19:1) – and though many of us have access to His Word and have heard His Gospel, we, like Rehoboam, turn our backs on that revelation. We act as if He doesn’t exist, or as if He is irrelevant. We seek our good as we perceive it, and ignore the purpose for which He made us. We may believe we are doing good, but we, like Rehoboam, do evil unless we seek God.

So Rehoboam did not seek God. And he did evil.

Furthermore, our text tells us that Rehoboam did not set his heart to seek God. Truly seeking God is a matter of the heart. We don’t seek God by outward actions alone – doing religious activities, bowing our heads in prayer, attending worship services, reading the Bible. Someone may look externally to be seeking the Lord, and yet not be doing so. Indeed, this probably was the case with Rehoboam. As King of Judah, he most certainly participated in public worship. He undoubtedly gave large gifts to the priests. Like his father, he may well have offered long prayers in front of the people. But Rehoboam “did not set his heart to seek the LORD.” And therefore he did evil.

What about you? Where is your heart?

We must all confess that apart from God’s work we have hard, stony hearts. Apart from God’s transforming power, we will not seek Him. Apart from His grace, we are rightly condemned.

But God sent His Son to die on our behalf, paying the penalty we deserve, so that all who simply trust Him might receive His pardon and become His beloved children.

So we need to pray, “O Lord, take my stony heart and replace it by Your grace with a soft and tender heart (Ezekiel 36:26). Incline my heart to Your Word, so that I might joyfully seek You (Psalm 119:36). Don’t let me be like Rehoboam – outwardly appearing to follow You, but inwardly having a heart that longs for so much else other than You. Enable me to treasure You above all, to delight in You above all; enable me to set my heart to seek You!”

Will you do this?

God’s promises us: If you truly seek Him, you will find Him. If you humble yourself, He will exalt you. If you look to Jesus, He will save you.

So set your heart to seek Him. And then continue to do so, day by day. This is life. This is joy. This is peace.

Keeping the Word Central

June 2, 2010

(This is an outline and summary of one of the talks I will be giving next week to pastors in India. Thank you for your prayers and financial support for enabling this trip – Coty]

If you are to fulfill the calling to a Gospel ministry, you must keep the Word of God central. You must depend on the Word of God in all that you do.

2 Timothy chapters 2, 3, and 4 bring out this truth in five different ways:

1) God’s Word is not bound!

Paul writes this letter from prison. He is cold. He is abandoned. He is under sentence of death. But Paul knows that though he might be in chains, the Word of God is still effecting change:”I am suffering, bound with chains as a criminal. But the word of God is not bound!” (2 Timothy 2:9).

If you are to fulfill your calling, if you are to stand before others and speak the Word, you must have this type of confidence. You may be persecuted. Your speaking may be hindered. Your preparation may be cut short. Your sleep and rest may be taken away. You may be (actually: “will be”!) inadequate for the task Indeed, you, like Paul, may be killed. But God’s Word is mighty. God’s word will run and be glorified (2 Thessalonians 3:1). God’s Word will accomplish all that He desires (Isaiah 55:10-11). No one can stand against God’s Word and hinder God’s purposes. You may be bound – but God’s Word will never be bound.

2) God’s Word is able to make you and those you teach wise unto salvation

One of the purposes God will accomplish through His Word is the salvation of those He calls to Himself: Paul writes: “From childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus” (2 Timothy 3:15).

Note carefully: What makes people wise unto salvation? Our programs? Our evangelistic techniques? Our cultural sensitivity? Our effective rhetoric? Our clever arguments?

None of these. God’s Word accomplishes His desires, and God’s Word saves His people.

So what is your role? This leads us to our next point.

3) Think hard about the Word, and pray to understand it.

Paul tells Timothy, “Think over what I say, for the Lord will give you understanding in everything” (2 Timothy 2:7). This verse is a great encouragement. I trust you have often found the Bible hard to understand. But Paul tells Timothy, “Sure, this is hard. But God is right there with you to help you understand! So think hard – not because you have the mental capacity on your own to figure out what I mean, but because God works through your diligent study, through your serious thinking, to give you understanding.”

Your role, first, is to study the Word. It must dwell in you richly (Colossians 3:16). You must ponder it and pray over it. Like Habakkuk, you must query it and struggle with it, bringing your lack of understanding before the Lord, crying out, “I have to teach this to Your people! So give me understanding so that I might fulfill Your calling on my life.”

4) ALL of Scripture is useful and profitable and sufficient for the ministry

Paul goes on to tell Timothy that “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work (2 Timothy 3:16-17). That is, the entire Bible is God’s precious revelation of Himself, telling us who He is, who we are, how we can be reconciled to Him, how we can fulfill the purpose of our creation, and where the world is heading. We need the Word in order to learn God’s character and God’s path of life. We need God’s Word if we are to reprove those who err in doctrine or practice. We need God’s Word if we are to straighten out those who are deviating from God’s path. We need God’s Word if we are to train others in how to live a life worthy of our calling. The Word alone is sufficient for such training and equipping. So we must depend on it if we are to be faithful stewards of the ministry entrusted to us.

5) Preach the Word!

Paul concludes his exhortations to Timothy with the most solemn command in the entire New Testament:

In the sight of God and Christ Jesus who will certainly judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom, I solemnly charge you: Preach the Word! Be ready in season and out of season. Reprove, rebuke, and earnestly exhort, with great steadfastness teaching all doctrine. For the time will come when they will not put up with sound doctrine, but will surround themselves with teachers to satisfy their own desires, to scratch their itching ears. They will turn their ears away from the truth, and to myths they will be turned aside. But you, be clear-headed in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of a preacher of the Gospel: that is, fully accomplish your ministry (2 Timothy 4:1-5, own translation).

According to Paul, the man called to a Gospel ministry must above all else fulfill this task: Preach the Word! Preach the Word! And Preach the Word! There is nothing more important, nothing more vital for advancing God’s Kingdom.

Every man called to ministry will be tempted in other directions. Many, as Paul says, will want him to preach something else, something appealing and uplifting. Others will want him to devote much time and energy to other tasks – including many good and important tasks.

But we must keep our heads, knowing what He has called us to. This will require enduring hardship, including having many walk away from us, deserting us – as they deserted Paul. But we must do the work of a preacher of the Gospel; we must fully accomplish the ministry to which GOD has called us. And He is the One who says: Preach the Word.

My brothers, you and I have nothing to say, nothing to offer our people, nothing to offer unbelievers, apart from the Word of God. So keep the Word of God central. Depend on the Word.

And when you look at other pastors, don’t be impressed by degrees. Don’t be impressed by titles. Don’t be impressed by those who have built big churches. Many with important degrees have abandoned their faith in God’s Word. Many with fancy titles have sought their own glory, not God’s. Many with big churches have built them by human methods, not through God’s means. Instead, be impressed with those men who faithfully and fully open up God’s Word. Make them your models. Pray for them, and emulate them. Then: Become such a man yourself. In this way, you will fully accomplish your ministry.

May God be pleased to bring that about in every man gathered here.