Saturday, March 22, 2014

The Holy Spirit, Part 9

The result was that Asa heard and took the message to heart. He felt encouraged to dismantle the systems of false worship that had sprung up like weeds in the garden of his God. Isreal was a tree that was meant to bear fruit to God, fruit that would be shared with the nations for their healing and reconciliation with Israel’s God. In time the corruption of pagan influences, ruled by demonic principalities, had infiltrated Israel’s worship and they had turned to polytheism, pantheism, or even animism and astrology. Asa caused a restoration of true worship, calling back people from Ephraim, Manasseh and Simeon as well as provoking Benjamin and Judah back to proper worship when they witnessed that God was with him, 2nd Chronicles 15:9.

Here we have a good expository example of what the apostle James meant when he wrote: “The Spirit who dwells in us yearns jealously,” James 4:5. No particular Scripture has ever been attached to this quotation of James. He mentions just before this quote that “the Scripture says.” It may simply be that James was making a sweeping reference to the tone of Scripture regarding how God deals with His children, as in this case. James may simply have been trying to point out that one of the Bible’s primary themes was the Holy Spirit’s jealous yearning over His own. It follows on the heels of James rebuking Christians for coveting friendship with the world and committing spiritual adultery (idolatry by setting up other gods to replace God’s position of primacy in our lives). The Holy Spirit used Azariah to inflame Asa to action; and both men bore fruit in the process.

During Jehoshaphat’s reign a confederacy of enemies came against Judah to plunder them, and when the people learned of it they turned to the Lord for deliverance. Jehoshaphat prayed to the Lord and began by confessing “are you not God in heaven, and do You not rule over all the kingdoms of the nations, and in Your hand is there not power and might, so that no one is able to withstand You?” 2nd Chronicles 20:6. Jehoshaphat was not asking if these things were true; they were of course rhetorical questions to highlight a few of the very elementary reasons why Judah should place its united faith in Yahweh for deliverance from their enemies. The king did not express doubt in God’s ability to save, nor did he seem to falter about whether or not the Lord was willing to keep His promises. Indeed, it is written, “if My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land,” 2nd Chronicles 7:14.

We do not know what duration of time elapsed between Jehoshaphat’s prayer and God’s answer but it must have been brief, for in 2nd Chronicles 20:14 we read: “Then the Spirit of the Lord came upon Jahaziel the son of Zechariah.” Jahaziel, moved by the Holy Spirit, confirmed that the coming battle was God’s and not theirs. They were only to march out to bear witness to the salvation God alone can and does provide. Jehoshaphat replied to the people, “Hear me, O Judah and you inhabitants of Jerusalem: Believe in the Lord your God and you shall be established; believe His prophets, and you shall prosper,” 2nd Chronicles 20:20. Recognizing Jahaziel as a prophet, Jehoshaphat praised the Lord and did just as he was commanded. Only the Holy Spirit can accurately reveal the future to men; this He did by directing them where to go, and what to do. Jahaziel’s words proved true, and victory was achieved without any human agency.

As a small side note, we can see something of what John meant when he penned, “The testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy,” Revelation 19:10. LikeJahaziel, many of the prophets directed Israel and the nations to look to God for salvation; indeed, they bluntly told their audiences that only God can provide salvation. God alone is the Savior. Whether it is physical deliverance from immediate danger or spiritual redemption from sin’s penalty, God alone can provide the enduring freedom that every human soul craves. And this He did by becoming a man to represent man and suffer vicariously (in our place/as a substitute). The Pope (and many false teachers) claim to be Jesus’ vicar (replacement/substitute on earth), but Jesus taught that the Holy Spirit was His true and only Vicar; someone equal to Him, someone omniscient and omnipresent, John 14:16-17, 26; 15:26; 16:13-15. We will touch on this in greater detail later.

2 comments:

  1. After about 405 BC, the Jews were under Greek influence. This was greatly enhanced after Alexander the Great's conquest in 323 BC. By 170 BC, many wealthy Jews were having their circumcisions reversed so they could participate in the Greek games, becoming the Sadducees. Shortly before the birth of Christ, Hillel developed a school of interpretation of scripture, and convinced the Jews to modify the Law so they could compete more effectively with Greek and Roman business. It is interesting that James was written to Jewish Christians warning them not to just go along with the world as the rest of their culture was.

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  2. I just encountered someone recently with a strange religious philosophy surrounding Rabbi Hillel; I can only assume they meant the same man. Where would I easily find more information regarding Hillel?

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