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Archive for December, 2007

I’m preaching on this sobering passage on Sunday.

I’m struck by the sins of the fathers repeated in the children.  Just as 2 Samuel 11 showed lust => deception => illicit taking => death => further chaos so it is here.  In fact, just as Genesis 3 involved lust, deception, illicit taking, death and a spiral into chaos so this is re-played once again in the royal house.

From 1 Sam 16 until 2 Sam 10 we see good king David.  A wonderful mirror of Christ.  David is anointed among his brothers (1 Sam 16) then fights on their behalf to win victory for God’s people (1 Sam 17).  While the world acknowledges one king, there is a faithful remnant who serve God’s choice as king.  The women sing his praises, the mighty men join him in battle.  Eventually he is vindicated (2 Sam 5ff).  He ascends Zion and is enthroned.  He shows unfailing love to those in covenant with him (2 Sam 9) elevating the helpless to table fellowship.  He makes peace to the ends of the land/earth (same word in Hebrew) by defeating all his enemies and bringing peace. (2 Sam 8 and 10 – see my recent sermon on 2 Samuel 10).  There ends the narrative of good king David.  From chapter 11 we have bad king David.  In fact, from here, we see the outworkings of sin in the kingdoms of the world.  The house of David had been a mirror to the house of the LORD (see 2 Sam 7).  But now (see 2 Sam 12:20) the house of David is contrasted with the house of the LORD.

Think of how important the ‘house’ is in Scripture.   Just as the world is a ‘house’ (e.g. Isaiah 66:1), so is a kingdom, so is a family.  These family problems are a microcosmos – a little world in crisis.  (think of the Genesis 3 link above).  Everything that is so heart-breakingly wrong with this family is everything that is so heart-breakingly wrong with the kingdom of the world.  The sin we read about here cannot be held at arms length.  It is being brought home to us because it is the problem at the heart of every house, every kingdom, the whole world.

Note how these four men are distorted pictures of true men:

Amnon is a lover.  But it’s love turned to lust. 

Jonadab is a wise man, yet it’s wisdom turned to deceit. 

David is a king, but inactive in the face of evil. 

Absalom is an avenger, a rescuer – yet he silences Tamar and seems to protect his own reputation more than hers. 

How wonderful the lover, the wise man, the king and the rescuer could have been.  But they are perverted and together make for one dysfunctional house!

And what is the state of the virgin daughter in the royal house?   (This very broken mirror of the church (cf Psalm 45).  How is this virgin daughter in this kingdom treated?

Desired (v1)

Deceived (v11)

Disgraced (v14)

Despised (v15)

Discarded (v17)

Dismissed (v20a)

Destroyed (v20b)

And what a word to describe her in v20: Desolate!  Literally – destroyed.  It’s such a violent word.  It’s the word for Job and his household – devastated.  It’s most used with regard to the curse of exile – the ravaged land, the desolated temple, the agriculture dried up.  She is destroyed like a war-torn country, like a shrivelled up vine, like a desecrated temple.  (There is hope though for the Desolate woman – cf Isaiah 54!)

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Now v15 has intrigued me for a long time.  Can anyone help me with the psychology of this.  Literally it says that after he raped her “Then Amnon hated her with a very great hatred.  In fact the hatred with which he hated her was greater than the love with which he had loved her.”  What’s going on there?  What is it about this illicit taking that makes him despise what he had previously desired so fiercely??

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This is a short introduction I gave to our church prayer meeting held on Wednesday night…

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Job 16:19-20

19 Even now my Witness is in heaven; my Advocate is on high. 20 My Intercessor is my Friend as my eyes pour out tears to God;

I have to tell you that you were all late for the prayer meeting.  I want you to seriously consider the fact that you all came late to the prayer meeting.  And last month, you were late to the prayer meeting.  And the month before that.  In fact, you are always late to prayer.

Because the real prayer meeting, the heavenly prayer meeting, has begun before we ever join in.

Job here speaks of his heavenly Intercessor.  Job has a friend in high places.  And this friend prays for him ‘Even now’.

Jesus Christ is described many times as our Intercessor.  Because intercession (prayer) is one of the key things Jesus does for us as our High Priest

The High Priest of the Old Testament tabernacle system would, once a year, take the blood of the atonement sacrifices and take them through the curtain and into the Most Holy Place – the dwelling place of God Himself.  There He would sprinkle the blood before the LORD and make atonement for the sins of the people.  Now that’s wonderful enough, but one of the things the High Priest was wearing was a breastplate in which were 12 stones.  Engraved on the 12 stones were the names of the sons of Israel.  Exodus 28 says this:

29 “Whenever Aaron enters the Holy Place, he will bear the names of the sons of Israel over his heart (on the breastpiece of decision) as a continuing memorial before the LORD.

So this is the picture: The High Priest makes atonement for His people and in doing so He carries His people on His heart before the LORD.  The people are remembered before the LORD because the High Priest carries them on His heart.

Now the Old Testament tabernacle system was only a multi-media presentation.  It pointed forward to the time when Jesus Christ would enter into heaven itself to make atonement and intercede for His people.  In the Old Testament, the High Priest got into the Most Holy Place and got out again quickly, lest he die in the presence of this Holy God.  But Hebrews 7 contrasts that with Jesus’ priesthood.  It says:

“because Jesus lives for ever, he has a permanent priesthood. 25 Therefore he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them.”

Jesus always bears us on His heart before the Father.  He always remains before the LORD.  He is our Intercessor – always praying for His people.

We are always late to prayer.  Because Jesus is always ahead of us.  Our prayer is the Amen to His ceaseless intercession!

Now let’s just look at our passage and learn a little something about out Heavenly Intercessor.  He’s given four names here:

First: He is the Witness.  It’s legal language, and here we have what you might call a Star Witness.  While Satan may be called the Accuser in Scripture, Job knows a Witness for the defence.  And He’s a Witness with the very best reputation.  Here is a Witness who will be listened to on High, because He belongs on High.  The case for the defence can rest because this Star Witness has given unimpeachable testimony.

Second: He is the Advocate.  We’re still in legal territory here.  John also calls Jesus ‘the Advocate’ in 1 John 2:1.  He is not only the Star Witness, He’s also the Star Barrister.  That’s so important in court.  Because if you’re on trial, how do you look to the Judge?  You look as good as your lawyer.  If your lawyer is good, you look good.  The Christian looks very good in the court of heaven.  Their Witness and their Advocate is flawless.

Third: He is the Intercessor.  Christ doesn’t just witness or advocate, He prays. He petitions, He intercedes.  Jesus said to Peter, “I have prayed for you that your faith will not fail.”  (Luke 22:32)  And the LORD Jesus prays similarly for you.  And He prays, as Job says (v19) ‘even now‘.

Fourth:  He is my friend.  All of this would be nothing if not for the fact that Christ is our friend.  We don’t simply have a Lord in High Places, we have a friend in High Places.  There is One who loves you more than you love yourself.  He is the One interceding for you ‘even now.’

Finally.  You might think that all this would make you not want to pray.  Perhaps you think: ‘Why should I bother praying if Jesus is doing the job?’  This thought doesn’t occur to Job.  He makes the opposite conclusion – because He has such a Witness, Advocate, Intercessor and Friend on High therefore his eyes pour out tears before God.

When we understand that our High Priest has given us such access to the throne of grace then we will pour out our hearts to God.  Before Christ made friends with us, prayer could only ever be a wish list or a religious rite – and who knows whether our words just bounce off the ceiling.  But now, carried on Christ’s heart, assured of a hearing, now we can pray.  Now we can call the Almighty God ‘Abba, Father’.  Now we are invited into the ultimate prayer gathering.  We may have turned up late, but we are very welcome.  And all our prayers become the Amen, to Christ’s heavenly intercession.

Heavenly Father, we approach You because Your Son, our Brother has become our Priest.  We praise and thank You because He ever lives to intercede for us.  Send the Spirit of Your Son now into our hearts, that same Spirit of Christ, who calls out ‘Abba, Father.’  Draw us into your life of prayer.  Help us this evening to know the privilege and joy of joining in with Christ’s intercession.  Answer our prayers not because of our own righteousness but only because Christ our Witness on High intercedes for us.  It’s in His Name we pray,  Amen.

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For audio sermons of mine and some others I highly recommend go here

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Poem: “Thorns”

All but cursed, the men of dust,

From garden’d bliss dejected thrust.

Cast down to blood and tangling thorn,

Flat-faced in mud, bereft, forlorn. 

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Unmoved as ages droned along,

Resigned to sighing pity’s song.

To mouth their sadness with each breath,

In love with self and sin and death. 

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Then glancing back, a glimmering sight,

Through gnarling weeds, a shaft of light.

The tree untouched, of matchless type,

Engorged with life, effulgent, ripe. 

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It lay beyond the thorny wall,

A tantalizing siren’s call.

All wrong reversed, all tears made good,

All hunger filled with holy food. 

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New drive possessed the men of dust,

They set to work with primal thrust.

To have the fruit at any cost,

If failing this then all is lost. 

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And so they pressed against the wall

Of thorns and blades and jagged sprawl.

Their eyes aglow with mad intent,

Their bodies pierced and torn and rent. 

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Their flesh sliced through by razor wire,

Could not abate their one desire.

No hurt could halt their desperate zeal.

“Once through, the tree alone will heal!” 

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Their bodies strewn along the route,

Their hands outstretched to reach the fruit.

Yet none would cross this death-divide,

Their hope lay on the thorny side. 

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Behind them in the other way,

Another tree for sinners lay.

It stood apart and unacquired,

Gnarled and grim and undesired.  

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It did not catch the eye of men,

Who sought a ripeness there and then.

Yet this one pledged a golden yield,

To all who ceased and turned and kneeled. 

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For hanging lone across its form,

The Lord of Life enthroned in scorn,

Was off’ring all a bloodied balm,

With up-raised voice and out-stretched arm. 

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Thus from the midst of cursèd death,

Is raised His call with rasping breath.

“Come every man, leave off your quest

Find life within my piercèd breast.” 

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“He lies!” they shrieked through raging tears,

They scoffed and mocked with angry jeers.

What life could this cadaver give?

What guarantee that we shall live?” 

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“Just this” He said with pity’s call,

“I’ve come direct from o’er the wall.

All bliss that moves your frenzied glee,

Such fountains first begin in Me.” 

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At once they spluttered daft disdain,

“No wounded Man or tree of pain,

Will be our well or way of life.

We’re free! You pledge us only strife!” 

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“Dear friends!” He pleas, “regard your plight,

Your freedom bonds you, blinds your sight.

Your wounds for self, for self are loss,

Come lose them in my wounded cross. 

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“Your life is death, My death is gain,

Now trust the word of Paschal slain.

Come hide in Me through darkest night,

Soon heaven’s dawns shine fresh delight.” 

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Just so His promise stands above

All men, inquiring which they love:

To seek the fruit and Him defy,

Or heed Life’s call to “Come and die!”

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