Saturday, December 01, 2018

The Prayer of King Manasseh

The apocryphal book of 1 Esdras includes a prayer purportedly of King Manasseh, son of King Hezekiah. The biblical account of King Manasseh, of his apostasy and of his conversion, is recorded in 2 Chronicles 33. Verses 12, 13, and 19 mention his prayer of praise, confession, and for pardon. 1 Esdras is not the inspired Word of God, but these three songs were done in the spirit of Article 6 of the Belgic Confession. I used the NRSV text as basis.

Part 1: "Ascription of Praise"

"Prayer of Manasseh, part 1 of 3. Ascription of Praise." by George vP

Part 2: "Confession of Sin"

"Prayer of Manasseh part 2 of 3, Confession of Sin." by George vP

Part 3: "Prayer for Pardon"

"Prayer of Manasseh part 3 of 3, Supplication for Pardon." by George vP

Sunday, October 28, 2018

Authority (9): the rejection of authority


The rejection of authority began in the Garden of Eden. God told our first parents, Adam and Eve, that they could eat from every tree in the garden except for one. Not content with all-the-trees-but-one, they ate from the one excluded tree. They rejected God's authority. This spirit of revolution has been alive ever since.

Today's anti-authority spirit is largely a result and working out of the Age of Enlightenment and the French Revolution.

René Descartes (1596-1650), the father of modernism, coined the well-know phrase that is always associated with him: "Cogito, ergo sum" (I think, therefore I am). He started with the self. Man is the measure of all things. He thought that man could live apart from God. Revelation is to be rejected. We depend upon the self, upon human intellect alone, the ability to reason.

This spirit of revolution was cranked up a hundredfold by the French Revolution that lasted from 1789-1799. It was a revolution against the church and the king. Ultimately, it was a revolution against God. The battle cry of the French Revolution was: "No God! No master." The king was beheaded. France was de-Christianized. Dating the years on the basis of the year of Christ's birth was abolished. 1789 became Year One. The seven day week was replaced by a ten day week. The churches were closed.

A cycle of bloodshed ensued. Those manning the guillotine one day were its victims the next. The French Revolution killed itself. France ripened for a takeover. In 1799, someone did take over—Napoleon. He declared himself Emperor. They killed the king and got an emperor.

This spirit of revolution that cries "No God! No master" is still very much alive today. It is alive in the media. It is alive in the entertainment industry. You see it on TV. Authority figures are routinely ridiculed. On many sit-coms, the father is either a lazy oaf sitting in front of the TV clicking through the channels or a bungling fool just barely tolerated by wife and children. You see it in the many labour unions which are, by nature and constitution, against the employer. You see the spirit of revolution on the evening news as you witness screaming protesters waving their pickets signs.

The rejection of authority creates havoc, as does the abuse of authority. Both create disorder and chaos. Everyone ends up doing what is right in his own eyes.

Conclusion

God is the ultimate authority. He is the source of all authority. He revealed himself and his will in his Word, the Scriptures. He calls people to positions of authority in life: Parents, government leaders, church leaders. As those in positions of authority act as servants—not as tyrants, but as servants to those under them—things will be well. As husbands provide loving, kind, servant leadership to their wives, reflecting the relationship between Christ and the church, things will be well in their marriages. As parents provide firm but kind servant leadership to their families, reflecting the relationship between God the Father and his people, things will go well in their families.

This goes for churches and governments too. As those in positions of authority exercise their power by serving those they are called to lead, things will be well.

If they abuse their authority, things will go poorly. Families, churches, countries fall apart when those in authority abuse their authority.

As those under authority respect those whom God put over them, again, things will be well. As children respect their parents, as congregations honour their elders, as citizens obey their governments, things will go well in our families, churches and country.

May we all obey the Word of God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The Triune God has absolute authority. He has revealed his will in his Word. Let us obey it. Every word of it. As we keep the Word submitting to it in humility and obedience, things will be well in our lives. Reject the Word, disobey it, and your life will turn upside down. Obey it and things will be well.


This series of blog posts were originally presented as a speech at the October 1998 Ontario Women's League Day in Ancaster, Ontario. Much of the spoken style remains.


Saturday, October 27, 2018

Authority (8): abuse of authority


In the state

Sadly enough, it happens that some who are in positions of authority abuse their power and position. Governments do. There are governments that oppress their people. We can think of the communist regimes of Stalin and Mao Tse Tung. Every November a Sunday is declared the International Day of Prayer for Persecuted Christians. In many Asian and North African countries, Christians are persecuted for their faith. They are oppressed by the state. Clearly, such governments are abusing their authority. God will hold them to account for this and will punish them for it.

In churches

This abuse of authority also happens in churches. In the 1500s, church reformers called the Medieval church back to the Word of God. Through the centuries, the church had strayed far away from the simple but true message of Scripture. The church had added all sorts of doctrines not found in the Bible. On top of that, many of the church leaders were living godless lives. The reformers called the church back to the Bible and away from false doctrine and permissive living. What was the reaction of the church? Persecution! Excommunication! Death by burning at the stake!

The church assigned more authority to itself and its ordinances than to the Word of God. It refused to submit itself to the rule of Christ. It persecuted those who lived holy lives according to the Word of God and who rebuked it for its sins and false doctrine. The church of the Middle Ages would not take it. It used—or rather—it abused its power and authority to silence those who called it to faithfulness and submission to God's Word.

This example, which led to the Reformation of the church, is not the only example of the abuse of ecclesiastical authority. Throughout history, there have been many instances of churches abusing their authority, misusing their power, to silence those who would live godly lives and call a disobedient church back to the Word. The history of the Canadian Reformed Churches, which goes back to the Netherlands, bears this out.

In families

Abuse of authority does not only happen in the state and the church; it is also, sadly, found in families. All physical, verbal, and sexual abuse by someone in authority perpetrated against someone under authority is abuse of authority. We wish we could say that this does not happen among Christians and in the church, but we would be lying.

What must someone suffering abuse do? He or she needs to go to someone else in authority for help. We are all under several spheres of authority: the authority of parents, teachers, the police, and elders in the church. An abused person must go to someone else in a position of authority for help. The abuser must be brought to justice and face the just consequences of his crime. He must be brought to repentance at the foot of the cross of the Lord Jesus Christ. It is only when we fall broken at the foot of the cross that we are reconciled to God and that we can be reconciled to one another.

(The final post in this series deals with the rejection of authority.)



This series of blog posts were originally presented as a speech at the October 1998 Ontario Women's League Day in Ancaster, Ontario. Much of the spoken style remains.


Friday, October 26, 2018

Authority (7): limits of authority


Not only does authority have its appropriate style. There are also limits to authority. All human authority is limited. No human being has absolute authority. Only God does.

There is a wonderful story in the book of Acts that demonstrates the limited authority of man and the absolute authority of God. In Acts 4 we can read about how the Apostles Peter and John were arrested by the Jewish Council for preaching the good news of salvation by the cross of Jesus Christ. Peter and John were arrested. The council commanded them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus. But Peter and John replied, "Judge for yourselves whether it is right in God's sight to obey you rather than God. For we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard."

What Peter and John said was significant. They were intent upon disobeying the authorities because they had to obey God. The Lord Jesus Christ had told them to preach the gospel. When the Jewish Council abused their authority—took unto themselves absolute authority—John and Peter said: "We will disobey you because we must obey God."

We need to be very careful here. The only time that we may disobey someone in authority over us—parents, church or state—is when they tell us to do something against the will of God. Only when obeying them will put you in conflict with the will of God, the only absolute authority, may you disobey the person in authority over you. Of course that includes if someone is perpetrating a crime against you. Some kind of abuse—sexual or physical abuse. Then too you disobey, if you can.

To that we can add the thought that if you may disobey, you must disobey. For the only time that you may disobey is when obeying the human authority will put you in conflict with the divine authority. In such an instance your highest calling is to obey God.

We were looking at Acts 4. If we go to Acts 5, we see that what we have seen so far is confirmed.

Once Peter and John were released, they promptly went out and continued preaching and teaching in the Name of Jesus. In short order they were arrested again and thrown into jail. During the night, an angel of God came, opened the doors of the jail, and sent them out with the command of God to tell the people the full message of this new life.

When the Jewish Council sent the police to get Peter and John out of the prison for them to be interrogated, the police found the jail cell empty. The report came in that Peter and John were preaching in the temple courts.

In short order, they were arrested again and brought before the council. Once again the council told them not to speak and teach in the Name of Jesus. But then Peter spoke the decisive word: "We must obey God rather than men."

That is the bottom line. When obeying man would make you disobey God, you need to disobey man to obey God. All human authority is limited. Only God's authority is unlimited and absolute. God is sovereign. Jesus Christ, alone, is King of kings and Lord of Lords. His is the kingdom, the power, the glory forever. His and his alone.

(The next post deals with the difficult topic of the abuse of authority.)


This series of blog posts were originally presented as a speech at the October 1998 Ontario Women's League Day in Ancaster, Ontario. Much of the spoken style remains.

Thursday, October 25, 2018

Authority (6): the style of authority


All whom God calls to exercise authority in this life—be it in the family, in the church, or in the state—must do so as servants. In this they must follow the Lord Jesus Christ. God gave Jesus Christ all authority in heaven and on earth. Today He is seated at the right hand of God the Father as King of the universe. However, Christ exercised authority already while He was on earth—authority to forgive sins, to drive out demons, to teach, to judge, and to give eternal life. What was the main distinguishing mark of the way in which Christ exercised authority? Service.

In Mark 10 beginning at verse 35, the Evangelist Mark related how the disciples of the Lord Jesus were arguing about who was going to get the choice spots in the kingdom of heaven. James and John, the sons of Zebedee, started it. They said to Jesus: "Let one of us sit at your right and the other at your left in your glory." The Lord told them that was an inappropriate demand of them to make of Him.

When the other disciples heard about James' and John's request, they became very angry. It turned into quite a hullabaloo. So the Lord Jesus called them together and said, "You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many."

The Son of Man (i.e., the Lord, the Christ)—the One to whom God the Father gave all authority in heaven and on earth—came to serve. To give his life as a ransom.

If we turn to John 13, we see this servant leadership of Christ at work. Jesus and the disciples were about to sit down to eat. It was customary to have one's feet washed before eating. This was a very important social convention in Palestine at that time. People walked barefoot in sandals, and so their feet would get dusty. Because people reclined on the floor when they ate, resting perhaps on a pillow, around a low table, it was very important to have the dust washed off the feet.

The lowliest servant in the house would typically do this. There were Jesus and his disciples, ready to eat. Apparently, there was no servant boy to wash their feet. Who would do it? All the disciples were very self-conscious. To get up and wash the feet of their peers would mean that they were less than the others. No one got up. No one wanted to look like he was less than the others.

Suddenly, the Master Jesus got up. He took off his outer cloak, wrapped a towel around his waist, poured water into a basin, and went around to each of his disciples, washing their feet and drying them with the towel. This was shocking. No other rabbi in Israel would have done such a thing. No other teacher would have stooped so low as to wash the feet of his students, his followers, his disciples. But Jesus did.

When he had finished washing their feet, He put on his clothes and returned to his place. He asked the disciples whether they understood what He had done for them. He said: "You call me `Teacher' and `Lord,' and rightly so, for that is what I am." Then He made a penetrating application: "Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another's feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you."

The Lord gave us an example. The example is especially for those who occupy positions of authority. Those who have been placed by God in positions of authority must exercise that authority by serving. Their authority is to be qualified by service. The quality of service is what is to give their authority its texture and colour. Anyone—parents, church leaders, government officials—who do not qualify their authority by service (who do not provide servant leadership) become ugly monstrosities.

The account in John 13 challenges all who are in positions of authority—in the home, in the church, in the state—to be servant leaders. We need to exercise legitimate authority like Jesus Christ did, by becoming a servant to those God has placed under us.

(Next is the limits on authority.)


This series of blog posts were originally presented as a speech at the October 1998 Ontario Women's League Day in Ancaster, Ontario. Much of the spoken style remains.