The Whispering Voice

“It happened that night that the word of the Lord came to Nathan saying …”

2 Samuel 7:4

Generally we would have a high regard for the prophet Nathan especially for his courage in pointing out King David’s sin as recorded in chapter twelve. But at this point he got it wrong. In the previous verses we read that David had expressed to Nathan his desire to build a house for the Lord. David had a house of cedar and it seemed reasonable that the Lord should also have such a place to dwell with men instead of the “tent.” Nathan responded to David’s desire without seeking counsel from the Lord and got it wrong.

However, he had ears toward the Lord and that night, in the quietness of his home and heart, the Lord corrected him and gave him the words he should speak to King David.

Since the advent of radio, television and telephone our evenings have not been so quiet that we might hear the quiet gentle voice of the Lord. These electronic creations have their place and can be helpful but they can also blot out the voice of the Lord. We live in an age of noise. Mobile phones are always at hand and, for many, play music or games whenever it is not being used for phone calls or texting. We live in an environment of noise.

It should be of no surprise then that few hear the voice of the Lord. If we want to have conversation with our spouse, a family member or a friend we will shut out noise as much as possible. We should do the same for conversing with the Lord, that we might hear Him.

In 1 Kings 19:11-12 we read of one of Elijah’s encounters with the Lord. Elijah stood on the mountain and felt the wind, an earthquake and a fire, but the lord was not in any of them. “After the fire a still small voice” or a delicate whispering voice came to Elijah. God has trouble getting our attention if we have constant noise so He may have to try more intensive, less comfortable, ways to get our attention.

Fortunately for Nathan, he was not engrossed with his phone, he was not watching his favourite TV show or movie, and his Hi Fi was not blasting his ears. Had he not heard the whispering voice of the Lord, his incorrect confirmation to David would have proceeded against the will of God. The Lord has a word for you but will you hear it above the noise in your world?

Receptive to Correction

“Go, do all that is in your heart, for the Lord is with you” 2 Samuel 7:3

The prophet Nathan was well aware of the way David became king of Israel. Samuel had anointed him as Saul’s successor years earlier and the Lord had preserved David through many and varied attacks on his life. It seemed that almost everyone was placing obstacles in the way of him becoming king. On occasions David seemed to act with prudence and wisdom and at other times he acted very much at a carnal level.

On this occasion, as on many others, David chose to inquire of the Lord so he expressed his desire to build a permanent structure, in which the Lord could dwell, to the prophet Nathan. He had built a great house for himself and he now saw the inequity of the Lord dwelling in a tent or tabernacle.

Nathan’s response to David was not unlike the way we might sometimes respond. Since the Lord had done much to get David to the throne of Israel it was obvious that the Lord was with him. Nathan assumed that because the Lord had demonstrably been with David that He was also with him in this desire. Without inquiring of the Lord he presumptuously told David, “Go, do all that is in your heart, for the Lord is with you.” In this he misled David and would need to be corrected. The Lord would not allow David to build Him a house and Nathan had to go back to David with a correction to his previous consent.

Have there been times when we have given counsel or approved something on the basis that the Lord has blessed that person in the past rather than inquiring afresh of the Lord? Perhaps we have even presumed that because the Lord has been with us in the past that we can go ahead with our desire without inquiry.

Nathan was a faithful prophet who was later used of God in bringing David to repentance and confession of sin (chapter 12) but here he made an assumption without first inquiring of the Lord. It appears that he was not rebuked but corrected. Because he was humble before the Lord he was receptive to correction and to putting things right. Such a spirit became the Lord’s opportunity to reveal His plan and purpose regarding David’s Seed. The ensuing covenant is a huge part of our celebration each Christmas (vv 12-16).

It may well be prudent for us to evaluate our way and walk with Jesus to see if there is any need for us to be corrected in a similar way. A close and personal walk with Jesus is the only means of prevention for being presumptuous. But if we do make this mistake a humble heart and teachable spirit, like that of the prophet Nathan, will allow Jesus to correct us without rebuke.

Faithful or Fickle?

“Thus says the Lord, ‘If you can break My covenant with the day and My covenant with the night, so that there will not be day and night in their season, then My covenant may also be broken with David My servant.’” Jeremiah 33:20-21

The Lord has just promised Israel that “David shall never lack a man to sit on the throne of the house of Israel” (v 17). This relates to the covenant the Lord made with King David recorded in 2 Samuel 7:16. The Lord links the fulfilment of His covenant with His sovereign power over day and night. Only the Creator and Sustainer of all creation could have such authority and ability.

He also states that He would cast off Israel if anyone can measure the heaven above (31:37). For man, that is impossible. Only the Creator can number all the heavenly bodies. Men and computers may be able to make calculated guesses but since they do not know the unseen boundaries they could be out by many factors.

If the Lord is not able to fulfil His covenant with Israel why would He make such statements? Only foolish people make promises they have no hope or no intention of keeping. If any person suggests that the Lord cannot or will not fulfil His word they reveal that their god is not the God of the Bible. The God of the Bible is Creator of all that exists and He sustains it in every detail. It would be totally absurd or deceitful for Him to make this, and all the other similar statements, if He could not perform as He says. This would result in both He and His word being totally discredited. That may be the motivation behind the belief that God has now forever rejected Israel. Some people do not want to believe all that the Bible and Jesus have said. We must be careful that we do not treat the Bible like a cafeteria where we pick and choose what we will believe.

Our God is absolutely faithful to His covenants and promises. Perhaps another reason some people want to believe otherwise is so that they don’t feel so bad or guilty about their broken promises and unfaithfulness to covenants such as marriage. If a person believes that God has turned away from His covenant with Israel then it may ease his conscience when he turns away from his contracts, vows or other commitments and promises.

This would seem to be in conflict with the name given to Messiah when He returns to earth as recorded in Revelation 19:11, “And He who sat on him (a white horse) was called Faithful and True.”

The objection that Israel has so sinned that the nation cannot be reconciled not only contradicts huge portions of the Bible but also disparages the character and nature of our God. Because of Jesus Christ’s death, burial and resurrection God is able to forgive all sin. That is the essence of the Good News, the Gospel.

Whenever the Lord speaks through His prophets concerning Israel’s return and restoration He always acknowledges the nation’s sinfulness. Let us not make nonsense of God’s New Covenant with Israel recorded in Jeremiah 31:31-34 which concludes with these words, “I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more” but rather rejoice in the faithfulness of our God. “And He has on His robe and on His thigh a name written: KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS” (Revelation 19:16).

Differing Values

“I have sinned by betraying innocent blood” (Judas, Matthew 27:4)

Why do people respond or react in different ways when faced with the same or similar circumstances and situations? The answer to this question may have a lot to do with what we believe and what we value.

The twelve disciples of Jesus all spent about three years with Him observing all that He did and listening to what He had to say.

They had previously been taught by the Rabbis that when Israel’s Messiah came He would deliver Israel from oppression and domination by Gentile nations. In their lifetime the Gentile nation that ruled Israel was the Roman Empire. The disciples therefore would have an expectation that the Messiah would deliver them from Roman rule and Roman oppression.

Along with many other people in Jerusalem at the time when Jesus rode the colt into the city (Matthew 21:1-11) the disciples believed that Jesus was that Messiah. Their expectation therefore was that Jesus would extinguish Roman rule and dominion and establish His own earthly kingdom as promised to King David (2 Samuel 7:16). The disciples were so sure of this that they argued among themselves regarding their position in that kingdom (Mark 10:35-41).

Jesus had told His disciples on several occasions that He would die and rise again but they apparently dismissed this as impossible. After all, they believed that Jesus was God and He confirmed that fact by miracles on many occasions.

Judas betrayed Jesus in what may have been an attempt to force Jesus’ hand. He accepted money in payment for this betrayal. He was a thief. He sought power, prestige and wealth for himself. As the current “treasurer” his expectation was that he would be treasurer in the kingdom. Remember that the disciples had recently been arguing about their positions in the kingdom.

After heroically defending Jesus on the Mount of Olives, Peter later denied knowing Jesus. He was grieved in his heart that he had done such a thing and so he wept bitterly.

The different responses to Jesus being taken into custody were not in what each believed. Both Judas and Peter believed that Jesus was Israel’s long awaited Messiah and that He would establish His own kingdom at that time. The difference was in their values. Judas valued position, power and prestige. Peter was grieved and wept not because he had lost the opportunity for position, power and prestige but because he knew he had severely damaged his relationship with Jesus. Judas had no intimate relationship with Jesus. His sorrow was over his personal loss. Peter grieved over the loss in his relationship with Jesus.

The question for each of us is whether we are seeking high position in Christ’s kingdom or seeking a more intimate relationship with Jesus Christ. If we serve Jesus to gain merit it is clear that we are seeking position in His kingdom and that will lead us to betray or deny Him at some time. On the other hand if our desire is an intimate relationship with Jesus we will always be grieved and repentant when we damage that relationship by sin. Like Peter we will look with aching heart for Him to come and reconcile us to Himself. He will come.

Currying Favour

“And I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness” Matthew 7:23

The context of this verse is the latter part of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount and it is a solemn warning for us to be very careful and very sure that we are doing the will of the Father (v 21). The people Jesus is excluding from His Kingdom will be astonished to discover that when they “prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders (miracles) in Your name” that they were totally in error. Very likely we have all at some time or other done things for which we have thought Jesus would be grateful but such will not be the case. The reason for the exclusion from the kingdom is not what they did but where their heart lay. They were doing it to gain favour with the King but they were not subject to His will.

In 2 Samuel 1 there is the record of an Amalekite who claimed to have killed King Saul. His claim was false (cf. 1 Samuel 31 & 1 Chronicles 10). The reason he lied was that he thought he could gain David’s favour by making the false claim. David didn’t know he was lying at the time and had him executed for killing the Lord’s anointed.

In chapter four of the same book there is the account of the death of Saul’s son, Ishbosheth. Ishbosheth had been at war with David for two years about who would rule Israel. Seeing that they could not win, two of Ishbosheth’s own men came into his room and killed him while he was in bed. They removed his head and took it to David expecting favour for the betrayal of their leader. Like the Amalekite, they were gravely mistaken and were executed.

In both incidents the men thought they were going to please King David. In the ways of men this would usually be an act that would gain favour with a king but they totally lacked God’s perspective. They were not in a personal and intimate relationship with the Lord as David was.

Jesus declares in His Sermon on the Mount that many people throughout the ages, including the church age, will perform many actions that they sincerely believe will gain favour with Him but will in reality be a cause for His wrath.

Jesus said that “He never knew them.” This does not mean that He is ignorant of who they are or what they have done. It means that they were acting out of their own heart and not in obedience to His will. Given the opportunity they might argue that they were acting in accordance with God’s word. After all, what is wrong with preaching the Bible, casting out demons and performing miracles? The problem is not found in what they were doing but why they were doing it. They were not subject to the will of or in obedience to Jesus Christ. They were acting by their own volition in their own authority with a view to gaining favour with Jesus Christ their way.

If we start thinking along the lines of what we can do for Jesus without consulting Him and waiting for an answer we may fall into the same trap. Jesus Christ is Head of His church and it is He alone who chooses how we fit into His church and ministry.

Joy Ahead

“looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:2).

At Easter we rightly give special focus on the crucifixion and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ without which we would be without hope. The Gospel writers make it clear that Jesus was in no doubt that He came to earth for the cross. Without His substitutionary death for the sin of mankind we should all perish. Without His bodily resurrection we would have no assurance or expectation resurrection for ourselves. Jesus came to reconcile people to Himself. Why would He endure such pain and humiliation at the hands of His creation?

The answer is in Himself, in His Divine Nature. To say that He came solely out of love is inadequate and falls short. Jesus came to glorify God. To glorify God means to reveal His majesty, beauty, wisdom, power, in short, His Divine Nature, within the Creation. Love is an aspect of God’s glory but not all.

The Lord had made a prophetical statement to Satan in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3:15), an unconditional Covenant with Abraham (12:1-3; 15) and King David (2 Samuel 7:16) and He will show Himself faithful to His word including His word that came through the prophets. When the whole creation is restored and God dwells with men on the earth then His glory will be revealed for all to see.

“And I [John] heard a voice from heaven saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He shall dwell with them and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God” (Revelation 21:3).

Paul writes, “He must reign till He has put all enemies under His feet. The last enemy that will be destroyed is death.” “Now when all things are made subject to Him, then the Son Himself will also be subject to Him who put all things under Him, that God may be all in all” (1 Corinthians 15:25, 26, 28).

God will finish what He began in the Garden of Eden. He will have His Creation in perfect harmony with Himself and He will make His home with men (Revelation 21:22-23:5).

When the writer of Hebrews wrote concerning Jesus Christ, “who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross” it was the consummation of the victory over sin, the devil and death when God in all His holiness dwells with men that He had in mind. That is when He is seen face to face by His creation in all His glory (Revelation 22:4). That which Peter James and John saw on the Mount of Transfiguration was a foretaste of what all people who put their faith and trust in the Lord Jesus Christ shall see.

Likewise when we have our focus on that same glorious future we will gladly endure the cross by laying down our lives for Him and the brethren (1 John 3:16). As Jesus is in resurrected humanity so shall we be in the resurrection (1 John 3:2). We shall never have the distinctive of the Divine Nature but we shall be perfect in humanity just as Jesus is.

God’s goal is to finish what He began and dwell with men. In Jesus Christ, we can begin enjoying His presence or continue enjoying His presence today.