John 20:1-9 He must rise

Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 15:17 ‘if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile, you are still in your sins’.  The resurrection is not an ‘optional extra’ in the gospel.  We can easily come to think and speak of our being saved by the death of Christ (which is essential) whilst neglecting the place of the resurrection.  The cross followed by the resurrection is the path by which the Son returned to glory with the Father.  We consider John 20:1-9 He must rise.

1. A despairing report

The details of these events recorded in the different Gospels are not easy to harmonise.  Each account must be taken with full seriousness, each is a part of the ‘God-breathed’ Scriptures (2 Timothy 3:16).  John mentions only Mary Magdalene going to the tomb (v1) whilst the other Gospels mention several others (Matthew 28:1, Mark 16:1, Luke 24:1).  Perhaps Mary arrived first ‘while it was still dark’ (v1).  When she arrives, she finds that ‘the stone had been removed’ – apparently taken from the entrance entirely, not just rolled aside.  The other Gospels indicate the appearance of angels – Matthew 28:5, Mark 16:5, Luke 24:4.  Perhaps Mary ran back to Peter and John before the angels appeared and so did not hear their announcement of the resurrection.  Her message is, ‘They have taken the Lord out of the tomb and we don’t know where they have put him’ (v2).  The only explanation Mary considers is tomb robbery.  She has no thought of his rising, despite all he had said.  She assumes he is still dead.  Only the power of God and her meeting with the risen Christ will change her thinking (see v10ff).

2. A joyful discovery

Peter and John go to the tomb, with John arriving first (v4).  He looks in but does not enter.  Impetuous Peter does go in.  It is clear that the body has not been stolen – no thief would unwrap the body and leave it the linen behind (v6).  There is a profound sense of order and care.  It seems the body of Jesus was filled with life and simply passed through the grave clothes, as he would later pass through walls into a locked room (v19, 26).  He is risen.  Note the different responses of the disciples:

            John ‘saw and believed’.  Confronted with the absence of Jesus’ body, John comes to faith, believing that the one he had seen on the cross has conquered death.

            Peter: John does not comment on the presence or lack of faith.  Note Luke 24:12 ‘he went away, wondering to himself what had happened’.  Perhaps the matter was clinched by meeting the risen Christ.  Grace brings people to faith by varied routes.

3. A divine necessity

Note v9 ‘They still did not understand from Scripture that Jesus had to rise from the dead’.  We see the slowness of the disciples to grasp the necessity of the death and resurrection of the Messiah – it was so different from their expectations.  When Jesus had spoken of his death and resurrection in e.g. Matthew 16:21, Peter’s reaction was ‘Never, Lord!’  It was his death that was chiefly in view, but they did not take in the truth about the resurrection either.  Death without resurrection would mean defeat and failure.  Paul understood that without the resurrection, ‘you are still in your sins’ (1 Corinthians 15:17).  The resurrection is essential.  Paul and John would come to understand texts such as Psalm 16:8-11 and realise ‘it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him’ (Acts 2:24).  He must and did rise.

1 Kings 5:1-18 A temple to build

The presence of some chapters in the Bible may baffle us – as we saw regarding 1 Kings 4.  The content may have been important to the original readers, but what value does it have for today’s Christians in Christ’s church?  The details of the building of the temple fall into that category.  We now consider 1 Kings 5:1-18 A temple to build.

1. The significance of the temple

The fact that 5 chapters are devoted to the building of the temple shows that this is an event of great importance.  Building the temple matters greatly to Solomon as it mattered to David (2 Samuel 7:1ff).  Why is that the case?

We need to understand the significance of the temple first in its OT setting.  The temple is the appointed place to worship God – the only prescribed place.  Above all ‘a temple for the name of the Lord my God’ (v5).  The temple is for the Lord’s glory and is the symbol of his presence among his people (see also 1 Chronicles 29:1).

Note the significance of the temple in the NT revelation:

            (i). Christ.  The temple is fulfilled in Christ himself (see John 2:19).  He is the one in whom are God’s glory and the sacrifice for sin, so we no longer need a temple.

            (ii). Believers.  United to Christ, each believer is a part of the spiritual temple (1 Corinthians 3:16).  We are to manifest the Lord’s glory and are living sacrifices.

            (iii). Church.  The whole gathering of believers is described in temple language in Ephesians 2:21.

2. The foundation of the temple

In one sense it is ‘a foundation of dressed stone’ (v17), but in a more important sense the foundation is the covenant promise of God, as in the promise to David of a temple – building son (v5).  This is rooted in 2 Samuel 7.  That promise, that can never be broken, is the justification for Solomon’s work.  The temple will be part of God’s covenant with his people until the coming of the Messiah, when it will have fulfilled its function.

3. The anticipation of the kingdom

Note the good relationship between Solomon and Hiram which opens the way for the supply of cedar for the temple (v6).  Hiram’s words are significant – v7 – not a statement of personal faith, but a fulfilment of God’s promise to Solomon (as in 4:34) and an anticipation of worldwide blessing in the kingdom of Christ (Psalm 72:8, Matthew 8:11).

4. The wisdom of the builder

Solomon’s wisdom flows from God’s promise (v12).  He shows God-given abilities.  Ultimately we see here the wisdom of God in fulfilling his plans, including the political situation.  In all things God works out ‘the purpose of his will’ (Ephesians 1:11).

1 Kings 4:1-34 Covenant promises kept

Many people (Christians included) try to divide life into the sacred and the secular, with the sacred relating to worship, etc, and the secular to the concerns of everyday life.  In the secular realm religion seems to have little or no part to play.  Those who think in this way will struggle to see why 2 Kings 4 has a place in the Bible.  We will seek to answer this problem as we consider 1 Kings 4:1-34 Covenant promises kept.

1. Efficient administration

What is the value of v1-19 for Christians today?  The context helps.  This account follows chapter 3 regarding God’s gift of wisdom to Solomon and here we have examples of how that wisdom was seen.  We see that efficient administration for God’s people should give evidence of godly wisdom.  God’s people are not to think that the affairs of the material world do not matter to God.  Administration in every area of life ought to be carried out with an awareness of God’s oversight and a sense of need of God’s wisdom.

2. Covenant blessings

By any measure Solomon’s kingdom is flourishing (v20-28).  We need to view this kingdom from two perspectives:

            – an outworking of God’s covenant promises

            – a foreshadowing of Christ’s kingdom.

We see here blessing regarding:

            (i). The people.  God is keeping his promise to Abraham in Genesis 22:17 and the people are ‘as numerous as the sand of the seashore’ (v20).  The fulfilment is in Christ’s kingdom where he saves an innumerable multitude (Revelation 7:9).

            (ii). The place.  The description in v21 of the extent of Solomon’s kingdom is the fulfilment of Genesis 15:19.  Believers in Christ’s kingdom are ‘Abraham’s seed’ (Galatians 3:29) and are part of his spiritual kingdom by the new birth (John 3:3), with the hope of life body and soul in the new creation that far outshines Solomon’s kingdom.

            (iii). The peace.  Solomon ‘ruled over all the kingdoms…and had peace on all sides’ (v24).  The Lord grants peace to his people through the reign of his king, in fulfilment of his covenant promise to David (2 Samuel 7:10-11).  Peace characterises the kingdom of Christ, the ‘Prince of Peace’ (Isaiah 9:6).  We have ‘peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ’ (Romans 5:1) and look forward to perfect peace in the new creation, like no earthly kingdom.

3. Outstanding wisdom

God’s gifts to Solomon are abundant (v29).  His understanding is beyond that of all other men (v30-31) and he instructs in proverbs and songs (v32).  He also studies God’s wonderful creation (v33) and has a worldwide reputation (v34).  One far greater than Solomon has come – the Messianic King, ‘Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God’ (1 Corinthians 1:24), who provides all the wisdom we need for godly living.

1 Kings 3:1-28 God the Giver of wisdom

1 Kings 3:1-28 God the Giver of wisdom

Various incidents and expressions from the Bible have passed into everyday speech, sometimes accurately (‘The patience of Job’) sometimes inaccurately (‘Money is the root of all evil’).  In a culture that is increasingly biblically illiterate, we can expect biblical language to fade from people’s minds or be misunderstood.  What of ‘the wisdom of Solomon’?  We now consider 1 Kings 3:1-28 God the Giver of wisdom.

1. The need for wisdom

‘Wisdom’ in Scripture is very practical, knowing how to translate our relationship with the Lord into daily godly living.  We see why Solomon needed wisdom in v1-3.  On the positive side, Solomon ‘showed his love for the Lord by walking according to the statutes of his father David’ (v3), but there were inconsistencies, as in his marriage (in addition to his first wife) to a pagan Egyptian princess, contrary to (Deuteronomy 17:17), and his continuing worship at the ‘high places’ (contrary to Deuteronomy 7:5).  But the Lord is very gracious to Solomon – he is ‘the giving God’ (James 1:5) in regard to wisdom.

2. The prayer for wisdom

            (i). God’s nature.  This is the foundation for all prayer.  He is the God of covenant ‘kindness’ (v6), as in the covenant with David (2 Samuel 7).  We can pray because he has promised all we need in his covenant.

            (ii). Solomon’s request.  His concern is for wisdom – ‘a discerning heart to govern your people and to distinguish between right and wrong’ (v9).  Our prayers should focus on how we can do the Lord’s work and serve his people.

            (iii). God’s answer.  He grants Solomon great wisdom (v12) and also ‘riches and honour’ (v13).  The requirement for obedience is also clear – ‘walk in my ways’ (v14).

3. The exercise of wisdom

The fact God has answered Solomon’s prayer is evident from v16-27, where it is clear that justice will be available for all, including despised prostitutes.  Wisdom is demonstrated in the decision (v27) – a very practical gift for a ruler – and note that ‘Israel…held the king in awe’ (v28).  The Lord is establishing his king over his people.

4. The perfection of wisdom

The affairs of God’s kingdom are to be viewed in the wider context of Scripture.  The king was God’s representative – each king was to portray to the world something of God’s righteous reign.  All merely human kings were flawed, but they pointed to the perfect King, the Messiah.  Note Isaiah 11, prophetic of the Messiah: ‘The Spirit of the Lord will rest on him – the Spirit of wisdom and understanding’ (v2).  As a result, ‘with justice he will give decisions for the poor of the earth’ (v4).  These words are fulfilled in Christ, ‘in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge’ (Colossians 2:3).  It is our privilege to belong to the kingdom of the perfect King and to serve him.

1 Kings 2:1-46 The kingdom secured

What makes a good leader?  Much depends on the sphere in which leadership is exercised.  Often in politics lack of leadership is apparent, and concern with popularity can take priority.  Scripture has much to say about those who lead God’s people.  Both being and doing are crucial.  We now consider 1 Kings 2:1-46 The kingdom secured.

1. Obeying God

We need to understand that Israel’s king ruled the covenant people of God.  This is rooted in the covenant that God made with David (2 Samuel 7), especially the promise ‘I will raise up your offspring to succeed you…I will establish his kingdom’ (v12).  The promise finds its ultimate fulfilment in King Jesus.  Within the covenant God’s requirement of his people is always loving obedience, especially on the part of the King.  Regarding Solomon, David charges him, ‘observe what the Lord your God requires’ (v3).  Within the covenant obedience is the path to blessing – by God’s grace, not because we deserve it.  Without obedience, we cannot claim to love God.  We want to be one ‘who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice’ (Matthew 7:24).

2. Implementing justice

God ensures the welfare of his kingdom.  He gives the covenant blessing, but his people, especially his king, have the responsibility to act in ways that promote the kingdom’s welfare.  The kingdom will not be established without the king’s implementing justice.  We are not to think of David and Solomon as cynical ruthless political operators: they are God’s rulers seeking to implement justice in the ambiguities of a fallen world.

            (i). Adonijah.  He is the architect of his own downfall, the request for Abishag either folly or a renewed attempt on the throne.  He rejects the mercy already shown.

            (ii). Joab.  He had much blood on his hands, including Abner (2 Samuel 3:27) and Amasa (2 Samuel 20:9-10), as well as Absalom.  The justice that David had failed to exact, in fear of Joab, will now be executed.

            (iii). Abiathar.  Although he had stood by David during Absalom’s revolt (2 Samuel 15:24), which now saved his life, he had joined Adonijah’s revolt.  To retain usefulness in the Lord’s service, we must persevere.

            (iv). Barzillai.  His faithfulness to David is rewarded (v7).  The ‘kindness’ is a reflection of the covenant kindness of the Lord who never forsakes his people.

3. Securing peace

Note ‘The kingdom was now finally established in Solomon’s hands’ (v46).  There is peace within the kingdom, based on the justice described.  The rule of King Jesus is established on justice, with the King bearing the penalty due to the sins of his people (2 Corinthians 5:21).  That is how God’s kingdom operates.  Concern for righteousness and justice should inform the discipline of the church.  Ultimate peace will be secured at the return of the King in his judgment of unrepentant enemies, when ‘he has put all his enemies under his feet’ (Psalm 110:1, 1 Corinthians 15:25), securing his Kingdom.