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Oldies But Gracies

Part 3 of 6

 

I’m convinced that most Believers would only turn to the New Testament to find examples of grace. Our mindset, having been influenced for years by behavior minded leaders, is that the Old Testament- more exactly the Mosaic Covenant, shows God’s desire for total behavior and obedience and the wrath that comes from being out of line. Yet, grace abounds throughout the Old Covenant. It may have stories that are considered oldies, but the grace abounds in them.

 

Who would think that grace would be seen in the death of an entire nation- including the children? We mentioned the other day that one of the most difficult parts of Scripture is the order from God to wipe out entire nations like we see here:

 

“However, you must not let any living thing survive among the cities of these people the Lord your God is giving you as an inheritance. You must completely destroy them — the Hethite, Amorite, Canaanite, Perizzite, Hivite, and Jebusite — as the Lord your God has commanded you, so that they won’t teach you to do all the detestable acts they do for their gods, and you sin against the Lord your God. “When you lay siege to a city for a long time, fighting against it in order to capture it, do not destroy its trees by putting an ax to them, because you can get food from them. Do not cut them down. Are trees of the field human, to come under siege by you?” Deuteronomy 20:16-19

 

We see more detail in another episode, one of which Saul did not obey:

 

“Samuel told Saul, “The Lord sent me to anoint you as king over his people Israel. Now, listen to the words of the Lord. This is what the Lord of Armies says: ‘I witnessed what the Amalekites did to the Israelites when they opposed them along the way as they were coming out of Egypt. Now go and attack the Amalekites and completely destroy everything they have. Do not spare them. Kill men and women, infants and nursing babies, oxen and sheep, camels and donkeys.’”” 1 Samuel 15:1-3

 

This is troublesome but these people were evil beyond comprehension. We are talking about sexual sin that would cause Howard Stern to blush, child sacrifice, and pure dark evil behavior. All were guilty, even the women. These nations deserved destruction and judgement, so we are not talking about wiping out a nice civilization, we are talking about wiping out a nation as evil as the Nazi’s and al-Qaeda combined. No one had an issue with destroying the Nazi’s or raiding bin Laden’s home and we should see these nations as the same. Yet, the real dilemma is with the children- including infants. What about them?

 

Here is where we find God’s grace. What if the children were to be allowed to survive, what then? They likely would grow up without adults or if Israel or another nation took them in, they’d grow up with bitterness and raging anger over the killing of their families. The older children would be prone to carry on the evilness they learned as being normal and the nations of pure darkness would awaken. So where is the grace? As I see it, the children would have been deemed innocent by way of being too young to be accountable. God’s grace was to allow the children, especially the younger ones, to escape eternal damnation. Yes, seems like a stretch, but when you think eternal over the limited physical world around us it clearly was grace NOT to allow them to survive.

 

Another clear picture of God’s heavy hand of discipline against Israel for being disobedient is the slavery the nation endured under Babylon and, eventually, Assyria:

 

Jehoiakim was twenty-five years old when he became king, and he reigned eleven years in Jerusalem. He did what was evil in the sight of the Lord his God. Now King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon attacked him and bound him in bronze shackles to take him to Babylon. Also Nebuchadnezzar took some of the articles of the Lord’s temple to Babylon and put them in his temple in Babylon. The rest of the deeds of Jehoiakim, the detestable actions he committed, and what was found against him, are written in the Book of Israel’s Kings. His son Jehoiachin became king in his place. Jehoiachin was eighteen years old when he became king, and he reigned three months and ten days in Jerusalem. He did what was evil in the Lord’s sight. In the spring Nebuchadnezzar sent for him and brought him to Babylon along with the valuable articles of the Lord’s temple. Then he made Jehoiachin’s brother Zedekiah king over Judah and Jerusalem. Zedekiah was twenty-one years old when he became king, and he reigned eleven years in Jerusalem. He did what was evil in the sight of the Lord his God and did not humble himself before the prophet Jeremiah at the Lord’s command. He also rebelled against King Nebuchadnezzar who had made him swear allegiance by God. He became obstinate and hardened his heart against returning to the Lord, the God of Israel. All the leaders of the priests and the people multiplied their unfaithful deeds, imitating all the detestable practices of the nations, and they defiled the Lord’s temple that he had consecrated in Jerusalem. But the Lord, the God of their ancestors sent word against them by the hand of his messengers, sending them time and time again, for he had compassion on his people and on his dwelling place. But they kept ridiculing God’s messengers, despising his words, and scoffing at his prophets, until the Lord’s wrath was so stirred up against his people that there was no remedy. So he brought up against them the king of the Chaldeans, who killed their fit young men with the sword in the house of their sanctuary. He had no pity on young men or young women, elderly or aged; he handed them all over to him. He took everything to Babylon—all the articles of God’s temple, large and small, the treasures of the Lord’s temple, and the treasures of the king and his officials. Then the Chaldeans burned God’s temple. They tore down Jerusalem’s wall, burned all its palaces, and destroyed all its valuable articles. 2 Chron 36:5-19

 

Yes, very clear. God was not happy with the behavior of Israel and raised His hand, in the form of Babylon, against her. But was there grace to be found here too? Absolutely, but you need to fast forward many years (remember God is outside time).

 

Daniel is one of the few Israelites seen as useful to the new dictator over them. Nebuchadnezzar puts Daniel in a very important position as he learns to trust him and sees Daniel interpret his dreams (sounds a bit like Joseph and Pharoah). Evidentially, Babylon falls to Assyria and King Darius keeps Daniel around and quickly learns to trust him as well. He is about to put him above all others when the Assyrian leaders plot against Daniel by using his faith in God against him. This leads us to the famous story of the lion’s den. When King Darius sees Daniel alive, we see God’s grace at work:

 

At the first light of dawn the king got up and hurried to the lions’ den. When he reached the den, he cried out in anguish to Daniel. “Daniel, servant of the living God,” the king said, “has your God, whom you continually serve, been able to rescue you from the lions?” Then Daniel spoke with the king: “May the king live forever. My God sent his angel and shut the lions’ mouths; and they haven’t harmed me, for I was found innocent before him. And also before you, Your Majesty, I have not done harm.” The king was overjoyed and gave orders to take Daniel out of the den. When Daniel was brought up from the den, he was found to be unharmed, for he trusted in his God. The king then gave the command, and those men who had maliciously accused Daniel were brought and thrown into the lions’ den—they, their children, and their wives. They had not reached the bottom of the den before the lions overpowered them and crushed all their bones. Then King Darius wrote to those of every people, nation, and language who live on the whole earth: “May your prosperity abound. I issue a decree that in all my royal dominion, people must tremble in fear before the God of Daniel:

 

For he is the living God, and he endures forever; his kingdom will never be destroyed, and his dominion has no end. He rescues and delivers; he performs signs and wonders in the heavens and on the earth, for he has rescued Daniel from the power of the lions.”

 

So Daniel prospered during the reign of Darius and the reign of Cyrus the Persian. Daniel 6:19-28

 

God gave Babylon and Assyria grace by allowing Daniel to be close to their leadership to influence them and show them the One true God. Without this grace, those nations would not have seen God through people like Daniel. God allowed His Holy nation to be taken captive because of their disobedience but He had a greater purpose- to show Himself to the other nations. This is very evident with King Darius in his reaction to Daniel surviving the lions. But God’s grace doesn’t stop there- Daniel received grace, as we see at the end, as he prospered, even as a captive.

 

Can we lay aside the myth that grace is for the New Covenant only? We have seen grace immediately after the first sin, grace given to a young lad who would raise up a nation bitterly opposed to Israel. We have seen grace to the children of incredibly evil nations, and we see grace at the lowest point of Israel’s history. We could go on too. Grace was given to Joseph’s brothers despite what they did to Joseph. We see grace when a prostitute helps the spies. We see God’s grace extended to David despite his adultery and murderous cover up. We see grace given to Elijah as he ran in fear.

 

Over and over grace pops up in the pages of the Old Covenant but the religious-minded want to focus on God’s wrath only because they thrive on behavior as key instead of faith and that leads us to tackle myth number two- the Old Testament demonstrates behavior and obedience is the most important factor to God. We will tackle that one over the next two days as we prepare to conclude with the truth behind the purpose of the Old Testament.

 

Prayer focus: For those in the path of another major storm.

 

 

 

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