What will make the year 2011 a year of hope lived out in obedience to the will of God in the life of the church? A forward looking faith in the stretched out grace of God promised to his children in Christ is the way of obedience. If a people cut off the conduit of God’s grace in hope and promise that builds faith then she will shrink back in her flesh to a love of self and the world.
On the last day of the year, reading through Robert Murray M’Cheyne’s daily Bible reading plan, we come to 2 Chronicles 36. This chapter of Scripture is one of judgment and hope. We see God’s judgment on his people as Jerusalem is besieged by Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon and her king and some of the vessels of the house of the LORD are carried off to the Babylonian kingdom. Zedekiah is set in place by Babylon to serve as king in Jerusalem and he and all the people continue to do what is evil in the sight of the Lord obeying the abominations of the nations. Yet in the midst of this judgment God sends hope by his Word. The king is given the prophet Jeremiah to speak from the mouth of the LORD but Zedekiah would not humble himself (v.12). And the people of God still living in Jerusalem are cared for by God through the hope of his word yet they rejected his grace. We read, And the LORD God of their fathers sent warnings to them by His messengers, rising up early and sending them, because He had compassion on His people and on His dwelling place. But they mocked the messengers of God, despised His words, and scoffed at His prophets, until the wrath of the LORD arose against His people, till there was no remedy. (v.15-16). In the midst of bringing their enemies upon them in judgment and the grace of hope through his Word, the people of God continued to rebel. Therefore God brought their enemies to destroy the city, burn the house of God and tear down the walls of Jerusalem. Many of the men were killed by the sword and many others carried off from the place of promise into exile in Babylon (v.17-20).
However in the midst of this judgment upon God’s people the writer brings us to the close of this book with hope. He allows us to see God’s purposes fulfilled in the people living until the 70 years were finished as prophesied (v.21). And brings us into the history of Persia where God used King Cyrus to bring his people back into the land as he promised for the rebuilding of the temple (v.22-23). Therefore in the midst of incredibly difficult circumstances in judgment we are given to see hope as the promises of God are being fulfilled. And this is where M’Cheyen’s reading plan is brilliant. We begin on the first day of the year reading again of creation showing us the glory of God as our Creator who fulfills all his decrees and promising salvation in the midst of judgment. We read in Ezra an account of God fulfilling his promises to bring his people back into the land and into his presence in the rebuilding of the temple. We read in Matthew of God sending into the world the re-Creator and Redeemer who is the long awaited Messiah and hope of Israel. And we read in Acts of the account of that redemption and re-creation reaching the peoples of Jerusalem. They had lived long waiting on the promise of life and saw it fulfilled among them in the coming of the Holy Spirit and his kingdom in the New Covenant.
In the reading of God’s Word we are able to see all that God has been for us in goodness, wisdom and power and we have the ability to see his goodness, wisdom and power set before us in promise. This is the open conduit of his grace to his people still living in the midst of a struggling life between the flesh and the Spirit (Gal.5; Rom.7&8), between the kingdom of sin and death and the kingdom of righteousness, joy and peace in the Holy Spirit, and between being pilgrims and sojourners on the earth while our final rest lies in the new heavens and new earth. Therefore to live in the coming year for the glory of God in love to him and our neighbors loving his pleasure by his grace, the church cannot cut off the valve of God’s fountain of grace. She must say with the apostle Peter, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. (Jn.6:68). The church will struggle in the land as she awaits the promise. Therefore God sends her his prophets and apostles where Christ Jesus is the cornerstone (Eph.2:20) in the Word of God. She must turn to the Word of God, take it up and read, study, meditate and memorize. Then she will hold fast in the storms of life that are sure to blow against her according to God’s will, and live for his pleasure and glory as his children holy and dearly loved.
Take up and read in private and with your family or others in the family of God his Word. M’Cheyen’s reading plan is available in the church foyer or this and other plans are available online at http://www.bibleplan.org/mcheyne.htm. Tolle Lege!