Walking in the Wisdom of Those Who Have Gone Before
It’s kind of hard sometimes for ministers to know when to stop and move on. When you get paid to talk for a living you can mistake the need to earn your way with the desire of hearers to keep listening. Recognizing that myself this week in our prayer and worship help we’ll be continuing the closing essay from last week and making some comments about what we can do to reform and be reformed as ARP’s.
Reforming and being Reformed are good, but they can be abused like anything else. On one hand you have folks who think the reformation has gone far enough and they’d like to get off the train before the journey is completed. Then you have others who think the journey never ends. The former usually end up compromising back into what they left and the latter either finish up out of the faith when it never delivers what they want or they just burn themselves out and cross the Tiber and embrace Rome. Though in some ways even worse than these two are people who think they don’t need reformed at all. They either think they received all the Bible knowledge they needed by age 16 and can’t be persuaded otherwise, or they are satisfied with a minimal knowledge of the recitation of truth. To ask either of these folks to examine the Scriptures more deeply can seem to them as a personal attack against their identity. Missing from all of these examples is the Christian doctrine of humility. Whether we are sadducees, pharisees, milk drinkers, or functional atheists all kinds of folks can and should benefit from taking the time to seriously engage with the Bible and the totality of its teaching.
It can be hard for sure to nostalgically break through long held beliefs, but at the end of the day we need to be willing to recognize that we are men and women under the authority of the Word. We are people who are the receivers of a great tradition. While we are never to be engaged in holding positions merely because of their longevity, we are also to be careful not to cut ourselves off from the witness of the past. Whenever I hear someone in evangelical circles say that they have discovered a “new way” I always wince a bit, because a quick google search will show us that there is truly nothing new under the sun. Being conversant with history means seeing theology in action. We know the consequences of doing x, y, or z. We shouldn’t be surprised that if it didn’t work in 1423 and it didn’t work in 1823 that it isn’t going to work in 2023. Likewise if certain ideas were a blessing to Christians in 423 and 1623 then there is a good chance that we would be fools not to pay attention and be found wise to wonder if “going back to the old paths” might be a good idea. There is much to be learned from the models of this that we see in the Bible. Let’s take a moment to examine one.
Joash was a unique king of Judah. You can read more about him in 2 Kings 12, though he’s not to be confused with the similar named man in charge of Israel that Hosea and Amos prophesy against. He was a good guy. Joash was spared the murderous wrath of Athaliah, queen of Judah, by God’s providence and was enabled to be crowned by the support of Jehoiada, high priest and brother-in-law to the previous king Ahaziah.
Joash had a problem not long after he began to reign. He had ordered the Levites to fix up the temple, but they took the offerings given for that purpose and used them for other things. Joash was a godly leader and knew what the Bible said was one of the key reasons for his role in God’s kingdom, to be a foster father to the church.
So what did he do? He set up his own offering plate (a wooden box with a hole in the top) that the people could put money into as they went into and out of the Temple area. If you have seen that kind of thing at Bethany (minus the wood with a hole in it) you’ll understand now where we got our idea when it comes to how we collect offerings on the Lord’s Day morning. Joash’s solution was not so much just to take things into his own hand, but to do what was necessary to take care of the house of God, to ensure that it was well-maintained and was a pleasurable place for Him to dwell, and he did so not by listening to his heart. The prophet Haggai would later condemn the men and women who returned from exile in Babylon for their rather lack of concern for the holy place. It was good for Joash to do what he did.
But why and how did he do it?
According to the Scriptures, ”Joash did what was right in the sight of the Lord all the days of Jehoiada the priest.”. There we see the answer quite clearly. As long as Joash had the help of the religious leader of Judah, and that leader was himself holy, all things were good. The Book of Proverbs says in Ch. 20:15, “There is gold and abundance of costly stones, but the lips of knowledge are a precious jewel.” We would be wise to recognize that if we think we have it all figured out we are the most foolish. That is especially true when we abandon the wisdom of the ancients.
A thing about personal experience is that it is not always the best teacher, partly because we are not always the best students.
It is far better for us to listen to the one who has thought through it than to be as another identified as a proverb notes, “A fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only in expressing his opinion.” If you have questions about a Bible matter do not be afraid to ask. If you come across an idea or a teaching that you’ve not heard before, but notice it used to be a common idea in your church’s tradition one of the best things you can do is inquire of how it came to be lost, why, and what would be the good/bad of reintroducing such into the life of the body. Without compromising it is also wise in these times to think about what actually needs reformed first before taking on that particular subject. If you want to teach a man to walk you can’t expect him to get there without first helping to understand the purpose of his feet. There is an order to all things.
Take care that you love them all well that others might see the totality of its beauty.
Here’s a last word:
Take a look at the postscript for where we are headed next.
Blessings in Christ,
Rev. Benjamin Glaser
Pastor, Bethany ARP Church
* The next series we will be looking at on Tuesday’s will deal with the supernatural world. There is much confusion and misunderstanding about what the Bible teaches and how it is supposed to effect our daily life. We also live in a day and age where many people don’t believe in “another world”. In this series we’ll tackle things as disparate as extra-terrestrials and their existence in the universe and ghosts and those things that go bump in the night. If you have any particular aspects of this you’d like me to write about please feel free to let me know at [email protected].