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Establish Justice in the Gate
Dear Friend of Mary Craig Ministries,
How many wars have you lived through in your lifetime? Will you be the victor in the war that determines your eternity? There’s a lot of talk about war right now and about what peace process might succeed. In the meantime, people cope as best they can with worry, anxiety, terrorism, and escalating threats of violence.
I, myself, am amazed at God’s willingness to use a wide variety of methods in His attempts to bring people to the Peace Process that will bring His life and blessing. Usually, God comes with an indictment, a rendering of how far away people are from Him in their sin and rebellion, how far they have strayed from the truth, etc. Then He issues both a warning and a plea, a repent and believe or you will perish in your sins. He gives a long time for this repentance to occur before coming in judgment and sends prophets and messengers. He "connects the dots" for those who wonder why things are happening as they are. Then He seems to say, "Awake and return before you destroy yourselves."
We could learn a lesson from Israel’s history. After Solomon died, his son Rehoboam became king in David’s line. Any unity established under David and Solomon turned out to be short-lived.
God intends His people to be a covenanted community of faith, a gathered people of God, just as He is Himself a covenant community/fellowship of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, One God in Three Persons. God desires His people to be holy, distinct, and joined to Himself and to each other, living in unity/oneness and love, not in division and strife.
The coronation at Shechem, the old center of covenant renewal, turns out to be a congressional session. Jeroboam, speaking for Israel (10 northern tribes), reasonably requests that the heavy yoke put on them by Solomon be lightened along with the harsh labor. The condition comes with a promise, "and we will serve you." (1 Kings 12.3, 4) Rehoboam asks for three days to deliberate his answer.
At first it seems that Rehoboam will do well as he begins his reign. He consults the elders who had served his father Solomon. "If today you will be a servant to these people and serve them and give them a favorable answer, they will always be your servants." Good advice, and in line with the heart of God that we serve one another in love.
Following the advice of "elders" is a God-given protection. The word is used some 188 times in the plural and some 6 times in the singular. It is rarely used of an office but refers to an informal group having wisdom by virtue of years and experience. Cities and towns had elders with no official authority, but strong moral authority. They are distinguished from other kinds of leaders, like judges, heads of tribes, nobles, princes, priests, and prophets, e.g. The elders’ task was to give counsel (Ezekiel 7.26), involve themselves in the application of Mosaic law to life, and to act as a kind of informal judge so that the courts were not overwhelmed. Jeremiah would later lament:
Princes have been hung up by their hands. Elders are shown
no respect. Young men toil at the millstones. Boys stagger
under loads of wood. The elders are gone from the city gate.
Rehoboam doesn’t listen to the elders. Instead he listens to his peers, younger men who encourage him to establish his kingly authority by increasing the load and making his subjects serve.(cf. Matthew 20.25-28) Rehoboam is out to centralize the power and raise taxes. He didn’t listen to the elders or the already oppressed people. A sad day resulted. The stage was set for the judgment of God should David’s house prove disloyal to the covenant.
The ten tribes declared independence with: What share do we have in David, what part in Jesse’s son? To your tents, O Israel! Look after your own house, O David! (1 Kings 12.16)
The northern kingdom made Jeroboam king. He established his capital at Shechem and set up his own religious system, a mixture of Yahweh et al. Many priests and Levites of the northern tribes deserted their homes to take up residence in Judah to the south as Jeroboam built rival shrines at Dan and Bethel. Being faithful to Yahweh cost them in family, finances, position, and possessions.
The people’s choice fulfilled the prophet’s prediction. This final break between Israel and Judah had come as the judgment of God. Shemaiah, a prophet of Yahweh, dissuades Rehoboam to try to bring repair. God brought this about to fulfill the word of Ahijah (1 Kings 11.26-39). To Rehoboam, Judah, and all Israel in Judah and Benjamin, it was "You shall not go up, nor fight against your brethren. Return every man to his house, for this thing is done of Me." (2 Chronicles 11.4)
At first Rehoboam prospers. For three years the kingdom walked in the ways of David and Solomon. But then, after he "had established the kingdom and had strengthened himself, he forsook the law of the LORD, and all Israel with him." (2 Chronicles 12.1) "This is what the LORD says, ‘You have abandoned Me; therefore, I now abandon you to Shishak.’" (2 Chronicles 12.15) Shishak was the king of Egypt who would defeat them and make them his servants. He raided Jerusalem, taking the shields of gold. With this, the glory departed, though Rehoboam replaced the gold shields with bronze ones, which he brought in and out so the people wouldn’t catch on.
Jeroboam and Rehoboam yielded to a syncretism seen as sinful by God. Jeroboam in the north featured golden calves in his cult, viewed himself as royal priest of what he considered a legitimate religious system. It seemed good for the people. The worship places were those of strong tradition and suitable—quite pragmatic. Rehoboam engaged in idolatrous worship by setting up high places, sacred stones, and ritual prostitution. The pure worship of a holy God became sensuous and perverted, a subtle and dangerous transgression from divine command.
Of Rehoboam we read, "He did evil because he prepared not his heart to seek the LORD." (2 Chronicles 12.14) Failing to seek the Lord is like a disease. The glory fades, cheap imitations arise, and religious rites and rituals replace authentic worship. And we are defrauding God and God’s people.
What is it to defraud? The word means to cheat, to deprive of right either by obtaining something by deception or artifice or by taking something wrongfully without the knowledge or consent of the owner, to keep out of just rights. One who takes from another his right defrauds by deception or withholds what is his due. Fraud is an act of deception with the view of gaining an unlawful or unfair advantage. Deceit is the mental process. Deception is the procedure. Fraud is the act or series of acts of deceit to benefit oneself at the expense of another.
We are not to defraud our neighbor or rob him, to defraud a man of his home, to defraud laborers, to defraud our fathers, to gain food by fraud, to make fraudulent images of worship. (See Leviticus 19.13; Hosea 12.7; Micah 2.2, Malachi 1, 3; Proverbs 20.17; Psalm 10, Jeremiah 10.14, 51.17; 1 Corinthians 6; Luke 19.8.)
A few hundred years after the first Jeroboam, a second Jeroboam came to power, c. 760 B. C. It was a time of peace and prosperity, and a time when people forgot God, exploited the poor, and continued the practice of false religion. Amos, a shepherd from Tekoa, is sent with a message from God to Israel. "Seek Me, and you shall live. But seek not Bethel… Seek the LORD and you shall live; lest He break out like fire in the house of Joseph, and devour it, and there be none to quench it in Bethel. You who turn judgment to wormwood, and leave off righteousness in the earth… They hate him that rebukes in the gate, and they abhor him that speaks uprightly. Forasmuch as your treading is upon the poor, and you take from him burdens of wheat: you have built houses of hewn stone, but you shall not dwell in them; you have planted pleasant vineyards, but you shall not drink wine of them. For I know your manifold transgressions and your mighty sins. They afflict the just. They take a bribe, and they turn aside the poor in the gate from their right. Therefore the prudent shall keep silence in that time, for it is an evil time. Seek good and not evil, that you may live: and so the LORD, the God of Hosts, shall be with you…Hate the evil and love the good, and establish justice in the gate: it may be that the LORD God of hosts will be gracious unto the remnant of Joseph." (Amos 5.6-15)
The Spirit says to the churches to establish justice in the gates. Seek the LORD and live. Repent for defrauding your brother, your neighbor, your God. Repent and return to the pure worship of the living God. Honor the only process that brings peace. Honor the Blood of the Lamb, God’s Son, for there is atonement in no other. Cease seeking to establish your own authority. Serve one another in love. Preach the cross and Christ crucified. Preach the process of peace with God that there may be peace in your hearts, the peace of God. Stop warring out of envy and lust. Seek the unity of the Spirit. Come to the waters and drink without cost. Meet one another and the Father in union with Christ and the Holy Spirit. Love.
Pastor Jim and I both want to express our gratitude to all of you who are participating in the blessing of Craighouse. Already, we have Bible study and healing prayer Friday nights, prayer for personal needs on Saturdays, worship Sunday afternoons, discipleship classes Wednesdays, and beginning November 12, "Revival!" Tuesdays from 7:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m., a time dedicated to healing and deliverance. For more on what we’re up to, check out -- marycraig.org\Events.htm.
We also continue to prepare for our expedition into Chile, Argentina, and Antarctica at the end of this year. This will be a crucial mission literally "to the ends of the earth." (Acts 1.8) The time is fast approaching, and we hope you will want to participate in the praying, giving and sending. $15,000 is still needed.
To God be the glory,
But if from thence you shall seek the LORD your God,
You shall find Him, if you seek Him with all your heart
and with all your soul. When you are in tribulation, and
all these things are come upon you, even in the latter days,
if you turn to the LORD your God, and shall be obedient unto
His voice; (For the LORD your God is a merciful God;) He will
not forsake you, neither destroy you, nor forget the covenant
of your fathers which He sware unto them. (Deuteronomy 4.29-31)
LORD, you have heard the desire of the humble. You will
prepare their heart. You will cause Your ear to hear; to
Judge the fatherless and the oppressed, that the man of the earth
May no more oppress. (Psalm 10.17, 18)
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