Saturday, July 23, 2016

Giving Up Christ

I'm putting the end of Daniel on hold for a week, because I want to preach on something my 8-year-old asked me to read to her this week.  She requested a story from the bible, and so I read it, and I discovered some important details on the doctrine of election in the passage, along with a heart-breaking analogy to our relationship with Christ.  The passage is 1 Kings 3:16-28.

The story is straightforward and very popular.  King Solomon has just prayed for and received wisdom from the Lord.  This is Solomon's first judgment, and the wisdom he imparts is quite splendid indeed.  Here's the passage:

Then two prostitutes came to the king and stood before him. The one woman said, “Oh, my lord, this woman and I live in the same house, and I gave birth to a child while she was in the house. Then on the third day after I gave birth, this woman also gave birth. And we were alone. There was no one else with us in the house; only we two were in the house. And this woman's son died in the night, because she lay on him. And she arose at midnight and took my son from beside me, while your servant slept, and laid him at her breast, and laid her dead son at my breast. When I rose in the morning to nurse my child, behold, he was dead. But when I looked at him closely in the morning, behold, he was not the child that I had borne.” But the other woman said, “No, the living child is mine, and the dead child is yours.” The first said, “No, the dead child is yours, and the living child is mine.” Thus they spoke before the king.

Then the king said, “The one says, ‘This is my son that is alive, and your son is dead’; and the other says, ‘No; but your son is dead, and my son is the living one.’” And the king said, “Bring me a sword.” So a sword was brought before the king. And the king said, “Divide the living child in two, and give half to the one and half to the other.” Then the woman whose son was alive said to the king, because her heart yearned for her son, “Oh, my lord, give her the living child, and by no means put him to death.” But the other said, “He shall be neither mine nor yours; divide him.” Then the king answered and said, “Give the living child to the first woman, and by no means put him to death; she is his mother.” And all Israel heard of the judgment that the king had rendered, and they stood in awe of the king, because they perceived that the wisdom of God was in him to do justice.

Yes, my 8-year-old sure picked a fascinating part of the bible to read!  Many words have been written about what true love looks like and what true wisdom looks like, but few have been written about Christ in this passage.  We see a crazy act in what Solomon decides.  This shouldn't work, but it does.  We expect the wicked woman to relinquish and confess, but she doesn't.  She would rather neither woman have the child than either of them.  She also knows that even accidental infanticide on her part will carry harsh punishment.  She won't confess.  We wonder if this will work on other things.  Sometimes it doesn't, sometimes it does.  My littles are fighting over a toy, and I take the toy away from both.  Sometimes one of them says, "that's fine, I don't need to play with it," which shows me that she was the one that took it from the other.  Sometimes both of them are unhappy with the toy going away.  Of course, the bible's version has life itself at stake.  A baby will die unless someone acts!

And the true mother does!  She would rather give up her precious child to the wicked woman than have the child die, and here is where an excellent allegory of Christ and his elect begins to unfold.  Here are two prostitutes.  All have sinned and fall short of  the glory of God.  They live in the same house, just like the elect and the reprobate live in the same world, grow in the same field, like wheat and tares.  Remember, the elect are sinners, too.  They are outside of the kingdom, to start, but God makes sure they enter his kingdom before they die.  So, all human kind can be seen as a couple of prostitutes in the same house.

One's son is dead and the other is alive.  The elect have a son: the living God, the Christ.  The reprobate have no son.  They have idols, false gods, things that have no life.  The sword represents judgment day, where both the elect and the reprobate face God and have to account for their lives on earth.  The reprobate point to their works in an attempt to earn their way into heaven, but their unrepentant sin keeps them out.  The elect point to repentant faith in Christ alone for their salvation, and God's judgment rules in their favor.  Here is where the analogy seems to break down.  In the story, the true mother gives up her son in order to save his life.  On judgment day, we aren't to give up the son but to embrace him and cling to him, so that he will protect us.

However, there is an important sentence in the book of Romans, chapter 9: "For I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, my kinsmen according to the flesh."  A sign of election is an intense desire to see others saved.  The reprobate would rather all suffer eternal death than some gain eternal life.  The ungodly don't just want to deliver themselves from hearing the gospel; they desire that none hear it, which is why they set up foundations to stop the spread of Christianity (in the West) and they use the sword everywhere else.  On the other hand, the elect would desire to be cursed forever in order to save some.

Jesus also demonstrates this behavior on the cross when he cries out: "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?"  His relationship with the Father was cut off.  Jesus gave up God to save his elect.  As a result, Jesus is given his life back and his relationship in the Godhead is restored.  Likewise, Solomon declares, "Give the living child to the first woman, and by no means put him to death; she is the mother."  Christ is given to the selfless one.

Love is a fruit of the spirit, but not many can agree with what love looks like.  The ungodly merely believe its physical and romantic, or affection among friends.  It's getting along.  It's everyone being in agreement.  Love, according to Christ, is laying down one's life for one's enemies.  The elect reach out to those we disagree with.  We don't want to see the world get its comeuppance.  We would rather give up our salvation so that those who reject Christ might be saved.  Paul felt it.  Christ demonstrated it.  He died in our place.  He gave himself for us.