Godliness is radical other-centredness. Christ-likeness is opening your life out in invitation to the world.
I flew a kite here for the notion of confession following our taking of communion. It wasn't enthusiastically embraced!
I was reminded on Sunday of how brilliant Thomas Cranmer's 'Prayer of humble access' is. In the Anglican church, this is what we pray before receiving communion. Isn't it great?
We do not presume to come to this your table, merciful Lord, trusting in our own righteousness, but in your manifold and great mercies. We are not worthy so much as to gather up the crumbs under your table. But you are the same Lord, whose nature is always to have mercy: Grant us therefore, gracious Lord, so to eat the flesh of your dear Son Jesus Christ, and to drink his blood, that our sinful bodies may be made clean by his body, and our souls washed through his most precious blood, and that we may evermore dwell in him, and he in us. Amen.
Now if the supper was explained to people 'On the night He was betrayed, Jesus took bread...'. And people said this prayer, haven't we been sufficiently prepared? Then, following my appropriation of Christ's grace, then I formally confess my sins - and let's take some time about it, let's mourn our sin and hate it. But don't we confess best when humbled by grace?
(Even if you object to this, thought I'd share the prayer - good huh?)
How to attain humility? Determine to think low thoughts of yourself? You'd be defeated before you began. Self-deprecation is still self-deprecation. No, to be humble we need to be humbled.
Daniel 4 gives us a great picture of this. Nebuchadnezzar, the most powerful man in the world, is humbled by the triune God who is 'able to humble' 'those who walk in pride.' (Dan 4:37).
As a young(ish) Australian male I know a little something about walking in pride. What can I learn from Daniel 4 about humility?
First, the hero of the piece, Daniel, accomplishes his work only in the power of the Holy Spirit.
"I know that the spirit of the holy gods is in you and that no mystery is too difficult for you." Dan 4:9 (LXX has 'Holy Spirit of God' - translating the plural 'gods' as elsewhere in Scripture)
"None of the wise men in my kingdom can interpret it for me. But you can, because the spirit of the holy gods is in you." Dan 4:18. See also 5:11,14 (LXX translates them all as Holy Spirit of God)
Without the Spirit, Daniel has nothing to offer. With the Spirit, Daniel is wiser than the wisest men on earth.
Second, the promised King of God's Kingdom is described as the Lowliest of Men.
"the Most High is sovereign over the kingdoms of men and gives them to anyone He wishes and sets over them the Lowliest of men." (Dan 4:17)
In the great inversion of all our human expectations, God's choice for King is not simply a lowly man, but the Lowliest of men. The King of all kings is the One who says "I am gentle and humble in heart." (Matt 11:29) How can Nebuchadnezzar exalt himself when the Chosen One of the Most High is the Servant of all?
Third, Nebuchadnezzar learns humility when he worships the Most High God:
34 At the end of that time, I, Nebuchadnezzar, raised my eyes towards heaven, and my sanity was restored. Then I praised the Most High; I honoured and glorified Him Who lives for ever. His dominion is an eternal dominion; His kingdom endures from generation to generation. 35 All the peoples of the earth are regarded as nothing. He does as He pleases with the powers of heaven and the peoples of the earth. No-one can hold back His hand or say to him: "What have you done?" 36 At the same time that my sanity was restored, my honour and splendour were returned to me for the glory of my kingdom.
With his eyes turned upwards, Nebuchadnezzar praises Him Who lives forever. The sovereign glory of the Omnipotent Father draws out of him awed worship. I'm told (and I can believe it) that the Grand Canyon will take your breath away - no-one stands on the rim with high thoughts of themselves. And no-one can confess the majesty of our Father and not be correspondingly humbled in the process.
So how do I fight pride? The doctrine of the trinity of course. I need to know that anything I have of worth in God's service is a gift of the Spirit - "What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as though you did not?" (1 Cor 4:7).
I need to know that the Lord of Glory is Himself the Lowliest of men. His glory is His service. So how can I exalt myself above Christ?
I need to know that the Most High Father is awe-inspiring in His heavenly power. As I worship Him I find a grateful 'nothingness' by comparison which is, at that very moment, my restoration to honour.
To be enfolded in the life of these Three is to be well and truly humbled.
On humility, see also Bobby on Gospel Living
-- to KC a fan of trinitarian theology!
I'm preaching on this sobering passage on Sunday.
I'm struck by the sins of the fathers repeated in the children. Just as 2 Samuel 11 showed lust => deception => illicit taking => death => further chaos so it is here. In fact, just as Genesis 3 involved lust, deception, illicit taking, death and a spiral into chaos so this is re-played once again in the royal house.
From 1 Sam 16 until 2 Sam 10 we see good king David. A wonderful mirror of Christ. David is anointed among his brothers (1 Sam 16) then fights on their behalf to win victory for God's people (1 Sam 17). While the world acknowledges one king, there is a faithful remnant who serve God's choice as king. The women sing his praises, the mighty men join him in battle. Eventually he is vindicated (2 Sam 5ff). He ascends Zion and is enthroned. He shows unfailing love to those in covenant with him (2 Sam 9) elevating the helpless to table fellowship. He makes peace to the ends of the land/earth (same word in Hebrew) by defeating all his enemies and bringing peace. (2 Sam 8 and 10 - see my recent sermon on 2 Samuel 10). There ends the narrative of good king David. From chapter 11 we have bad king David. In fact, from here, we see the outworkings of sin in the kingdoms of the world. The house of David had been a mirror to the house of the LORD (see 2 Sam 7). But now (see 2 Sam 12:20) the house of David is contrasted with the house of the LORD.
Think of how important the 'house' is in Scripture. Just as the world is a 'house' (e.g. Isaiah 66:1), so is a kingdom, so is a family. These family problems are a microcosmos - a little world in crisis. (think of the Genesis 3 link above). Everything that is so heart-breakingly wrong with this family is everything that is so heart-breakingly wrong with the kingdom of the world. The sin we read about here cannot be held at arms length. It is being brought home to us because it is the problem at the heart of every house, every kingdom, the whole world.
Note how these four men are distorted pictures of true men:
Amnon is a lover. But it's love turned to lust.
Jonadab is a wise man, yet it's wisdom turned to deceit.
David is a king, but inactive in the face of evil.
Absalom is an avenger, a rescuer - yet he silences Tamar and seems to protect his own reputation more than hers.
How wonderful the lover, the wise man, the king and the rescuer could have been. But they are perverted and together make for one dysfunctional house!
And what is the state of the virgin daughter in the royal house? (This very broken mirror of the church (cf Psalm 45). How is this virgin daughter in this kingdom treated?
And what a word to describe her in v20: Desolate! Literally - destroyed. It's such a violent word. It's the word for Job and his household - devastated. It's most used with regard to the curse of exile - the ravaged land, the desolated temple, the agriculture dried up. She is destroyed like a war-torn country, like a shrivelled up vine, like a desecrated temple. (There is hope though for the Desolate woman - cf Isaiah 54!)
Now v15 has intrigued me for a long time. Can anyone help me with the psychology of this. Literally it says that after he raped her "Then Amnon hated her with a very great hatred. In fact the hatred with which he hated her was greater than the love with which he had loved her." What's going on there? What is it about this illicit taking that makes him despise what he had previously desired so fiercely??