读经：箴18:7-16 罗10:5-11:10 代上2:18-4:8
Friends of ours had been waiting for ten years for a baby. They had been told it was impossible. One day there was a ring on our doorbell. There she was. It was written all over her face. As soon as she was in the house she started jumping up and down, stamping her feet with joy and delight, announcing the good news. She had conceived. Their wait was over. She was carrying the good news in her own body. There is nothing more exciting than being the bearer of good news.
You too are the bearer of good news. The message of Jesus is in you. That is why, according to the apostle Paul, you have beautiful feet (Romans 10:15)!
As Christians we are all called to share the good news of Jesus. Some of us have the immense privilege of being called to do it as a full time job. Way back in January 1978, when I was practising law, I wrote in my prayer diary:
‘I long to spend my whole time preaching the gospel – telling people about the love of Jesus. But Romans 10:15 warns, “How can [people] preach unless they are sent?” I cannot and will not be able to preach the gospel unless I am sent by God to do so – it is a wonderful calling. “Howbeautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!”’
The heart of the good news is a righteousness that comes by faith (v.6). ‘Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved’ (v.13). This is the message of the New Testament and its roots go back to the Old Testament as we see in today’s passages.
1. Run to the Lord
Proverbs 18:7-16This passage in Proverbs, like the rest of the book, is full of practical wisdom. We need to guard our lips: ‘Fools are undone by their big mouths; their souls are crushed by their words’ (v.7, MSG). ‘Gossip’ is very tempting but to be avoided: ‘Listening to gossip is like eating cheap candy; do you really want junk like that in your belly?’ (v.8, MSG).
We need to work hard and not be ‘slack’: ‘Slack habits and sloppy work are as bad as vandalism’ (v.9, MSG). It is foolish to rely on wealth: ‘The rich think their wealth protects them; they imagine themselves safe behind it’ (v.11, MSG). Pride leads to downfall: ‘Pride first, then the crash’ (v.12a, MSG). Humility leads to honour (v.12b).
There are a lot more words of practical wisdom. For example, some very good advice to those hosting or helping on Alpha: ‘Answering before listening is both stupid and rude’ (v.13, MSG). ‘Wise men and women are always learning, always listening for fresh insights’ (v.15, MSG).
In the midst of all this practical advice, there is a verse that ties in with today’s theme: ‘The name of the Lord is a strong tower; the righteous run to it and are safe’ (v.10). Not all are safe. Only those who run to the strong tower, which is ‘the name of the Lord’, will be saved.
Even here, perhaps in one of the least expected places (the Book of Proverbs), we find the roots of the teaching of the New Testament that those who call on the name of the Lord will be saved.
Lord, help me today to guard my lips, to be careful about what I say, to work hard and humbly depend on you. Thank you that your name is a strong tower and a place of safety for all who run to it.
2. Call to the Lord
Romans 10:5-11:10I was eighteen years old. I had been a Christian for two months when I had the privilege of telling someone the good news about Jesus in such a way that he believed. His life, like mine, was changed that day.
Do you remember the first time you understood the good news about Jesus and believed in him? Have you ever had the privilege of telling another person the message of Jesus in such a way that they believed?
The claim of the New Testament is breathtaking. The name of the Lord was so sacred in the Old Testament that no one dared take it on their lips. Now we know that the name of the Lord is Jesus. Not only can we take his name on our lips but when we believe in him and call on him we are ‘saved’ (10:9–10).
The Christian message is both exclusive, because Christ is the only name given for our salvation, and inclusive, because everyone in this world can call upon his name.
Jesus is easily accessible to all of us. ‘No precarious climb up to heaven to recruit the Messiah, no dangerous descent into hell to rescue the Messiah.’ Paul continues:
‘The word that saves is right here,
as near as the tongue in your mouth,
as close as the heart in your chest’ (vv.6–8, MSG).
It is interesting to note in passing the importance, not only believing in our heart but actuallysaying that we have done so. ‘If you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved’ (vv.9-10).
I have often noticed on Alpha (for example, going round the group at the end and asking how people have got on) that something happens to a person when they ‘confess’ with their ‘mouth’ for the first time, ‘I am now a Christian.’
Paul is keen to emphasise that as far as salvation is concerned, ‘There is no difference between Jew and Gentile’ (v.12a). It is ‘the same Lord [Jesus, who] is Lord of all, and richly blesses all who call on him, for, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved”’ (vv.12b–13).
It is of utmost importance, therefore, that we tell people the good news about Jesus. People cannot call on the name of the Lord unless they believe. They cannot believe unless they hear. They cannot hear unless someone tells them. People will not tell them unless they are sent (vv.14–15). It is an amazing privilege to be sent out to tell people. ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!’ (v.15).
It is not enough simply to be a member of the race of Israel (anymore than it is enough now to be born in a Christian country). Paul demonstrates this by quoting Moses and Isaiah. Not all believed. Some were disobedient and obstinate (v.21).
The answer to the question, “Has God rejected his people?”, is, “No, no, no” (11:1–4). ‘The rejection of Israel is only partial. There always has been and always will be a remnant. Paul was an example of that truth (v.1).
Paul refers to Elijah (who was depressed after Mount Carmel) saying, ‘I am the only one left.’ God says, in effect, ‘Cheer up, I kept for myself seven thousand people who have not bowed the knee to Baal.’ It is all of grace (v.6). Paul says, ‘So too, at the present time there is a remnant chosen by grace. And if by grace, then it is no longer by works; if it were, grace would no longer be grace’ (vv.5–6).
Lord, thank you that everyone who calls on your name will be saved. Thank you that there is no greater privilege than being sent out to tell others. Help us to raise up and send out those who bring good news to Jew and Gentile alike.
3. Put your faith in the Lord
1 Chronicles 2:18-4:8God created us to live in a relationship with him. Until we find that relationship, there will always be something missing in our lives.
God loves us and wants us to find fulfilment and purpose in that relationship. That is why worship of God is central to our lives and it is the backbone of the book of Chronicles. Faithful worship is what matters most of all.
God is faithful to you. He calls you to be faithful to him. Unfaithfulness leads to trouble.
In this passage the chronicler continues his introduction to the people of Israel. The list of the kings of Judah (3:10–16) is almost like the index to the books. Much of 1 Chronicles is devoted to King David – who is held up as an example of true worship and faithfulness to God.
One of the great themes of the Book of Chronicles is the importance of this faith in the Lord. He is going to demonstrate that not all the people of Israel were faithful.
You may feel very isolated and alone at times. It may appear that there are not many believers around you. But there always remains a remnant who have faith in God.
This is one of the key messages throughout the Book of Chronicles. ‘Have faith in the Lord your God and you will be upheld; have faith in his prophets and you will be successful’ (2 Chronicles 20:20).
Lord, thank you that you always keep a remnant. Help us not to be disheartened but rather to go on spreading the good news of Jesus.
‘Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.’
It’s as simple as that.