We’re All Guilty – December 19, 2017

I wish I could think of a better or more positive-sounding title, but this one about sums up the lesson I took from 2 Kings, Chapter 10.

Honestly, this was a hard chapter to read and an even harder chapter to write about because I think of God as a loving, merciful God, who sent Jesus to save us, but sometimes I forget just how holy He is, and the magnitude of what He saved me from.

The beginning of the chapter tells us that wicked Ahab had seventy sons in Samaria.  King Jehu wrote letters to the rulers of Jezreel, to the elders, and to those who had reared Ahab’s sons, challenging them to a fight.  His letter reads:

“Now as soon as this letter comes to you, since your master’s sons are with you, and you have chariots and horses, a fortified city also, and weapons, choose the best qualified of your master’s sons, set him on his father’s throne, and fight for your master’s house. (vv 2-3).”

But the text goes on to say that the rulers and elders were afraid of a battle with the king, so they acquiesced, saying, “We are your servants, we will do all you tell us; but we will not make anyone king.  Do what is good in your sight (v 5).”

So King Jehu writes them another letter, saying, “If you are for me and will obey my voice, take the heads of the men, your master’s sons, and come to me at Jezreel by this time tomorrow (v 6).”

Was Jehu expecting the elders and rulers to actually do what he asked?  I’m not sure, but the sarcastic tone of the first letter suggests that he may have been upping the challenge to battle, perhaps thinking that they would appoint themselves a king from Ahab’s sons and go to war with him.  Then again, maybe he knew they wouldn’t.

Regardless of Jehu’s intent, the rulers and elders were more than willing to kill Ahab’s sons in order to save their own skin.  This, even though some of them had helped raise Ahab’s sons!

They slaughtered Ahab’s seventy sons, put their heads in baskets and sent them to Jezreel  (v 7).

Jehu made a speech the following morning.  He said, “You are righteous.  Indeed I conspired against my master and killed him; but who killed all these?  Know now that nothing shall fall to the earth of the word of the Lord which the Lord spoke concerning the house of Ahab; for the Lord has done what He spoke by His servant Elijah.”  The story goes on to tell us that Jehu killed the rest of Ahab’s family,  acquainances and priests.  Then later, he killed the remaining members of Ahab’s family in Samaria (vv 11-17).

This part gave me pause for a minute.  If God is loving and merciful and good, how could He possibly sanction such a massacre?

Well, to understand,  we have to get to the bottom of the reason God was angry at Ahab and his family.  They were not nice people.   They were Baal-worshipers who practiced and condoned the practice of rituals such as sacrificing of children in the fire, ritual prostitution,  and other terribly heinous, lewd and violent acts.  Not only had they turned their backs on God, but they were responsible for the slaughter and destruction of innocent lives, whether they participated in it directly,  or whether they condoned, encouraged and allowed it.

Not only this, but God had sent Elijah to warn Ahab that he was only bringing destruction to himself by participating in Baal worship (1 Kings 17-18).  Think about it, even after all that he had done, Ahab could’ve changed the course of his fate by turning from the idolatry and heinousness of Baal worship, and choosing to follow the Lord.  God had a multitude of patience with him and gave him a chance to put a stop to the awful things that were happening, but Ahab wouldn’t listen.

This story gets even sadder, as we shall see.  Jehu ultimately destroyed the temple of Baal and all of its worshipers, thus putting an end to the atrocities as the Lord had warned Ahab to do earlier.

God said to Jehu, “Because you have done well in doing what is right in My sight, and have done to the house of Ahab all that was in My heart, your sons shall sit on the throne of Israel to the fourth generation.”  It goes on to say that “Jehu took no heed to walk in the law of the Lord God of Israel with all his heart; for he did not depart from the sins of Jeroboam, who had made Israel sin (vv 30-31).”

What was the sin?  It was allowing the golden calves that were still at Bethel and Dan.  Basically,  he got rid of one system of idolatry and allowed and condoned another.  He knew God’s truth and exchanged it for a lie.

I started thinking how this applies to us in the present day.  Our actions have consequences.  We can choose to squander our health with addiction,  unhealthy habits, reckless behavior, etc and the end result is years of life lost and pain to those we love.  We can choose to commit a crime and be put to death or serve time in prison.  We can choose to turn away from the Lord and miss out on the untold joy and blessings that come with choosing to follow Him.

The bad news is that we’re all guilty of disobeying God in some form or another.  How many times have I, have we, hurt others out of selfishness, anger, pride?  But the good news is we have Someone who loves us so much that He saw humanity, even in our worst moments, as lost sheep that need a Shepherd.

After the reign of Jehu, Israel continued to get worse.  The world continued to get worse.  Sound familiar today?  There is no way politics was ever going to change people’s hearts.  Humans would still, and do still, operate from selfishness and sin a lot of the time.

God knew we needed more than an earthly king.  He knew we needed divine redemption.  He knew we needed forgiveness. He knew we needed One who could break the chains of destruction and sin in our lives.  He knew we needed hope.  He knew we needed Jesus.

Do you know that He loves You so much that He is willing and able to help you, right now, to have a clean slate, a fresh start?  No matter where you are in life or geographically, no matter how far down you have gone, no matter what you’ve done?  Like Ahab, He loves us so much, He is calling us – calling us to follow Him.

If you’ve never heard the good news, let me tell you.  See, God knows we’re guilty. He knows that no matter how hard we try we’ll never be perfect.  But because He’s holy, atonement is required for our sin.  See, that’s why Jesus stepped down from Heaven and came and endured ridicule, scorn, being cold, hungry, and ultimately nailed to the cross.  He did it willingly.  No one forced Him to.  He could’ve said, “Nope, never mind.  Those people just aren’t worth it.”  Oh, but friend, He loved us so much He didn’t want to leave us like this.  He thought you and I, even with all our mess, were worth suffering and dying for.  Then, after He gave His life for us, He rose from the dead after three days and promised to prepare a place for us in Heaven, a wonderful place where there won’t be any more sorrow or tears.  And He doesn’t leave us here on earth like He found us either.  He came to break those chains of sin that hold us back, whether they are addiction, anger,  fear, whatever they are, He promises to change us and never leave us, to walk us through this life and on into the next.  He said, “The thief [Satan] does not come except to steal, and to kill and destroy.  I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly” (John 10:10).

But like Ahab, like Jehu, we have a choice.  We can say yes or we can say no and turn away.  But He promises that if we accept His gift of forgiveness, salvation and hope, He won’t let us down.  “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him will not perish, but have everlasting life (John 3:16).”

Father, I thank You for Your wonderful Gift of grace.  I pray that I would honor You with my actions.  I know I sin on a daily basis, Lord, but I thank You that You never leave me, and I’m sorry for the ways in which I fail.  I know I could never repay the debt of love I owe You.  I just come to You with a humble, grateful heart and I thank You, Father, for Jesus and for my salvation.  I ask that You show me anything in my heart that is not honoring to you and help me to change it.  I want to be faithful, I want to follow You.  I pray for anyone reading this who has never known You or Your great love and mercy, that they would make the decision to put their faith in You, Lord, and therein find hope and forgiveness.  Help us all to know You more.  In Jesus name, Amen.

 

 

 

The Dreaded Word “Submit” – December 17, 2017

I believe one of the hardest lessons in this life to learn is obedience.  It starts when we’re young.  As soon as a toddler learns the word ‘no’ it becomes his or her favorite word.  As a wife, the Bible calls me to submit to my husband.  Ouch.  It is still a struggle for me because I have a strong personality.

Now, before I get hate comments from wives on here, let me preface this by saying I don’t think submit means to grovel or to put up with physical abuse.  Jesus was a great example of what pure submission out of love for and obedience to the Father looks like.  For Him, it was doing the hard things, sacrificing His own comfort, and surrendering His will in order to save the people He loves and thus also obey the Father He loves.  He willingly left Heaven in order to come and suffer in this fallen, sinful human world in order to redeem His creation.

In Chapter 1 of the book of Esther, we read about King Ahaseurus, who reigned over several provinces, from India to Ethiopia (v.1).  He first threw a six month long feast for the nobles, then afterward, a seven-day feast for all of the people in Shushan.  Queen Vashti also threw a feast for the women of the royal palace.

The story continues, “On the seventh day, when the heart of the king was merry with wine, he commanded Mehuman, Biztha, Harbona, Bigtha, Abagtha, Zethar, and Carcas, seven eunuchs who served in the presence of King Ahasuerus, to bring Queen Vashti before the king, wearing her royal crown, in order to show her beauty to the people and the officials, for she was beautiful to behold.  But Queen Vashti refused to come at the king’s command brought by his eunuchs; therefore the king was furious, and his anger burned within him (vv 10-12).”

To be honest, when I read this, I really didn’t blame Vashti for being upset.  Her husband gets tipsy and then wants to parade her as his “arm candy” in front of all the people?  I might be pretty miffed too.  On the other hand, maybe he was proud of his wife and thought she was beautiful and wanted to introduce her to the people.

It made more sense when I read the next part.  The king apparently sought legal advice from the wise men on the matter, “and Memucan answered before the king and the princes:  ‘Queen Vashti has not only wronged the king, but also all the princes, and all the people who are in all the provinces of King Ahasuerus.  For the queen’s behavior will become known to all the women, so that they will despise their husbands in their eyes, when they report, “King Ahasuerus commanded Queen Vashti to be brought in before him, but she did not come.”  Thus there will be excessive contempt and wrath…'(vv 16-18).”

In this light it does make more sense, given Vashti’s position as Queen.  After all, her husband did not ask her to do anything that was immoral or disobedient to the Lord, he just wanted her to make an appearance before the people.  An equivalent example would be if the President was giving a banquet and the First Lady was ticked at him and refused to show up and everyone heard about it.  We’d be the laughingstock of the world.  And no, this is not a political statement,  just an example to illustrate the point that this account is making.

Because of her important position, her actions were disrespectful to and affected not just her husband, but the nobles and citizens of the entire community.

From my research, there are differing opinions as to exactly what the king’s intent was, and some contend that she was basically ordered to appear naked, which would then make her refusal completely justified.  But the Word doesn’t say anything like that that I could find.  It just says, “wearing her royal crown” to “show her beauty before the people and the officials.”  One would think wearing the crown means being in her full royal regalia, much like the Queen of England.

Assuming the latter is the case, then we can conclude that Vashti’s refusal was like a snub to the courtiers and citizens.  She ultimately lost her position as Queen because of this, and was later replaced by Esther.

The King could definitely be a cad, as Chapter 2 of Esther goes on to prove,  but I believe the greater lesson in this story is that we have all been placed by God into important positions.  I’m not a noble, but as a wife and mother, I’ve been placed into a position of influence over my children.  I also have influence with my husband, though I’m not in authority over him (even if I admittedly do act a little bossy sometimes!).  My children are watching how I treat their father.

Even more importantly, as Christians and as people, we influence those around us.  What would the world look like if we gave up our selfish desires more and thought of ourselves less and others more?  What if we were willing to obey God with all our hearts no matter what the cost, just because we love Him, just like Jesus did?  Submission isn’t such an awful word after all.

“Lord, I know that I am stubborn, and just plain pig-headed sometimes, and I’m sorry.  Please forgive me and help me to be more like You.  I pray that You would give me an obedient heart like Jesus, and that I would be willing to honor and serve You no matter the cost.  I pray that You would give me strength in this area, for it feels like I am weak.  Help me to serve You with a humble heart. I pray that others would see more of You in me, not for my glory, but for Yours, Father.  I pray that my children would see a mom who loves the Lord and lives it out with her actions, and that I would be a better, more loving wife as well.  I thank You Lord, that You’re still working in my life, and that You’re not done with me yet.  I praise You for You alone are worthy.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.”

 

Overcoming Doubt – December 16, 2017

Do you think of yourself as a Doubting Thomas or a person of faith?  I know I like to believe I am a person of faith, but doubt creeps in before I even realize it sometimes, and I find myself slipping into negative thinking and neglecting my time with God, which for me often leads little by little to impatience, a quick temper, worry, and trying to do things in my own strength rather than trusting in Him.  Then I find myself worn out, tired with a stomach ache and a million worries going, “Lord, help!”

I know I’m not the only one.  When I was reading Matthew 16, it hit me right between the eyes.  Jesus spoke about this very thing.

The Pharisees and the Sadducees, it seemed, also had a problem with doubt.  Verse 1 begins with the Pharisees and Sadducees testing Jesus and asking Him to show them a sign from heaven.  I thought to myself as I read this, how often do I do the very same thing?  “God, show me a sign!”

But Jesus refused. “He answered and said to them, ‘When it is evening you say, ”It will be fair weather, for the sky is red”; and in the morning, “It will be foul weather today, for the sky is red and threatening.”  Hypocrites!  You know how to discern the face of the sky but you cannot discern the sign of the times.  A wicked and adulterous generation seeks after a sign, and no sign shall be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah.’  And He left them and departed (vv 1-4).”

The Pharisees were so caught up in following laws and traditions that when the One that they had been waiting for was right there in front of them, they refused to believe it.  There had already been healings. Mute people speaking, lame people now able to walk, blind people being able to see (Matt. 15:29-31).  The Pharisees saw this and couldn’t believe that Jesus was the Messiah.  They couldn’t stomach the idea of a servant King.  In their minds,  He was supposed to solve the political problems of the day and establish an earthly rule.

The Sadducees on the other hand did not believe in an afterlife. Hence, they denied the resurrection.  From what I’ve read, they weren’t necessarily atheists, as they did believe in some tenets of the Torah with regard to the Law, but they largely denied the spiritual realm.  In essence, as they saw it, people are created, they’re born, then they die.  They too tested Jesus, asking for a sign.  Is it possible that deep down they were starting to doubt their own philosophy,  yet looking for a way to disprove it because it was easier to do that than to embrace change and the unknown?

Doesn’t it sometimes seem easier for us too to just try to reason things out on our own and “pull ourselves up by our bootstraps” than to trust God, who we can’t see?  Or to keep our blinders on because it’s easier to remain comfortable than to step out of our comfort zone and embrace change?

See, when first reading this, it’s easy for me to say about the Pharisees and Sadducees, “Were they blind?  Did they not see the miracles that Jesus was doing all around them?”

But, I need to ask myself the same question in my life when I start to doubt.  “Am I blind?  Do I not see all the miracles and changed lives because of Jesus?  Has He not answered many prayers and saved me?  Not just my soul, but rescuing me time and time again from myself.

What Jesus is getting at here is that the sign He gave them was Himself.  The sign He gives us is Himself.  His trip up the hill to Calvary, being crushed by the weight of the cross, then being nailed to that cross after having been mocked, beaten and suffering, and giving up His final breath on earth as He said, “It is finished.”  Then, just when His haters thought they had won, He rose from the dead so that now you and I can have eternal life too.  His very presence a sign in neon lights for sure!

Jesus talked with the disciples after the exchange with the Pharisees and Sadducees and explained how a little bit of false belief or doubt (in this instance the teachings of the Pharisees and Sadducees) can become a huge problem.  He likened it to the way that yeast makes bread rise (vv 5-12).

When those thoughts of doubt, worries and stresses creep in, what I need most is more time with Jesus.  Somehow, when I talk to the One who is in charge of miracles, I find that He changes me.

“Thank You Father, for Your Word, and for exactly what I needed to read today.  Help me to remember You are more than enough, and that You are more than able.  Forgive me for many times trying to figure things out on my own, and sometimes acting like I don’t need You.  I do, Lord, I do need You desperately, every day, every hour.  Forgive me for the times when I doubt.  You proved Yourself faithful 2000 years ago, and You’re still faithful Lord.  I pray for anyone reading this who may not yet have trusted You.  I pray that they will ask You into their heart and life and that You will change them in a great way, that they will truly know Your precious gift of forgiveness and salvation by grace.  Change me too, Lord.  Make me more like You.  I love You, Father.  In Jesus name, Amen.