1 Kings 16:29-34 – Which Comes First? Cultural Relevancy or God’s Word?

Posted: February 12, 2019 in 11-1 Kings

1 Kings 16:29-34

Ahab Begins His Reign in Israel

The church today stands at a crossroads. We no longer have the influence over American society that we once enjoyed. You look back at photos of past generations and so many of the photos are at church functions. In my parents generation and before, the church was the center of community. However, all of that has changed from my generation (I was born right at the end of the Baby Boomer era) forward. The church is seen as a fringe element of society today by the broader American society. There are now a full three generations of families that have not attended church regularly or have not attended church at all. Biblical illiteracy within and without the church is at an all time high. Thus, understanding of basic Christian theology is at an all-time low. Within this context, thousands of church are shuttering their doors each year as past generations die off and there is no new life blood coming in. Meanwhile, there are some churches that are growing through use of modern styles of worship, dropping of denominational affiliations, and trying to be relevant to the society outside its doors.

The issue for the church is whether we make cultural relevancy the priority of making the differences between God’s Word and culture the priority. I am not saying that you have one at the exclusion of the other. Often, the choice is a matter of priorities. The question for churches today is whether we sacrifice the totality of God’s Word in order to get “butts in seats”. Do we water down the message of the Bible or avoid those contentious subjects altogether so that we can get people in our doors? Do we ignore where Scripture is clearly against things that have become acceptable in society over the past few generations. It’s not that the culture thinks things have degraded morally. The culture generally feels that we have evolved beyond the mysticism and prohibitions of the Bible. Through church up against that and we are often seen as old and out of date and not in-step with society. That’s the real perception whether it is warranted or not. When you have generations of families who have never been to church regularly, if at all, who are they going to listen to about the church. Yes, the culture around them. So, the way that many churches have gotten butts in seats is to water down the difficult parts of the Bible that require us to examine our sin nature. The culture wants not to hear that we are all sinners in need of supernatural intervention from God through His Son Jesus Christ. They want to hear that Jesus was just a man. They want to hear that he was a rebel against authority. They want to hear that you can make yourself better through following the teachings of the greatest self-help guru of all, Jesus Christ, the man, the philosopher, the anti-establishment rebel. They want to hear that all roads lead to heaven. They want to hear that everybody is generally good and gets to go to heaven.

They do not want to hear that we cannot shed our sin nature and we need external help from God through the sacrifice of His Son Jesus Christ. They do not want to have grow in a relationship with Jesus Christ. Sanctification requires sometimes a painful maturing process as the Holy Spirit reveals to us our deepest, darkest, and most hidden flaws. They don’t want to hear that God calls us to do difficult things to spread the gospel that we may not want to do.

That’s the crossroads this morning. Do we seek culturally relevancy so that we can simply fill the churches or do we do it the hard way – against the tide. Do we do it one on one with our neighbors as church members rather than relying on our pastors to do it all? Do we love people in uncommon and unusual and sometimes difficult ways just so that the gospel seed can be planted in their lives? Do we challenge our people with God’s Word and let the see the differences between God’s way and the culture’s way? Do we seek the lost not just through special events but through training our people to reach out to the world around them with message of Jesus Christ everyday in their everyday lives? Do we grow our people up to minister to the world around them? Or do we pacify them with a light form of the gospel that tickles their ears but does not change them? Or do we begin the metamorphosis of what was once Christianity into something more reflective of the desires and beliefs of the culture?

That was the thing this morning that I thought of as I read about the introduction of Ahab and Jezebel in 1 Kings 16:29-34. Ahab conformed his own belief system, whatever was left of it by his generation’s arrival on the scene of Israel, to that of his new bride, Jezebel. In order to make her happy, he allowed idolatry to become the norm in Israel. He rationalized away his Jewish past and accepted what the culture had put before him – a beautiful woman who worshiped other gods. That’s the choice the church has today. Do we conform to the culture or do we do the harder thing, change the culture from the inside out? Let’s read about Ahab and Jezebel now:

29 Ahab son of Omri began to rule over Israel in the thirty-eighth year of King Asa’s reign in Judah. He reigned in Samaria twenty-two years. 30 But Ahab son of Omri did what was evil in the Lord’s sight, even more than any of the kings before him. 31 And as though it were not enough to follow the sinful example of Jeroboam, he married Jezebel, the daughter of King Ethbaal of the Sidonians, and he began to bow down in worship of Baal. 32 First Ahab built a temple and an altar for Baal in Samaria. 33 Then he set up an Asherah pole. He did more to provoke the anger of the Lord, the God of Israel, than any of the other kings of Israel before him.

34 It was during his reign that Hiel, a man from Bethel, rebuilt Jericho. When he laid its foundations, it cost him the life of his oldest son, Abiram. And when he completed it and set up its gates, it cost him the life of his youngest son, Segub.[a] This all happened according to the message from the Lord concerning Jericho spoken by Joshua son of Nun.

In this passage, we see the first mention of Jezebel. She was from the Phoenician city of Tyre where her father had been a high priest and eventually king. Jezebel worshiped the god, Baal. In order to please her, Ahab built a temple and an altar for Baal (1 Kings 16:32), thus promoting idolatry and leading the entire nation into sin.

Earlier, we were talking about the church in general and the choice that it has to make? We have to make it too as Christian individuals too. We must choose between the easy road of melding our belief system with that of the culture or staying true to God’s Word even when it calls us to make difficult choices. It’s like the choices we had in the school yard of either joining in with the crowd making fun of a “different” child or standing beside that child and defending him against the jeering crowd.

Father, help us to find churches that will lay out God’s Word in all its beauty and its cutting edges. Help us to find churches that will challenge us to go deeper with Jesus Christ and see Him as the Lord of our lives and not as a self-help philosopher. Help us to find churches that will teach us the full Bible, even the controversial and tough topics in comparison the beliefs of culture. Help us to see that we, individually, need to be ministers of God’s Word every day. Help us to see that God’s Way is not always the easy way or the culturally popular way. Help us to see the difference between pleasing God and seeking His eternal reward rather than seeking temporary acceptance and approval on this side of heaven, a place that is temporal and temporary.

Amen and Amen.

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