Archive for July, 2019

2 Kings 12:1-16 (Part 1 of 3)

Joash Repairs the Temple

In today’s blog, I got stuck on Verse 3 of the passage. Joash did much good as we see in the passage but he didn’t take on the ingrained problem. He did not take on the practice of people offering sacrifices, even if they were to the Lord, in the pagan shrines scattered around Judah. He did not take on the toughest problem. He did not take on the issue of syncretism. That’s a five-dollar word that means combining religious beliefs from various religions to create a new or altered belief system. Joash didn’t know what to do or chose to do nothing about the fact that the nation as a whole was no longer truly worshiping God. They were fashioning their own religion from God and from the surrounding man-made pagan religions of the Middle Eastern region of the time.

That is the essence of the world in which live today as well. We see a new religion emerging where God only loves us. He has no justice about Him. There are no longer any standards by which we are to live our lives. We have redefined love as accepting anything and everything. Because that is what God wants. God wants us to be happy and content and fulfilled. With that type of God, He is concerned with our happiness, our contentment, our fulfillment. He is there to make sure that we are fully self-actualized. Anything that impedes me from growing into the fully flowered individual that God intended me to be is bigotry and hatred. Because – God just wants me to be happy. With God wanting me to be happy, then, anything that I do that makes me happy is thus acceptable to God. The catch is that we define what makes us happy. Thus, we make ourselves God in this modern day religion that is emerging in America. Further, what makes me happy is OK with God and thus we redefine what His Word says as well. In this religion, we must tolerate all things and if you do not you are intolerant, bigoted, and backwards.

On the opposite end of the scale, there are those who claim to be Christian who are against everything and raise certain sins above others and demonize them. We have Christians who think certain sins enunciated as sins in the Bible are worse than others and will not engage in meaningful conversations with those who actively participate in those sins (see new religion description in previous paragraph). To these extremists, we select who the gospel can be shared with. We define who God loves and who He does not.

This world in which we have fashioned our own versions of worshipping God here in the 21st century is what I thought of when I got stuck on Verse 3 of this passage this morning. I thought of how Joash didn’t really address the main problem of syncretism in the Judean society. He made reforms with the true worship of God at the Temple but he did not really address what was going on in the nation. It is that idea of fashioning our own versions of Christianity here in the 21st century that stuck in my mind as I read through this passage, 2 Kings 12:1-16. Let’s read it now:

Chapter 12

1 [a]Joash[b] began to rule over Judah in the seventh year of King Jehu’s reign in Israel. He reigned in Jerusalem forty years. His mother was Zibiah from Beersheba. 2 All his life Joash did what was pleasing in the Lord’s sight because Jehoiada the priest instructed him. 3 Yet even so, he did not destroy the pagan shrines, and the people still offered sacrifices and burned incense there.

4 One day King Joash said to the priests, “Collect all the money brought as a sacred offering to the Lord’s Temple, whether it is a regular assessment, a payment of vows, or a voluntary gift. 5 Let the priests take some of that money to pay for whatever repairs are needed at the Temple.”

6 But by the twenty-third year of Joash’s reign, the priests still had not repaired the Temple. 7 So King Joash called for Jehoiada and the other priests and asked them, “Why haven’t you repaired the Temple? Don’t use any more money for your own needs. From now on, it must all be spent on Temple repairs.” 8 So the priests agreed not to accept any more money from the people, and they also agreed to let others take responsibility for repairing the Temple.

9 Then Jehoiada the priest bored a hole in the lid of a large chest and set it on the right-hand side of the altar at the entrance of the Temple of the Lord. The priests guarding the entrance put all of the people’s contributions into the chest. 10 Whenever the chest became full, the court secretary and the high priest counted the money that had been brought to the Lord’s Temple and put it into bags. 11 Then they gave the money to the construction supervisors, who used it to pay the people working on the Lord’s Temple—the carpenters, the builders, 12 the masons, and the stonecutters. They also used the money to buy the timber and the finished stone needed for repairing the Lord’s Temple, and they paid any other expenses related to the Temple’s restoration.

13 The money brought to the Temple was not used for making silver bowls, lamp snuffers, basins, trumpets, or other articles of gold or silver for the Temple of the Lord. 14 It was paid to the workmen, who used it for the Temple repairs. 15 No accounting of this money was required from the construction supervisors, because they were honest and trustworthy men. 16 However, the money that was contributed for guilt offerings and sin offerings was not brought into the Lord’s Temple. It was given to the priests for their own use.

In this passage, for today’s blog, we must look at the fact that Joash did not go far enough in removing sin from the nation, but he did much that was good and right. The Israelites were supposed to offer sacrifices to God only in designated areas under supervision of the priests, not just anywhere (see Deuteronomy 12:13-14). Making sacrifices in the shrines scattered around the country copied pagan customs and encouraged other pagan practices to enter their worship. By blending these beliefs, people were custom-making their religion, and it led them far away from God.

Here in the 21st century, we as true Christians must realize that we have done a poor job sharing the gospel in the last 50 years. We have done a poor job of meeting people where they are at. We have demonized people who believe differently than we do and have written them off. We have taken an us vs. them mentality in modern day Christianity. We have defined who is worth sharing the gospel with. I think that our Savior said, “Go and make disciples!” He did not qualify who we were to share it with.

Further, it is our responsibility to engage those that believe differently from us in ways that “meet them where they are at!” We do not, of course, compromise God’s Word in the process. We stand firm on His timeless Word, but we do not own what it says. We do not define who it can be shared with. We must encounter those of this modern syncretist movement in ways that they will understand and encounter them with the truth of the Bible. How we do that will determine if there is a revival of Christianity in America or whether we will further recede into the woodwork. How we do that will determine if churches will continue to close. How we do that will determine whether true Christianity survives.

We must realize that Christianity and all religion is seen as irrelevant and intolerant today. That’s why people have fashioned their own religion. We must do the hard work of the going. We must do the hard work of making disciples. We must encounter people whose beliefs are opposite of ours with the gospel message. It is this time in history where being a Christian in America is no longer going to be easy. It’s going to get harder and harder.

Are we up for the big game of going and making disciples in a world that no longer sees us as necessary and thinks of us as irrelevant? Are we up for encountering people with the truth of the gospel in love and not us vs. them? Are we willing to do the tough work, the hard work, the get out of our comfort zone to spread the gospel work? Am I? Are you?

Amen and Amen.

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2 Kings 11:17-21

Jehoiada’s Religious Reforms in Judah

We have seen it happen before in Methodist churches! In the United Methodist Church, we have what is called an intinerate system where there is agreement between the larger state or regional state convention (called conferences) and the local United Methodist churches. In this system, every church that is part of the conference is guaranteed a pastor and every pastor that is part of the conference is guaranteed a church within that conference. Each church is subject to directives of the regional or state conference as a result of the conference providing it with collective resources such as providing each chuch with a pastor. It is system that has been in place in the United Methodist Church in its various forms since the late 1700s. It has worked well for the most part.

We have seen it before in Southern Baptist churches. In their call system, each church is individually responsible for filling its pulpit. Though each Baptist church is part of a regional Baptist association and usually a state Baptist convention, they are responsible for finding their own pastors. Each Baptist church is autonomous in its governance including finding its own pastor. It is a system that has appealed to Baptists for several centuries in America. These are opposite approaches to finding pastors and to local church governance.

We have seen it before in independent churches that are becoming increasingly popular in the late 20th century and now here in the 21st century. These are usually churches that are founded by a charismatic pastor and are often less traditional and more modern in worship styles than the older denominational churches. They are centered around the founding pastor. After they reach a certain size, the founding pastor often creates an accountability board of some sort. But the church is governed by the founding pastor and his staff. It is a different approach that has worked well in many cases.

What is it that we have seen? Even in the traditional denominational models we have seen it and we have certainly seen it in the modern founding pastor governed churches. What is it that we have seen? It is when churches become focused around a pastor. We have seen it much more in the founding pastor/modern church model. But it can happen in the traditional denominational church model, too. Churches can take off and grow rapidly when it has a charismatic leader. It is certainly the fleshly dream of pastors to watch a church explode in growth while he is the pastor of that church. That is just a fleshly human response to see a church take off while you are the pastor of that church.

It is that idea of the danger of churches being focused around the pastor that came to mind this morning as I read about this priest who reformed the worship of Judah when the king was just a 7 year old kid. He reformed the people ideas about God and about idol worship and it looked like Judah was on its way back to God. Let’s read the passage, 2 King 11:17-21 now with this idea in mind:

17 Then Jehoiada made a covenant between the Lord and the king and the people that they would be the Lord’s people. He also made a covenant between the king and the people. 18 And all the people of the land went over to the temple of Baal and tore it down. They demolished the altars and smashed the idols to pieces, and they killed Mattan the priest of Baal in front of the altars.

Jehoiada the priest stationed guards at the Temple of the Lord. 19 Then the commanders, the Carite mercenaries, the palace guards, and all the people of the land escorted the king from the Temple of the Lord. They went through the gate of the guards and into the palace, and the king took his seat on the royal throne. 20 So all the people of the land rejoiced, and the city was peaceful because Athaliah had been killed at the king’s palace.

21 [a]Joash[b] was seven years old when he became king.

In this passage, we see that Jehoiada was the priest that made things happen. He encouraged them to return to God and leave their idol worshipping ways. It was a great time for those who had longed to see revival in Judah. For over a hundred years, Judah had become lackadaisical at best in their worship of the one true God. They had fallen in to idol worship of the pagan god, Baal. They had combined idol worship with lip service to the one true God. They were doing what the world around them was doing, idol worship, and yet saying they were God’s people. Then along comes Jehoiada and re-energizes the people for the Lord. They tear down the pagan idols and the temples associated with them. I bet attendance at temple gatherings skyrocketed. It was a grand time of revival for the people of God. However, as we shall see in the coming passages, it was short-lived. After Jehoiada’s death, all the reforms to the religious life of Judah ended and the people returned to their old ways of combining pagan idol worship with worship of the one true God. Apparently, Jehoiada was the focus of the resurgence and not God himself and Jehoiada did not spend time ensuring that the revival would survive after he was gone.

That’s what I was talking about earlier when I was talking about what can happen and we have seen it happen in denominational and independent churches alike. Churches that explode in growth because of a charismatic leader. Then something happens, a pastor moves, retires, dies, or has some moral failure and the church implodes or drops off to something way less than it once was a the height of that pastor’s tenure at the church. When the pastor becomes the center of the church then whatever growth, whatever spiritual revival is caused, cannot be maintained.

We as pastors can never make the church about us. We must always keep the focus on Jesus Christ and always keep developing the church’s leadership that when we leave the church has been prepared for that. In the Methodist Church, we must build our churches to be focused on what churches are in business for rather than making ourselves the center of the focus. Churches are in the business of attracting people far from God to the saving grace of Jesus Christ and then once there disciple them into deeper and deeper relationships with Jesus. In the Methodist Church, we should develop our churches so that when the next pastor is assigned to it and we move away that the church not only survives but thrives. We must have the attitude that we are laying the bricks for the next pastor. We must have the attitude that we point the congregation toward Jesus and not ourselves. Baptist, Presbyterian, non-denominational, all other churches must have the same attitude.

We as pastors must ensure that we build leadership teams of people that are hungry for Jesus Christ and are hungry to see the world impacted by Christ from their local church. It should never be that the first thing people say about your church is who the pastor is. The first thing that should be said about your church is that, “Man, that church really loves Jesus. They are the most loving people I have ever heard of.” That is not often the case in churches focused around a charismatic pastor. We should be building leadership teams that will continue loving the world around them in the name of Jesus regardless of whether we are the pastors or not and somebody else steps into the pulpit.

That’s the lesson for me after reading this passage and knowing what comes after it in 2 Kings. Things made a resurgence under Jehoiada but they fell off and returned to the old ways after he passed away. He did not ensure that he was developing leaders underneath him that would carry on the reforms he was making. He did not ensure the survival of the revival. We as pastors must make sure that we make everything about Jesus and not us. We as pastors must make sure that we develop leadership within our churches so that whatever momentum we create while we are pastors of our churches will survive and continue after we are gone, retired or dead. We must ensure the survival of the revival.

Amen and Amen.

2 Kings 11:4-16

Revolt Against Athaliah & Her Death

I was reading an article on Thursday that stated 67% of all American churches have 125 people or less in attendance for Sunday worship. It is the standard not the exception. Although the megachurch gets all the headlines, the standard size church in America has 125 or less in attendance on Sundays. It is true that it is the megachurch segment that is the growing segment of Christianity and it is there that all the unique strategies for growth are taking place. However, it is the norm in America for us to attend smaller churches, but it is the smaller churches that are the ones that are stagnant or declining in attendance. Here are the stats for American church sizes and their weekly worship attendance:

Smaller Standard 0 to 49 40% of churches in America
Larger Standard 50 to 124 27% of churches in America
Mid 125 to 249 18% of churches in America
Large 250 to 499 8% of churches in America
Very Large 500 to 999 4% of churches in America
Mid Mega 1,000 to 1,999 2% of churches in America
Mega 2,000+ in worship attendance Less than ½ of 1%

Where does your church fall in this graph? The church that I just became the pastor of about 3 weeks ago falls in the Larger Standard category. One of the issues that I and the leadership team must deal with at our church is the aging of our church. I will tell you that, although I have been here only about two and a half weeks, I already know that our church is one of the most loving churches that I have encountered. They have made us feel loved from the moment that we, my wife and I, set foot on the soil of this town. So, it is not that the people of our church are trying to keep people out of their church. It is quite the opposite. They see the “graying of their church”! We, our church, is getting older. We see it. Everybody knows it. However, no one knows what to do. And that is the state of many standard-sized churches today.

The first thing that standard-sized churches must do is recognize that the church will not survive unless we first recognize that there is a problem. The problem is most standard-sized churches today is that there is a distinct lack of families with small children. That is, a distinct lack of couples whose average age is 40 years old or less. And we are not alone in this issue. Every church our size or smaller is dealing with this very same issue. We see the lack of children in our churches, but its root cause is the lack of families with small children. How do we attract Generation X parents will younger Millennial children, and older Millennials who are now parents of Generation Z children? My new church sees the graying of it rank and file members. The thing that will determine our success or failure, the survival of our church or its death at some point in the next 25-50 years, is what we do about it.

It is strange to think that the Holy Spirit brought this issue to mind when I read this passage, 2 Kings 11:4-16, but that’s what happened. The fact that the rightful king was kept under wraps for 6 years while the evil queen had her murderous reign made me think, the Holy Spirit made me think, of the state of standard-sized churches in America. Let’s read the passage now and then we will jump into the reasons why the passage is connected to the problem that we see in standard-sized churches in America:

4 In the seventh year of Athaliah’s reign, Jehoiada the priest summoned the commanders, the Carite mercenaries, and the palace guards to come to the Temple of the Lord. He made a solemn pact with them and made them swear an oath of loyalty there in the Lord’s Temple; then he showed them the king’s son.

5 Jehoiada told them, “This is what you must do. A third of you who are on duty on the Sabbath are to guard the royal palace itself. 6 Another third of you are to stand guard at the Sur Gate. And the final third must stand guard behind the palace guard. These three groups will all guard the palace. 7 The other two units who are off duty on the Sabbath must stand guard for the king at the Lord’s Temple. 8 Form a bodyguard around the king and keep your weapons in hand. Kill anyone who tries to break through. Stay with the king wherever he goes.”

9 So the commanders did everything as Jehoiada the priest ordered. The commanders took charge of the men reporting for duty that Sabbath, as well as those who were going off duty. They brought them all to Jehoiada the priest, 10 and he supplied them with the spears and small shields that had once belonged to King David and were stored in the Temple of the Lord. 11 The palace guards stationed themselves around the king, with their weapons ready. They formed a line from the south side of the Temple around to the north side and all around the altar.

12 Then Jehoiada brought out Joash, the king’s son, placed the crown on his head, and presented him with a copy of God’s laws.[a] They anointed him and proclaimed him king, and everyone clapped their hands and shouted, “Long live the king!”

13 When Athaliah heard the noise made by the palace guards and the people, she hurried to the Lord’s Temple to see what was happening. 14 When she arrived, she saw the newly crowned king standing in his place of authority by the pillar, as was the custom at times of coronation. The commanders and trumpeters were surrounding him, and people from all over the land were rejoicing and blowing trumpets. When Athaliah saw all this, she tore her clothes in despair and shouted, “Treason! Treason!”

15 Then Jehoiada the priest ordered the commanders who were in charge of the troops, “Take her to the soldiers in front of the Temple,[a] and kill anyone who tries to rescue her.” For the priest had said, “She must not be killed in the Temple of the Lord.” 16 So they seized her and led her out to the gate where horses enter the palace grounds, and she was killed there.

In this passage, we see that the rightful heir to the throne was kept under wraps in the Temple by the priests. He was kept in the Temple for fear that he would be killed by the evil queen, Athaliah. She had killed all other potential heirs to the throne and almost brought the lineage of Davidic kings in Judah to an end. One reason Athaliah was able to reign for six years was that no one knew any alternative. Many people live under the reign of Satan because they don’t really know there is a legitimate king ready to take reign in their lives. The second thing you notice about this passage is that the rightful heir to the throne, Joash, had to come with the Word of God. Joash appeared before the people holding the scrolls of God’s Word. He had to come out of the Temple for them to know that He was king.

That’s the thing that struck a chord with me this morning through the Holy Spirit’s guidance of how this passage relates to my life and the lives of Christ followers in the 21st century. The tie-in to my intro to the text is this: We have kept the message of Christ under wraps in our churches for far too long. The reason we see no young couples in the 40 and under age range is that we have kept the Good News under wraps inside the Temple. We have kept Jesus under wraps. We have kept Jesus inside the temple. No longer do we live in society that is actively Christian. We can no longer afford to take the Field of Dreams approach, “Build it and he will come!” We are now into 2nd and 3rd generations of families who have never darkened the door of a church, do not know anyone who goes to church, and have any real concept of what Jesus is really all about. There are children in our communities whose parents and grandparents never mention the word Jesus, ever. That’s the world in which we live now. We can no longer take the Field of Dreams approach and wait for them to come to us.

One of the movies that I have to admit is a chick-flick, The American President, starring Michael Douglas and Annette Bening. It’s a really good movie that deserved greater attention than it got when it was released in 1995. It is in an overarching sense a romantic movie featuring the troubles of Michael Douglas’ and Annette Bening’s characters to have a romantic relationship while he is President and she is a political lobbyist. However, it has a real feel to it about what it is like inside the White House – about the President’s personal life in the White House but also an amazingly accurate look at the work of being President, the wheeling and dealing, the prioritization of initiatives, international diplomacy, and the insanity of the volume of things a President has to deal with on a daily basis. Awesome movie. One movie that Elena and I both agree on and will watch together every time it is on.

The reason that I bring it up is there are quotes aplenty in this movie that are timeless and useful elsewhere. I dip into that well now when we speak of why our Field of Dreams approach in churches is no longer valid. Here’s the quote,

They don’t have a choice! Bob Rumson is the only one doing the talking! People want leadership, Mr. President, and in the absence of genuine leadership, they’ll listen to anyone who steps up to the microphone.

We can no longer keep Jesus under wraps in the temple and expect people to come to us. We are not stepping up to the microphone – we are not going out into the world and engaging the unchurched. In the absence of that, they will listen to any philosophies and man-made pseudo religions that are making the most noise. We can no longer afford to stay inside the temple and wish that they will come. 2nd and 3rd generation unchurched folk do not feel compelled to come to us.

Another connection between the passage and the current day is that Athaliah was allowed to reign for 6 years because the people knew no other alternatives. They did not know that there was a rightful king hiding in the temple. It was only when the rightful king came outside the temple with the scrolls of God’s Word in his hands that the Judeans knew he was alive and knew that he was king. That’s the challenge for us as standard-sized churches. We must get outside the walls of the church and meet the unchurched where they are at. All of us at one time or another were far from God and somebody met us where we were at, outside the church, and cared enough about our eternity to share the gospel with us. That’s the approach we have to take as churches. We must let the world know that we are alive. We must come out of the temple and let them know we are alive and why God’s Word is meaningful to their lives. They will not come to the temple unless we go outside the temple and engage them in uniquely loving ways that will draw them to the Word of God. We have to engage them, get to know them, meet them where they are at, so that they know who and what Jesus is and why they really do need Him.

Let us be that church that not just survives but one that thrives. I think my church can do it. There is a willingness there. We just need to focus our willingness on the actions we want to take that are unique to our locale and our situation. We can do this! So can your church! We must shed the Field of Dreams approach and take the gospel outside the temple so that they know there is an alternative to what the evil queen is offering.

Amen and Amen.

2 Kings 11:1-3

Queen Athaliah Rules in Judah

A couple of days ago, I read an article online at Yahoo News about the miracle of a Bible that survived a car fire. Although the car was completely gutted by a fire that started in the engine of the car, a Bible that was in the car survived the fire completely unscathed. Some called it a freak occurrence. I called it a miracle of God to preserve His Word in an evil, fallen, imperfect world. It is not the first time that I have heard of Bibles surviving fires. God will protect His Word.

Over the centuries, God has ensured that His Word has survived in tact. God’s Word survived despite intense efforts to destroy it. According to the website, Answers in Genesis, for instance, in 175 BC the king of Syria, Antiochus Epiphanes, ordered the Jews, on pain of death, to destroy their Scriptures and worship the Greek gods. But Judas Maccabaeus saved the books and led a revolt that won independence for the Jewish nation (Today, Jews celebrate this event at Hanukkah). Another example is the Roman emperor Diocletian’s order to have Christianity outlawed, its leaders killed, and their Bibles burned. As a sign of God’s providence, the next emperor, Constantine, legalized Christianity and made it the official religion of the Roman Empire and paid for fifty new hand-written copies of the Bible. The discovery of the Dead Sea scrolls in 1947 confirmed that we still have the same Old Testament as they did at Jesus’s day. The survival of thousands of New Testament manuscripts confirms that the New Testament writings were also providentially preserved. The Bible is amazingly well-preserved. We now through archaeological evidence have found manuscripts of New Testament books that date within one hundred years of their original penning. As archaeologists have continued to dig and have continue to improve their science and their methods over the years, the Bible that we have today has been proven to be amazingly accurate in comparison to these earliest manuscripts that we continue to find, and we continue to unearth evidence closer and closer to the time these books were actually penned.

God has preserved His Word. It is not some random event in a car fire. It happens repeatedly. He ensures that His Word as it was written by the original authors through His inspiration remains. I remember from the movie, Armageddon, where they decide to try to nuke the alien spacecraft as it hovered over Houston, TX. When the nuclear missiles explode on contact with the huge alien spacecraft, everyone at the control center starts celebrating, but the President demands confirmation as to whether the target was destroyed. Amidst the celebration, he continues to demand confirmation. Finally, one of the communications guys radios one of forward units to give them visual confirmation that the target had been destroyed. Amidst the destruction and the clearing of the smoke of the rubble caused by the nuclear explosion, you hear the fateful words, “The target remains. I repeat, the target remains!” That’s the way God is with His Word. He will preserve it in its original form through the centuries. He will protect it as it was written. It will survive. It will remain as written.

Thus, we can have great confidence that God’s Word that we read today is exactly as God intended it to be read. It is, like I said, the most well-preserved of all ancient literature. It can be trusted that what we believe from reading the Bible, the theology that comes forth from the bible, is exactly what God intended for us to believe. It is His eternal truth. We can trust everything in it that God says. We can trust His promises made there. Within His word, He promised that the Messiah would come from the line of David and He did. In the Bible, we see all kinds of attempts to end the line of David during the post-Solomon period of the split kingdoms of the Israelites. God always ensured that the Davidic line survived. Today’s passage is another example. Thus, we can trust God’s Word that it survived in tact and we can trust the promises that are made in this amazingly well-preserved collection of books known as the Bible.

That’s what I thought of this morning as I read this short passage of 2 Kings 11:1-3. God preserves. God ensures that His promises are not thwarted by evil and we can trust that because His Word is preserved and has survived in tact even though there have been so many attempts to destroy God’s Word. We are reminded that God’s promises as written can be trusted. And, we can trust that God will ensure that any attempts to change the eternal truths of His Word will be thwarted.

Chapter 11

1 When Athaliah, the mother of King Ahaziah of Judah, learned that her son was dead, she began to destroy the rest of the royal family. 2 But Ahaziah’s sister Jehosheba, the daughter of King Jehoram,[a] took Ahaziah’s infant son, Joash, and stole him away from among the rest of the king’s children, who were about to be killed. She put Joash and his nurse in a bedroom, and they hid him from Athaliah, so the child was not murdered. 3 Joash remained hidden in the Temple of the Lord for six years while Athaliah ruled over the land.

In this passage, we must remember that it is a continuation from 2 Kings 9:27, where Ahaziah, Athaliah’s son, had been killed by Jehu. Athaliah’s attempt to kill all of Ahaziah’s sons was futile because God had promised that the Messiah would be born through David’s descendants (2 Samuel 7). Athaliah’s murderous campaign almost brought the Davidic dynasty to an end. In this passage, we see that Joash was providentially saved from Athaliah’s persecution so that the Davidic dynasty would survive. By storing Joash in the temple, he would have grown up being instructed in God’s law which would explain some of the reforms that Joash would make during his reign as we will read later on.

The thing that I take away from this morning’s read of Scripture is that even in this world where the world is trying to say that the Bible is irrelevant, that what has been accepted as universally true for two millenia as the truths of the Bible are now all of a sudden not true, it’s truths will survive. God will ensure that it does. In a world where people are trying to reinterpret the Bible to suit their own desires and change the theology of His Word into something different for this modern age, He will ensure the survival of His theology, His themes, His commands, His doctrine as He intended it to be. We have confidence in the accuracy of His text through archaeological evidence amassed over the centuries. Thus, we can have confidence His theology is what He inspired the writers to put down and what He inspired Christians to deduce from His Word over the centuries. No attempt by 21st century man to redesign the theology of the Bible will stand. God will ensure that it survives.

Just as He preserves a Bible in a car fire providentially. He will preserve His Word and His theology. Just as similarly, He will preserve the promises, that we can trust, that He made in the Bible. We can trust what He says because He has never failed to keep a promise that He made in the Bible. He has never failed to preserve His Word as originally written. Thus, we can be assured that we can trust Him with our lives. Thus, we can trust Him with our souls. Through His preserved Word, we can trust Him with our eternity and live our lives according to His amazing Word, fully preserved through the centuries.

Amen and Amen.

2 Kings 10:18-31 (Part 2 of 2)

Jehu Kills the Priests of Baal

As a Christ follower, when you look back on your life before salvation in Jesus Christ, you look back with shame and wonderment at how you lived your life in those days. I know for myself, prior to my salvation in December 2001, I sit back and go “wow” at how I looked at my lifestyle. I actually thought I was a Christ follower when I really wasn’t.

Growing up as a Methodist preacher’s kid, I knew all about the general arc of the Bible. I knew about the general themes and theology of God’s Word. I grew up in it. I knew all the biblical heroes and their stories. I knew about Jesus and what He represented and that He died on the cross for my sins. I knew all the basics. But I did not know Jesus as my Savior. Living in a parsonage as the son of a Methodist pastor does not guarantee salvation. I did not come to know Jesus as my Savior until I was well into adulthood – at age 39.

In my adult years, I thought I was saved. I thought I was a Christ follower. All of those thoughts came from my history, my legacy of being a preacher’s kid. But I really wasn’t. I really had fashioned my own beliefs that suited how I wanted to live my life. I saw Jesus as this anti-establishment rebel that went up against the Jewish religious elite and the Roman Empire to try to straighten them out and paid for it with his life. That was a pretty cool idea to me. Jesus as a rebel. Jesus as the anti-establishment hero. Jesus as the great philosopher who had a better way of living and achieving a higher plain of living. He was an anti-establishment hippie type that stood against the tide of common convention and pointed us to a better way of living. That was my Jesus prior to my salvation. I did not buy into the fact that He and the Father were of one and the same essence – that Jesus was God in the flesh.

I also believed that God just wanted me to be happy. Thus, God and I had deals about the things that were stated in the Bible to be sins that I enjoyed doing. For all the things that I had been through in my adult life in personal life, God and I had deals about some of my excesses, my sins that I practiced regularly and did not want to give up. I negotiated with God about these things. And I rationalized my sins away as being OK. I rationalized my sins away as (1) God just wanted me to be happy and (2) it was compensation for what I had been through in my personal life. It is amazing how, as people who have not been convicted before the Holy Throne of God about their sins, we will rationalize our sins away as being OK. We will rationalize away our sins away as today being a new day and totally different from the days of the Bible. We will rationalize away our sins as being OK because we like them so much and that God may have His rules but they don’t apply to us. We rationalize away our sins as being OK because even though God may have his rules, He just ultimately, really wants us to be happy and self-actualized. How could something that makes me happy be wrong in God’s eyes? Me and God…we gotta a deal on that. He just wants me to be happy.

That was my religion. That was “my Christianity” before I was saved. It was not until the Holy Spirit convicted me of all my unworthiness before a loving but also just God that I really saw Jesus as necessary to blot out my sins. It was not until then that I saw that I was deal-making with God but had no real cards to play like I thought I did. I stood ugly and sin stained and I saw it for the first time in December 2001. It was at that time that I saw my sins for the condemning and damning things that they are. I saw that I truly deserved to be sentenced to hell. I saw it and I saw Jesus, the Son of God, who really did die on the cross for my sins as the way out of the sentence I truly deserved. Isn’t wild how we are so blind until we finally listen to the Holy Spirit?

That’s what I thought of this morning as I read 2 Kings 10:18-31 in preparation for this second blog on the passage at hand. I thought of how Jehu fashioned his own belief system that worked for him – because it was what suited his life (his political ambitions). He probably really thought he was on the right path. It sounded good. It looked good. But ultimately, he was continuing to bastardize God’s Word and God’s command to fashion out what was advantageous for him. He created his own belief system that made him feel like what he was doing was OK. Sound familiar? It does to me. It was me. Let’s read the passage now:

18 Then Jehu called a meeting of all the people of the city and said to them, “Ahab’s worship of Baal was nothing compared to the way I will worship him! 19 Therefore, summon all the prophets and worshipers of Baal, and call together all his priests. See to it that every one of them comes, for I am going to offer a great sacrifice to Baal. Anyone who fails to come will be put to death.” But Jehu’s cunning plan was to destroy all the worshipers of Baal.

20 Then Jehu ordered, “Prepare a solemn assembly to worship Baal!” So they did. 21 He sent messengers throughout all Israel summoning those who worshiped Baal. They all came—not a single one remained behind—and they filled the temple of Baal from one end to the other. 22 And Jehu instructed the keeper of the wardrobe, “Be sure that every worshiper of Baal wears one of these robes.” So robes were given to them.

23 Then Jehu went into the temple of Baal with Jehonadab son of Recab. Jehu said to the worshipers of Baal, “Make sure no one who worships the Lord is here—only those who worship Baal.” 24 So they were all inside the temple to offer sacrifices and burnt offerings. Now Jehu had stationed eighty of his men outside the building and had warned them, “If you let anyone escape, you will pay for it with your own life.”

25 As soon as Jehu had finished sacrificing the burnt offering, he commanded his guards and officers, “Go in and kill all of them. Don’t let a single one escape!” So they killed them all with their swords, and the guards and officers dragged their bodies outside.[a] Then Jehu’s men went into the innermost fortress[b] of the temple of Baal. 26 They dragged out the sacred pillar[c] used in the worship of Baal and burned it. 27 They smashed the sacred pillar and wrecked the temple of Baal, converting it into a public toilet, as it remains to this day.

28 In this way, Jehu destroyed every trace of Baal worship from Israel. 29 He did not, however, destroy the gold calves at Bethel and Dan, with which Jeroboam son of Nebat had caused Israel to sin.

30 Nonetheless the Lord said to Jehu, “You have done well in following my instructions to destroy the family of Ahab. Therefore, your descendants will be kings of Israel down to the fourth generation.” 31 But Jehu did not obey the Law of the Lord, the God of Israel, with all his heart. He refused to turn from the sins that Jeroboam had led Israel to commit.

In this passage, when we at it for today’s blog, we must ask the question, why did Jehu destroy the idols of Baal but not the gold calves in Bethel and Dan? When we analyze it, Jehu’s motives may have been more political than spiritual. First, if Jehu had destroyed the gold calves, his people, the people of the northern kingdom (Israel), would have traveled to Jerusalem in the southern kingdom (Judah) and worshipped there (which is why the first breakaway king of the northern kingdom, Jeroboam had set them up in the first place – see 1 Kings 12:25-33). Second, Baal worship was associated with the dynasty and lineage of Ahab so it was politically advantageous to him to destroy all vestiges of Ahab including his religion. The gold calves on the other hand had a longer history in the northern kingdom and were valued by all political factions. Finally, Baal worship was anti-God but the gold calves were thought by the people to be visible representations of God himself (even though God clearly states in Exodus 20:3-6 that such worship of images was idolatrous).

Jehu did much of what the Lord told him to do but he did not obey him with all his heart. He had become God’s instrument for carrying out justice, but he had not become God’s servant. As a result, he gave only lip service to God while permitting the worship of the gold calves. Check the condition of your heart toward God. We can be very active in our work for God and still not give Him the heartfelt obedience that He desires from us.

Often, we create our own belief systems because they are advantageous to us – so that we can continue doing what we want to do. However, that does not change God’s Word. That does not change God’s view. What He has called sin in His Word will always be sin – forever. We cannot negotiate that away. We can say that God just wants us to be happy so, as a result, God and me have a deal on this sin or that sin. But we are just deluding ourselves. We have no cards to play. We are sinners before God. We are habitual sin criminals and we cannot negotiate sins away in His court room. What was sin at the beginning of time is still sin now and will continue to be sin forever into eternity.

Lord, please help us to see our sins for what they are and how God’s Word is timeless and unchanging. Help us to see that we cannot negotiate our sins away before God. Help us to see our sins in their true light and repent of them, turn away from them, and become more and more like Jesus as we mature in Christ. Help us to be humbled by our penchant for sinning. Help to be humbled by our constant need for Jesus Christ. Help us to see that we have no negotiating power with God other than the grace offered to us through Jesus Christ and through our own repentance for sins. Please Lord allow us to listen to the Holy Spirit as He identifies the sins in our lives and not ignore them, rationalize them, try to keep them. Please allow us to listen to the Holy Spirit as He calls us to repentance for each sin that we have buried in rationalization.

Amen and Amen.

2 Kings 10:18-31 (Part 1 of 2)

Jehu Kills the Priests of Baal

Just think about it. You love your children no matter what they do. However, you do not always approve of the things that they do. Does that change your love for them? No. You love them as much as you ever did and in some ways you begin to love them more. Even when your child thumbs his nose up at you and wants nothing to do with you, does that change your love for that child. Certainly not! No matter what your child does, no matter how far they stray away from the family fold, you never stop loving them. Like I said, when they do things or live in a way that you think is the wrong path for them, you probably love them more. It hurts a parent to see their child headed down a path that the parent knows is bad for them and will end badly for them.

It’s not because a parent is wanting to hold their child back from something they want. Rather, it is because they know, probably from their own experiences, that what the child is about to do or is continuing to do will lead to a bad end. Parent feel this way no matter the age of their child. That’s just a parent’s love for a child. It’s hard to explain. You love your child without end but you don’t always approve of what they are doing. The lack of approval is not the removal of love. The lack of approval of a child’s actions sometimes is the highest form of love. Because if you did not love, you would not care. But because you love, you do care and you want the child not to have to experience the inevitable pain that you know is coming. But our children, regardless of age, often confuse our disapproval with us not loving them, us holding them back from what they want to do.

This well-known situation for us as parents (we all know it and have experienced it with our kids) is similar to what we see happening in our world today. In our culture today, if you do not accept another person’s personal belief system, then you do not love them. You are considered intolerant. The mantra of our culture now is “if you do not approve of my actions then you do not love me” or “if you do not approve of my actions you are intolerant!”. This cultural mantra has allowed us to drift into a world where there are no longer any moral absolutes. There are no longer any universal, uncontravertable truths. Everything is relative. You and I define our own reality and our own truth. There is no reality and no truth outside my own definition of it. We live in our own realities and our own truths. There is no independent truth or morality. We now define it for ourselves. In this world, those who believe in absolute truth and that it is external to us, we go against the grain of current and most likely the future of our culture.

In such a world, we have robbed God of being God. We have robbed God of His position as the definer of truth, the definer of reality, the definer of morality and immorality. In essence, we have made ourselves our own gods. When we displace God, it therefore becomes easier to define for ourselves what is right and what is wrong. Anybody then who disagrees with your version of the truth is not approving of you and therefore not loving you. Sure, it makes life easier when we displace God, live like we want to, and disdain anyone who disagrees with us. However, ignoring God’s independent, universal and timeless truths do not make His absolutes go away. What God defines as reality, as truth, as moral, remains whether we want that to be true or not. God is a loving parent and He has His definitions and boundaries for our lives not because He is holding us back from something.

It is that idea of going beyond God’s commands, God’s Word, God’s loving boundaries to satisfy our own desires and to validate what we want to do is what I thought of when I read this passage, 2 Kings 10:18-31 today (for the first of two blogs on this passage). Here, Jehu goes well beyond what God’s command was for him and he does so to meet his own desires, ambitions, and political aspirations. It got me to thinking about how we do that today in our culture. Let’s read the passage now:

18 Then Jehu called a meeting of all the people of the city and said to them, “Ahab’s worship of Baal was nothing compared to the way I will worship him! 19 Therefore, summon all the prophets and worshipers of Baal, and call together all his priests. See to it that every one of them comes, for I am going to offer a great sacrifice to Baal. Anyone who fails to come will be put to death.” But Jehu’s cunning plan was to destroy all the worshipers of Baal.

20 Then Jehu ordered, “Prepare a solemn assembly to worship Baal!” So they did. 21 He sent messengers throughout all Israel summoning those who worshiped Baal. They all came—not a single one remained behind—and they filled the temple of Baal from one end to the other. 22 And Jehu instructed the keeper of the wardrobe, “Be sure that every worshiper of Baal wears one of these robes.” So robes were given to them.

23 Then Jehu went into the temple of Baal with Jehonadab son of Recab. Jehu said to the worshipers of Baal, “Make sure no one who worships the Lord is here—only those who worship Baal.” 24 So they were all inside the temple to offer sacrifices and burnt offerings. Now Jehu had stationed eighty of his men outside the building and had warned them, “If you let anyone escape, you will pay for it with your own life.”

25 As soon as Jehu had finished sacrificing the burnt offering, he commanded his guards and officers, “Go in and kill all of them. Don’t let a single one escape!” So they killed them all with their swords, and the guards and officers dragged their bodies outside.[a] Then Jehu’s men went into the innermost fortress[b] of the temple of Baal. 26 They dragged out the sacred pillar[c] used in the worship of Baal and burned it. 27 They smashed the sacred pillar and wrecked the temple of Baal, converting it into a public toilet, as it remains to this day.

28 In this way, Jehu destroyed every trace of Baal worship from Israel. 29 He did not, however, destroy the gold calves at Bethel and Dan, with which Jeroboam son of Nebat had caused Israel to sin.

30 Nonetheless the Lord said to Jehu, “You have done well in following my instructions to destroy the family of Ahab. Therefore, your descendants will be kings of Israel down to the fourth generation.” 31 But Jehu did not obey the Law of the Lord, the God of Israel, with all his heart. He refused to turn from the sins that Jeroboam had led Israel to commit.

In this passage, we see that and are reminded that Israel was supposed to stand firm against any religion that did not worship the one true God. The religions of the surrounding pagan nations were evil and corrupt. They were designed to destroy life, not uphold and uplift it. Israel was God’s special, chosen nation and they were to be an example of what was right and true in God’s eyes. However, Israel’s kings, priests, and elders were first tolerant, and then began incorporating surrounding pagan beliefs into their worship and their daily culture. As a result, they became apathetic to God’s way.

In our culture, we are to be firmly against behaviors that are sinful according to God’s Word. Personally, we must repent of sinful behaviors when they are brought to our attention by the Holy Spirit directly or by the Holy Spirit through loving friends and/or others who cross our path. When we see others exhibiting behaviors that are in contrast to God’s Word, we should not hate them. We must remember that, until they are drawn by the Holy Spirit unto God, their behaviors are perfectly reasonable to them and they may even view them as consistent with Christian theology.

We ourselves as Christians found God’s Word folly before we accepted Christ as our Savior. I know that for myself, before I came to know the Lord as my Savior and Lord, I created my own version of Christianity that was molded toward allowing me to behave as I pleased. I negotiated with the Lord as to what was right for me. I had my own personal religion where God and I had “deals” about exceptions to His Word as they applied to me. As a non-believer who thought he was a believer, I created and added to God’s Word where it was my own religion, my own version of Christianity suitable to me. It was only through my salvation experience that I encountered my favorite sins in their true light. It was only through the loving tutelage of mature Christians across these past two decades that I am aware of my helpless state before God – no negotiations, no deal-making, no personal religion, no additions or deletions to God’s Word. It’s just me and God and I stand before Him naked in my sin, in the absence of Jesus Christ.

So, let us be a people who hold true to God’s Word and let it convict us of our sins on a personal level. Let it give us sense of humility before God. Let it give us a true sense of our need for Jesus Christ not only at salvation but everyday thereafter. For we are works in progress and continue to sin each and every day. Corporately, as the body of Christ, the church, we must together hold true to God’s Word and not add to it or take away from it and create a religion that is suitable to the culture around us. God’s Word is a loving father’s boundaries for our lives. God’s Word is like a father wishing to keep His kids from the harm and disaster that He knows will come from going down paths we should not go down. It is not to keep us from having what we want. It is to keep us from destroying ourselves.

Let us remember that God’s greatest desire is to reconcile mankind unto Himself through His Son. So, His Word is not to hold us back but rather to keep us from the disaster He knows will come to us if we pursue every one of our heart’s desires. Let us remember then that we should stand firm on God’s eternal Word and not melt it down to meet the culture (like a dad who has firm, established, unchanging boundaries for his children’s behaviors). Let us not add to it to make it suitable. Let us not take away from it to make it more palatable. At the same token, we should always love those who are angry at the boundaries of God and want to change them. We should be like a loving father who loves his children no matter how they act. We should be like a loving dad who is heartbroken over the actions of their children because the dad knows what will happen to the child. We should love them so that when they crash to the ground that we will be the ones they turn to. Let us be the representatives of God who are there to show them the better way. Let us be there to show them Jesus Christ, just as loving friends did for me almost two decades ago.

Amen and Amen.

2 Kings 10:1-17

Jehu Kills Ahab’s Family

On Friday, we did the last things we had to do to make our return to South Carolina official which included registering to vote, registering our vehicles with Darlington County and paying the property taxes on them, getting our South Carolina driver’s licenses reactivated, getting the South Carolina tags for our cars, and opening our savings account at a local bank. It was a busy day of errands. Then, I found out that a member of our church had been admitted to the hospital. I dropped Elena off at the parsonage and I had to run over to Florence for a visit with the patient and his family. It ended up being a very full day on my Friday off.

Exhausted, after I got back from Florence and the very full day of going to Darlington, Hartsville and Florence all in one day, I sat down to relax and watch a little television. Late on Friday afternoons, there isn’t a whole lot of original programming on TV on the 40 channels that I have on my DirecTV Now streaming service. We settled on watching an episode of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit (SVU). In this episode, we find that a young girl from an ultra-conservative non-denominational Christian church in Indiana was visiting New York to see a friend. She was there with a male friend and her pastor, who was serving as their chaperone. In this episode, we learn that this young girl was a virgin but that she had begun questioning her sexuality. She was attracted not to men but to women and she was struggling with it. In this episode, the criminal act we see her open her hotel room door late at night and the view we see is through the criminal’s eyes. Hands grab her and she seems frightened. Then, of course, as SVU does, it cuts to a commercial. When we come back from the commercial, we find that the young girl has been raped.

As we work through the witnesses and such with the investigators from SVU, we ultimately find out that it was her male friend that had accompanied her (along with their pastor) to New York that had perpetrated the criminal act. The twist to the story was that he claimed that he was performing his duty to God to force her to have sex with him. He said it was his duty to have heterosexual sex with her so as to bring her back into God’s will from her lustful desires for homosexual relationships. Further, we find that the pastor had condoned and even suggested the act.

It broke my heart that some might have seen this episode of SVU and thought this is what Christianity is all about. That we are a bunch of nutcases who live outside normal behavior and couch it in faith in God. It broke my heart that our world no longer knows what we are about and totally misrepresents the Christian faith. It made me heartbroken that we, as Christians, have lost our influence in society. It made me heartbroken that we have failed share our faith in ways that make people understand what Christianity is all about – who Jesus is, why He came, and what is consistent with the will of God and what is not. We have often been our own worst enemy in the public square by demonstrating what we are against rather than what we are for. As a result, the unchurched have a twisted view of what Christianity is really all about.

When I read this passage, 2 Kings 10:1-17, after having watched that episode of Law & Order Friday afternoon, it reminded me of how people sometime go way beyond what God gives us in His Word as His desired will for us. Here, Jehu goes beyond what God’s will and prophecy was. Even as an educated reader of the Bible, I was disgusted by what Jehu did. He went way beyond what He was called to do:

10 Ahab had seventy sons living in the city of Samaria. So Jehu wrote letters and sent them to Samaria, to the elders and officials of the city,[a] and to the guardians of King Ahab’s sons. He said, 2 “The king’s sons are with you, and you have at your disposal chariots, horses, a fortified city, and weapons. As soon as you receive this letter, 3 select the best qualified of your master’s sons to be your king, and prepare to fight for Ahab’s dynasty.”

4 But they were paralyzed with fear and said, “We’ve seen that two kings couldn’t stand against this man! What can we do?”

5 So the palace and city administrators, together with the elders and the guardians of the king’s sons, sent this message to Jehu: “We are your servants and will do anything you tell us. We will not make anyone king; do whatever you think is best.”

6 Jehu responded with a second letter: “If you are on my side and are going to obey me, bring the heads of your master’s sons to me at Jezreel by this time tomorrow.” Now the seventy sons of the king were being cared for by the leaders of Samaria, where they had been raised since childhood. 7 When the letter arrived, the leaders killed all seventy of the king’s sons. They placed their heads in baskets and presented them to Jehu at Jezreel.

8 A messenger went to Jehu and said, “They have brought the heads of the king’s sons.”

So Jehu ordered, “Pile them in two heaps at the entrance of the city gate, and leave them there until morning.”

9 In the morning he went out and spoke to the crowd that had gathered around them. “You are not to blame,” he told them. “I am the one who conspired against my master and killed him. But who killed all these? 10 You can be sure that the message of the Lord that was spoken concerning Ahab’s family will not fail. The Lord declared through his servant Elijah that this would happen.” 11 Then Jehu killed all who were left of Ahab’s relatives living in Jezreel and all his important officials, his personal friends, and his priests. So Ahab was left without a single survivor.

12 Then Jehu set out for Samaria. Along the way, while he was at Beth-eked of the Shepherds, 13 he met some relatives of King Ahaziah of Judah. “Who are you?” he asked them.

And they replied, “We are relatives of King Ahaziah. We are going to visit the sons of King Ahab and the sons of the queen mother.”

14 “Take them alive!” Jehu shouted to his men. And they captured all forty-two of them and killed them at the well of Beth-eked. None of them escaped.

15 When Jehu left there, he met Jehonadab son of Recab, who was coming to meet him. After they had greeted each other, Jehu said to him, “Are you as loyal to me as I am to you?”

“Yes, I am,” Jehonadab replied.

“If you are,” Jehu said, “then give me your hand.” So Jehonadab put out his hand, and Jehu helped him into the chariot. 16 Then Jehu said, “Now come with me, and see how devoted I am to the Lord.” So Jehonadab rode along with him.

17 When Jehu arrived in Samaria, he killed everyone who was left there from Ahab’s family, just as the Lord had promised through Elijah.

In this passage, we see that Elijah’s prophecy that not one of Ahab’s male descendants would survive (remember, 1 Kings 21:17-24). The evil line of Ahab and Jezebel was prophesied by God’s prophet to come to a gruesome end if they did not turn from their evil ways. They did not and God executed His predicted justice against them. However, in his zeal, Jehu went far beyond the Lord’s commands with this bloodbath about which we read in this passage. The prophet Hosea later announced punishment upon Jehu’s dynasty for the senseless slaughter (see Hosea 1:4-5).

Let us be a people whose actions are consistent with God’s Word and whose words are intended bring about reconciliation with God for those who are far from him and judgment for those who ultimately refuse his offer of reconciliation through His Son.

Let us be a people who never twist God’s Word to suit our own personal needs. Let us use God’s Word as it is, plain and simple, nothing added or taken away. Let us use God’s Word as He intends it to be used – to point humanity to our need for a Savior so that mankind can be reconciled to God. Let us measure how we demonstrate Christianity to the rest of the world by three things:

  1. Whether our actions and words are consistent with the general will of God as expressed in His Word (which means we must not just read His Word but truly study it).
  2. Whether our actions and words are going to point people toward Jesus Christ and reconciliation with God.
  3. Whether our actions and words are going to promote unity with Christ both within our faith and draw those who are unchurched toward wanting what we have – the joy of Christ in our souls.

Amen and Amen.