Archive for September, 2019

2 Kings 17:24-41

Foreigners Settle in Israel

Back in the day, when I was in high school in the late 70’s-early 80’s, one of the biggest bands around was Fleetwood Mac. One of their biggest hits of that era was “You Can Go Your Own Way”. It is that title which is from the chorus of that song that I thought of this morning as I read through this passage. You can go your own way. That’s what we do when we do not know or even want to know the Lord Jesus Christ as our Savior. We go our own way. Reading this passage this morning reminds me of our nation as we stand here almost one-fifth of the way through the 21st century. It in particular reminds me of myself prior to my own salvation in December 2001. In those days prior to meeting the true Christ as my Savior, I had molded a belief system around the Jesus Christ that I imagined in my mind. I molded a Jesus Christ that was suitable to me.

I believed that Jesus existed and that he was a real person. But I did not believe in Him as the Son of God, God in the flesh, a part of the three expressions of the Godhead. I thought of Jesus as this anti-establishment rebel who spoke of loving your neighbor and killing people with kindness. I believed in a Jesus that would call out hypocrisy where he saw it. I believed in a Jesus that was a great philosopher. I believed in a Jesus who was against the established bigotries of the day and any day. Because of his outspokenness against the status quo of the day, it got him in trouble with the establishment and living in the age that he did, it got him killed. I had a hard time believing in the whole resurrection thing, the whole miracles thing. I just thought of him as this anti-establishment rebel rabbi. To me, he was so much cooler than the church version of Jesus. Because I created my own version of Jesus, I made him OK with my lifestyle. Jesus and me had a deal with any of my favorite sins because of all the things that I had been through in my life. I deserved my little sin outlets and Jesus was granting me a dispensation of sorts for them. That way I did not have to repent of any sins that I found suitable to me.

It was not until December 2001 that I truly understood that Jesus was the Son of God and not just some hippie anti-establishment rabbi. I finally began to get what the Bible was saying about Him. God’s Word is foolishness to those who are perishing and do not even know it. It was foolishness to me until the Holy Spirit did his work in my heart. He made me realize that I am a sinner no matter how I justify my sins. That I sin every moment of every day and that Jesus in His perfection as the Son of God died willingly to pay the penalty for my sins. The Holy Spirit made me see that there are no deals. That God doesn’t just accept anything that I do because He just wants me to be happy. Because of the Fall of Man, we are all decayed with sin. Because of the Fall, we cannot stop ourselves from sinning and we will never be able to do enough good to offset our sins. We are like a glass of water that has a drop of ink dropped into it. It forever changes the water and you cannot “un-ink” the water no matter how hard you try. We are permanently stained. We cannot change it back to clear water, ever! Yet, we think we are OK because we rationalize away our sins because we “are basically a good person”. We pride ourselves in the good we think we do. But it doesn’t change the drops of ink that we put in our water every day. There is no way to “un-ink” our water. Our first sin condemns us to hell plain and simple. Nothing can offset it. No matter how much we do that is good. It does not change the permanent alteration of our soul created by our first sin. We are condemned to hell by our first sin. Add to that the fact that we commit sins each and every day that add to the prosecutorial evidence against us as habitual sinners, we have no hope in front of God in the absence of a Savior.

However, many of us want to see ourselves as in control of who we are and want to continue to live in the manner in which we desire. We begin to negotiate away certain things that the Bible says are sins so that we can continue to dabble in those sins. We develop grand arguments as to why our particular sins that we have no desire to repent of are actually not sins at all. We rationalize away that what God called sin thousands of years ago was for that time. We thus tear out pages of the Bible in essence because we say they are no longer valid to us today so that we can continue to sin in the ways that we want to sin. We rationalize away that God just wants us to be happy so that we can continue to sin. That was me. This is many of us. We mold Jesus into what we want we want Him to be so that we can continue to be the sinners we want to be and call it goodness and call it OK in the sight of God. That was me. This is us. It was this thought that came to mind this morning as I read this passage, 2 Kings 17:24-41, this morning. Let’s read it now:

24 The king of Assyria brought people from Babylon, Cuthah, Avva, Hamath, and Sepharvaim, and placed them in the cities of Samaria in place of the people of Israel; they took possession of Samaria, and settled in its cities. 25 When they first settled there, they did not worship the Lord; therefore the Lord sent lions among them, which killed some of them. 26 So the king of Assyria was told, “The nations that you have carried away and placed in the cities of Samaria do not know the law of the god of the land; therefore he has sent lions among them; they are killing them, because they do not know the law of the god of the land.” 27 Then the king of Assyria commanded, “Send there one of the priests whom you carried away from there; let him[a] go and live there, and teach them the law of the god of the land.” 28 So one of the priests whom they had carried away from Samaria came and lived in Bethel; he taught them how they should worship the Lord.

29 But every nation still made gods of its own and put them in the shrines of the high places that the people of Samaria had made, every nation in the cities in which they lived; 30 the people of Babylon made Succoth-benoth, the people of Cuth made Nergal, the people of Hamath made Ashima; 31 the Avvites made Nibhaz and Tartak; the Sepharvites burned their children in the fire to Adrammelech and Anammelech, the gods of Sepharvaim. 32 They also worshiped the Lord and appointed from among themselves all sorts of people as priests of the high places, who sacrificed for them in the shrines of the high places. 33 So they worshiped the Lord but also served their own gods, after the manner of the nations from among whom they had been carried away. 34 To this day they continue to practice their former customs.

They do not worship the Lord and they do not follow the statutes or the ordinances or the law or the commandment that the Lord commanded the children of Jacob, whom he named Israel. 35 The Lord had made a covenant with them and commanded them, “You shall not worship other gods or bow yourselves to them or serve them or sacrifice to them, 36 but you shall worship the Lord, who brought you out of the land of Egypt with great power and with an outstretched arm; you shall bow yourselves to him, and to him you shall sacrifice. 37 The statutes and the ordinances and the law and the commandment that he wrote for you, you shall always be careful to observe. You shall not worship other gods; 38 you shall not forget the covenant that I have made with you. You shall not worship other gods, 39 but you shall worship the Lord your God; he will deliver you out of the hand of all your enemies.” 40 They would not listen, however, but they continued to practice their former custom.

41 So these nations worshiped the Lord, but also served their carved images; to this day their children and their children’s children continue to do as their ancestors did.

In this passage, we see that the new settlers in Israel worshiped God without giving up their pagan customs. They worshiped God to appease Him rather than to please Him, treating him as a good luck charm or just another idol to add to their collection. A similar attitude can be found today. Many of us claim to believe in God while refusing to give up attitudes and actions that God denounces. God cannot be added to the values that we already have. He must come first and His Word must shape all our actions and attitudes.

The bottom line is that it is only through the hardness of heart, even as Christians, that we sometimes ignore the sins in our lives and sometimes even call them good things, even when God’s Word says it is sin and that is certainly the case with us before salvation. We want so bad for our favorite sins to be not sins that we fashion God’s Word into what we want it to be. We make deals with God in our minds. We are like the ancient Israelites that fashioned a religion that was not of God but they thought it was and called it that in their minds. Are we doing that today? Are you and I ignoring God’s Word just so we can continue in a path that we want to walk? Are we fashioning a Jesus like I fashioned before salvation? Are we making God what we want Him to be? Changing what God’s Word means to us doesn’t change its original meaning, its timeless meaning, its eternal meaning, just so we can “un-ink” our water from its sin stain.

Help us, Lord, to understand your Word stands eternally and means the same thing today as it did when it was originally written down. Help us to understand your Word as you intended it to be understood and not fashion it into some, changed version to suit our desires in the present day. Help us not to fashion you into what we want to be so that we don’t have to deal with who we are really are in front of you. Help us to see who we are – condemned sinners in desperate need of a Savior.

Amen and Amen.

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2 Kings 17:7-23

Samaria Falls to Assyria

Reading this passage this morning brought up the question in my mind, “Who are we doing to depend on?” This question is for us as Christians in 21st century America. Are we going to depend on our leaders to lead this nation toward God? That’s the question for today.

On one side of the political spectrum, you have the removal of God from the political platform of one of our country’s major political parties in our country recently passed a resolution at its national level stating that they supported “rational public policy based on sound science and universal humanistic values.” It began in the 2012 party convention when there was a move to remove all references to God in their platform. There was such a firestorm back then that they quickly added those references back during a low attendance afternoon session of the convention. In the current election cycle for 2020, that same political party is wanting to remove “so help me God” from oaths given before congressional committees. One pastor of a super-large Baptist Church in Dallas, TX warns that any talk of God from this political party is a God of their own creation when he says, “Don’t be fooled by that. When they talk about God, they are not talking about the real God — the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the God who revealed Himself in the Bible. They are not talking about the real God. [They] are talking about an imaginary God they have created in their own minds.” To lend support to what this pastor said to a certain degree, a presidential candidate recently stated in a debate that his party “doesn’t talk about God much for a very good reason, which is the party’s commitment to the separation of church and state.”

On the other side of the political spectrum, the other party seems to be caught up in name calling and bullying instead of articulating their own position. They seem to be more concerned with winning a game of who can call who a bigger idiot instead of justifying conservative policies. The current president, though his administration’s tough stance on political issues such as immigration enforcement and other issues, appeals to rural and suburban Americans, he cannot get out of his own way with his abrasive rhetoric. His policy narrative so far has been similar to the Reagan administration of the 1980s. However, Reagan was wildly popular within his own party and was at least highly respected by his opposition. The current president seems to have the attitude of “if you are for me, you are against me!” Thus, the conservative political agenda that appeals to many Christians ends up being a personality debate about the president rather than the issues at hand. With this happening, if the issue is associated as one favored by the current president, then, it is demonized out of hand by his opposition rather than the issue being considered on its own merits. This cult of personality that is the current president does nothing to help expand his party and the values that it holds and will eventually erode away the appeal of his party.

So, where does that leave us, I see the appeal of conservative values continuing to erode away in our country. Because of the cult of personality that is the current president, the secularistic and humanistic values of a large percentage of our nation, mostly in the urbanized areas of our country (where virtually half our nation’s population lives now) will continue to gain traction and Christian values will continue to diminish as the guiding force in our nation’s politics. The nation was becoming increasingly secularistic to begin with, but it seems to have been exacerbated in the past few years. The fashioning of a God that is different from the God of the Bible will continue just as predicted in 2 Timothy 4:3 where the Apostle Paul stated, “For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear.”

The current landscape of politics as it applies to our nation’s collective relationship with God is what I thought of this morning as I read through this passage that gives us the end of the ancient kingdom of Israel, the northern kingdom. From this point right here, the ancient northern kingdom (the northern half of the once united kingdom of the judges, David and Solomon) is no more. Never to exist again. It is that idea of God withdrawing his protective favor from the nations of Israel and Judah that got me to thinking about our own country this morning. We have enjoyed favor from God just like ancient Israel/Judah because our nation once embraced God and sought his favor. However, now, it seems that we are running as far as we can in the opposite direction and calling it Enlightenment, patting ourselves on our own backs for having shed the ancient mystical beliefs of Christianity. I bet that was the very same thing that Israel/Judah did. That’s what I thought of this morning and how it applies to our own country in this, the 21st century. Let’s read the passage, 2 Kings 17:7-23, now and see if you can see the parallels for yourself:

7 This occurred because the people of Israel had sinned against the Lord their God, who had brought them up out of the land of Egypt from under the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt. They had worshiped other gods 8 and walked in the customs of the nations whom the Lord drove out before the people of Israel, and in the customs that the kings of Israel had introduced.[a] 9 The people of Israel secretly did things that were not right against the Lord their God. They built for themselves high places at all their towns, from watchtower to fortified city; 10 they set up for themselves pillars and sacred poles[b] on every high hill and under every green tree; 11 there they made offerings on all the high places, as the nations did whom the Lord carried away before them. They did wicked things, provoking the Lord to anger; 12 they served idols, of which the Lord had said to them, “You shall not do this.” 13 Yet the Lord warned Israel and Judah by every prophet and every seer, saying, “Turn from your evil ways and keep my commandments and my statutes, in accordance with all the law that I commanded your ancestors and that I sent to you by my servants the prophets.” 14 They would not listen but were stubborn, as their ancestors had been, who did not believe in the Lord their God. 15 They despised his statutes, and his covenant that he made with their ancestors, and the warnings that he gave them. They went after false idols and became false; they followed the nations that were around them, concerning whom the Lord had commanded them that they should not do as they did. 16 They rejected all the commandments of the Lord their God and made for themselves cast images of two calves; they made a sacred pole,[c] worshiped all the host of heaven, and served Baal. 17 They made their sons and their daughters pass through fire; they used divination and augury; and they sold themselves to do evil in the sight of the Lord, provoking him to anger. 18 Therefore the Lord was very angry with Israel and removed them out of his sight; none was left but the tribe of Judah alone.

19 Judah also did not keep the commandments of the Lord their God but walked in the customs that Israel had introduced. 20 The Lord rejected all the descendants of Israel; he punished them and gave them into the hand of plunderers, until he had banished them from his presence.

21 When he had torn Israel from the house of David, they made Jeroboam son of Nebat king. Jeroboam drove Israel from following the Lord and made them commit great sin. 22 The people of Israel continued in all the sins that Jeroboam committed; they did not depart from them 23 until the Lord removed Israel out of his sight, as he had foretold through all his servants the prophets. So Israel was exiled from their own land to Assyria until this day.

In this passage, we see that the Lord judged the people of Israel because they had copied the evil customs of the surrounding nations, worshiping false gods, accommodating pagan customs, and following their own desires. Those who create their own religion tend to fashion a religion that suits individual freedoms and desires. And to live for oneself, as Israel learned, brings consequences from God. Sometimes, following God is difficult, painful, and against the trends in the cultures in which we operate, but consider the alternative. What God thinks of us is infinitely and eternally more important than what the culture surrounding us or, even on a smaller scale, what the people within our sphere of known people think of us.

Does that mean we withdraw from the world? Does this mean we continue to be in a relaxed state as American Christians? Does this mean we continue to look to our elected officials to lead us in the right direction – toward God? I think the answer to all those questions is no. What’s the answer?

It means that we have the most work to do that Christians have ever had to do. Gone are the days of easy Christianity. We must encounter the culture daily with the love and truth of God. It means that each one of us in every walk of life must engage our spheres of influence in evangelistic ways that draws people unto Christ not away from Him. We must engage people with the truth of God’s Word (which means we actually have to know the Bible and not just what we think it means) in loving ways that draw them unto Christ.

Maybe just maybe if we do this on a daily basis every day of every year, God will honor our efforts and keep His hand of blessing upon our nation.

Amen and Amen.