Wednesday, November 19, 2014

When Leaders Fall Into Sin

1 Chronicles 5:24-26

Seven men are described here in significant terms. They are called (BBE) men of war, of great name, and heads of families. These are the leaders of the people.

Tragically in v. 25 they are described as doing evil against the Lord by beginning to worship the gods of the people of the land. These were the same gods that had not been able to protect the land from them and now they were beginning to worship them. It appears to be true that sin makes people stupid!

As a result we read in v. 26 the Lord put it into the heart of the kings of Assyria to take them away as prisoners. Here we see God using the ungodly kings to punish His own children. BBE says "God...put an impulse into the heart of Paul." This is often the way the Lord works. He places an impulse inside the hearts of people. The people carry out the act and often are unaware where the impulse even came from.

Notice v. 24-25 talks about the activities of seven leaders while v. 26 describes the consequences experienced by the entirety of the tribes they led. Often the actions of leaders has unintended consequences on their followers.

Stiffnecked People

Isaiah 26:10-11

The perverseness of the sinner is revealed in these verses. There is a group of people who will not be touched by the grace of God.

The BBE puts it this way, "Even if you are kind to the evil-doer, he will not go after righteousness." Some people are drawn to the Lord because of His mercy. However there is a group that misunderstands kindness. God's mercy is seen as weakness. The prophet sees a group who will experience the kindness of God but will still refuse to pursue righteousness. God will go after them but they will not go after God.

This group can be surrounded by upright people but still they will persist in a lifestyle of wrongdoing. Their problem is not their surroundings. Their problem is in their heart. People will say if I was only in different circumstances then I would be different. However some would still continue to be ungodly.

This group continues to refuse to recognize God's majesty and glory. They refuse to recognize His inherit right to be worshipped.

No matter what God does to seek to gain the attention of this group they refuse to pay attention. John Calvin would suggest the Lord lifts His hand in creation for all to see but some refuse to see what is plainly before them.

Other scholars suggest God lifts His hand in a warning or threatening gesture yet still the wicked refuse to recognize the Lord.

However the day will come when they will see the justice of God. They will see that indeed the Lord was God. However the day of their acknowledgment will be too late for they will find themselves "burned up in the fire."

If we continue to refuse to grasp the message of Divine mercy then the message of Divine wrath will become ours.

Kill the Assassin

2 Samuel 4:9  And David made answer to Rechab and his brother Baanah, the sons of Rimmon the Beerothite, and said to them, By the living Lord, who has kept me safe from all my trouble,
 10 When one came to me with the news of Saul’s death, in the belief that it would be good news, I took him and put him to death in Ziklag, which was the reward I gave him for his news:
 11 How much more, when evil men have put an upright person to death, in his house, sleeping on his bed, will I take payment from you for his blood, and have you cut off from the earth?
 12 And David gave orders to his young men and they put them to death, cutting off their hands and their feet and hanging them up by the side of the pool in Hebron. But they took the head of Ish-bosheth and put it in its last resting-place with Abner’s body in Hebron. (BBE)

David refused to give honor to the men who had killed Ishbosheth in order to make him king. In fact he ordered their execution.

Let me suggest the following secenarios. David refused to be a part of their treachery and by executing them was declaring his horror at their actions.

David is recognizing some actions are right and some are not. He followed the rules of engagement whether his enemies did nor did not.

David was also practicing justice. He was not prepared to accept the Kingdom at any price. Justice would not be abrogated just to advance his cause. How easy it is for people to live by principle unless the abandonment of that principle produces profit, promotion, prestige or popularity for them.

David also recognized the treachery of these men should not be rewarded. If that had assassinated one king they would be willing to assassinate another. He knew he could never really be at peace as long as they lived. Those who promote you by treachery will also raise their hand against you if it is to their advantage to do so.

The Price of Broken Faith

2 Kings 14:14 “And he took all the gold and silver and all the vessels which were in the house of the Lord and in the storehouse of the king, together with those whose lives would be the price of broken faith, and went back to Samaria.” (BBE)

Those Whose Lives Are the Price of Broken Faith

Most translations use the word hostage in this verse. That is a very accurate reading. I was struck though with the reading in the BBE. Some people paid the price with their lives for broken faith.

The story line is this. Amaziah, King of Judah challenges Jehoash, King of Israel to war. In spite of the attempts of Jehoash to dissuade Amaziah from this course of action the battle is struck. Amaziah experiences a crushing defeat at the hands of Jehoash. Amaziah himself is taken prisoner, the walls of Jerusalem are destroyed, the wealth of both the temple and the palace is plundered, and a number of citizens are taken hostage.

The BBE describes the latter by saying “he took...those whose lives would be the price of broken faith.”

Often it seems the innocent suffer for the actions of the guilty. Amaziah broke faith and the people suffered.

How many children have suffered because of the actions of their parents?
How many citizens have suffered because of the actions of their governmental leaders?

If you break faith someone will pay the price!

If you are a leader your focus must be the welfare of the people. If I take the steps I am considering what will the price be for those who are following me?

Armed and Dangerous

2 Samuel 22:40

You are armed and dangerous.

That which the Lord gives you is sufficient for the battle you will find yourself engaged in.

David proclaims it, "I have been armed by God with strength for the fight." (BBE)

There is a fight everyone of us must fight. Serving the Lord Jesus is enlistment into the army of God. The enemy of your soul will launch various attacks against you. However the good news is the Lord will always give you that which is sufficient. You have enough to win the battle.

Not only does the Lord give you what you need but He also stands against your adversary. He makes low those who come against you. KJV says He subdues them before you. They must bow before you. Satan and his cohorts must submit before you.

Celebrating Friendship or When Friendship Returns Full Circle

Who has been your friend in the past? What sort of kindness can you show to someone to celebrate that former friendship?

Is there someone in your life that you can be their friend in the name of God? Who can you show an intentional act of kindness simply because you are the friend of God?

When Jonathon befriended the shepherd boy he never dreamed that friendship would someday be the cause for a blessing on his family.

I see two wonderful sides of this story. Like Jonathon as you become a friend of a nobody never underestimate what God may do with that friendship.

Like David, never forget the kindness showed to you on "your way up." Find a way to return that kindness to others.

Turning the Hearts Back To God Again

1 Kings 18:37 Give me an answer, O Lord, give me an answer, so that this people may see that you are God, and that you have made their hearts come back again.

Turning the Hearts Back to God Again.

Revival could be described as the invasion of a place by the Spirit of God, which causes the hearts of people to come back again to the Lord.

Of course this is also a definition of repentance, the turning away from sin and turning to the Lord. I submit there is a definite connection between repentance and revival.

This phrase also defines salvation and restoration which revival also includes.

Additionally I am struck with the thought this phrase could describe intimacy. It describes those whose hearts were not close after God but now have become so.

A Religion of Convenience or a Religion Created by Politics

Jeroboam created a substitute system of worship for the people of Israel. His line of reasoning was "it is too much for you to go up to Jerusalem." His public explanation for his substitute places of worship feigned a concern for the welfare of the people. It is not that Jeroboam believed these calves actually brought the people up out of Egypt. Rather they became the visible representation of God. He just made it easier for people to "worship God."

I do not have the prerogative to establish the guidelines for worship. That belongs to God alone. A religion of convenience soon leads to backsliding. As verse 30 says "this thing became a sin." When I reduce the requirements God has established I do not serve the people. Rather I lead them into sin.

The obligations in Christianity must not be determined by committee nor by opinion polls. I must seek to be obedient to the revelation of the Word of God.

This was not the last time a politician sought to use religion to advance his own political agenda.

Living to do the King's Work

1 Chronicles 4:23

Whatever it is we are doing in life we must also understand we are living to do the King's work. Contextually this verse describes people whose employment was in the service of the king. These were the people who worked his fields and worked his pottery industry.

Employment is a part of life. God intended for us to be productive. The desire to produce has been placed inside of us by the Lord. But we exist for far more than that.

We are here "to do the King's work."

We know what the King's work is by the Word which He left us. We also know what His work is by His Spirit He placed within us.

It is good each day to ask the King what His work is for you on that day.

Fearing God, loving gods

2 Kings 17:33 “They feared the LORD, and served their own gods, after the manner of the nations whom they carried away from thence.”

The mixed group of people whom the kings of Assyria had placed in Israel (Samaria) "feared" the Lord but "served" the gods of their ancestors or the gods of the nations they had come out of. At some level acknowledgement was made to the Lord God but in their hearts they continued to live for their old gods. Matthew Henry observes they "worshipped the God of Israel for fear and their own idols for love." Treasury of Scripture Knowledge observes "it is said that the Israelites 'did not fear the Lord,' yet the heathens, who followed their example, are said 'to have feared the Lord'." During revival we discovered that often religious people will reject what sinners will accept as truth.

A Fool's Death

David sings over Abner and calls his death the death of a fool. Abner, who was a wise man had actually died like a fool.
2 Samuel 3: 33 And the king made a song of grief for Abner and said, Was the death of Abner to be like the death of a foolish man?
 34 Your hands were free, your feet were not chained: like the downfall of a man before evil men, so was your fall. And the weeping of the people over him went on again.

Abner's death was called the death of a foolish man because he did not die in captivity. His hands were free and his feet were not in chains.

Abner should not have died in the way he did. He did not die in battle as would have been expected and which would have been considered more noble. No, he died by deceit. But he also died of his own lack of wisdom, his own foolishness. He agreed to meet Joab without considering Joab would still be carrying a grudge over the death of his brother Asahel. For a man who was so knowledgeable in the ways of war and diplomacy he died as one who had broken all of the rules he knew.

There is a spiritual application. Spiritual failure comes on many people in such a way to make them a fool. Sin overcomes us even though our hands are free and our feet are not in chains. Most people walk into sin and its consequences of their own accord.

We knowingly run the risks. We allow ourselves to open to the risks of sin. We conduct ourselves like foolish people indeed. We place ourselves in harm's way. Satan does not have to trap us because we set ourselves up for failure.

We let our guards down at the wrong time.

Barbecue the Bull

1 Kings 19:21

“And he went back, and took the oxen and put them to death, and cooking their flesh with the yokes of the oxen, he gave the people a feast. Then he got up and went after Elijah and became his servant.”

Elisha took a dramatic step to seal his commitment. He burned the oxen. He not only offered an offering to the Lord but he made it impossible to return to use the tools of his former life.

Our commitments to the Lord need to be made without loopholes, escape hatches, and safety valves. Too many times we have started out spiritually with plans already made in the event this fails to work out. Conditional commitments rarely do. Unconditional surrender is a part of the walk with Jesus. Quit leaving the back door or a secluded window open as a way out. Just give it all to Jesus!

It is time to barbecue the bull. Anybody got a match?