Saturday, February 18, 2012
This whole book is about the kings who ruled over Israel. Basically the whole lot were a disgrace and did not follow or bring honor to the God who had delivered them from Egypt and set them apart. Instead they turned to the pagan gods of the people they were supposed to drive from the land in the first place. Remember back in the earlier books when they were coming into the promise land and God said "drive out ALL the inhabitants..." and they didn't and let some of them stay entering into a treaty with them. Well surprise, surprise... God knew what he was talking about. He knew that if the original inhabitants stayed, their pagan beliefs would seep into His peoples lives and hearts causing them to sin.
What really surprised me is that Solomon, the wisest and the richest of all the Kings (some say the wisest man that ever lived), a king who lives most of his life honoring God, in the end took foreign wives who then influenced him to begin worshiping pagan gods. Because of his disobedience God said he would take the throne away from his descendants... which He did. The nation of Israel was then split, all of the tribes of Israel left with Jeroboam, and only the tribe of Judah remained in the line of David with Solomons son Rehoboam.
Jeroboam didn't want the people of Israel to return to Rehoboam for their sacrifices and trips to the temple and risk them becoming loyal once again to Rehoboam; so he crafted two golden calves and told the people of Israel that these were the gods that delivered them from Egypt, and led the whole nation of Israel away from God. A prophet from God goes and tells Jeroboam that he will be wiped from the Earth for his grievous sin. Jeroboam is paralyzed and the pagan alter crumbles before him releasing the paralysis as a sign of what the prophet said was true. God had told this prophet to not eat or drink while in the city and return home a different way than he had come. He is able to refuse Jeroboam's offer of dinner and a place to sleep. But an old prophet hears of his message and goes out to find him offering a place to eat and sleep. He refuses, but the old prophet lies saying "An angel appeared and told me to have you over for dinner." So the man listens and goes with him, of course God calls him out on it and says because he didn't listen he would not be buried in his homeland with his ancestors. The man leaves to go home and is attacked, but not eaten, by a lion on the way home. The old prophet who had tricked him goes out and finds his body with the lion still sitting next to him and the donkey.
After reading this, I realized how often we choose to listen to the world, our flesh, or even what others have said God has spoken to them, instead of what God has spoken to our hearts and in His word. Sunday at Church we had talked about how Satan uses our own doubt to get us to sin..."did God really say that, surely He didn't mean you would die..." When the reality is, God told us (fill in the blank with: love your neighbors, do not murder, respect your husband, don't have premarital sex or any other truth we choose to ignore) for a reason, and that reason was FOR OUR OWN GOOD.
See, the fundamental truth here is that GOD IS GOOD and He loves us, He is our creator; who knows better than Him what will hurt us, what will heal us, what will destroy us, what will bring us peace, than Him. Satan knew that we would become like god's knowing good and evil if Eve ate the apple and that she wouldn't die when she ate the apple, that is die as in instant death in the flesh. The problem was that we would become like gods knowing good and evil BUT unlike GOD who has no sin nature, our sin nature would not have the self control to resist the temptation of evil, and that is what brings our death, physical and spiritual.
Back to Kings: The only redeeming kings for Judah (sorry Israel doesn't have any yet) was Asa, who returns the tribe of Judah to God and removes all the pagan idols from the tribe, even removing his own grandmother from her position of honor as queen mother. After Asa's death his son, Jehoshaphat, continued ruling Judah in his father's example. Israel's kings continue in a downward spiral each doing more evil in the sight of God than the previous. Then we get to Ahab, Jezebel and Elijah. There was a constant feud between these three and to me Jezebel was the one that continually stirred the pot, causing problem after problem. Even after Elijah was taken to heaven she continued to do great evil. The book ends with the son of Ahab and Jezebel ruling as king of Israel "he served Baal and worshiped him, provoking the anger of the lord, just as his father had done."
This journey through the old testament is eye opening to the truth of God's unconditional love. My human nature can not fathom having the capacity to continually bring redemption and forgiveness, second chances, to people who continue to abandon me, blatantly choose counterfeit over real, authentic and genuine. It has been a lesson in loving others, because if God can love us through all of this, who am I to not love others?