Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Tyrannical Disaster

Devotion: 1 Kings 16:29-34

The emergence of the prophet Elijah was preceded by the rise of King Ahab. Ahab, the son of Omri who had defeated Tibni in the power vacuum left after Zimri's failed coup attempt, was about as bad as bad could be. The author of the account goes out of his way to contrast just how much worse Ahab was than any of his predecessors--none of whom, we should note, were described positively.
Ahab sits at the bottom of a downward spiral, exemplifying everything that was wrong with the northern kingship. Just the read the description of his ascent to the throne:
"In the thirty-eighth year of Asa king of Judah, Ahab the son of Omri began to reign over Israel, and Ahab the son of Omri reigned over Israel in Samaria twenty-two years. And Ahab the son of Omri did evil in the sight of the LORD, more than all who were before him. And as if it had been a light thing for him to walk in the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, he took for his wife Jezebel the daughter of Ethbaal king of the Sidonians, and went and served Baal and worshiped him. He erected an altar for Baal in the house of Baal, which he built in Samaria. And Ahab made an Asherah. Ahab did more to provoke the LORD, the God of Israel, to anger than all the kings of Israel who were before him. In his days Hiel of Bethel built Jericho. He laid its foundation at the cost of Abiram his firstborn, and set up its gates at the cost of his youngest son Segub, according to the word of the LORD, which he spoke by Joshua the son of Nun. " -1 Kings 16:29-34 ESV
Ahab not only encouraged the use of the golden calf shrines (like Jeroboam), he also married a foreign bride and brought her religion, Baalism, into the mainstream in Israel. Ahab built a temple to Baal right in the capital city of Samaria and put alongside it a shrine to Baal's consort, Asherah. Further, Ahab allowed and enabled the rebuilding of Jericho, sacrificing two of his own children, Abiram and Segub, to accomplish the task. In short, Ahab was as bad as bad could be.
So what do we do with a tyrant in the biblical narrative? I think we need to learn from him and recognize his ilk in the world today. Ahab, at base, was unconcerned with truth and goodness. He was chiefly concerned with his own power, desires and whims (as will be clearly demonstrated throughout his reign). Ahab was not afraid to sacrifice children to accomplish his aims. In short, he saw his own will as absolute and absolutely perfect.
The inability to be self-critical is dangerous. Fanaticism emerges when we believe our views are not the only best, but the only good and true views anyone should have. The fanatic becomes a tyrant regarding opposing views with regularity. Since the fanatic is, by self-reference, correct, then everyone else is wrong. Attempting to sway or persuade the fanatic becomes an exercise in wasting breath. Ahab is a fanatic of his own power. It will take God working through the ministry of the prophet Elijah to knock Ahab on his heels and reveal that this tyrant is not as powerful as he imagines himself to be.
We all need to be knocked on our heels and face disaster when we approach tyranny and/or fanaticism. God's Word still has that power to do just that, pointing out our faults and failures and calling us to repentance ever and again through faith in Christ Jesus. Beware of someone who cannot see his own faults--especially if that someone is you. There is good news, God still speaks the prophetic word in our lives to call us to be radically honest about our faults and find perfection in Christ alone.

News for You:

  • CPC's annual Trunk-or-Treat event is Tuesday, October 31st from 4-7 p.m. We are looking for volunteers to bring/decorate vehicles, donate candy, or bring/cook hotdogs. There is a sign-up sheet at the Welcome Center at CPC.
  • We still have some available spots for Small Groups that launch next week.
  • We will not have Sunday School Remix October 2 or Sunday School October 7 due to the pastor being away.

Wednesday, September 12, 2018


Devotion: 1 Kings 16:21-28

Life can feel chaotic at times. To be sure that feeling of chaos is relative to our experience and circumstance. Since my kids have gone back to school my wife and I have been juggling schedules and playing the three-kid-shuffle between soccer practice, Awana and family time. This has led to a growing sense of chaos crouching at the door and it is only our ability to communicate and coordinate (with the Lord's guidance!) that has maintained order. That feeling of chaos can be overwhelming, but it is nothing compared with many in the world today.
We live in peace and order. While we may disagree about the extent or the forward duration of that peace and order, an honest assessment sees people in our nation with the liberty to live life, pursue goals, gain skills and form families. I believe many people in Syria today would be envious of our liberty, peace and order as they continue in the chaos of civil war and totalitarianism.
Order is God's work in the world. The creation accounts depict God as establishing order in the midst of the dark depths of chaos. Our God made a covenant with Abraham and his descendants, including the Mosaic Law and culminating in the coming of Jesus Christ to save sinners, to establish His order in a world lost in the chaos of sinful rebellion. In my personal readings of Scripture over the last several months I have been struck by the way God continues to order the chaos and the way human sin continues to usher in more chaos.
Our passage this week is a story of chaos and disarray. Peace and order are nowhere to be found. In the course of a week the Kingdom of Israel saw a violent coup led by Zimri kill the king while a war was being fought against Philistines. Zimri then barricaded himself in the royal palace in Tirzah while General Omri laid seige. Zimri, facing defeat, decided to commit suicide by burning down the king's palace with him inside. In the course of a week, the king was dead and his would-be usurper was also dead. This created a power/leadership vacuum and two parties seek to fill the same space:
"Then the people of Israel were divided into two parts. Half of the people followed Tibni the son of Ginath, to make him king, and half followed Omri. But the people who followed Omri overcame the people who followed Tibni the son of Ginath. So Tibni died, and Omri became king. In the thirty-first year of Asa king of Judah, Omri began to reign over Israel, and he reigned for twelve years; six years he reigned in Tirzah. He bought the hill of Samaria from Shemer for two talents of silver, and he fortified the hill and called the name of the city that he built Samaria, after the name of Shemer, the owner of the hill. " -1 Kings 16:21-24 ESV
We live in a two-party system, but we have enjoyed peaceful transfers of power for well over a century (the American Civil War in the mid-19th century being the only exception). In Israel, the death of a king led to a war. The biblical account nonchalantly describes these events and that should give us pause before using hyperbolic language to describe our lives as chaotic. The outbreak of civil war between the forces of General Omri and Tibni receives a very terse account as if such a thing was not only normal, but expected. The disarray and chaos of the situation is depicted as normal. Again, our thoughts on our lives being chaotic is usually relative. Given the tumult of Israel's history up to that point, kings dying and people fighting for power was just another day. Contrast this with the long reign of King Asa of Judah, who, while imperfect in his devotion to the Lord, was much more faithful than the kings of Israel during his 41-year reign.
The end result of this fight was Omri's victory and ascendance. Omri moves the political capitol to Samaria, which he purchased honestly from Shemer (this will be contrasted with his son Ahab and Naboth's vineyard later). Omri's reign was 12 years and it was marked with the same problems as those who went before him:
"Omri did what was evil in the sight of the LORD, and did more evil than all who were before him. For he walked in all the way of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, and in the sins that he made Israel to sin, provoking the LORD, the God of Israel, to anger by their idols. Now the rest of the acts of Omri that he did, and the might that he showed, are they not written in the Book of the Chronicles of the Kings of Israel? And Omri slept with his fathers and was buried in Samaria, and Ahab his son reigned in his place. " -1 Kings 16:25-28 ESV
Omri failed at restoring order because he continued in the sin of idolatry. That legacy would be passed to his son Ahab. We will speak more about Ahab in the coming weeks.
We need to be cautious in two ways as people of faith. First, we need to be cautious in seeing and describing our lives in overly-dramatic ways, asserting more chaos than is really present. Second, we need to be cautious about allowing the chaos of idolatry to invade our lives. We are called to true worship of the one true God. To give worship to false idols is to invite real chaos and, as we have seen, that does not end well for anyone.

The song this week is "What the Morning Shows" by The Dust of Men.

News for You:

  • We are still on the hunt for Small Group Leaders for our Fall series in Romans. If you are interested, e-mail Pastor Bill.
  • Sunday School will kick off our next series in the Westminster Confession of Faith beginning September 16 at 9 a.m. Sunday School Remix will resume September 18 at 1 p.m. in the library at CPC.

Friday, September 7, 2018

What Comes Around...

Devotion: 1 Kings 16:15-20

Seven days is not a terribly long time. I currently have multiple condiments in my fridge that are much older than seven days. Seven days is the reign of Zimri after his rebellion and assassination of Elah, son of Baasha. Zimri is a textbook illustration of reaping what one sows (see Galatians 6:6-10).
"In the twenty-seventh year of Asa king of Judah, Zimri reigned seven days in Tirzah. Now the troops were encamped against Gibbethon, which belonged to the Philistines, and the troops who were encamped heard it said, “Zimri has conspired, and he has killed the king.” Therefore all Israel made Omri, the commander of the army, king over Israel that day in the camp. So Omri went up from Gibbethon, and all Israel with him, and they besieged Tirzah. And when Zimri saw that the city was taken, he went into the citadel of the king's house and burned the king's house over him with fire and died, because of his sins that he committed, doing evil in the sight of the Lord, walking in the way of Jeroboam, and for his sin which he committed, making Israel to sin. Now the rest of the acts of Zimri, and the conspiracy that he made, are they not written in the Book of the Chronicles of the Kings of Israel?" -1 Kings 16:15-20 ESV
Following Zimri's rebellion, the troops fighting against the Philistines (the cover for Zimri's coup) hear about his treachery and decide, under the leadership of General Omri to strike back against the rebel. Omri, taking charge, is not only to lead the counter-insurgency, but if successful, is to become king of Israel.
Omri leads the troops to Tirzah and takes the city. Zimri, knowing his goose is cooked, commits suicide by burning down the king's palace with him inside. In seven short days he goes from king to dead, yet even in that short span he continued idolatry and perpetuated injustice. Zimri met a bitter end following his plot.
Zimri can teach us a few brief lessons.
  1. Violence begets violence. Jesus himself said to Peter when struck the servant of the high priest in defense of Jesus, "Put your sword back in its place. For all who take the sword will perish by the sword." (Matthew 26:52). Zimri's treachery and rebellion was doomed because of the violent way he perpetrated his offense.
  2. While Elah was a wicked king, Zimri acted without authorization, direction and leave from the Lord. Zimri acted out of naked ambition for his own benefit, seizing an opportunity as it presented itself. God's will was never considered.
  3. Zimri did not have a clear strategy. While he struck down Elah and took the throne, he had no strategy for holding the throne. This is short-term thinking at its worst. Doing something in the moment without thought to the long-term consequence and/or strategy is sure method of increasing misery, pain and trouble.
King Zimri reigned seven days because he acted without the Lord's will. His means were violent and he met a violent, dishonorable end. While Zimri fulfilled the prophecy of Jehu the Prophet, he did so unconsciously and without deference to the Lord. We need to be much more thoughtful, strategic and humble in our actions, seeking the glory of God and the execution of His will lest our short-term strategy meet with disaster.

The song this week is "Farther Along" by Josh Garrels.

News for You:

  • Visit our booth at the Okanogan County Fair!
  • We are still on the hunt for Small Group Leaders for our Fall series in Romans. If you are interested, e-mail Pastor Bill.
  • Sunday School will kick off our next series in the Westminster Confession of Faith beginning September 16 at 9 a.m. Sunday School Remix will resume September 18 at 1 p.m. in the library at CPC.

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Sin and Judgment

Devotion: 1 Kings 15:33-16:14

Sin is open rebellion against the will of God. While other biblical images of sin emerge over time, including the often cited example of 'missing the mark,' it is rebellion that really carries the freight. God's will for His creation is the only criteria for life that matters. God's will gives meaning, purpose, point, goal, aim and end to any and all who listen to His will and carry it out to glorify Him.
Now, the question that 1 Kings addresses here in the midst of rapid dynastic change is if someone who does not worship YHWH (i.e. a pagan) or one who worships YHWH improperly by either creating a false image of YHWH, worshiping in a way YHWH did not expressly command (or even strictly forbids), or mixing the worship of YHWH with the worship of idols--can such a person still glorify the Lord by doing His will without repentance and faith? In other words, can you do God's will, and thus glorify Him, and still be responsible for sin? Last week we saw how the Lord can use sin to accomplish His purpose(s) without being the root or creator of sin. This week we need to wonder what happens to the sinner who accomplished God's will, but still sinned. Enter King Baasha:
"In the third year of Asa king of Judah, Baasha the son of Ahijah began to reign over all Israel at Tirzah, and he reigned twenty-four years. He did what was evil in the sight of the LORD and walked in the way of Jeroboam and in his sin which he made Israel to sin. " -1 Kings 15:33-34 ESV
Baasha had rebelled and destroyed the House of Jeroboam, ending his dynasty with the death of Jeroboam's son, King Nadab. Baasha was, in essence, the tool the Lord used to fulfill His prophetic word to Jeroboam. This does not, however, mean that Baasha was a dutiful servant of YHWH anymore than Jeroboam was. These men did the will of YHWH, but that is not to be construed as these men being righteous or that these men were somehow not responsible for the sin they did. Baasha reigned from Tirzah, a city east of Samaria, perhaps because the people of Samaria were fond of Nadab.
Despite Baasha being the agent employed by the Lord to carry out His will, Baasha leads the people into the same sins of idolatry that had entangled Jeroboam. Baasha ended the previous dynasty and then reconstituted the very practices he had been used to stop. So the Lord sent a prophet to pronounce his judgment:
"And the word of the LORD came to Jehu the son of Hanani against Baasha, saying, “Since I exalted you out of the dust and made you leader over my people Israel, and you have walked in the way of Jeroboam and have made my people Israel to sin, provoking me to anger with their sins, behold, I will utterly sweep away Baasha and his house, and I will make your house like the house of Jeroboam the son of Nebat. Anyone belonging to Baasha who dies in the city the dogs shall eat, and anyone of his who dies in the field the birds of the heavens shall eat.” " -1 Kings 16:1-4 ESV
Baasha had made the mistake of assuming that his will was in a one-to-one correspondence with the will of God. This happens when we begin to see our views, opinions and desires as holy, right and good since we have a relationship with the Lord. The king had forgotten, or perhaps not learned, that the king serves at the leave of the Lord. Baasha, having disposed of the dynasty of Jeroboam, must have believed he was somehow anointed and could do not wrong to fall into the same trap as his predecessors.
The result of this mistaken view is the judgment of God. Baasha, however he was of use to God previously, has sinned and was, therefore liable to God's wrath. What's more, the House of Baasha would meet the same end as the House of Jeroboam. Who you are does not matter when it comes to sin. There are no special passes, no special privileges, and no special persons vis-a-vis sin. Baasha had sinned and so his House would fall as the judgment of God.
"Now the rest of the acts of Baasha and what he did, and his might, are they not written in the Book of the Chronicles of the Kings of Israel? And Baasha slept with his fathers and was buried at Tirzah, and Elah his son reigned in his place. Moreover, the word of the LORD came by the prophet Jehu the son of Hanani against Baasha and his house, both because of all the evil that he did in the sight of the LORD, provoking him to anger with the work of his hands, in being like the house of Jeroboam, and also because he destroyed it. " -1 Kings 16:5-7 ESV
The final words of verse 7, "and also because he destroyed it," lets us know that Baasha's treatment of the House of Jeroboam (namely, utterly destroying it), while accomplishing the will of God, was sin and he was liable for it. God's sovereignty means that all things work together for good, but it does not alleviate human responsibility for sin. God can use sinful actions by human beings to accomplish His good ends, but that does not excuse, justify or anoint the sinful action. Sin is still contrary to God's will and those who sin are liable to judgment for it. Baasha ended the dynasty of Jeroboam (God's expressed will) by killing all the members of his House (sin). God's will was done, but Baasha was still guilty of sin.
Baasha would be followed by his son Elah. Elah would meet a quick end (reigning only two years) at the hands Zimri, the grandfather of Ahab. So why did Elah fall?
"In the twenty-sixth year of Asa king of Judah, Elah the son of Baasha began to reign over Israel in Tirzah, and he reigned two years. But his servant Zimri, commander of half his chariots, conspired against him. When he was at Tirzah, drinking himself drunk in the house of Arza, who was over the household in Tirzah, Zimri came in and struck him down and killed him, in the twenty-seventh year of Asa king of Judah, and reigned in his place. When he began to reign, as soon as he had seated himself on his throne, he struck down all the house of Baasha. He did not leave him a single male of his relatives or his friends. Thus Zimri destroyed all the house of Baasha, according to the word of the LORD, which he spoke against Baasha by Jehu the prophet, for all the sins of Baasha and the sins of Elah his son, which they sinned and which they made Israel to sin, provoking the LORD God of Israel to anger with their idols. Now the rest of the acts of Elah and all that he did, are they not written in the Book of the Chronicles of the Kings of Israel?" -1 Kings 16:8-14 ESV
Elah was not an innocent sufferer. In his short two-year reign he continued the idolatrous practices of his father. So the Lord fulfilled His Word through the prophet Jehu and ended the reign of Elah. God's chosen agent this time was Zimri, who had been a commander of chariots in Elah's army. Zimri caught Elah while he was drunk and put an end to his life. Zimri then ascended the throne and proceeded to destory the House of Baasha, killing all of its members to cement his own rule. If this sounds familiar, it ought to.
Jeroboam, Baasha and Zimri (more on him next week) all were used by God, but were sinners none-the-less. We cannot assume that just because we are accomplishing the will of God that we are not sinning at the same time. Removing the previous regime does not automatically make the next regime righteous, especially when the next regime, once in power, returns to the same sinful policies that ended the previous regime. Tearing down sinners does not make us righteous ourselves.
If Jesus is your king, you can be assured that he will lead you only to true worship and in the way of righteousness. If we continue to sin as we did under the old regime, we are responsible for that sin and thanks be to God that Jesus has taken that responsibility to himself on the cross that we may be forgiven and receive mercy and not what our sin deserves.

The song this week is "Feel the Night" by Strahan.

News for You:

  • Due to the uncertainty of smoke the church picnic has been postponed. Look for more details coming soon in the bulletin.
  • The Service Team is looking for volunteers to staff our outreach booth at the Okanogan County Fair. Sign-ups can be found at the Welcome Center at CPC.
  • We are still on the hunt for Small Group Leaders for our Fall series in Romans. If you are interested, e-mail Pastor Bill.
  • Sunday School will kick off our next series in the Westminster Confession of Faith beginning September 16 at 9 a.m. Sunday School Remix will resume September 18 at 1 p.m. in the library at CPC.

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Dynasty Fail

Devotion: 1 Kings 15:25-30

As we continue to set the stage for the coming of the Prophet Elijah's ministry (he bursts on the scene in 1 Kings 17:1), we will trace the lineage of Jeroboam, King of Israel. Jereboam's reign included the death of his son Abijah as a message of judgment for the dynasty that the Lord had promised to Jeroboam if he would be faithful. Jeroboam chose political expediency over faithful obedience to the Lord, setting up golden calves in violation of the second commandment and high places for the worship of Baal and Asherah in violation of the first commandment. Despite a prophet's effort to course correct Jeroboam (see 1 Kings 13:1-10 and the prophet's demise in 1 Kings 13:11-32), Jeroboam persisted in promoting idolatry and thus the Scripture tells us, "And this thing became sin to the house of Jeroboam, so as to cut it off and to destroy it from the face of the earth" (1 Kings 13:34). The destruction of the house of Jeroboam would come a short while later.
Jeroboam died after reigning 22 years in Israel. His reign set a precedent and course for the kings who would follow. That precedent included idolatry and disobedience to the clear commands of the Lord. We pick up the story now when his son, Nadab, ascended to the throne.
"Nadab the son of Jeroboam began to reign over Israel in the second year of Asa king of Judah, and he reigned over Israel two years. He did what was evil in the sight of the LORD and walked in the way of his father, and in his sin which he made Israel to sin." - 1 Kings 15:25-26 ESV
The Scripture is clear that Nadab was just like his father. The sin of Jeroboam was not only participating in idolatry, but encouraging others to do the same. The Apostle Paul calls this out as a particularly heinous sin in his list of the sins of a depraved mind in Romans 1:32, "Though they know God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them." Nadab is not punished for the sins of his father, but rather receives judgment for his own sin and fulfills the Word of the Lord spoken through the prophets concerning the dynasty of Jeroboam. It was simply time for the house of Jeroboam to be removed. We can balk at such treatment by the Lord, but we must remember that the Lord had told Jeroboam that there would be great rewards for his faithful obedience. Jeroboam went a different direction and that led to the downfall of his dynasty. Here's how it happened:
"Baasha the son of Ahijah, of the house of Issachar, conspired against him. And Baasha struck him down at Gibbethon, which belonged to the Philistines, for Nadab and all Israel were laying siege to Gibbethon. So Baasha killed him in the third year of Asa king of Judah and reigned in his place. And as soon as he was king, he killed all the house of Jeroboam. He left to the house of Jeroboam not one that breathed, until he had destroyed it, according to the word of the LORD that he spoke by his servant Ahijah the Shilonite. It was for the sins of Jeroboam that he sinned and that he made Israel to sin, and because of the anger to which he provoked the LORD, the God of Israel." -1 Kings 15:27-30 ESV
The death of King Nadab and the end of Jeroboam's dynasty comes about during a siege. Nadab, busy with the battle is, in essence, stabbed in the back by Baasha. Baasha for his part is acting out of self-interest with no mention of his call or duty to the Lord. Indeed, Baasha continues the idolatry of the House of Jeroboam after he had viciously destroyed every member of Jeroboam's family. And I believe this tells us that God can use even wicked and evil men bent on their own ambition and self-interest to accomplish His will. This does not mean that Baasha is off the hook for his attack, morally speaking, let alone that the Lord will excuse the idolatry of Baasha while bringing judgment on Jeroboam. It simply means that for a time Baasha's wicked ambition to seize power was useful to carry out the will of God. This use of evil by God does not mean that the Lord generated Baasha's sin or wicked intention, but rather that the Lord was able to use even sin and evil to accomplish His good end (see Romans 8:28).
The destruction of the House of Jeroboam reminds us that sin is not to be trifled with in our own lives. Indeed the Apostle Paul is quite clear in Colossians 3:5, "Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry." What is the Christian do with sin? In short, kill it! We may think we can harness sin to accomplish our goal or aim, but it will always turn on us and threaten to destroy us. Sin is an enemy defeated by Christ Jesus on the cross (see 1 Corinthians 15:56-57). Jesus wins the victory on our behalf and leads us in this victory into obedience through faith to the revealed will of God. We should not presume that in Christ's victory sin is now a tool we can use. We are not God, the Divine Creator of all that is. God can use human sin to accomplish His aim, but that does not excuse sin. Sin's end is death--either our death (as with Nadab) or the death of Christ. The only difference between the two is the surrender of faith to Jesus.

The song today is from The Young Escape, "neverfade."

News for You:

  • Due to the uncertainty of smoke the church picnic has been postponed. Look for more details coming soon in the bulletin.
  • The Service Team is looking for volunteers to staff our outreach booth at the Okanogan County Fair. Sign-ups can be found at the Welcome Center at CPC.
  • We are still on the hunt for Small Group Leaders for our Fall series in Romans. If you are interested, e-mail Pastor Bill.
  • Sunday School will kick off our next series in the Westminster Confession of Faith beginning September 16 at 9 a.m. Sunday School Remix will resume September 18 at 1 p.m. in the library at CPC.

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

The Sin of Jeroboam

Devotion: 1 Kings 12:25-33

As I mentioned in our last newsletter the blog will be following the ministry of the Prophet Elijah for a while.The prophet emerges on the scene of Israel during a turbulent time and remained a popular figure in the history of Israel right up to the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.
To understand the prophet and his ministry we need to look at the historical context that led up to the reign of King Ahab of Israel. That context really begins with the naivete of King Rehoboam, the son of King Solomon and grandson of King David. When Solomon died, Rehoboam was to ascend to the throne, yet his coronation was not without controversy. The 10 northern tribes were not happy with the forced labor they endured under Solomon and wanted assurances that Rehoboam would not continue his father's policies. Rehoboam took counsel from his father's advisers who instructed him to capitulate to the people's demands and thus be loved and respected. Not satisfied, Rehoboam (who was around 18 at the time) took counsel from his friends (also about 18) and they instructed him to deal even more harshly with the people, postulating that fear and reprisal would keep the people in line. Faced with two conflicting pieces of advice, Rehoboam went with his friends and the people revolted and rejected his claim to reign over them.
"And when all Israel saw that the king did not listen to them, the people answered the king, “What portion do we have in David? We have no inheritance in the son of Jesse. To your tents, O Israel! Look now to your own house, David.” So Israel went to their tents." -1 Kings 12:16 ESV
Waiting in the wings was Jeroboam. Jeroboam had been a capable official (ironically over Solomon's forced labor program). After receiving a message from the Lord through Ahijah the prophet, Jeroboam led an unsuccessful rebellion against Solomon (see 1 Kings 11:26-40). This led to Jeroboam's flight to Egypt. Yet, when Solomon died, as Rehoboam was preparing for his coronation, Jeroboam emerges on the scene again, providing a ready alternative to the ill-advised Rehoboam when the 10 northern tribes entered into rebellion against the heir of David. It took the Lord Himself to intervene through the prophet Shemaiah to prevent open civil war (see 1 Kings 12:16-24).
The end result was a splitting of the United Kingdom of Israel into a northern (Israel) kingdom and southern (Judah) kingdom. The southern kingdom continued the Davidic dynasty and certainly outlasted the northern kingdom (they fell to the Assyrians in 722 BC, while Judah fell to the Babylonians in 586 BC). The northern kingdom followed Jeroboam's line (until they were usurped, but more on that much later). It is Jeroboam's acts as the first King of Israel where we pick up the story.
"Then Jeroboam built Shechem in the hill country of Ephraim and lived there. And he went out from there and built Penuel. And Jeroboam said in his heart, 'Now the kingdom will turn back to the house of David. If this people go up to offer sacrifices in the temple of the LORD at Jerusalem, then the heart of this people will turn again to their lord, to Rehoboam king of Judah, and they will kill me and return to Rehoboam king of Judah.' " -1 Kings 12:25-27 ESV
Civil War was narrowly avoided between Judah and Israel, yet the specter of open conflict was haunting Jeroboam.Since his was a bloodless coup-d'etat the northern tribes had no real investment in his reign. What united the north under Jeroboam was not his leadership, charisma or policies, but rather a general disdain for Rehoboam. The political question that Jeroboam needed to answer was how long could that disdain sustain his reign (try saying that 5 times fast). He knew that the more interaction the northern tribes had with the south, the more likely reconciliation would take place. What's more, the religion of Israel, YHWHism, meant a central place of worship, namely the Temple in Jerusalem, that was also the seat of the southern monarchy. That religion was one of both mercy and justice, but the mercy tended to outweigh the justice in the long term.
So what was the king to do? Jeroboam could have listened to the prophet Ahijah and remained faithful to the Lord and let the events transpire as he had been promised. In that scenario, according to the prophet, it would be the line of Jeroboam and not the line of David from whom the redeemer would come and it would be Jeroboam's name and not David's name that would be held in reverence.
So the king decided to go a different direction (and leave behind the Word of the Lord).
"So the king took counsel and made two calves of gold. And he said to the people, 'You have gone up to Jerusalem long enough. Behold your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt.' And he set one in Bethel, and the other he put in Dan." -1 Kings 12:28-29 ESV
Jeroboam's solution is to create two shrines each with a golden calf idol to represent the gods (or God) who delivered Israel out of Egypt. Such a program did not end well the last time it was attempted by Israel under the leadership of Aaron (see Exodus 32). And, as anyone familiar with sin could guess, the sin of idolatry did not end there.
"Then this thing became a sin, for the people went as far as Dan to be before one. He also made temples on high places and appointed priests from among all the people, who were not of the Levites. And Jeroboam appointed a feast on the fifteenth day of the eighth month like the feast that was in Judah, and he offered sacrifices on the altar. So he did in Bethel, sacrificing to the calves that he made. And he placed in Bethel the priests of the high places that he had made. He went up to the altar that he had made in Bethel on the fifteenth day in the eighth month, in the month that he had devised from his own heart. And he instituted a feast for the people of Israel and went up to the altar to make offerings." 1 Kings 12:30-33 ESV
Jeroboam proceeds to make temples in the high places, most likely to Baal and his consort Asherah and appoint priests to oversee these shrines who are not Levites (the tribe of priests chosen by God-see Numbers 18:1-7). One sin leads to another and soon the prophecy over Jeroboam is discarded for what is politically expedient. Isn't that the way it usually goes?
King Jeroboam's legacy was one of rebellion against God. He sets up idol worship to replace true worship in an attempt to secure his reign and dynasty. In turning from the Lord he puts in motion his dynasty's demise.
What can we take from this? I believe it tells us that sin makes promises it cannot keep. It promises life, fulfillment and happiness, and ends in death, emptiness and misery. Sin begets more sin and it is better to stop it before it starts. To do that, we need true repentance that comes through faith in Jesus Christ, who conquered sin on the cross for us and for our salvation.

The song today is "On & On" by Christ Church Manchester Music.

News for You:

  • CPC's Youth Group for 6th-12th grades is meeting Sundays from 7-8:30 p.m.
  • The annual Church picnic will take place Saturday, August 25 at 4 p.m. Sign-up at the Welcome Center at CPC!
  • Small Group Leaders are needed for our Fall groups. If you are interested, Pastor Bill is hosting a meeting in the Memorial Parlor following worship on Sunday, 8/19.
  • Sunday School and Sunday School Remix will resume in September (9/16 and 9/18 respectively). The next series will cover the history and theology of our confession, the Westminster Confession of Faith

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Grace and Disappointment

Devotion: Jonah 4:8-11

The story of Jonah ends poorly by modern, Western story-telling standards. Jonah does not learn a life-lesson, Jonah does not make a course-correction, Jonah is neither victorious nor defeated. The story simply ends with a statement of God's character:
"When the sun rose, God appointed a scorching east wind, and the sun beat down on the head of Jonah so that he was faint. And he asked that he might die and said, 'It is better for me to die than to live.' But God said to Jonah, 'Do you do well to be angry for the plant?' And he said, 'Yes, I do well to be angry, angry enough to die.' And the LORD said, 'You pity the plant, for which you did not labor, nor did you make it grow, which came into being in a night and perished in a night. And should not I pity Nineveh, that great city, in which there are more than 120,000 persons who do not know their right hand from their left, and also much cattle?' " -Jonah 4:8-11 ESV
Jonah had been hanging out under a plant that God caused to grow miraculously. Jonah's purpose was to see the destruction of the repented city of Nineveh. The prophet simply could not take God's grace as an answer. He wanted blood, death and destruction. Instead, God showed character by grace, mercy and forgiveness. The prophet has assumed he had a permanent privileged position with God. The position left the prophet vulnerable to the sin of pride. Jonah knew best and put himself over and above the Sovereign Creator in choosing the proper course of action.
All of Jonah's worldview falls apart as the plant collapses under the worm that God sent. Jonah is left with disappointment even depression. His worldview has collapsed and instead of seeking the Lord and being reshaped and refashioned by his Creator, Jonah asks for death. The prophet believes it is preferable to cease to live than to live in a world he cannot control.
Yet the final belongs to the Lord, and it ought to be our final word here as well. The Lord is far more gracious, loving and forgiving than any of us deserve or imagine. No one is beyond the redemptive power of the love of God. God formed all things and everyone and His care and concern for his creation is what leads to the coming of Jesus, the Savior of the World. To assume we have the corner on God's love is to invite disappointment when God does not play by our rules. Surrender to God's will and recognizing His desire to save is the heart of our Christian faith.
The book of Jonah just ends with open questions. May your life be filled with the answer of God's grace that Jonah never seemed to grasp.

The song this week is "Take Me Home" from Angel!na.

News for You:

  • For those praying for Andrew Brunson, you may already know that he was returned to prison with a future trial date set for October 12. You can read more here, here and here
  • Our Youth Group is meeting Sunday from 7-8:30 p.m. We are studying Titus and all youth entering 6th-12th grade are invited for faith, fun and friendship.
  • The Annual Church Picnic is set for August 25 at 4 p.m. More detail will be coming in the weekly bulletin and from your deacons.
  • Big thanks to everyone who helped with the ManFisher Picnic!