2 Kings 17-18:12
I’ve often heard Christians exclaim, “The Children of Israel were a mess. Why were they so easily led astray after all that God did for them? He brought them out of Egypt and parted the Red Sea before their very eyes for goodness sakes. What an ungrateful and unfaithful people!
These statements are true, but we would benefit ourselves by taking note of their actions and consequences lest we follow their footsteps. They defiantly lived against the laws of God. Chapter 17 verse 12 says they did so “despite the Lord’s specific and repeated warnings.” In Deuteronomy 28:49-68, God told them what would happen if they chose to worship other gods.
God calls us to be separate and to live holy lives. We are to worship God and God alone. The Israelites rejected God, worshipped idols and got off into sorcery and other fortune-telling things. Chapter 17 verse 16 says they “worshipped Baal and all the forces of heaven.” If you read this same passage in the NIV it says, “they bowed down to all the starry hosts.” Even some Christians today fall prey to these things. They may not bow down to the stars, but they dabble in things of the occult thinking it’s all in fun. They may read their daily horoscope, which is based on astrology, or think palm reading is okay.
We also see that the Israelites sacrificed their own sons and daughters in fire. I haven’t heard of any Christians of today throwing their children into flames, but some have sacrificed their children’s innocence to the entertainment industry. They’ve allowed immorality, profanity, violence, and blasphemy to flow from their television screens into their living rooms.
God warned the Israelites of their impending doom if they did not repent and in chapter 17 verse 23 we see that they were exiled from the Promised Land. They were stripped of their homes and possessions and shipped off to Samaria. Through his word, God warns us about our sin as well. If we reject him, live in disobedience, and worship false gods, we will face his judgment. (See Revelation 20:15).
In Chapter 18, God shows us a direct contrast to the evil practices of the Israelites. Hezekiah became king in Judah and he did what was pleasing in God’s eyes. He got rid of the pagan gods and shrines. He even destroyed the bronze serpent that Moses made because it had become an idol of worship. In verse 7 it says, “So the Lord was with him, and Hezekiah was successful in everything he did.” In chapter 17 disobedience led to exile, while in chapter 18 obedience lead to success.
The challenge is out. Are we going to accept God’s grace and live in obedience to his word? Are we going to live in holiness as we are called to do, or are we going to compromise and ignore God’s repeated warnings given us in his word?
As I read through Paul’s words of farewell to the Ephesian leaders, I was reminded of something my dad wrote in his Bible. As a young girl I always loved my dad’s Bible with its thin pages that crinkle when they are turned. When I graduated from college, my dad had his Bible recovered and gave it to me. It’s a gift that I’ve greatly treasured. I love to browse through and read verses that he underlined and notes he wrote in the margins as he prepared sermons and Bible studies. In the front cover, he wrote a note to me and in parenthesis at the bottom of the page, he referenced Matthew 13:44-46. I turned to that passage which talks about the kingdom of heaven being like a pearl that a man found. When he found it, he sold all he had to buy it. In the margin my dad wrote these words: “Sell out!”
That’s what I think of when I read Paul’s words. He had a boldness to live for Christ, and he said his life is worth nothing unless he finished the work that God assigned him. He was 100% sold out for Christ! He didn’t care about imprisonment and suffering. All he cared about was his life counting for God’s kingdom.
I think it’s tough for Americans to be that sold out. Are we willing to sacrifice our three bedroom homes, two car garages, and backyard swimming pools? Are we willing to sacrifice even a small amount of our time each day to spend with God? Are we willing to give Christ access to our wallets? Are we willing to sell out for God even if it means giving up our luxuries? This is a question we need to seriously consider because the time may come when God will require more of us than Sunday morning church attendance.
The message of this psalm is loud and clear: praise. God is worthy of our praise, and in this passage all of creation is admonished to praise him. From the fish in the sea to the angels above, we are to praise him.
The message of these two verses can be summarized in this statement: Fools should keep their mouths shut.