Saturday, August 24, 2019

Abijah v. Abijam and staying accountable to true worship

1 Kings 15 introduces us to Abijah, Rehoboam's son and successor to David's throne.  The NIV calls him Abijah to match his story in 2 Chronicles 13.  The ESV calls him Abijam.  Abijah means "my father is YHWH", and Abijam means "my father is the sea."

The 1 Kings account shows a wicked king who followed after the idolatry of his father, and the name Abijam would more reflect the pagan leanings of Rehoboam and his son.  The 2 Chronicles account gives a story of a man who was attacked by Jeroboam but rebuked him and all of northern Israel for turning away from the worship of the true God and setting up golden calves and pretending to worship him.  So which man do we have?  Do we have Abijah who loved God's glory or do we have Abijam who fooled around with idols?

Since both accounts are in the Bible, and the Bible is all true, then both accounts are true somehow, but I'm not sure how.

Just like the Bible shows a Rehoboam who was foolish in his young days and caused the kingdom to split, but then humbled himself when a prophet told him to stop attacking the north, but then still had constant warfare with the north, the inspired Scriptures also show a much compromised Abijah.  Maybe he grew up in a compromised religion where he could worship God one day but then play with the world on other days.  Perhaps when he was older and could no longer take the constant warfare with Jeroboam, he came to his senses and rebuked the other king for his apostasy, much like the thief on the cross who repented and rebuked the other thief for mocking our Savior as he was dying.

In the end, I don't know completely how the two accounts jive, but they do somehow.  Much like how God doesn't always make sense in my life, but I know he's good and that he loves me.  One thing is true.  Judah still had the worship of the true God, and Israel abandoned him but pretended that they still worshiped him.  And that accountability of worshiping God on his terms kept the southern kings on David's throne no matter how much their hearts strayed.  In the same way, we must stay with the God of the Scriptures who sent Jesus to die for our sins.  Our hearts will naturally stray from the path, but if we have the accountability of reading the Bible every day and going to church every week, especially when we don't feel like it, the Holy Spirit will be faithful to guide us back to the right way of worship and living.

Saturday, August 17, 2019

Rehoboam concludes: Mixed testimonies

When we are first introduced to Rehoboam, he succeeds his father Solomon to the throne and then the kingdom divides into northern Israel (Ephraim) and southern Judah.  Rehoboam rules the south and tries to wage war against the north to reunite, but a prophet tells him to stop, and he does.  It seems that Rehoboam humbled himself.

However, in the conclusion to his reign in 1 Kings 14, it says that he had constant war with Jeroboam.  Perhaps his repentance was a false repentance, and he had to keep up with the north.  Jeroboam in the north set up golden calves to compete with the temple in Jerusalem in the south.  Then maybe Rehoboam decided that it would be a good idea to set up Asherah poles and sacred stones to bring them back to the south.  Neither king followed the true God who set him up on their thrones.  So God sent Pharaoh Shishak from Egypt who plundered the temple's treasures, and Rehoboam replaced the gold shields with bronze ones and set up guards.

However 2 Chronicles 12:12 says that the southern king did humble himself and that there were true worshipers of God in Judah.  The Lord did not destroy him and kept his line going.

If God had not saved me, my heart would be just as wayward.  It is anyway from time to time.  I go days and years without a spot, and then I make a huge error and either I or somebody else gets the consequences to it, and I have to repent and rethink God's plan for me.  But I rest on God's mercy given through Jesus's blood, and I realize I need to let him work and stop thinking.  But I can't shut down my brain.  I'm setting up my own versions of Asherah poles and golden calves, and I need to stop and obey the Lord.

And then, I see a nation that never truly followed God following him even less, and I have to sit with the faithful ones and call out sin where I see it, but am powerless to turn the tide of depravity all around me.  Lord help us all.  Send Christ soon before things get worse.

Thursday, August 8, 2019

Abijah and Ahijah

Chapter 14 of 1 Kings starts with Jeroboam and ends with a recap of Rehoboam.  Jeroboam's son, Abijah, gets ill, and he sends his queen out in disguise to Ahijah the prophet to ask about Abijah.  The king did not want the prophet who made him king to know that he had sent his wife.

But when she approached the door of Ahijah's house, he said, "Why is the king's wife in disguise?"  He told her that he made Jeroboam king, but Jeroboam has done nothing but betray the Lord with his false idols and golden calves.  He tells her that when she gets home, her son will die and that his dynasty will end.  The passage also says that Jeroboam's son actually followed the true Lord.

When we consider Abijah and That Guy who got eaten by the lion in the previous passage, we wonder why God took them away from this earth so soon.  There are no truly good people on earth except for Jesus, but there are people God redeemed from their sins who do follow him to the best of their ability although not perfectly.  Why did God take the one good son of this treacherous king away so young, and why did he have That Guy killed so soon when he committed the one sin of eating with someone before he got home?  Also, why did my faithful mother die of cancer at age 50 and why did the thirteen-year-old son of one of our pastors get killed in a car wreck many years ago?

It's like God has mercy on some of his faithful people by taking them home at a young age.  They don't have to live to see further corruption in our society, and they are taken before they can be corrupted themselves.  Although we who are still living grieve them, they are happy in the arms of Jesus and will never cry again.

Meanwhile, the wicked people live on and on, and unless God rescues them from themselves, this is the only heaven they will know.  In the end, it is much better for the faithful ones who live short, but impactful lives on earth, then for the ones who live long but only waste their potential.

I will finish with Rehoboam in the next post.

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

That guy: Prophet dies doing what God wants

Here in my study of Kings, I come to the first of many disturbing stories in 1 Kings 13.  Jeroboam is king of northern Israel, but he betrays the Lord by building golden calves so that people would not go south to worship in Jerusalem like the Lord wanted.  A nameless prophet comes from Judah as he is sacrificing at an altar and says that one day Josiah will come smash the altar and turn it into a bathroom.

King Jeroboam tries to seize him and kill him, but That Guy calls on the Lord who shrivels Jeroboam's hand.  Jeroboam apologizes and That Guy restores his hand.  The king invites the prophet to dinner, but That Guy says no, he must go home a different way and not eat or drink with anyone or the Lord will kill him.

On the way back home on a different route, That Guy is stopped by an older prophet who invites him over for dinner.  That Guy says no, the Lord will kill him if he stops to eat.  The old jerk lies and says God told him to stop there.  That Guy goes in to eat, and then the old jerk tells him that since That Guy disobeyed God, he would send a lion to kill him.  That Guy leaves, and sure enough, a lion comes to kill him.  The lion stands next to his body and his donkey on the road.  Finally the old jerk buries him and tells northern Israel that God will indeed keep his word and destroying King Jeroboam who is still betraying God by sacrificing to false idols.

The main thing I think in reading this account is "Why God?"  That Guy really thought he was doing the right thing and finally getting a break along the road back home.  But I'm reminded of two things.

1) God keeps his promises.  If God says That Guy will die if he eats with someone as he goes back home, then he will follow through.  Nobody deserves a reprieve from the Lord, not even his most devout people.  He killed That Guy right away.  He killed Jeroboam later on, and even later on sent Israel into exile to Assyria.  All people deserve to die for their sins right away, including me.  When he sends his collectors is up to him.  He caused Rachel Held Evans to die young.  Rob Bell is still alive.  They both deny core teachings of Scripture and face judgment if they don't repent.  We must all repent and trust in Jesus to die in our place if we don't want to die for our own sins.

2) God will not say one thing and then say the exact opposite later.  He will not contradict himself.  If he says to not eat with someone on the way home on your journey, he will not change his mind and say, "Okay, you can eat here."  I certainly don't think he commanded the old jerk to lie to That Guy.  That was the old prophet's sin.  He did want to test That Guy.  This proves true today.  If God says that any sin outside marriage between in a man and a woman is sin, he's not going to change his mind with the times.  People may say he did that with the kosher laws, but he actually fulfilled those laws in Jesus.  His sexual standards have not changed.  His roles for men and women have not changed.  Our God does not change his mind. 

And because God does not change his mind, you can still believe that he saved southern Judah's kingdom and that there will always be a man on David's throne.  And although Judah also got exiled to Babylon, they came back, and Jesus was born.  And he died and yet is alive forevermore and always lives to intercede between his Father and us.  And we need no one else.

Saturday, July 27, 2019

Jeroboam begins

Jeroboam's story starts in 1 Kings 11.  This chapter recounts how Solomon's wives and concubines led him astray from the one true God, and he followed after their false gods.  At some point in time, Solomon had put Jeroboam in charge of his forced labor.  While he was walking along one day, Ahijah the Shilonite took Jeroboam's robe and tore it into twelve pieces.  Jeroboam got to keep 10 parts, showing that he would be king of ten tribes of Israel while Judah got to keep two parts: Judah and Benjamin.  Solomon heard about this and turned into king Saul, seeking out the life of his successor.  Jeroboam fled to Egypt until Solomon's death.

Then he returned and had his famous spat with king Rehoboam.  In chapter 11, God had told Jeroboam that if he would be faithful, he would keep his kingdom going.  Jeroboam was not faithful.  He set knew that the people of the northern kingdom would still want to go to Jerusalem to make sacrifices to God, so he set up golden calves in Bethel and Dan for the people to worship.  Thus the people of northern Israel, later known as Ephraim (Jeroboam was from Ephraim's tribe), bowed down to graven images while pretending to worship the one true God.  However, you cannot worship the one true God with images because he commanded not to be worshiped through images.  If you are using images, you are worshiping a lesser god.  Jeroboam's kingdom would not last.

Through reading George Schwab's book on Judges, Right in Their Own Eyes, Schwab makes a point that Judges, Samuel, and Kings were written as an apologetic as to why the ruler of Israel must come from Judah's tribe and no one else.  Although I somewhat disagree as to the symbolization of many names and places that he seems to make, his point is valid.  Solomon made a mess of Judah, and his sons made it even worse, but in the end, the southern kingdom of Judah stayed faithful to true worship of YHWH while Ephraim fell into idolatrous worship and found no cure.  All of the northern kings, though set up by God, worshiped the golden calves and moved on to even more wicked worship of Baal which led to cult prostitution and child sacrifice.  And it is through Judah that Jesus came.  Although his kingly ancestors eventually fell into exile, he rose up and remains a king and priest forever after the order of Melchizedek. 

And we must also remember that even if names and places turn into symbols and parables, it does not mean that they did not happen.  The accounts of God's historical narratives in Scripture really happened in history from creation to the exile of Israel.  They may point to a tabernacle or the need for a Judaean king, but they are types and shadows God established to point to his true King and Temple.  And some of the bizarre and disturbing stories that soon follow are definitely object lessons for Israel while they certainly occurred in real time and space.

Saturday, July 20, 2019

Rehoboam

A while back, I had decided that I want to blog about the Judges and the Kings because nobody really talks about them in church.  However, they make up a majority of the Bible.  I blogged about the Judges, and now I will do the kings starting with Rehoboam.  I might even go chapter by chapter. 

Why skip Saul, David, and Solomon?  They seem to get more airwaves than the rest.  I may go back to them. 

And why go chapter by chapter when I didn't do that for Judges?  Because ages ago at Trevecca, we sang the Elijah oratorio by Mendelssohn, and there were people who didn't know Elijah's story.  It's one of the things that made me want to go into Christian education.  Because, what are we teaching in churches if not the core stories of the Bible?  We are raising Biblically illiterate people who feel good about themselves but aren't convicted of sin, and that needs to change.

And as always, I get caught up in my schedule.  Pray that I can be consistent with this.

In starting with Rehoboam, I will start with Deuteronomy 17:14-20 where Moses tells the people what to do if they decide they want a king.  God told them to pick a king that he chose who would not accumulate great wealth or many wives.  David and Solomon did just that.  They accumulated lots of riches, especially Solomon, and they both had many wives that lead to much trouble.

Then fast-forward to 1 Samuel 8, when the people ask for a king.  Samuel warns that he will take their sons and daughters and make them slaves and increase their taxes.  Then the people go ahead and appoint the most powerful looking guy they could find as king. 

Do you ever get what you wanted only to realize it's not what you wanted?  And did you ever get into a position only to realize you couldn't handle it?  I've done all of that.  So much that I still don't know what I want.  What I know I don't want is Rehoboam's position.

He is found in 1 Kings 12 and 2 Chronicles 10 and 11.  He became king in succession to his father Solomon.  Solomon's glorious reign had a price.  He had many slaves who built the temple and his palace, 1000 women, and he apparently made Jeroboam really mad who went to live in Egypt for a while.  When Solomon passed, Jeroboam came back and asked if he would ease the tax burden on the people.

Rehoboam asked his father's advisers who said yes, then the people will love you.  He asked his friends who said no, be even more imposing than your father and exert your prowess.  He followed his heart and took the latter advice.  Thus Jeroboam took ten of Israel's tribes and split them off to form a new kingdom, the northern kingdom of Israel, and he became king.  But because God promised that David will have someone on his throne forever, he preserved Judah and Benjamin for Rehoboam and his dynasty. 

Rehoboam tried to send Adoniram to calm things down, but they stoned him to death because he was the task master under King Solomon.  Then he tried to make war on the northern tribes, but Shemaiah  the prophet came and told him not to.  He finally listened, and now we have two kingdoms. 

Ironically, "Rehoboam" means may he expand.  He did not expand his kingdom, but one kingdom did become two.

And God did keep his promise.  When Solomon's 700 wives and 300 concubines led his heart astray to other gods, God said he would tear 10 tribes from his son.  He did that.  And God said that David would always have a son on his throne.  He did that by still letting Rehoboam have a kingdom.  And I think with much opposition, God finally humbled this young man's heart so that it would follow God.  He continues to do that to me, and I hope he does that for you.

Monday, July 1, 2019

John 2: When the thrill is gone

Last week, I read John 2 again, about Jesus's first miracle.  Jesus was at a wedding with his mom, and the couple ran out of wine.  Mary came to Jesus to help fix the problem, but Jesus said it was not his time yet.  Not to be deterred, his mom told the servants to do what he said.  So he told them to fill jars with water.  There are the same jars that the Jews used to ritually cleanse themselves before a meal.  He turned that water into wine, the best wine yet.  It wasn't the cheap stuff they give when people are already drunk, but really good wine.

This was Jesus's first miracle, and it was a shot at Jewish rules about cleanliness.  Yes, God had given rules in Leviticus and Deuteronomy about mildews, unclean food, and not touching dead bodies to show that Israel as God's covenant people had to be separate from the world around them.  However, the Jews in Jesus's day had made extra rules around the rules so that they would not accidentally break them, and they made elaborate washing rituals to safeguard themselves against uncleanness. 

These rules caused them to miss the Messiah when he came, and they caused the general public to lose joy in God.  Jesus did not come to end the law.  He came to fulfill it.  And he came to end empty rules and rituals with a true relationship with himself.  And while he wants his followers to obey God's commandments and lives as aliens among the secular culture, he still wants us to find him better than anything the world says is the best thing.

And just when life seems empty and all the joy runs out, Jesus comes and brings the best wine and the best thrills again.

In my life, I thought I needed to either be having children or teaching children to find my fulfillment.  While I still want all that, I time came when I could do neither after some serious errors, and I didn't know if life was worth living anymore.  Then, God showed me himself and other aspects of church life, and he showed me how to love my husband even when our unions are not producing children, and he showed me that he is better than anything I think fulfills me in this life.

In 21st century America, the secular world is disenchanted with the world because it has rejected God, and it must reenchant the world with something.  The most popular thing these days is unbridled sexuality.  The movies, TV, and music say that to be truly free and happy, you must have no restraints on your sexuality, whether it's rules, church, or pregnancy.  Get together with whoever you want and look at whoever you want with no responsibilities.  But then, they get to that moment, and they realize that sex is actually boring and looks nothing like the media portrays.  It is why a man can have a gorgeous wife and still feel unsatisfied.  If he doesn't have God, he only has a poor substitute that will disappoint. 

In the end, sex, relationships, and even finding true love were meant to disappoint.  They were meant to run out.  We were made for Jesus only, and when all that runs out, he is the one that brings true joy and happiness that far exceeds any pleasures in this world.  If only we would come to him before we ruin our lives with the world's idols.  We'll find that even when we follow the rules and wait till marriage to the opposite gender to have sex, that nothing can satisfy quite so much as when we worship God.  And when God comes first, all the things we love will be so much better because we love them in relation to him.  Will you give up the things of this world to follow our Christ today?