Saturday, August 31, 2019

King Asa

1 Kings 15 starting at verse 9 tells of a righteous king of Judah named Asa.  If Abijam, his father, really did repent of his ways and become Abijah, then Asa would have been influenced by that.  He was the first king since Solomon to work at clearing his country of Baal and Asherah worship.  He even removed his grandmother from being queen mother.  He made many reforms.  There's this odd story in the passage where Asa went to war against King Baasha of Israel.  He took treasure from the temple, gave some to the king of Aram to betray Baasha and help defeat him, and the king of Aram did so.  This shows great compromise on Asa's part.

Which should not surprise me when I read 2 Chronicles 14-16 that at this point afterward, Asa would not listen to God's prophets and when he got a serious disease in his feet, he would not trust God but only doctors.  And then he died leaving Jehoshaphat as king, a good but compromised man.

What happened?  Was he man that God saved from his sins but who still became more sinful in his old age through senility?  Was he not truly a follower of God after all?  Nobody but God can say for sure, but God still used him to clear Judah of idolatry.  God can use anybody.  But since Judah and Israel were once one nation, he should never have looked to help from a pagan king in his war against the north.  And instead of repenting and turning from his ways when confronted by the prophet Hanani, he put him in prison. 

It is like in recent days when Joshua Harris defected from the faith.  God used him in many ways to get the church thinking about how best to be pure and faithful to the Lord with our bodies (though he proposed a legalistic way that doesn't really work for our culture), but then he must not have truly followed the Lord or else he wouldn't have defected.  Perhaps he'll return, and perhaps God still saved Asa despite himself.  Doesn't he do the same for me and you?

All the same, true followers of the Lord may backslide, but it won't be permanent, and the Holy Spirit will bring them back to the church in this life.  I hope we can say the same for Asa.

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.