Glimpses of grace seen in the everyday

Posts tagged ‘idolatry’

The Power of a Choice

As a kid, we didn’t have TV at home, so going to my grandparents’ place was an opportunity to watch cartoons like Popeye and game shows such as Let’s Make a Deal.  The difficult thing about the latter was that people had to choose between two unknowns—such as money in an envelope and an object behind a door—or between one known and another unknown that might be much better or much worse than what they already had.

Thousands of years ago, King Solomon was given a choice. In fact, lots of people in the Bible were given a choice which determined the whole outcome of their lives and the lives of others.  But, unlike the game show, the options and their consequences were clearly stated from the start.  Solomon went into this with his eyes wide open, the whole deal laid out on the table.

Solomon got to make two major choices in his life.  First, at the outset of his reign, God appeared to him and offered him anything he chose.  Because he asked for wisdom instead of wealth or fame, God gave him all of these!  He treated him as a favored son, lavishing on him fabulous riches and renowned wisdom.  He had everything he could wish for! 

After some years, God presented him with another choice (1 Kings 9:4-9): 

1)  Live a life of obedience to God.  The result would be a continuing dynasty that would reign forever over Israel.

2)  Reject God and worship other gods.  The consequence would be that Israel would be uprooted from their beloved land and made an object of ridicule, and the magnificent Temple he had just built would be a shambles.

Now, is that a hard choice? Who would choose the latter?

Yet, that is just what Solomon did as the years went by.  He chose to marry wives from nations around him who brought their “detestable” gods along—gods that were worshipped by burning children alive and by lewd prostitution.  Solomon not only tolerated this kind of worship by his wives, but he also turned his heart from the true God and participated in the disgusting worship of his wives’ gods.  As a consequence, his glorious kingdom was divided as it passed to his son, and idol-worship became a constant problem as long as those two kingdoms lasted.  Finally, God had enough of it and they were expelled from their land as He had said.

It’s enough to make one cry.  Why, oh why would anyone choose to rebel against this loving and generous God and bring trouble upon themselves?  Well, the story goes on in the headlines today, in our neighborhoods, and even in our hearts. 

Each day brings its choices.  Will my choices today be those that please or displease Him?  Remember:  God does not “tolerate” what He has forbidden.  The consequences may be delayed out of His mercy, but they will surely come.

Bible Up, Idol Down

This sounds like a slogan from the Old Testament, but it’s actually what I read in a headline a few days ago.  American Idol (a title I always considered blasphemous) is sagging in popularity, and the success of The Bible miniseries is baffling critics.  I just have to smile.  Won’t they be surprised when God’s kingdom finally comes in all its glory and wipes all those imitations “gods” completely off the charts! 

Dinner with God! Then what?

A dinner invitation from God?  This actually happened at Mt. Sinai!

Then Moses, Aaron, Nadab, Abihu, and the seventy elders of Israel climbed up the mountain. There they saw the God of Israel. Under his feet there seemed to be a surface of brilliant blue lapis lazuli, as clear as the sky itself. And though these nobles of Israel gazed upon God, he did not destroy them. In fact, they ate a covenant meal, eating and drinking in his presence!  (Exodus 24:9-11 NLT)  

What an amazing God we have who is always inviting us into His presence!  He actually wants to be with us!  (See also Revelation 3:20 and 22:17 and lots of other verses throughout the Bible Smile.)

Then what long-term effect do you suppose this experience had on those Israelite leaders?  Well, sorry to say, just 40 days later (chapter 32), the people were caught worshipping a golden calf they’d demanded that Aaron make, presumably with the consent of these very 70 leaders who had just seen the true God in all his glory!  They even had the gall to greet this image as “the gods who brought [us] out of the land of Egypt!”

How can people, like those leaders, turn so quickly from God’s truth, power, and beauty — to go along with something dead, deceptive and demonic?  Is it because our knowledge does not come with allegiance?  Have we not totally given Him our hearts and lives?  Are we willing to conform to the demands of the rebellious crowds?  God, help us to be faithful to You and to Your truth, no matter what!

Pardon, your character is showing

What happens in me when things go well? When a crisis comes?  When I’m on my own?  What do my responses say about my true character?

The “report cards” of the kings of Israel and Judah are very revealing.  Here are some of the more dramatic ones.

When things went well…

…Solomon turned to worship his many wives’ foreign gods.  (1 Kings 11)

…Amaziah, after trusting God for an amazing victory over an enemy, brought back that enemy’s worthless gods, adopted them as his own and worshipped them. (2 Chronicles 25:5-16)

…Josiah enjoyed a peaceful reign, radically committed to the Lord all the days of his life.  Ahhh!  Smile  (2 Kings 22:1-23:25)

When a crisis came…

…Asa, previously a very godly king, appealed to powerful neighbors instead of God, and then became a tyrant to his own people.  When God punished him with illness, he turned to doctors instead of back to the Lord and died a painful death. (2 Chronicles 16)

…Jehoshaphat went straight to God for help.  God took over from there and turned the enemies on one another.  All Jehoshaphat’s people had to go was march into battle with songs instead of swords, then haul away the plunder.    (2 Chronicles 20)  Hezekiah’s story is very similar.  (2 Kings 19:1, 14-36)

When a godly mentor was taken away…

–Joash enthusiastically served God as long as the priest (his guardian and mentor) was around.  BUT when that man died, Joash turned right around and abandoned God, turning that same enthusiasm to the worship of heathen gods. (2 Chronicles 24) How could he?!?  Sad smile

–Uzziah “followed God during the lifetime of Zechariah, who taught him how to honor God….BUT once he became powerful, his pride destroyed him. He disobeyed the LORD his God.” (2 Chronicles 26:5, 16 NET) 

What about me? What is my true character that will show through when my circumstances change—or if they don’t?  Who am I, really?

How Wise Was Solomon?

The fabled wisdom of Solomon:

—Choosing wisdom as his “one wish” from God (Wow, what would I have chosen?  I think the request in itself was pretty wise!) (1 Kings 3)

–Threatening to cut a baby in half to determine who was the real mother         (1 Kings 3)

–Thrilling audiences from far and wide with brilliant lectures on botany and zoology (1 Kings 4:33-34)

But how wise was he when he flaunted God’s list of guidelines for kings in Deuteronomy 16:16-20:

–Do not accumulate a lot of horses, especially not from Egypt.

–Do not take many wives.

–Do not accumulate vast amounts of wealth.

–And DO copy out God’s whole law, READ IT daily his whole life, and OBEY it!

Solomon had everything going for him:  God’s special favor, wisdom, wealth, fame, a huge and peaceful kingdom.  And God’s promise of an ongoing prosperous dynasty IF he would remain faithful. 

So what did he do?  He threw it all away, violated every one of these regulations.  His heart turned away from the God who had lavished favor on him to the gods of his myriad wives. Sad smile  Read the sad story in 1 Kings 10:23 to 11:13. (I have lots of “sad faces” in the margin of my Bible beside the stories of the kings of Israel and Judah.)

So what about me?  Will I cling to God when things go well, or do I need problems to keep me holding tight to His hand?  By God’s grace, I choose the former.

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