In my annual read through the Bible, I am currently in 2 Kings. It's amazing how whether I'm on schedule, ahead, or behind in my reading, the words I read each day are timely - surgically precise, in fact - speaking to exactly what I am dealing with or whatever has been on my mind.
Today, I read in Chapter 17 about how the king of Assyria imported people from Babylon to occupy the conquered territory of Israel. (The Hebrews had been deported to Assyria because of their disobedience to God, just in case you were wondering.) Because these pagan newcomers did not know or honor God, God sent lions among them and many of the people were ending up as kitty chow. To remedy the lion problem, the king of Assyria had one of the Hebrew priests shipped back from exile in Assyria to teach the new residents how to honor the God of that land. While this remedied the lion problem, it did not remedy the people's even greater heart problem.
Here is how everything shook down:
The people made gods of their own and worshiped them, but they also feared the LORD and paid homage to Him. Exit the man-eating lions. 2 Kings 17 concludes: "So these nations feared the LORD and also served their carved images. Their children did likewise, and their children's children - as their fathers did, so they do to this day" (2 Kings 17: 41).
One thing I find very disturbing about this passage is that, in the five verses (vv.35-40) leading up to the sad conclusion in verse 41, the exhortation "You shall not fear other gods" is stated over and over and over. "The LORD commanded them...'You shall not fear other gods, but you shall fear the LORD your God, and he will deliver you out of the hand of all your enemies.' However, they would not listen, but they did according to their former manner." (vv.38b-40).
Okay, so how does this particular passage speak directly to the things that have been troubling my mind lately?
If you read my last post, you know that I have been feeling convicted about the "cheapness" of my own obedience and life of faith - unlike King David, I am quite willing to offer sacrifices that cost me nothing. I encounter an inconvenience and elevate it to the level of sacrifice, then expect that God will be glorified and I will be blessed.
If you read the post before that, you know that I've been in a stew lately about the cost of education.
Both of these issues melded together in the passage in 2 Kings. "Yes, this is exactly what I'm talking about!" I thought as I read this morning.
I know my thinking can be a bit squirrely, so let me explain...
Concerning education, so many people want to honor God - to teach their children to fear and love and worship Him. However, they also want to serve their old gods - money (someone else should pay for my child's education), convenience (someone else should teach my child), social status (my kids need to be integrated into the local school community), etc. Even we homeschoolers, we pretend to fear God while serving our "carved images" - self-righteousness (I'm more righteous because I homeschool), rebelliousness (I'll do whatever I want - nobody's going to tell me what to do!), idolatry (I can do it all myself because I'm SuperWoman), etc.
We want to raise our children in the fear and admonition of the LORD, to speak to them of God's laws when we rise up and when we lie down and when we go out and when we walk along the way - but we want it to be easy. We want to honor God, but without costly sacrifice - I surely don't want to give up my career, or my nice house, or my standing in the community. I want to "fear God" - but I want to do that right alongside my service to the gods of self-righteousness, self-sufficiency, convenience, and comfort.
And the very, very sad thing is, just like those Babylonians living in Israel, I am teaching my children to do exactly the same.
I am teaching them that they can have both worlds. They can be full-time students of a state that deprecates God and simultaneously be ardent disciples of Christ. They can "sacrifice" without cost, and simultaneously bow the knee to their own selfish desires. They can "fear God" while glorifying themselves.
Reading ahead in Scripture, I find that these are all lies, lies that lead to separation from God, exile, bondage, and, ultimately, death.
As a Christian parent, I want clear, easy choices concerning my children. And often, when there's a difficult decision to make or a conflict to resolve, I want someone else to fix things. But God doesn't give me easy options or easy solutions. Instead, He demands that I fear Him and trust Him to "fix things." Not trust Him a little bit, augmented by my confidence in myself or in my resources or in my government - no, trust Him alone, and trust Him completely.
Oh, that God would so capture my heart that I could live daily in the knowledge of the truth that there is no other god, none. Oh, that He would compel me to tear down the "carved images" that I would erect alongside Him. Oh, that He would so impress upon me His holiness and majesty and beauty and mercy that I would eagerly desire to make extravagant sacrifices as acts of joyful worship and praise. Oh, that I would be so consumed with love for my God that, instead of scampering about looking for an easy "out" to His claims upon my life, I would instead be diligently seeking to go "further up and further in."
3 days ago