The Fall of Israel – The Reason Why

ThanksLiving: 365 Days of Gratitude

What God’s Word says of Israel’s destruction may be something that we should consider when pain and hardship come into our lives. Just because we no longer like to assign the law of cause-effect to behavior doesn’t mean that God’s law is suddenly inoperable in the modern age. The writer of 2 Kings was not shy about saying “this happened to them because of that.” On a personal level, it may just be wisdom to consider the possibility with contrite hearts and corrective steps.

Going Deep // Focus: 2 Kings 17:7-9,18

This disaster came upon the people of Israel because they worshiped other gods. They sinned against the Lord their God, who had brought them safely out of Egypt and had rescued them from the power of Pharaoh, the king of Egypt. They had followed the practices of the pagan nations the Lord had driven from the land ahead of them, as well as the practices the kings of Israel had introduced. The people of Israel had also secretly done many things that were not pleasing to the Lord their God. … Because the Lord was very angry with Israel, he swept them away from his presence. Only the tribe of Judah remained in the land.

Assigning responsibility to God for the hardships that befall us is a practice that has fallen on hard times in modern generations. We think it poor form to blame God for bad things that happen in the world. If a highly visible Christian takes to the media to proclaim that the latest hurricane is God’s punishment, or that an earthquake came because of sin, or devastating flooding can be traced back to a region rejecting God, the intelligent world goes nuts. And I tend to agree.

But not too many generations ago, the folks kind of believed that. If the crops failed, the people repented of their sin. If sickness ravaged the community, they believed that fasting and prayer would reveal the reason for this divine displeasure. When bad things happened, people assumed they were bad and God was simply punishing their waywardness.

Now I am not promoting that we return to that approach. I don’t think we need to blame God for every bad thing that befalls the earth. God is not responsible for evil; the devil is. Yet sin—stubborn, un-repented, in-your-face sin among God’s holy people—will cause the blessing and protection of God to lift from our lives. So, then, are hurricanes and earthquakes and floods God’s judgment against the sinful world? I don’t know; that’s a few steps above my pay-grade. But I kind of doubt it. For sure, there will be devastating judgment some day leveled against the unbelieving world, but I think God is holding off on that until the end.

But when it comes to Christians, what we do know is that the Lord disciplines those he loves in order to bring them back to full devotion to him. The writer of Hebrews calls us to “endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as his children.” (Hebrews 12:7) In order to redeem our souls, break us of sinful patterns, and reposition us to a zone of bless-ability, God will allow pain to get our attention. C.S. Lewis’ profound observation in his book, The Problem of Pain, is worth noting:

We can rest contentedly in our sins and in our stupidities, and everyone who has watched gluttons shoveling down the most exquisite foods as if they did not know what they were eating, will admit that we can ignore even pleasure. But pain insists upon being attended to. God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our consciences, but shouts in our pains. It is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world.

My point in all of this simply is a call to consider that what God’s Word says of Israel may be something that we should consider when pain and hardship befalls our lives. Just because we don’t like to assign a cause-effect consequence to behavior doesn’t mean that God’s law is suddenly inoperable in the modern age. The writer of 2 Kings was not shy about saying “this happened to them because of that.” Israel fell, the northern nation met its end, and the reason why is very clear: they stubbornly persistented in flagrant sin.

On a personal level, it may just be wisdom to consider the possibility of a cause-effect consequence when hardship happens in your life, with a contrite heart and corrective steps. I would not suggest that you go around proclaiming this for the sinful world at large, or even for people that you know. Unless they have invited your opinions, it is best to keep them to yourself. But on a personal level, give it some thought.

It may not be the case that you are under the Lord’s discipline, but then again, the writer of Hebrews said, “Endure hardship as discipline.”

Going Deeper With God: Are you going through a time of hardship. Consider it as the Lord’s loving discipline. He is treating you as his child. And just remember, discipline for his children is not for judgment, it is for correction and restoration.

Living and Leading by F.A.I.T.H.

ThanksLiving: 365 Days of Gratitude

The Bible provides plenty of examples of how to live and lead—and how not to. The correct way, the way that guarantees the blessing and invites the protection of Almighty God, is actually quite simple. It just requires from you an all-out commitment to F.A.I.T.H. What is that? Forsaking All, I Trust Him. When you throw in with God like that, fully and radically, God will fully and radically take care of you!

Going Deep // Focus: 2 Kings 16:5-9

Then King Rezin of Aram and King Pekah of Israel came up to attack Jerusalem. They besieged Ahaz but could not conquer him. At that time the king of Edom recovered the town of Elath for Edom. He drove out the people of Judah and sent Edomites to live there, as they do to this day. King Ahaz sent messengers to King Tiglath-pileser of Assyria with this message: “I am your servant and your vassal. Come up and rescue me from the attacking armies of Aram and Israel.” Then Ahaz took the silver and gold from the Temple of the Lord and the palace treasury and sent it as a payment to the Assyrian king. So the king of Assyria attacked the Aramean capital of Damascus and led its population away as captives, resettling them in Kir. He also killed King Rezin.

They say that God has no grandchildren. That is why every new generation must discover God for itself. The children of the God-fearing cannot rest on the faith laurels of their parents, they must tread their own path of trust. The “God of my fathers” must translate, both in life and in belief, into “my Lord and my God.” That didn’t happen with King Ahaz of Judah.

Ahaz had a godly heritage: his grandfather Uzziah generally pleased the Lord during his fifty-two-year reign. His father Jotham, who co-reigned with Uzziah, reigned for sixteen years over Judah, and he too, lived a God-pleasing life. When he died at a relatively early age, his son, Ahaz, assumed the throne. He was twenty-years-old when he became king, and like his father, he reigned for sixteen years. But unlike his father, he did not follow in Jotham’s faith heritage; he didn’t please the Lord. In fact, he went in the opposite direction. He emulated the evil ways of the kings of Israel to the north, worshiping false gods and even sacrificing one of his sons as a burnt offering to his god. (2 Kings 16:3)

Forfeiting God’s favor and protection, Ahaz and Judah came under the invasion of Israel and Syria. These northern enemies attacked Judah and laid siege to Jerusalem. As the situation worsened for Ahaz, instead of reaching out to God in repentance and supplication, he reached out to the Assyrian king for deliverance. He took the silver and gold from the temple as well as the treasures from his own palace and used these sacred resources to buy protection from another foreign, godless king. And it worked—for a while. (2 Kings 16:7-9).

In depending on the arm of flesh rather than the arm of the Lord, Ahaz set in motion negative spiritual forces that would haunt his leadership and hurt his nation even beyond his reign. Namely, he became addicted to Assyrian help, and like all addictions, the more you use, the more you crave. And you will do anything to get a fix. Wanting more and doing anything got translated into copying the religious customs of the Assyrians and transporting them back to Judah. In fact, Ahaz actually changed the worship of God to now include the sacrificial rituals of the Assyrians gods—in the very temple of the Lord God of Israel. (2 Kings 16:10-18)

Ahaz became an example for all time of the wrong way to live and lead. He trusted everyone and everything else first, and pushed God to the margins of his life. And he became a vassal of sin. He should have demonstrated FA.I.T.H. the way his father and grandfather had. What do I mean by FA.I.T.H.?

Forsaking All, I Trust Him

That is still the only way to live. There is no middle ground, for by God’s design, walking with him requires full surrender, total obedience, wholehearted devotion and ruthless trust. Any other dependencies will lead to a compromise of faith, to adopting the ways of the world, and to an addiction to the things of the world that have no power to deliver unending favor, blessing and protection. Anything other than a lifestyle of full surrender will lead to becoming vassals of sin.

Yes Ahaz became an example of bad living and even worse leadership. But you don’t have to. All you need is to follow the simple F.A.I.T.H. formula: Forsaking All, I Trust Him. If you will ruthlessly commit to that kind of fully devoted lifestyle, God guarantees that you will live an outstanding life now that all heaven will be celebrate throughout eternity.

Going Deeper With God: Memorize that F.A.I.T.H. acronym: Forsaking All, I Trust Him. Record it and place it on a card where you can look at it every day as a reminder of the right way to live and lead.

Playing God or Obeying God

ThanksLiving: 365 Days of Gratitude

Playing God never turns out well; obeying God always does. Loud and clear, that message runs throughout the Bible in one powerful example after another. We see in the lives of Old Testament characters that humble obedience catalyzes divine abundance, but pride, presumption and disobedience are no better than bowing down to idols. The lesson of their lives is clear for us: Whenever we allow self—self-promotion, self-importance, self-aggrandizement, selfishness—to crawl onto the throne, we have usurped a role meant only for God. There is only room for one God in our lives, and that is neither you nor I.

Going Deep // Focus: 2 Kings 15:2-5

Uzziah was sixteen years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem fifty-two years. His mother was Jecoliah from Jerusalem. He did what was pleasing in the Lord’s sight, just as his father, Amaziah, had done. But he did not destroy the pagan shrines, and the people still offered sacrifices and burned incense there. The Lord struck the king with leprosy, which lasted until the day he died. He lived in isolation in a separate house.

Reading the Bible through from start to finish increases your knowledge of God as much as anything. Discipleship happens through absorbing scripture. Of course, we must also add prayer, meditation and reflection, service and engagement in spiritual community into the mix, but Bible reading must be at the core. I am a big fan of the daily Bible reading because it is a power catalyst for spiritual transformation.

Done consistently, it also provides context for the people, events and doctrines we read within its pages. The stories that seem weird, hard or paint God in a bad light start to make sense in light of the full story. When we consider the big picture, God never acts harshly, unjustly or inconsistently. He never promotes evil, never acts arbitrarily, never punishes unlovingly, and never treats his children brutally. If you want to get a true picture of God and his will for your life, then read the entire Bible, many times, slowly and carefully.

Having said that, why then, in the present case of King Uzziah, would God strike this good man whom the writer pronounced, “pleasing in the Lord’s sight,” with the horrible disease of leprosy? Did God punish the king simply for neglecting to remove the high places scattered throughout Judah? These places littered the land for decades, so why did Uzziah get blamed for them? Why didn’t the previous kings suffer the consequence for not removing them? Well, there is more to the story, which is found in 2 Chronicles 26:

But when Uzziah had become powerful, he also became proud, which led to his downfall. He sinned against the Lord his God by entering the sanctuary of the Lord’s Temple and personally burning incense on the incense altar. Azariah the high priest went in after him with eighty other priests of the Lord, all brave men. They confronted King Uzziah and said, “It is not for you, Uzziah, to burn incense to the Lord. That is the work of the priests alone, the descendants of Aaron who are set apart for this work. Get out of the sanctuary, for you have sinned. The Lord God will not honor you for this!” … Uzziah, who was holding an incense burner, became furious. But as he was standing there raging at the priests before the incense altar in the Lord’s Temple, leprosy suddenly broke out on his forehead. When Azariah the high priest and all the other priests saw the leprosy, they rushed him out. And the king himself was eager to get out because the Lord had struck him. (2 Chronicles 26: 26:16-20)

Now we get the full picture. God released immense favor upon Uzziah for his obedience. The king became rich, powerful and famous. In fact, he reigned longer than any other king. He obeyed God, so God blessed him, according to the divine promises scattered through the law. But those divine blessings went to his head. He began to think they had resulted from is own abilities. He became prideful, and in his pride, he even went so far as to enter the sanctuary to do what only priests could do: sacrifice offerings to the Lord God. Uzziah began to make up his own rules. Rather than obeying God, the king began to play God.

Fortunately, a large group of very brave priests confronted the king. And as they were facing him down, God struck him with leprosy—a horrible disease that would isolate Uzziah from the public for the rest of his life, and ultimately contribute to his death.

Could the lesson be any clearer? Uzziah paid a high price for God to make an unforgettable point for anyone reading this story. Playing God never turns out well; obeying God always does. Loud and clear, that message runs throughout the Bible in one powerful example after another. We see in the lives of Old Testament characters that humble obedience catalyzes divine abundance, but pride, presumption and disobedience are no better than bowing down to idols. The lesson of their lives is clear for us: Whenever we allow self—self-promotion, self-importance, self-aggrandizement, selfishness—to crawl onto the throne, we have usurped a role meant only for God.

There is only room for one God in our lives, and that is neither you nor I. The Lord alone desires to occupy the throne of our lives. Only he deserves to be there. In fact, he demands to have sole possession of that kingly territory. Which is precisely why stories like Uzziah’s are preserved in scripture.

That leads to the most important question you will have to answer today: who is occupying the throne of your heart: You, or God? Before you go a step further, dethrone self and enthrone God. Playing God is always fatal; obeying God is always blessable.

Going Deeper With God: Where are you playing God? Take a look at any area of your life where you have exalted self: self-promotion, self-centeredness, self-importance. Ask the Lord to show you where self needs to surrender to his Lordship, and then humbly submit that area of pride to him.

Stopping Just Short of Great

ThanksLiving: 365 Days of Gratitude

There is no area of weakness and struggle in your life where sin is guaranteed a victory. No sin is too big, too powerful, too overwhelming. It might be tough, but there is always a way to win! And furthermore, God stands at the ready to offer his help to give you that victory—even over the toughest temptation!

Going Deep // Focus: 2 Kings 14:3

Amaziah did what was pleasing in the Lord’s sight, but not like his ancestor David.

Here is a haunting refrain that appears several times in 2 Kings as the writer talks about the kings of Judah: “He was a good king, but…” In other words, the king did a pretty good job, but… The king was pleasing to the Lord, but… The king was good, but not great!

In each of these cases, the king seemed to be a godly leader with a commitment to carry out the will of God, but there was always this knock against them: In certain areas of their lives, their obedience was selective. They tolerated subtle sin—subtle in their minds, but not in God’s.

For whatever reason, Amaziah, a guy dedicated to leading the nation in a godly way, did not destroy the pagan shrines around Judah, and as a result, some of the people continued to worship there. Perhaps he thought he had done enough to promote the worship of God at the temple in Jerusalem; maybe he didn’t want to come off as a religious fanatic; maybe he was somewhat unaware or preoccupied with other concerns; maybe he was concerned about being popular with the populace—trying to please all the people all the time; maybe he just didn’t have the energy to deal with yet another demand of spiritual leadership; maybe he didn’t think it was all that big of a deal.

But upon further review, how could Amaziah have missed it? What he was allowing some of the people to do in worshipping their god at shrines in the hills was a violation of the First and Second Commandments:

You must not have any other god but me. You must not make for yourself an idol of any kind or an image of anything in the heavens or on the earth or in the sea. You must not bow down to them or worship them, for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God who will not tolerate your affection for any other gods. I lay the sins of the parents upon their children; the entire family is affected—even children in the third and fourth generations of those who reject me. But I lavish unfailing love for a thousand generations on those who love me and obey my commands. (Exodus 20:3-6)

Who knows Amaziah’s reasons for sure, but what we do know is that his failure to deal with this area of life and leadership prevented him moving from good to great as a king. Because of this inattention, his reign was limited, his nation was affected and his legacy was marred.

What a lesson for us! Paul wrote in I Corinthians 10:11-13, “These things happened to them [the Old Testament figures] as examples and were written down as warnings for us, on whom the fulfillment of the ages has come. So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall! No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.”

What are the areas of selective obedience in your life? What are the reasons you are failing to deal with them? Have you convinced yourself that you can’t tackle them, can’t overcome them? Paul gives both a negative and a positive encouragement that you’d better step up to the plate and swing for the fences in dealing with the things that are keeping you from going beyond good and on to great in your walk with God.

On the negative, Paul calls you to allow the power of hindsight to motivate you to action. Just take a look at one example after another of the also-rans strewn along the path in the Old Testament—people who “sort of” obeyed God. Frankly, there is no “sort of” in our obedience to God. In God’s eyes—and only his view of things really counts—there is no such thing as selective obedience. You’re either obedient or you’re not! So if you have justified in your mind that partial compliance is okay, Paul says you are not on solid ground.

On the positive, Paul reminds you that there is no area of weakness and struggle in your life where sin is guaranteed victory. No sin is too big, too powerful, too overwhelming. It might be tough, but there is always a way to win! And furthermore, God stands at the ready to offer his help to give you victory—even over the toughest temptation! If God is for you, who can stand against you? No one and no thing!

St. Augustine once said, “Will is to grace as the horse is to the rider.” So exert your will where God has provided his grace, and you will be great in the Lord’s eyes! Don’t let selective obedience prevent you moving from good to great as a child of the King!

Going Deeper With God: Join me in my prayer for today: Lord, I don’t want people to read about my life someday and say, “he was a good man, but…” More importantly, I don’t want that to be your analysis of me. Rather, I want you to say of me, “In him I found a man after my own heart.” Give me discernment today to ferret out any area of selective obedience; give me strength and resolve to tackle that temptation; give me grace that I don’t deserve, and I will exert my will as best I can. Help me to be great in your eyes, O Lord—that is my humble prayer.

Trusting God Beyond The Limits (BTW, He Has No Limits)

ThanksLiving: 365 Days of Gratitude

Rather than expecting God to barely meet a need, or even moderately supply what you hope for, ask and expect him to meet all of your needs—and then some. St. Paul wrote, “My God will supply all of your need according to his glorious riches by Christ Jesus in glory.” (Phil. 4:19) Did you catch that? “According to his riches,” which in the Greek text means a lot! Actually, abundant provision isn’t just something God can do, it’s something he wants to do. So in your prayers, ask bigly. Push God to the limits, and way beyond. And as you do, remember that God has no limits. So what are you asking for? Double it! Triple it! Go for broke. God has a big heart and unlimited resources.

Going Deep // Focus: 2 Kings 13:15-19

Elisha told him, “Get a bow and some arrows.” And the king did as he was told. Elisha told him, “Put your hand on the bow,” and Elisha laid his own hands on the king’s hands. Then he commanded, “Open that eastern window,” and he opened it. Then he said, “Shoot!” So he shot an arrow. Elisha proclaimed, “This is the Lord’s arrow, an arrow of victory over Aram, for you will completely conquer the Arameans at Aphek.” Then he said, “Now pick up the other arrows and strike them against the ground.” So the king picked them up and struck the ground three times.But the man of God was angry with him. “You should have struck the ground five or six times!” he exclaimed. “Then you would have beaten Aram until it was entirely destroyed. Now you will be victorious only three times.”

Old Testament prophets did some strange things sometimes. God told them to. One shaved half his beard, another named his children really horrible names, another ate locusts—and those are some of the mild cases of prophetic weirdness. If God called you to the office of Old Testament prophet, you were in for earning a degree in the bizarre. But it was not bizarre for bizarre sake. You see, God is a communicator, and he is always looking for ways to make an unforgettable point. Such is the case with Elisha and King Jehoash in 2 Kings 13.

The king was not a godly man, but he felt a certain comfort in having the man of God, Elisha, speaking into his life. When Jehoash found out that the prophet was in his final days of life, he was shaken. So he went to visit Elisha, and wept over his impending death. Perhaps his sorrow was more for himself, but nevertheless, he was a broken and distraught king. Elisha sensed that Jehoash was having a melt down, probably over the subjugation of Israel at the hands of the Arameans, given what followed.

And what followed was weird. Elisha told Jehoash to shoot an arrow out the window. That act, a well know object lesson at the time, represented the victory God would give Israel over Aram. Then he was to take the leftover arrows and smash them against the ground. The king did—three times. That is when Elisha went back into his surly prophet mode and rebuked him for only smashing them three times instead of many. The kings restrained action meant that Israel would only have three more victories against Aram instead of multiple, total domination.

Now how was the king to know that? We don’t know for sure, but the Quest Study Bible notes on this interaction offers this interesting possibility:

Ancient people often saw the flight of arrows as omens of the future. Shooting an arrow out the window was a sign Jehoash would have understood, especially when Elisha explained that it meant victory over his enemies (v. 17) Striking the ground with the arrows should have been an obvious connection to the Lord’s arrow of victory over the Arameans (v. 17). Jehoash’s halfhearted response demonstrated a lack of faith in Elisha’s promise of victory.

Don’t miss the point: God was making a point. Perhaps there were several points he wanted us through Jehoash to remember, but the one that stands out to me is that we should always lean into the generous nature of God when we are asking something of him. Rather than expecting God to barely meet a need, or even to moderately supply what we hope for, we should ask and expect him to meet our needs—and then some. Paul reminded us in Philippians 4:19.

My God will supply all of your need according to his glorious riches by Christ Jesus in glory.

According to his riches! In the Greek text, that means a lot, much bigger than you can even conjure up in your dreams. Actually, abundant provision is not just something he can do; it is something he wants to do. Jesus told us in John 15:8, that as we stay in a right relationship with God through him,

Ask for whatever you wish, and it shall be given to you. It is to my Father’s glory that you bear much fruit.

So in your prayers, ask bigly. When you are requesting, push God to the limits, way beyond. And as you do, remember than when it comes to provision, God has no limits.

Going Deeper With God: What are you asking for? Double it! Triple it! Go for broke. God has a big heart and unlimited resources.

Does Your Church Building Matter?

ThanksLiving: 365 Days of Gratitude

We don’t need a building to have church, which ought to lead us to the realization of what constitutes the most important characteristics of the church—love and devotion to both God and our fellow worshippers. Yet buildings can be a blessing. Is your home important to you? Of course it is. You don’t need the house to be a family, but it sure does help. Therefore, upkeep on your home is a good thing. Likewise, out of gratitude for the physical place God has provided for you to experience his presence, the time, effort and money you put into it to keep it in tiptop shape is an act of worship that pleases the Lord.

Going Deep // Focus: 2 Kings 12:6-12

But by the twenty-third year of Joash’s reign, the priests still had not repaired the Temple. So King Joash called for Jehoiada and the other priests and asked them, “Why haven’t you repaired the Temple? Don’t use any more money for your own needs. From now on, it must all be spent on Temple repairs.” So the priests agreed not to accept any more money from the people, and they also agreed to let others take responsibility for repairing the Temple. Then Jehoiada the priest bored a hole in the lid of a large chest and set it on the right-hand side of the altar at the entrance of the Temple of the Lord. The priests guarding the entrance put all of the people’s contributions into the chest. Whenever the chest became full, the court secretary and the high priest counted the money that had been brought to the Lord’s Temple and put it into bags. Then they gave the money to the construction supervisors, who used it to pay the people working on the Lord’s Temple—the carpenters, the builders, the masons, and the stonecutters. They also used the money to buy the timber and the finished stone needed for repairing the Lord’s Temple, and they paid any other expenses related to the Temple’s restoration.

Does your church building matter? Apparently it did to King Joash. He found the disrepair of God’s temple so disgusting that he initiated a massive fund raising campaign to bring it back to tiptop shape. He wanted a place of worship for the people that reflected the splendor of God.

But what about today? Are church buildings important? Should money be spent to beautify it? Why should we focus on a structure when the New Testament clearly states the new temple of God takes shapes in the hearts of his people:

Do you not know that you are a temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? (1 Corinthians 3:16)

So does your church building really matter? Well, no, and yes. To be sure, we make a grave error by confusing the church building with the church—the people of God. The church can exist, and even thrive without a structure. I have preached in churches in Africa that met under trees—and I would say that their devotion to God and passion for praise exceeded by far anything I have seen among American congregations that meet in the most beautiful buildings imaginable. I have shared fellowship with churches that meet in homes—and the love those saints shared for one another attained a level that I have not experienced in our more structured church settings. I have attended churches that met in rented spaces—a school auditorium, a former postal building, a theatre—and their services definitely attracted the Lord’s presence. The lack of a physical structure did not hinder the most important things that made those churches the temple of the Holy Spirit: love and devotion for both God and for each other.

So no, you don’t need a building to have church. And that ought to lead us to the realization of what constitutes the most important characteristics of the church. Yet buildings can be a blessing. Is your home important to you? Of course it is. You don’t need the house to be a family, but it sure does help. And therefore, upkeep on your home is a good thing.

If you worship in a church building, God’s blessing rests upon you and your fellowship worshippers. Many believers around the world don’t have what you have. And if they did, their gratitude for it would keep them from ever taking it for granted. Moreover, they would have no problem sacrificing for its upkeep. You shouldn’t have a problem with that either. Out of gratitude for the physical place God has provided for you to experience his presence, the time, effort and money you put into it to keep it in tiptop shape is an act of worship that pleases the Lord.

For sure, don’t neglect the true church—the people who gather to worship God. But don’t neglect the place where they meet either. It is sacred space.

Going Deeper With God: Devote some of the financial resources with which God has blessed you to the care of your church building.

The Remnant

ThanksLiving: 365 Days of Gratitude

As the times in which we live continue to drift into deeper darkness, as the world grows increasingly evil, God is preserving and preparing a remnant. Do you want to be a part of that godly collection of undefiled ones? I’m sure you do. I sure do. Since we do, we must therefore stay true to God, ruthlessly committed to his Word, and rigorous in our resistance to the widening, strengthening pull of sin that has swept up the multitudes. Stay true to God, for the time for reform is almost here!

Going Deep // Focus: 2 Kings 11:17-18, 20

Then Jehoiada made a covenant between the Lord and the king and the people that they would be the Lord’s people. He also made a covenant between the king and the people. And all the people of the land went over to the temple of Baal and tore it down…So all the people of the land rejoiced, and the city was peaceful because Athaliah had been killed at the king’s palace.

The story of Jehoiada the priest and Joash the boy-king, along with a lot of palace and temple intrigue, is one of the great stories of reform in the Bible. An evil queen by the name of Athaliah reigned over the nation of Judah. She was not from the tribe of Judah, she was from the northern nation of Israel. She was from wicked King Ahab’s family, and every bit as cruel as he was. In fact, when Judah’s king was killed, she assumed the throne by quickly dispatching all of his children—she killed them. Yes, her own grandkids were put to the sword at her command in order to eliminate any threat to her ascendency. That was how evil she was. And she reigned for six years, which must have seemed like sixty.

But God always has a people—always. In this case, he had preserved godly families and loyal soldiers and priests of integrity who had not bowed the knee to Baal nor given their allegiance to the wicked queen. God also had a child that he had destined for kingship, Joash, who was secretly kept safe in the temple. When the time came, Jehoiada the priest sprang into action. He aligned the remnant of the faithful in Judah, and at a predetermined moment, they brought Joash out of hiding and coronated him as the rightful king.

When Queen Athaliah heard the commotion, she rushed to the temple to set things straight, whereupon she was seized by the godly soldiers and ultimately put to death. Thus ended her reign of idolatry, vileness and murder. You can read the details of this story in this chapter, which I would encourage. It reads like a movie plot.

The point being: God always has a people. As evil and dark as the times might be, I guarantee, a remnant of godly exists—families, groups of people, pastors and leaders—that have not bowed the knee to wickedness. And they are faithfully waiting and dutifully preparing for the divinely appointed moment to spring into action and call the wayward to repentance and reform. They will lead the way in bringing those who have drifted back to God: families, friends, churches, organizations and nations.

Furthermore, just as Jehoiada presented the child-king with a copy of the Law of Moses, and just as the boy was schooled by it in the ways of the Lord, so too God’s remnant in every age keep the Word of the Lord central in their lives. For if they are to call people out of darkness, they must call them into something; they must call them into the light of God as revealed in the Bible.

As the times in which we live continue to drift into deeper darkness, and as the world grows increasingly evil, God works to preserve and prepare a remnant. Do you want to be a part of that godly collection of undefiled ones? Sure you do! Me too. Since we do, we must therefore stay true to God, ruthlessly committed to his Word, and rigorous in our resistance to the widening, strengthening pull of sin that has swept up the multitudes.

Stay true to God, for the time for reform is almost here!

Going Deeper With God: Is the Word of God central in your life? If it is not, make it your first priority today to place it there. Then do it again tomorrow.