God’s People, part 69: Jezebel

Read Jezebel 9:30-37

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE

“But I have this complaint against you. You are permitting that woman—that Jezebel who calls herself a prophet—to lead my servants astray. She teaches them to commit sexual sin and to eat food offered to idols. I gave her time to repent, but she does not want to turn away from her immorality.” (Revelation‬ ‭2:20-21‬ ‭NLT‬‬)

When we think of God’s people, we tend to think one of two things. We might think of the Israelites who were God’s “chosen people”, or we might think of specific characters in the Bible. Either way, we tend to idealize the people we are thinking about. For instance, we may think that God’s people are super faithful, holy, perform miracles and live wholly devout and righteous lives. Unfortunately, this idealism enables us to distance ourselves from being God’s people, because we feel that we fall short of those ideals. As such, I have decided to write a devotion series on specific characters in the Bible in order to show you how much these Biblical people are truly like us, and how much we are truly called to be God’s people.

  Part 69: Jezebel. The name of Jezebel, wife of Ahab and Queen of Israel, has gone down in infamy. She is infamous for leading her husband, Ahab, to worship the Canaanite god Baal. She is depicted in the Bible as an evil, deceitful and murderous queen who used her power to bring destruction upon Israel and God’s people. Her name is so synonymous with being in opposition to God, that John of Patmos used her name to symbolize a person (or people) within the church at Thyatira who were turning the church away from Christ.

Before we can evaluate the Queen herself, we really need to have a bit of background on her. She was the daugther of Ithobaal I (make note of the last portion of that name) who was the king of Tyre, a city in Phonoecia. During his rule, all of Phonoecia, including Sidon, was unified. If you haven’t already thought of this, Phonoecia is the land that came up with one of the first alphabets that allowed for them to improve communication between themselves and those they traded with. In fact, the English and other alphabets owe their thanks to the Phonoecians.

According to the ancient Phonoecian historian Menander of Ephesus (cited by the Jewish historian Josephus), Jezebel’s father was a priest of the ancient Canaanite god Astarte prior to becoming king. This means that Jezebel grew up as the daughter of a priest and was, no doubt, steeped in the religious traditions of her father and people. This would also explain why Jezebel was persistently proselytizing her husband in the ways of her own religious beliefs and traditions. While this certainly made her unpopular among the those faithful to the God of Israel, one can hardly blame her for her devotion to her religious traditions.

So, out of fairness, let’s put the fact that she proselytized her husband aside and look at some of the other things she was known for. Once she became queen, Jezebel wanted all of Israel to worship Baal and wanted the Canaanite religion she observed to become the national religion that all Israelites must observe. She ordered the deaths of anyone who stood in the way of that. Thus, she murdered all of God’s prophets who obviously objected to her and her husband leading the people of Israel astray.

In their place, she appointed her own priests and prophets of Baal. In fact, when Elijah stood against the 450 prophets of Baal, he noted how he was the only one of God’s prophets left. Jezebel was someone who would not take no for an answer and was someone whose power had long gone to her head. The Bible even states that she ordered the death of a local farmer after he refused to sell Ahab his vineyard.

We cannot be sure how much of the rhetoric in the Bible depicts who Jezebel was and how much it depicts how she was perceived to be from the vantage point of faithful Jews; however, one thing is for sure: the Biblical account lines up well with the historical record of her devotion to Canaanite gods and, like all people in power, it is not hard to believe that she would get rid of anyone who stood against her as a political or religious opponent. In fact, politics and religion were not separate in the ancient world but were very much one and the same thing.

In the end, Jezebel’s opposition to God’s prophets and her political ambitions led not only her husband but also herself down a destructive road. While she may have outlived her husband, her fate soon followed his. Following being anointed King by the prophet Elisha, Jehu had Jezebel thrown out of a palace window, where she laid a bloody mess, was trampled on by horses, and was eaten by stray dogs. Eventually, the king had her corpse removed and the mess cleaned up. Pleasant, I know.

This, my brothers and sisters, is where unwavering commitment to political viewpoints and dogmatic worldviews end up. Jezebel’s unwillingness to be reasonable, fair, honest and just was her own downfall. Those who live for politics, die by politics. Those who live for the sword, die by the sword. Those who live for God may surely experience death, but they never truly die, for in God rests eternal life. Let us be challenged to evaluate ourselves. Are we open to the grace of God? Do we allow the Holy Spirit to work godly change in our lives? Do we seek to represent God in all that we do? Or, are we seeking our own way, worshiping our own ambitions, and, ultimately, leading others to do the same? Let us lay down our idols, repent of our sin, and turn back to God who calls us with open arms.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY

“Put away your sword. Those who use the sword will die by the sword.” — Jesus of Nazareth in Matthew‬ ‭26:52‬ ‭NLT‬‬

PRAYER

Lord, allow me to use the story of Jezebel as a means of evaluating my own life. By your amazing grace, restore me to righteousness and use me to bring love, peace, hope, healing, wholeness and justice to all. Amen.

God’s People, part 68: Ahab

Read 1 Kings 16:29-34

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE

“The king of Israel answered Jehoshaphat, ‘There is still one prophet through whom we can inquire of the Lord, but I hate him because he never prophesies anything good about me, but always bad. He is Micaiah son of Imlah.’ ‘The king should not say such a thing,’ Jehoshaphat replied.”

When we think of God’s people, we tend to think one of two things. We might think of the Israelites who were God’s “chosen people”, or we might think of specific characters in the Bible. Either way, we tend to idealize the people we are thinking about. For instance, we may think that God’s people are super faithful, holy, perform miracles and live wholly devout and righteous lives. Unfortunately, this idealism enables us to distance ourselves from being God’s people, because we feel that we fall short of those ideals. As such, I have decided to write a devotion series on specific characters in the Bible in order to show you how much these Biblical people are truly like us, and how much we are truly called to be God’s people.

img_0908Part 68: Ahab. One of my favorite classic movies is Moby Dick, about the fanatical Captain Ahab who leads his crew to destruction on a hellbent, vengeful hunt against a giant sperm whale who bears the name of the film’s title. It was based off of a novel by Herman Melville and is believed to have been inspired by a real seafaring tragedy in which a captain who was taken out of a whaleboat by a foul line had drowned.

The story’s protagonist/antagonist, Ahab, was given that name based off of King Ahab found in 1 Kings 16-22. Like King Ahab, the captain was an ungodly idolator who allowed other influences to give him a puffed up confidence in his ability to overcome fate and destroy his archenemy, the whale known as Moby Dick. Of course, listening to the advice of the “yes people” around him, Ahab took his entire crew on a suicide mission in order to hunt the whale that took his leg years earlier. In the end, Ahab was not successful in killing the whale, but ended up being brought down to the depths of the ocean, a result of getting caught in the lines attached to the harpoons that where protruding out from Moby Dick.

King Ahab, according to the Bible, was King of Israel for 22 years and did much evil in the sight of the Lord. For the most part, the evil that the Bible mentions is Ahab’s idolatry and his leading the entire Kingdom of Israel further astray from God than his predecessors had. Ahab had the potential to be a great king and, under his rule, there was relative stability between his kingdom and the Kingdom of Judah. In fact, there was an alliance between Judah and Israel due to King Jehoshaphat’s (of Judah) son Jehoram having been married Ahab’s daughter Athaliah.

Yet, Ahab does not end up relying on the Lord. He married a Sidonean (a person from the city-Kingdom of Sidon) named Jezebel and was influenced by her to worship the Canaanite god, Baal. He built temples and altars to Baal, surrounded himself with prophets of Baal and killed anyone who spoke against him or against his idolatrous practices. Elijah, who we will discuss at a later point, was the last remaining prophet (at least at one point) of the LORD and notoriously took a stand against Ahab and the prophets of Baal.

The king, like many rulers, was not a fan of being told no and was not a fan of people prophesying against him. When Neboth refused to sell the wicked king his vineyard, he and his wife plotted to have Neboth murdered. Once the evil deed was done, Ahab took his vineyard for himself. He hunted down Elijah anyone who stood against him and listened to the unwise and false advice from the “yes people” he called prophets who surrounded him.

The result is that he led himself, and the entire people of Israel, down a destructive path that led straight to their demise. In his own words, Ahab stated he hated one of the prophets of the LORD, Macaiah, because he never had anything good to say to the king. In other words, Macaiah always brought words of correction and rebuke toward the King for doing evil in the Lord’s sight and the king didn’t want to hear that. He just wanted to hear accolades and praises about himself; however, that is NOT the call of a prophet. The call of the prophet is to speak the truth of God to those who desperately need to hear it. The kings words betrayed his own pride and foolishness.

Ahab, when you think of it, is not much different than most politicians, leaders and, even, people in general. No one likes to be told they’re on the wrong track and that they need to change. With that said, we are being challenged to change our outlook, and have the wisdom to accept being held accountable by God and those whom God sends with corrective messages. To dismiss them because they don’t line up with one’s own self-perception is foolish and, often, deadly for oneself and those whom one is around. Be challenged by this, listen to what God is actually saying to you, rather than what you would like God to say. Listen and be changed by the sanctifying grace of God through the Holy Spirit.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY

“It’s [one’s] own mind, not [one’s] enemy or foe, that leads [one] to evil ways” — Buddha

PRAYER

Lord, help me to listen to and be corrected by your Holy Spirit. I submit myself to you. Amen.

God’s People, part 67: Beholder’s Eye

Read 1 Kings 1-2; 1 Chronicles 28-29

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“Get the truth and never sell it; also get wisdom, discipline, and good judgment.” (Proverbs 23:23 NLT)

When we think of God’s people, we tend to think one of two things. We might think of the Israelites who were God’s “chosen people”, or we might think of specific characters in the Bible. Either way, we tend to idealize the people we are thinking about. For instance, we may think that God’s people are super faithful, holy, perform miracles and live wholly devout and righteous lives. Unfortunately, this idealism enables us to distance ourselves from being God’s people, because we feel that we fall short of those ideals. As such, I have decided to write a devotion series on specific characters in the Bible in order to show you how much these Biblical people are truly like us, and how much we are truly called to be God’s people.

PerspectivePart 67: Beholder’s Eye. There is an old adage that says, “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.” I would argue that so is history and any other form of knowledge. We as humans, especially in Western Civilization, tend to compartmentalize things. If it is right-brained, artistic, creative, and aesthetic in nature, it must be subjective; however, if it is left-brained, logical, scientific, historical, and fact-based, it must be objective. I believe that this reasoning is no more than a false dichotomy and that such fallacious thinking gives us an excuse to not deal with true human complexity. The world is seldom, if ever, so simple.

Just as it is true that “beauty is in the eye of the beholder,” so it is true that history, science, and other such disciplines are as well. Yes, there are facts, there are scientific laws that never change and there are subjects can only be seen in black and white (such as mathematics); however, how we interpret those laws, those facts, and even (in some cases) numbers, can often lead us to wildly different conclusions. It is also important to acknowledge that we can use facts in ways that support our conclusions, and we can skip over facts to not muddy the water in the well of our conclusions.

As a philosopher, I have long concluded that while facts must be true, the truth need not be factual. For instance, Jesus told the story about the parable of the Good Samaritan.  Parables are, by nature, not factual. They did not ACTUALLY happen. We could, possibly, imagine them happening. They may not be far-fetched; however, they did not actually happen. They are not factual, historical accounts. With that said, they convey THE TRUTH and through them, we are hopefully enlightened to a whole new way of thinking and living.

Yet, a fact cannot be a fact if it is not true. That is a simple, yet solid maxim. Unfortunately, we conflate the two realities and often resort to thinking that if something is not factual, then it must not be true. When we look at the Bible as a history, and parts of the Bible are recording history, we often measure its veracity by adding up the facts.

In the case of the Kingdoms of Israel and Judah, we often see two sets of accounts (one set in 1 & 2 Kings and the other set in 1 & 2 Chronicles) that tell the same basic story, yet the facts are different. The author of one might have written more favorably about, let’s say, David, than the other might have. From a 21st century stand point, the contradictions might cause some to put up red flags indicating that this account might not have happened because there are apparent contradictions; yet, that is not necessarily the case. In fact, both accounts could be true despite the contradictions.

What’s more, just because a text is written against another nation, does not mean that the other nation was all-evil in God’s sight. We have to remember that history is written in the beholder’s eye and that history is most often written by those who come out on top as the victors. Just because the Northern Kingdom of Israel is listed as a wayward Kingdom does not mean that they were all that the kings and scribes in Judah hyped them up to be. There may be facts in there; however, those facts get presented to us through the lenses of those writing them. This makes the truth hard to discern without grace, but it does not cancel the truth out.

This is an important lesson to learn, not only for studying the Bible, but for all things. Do we judge others based off what one side says about the other? Do we judge other nations based off what the leaders in our nation have to say about “them over there”? It is time for us to challenge ourselves from seeing the world in such a “true or false” way, for none of us truly live “true or false” lives. We all live in the “not sure” zone, as it were. Let us learn to be careful in our interpretation of facts. Let us be cautious in not just discarding potential truth because the facts don’t seem to line up. Let us also remember that, at the end of the day, God’s grace is what is ULTIMATELY TRUE.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
While fact is dependent on truth, the truth is not dependent on fact.

PRAYER
Lord, let me seek you and your wisdom out so that I may be more humble in my quest for truth. Steer me from making rash judgments. Amen.

God’s People, part 66: Total War

Read 2 Chronicles 13:1

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“God blesses those who work for peace, for they will be called the children of God.” (Matthew 5:9 NLT)

When we think of God’s people, we tend to think one of two things. We might think of the Israelites who were God’s “chosen people”, or we might think of specific characters in the Bible. Either way, we tend to idealize the people we are thinking about. For instance, we may think that God’s people are super faithful, holy, perform miracles and live wholly devout and righteous lives. Unfortunately, this idealism enables us to distance ourselves from being God’s people, because we feel that we fall short of those ideals. As such, I have decided to write a devotion series on specific characters in the Bible in order to show you how much these Biblical people are truly like us, and how much we are truly called to be God’s people.

totalwarPart 66: Total War. One of my favorite games ever was a game called Medieval: Total War, which was a turn-based, strategy and real-time tactics computer game developed by Creative Assembly and distributed by Activision. Released in North America on August 19, 2002, I was fully immersed in that game for years until it no longer ran on the newer Windows platforms. I loved it because I love the Medieval period and the game, for me, was like time traveling back to that period with all its historical glory.

The premise of the game is this: following picking which “faction” one is going to be (e.g. Bittania, Spain, France, Holy Roman Empire, etc.), one works to build up one’s fortresses, troops, and kingdom/empire. One can set taxes and things like that; however, it is also important to keep one’s people happy, otherwise, revolts can and will outbreak. As one plays the game, time passes and historical events (e.g. the plague epidemic, the emergence of the Golden Horde, etc.) take place at in the correct chronological and historical order.

What this all amounts to is, as the title suggests, total war! One must grow their armies, protect their kingdoms and expand their empires through warring with other kingdoms and empires around them. When portions of one’s empire revolt and split off, vendettas occur and one builds up enough troops to go in and conquer the land back! This sort of thing is exactly what happened to Judah when Israel split off from them. Judah kept trying to reclaim Israel through total and constant war.

Thus, we begin to get the picture of how the sin of David with Bathsheba really spun out of control generations later. Had David not seduced and raped Bathsheba, had he not murdered Uriah the Hittite, had he not had Solomon as a son, he would not have been able to put Solomon as his heir. That is important because it was the act of putting Solomon as his heir that caused division in David’s family, that caused Solomon to kill off all of his political opponents, and caused enemies of Solomon to rally and have their day of independence following the death of the king. David’s one selfish act of sexual assault caused his entire Kingdom to divide and fall into a perpetual state of total war.

Perhaps it is too simple to state that it was just one of David’s sins; however, the fact of the matter is that David’s success became David’s failure and, had he followed the LORD instead of his own impulses, things might have been different. Even if others following him became corrupt, it would not have been a result of his own actions. Instead of being united in peace under God, the Kingdoms of Israel and Judah became separate, warring, enemies looking to shed each other’s blood any chance they could to dominate, subdue and lord their power over the other.

We can see this in our own nations and kingdoms today. Different time, same old story. The question for us becomes this: are we going to be a people who follow our leaders into a divide and conquer mentality, or are we going to follow the Lord, our Savior Jesus Christ, in being peacemakers in hostile territories? On our own, we will inevitably pick the former option for that is the result of our sinful, human nature; however, if we open our hearts to Jesus and allow the Holy Spirit to work within us, then all things (including peacemaking) are possible. Let us choose Christ, who is the Prince of Peace, the Lord of lords, and the King of kings.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
“Wars are poor chisels for carving out peaceful tomorrows. – Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

PRAYER
Lord, help me to be a peacemaker among warmongers, so that I may shine the truth of your light into the darkness. Amen.

God’s People, part 65: Kings of Judah

Read 1 Kings 15:1-24

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones God’s messengers! How often I have wanted to gather your children together as a hen protects her chicks beneath her wings, but you wouldn’t let Me.” (Matthew 23:37 NLT)

When we think of God’s people, we tend to think one of two things. We might think of the Israelites who were God’s “chosen people”, or we might think of specific characters in the Bible. Either way, we tend to idealize the people we are thinking about. For instance, we may think that God’s people are super faithful, holy, perform miracles and live wholly devout and righteous lives. Unfortunately, this idealism enables us to distance ourselves from being God’s people, because we feel that we fall short of those ideals. As such, I have decided to write a devotion series on specific characters in the Bible in order to show you how much these Biblical people are truly like us, and how much we are truly called to be God’s people.

The_Burning_of_Jerusalem_by_Nebuchadnezzars_Army_by_Circle_of_Juan_de_la_CortePart 65: Kings of Judah. The Kingdom of Judah was established when the tribe of Judah hailed David as their King, following the death of Saul. Eventually, David was able to unite all of the twelve tribes together under his rule, which formed the United Kingdom of Israel; however, the unity was ultimately short-lived. Following the death of Solomon, Jeroboam led the ten tribes in revolt against Solomon’s son Rehoboam. That resulted in the split between those ten tribes that supported Jeroboam and the 2 tribes (Judah and Benjamin) that were loyal to Rehoboam and the Davidic line.

Thus, Jeroboam’s kingdom kept the name “Israel”, while Rehoboam’s Kingdom reestablished itself as the Kingdom of Judah. As was discussed in an earlier devotion, Rehoboam ended up not being the ideal king. He was weak and he felt entitled. He increased the tax burden of his subjects and abused his authority as king. He doubled down on the harshness of his father and boasted about it. What’s more, he continued his father’s practice of idolatry.

His son, Abijah, succeeded him and, unfortunately followed in his father’s footsteps. Despite all of that, there was much more stability in the early years of the Judah’s reestablisment than there was in the Kingdom of Israel. That is mainly because of the power, money, and prominence the Kingdom of Judah had. The stronghold of Jerusalem, the Temple which drew countless people from around the world, and other factors helped to give Judah the advantage. Still, due to the corruption of its political and religious leaders, Judah was not able to stay in such privileged times for that long.

There were 20 kings following the reestablishment of the Kingdom of Judah, starting with Rehoboam. Out of those 20 kings, only 5 were deemed righteous in God’s sight, according to the Bible. Those kings were, King Asa (1 Kings 15:11; 2 Chronicles 14:2), King Jehoshaphat (2 Chornicles 17:3-4), King Jotham (2 King 15:34; 2 Chronicles 27:2), King Hezekiah (2 Kings 18:5; 2 Chronicles 29:2), and King Josiah (2 Kings 22:2; 2 Chronicles 34:2). That is it! Out of 20 kings, only ¼ of them were good and did what was pleasing in the sight of God. The rest were corrupt tyrants who cared little for the people they ruled and cared most for their own grip on power and wealth.

When we look around at the history of humanity we can see this trend with our own eyes. Most of our politicians and leaders, while they are not totally evil, compromise what’s right in order to attain what advantages them the most. The truth be told, this is not just a fault of our leaders but of people in general. Rather than loving the LORD our God with all of our hearts, and seeking God first in all that we do, we tend to seek out our own way and our own path.

This often leads us down paths that end up hurting us and others; yet, just as with the people of Judah and the Davidic line, God does not abandon us even when we abandon God. The truth be told that, despite all of our unfaithfulness, God remains faithful to us. Even when we face the wages of our sin, God is there trying to lead us out of the darkness and into the light.

Just as through a twisted lineage of broken, despotic kings God brought salvation into the world through Jesus Christ, so too can God work in, through and in spite of us even when we are not always in line with God. Let us reflect on that and stand in awe of a God who will not be trumped by our sin. Let us praise our God who does not give up on us, despite the fact that we often forget and/or give up on God. Let us praise God who, despite our brokenness, provides us The Way to salvation through Jesus Christ our Lord.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
Though the Davidic line ruled the Southern Kingdom of Jerusalem, Jesus the Messiah (who was of the Davidic line), was raised in Nazareth, a city in what was once the Northern Kingdom of Israel. Hence the response of Nathanael, who was from Bethsaida in Judah, “Nazareth? Can anything good come from Nazareth?” (John 1:46).

PRAYER
Lord, thank you for your undying faithfulness. Continue to lead me and have mercy on me, as sinner. Amen.

God’s People, part 64: Kings of Israel

Read 1 Kings 16:15-20

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE

“But the time is coming—indeed it’s here now—when true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth. The Father is looking for those who will worship him that way.” )John‬ ‭4:23‬ ‭NLT‬‬)

When we think of God’s people, we tend to think one of two things. We might think of the Israelites who were God’s “chosen people”, or we might think of specific characters in the Bible. Either way, we tend to idealize the people we are thinking about. For instance, we may think that God’s people are super faithful, holy, perform miracles and live wholly devout and righteous lives. Unfortunately, this idealism enables us to distance ourselves from being God’s people, because we feel that we fall short of those ideals. As such, I have decided to write a devotion series on specific characters in the Bible in order to show you how much these Biblical people are truly like us, and how much we are truly called to be God’s people.

Fuoco 4Part 64: Kings of Israel. Thus far, just in case you haven’t noticed, we have covered the major (and some minor) characters in the Bible, from Adam through King Solomon, and kings Rehoboam and Jeroboam. Wow, right? In the last two devotions we discussed the major split that took place in the United Kingdom of Israel. Rehoboam, Solomon’s son, held on to power in the South; however, Jereboam was able to usurp authority from 10 of the 12 tribes of Israel and formed his own kingdom in the north. Thus, there ended up being two kingdoms, the Northern Kingdom of Israel and the Southern Kingdom of Judah.

It would take a considerable amount of time to go through all of the Kings mentioned in 1 & 2 Kings as well as 1 & 2 Chronicles. Thus, I will sum up those Kings leading up to our next major character. With that said, I would strongly encourage you to read the books of 1 & 2 Kings and 1 & 2 Chronicles as they really paint a picture for you of the history of ancient Israel in its shortlived “heyday”. In fact, these Kingdoms can be viewed, in a way, as characters unto themselves. FYI, I will be referring to the Northern Kingdom of Israel simply as“Israel” and the Sothern Kingdom of Judah simply as “Judah”.

The Kings of Israel, according to the Bible, all followed (somehow or way) in the footsteps of Jeroboam I. As far as I can tell, this seems to indicate that the Kings continued Jeroboam’s religious policies and practices of worshiping the golden calfs and other gods aside from the imageless God of Israel. It should be taken into account that the authors of 1 and 2 Kings are, no doubt, from Judah and that their bent is certainly toward Judah and not the Kingdom of Israel; however, despite that, it is clear that the religious practices of the Northern Kingdom of Israel were unorthodox at best.

What is also clear, is that Jeroboam’s precedent of violently weeding out anyone who might pose a threat to his rule continued on in his successors. Jeroboam was succeeded by Nadab who was assassinated by one of his own military captains along with the rest of his family. That captain, Baasha ruled corruptly and was succeeded by his son Elah, who was later assassinated along with the rest of his family. The one who had him murdered, Zimri, succeeded him and only reigned seven days before his palace was beseiged. He set fire to the palace, with himself in it, and perished.

He was succeeded by Omri, who constructed the city of Samaria and made that city his captial. Later, the entire region would be known by the name of this infamous city, and it is from this region that Jesus of Nazareth would later converse with a Samaritan woman at the well, and it is of this region that Jesus would base his parable about the Good Samaritan on.

Needless to say, the kings of Israel were corrupt, we will be discussing one of them later on when we discuss the prophet Elijah. Each King brought the Israelites of the Northern Kingdom further and further away from a relationship with LORD their God, who is LOVE and JUSTICE. As such, each King brought the kingdom closer and closer to destruction, as that is the wages of corruption, greed and injustice.

As such, let us question ourselves? Do we lead a life that is in close relationship with God. Or have we mad an idol of God and become idolators. Yes, I know that most (if not all) of you are not physically bowing down to golden calfs; however, think about the things we might put first above and beyond God. Next, think about the ways we justify those things. Then you will begin to see the full picture of what true idolatry is. It isn’t merely about statues or about the names we use to call God by; rather, it is about our own hearts and who or what we put first. If God is not first, then we are on a path that leads to a dead end. I pray we all may truly reflect.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY

“You can safely assume you’ve created God in your own image when it turns out that God hates all the same people you do.” – Anne Lamott

PRAYER

Lord, help me to be a person that steers clear of idolatry and remains loyal to you, who created me and loves beyond measure. Amen

God’s People, part 63: Jeroboam

Read 1 Kings 11:28-43

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE

“Then at the LORD’s command, he shouted, ‘O altar, altar! This is what the LORD says: A child named Josiah will be born into the dynasty of David. On you he will sacrifice the priests from the pagan shrines who come here to burn incense, and human bones will be burned on you.’” (1 Kings 13:2 NLT)

When we think of God’s people, we tend to think one of two things. We might think of the Israelites who were God’s “chosen people”, or we might think of specific characters in the Bible. Either way, we tend to idealize the people we are thinking about. For instance, we may think that God’s people are super faithful, holy, perform miracles and live wholly devout and righteous lives. Unfortunately, this idealism enables us to distance ourselves from being God’s people, because we feel that we fall short of those ideals. As such, I have decided to write a devotion series on specific characters in the Bible in order to show you how much these Biblical people are truly like us, and how much we are truly called to be God’s people.

img_0879Part 63: Jeroboam. Whe n God holds people and nations accountable, it is seldom painless or smooth. Solomon had gotten a little too big for his britches and forgot that he owed everything he possessed (his wisdom, his reign, his success) to God. The way that such forgetfulness often takes place is by rulers placing themselves and their own interests above the interests of the people. Solomon was no exception to that rule.

He forgot that he was merely the ruler of God’s people, but not God. He forgot only God is truly sovereign and that, as king, he was a representative of God and a reflection of God’s presence with the people of Israel. Instead of serving God faithfully, Solomon served himself and his own lavish, eccentric whims. He raised taxes to pay for an extravagant palace to house his 700 wives and 300 concubines (or sexual partners who were not married to him).

He also raised taxes to pay for the building of the Temple, as well as the building of other temples to foreign gods in order to promote trade and tourism. He forced 30,000 men to build the temple, and continued in his father’s footsteps with regard to offing his political opponents. Solomon saw himself as above God’s law and, thus, he brought God’s justice upon himself.

This is where Jeroboam comes in. Jeroboam was somone who initially found favor with the king. Solomon appointed him when he was a young man to be the superintendent of the people of his tribe. As superintendent, Jeroboam became intimately connected to his people and increasingly aware of the ways in which they were suffering under the weight of Solomon’s rule. Their discontent led him to empathize with them and, eventually, take up their cause.

The name Jeroboam means, “the people contend” or “he pleads the people’s cause”. God must have definitely guided his parents to name him that, for he did end up pleading the people’s cause. God sent the prophet Ahijah to Jeroboam to let him know that God was displeased with Solomon and that God was going to split the kingdom in two, giving ten of the tribes to Jeroboam to rule over.

Hearing this, Jeroboam began to act. He started to conspire with others against the king. When Solomon learned of the plan, he sought to have Jeroboam killed. Thus, he fled to Egypt, where he lived under the protection of Pharoah until Solomon died. Following that he returned, and eventually led a successful revolt that resulted in the splitting of the kingdom.

Jeroboam went on to rule the Northern Kingdom of Israel, while Rehoboam oppressively ruled the Southern Kingdom of Judah. Unfortunately, Jeroboam fell into the same pit that Solomon and others before him did. He became paranoid that the people would turn on him, because they had to travel to Jerusalem (in Judah) and worship God. Having to go to another Kingdom to worship their God, Jereboam feared that they would eventually give their allegiance to Rehoboam and kill him.

So, the paranoid king of the northern Kingdom of Israel set up temples with golden calfs in them in order to keep people from going to Judah to worship. Sadly, Jeroboam stopped pleading the people’s cause and began to try to manipulate the people so that he could remain in power. In the end, this led Israel down a destructive and wayward path with devastating consequences.

Hopefully, the tale of Jeroboam challenges us to pause and reflect on our own lives. Who did God create us to be? Have we become all that God desires for us? Have we carried out God’s plan for us, in its entirety, or have we fallen short, turned away, and abandoned who we ought to be at our very core. An honest and humble reflection will always lead us to see our shortcomings and beckon us to change. Let us, unlike Jeroboam, not fail to recognize our need for God and our faithful duty to our God-given purpose. May God, through Jesus Christ, help us to that end.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY

“To get overprotective about particular readings of the Bible is always in danger of idolatry” – N.T. Wright

PRAYER

Lord, help steer me away from turning to and worship idols of any sort. I desire to remain on the path of faithfulness for you, alone, are my God. Amen.

God’s People, part 62: Rehoboam

Read 1 Kings 12:1-15

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE

“There is more hope for fools than for people who think they are wise” (Proverbs 26:12 NLT)

When we think of God’s people, we tend to think one of two things. We might think of the Israelites who were God’s “chosen people”, or we might think of specific characters in the Bible. Either way, we tend to idealize the people we are thinking about. For instance, we may think that God’s people are super faithful, holy, perform miracles and live wholly devout and righteous lives. Unfortunately, this idealism enables us to distance ourselves from being God’s people, because we feel that we fall short of those ideals. As such, I have decided to write a devotion series on specific characters in the Bible in order to show you how much these Biblical people are truly like us, and how much we are truly called to be God’s people.

  Part 62: Rehoboam. Rehoboam was the son and successor of King Solomon. As was discussed in the last devotion, Solomon had done some pretty spectacular things while reigning as king of the United Kingdom of Israel. He had built the Temple in Jerusalem. He had opened up trade with other nations and kingdoms. He had successfully promoted tourism to his kingdom and was a great diplomat.

With all of that said, Solomon lived and extravagant lifestyle, often on the backs of the people he was ruling. To build the temple, Solomon conscripted 30,000 men from all of Israel to do the work. In other words, he forced people to build the Temple. Praise God, right? The Temple in Jerusalem also hurt the other places of worship around the land, because the Temple became the center of Israelite worship. This may or may not have been mandated by Solomon (though it would be mandated later, under Josiah), but the sheer spectacle of the building drew people to it.

What’s more, to fund his lavish building campaigns, Solomon taxed the people blind. Add to that the fact that he had a ton of wives, many of whom were not even Israelites and worshipped foreign gods, and you’ll begin to get the picture as to how unpopular King Solomon eventually became. Solomon even began to openly worship some of the gods that his wives worshipped. To make a long story short, the people felt under-represented by their king.

That is unfortunate, especially for Solomon’s son, Rehoboam, who had to succeed him. For one, Rehoboam’s mother was one of the non-Israelite women that Solomon married. Though it was of no fault of his own, the new king was instantly at odds with his people. He was the embodiment of what people thought was wrong with King Solomon’s reign, and in the end he was not able to secure his rule over the United Kingdom of Israel.

Even more unfortunate is that Rehoboam refused to listen to the people, and refused to care about their needs. Instead of listening to them and alleviating their burdens, Rehoboam doubled down on this father’s policies and, actually, made them worse. He ignored the advice of his father’s advisors and listened to the foolhardy advice of his friends, who advised him to raise the taxes and double the burdens of the people. This act brought major division to the doorstep of the United Kingdom of Israel. What David fought so hard to create, his son and grandson destroyed overnight.

The challenge for us is to reflect on where we have been apathetic, refusing to listen to the pain of others. The time is to reflect on where we have been obstinant, refusing to change no matter what. Let us remember that God is calling us to be open to correction, and willing to change, so that we may grow in our relationships, our faith, and in our service to others.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY

“We must learn to live together as brothers [and sisters], or we will perish as fools.” (Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

PRAYER

Lord, help me to steer clear of the pit of foolishness and forever guide me in my life. I surrender all to you. Amen.

God’s People, part 61: Solomon

Read 1 Kings 11:1-11

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE

“I, the Teacher, was king of Israel, and I lived in Jerusalem. I devoted myself to search for understanding and to explore by wisdom everything being done under heaven. I soon discovered that God has dealt a tragic existence to the human race.” (Ecclesiastes‬ ‭1:12-13‬ ‭NLT‬‬)

When we think of God’s people, we tend to think one of two things. We might think of the Israelites who were God’s “chosen people”, or we might think of specific characters in the Bible. Either way, we tend to idealize the people we are thinking about. For instance, we may think that God’s people are super faithful, holy, perform miracles and live wholly devout and righteous lives. Unfortunately, this idealism enables us to distance ourselves from being God’s people, because we feel that we fall short of those ideals. As such, I have decided to write a devotion series on specific characters in the Bible in order to show you how much these Biblical people are truly like us, and how much we are truly called to be God’s people.

  Part 61: Solomon. There are few people IN THE WORLD who have not heard the name of King Solomon. He is one of the most romanticized of the Biblical personalities and he is remembered for many great things. In fact, when we think of Israel, especially Jerusalem, we more than likely view it post-Solomon and not pre-Solomon. He had a lasting and indelible effect on the history of the Jewish people.

He was known for his incredible wisdom, for his illustrious lifestyle, for his countless women, and his torrid romance with the Queen of Sheba. He was known for his great building campaigns and, at the top of the list of things he built, he was especially known for the building of the first Jewish Temple. Solomon’s reign was the height, the golden years if you will, of the United Kingdom of Israel. With that said, it was also the quick and fiery downfall of the United Kingdom as well.

While Solomon might be known for many great things, and is widely considered to be the wisest of all the kings of Israel, it goes without saying that even the wisdom of the great Solomon ended up falling a bit short. What’s more, like all of the rest of the kings, Solomon proved to be yet another example of how power muddies the water and poisons the well. Solomon, at best, was an embodiment of contradictions.

For instance, Solomon is known for his building of the great Jewish Temple. This temple was to be the “House of God”, where the Spirit of the LORD would literally be enthroned. This temple was not just good for the Spiritual health of the United Kingdom of Israel; however, it was great for commerce, for tourism, and for the economic growth of the kingdom as well. People from all over the world traveled to Israel to see the great Temple built by the great king.

And that brings us to what Solomon is NOT commonly known for: building temples to foreign gods for the tourists. That, in today’s day and age, probably doesn’t sound that bad, right? I mean, that is just being accommodating of diversity and showing hospitality to foreigners. If we are saavy capitalists and/or economists, we might also note how economically genius that was because, in the ancient world, temples also doubled as banks and currency exchange.

Yet Solomon, in the end, turned to those false gods and began to worship them himself. It is one thing to be accommodating, it is another thing to stray away from one’s relationship with God. The author of 1 Kings places the blame on Solomon’s wives and his old age; however, the truth be told, Solomon began to see himself above God. So much for wisdom, right?

The king, who had assassinated all of his opposition at the outset of his rule, had generally brough peace and contentment to the people of Israel; however, in the end, he forgot that peace and contentment come out of our faithfulness to God. As he grew more and more unfaithful, the façade of peace and contentment began to crumble and the state of the Kingdom grew frail and weak. In the end, Solomon died and the Kingdom instantly became divided among his son Reheboam and his superintendent, Jereboam, both of whom were contending to be the Solomon’s rightful successor.

The result: The United Kingdom became the divided kingdoms of Israel and Judah, forever separated and at war with one another for their legitimacy, for land, and for power. This should cause us to see the damage done by unfaithfulness. God trusts us and desires a relationship with us; however, we so often stray from God for this reason or that. We even allow excuses to justify our unfaithfulness, but in reality, we only have ourselves to blame.

The challenge for us is to admit we’ve been unfaithful in the areas we have, and to turn our hearts back to God. It is there, in a faithful and committed relationship to our Lord, that we will find true peace, contentment and joy. It is also in the context of that relationship, that we will realize that it is ONLY with God that we are capable of greatness. Apart from God, we are merely consigned and doomed to our own designs which lead toward destruction. Today’s challenge, reaffirm your commitment and your faithfulness to God.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY

“Unfailing love and faithfulness protect the king; his throne is made secure through love.” —King Solomon (Proverbs‬ ‭20:28‬ ‭NLT‬‬)

PRAYER

Lord, give me the wisdom to see where I have been unfaithful and the integrity and strength to turn back to you.

God’s People, part 60: Adonijah

Read 1 Kings 1:5-10

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.” (Luke 14:11 NLT)

When we think of God’s people, we tend to think one of two things. We might think of the Israelites who were God’s “chosen people”, or we might think of specific characters in the Bible. Either way, we tend to idealize the people we are thinking about. For instance, we may think that God’s people are super faithful, holy, perform miracles and live wholly devout and righteous lives. Unfortunately, this idealism enables us to distance ourselves from being God’s people, because we feel that we fall short of those ideals. As such, I have decided to write a devotion series on specific characters in the Bible in order to show you how much these Biblical people are truly like us, and how much we are truly called to be God’s people.

Macbeth_illustration14_001Part 60: Adonijah. The story of Adonijah much reminds me of Jesus teaching about humility in Luke 14, just prior his telling of the Parable of the Great Feast. In that teaching he warned the gathered people to not sit in the places of honor, but at the lowest place at the table. In doing so, one would avoid being dishonored by being asked to move to a place of lower status in front of all the people at the table and would, more than likely, be honored when the host asks one to move from the lowest place to a place more prominent.

Jesus’ words are wise and they are not meant merely as a “play it safe rather than sorry” suggestion. Jesus is, rather, guiding those who will be taught by him to not think too highly about themselves. Humility, simply, is knowing one’s place. It is not self-denigration; however, it is not self-engrandizement either. While Jesus’ teaching refers to social status, his wisdom is regarding Spiritual Humility. Such humility recognizes that none of us are better than “the least of these” because, from the least to the greatest, we are all God’s created children.

If only Adonijah had been given those wise and timely words. It’s never easy being less than the eldest brother in the royal family. Only the eldest could be the heir to the throne. Only the eldest could one day be king, unless the eldest died. Even then, Adonijah was not second eldest but third eldest. He was third in line. He could pretty much bank on NEVER being the King, not because he was unqualified (as he could not think of anyone more qualified than he was) but because of circumstance.

Yes, I am writing this a bit tongue-in-cheek; however, it is clear that Adonijah thought pretty highly of himself and he was quite thrilled (I mean, who wouldn’t be?) when his two eldest brothers died and were no longer in his way. It was Adonijah chance to rise up and take the throne for himself! He would be the one in power and could rule the kingdom!

The only problem with that comes in one word: SOLOMON. Because of his love for Bathsheba, David had declared that he willed for Solomon to be his heir. So, rather than rightfully taking the throne, Adonijah actually stages a coup and tries, like his brothers before him, to usurp David’s kingdom. As can be seen in the scriptures, it doesn’t go well for Adonijah. In the end, he fled for his life and was temporarily spared only to be killed by Solomon once he assumed power.

Adonijah could have served a great purpose for God. Who knows what God had in store for him; however, the corruption of his father and brothers spread to him and he sought power and authority rather than God. As a result, he ended up cutting what ties may have been left with his half-brother Solomon and betraying his father’s trust. All that did, in the end, is lead to his demise. The question for us is this, how do we allow our earthly ambitions to get between us and our God-given purpose? Be challenged by that question and seek out God’s will over your own!

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
“It was pride that changed angels into devils; it is humility that makes men as angels.” – St. Augustine

PRAYER
Lord, protect me from becoming proud so that I might be honored to serve you in the exact ways you created me to. Amen.