Tag Archives: corruption

God’s People, part 123: High Priest

Read John 11:45-57

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“‘Away with him,’ they yelled. ‘Away with him! Crucify him!’ ‘What? Crucify your king?’ Pilate asked. ‘We have no king but Caesar,’ the leading priests shouted back.”  (John 19:15, 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.

bible-videos-caiaphas-jesus-trial-1426886-printPart 123: High Priest. When we think of the High Priest of the temple in Jerusalem, we think of someone who was from the Levites and was chosen by God to serve in the position of High Priest, fulfilling the duties of ordering the worship life of the Temple and leading the kingdom of Israel in an ongoing and faithful relationship with God. We think of someone divinely chosen and independent of politics.

Unfortunately, this is a mistake. First, the High Priest WAS a political position as much as it was a religious one. The ancient world did not make any sort of distinction between the political and the religious spheres. That distinction is, strictly speaking, a modern one. This is extremely important to realize. The high priest was not just in charge of religion, but also of law. The TORAH was not just religious law, but the LAW of the land.

Second, the High Priest in the time of the Roman occupation became more of a political role than it was religious. This may sound scandalous and, if you are thinking that, you are absolutely right. It was scandalous. By Jesus’ time, some groups such as the Essenes had left Jerusalem and went out into the wilderness to live. They believed that the corruption of the office of the High Priest, and the ultimate corruption of the Temple, were signs of the end times. Thus, they waited in the wilderness for the Messiah to come, ready to join the holy war when that time came.

The first high priest to be appointed under the newly formed Roman province of Iudaea (aka Judea, pronounced Yoo-dee-ah), was Annas in 6 CE. What’s more, Annas was appointed to that position by Quirinius, the Roman legate governor of Syria. You read that right! A Roman aristocrat and politician appointed Annas as the High Priest of Judea. I am sure you can now see why groups like the Essenes “got out of Dodge” and headed for the wilderness hills.

Annas’ was deposed as High Priest in 15 CE at the age of 36. With that said he held great influence of the Sanhedrin (the Jewish Legal Council made up of priests) through his sons who succeeded him in the role of High Priest. First, his son Eleazar succeeded him and was High Priest for one year (16-17 CE). Following Eleazar was Annas’s son-in-law, Caiaphas. He was High Priest from 18-36 CE and was the High Priest who plotted to have Jesus handed over to the Romans to be crucified.

As you can see, there were major politics at play here in the first century. We Christians like to pretend that everything Jesus did was “spiritual” and not “political”; however, this simply was not true. By accusing the High Priest of hypocrisy and corruption, by violently overturning the tables in the Temple, Jesus was intentionally upsetting the political and the religious order simultaneously!

This should challenge us as Christians. We often choose to remain silent on issues because we don’t want to be “political”; however, our silence is just as political as speaking out. In fact, when we don’t speak out we stamp our seal of approval on whatever it is that is going on. We ought not be afraid of upsetting the political or the religious order. If what is going on is wrong, we ought to take a stand against it. Our Lord did no less. We ought to carefully steer away from the status quo, which the High Priests were holding fast to for their political gain and power, and draw close to Jesus who would have us interrupt the silence for the Kingdom of God.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
Damning are the politics of silence.

PRAYER
Lord, give me courage to interrupt the silence. For I know you are with me and strengthen me. You are my rock and my redeemer. 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 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 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 42: Eli & Sons

Read 1 Samuel 2:12-36

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“You can enter God’s Kingdom only through the narrow gate. The highway to hell is broad, and its gate is wide for the many who choose that way.” (Matthew 7:13 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.

Steinway-and-SonsPart 42: Eli & Sons. There is nothing quite like an exquisitely made, top of the line, grand piano. The sounds that come from such an instrument are enough to inspire, strike fear, haunt, elicit grief, elicit love, elicit anxiety, and stir the heartstrings within the being a of a person. For instance, one is horrified by the skeletal dancing on the fingers down the “ivory” keys in a song like Franz Liszt’s arrangement of Danse Macabre, and one is moved by the overwhelming beauty of Beethoven’s reflective “Moonlight Sonata.”

There is no doubt that such songs would not carry the same effect on cheaply made piano, or on a Yamaha keyboard. There is nothing like a quality piano. One of the best makers of pianos is Steinway & Sons. There impeccable design and attention to detail make for an instrument of no parallel. The company was formed by a German immigrant, Heinrich Engelhard Steinweg, who changed his name to Henry Steinway upon arrival in America. Between him and his sons, the business grew and expanded and made an incredible name for itself.

Unfortunately, this is not a devotion about Steinway & Sons, or about the history of the piano empire they built; rather, this is a devotion about Eli & Sons and the brand they never ended up building. Eli was God’s high priest and was appointed to that position to lead others in worshiping God and living in a godly fashion. Not only that, but he was also the second to last judge of Israel, preceding Samuel.

Eli, himself, was not the most discerning of individuals. When Hannah came to the tabernacle to pray to God in order to request that she be allowed to bear a child, Eli was quick to think she was drunk and tried to send her away. With that said, he did bless her when he heard that she was merely there to pray and wished that God grant her the request she made.

Eli also was able to point Samuel, as we will soon see in the next devotion, to realize that it was the Lord that was calling him. So, like most human beings, Eli was wishy-washy at best. He was definitely someone worthy of leadership and someone who was attuned to God; however, he did not always reamin attuned and was often quick to make rash judgments. What’s more, he wanted his family to reamins the judges of Israel. Yet, his sons (who were also priests) were corrupt and would steal meat and goods that were meant to be sacrificed to the Lord.  They ended up ruining the family name as well as the people’s confidence in them to lead.

As such, they brought on themselves their own destruction and the Bible says that God rejected Eli’s household. To Eli’s credit, though, he called his own sons out for being disgraceful and, when push came to shove, Eli did mentor Samuel and knew that God was calling him to be the leader his sons never would be. In the end, despite his flaws, Eli served the Lord and gave Israel their next judge and leader: Samuel. This is the same Samuel who would eventually find, annoint, and advise the greatest King in Israel’s history: the shepherd boy and songwriter, David.

As can be seen, God knows our imperfections and works in us, through us, and even in spite of us when need be. The question for us is not whether we will be perfect, for will never will. The question for us is this: will we, despite our imperfections choose to serve the Lord as faithfully as we can? Or will we, like Eli’s sons, choose our own twisted and corrupt path? One way is a redemptive, grace-filled path, and the other is the path that leads to destruction. One path is narrow and hard to find, while the other is broad and wide and chosen by many. The choice is ours. Choose wisely.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
“Sartre was only half-right. Both heaven and hell are other people. The difference is how you treat them.” – Rev. Todd R. Lattig

PRAYER
Lord, I recognize that I can either be an ambassador to heaven or an agent of hell. Steer me and correct me when I stray off of the narrow road so that I may walk The Way that leads to the Kingdom of Heaven.

God’s People, part 33: Abimelech

Read Judges 9

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“‘Wasn’t Abimelech son of Gideon killed at Thebez by a woman who threw a millstone down on him from the wall? Why would you get so close to the wall?’ Then tell him, ‘Uriah the Hittite was killed, too.'” (2 Samuel 11:21 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

AbimelechPart 33: Abimelech. One would think that the son of a faithful follower of God would, him or herself, rise up to be a faithful follower of God. That would seem to be the natural progression, right? We tend to learn our behaviors, our beliefs, and our very identity from the ones who raised us up, right? Isn’t that the conventional wisdom. Even if we stray a little, and we all do, we are still products of our parents, right?

While there is truth to the above, the fact remains that not everyone turns out like their parents. In fact, if God is our parent, none of us have turned out like God. We are sinners, we are broken and we tend to let our brokenness get in the way of the love of our Creator. If that is true on the macro-level, then it is also true on the micro-level. As much as our parents would love nothing more than for us to become like them, at least the positive and good aspects of them, and they would want nothing more than for us to show others the love they had for us.

Abimelech was the son of the very faithful judge, Gideon. He was brought up by the man who saved Israel from the Midianites (the very people of Moses’ wife) and others who were trying to come in and conquer them. What’s more, Gideon set the people of Israel back on a course of honoring and loving God their Creator. So, one would think, that Abimelech would certainly follow in his father’s footsteps.

Not so, instead of being a humble yet bold and just warrior like his dad, Abimelech was power hungry, cruel and greedy. Instead of being the sheepdog herding the sheep for the Good Shepherd, so to speak, Abimelech was murderous, unjust, and a snake that sought to divide and conquer. Following his father Gideon’s death, he conspired with his mother and her family and he murdered his half-brothers who were his father’s heirs. He didn’t stop there either; rather, not being satisfied to be a judge, he proclaimed himself king and ruled over Israel for three years. Understand this, up until this point only God was the king of Israel. Thus, Abimelech put himself above God and stole the throne.

This is a challenging and most uncomfortable devotion because it causes us to look at ourselves and ask some pretty uncomfortable questions. How many of us are like Abimelech? How many of us have take what is not rightfully ours? How many of us have schemed against others, and even murdered them in our hearts with our anger and bitterness toward them? How many of us have put ourselves and our own selfish desires above God, dethroning our Creator of much due glory, allegiance and/or loyalty?

The challenge for us is to be honest in answering those questions. Do we want to end up like Abimelech, sealing the fate of our own destruction because we are too ambitious, too greedy, too power hungry, and too clueless to see the sinful harm and the evil we are doing? Or will we, like Gideon and others, rise above our shortcomings in humility as well as humble service to the one, true Ruler of our lives. This is only an answer we can individually come to, and I pray you do.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
“Nearly all [people] can stand adversity, but if you want to test a [person’s] character, give him [or her] power.” – Abraham Lincoln

PRAYER
Lord, put me in a place of humility so that I may see you are the one with the power and I am the one who submits to it. Let me fully put my trust in you and you alone. Amen.

WORKS OF THE FLESH: Impurity

Read Galatians 5:13-21

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“Because of the weakness of your human nature, I am using the illustration of slavery to help you understand all this. Previously, you let yourselves be slaves to impurity and lawlessness, which led ever deeper into sin. Now you must give yourselves to be slaves to righteous living so that you will become holy.” (Romans 6:19 NLT)

In his letter to the church in Galatia, the Apostle Paul is writing to a community that is divided over the issue of male circumcision: should new Gentile followers of Jesus be counted as a part of the Jewish covenant without being circumcised, or should they have to be circumcised just as all of the Jews are circumcised. Being that Christianity at the time wasn’t a religion, but a sect of Judaism, this was a VITALLY IMPORTANT question. While Paul is opposed to making Gentiles be circumcised, he also is against divisive behavior regardless of which side it is coming from. In response to this division, Paul describes to the Galatian church what he calls, “the works of the flesh.”

fieryITHE WORKS OF THE FLESH: Impurity. My family loves to drink water; however, some in my family refuse to drink tap water. For them, tap water skeeves them out because it comes from the ground and into our cup through a “dirty” faucet. We cannot know what is in that water, and it tastes kind of “funny”; therefore, the perception is that the water is not pure. On the other hand, bottled water is perceived to be pure water. It is assumed by most people to be filtered of all impurities and, therefore, it is a “safe” and “clean” water to drink.

At one time, decades ago, people would have laughed at the idea of bottling and selling water. Who, in their right mind, will ever buy bottled water? I can get that for free right out of my tap, why would I pay for something that I can get for free? Yet, the bottled water industry (owned by-and-large by big “junk-food”/”soft-drink” corporations such as Coca-Cola, Nestle and Pepsi) has done a phenomenal job in marketing their product. Brands such as Nestle’s “Pure Life”, Poland Springs, Dasani, Fiji, Nirvana, and others all suggest that the water that is being sold is pure, natural, wild, exotic, heavenly, life-giving, etc. Yet, is this water any more pure than the water that ACTUALLY comes from one’s well in their backyard (provided you don’t drink city/town water)?

Whether or not bottled water is cleaner or more pure than ACTUAL water from an aquifer under the ground is debatable; however, what isn’t debatable is that water can be, and often is, contaminated by things that make it impure. While in it’s natural state water is pure and is the bare necessity to all living things, things from the outside can seep into it and make it impure. Like water, we too can be contaminated by outside sources. God created us pure and wholesome as beings capable of love, of compassion, of creativity, of growth, of respect, of stewardship, and of service. God created us with the ability to be vessels of life-giving water, a people who nurture and care for all living things, as well as for all of creation.

However, outside sources in the world have seeped into our lives and we know what they are. We have become glamoured by materialistic things, we have been charmed by greed, hatred, bitterness, vengeance, arrogance, narcissism, and selfishness. As a result, we have become contaminated and impure. We have become consumed by stuff that doesn’t belong with us and, as such, have become depraved. What’s more, have begun to define ourselves by our depravity in ignorance of what our pure and wholesome state is. This is NOT something we were born into, but something we’ve allowed to take over our lives and our world. Paul is calling us to allow God to purge us of our impurities. That can be a painful process; however, once it is done we will begin to experience what true and pure life IN GOD actually is! Are you ready to become filled, once again, with living water?

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
“One by one, little by little, moment by moment, a wise man should remove his own impurities, as a smith removes his dross from silver.” – The Buddha, The Dhammapada 18:239

PRAYER
Lord, help to purge me of my impurities so that I may once again experience and share pure and true life. Amen.