Monthly Archives: October 2009

If Only…

Jehoram was thirty-two years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem eight years. He passed away, to no one’s regret, and was buried in the City of David, but not in the tombs of the kings. (2 Chronicles 21:20 NIV)

How would you like to have that as your epitaph: “He passed away to no one’s regret…” Pretty sad.

Jehoram was the son of Jehoshaphat, who was one of the surprisingly rare good kings of Judah. He instituted religious reforms and sought the Lord with all of his heart. He wasn’t perfect, though. He showed several errors in judgment, the biggest one being to allow Jehoram to marry the daughter of the wicked Israelite king, Ahab. And that marriage would plant the seeds of tragedy that bloomed through several generations of Judean kings, starting with Jehoram.

The first action that Jehoram took after he became king of Judah was to solidify his claim to the throne by killing off every one of his brothers, as well as some of the princes of Israel. He then proceeded to institute Baal and Asherah worship, the religion of his wife, in Judah. God, speaking through the prophet Elijah, warned Jehoram that God was displeased with him. In a letter he wrote: “This is what the Lord, the God of your father David, says: ‘You have not walked in the ways of your father Jehoshaphat or of Asa king of Judah. But you have walked in the ways of the kings of Israel, and you have led Judah and the people of Jerusalem to prostitute themselves, just as the house of Ahab did. You have also murdered your own brothers, members of your father’s house, men who were better than you. So now the Lord is about to strike your people, your sons, your wives and everything that is yours, with a heavy blow. You yourself will be very ill with a lingering disease of the bowels, until the disease causes your bowels to come out.” (2 Chronicles 21:12-15 NIV)

Many times in the Bible we are told about instances where kings, commoners, and even whole nations repented when God warned them of His displeasure, and in so doing they averted the disaster that God had prepared for them. But Elijah’s words apparently had no effect at all on the wicked Jehoram. The next thing that occurs is that the peoples who lived around the nation of Judah got together and invaded the land, plundering the kings palace, and even carrying off his wives and all but his youngest son.

But still Jehoram showed no signs of turning back to the Lord. And so God inflicted on him the promised intestinal disorder that became so intense that his intestines came out and he died.

The people of Judah seemed to understand at this stage of their history that their ruler was leading them into a way that would put them at odds with the Lord. And when the invaders came and plundered the land, they understood that this was punishment from the Lord for the king’s unfaithfulness. So when Jehoram died, it was “to no one’s regret.” They didn’t even bury him in the royal cemetery, but in some other cemetery in the city!

A simple lesson that we can glean from this is that it simply doesn’t pay to cross the Lord. But even more important, I think, is the understanding that our sins will drastically affect the lives of the people around us, in ways that we really can’t foresee (even if you aren’t a king!). In addition to bringing tragedy on himself and his immediate family, the people whom he ruled suffered not only under his rule, but the idolatry of Jehoram spread downstream to his descendants, and the people ended up suffering and begin misled under three more ungodly rulers before the half-hearted Amaziah came to the throne.

History is full of tragic “if only’s,” and this bit of history has some significant ones: If only Jehoshaphat had obeyed God’s requirements for marriage where his son was concerned. If only Jehoram had decided to follow God’s rules and draw his wife that direction instead of letting himself be drawn after her. If only he had heeded the Lord’s warnings and repented of all of his sins.

Each of us has the opportunity to follow God wholeheartedly, repenting when necessary, and seeking the Lord at every turn so that we don’t live our lives contrary to his desires and his commandments for us. If we will do that, and He will help us if we will let Him, then we won’t have to worry that the “if only’s” of our lives will contaminate the lives of those around us.

Advertisements

1 Comment

Filed under Scripture Musings

Judge Me

Judge me, O Lord, according to my righteousness,
     according to my integrity, O Most High.

Psalm 7:8b (NIV)

Being judged is not most peoples’ idea of a good time.  In fact, we often do everything we can to avoid being judged.  And we have found pretty effective ways of stopping judgment from other people.  If we feel that someone is judging us in a less than favorable light, we just tell them that they are being “judgmental,” and they will usually stop.  (Nobody wants to be considered judgmental!)

Part of the problem that we have with being judged is that it never seems to happen when we are going to show up in a good light; the judgment that most of us seem to receive is about those things that we fall short in.  And so it’s natural to avoid being judged whenever we can.

David, in this Psalm, is being judged by Cush, a Benjamite, who has taken the side of the paranoid King Saul against David.  But, even though Saul is sure that David is out to get him, and has spread this word throughout the palace, David protests that those charges are unfounded and untrue.  He wasn’t out to get Saul, or even to get his job, even though it had been promised to him by God Himself.  Instead, he had always worked hard for Saul, being faithful in every way, and always doing his best for him.

David turns his heart to the Lord, who knows his heart inside and out(see 1 Samuel 16:7).  He declares his innocence to the Lord, and then asks the Lord to judge him according to his righteousness; according to his integrity.  It strikes me that, for a lot of people, that is exactly the way that we DON’T want God to judge us.  What we really want is for God to judge us according to our intentions or our hopes or even according to what we understand He wants us to do, even if we don’t actually do it.  In other words, we don’t really want God to judge us at all, but if He does, we want Him to judge us in such a way that we come out smelling good (or at least acceptable).  But God is a righteous judge, who according to His Word, will judge us according to our actions (see Matthew 16:27; Romans 2:6; Revelation 2:23, 20:12-13, 22:12), which show what is actually in our hearts.

We all will be judged time and time again in this world.  Sometimes we will be judged fairly (whether we are seen as as good as we really are or as bad as we really are), and sometimes we will be judge unfairly.  But when we are judged by God, we will be judged 100% fairly.  Every sin will be brought to light, every place that we have fallen short of His righteous requirements will be known.  And for the vast majority of us (probably for every one of us, but I don’t want to appear judgmental!) there is no way that any of the good things we have done will even show up as a minor blip compared to the ways in which we have failed to live up to God’s standards.

Of course, if we belong to Jesus our record of past sins has been totally erased; there is no longer any trace of the sins that we committed beforehand – the penalty for them has been paid in full by the blood of the Lamb.  And if we have kept our record clean since that time, and have lived in such a way that we show by our actions that our hearts are right before Him, then we have nothing to fear from His judgment.  In that case, we can actually pray with David, “Judge me, O Lord, according to my righteousness; according to my integrity, O Most High!”

Leave a comment

Filed under Scripture Meditations

Consequences

20 The Lord replied, “I have forgiven them, as you asked.  21 Nevertheless, as surely as I live and as surely as the glory of the Lord fills the whole earth, 22 not one of the men who saw my glory and the miraculous signs I performed in Egypt and in the desert but who disobeyed me and tested me ten times– 23 not one of them will ever see the land I promised on oath to their forefathers. No one who has treated me with contempt will ever see it.  24 But because my servant Caleb has a different spirit and follows me wholeheartedly, I will bring him into the land he went to, and his descendants will inherit it.  Numbers 14:20-24 (NIV)

First, the context:  Moses had sent 12 spies, one from each of the 12 tribes of Israel, to go into the land to check it out.  When they came back, what they had to say was impressive to say the least:  The land was incredibly fertile, as witnessed by a huge bunch of grapes that they had carried out tied to a pole on the shoulders of two men.  That was the upside.  The downside was that the land was filled with giants living in massive walled cities that would surely squash the Israelites like a bug if they should try to fight them.

This report was very discouraging to the Israelites, despite the fact that Joshua son of Nun and Caleb son of Jephunneh were insistent that with God backing them they would be able to take over the land, giants or no giants.  In fact the people finally decided after a short discussion (and a lot of wailing and moaning) to elect a leader to take them back to Egypt, figuring that being live slaves was better than being dead Israelites.

 This is all too much for God.  He tells Moses that He is just going to destroy them all, and that He will make of Moses a nation even greater than they are.  But Moses pleads on their behalf for forgiveness, and that is where our passage above starts.

Surprisingly, God agrees to forgive the people.  But that doesn’t mean that everything is just magically okay all of a sudden.  Look at what He says:  21 Nevertheless, as surely as I live and as surely as the glory of the Lord fills the whole earth, 22 not one of the men who saw my glory and the miraculous signs I performed in Egypt and in the desert but who disobeyed me and tested me ten times– 23 not one of them will ever see the land I promised on oath to their forefathers. No one who has treated me with contempt will ever see it. Even though the people are forgiven, there are still consequences to their refusing to follow the Lord – they lose the Promised Land, all except Joshua and Caleb, who had faith in God.

Later on, when the people hear God’s judgment that they will all die out over the next 40 years as they move about the desert, and their children will be the ones to enter into the Land, they decide that they will now go ahead and obey God (a form of repentance), and start to move north.  But God is not with them – He is no longer going to go with them to conquer the Land and, left to their own strength and power, they are whipped by the local people.

There is a huge lesson for us in these few short verses and their context.  So often we figure that if we sin against God, disobeying one of His commands or leaving undone something that we know He wants us to do, all we have to do is repent and ask for forgiveness and then everything is okay.  But that’s not what the Bible teaches.  (And it doesn’t teach it anywhere!)  Instead, it teaches us, just as it says here, that sin, disobedience to the God of the universe, has consequences.  Whereas we can be forgiven for our sins and have our relationship with God restored, oftentimes the sin has consequences that God does not erase.  Take for example the husband who cheats on his wife.  Even if he repents and gets forgiveness from God before his wife finds out about the affair, there are still consequences that are likely to unfold – the woman (or someone else) may tell his wife at some point in the future, destroying the trust that is an essential element of the marriage; a child may have been conceived during the affair; the affair may have been observed causing damage to the reputation of the man and/or the woman.  Even though He is willing to forgive whatever sin we sincerely repent of, God is not required to (and usually does not) remove the consequences for the sin.  We end up having to pay the piper for the dance.

This even holds true at an organizational level, as we can see from the example in this Scripture.  If a congregation refuses to do the job or fulfill the mission that God has called them to do, there will be serious consequences.  Even if they later decide to ask for forgiveness and to go ahead and do the job, they may very well end up trying to do it in their own strength as God has removed from them the “Promised Land” of success in their mission, even if He does forgive their rebellion.

Too many of us have been taught that if we ask for forgiveness, then everything magically resets to zero – it’s just as if the rebellion never happened.  But the Bible tells us a different story.  We are free to choose to rebel against God’s will for us, but we are NOT free to choose the consequences of our disobedience.  I think that’s one of the main reasons why none of the Bible writers every say, “Go ahead and sin if you want, because you can just ask for forgiveness later, and then everything will be all right again.”  Instead, with one voice they shout loud warnings against sinning!  The God we serve, who is the same yesterday, today, and forever, is free to forgive and still leave the consequences in place.

Leave a comment

Filed under Scripture Meditations