As a child, I was always told to be a leader, not a follower. The importance of leading with wisdom and godliness was engrained in my mind; it was repeatedly being taught by parents, teachers, mentors, and of course, leaders. I’m sure most of us grew up with similar advise. We all know the impact a good leader can have, as well as the impact a bad leader can have. That’s why if we know what it means to be a good leader, we must take it upon ourselves to be one.
The thing is, most of us do know what it means to be a good leader. We all have it within us to lead as God instructs us to lead, because He gave us this whole enormous book full of leaders to read about and learn from. Jesus Christ was obviously the top dog when it comes to leaders…and everything else, but there are so many others we can look at too, including the not so great leaders.
Throughout the Old Testament, the importance of a strong leader is stressed over and over again. We see these amazing, capable, resilient, faithful leaders bringing God’s people into the light, guiding them in the direction God laid out for them, like Jesus someday would. But we also see weak leaders, lacking in faith and abounding in pride. When leaders like that are in charge, they normally can be observed dragging their followers down with them. The readings of the past week have been absolutely full of leaders who could not leave behind the sins of their predecessors, which “made Israel to sin.” When you have been blessed with the knowledge of the truth, and you know the commands God has given us, it is your duty to be a leader. It is your duty to point others to God in everything you do, not to continually lead others in sin.
When Israel had weak kings who did evil in the eyes of the LORD, the whole nation was brought down as a result. On the other hand, when Israel had strong kings who did what was right in the eyes of the LORD, the entire nation would be lifted up. You can see when God favored Israel and its king, because He would lead them to victory in battle, and bless them with prosperity. When the king and Israel failed, however, they would often be delivered into the hands of their enemies.
It is clear how much of an impact a leader can have in the Bible, and that hasn’t changed at all today. We are so blessed to have the knowledge of the truth, and to know that we are loved by the Almighty. To have this knowledge, and to have a real relationship with God, we also have to accept our responsibility on this earth to be leaders. Not the kind that will lead others into sin, but the kind of leader God can count on to be a light, just as His son was. The kind of leader that has unwavering faith, because they know who holds the future. The kind of leader that obeys the words of the LORD in every circumstance. The kind of leader that shows the unconditional love of God to each and every one of His children, everyday.
Let it be our prayer that we become the leaders God made us to be, to be a bright light that guides others to Him even in this dark world.
I am a fairly humble fellow. I do not stand out in a crowd. I do not try to draw attention to myself. In fact I don’t like attention. I don’t consider myself arrogant and I am very aware of my flaws. And yet, there are still times when I allow myself to feel superior to others. Maybe we all do that at times?
No matter how many flaws we have, all of us are better at something than someone else. And in those moments where we take notice of that, it is easy to allow our egos to puff up a bit, isn’t it? Maybe that is even especially true for those, like me, that are more keenly aware of our shortcomings than our triumphs.
Paul touches on humility several times in chapter 12, and typically when I read these passages, I instantly think about people that are very arrogant, and think, “this doesn’t really apply to me,” or “I’m doing fine in this area.” But then (sometimes) I think about the thoughts that I opened with.
Beginning in verse 3, Paul says, “For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you. For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us.”
There you have it. Each of us should NOT think of ourselves more highly than we ought. Well then how highly SHOULD we think of ourselves? Frankly, I would say pretty high, because we are each pretty incredible creations of God. And we have each been blessed with many abilities and talents. But as Paul points out, we have all been given DIFFERENT abilities. And it is key to remember that we have been given those abilities. We didn’t do anything ourselves to acquire natural abilities. Some people are born with great musical talent. Others with sharp intellect. Still others with amazing athletic skill. Paul here is speaking primarily of spiritual gifts, but all abilities and talents are indeed granted by our Creator. I really appreciate when I see gifted athletes giving credit to God for their abilities during post-game interviews. I am not always sure how sincere they are, but the message is true regardless.
In verse 10, Paul says to Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one other above yourselves. This is an outward extension of humility, and here, should be motivated by love. How often do you honor others above yourself?
Finally, Paul comes back to humility again in verse 16.
“Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited.”
We should not just be showing humility to the people we are comfortable being with, or the people that are “our kind of crowd.” We should be showing humility to, and honoring above us those whom we would consider to be of low position.
Again, this is the example Jesus left for us, and it is a humility that is motivated by love, which Paul sums up perfectly in verses 9-21.
So, think of yourselves very highly, as an amazing creation, but do not think of yourself more highly than someone else. That is when you are thinking of yourself more highly than you ought. It’s about recognizing that God has given each of us different gifts, to be used to His glory.
Today’s Bible reading passage can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – Romans 11-13.
Tomorrow we will finish the book of Romans (chapters 14-16).
We are going through our final chapters in Paul’s letters to the Corinthians! Thank you for sticking with me through this last week and listening to my ramblings
As Paul is finishing up his letters, he seems to talk a lot about boasting. Boasting can be defined as possessing something as a source of pride. Paul is possessing the knowledge of the truth of Jesus’ death and resurrection, and what that means for his sinful life. He takes pride in the fact that he belongs to Christ, and he wants others to be proud of that too (10:2). He doesn’t want people to be proud of themselves or their own accomplishments, but only be proud of the Lord and being part of a group of believers (10:17).
In chapter 11 Paul talks about those who do boast about themselves and discusses how at the very most we should only be willing to boast about our weakness (11:30). In order to be in a position that you are not only willing to share a weakness but are seeking to openly and proudly share a weakness, you must be truly dedicated and excited to be part of that movement. Paul understood the impact that sharing his weakness, or his testimony, would have on believers because he got to experience first-hand the grace of God.
Paul didn’t always want to deal with the things that created his testimony, he calls them a thorn used to torment him (12:7). He asked for the things that were difficult for him to be taken away, and Jesus told him “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” (12:9). Paul did not innately know that the things that were difficult, that were shaping his testimony, were going to be used for God’s glory. But when he learned that his weakness would only more greatly reflect grace, he did not shy away and try to hide or change his weaknesses to present himself as higher than he was to the church. All too often Christians can feel this pressure to hide the parts of their life that weren’t “pretty” in the eyes of other believers. But most times, what we have gone through and come out of because of the grace of God is one of the most powerful tools in bringing people to Christ and encouraging believers. We should be boasting in our weaknesses, in what God has brought us out of, with the purpose of growing and strengthening the Church.
Paul closes his letter by saying this: “Finally, brothers, rejoice. Become mature, be encouraged, be of the same mind, be at peace, and the God of love and peace will be with you.” (13:11). Part of becoming mature can include developing and sharing your testimony. Being encouraged can happen when you share and hear about testimonies from other believers. We are all of the same mind when we focus on growing and strengthening the Church. And being at peace comes from knowing that each believer has that same focus. When we are able to do all of these things, God will be with us and give us His strength to complete tasks we never thought possible.
We make up the Church, and we are responsible for continuing to grow the Church and keep one another strong in the faith. Paul’s letters are a great place to start when looking for ways to be part of the Church, but there is absolutely a level of personal communication with God that is necessary to know where He wants you to be. I encourage you to take time today to reflect on your own testimony and to ask God who He wants you to share this testimony with. You may be surprised where He leads you!
Thank you all for joining me through the Corinthians! This week has been a great time for me to refocus on the mission, and I hope it was for you all as well. Until next time, “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with all of you.”
As the narrative in the book of Daniel has progressed, it seems like the focus has been stolen away from Daniel and put on Nebuchadnezzar. Could there really be redemption for the tyrant who besieged Jerusalem, destroyed the temple, and scattered the people of God into exile? The story up until now has given us the crazy idea that yes, redemption seems possible, although the pathway there for the king hasn’t been linear.
Nebuchadnezzar has now again been plagued by bad dreams, has again called his sages to interpret, and has again been disappointed by their inability to deliver. The man for the job is Daniel, clearly. So he tells Daniel of his dream of a big important tree that gets chopped down to the stump. Daniel helps us fill in some blanks. The tree is a representation of the highly powerful and influential king. But he is going to be driven away from society, go live with the animals, and be bathed by the dew until he learns a lesson. And when he learns that lesson, recognizing that God is sovereign, he can be re-established as king, extending again from the stump and roots that were left.
A year after having this dream, Nebuchadnezzar goes to his roof and delights in how powerful and great he is for creating such a beautiful Babylon. This is the perfect moment for God to come in and knock him off his high horse. If I may paraphrase God, he says, “I warned you this would happen.” And it seems like our creaturely ignorance requires him to say this a lot.
Just as he was warned, Nebuchadnezzar wanders off into the wilderness and lives like an animal, eating grass, getting all wet in the dew, growing his hair out scarily long and tangled, and letting his fingernails become like that of small velociraptor claws. But don’t worry, he is unable to open doors. I like to imagine that during this time, he also became the vocalist of a local metal band, but they had to let him go because of creative differences. It was like someone flipped his beast mode switch.
And then one day Nebuchadnezzar suddenly snaps out of this terrible phase, acknowledges the sovereignty of God, and has all his former glory restored to him. I love what he says to close out chapter four: “Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise and extol and honor the King of heaven, for all his works are truth, and his ways are justice; and he is able to bring low those who walk in pride.”
Amen to that. But the last part can sometimes be a hard reality to swallow. We’ve all heard that pride comes before the fall, and we’ve seen here one more example of how that pans out as a true proverb. Having healthy levels of self-esteem and confidence is a good thing. The kind of pride we saw in Nebuchadnezzar seems to be an amped-up and unbalanced version of this that made him believe he was all that. And when you prop up that delusion long enough, painful and humbling reality has to come out eventually.
So now we can add big bad Nebuchadnezzar to the long list of unlikely redemptions. I’m on the list, and so are you. Praise God that he seems to like orchestrating these all the time.
With Nebuchadnezzar ending his appearances on a high note, he has left a legacy in the air. He is an answer to the question of what can happen when God gets through to someone and they yield to him, however painfully. Enter Belshazzar. He is an answer to a contrasting question: What can painfully happen when you not only don’t yield, but also add a large amount of idolatry and blasphemy to the equation?
Belshazzar is in the middle of throwing a very well-attended and sexy drinkathon when he comes up with a great idea. He asks for the vessels of gold and silver that Nebuchadnezzar looted from the temple in Jerusalem, because he thinks it would be extra classy to drink wine from them. So that is what they do, along with worshiping gods of various metals and materials.
What happens next is what any reasonable person would expect. Of course, a disembodied hand writes on the wall. The terrified and probably self-wetted Belshazzar calls for his experts, but they are unable to figure out what the writing means. The queen knows just the man for the job.
Daniel agrees to help and even indicates he doesn’t want the rich rewards. But first he recounts the story of Nebuchadnezzar and how he humbled himself after his prideful fall. Belshazzar knows this story well, yet he has not followed his example and humbled himself before God. Daniel tells Belshazzar that “the God in whose power is your very breath, and to whom belong all your ways, you have not honored.”
The writing is on the wall. That’s right, the phrase we utter in the face of impending doom comes from this very story. If you are like me, you have read Daniel’s interpretation of “Mene, Mene, Tekel, Parsin” many times and not really understood how he got there. Somehow it means that the days of Belshazzar’s kingdom are numbered, that he’s been weighed and found wanting, and his kingdom is going to be divided and given to the Medes and Persians. At least the Medes and Persians part seems to groove with the interpretation of Nebuchadnezzar’s nightmare about the gold headed statue. But did Daniel skip a step on the board?
This is the kind of thing that would have been a little more obvious to the original audience, but gets totally lost in translation for us. To compound the confusion, Daniel maintains its reputation for being a weird book by being written partly in Aramaic (from the middle of 2:4 to the end of chapter 7). So you thought knowing Hebrew would get you out of this pickle? Think again. I know only English. This is where commentaries or the internet come in handy.
As it turns out, the words are all measures of weight: a mina (or 60 sheqels), a sheqel, and two half-minas. So the first layer of this is that you can take the succession of kings and plug them in according to their weight or legacy. Nebuchadnezzar, the king who humbled himself, is worth more, so he is the mina. Belshazzar is a joke, so he is like 1/60th of Nebuchadnezzar, or a sheqel. Then the two half-minas would be the decently presented Darius the Mede and Cyrus the Persian. But in this schema, they are each only half the man Nebuchadnezzar was.
Okay, this will work, but it isn’t the angle Daniel is taking. There is wordplay that hopelessly eludes us. Mene is interpreted as a similar word mena, a verb that refers to something like counting or reckoning. Teqel is interpreted as a verb meaning “to be weighed” but also it is interpreted as tiqqal (to be light). Belshazzar? Nothing to him. Daniel is clever and says Peres, which is the singular of Parsin (half-minas). Peres gets us to more wordplay since peras means assessed or divided. But to top it off, paras means Persia. Like I said, this all hopelessly eludes us as English speakers separated from the writing by more than two thousand years. The Bible is full of wordplay and puns like that, but sadly, we miss most of them. My apologies go to anyone who is actually familiar with Aramaic, as I’m sure my Jedi-waving over the vocabulary probably wasn’t adequate.
Belshazzar richly rewards Daniel for the interpretation and makes him third in rank in the kingdom. That night, Belshazzar is killed, and his kingdom is handed off to Darius the Mede. After all, the writing was on the wall.
Darius retains a very high rank for Daniel, which makes the satraps extremely jealous. They are unable to find any dirt on Daniel, because he lives with integrity. But they know Daniel prays, so they come up with a conspiracy to make it illegal to pray to anyone except the king for thirty days. The penalty is being demoted to Temporary Cat Sustenance Technician. This is always a demotion.
Daniel knows this, yet continues to faithfully pray, neither concealing nor broadcasting what he is doing. According to the satraps’ scheme, he is caught, and the king has no choice but to follow through with the punishment, since he signed the law, although he does not want to harm Daniel.
Here is another friendly reminder that doing the right thing doesn’t guarantee you anything. Maybe you will reap benefits. Maybe you will be granted protection. Maybe you will upset people very close to you. Maybe you will be hated and persecuted. Maybe you will be physically injured or even killed. Especially when faced with extreme situations like Daniel’s, the idea of doing the right thing might sound like it is not an option. But there is an option. It could be that the only thing you are guaranteed by doing the right thing is never having to wish that you had done the right thing. And that’s the right place to be, wherever it takes you.
In this case, where it takes Daniel is a miraculous deliverance much like his friends had just a few chapters ago in Nebuchadnezzar’s furnace. They have almost identical stories of faithfulness to God, resulting in peaceful noncompliance with the authorities, and ending with the miraculous skirting of the death penalty. Most of the time, you can be faithful to God and honor the authority of your Babylon without a conflict (Matt. 22:21, Rom 13:1), and even when faced with a conflict, for most of us in this modern world, the consequence for being faithful to God instead of the state doesn’t result in death. But sadly, persecution, violence, and martyrdom are still the fate of many of our brothers and sisters.
This next part is probably not mentioned or illustrated in the toddler bedtime bible, although kudos go to anyone with the audacity. Darius doesn’t let the satraps get away with their act of deception, so he orders them, their children, and their wives to be thrown in the pit. The lions tear them all to pieces before they even hit the ground. Barbaric and chilling? Absolutely. This is one of many examples that would earn the Bible an R rating for its content, if not worse. Anyone who thinks of the Bible as just a bunch of nice bedtime stories hasn’t read it. If you run across these types, it is probably best not to correct them, because if they knew what was in there, they might be offended and launch a campaign to have it banned. I kid, but only halfway.
Overlooking his feeding of the lions with women and children, Darius seems to be a decent king and understands how it works, without the same kind of power struggle and roller coaster that Nebuchadnezzar had. He orders that all the people tremble and fear before the God of Daniel, “For he is the living God, enduring forever. His kingdom shall never be destroyed, and his dominion has no end. He delivers and rescues, he works signs and wonders in heaven and on earth; for he has saved Daniel from the power of the lions.”
Darius gets it. Way to be, Darius.
Today’s Bible passage can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – Daniel 4-6
Tomorrow we will read Daniel 7-9 as we continue on our
More sin, more judgment, more destruction, and a little more restoration – just like yesterday – only the names have been changed. Yesterday we read about the judgment God was planning against Egypt, the Philistines, and Moab. Today, we read what was in store for Ammon, Edom, Damascus, Kedar and Hazor, Elam and the big one – Babylon. God saw their sins and would be bringing judgment and destruction to their lands.
There is one sin that is mentioned again and again.
“Why do you boast of your valleys, boast of your valleys so fruitful? O unfaithful daughter, you trust in your riches and say, ‘Who will attack me?'” (Jeremiah 49:4 NIV).
“The terror you inspire and the pride of your heart have deceived you” (Jeremiah 49:16 NIV).
“See, I am against you, O arrogant one” (Jeremiah 50:31 NIV).
It may come by many names – boasting, pride, arrogance – but every time it is a sin worthy of judgment.
How could the pride of your heart be deceiving you?
A few weeks ago I was preparing a devotion for posting and I was looking for a background photograph for a verse referring to Hezekiah’s pride (2 Chronicles 32:25). I didn’t know exactly what I was looking for – but figured I would know it when I saw it. So I typed in that I wanted to see photos of pride and I started scrolling. and scrolling. and scrolling. You of course are smarter than I and know what I ran across – over and over again. I am pretty sure there were thousands upon thousands of options for gay pride – rainbows, couples, signs, and more rainbows, a lot of rainbows (when did they get to hijack the symbol of God’s promises?). There was also the occasional national flag or beaming, proud parent pictured with her perfect child. But, there was NOTHING there to indicate that pride is a sin, a deadly sin worthy of judgment. Finally, I opted for the proud peacock as my photo background and shook my head at dismay over what we have become – a culture that celebrates and basks in pride. Are we any different from the countries of Jeremiah’s day? Arrogant, boastful, flaunting sin and deceived by pride. Can we expect anything less than what Jeremiah foretold for these sinful nations?
What about on a personal level? It can be overwhelmingly depressing to think about trying to fix all the evils of a nation – but what can I work at fixing about myself? Where do I let pride puff me up so I no longer care for others or about what God says? How is my use of social media contributing to the spiraling problem of pride? How is pride connected to so many other sins?
It is time to see our pride and sin for what it is – and treat it as the deadly gangrene it is. Don’t be led astray and deceived by pride. Jump down from your high horse and humble yourself. You aren’t as much as you think you are. For God has promised judgment for the proud and arrogant. He has also promised restoration and forgiveness for those who humble themselves – “If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.” (2 Chronicles 7:14 NIV)
Today’s Bible reading can be read or listened to here – Jeremiah 49-50
There are many lessons that we can learn from reading these chapters in the Bible. One of these lessons is that a proud heart can cause much trouble. For both Hezekiah and Manasseh this was an issue. Hezekiah did not want to credit the LORD, while Manasseh disregarded the LORD.
It is easy for us too to fall into this. There are times where we pray for guidance. However, once we receive the guidance we asked for, we neglect to go back to God and we just continue with our lives. We do not take the time to acknowledge the LORD’s hand in what was done and we do not do so until we feel we are again in need of him. It is easy for us to forget what he has done. The reality too, is that sometimes we like to think that we found the answers on our own. However, we would not have been capable of finding such answers without God. This situation is similar to Hezekiah when he allowed his heart to be proud and did not credit God with the successes of Jerusalem. He wanted to receive the glory that was owed to the LORD.
Other times, though, we may be able to better relate to Manasseh. During these times, we may be in outright rebellion toward God as Manasseh was. We want to do what we want. We may feel as though we do not need to listen to God because we are proud and think that we know best. We may say, “I know what I am doing.” That is until we receive a wake-up call and realize that we were not so wise in our thoughts and actions. We come to understand that we didn’t have a clue as to what we were doing. What a humbling experience this can be for our proud hearts!
This actually reminds me of a time when I was packing for a several month stent of studying abroad in Ireland. I had limited space, so I was trying to pack as lightly as possible. Because of this, I disregarded my mother’s advice to pack a small towel. I thought I was being smart. I will just get a towel when I get over there. “I know what I am doing”, I thought. This disregard for guidance offered to me by someone older and wiser than me resulted in me having to use a t-shirt as a towel for several days. Turns out that securing a towel in an unfamiliar country is not always so easy.
While this example is small in comparison, I think it shows how easily we can turn to ourselves rather than to others, and more specifically God. Even though the downfall of both Hezekiah and Manasseh were great, God forgave them when they repented. Because of the love our God has for us and the sacrifice of his son on the cross, we have the ability to be reconciled to him. That truly is something to be thankful for.
Isaiah revealed a prophecy against the nations in our reading today. In some cases those that received these warnings had years before the prophecies would occur. There was time to listen, repent, turn their lives around, prepare and be ready. What holds us back from surrendering everything to God and getting ourselves “right with Him”?
Sometimes it is pride. In Isaiah 13:11 we read “I will put an end to the arrogance of the haughtyand will humble the pride of the ruthless.” When we become prideful, we exalt ourselves as our own god. We put our desires and wants as our top priority. We justify and reason that our actions are acceptable because those actions are “right” in our own eyes (Proverbs 21:2). As I grew up, I had friends that rejected following God because “they wanted to do, what they wanted to do”. They viewed God’s commands as restricting them instead of seeing Him as a loving Father providing the best way for His children to live life. Pride tells us that we know what is best for ourselves. We think that God does not understand who and what we are. C.S. Lewis stated that “Pride leads to every other vice: it is the complete anti-God state of mind.”
In Isaiah 14 we see so clearly that the leaders in the world appear to have power, but they cannot defeat death. Those leaders claimed that “I will make myself like the Most High” (v.14), but only God has power over death. In the following chapters we see that the great cities and wealth of nations will not last. The armies of vengeance and wrath destroyed the cities and carried the wealth away. Punishment was administered to nations. In fact we explore that God is the only One who controls nature, which provides our food source. Though they planted the finest plants and imported vines, yet they did not have a harvest. These illustrations should show us that God is ultimately in control. We need to be humble before Him. Isaiah 17:7 contains the answer. “In that day people will look to their Maker and turn their eyes to the Holy One of Israel.”
That is the answer for us today. We need to come to God humbly, honoring Him as the absolute authority. God is sovereign. He is the supreme authority and all things are under His control.
We need to turn our attention away from the raging nations of the world, and turn to Our God who gives love, wisdom and salvation.
The story of Jonah is a strange one, isn’t it? Never mind the whole getting swallowed by a whale thing, Jonah himself is not a particularly estimable character, yet we have a whole book in the Bible named after him. I love the VeggieTales song “Jonah Was a Prophet” from their first theatrical movie Jonah. The chorus sums up the story quite nicely:
Jonah was a prophet
but he really never got it
sad but true!
and if you watch it you can spot it
he did not get the point!
Jonah just might be the world’s most famous hypocrite. He was shown mercy from God and rescued. He later rebukes God for being too merciful towards the people of Nineveh. I usually read this story with a sort of warning, “Don’t be like a Jonah,” someone who misses the point. But what made Jonah do these things? I don’t believe Jonah was just simply unintelligent. We are told he was a prophet. He must have been somewhat learned or at least skilled in communication for God to have chosen him to be His mouthpiece. So, while Jonah acts stupid throughout most of this story, he surely must not have been stupid.
What is it that changed for Jonah? What made him become so blind to God’s truth. Looking over the story, I think there are two things: pride and disappointment. In the final chapter of the book, when it becomes evident God is not going to destroy the city of Nineveh, Jonah becomes angry with God. He basically tells God he knew God wasn’t actually going to destroy the people and accuses God of wasting his time by sending him there (verse 2). It seems Jonah forgot his place as God’s servant. In the following verse, Jonah expresses disappointment. Jonah had hoped the Ninevites would be destroyed and becomes so wrought with this lost hope he fades into depression. Jonah’s pride and disappointment blinded him from seeing the truth about God’s compassionate mercy.
Are you a Jonah in your own life, right now? Has your pride or disappointment prevented you from seeing God at work? Our lives have undergone many changes over the last several months. With so much cancelled and shut down, disappointment almost seems like the new normal. Pride can also take hold during these pandemic times as we can become jealous of those whose lives seem to go on relatively unscathed. I have felt both these things, especially the disappointment. It can be blindsiding and out right devastating when something we have hoped and planned does not happen. While I have not the magic words to make the pain disappear, I do know I must not let it blind me from God’s truth. Remember where our hope and treasure truly lie, in the coming Kingdom of God. Fix your gaze upon those everlasting promises and don’t be a Jonah.
Today’s reading (from 2 Chronicles) begins where yesterday’s reading began (in 1 Kings) – Solomon has just died and his son Rehoboam has been made king of all Israel. It is a good time to use a lot of wisdom, especially since there are discontented citizens and a prophecy has been made that the kingdom (or 10 of the 12 tribes) would be torn out of the hand of Solomon’s son and given to Jeroboam (1 Kings 11:9-13 & 26-40).
When the potential revolters knock on the palace door asking Rehoboam how he will rule them, Rehoboam responds first with wisdom. Rather than giving a rash answer he might regret later he asks them to return in 3 days – and he consults with his elders. Well done, Rehoboam. The wise elders advise the new king to be a servant leader and his countrymen would always be faithful to him (1 Kings 12:7, 2 Chronicles 10:7). It wasn’t the answer Rehoboam was looking for. He was looking forward to having great power, authority and fame – perhaps even greater than that of his dad Solomon or his grandpa David. He didn’t see how a kind “servant” fit into the picture of leadership.
So, he goes to his young buddies he grew up with (perhaps about 40 years old 🙂 – 2 Chronicles 12:13) and asks them how he should proceed. They are inexperienced, power hungry, arrogant, foolish “young” men. But Rehoboam rejects the wisdom of the elders he asked first and follows the foolish advice of his friends and tells the people he will be a harsh and firm ruler. Not too wise, Rehoboam.
Rather than submitting to these fear tactics, Israel revolts and 10 tribes go with Jeroboam, leaving just Judah (and parts of Benjamin) loyal to the house of David and his grandson Rehoboam. This is exactly what God told Solomon would happen, as a result of his turning away from the Lord (1 Kings 11:9). Like father, like son – it’s not enough to start out wise – you must stay the course and firmly resist the easy, enticing, foolish way that the worldly friends would lead you down.
In the next couple chapters we see Rehoboam, continue to yo-yo between good choices and bad choices. He wisely listens to the word of the Lord and abandons plans to attack Israel and start an all-out bloody civil war with their dissenting brothers (2 Chronicles 11:4). But then, “After Rehoboam’s position as king was established and he had become strong, he and all Israel with him abandoned the law of the LORD.” (Chronicles 12:1). Too often when we are feeling strong, comfortable and sure of ourselves…our pride makes us think we don’t need God anymore. And that is a dangerous place to be – for Rehoboam and the country of Judah as well as for you and me and our country. In God we trust. Or, we did once? How sad and hauntingly eerie to read God’s proclamation against the nation that rejects God: “This is what the LORD says, ‘You have abandoned me; therefore, I now abandon you to …’ ” (2 Chronicles 12:5b). And in came the invaders from Egypt.
The good news is, the story doesn’t always have to end there – and it doesn’t for Rehoboam! He still had a bounce back left in his up/down/repeat journey. Rehoboam’s pride had brought him down, turning from God, and leading to punishment. Now, at the bottom, faced with a foreboding enemy he gets another chance to choose his response – wise or foolish, humble or proud, repentant or heard-hearted? Rehoboam and his countrymen chose wisely this time – they, “humbled themselves and said, ‘The LORD is just.’ ” (2 Chronicles 12:6). God still sent the invaders from Egypt – to shake them up a little and teach them a lesson they needed to learn – there is a price to pay for turning from God and proudly putting your trust in yourself instead. But, because of their humble response, God did not let the Egyptians annihilate them.
That would not be the end of Rehoboam. He would reign in Jerusalem 12 more years. But sadly the few wise choices we saw in Rehoboam were not enough. In the end, it was recorded, “He did evil because he had not set his heart on seeking the LORD.” (2 Chronicles 12:14).
In reality, we are all a mix of wise and foolish choices. There are consequences for the foolish ones and rewards for the wise. But which will you be known for in the end? Let us each work hard to make wise choices everyday. Daily seek the LORD with humility – acknowledging our need for Him, our desire to follow His wise and right way, our willingness to set aside the selfish, prideful desire for power and and instead offer ourselves as a servant.
There is an old Amish proverb that goes something like this: There are two kinds of leaders: those who are interested in the flock, and those who are interested in the fleece. In the first part of I Peter 5 there is an admonition given to pastors but it is applicable to all those who hold leadership roles anywhere. Leaders are to lead by example. They are not to be dictators with an accompanying attitude but rather directors who are always directing people in the case of pastors toward Christ, and for other leaders directing people toward the greater vision with a humble attitude.
Peter encourages us and the early believers to honor one another and treat each other respectfully. Have you ever been around someone who frequently ‘tooted their own horn’? How annoying is that? Does it make you want to follow that person’s lead or make you like that person very much? Think about social media posts you have seen like this, or maybe even posted yourself. One Christian leader appropriately called out some posts as the ‘humble brag’ and targeted how annoying and self-serving they are. As Christian brothers and sisters no one should toot their own horn but rather let others give them any due recognition. Peter reminds us in verse 5 that God hates pride but appreciates true humility.
In serving God with a humble attitude and living a righteous life we can expect to have some opposition. Opposition can have two effects: either failure, or strength and growth. In the end of the chapter Peter points out that our adversary the devil would like to see us fail, and is just waiting to help us to our demise – but by staying the course God will give us victory. The admonition for us is to stand firm in our faith and righteousness so that we may glorify God in this life and thus overcome the evil one.