Thursday, March 20, 2014

What is slipping away? What is creeping in?

In 2 Kings 22, King Josiah of Judah 's temple workmen found the Book of the Law abandoned and dusty in a temple wardrobe. Judah's apostasy had gone on so long, the people had not only abandoned the practices of the Law but had forgotten there was a Law, a real one, on paper.

Josiah instituted reforms right away. He read the Law to the people first. He and the people joined in the covenant. (2 Kings 23:2-3).

Then Josiah removed everything that was an abomination in the sight of the LORD. Nature abhors a vacuum, and so does satan. (Matthew 12:43-45). Abandoning the Law had created a vacuum into which satan had come in a flood. Josiah "the king commanded Hilkiah the high priest and the priests of the second order and the keepers of the threshold to bring out of the temple of the Lord all the vessels made for Baal, for Asherah, and for all the host of heaven." (2 Kings 23:4)

Imagine, inside God's holy temple were implements to worship other gods! Even worse, there were male shrine prostitutes in the temple too. (2 Kings 23:7). Josiah ordered them gone, as well as any priest from another religion, the Asherah poles, the mini-temples on the high places, all tokens dedicated to to other gods left at the gates to Jerusalem, all fires for Molech, the horses and chariots offered to the Sun, anything profane in Ahaz's upper chamber. Josiah put away the mediums and the necromancers and the household gods and the idols and all the abominations that were seen in the land of Judah and in Jerusalem... (2 Kings 23:24) and all idolatry in Judah. Matthew Henry wrote of Josiah's effort,

What abundance of wickedness in Judah and Jerusalem! One would not have believed it possible, that in Judah, where God was known, in Israel, where his name was great, in Salem, in Zion, where his dwelling-place was, such abominations should be found.

When you abandon God's Holy Word you abandon everything. See what else Judah had abandoned:

And the king commanded all the people, “Keep the Passover to the Lord your God, as it is written in this Book of the Covenant.” 22For no such Passover had been kept since the days of the judges who judged Israel, or during all the days of the kings of Israel or of the kings of Judah. (2 Kings 23:21-22)

For if, after they [false teachers] have escaped the defilements of the world through the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and overcome, the last state has become worse for them than the first. 2 Peter 2:20-22We look at the Israelites and the Judeans' apostasy and we say, "Wow, they were crazy." But they were sinful humans just like we are sinful humans, and human behavior doesn't change one bit. We do the same thing as the Judeans. No, we don't have Asherah poles in the temple or fiery statues of Molech to put our babies in, or sun chariots dedicated to a false god, but we have celebrity pastors who are worshiped instead of Jesus, and abortion and idols like the shiny and too-expensive SUV in the driveway and the too-large house we can't afford. Monuments to the idol of self and greed and covetousness. We don't have male temple prostitutes but we have active unrepentant homosexuals in church or even as clergy in church. How does it happen that an 'abundance of wickedness' comes in?

In the New Testament we read, "Therefore we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it." (Heb 2:1).

Inattention. Faith is a thing to be grasped, it is living and active. (2 Thessalonians 2:15). It is something that is meant to be lived. The close attention that is commanded in Hebrews is paralleled in Jesus's admonition that we must pick up our cross every day. (Luke 9:23). Part of that verse we often neglect is that we must deny ourselves. All false religion and idolatry at root is a worship of self. Jesus calls for us to do the opposite, deny self.

If we are denying self every day and picking up our cross every day, that is pretty close attention. Close attention also means a vibrant prayer life. In Matthew 6, Jesus teaches the disciples how to pray. In the 'Lord's Prayer' we read that we should ask for our daily bread. If we are asking for provision every day in prayer that means we are praying to Jesus every day. That's pretty close attention.

Apostasy is a process. Sometimes it happens fast, like with Demas who accompanied Paul and then abandoned Paul for the world (approx 60-66AD at most) or apostasy can take a long time to surface, like with Billy Graham (1953-1997). Of course those who apostatize were never saved to begin with (1 John 2:19), but suffice to say, the call for Christians to pay close attention is nevertheless one that should be adhered to. Though we can't be lost, we can make a shipwreck of our lives, and cast mud onto the name of Jesus in the process.

When we persevere, what a glorious reward we receive! The Bereans persevered, they examined the scriptures daily to see if what they had been taught was so. (Acts 17:11). Acts 2:42 says the disciples "devoted themselves" to "apostles' teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers." Paul & Company 'thanked God constantly' for their congregations' eagerness to hear the word and live it (1 Thessalonians 2:13).

In our faith, perseverance is a virtue. Cling to Jesus, the Chief Shepherd!

"And when the chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory." (1 Peter 5:4).

His crown, His glory. He deigns to share it with us, His sheep, His children, His friends. He is so worthy to cling to. How gross and mean the Asherah poles, sun chariots and male temple prostitutes seem to us now when we compare them against eh holiness and perfection of Jesus. How useless the SUVs, the fancy houses, the celebrity and fame seems to us. May it always stay that way!  Vibrant and loving faith, centered on Jesus, the only worthy one in all the universe. Ahh, comfort.

If it has been a while since you've read the bible, prayers, thanked Him, clung to Him, then all it takes is one step in repentance and humility, o prodigal, toward the Father and He will run to you! He is a great and merciful and loving Jesus.

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Further reading

What is an Asherah pole?

Signs of Apostasy in the Church

Article: Perseverance of the Saints

1 comment:

  1. When commenting on Josiah, I believe it was John MacArthur who said that "the word of God was lost in the house of God." Sadly, that statement would accurately describe many churches today.
    Pat

    ReplyDelete

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