From Bad To Worse.
“He followed the example of Jeroboam, continuing the sins of idolatry that Jeroboam had led Israel to commit. Thus, he aroused the anger of the LORD, the God of Israel.” – 1 Kings 16:26 NLT
Rebellion always looks so appealing in the beginning. It tempts us with images of freedom, self-sufficiency, and a life void of all those confining rules. Most people refuse God’s offer of salvation because of all that they think they are going to have to give up if they accept it. They don’t want to give up their “freedom” and autonomy, so they reject God’s offer of grace for a life of independence and self-reliance. But rebellion against God has its price. And nowhere do you see this more clearly than in the history of the people of Israel. Their unfaithfulness to God and refusal to submit to Him as the only true God has led to a civil war and two divided kingdoms. In the north, Israel has continued its downward spiral of idolatry. Each successive king continues in the ways of Jeroboam, leading the people deeper and deeper into their rejection of God. But rather than learn from the mistakes of their predecessor, each king gets progressively worse. Chapter 16 of 1 Kings is full of murder, intrigue, plots, assassinations, suicide, military takeovers, and civil and political unrest. Their rebellion against God has led to anything but freedom. Basha, Elah, Zimri, Omri, and Ahab. Not exactly household names, but their actions would make a lasting impact on the people of Israel. Their reigns were short, but their legacies were long-lasting.
Over and over again we read that they “aroused the anger of the Lord.” Why? Because they had rejected God and were making their own gods to worship. They had forsaken all that God had done for them and turned their backs on Him. A big part of their problem was ingratitude. They were ungrateful for God’s deliverance, protection, and provision of the very land in which they lived. Their very existence as a nation was completely the result of God’s call of Abraham hundreds and hundreds of years earlier. God had chosen to make them His people. He had redeemed them out of slavery in Egypt, guided them across the wilderness and delivered them into the Promised Land. And now they had turned their backs on Him – after all He had done for them. Their self-sufficiency and pride was intolerable. Their ingratitude was unacceptable. God would not allow His people to mock His name. Their rejection of Him would have consequences. Their desire for freedom would prove costly. But lest we look down our noses at the Israelites and judge them harshly for their actions, we need to remember that their story is our story. In many ways, our lives mirror theirs. We too can turn our backs on the very God who chose us, redeemed us, and delivered us into a new life of promise. We can make other gods to replace Him. We can turn our desire for freedom and autonomy into rebellion. It reminds me of the words of Peter:
But you are not like that, for you are a chosen people. You are a kingdom of priests, God’s holy nation, his very own possession. This is so you can show others the goodness of God, for he called you out of the darkness into his wonderful light. “Once you were not a people; now you are the people of God. Once you received none of God’s mercy; now you have received his mercy.” Dear brothers and sisters, you are foreigners and aliens here. So I warn you to keep away from evil desires because they fight against your very souls. Be careful how you live among your unbelieving neighbors. Even if they accuse you of doing wrong, they will see your honorable behavior, and they will believe and give honor to God when he comes to judge the world. – 1 Peter 2:9-12 NLT
We were once not a people, but now we are the people of God. And we are to live like it. We belong to Him. Our lives are to honor and respect Him. We are to live in obedience to Him, so that all those around us can see the difference in our lives and honor the One who makes it all possible. Israel was to be a light to the nations. So are we. Their light had dimmed because of rebellion. What about us?
Father, I am more like the Israelites than I want to admit at times. I can rebel with the worst of them. I can desire my freedom so strongly that I end up turning my back on You. And sometimes I don’t even know I’ve done it. I erect replacements for You in my life and fail to recognize them for what they are – idols. Lord, never let me forget that I am what I am because of You. I was once dead in my sins, then You gave me new life through Your Son. I was a sinner, condemned and unclean, but You restored me, forgave me and cleansed me. Why would I ever turn my back on You? Amen
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men