Day 88—Confusion Reigns!!—“Persistent Invitation” 2 Kings 14:1 – 17:41
March 29, 2021, 9:00 AM

Day 88—Confusion Reigns!!—“Persistent Invitation” 2 Kings 14:1 – 17:41

Ok, the confusion was MINE! I started to read and all these king’s names started percolating up from Israel and Judah, then we started to hear about Assyria, and I had to take a step back, print out a list of kings, print out a map of Israel and Judah, and work slowly on this reading. My instinct was to dash through it, get the Big Idea, and then finish up, but I wanted to understand more, and so I settled in with my maps and books and resources, and I tried to follow the events and kings until the Assyrian invasion and conquering of Israel (Northern Kingdom). The Northern kingdom will never be the same.

We are seeing the fruits of what God had said to his people a long time ago about kings in 1 Samuel 8— that the kings will take charge of families, and they will take over vineyards and fields, and they will take a tenth of all the people had and the king will make all the people his servants. Remember those lines? But Samuel had also said this: “If you are returning to the Lord with all your heart, then put away the foreign gods and the Ashtaroth from among you and direct your heart to the Lord and serve him only, and he will deliver you “ (1 Samuel 7:3)

So think about that literally—the people have given their human kings the worship and glory and power that was due to the LORD, their God. In several places you will read today that the kings AND the people “Still sacrificed and made offerings in the high places”. This is a direct reference to the worship of foreign gods. The high places were pagan worship sites, and even when there was a ‘good’ king, such as Azariah (Yahweh is my strength)—also called Uzziah (referred to in the book of the prophet Isaiah when he is in the temple seeing his vision of the immensity of God in Isaiah 6:1 “In the year that King Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up.”)—even with King Azariah, who was considered a good king, we read that “And he (Azariah) did what was right in the eyes of the Lord, according to all that his father Amaziah had done. Nevertheless, the high places were not taken away. The people still sacrificed and made offerings on the high places.” (1 Kings 15: 3-4).

This is a direct lead-in to the capture and conquering of the Northern Kingdom, and the suffering that resulted. Why are these victories by foreign enemies so important to the story in our scriptures? Because God allowed the people to make choices for themselves that led to their failure as a people group, leading to this ominous phrase: “The LORD rejected all the descendants of Israel…He had torn Israel from the house of David…Israel was exiled from their own land to Assyria until this day.” (2 Kings 17: 19, 21 and 23)

I know this is heavy reading, heavy thinking and heavy going. It is for me as well. But the results of the false gods, foreign gods and pagan gods has resulted in a rending of the fabric of the people of Israel, and it is a tear that will not be repaired because the King of Assyria begins to repopulate the capital city of Samaria and the surrounding country with people from all different nations, not one of which worshipped the one LORD alone.

Alistair talked about syncretism last week in bible study, and syncretism is the blending of religious practices and traditions into the practices of another religion. This is EXACTLY what happened in Samaria, and it is EXACTLY what happens in our world today.

[Warning: I may annoy or offend you after this, so if you feel happy that you read this far, you may want to stop reading now.]

Syncretism is the modern practice of many good, well-meaning Christian people who want to be tolerant, respectful and non-judgmental about other religious traditions. Let me give you an example from my own life.

Early on in my faith walk, I was confronted with Christians that seemed close-minded and judgmental to me. So I began to subscribe to the famous analogy that “We are all walking up the same mountain by different paths, and ultimately we all arrive at the same place, the same God of all people.” And this isn’t true. Buddhism does not have a ‘god’ of the people, for example. Buddhists subscribe to personal enlightenment known as nirvana. Hindus have many gods—which one is to be found at the top of their mountain? Mormons don’t believe in the Trinity—does it matter?

Emphasis—I am not being critical or judgmental about these religious traditions, but I was wrong when I said that we all end up at the same place. Many other religious traditions have no interest in the mountaintop I am referring to, for example, because there is not a belief in the One God.

My own syncretism made me feel more comfortable with myself, and with my magnanimous heart (Big Heart—sarcasm should be inserted here). The reality is that we are told and taught to radically love everyone, and that we are taught that Jesus is the way, the truth and the life. Please note that Christianity is supposed to be an expansive and inviting faith tradition, but it is not the same mountain that everyone is walking up. Everyone is welcome, but not everyone chooses to believe. Everyone is beloved of God, but not everyone ‘beloves’ God back.

The Israelites were taught that the LORD, the God of the chosen people, was the only God who was to be worshipped. Their mixture of pagan practices and true worship of the one God ultimately resulted in the loss of their land and their identity, as we read today at the end of our scripture passages. This was the breaking of the covenant that had been made with Moses, and which was to be kept by God’s people.

Remember the three criteria of ‘good’ kings, and how rarely we see these qualities in any of the kings we read about:

  • Worship the God of Israel alone
  • Rid Israel of idolatry
  • Remain faithful to the covenant

Whew! I hope this was a help to you. I know it wanders a bit, but this chapter is key to understanding the entire story of God’s people and of understanding the challenges in our Christian faith today.

Be blessed, and be a blessing to others,

ML

 

 

 



Comments

03-29-2021 at 8:47 PM
Billy
Interesting blog. One of my goals of this years Bible project is to understand this journey up the mountain, contemplate different paths. The discussion of syncretism adds a new dimension for me and my journey of understanding. I glad you included it in your blog.
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