Observations from today’s readings and today’s S-WOD, Friday, 25 November 2022:
2 Kings 14:3, 4 – And he [Amaziah] did what was right in the eyes of the Lord, yet not like David his father. He did in all things as Joash his father had done. But the high places were not removed….
The high places, centers for Canaanite idol worship and other forms of false worship, are mentioned 117 times in the Old Testament. God had commanded they be torn down, but instead they remained as monuments of Israelite compromise and enticements for ever-increasing sin.
Amaziah, in almost every way, did what was right in the eyes of the Lord… but he did not remove the high places. II Chronicles 25:2 describes it this way: “And he did what was right in the eyes of the Lord, yet not with a whole heart.” Amaziah simply wasn’t fully committed or faithful, and that is how he is remembered for eternity – half-hearted.
One of the big problems for Amaziah was he had been born into a world, a community, and a family accustomed to high places. These monuments to sin were woven into the fabric of society and had deep roots. Even Solomon, Israel’s wisest king, “built a high place for Chemosh the abomination of Moab, and for Molech the abomination of the Ammonites, on the mountain east of Jerusalem.” (1 Kings 11:7) And what about Amaziah’s dad, Joash? Joash rebuilt the temple, yet he didn’t tear down the high places. Amaziah simply “did in all things as Joash his father had done.” Compromise was natural, normal, comfortable and expected for Amaziah. To obey wholeheartedly would have been radical in his day and very challenging; it would have defied all reason from the world’s perspective. So, Amaziah followed social norms rather than God, living out a sociably acceptable ‘faith’ that didn’t challenge the mores (morals and customs) of the people.
What about you? Are you wholeheartedly loving, obeying and serving the Lord in fidelity, or do you still have high places in your life, areas of compromise that are robbing you of the fullness of joy experienced through unity with Christ? What values, traditions, customs, attitudes or habits might you have adopted which are normal, even celebrated, but offensive to God? In what areas of your life might you need the courage of conviction to be “Semper Fidelis Coram Deo – Always Faithful Before the Face of God.” Don’t let anything hinder your relationship with the Lord or your witness before a watching world.
– Luke 12:1 — Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy.
– Galatians 5:9 — A little leaven leavens the whole lump.
– Proverbs 25:26 — Like a muddied spring or a polluted fountain is a righteous man who gives way before the wicked.
– Song of Solomon 2:15 — Catch the foxes for us, the little foxes that spoil the vineyards, for our vineyards are in blossom.
– James 4:8 — Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.
– 2 Corinthians 11:3 — But I am afraid that as the serpent deceived Eve by his cunning, your thoughts will be led astray from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ.
– 1 Timothy 1:5 — The aim of our charge is love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.
2 Kings 14:14 — But the high places were not removed.
Hopefully you are getting the point by now…. Joash obeyed God accept for this one area. Partial obedience is ultimately disobedience. Do you have “high places”, things you simply won’t let go of and that you let stand in the way of your purity, holiness, and fidelity to God?
2 Kings 14:6 — Fathers shall not be put to death because of their children, nor shall children be put to death because of their fathers. But each one shall die for his own sin.
Parents are responsible for the upbringing of their children, but people held accountable for their own actions.
2 Kings 14:8-14 — Taking pride in what God has allowed you to accomplish often leads to defeat and shame.
2 Kings 14:19; see 14:3 – And they made a conspiracy against him in Jerusalem, and he fled to Lachish. But they sent after him to Lachish and put him to death there.
God allowed a king who obeyed Him to be assassinated. Our reward is knowing Jesus and being with Him. God’s perfect plan for you may include great hardships, even death. However, “for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28) No matter what you are going through, God is using it to draw you closer to Him.
2 Kings 14:25 – He restored the border of Israel from Lebo-hamath as far as the Sea of the Arabah, according to the word of the LORD, the God of Israel, which he spoke by his servant Jonah the son of Amittai, the prophet, who was from Gath-hepher.
Notice that Jonah is mentioned in the account of Jeroboam, without referencing Jonah’s eventual work in Nineveh. Jonah had an international mission, doing big things at home and big things abroad.
John 18:1-11 – Following the Father’s path for Him with a purely loving, faithful, and submissive heart, Jesus knew what would happen to Him and remained obedient regardless.
John 18:10, 11 — Then Simon Peter, having a sword, drew it and struck the high priest’s servant and cut off his right ear. (The servant’s name was Malchus.) So Jesus said to Peter, “Put your sword into its sheath; shall I not drink the cup that the Father has given me?”
Many have used the story of Peter’s sword wielding to preach pacifism, but bear in mind that Peter had a sword, and Jesus knew it. It wasn’t that Peter sought to defend Jesus with his sword that was the issue, it was that Peter sought to defend Jesus at the wrong time, against the will of God at the moment. In fact, In Luke 22:35-38, Jesus tells His disciples that if they lack swords they should buy them. Self-defense is a God-given right and responsibility which can’t be abrogated.
John 18:14 – It was Caiaphas who had advised the Jews that it would be expedient that one man should die for the people.
God’s way included Christ’s death for the sins of the people.
John 18:15-18 – Simon Peter followed Jesus, and so did another disciple. Since that disciple was known to the high priest, he entered with Jesus into the courtyard of the high priest, but Peter stood outside at the door. So the other disciple, who was known to the high priest, went out and spoke to the servant girl who kept watch at the door, and brought Peter in. The servant girl at the door said to Peter, “You also are not one of this man’s disciples, are you?” He said, “I am not.” Now the servants and officers had made a charcoal fire, because it was cold, and they were standing and warming themselves. Peter also was with them, standing and warming himself.”
Pride and fear are opposite sides of the same coin. Peter was willing to fight in garden when it wasn’t appropriate but not willing to stand up for Jesus in the courtyard when it was appropriate.
John 18:17 – The servant girl at the door said to Peter, “You also are not one of this man’s disciples, are you?” He said, “I am not.”
Disciples of Christ must be ready to deny self, take up their crosses, and follow Jesus. (Matthew 16:24, Mark 8:34, Luke 9:23, Luke 14:27) Jesus had previously warned overconfident Peter that he wasn’t there yet, but Peter did not believe Him. Here Peter faces the truth of himself which has been exposed, not by an attacking army but rather by a mere servant girl sitting at a campfire. It is in the little, seemingly insignificant moments that we reveal what we really believe about Jesus, in our conversations with others around ‘campfires,’ in our homes, in our workplaces, in the marketplace, in social settings, and on social media. While it may be true that actions often speak louder than words, don’t believe the popular lie that words are secondary. The true test of your courage is in how, as an ambassador for Christ, you purely proclaim the Gospel to others right where you are. Those of us who have failed to proclaim the Name of Jesus to others when we should have can find hope in the story of Peter who failed miserably but later went to the cross literally for Jesus.
John 18:27 – Peter again denied it, and at once a rooster crowed.
Remember Jesus had said to Peter, “‘Truly, I tell you, this very night, before the rooster crows, you will deny me three times.’ Peter said to him, ‘Even if I must die with you, I will not deny you!’” (Matthew 26:34, 35) Peter’s reaction after he denied Jesus is described in Mark 14:72: “And Peter remembered how Jesus had said to him, ‘Before the rooster crows twice, you will deny me three times.’ And he broke down and wept.”
Have you ever felt the guilt of failing Jesus? Remember, Jesus knows your weaknesses better than you do. Your failures are not a surprise to Him. When you are tested, it is not so that God can see the truth of your sinful heart, it is so you can see it and recognize your dependence on God’s grace. God’s will in your failures is to bring you to humble repentance, to draw you closer to Him, to sanctify you, to conform you to the image of His Son, and to prepare you for greater faithful service in love. His goal is not to condemn you but to complete you – “And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” (Philippians 1:6)
– 1 Thessalonians 5:23 — Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Failure is a time to humbly and trustfully draw closer to Jesus, not further away in pride, shame or fear. Judas denied Jesus, couldn’t bring Himself to repent and accept the forgiveness of God, and killed himself. Conversely, Peter repented, accepted forgiveness, and was used mightily by God. Paul, formerly Saul who had made a career of persecuting Christians, repented and went to his death boldly proclaiming Christ and glorifying Him. Have confidence in grace, and glorify God boldly.
John 18:33-37 – Pilate entered his headquarters again and called Jesus and said to him, “Are you the King of the Jews?” Jesus answered, “Do you say this of your own accord, or did others say it to you about me?” Pilate answered, “Am I a Jew? Your own nation and the chief priests have delivered you over to me. What have you done?” Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered over to the Jews. But my kingdom is not from the world.” Then Pilate said to him, “So you are a king?”
Most people, including Christians, prefer the earthly kingdoms they can see over the Kingdom of God they cannot see. Someone once said, “In theory there is no difference between theory and practice. In practice there is.” In church, Christians often proclaim their ultimate allegiance to the KING of Kings and the Kingdom of God, but daily, in practical ways, the fear of man prevails in their lives. What has the greatest influence over you at the moment of decision? Every day, perhaps in seemingly small ways, we will take a side. And remember, silence is consent. When you choose to say or do nothing where sin is present, you have made a choice to capitulate.
On another note, Jesus’ kingdom does not depend upon politics.
John 18:37, 38 — “In fact, for this reason I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.” “What is truth?” Pilate asked.
The truth is revealed through Jesus and Jesus alone. In fact, Jesus said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6) Those who listen to Christ understand truth. Those outside of Christ, like Pilate, have no way to determine truth or to truly know God. Regardless their intellect or religiosity, they navigate without map and compass on a journey to nowhere. Jesus said that He came to testify to the truth. Jesus stayed true to the mission God gave Him until the end. Now that mission has been given to you. How are you doing? Don’t lose sight of the fact that your message is the Gospel of Jesus Christ, not a message of ethics, morality, or better living. If the “truth” or “salvation” message you are proclaiming to others is about fixing their earthly problems rather than saving their souls, and if your message doesn’t start and end with Jesus, you are likely leading others astray. Ambassador, Priest, Saint, How many times will you say the Name, Jesus to others today? “Cross” Fit S-WOD (Spiritual Workout of the Day) – 25 November 2022: Today, courageously remove the high places from your life once and for all. Love God from a pure (unpolluted) heart, a good conscience and sincere faith – “And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.” (Mark 12:30) Also, testify to the truth of Jesus today, regardless the personal cost. Don’t be like Peter and act as if you do not know Him when faced with the scrutiny of popular opinion or social acceptability. (John 18:37)