Sunday, July 22, 2007

Not a major sermon this time, just a thought that came out of a Scripture I read today.

The text: 1 Chronicles 17 + 18

Asa was a worldly king of Judah. The Bible says that he refused to rely on the Lord, either in battle or in his illness. Instead he relied on dodgy alliances in battle, and physicians in his illness. He died and his son, Jehoshaphat, became king. It seems Jehoshaphat took a different path, because he decided to follow God and not “the practices of Israel” – referring to the rebellious and idolatrous tribes that defected from the kingdom and started their own nation. Jehoshaphat followed God, and God prospered him. We read that he sent officials throughout the land to each town and village and the Levites and the Priests taught the people the Law of God – i.e. God’s word. He actively chose to turn his people back to God so that they could be HIS (God’s) people. Remember that under the 41 year reign of his father, the people had turned to idolatry and false religion, and now, they needed an emergency intervention in order to get them back on track.

In South Africa, where crime is getting out of hand, they speak of the “moral regeneration” that needs to take place. They want people to become good, responsible citizens who seek to be law abiding. This is a laudable objective, but frankly, unless people’s hearts are transformed by the washing of the Word of God” it is a futile task. Even the leaders of the ‘moral regeneration” are being exposed in their immorality. If there is to be true moral regeneration, it will take a sovereign move of God and there needs to be a REVIVAL. When you look at historic revivals that have taken place, the enhancement of moral values has followed as a natural consequence.

Thus far, we can only say to Jehoshaphat – “You did good!” but then we come to Chapter 18 and he blew it. He allied himself to the king of Israel, Ahab at that time, through marriage. He went to visit his new in-laws, and to become better acquainted. Ahab threw a party in Jehoshaphat’s honour.

“Hey, Jehoshaphat, we’ve had such a good time, why not join me and we’ll go and wipe out against those “pesky” guys from Ramoth Gilead. With our combined armies, those lads don’t have a chance.” (Forgive the “poetic licence” of putting words into their mouths.)

Jehoshaphat was in a catch-22. He knew that this was not a good plan, and yet having made an alliance with Ahab, he could not now turn round and say – “No way José”, so instead he said, in effect, “Hang on my friend, you can’t just go into battle at the drop of a hat, you have to follow the right protocol. Have you consulted with the prophets to hear what God has to say? “

So Ahab calls his prophets. A whole stack of them arrived and they all said what Ahab wanted to hear them say – “Go ahead. God’s on your side.” problem was, they were all lying, and Jehoshaphat knew it.

But Jehoshaphat asked, "Is there no longer a prophet of the LORD here whom we can inquire of?" (2 Chron. 18:6)

This is really classic. 400 guys have all just about said the same thing. “Go into battle and you will win.” but Jehoshaphat speaks as if they could not find a prophet. Fact was, they couldn’t or would not. Not one who spoke the truth, anyway.

Eventually Ahab admits there is one prophet who they have not yet consulted, Micaiah. Ahab didn’t want to see this guy. He hated him because Micaiah was no YES-MAN. He told it as it was, and it did not sound good in Ahab’s ears. But reluctantly, he had him brought to the palace. The messenger tried to give Micaiah a heads-up on the situation, and said, “Listen 400 hundred prophets have already told the king that he should go up to fight against Ramoth Gilead. You say the same thing or you going to look mighty stupid, and besides you don’t really want to upset old man.”

Micaiah, goes in and says, “Attack and be victorious for they will be given into your hand.”
Ahab is stunned, and asks, “Are you being serious, did God really say that?
Micaiah was glad to be challenged and said, “No, in fact, the truth is, all 400 of these prophets have been lying to you. The truth is that if you go into battle, you will not come out alive.”

Ahab really got mad and said that he would not take any notice of Micaiah and would go into battle anyway. After all, how could 400 prophets of God be wrong? He ordered that Micaiah be put in prison until they come back from battle. (He had not been listening.) He obviously thought he would come back and then deal with this nuisance. Micaiah reminded him that he was not going to be coming back but Ahab said in his heart, “I have a cunning plan!”

When Micaiah had been dragged away, Ahab persuaded Jehoshaphat to go up in battle with him against Ramoth Gilead, and in effect said, “Take no notice of that man. You’ve heard from 400 prophets that God is going to give us victory. Obviously Micaiah was just being otherwise. But it doesn’t hurt to take some precaution, you go as king, and take charge, I will be there, but disguised as one of the soldiers.”

It turned out that the people from Ramoth Gilead were gunning for Ahab. The king had told his forces to not worry about any of the others nut to be sure that they got Ahab. Seeing the Royal robes on Jehoshaphat the soldiers thought he was their man, but by God’s grace, he managed to prove that he was not the one they were after, and the soldiers, frustrated, decided to return, but one of the soldiers, out of frustration and disappointment, I suppose, let one of his arrows fly, not aiming it at anyone in particular. The arrow lodged itself into, you guessed it, Ahab. By now the fight was on and they fought all day. Ahab, now wounded, watched the battle, and watched as the Gileadites made mincemeat of the Israel forces. As the sun set and what remained of the armies returned to their barracks, Ahab succumbed to his wounds and died.

I suppose that Ahab thought his main problem was with humans, who could be deceived and confused by a mere disguise, but he was up against the living God, who knew exactly where Ahab was, and guided that arrow to exactly the right spot.

Are you tempted to think that you can outsmart God? Go to church, say the right things, be nice, etc, etc? If it is all on the surface, if all it is, is mouthing the right things, it will not help you in the least. Jesus warned the disciples that in the end, many will come to Him saying, “Lord, Lord,” but He will turn round and tell them to go away because he does not know them. Obedience is better than sacrifice. Obedience, regardless of how inconvenient or uncomfortable it is, is better than some over-the-top religious act that has no real substance to it.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007


I promised one more instalment on Samson. That was about two weeks ago. A lot of water has gone under the bridge since then.

Ø My Parents returned from their four month excursion overseas,
Ø I have completed four assignments for my university studies and got them in by due date.
Ø I went on a Church camp – a completely unexpected thing.
Ø We had a party to celebrate my parents’ Golden Wedding.
Now for a short while, I can sit down and write another blog, and it is my intention to write about Samson again.

First, let me summarise what I have said so far.

In the first blog, I wrote how I was surprised that Samson could have got himself into the predicament that he was in. It wasn’t like the signs weren’t there. He couldn’t exactly claim that he was drunk. It makes me think of the movie “Eyes wide shut.” – only because the name suggests what was happening with Samson. Samson was so smitten with Delilah, that he lost perspective on his life’s calling.

What was Samson’s calling? Well that was the topic of my second blog – The story of Samson’s mother’s pregnancy and God’s calling on his life, from the very get-go. An angel appeared to Samson’s mother – she was a barren woman at that time and promised that she would indeed conceive and give birth to a boy. The angel told her that he was not to have any alcoholic drink, and not to have contact with any unclean thing (like, for example corpses) and not to cut his hair, and that he was to be a Nazirite from birth, which means he was to be set apart to God, and that he would begin the deliverance of Israel from the hands of the Philistines.

What a wonderful start. I can only imagine that as little Samson grew, his mother would tell him that he had a very special work that God wanted him to do. Being their only son, (At least for a while, as Judges 16:31 says: “Then his (Samson’s) brothers and his father’s whole family went own to get him) he would have been their “pride and joy.” Maybe when he had his Bar mitzvah, they would have told him what the angel had said to them about bringing deliverance to Israel. No doubt, he would have become aware as he grew, that he was not like the other children. For one thing, he was a lot stronger than they were. Clearly by the time he was an adult, he knew full well what his calling was. But a lesson we get from Samson, is, I think, just because a person knows what he or she is called to does not necessarily mean that they will do it. In Samson’s case, he did end up doing what he was called to do, but in the process he brought destruction on his own head too. How might it have been different if Samson had not consorted with the enemy?

Another lesson is that the enemy is not necessarily horrible to look at. Being a teacher, I occasionally set tests. I also have to write tests. One way that we are tested is by the multiple choice type questions, where you have to select the correct answer from a set of “possible answers.” When doing such a test you always have to be careful of the “distracter” – that is the answer that looks like it could be right, but isn’t. Samson, I’m afraid selected the wrong answer when he selected Delilah. It didn’t seem to matter to him at all that she was a Philistine.

I say that, but reading Judges 14 about Samson’s marriage to the Philistine woman (not Delilah) and the whole story about the riddle, it says in verse 4, that “this was from the Lord” referring to his marriage to the Philistine woman. His parents were very unhappy about their son’s choice of a bride (vs. 3), and especially that he was marrying a woman from the very tribe that was dominating and persecuting the Israelites. This was worse than merely marrying a non-Israelite, but actually to marry a Philistine was would have been regarded as treason. I have had this discussion with many a brother and sister in the Lord, about marrying a person of a different ethnicity, and whether the Old Testament injunctions against it should mean that Christians, at least, should not do so. My feeling is that the only injunction in this regard that applies to Christians is the one given in 2 Corinthians 6:14 that says: “Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness?” This applies to marriage, but I think it also has a wider application, in that I think that Christians should avoid becoming overly involved with non believers, whether in the social context, or in the business context. Also my pastor was preaching on Sunday about the concept of yoking in the context of Matthew 11:29, where Jesus said “take my yoke upon you and learn from me.” In those days, a Rabbi would call certain young men to be their “disciples” – in essence, their apprentices – and they would stay with the rabbi, as Jesus disciples stayed with Him, and it was said that the young men were yoked to the rabbi. This came from the practice of yoking experienced oxen with less experienced oxen in order for the experienced ox to teach the inexperienced one. Perhaps the verse in 2 Corinthians refers to becoming yoked to a non-believing teacher (in addition to the marriage thing.) In other words, we need to be careful who we learn from, and we ought not to accept just any counsel from anyone, but we need to be aware of their fundamental beliefs, realising that by “becoming yoked to them” we are subject to their influence and that might be to our own detriment. In today’s context, we should be careful about the psychologist/psychiatrist that we or our children consult. However I digress. As far as marriage is concerned – I do not believe that God forbids inter-racial marriage, provided the couple have a common outlook in matters regarding faith.

All marriages have stresses and strains, but inter-cultural marriages have the added stress of divergent backgrounds, and sometimes disapproving families. However I know of a number of culturally-mixed (and inter-racial) couples, who are very happily married and have risen above these things to have exemplary relationships. The important thing is that couples are united in terms of their love for one another and their outlook on matters of faith. Although quite often people of differing religious perspectives do get married, more often than not this difference puts a major strain on the relationship.

Let me know what you think.