Today’s Bible reading: 2 Kings 17-18:12; Acts 20:1-38; Psalm 148:1-14; Proverbs 18:6-7
God’s original plan was for Israel to be the nation that others looked to for guidance. But by 2 Kings 17, Israel is instead a vassal state, paying tribute (money) to Assyria in exchange for security. God’s intention for his people, even today, is not for us to be enslaved to sin. God wants to set us free. But our refusal to recognize Him and obey Him keeps us in bondage on an individual level.
On a national level, we can expect exactly what happens to Israel, which comprised the 10 northern tribes. God allowed them to be conquered because of their sin and worshipping of other gods rather than the true God who had done so much for them (2 Kings 17:5-6).
Its not like Israel had no warning. God had sent prophet after prophet to warn them but they would not listen (2 Kings 17:13-14). We’ll read the writings of prophets in a couple of months.
Instead the people rejected God’s commands, “despised” His warnings, and worshipped worthless things. I can’t help but see the parallels between Israel and the United States. God did so much for us and blessed us with so much. But we have rejected Him, openly despised and renounced Him, and spend our time and money on empty things. I can’t help but conclude that our fate will be the same as Israel’s.
It takes a lot to make God angry. We’ve seen this year that He is very patient and gives people time to repent and return to Him. But eventually He decides that people aren’t going to do that, so He ups the ante and removes them from His presence (2 Kings 17:18). This is also the exact definition of hell – a place where God is not present. If people think things on earth are bad, when God keeps us from getting out of control, I can’t imagine how bad hell will be.
In 2 Kings 18 we meet Hezekiah, one of the best kings Judah ever had (2 Kings 18:5). Notice that since Hezekiah was faithful and obedient God blessed him in everything he did (2 Kings 18:6-7). That is how it works. If we want God’s blessing, we need to do what He says.
One of the idols that Hezekiah destroyed was the bronze serpent Moses had made in Numbers 21 to protect the people from a plague. The serpent was a good thing that God commanded Moses to make. But it had become an idol over time. So it had to be destroyed. Not everything in our life is inherently bad. But when it replaces God in our lives – as has money, sex, celebrity, and fame – it becomes evil because it draws us away from God.
Paul’s third missionary journey continues in Acts 20 where he speaks to the elders of the church at Ephesus reminding them of his own personal character (Acts 20:19) and the single-mindedness of his message – repentance of sin and faith in God (Acts 20:21).
The more I read the book of Acts the more I see that the message God is asking me to deliver to people in my circle of influence is very simple. I don’t need to get bogged down in peripheral arguments such as evolution vs. creation or the age of the earth. The issue is that people need to repent (from the Greek for “to agree with”) and turn to God for the forgiveness of their sins.
Paul knows that his future is bleak (Acts 20:23) but he isn’t going to cling to his life. Doing so is pointless. The only value his life has is to tell others about God’s grace and the salvation He offers through Jesus Christ (Acts 20:24). What a great way to view one’s life. Everything we do on this earth matters not, except that it teaches others about Jesus (1 Corinthians 3:15).
In Acts 20:25-35 we see the point of Paul’s speech and why he asked these elders to travel 36 miles to meet him. He knows that he will never see them again and he now encourages them to take care of the people in their church and be on the lookout for those who do will try to deceive.
There is probably a lot going on in nature that we, as human beings, do not know about such as the entire universe, including the sun and moon, praising Him (Psalms 148:1-5). There is infra-red light and ultra-violet light that we cannot see. There are sound frequencies we cannot hear. So there is no reason that every created thing can’t be praising God without us realizing it.
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