Today: Psalms 81:8-16; Acts 26:24-32; Acts 27:1-12; 2 Kings 16 & 17
“Hear me, my people, and I will warn you — if you would only listen to me, Israel!” Psalm 81:8
Over and over, God raised up prophets to warn His people. During times that they followed Him, they were greatly blessed. When they followed after foreign gods and adopted their neighbors’ wicked practices, they suffered terrible consequences.
Psalm 81 is one such warning. God warned them not to worship foreign gods, “You shall have no foreign god among you; you shall not worship any god other than me.” (v.9)
God promised them provision and blessing if they follow Him, “Open wide your mouth and I will fill it.” (v.10) He promised victory and success, “If my people would only listen to me, if Israel would only follow my ways, how quickly I would subdue their enemies and turn my hand against their foes!” (v.13-14)
But the Israelites did not listen to God very much. They continually ran after their neighbors’ gods (kinda’ like us!) and so God “gave them over to their stubborn hearts to follow their own devices.” (v.12)
Paul’s message sounded like insane ramblings to Festus. He interrupted Paul and shouted, “You are out of your mind, Paul! … Your great learning is driving you insane.” (v.24)
To outsiders, those without the Holy Spirit’s pull, our belief in Jesus makes no sense. We can only understand Jesus when the Holy Spirit enlightens our minds to understand. (That’s why I think it is a waste of time to engage with people who only want to mock or argue about my faith. The most brilliant, rational argument would never convince them. They aren’t the people I write to here.)
Others, like King Agrippa, are being drawn by the Holy Spirit. God is calling them, waking them up. They feel it in their souls, this hunger to know more about God. Paul said, “the king is familiar with these things, and I can speak freely to him… King Agrippa, do you believe the prophets? I know you do.” (v.26-27)
Considering the Christian message, feeling its pull on your soul, can be scary. These days being Christian is counter cultural. You might lose friends and family. People will make fun of you. You might get banned on Twitter…
King Agrippa was obviously uncomfortable. “Do you think that in such a short time you can persuade me to be a Christian?” he asked Paul and then abruptly left. I sometimes wonder if he ever did finally heed the Holy Spirit’s call.
2 Kings 16
King Ahaz was one of the bad kings of Judah who “did not do what was right in the eyes of the LORD his God. He followed the ways of the kings of Israel and even sacrificed his son in the fire, engaging in the detestable practices of the nations the LORD had driven out before the Israelites. He offered sacrifices and burned incense at the high places, on the hilltops and under every spreading tree.” (v.2-4)
Ahaz was a religion whore… he tried every kind of superstition or religious idea he could find. Nothing was off limits, not even child sacrifice. He saw an altar in Damascus and sent a sketch of it to his priest to have a copy made. He pulled the altar that God had designed out of the temple, modified it to suit himself, and set it up next to the new altar. Ahaz replaced the worship of the one holy true God with worship of false gods.
2 Kings 17
Israel was a mess. They were religion whores as well, trying every kind of false religion and superstition they ran across. “They built for themselves high places in all their towns. They set up sacred stones and Asherah poles on every high hill and under every spreading tree. At every place they burned incense…” (v.9-11) They “made for themselves two idols cast in the shape of calves, and an Asherah pole. They bowed down to all the starry hosts, and they worshipped Baal. They sacrificed their sons and daughters in the fire. They practiced divination and sought omens and sold themselves to do evil in the eyes of the LORD, arousing His anger.” (v.16-17)
Finally God had enough. He “removed them from His presence.” He allowed Assyria to conquer them and they were exiled from their promised homeland to Assyria.