1 Chronicles 22:13
“Then you will prosper, if you take care to fulfill the statutes and judgments with which the Lord charged Moses concerning Israel. Be strong and of good courage; do not fear nor be dismayed.”
As the time of David’s departure drew near he took the time to commission his son to follow and serve the Lord. Solomon would be surrounded by things that would make his task easier but it would ultimately be his own responsibility to choose to live according to the precepts laid down in the word of God. Solomon had the gifts he received from God, the pattern and the resources his father had left behind and he was surrounded by the men who had assisted David in his walk with the Lord. Sadly, the one thing that was missing was a personal desire in Solomon to live a life that pleased the Lord. Instead his life was marked by constant and continual compromise.
There are many pitfalls that make it difficult to follow Christ. We are all constantly bombarded with temptations designed to lead us down roads that take us farther and farther from the paths of God. What we often forget is that we have also been given a roadmap in the scriptures that is designed to guide us through these difficult seasons. When we choose to take the counsel laid forth by David and give care to keep the statutes found in the pages of our Bibles we will find great success.
At the end of the day Solomon had no excuse for his constant compromise. For while the temptations may be great the word of God is greater.
“You shall march around the city, all you men of war; you shall go all around the city once. This you shall do six days.”
As Joshua stood overlooking Jericho, wondering how to defeat such a mighty foe, I am sure none of his plans included marching his soldiers around the walls while playing music and eventually shouting at the top of their lungs. I imagine he used his extensive battle experience to carefully discern the weaknesses in Jericho’s wall, while studying the lay out of the land to see where the high points were, or how they might build a siege mound against the city. The pragmatic mind of a seasoned soldier would have a lot to say about how to conquer a well-defended city, but in this case, God had an entirely different approach in mind. If victory was to come, Joshua and all Israel, for that matter, had to understand that the ways of God are different than the ways of man.
Have you realized that? Have you come to grips with the reality that God often does things in surprisingly different ways than we do? The reasons for this are manifold, but include the fact that God always does things in a way that He receives the Glory, and we learn that He is trustworthy.
Paul put it this way,
“God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty; and the base things of the world and the things which are despised God has chosen, and the things which are not, to bring to nothing the things that are, that no flesh should glory in His presence.” 1 Corinthians 1:27-29
When the walls of Jericho lay flattened and the enemies of Israel defeated, the people would be forced to look up to God and celebrate His faithfulness, rather than to boast in their own strength or ingenuity. God desires to do the same thing in our lives. He wants to accomplish His will His way, so that when it is accomplished, He is glorified and we are able to trust Him for whatever obstacles are ahead.
God will not always do things the way we think He should, but He will always be faithful, and if we walk in obedience we will always find the victory He intends for us.
“Whenever the cloud was taken up from above the tabernacle, after that the children of Israel would journey; and in the place where the cloud settled, there the children of Israel would pitch their tents.”
God established a pretty clear method of directing Israel through the wilderness. They were traveling roads they had never been on, through obstacles they had never faced before, to a destination none of them had ever seen. In order to ensure they arrived safely, God chose to use a cloud to direct their journey. In a sense, they had the first ever GPS system. When it was time to go, the cloud started moving and when it was time to camp, the cloud stopped. I am sure all of us wish we had a cloud that moved when it was time to move so we could always know the way the Lord wants us to walk.
I think it is important that while the cloud is no longer God’s method of guiding His people, He has not left us without a direction. His Word is designed to help us navigate our way through life. The more difficult the way, the more important it is that we look into the Word for direction. For the most part, it is not that we do not know what God wants us to do, but rather we struggle to obey. The Bible gives us clear direction, but we are resistant because of lack of faith or fear of losing our personal comforts. It is time for us to move when the cloud moves and live in obedience to the teachings of Scripture, no matter what obstacles we might be facing.
“You shall not follow a crowd to do evil…”
The Law of God was given as a standard to show the people their need for a Savior, and as a pattern to ensure that the people lived righteous lives. Here we find a principle that would protect Israel from becoming like the surrounding pagan nations. God is declaring that popular opinion is not what determines right from wrong. Almost every child has heard his parents say, “Would you jump off a cliff if your friends were doing it?” We attempt to instill within our children the principle that just because the crowd is behaving a certain way, it does not make it right. Sociologist refer to “mob mentality.” They say it is possible for individuals to lose the ability to think for themselves, and begin to follow whatever the crowd is doing. Living in a democratic state can make this even more complicated. God declares to Israel that popular vote is not the standard of righteousness. If all the people vote to erect a golden calf to represent God, that does not make God a gold cow. His righteous standard will never be changed simply by getting a crowd to reject it.
We live in a time, perhaps like no other, where the Word of God is challenged. The very foundational principles of righteousness are being questioned, ridiculed, and legislated away. We need to keep in mind, righteousness is not a floating standard that can be voted upon. No matter what society tells us, God has a standard of right and wrong, and we must not follow a crowd to do evil.
“For they have committed adultery with their idols, and even sacrificed their sons whom they bore to Me, passing them through the fire, to devour them.”
Ezekiel points out that the sins of the parents resulted in the sacrifice of the children. When they stopped following the Lord, their decision impacted the next generation. I think it would do us good to keep in mind that we have a much greater influence on others than we might think. Jesus compared us to a city set on a hill that cannot be hidden (Matthew 5:14). Paul explained, the whole world is watching the Christian as though we were on display. When we decide to commit ourselves to the Lord, living to please to Him, that decision will impact others. People will take notice and decide to further their commitment to Christ. On the other hand, if we wander from the Lord, we will have a domino effect upon others who may fall along with us.
Remember, after the death of Christ, when Peter decided to return to fishing? He was distraught over the events that had transpired, and he seems to have stepped backwards in his relationship with Christ. I find it interesting, he was not fishing alone, other men were drawn away with him. This always seems to be the case. The decisions we make, for or against the Lord, will always create a current, pulling others along with us.
Let’s make sure to keep pressing toward the Lord.
“. . . that I may seize the house of Israel by their heart, because they are all estranged from Me by their idols.”
The people in Ezekiel’s day were facing the same struggles we face today, they were failing to look into the Word of God. As a result, they were easily swayed into believing they could live however they wanted. This lifestyle soon caught up with them and the nation was beginning to collapse. What had once been a thriving city, and the envy of the nations, was now about to collapse in total ruin. In this condition, God reveals his ultimate desire for the people. He says “I will seize the house of Israel by their hearts.”
It seems God had their lips, for there was no shortage of people running around claiming to have a word from the Lord. He had their hands, for people were sacrificing on every high hill throughout the land. He had their feet, for they were running around trying to do whatever the false prophets told them would please God. But what was missing, was their hearts. They had never really surrendered themselves to the Lord, and as a result were not really in a relationship with Him. They spoke as though they knew the Lord, but their hearts were really far from Him.
What God really wants from you is your heart. He wants you to simply bow your knee and submit your ways to Him. He does not want your money, your singing, or your sacrifice, until He has your heart. Have you given yourself to Christ and are you living to please Him? If not, why not? Don’t take another step forward, until you have surrendered yourself and your ways to Jesus.
“Son of man, you dwell in the midst of a rebellious house, which has eyes to see but does not see, and ears to hear but does not hear; for they are a rebellious house.”
Rebellion is an interesting thing. Most people, who are in rebellion, don’t see themselves as rebels, but have justification for their behavior. Children do it with their parents, adults do it with their superiors, and all of us do it with God. I think it might be helpful to note that Ezekiel gives us a Biblical definition of rebellion, so we can recognize whether or not we are currently rebelling against God. He says, a rebel is one who has eyes but does not see and ears but does not hear. In other words, if we know what we are doing is unacceptable to God and we are doing it anyway, then we are in rebellion against God.
Often, we complain that God is silent. We want to hear from Him about a decision we are trying to make, but He does not seem to answer us. This may be because He has been speaking to us, about something we are doing (or not doing), and we have refused to listen. We are rebelling, yet hoping to get marching orders. This happened to King Saul. For years God had been telling Him to give up the throne and pass it on to David. Instead of obeying, he rebelled and did everything he could to silence the voice of God. Then when the Philistine army was approaching, he sought God for instructions on how to defend Israel. His seeking was met with silence. God refused to give marching orders to a rebel.
God’s word gives clear parameters for relationships. If you are violating these parameters, no matter how often you attend church or read your Bible, you are still a rebel. It is time to stop doing what He forbids, and start putting yourself under His authority.