2 Chronicles 12:5
“Thus says the Lord:‘You have forsaken Me, and therefore I also have left you in the hand of Shishak. ’”
A few years ago I was traveling to West Africa to speak at a conference for pastors and church workers. Most of the preparation for the event took place on the ground in Africa leaving me to only be responsible for my own travel needs. Three documents are necessary for entrance into Ghana. First like all countries a passport is necessary, second Ghana requires a visa and finally an immunization card showing that I have received an inoculation against Yellow Fever. Having been to Ghana before I knew of the requirements, planned my trip and headed toward the airport. About fifteen miles into my drive I had an urge to check my documents. I pulled over and dug through my bag to find that I had a passport and visa but had left my immunization card behind. I was forced at that point to turn around and go get it.
Judah under Reheboam had forgotten the Lord. Their prosperity had made them comfortable and in their comfort they had neglected God. It wasn’t until things began to go bad that they realized they had left behind the most important aspect of traveling through this life. They had neglected the Lord. The solution was the same for them as it is for us. They must turn around. Stop going in a direction that led them away from the Lord and start moving in direction toward Him.
Perhaps you have been neglecting the Lord, perhaps you have been busy but have not been busy doing the things that will bring about eternal reward. Stop moving in a direction away from God, turn around and get busy following Jesus.
“Why has this people slidden back,
Jerusalem, in a perpetual backsliding?
They hold fast to deceit,
They refuse to return.”
Like a doctor who has carefully examined a patient and given his diagnosis, Jeremiah declares the sickness of Judah to be perpetual backsliding. Backsliding is a biblical term that refers to a follower of God who has returned to his pre-conversion lifestyle. Perpetual is a term wnich means continual, like a pendulum. The perpetual backslider is the person who makes a commitment to the Lord, falls back into sin, makes another commitment, followed by another fall, and this becomes the cycle of his life.
God designed the human brain to develop patterns. These patters can be extremely helpful. I recall my first attempts to learn chords on the guitar. It was a pain staking process, my brain would tell my fingers what to do, but they seemed incapable of following orders. I can remember times when I had to use my right hand to bend my left hand into the proper shape to make a simple ‘D’ chord. After some time however, a pattern developed, and I could contort my fingers to the proper position, seemingly without thought or effort.
While these patterns can be positive, they can also lead to perpetual bad behavior, and great effort must be taken to break the pattern. This is particularly true of someone whose Christian life has become cyclical. The solution is not to give up or to think that is just how things have to be. Instead, it is time to make some changes in how you approach walking with Christ. It is already clear that you love the Lord deeply, or you would not continually come back to Him, so the focus must be on things that will create permanence. Jesus explained that the secret to a fruitful life is to abide in Him. The Psalmist proclaims, this is done by daily delighting in the Word of God. To delight in the Word means we read it, study it, meditate upon it, and do what it says. The key to breaking the pattern of perpetual backsliding is to make daily investments in God’s Word.
Let’s get started today.
“Now Abraham said of Sarah his wife, ‘She is my sister.’ And Abimelech king of Gerar sent and took Sarah.”
Abraham’s journey had led him to the far south of the promised land, to an area that had begun to be occupied by the Philistines. Because of the reputation of the Philistine people, Abraham and Sarah decided the best approach to guarantee their safety was to lie about their relationship. They would tell anyone who asked, they were brother and sister. Thinking Sarah would not be taken and Abe would not be killed. It seems their plan backfired, because when the Philistine king of Gerar saw Sarah, he took her into his harem and sought to make her his wife.
This passage serves as an illustration of many things, not the least of which, it gives us a clear picture of what true repentance actually looks like.
It seems the moment Abimelech took Sarah, things started becoming difficult within his home. In addition to the fact that his family members became barren, unable to have children, he also began to have some very vivid, and quite disturbing dreams. In one of these dreams, God appeared to him declaring that if he did not return Sarah to Abraham he would be killed. We read that God told Abimelech to restore Sarah to her husband. The word restore means to return or to turn back. It is a word which could be used synonymously with the word repentance. In essence, God is calling the king to repent of his actions.
It seems odd that this Philistine king becomes a very clear and positive example of what true repentance actually looks like. We read, he was confronted by the Word of God, he cried out to the Lord, and he changed his behavior. All three of these steps are a part of real repentance. Sadly, we often find ourselves arguing with the Word or attempting to justify our actions instead of allowing the Word to change our living. In some cases, we we might even go as far as admitting what we are doing is wrong and even cry out to God, without being willing to make the appropriate changes.
Let’s determine today, to follow Abimelech’s example and make whatever changes the Word of God demands. After all, once he repented, he began to receive the blessings of God.