Politicians are Politicians

Asa then took all the silver and gold that was left in the treasuries of the LORD’s temple and of his own palace. He entrusted it to his officials and sent them to Ben-Hadad son of Tabrimmon, the son of Hezion, the king of Aram, who was ruling in Damascus. “Let there be a treaty between me and you,” he said, “as there was between my father and your father. See, I am sending you a gift of silver and gold. Now break your treaty with Baasha king of Israel so he will withdraw from me.” 1 Kings 15:18-19

From the text it appears that Asa was a politician. Certainly Asa was king but not all kings are or want to be politicians. Asa saw wisdom in befriending Ben-Hadad (probably before Baasha got to him). Asa felt that he couldn’t control or conquer Baasha without his help.

Thousands of years have passed and politicians really haven’t changed much. Negotiations, back room deals, bribes, pitting one side against the other, teaming up against another nation (or person) are all part of the political landscape. And yet, we don’t think highly of the crop of politicians in power today (in general). The elements are all there for good relations. The elements are also there for corruption and greed.

Pray for your politicians. They are often under tremendous pressure to compromise and to do what is in the interests of a handful of people rather than the masses. Pray that when the chips are down, many will recognize their need for a Savior.

Grandmothers Sin Too

In the twentieth year of Jeroboam king of Israel, Asa became king of Judah, and he reigned in Jerusalem forty-one years. His grandmother’s name was Maacah daughter of Abishalom.

Asa did what was right in the eyes of the LORD, as his father David had done. He expelled the male shrine prostitutes from the land and got rid of all the idols his fathers had made. He even deposed his grandmother Maacah from her position as queen mother, because she had made a repulsive Asherah pole. Asa cut the pole down and burned it in the Kidron Valley. 1 Kings 15:9-13

I have always like reading about King Asa. I’m not sure exactly what I liked about him except that he was considered a good king. He was King of Judah for 41 years. He enjoyed a long life as King. In his lineage, Maacah is mentioned. That’s his grandmother. So far, so good. I was almost ready to extol the virtues of the Book of Kings writer for honoring grandmothers in such a way until I read further. You see, Asa deposed his grandmother as the queen mother because she was continuing to sin by making an Asherah pole (a cult that worshiped the goddess Asherah, and quite possibly involved prostitution). In short, he booted her off the throne.

It’s merely a reminder that we all sin. Grandmothers, grandfathers, sons, daughters, children, parents, in-laws, uncles, aunts, cousins, friends, neighbors. We all sin. I’m not introducing anything new but it certainly doesn’t hurt for us to acknowledge that fact. We read the story above and think that Asa removing his grandmother from a place of honor must have hurt him. But truth be told, sin destroys. Sin by anyone at any time hurts destroys.

But fortunately, we have a Savior. We may not know how fortunate we really are.

Three Year Plan

In the eighteenth year of the reign of Jeroboam son of Nebat, Abijah became king of Judah, and he reigned in Jerusalem three years. His mother’s name was Maacah daughter of Abishalom. He committed all the sins his father had done before him; his heart was not fully devoted to the LORD his God, as the heart of David his forefather had been. 1 Kings 15:1-3

Abijah reigned over Judah for only three years. He was a wicked king and was not fully devoted to the Lord. He was a leader but obviously not an aspiring one. He didn’t reign long and we can only surmise that wild living cut his life short. His only claim to being was that he was not like King David. That fact certainly wouldn’t be gratifying to me.

Three years isn’t a long time to reign as king. You are still learning how to rule and what to wear and how to talk. How different life would be if we operated under the three-year plan.

If you knew your life would end in three years, what if anything would you do differently? Would you laugh more? Would you cry more? Would you give of yourself more? Would you pray more or witness more or watch the sun set more? Or perhaps you would change nothing about how you act. What if it were only two years or one year, or God forbid, what if you only had three months to live, how would you then live?

A Jealous God

Judah did evil in the eyes of the LORD. By the sins they committed they stirred up his jealous anger more than their fathers had done. 1 Kings 14:22

You may recall that Rehoboam, son of Solomon, was king over Judah. He had asked his elders what he should do, then asked his younger counselors what he should do. He took the advice of his peers rather than the wisdom of his elders. Then he fled for his life because the people were very displeased. Egypt attacked Jerusalem and took the gold shields that were in the temple. Rehoboam replaced them with bronze shields and had them placed under guard.

Once again, the LORD states that the entire nation did evil in His eyes. He is a jealous God and stirred up his wrath. What were Judah’s sins? High places, sacred stones, asherah poles, and male prostitution. All of this points to pagan worship with a significant sexual element involved (for more information, search the first three phrase on Google or Bing). Judah had strayed. As the leader of Judah, Rehoboam had also strayed. His kingdom was quickly winding down.

Throughout Scripture, we see that God is jealous about his people, us. I don’t think we quite comprehend the depth of that love and jealousy. In prayer today, ask God to help you understand that love and jealousy. Be very specific about it.

Fighting Evil

By the word of the LORD a man of God came from Judah to Bethel, as Jeroboam was standing by the altar to make an offering. He cried out against the altar by the word of the LORD : “O altar, altar! This is what the LORD says: ‘A son named Josiah will be born to the house of David. On you he will sacrifice the priests of the high places who now make offerings here, and human bones will be burned on you.’ ” That same day the man of God gave a sign: “This is the sign the LORD has declared: The altar will be split apart and the ashes on it will be poured out.”

Even after this, Jeroboam did not change his evil ways, but once more appointed priests for the high places from all sorts of people. Anyone who wanted to become a priest he consecrated for the high places. This was the sin of the house of Jeroboam that led to its downfall and to its destruction from the face of the earth. 1 Kings 13:1-3, 33-34

The prophet had prophesied exactly what Jeroboam was now doing. Jeroboam heard the prophesy because he was standing right there, but continued to appoint priests for the high places. Jeroboam’s hand shriveled up and he asked the prophet to intercede for him (which the Lord did), yet still it didn’t dissuade him from appointing high priest for the high places. What Jeroboam was doing was utterly detestable in God’s sight.

Often when people are in positions of power, it does something strange to them. Jeroboam knew what was right and had the power to change it. Throughout the first 19 verses of the next chapter, God reveals to Jeroboam’s wife how he will destroy Jeroboam’s line. It’s brutal.

Jeroboam and his family suffered greatly for his sin, that’s obvious. And yet God allowed him to rule for 22 years over the house of Israel.

We don’t need to go far in the world to see evil. Leaders who have no consciences and who think nothing of eliminating an entire race of people are evil. Selling young girls into prostitution is evil. Enslaving children into forced labor is evil. So why are the people who commit these evil acts allowed to exist? Why was Jeroboam allowed to reign over Israel for more time after the Lord had declared him to be evil? I don’t know. One day we’ll know (or we may never know fully). Until then, we can continue to pray against the evils of our society. Choose one of the three evils I’ve listed and ask God how you can help with that fight.

Old Prophet/New Prophet

While they were sitting at the table, the word of the LORD came to the old prophet who had brought him back. He cried out to the man of God who had come from Judah, “This is what the LORD says: ‘You have defied the word of the LORD and have not kept the command the LORD your God gave you. You came back and ate bread and drank water in the place where he told you not to eat or drink. Therefore your body will not be buried in the tomb of your fathers.’ ” 1 Kings 13:20-22

This is a fascinating little story buried within the Book of 1 Kings. A prophet came to Jereboam, king of the 10 tribes of Israel. The king had cried out against the altar and the prophet told King Jereboam that the altar would be split that day. Jereboam stretched out a hand to seize the prophet and the hand shriveled up. Jereboam then asked the prophet to pray for his hand to heal, and he did. Next Jereboam offered for the prophet to stay but the prophet refused by saying, “For I was commanded by the word of the LORD : ‘You must not eat bread or drink water or return by the way you came.”

Next while the prophet was on the way, someone else informed an older prophet about the first prophet’s actions with the King. The older prophet immediately sought out the prophet and convinced him (through a lie) to come home with him. The first prophet did. After they arrived at the older prophet’s home, the word of the Lord came upon the older prophet and rebuked him for not obeying the Lord’s original words.

Whew!

So, on the one hand the older prophet had lied to the other prophet in order to get him to go the older prophet’s home. Then the Lord rebuked the prophet for disobeying the Lord. So the older prophet lied but then he became God’s instrument for rebuking a fellow prophet. One of the morals to this story is this: don’t doubt in the dark what God has told you in the light. In other words, if you are absolutely sure that God has told you something, when doubts and fears come don’t forget what he originally told you. Obviously we need to be sure that God was actually impressing something on our hearts (verified through Scripture and others). but once we know that, let nothing stop us.

In Control

“So the king did not listen to the people, for this turn of events was from the LORD, to fulfill the word the LORD had spoken to Jeroboam son of Nebat through Ahijah the Shilonite.” 1 Kings 12:15.

God was ruling from His throne and letting Rehoboam be himself all at the same time. It was a part of his plan. Even though Rehoboam ended up fleeing for his life, God was in control of it all.

I know that many reading this get upset by the politics of the day. We need to be reminded daily that God is in control. Certainly we do what we can to change things through “the system,” but ultimately, God is in charge. Leaders come and go, but God remains the same.

And that, my friends, is something to rejoice in.

Young vs. Old

But Rehoboam rejected the advice the elders gave him and consulted the young men who had grown up with him and were serving him. 1 Kings 12:8

I’ve always found this passage of Scripture to be intriguing. On the one hand, the elders gave solid advice: don’t change a lot and go with the flow. In other words, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!

But Rehoboam didn’t like that advice so he turned to his friends. His friends. We have the advantage of being able to read a few chapters ahead and see the results of his actions: total bedlam. Rehoboam ended up fleeing for his life.

I’ve found in my brief life that the wisdom and counsel of those older than me generally carries more weight than a peer, especially as it pertains to spiritual guidance. I tend to go with those who have been around longer. I think that those older than us have our best interests at heart; whereas our peers may (but certainly not always) have other motives resting on the counsel they give.

Praise the Lord for those who have gone before us and have led the way. Encourage one of those older individuals today by sending a quick thank you letter.

The Annals of Solomon

As for the other events of Solomon’s reign-all he did and the wisdom he displayed-are they not written in the book of the annals of Solomon? 1 Kings 11:41

Kings and prominent leaders have the benefit of having most their actions recorded for history’s sake. A hundred years from now, people want to know how such and such leader fared given the conditions he governed under. More than three thousand years after Solomon reigned as king, we see what he did and how he acted. We also know that he wrote down many of the Proverbs that we now gain wisdom from. Annals and journals (and history books) are like that.

When I lived in Mongolia I kept a running diary of what I was going through while in the country. I kept notes on exchange rates, how the church was growing and what I was experiencing as a foreigner. I didn’t record every little thing I did but enough. A couple months ago, I broke out the diary and skimmed through it. That was eye opening for me because I didn’t remember some of the emotions and feelings I had about living in stressful conditions. Fifteen years later, I am able to recall not only what was written but what I felt when we were there. Our memories fail us and we tend to drift towards the good memories. Journals synch our current views with the realities of the times they are written.

I would encourage each reading this devotional to keep a semi-regular journal of events and activities in your life. What are you feeling? What are you thinking? What are your dreams? What do you hope to do? What are you praying for? How has God continued to bless you? Years later you’ll be able to look back on these times and recall what you were going through. You may not think it much now but you’ll begin to see patterns. Writing and journaling is a discipline, but it’s worth the effort.