Over the last two weeks the focus of my bible study as been a very difficult topic. Innocent Blood. We are deep in the Old Testament, studying the wavering Israelites and how easily they were lead astray by the culture that surrounded them.
It is very easy to gloss over the reality of how far the Israelites strayed from God’s commandments and from His protection. His directives are very clear in numerous places throughout the Old Testament.
9 When you enter the land the LORD your God is giving you, do not learn to imitate the detestable ways of the nations there.
2 Kings 17:15
15 They rejected his decrees and the covenant he had made with their fathers and the warnings he had given them. They followed worthless idols and themselves became worthless. They imitated the nations around them although the LORD had ordered them, “Do not do as they do,” and they did the things the LORD had forbidden them to do.
These are just two instances where God lays down His expectation for their behavior. I am not a learned biblical scholar with a P.H.D. however I can find no subterfuge or double entendre in these passages.
The author of this study layed out for us in graphic detail the practices of infant sacrifice as well as the practices of sexual relations with temple prostitutes, practice in full view of everyone on the alter during a worship service.
Over the last two weeks the question placed before me as well as the group for discussion have been difficult and extremely thought provoking.
Here is a direct quote from last weeks study:
“It’s easy for us to be critical of how the Israelites wavered in their faithfulness to worship God and God alone. We’re shocked by the sins of child sacrifice and temple prostitution. Yet each of us participates in the same battle for total commitment to God. We may not sacrifice our children in order to have a good harvest, yet in every area of life we still struggle to serve God completely.”
The questions that followed set aside the behavior of the Israelites a thousand years ago and challenged us to look at our own hearts and our own lives.
1. What might you be sacrificing today in order to gain personal security and success?
2. To what extent do we Christians (and you personally) tend to be sloppy about living blamelessly before God and put ourselves at risk for being drawn into practices that are detestable to God?
3. To what degree do you see your culture assuming pagan values, much as ancient Israel did, and what impact does that have on you?
4. What practices or attitudes on your life may provoke God to anger?
5. What must God do to get your attention so that you will turn your heart completely toward him?
6. In what ways do we as Christians today waiver between two opinions (1 Kings 18:20-24) when it comes to our daily life and worship of God?
7. What are some of the specific compromises we make with evil in our world, and how do these compromises affect our walk with God, our relationship with our family, our influence at work and in our communities?
These were some very difficult questions this week. If I am honest then I have to share that more times than not I had to set the book aside to think for an hour or two before answering them. I think for me the greatest take away I get for any bible study is when the relevance of God’s words just leaps off the page and I see my own behaviors so very clearly. They are not just ancient words that only applied to ancient people that are long since dead. They are words that impact me and challenge me every day.
No matter how often I delve into God's words I am always stuck by how similar we are to our forefathers from biblical times. From a purely secular point of view take a look at the world around you. We may not be physically bowing down to carved images or sacrificing innocent blood to ensure a good harvest, but…..you can fill in the blanks for you own life.
What it did for me was to clarify a few things for me. It let me know that there are still areas of my life that God needs to prune away.
Thankfully walking with Jesus is a life long process and my forgiveness and my salvation are not dependant on my ability to maintain perfection. I know I will stumble more times than I succeed. However for me the goal is once I recognize a sinful area in my life to take the steps to remove it and than not return to it. What I realized is that I do not want to waiver in my lifestyle. What I also know beyond a shadow of a doubt is that living in the world which is so thoroughly rooted in evil there will always be an endless assault on those core Christian values at every turn.
Here is my final question for the day:
If we as a Christian community stopped supporting practices, entertainments, sporting events, business, politicians or public figures that do not glorify God or line up with what we know to be true to God’s word what would happen?