When I was a kid, one of the more popular commercials on television was sponsored by Jif Peanut Butter. The tagline of the commercial went, “Choosey mothers choose Jif.”
In the commercial, being choosey meant being incredibly selective about what you eat.
When it comes to shopping, spouse-hunting, and theology, choosiness is extremely important. But when it comes to our relationship with God, choosiness can be extremely detrimental.
Please join me as we discuss this further.
INSIGHTS AND EXPLANATIONS
1 Kings 20:1-22:53. Naboth was accused of breaking the Law by blaspheming God (Exodus 22:28), but in doing so, Jezebel broke the Law by coveting, murdering Naboth, stealing, and giving false testimony (Exodis 20:13, 15-17).
We then read that Ahab and Jezebel were the most evil rulers in Israel’s history: “There was never a man like Ahab, who sold himself to do evil in the eyes of the Lord, urged on by Jezebel his wife. He behaved in the vilest manner by going after idols, like the Amorites the Lord drove out before Israel” (1 Kings 21:25-26).
Not only had Ahab acted within his own self-interest, but he had caused Israel to sin (1 Kings 21:22).
Later, we read that Ahab went into battle against the king of Aram. Had Ahab obeyed the prophet’s instructions, Aram’s king would have been killed and the country would have been taken captive by Israel. This battle should have never been fought. In the end, the act of preserving Aram became Ahab’s undoing.
At the end of our reading, we’re introduced to King Jehoshaphat of Judah, the anti-Ahab.
Acts 12:24-13:41. Notice in verse 13 that the man formerly known as “Saul” is now called “Paul” for the remainder of the book. Paul was the Greek translation of the Hebrew name Saul. The change is probably made because Paul begins to increase his focus of evangelization on Gentiles rather than Jews.
Psalm 137:1-138:8. Psalm 137 was written long after David and Asaph. “By the rivers of Babylon we sat and wept when we remembered Zion” (Psalm 137:1). It was written after Judah was taken into exile by Babylon in 586 B.C. That means this psalm was written about 500 years after David.
The psalmist longs for Jerusalem—not because it was the psalmist’s hometown, but because it was the location of the Temple, where the people of Judah gathered to worship Yahweh.
He also remembers how the people of Edom jeered when Judah was taken captive. In the book of Obadiah, which we’ll read in December, Obadiah the prophet speaks a prophecy to Edom for their gloating.
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THE WORD MADE FRESH
Ahab strikes me as very utilitarian. He follows the advice of a godly prophet who promises victory over Aram. But he disobeys the prophet’s advice when he decides his country is better off by not slaying Aram’s king.
Queen Jezebel, an ardent supporter of Baal, calls for a day of fasting in the name of the God of Israel—in order to frame Naboth (whose vineyard Ahab desired). Like Ahab, she used God for her own means. After her people stoned Naboth, she took possession of his vineyard.
Reading about Ahab and Jezebel prompts me to ask myself, How often do I treat God with the same utilitarian disregard as these two evil rulers?
By “utilitarian,” I’m referring to the way we tend to pick and choose what parts of God we want—and reject everything else associated with him. We use God for our own means.
All too often, I want salvation but I spurn sanctification. I want the forgiveness and eternal life the comes from giving my life to Jesus (salvation)—but I don’t want to be like him (sanctification is the process in which we cooperate with the Holy Spirit in order to become more like Christ).
Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the great theologian and pastor who was martyred by Hitler at the end of World War II once wrote about something he called “cheap grace”:
Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, communion without confession, absolution without personal confession. Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate.
The opposite of the utilitarian life is the submissive life. To be submissive to God means to lay down our wills in order to conform to his will and his ways. It’s the attitude of Job, who, after losing his children and everything he owned, remarked, “The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised” (Job 1:21).
The submissive life isn’t always practical, popular, or relevant, but through it, we grow deeper in our understanding of God and deeper in our communion with God.
*Incidentally, a new book about Dietrich Bonhoeffer was released just a few months ago. It’s entitled Bonhoeffer: Prophet, Martyr, Prophet Spy —written by Eric Metaxes (Thomasn Nelson). I highly recommend it.
- What spoke to you in today’s reading?
- How do you tend to “use” God?
- In what parts about God and his ways do you find it difficult to submit? What benefits might you experience by submitting to him?
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Michael co-pastors The Neighborhood Church with Eugene Scott in Littleton, Colorado.