Today we close out our Old School series for the summer. Let’s quickly walk through the story and the time line of what we experienced this summer.
The Children of Israel were in slavery for around 400 years. God, through Moses, freed them from Egypt and they ended up wandering in the desert and entered the promised land. After Joshua died, they entered the days of Judges. That lasted around 300 years. They then entered the days of kings and prophets. For 120 years, Israel was one united country led buy one king, Saul, David and Solomon.
After Solomon, the country split into two countries. The northern country was called ‘Israel.’ Israel’s main city was Samaria. Fun fact, remember when Jesus met the woman at the well? That was outside the city of Samaria. The southern country was ‘Judah.’ Judah’s main city was Jerusalem. Fun fact, the last supper where Jesus washed the feet of His disciples was in the city of Jerusalem.
The northern country of Israel lasted about 200 years before they fell to Assyria. In that time period the country of Israel had 19 kings and all of them were mix between bad, awful and evil. The southern country Judah lasted about 350 years before they fell to Babylon. In that time period the country of Judah had around 19 kings, depending on how you count, and only seven of those kings were good. You can read all of this in 1 and 2 Kings.
Here is what is interesting about the Old Testament. God sends prophets to talk to the country of Israel and Judah. The prophets represented God and told the kings what God is thinking. What is amazing is, you and I get to read every unfiltered word and trust me, it is unfiltered. That’s why reading all the prophets is so special because we get to read who God is and how God thinks. And as you walk through the books of the prophets, your eyes are opened to how loving, patient and passionate God is. God sent countless prophets over hundreds of years to beg the Children of Israel to love Him back.
This summer I have been walking through the prophets again and I wanted to share with you what I felt God was saying to me. We were going to end the Old School Series last week with Sam’s talk on sin and how to overcome it. But, we decided to do one more talk to cover the days of the kings and prophets. So next week Sam will open our new series called Redeemed and Forgiven. It’s a series about how we take the message of grace and practically live it out as we face stress, fear, anxiety and pain.
Why did I rattle off all the details about the time line of the Children of Israel? To give you context. All God did for hundreds of years is love, protect and provide for the Children of Israel. We see this from the days of Egypt, Judges all the way through the days of kings and prophets. How do the Children of Israel respond? As my daughter likes to say, ‘They were on the struggle bus.’ After they experienced God, they consistently embraced complaints, embraced fear and embraced rebellion. In their relationship with God, they wore God out.
I want to read for you what God said through the prophet Isaiah.
2 Listen, O heaven and earth, to what the Lord is saying:
The children I raised and cared for so long and tenderly have turned against me. 3 Even the animals – the donkey and the ox – know their owner and appreciate his care for them, but not my people Israel. No matter what I do for them, they still don’t care. 4 Oh, what a sinful nation they are! They walk bent-backed beneath their load of guilt. Their fathers before them were evil too. Born to be bad, they have turned their backs upon the Lord and have despised the Holy One of Israel. They have cut themselves off from his help. Isaiah 1:2-4
Can you hear God’s broken heart when He said, ‘No matter what I do for them, they still don’t care.’ It’s like being a parent of a teenager who just doesn’t respond well to their parent’s love and protection. As a parent, for years and years, you just love them, pray for them and the teenager just seems to never hear or understand how good they have it. Over time, it wears the parent out. Can you sense how God is feeling here? He is worn out. He is broken hearted.
How did the people respond to the prophets He sent? Here is what they said back to the prophet Jeremiah.
15 Then all the men who knew that their wives were burning incense to other gods, along with all the women who were present – a large assembly – and all the people living in Lower and Upper Egypt, said to Jeremiah, 16 “We will not listen to the message you have spoken to us in the name of the Lord! 17 We will certainly do everything we said we would: We will burn incense to the Queen of Heaven and will pour out drink offerings to her just as we and our fathers, our kings and our officials did in the towns of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem. At that time we had plenty of food and were well off and suffered no harm. NIV Jeremiah 44:15-17
They said openly, ‘We aren’t going to listen to God’s message. We will do what we want and here is why. No matter how much we sin, nothing bad happens to us. We are wealthy, secure and having fun.’ Can you see how prideful and arrogant they became?
I want to read for you what God said through the prophet Amos.
Woe to you who think you live on easy street in Zion [that’s Jerusalem, the big city of Judah], who think Mount Samaria [that’s Samaria, the big city of Israel] is the good life. You assume you’re at the top of the heap, voted the number-one best place to live. Well, wake up and look around. Get off your pedestal.
…Woe to you who are rushing headlong to disaster! Catastrophe is just around the corner! Woe to those who live in luxury and expect everyone else to serve them! Woe to those who live only for today, indifferent to the fate of others! Woe to the playboys, the playgirls, who think life is a party held just for them! Woe to those addicted to feeling good – life without pain! Those obsessed with looking good – life without wrinkles! They could not care less about their country going to ruin.
But here’s what’s really coming: a forced march into exile. They’ll leave the country whining, a rag-tag bunch of good-for-nothings. MSG Amos 6:1-7
Ooooof. Sounds like today – right? ‘Addicted to feeling good.’
When Amos, I think he was Amish – maybe from Lancaster – lol, was talking to them, the country was doing well. They were rich, so they felt comfortable. They had big strong cities, so they felt secure. They were trading with all the other countries, so they felt invincible. They bribed the judges, so they were protected from being found guilty. Their priests and pastors told them what they wanted to hear, so they felt spiritually secure.
The more they sinned, nothing bad happened. They became spiritually complacent and lukewarm. They had no passion for God. They forgot God freed them from Egypt. They forgot God provided for them. They forgot God fought battles for them to live in the promised land. They forgot that everything they had was because of God. They forgot that ‘who they were’ was because of God. They looked around and thought, ‘Look at what we did. Look at how secure and wealthy we are. We have nothing to fear.’
As you walk through 1 and 2 Kings and read all the books of the prophets, it will break your heart. It’s a story about the Children of Israel and how they just couldn’t love God back. And because of that, they became so hard hearted, prideful and arrogant. In one part, God said, my chosen people are more evil than the godless nations who surround them. And when the prophets spoke what God was saying, they just refused to listen.
In fact, Amos said this.
Woe to you who turn justice to vinegar and stomp righteousness into the mud. Do you realize where you are? You’re in a cosmos star-flung with constellations by God, a world God wakes up each morning and puts to bed each night. God dips water from the ocean and gives the land a drink. God, God-revealed, does all this. And he can destroy it as easily as make it. He can turn this vast wonder into total waste.
People hate this kind of talk. Raw truth is never popular. MSG Amos 5:7-12
Please hear me today. These stories are about us. As we read them, it should do something to us. It should somehow wake us up. It’s like a punch or a smack in the face. We should never be the same after reading these stories. What do I pull out of these days of kings and prophets?
In general, as God provided for them, the more comfortable they became. The more comfortable they became, they struggled to see their need of God. They didn’t worshipped God or put Him in first place. They thought, ‘Look at what we did. Look at who we are. Who needs God?’ They sinned more and more and more. Idols. Being self-indulgent. Bribery. Greed. Cruelty to the poor. They became spiritual mess.
I want to give you 4 quick points.
First. Being spiritually complacent or lukewarm is a decision. It’s a decision to not recognize God as God and put Him in first place [relationship with Him, giving, surrendering]. In the book ‘Experiencing God’, the author Henry Blackaby says, ‘Your relationship with God right now reveals what you believe about Him.’ If I believe that God is my savior and my only source of joy and life, I’m going to run to God – no issues. If I don’t believe that God is my savior and my only source of joy and life, I will be comfortable to walk through life and never really pay attention to God.
The days of the kings and prophets teach us that king after king had to make a decision on how they will lead. Will I lead people to God or not? Only seven out of about forty kings made that choice.
Secondly. Being spiritually complacent and lukewarm is the most dangerous place you can be because it will make you feel spiritually secure while at the same time you will slip into serious spiritual damage. When you don’t make a decision and are just floating along, it feels okay. Kinda like, I didn’t make a choice against God, I serve at church. I serve maybe, so I’m not responsible for not making a decision. I don’t passionately hate God so it’s okay.
The days of the kings and prophets teach us that every king who made a decision to lead people to God had to be aggressive in tearing down idols, cleaning up the evil and recommitting to worshipping God. And every king who was complacent, who never made a clear decision, sin grew. Evil grew. Greed, bribery, cruelty grew. What we must understand, not making a decision to go after God is a decision and it’s not going to spiritually end well. You may become spiritually complacent and lukewarm.
Third. The reason people become spiritually complacent and lukewarm is quite simple to explain. When we sin, we don’t experience immediate pain or judgement from God. Then we conclude, God is okay with my sin. That means we can live and be comfortable with rebellion, nasty thoughts and words, unforgiveness and not do anything about it. We can live together, have sex before marriage, after all, you do save money on rent.
The days of the kings and prophets teach us that God loves us and is always inviting us into turning our lives towards God. And God is so patient and merciful. He will pursue you even when you are at your worst. Just because nothing bad happen immediately, doesn’t mean God approves of it.
Fourth. Being spiritually complacent and lukewarm is the easiest thing to overcome. Being complacent means I will put my interests above God’s interests. I will take care of me. My life is about me. Scripture says, that makes me spiritually poor. I can look good on the outside, but my heart is a selfish, prideful mess.
To overcome being complacent simply means, I will put God’s interests above my interests. I going to turn to God so He can take care of me. My life is now God’s. Scripture says, that makes me spiritually wealthy. Regardless, if I look perfect on the outside, my heart is pure.
Listen to what God said to one of the seven churches in Revelations.
15 I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! 16 So, because you are lukewarm – neither hot nor cold – I am about to spit you out of my mouth. 17 You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked. 18 I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see. NIV Revelations 3:15-18
Do you see what God was saying to the church? You’re not hot or cold. You think it’s okay because on the outside you look wealthy but spiritually you are blind and naked. You need to see your true spiritual condition. Make the decision to surrender your life to God, put Him in first place, put God’s interests above your interests.
Let’s close with this. What do the days of the kings and prophets teach us?
Being spiritually complacent and lukewarm is a decision. That means, not making a decision to purposefully go after God is a decision and it is the most dangerous place you can be.
The reason people become spiritually complacent and lukewarm is, often times, there is no immediate pain or judgement from God. We can bounce and float through life and nothing bad seems to happen. Because we live in America, we just can’t see our need of God.
Being spiritually complacent and lukewarm is the easiest thing to overcome. Decide today to go after God. That means I will surrender my life and give it to God. I will pursue God in prayer and reading scripture.
Here is my question for you to wrestle with this week? Do you need God?