Not all free meals are free
1Kings 13: An angel came to me with a message from God…but the man was lying.
Jeroboam, in an effort to secure his hold on Israel, has diverted the people away from God by creating shrines and alternative holy days. This is a serious sin with real consequences. God sends a prophet to declare his judgment. The man is faithful to the task, accomplishes his mission, and is on his way home when a fellow catches up to him, inviting him to stay and eat. The reply is that he can’t do that. God gave him specific orders about this: “don’t eat a crumb and don’t drink a drop.” The reply is that the prospective host has received a word from the Lord too. He’s been told that it’s okay for the prophet to come to his house for some hospitality. The Bible says that “the man was lying.” Hard to imagine isn’t it? How could anyone say, “The Lord told me” when they just want to get their own way? Well, come to think of it, it isn’t hard to imagine at all! People do it all the time. Sometimes they’re religious fanatics who are perverting God’s Word. Sometimes they’re well-meaning people who simply have a hard time telling the difference between what they want and what God says. In this case a good man, a prophet of God listens. As a result, he loses his life. On one side of this issue, I want to be careful I don’t attach “God says” to what “I want.” It’s okay for me to have opinions and desires, but I need to be honest with others and myself and not use God’s name “in vain” by saying “God told me” when I’m just saying what I want. On the other side of the issue, I need to get used to hearing God’s Voice in my life. Once I learn to listen to what he’s saying others who say, “God told me to tell you…” won’t easily sidetrack me.
Take Away: Saying “God said…” when it’s really “I want” is, in a sense, taking the name of the Lord in vain.
How far is too far?
1Kings 12: It’s too much trouble for you to go to Jerusalem to worship.
Jeroboam is now king of Israel with Rehoboam left with only the loyal tribe of Judah. Jeroboam immediately realizes that Rehoboam holds one powerful trump card. He has the Temple. Even though the people have made him king, his subjects will still go to Jerusalem to worship. Once they’re in Jerusalem they’ll be reminded of David and Solomon. When that happens, they’ll remember that Rehoboam sits on the throne of these two great men. He solves this problem by turning his back on God and the Temple. How does he convince these worshipers of Jehovah to abandon worship at the Temple built in his Name? He does so by telling them that it’s too much trouble to travel to Jerusalem to worship at the Temple. By keeping them away from the Temple he keeps them out of Judah, and by doing that, he keeps them away from Rehoboam’s influence. Of course it’s a blatant sin. The people, though, go along with his suggestion. I understand the temptation because, like them, I like convenience. I like having a remote control for my TV, a microwave oven, a garage door opener. I even like having my church less than a mile from my house. Still, there are some things that are worth inconvenience. I’ll drive extra distance to see the doctor in whom I have confidence and I will go out of my way to spend some time with my grandchildren. Am I willing to be inconvenienced to worship God? Do I want a worship experience that isn’t too much trouble, or do I want to really connect with God Almighty? What value do I place on having a genuine worship experience? Thanks, but no thanks, Jeroboam. I think I’ll just go on making that trip to Jerusalem!
Take Away: If we have to choose between convenience and God, well, the choice is obvious.
Amos 7: I never set up to be a preacher, never had plans to be a preacher.
Amos starts out as an unknown, coming out of the fields near a small town to proclaim God’s message. His sermons are rough and tumble, filled with condemnation. They’re also specific: Amos names names. Now, he’s gotten the attention of some people who they don’t like what they’re hearing. In fact, they see his warning that a pagan army will “make hash of you” to be a threat to national security. One of the important priests, Amaziah, sends word to king Jeroboam that there’s a traitor in their midst who’s sowing seeds of fear. Amaziah then confronts Amos. He wants this farmer to go back to where he came from and do his preaching in that backwater place. The context of this confrontation is that Amaziah thinks Amos is just in it for the money and notoriety he’s getting and that he’s come to Bethel with his preaching show for more of the same. Amos stands up to the powerful priest and declares that he had no desire to preach in the first place. Unlike Amaziah, Amos has no family tree of ancestors who are clergy. He’s a mere farmer who’s heard from God and has been told to proclaim God’s message. To this day the Lord is still sending people into the ministry. Some of us heard that call while we were still young children. Others battled with it as teens, and still others, like Amos, were established in their lives and, in response to the call embarked on a whole new career. Amos is a poster child for all who are called by God, but he’s especially an example of how God sometimes calls adults who must walk away from one life and obey God in another.
Take Away: To this day the Lord is still sending people into the ministry.