Monday, March 14, 2011

Words of Choices by David May

                                                       2 Chronicles 33-34
God said to Adam, "I am going to make you a helper, a companion. What would you like your companion to be like?" Adam replied, "Well I want someone that is humorous, witty, intelligent, compassionate, caring, loving, trusting, polite, generous and beautiful." God paused a moment after Adam's wish list and told Adam that a companion like that 'would cost him an arm and a leg.' Adam seemed a little dejected and then brightly replied: "What can I get for a Rib?"

After a very long and boring sermon the parishioners filed out of the church saying nothing to the preacher. Towards the end of the line was a thoughtful person who always commented on the sermons. "Pastor, today your sermon reminded me of the peace and love of God!" The pastor was thrilled. "No-one has ever said anything like that about my preaching before. Tell me why." "Well - it reminded me of the Peace of God because it passed all understanding and the Love of God because it endured forever!" 

       Who is following you? Are you making good choices that will be a good guide and example for those who are following you, whether at home, at work, or in the church?

  I was asked the other day.  “Why does God allow human suffering such as tsunamis, flood, earthquakes, wars, murder, etc.?”  I don’t know. Take Job as a classic example. Here was a righteous man, yet he was not shielded from all these catastrophes that happened to him. Job was a very wealthy man. But he lost everything he owned. He lost all his children. However, in the end God returned everything and more back to him. Yet during job’s time of suffering, the question of “why” was never answered.  One most remember that God is sovereign. God has the right to do whatever He wants because He is supreme over the entire universe. 

 “Whatever God plans is going to happen.” Is. 49:9-11.
No one can stop God from doing what He pleases. Psalm 135:6.

So why does God allow human suffering? To this question I simply answer I don’t know. I am not here this morning to talk about that question. But I am here this morning to talk about the choices that we can make.

 Why does God allow evil in the world?
    Here we must remember that God did not create evil.  

James 1:13-15.
    13 When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; 14 but each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed. 15 Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.
So where does evil come from? Matthew describes the source of evil: the human heart.
Matthew 15:19. 19 For out of the heart come evil thoughts—murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander….

 And the evil or good in the heart of a person, colors the choices that person will make.
 God did not create us like a robot so that He could control our every move. Example of a radio toy.  And a windup toy.  No, He gave us a mind, a will, and the ability to use them to make choices. But it is sad to say that man has not always used the mind God gave him to make good choices.  If we go back in history to Adam and Eve in the garden, we find the first bad choice man made. 

 God told them that the garden and everything in it was theirs, except for one condition."Do not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil."

But they chose to disobey God. Here then is the first bad choice made by man.
And that one bad choice has had lasting consequences-- the start of evil. And it carried on to their children Cain and Able. Cain was jealous of his brother and killed him- bad choice. From here the bad choices create by the evil in man’s hearts such as greed, jealousy, murder, stealing, lying, hatred, etc. have escalated down through history. 

   This statement is often heard, ”IT is my life and I will do what I want.” It is your life all right, that part of the statement is right. But what choices you do make have an affect on everyone around you.  

  So with this in mind let us look at how the choices of three kings who ruled God’s people affect not only their lives but also the lives of those they ruled—the Israelites.

1. Manasseh.   2Chronicles 33:1-17
              2 Chronicles 33:1-9.  1 Manasseh was twelve years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem fifty-five years. 2 He did evil in the eyes of the LORD, following the detestable practices of the nations the LORD had driven out before the Israelites. 3 He rebuilt the high places his father Hezekiah had demolished; he also erected altars to the Bails and made Asherah poles. He bowed down to all the starry hosts and worshiped them. 4 He built altars in the temple of the LORD, of which the LORD had said, “My Name will remain in Jerusalem forever.” 5 In both courts of the temple of the LORD, he built altars to all the starry hosts. 6 He sacrificed his children in the fire in the Valley of Ben Hinnom, practiced divination and witchcraft, sought omens, and consulted mediums and spiritists. He did much evil in the eyes of the LORD, arousing his anger.

 7 He took the image he had made and put it in God’s temple, of which God had said to David and to his son Solomon, “In this temple and in Jerusalem, which I have chosen out of all the tribes of Israel, I will put my Name forever. 8 I will not again make the feet of the Israelites leave the land I assigned to your ancestors, if only they will be careful to do everything I commanded them concerning all the laws, decrees and regulations given through Moses.” 9 But Manasseh led Judah and the people of Jerusalem astray, so that they did more evil than the nations the LORD had destroyed before the Israelites.
 Manasseh led Judah and the people of Jerusalem astray, so they did more evil than the nations the Lord had destroyed before the Israelites. He even sacrificed his sons to false gods.

  What do you think God did? First He warned Manasseh to stop. But did he stop? No!!! Manasseh and his people would not listen to God. Let me repeat that, Manasseh and the people would not listen. So God sent the King of Assyria to attack Israel. The King captured Manasseh, put a hook in his nose, and chained his hands and led him like an animal back to Assyria as a war trophy. 

But the story doesn’t stop here. “In his distress, he sought the favor of the Lord his God and humbled himself greatly before God.” And when he prayed to God,  God was moved by Manasseh’s entreaty and listened to his plea. So God forgave Manasseh and brought him back to Jerusalem and he ruled the country again. 

 Here is an important story about God’s forgiveness. As we have read about all the evil things Manasseh did, yet when he humbled himself before God, God forgave him.

  Friend if you are thinking that you have done to many things in the past, such that God will not forgive. If the bad things in your past are keeping you from God, this lesson is for you, because God will forgive you no matter what you have done in the past. Do you ever feel that you are so bad that God couldn’t possibly hear your prayers?  Look at the evil Manasseh did. God still heard his prayers and restored both his life and his kingdom-- God let him be king for 55 years. He wasn’t a perfect king, but because he humbled himself before God, he and his nation was blessed.  When you humble yourself before God and repent of your sins, God says “As far as the East is from the West, He will remember them no more.”   

   But Friend, don’t be like Manasseh. God had to put a hook in his nose and lead him captive to another country in order to get his attention. Are you waiting for a hook from God before you are serious about following Him?  God is patient, but don’t push Him.  

   I remember a student I met at bible school. He had been in Vietnam. One day on patrol, the soldier in front of him stepped on a mine. Of course, that soldier was killed instantly. And my friend behind him had both legs blown off just below the knees.  He told me the he loved to ski. That skiing was his god. He also told me that as he lay in the hospital bed, he realized the God use this to get his attention. 

     I thank God every day that He didn’t have to use such a drastic measure on me to get my attention.. But by His Spirit, He gentle pulled me back to Him. Friend, if you are feeling The Spirit tugging on your heart, don’t resist Him. Make today the day you come to God. 

2. Amon  2 Chronicles 33:21-25

 21 Amon was twenty-two years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem two years. 22 He did evil in the eyes of the LORD, as his father Manasseh had done. Amon worshiped and offered sacrifices to all the idols Manasseh had made. 23 But unlike his father Manasseh, he did not humble himself before the LORD; Amon increased his guilt.

    The  story of the next king is a very short and sad one. It is a shame that the lessons learned by the father are often lost on the son. After Manasseh died, his son Amon  succeeded him.  Even though he had seen his father’s life and what had happened to him, Amon chose  not to worship God. Another one of those bad choices I talked about earlier. He found some of the old alters and idols that had not been destroyed and brought them out, worshipped them and became more wick than his father had been.. Within two years of his rule, his officials assassinated him.  So his son, Josiah at the age of 8, took over Amon’s rule.

3. Josiah  2 Chronicles 34:1-8
Josiah’s Reforms
 1 Josiah was eight years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem thirty-one years. 2 He did what was right in the eyes of the LORD and followed the ways of his father David, not turning aside to the right or to the left.

 3 In the eighth year of his reign, while he was still young, he began to seek the God of his father David. In his twelfth year he began to purge Judah and Jerusalem of high places, Asherah poles and idols. 4 Under his direction the altars of the Baals were torn down; he cut to pieces the incense altars that were above them, and smashed the Asherah poles and the idols. These he broke to pieces and scattered over the graves of those who had sacrificed to them. 5 He burned the bones of the priests on their altars, and so he purged Judah and Jerusalem. 6 In the towns of Manasseh, Ephraim and Simeon, as far as Naphtali, and in the ruins around them, 7 he tore down the altars and the Asherah poles and crushed the idols to powder and cut to pieces all the incense altars throughout Israel. Then he went back to Jerusalem.

 8 In the eighteenth year of Josiah’s reign, to purify the land and the temple, he sent Shaphan son of Azaliah and Maaseiah the ruler of the city, with Joah son of Joahaz, the recorder, to repair the temple of the LORD his God.

I don’t know how an 8 year old can rule a nation, but by the time he turned 16, he decided to follow the Lord. When he was 18, he began to destroy all the places of false worship around Jerusalem. He completely destroyed anything that could be used to worship other gods.

    When he was 26, he began to have the temple of the Lord repaired. It was at this time the workers found the books of Moses in the temple and brought them to Josiah. And Shaphan read from it in the presence of the king. And what was the kings’ reaction? When the king heard the words of the law he tore his robes……

2 Chronicles 34:29-33
29 Then the king called together all the elders of Judah and Jerusalem. 30 He went up to the temple of the LORD with the people of Judah, the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the priests and the Levites—all the people from the least to the greatest. He read in their hearing all the words of the Book of the Covenant, which had been found in the temple of the LORD. 31 The king stood by his pillar and renewed the covenant in the presence of the LORD—to follow the LORD and keep his commands, statutes and decrees with all his heart and all his soul, and to obey the words of the covenant written in this book.

 32 Then he had everyone in Jerusalem and Benjamin pledge themselves to it; the people of Jerusalem did this in accordance with the covenant of God, the God of their ancestors.

 33 Josiah removed all the detestable idols from all the territory belonging to the Israelites, and he had all who were present in Israel serve the LORD their God. As long as he lived, they did not fail to follow the LORD, the God of their ancestors.

What is your reaction when you hear the scriptures read or when you read them to yourself. Do you say as David wrote in Ps. 119:97, “Oh ,how I love your law! I meditate on it all day long”?  Or in another place David wrote,” Your word is a light to my feet and a light to my path.” Ps 119:105

2Timothy 3:16-17 tells us….                                                                                                     
16 All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, 17 so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.

 Do you  put it to use in your own life? This is always a good choice. Read it, study it, and put what you learn into practice. What happens if you don’t eat proper meals ? Your physical body will suffer. And if you don’t eat for a long period of time, you probably will die.   It is the same with our Spiritual life. The Bible is our Spiritual food. One most read it daily in order to grow a healthy Spiritual life.  

So, in conclusion my questions to you are, which man do you want to be like? Manasseh, who waste the first part of his life, until God put a hook in his nose to get his attention? Or like Amon, who ignored all that he knew was right, chose to be wicked and ended being killed by his officials. Or like Josiah. He knew what God hated and destroyed anything in his life that might offend God. When he found the Scriptures, he didn’t assume he was a good man, but read them and let them tell him how to become a better man. And because of this he was able to lead his nation back to God.

  What are you actually doing? Take a look at your own life, this year. The last three years. What do you see? When Manasseh looked in the mirror, he could see the scars where God had put a hook in his nose to get his attention. Are you waiting for your own hook from God before you get serious about following Him? I hope not.

  Those of you who are following God, have you destroyed all the things in your life that could lead you away from God? Have you left anything in your life that will lead others away from God? Manasseh didn’t destroy all the idols and his children found them and worshipped them.

  Who is following you?  Are you making good choices that will be a good guide and example for those who are following you whether at home, at work, or in the church?  Please use the mind and ability that God has given you to make good choices. 

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