November 30, 2015

Folly affects many folks

2 Kings 23:28–25:30, Ephesians 6:1–24, Proverbs 9:13–18

Joash’s son and grandsons did evil in the sight of the Lord. God first put the first one, Jehoahaz, in bonds in Egypt and the leader of Egypt put a tribute on God’s people. It was 750 pounds of silver and 75 pounds of gold. In today’s prices, that would be about $185,000 or more. Jehoahaz died in Egypt.

The next king, Jehoiakim, continued to pay the tribute to the Pharaoh of Egypt, but he taxed the land and exacted the silver and the gold from the people. He died and his son, Jehoiachin ruled, also doing evil. During his reign, Babylon’s King Nebuchadnezzar captured Jerusalem and carried off all its treasures.

An uncle, Zedekiah, was put on the throne, but was eventually  captured. His sons were slaughtered before his eyes, then his eyes were put out. He was bound in chains and taken to Babylon.

Nebuchadnezzar sent men to Jerusalem where they burned the house of the Lord, the king’s house, and all the houses of Jerusalem. The city walls were broken and the rest of the people who were left in the city and the deserters who had deserted to the king of Babylon, together with the rest of the multitude, were carried into exile. But the captain of the guard left some of the poorest of the land to be vinedressers and plowmen. (2 Kings 25:11–12)

Nebuchadnezzar put Gedaliah in leadership. He told the exiled people: “Do not be afraid because of the Chaldean officials. Live in the land and serve the king of Babylon, and it shall be well with you.” (2 Kings 25:24) He was soon slain and the rest of the people fled to Egypt.

God had mercy on Jehoiachin. Babylon’s next ruler freed him from prison, spoke kindly to him and gave him a seat above the seats of the kings who were with him in Babylon. Until he died, he “dined regularly at the king’s table” and was given an allowance to meet his daily needs. (2 Kings 25:27–30)

This history seems to cover about forty years, not very long for the downfall of a nation and the disgracing of God’s people. Had the sons of Joash followed their father in obedience to God, their lives may have changed the outcome.

Solomon personifies their foolishness (and all foolishness) in a woman called “Folly.” He says she is loud, seductive, and knows nothing. She takes a seat on the highest places of the town (probably places of worship) and calls to those who pass by: “Whoever is simple, let him turn in here!” Those who lack sense hear her say, “Stolen water is sweet, and bread eaten in secret is pleasant” but are not aware that making those choices leads to death. (Proverbs 9:13–18)

How can I avoid the errors of those kings and the allure of folly? Paul tells me to use the weapons God gave me. He begins with, “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm.” (Ephesians 6:10–13)

He describes the armor using the image of a warrior dressed for battle. The bottom line is that my battle involves prayer. As he says, I’m to be “praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints, and also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains, that I may declare it boldly, as I ought to speak.” (Ephesians 6:18–20)

Paul had a far deeper relationship with God than I do, yet he needed prayer. So do I, and I also need to pray for others that they might overcome foolishness and defeat temptation. Christians must wear all the armor of God so we can win our battles, and after winning (which is a vulnerable time) stand firm and continue to share the good news of Jesus Christ as God gives me words and boldness to say them.

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