Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Generational choices, bondage and freedom



2 Kings 13:1–14:29, Galatians 4:1–31, Proverbs 7:21–27

Children eventually reach an age where they want to be free from parental control and make their own decisions. At that time, most fail to realize the impact parents have made on their lives, for good or for bad.

When Jehoahaz the son of Jehu began to reign over Israel in Samaria he followed not only his father but the kings before his father. “He did what was evil in the sight of the Lord and followed the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, which he made Israel to sin; he did not depart from them.” Because of this, the Lord brought judgment by giving Israel continually into the hand of Hazael king of Syria and into the hand of Ben-hadad the son of Hazael.

Jehoahaz, perhaps in frustration, sought God’s favor and “the Lord listened to him, for he saw the oppression of Israel, how the king of Syria oppressed them . . . . Nevertheless, they did not depart from the sins of the house of Jeroboam, which he made Israel to sin, but walked in them; and the Asherah also remained in Samaria.” God even reduced Jehoahaz’s army to fifty horsemen and ten chariots and ten thousand footmen. (2 Kings 13:1-4, 6–7)

The next kings did no better. Jeroboam also “did what was evil in the sight of the Lord.” Yet the Lord saw the bitter affliction of Israel with no one to help them. He used Jeroboam to rescue them, showing that His mercy can overrule the wrath that sin deserves. (2 Kings 14:23–27) While the sons of kings often followed the pattern set by their parents, they were held responsible. No one can blame their parents for their sin.

The reading from Proverbs seems disconnected to these thoughts. However, it does describe how temptation can pull a young man away from parental guidance. Solomon began the section with a warning to “my son.” He told him (and us) to remember the teaching of his parents and avoid illicit relationships and those woman who persuade with seductive speech and smooth talk. He says if his son does not heed this parental advice and follows her, he is “as an ox goes to the slaughter, or as a stag is caught fast till an arrow pierces its liver; as a bird rushes into a snare; he does not know that it will cost him his life.” (Proverbs 7:21–23)

Solomon unwittingly pointed to the kings who came later and who reverted to the lifestyle and choices of their fathers. Some were good, yet many were evil and each generation paid the price of evil. Many young men ignore the wisdom of their parents and are ensnared, not only by a sinful woman, but other lures that she personifies.
For a Christian, the warning is to listen to our heavenly Father. If I make decisions apart from His wisdom, I will go back to the slavery and bondage to sin that held me captive before I became a Christian..

Paul writes, “Formerly, when you did not know God, you were enslaved to those that by nature are not gods. But now that you have come to know God, or rather to be known by God, how can you turn back again to the weak and worthless elementary principles of the world, whose slaves you want to be once more? You observe days and months and seasons and years! I am afraid I may have labored over you in vain.” (Galatians 4:8–11)

Paul warns about legalism and rule-keeping. The rules in themselves are not necessarily bad, but Christ died to set us free from the law of sin and death. No matter how hard I try, I cannot keep the laws of God in the perfection they call for. Instead, those laws put me in bondage.

Freedom as a Christian does not mean I can live as I please. It does mean that my master is no longer a list of ‘thou shall not’s’ but instead is the Spirit of God who produces in me a freedom to live by faith in a delightful relationship with Him. I have no need or desire to be enslaved by rules.

It happens though. The people at Galatia turned back to the things they once trusted, choosing bondage to their religious rules and regulations. For them, it was slavery to the Law. For me, it could be anything from my former life such as thought patterns, pride, bad habits, even good ones, but anything that has no value, comfort, or worth in my Christian life.  

God saved me “just as I am” without the keeping of rules, but He loves me too much to leave me in that state. I have “come to know God, or rather have come to be known by God” (Gal 4:9). While I was still a sinner, He broke into my spiritual bondage and destroyed those chains, giving me freedom and a new life in Christ. I need to guard that freedom!


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