Yesterday morning 2 Chronicles 28:22-23 came up in the morning prayer lectionary, part of a longer reading. I’ve been reflecting on the passage since then, as these couple of verses presented a particular issue to my mind.
We have a saying, “If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em.” And another one, akin to this first, “We’ll beat them at their own game!” It struck me in a new way (it’s not like yesterday morning was the first time I’ve read these particular verses) that Ahaz was taking the sentiments of these sayings to heart, and putting them into practice. With destructive consequences.
He reasoned that the gods of the kings of Syria had helped them, and so he figured he’d beat them at their own game and appease the gods of Syria even more than they had. He figured he’d beat them at their own game. The problem is, his thinking was wrong. The gods of Syria weren’t helping them, for the gods of Syria were no gods – they were idols. Rather, his thinking should have been directed towards his own walk with God, the god of Israel. He shouldn’t have been concerned that the gods of Syria were seemingly helping them, but that his own god wasn’t helping him. He should have concerned himself with getting right with God.
How many times do we Christians make concessions to the way of the world around us? I recently read about a Syrian Christian who had beheaded a member of ISIS as retribution for the IS beheadings of so many Christians. That’s a pretty dramatic example, but it’s a real example of a Christian lowering his standards to reflect what is handed to him (or, in this case, his “kind”). Less dramatic examples could include any act of self-indulgence that Christians engage in – self-indulgence is the way of the society around us, in North America, but Jesus calls us to a higher way. People don’t bow to, and sacrifice to, the gods of Syria anymore – but when we see people being prosperous and allow jealousy to creep in, and we want what they have, and it seems that the gods (though we don’t call them gods, they sit in that place in people’s hearts) of capitalism, of self, of individualism, are the ones to bow to. We figure that if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em. We play the world’s game.
But Jesus calls His followers to self-sacrifice – to deny self, and take up their crosses daily, and to follow Him (who gave Himself so that others may live). Jesus calls His followers to love others as they love themselves, not themselves first (thus, the general principle that is so prevalent today, that you take care of yourself and your own first, must be rejected). We are called out – out of the prevalent attitudes and tone of the society we live in, out of the way of the world, out of the life that we otherwise fall into by default, to a life of holiness.
Do not bow to the gods of others, when things don’t seem to be going your way! Instead, seek God’s Kingdom first, and His righteousness. The rest will be added to you, from His hand.