freedom

God believes in the separation of powers.

God believes in the separation of powers.

2 Chronicles 26

If you were educated as a child in America, one of the first things you learned about our form of government is that it is based on a separation of powers. Divided into three branches—executive, legislative, and judicial—each one has independent powers and areas of responsibility so that (in theory) no one branch has more power than the others. Although many have attempted throughout history to use one branch to usurp the authority of the others, the founders of our country envisioned a system where no person or group of people would hold absolute power.

God dethrones evil.

God dethrones evil.

2 Chronicles 23

The wicked queen Athaliah had ruled over Judah for six years, and I bet it was an awful six years. Just imagine living in a land where the person in charge had arrived at that position by murdering her own family. If she could treat her own relatives with such cold brutality, how do you think she would treat strangers? The fact that "all the people of the land rejoiced" after Athaliah was killed would suggest that they were very happy to be out from under her thumb.

God wants to be wanted.

God wants to be wanted.

2 Chronicles 15

In some ways, I wanted to title this blog God is not a stalker. But, I guess I do believe that God is a stalker—in the sense that He will pursue us, leaving no stone unturned in winning us back to Him. But, if we ultimately want to have nothing to do with Him, He will eventually leave us alone.I love it whenever I see plain talk in Scripture. And today, this is the message about God I found in 2 Chronicles 15: "The Spirit of God came on Azariah son of Oded. He went out to meet Asa and said to him, 'Listen to me, Asa and all Judah and Benjamin. The Lord is with you when you are with him. If you seek him, he will be found by you, but if you forsake him, he will forsake you.'" (vs 1-2)

God's gifts can be squandered.

2 Chronicles 10

Today’s chapter reminded me somewhat of the story of the Prodigal Son—you know, the foolish boy who squandered the riches of his father’s estate. And since we looked yesterday at what an outrageous giver God is, I thought it might be prudent to add a P.S. today—that all of God’s gifts come with freedom. That means, if we are foolish enough, we can squander them all. What God gives, He doesn’t force us to keep or use wisely. We are free to do with His gifts what we want.

When Rehoboam succeeded his father as king, it didn’t take long to discover that he had inherited none of Solomon’s wisdom. In fact, one commentator (Dilday) observed that "with a dozen rash words, Rehoboam, the bungling dictator, opened the door for four hundred years of strife, weakness, and, eventually, the destruction of the entire nation." It didn’t take very much to totally destroy everything his father had built in Israel. His reign ushered in a phase of rebellion that split the nation, a rebellion from which it never recovered.

Photo © Unsplash/Paco S

Photo © Unsplash/Paco S

With all his wisdom and insight, it seems that Solomon foresaw this possibility, although it’s unknown whether he had his own son in mind when he wrote these words: "I hated all the things I had toiled for under the sun, because I must leave them to the one who comes after me. And who knows whether that person will be wise or foolish? Yet they will have control over all the fruit of my toil into which I have poured my effort and skill under the sun." (Eccl 2:18-19) It seems Solomon accurately foretold the fate of Israel.

Rehoboam took everything his father had built and wasted it. He took all of the gifts God had blessed his family with and squandered them. And, although it may be hard for us to believe, God allowed him to do it, and He also allows us to do it. He does not cease to be generous, even if He knows we will squander what He has given us. He gives because He is a giver, not because He will force us to use those gifts in a way that is pleasing to Him. He doesn’t determine outcomes. He doesn’t dictate our behavior. He only determines His behavior.

Photo © Unsplash/freestocks.org

Photo © Unsplash/freestocks.org

God gives us the freedom to take what He’s given us and abuse it, if we wish. We can destroy His gifts, if we wish. There’s part of me that still doesn’t understand that, just as I don’t understand why the father of the Prodigal Son would finance his journey into the far country. The only thing I can say is that God loves to give, and He loves to give with no strings attached. Accepting His gifts doesn’t turn us into puppets. We are free, as Rehoboam was, to squander it all... if we’re that foolish.

God's kingdom is made up of individuals.

God's kingdom is made up of individuals.

1 Chronicles 12

In this chapter, we are given more details about David’s ascent to the throne and his inaugural celebration. Verses 23-37 provide a list of all the warriors from the twelve tribes of Israel who made their way to Hebron to show their support for David’s anointing and recognize him as their new king.

God lets go.

God lets go.

1 Chronicles 10

Well, we made it through the genealogies. Now on to something a bit easier—or so I thought. As someone who is educated in the principles of journalism, I have to say that I encountered a bit of a problem in chapter 10 regarding the death of Saul. There are two seemingly-different accounts of his death within a few paragraphs of each other!

God doesn't brainwash us.

God doesn't brainwash us.

1 Chronicles 6

And now to the genealogy of the Levites—by far, the most respected tribe in all of Israel. The high calling God had placed on the descendants of Levi and the immense privileges they were given in serving in the presence of God at the temple cemented their position as the most distinguished tribe in Israel.

God doesn't make junk.

God doesn't make junk.

2 Kings 17

Evil, evil, and more evil. Where does it all lead? To the ruin of God’s creation! Did you notice this verse? "But [the Israelites] would not listen and were as stiff-necked as their ancestors, who did not trust in the Lord their God. They rejected his decrees and the covenant he had made with their ancestors and the statutes he had warned them to keep. They followed worthless idols and themselves became worthless." (vs 14-15)

God doesn't restrict His representatives' freedom.

God doesn't restrict His representatives' freedom.

2 Kings 10

The new king of the Northern Kingdom, Jehu, had been specifically commissioned by God for a special purpose: "You are to destroy the house of Ahab your master, and I will avenge the blood of my servants the prophets and the blood of all the Lord’s servants shed by Jezebel." (2 Kings 9:7) And, as we saw in the last chapter, Jehu set out to do his job with zeal.

When the Heart Becomes a Black Hole {ex11}

Photo © Unsplash/Ed Robertson

Photo © Unsplash/Ed Robertson

by the time
God announced
the plague
on the firstborn
for the /second/ time
didn't Pharaoh know
God could and
would
do exactly
what He said

after the
blood
frogs
gnats
flies
dead livestock
boils
hail
locusts and
darkness
was there anything left
more dark
than Pharaoh's heart

how dark does it have to get
to not understand
that your opponent
controls
the very elements

-all of them-

didn't Pharaoh know
that if God said
his son was going to die
he would /in fact/
be planning a funeral
if he didn't
change course

why wouldn't you change course

in ancient egypt
the only person more important
than the firstborn son of the Pharaoh
was Pharaoh himself

why wouldn't you change course

is there anything
in this world
more powerful
than the human heart

is there anything
more capable
of being more implacable
than the heart
bent on rebellion

is there anything
more wild and dangerous
than the freedom to choose
and the power
it imparts

the power to
so harden ourselves
to truth
that /in the end/
we could sacrifice
what is most important
to us

and be ourselves
swallowed up by
allconsuming
darkness

 

All Hail {ex9:23}

Photo © Brian Gary

Photo © Brian Gary

A monstrous storm of hail
fell
such as Egypt had never seen before
and hasn’t seen since.

It smashed trees.
It smashed crops.
It smashed people and flocks.
It smashed everything it touched.

But the one thing it didn’t smash
was Pharaoh's implacable heart,
that dense little rock
beating in his chest.

God could undo Egypt,
but He couldn’t undo the king.

All hail the power
we’ve been given
to fortify or destroy
our own personal dynasties.

 

God doesn't get what He wants by force.

God doesn't get what He wants by force.

2 SAMUEL 4

What made Rekab and Baanah think that David would rejoice over their murder of Saul’s son Ish-Bosheth? Didn’t they remember how David reacted to the Amalekite who claimed to have killed Saul? In their zeal to secure the throne for David, they did something very foolish... and paid for it with their own lives.

God gives us what we want.

God gives us what we want.

1 SAMUEL 28

Several years ago, Rob Bell wrote a book called Love Wins. It generated a lot of controversy by posing the question of whether or not there is an eternal hell. But the chapter I was most intrigued by was one that asked the question, Does God get what God wants? Bell didn’t provide an absolute answer, but he seemed to insinuate that (since God wants everyone to come to a knowledge of salvation) if everyone wasn’t saved, God wasn’t “great” enough to get what He wants. (At least, that’s what I understood him to be saying.)

Subtle Slavery {gn47:25}

Photo © Unsplash/R. Martinez

Photo © Unsplash/R. Martinez

Once you’ve traded
freedom
for
security,
it’s nearly impossible
to break out of those
ever-tightening chains.

More and more threats
to your security
are met with
more and more restrictions
on your freedom,
until you’re happy to do
whatever you’re told
whenever you’re told
whatever the cost
as long as
you’re still alive.

That is,
if you can call that
a life.

 

God can't always cure blindness.

God can't always cure blindness.

1 SAMUEL 19

As I read this chapter, I couldn’t help but think about how absolutely blind Saul was—especially as we got down to the very end. David had fled to Ramah (where Samuel was), and Saul sent a group of men to capture him and bring him back for execution. But, the first group of men got to Ramah and got sidetracked by God’s Spirit. So Saul sent a second group of men to capture David, and they also got detoured by the Spirit. Saul sent a third group of men to get David, and they too were held up by the Spirit.

God does not overpower us.

God does not overpower us.

JUDGES 18

Judges 18 begins with a mantra that will repeat through the last several chapters of the book: "In those days Israel had no king." As you will discover (if you don’t already know what’s ahead in the next few chapters), this isn’t a good declaration. This isn’t a statement of freedom. Rather, it’s a statement of spiritual slavery. Israel had no king, no spiritual leadership, no direction, no moral compass. Everybody just did whatever they saw fit... and that always makes for a very scary scene.

God saves individuals.

God saves individuals.

JUDGES 9

Have you ever heard of collective salvation? It is how some people believe the human race is saved—not individually, but collectively; not personally, but as a community. If one is lost, all are lost. If one is saved, all are saved. I suppose it’s a nice idea, but I think it would be hard to make the case that God looks at us as one, big communal organism and not as individuals. Certainly, He wants everyone to be saved, but He’s not the only one who gets a say.

Master Maker {gn39:2}

Photo © Unsplash/Zulmaury Saavedra

Photo © Unsplash/Zulmaury Saavedra

The recurring theme of the Bible is
how the
Lord sticks His divine nose into our
business and turns what
was expected into something
surprising
with no prior warning.
Joseph had been sold as a slave,
so he expected to be treated like
one, but
he didn't act like one. Instead he
succeeded in all he did, because he
determined
in his heart to do
everything he did like a boss. He
decided
he would be the very best slave
those Egyptians ever
did see, and
as he committed all
he did as a slave to the Lord, he
unwittingly
served them as God serves all His
creation. And
in serving even his enemies in this
way, Joseph
the slave became a free man, ruling
over the
house of Potiphar and revealing that
the true Master
of his heart is in no way deficient in
his power, even to this day, to turn
Egyptian oppressors into admirers,
as the slave becomes the
master.