Nevertheless…

“Nevertheless, the high places were not taken away.
The people still sacrificed and made offerings on the high places.”

(2 Kings 15:4)

My Bible reading plan (I am using M’Cheyne’s plan, which has you read all of the OT once and the NT and Psalms twice over the course of one year) has me reading through the book of 2 Kings right now.  I am always fascinated by the records of the kings, and there is always something new to discover there.  Be it the succession of notoriously bad kings in the Northern kingdom of Israel, who continually led their people astray by requiring they worship the golden calves at Bethel, or the turmoil of inconsistent leadership in the Southern kingdom of Judah, the stories of the kings hold so much wisdom and truth for us today.  The only thing that each king had in common with the kings that went before: they all died and someone else reigned in their place.

One of the things that caught my attention in this reading of the kings was the heritage that was left from one king to the next.  With every king from the north we are told that “So-and-so did what was evil in the sight of the Lord, as his fathers had done…”  Sometimes the indictment is even worse, as with Ahab, of whom it is said, “as if it had been a light thing for him to walk in the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, he took for his wife Jezebel the daughter of Ethbaal king of the Sidonians, and went and served Baal and worshiped him.  He erected an altar for Baal in the house of Ball, which he built in Samaria.  And Ahab made an Asherah.  Ahab did more to provoke the Lord, the God of Israel, to anger than all the kings of Israel who were before him” (1 Kings 16:31-33).  No matter how strong the economy might have been under the reign of the king, no matter the what his public opinion poll might have said, because the kings of Israel continued in the sin of Jeroboam – worshiping the golden calves – the legacy they left to the next generation was one of sin and corruption.

But that’s not to say that the southern kings did a whole lot better.  True, a majority of the southern kings, we are told, “did what was right in the eyes of the Lord” (2 Kings 14:3).  Some kings made foolish allegiances with surrounding nations, leading the people of Judah astray and into oppression.  But the kings of the south had a heritage of worship in the Temple of the Lord and they ushered in periods of religious and political reform according to the word of God.

And yet…

With just about every king of Judah, even though we read that they did what was right in the eyes of the Lord, there always seems to be a caveat.  We keep coming back to the word “Nevertheless.”  Nevertheless, the high places were not taken away…  While the national religion was still practiced in the Jerusalem Temple, the people still had their own private altars, and the faith of the nation was not kept pure.  The legacy of the southern kings was one of obedience and walking with the Lord, yet not in a wholehearted way.

And do you know what happened to both the northern and southern kingdoms?  They were both destroyed, carried away by conquering kingdoms, and the people were scattered.  The legacy of the kings, while greatly different, each led to the same end.

So here’s something to think about:  What legacy are you leaving the next generation?  Have you lived a life of wholehearted faithfulness to the Lord, or are there things in your life that you know don’t belong, but you lack the strength to remove them.  What are the high places that need to come down, so that your worship of God may be pure, and your heart undivided before the Lord.  What are the pressures and powers of this world to which you still bow down, when there is only one name in heaven and on earth for which our heads should bow?

When your life is gone and your story is told, will there be a “nevertheless”?  He was a really nice guy, but…

My hope and prayer is that the stories of the kings, if nothing else, will remind us of our need to cast out the idols that this world offers, and to cling wholeheartedly to our savior Jesus Christ!

Now that’s a legacy worth leaving.

SDG

Make It Known

One generation shall commend your works to another, and shall declare your mighty acts.”
(Psalm 145:4, ESV)

Have you established an inheritance for your children and grandchildren?  It’s something I think everyone hopes to do, leave something behind as a blessing for our children and their children.  When I go, I will leave everything behind.  I would leave my family with their debt of gratitude rather than simply in debt.  As a pastor and father of four, to leave my family with a financial inheritance will take a lot of planning and discipline, but the joy of giving the gift to future generations will be worth it.

However, the generations that follow us will inherit a great many things above and beyond a financial gift or obligation.  I have inherited my father’s sense of humor (or lack thereof), his sense of physical discipline (or lack thereof), and his astonishingly good looks (or lack… wait a minute).  Whether intentionally or not, we pass along from one generation to the next our priorities, passions, perspectives.  Our children may gain their inheritance directly, through our instruction and advice, or indirectly, by what they observe and overhear in our lives.

Have you given any thought to the Spiritual Inheritance that you will leave behind?  If your family were asked today to describe your faith, could they give an informed response?  Have they seen your faith evidenced in the way you live, the way you work, the things you say?  Have you shared your faith with your family, have you passed it along to the next generation?

Consider Psalm 78:5-7, “He established a testimony in Jacob and appointed a law in Israel, which he commanded our fathers to teach to their children, that the next generation might know them, the children yet unborn, and arise and tell them to their children, so that they should set their hope in God and not forget the works of God, but keep his commandments,” and Psalm 145, “One generation shall commend your works to another.”  Even Paul, in his letter to Timothy said, “I am reminded of your sincere faith, a faith that dwelt secure first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice and now, I am sure, dwells in you as well” (2 Timothy 1:5).  God’s word teaches us that our faith is handed from one generation to the next, like a baton in a relay.  If we do not actively share our faith and teach it to the next generation, we have dropped the baton and set our children up for failure.  John Bunyan, the author of Pilgrim’s Progress, once wrote, “Your children have souls, and they must be born of God as well as of you, or they perish.  And know also, that unless you are very vigilant in your behavior toward and before them, they may perish through you: the thoughts of which should provoke you, both to instruct, and also to correct them.”

What can you do then, to be sure you pass your faith along from generation to generation?  Here are a few suggestions:

  • Be faithful in worship, and bring your family!  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard people say, “I won’t be coming to church this week; we have family/friends visiting.”  Can they not come to church?  Invite them, urge them, implore them to worship with you.  Nothing shows your love for your family and friends more than providing them an opportunity to come before the Lord in worship and praise, to hear His Word proclaimed, and to receive the blessing of His presence.
  • Worship as a family.  This doesn’t have to be complicated.  Read one of the devotions provided by the church together each day, and pray the suggested prayer.  If you are inclined, sing a hymn or praise chorus too.  Mathew Henry wrote, “They that pray in the family do well; they that pray and read the Scriptures do better; but they that pray, and read, and sing do best of all.”  If you’d like more resources on starting family worship visit: http://familyworshipguide.net/.
  • Read your Bible often, and discuss it as a family.  Whatever you do for family worship, make sure that you also spend time reading the Bible, both personally and together as a family.  Every evening, I read to our children one chapter from the Bible.  If they have questions, I try to answer them.  Sometimes I try to clarify what we’ve read.  Other times, I ask them what they think about the passage.  More than just reading the Bible let it engage you and your family.  Share with your wife, kids, friends, your favorite book of the Bible, tell them what passages have great meaning for you, ask which ones they like.  John Quincy Adams noted, “So great is my veneration for the Bible that the earlier my children begin to read it the more confident will be my hope that they will prove useful citizens of their country and respectable members of society.  I have for many years made it a practice to read through the Bible once a year.”

Let it be known, from generation to generation, that your faith was genuine and sincere.  Let there be no doubt of your love for God through the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ and the power of His Holy Spirit.  May we never forsake this sacred duty to make known God’s faithfulness to all generations (Psalm 89:1).