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July 9, Day 191 – Our Natural Propensity

In the historical accounts that we find in the books of 1 and 2 Kings, God has generally but mercifully given us illustrations of our human inclinations and natural propensities to sin and to misapply our worship. We see these predispositions in the personal accounts of the various kings of Israel and Judah. Over, and over again, we see how they falsely worshipped anything and everything except the one true God, and they led their kingdoms into unspeakable evil practices that even included child sacrifice - which we see in today’s readings (cf., 2 Kings 16:3 and 21:6). With today’s abortion problem, we are no different than the Israelites were back then. Today in chapter 16, we come to King Ahaz who reinstituted idolatry and “followed the detestable ways of the nations the LORD had driven out” (verse 3). Earlier, we pointed out that “the LORD began to reduce the size of Israel” because of its sin (cf., 2 Kings 10:31-32), so this divine reduction is now becoming effective. Turning to a vicious neighboring king instead of to the Lord, Ahaz appealed to “Tiglath-Pileser, king of Assyria – to come up and save him – for tribute from the temple’s silver and gold” (verse 7). Ahaz took the liberty of modifying the Lord’s altar in the temple – “in deference to the king of Assyria” verse 18). In chapter 17, we see that Hoshea – who conspired against Pekah and assassinated him (cf., 1 Kings 15:30) – ascended the throne as the last king of Israel. The king of Assyria, Shalmaneser, “discovered that Hoshea was a traitor and put him in prison” (verse 4). In this very sad chapter, the northern kingdom of Israel collapsed, and “the Israelites were deported to Assyria; all this took place because the Israelites had sinned against the LORD their God” (verses 6-7). Chapter 17 ends with the Assyrians re-populating Samaria with people from Babylon, Cuthah, Avva, Hamath, and Sepharvaim – people of all religious cults and mixed immigrants from everywhere – but there. Sound familiar? Proactively, these chapters teach us that we must guard and keep ourselves from our natural inclinations to sin and to worship the many other gods that we – knowingly or unknowingly – might allow or invite into our lives. The solution to this problem is found in our Psalm for today …

In Psalm 81:13, we read “If my people would only listen to me.” To live above our natural propensity for idolatry, we need to listen to the Word of God daily. Verse 8 warns us to listen to God and refrain from worshipping other gods. I realize how difficult it is to heed this warning because we all fell in Adam’s original sin, thus we are inclined toward rebellion - a form of false worship. Except for angels, we are the only creatures who were fashioned with the conscious capacity to worship, but our sinful disposition bends us toward the worship of anything and everything other than toward the worship of our Creator and the true God. This tendency is the natural outcome of our inclinations.

Now in Acts 26:24-27:12, we pick up again with Paul before Festus and Agrippa – both of whom demonstrate man’s natural tendency to shift our true worship away from God to something else. Rather than listen carefully to and consider the facts, Festus thinks Paul is “insane” (verse 24), and Agrippa says to Paul, “Do you think that in such a short time you can persuade me to be a Christian?” (verse 28). Clearly, Paul is in no hurry (verse 29); he just wants both men to come to the truth and a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. Both men clearly recognized that Paul has done “nothing that deserves death or imprisonment” (verse 31), but they were content to send Paul on to Rome where they wouldn’t have to contend with him. In chapter 27, verses 1-12, we see Luke’s account of Paul’s voyage from Adramyttium to Fair Havens – on the way to Rome.

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