Imitators. All through life there are times when we might be tempted to imitate someone. I’m sure we’ve all seen the pictures of little 3 and 4 year old boys “shaving” next to their father in the bathroom, or little girls doing their makeup next to mom. Though things have changed for me, growing up my favorite sport was baseball and many hours were spent playing wiffle ball with my brothers/friends. One of my good friends was a Dodger fan and I was a Phillies fan. When we would have the chance to go to over each other’s houses and play wiffle ball, we would play an actual “game” of Phillies vs. Dodgers. No, we didn’t just call ourselves by our favorite team names; we actually tried to imitate each of the players on those teams. So if my starting pitcher for the game had an unusual windup or even pitching lefty, we tried to imitate that pitcher in our game. And if I was up to bat and was leading off, I would try to imitate the batting stance of whoever was leading off for the Phillies in those days. We were truly imitating our favorite teams.
In our reading today, we also see reference to imitating, albeit in a much more important context. 1 Thess. 1:6 says that the Thessalonian church “became followers of us, and of the Lord…” Also in 2:14 it says, “For ye, brethren, became followers of the churches of God which in Judaea are in Christ Jesus.” The word followers used in those two verses could just have easily been translated “imitators”. So Paul was rejoicing that these believers were becoming imitators of “us”, referring to Paul himself, Silas and Timothy, of the churches in Judea and of the Lord Himself.
This thought begs this question, how comfortable would you and I be if someone was trying to imitate our lives? Would you be encouraged that someone was trying to imitate you? Clearly, even the most godly among us would point to areas we would not want someone to imitate but in an overall context, would that be a good thing? Would we want our children, grandchildren and other younger people that we have influence on to truly imitate us? Though there certainly is a danger in anyone being a true imitator of another person, may we accept the challenge of living our lives so that someone could follow our way of life and, by extension, be able to say that they “walk worthy of God” (2:12) as Paul admonished them.
Board work—this word would strike fear into the heart of most school children in my day. After the teacher had spent roughly thirty minutes teaching a new concept, he would write four or five problems to solve on the board and call students to the board to do their work in front of the class. The know-it-alls were eager to volunteer, but the teacher knew he had to see some other students wrestle with the problems in order to help them and more than likely several others in the class. Every now and then, one of the students selected would shuffle to the board and stare blankly at the problem. They may try to scribble some intelligible figures, however, everyone could tell they didn’t know what they were doing. Some students received gracious assistance from the teacher. Others were scolded for not paying attention.
Proverbs 13 says a lot about having your mind opened to receive instruction. There isn’t a blackboard and no classroom, but there are many people who are shamefully standing and staring at their life’s circumstances. They try to solve it somehow, but they do not know what they are doing because they did not hear instruction. A closed mind leads to a lot of disappointment.
“A wise son heareth his father’s instruction” (Proverbs 13:1).
“With the well advised is wisdom” (Proverbs 13:10).
“He that feareth the commandment shall be rewarded” (Proverbs 13:13).
“He that regardeth reproof shall be honoured” (Proverbs 13:18).
Jesus taps into this need for wisdom when he taught his foundational parable in Mark 4. “And he said unto them, He that hath ears to hear, let him hear” (Mark 4:9). The seed of God’s word is never the problem, but the soil of our heart requires cultivation in order to receive the message. Many are closed to actually hearing, receiving the words of truth and allowing it to germinate in our life and produce fruit.
Peter contrasts obedience and disobedience. “Unto you therefore which believe (the obedient from 1:14) [Christ] is precious: but unto them which be disobedient, the stone which the builders disallowed, the same is made…a rock of offence, even to them which stumble at the word, being disobedient: whereunto also they were appointed” (1 Peter 2:7-8). To what are they appointed? The disobedient are appointed to stumble because they are groping for the answer in the darkness of a closed mind. Only those who open the shutters of their mind to allow in the light of the word are hearing and obedient. It pays to be open for business.
It is important to put a stamp and a return address on every piece of mail you send. If you forget to put a stamp on, it will go into the round file (where all of Santa’s letters are). This way the postal service can return it with a postage due notice. This will ensure the mail gets to its proper destination. I wonder how many important pieces of mail were never delivered for lack of these two items?
Prayer is a very important thing; yet we do not treat it as such. I marvel how David is always before God in prayer. I will be honest and say there are times I think, “Wow, David is that all you do?” Well I am convicted that I should be doing more of the same. We have a God that is not bothered by us talking too much, but rather not talking to Him enough.
Psalm 86 includes the elements associated with the model prayer in Matt. 6:9-13 (Jesus speaking), “After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen.” David’s prayer in Ps. 86 contains the keys to successful and answered prayer; that being, petition, adoration and thanksgiving.
With original air mail, we wrote it, sent it via a plane and it was received miles and miles away; oft times, to someone we have never seen. Prayer is similar in that we have never seen God. “Whom having not seen, ye love; in whom, though now ye see him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory:” (1Peter 1:8). The difference being is God made a way to know Him through Jesus Christ’s sacrificial death. An air mail letter without a stamp will never make it off the ground. Likewise, a prayer, without the inclusion of Jesus will never get past the ceiling. In essence, meaning no irreverence, Jesus is the stamp on our prayers. “… Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name, he will give it you” (John 16:23).
So in prayer, we must remember to include the necessary elements and remember Who we are asking. God is Holier than most imagine. We absolutely have to pray to God through Jesus (who is very God Himself), but in this case we can forget the return address. He knows each one of us-good or bad. “ The eyes of the Lord are in every place, beholding the evil and the good” (Prov. 15:3).
Was the moon landing a hoax? Was President Kennedy’s assassination a two-man, inside job? Did Russia really influence the most recent presidential election? Is there political collusion in the FBI? Many of us are fascinated with recent and not so recent conspiracies. Second Kings 11 unveils a conspiracy which nearly devastated a nation and nullified the Davidic Covenant.
Remember for a moment, God made an extraordinary promise to King David in 2 Samuel 7. “Thine house and thy kingdom shall be established for ever before thee: thy throne shall be established for ever” (2 Samuel 7:16). It is very clearly stated, God would not turn his back on David like He did with Saul. This promise was monumental, but it also can only be kept by an omni-powerful God.
In 2 Kings 9-10, we read of the Jehu’s ordained massacre of Ahab’s posterity. As part of the devil’s sinister plot, Ahab had a daughter who married one of the grandsons of David, Jehoram. He was a wicked king in Judah and “he walked in the way of the kings of Israel, as did the house of Ahab: for the daughter of Ahab was his wife: and he did evil in the sight of the Lord” (2 Kings 8:18). Part of Jehu’s purging initiative eliminated Joram king of Israel (9:23-24) who was Athaliah’s brother. Her husband King Jehoram of Judah, died of an intestinal illness (2 Chronicles 21:18-29) so her only surviving son, Ahaziah was king but Jehu killed him as well (2 Kings 9:27-28). This was Athaliah’s opportunity to claim the throne for herself. She had all the grandsons killed which would extinguish David’s lineage.
Jehosheba, who was either Athaliah’s daughter or step-daughter, discretely snatches her nephew, Joash, and hides him in a storage room in the Temple for six years. Can you imagine the eggshells everyone walked on for those years as they tried to live above suspicion? In the seventh year, Jehoida, Jehosheba’s husband, hires mercenaries who will lead their militias in a strategic coup. Joash is anointed as the king. Athaliah cries, “Treason!” and then she is silenced.
You cannot find a more nail-biting plot than what we have recorded for us in Scripture. It is evident, God is the master of all circumstances. Yes, a heroic woman stood in the gap and preserved the lineage of David. God uses normal people like you and me to participate in His divinely providential plan.
This is a conspiracy which rivals almost any other in history, but, even in this story, extraordinary people rise to the challenge. God is a promise-keeping God and he delights to use devoted individuals who will serve him.
Our calendar is littered with national days. There’s national donut day and national pirate day and other nonsensical observations throughout the year. Most of these national days are worthless. Not to further clutter the calendar, but maybe there should be one more national day suggested.
You have reached the peak of Leviticus once you read chapter sixteen. The Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur) is the most significant day of the Jewish calendar. Two words stand out in the study of this Hebrew practice. Atonement is the first noted word which simply means “ransom.” You more than likely associate the word with the bad guys issuing the ransom note for the kidnapped loved one. The ransom is a paid substitute in exchange. The sin of the Israelites demanded death, but the priest would spill the life, the blood, of the innocent animal as the ransom. The second goat was the scapegoat which pictured God’s desire to forever remove the sins of man, never to be brought against them again. Jesus was the one who blotted “out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross” (Colossians 2:14). He was the Lamb who took away the sins of the world (John 1:29). He gave His “life a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:28).
Man’s nature is so corrupted that God not only prescribes the action but also the attitude. It is natural for us to grow desensitized regarding our sin. As the preacher speaks, as you read the Scripture, or as a friend admonishes you, you are inclined to harden your heart. God tells Israel, “Afflict your souls” (Leviticus 16:29, 31). This is a vigorous response to this gruesome ritual. This word vividly reminds Israel of their affliction, pain, and humiliation in Egypt! This same distress forced them to appeal to God, their only hope. Now, once a year a national day of affliction demonstrates the internal severity of repentance.
Repentance is almost lost entirely among Christians, yet it’s the most needful response in order to maintain fellowship with God. Without it, you will grow calloused toward your sin and distant from your one Hope. The most healthy thing you can do is daily remind yourself of your sin, repent of your sin, and rejoice in your Savior. “Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you. Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double minded. Be afflicted, and mourn, and weep: let your laughter be turned to mourning, and your joy to heaviness. Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up” (James 4:8-10).
So how about a new National Day of Repentance? How about observing this day every day of your life in order to protect your fellowship with God?
“Reminding ourselves of the gospel is the most important daily habit we can establish.”— C. J. Mahaney