“So these nations feared the Lord…” – 2 Kings 17:41a
That small snippet without the surrounding context sounds pretty good, doesn’t it? I start reading that verse and I’m feeling pretty good about those nations. Certainly, fearing the Lord is a good start. Quite frankly, when a verse starts out like this, I’m not really expecting too much negative to come after it. But if we zoom out a bit we see the following:
The Lord made a covenant with them and commanded them, “You shall not fear other gods or bow yourselves to them or serve them or sacrifice to them, but you shall fear the Lord, who brought you out of the land of Egypt with great power and with an outstretched arm. You shall bow yourselves to him, and to him you shall sacrifice. And the statutes and the rules and the law and the commandment that he wrote for you, you shall always be careful to do. You shall not fear other gods, and you shall not forget the covenant that I have made with you. You shall not fear other gods, but you shall fear the Lord your God, and he will deliver you out of the hand of all your enemies.” However, they would not listen, but they did according to their former manner.
So these nations feared the Lord and also served their carved images. Their children did likewise, and their children’s children—as their fathers did, so they do to this day. 2 Kings 17:35-41
This was written about a particular people group at a particular time in a particular context. But as my pastor is good about pointing out, it is also written for our instruction. In addition to being instructed by this passage, I find myself considering an application. In particular I find myself asking the Holy Spirit to search my heart and reveal to me any “carved images” or idols that might exist in my life. I know I fear the Lord but am I also worshiping false gods or idols that have taken up residence in my life? Are there other things vying for my attention and affection that otherwise would be turned towards the Lord? Things like possessions, family, acceptance from my fellow man, or even ministry?
The Bible talks a lot about not being half-hearted toward God but rather worshiping Him with a whole heart. Are there things causing my heart to be divided?
The people being spoken of in this passage “did according to their former manner”. I need to ensure that, as a follower of Jesus and by the power of the Holy Spirit, I am no longer living according to my former manner. I need to remember that I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.
As a believer in Christ I need to remember that I have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God. I need to remember that I am a new creation; the old has passed away and the new has come. I need to not conform any longer to the patterns of this world but rather to be transformed through the renewing of my mind in Christ Jesus.
I don’t want to two-time Jesus.