Friday, June 30, 2006

"They worshiped the Lord, but..."

There's a long sermon in 2 Kings chapter 17, where Shalmaneser king of Assyria sacked Samaria and deported the people of Israel (the northern kingdom):

All this took place because the Israelites had sinned against the Lord their God, who had brought them up out of Egypt from under the power of Pharaoh king of Egypt. They worshiped other gods and followed the practices of the nations the Lord had driven out before them, as well as the practices that the kings of Israel had introduced. The Israelites secretly did things against the Lord their God that were not right.
2 Kings 17.7-9
In case there was any doubt, the preacher (he's not just a chronicler, in my view) really hammers on the point that the Lord hates idolatry.

The king of Assyria brought in people from Babylon (and other places) to replace the Israelites he had deported. But these people didn't worship the Lord, and some of them were killed by lions. One of the priests from Samaria was sent back to live there and teach the people what the god of the land requires. (2 Kings 17.27) But, the text tells us, they persisted in their own practices:
They worshiped the Lord, but they also appointed all sorts of their own people to officiate for them as priests in the shrines at the high places. They worshiped the Lord, but they also served their own gods in accordance with the customs of the nations from which they had been brought. To this day they persist in their former practices. They neither worship the Lord nor adhere to the decrees and ordinances, the laws and commands that the Lord gave the descendants of Jacob, whom he named Israel.
2 Kings 17.32-34
Several questions remain unanswered, but what I'm interested in today is this one: What might it mean for me, today, to say "I worship the Lord, but..."? in contrast to "I worship the Lord, no 'but' about it"?

Does it mean I have to be a pastor, a missionary, a priest? I don't think so. Even when the Israelites were obeying the Lord, most of them were not priests. Most of them couldn't be priests because most weren't from the tribe of Levi.

One thing it might mean, and I'm thinking this up as I type here on the train, is this: "Nowhere in my life is there an area of sin that I'm holding on to."

Not "nowhere am I struggling" but rather "nowhere have I given up the struggle and made peace with that sin."

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