Psalm 144:5-8; 2 Kings 16:1-17:6; Acts 5:1-11

Psalm 144:5-8: This David song of praise covers familiar territory, reminding us of God’s spectacular greatness –a “greatness that cannot be fathomed.” (4) It is the honor and duty of the elder generation to tell the younger one about God’s greatness: “Let one generation to the next extol Your deeds and tell of Your mighty acts.” (4). And to tell the younger generation so that “The fame of Your great goodness they utter, and of Your bounty they joyously sing.” (7).

Which raises the question: how faithfully do we as the older generation tell of God’s greatness and raise our children such that they become God-fearers? My dad made our entire family go to church every Sunday. As a teenager I resented it but never resisted until I went away to college. In one sense I had to abandon my father’s faith in order to find my own. But there’s no question that the habit of church and Bible study had been inculcated in me. And that habit, that desire to come closer to God has served me well over the years.

So Susan and I made our kids come to church, too. Elisabeth is an active Christian and worships faithfully. And even though Geoff has rejected many of the tenets of the Christian faith, his family goes to church most Sundays. I think this is a good thing to pass sown the generations.

 2 Kings 16:1-17:6:  It’s always so depressing to read about the ascent of a new king, in this case Ahaz of Judah, and then immediately read at the second verse, “He did not do what was right in the sight of the Lord his God, as his ancestor David had done,” including making his son walk through fire “according to the abominable practices of the nations whom the Lord drove out before the people of Israel.” (3).

Ahaz aligns himself wit Tiglath-pileser, the Assyrian king, right down to building a copy of the altar at Damascus, including the blasphemy of putting this altar in a higher place of honor that the altar to the Lord. He dismantles other Temple furnishings such as the bronze sea “because of the king of Assyria.” (16:18) The king’s fear of the power to the north is palpable. Judah has essentially become a vassal state of Assyria. The fate of states where leaders that become subject to leaders of other states is never pretty.

Things are even worse in Israel, where Hoshea becomes king. He seems to be only an intermediately bad king as “He did what was evil in the sight of the Lord, yet not like the kings of Israel who were before him.” (17:2). But the damage has been done over the years. Israel is even more subject to the whims of the Assyrians than Judah, “Hoshea became his vassal, and paid him tribute.” but “the king of Assyria found treachery in Hoshea” (17: 3,4)

Israel’s end as a nation comes when “the king of Assyria invaded all the land and came to Samaria.” and in Hoshea’s ninth and final year of reign, Israel falls and the king “carried the Israelites away to Assyria.” Israel, land of such promise, is simply no more; its people, who have intermarried and worshipped false gods are scattered and lost forever.

This historian’s message is clear: As Israel–and Judah to a lesser extent–have fallen away from God and assimilate their more powerful neighbor’s culture that is an abomination to God, those more powerful neighbors simply swallow them up.  God is merciful but He is not infinitely patient in the face of hundreds of years of rebellion.

Acts 5:1-11: At one level the cautionary tale of Ananias and Sapphira seems arbitrarily cruel. So what if they didn’t give the entire proceeds of the land sale to the communal church? But of course the lesson is that lying to the Holy Spirit is the real offense. And what happened to the couple electrified everyone: “And great fear seized the whole church and all who heard of these things.” (11)

I suspect that the real impact of the story was to shake out the would-be followers who were attracted to the church because it was a growing popular movement that looked like it would be fun to jump on the bandwagon.  After all, it was exciting and energetic–and may even have had cool music. But the couple’s death made it abundantly clear that being part of this new church was deadly serious business. You were either all in or all out. You cannot be only halfway in. Halfway in means that you have placed yourself above God.  Jesus is asking, nay demanding, 100% participation.

Had the early church become filled with halfway in people like A & S, it would have died out in just a few years. The real question is, how full is the church today of halfway in people? And the bigger question: am I one of them?

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