2 Chronicles 1-4, Psalm 72
Next month my wife and I will be celebrating our 38th wedding anniversary. When I reflect back on these years it has been such a blessing how our relationship has grown and continues to do so. Like every relationship there is that first encounter and then over time through communication that relationship continues to grow. Our relationship with God is no different. There is that initial encounter: perhaps at a crusade, or from an encounter with another believer, at church or hearing a message. We generally start our journey innocently, in that child-like excitement that Jesus desires in us (Matthew 18:3-4). But just like in personal relationships there are so many dangerous detours and pitfalls to avoid if that relationship is to continue to grow. Most commonly what is pointed out is those areas of sin which will divert our growth: apathy, substance abuse, distractions, etc. One area which is not as often discussed is when we adopt too critical of an eye, when we strain out each word and critically evaluate the meaning behind every single thought or phrase. In my relationship with my wife, if I stopped her every two or three words in our conversations to ask her what she meant by that or why she chose that word, not only would my relationship with her be destroyed but I would never comprehend the message that she was trying to convey. When we approach Scripture overly critical we can miss the love that God is conveying to us. Unfortunately it is said that the seminary system is turning out a lot of atheists. Many enter seminary with a pure heart, but one of the main criticisms of the seminary system is rather than being directed at producing shepherds who learn to love and serve at local churches and communities, they are training future college professors and researchers. This is the problem with the Talmud which is the extremely tedious commentary of the Jewish oral law. Straining out every single word, the pure innocent love for God is so easily missed.
In 2 Chronicles 1:7, we read the initial encounter between God and Solomon, "On that night God appeared to Solomon, and said to him, "Ask! What shall I give you?" " We read Solomon's request in 1:10, "Now give me wisdom and knowledge, that I may go out and come in before this people; for who can judge this great people of Yours?" We then see God's response to Solomon in 1:10-12, "Because this was in your heart, and you have not asked riches or wealth or honor or the life of your enemies, nor have you asked long life-but have asked wisdom and knowledge for yourself...-wisdom and knowledge are granted to you; and I will give you riches and wealth and honor...". Solomon enters his relationship with God in that beautiful child-like way. Acknowledging his own weakness and inadequacy he fully submits to the One True God to guide him as king. As we read through Solomon's life we will see how quickly and badly he detours from this pure and innocent beginning. We only need to read the next section in 2 Chronicles 1:14-17 to see him already disregarding one of God's first rules not to accumulate horses (Deuteronomy 17:16). Solomon will eventually accumulate incredible wealth, 700 wives and concubines (many of whom were foreign and worshiped pagan gods), even erecting places of worship to these foreign deities. Solomon lost his way and destroyed that Father-child relationship that God so desires from each of us. When we read Ecclesiastes, written by Solomon, we get a glimpse of how Solomon allowed his own reasoning to destroy that pure relationship he initiated with God.
Each of us has our own personal testimony, that moment when we made a decision to follow Jesus as our Lord and Savior. Each of us also needs to take an honest look where we currently stand in that relationship. Is is stronger and do we truly love Him more now than we did at first? This is certainly what we would desire in our other relationships such as with our spouses. If not, where did we stray off that course? A relationship is just that and God establishes the proper roles for each relationship: husband-wife, parent-child, and servant of God-God. Jesus speaking to the church at Ephesus in Revelation 2:4, said, "Nevertheless I have this against you, that you have left your first love." One major reason for losing our first love is written in 1 John 2:15-17, "Do not love the world or the things of the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world-the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life-is not of the Father but is of the world. And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever." So often what derails the believer and what is focused on is the external lusts and sins which ensnare us. But we must never take lightly the pride of life. This very effective tool of the enemy was the first one used as we read Satan's words to Eve in the Garden in Genesis 3:5, "For God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil." We enter that initial relationship with God humbly submitting ourselves in honest recognition of how undeserving we are. Though God and His Word can withstand any level of scrutiny and criticism, the question is at what cost? We must never lose our way. We enter the relationship as a child, and it is in this manner we continue to grow and follow our True Shepherd throughout this life and eternity. We must abide in His Word daily, allow our relationship to grow, but never forget who He is, who we are, and how we started.
Messages from Pastor Lloyd Pulley: