Devotions for October 26-November 1, 2015
1 Kings 12:1-17, 25-29
Monday, October 26, 2015
“You Father made our yoke heavy” (1 Kings 12:4a).
Brad had just received his driver’s license four days ago, and it was the night of the big game. Arrangements had been made with his parents to take his mother’s car, pick up three friends and drive them to the game. Brad pulled out of the driveway and everything went well. Focusing on his driving Brad was a very courteous and safe driver. Problems developed, though, when Brad picked up his friends. The boys were rowdy and the conversation became animated. Thinking nothing about it, Brad turned to talk to his friend in the passenger seat. He didn’t notice the brake light of the car in front of him flash. The accident was only a fender bender, but Brad learn his lessoned about paying attention to the road when he was driving.
Solomon began his reign as a very good king. In 1 Kings 3 Solomon is described as a person who loved the Lord. When God told Solomon that he could ask for anything and God would give it to him, Solomon asked for wisdom. Solomon started out well, but he became distracted—too many wives and foreign gods. Solomon’s loss of concentration caused him to become self-centered and his rule to become unjust.
There certainly are a lot of things to distract us in our daily lives. Our lack of focus causes us to neglect our relationship with the Lord and hinders our ability to discern the Spirit’s movement in our lives. We begin to be shaped by the world, rather than be crafted into God’s image by the Holy Spirit. Our goal is simple—to love the Lord with all of our heart, soul, mind and strength. To do this, however, takes concentration and determination.
Oh Lord Our God, forgive us when we become distracted. Give us the ability to keep our eyes on you and to concentrate on serving you and our neighbors. Amen.
Tuesday, October 27, 2015
“Now therefore lighten the hard service of your father” (1 Kings 12:4b).
When we encounter the trials and tribulations of life we cry out to the Lord and the Lord hears us. The Spirit moves within us giving us the strength, hope, comfort and faith to endure and overcome. God is attentive to our needs providing us with our “daily bread” and answering our prayers when appropriate. We experience God’s love and grace.
How odd it is that we who have been so blessed by our attentive God, can turn a deaf ear to the needs around us. We don’t allow ourselves to make eye contact with the homeless. Though twenty percent of the children in the United States go to bed hungry, we remain unmoved. We deny the racial prejudice that is so much a part of our culture, and we refuse to help the needy because we think they don’t help themselves.
How thankful we are that God does not treat us like we treat others. At the same time, may we be ashamed at our inaction and repentant of our hard-hearted, selfish ways. As forgiven people, may we amend our lives and work so that all may have enough and no one too much.
God of Abundance, Remind us frequently of what we learned in kindergarten—that it is always good to share. Amen.
Wednesday, October 28, 2015
“If you will be a servant to this people” (1 Kings 12:7).
Sydney got bumped up to first class on her cross country flight. During the four hour flight she enjoyed the attentive flight attendants and additional amenities provided in that section of the plane. When Sydney arrived at her hotel a member of the staff helped her with her luggage and made sure she was settled in her room. An experienced, customer focused server added a touch of panache to an exquisite evening meal with friends later that day. Sydney (like all of us) enjoyed being served.
Sydney also knew that serving was as enjoyable as being served. As a team leader one of her goals was to help the other team members succeed. Sydney was much more concerned about working with her team members rather than getting the most work out of them that she could. Celebrating the successes of others was just as fulfilling for Sydney as celebrating her own.
Though some of Rehoboam’s advisers understood the importance of “Servant Leadership” Rehoboam certainly did not. As king he assumed that everyone should serve him. Such a self-centered perspective divided the kingdom and kept Rehoboam from being a king like his father Solomon. We can learn from Sydney and Rehoboam. As disciples of Jesus Christ, we have been called to serve. This is not a joyless calling. Rather, it is the path to an abundant life.
Servant Jesus, we know that you came not to be served but to serve and to give your life as a ransom for many (Matthew 20:28). Empower us that we may follow your example and carry on your ministry. Amen.
Thursday, October 29, 2015
“But he disregarded the advice of the old men” (1 Kings 12:8).
One of the ways that the Holy Spirit leads us is through the counsel and advice of others. The Holy Spirit will lead—but we need to be willing to follow. Rehoboam wasn’t willing. He already knew what he was going to do. He just needed someone to agree with him.
One of the terms describing us when we are not willing to be led is “hard-hearted.” We’re hard-hearted when we know what we do or say is not pleasing to the Lord but we say or do it anyways. We are hard-hearted when the Holy Spirit convicts us of our sin, but we refuse to confess it and repent from it. Hardheartedness is demonstrated in our lives, when we see a need and refuse to help.
In one of his Psalms David prayed, “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and put a new and right spirit within me” (Psalm 51:10). It would be good for us to pray this prayer frequently as we go about our daily activities. With the clean heart and new spirit given to us by God we are able to celebrate God’s love and grace, have a willing heart for God’s leading and a soft heart toward the needs of others.
Loving Lord, like David we pray that you might create in us clean hearts and new spirits so that we may be used by you as conduits of your love to others. Amen.
Friday, October 30. 2015
“The young men who had grown up with him” (1 Kings 12:10).
One of the greatest gifts that God can give us is the gift of friends. An even greater gift is that of friends who tell us the truth. We may not want to hear the truth, but good friends will tell us the truth anyway. This was a gift that Rehoboam didn’t have—and didn’t want.
We can picture the situation. As King Solomon’s son, Rehoboam probably hung around with a bunch of spoiled, rich kids. When Rehoboam become king all his friends wanted to remain his friends (and continue to enjoy the perks of life in the king’s court). In order to keep that friendship strong, they felt they needed to advise the king to take the actions they thought he wanted to take. They didn’t seek to discern God’s will. Their only concern was to figure out the king’s will and support it.
Good friends enable us to become better disciples of Jesus Christ. They encourage us to take steps of faith and help us get up when we fall. Good friends walk with us through our difficult times, and comfort us in times of grief. When we are wrong, good friends tell us and when we won’t listen to them they argue with us. The Lord often speaks to us through our friends and shows us the path we are to take.
Our Lord and our Friend, we thank you for the friends that you have given us and for the many ways that they have ministered to us. Amen.
October 31, 2015
“Because it was a turn of affairs brought about by the Lord” (1 Kings 12:25).
Things appeared to be out of control. King Solomon had died and his son Rehoboam had assumed the throne. The people were over taxed and overworked. They threatened to revolt. The inexperienced king decided force was the way to go rather than grace and mercy. Strife and division were the result. Many people wondered where God was in all of these events.
We know how the people felt and what they were thinking. All of us have been in similar situations. We’ve wondered where God was when our homes were damaged by storms, our cars mangled in accidents, and our health robbed from us by unknown microbes. In the middle of broken and bruised relationships we have tried to see God and couldn’t. We have been confused by the present and fearful of the future.
The historian, who wrote the first book of Kings, wanted to assure his readers and future generations that God was with them. He looked back and saw that God was present in these rebellious times; God was moving and accomplishing God’s will. When we can’t see God in the present, let’s look to the past rather than the future. When we look into our past we can see God moving and never far from us. Though we couldn’t see God at the time, we can now. Knowing this, we can face the times that we are in, trusting that God is with us now as God has been with us in the past.
Faithful Lord, we thank you that you walk with us even through the chaotic times of our lives and we are thankful that nothing can separate us from your love. Amen.
Sunday, November 1, 2015
“And this became a sin, for the people went to worship before the one at Bethel” (1 Kings 12:30).
Karen celebrated five years of sobriety with her family and friends. She had been set free from the alcohol’s control. Karen had gained forty pounds, though, over those five years. She had traded one addiction for another. At his heaviest Jim weighed close to 300 pounds. He was now tipping the scale at 190. The transformation was the result of a strict diet and an extreme exercise program. Instead of using his new freedom to enjoy life, Jim became fanatical in his eating regimen and exercise program. He couldn’t allow himself to not run ten miles a day.
The people of the ten northern tribes—called Israel—were free. They had split from Judah and from Rehoboam’s rule. They used their new found freedom to turn their backs on the Lord and they began to worship and enslave themselves to idols and false gods.
We have been set free. Through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, we are free from guilt and shame and free to enjoy a restored relationship with God. It is all too easy to lose our freedom and once again become enslaved. Paul counsels the Christians in Galatia. He writes, “For freedom Christ has set us free. Stand fast, therefor, and do not submit again to the yoke of slavery” (Galatians 5:10). Paul saw two traps. The first was becoming enslaved to the law—a list of does and don’ts that we think will make us good Christians. The other is to realize that we don’t need to do anything for our salvation, so we use our freedom to fulfill our selfish and self-centered desires. We have been set free—free to love and serve.
Oh God of New Life, help us to guard the freedom that you have given us and to use it in such a way that you are honored and your love and grace is shared by our words and deeds. Amen.