A New Year of Devotions

January 01, 2014Filed under theology#devotionsMarkdown source

I have made it my goal to write short posts reflecting on my devotional reading every day. These posts are composed off the cuff, in 30 minutes or less. The following is one such post. Before writing this post, I read: 1 Kings 9–13, Psalm 1, Proverbs 1.

I have found, over the years, that writing is a remarkably helpful tool for thinking through the things I am learning. I have also found that I am often better able to remain consistent in my study of Scripture if I am writing regularly about it. That could be in a journal, or on a blog, or just about anywhere. In 2014, I am going to experiment with posting this writing on my blog —something I have done before to good effect for myself, and which a number of acquaintances seemed to like. After talking it through with my wonderful wife, I have set myself a limit of half an hour total devoted to writing these posts. Hopefully it will prove profitable.

If it seems like 1 Kings 9–13 is a funny place to start this sort of thing, that’s because it is. But 1 Kings is where I am, and thus it is the place from which I will continue—I do not see a good reason to start over at the beginning again just a few months after having done so before.

A number of points stuck out at me as I worked through this passage. First, and most important, is one of the recurring themes of the whole book: the question of obedience to Yahweh,1 and the consequences of rejecting him. From the promise God offers Solomon in chapter 9 through the death of a prophet in chapter 13, the issue is clear. Obedience to God brings everlasting favor, and disobedience brings death.

This is not exactly a new theme for the Bible as a whole: it shows up all the way back in Genesis 3. Nor does it stop here (nor even under the New Covenant with Christ): submission to God is characteristic of all who believe. Why? Not because God is some cruel dictator, but because he is both omniscient and omnibenevolent. He knows what is best for us. Defying his ways is like defying gravity: it might make for a catchy tune, but the net result is always crashing hard to the ground.

So: Yahweh promised Solomon great things if he would simply follow him alone and not worship other gods. Solomon did exactly the opposite of what God had commanded the kings of Israel, though: he married multiple foreign women who themselves worshiped other gods,2 and ultimately he built altars to and sacrificed to those other gods himself. We see the same thing in Jeroboam’s life: God made him promises of really marvelous import, if he would simply walk with Yahweh. Instead, as soon as he became king he led the people away from Yahweh, reasoning that Yahweh-worship was a threat to his own power, even though it was a prophet of Yahweh who had first told him all that would happen and that it was Yahweh who would do it. A righteous prophet ends up dead because he disobeyed God’s clear instructions.

In short: God means business, and we ought to pay attention when he commands us in a certain area. Again, not because he is a tyrant, but because he loves us and he is righteous. When we defy him, we are simultaneously wronging ourselves and committing cosmic treason. It’s a bad move, and he rightly responds in judgment. That, in turn, though, takes me back to his decisive act of judgment: the one the Godhead executed on itself, in the sacrificial, atoning death of Christ on my behalf. My motivation for obedience, then, is not only fear, but joyful gratitude.

It’s a good start to the year.

  1. I know it is a bit unusual to spell out the name of God used in the Old Testament like this, but it is my preference. I think it makes many passages much clearer to read Yahweh instead of Lord, and it’s simply what’s there in the original (even if the Jews historically have chosen not to say it—there’s something interesting here, but I shall pass over it today).

  2. Note that the reason for the prohibition on marrying foreigners was always religious, not ethnic. Solomon’s own lineage (and thus, Jesus’ too) includes several foreign women—each of whom worshiped Yahweh.