He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart;
he gently leads those that have young
. {Isaiah 40:11}

01 February 2011

Put it to Death!

Meet Ann... 
She's a beautiful woman of God who has taken on the mighty task of teaching director at our local Community Bible Study and she does it with grace and humility. 
This past week, Anna spoke on the story of Athaliah, a daughter of King Ahab who, if you're familiar with his story, was a miserable guy who, despite several opportunities for repentance and redemption, turned his back on God. In doing my individual study on Athaliah, I concluded that she was a wicked woman and her demise was well deserved. Then, Ann shared what I'm about to share with you. My heart was pierced and I immediately wanted to share her words with you. 
This is lengthier then usual so I ask that you consider making yourself a cup of hot chocolate or coffee and sitting down without distraction for a little while. You won't regret it! {... and if you do you can write me a strongly worded email about it!}
~ ~ ~
If you read the story of Athaliah in 2 Kings, you’ll see that she killed her descendents, her own grandchildren, because she wanted the throne of Israel and to bring the reign of David’s line to an end.

Why did she do this?
She wanted to rule. She was a “usurper” of God’s divinely appointed plan of the highest order. God had said that the “seed of David” was to rule on the throne of David forever! Apparently she didn’t know that when you’re going against God’s divinely instituted orders you will not get far.
What about you?
Have you ever done that?  Been a “usurper” of God’s divinely appointed plan? The reality is that we can.
In fact I would like to suggest we can be just like Athaliah! And, like Athaliah, we can even hurt our families. In our sin we can do it everyday. But there is also good news!

First, a little background. Athaliah was the daughter of the infamous King Ahab and his domineering Phoenician queen, Jezebel. She was married to Jehoram when he was heir to the King of Judah. This marriage came about in order to strengthen the alliance between the two kingdoms and during her husband’s eight year reign Athaliah promoted her cult of the Phoenician god Baal just as her mother had done in Israel. Her influence helped to bring about the beginning of the southern kingdom’s decline.

FB Meyer says Jehoram’s history as well, as many, many others’, furnishes an example of how an ill marriage may mar a man’s life.  
Over and over again Scripture points out the power for good or evil that women have! Jehoram had a good father but a bad wife
2 Chron 21:6 ...He walked in the ways of the kings of Israel, as the house of Ahab had done, for he married a daughter of Ahab. He did evil in the eyes of the LORD.
And then FB Meyer says that “the latter (his wife) more strongly influenced him than the former (his father)”. Why would FB Meyer say this?! Why would he say “a bad wife” more strongly influences a man than his “good father”? Think about it friends! We women hold the primary caretaker role of our homes. Women can cover for a weak father but conventional wisdom says the reverse is almost impossible.
Proverbs says that we’re either a cancer or a crown to our husbands.
Proverbs 12:4 (KJV)  A virtuous woman is a crown to her husband but she that maketh ashamed is as rottenous in his bones.
Proverbs  14:1 (NIV) A wise woman builds her house but with her own hands the foolish one tears hers down
We’re either building up our families or, with our own hands, we are tearing them down.

Back to the story… this woman, Athaliah, would go on to murder all her grandsons except one.
Well, Athaliah had a lust for power.
Maybe she had a terrible childhood.
BUT no matter how tough or sad your childhood was, sometimes, in the horrendous times of our lives, even WE forget the facts!
God is in complete and utter control.
He has appointed instruments to carry out His plan.
God will avenge and preserve His elect…
if not in this life, then in the next.
If you are truly in Christ, He will preserve you.

How many of you survived horrendous families?
Neglectful or inept, hurtful or spiteful mothers, fathers, or yes, even husbands
How many of you today see how God preserved YOU?
And you know what?!
That is just what happened in the case of one tiny Joash because God had previously stated that a descendant of David would rule over Judah forever and because God is who He says He is and He will do what He says He will do.
We learn in that amidst the mayhem and the murder…
2 Kings 11:2 … “But Jehosheba, daughter of King Jehoram and sister of Ahaziah (and wife of Jehoiada, the high priest); took Joash son of Ahaziah and stole him away from among the royal princes who were about to be murdered…She put him and his nurse in a bedroom to hide him from Athaliah;  so he was not killed.  He remained hidden with his nurse at the temple of the Lord for six years while Athaliah ruled the land.”
What a six years it must have been, yet amazingly, one little boy remains safe in the evil uproar. Why?
God is in complete and utter control. Athaliah couldn’t thwart God’s unthwartable plan even as she wanted to and you can’t either!
Psalm 33:11 (NIV) But the plans of the LORD stand firm forever, the purposes of His heart through all generations.
This should fill us with confidence and hope!!
But, the truth is, we don’t want to be like Athaliah and, chances are, what Athaliah wasn’t counting on was the unavoidable fact that sin will be judged and God’s Word will be fulfilled because, when the time was right, “in the seventh year”, Joash was brought out, proclaimed, and anointed king while Athaliah was tearing her robes and calling out (v.14) “Treason! Treason!” She might as well have been crying, “It’s not fair!”
(v.16) “So they seized her as she reached the place where the horses enter the palace grounds and there she was put to death.”
And the amazing footnote to her sorry life states:
2 Kings 11:20… "So all the people of the land rejoiced, and the city was quiet after Athaliah had been put to death with the sword at the king's house."
Friends, isn’t it comforting to see that God finally dealt with this gal?
But it should be a bit scary too!
Because God, in love, wants to deal with us as well…
Our ignorance of the depravity of our own heart is a startling fact” (Charles Spurgeon)
It’s easy to think that we are above blatant murderous sin and we think we are in control of our actions/reactions! The fact is that Jesus said my angry thought against another is akin to murder! How many times have you and I been angry at our moms, our husbands, or our children?!
Have you ever wished you were married to someone else?
Didn’t Jesus say even “a lustful thought” was committing adultery of the heart?
We thank God that we are not like other people and certainly not like Athaliah or Jezebel. We think we are morally righteous but Jesus had strong words against people who thought like that.
What did Jesus say to the Pharisees?
Matthew 23:27-28 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of the bones of the dead and everything unclean. In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness.”

Roy Hession wrote in “The Way of the Cross” ( or maybe better known as “The Calvary Road”) that we must be ever longing after “revival”. This simply means we need to have a real  hunger for God in our hearts. Think of the words of the song, “As the deer panteth for the water, so my soul longeth after Thee”.

Yes, we must be dissatisfied with the state of Christians generally but, most importantly, we must be dissatisfied with ourselves.
This is why we can recognize our part of “Athaliah”.
Friends, it’s easy to judge the blatant outwardly evil sins of others but when Jesus walked and talked among us He judged “the religious” first!!
We think we are not murderers or idolators and we think we are in control of our actions/reactions! We thank God we are not like other people and certainly not like Athalial or Jezebel or anyone like them.

Friends, the closer we get to Jesus the more easily and quickly we see our own sin. We no longer pass over pride, hardness, doubt, fear, self-pity and the like calling them in our hearts “weaknesses”. No! We call them by their real name…we call them SINS.

God had the last word on the evil in Athaliah and do we not think God is dangerous anymore?! The proud woman was put to death by the sword!
Speaking of swords, Jesus said to his followers…
Mark 9:47 (NLT) And if your eye causes you to sin, gouge it out. It’s better to enter the Kingdom of God with only one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into hell.
Colossians 3:5-6 (ESV) Put to death therefore what is earthly in you, sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness which is idolatry. On account of these things the wrath of God is coming.
Are we willing to be broken, to confess our proud hearts, our stiff unbending wills and bring it all to the feet of the One who was broken for us?
2 Kings 11:20... So all the people of the land rejoiced, and the city was quiet after Athaliah had been put to death with the sword at the king's house.
So I ask you,
Is there something in you that needs to be put to death? And if it were, would your family rejoice?
Galatians 5:24 (NIV) Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires.
Let’s take a good, close look at the sins of Athaliah. The first one we can easily see. Jerry Bridges, author of “Respectable Sins” says it's anger. Anger is a universal problem and a given part of our fallen fabric. No one, not even Christians, are isolated from its presence or immune from its poison. Sadly this is true even in our Christian homes as our anger is often directed at those we should love most: our spouse, children, parents, our siblings, and those who are our true brothers and sisters in Christ. Often we justify being angry with our children or husbands as an "acceptable sin" saying “well I couldn’t ‘help it’ because this happened” or “he did this” or “they said that”, but anger is not, nor will it ever be an “acceptable sin”.
First of all, very little of the anger we experience day to day is “righteous anger” (an accurate perception of true evil or true violations of God’s moral law). Our anger is often our sinful reaction to somebody or something else. Even if other people/Christians are violating God’s laws it does not justify my own sinful angry response. In facing up to my anger, I need to realize that no one else causes me to be angry. The cause lies deep within me. It’s often the bumping and knocking into one another that causes what’s in our hearts to begin to spill out.
Matthew 15:18 (ESV)... But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a person. For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander. These are what defile a person.
If I am angry the cause is usually my pride, my selfishness, or my desire to control.
Think Athaliah!
Why do I get angry? Because I don’t get my way.
We get angry as a response to our husband’s anger and we seethe with resentment. 
Do you ever get hurt and walk around cold towards your husband?   
Marriage, like life, is not often “fair”.  But what is to be our response?
The Bible speaks to it.
The real truth and the answer to this is hard:
Peter spoke to it in speaking to slaves. SLAVES! Slaves of the first century who often served under cruel and unjust masters! Slaves, who, in present day worldly thinking, would be justified in their anger!
1 Peter 2:18-20 (NIV) “Slaves, in reverent fear of God submit yourselves to your masters, not only to those who are good and considerate, but also to those who are harsh. For it is commendable if someone bears up under the pain of unjust suffering because they are conscious of God. But how is it to your credit if you receive a beating for doing wrong and endure it? But if you suffer for doing good and you endure it, this is commendable before God.
And then Peter goes on to speak about how Jesus responded to unjust treatment. And notice what follows then!!
Here we are at I Peter 3 which begins an address using the linking words “in the same way”, or in another version,  “likewise” …”
I Peter 3:1-4… Wives, in the same way be submissive to your own husbands so that, if any of them do not believe the word, they may be won over without words by the behavior of their wives,  when they see the purity and reverence of your lives…. the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight. For this is the way the holy women of the past who put their hope in God… They submitted themselves to their own husbands, like Sarah, who obeyed Abraham and called him her lord.
How many of us have “a gentle and quiet spirit” when we think we’ve been wronged?
Do I not have a bit of old Athaliah in me?!  
She wanted to rule. She wanted the throne. She was a “usurper” of God’s divinely appointed plan of the highest order.
What about you?
What about me?
What about the tendency to have that sharp and critical tongue… that unyielding attitude toward husband and loved ones… my laziness…my slothfulness…that lack of respect…lack of gentleness…how easily am I provoked, in any way, even to envy and discontent…my sin of un-thankfulness.

In the context of marriage, God says we are not to be our husband’s conscience nor his accuser.
The Holy Spirit is.
You and I are to put our hope and trust in God.
We are not to take personal offense.
Is there something in you that needs to be put to death?
And if you did, if it were, would your family rejoice?
Col 3:5-6 Put to death… what is earthly in you…which is idolatry.

(Anonymous testimony of a CBS Children’s Teacher) 
“I desired increasing levels of income, a desire for proportionately more money for the hope of satisfaction which never came.   It became clear to me I had been asking my husband to fulfill a need in me that only God can fulfill.  Over the years, I have felt very justified to make demands of him that would then make me happy.  In some respects, he obliged, but I would then find those areas in which he was not obliging, and I would become extremely anxious about those.  Even though most of my requests were not outrageous, I probably would never be completely satisfied, because I was looking at him to fulfill a need in me, that can only be met by the LordI realized that I should ‘sit back and enjoy the ride’, and stop finding fault with him, because he really is a good husband.
I stopped being dissatisfied with him.”

Maybe you struggle with and challenge your husband’s leadership. Have you had a spirit of rebellion toward your parents? Your teachers? Your boss? If you have a problem with obeying the authorities God has put over you then, whether you want to admit it or not, you have a problem with God.
What if you put it to death?
We must first be willing to let God work in us! We cannot expect Him to begin with somebody else.
We go to the cross alone.

Back to Athaliah’s sins… MURDER. ANGER. DISCONTENTMENT.
Yes, discontentment is sin. It is rejecting the sovereignty of God in my life.
Job 23:14 (KJV) For he performeth [the thing that is] appointed for me
The same verse in the NLT says
So he will do to me whatever he has planned. He controls my destiny.
Rejecting the sovereignty of God in your life leads to resentment or bitterness toward God/other people.

Let’s call our “dear” Athaliah on another sin: The 10th Commandment. COVETING.
She coveted the throne!
We can “covet” many things.
We can even “covet” “good things”!
We think we are not like Athaliah! After all we don’t commit murder!
But it all started with that awful little unnoticed sin:  we covet!
Did you know that every ONE of the 10 Commandments has “covet” at its source?!!   
The more closely you walk with Jesus Christ, in the surgical lamp of His word, the more sin is realized and revealed in you and I and the more broken and humbled we are.
Maybe you feel like a “sinner” when God has anointed you a saint.
Maybe you feel uneasy and lack inner peace.
With regards to your sin, guess what? The good news is this…
It’s a really good sign and it’s a really good thing
 because you know by these feelings you are struggling/grappling with are sin and you are not oblivious to it or accepting it!
Romans 7:15,29 (ESV) For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very think I hate… the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing.
These very words were written by a converted and spiritually mature Paul yet even he had not arrived!
Do you feel frustrated….looking back tired/frustrated because “it’s not fixed yet”?
This is Godly sorrow, friends! Normal, good sorrow for the damage you’ve done and it reveals how desperate you are to be done doing battle!
Take heart! 
You are a saint because it only means God’s spirit is strong in you.
You are working against your flesh and it’s normal to be worn out by the battle at times.
Romans 8:13-4… For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if, by the Spirit, you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.

If you are completely at peace it’s either not the Holy Spirit or you have a false peace because you have ceased to remember how ugly you were.

Charles Spurgeon writes… “If your soul can stretch herself at rest, and find the bed long enough, and the coverlet wide enough to cover her in the chambers of sin, then you are a hypocrite. You are far from any thoughts of Christ or perception of his preciousness…(HOWEVER!...)With all your sins and imperfections, let this thought comfort you: if your soul finds no rest in sin, YOU ARE NOT as the sinner is! If you are still crying for and craving after something better, Christ HAS NOT forgotten you, for you HAVE NOT quite forgotten him!”
Is there something in you that needs to be put to death??!
Ask God to show you just what it is.
If you dare, ask your husband, your children, or somebody who knows you well.
Ask Him to take it out by His surgical sword
You do not have to be afraid when you see things in your life that need to change.
Just call it what it is.
It is sin and He will help you.
Just think of how “happy” your loved ones will be…truly!
2 Kings 11:20...So all the people of the land rejoiced, and the city was quiet after Athaliah had been put to death with the sword at the king's house.
Is there something in you that needs to be put to death?
And if it were, would your family rejoice?
Put it to death… Put it to the sword.
It is war. (This is the whole idea of the account of First & Second Kings.)
In 2 Kings 12, Jehoida the High Priest led all of the people in a rededication of themselves to the Lord!
The crowd then smashed the temple and the altar of Baal.
Let’s do this friends!
You can be forgiven!

If you are in right relationship with HIM—He will fill you with His victorious life and that life you live will overflow to others! But first, our proud willful hearts must be broken. We must give up our rights.

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