Today’s Text and Thought of Encouragement:
“How precious is Your steadfast love, O God! The children of men take refuge and put their trust under the shadow of Your wings.”
Psalm 36: 7
“Under His wings I am safely abiding;
Though the night deepens and tempests are wild,
Still I can trust Him; I know He will keep me;
He has redeemed me, and I am His child.
Under His wings, what a refuge in sorrow!
How the heart yearningly turns to its rest!
Often when earth has no balm for my healing,
There I find comfort, and there I am blest.”
William O. Cushing
Today’s Study Text:
“But Omri did evil in the eyes of the Lord, even worse than all who were before him.”
1 Kings 16: 25
“Just When You Think Things Can’t Get Any Worse!”
“Indifference to evil is more insidious than evil itself; it is more universal, more contagious, more dangerous.”
What lessons can we learn from the time in the Israelites lives when they turned a “blind-eye” to the evil around them?
How do I face the evil which is in my own life?
“We who live beneath a sky still streaked with the smoke of crematoria, have paid a high price to find out that evil is really evil.”
“For evil to triumph, it is only necessary for good men (and women) to do nothing.”
Not long ago a friend and I were discussing what appeared to us, to be an increase in what we termed “evil behavior.” It seems you can’t pick up a paper or turn on the T.V. without hearing about some terribly tragic event that shakes your faith in humankind. As my friend and I shared our feelings, we asked ourselves this question. “How much worse can things get?” Maybe you have thought about world conditions and asked yourself the same question.
Let’s get even more personal. Over the last fifteen years of my own life, there have frequently been occasions when I wondered what other evil would happen within the lives of our family circle. It has seemed to me at times that it is just one catastrophic event after another which up-ends our lives -- and because I read every prayer request and email I receive, I know that many of you are facing a great deal of hardship in your own lives, too. It seems as though evil has run all over the good, leaving havoc and heartache in its wake.
As I read our study text for today, the pervasiveness of evil was hung out on the clothesline of history for everyone to see. After a list of royal “no-goods” who held the throne in the northern kingdom, King Omri, who took out the previous King Zimri, came to power. The people of Israel, now faced twelve years of rebellious tyranny with this new despot on the throne. King Omri was so evil in God’s eyes, that the author of 1 Kings tells us he had the honor, if you can call it that, of being labeled “the worst who had ever ruled.” Not a great title to hold. Who would crave the bragging rights to being called the “most” evil ruler? However, it seems Omri didn’t find this “name tag” to be that unnerving.
I really like the way Dale Davis describes the situation in the northern kingdom under the rulership of Elah, Zimri and finally, Omri -- who was the worst of them all: “The northern kingdom appears to be careening down the waterslide of history, bashing along to its own self-destruction.” What truth!
The background for this precipitous decline in the northern kingdom was witnessed as one king after another, killed off their rivals just as Baasha did to all of Jeroboam’s family. We also learn a few other facts about three of the kings. King Elah was a drunk, who was so sloshed that one of his captain’s conspired against him, and found him “drinking himself drunk” in the house of Arza, so Zimri decided to kill King Elah. However, what goes around comes around and after only one week on the throne, King Zimri was knocked-off, too. It was murder after murder which got Omri his place on the throne of Israel. With blood on his hands, it is no wonder the Bible points out how Omri’s evil behavior didn’t sit well with our heavenly Father.
It is at this point in time that I asked myself, “What were the people doing who lived in the northern kingdom? Did they just go along with the mayhem? Did they sit idly by hoping someone would come to their rescue? Or were there fervent individuals who spoke out against the idolatry and debauchery?
If I had lived in northern Israel during the outlandish rule of one evil king after another, I think I would have shouted to the heavens, “Dear Heavenly Father, how much worse does it have to get?”
The tragedy that we see unfolding in this national decline, from God’s ideal for His children, is that things didn’t have to be this way! Furthermore, I’ll add that they didn’t get to be in such a mess overnight. As the Roman poet, Juvenal identified: “No man (or woman) becomes extremely wicked all at once.” This is an extremely important fact we should never overlook.
King David didn’t start out thinking he would commit adultery and end up murdering a trusted soldier. King Solomon didn’t begin by marrying 1,000 women in one day. And I doubt that King Omri sat down in a strategy session with his advisors and asked, “How can I get the title of the most evil king?” For all of these leaders, it wasn’t an overnight journey into the land of evil. It was a step-by-step wandering outside God’s will and way.
When Jeroboam decided that a convenient, false worship of God would suffice, a trend began which was like a sled going down a steep slope and the momentum was impossible for mere humans to stop by themselves.
As I read verse after verse about the increasing wickedness which prevailed I thought to myself, “I could never act like that!” But as quickly as that thought entered my mind, I was reminded of the words of the Apostle Paul who left us with this warning he sent to his friends in Corinth: “Therefore let anyone who thinks (they) stand, who feels sure that (they) have a steadfast mind, take heed lest (they) fall into sin” (1 Corinthians 10: 12, Amplified Bible).
Sadly, the wickedness which was evident in the leaders, rubbed off on their subjects and the resulting apostasy led to direct rebellion against God. This driving force eventually culminated in the downfall of many of God’s children, especially those who chose to just go along to get along. This is why the Apostle Paul was so direct in his call to stay away from evil. As he told the believers in Rome, “Hate what is evil; cling to what is good” (Romans 12: 9, Amplified Bible).
Thankfully today, no matter the amount of evil we confront, we can be assured by the words of Jesus who promises us that we can be of good cheer, “Because I have overcome the world” (John 16: 33, K.J.V.) As John Wenham states, “At the heart of the story stands the cross of Christ where evil did its worst and met its match.”
“We have to carry on the struggle against evil that is in mankind, not by judging others, but by judging ourselves. Struggle with oneself and veracity toward oneself are the means by which we influence others.”
“O God the Holy Ghost, most loving Comforter of the fainthearted, I beseech Thee ever to turn that which is evil in me into good and that which is good into that which is better; turn my mourning into joy, my wandering feet into the right path, my ignorance into knowledge of thy truth, my lukewarmness into zeal, my fear into love, all my material good into a spiritual gift, all my earthly desires into heavenly, all that is transient into that which lasts for ever, everything human into that which is divine, everything created and finite into that sovereign and immeasurable good, which Thou Thyself art, O my God and Saviour.”
Thomas á Kempis
Dorothy Valcárcel, Author
When A Woman Meets Jesus
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