May 16 | Daily Devotion

May 16 | Daily Devotion

Lectio Continua: a complete reading of the passage

Lectio Semi-continua: a shorter reading of the passage

Lectio Divina

One after another, the kings of Israel and the kings of Judah do what is evil “in the eyes of the Lord.”   Throughout these books, the phrase, “before the eyes of the Lord, “ is repeated in order to show that God saw everything done by His people and His anointed kings, whether in public or in secret (2 Kings 17:9). Theologians use a Latin expression, Coram Deo (literally “presence of God”), to describe the idea that everything we do, we do “before God” or “in His presence.”   The writer of Kings has a reason for recounting the sinful deeds of one generation after another until modern readers are exasperated by the repetition. His point? How often do God’s people choose again and again and again to do evil “before God”?

God does not ignore wrongdoing, which is why His discipline fell heavy on the Israelites. Beginning in the eighth century BC (around 738 BC), some 350 years after the establishment of the monarchy, the northern kingdom endured a series of invasions by the nation of Assyria. Assyrian artists celebrated these invasions with etched remembrances in stone monuments, some of which can still be seen in the British Museum in London. As the writer of Kings makes clear, “All this took place because the Israelites had sinned against the Lord their God” (2 Kings 17:7).  Their sins included the worship of pagan deities; the practice of child sacrifice; the neglect of the temple and the priesthood; the violation of the commandments of God (as contained in the Ten Commandments); their neglect of the poor, especially widows and orphans (see Isaiah 1); religious formalism (simply going through the motions of worship, see Isaiah 1); rampant greed and materialism; and a complete rejection of the message of the prophets.

We cannot ignore the records in Kings as if they are outdated “fables” from the past.  They were written to remind us that we are as susceptible to sin, and as likely to experience God’s discipline, as His ancient people. (1 Corinthians 10:1-13 makes a connection between ancient writings and “modern” peoples.)  Israel became so accustomed to the values and practices of foreign cultures that they lost their moral virtues.  For that, they endured God’s discipline.  Steeped as we are in our own culture, we too can become like the proverbial frog in the kettle. We get so accustomed to society’s ways and standards that we hardly notice if our morality slowly dies. This does not mean that culture is inherently sinful and that it is therefore wrong to be cultural participants.  Withdrawal from society does not solve the sin problem.  (The great irony for groups like Fundamentalists and the Amish is that in their rejection of “sinful culture” they create a “sinful culture” of their own.)  What is required of us is that we be vigilant in our culture.  To borrow from Mark Driscoll, we must learn when to receive culture (fully embrace and enjoy), when to reject culture (refuse the sinful elements), and when to redeem culture (accept cultural practices but redeem them for good).  Discerning the right approach requires wisdom, but every decision starts with a commitment “to do what is right in the eyes of the Lord.”

Lectio Divina  is written by F. Lionel Young III, who serves as the Senior Pastor of  Calvary Church  in Valparaiso, Indiana. He is the author of  A New Kind of Missionary, a popular introduction to global Christianity.