May 16 | Daily Devotion

Lectio Continua: a continuous reading of every verse

Lectio Semi-continua: shorter reading selections from the passages

Lectio Divina

“They rejected [God's] decrees and the covenant he had made with their ancestors and the statutes he had warned them to keep. They followed worthless idols and themselves became worthless. They imitated the nations around them although the Lord had ordered them, ‘Do not do as they do.’” ~2 Kings 17:15

One after another, the kings of Israel and the kings of Judah do what is evil “in the eyes of the Lord.”  The repetition is enough to drive modern readers to exasperation! Yet, in every echo rings a desperate question: How long will this people defy God? How long?!   God saw everything done by His people and His anointed kings, whether in public or in secret (2 Kings 17:9). He did not ignore a single act of wrongdoing.

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. “All this took place because the Israelites had sinned against the Lord their God” (2 Kings 17:7).  His discipline fell heavy on his people. Their sins included the worship of pagan deities; the practice of child sacrifice; the neglect of the temple and the priesthood; and the violation of the commandments of God (as contained in the Ten Commandments). Israel neglected her poor, especially widows and orphans (see Isaiah 1); indulged religious formalism (simply going through the motions of worship, see Isaiah 1); celebrated rampant greed and materialism; and a completely rejected the message of the prophets.

For all that we might be exasperated by Israel’s heedless slide into sin, her stories were written to remind us that we are as just as susceptible to sin and just as likely to experience God’s discipline. (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 compass.  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.