One thing leads to another

Ahab “considered it trivial to commit the sins of Jeroboam”

So what? Probably doesn’t mean much to you?

Last night we started a sermon series looking at the life of the fiery prophet Elijah (You can download talks from Ivy Manchester on itunes or from our website).

I said that in order to understand him you have to understand the culture and time he was living in (and to understand yourself you have know that too). Often we live unaware of our context – like a fish doesn’t know it’s wet!

Elijah lived in a very dark place, spiritually. It had been the jewel of God’s plan, the nation of Israel – intended to shine brightly for all nations, but for years now the lights were all going out. King Ahab was despicably evil, and his wife Jezebel made him look like a softy.

His story links back to Jeroboam, seven kings back, 58 years beforehand. Jeroboam who’d served Solomon refused to serve his son, and set himself up as king over ‘the ten tribes’ (The first North/ South divide?). Fearful that the people he now ruled might go to the temple in Jerusalem to worship, and to protect his position, Jeroboam set up ‘alternative worship.’ Not the kind where everyone sniffs incense, walks in a labyrinth and meditates on Kum By Yah over and over, but the kind that involved worshipping baby cows made of gold.

Anyone looking at their Bible would have known that worship of a golden calf wasn’t going to go down well with the real God. But he wasn’t bothered about that book. He wanted to do what was popular, what pleased the crowds, what kept them all coming. That’s what mattered most to Jeroboam, building his own kingdom.

He said to the people, “It is too much for you to go up to Jerusalem. Here are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of Egypt.

He didn’t deny the reality of God, but in order to please the people, he mixed the worship of God with elements of popular paganism of his day. After all, it’s all the same God really… whatever works for you…

He made up a religion of convenience that suited his lifestyle. Under Jeroboam anyone could be a priest – it didn’t matter what God’s word says. As long as their hearts are right. And worship – anyone can worship, whenever and however they want – as long as they’re sincere… it doesn’t matter what God’s word or his prophets said. Because God’s really like a big cuddly baby cow who’s just there to provide for us and help us, and he never requires anything from us…

There’s a word for this. APOSTASY. From two Greek words that mean ‘Stand apart.’ He stood apart from what God had said, made his own way. And the nation followed. There are consequences of bad leadership, in a family, in business and in a nation.

His policy was in place for all the kings of Israel who followed him for generations! Jeroboam ends up being known as ‘the man who led Israel to sin.’

Principle? One thing leads to another. By the time of Ahab worship was by cultic sex with prostitutes, and child sacrifice.A downward spiral.

There were some good Kings in Judah, but not in Israel. And when I say bad leadership or good – what do i mean? Well the way the Bible defines good is this, time and again, the assesment boils down to whether they followed the Word of God, or made their own way apart from him.

For example, in the kingdom of Judah – King Asa “He did what was right in the eyes of the Lord and walked in his ways.” That’s what caused the nation to prosper.

But in Israel it just goes from bad to worse and the lights keep getting put out one by one until you get to a guy called King Omri (1 Kings 16:25) – the verdict? The worst yet!

Until his son, Ahab comes along – he will only listen to prophets who tell him what he wants to hear, and he considers the sins of his ancestor Jeroboam to be trivial.

When things occur in our generation that previous generations would have been appalled at, watch out!


If you’re a Brit – you might remember Mary Whitehouse?

When I was a teenager she was lampooned and became a byword for out of touch prudishness, but she was an Elijah for her day; I wonder what she would think of the sins that are nowadays considered trivial in our land? The effect that has on children?

Ahab worshipped Baal, the god of sex and convenience and money – and the children were sacrificed to him. Who is responsible for the state of our nation’s morality today? We are. The people who allow downward spirals to drift further down without raising an objection or even an eyebrow. The church has too often stood by rather than stood up to be counted, because the spirit of the age permits no tolerance of anyone who questions its edicts.

The spiritual darkness deepens and becomes tangible from one generation to another – until the Lord God puts the lights on. So Elijah (a person like us) stood before the king to declare, “The LORD lives – before Him I stand!” may the Elijahs rise again!

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