"For thou art an holy people unto the LORD thy God, and the LORD hath chosen thee to be a peculiar people unto himself, above all the nations that are upon the earth." ~ Deuteronomy14:2

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Raising The Standard: Orderliness Is Removing Items That Could Hinder Achievement

In a war-torn and wicked kingdom a twenty-four year old prince carefully worked out a plan of action for the time when he would become king. The plan was destined to be so successful that it would turn the kingdom from wickedness to righteousness and from poverty to wealth.
How Does Scripture Illustrate Orderliness In Removing Destructive Hindrances?
A newly-appointed king set out to put his house in order and in so doing gained great favor with God. There were various objects in his kingdom which had to be removed because they were detrimental to the nation and hindered his people from developing spiritually.
He was grieved over the idolatry of his father and his nation. He had seen his own brothers and sisters burned in the fire of idolatrous worship. He watched as thousands of people had replaced the worship of God with wicked pagan ceremonies. When he was crowned as king a year later, he immediately put his plan into action. On a bright April day he gathered a group of discouraged spiritual leaders together in the street. With enthusiasm he explained the task he wanted them to accomplish. He knew that his most difficult challenge would be removing a curious object which had come to have sacred meaning to the people. A message was carefully written inviting all in his kingdom to a celebration of worship. On the appointed day, a great throng gathered. The young king inspired them to tear down every altar that had been built to a false god, but they stopped at the altar of that curious object. Its history began seven hundred years earlier when their forefathers had provoked God by complaining about their circumstances and questioning if God were really among them. So God sent thousands of poisonous snakes into the camp. They bit the terrified people and their bodies swelled as the deadly venom did its work. The people pleaded with heir leader to intercede for them. God gave instructions for a bronze snake to be made and placed on a pole outside the camp. Thousands painfully made their way to the snake in obedience to the Lord and were healed. The people decided to keep that bronze snake as a sacred reminder of the event. Once god had used it to test His people's obedience to His Word, but now people were looking to it as a source of healing. They imagined that the snake had power within itself. As such, it distracted them from their worship of God and many made an easy transition into idol worship by the veneration of the bronze snake. When the throng asked the king if he really wanted them to destroy that object of worship, he answered with a resounding voice, "Nehushtan!" which means - only a piece of bronze. That command was all they needed. They destroyed this image which had for years hindered spiritual achievement. With it removed, the people became bolder and went throughout the cities of the kingdom tearing down altars and turning the hearts of the people back to God. As a result, God blessed the kingdom and King Hezekiah --- so much so that he was magnified throughout the nations of the world. (From II Kings 18:1-6)
Why Did Hezekiah Have To Destroy The Bronze Serpent?
King Hezekiah destroyed the bronze serpent that Moses had made because the people regarded it as an idol and burned incense to it (2 Kings 18:4). The significance of serpents in pagan rites of surrounding nations made Hezekiah's elimination of the relic especially imperative. In Canaanite, Assyrian, and Egyptian cults, alter stands with serpents modeled on them were worshipped as goddesses of reproduction or continuing life because of the snake's repeated shedding of its skin. The immoral practices of the serpent cults and the similarity of the bronze serpent prompted Hezekiah to remove the temptation for future generations.
Why Were Hezekiah's Reforms So Enthusiastically Accepted?
Although the nation of Judah was capable of great sin and rebellion against the Lord, they often seemed to recover with a godly king on the throne. Their northern brothers in Israel were never able to recover from their sin of idolatry until they were taken into captivity. When Hezekiah initiated his reforms he was immediately supported by the priests and especially the Levites (2 Chronicles 29:34). When Jeroboam had eliminated the duties of the Levites in Israel, they resumed their responsibilities to teach the Law of God to the people, and in times of rebellion they prepared the people for reform (cf. 2 Chronicles 29:36). The Israelites in the northern kingdom mocked at Hezekiah's invitation to reform because they had not teachers of the Law (2 Chronicles 30:10). But the godly remnant in Judah who were well-taught in the Law gave Hezekiah their full support.
How Did Hezekiah Learn To Be Godly?
What Hezekiah learned about the fear of the Lord he probably learned from his Jewish mother Abijah which means "the Lord is my Father." (2 Chronicles 11:13-14) Although it was the responsibility of the father to teach his children about the Lord (Deuteronomy 6:7), this time-consuming task was often delegated to the mother or in the case of a wealthy man to a personal tutor as well. The last chapter of Proverbs is an example of the godly instructions of a mother given to her son who became a king. As a young boy, Hezekiah must have recognized the evil of his father's idolatry and realized that his shallow compromises were made merely for political gain. He would also have been aware of the nation's strained economic condition for which his father was responsible. This awareness, combined with a desire to be a good king, were motivating factors for the godly Hezekiah's reform.
How Does The Black-Headed Gull Illustrate Orderliness In Removing Destructive Hindrances?
The black-headed gull is a sociable bird and makes its nest in colonies. At one strategic point the parent gull removes something from its nest. The few seconds it takes to perform that simple act could mean the difference between life and death for its young.
The gull colony is compromised primarily of birds of its own kind, but occasionally other species of non-preying gulls or even terns are granted the privilege of membership. Nests in a single colony may number up to several thousand. The gulls search remote seacoasts for a concealed area in which to raise their brood. In early March the paired gulls prepare their crude nest. The birds scratch a slight depression in the ground and gather nearby vegetation and grass to line the rough nest. They fly freely to and from the colony each day. When the time draws near for the female to lay her eggs they spend less time away from the nest. To prepare for incubation the female removes feathers from hear breast. This allows her body heat to penetrate easily and warm the eggs. These featherless areas are called incubation patches. Because of its small size, the black-headed gull prepares just three such areas. As a result, only three of the brownish, black-spotted eggs are likely to hatch even though more than three may be laid. If an egg accidentally slips outside the depression, the female carefully rolls it back into the nest. In three to four weeks the young chicks break out of their shells. Shortly after they hatch, the parent gull does something unique. It carefully picks up the empty, broken pieces of egg shell and discards them a safe distance from the nest. By removing the shells in this manner, it reduces the threat of predatory birds which would be attracted to the nest by the white of the broken eggs. Because of the continuous threat of destruction, parent gulls are constantly on the lookout until their young are able to defend themselves. Six to eight weeks will pass before the chicks are able to fly well enough to escape most enemies. The eggshell served a dual protective purpose before the eggs were hatched. Its color camouflaged the egg against its surroundings, and the shell itself protected the developing embryo. But once they were shattered, the shells became a threat. Because these items that could hinder achievement were removed by the parent gull, the chicks enjoyed a greater measure of safety and a greater chance of survival.

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