"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

Monday, December 26, 2011

Raising the Standard: Thriftiness Is Taking Care Of What I Have To Extend Its Usefulness

"The slothful man roasteth not that which he took in hunting: but the substance of a diligent man is precious." ~ Proverbs 12:27
Living Lessons on Thriftiness:
In order to properly care for our possessions, we must first recognize that what we have has been entrusted to us by the Lord. Only then can we view ourselves as stewards and have the excitement in life that comes by using our resources to advance God's Kingdom. Cleanliness is a vital part of thriftiness. Cleanliness is not "next to godliness," it is "part of Godliness." One of the most successful kings of Judah demonstrated through his life and work how cleansing and care of God's possessions must begin within the heart and life of God's people.
God promises that if judgment begins at the house of God, He will deal with the heathen. (See 1 Peter 4:17.) Who was the king that began a spiritual cleansing and by it marked the end of a cruel heathen empire? Josiah.
How is the Need to Take Care of Possessions Illustrated in Scripture?
The year was 632 B.C. An Assyrian emperor educated by the priests of his day looked from his huge palace in Nineveh to the amazing architectural achievements of his city. There was the famous library with priceless historical records. Then there was the magnificent aqueduct with huge archways over the valley brook. It was constructed with millions of large, cut limestone blocks. Also under his leadership was a well trained army, which had maintained control of conquered territories through ruthless and brutal tactics. In that same year, a sixteen year old king, who lived within the domain of that emperor, began to seek after the Lord God that made heaven and earth. His seeking after God was in contrast to the wicked rule of his father. However, his grandfather had repented of his wicked ways at the end of his reign and had begun to tear down the false worship centers in the land. As the youthful king began to seek the Lord, the grip of that powerful emperor suddenly weakened to the point that he had to flee from Nineveh and rule the empire from a new western location. Four years later, that young, God-fearing king began to cleanse his kingdom from the perversion and immorality accepted through the false philosophies which permeated the music, art and sculptures of the day. He and those with him broke down carved and molten images, ground them into dust, and threw the dust upon the graves of those who had worshiped them. It is significant that after this was accomplished, God heralded the end of the Assyrian empire with the death of its brilliant ruler --- Ashurbanipal. Josiah, the Godly king of Judah, at the age of twenty six, began the monumental task of repairing the house of the Lord. Large, hewn stones were pulled to the site to rebuild sections that were broken down, and timber was brought in for floors and couplings. As their work progressed, God crowned their efforts with a valuable discovery --- a book of the Law of the Lord, given by Moses. It had been lost for many years. In caring for the things entrusted to him, king Josiah gained valuable direction for his life and his leadership. [From 2 Chronicles 34]
How Was Josiah Influenced to Seek the Lord?
Although Josiah grew up in the court of two of the most disobedient kings of Judah, it is likely that he received Godly instruction when young. He was born six years before the death of his grandfather, Manasseh, in a time of brief reform. King Manasseh had been captured by the Assyrians and thoroughly humiliated by them. After his release, he was allowed to regain his throne in Jerusalem Because of this experience, his heart was softened, and he "...commanded Judah to serve the Lord God of Israel" (2 Chronicles 33:16). Josiah's very name hints to the climate of the time. His name resumed the custom of compounding royal names with that of Jehovah. Josiah means "may the Lord support or heal." The new freedom and encouragement for followers of the Lord, which resulted from Manasseh's change of heart, provided the Godly remnant among the priests an opportunity to train the royal prince. These same tutors were probably allowed to continue their teaching duties through the rule of king Amon and during the early years of Josiah's reign.
How Did Josiah Encourage the People to Follow the Lord?
First, he set a good example. "And he did that which was right in the sight of the Lord, and walked in all the way of David his father..." (2 Kings 22:2). Second, Josiah destroyed the centers of pagan worship and the idolatrous priests who were leading the people astray. Third, he began reconstruction of the temple in order to reinstate proper worship of Jehovah. Fourth, when confronted with the Law, he acknowledged the sins of his fathers and the people and fully repented. He then gathered all the people great and small, "...and he read in their ears all the words of the book of the covenant..." (2 Chronicles 34:30). Josiah committed himself to obey the Law and urged the people to do the same. He destroyed the centers of false worship, removing the temptation to resume activities after the initial stages of reform. He reinstituted the Passover and generously provided sacrificial animals from his own herds. "And there was no passover like to that kept in Israel from the days of Samuel the prophet; neither did all the kings of Israel keep such a passover as Josiah kept..." (2 Chronicles 35:18).
Were Josiah's Reforms Politically Motivated?
The king might be accused of merely being an astute politician by instituting religious reform. Refurbishing the temple and destroying competing religious centers could be viewed as an attempt to centralize the kingdom in Jerusalem and reunite the remnant remaining in the north. Destroying Assyrian idols could be considered a bold, calculated insult to the weakened northern empire, a declaration of complete independence. But there is evidence to believe that Josiah's reforms were motivated primarily out of a pure love for the Lord. When he heard the Law, "...he rent his clothes" (2 Chronicles 34:19). Huldah the prophetess declared Josiah's heart to be pure. "Because thine heart was tender, and thou didst humble thyself before God... and didst rent thy clothes, and weep before me; I have even heard thee also, saith the Lord" (2 Chronicles 34:27). Jeremiah, in the prophet's lament, declared Josiah to be a just, unselfish judge who had compassion on the poor. (See Jeremiah 22:11-16.)
Illustrated in the World of Nature:
Once called the "blue robin," the bluebird wears the colors found in the flag of the United States of America. It has a brilliant blue back, a red chest, and a white underside. Bluebirds are extremely beneficial. They eat harmful insects by the thousands. A single bird may eat as many as 50,000 cutworms in a season. In the winter bluebirds eat wild berries, including those of the mistletoe and poison ivy. The young weigh only three grams when they hatch but multiply their weight nine times in two weeks.
How is the Need to Take Care of Resources Illustrated in the World of Nature?
While the Second World War was causing British people to live in daily dread of German attacks, another war was taking place in the fields of America. Longtime residents feared a threat from the sky just as real as the German rockets in Britain. The eerie sound of sirens in Britain caused the inhabitants to run to the safety of their bomb shelters. The shrieking sound of the terror in American skies caused country residents to flee to the safety of their homes. After the raids, the dead were strewn about both Britain and America. Parents in both countries would train their young how to detect the enemy flying overhead and give stern warnings not to wander far from safety. After air attacks, mothers were kept busy cleaning their homes and removing debris. While the mothers were taking care of their infants, the fathers were teaching their youth and preparing them to assist with family responsibilities. One day in a peaceful countryside in America the dreaded alarm was given --- the aggressive attackers were coming. Quickly, the residents fled to their homes. Mothers huddled with their young while fathers sat nervously waiting. Moments later, thousands of invaders descended from the sky. Some landed in the open field, others in trees. As soon as the invaders surveyed the territory they entered the homes. Brazenly they burst in and forced the occupants out. If there were infants in the home, they threw them out in the dirt. Many of them perished. The cruel invaders then treated the homes as their own, confiscating the contents for their own use. No longer was the sound of happy singing to be heard in this region. Instead, there would be the strange sound of the new arrivals. Once they were established in their stolen homes, they advanced into new territories, plundering the crops of berries, cherries, apples, and pears. When news of this reached the cities of America, it caused alarm and concern, but little could be done. The intruders were so well equipped to survive in America that they had multiplied into millions. Those whom they displaced dwindled in number. The invaders from the sky who descended upon American fields were starlings. The longtime residents which they displaced and scattered were the red, white, and blue eastern bluebirds. During the Second World War the starlings multiplied into millions and reduced the bluebird population by ninety percent. Ironically, starlings were introduced to America when about one hundred of them were imported from Great Britain in 1890-1891. The bluebirds that have remained have done so because of their thriftiness in finding and maintain homes which the starlings could not enter.
The Characteristics of the Bluebird in Scripture:
The importance of the nest to the survival of the bluebird provides significant parallels to the importance of the home for the continuing health and well being of the family. The danger of a bluebird being forced to aimlessly wander from its nest is compared to the danger of a parent or child wandering away from his home.
"As a bird that wandereth from her nest, so is a man that wandereth from his place" ~ Proverbs 27:8 (Also see Isaiah 16:2.)
The affection and care of the male bluebird for his partner speaks of the self sacrifice which the husband is to provide for his wife. (See Ephesians 5:25.) As the male bluebird teaches its young, so fathers are to bring up their children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. (See Ephesians 6:4.) The large number of offspring that the bluebirds have coincides with God's command to parents, "...Be fruitful, and multiply..." (Genesis 1:28). The teaching of older chicks to help with the rearing of the young illustrates the admonition of 1 Timothy 5:4 to learn first to show piety at home. The mother bluebird's amazing care of the nest is a beautiful example of being a keeper at home. (See Titus 2:5.)

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