Monday, July 20th 1 Kings 1:2-4

“Ahaziah had fallen through the lattice in his upper chamber in Samaria, and lay injured; so he sent messengers, telling them, “Go, inquire of Baal-zebub, the god of Ekron, whether I shall recover from this injury.” But the angel of the LORD said to Elijah the Tishbite, “Get up, go to meet the messengers of the king of Samaria, and say to them, ‘Is it because there is no God in Israel that you are going to inquire of Baal-zebub, the god of Ekron?’ Now therefore thus says the LORD, ‘You shall not leave the bed to which you have gone, but you shall surely die.’” So Elijah went. 2 Kings 1:2-4

I have two things on my mind as we open this new week of devotions. First, the readings for next Sunday open with a passage from the 4th chapter of 1 Kings. I want to put that reading in a wider context. And second, later this week, a magnificent horde of 36,000 t-shirted Lutheran teenagers will be descending on New Orleans for the National Youth Gathering. What ties these two together? The questions of relationship and response.

Who are we? To whom do we belong? Where does our trust lie? What difference does it make?

2 Kings opens with the, quite literal, fall of Ahaziah. The king of Israel (the northern kingdom) hurt himself in a fall. So he sent his messengers to ask the prophets of Baal-zebub whether or not he would recover. The problem? He is turning, especially in a time of need, to the wrong god. The real God, the God of Abraham, Jacob and Isaac, doesn’t appreciate the slight. The real God, as Ahaziah must have known, is a “jealous” God, a position codified in the first commandment, “I am the Lord your God, you shall have no other gods before me.”

Is this jealousy of God a character defect? No it isn’t. God creates us. God loves us. God wants only what is best for us. So God knows that, when we turn to the gods who are not gods, we do so only to our own peril and the continued brokenness of life. God knows that, to get the world right, we need to be right. This is the open question and the mystery of the journey of faith.

If you would read through the entire Old Testament, especially the prophets, you would easily see that the two issues that continued to divide God from God’s people had to do with idolatry (chasing after false gods) and injustice (the failure of God’s people to show hospitality to the stranger or care for the widow, the orphan and the powerless.) Those two broken relationships, the relationship with God and the relationship with the neighbor, are what the prophets of God seek to restore. Both relationships are rooted in the question of loyalty in that a right relationship of God will lead to right relationships with our neighbors, for that is the will of God for us, for all times.

Jesus would capture these two relationships in his twin call to the Great Commission (to bring people into a right relationship with God) and the Great Commandment (to love our neighbor which issues forth in justice.)

But Ahaziah cared nothing for any of that. He just wanted his pain to go away. He didn’t draw a connection between his life situation and the God who had given him life.

Back now to our teenagers heading to New Orleans. They too know well the pain and the insecurities of life. The questions of who they are, who they belong to, who they can turn to in trouble or pain, who is trustworthy in their lives, are all wide open questions. So now the church that loves them has prepared an experience for them that will be marked by worship (relationship with God) and service in the community (relationship with their neighbors.) We pray not only for their trip, their safe travels and safe return, but also that the Spirit guide them in making the right connections.

Let us pray: Gracious Lord, we realize that we are still prone to chasing after the gods who are not gods. We are tempted by the quick fix, by whatever works, so we are fickle in our faith. Draw us to yourself that we might know your care and concern, that your will might be done in our lives. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

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