All Gone 

MTS-3570

All Gone

“When Zimri saw that the city was taken,
he went into the citadel of the royal palace and set the palace on fire around
him.”    1 Kings 16:18

 

What have I
done with my life thus far? This is the question that I often ask myself
whenever I do a soul-searching, which takes place more and more often as I age.

What have I
accumulated? Well, I got married and raised three boys, and managed to earn a
few academic degrees and wrote a few books. That’s it, I suppose. O yes, we also
bought a house and, just recently, we paid off our credit card debt; this is
the first time in our married life that our finances have been in the black.

Why talk
about all this nonsense? Truly valuable things in life are invisible and our
lives are a total waste if the visible is all we possess, for all visible
things will be burned at the end, and only what withstands the test of fire
will remain.  

Zimri wasn’t
alone in his passionate pursuit of fame and fortune; he was just more ingenious
and resourceful and was able to achieve his goal at the end. It wasn’t a
blessing for him, however, for his accomplishments hastened his demise, and
seven days of kingship was hardly worth all the sacrifices he had made.

When all hope
was gone, the king “went into the citadel of the royal palace and set the
palace on fire around him.”

What did the
king leave behind? A pile of black ashes and nothing more. Had he remained loyal
to his master and loving to his family and friends, he would have left
something valuable behind. Indeed faithfulness and love are invisible and are
not greatly valued by some, but those are the things that we can leave behind
when we are no more.

Zimri was a
traitor and a murderer, who was unfaithful to God and men. That’s how the man
was remembered by the following generation.

How do we want to be remembered?

People live
and die and it makes absolutely no difference whether they remain here on earth
or not. They are most likely only loved and treasured by a few people within
their small circle, and they are quickly forgotten by them after their passing
and whatever they have done is quickly erased by the torrent of time.

God remembers
all things, therefore we ought to do all things unto him and do nothing unto
people. We will be disappointed if we do things to please people, for people
are fickle and prone to envy; but God will never disappoint, because he is
loving and kind and, most importantly, he is not bound by time.

Zimri set his
palace on fire at the end and the same thing will happen to us as well, except
someone else will set whatever we have done on earth on fire. I pray some
imperishable things will still remain after all we have earned on earth is
consumed by fire. 

 

Friday, August 30, 2013 6:28:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Sin 

MTS-3569

Sin

“But Omri did evil in the eyes of the Lord and sinned more than all those before him.”         1 Kings 16:25

 

Omri “sinned
more than all those before him,” but not more than the ones who came after him,
for his son Ahab would pass him by a great amount in doing evil. All the kings
from the Northern kingdom appeared to be competing against one another in their
evil-doings; they seemed to become increasingly evil as time went by and the
children would outdo their fathers in sinning against the Lord.

The course of
evil was heading downhill and it appeared to be gathering more and steam as it
was rolling downward. It would take a tremendous strength to keep it at bay.

My family has
been practicing idolatry for over a hundred years and the tradition will be
carried on by the children from one generation to the next. Unless something
drastic happens along the way, the practice will never cease. When a practice,
be it good or bad, turns into some sort of tradition by virtue of being
practiced by the majority of people for a long time, it eventually takes root
and it will become practically impossible to be uprooted.

“Why do you
worship your ancestors so faithfully year after year,” I often asked village
people when I was doing door-to-door evangelism.

“Well, everybody is doing it.” Nine of ten would give me this answer, as if some
things can always be legitimized or justified by the democracy of opinion.

What have I
done to halt the steam of evil that has been going on within my family? Very
little, indeed. The Lord had to take me away from my family at a very young age
to keep me from being consumed by the fire of idolatry. I was indeed “a
burning stick snatched from the fire.” Apart from the mercy of
God, I would have continued to observe my family’s tradition and kept on bowing
down to false gods.

How do we
stem the tide of sin? How do we, as Christians, keep the world from becoming
more and more corrupted?

Had Ahab been
a godly man, he would have quit doing what his father Omri was doing and set a
new course for his entire family. By doing so, he would have kept an evil
practice from turning into a tradition. I may not have the power to alter the
course that my extended family has been running, but I at least have the choice
of directing my own family and guiding my children toward a right direction. Our
prayer should always be that our children will turn out to be better than we in
their walk with the Lord and in their pursuit of holiness and righteousness.

Fighting against sin is indeed an uphill battle and demands our constant vigilance and
continual effort. We tend to fall back if we quit moving forward. We will get
worse unless we continue to get better each day.   

     

Thursday, August 29, 2013 6:45:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Omri 

MTS-3568

Omri

“Then Omri and all the Israelites with
him withdrew from Gibbethon and laid siege to Tirzah.”         1 Kings 16:17

 

Omri was the
commander of the army, and his military might was probably greater than the
newly crowned King Zimri. He was paying very close attention to what was taking
place at the court and was greatly agitated when he heard that Zimri had
declared himself to be king over Israel. With the collective encouragement of
his men, he decided to take decisive action, feeling rather confident that he
could succeed with the army behind him. By this time King Zimri’s chariots were
probably tied up somewhere and he was pretty much rendered helpless, for he was
only surrounded by a few guards and, without the support of the masses in
Tirzah, he was quickly running out of options.

“The strong will
always get all the goods (強的人拿去吃).”
This Taiwanese saying made a great impression on me when I was a little boy,
for I was by no means ambitious or strong by nature. I remember yearning to
play on the only slide on our elementary school campus and never once did I get
to do it as far as I can recall. I was always shuffled aside by the strong and
I consequently developed a sense of futility when I had to compete for
anything, because there were always the strong and the ingenious who took all
the goods before I had a taste of them.

“Then Omri
and all the Israelites with him withdrew from Gibbethon and laid siege to
Tirzah.”

“The greedy
tend to trap themselves in a chicken’s cage (心貪穿雞籠),” another Taiwanese saying is
rendered. This describes vividly the ominous situation Zimri was facing at the
time, for he was trapped in Tirzah and the kingship for which he had been
yearning and striving to get for years meant absolute nothing to him. He must
have felt like a caged chicken, waiting to be butchered.

I sat outside
in the dark for quite a while last night, contemplating about something which
was so vague that I had little idea what I was musing about. I remember feeling
rather pensive as I was looking at a yellow street light flickering in the
shade of a tree across the brick street. Was I suddenly invaded by a melancholy
that I have kept at bay for the most part, or was it just the full moon shimmering
in the night sky which rushed a tidal wave of sadness into my heart? Most
likely I was feeling remorseful about how I had spent the day, browsing from
one sports site to another on the internet, anticipating the coming of the football
season in a week with great excitement, and dreading at the same time that the
star quarterback of my favorite team may be suspended for the year. I have been
wasting my life doing such superfluous things, which was probably the main
reason that I was overtaken by pensiveness.

“The sorrows of those who run
after another god shall multiply.” Zimri’s life surely didn’t end up too well
seeking and serving another god beside the God of his fathers, and Omri would
end his career in a similar manner, albeit he got to wear the crown a bit
longer. I suppose the strong and the greedy may get ahead of most people, yet their
destination remains just the same as the ones who run after another god. I pray
that’s not the case with me and my bout with melancholy was just a temperamental
thing that has nothing to do with who I really am and what I am perusing in
life. 

Wednesday, August 28, 2013 6:06:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Seven Days 

MTS-3567

Seven days

“In the twenty-seventh year of Asa king
of Judah, Zimri reigned in Tirzah seven days.”            1 Kings 16:15

 

It was hardly
worth it, was it? After all the years of dreaming and envisioning and months of
planning and plotting, Zimri finally succeeded in taking out Elah the king and
assuming the kingship himself, yet his reign only lasted for a measly seven
days. The ambitious man was gone before he had the time to enjoy the fruit of
his ambition. There was another one equally ambitious who would quickly emerge
and take him out before he solidified his power and established his position.

What did the
newly crowned king do during those days while he was the king? I wonder.

He must have
been awfully disappointed that the euphoria of becoming a king was nothing like
what he had expected and the crown weighed a lot more than what he had
anticipated, causing him to develop a severe headache. Not only did the king
not have any joy, his heart was afflicted by tons of dread. Elah was gone but,
unless he did something quickly, the previous king’s children would gather
strength around them and he would soon be a goner. Therefore he took quick
action and slaughtered them all.

Just when he
thought he had gotten rid of his immediate danger, another threat surfaced from
nowhere. Indeed all men suddenly became his potential enemies, for he possessed
something all of them desired to have.

Fame and
fortune will always be taken away from us. Even if we are able to keep it from
other ruthless people our entire life, death will swoop in unexpectedly and rob
us of all things.

“In a few
years our house will be paid off and this house will be ours,” I always say to
my wife when we receive the mortgage bill every month, yet there is often a
tinge of uneasiness when I say it, for there seems to be a small voice
reminding me that I really own nothing in this world. In one sense, it makes
very little difference whether we rent or own a house, for it will all end up
the same at the end. In fact, renting is more desirable than owning, because
it’s other people’s problem when things break down, which will inevitably
happen. 

“What’s the
alternative?” you ask. “What should the goal of our life be if we are not going
to make something out of ourselves, be it fortune or fame? Besides, it’s
instinctive for people to accumulate things and to spread their name; not to do
so is anti-human, inhuman even.” 

Which great person
do we want to turn out to be? Zimri? Of course not. How about Solomon? Yes and
yes. Looking at history from our vintage point, seven days and forty years seems
to be about the same, for both have vanished into the current of history, and
even the wisest king wouldn’t have said that his life was more abundant than
Zimri’s. “Vanity of vanities,” he would have exclaimed. 

   

 

Tuesday, August 27, 2013 6:37:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Elah 

MTS-3566

Elah

“Elah was in Tirzah at the time, getting
drunk in the home of Arza, the palace administrator at Tirzah.”          1 Kings 16:9

 

Elah thought
he was entirely secure in the home of his trusted official and wasn’t on guard
at the time. He had been the king for a couple of years and was just about to
get used to his emperor’s new clothes, not realizing what he possessed was just
as flimsy and fragile as what he was wearing. He was about to lose all he had
and meet his Maker completely naked and deadly drunk.  

Things were
indeed going quite well for the king at the time. At least that was what he
thought. What was there to worry about, really? He was well-protected by his
guards and the house was pretty fortified. It would take a monumental effort
for someone to penetrate all the barriers and get to him. With his mind
perfectly at ease, the king emptied one bottle after another until he passed
out.

Elah should
have known how precarious his position was, since he was sitting on a throne
where many people would like to be sitting. I can rest at ease most nights,
since I don’t own anything of great value. I guess people will instantly lose
their interest in robbing our house after they cast their eyes on the old cars
parked in my carport.

Not so with
Elah since he was the king of Israel. Most men would like to be a king over a
nation and those who are able will surely take drastic action to become one.
Most peasants in Israel likely had a longer life expectancy than those who sat on
the throne. As long as the government quit interfering with their lives and did
not constantly harass them, I believe most peasants might have experienced more
joy in life than the kings.

How strange
it is that we all yearn to be kings and queens.  

“Why does he
keep on expanding his business and remain so dreadfully busy 24/7,” I asked
someone who was on staff at her brother’s company.

“Well, just
like riding on a tiger’s back, it’s awfully difficult and dangerous to get
off,” she replied.

“How so?” I questioned.

“Such is the nature of business.”

Indeed, such
is the nature of worldly fame and fortune. With their addictive nature, not
many people can wean themselves after they have had a little taste of it.
Besides, the withdrawal symptoms are just simply unbearable.

Is there a
more viable option?

We are
created to be servants of the King, and our life will become more fulfilling
and joyful if we remain what God designed us to be. We are not sitting on a
throne or on a pile of gold, so we can rest easy day and night. He who owns
nothing has no fear of losing anything.     

Monday, August 26, 2013 6:08:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Zimri 

MTS-3565

Zimri

 “Zimri, one of his
officials, who had command of half his chariots, plotted against him.”         1 Kings 16:9

 

Elah succeeded his father Baasha as king over Israel and Zimri was one of his
officials who was in charge of half of the king’s chariots. The general was
obviously a very wealthy and powerful man by virtue of his lofty position, yet
what he possessed didn’t seem to quench his deep thirst for greater power. He
wanted more and nothing would satisfy him except the throne of Israel.

The general
election is still over two years away, but quite a few politicians from both
parties are starting to jostle for position to run for the next presidency of
the United States. Such is the nature of power, I suppose, for the ones who are
positioning themselves are people of power. They are either governors or
senators who have obtained considerable power already, and they should be
satisfied with what they possess, but that’s hardly the case. Power, like all
things carnal, is just as addictive as anything else, and once they taste its charm,
they become addicted and may need greater power to satisfy their insatiable
hunger for it. Most of them will seek the highest position of the nation to the
bitter end.

Our carnal
desire for earthly pleasure always cries out for more after we have had a
little taste of it, and the more we have it, the more our taste-buds are
blunted and we will need a much greater amount to achieve a similar result.
Being a general over half of the king’s chariots must have sounded quite
appealing to Zimri before he obtained the position, yet the man found himself
craving for more after he assumed the job. A man simply cannot climb the career
ladder halfway; he must reach to the top by knocking off the one on top.  

We need to
keep ourselves from becoming addicted by not pursuing the addictive elements of
this world, things that allure us by their glamour and glitz, that appeal to our
senses and dull our spirits, things that take away our yearning for the Lord
and increase our love for the world, elements that cause us to live for the
present and disregard the future.

Being
satisfied with our lot is the key to resolving the enigma. “The boundary
lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; surely I have a delightful inheritance.”  I have always found this
verse very helpful when I became discontented with my current situation and
start to develop a sense of yearning for carnal things, such as wealth and
power, or something far more elusive.

There is
obviously a Zimri in all of us and, unless we bring him under control, we will
let him run wild in our mind and our heart, which will inevitably spur us into
radical actions. We may follow Zimri to the top, and then fall hard from there,
and we will find out the old saying rings so true: “the higher we climb, the
harder we fall.”    

Friday, August 23, 2013 6:46:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Baasha 

MTS-3564

Baasha

“He did evil in the eyes of the Lord, following the ways of Jeroboam…” 

           1 Kings 15:34

 

Bassha was a
man with vaunting ambition, not one with great aspirations. He did what he did
to fulfill his dream, not to carry out the vision of the entire country. He was
a tyrant just like Jeroboam before him, and many kings after him.

Evidently Bassha was a man with considerable courage and enormous drive, which seem to be the
necessary ingredients for worldly success. The man knew what he wanted in life,
and had been working toward that goal since his youth, and when the opportunity
presented itself, he took hold of it.

He aspired to
be a king so that he could enjoy all the perks of being one and, as far as the
welfare of the entire country was concerned, he couldn’t have cared less. He
took out Jeroboam, not because the king was doing disservice to Israel; he
merely wanted what Jeroboam possessed - the throne and what surrounded it.

No sooner had
he assumed his kingship, than he started exercising his power, which included
getting himself wives and concubines, and waging wars against Judah, which was
a mere nuisance in his eyes. Power must be exercised, he believed, as most people
with absolute power do, and he cared very little how much people must sacrifice
and how many young lives would perish in the process.

Winston Churchill made a strategic blunder, trying to knock Turkey out by attacking the
Dardanelles from the sea during the First World War and twenty thousand troops,
many from New Zealand and Australia, lost their lives. Did the great general
even consider that the men he was sending to die were someone’s dear sons and
loving husbands?

“Ten thousand
people’s bone become dry in order to make a general’s career (一將功成萬骨枯,)” goes a Chinese saying. Baasha
had obtained his power, and he was determined to do his thing, and the masses
under him would have to suffer the dire consequences of his tyranny.

The way of
Jeroboam was the way of kings for the most part. Baasha and Jeroboam before him
and many more after him were all cut from the same cloth.

It might have
been coincidental, but while the Israelites were slaughtering one another, the
Chinese people were also doing a lot of killing among themselves as well. It
was a chaotic time called “the warring period of China” which ended when
Emperor Chin unified the country by diminishing all his rival nations.   

Such was the
way of kings both from the east and the west, which is the way of all flesh and
sin, really. Many lives have perished to make careers for some ambitious men in
human history, yet one great Man died on the cross to bring life for millions
of people. Why are we too blind to see the difference?        

 

 

Thursday, August 22, 2013 6:13:00 AM Categories: Devotional

This Happened 

MTS-3563

This Happened

“This happened because of the sins
Jeroboam had committed and had caused Israel to commit…”         1 Kings 15:30

 

Only the
omniscient God can say with one hundred percent certainty that  “this happened because…”  All humans can do concerning the causes and
effects of all things is to speculate, and our speculation may turn out to be
wrong most of the time.

After Baasa took
over the throne of Israel, he instantly put the entire household of Jeroboam to
the sword and none that breathed within the family was spared. Why did it
happen? The reason was given unequivocally: It was caused by the sins that
Jeroboam had committed.

Not only did
the king sin, he also caused all of Israel to sin by erecting two golden bulls
for them to worship.

Our personal
sins may easily become corporate sin if we are not cautious, and the collected
sins that we have caused may be punished more severely than the personal ones.
We may yield to the temptation to frequent pornographic sites, which is
obviously a sinful thing to do, but our sin may be multiplied many fold by
producing porn material for the public to consume. This is indeed pretty obvious,
but there are others which may be deemed acceptable, honorable even.

Beware of
writing a book or putting something online for people to read, for by doing so
we put ourselves in the position of influencing other people with our life view
and philosophy. Our readership may be ten or ten thousand, which matters very
little; we should not bring anyone with us if we are heading toward eternal
perdition.

I don’t want
others to follow me if I am not certain that I am on the right track; I should
not put a single sentence in print if I have the slightest doubt about my
thoughts. That simply isn’t an honorable thing to do, is it? If I were an
atheist, I should just keep my atheistic view to myself and not drag others
with me through my publications since there is an eternal consequence if I am
wrong. Telling people to believe in God is one thing, since they lose nothing
but some fleeting pleasure of sin in this life, but keeping them from believing
in God is entirely different. If there happens to be a God who is sovereign over
all, he will surely hold us accountable, both for our thoughts and deeds.

We may not
know the cause and effect of all things for sure; yet we can apply the
principle of sowing and harvesting to most things. What Jeroboam had done did
produce some sort of effect, both physically and spiritually, either in this
life or the life to come. From his son Nadab we can see clearly what sort of a
father he was. Had he been a godly example for his children, they would have
turned out to be entirely different than they did, and the subsequent slaughter
could have been averted.

 

  

Wednesday, August 21, 2013 6:48:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Nadab 

MTS-3562

Nadab

“Baasha killed Nadab in the third year
of Asa king of Judah and succeeded him as king.”           1 Kings 15:28

 

“I am going
to keep on playing football. You know, I am only young once and I am going to
live life to the fullest,” said a bulky high school football player in an
interview pertaining to the dangers of playing football.

What living
life to the fullest meant to him was doing something he really wanted to do for
a few years, even though his young body might breakdown doing it, causing him
to suffer the remainder of his life.

What does
this have to do with Nadab, Jeroboam’s son, who succeeded his father as king of
Israel and only reigned for two years? Had the man known what would happen to
him after he took over the throne, would he still have taken the position?

He wouldn’t
have done it. This is a rational answer to the question, isn’t it? People with
some sense would choose long life rather than worldly glory and honor. Being a
king over a nation for two years surely isn’t worth it compared to longevity.

Other people
would have been happy to take Nadab’s position had he turned it down. They must
have known that the chances of them being assassinated were far greater being a
king, yet they would have happily taken the chance. We have no idea how far and
wide our ambition will take us until we are provided with the opportunity.

The man who
was lauded as “the father of fiber optics” finally became a Nobel laureate, yet
he had no idea what was going on at the award ceremony while his wife was
accepting the prize for him. The renowned scientist had been stricken with
advanced Alzheimer’s disease. The man must have dreamt of getting this award
his entire life, but it meant nothing to him when it finally took place.

I was once
dreaming of winning the same prize, and I am not sure that I have overcome the
temptation of winning one, albeit the chance of me obtaining it is less than
zero. I would probably trade in a lot of valuable things that I possess for an
award like that. I might even give up a few years of my life for a brief moment
of glory.

Am I out of
my mind? Not so, really. We should never underestimate the seduction of worldly
glory and fame. Nadab might have accepted the throne even if he knew the
consequences of taking it. Isn’t this what most people are doing? “What
good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul?” asked
the Lord Jesus in his parable.

Baasa had been lurking behind
the throne and pounced at the first opportunity he got. One cannot be too
cautious when he or she happens to possess something most people desire to
have. It’s all folly since that “something” is hardly worth having, let along
sacrificing one’s life acquiring it. 

Tuesday, August 20, 2013 6:29:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Faith 

MTS-3561

Faith

“In his old age, however, his feet
became diseased.”

             1 Kings 15:23

 

From the book
of 2 Chronicles we find out that Asa turned to physicians for healing instead
of trusting the Lord when he became gravely ill. He trusted doctors more than
he relied on God, we are told.

It was not
wrong for him to turn to experts for help when his life was hanging by a
thread; it was Asa’s lack of faith in the Lord that was displeasing to God. In
time of trouble, Asa first did what came natural to him before he turned to the
Lord, which is quite natural for all of us to do.

We turn to
God for help only when we are at our wit’s end, don’t we? Because of our lack
of faith, our first option is always human and, after we have exhausted all other
options, we turn to the divine, which is often perceived as the last resort.

God should
always be our first option, even though we may seek help from humans when we
are in trouble. Whether we are aided by human or divine, ultimately, God is our
help in time of crisis. This is something we should always keep in mind and put
into practice.

Physical healing we receive in this life is always temporary. Our lives may be extended
through modern medicine, but only to a point. Lazarus was brought back to life,
only to face another death years later. In fact, the Jews were threatening to
end his life only days after he was resurrected. Had the man had his choice at
all, he might have chosen not to come back to life to suffer yet another death.

Asa’s foot
ailment was irreversible, and the physicians with their primitive skill
couldn’t have helped the king. He could have been a diabetic and the sickness
might have affected his feet, with the only solution being amputation. Yet he
was still hopeful that he could be healed by the physicians who were attending
him. He was still trying to remain positive under such severe circumstances.

Surely it was
about time the king should have turned to the Lord for help and for comfort,
realizing that he was getting old and, even if he could prolong his life for
another year or two, the end was still inevitable. It’s puzzling that, instead
of relying on God, who could preserve his life eternally, he chose to put his
faith in the doctors who might have only been able to extend his earthly life a
little longer. Asa had done quite well as a king and the Lord was pleased with
what he had accomplished as a leader, yet his faith in God didn’t seem to
remain strong till the end, which may serve as a warning for all of us. Living
well is relatively easy compared to dying well, and we are more clearly defined
by the latter than the former.   

     

 

  

Friday, August 16, 2013 6:43:00 AM Categories: Devotional
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