Maakah 

~~MTS-4260
Maakah
“Rehoboam loved Maakah daughter of Absalom more than any of his other wives and concubines.”     2 Ch. 11:21
     Being a king over a nation, Rehoboam could have chosen any woman to be his wife. In fact, he had a total of seventy-eight wives and concubines, yet out of that many women, he loved Maakah the most and he also appointed her son Abijah as the heir to the throne. Of course the reason behind Rehoboam’s great affection for Maakah wasn’t given; it was just a fact that demanded no farther explanation, for there likely was no clear apology for it. I suppose it was romantic love in its rudimentary form: it wasn’t forged; it just happened.
    It wasn’t anything Maakah had done that drew the king to her, actually. Maakah was merely being herself, which was quite enough. She might not have been more beautiful than any other women among the king’s collection of beauties from all over the country; there was something mysterious in her that seemed to penetrate the king’s heart and capture his soul. What exactly was mysterious something? No one knows.
    I am sure many people are still wondering about Prince Charles’ reluctance to embrace his beautiful and elegant wife’s love and why he continued to be infatuated with his ex-lover. She appeared to be rather ordinary, but he ended up taking her as his beloved wife. If one were to ask the prince the reason behind his fixation with the love of his life, he probably would have great difficulty giving an explanation. Surely romantic love needs neither justification nor rationalization. It just is and its mere existence is its best vindication.
    It must have taken the king seventy-eight attempts to find the one he truly loved. If that was the case, the chance of finding true love seems to be rather low. Besides, most people only have one shot for true romantic love and there is no second chance left.
    Romantic love is way overrated, and people who attempt to find their so-called “soul mate” or their soul’s fulfillment in another person are bound to be disappointed. In fact, their sorrow in life will surely increase if they do so, for the Psalmist tells us very bluntly: “Those who run after other gods will suffer more and more.” The gods are the ones whom we idolize, and lovers surely are included. Humans are just too lowly and limited to be deified, and the closest thing that we find in our time about deification of men has to be in the realm of romantic love and marriage. Everywhere we turn we seem to hear the glorification of human love bellowing out from the press or the tube, yet we have become so accustomed to it that it no longer sounds offensive or repulsive. 
    I doubt Rehoboam’s quality of life was enhanced in any way by having seventy-eight wives and concubines. It was a plus that he found someone he loved among them, yet Maakah wasn’t vital to the king’s fulfillment in life. Yet again the Psalmist reminds us, “You are my Lord; apart from you I have no good thing.”        

 

Posted by Robert Sea Friday, September 30, 2016 7:29:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Seeking the Lord 

~~MTS-4259
Seeking the Lord
“Those from every tribe of Israel who set their hearts on seeking the Lord, the God of Israel, followed the Levites to Jerusalem to offer sacrifices to the Lord… “         2 Ch. 11:16
    If their faith in the Lord was truly personal, it wouldn’t have been necessary to move back to Jerusalem in order to worship him. They could easily have stayed in the comfort of their homes and worshipped the Lord just the same, couldn’t they? Surely the Lord didn’t call every one of them to forsake their homes and make the long and laborious journey to the South where they might not have relatives or friends, where they might have to start from scratch and build their farm or business from ground up.
    Could the patriarch Abraham have remained among the Chaldeans, in the land of Ur where pagan gods were worshipped, and God still cut his covenant with him just the same? Was it absolutely essential for him to become a stranger in a strange land for God’s eternal plan to be established?
    Of course, departure from his hometown was the first step for Abraham to make, and without it nothing would have been accomplished. Departure from the old is absolutely essential in order to usher in the new, and those who wish to embrace the two will end up losing both. The Israelites couldn’t have remained in Egypt and experienced God’s presence and witnessed his miraculous signs at the same time. Unless the departure, a clear break, was made, entering into the land of rest would forever remain an illusion, an impossible dream.
    Whether it was through his own doing or not, Jacob, the one who preferred to dwell among the tents, the beloved son of his mother, had to pack up his belongings and venture out into the vast unknown. No sooner had he launched the journey, one miraculous thing after another started to take place, and the man’s life was turned upside down. Between his departure from his father’s house and his homecoming some twenty years later, the grasper of things turned into a pursuer of God’s blessings, and the self-made man whose name was Jacob changed into Israel, the father of many tribes. All these things couldn’t have occurred had he remained in his mother’s tent and under the protection of his father.
    Indeed, the time finally came and the godly Israelites who resided in the North, the ones who were determined to seek the Lord, were utterly convicted that a departure had to be made. Surely a great sacrifice would have to be made and it must have felt like the rug of warmth and security had been pulled out from under them, but there simply wasn’t any other option left for them except the choice of bidding a final farewell to their past, to all they had known and come to love, and journey into the unknown wilderness.
    Isn’t this what we have done both physically and spiritually, and will continue to do until we make our final departure from the world? O how we wish to drink the new wine and keep the old wineskin as well, yet no such option is ever offered. 
           

 

Posted by Robert Sea Thursday, September 29, 2016 7:29:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Self Appointment 

~~MTS-4258
Self Appointment
“…when he appointed his own priests for the high places and for the goat and calf idols he had made.”      2 Ch. 11:15
     It was well over fifty years ago when these things took place, but the sights and sounds, even the aroma of the incense and “paper money,” will forever be etched in my mind. It didn’t happen all that often, but whenever there was a grave need in my family, a Taoist priest was invited to my house to do his rituals, either to drive out the so-called demons or erase an evil spell that had been cast upon our family. Did the exotic ceremony really work? I don’t think the villagers took the trouble to look into it, for what mattered to them were the rituals they were told to observe and, a far as their effectiveness was concerned, it was indeed beyond their pay grade.
    The ones who refused to participate in idolatry, together with all its rituals, were labeled as people with “iron teeth,” and sooner or later they would suffer the consequence of their stubbornness and their lack of respect for the village gods.
    There was a large tree in the middle of the village and for some unknown reason a stone had been erected under it and there was incense holder placed in front of the stone.  People began to pray to it as if the stone were deified. The whole thing was so irrational and superstitious, yet very few of us dared to question the wisdom of the village medium who appeared to be behind the whole affair.
    “The high places” were the locations where the Israelites from the North paid homage to pagan gods and goddesses. I suppose the priests of those idols were appointed by the authorities to be mediums and spokesmen for the gods, serving as “middle men” between the human and the divine. When the new religion was being established, all the details of worship had to be worked out; whatever they did to please their gods was superfluous and had absolutely nothing to do with spiritual reality.
    Why were the Israelites from the North so easily beguiled?
    “People’s sincerity in worship is what determines whether the worship is effective or not.” Many people seem to believe this concept to be true and it makes sense to them, since they believe spiritual things are essentially irrational, nonexistent even. Therefore whatever worshippers determine to be true, then, is true for them. If there is nothing beyond the physical realm, why take it so seriously. If there is no objectivity in reality, subjectivity is definitely allowed and any far-fetched or outlandish ideas are acceptable.
    Religions are created for the sake of worshippers, not the worshipped, and all things are well as long as the former are satisfied and don’t raise any questions. When Jeroboam ushered in foreign gods and idols of goats and calf for people to worship, people didn’t seem to consider anything unusual had happened. They must have centered their life upon something far more important than the gods they worshipped.  

 

Posted by Robert Sea Wednesday, September 28, 2016 7:18:00 AM Categories: Devotional

rejection 

~~MTS-4257
Rejection
“The Levites even abandoned their pasturelands and property and came to Judah and Jerusalem, because Jeroboam and his sons had rejected them as priests of the Lord.”   2 Ch. 11:14
    Being a minister of the gospel is not an honorable thing on the island of Taiwan, for the majority of people are not believers. I knew what I was getting into when I decided to enter into the ministry. It took a long while for me to tell my parents directly what I was doing full time in the States. It was an “open secret” that I had become a minister, but we simply didn’t discuss the issue openly. In fact, my perception toward the ministry has been impacted by the world, and even up to this day, I still find myself rather reluctant telling people about my vocation. No matter what I profess from the pulpit and that I utter all the right things, my heart still isn’t in total agreement with my mind, and oftentimes I feel like I am lying when I confess what I believe. My knowledge has outleapt my faith by leaps and bounds.
    Not so with the Levites and some devout Israelites who dwelt in the ungodly North under the leadership of Jeroboam. They decided to vote with their feet by abandoning their pastureland and property and leaving the apostate nation, moving to Judah where the Lord was still being worshipped. Unlike me, they at least sought to be consistent in their faith and practice and were willing to make the necessary sacrifices in order to follow the Lord.
    I have often taught people that they should follow their will by practicing God’s teachings from the Bible and their feelings would soon follow, yet I don’t necessarily find it true in my personal experiences. Our feelings, which are primarily determined by our temperament, seem to hold sway in their own stronghold and are rather too stubborn to make any meaningful changes; therefore we often find ourselves held captive by our native personality.
    “What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death?” I believe Paul was lamenting about the indwelling sin that hampered him from achieving complete holiness, yet my issue is of an entirely different sort. My lamentation has always been the discrepancies I have discovered between my mind and heart, my teaching and my practice, and my utter inability to feel what I will to do and to carry out what I know to be true.
    Is there a resolution to this dilemma?
    It goes without saying that our circumstances are ever changing and our feelings are fleeting and they should never be the determining factors of who we are and what we do. In the midst of all the turmoil we find ourselves, Biblical truth is still the only anchor that keeps us from being tossed to and fro by our tumultuous emotions. Indeed, who we are is what we know to be true, not what we feel to be authentic, even though we may often feel the complete opposite. If so, our tempestuous temperament is the cross, the innate weakness, that we are called to bear until the day when we bid farewell to this woeful body of death.   
    

 

Posted by Robert Sea Tuesday, September 27, 2016 8:22:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Priests and Levites 

~~MTS-4256
Priests and Levites
“The priests and Levites from all their districts throughout Israel sided with him.”   2 Ch. 11:13
     It wasn’t because the king of the South was particularly devout that all the priests and Levites in Israel all flooded to him; they were merely out of commission, since Jeroboam had quit serving the Lord and established for the Northern kingdom a foreign form of worship. The Israelites from the North started to practice idolatry.
    What else could they have done except escape to the city where the Lord’s name was still honored and lifted up? In the city of David there must have been an oversupply of priests and Levites at this time, and many of them might have found themselves out of a sacred employment.
    Did it really matter to them? If their faith in the Lord was personal, there wasn’t any need to be confirmed and affirmed by the general public, was there? Living in the presence of the Lord and under the giant shadow of the holy temple should have been quite enough for them. Idealistically, perhaps. Yet many of them might have had a household to maintain and a family to raise, and faith in the Almighty might not have been sufficient to make a living.
    By escaping from the North, many Levites had left their pastureland behind, and might have found themselves homeless in the holy city. “Was this all worthwhile?” they might have occasionally pondered.
    Don’t we all have similar thoughts when things get tough and we are often tempted to escape from where we are and start something new elsewhere? Yet we lose sight of the fact the changing scenery doesn’t usually usher in new circumstances. We are actually not trapped by the situation in which we have found ourselves; we are in fact bound by who we are and the infirmities which we have inherited.
    To whom shall we turn except to the Lord who alone can transform our inner selves and create in us a new heart? Even if he does not do so, he will somehow strengthen us and enable us to cope with who we are and whatever issues that have kept us in bondage. 
    This is a bit of a stretch, isn’t it? The Levites and the priests merely did what was necessary at the time and they could have been well taken care of in Jerusalem where they at the least found respect and acceptance. Isn’t it true what the Lord requires of us is to do our part in whatever circumstance and he will fulfill what’s his? Perhaps I have spent too much time worrying about what the Lord won’t be doing, and neglecting what I should be doing in the meantime.
    I suppose the Levites and the priests who migrated from the North might have done rather well. Who am I to say that wasn’t really the case?

 

Posted by Robert Sea Monday, September 26, 2016 7:15:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Home 

~~MTS-4255
Home
“Go home, every one of you, for this is my doing.”            2 Ch. 11:4
     Through prophet Shemaiah the Lord spoke to the people who were about to march to the frontlines to fight against the Israelites. The war was stopped in its tracks and the ones who were about to die suddenly were given a new lease on life. A moment before they were probably bidding farewell to all their loved ones in their hearts, and the next moment every one of them got to go home to be reunited with their mothers and fathers, their wives and children. It must have felt like a dream to most of them and all of a sudden they could afford to hope again.
    Like all other calamities in life, war puts an end to what we do routinely and forces us to stare right in the eye at the things we have been avoiding. When life is about to end, nothing on earth seems to be all that important anymore.
    When the good news was posted, people were swept up by joy like a tidal wave that almost took their breath away, yet soon they started to concern themselves with the next crop and the impending harvest. When their rendezvous with eternity was put on hold, they couldn’t help thinking and worrying about their immediate concerns. 
    Most people must have been overjoyed that they got to go home to their ordinary life, yet there must have been a few who felt rather disappointed that the war hadn’t materialized. They were the ones who became bored with their mundane daily life and were quite eager for adventure. War provided them with a perfect opportunity to escape from the traps in their life. It’s rather unfortunate, but there are people in the world who actually romanticize wars.
    Before I was drafted, military life didn’t seem to be so bad, for I often painted for myself a portrait of a young soldier sitting alone in an exotic place with a rifle on his shoulder and a cigarette in his hand, feeling rather romantic, colored with a tinge of melancholy. That seems so perfect, doesn’t it? True to my naïve imagination, I smoked my first cigarette the first night after my long hair was shaved and my name was turned into a number. Training for war was so horrific, I can hardly imagine what the real thing would be like.
    It felt very much like a dream when I walked out of the military camp we were stationed at for the last time and headed home. It had to be the happiest day of my life by far, yet I hadn’t even been involved in any kind of war and my life hadn’t been in danger in any way.
    Indeed, we are not created to die at all, and death in any form is cruel, but death in a war is the most irrational and the cruelest, void of any purpose or meaning, the most unnecessary of any death. I pray the day will soon come when the world is governed by the Prince of peace and war will forever be abolished.     

 

Posted by Robert Sea Friday, September 23, 2016 7:20:00 AM Categories: Devotional

War 

~~MTS-4254
War
“When Rehoboam arrived in Jerusalem, he mustered Judah and Benjamin—a hundred and eighty thousand able young men…”       2 Ch. 11:1
     It was a personal insult that the king suffered and something had to be done to restore his credibility. Ten tribes had left and the northern portion of Israel was severed. How could he not do anything about it? He started to muster able young men and a war against Jeroboam appeared to be inevitable.
    Quite a few wars in human history seem to have started with quite similar reasons as this, didn’t they? Some national leader’s feelings were hurt and therefore the pride of a nation was invoked; people’s emotions were stirred up and, consequently, many young were marched to the jaws of death.
    Under such circumstances, could the war have been avoided if the Lord failed to intervene through his prophet?
    The king might have felt that he had a mandate from the people and going to war against their fellow Israelites was what they wanted him to do. Yet no one really knows how the will of the people was gauged. Going to war simply meant separation from one’s loved ones and death was quite a strong possibility. Who in their right mind would want these sorts of things? Don’t all people have a simple desire to till their plot of land and to raise a family void of interruptions from the government?
    War is hell and when does it ever become a necessity? If it is such an evil thing, why don’t people try all things possible to avoid having one? Come to think of it, we may not be trying hard enough, since wars and rumors of wars seem to continue endlessly.
    If most wars have been started by monarchs and kings, getting rid of them appears to be a good start, doesn’t it? But wars among nations are ever present even though monarchies have mostly been replaced by democracies and other forms of government. One thing is for sure, though: wars are mostly started by a few who possess absolute power and getting rid of the ambitious few seems to be a good beginning.
    Of course we know well what the root problem is - our original sin. Didn’t the first murder in human history take place for no obvious reason? Can anyone come out with a good apology for war?     

 

Posted by Robert Sea Thursday, September 22, 2016 6:53:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Forced Labor 

~~MTS-4253
Forced Labor
“King Rehoboam sent out Adoniram, who was in charge of forced labor, but the Israelites stoned him to death.”          2 Ch. 10:18
     King Rehoboam must have been way too naïve to know that things were different and his father’s way of conducting business wasn’t going to work anymore. He must have been starting some sort of construction and laborers were needed, and he did what always had been done before - a man in charge of the force labor was being sent out to conscript some Israelites to do the work. Except this time it didn’t work. Adoniram was killed and the king himself had to run for his life. The people asserted their power and the king lost his mandate to reign and the unified kingdom was divided.
    Could the tragic division among brothers have been avoided? Of course, all things could have been averted as long as people merely did the right thing. The issue is we don’t always make the right choices nor do what we consider sound and good. Besides, we are bound by our infirmities, which render us unable to always do the right thing.
    From whom did Rehoboam learn to rule a nation except from his father? Who could blame him for doing that since the father seemed to thrive doing what he did governing the nation?
    A nation cannot be governed properly unless the Lord is lifted up and his name universally honored and glorified. We may do all things humanly possible to maintain a nation and keep her thriving, yet our efforts will all be for naught if the Lord isn’t the center of all our endeavors.
    Sounds rather simple, doesn’t it? Way too naïve and simplistic, perhaps.
    Surrounded by his counselors and fortified by the military might his father had built, the young king must have deemed himself rather invincible and was about ready to expand the nation upon the foundation Solomon erected. Yet he failed to realize that Lord must first be sought and the Almighty’s name must be exalted. Out of his sovereign will, the Lord decided to break the nation apart while Rehoboam was attempting to unify her by forcing the people to come back under his reign.
    Do we bring the sovereignty of God into all our life’s constructions and lift his name up in all we do, or merely continue to do whatever has worked for us, believing it will all end well as it did before?

 

Posted by Robert Sea Friday, September 16, 2016 7:14:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Burden 

~~MTS-4252
Burden
“My father laid on you a heavy yoke; I will make it even heavier. My father scourged you with whips; I will scourge you with scorpions.”      2 Ch. 10:11
     Surely people were expecting for better days and the newly crowned king represented their only hope. When the dream was dashed, their last resort was to turn to another man, an even greater risk because Jeroboam was an unknown, someone who might turn out to be far worse than the son of Solomon.
    What could the Israelites have done under such a circumstance? They were about to harvest the bitter fruit of forsaking the Lord and placing their trust in men. Their burden would only get increasingly heavier, no matter who happened to reign over them.
    Be they kings or peasants, people will always have their own best interests in mind, and it’s risky business placing our entire trust in them. Besides, they will ultimately fail us even if they have every intention not to do so. Our limitations as humans will eventually render us helpless when our loved ones desperately need us.
    Learning to trust the Lord is a lifelong practice, and I doubt we will ever master the lesson.
    Wasn’t it the golden era of Israel when Solomon was reigning? The country was relatively peaceful and the Philistines who used to be the thorn in their side seemed to be rather quiet at the time. David and Solomon appeared to have built a great empire within which the people should have enjoyed a time of peace and prosperity. Yet that didn’t seem to be the case by the people’s appeal to the new king; they were in fact suffering all sorts of ills and a breather from the king’s tyranny was desperately needed.
    Was there any glimpse of hope for them at all? 
    Life would continue to go on a downward spiral and spin out of control if they kept on trusting men, not God. This was proven to be true if we look at what transpired when the kingdom became divided, for both sides seemed to be heading toward perdition at a rapid speed.
    Dread filled my heart when I was meditating on my own condition, for my love for things and the people of this world seems to have taken me farther and farther away from wholly embracing the love of God and I fear for myself if the support system and the safe haven I have carefully constructed for myself starts to crumble. 
    “Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you,” wrote the Psalmist. Is this the answer to the question?
   

 

Posted by Robert Sea Thursday, September 15, 2016 6:33:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Youth and Age 

~~MTS-4251
Youth and Age
“But Rehoboam rejected the advice the elders gave him and consulted the young men who had grown up with him and were serving him.”           2 Ch. 10:8
     Rarely do youth and wisdom go hand in hand, and it’s usually a little late when wisdom is acquired, for many mistakes made because of one’s lack of wisdom are irredeemable.  
    Some people seem to spend their entire lives trying to correct the wrongs they committed in their youth. Once bad habits have taken root, it’s nearly impossible to uproot them completely. We are all aware of how addictions work and what a devastating effect they have on people.
    Of course, the young man who had just taken over the throne cared very little about what the elderly had to say. The elderly were the holdovers of the bygone days and their worn out ideas were easily disregarded. Rehoboam was born with a silver spoon in his mouth and he was far too eager to prove that he was his own man with great aspirations and ambition for the country. Even though he didn’t possess half of his late father’s talents and abilities, he nonetheless was aspired to be great.
    The king turned to his friends who were just as naïve and foolish as he was, for they were all privileged and inexperienced. They had all grown up in a highly entitled small circle and mistook that it was the only world there was. Besides, being privileged, they might have been led to believe that they knew the best concerning how to govern a nation.
    “O satisfy us in the morning with your lovingkindness, that we may sing for joy and be glad all our days.” We are reminded of this important truth in Psalm 90 where the Psalmist teaches us that we should work hard in acquiring God’s wisdom and mercy in our youth, in the morning of our life, so that we can have an abundant life the rest of our days. Rehoboam turned to the wrong persons for advice, and the consequence was far beyond what he expected.
    The Lord seems to constantly bring us back to the place where we have faltered in order to relearn the spiritual lessons we failed to acquire, and he will not be completely satisfied until we achieve what he wants us to obtain. Moreover, we will be at a standstill spiritually if we are unable to move beyond what’s hindering us, what’s keeping us from marching forward toward the goal.
    Evidently Rehoboam considered things would work out for him, for they had worked out perfectly for his father, yet he was entirely wrong. He might have deemed himself wise, but actually he was foolish beyond belief.

 

Posted by Robert Sea Wednesday, September 14, 2016 7:04:00 AM Categories: Devotional
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