Human Sacrifice 

~~MTS-3752
Human Sacrifice
“He followed the ways of the kings of Israel and even sacrificed his son in the fire…”      2 Kings 16:3

Human sacrifice is a form of bribery that worshippers make to the one worshipped. They want to bribe the deity to do something for them by making the ultimate sacrifice, believing that the god or gods will honor their gift and repay them in some form or fashion.
The wooden idols in our village temple were loaded with gold necklaces around their necks, which indicated how they had been bribed into doing something for their worshippers. The villagers would often turn to the gods if they had any sort of difficulty or illness, and promised a sacrifice would be made in the idols’ honor if their issues were resolved according to their wishes. Therefore many banquets were held and gold necklaces made to honor and thank the gods whom they worshipped. The gods did not really do anything on their behalf, for they were incapable of doing so, yet desirable outcomes were attributed to them just the same.
Is our worship of the Lord to a certain extent a form of bribery in which we somehow talk God into doing some favors on our behalf by making a pledge or promise to him? This sort of thing happens a lot more often than we think. Somehow we become convinced that we have found a formula by which we can bring under control whatever situation we may encounter, and God will always be at our service if we follow the set formula. We do A and God will do B. Wasn’t this what the Lord spelt out when he made a covenant with the patriarchs? Indeed we do have a covenantal relationship with the Lord, and if we do our part, the Lord will have to fulfill the other end of the bargain.
The issue is: we will never be able to completely do the part mandated to us by the covenant; therefore this is a moot point. Whatever the Lord does on our behalf is out of his mercy and goodness, not because of our merit.
Yet we continue to make some sort of “human sacrifice,” as if we can bribe the Lord into doing something for us.
There are indeed prayers of desperation and the Lord seems to heed some of these. “Save me, St. Anne, and I’ll become a monk,” Luther pleaded in the midst of a severe storm and God did just that and we all know what transpired at the end. Even so, that was more a cry of desperation than a bribe, really, and the Lord was hardly persuaded; he just did what he deemed appropriate at the time according to his sovereign plan for the reformer’s life.
Whatever form it takes, be it an oath, a vow, or a promise made to the Lord in order to cause the Lord to do a certain thing on our behalf, it will seldom work according to our wishes, for by doing so, we believe we can somehow bring the sovereign Lord under our control. Making human sacrifices is just one  of these desperate attempts which doesn’t work. It’s by God’s grace that we are saved; not by our merit.
 

 

 

Posted by Robert Sea Thursday, June 19, 2014 6:28:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Human Sacrifice 

~~MTS-3751
Human Sacrifice
“He followed the ways of the kings of Israel and even sacrificed his son in the fire…”      2 Kings 16:3

The Lord created us as human beings with a strong bond to our children and he would never ask us to do something so inhuman. Human sacrifice is an abomination to God and it’s an antithesis to God’s attributes. Such abomination only takes place in pagan worship and only blood-thirsty pagan gods would require such an inhumane thing from their worshippers.
The Lord did ask Abraham to offer his son Isaac as a burnt offering, but he never meant for his servant to do that at all, for the purpose of the command was revealed at the end. The narrative unveils to us how great the patriarch’s faith in God was and to what extent he would go in obeying the Lord’s command.
If we truly put the Lord first in our lives, all things that stand in the way of achieving the goal must be removed, including the ones we treasure the most in the world. But it hardly means that we must put them on the altar to accomplish that end; we just have to constantly get them out of the way if by chance they become obstacles to following Jesus. To treat them with disregard or to regard them as not of primary importance in our lives is in essence a form of sacrifice.
I sometimes ponder the possibility of doing some long term mission work, but the faces of my children and grandchild often surface in my mind whenever I entertain the idea. It feels like a bucket of cold water is dumped on my head and cools my passion down a great deal, realizing that I will be so far away from the ones I love the most if I were to do that. Fortunately the call from above has never come, and I don’t have to make the necessary sacrifices.
Obviously the Lord will never give us a mandate to physically sacrifice our children in a form of an offering to him, yet it’s entirely possible that he may demand that we sever the unbroken allegiance that we have established with our earthly beloved in order to heed our heavenly call.
“Let’s move back to Taiwan and serve the people in the countryside,” I sometimes tease my wife.
“What about our children and grandchildren,” she replied. “I will follow if the Lord calls you, but I will be very sad.”
To deem our earthly beloved as secondary in our life and to act upon the conviction is indeed a form of human sacrifice, for we know humans pale a great deal compared to the Divine, and we will always place the Lord first in our lives and all earthly beings as second.
Do I have a desire to see my grandson grow up and to enjoy his presence every day? Definitely. But even that privilege will have to be placed on the altar to be burned if my call to depart arrives. I pray it will never materialize, but that’s not my call. 
   

Posted by Robert Sea Wednesday, June 18, 2014 7:00:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Evil 

~~MTS-3750
Evil
“He did evil in the eyes of the LORD.”
            2 Kings 15:18

Most northern kings during this period of history were evil, and Menahem didn’t seem to be more evil than the rest, except that he did something atrocious that had rarely been done before - “He sacked Tiphsah and ripped open all the pregnant women.”
It wasn’t out of curiosity that they did such a thing, for who could get any joy or satisfaction committing such an atrocity? Something such as this was done, I learned from a book, to Chinese women in Nanking during the Nanking massacre by the Japanese during the war, but I found myself not believing the report, for I didn’t think any human was capable of committing such brutality.
It must have happened, more often that we think, because out of the sinfulness of sin and man’s inhumanity to man, there is nothing that’s beyond our capability of doing. Without constraint, sin will take us to the darkest place, a place where we never dreamt of being.
What sort of a man was Menahem? He was just one of those ruthless men who took down Shallum and became king himself, which was by no means uncommon during the time. However, he seemed to take evil to another level by inflicting unthinkable cruelty to women and children.     
Is there still hope for humanity?
Indeed we have become more civilized and such occurrences would never happen in our generation or under our watch. We may be overconfident by making this assertion, for times might have changed, but human nature and our potential to do evil remain basically the same. Didn’t hundreds of school girls just get kidnapped and were going to be sold as prostitutes in Nigeria? Isn’t human trafficking still going all over the world and girls are routinely bought and sold as if they were merchandise?
We are as civilized as the way we treat the weakest and the most defenseless in our society. Who can be weaker and more vulnerable than the unborn babies within their mother’s wombs?
“He did evil in the eyes of the LORD.”
Whatever God deems evil is evil indeed and no one can change the final verdict. Menahem might have had his reasons behind all his evil deeds and might even have made an attempt to rationalize or justify his wicked actions, but ultimately, it was the supreme Judge‘s call whether he is guilty or not. What terrifies me the most is what caused King Menahem to commit such an atrocity against women and children may make me to do something terrible beyond my wildest imagination. I am merely a sinner redeemed by grace and, apart from God’s mercy through Christ, I am just as lost as king Menahem and may potentially become as ruthless and cruel as he.     

     

 

Posted by Robert Sea Tuesday, June 17, 2014 6:46:00 AM Categories: Devotional

One Month 

~~MTS-3749
One Month
“He attacked him in front of the people, assassinated him and succeeded him as king.”         2 Kings 15:10

Shallum took the throne away from Zechariah and he only lasted for one month, five months shorter than his predecessor. Before the cushy seat of the throne under him became warm, he was dragged down from the highest and placed in the lowest. Somebody did the same thing to him what he had done to Zechariah, and a month of kingship came to an abrupt end.
At least he was king for a month; what have you done with your life, by the way? Some may mock you by posing this question. Being a king over a nation for a mere month surely is worth a lot more than leading an ordinary life for years, isn’t it?
Although I have no aspiration to becoming a king since it is unattainable, I did have a strong desire to become a graduate of Tai Da, the best university on the island of Taiwan. The dream was dashed over forty years ago after I took the entrance examination. Not only did I not gain an admission to my dream school, I even failed to get into the worst one. Up to this day, I still wonder how euphoric it would have been had I actually attained my goal.
I can only imagine what the ramifications would have been had I gotten into Tai Da, and lived my glorious dream. By the grace of God, I could still have turned out to be who I am now, but the likelihood of that occurring is quite slim, knowing who I was and what I was aspiring to become as a young man. One of my best friends in high school did accomplish what I couldn’t do, and he has since become a well-known historian. What he is now is what I could have been or might have become.
Would I have traded in what I am today for whom I could have become or aspired to become? Surely I wouldn’t have, yet the yearning of becoming what I wanted to be still resides in my heart up to this day, and I continue to imagine what it would have been like had I actually succeeded and become the envy and admiration of all my peers. No wonder I continue to live my life vicariously through my boys’ academic successes and rehash their exploits to whoever cares to listen.
Doesn’t being a Christian for one day beat becoming a monarch over a nation for a month, six months, or even sixty years? Surely knowing God intimately and being known by him is far more valuable than being known and admired by the masses? If so, why do we still have the longing to become rich and famous, and to be reckoned by the world as someone special?
Indeed I have been perceived by most as the “scum of the earth” my entire life because of my failure, but becoming a child of God has made this slight moot, since the temporal pales greatly compared to the eternal. It was not a good deal for Shallum to sit on the throne for a mere month and to wallow in the dark for an eternity.           

Posted by Robert Sea Monday, June 16, 2014 7:25:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Six Months 

~~MTS-3748
Six Months
 “…Zechariah son of Jeroboam became king of Israel in Samaria, and he reigned six months.”        2 Kings 15:8

Zechariah had been waiting for the coming of the day when he could succeed his father to be the king of Israel, and the day finally arrived. He must have imagined thousands of times how it would feel to have the golden crown placed on his head and a royal robe put on him and to hear the trumpet sounding, declaring to the entire world a new king had just been crowned in Israel.
The monumental moment finally arrived and the euphoria didn’t disappoint; in fact, it was everything he had expected and a lot more. Nothing, absolutely nothing, brings satisfaction and a sense of fulfillment to a man such as this, having thousands of people bowing down to him and looking for a favor from him.
“That’s what a great man should become (大丈夫當如是也!”) exclaimed Liu Bang, founder of the Hun dynasty, when he was contemplating the glamour and glory of Emperor Chin. Indeed The man’s aspiration was every man’s dream, although only a few ambitious and ruthless ones could turn their dream into reality.
Zechariah had no earthly idea that he was only going to be sitting on the throne for six months and his life, like a lot of emperors before and after him, would be ended in assassination. Had he had any inkling that was going to transpire, he would have given up the crown without even a second thought. Surely life itself was far more precious than what one could accomplish with life.
The life we are leading daily is real, and what may occur in the future is merely imaginative. The imaginative always holds more promise than the real, and it’s more appealing to us; therefore we tend to live in the future, not in the present.
My life will be completely fulfilled if I earn a certain amount of money, marry a certain woman, or acquire a certain position. We seem to be so sure of this; therefore we always remain in a stage of discontentment and yearn for the future when our dreams finally come true. Zechariah’s dream of becoming a king had become reality, and then what? He died six months later.
Do we have the courage to look beyond the fulfillment of all our dreams and aspirations, and ponder about what will then take place? The most likely scenario is we will replace our fulfilled dreams with new and unfulfilled ones. King Zechariah might have been contemplating about some building projects he would soon launch or a war or two he would start to expand his territory. But wait; first things first. A harem must be built and beautiful girls from the entire country must be collected. What the king failed to see was his earthly life with all its glamour would be ended abruptly six months later.
What would the man have chosen? Being a king for six months or being an ordinary citizen who led an ordinary life for sixty years? The choice may be a little more difficult to make than you think.
    
  

Posted by Robert Sea Friday, June 13, 2014 7:47:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Leprosy 

~~MTS-3747
Leprosy
“The LORD afflicted the king with leprosy until the day he died, and he lived in a separate house.”        2 Kings 15:5

Illness isn’t beholden to any person, whether you are a king over nation or a pauper who has nothing; illness small or severe will find you and remind you of your mortality. King Azariah was a good king who did what was right in the eyes of the Lord, yet his goodness and uprightness didn’t seem to keep serious illness away from him. The king became a leper because of one serious sin he committed. 
One day he was sitting on a throne, ruling the entire nation, and the next day he found himself living in a separate house, mourning for his misfortune in isolation. O how great was his falling, for turned from a man from whom all people were seeking attention to one whom all were trying to avoid. Not only did he become a sick person; he turned into a dangerous one as well.
We have no exact indication how old he was when he became ill; we do know that his son Jotham was old enough to take his place in ruling the nation after he was stricken with leprosy for attempting to burn incense in the temple, which he was not entitled to do. He probably suffered the illness for ten years before his passing, but no matter how long it was, a day of suffering was a day too long and tedious. Indeed time flies when one is having fun; but it slows down tremendously when one is suffering any sort of illness.
What drew people to the king was his power and wealth and, when all was stripped away from him, he became the loneliest man on earth. No doubt physically he was handsomely provided for; what he longed for the most was lacking - the human touch and the feel of other people’s warmth and flesh.
He would have traded all he possessed, his crown and gold, for sound health. I suppose that’s what most of us would do if we became gravely ill. All things become meaningless when the abundant means of life become superfluous and unnecessary. 
What did the king do in isolation when he was counting the days before he became clean, which was highly unlikely, or before his passing? When I was told a frequent visitor of our church was being moved to hospice care, I remember wondering about how he was going to spend his last days on earth. What could the Azariah have done to prepare himself for death, even though the day appeared to be years away?
He might have regretted the sin he had committed that caused the sickness to occur, but it would have been far more productive had he spent the remainder of his days on earth in repentance, which is the best way to get oneself ready to meet the Lord.        

 

Posted by Robert Sea Thursday, June 12, 2014 7:26:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Fifteen Years 

~~MTS-3746
Fifteen Years
“ Amaziah son of Joash king of Judah lived for fifteen years after the death of Jehoash son of Jehoahaz king of Israel.”       2 Kings 14:17

Jehoash, king of Israel, met Amaziah in battle and emerged victorious, and he also raided Jerusalem and took away treasures from the holy temple. Nonetheless the one who was defeated in battle and was captured outlived the victor by fifteen years. Jehoash died rather unceremoniously and gone were all his accomplishments in life, but his adversary was given another fifteen years to redeem himself by doing something more constructive than what he had done previously or by turning to the Lord and living in the light of God’s countenance. 
We have no idea whether King Amaziah did that or not. All we can glean from the reading is that he outlived the king of the north by fifteen years, and his life was ended by assassination. In the scheme of things, fifteen years probably meant nothing to the king. He could have wasted the reminder of his earthly life doing what he had been doing and his life ended exactly like the way it had begun. If that was the case, Amaziah’s life didn’t fare any better compared to his counterpart in the north, even though he was given fifteen more years to live. What difference did it make if both spent their lives gratifying the desires of their flesh?
The length of the years we have spent in the flesh means very little after we enter into eternity. What we do with the years given to us outweighs how lengthy the time may be. Both Alexander the Great and the Lord Jesus were given thirty some years on earth. One spent all his days conquering territory and slaughtering people, and the other used his time saving people and conquering souls. Which of the two do we desire to emulate? The answer to this is quite simple, isn’t it?
Longevity doesn’t do us any good unless we spend all our days the way they are meant to be spent, which is to glorify God in all we do and to enjoy his presence every moment of the day. Unfortunately, most of us seem to spend most of our time killing time by entertaining ourselves with various diversions. If this is how we conduct our life, it’s a curse, not a blessing, if we are endowed with more days on earth, really.
Fifteen more years spent gratifying one’s desire is fifteen years completely wasted. It would be much better if one’s life is cut short so that he or she sins less. Considering how King Amaziah’s life ended, he might have spent his old age scheming and fighting against his enemies within and without the court. Thus, it might have been far better had his lifespan been reduced by fifteen.
We better make sure we truly desire to spend our remaining earthly days serving and glorifying God if we dare to plead for more time on earth. If not, longevity may not be such a blessing after all.
  

Posted by Robert Sea Wednesday, June 11, 2014 6:03:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Personal vs. Communal 

~~MTS-3745
Personal vs. Communal
“Why ask for trouble and cause your own downfall and that of Judah also?”
           2 Kings 14:10

Being a king over a nation, nothing Amaziah ever did was personal in nature. “When one hair is being pulled, it moves the entire body (牽一髮而動全身,)” goes a Chinese saying. Whatever the king decided to do, the repercussions would be felt across the whole nation of Judah. The king should have had the welfare of his country in mind when he was deciding whether to start a war against the northern kingdom of Israel or not.
This can be applied to ordinary people as well. Whatever action we take may appear to be purely personal, but can quickly turn into a communal thing, carrying an effect of various degrees upon our friends and neighbors, either positive or negative, good or bad. Indeed “no man is an island” and, even it were so, every ripple its rocky shore creates may travel thousands of miles and impact all the islands and continents on its way.
We would probably refrain from doing a lot of things if we considered how our actions may negatively affect other people. The chain reactions of all our actions are a lot more far-reaching that we can ever imagine.
Thousands of Israelites would have had to quit what they were doing either on their farms or in their shops, bidding farewell to all their loved ones, and rushing to the battlefield to meet their mortal enemies, not knowing whether they would live to see their homes again. Whether they came out to be victorious or not from their military campaign, many lives would have been lost and numerous homes broken, and the number of orphans and widows in the land would have increased greatly.
Did this even enter into the king’s mind when he was contemplating whether to launch a war against the North? Most likely not. Even after he was warned sternly by the king of Israel, King Amaziah still proceeded to do what he intended to do and ultimately suffered the dire consequences of his ill-advised action.
We should think about the people we love before we decide to do anything great or small, and how our actions are going to impact them. All the sins we have ever committed are in essence selfish acts, since our only concern is to gratify the desire of our flesh. The prodigal son’s sole intention was to fulfill his own ambition and aspiration, caring nothing about how his actions would hurt his father and brother, and set a horrible example for his friends and neighbors.
So ponder about the possible consequence next time you have a drink or two, surf the internet for some illicit sites, or cheat on your wife or husband. The triple effect of our sins will kick into gear immediately after we do the acts, in which three parties are impacted - the Lord, ourselves, and the ones against whom we sin. If this mere fact does not deter us from sinning, I don’t know what will.   
              

Posted by Robert Sea Tuesday, June 10, 2014 7:07:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Glory 

~~MTS-3744
Glory
“You have indeed defeated Edom and now you are arrogant. Glory in your victory, but stay at home!”      2 Kings 14:10

Amaziah, king of Judah, defeated the Edomites and was basking in the glory of victory for a short while, but the joy was short-lived. Like all things physical we have experienced, the euphoria he received from conquering Edom didn’t last all that long and, before he knew it, he was planning yet another military campaign so that he could again experience the thrill and soothe his hunger for action.
“Glory in your victory, but stay at home.” Jehoash, king of Israel suggested. A very wise suggestion, wasn’t it? The king’s restlessness might rob him of all the peace he was currently enjoying and thrust him into endless turmoil.
No particular reason was given as to why Amaziah wanted to start a battle against the northern kingdom of Israel. No doubt the hostility between the two kingdoms was ongoing and they had fought each other off and on, but with a little self-control and prudency, most skirmishes between the two peoples could have been avoided. Why shed human blood unless it was absolutely necessary? Therefore King Jehoash suggested that Amaziah stay home and be content with what he had achieved in his conquest of the Edomites.
One conquest is never enough, for success breeds within us a more intense passion for greater successes, which is the reason why various additions are forged and nurtured. It’s an unquenched fire that may consume us all unless we learn “to glory” in what we have already achieved and be content with what have been endowed by the Almighty.
Nonsense! You may argue. How can we be satisfied with who and what we are, since there is still so much yet to be accomplished, both spiritually and physically? What King Amaziah was doing was merely the nature of the beast, for his nation would shrink unless he continued to expand and they would either do the conquering or be conquered. What he intended to do was quite natural, necessary even.
What is there for me to achieve spiritually? Achieving renown in a worldly sense has never been my ambition; therefore it’s relatively easier for me to stay home for I am going nowhere even if I try. However, it’s another issue altogether if we are dealing with the realm of spirituality. I can always go further and dig deeper in my pursuit to know God more deeply and to love him more intimately. Indeed there are enemies to subdue and more territory to possess. “"You are now very old, and there are still very large areas of land to be taken over,” the Lord said to Joshua before his passing, and he may tell us the same thing. This should give us a sense of urgency, causing us to work harder to conquer more of what the Lord has given us to possess.
  
                                                                                                                

Posted by Robert Sea Monday, June 9, 2014 7:24:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Heart 

~~MTS-3743
Heart
“ He did what was right in the eyes of the LORD, but not as his father David had done.”     2 Kings 14:3

Amaziah, king of Judah, might have had strong desire to be like his forefather David, but he could hardly measure up to the man after God’s own heart, both in thought and deeds. King David might have been rather imperfect in many ways, but his heart and devotion toward the Lord were beyond compare, and no one in the following generations was able to measure up the standard he had set.
David was pretty much the product of his age and aspired to achieve renown in battle, just like most young men in his generation, and his conquering of nations and slaughtering of people were duly lauded by his countrymen, so we should not look at his heroic deeds according to our value system. His womanizing was well-documented in the Biblical narrative and for sure his practice of polygamy wasn’t sanctioned by God. Sinful people always do what comes natural to them, especially if they have the means.  
Indeed the man’s conduct left much to be desired; nonetheless his devotion toward the Lord was beyond comparison. No one can question David’s love for the Lord and his desire to please him in all he did. Like all flesh and blood, although the man might have been overcome by sin for a season, his love for God was always restored through repentance.
Amaziah probably could have measured up to David in his conduct; it is unlikely his heart toward the Lord could catch up with David. In order to be more like his forefather, Amaziah should have spent more time cultivating and nurturing his love for God, which he didn’t do consistently. We are not born with a deep love for God; it’s cultivated intentionally, through prayer and practice.
David might have done a few things out of his lust, yet out of his love and fear for the Lord, he kept himself from doing a lot of things many times. He might have succumbed to temptations a few times in his life, but he was victorious numerous times in overcoming sins, times which are not recorded in the Bible. Whenever he failed and yielded to temptation once or twice, he probably had won a thousand times before then. Yet we often lose sight of the times he was triumphant in his struggle against sin, and we focus entirely on the sins he committed.
Will the Lord judge us for what we have done, or what we have refrained from doing? Will we be held accountable more for our thoughts or our deeds? It was through his inner life David was reckoned “a man after God’s own heart,” not so much because of his outward actions, even though both were taken into consideration. If they were placed on a balance, I believe the former will weigh a lot more than the latter. 
 

Posted by Robert Sea Friday, June 6, 2014 8:16:00 AM Categories: Devotional
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