Undivided

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Prepare

Pray Psalm 86:11 as you prepare to hear God. ‘Teach me your way, Lord, that I may rely on your faithfulness; give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name. Amen.’


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Bible passage: 2 Kings 17:24–41


Samaria Resettled
 24 The king of Assyria brought people from Babylon, Cuthah, Avva, Hamath and Sepharvaim and settled them in the towns of Samaria to replace the Israelites. They took over Samaria and lived in its towns. 25 When they first lived there, they did not worship the LORD; so he sent lions among them and they killed some of the people. 26 It was reported to the king of Assyria: "The people you deported and resettled in the towns of Samaria do not know what the god of that country requires. He has sent lions among them, which are killing them off, because the people do not know what he requires."

 27 Then the king of Assyria gave this order: "Have one of the priests you took captive from Samaria go back to live there and teach the people what the god of the land requires." 28 So one of the priests who had been exiled from Samaria came to live in Bethel and taught them how to worship the LORD.

 29 Nevertheless, each national group made its own gods in the several towns where they settled, and set them up in the shrines the people of Samaria had made at the high places. 30 The men from Babylon made Succoth Benoth, the men from Cuthah made Nergal, and the men from Hamath made Ashima; 31 the Avvites made Nibhaz and Tartak, and the Sepharvites burned their children in the fire as sacrifices to Adrammelech and Anammelech, the gods of Sepharvaim. 32 They worshiped the LORD, but they also appointed all sorts of their own people to officiate for them as priests in the shrines at the high places. 33 They worshiped the LORD, but they also served their own gods in accordance with the customs of the nations from which they had been brought.

 34 To this day they persist in their former practices. They neither worship the LORD nor adhere to the decrees and ordinances, the laws and commands that the LORD gave the descendants of Jacob, whom he named Israel. 35 When the LORD made a covenant with the Israelites, he commanded them: "Do not worship any other gods or bow down to them, serve them or sacrifice to them. 36 But the LORD, who brought you up out of Egypt with mighty power and outstretched arm, is the one you must worship. To him you shall bow down and to him offer sacrifices. 37 You must always be careful to keep the decrees and ordinances, the laws and commands he wrote for you. Do not worship other gods. 38 Do not forget the covenant I have made with you, and do not worship other gods. 39 Rather, worship the LORD your God; it is he who will deliver you from the hand of all your enemies."

 40 They would not listen, however, but persisted in their former practices. 41 Even while these people were worshiping the LORD, they were serving their idols. To this day their children and grandchildren continue to do as their fathers did.



New International Version (NIV) Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society


Audio Bible passage


The audio version of the passage is taken from the Contemporary English Version (CEV).

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Divide and rule
The Assyrian empire operated a ruthless divide and rule policy to prevent revolt: anyone left alive was deported from their own lands, separated into smaller groups and settled elsewhere. As the defeated Israelites were marched off to the far reaches of the Assyrian empire (see Deuteronomy 28:36), other defeated tribes were brought into Israel (v 24; see Deuteronomy 28:33).

All or nothing
In an unexpected twist based on a belief in territorial gods, a priest was sent to teach these Gentile tribes God’s ways (v 28). But instead of obeying God’s first commandment (see Exodus 20:1–6), the Gentile tribes added God to their pantheon (vs 32,33). They were no different from the Jews – they worshipped God in a way that suited them. May God never be an ‘add-on’ to our lives! He is either all to us or he is nothing to us.

Worship God alone
The writer of 2 Kings understood that anyone living in God’s land should worship only him (v 34). Psalm 24:1 spreads the net much wider. Since ‘the earth is the Lord’s and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it’, all people should worship God alone.

Penny Boshoff

Respond


Let’s prayerfully consider whether we have added on idols that divert us from our heavenly Father. How might you refocus your gaze on God alone?


Deeper Bible study


Deuteronomy, which has strongly influenced the theology of Kings and especially this chapter, says that Israel is to live by God’s laws as a testimony to other nations who would see God’s wisdom and character (Deut 4:5–8). While Israel was not required to go out and actively convert pagans, they were called to represent God in their lifestyle. Yesterday, we noted where Israel had gone wrong. Today we see further implications.

The incident with the lions (v 25) seems harsh and unsettling. Why should these hapless people, forcefully resettled like the Israelites, be punished for not worshipping the true God they do not even know? We must remember, however, that Old Testament writers frequently emphasise God’s sovereignty by stating that he acted directly, when we might say that he ‘allowed’ or ‘used’ events for his purposes. In this instance, the tragedy opens the way for the true God to be known and worshipped (v 27). Many who come to faith today are first awakened to spiritual realities through hardship or tragedy. May we, as Christians, find ways to share God’s love and concern for them.

Sadly, the new settlers ended up with a mixture of syncretism and idolatry. We are not told if the Israelite priest’s teaching was deficient (v 28); if so, then it underlines further Israel’s failure as witness. It is striking, however, how much Israel’s earlier actions are no different from the pagans’ here. In fact, verses 34–41 (especially when read without paragraph breaks) merges the images of the two, so that at times it is hard to tell who is discussed. It reinforces the conclusion that Israel failed to be distinctive. Worse, it highlights how much more at fault they were as God’s people, delivered from slavery, in covenant with him and with a whole priestly class to teach them, yet failing to fulfil their calling.

Reflect on your own life and ask God to help you live up to your calling in word and deed.

Csilla Saysell

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Ancient superpower


Assyria was one of the most powerful empires of antiquity, and also one of the most brutal. 

Assyria’s influence on world history began as far back as the thirteenth century BC, when it took over Mesopotamia. Around 900 BC, Assyrian power moved westwards and began to threaten Israel and Judah. Prophets Amos, Hosea, Micah and Isaiah saw the rise of Assyria as God’s judgement on the godlessness of their people (see Isaiah 10:5).  

Ruthless military
By 722 BC – when Samaria was captured – the Assyrians were at the height of their power. Their highly trained army was equipped with chariots, siege-engines, spear throwers, slingers and archers.

It was a ruthless military machine that steam-rolled everything that stood in its way. Potential resistance was discouraged by skinning captives alive, impaling corpses on stakes and piling severed heads in heaps.

Deported peoples
Assyrians built their empire on a mass deportation strategy. Captive peoples were uprooted lock, stock and barrel, and forcibly settled in distant territories among other deported peoples they did not know and could not understand. 

Sometimes the deported captives were shackled together with chains attached to their pierced jawbones. Nahum prophesied that this empire built on cruelty would be judged by God (Nahum 3:18,19).

Fergus Macdonald

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  • Song: Let everything that has breath
  • Composer: Matt Redman
  • Copyright: Copyright © 1997 Thankyou Music
  • Buy this and other great worship songs at www.integritymusic.com


God in my living (Everything)
Tim Hughes
Copyright © 2005 Thankyou Music
Buy this and other great worship songs at www.integritymusic.com


Comments
  • Pat Goddard | Thursday, 16 May 2019

    We don't have named gods as in this passage 2 Kings 17, nor sacrifice our children to the fire.. or don't we? TV, computer games, online stuff, Facebook... and for children... mobile phones with childish things aimed at them, given to them to keep them from grizzling... all gazing away from God. No need to conquer and divide but to make all the same! "feeding' off a worldly food and mindset.

  • Jack Russell | Thursday, 16 May 2019

    Yes indeed Pat there is plenty to keep us distracted from God and overstimulated, never knowing the peace that passes understanding. Therefore we must be as ruthless in resisting and pushing back against this in the power of the Spirit just as an army goes out to battle, clothed in the armour of God. Being as nothing but having everything in God's blessings. "Give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name." And this word fear comes up. Again, I don't think this is about having reverence and awe for God only but terrifying abject fear at the consequences of his displeasure. But then in obedience to Jesus and empowered by the Spirit in worship of the Father, knowing to follow the directive not to be afraid of anything and to know the perfect love that casts out all fear and dwell in unity with the Father just as Jesus prayed for his followers. To us the murdering of children in sacrifice to man made gods is about as abhorrent as it can possibly get. However history of the 20th century and news we receive from some parts of the world shows how casual humanity can be about the life of another human. And as you rightly say Pat, gazing away from God is the start of it. May we all be empowered in God's love to be able to capture every thought and make it obedient to Christ, and to demolish pretenses and every argument that sets itself up against the knowledge of God!

  • Gilvin Crisifeca | Thursday, 16 May 2019

    These verses spoke to me this morning before I read the passage and they are relevant here too 2 Peter 1:3-4 3 His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. 4 Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature, having escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.

  • Angela Munday | Thursday, 16 May 2019

    Much food for thought Pat and Jack as we place our hope in the LORD, our God. “Christ carried our sins in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live for righteousness. It is by his wounds that we have been healed.” (Peter 2:24)

  • Mary Chaieb | Thursday, 16 May 2019

    Another beautiful song. Thank you Barbara. Indeed: to be like Jesus, this thought presses me, His Spirit helping me, like Him I'll be! And with an undivided heart.

  • Paul Newton | Thursday, 16 May 2019

    Last night, in our Home Fellowship Group, we were looking at Exodus 34, when God shows himself to Moses, and gives the 10 Commandments for the second time. We were struck by verse 12, when the Israelites were commanded not to make treaties with the people already living there, as they would be' a snare' We reflected how easy it is for the Church to give in to the pressure groups active in our society, encouraging us to accept their views on matters such as abortion, sexuality, marriage and many other matters. We follow these worldly goals (gods?) rather than listening to God's call to be a distinctive and holy people, and lose his blessing.

  • Roger Hall | Thursday, 16 May 2019

    Really interesting is the one of the reasons Jews of Jesus time wanted nothing to do with the Samaritan? Jesus broke through all this by chatting with the woman He met by the Well. The Healing of the world has begun! Praise Ye The LORD!

  • Paul Burkimsher | Thursday, 16 May 2019

    Re Paul Newton's comments: How do we discern what God's will really is? The church seems to often become the refuge of choice for the conservative elements amongst us. Yet Jesus wasn't very impressed with the ultra-conservatism of the church of his day. On the contrary, he instituted a whole new covenant.

  • David Chipchase | Thursday, 16 May 2019

    The Australian general election for the Federal government happens on Saturday. Please pray that God's will will be done and that we will be granted a stable and compassionate govt whose rule will align with scripture.

  • Jack Russell | Thursday, 16 May 2019

    David - praying.

  • David Forbes | Saturday, 18 May 2019

    More positive vibes Jack. Thanks for sharing you're doubts also.

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