Thursday, October 13, 2016

For conscience sake..

If you set out to read the Bible in a year you'll find that 1-2 Samuel and 1-2 Kings is followed by a somewhat repetitive story in 1-2 Chronicles.  Like the Gospels there are times when these stories are telling the same story but giving slightly different details.  One such occurrence takes place as Rehoboam ascends to the throne in 2 Chronicles 12.  If you remember Rehoboam was Solomon's son and Solomon had ended his rule poorly by worshipping other gods.  The consequence God says is that the kingdom would be split in two with most of the nation no longer following God's choice for them with David's descendants as their kings, but now will be ruled by another (1 Kings 11:9-13).  There in 1 Kings the picture seems pretty bleak, saying that none but the tribe of Judah stayed and was ruled by Rehoboam (David's grandson).  In 1 Chronicles the details are a bit different as the text says that Judah and Benjamin stayed, but it goes on and states that the Levites migrated to Judah along with all "who set their hearts on seeking the Lord God of Israel," (2 Chronicles 11:16).   

I have often wondered what God would have wanted His followers to do who lived in other parts of Israel at that time?  What was the solution or the right choice for the faithful to honor God and shine as a light for the world around them.  What we see in Chronicles is that many of the faithful worshippers of the LORD in Israel defected and moved to Judah.  How could they not, I mean their culture was caving all around them.  Their worship, which had always taken place in Jerusalem was now restricted, a new false religion was setup by the state and they were the minority.  Now mind you this took place around 922 B.C.  But this is where these books compliment one another so brilliantly!  You see in 1 Kings 19 around 70 years after the division of the kingdom Elijah is in Israel trying to proclaim the Word of God to a nation that has long since moved away.  Elijah is deeply discouraged and depressed and lonely.  God proclaims a series of messages to him to encourage him, one of which states, "I will leave 7,000 in Israel, all the knees that have not bowed to Baal."  How were there 7,000 in Israel if they all fled to Judah?  

The reality is that some of the faithful left, perhaps the majority, but others chose to stay.  Why?  Why in the face of persecution and an increasingly pagan society would they have stayed?  It seems God led them to stay to remain salt and light in that fallen nation.  So which group was right, those who left or those who stayed?  Both of them.  Both of them were guided by their conscience and their faith in the Lord and it led them to make different decisions about the same situation.  

As I have grown older I have found this principle so helpful.  There are a variety of different choices we must make about topics that are not specifically addressed in Scripture.  Questions about education, politics, and diet are being thrown around and yet you find faithful believers on different sides.  Some home school while others choose public school.  Some are voting while others will not.  Too often we as individuals will make decisions and assume everyone else in the same situation would make the same choice we did.  When they don't, we immediately move to judgment and condemnation.  The reality is that in these decisions where God does not specifically say what His people are to do, our conscience is to guide us.  Here's where it get's tricky, my conscience is different from yours and will leave me to make a different decision (see Romans 14).  The danger is when I make my decision, assuming it is best for everyone and tell you to do the same.  That's legalism and not only does it put a stumbling block before my brother but it breaks down the unity and diversity that the body of Christ is to exhibit. 

Instead, let us be exhorting one another, to be seeking God's direction, trusting that the Lord will lead them to make the right decision by faith.  As Paul says, "The faith which you have, have as your own conviction before God."  This is an area where the Lord is stretching me, so that whether one chooses to leave or stay I can trust that the Lord was leading them to make that decision based on their convictions just as He did me and praise God that the diversity more fully reflects His heart and accomplishes His purposes.

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