This podcast covers Lesson 6 of Reboot Renew Rejoice Bible Study by Melanie Newton.
Taking the Dangerous Road of Making Excuses
Hello there. Welcome to Series Six of Satisfied. The Series Six podcasts enhance the Reboot Renew Rejoice Bible Study of the books of 1 and 2 Chronicles. I’m Melanie Newton, just an everyday kind of woman who loves the Lord and His Word.
In the last podcast, we looked at the importance of committing to God’s presence in your life—embracing Him and His ways while forsaking that which is not God. Today’s podcast covers Lesson 6 of Reboot Renew Rejoice Bible Study. We’ll look at what happens when you take the dangerous road of making excuses.
Making excuses. We all do it in some fashion. I looked up the definition of excuse. This is what I found.
To make an excuse is to release oneself from an obligation or duty or to remove the blame off oneself by placing it on something or someone else.
People use excuses to justify their behavior. Often, they blame others for causing it. After Solomon’s death, we see the Israelites taking the dangerous road of making excuses. The result is ugly!
Excuses split the kingdom
Solomon’s 41-year-old son named Rehoboam called together the people of Israel right after he became king. The Israelites who were mainly from the northern 10 tribes asked him to lighten the heavy load of labor and taxation on them. Rehoboam consulted the Jewish elders who had been Solomon’s counsellors. They advised him to be kind to the people and give them a favorable answer. Basically, they said, “Endear yourself to them and stimulate a desire in them to serve you as king. Be a servant king like David was.”
Rehoboam didn’t like that answer. He flat rejected it! Then, he consulted his peers who had grown up with him and were serving him now. They told Rehoboam to be even harsher than Solomon had been. Basically, they said, “Be the big bad king, Rehoboam!”
My first thought was that these peers were rich-kid, spoiled brats who were totally out of touch with the reality of the people. They weren’t supporting Rehoboam to be the servant leader that David’s support team did. Only bad things happen with such negative peer pressure.
Rehoboam answered harshly to the northern tribes. His excuse was that he was the king, and he could do what he wanted. Tough for them! They left for home and made a man named Jeroboam their king. Rehoboam stayed the king for the remaining two tribes. The northern kingdom became known as Israel. The southern kingdom took the name of the largest tribe Judah.
Later, Rehoboam’s son Abijah gave the excuse that his father was "young and indecisive and not strong enough to resist" the "worthless scoundrels gathered around him" to oppose him when he first became king. Give me a break. Rehoboam was 41 years old! Abijah tried to make it sound like the splitting of the kingdom wasn't his dad's fault or even God's idea. Making excuses for bad behavior.
Sadly, 2 Chronicles chapter 10 ends with these words, “So Israel has been in rebellion against the house of David to this day.” That wasn’t the worst, though. The worst comes next.
Excuses set up God substitutes
Jeroboam had been Solomon’s general. He was not an heir of David. God had hand-picked Jeroboam to lead the northern tribes. Instead of being grateful and faithful to God, he walked away from God and led a lot of other people to do the same.
Jeroboam set up a new religious system for the northern tribes. His excuse was that he didn’t want the people to have to go to Jerusalem any longer for their worship. That was under Judah’s control. So, he set up his own worship center, made God-substitutes with goat and calf idols for the worship center, began sacrifices to them, and appointed his own priests. He set up a substitute religion!
The northern tribes were already prone to this. You can read in the book of Judges how some of those tribes had set up calf images to worship. This opportunity with the kingdom split opened the way for God-substitutes
Jeroboam might have started out responsive to God’s call, but when placed in a position of power, his arrogance led him away from God on the dangerous road of making excuses.
But, those who wanted to stand firm with God did not put up with it. A lot of the priests and Levites from those northern tribes abandoned their ancestral properties and moved to Judah and Jerusalem. Then, the Bible says this,
“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 their sacrifices to the Lord…[and] strengthened the kingdom of Judah.” (2 Chronicles 11:16-17)
God is always seeking the remnant who are faithful to Him, who leave behind their excuses and commit themselves to His presence.
Then, we get to Asa, king of Judah. Rehoboam’s grandson. David’s GGgrandson.
Excuses lead to abandoning God
At the beginning of Asa's reign, he was fully committed to God. We read in 1 Kings chapter 14 that the Lord raised up Asa to be like David on the throne. Asa's heart was aligned with God's heart for most of his life.
In 2 Chronicles chapter 14, we see the actions that proceeded from that good heart. He led the people to forsake their idols. He commanded Judah to seek the Lord and to obey God's laws and be committed to God. God gave the land rest from attack for 10 years. When they were attacked, Asa called upon the Lord for rescue. God answered and prospered them in the victory. So far so good.
In chapter 15, a prophet from God is sent to give Asa some word of guidance.
"The Lord is with you when you are with him…be strong and do not give up, for your work will be rewarded." (2 Chronicles 15:2,7)
As a response to this revelation, Asa assembled the people to renew their covenant with God. By then, a lot of people had come down to him from the northern kingdom of Israel when they saw the Lord was with Asa. So, this was a very public large national gathering of the remnant of God-followers. The people wholeheartedly sought God eagerly. God responded to them with His presence and gave them rest on every side. Asa even deposed his unrighteous, idol-worshiping grandmother as queen mother, removing her influence from the court. This was some serious house cleaning!
For 25 years, Asa stayed committed to God. Then, in chapter 16, he made a choice that reflected a decline in his dependency on God over time. When his land was threatened by the King of Israel, Asa may have thought he had enough experience to work out a plan on his own. He made an alliance with another king to help him. It worked. He just didn't pass it through God first.
Throughout his 40+ year reign, Asa had prophets of God available to him to speak on God's behalf 24/7. Yet, Asa didn't consider going to God first this time. God sent a prophet to Asa to remind him that God had not failed him yet. In 2 Chronicles chapter 16 verse 9, God says these beautiful words,
"For the eyes of the Lord range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him."
Then, the rest of the verse says this,
"You have done a foolish thing, and from now on you will be at war.” (2 Chronicles 16:9)
God removed His hand of protection.
I can hear the excuses being made in Asa's mind. "I had a brilliant idea, and it worked. I saved your people, God." God said to him, "I didn't need you to save them. That's my job. I'll do it my way."
Foreign alliances were the world's way of dealing with your enemies, not God's way for Judah to do it. The king and the people were to depend on God who had never failed them yet!
When confronted with his mistake, did Asa repent and say, “I’m sorry God. That won’t happen again?” No! He got on his high horse and got angry. He was enraged rather than humbled. He put the prophet in prison who had delivered the message. That was not like David at all. And, he abandoned God! When he got sick in his old age, he did not seek help from the Lord for healing but only from the palace physicians. That’s stubbornness!
Leave no room for excuses
At first glance, I didn’t understand Asa’s behavior at all. How do you go from being so in tune with God to being so angry! God had not changed. Asa changed. But, why? What happened?
Several questions came to my mind:
First one was this: Do rest and prosperity lead us to relax our trust on God and rely too much on our experiences? That does seem to have happened in Solomon’s case. God is in the human development business. How is God going to teach us faith if He never allows us to have needs? Troubles both test and strengthen our faith in Him as we rely on Him for deliverance. An easy life lessens our perceived need of God so we depend less on God.
Another question came to mind: Is this a typical human pattern, especially for those who have a position of power and authority? We see this in the news every day. People in authority who started out as humble servants of their constituents become dictators and become “my way or the highway” kinds of leaders. That’s okay if the “my way” is God’s way. That was not the case for Asa. God in His grace spoke His word to Asa reminding him that God had never failed him yet. God said, “You can trust me. I will strengthen your heart when you are fully committed to me.” What more could you want if you are in any kind of leadership position? God’s eyes see you. The power of His presence with you will strengthen you to be the best leader you can be. You have to trust Him more than trusting yourself.
A third question really hit me: Do we become more vulnerable to relying on our own experience more than on God as we grow older? Regardless of whether we are in leadership or not. That bothers me a lot because I am now older. I’ve been asking the Lord to not let that happen to me. “Lord, stop me if I rely more on myself and my skills/experience more than on You.” My heart desires this especially when it comes to doing His work—which is my whole life because there is no sacred/secular division in a Christian woman's life. All of life is ministry for the Lord—work, play, church, social, and personal. I don’t want to think that “I’ve got it.” Every situation is different so I still need to depend on His guidance. He might use my skills and experience. But, that’s His choice.
What about you? Have you started relying on your own experience more than on God as you’ve grown older? If so, stop and renew your relationship with God. Tell Him that your heart is fully committed to Him and rely on His Word and His guidance more than on your peers, social media, or emotions.
God reminds Asa and us that there are no favorites with Him. If your heart is fully His, He will strengthen you in whatever job you do. King, engineer, servant, mom, dad, teacher, landscaper, IT professional, nurse. Don’t take the dangerous road of making excuses. Stay fully committed to Him. God is with you.
Our God’s powerful presence helps us to reboot our lives, renew our commitment to Him, and live a life of rejoicing as a result.
Let Jesus satisfy your heart with the power of His presence. Then, live in that power!
Until next time, I’m Melanie Newton. And, this is Series 6 of Satisfied.
Joyful Walk Bible Studies by Melanie Newton are available through Amazon and Barnes and Noble.