The Road to Bethlehem: The Lost Word

Matthew 1:10-11
10 And Ezekias begat Manasses; and Manasses begat Amon; and Amon begat Josias; 11 And pJosias begat Jechonias and his brethren, about the time they were carried away to Babylon:
As we come to the end of this part of the Road to Bethlehem we will look at one final king. Josiah began to reign when he was just 8 years old and comes onto the scene after years of spiritual neglect. Under the previous kings, the people of Judah went back and forth between worshiping the true God of Israel and then falling at the feet of idols. By the time Josiah comes on the scene the temple is in disrepair and the people are confused.
After Josiah had been king for 18 years he orders the restoration of the temple (2 Kings 22). As the High Priest, Hilkiah, is going through his duties he stumbles across a book. When he opens it he is astonished to find that it is the Word of God. Now for you and me, this may not sound like a big deal. Many of us have multiple copies of the Bible in our homes and even on our phones and computers. But we need to remember, the printing press and the internet had not been invented yet. There wasn’t multiple copies of God’s Word so the discovery of it, lost in the Temple no less, was a tremendous and surprising occurance. It is brought to the king who reads it and cries out to God for mercy and then leads the people in a time of repentance. 
I’m afraid something similar is happening in our world today. It’s not that we have lost our bibles. The access to God’s Word is unprecedented! But they remain on the shelf, on the night stand, in our cars or sitting in our pews at church. It is not much different than it was in Josiah’s day. God’s word is sitting in some forgotten area, collecting dust and waiting to be discovered again. How do I know this? Biblical ignorance is at an all time high among those who profess Christ. Many are not sure what they believe, much less why they believe it. False teachers are having a field day in the hearts and lives of those who follow Christ, leading them astray and keeping them from fulfilling God’s plan for their lives. We know where our bibles are, but what good does it do us if they remain closed and unread? In effect, many of us have Lost the Word – not physically, but instead through neglect.
Today as we ReFocus our hearts and minds on Christ let us determine to become students of God’s Word. Some of us will have to go and find it, take it off the shelf and wipe the dust off of the cover. But as the Holy Spirit works in our hearts as His word is read and applied we will find our lives transformed in the Grace of God. And then God can use us as He did Josiah to proclaim the truth of His Word to those around us.

The Road to Bethlehem: Burning Bridges

Matthew 1:7-20
And Solomon begat Roboam; and Roboam begat Abia; and Abia begat Asa; And Asa begat Josaphat; and Josaphat begat Joram; and Joram begat Ozias; And Ozias begat Joatham; and Joatham begat Achaz; and Achaz begat Ezekias; 10 And Ezekias begat Manasses; and Manasses begat Amon; and Amon begat Josias;
After the death of Solomon and the splitting of the kingdom by Rehoboam the kingdom of Judah became a roller-coaster ride. King after king reigned over God’s people. Some of them sought after the Lord and led the people to do the same, while others lived lives of sinfulness and idolatry and led the hearts of the people away from God. Through all of this the Grace of God was seen as, even through the times of sinful rulers, God did not turn His back on Judah (1 Kings 15:4). 
Then there were the good kings, like Asa and Josaphat who ruled in righteousness and sought to turn the hearts of the people back to the Lord. The bible says that these kings destroyed idols and rooted out sinful practices among the people. King Asa even removed his own mother from the position of Queen because her heart was given over to idol worship!(1 Kings 15:11-13). These were times of great revival for the people of Judah. But, there was one problem. In 1 Kings 15:14 we read this phrase, “but the High places were not removed.”
High places were the center of worship for pagan gods. In Numbers 33:52 the children of Israel were commanded to tear these down along with the idols and graven images. God knows that if we don’t burn those bridges that lead back to our sinful past, all of them, then our hearts eventually we be drawn back across them. This is what happened with Judah. Some of these kings did great in destroying the idols and removing sin, but they left one bridge standing and the hearts of the people continually found their way back across and returned to worship at the dead, stony feet of false gods. Why did the kings keep the high places? Maybe it was to appease the people by compromising just how much change the king would make them go through. But maybe it was something else, something that all of our hearts struggle with…
We don’t like to burn bridges because it cuts off our path of return, of escape just in case we need to go back that way. Rather than destroy what leads our hearts away from God…alcohol, pornography, drugs,(you fill in the blank)…we take it to the closet and put it on the top shelf. Out of sight, out of mind right? But what happens when our sinful heart rears its head and we find ourselves crossing back over that bridge as we go to that closet where our idols are hidden…our high places. Burning Bridges takes commitment. It takes resolve. It is deciding that the sin that you are fleeing from is not worth ever going to again… so you cut off all means of return. Maybe God is calling us today to burn some bridges in our hearts…
Today as we ReFocus our hearts and minds on Christ let’s resolve to burn some bridges. We must determine in our lives that we are going to move forward for God with the battle cry of “no retreats”. What is in your closet today? What is that high place in your life that you are keeping around “just in case”. May we, as the redeemed of Christ, turn our hearts completely toward Him by removing those high places out of our lives.

The Road to Bethlehem: The Right Kind of Counsel

Matthew 1:7
And Solomon begat Roboam; and Roboam begat Abia; and Abia begat Asa;
As we walk down the Road to Bethlehem we finally come to a group of people that we would think are worthy of being in the line of the Messiah: The Kings! But if you consider who these men were, you might be a little put off. True, there were some who sought to live for God and lead their people towards him, but unfortunately it would seem these men were in the minority. Many of them chose to live for themselves, maybe consumed with the pomp of the position and the country suffered for it.
The first one we will look it is King Roboam (Rehoboam), the son of Solomon (1 Kings 12). This man followed two great, though not perfect, Kings in Solomon and David and had the opportunity to do great things for the nation of Israel. However when he had the choice between the counsel of the wise men who had served his father and the young men that he had grown up with, he chose poorly. Because of this choice Israel split into two kingdoms, The Northern Kingdom of Israel and the Southern Kingdom of Judah.
So that’s the history lesson. How does this fit in to our lives today? Can I be transparent with you? I know you have never done this…but there have been times when I have faced a difficult choice and sought counsel over it. In my heart of hearts I knew what I wanted to do so I would listen to those who agreed with me and reject those who did not. I really didn’t want counsel, I wanted to do what I wanted to do so I looked for someone to give me confirmation. Then when the consequences of those choices came, I found myself wishing I had listened more to those voices who actually wanted to help and listened less to those voice who wanted to please themselves or me. 
As we ReFocus our hearts and minds on Christ let us consider the counselors we have in our life. Maybe today you are faced with a hard decision. Let me encourage you to seek those who are looking out for your well-being even if what they have to say is not what you want to hear. Perhaps you are reaping the consequences of rejecting good Godly counsel. It’s not too late to turn to God and take what you have learned to help you grow in your dependence on Christ! Let’s learn to let Him make a message of Grace out of our mistakes!