This week’s Bible Journal post is a little different than most.
One of the differences is that it is a bit longer. This is because, as sometimes happens in my daily One Year Bible reading, I found two passages that shared the same exact message – with varying perspectives. Both passages were extremely relevant to what I’m going through right now. And both offer important insights to anyone who is anywhere in the process of transitioning from New Age to Christian. One is from the Old Testament and the other is from the New.
The other reason why this week’s Bible journal post is different is because I’ll be including a Bible study tool I learned about in Left Behind author Tim LaHaye’s wonderful guide How to Study the Bible for Yourself. LaHaye’s approach helps us identify four things in Scripture: a message from God, promise from God, a timeless principle and a commandment.
So let’s get started!
He [Uzziah] did what was pleasing in the Lord’s sight, just as his father, Amaziah, had done. But he did not destroy the pagan shrines and the people still offered sacrifices and burned incense there. The Lord struck the King with leprosy which lasted til the day he died. He lived in isolation in a separate house. The king’s son Jotham was put in charge of the royal palace, and he governed the people of the land.” – 2 Kings 15:3-5
…a solemn fear descended on the city, and the name of the Lord Jesus was greatly honored. Many who became believers confessed their sinful practices. A number of them who had been practicing sorcery brought their incantation books and burned them at a public bonfire. The value of the books was several millions dollars.” – Acts 19:17-19
Observation (Scripture One)
In 2 Kings 15:3-5 it is clear that rulers who tolerate the presence of shrines and idols were subject to judgement. In the case of Uzziah the penalty was leprosy, isolation and the loss of his kingdom. But what really jumped out at me was a question. Why did King Uzziah allowed these shrines to remain in his land when he obviously knew that they were wrong? And did it have anything to do with wanting to keep his people happy?
Whatever the reason the action God took was to punish him. To me the message here is that if we don’t honor God, we will be subject to judgement. God promised (or threatened) repeatedly in the Old Testament. He not directly threaten Uzziah with this consequence (that we are aware of) but, as King of Judah, Uzziah must have known Scripture. God warned his people repeatedly (a timeless principle) that there would be consequences if they worshipped idols. As far as commandments go, this is 1 and 2 of 10!
Observation (Scripture Two)
Acts 19:17-19 describes the repentance of the Ephesians who had practiced the occult arts. In Hebrew repentance or teshuva (תשובה ) actually means to return, as in return to God. Often this requires a complete 180 about-face as we turn from sin to obedience – which the Ephesians definitely did when they burned their valuable magical papyri.
But why did they repent?
The citizens of Ephesus chose to repent after witnessing several events in the ministry of Paul which were mentioned earlier in the reading. These events included baptizing many believers in the Holy Spirit (causing them to speak in tongues), speaking persuasively in the synagogue and what is described as Paul’s “unusual miracles” (curing the sick and driving out demons indirectly by giving the afflicted a piece of cloth that Paul had previously touched). Additionally the demons themselves had admitted to knowing Paul and Jesus when local men had tried to (unsuccessfully) deliver a possessed man by using Jesus’ name.
All of this must have been impressive because it convinced the citizens of Ephesus to turn away from sorcery and set fire to a fortune in scrolls. I suspect that the resulting bonfire was a big deal too because Acts 19:23-41 goes on to describe a riot (instigated by the local silversmiths who crafted the statues of the pagan goddess Artemis) that broke out after the public burning of the scrolls. Interestingly, the primary explanation the silversmiths gave for the riot was a potential loss of business.
To me the obvious take away (or message) found in the story of Ephesus is that we shouldn’t value money more than we value God. The implied promise of God is that we can be helped by the Holy Spirit just like the Ephesians – if only we believe. Such a blessing is bound to make it easier for each of us to actively repent of our sins. This is a timeless principle because the presence of God urges (and commands) us to value him above all else throughout the Bible. But here in the New Testament this commandment is expressed in a very different way.
Application (Both Passages)
These passages could not be more applicable to me. And I feel that they have a lot to say to anyone who is in the process of leaving the occult / New Age in order to turn (or return) to God!
Like Uzziah, I want my people (my family) to approve of me. This plays a part in my current struggle to rid my home of some remaining occult items from my time in the New Age. One reason I’ve kept some of these higher priced items in my home (kingdom) is because I am afraid of what my family will think if I throw them away.
Like the silversmiths of Ephesus I am also overly concerned with money (what I spent on these items). Fortunately, however, just like the Ephesian believers, I have the Holy Spirit to help me through these challenges.
And so do you!
Throughout the Bible God tells us that we must abandon other so-called gods. This point is so important to God that he made it the subject of the first AND second commandments. Not because he is jealous in the human sense but because he knows how harmful such practices really are.
It has been my direct experience that the deities pagan idols represent are not the product of our imaginations. Instead they are real spiritual beings from the demonic realms who do NOT love us (as does God) but seek to separate us from God. But knowing this doesn’t always mean that turning away is easy. In many instances, it is a process that doesn’t end when we are saved. Often, it begins there!
Because God loves us he promises us that Jesus and the Holy Spirit will help us through the process of leaving our old lives behind. This is what I feel is happening to me right now and I believe that if you got this far with this post it is probably happening to you too. To find it paralleled in Scripture is incredibly affirming.
To me, the biggest takeaway here is to do the best we can to get free and to pray, pray, pray for Jesus to help us when we feel stuck!
Thank you for bringing me to this point. Please help me to overcome my need for the approval of man and replace this need with a burning desire to be fully approved of by you. Help me to remove ALL occult items from my home no matter how ‘valuable’ I perceive them to be. Thank you for the insight you have given me about my own financial worries and how others may judge me. Help me to place service to you above approval seeking and all concerns about money. Thank you Jesus for everything you have made evident to me. Thank you for your love and care. Bless my family, home and outreach and all those whose lives I touch.
I got a great comment on this post asking me if I thought that leaders should tear down idols and places of non-Judeo-Christian worship in the present day. The answer is absolutely not. I use Bible journaling and the Living Word of God as a way to apply the truth of Scripture to my own life, yes. But I am aware of historical context too.
While I didn’t really think of this before, his comment helped me see something very important. In the Old Testament passage God was judging Judah. In the New Testament passage people had been persuaded to voluntarily give up occult objects. To me this says something about the differences – and similarities – between the Old Testament worldview and the followers of Christ.
Today’s One Year Bible Reading for June 29th
2 Kings 15:1-16:20
Next Week’s One Year Bible Reading
2 Kings 18:13-19:37
2 Kings 20:1-22:2
2 Kings 22:3-23:30
2 Kings 23:31-25:30
1 Chronicles 1:1-2:17
1 Chronicles 2:18-4:4
1 Chronicles 4:5-5:17
For more on S.O.A.P. Bible study please click here.
To read the One Year Bible free online please click here.
To order the One Year Bible for Women on Amazon, please click here.