01/03/Su – Zeal for the Lord

2 Kings 23:8-30; Acts 22:1-16; Psalms 2:1-6; Proverbs 1:10-19

OT: “The king commanded all the people, “Observe the Passover of the Lord your God as written in the book of the covenant.” No such Passover had ever been observed from the time of the judges who judged Israel through the entire time of the kings of Israel and Judah. But in the eighteenth year of King Josiah, the Lord’s Passover was observed in Jerusalem. In addition, Josiah eradicated the mediums, the spiritists, household idols, images, and all the abhorrent things that were seen in the land of Judah and in Jerusalem. He did this in order to carry out the words of the law that were written in the book that the priest Hilkiah found in the Lord’s temple. Before him there was no king like him who turned to the Lord with all his heart and with all his soul and with all his strength according to all the law of Moses, and no one like him arose after him.” (‭‭2 Kings‬ ‭23:21-25‬ ‭CSB)

After reading the law of God, King Josiah came under deep conviction and repented on behalf of the nation who had forsaken God for so long. He then led the nation though its greatest revival and instituted reforms throughout the land. He got rid of any and all forms of idol worship throughout Judah, and even traveled into to Northern kingdom of Israel to cleanse that land as well. While in Israel, he found the altar erected by Jeroboam of old. He then desecrated and destroyed it according to the prophesy that was spoken of him hundreds of years before. After instituting all of his reforms, Josiah called the nation to observe the Passover of the Lord once again. Josiah did all of that because he was zealous for the Lord. After his eyes were opened to the truth of who God was and who God had called the people of Israel to be, Josiah would not allow any false god or idol to distract and steal worship from the One True God and rob Israel of its destiny. Faithfulness to God cannot be forced. In our zeal for the Lord, we do not force people into submission the way other religious systems around the world do. In our zeal for the Lord, we apply the same passion that Josiah had for the land to our lives. We root out and rid ourselves of any vestige of compromise with the world, the flesh, or the devil. We root out and rid ourselves of any semblance of idol worship, until our loyalty and faithfulness is completely committed and dedicated to the Lord. We also make it our goal to glorify the Lord: to everyone and in everything, so that all may know the good news of God and have the opportunity to repent and be set on fire for the Lord as well.

NT: “He continued, “I am a Jew, born in Tarsus of Cilicia but brought up in this city, educated at the feet of Gamaliel according to the strictness of our ancestral law. I was zealous for God, just as all of you are today. I persecuted this Way to the death, arresting and putting both men and women in jail, as both the high priest and the whole council of elders can testify about me. After I received letters from them to the brothers, I traveled to Damascus to arrest those who were there and bring them to Jerusalem to be punished. As I was traveling and approaching Damascus, about noon an intense light from heaven suddenly flashed around me. I fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to me, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?’ “I answered, ‘Who are you, Lord?’ “He said to me, ‘I am Jesus of Nazareth, the one you are persecuting.’ …Since I couldn’t see because of the brightness of the light, I was led by the hand by those who were with me, and went into Damascus. Someone named Ananias, a devout man according to the law, who had a good reputation with all the Jews living there, came and stood by me and said, ‘Brother Saul, regain your sight.’ And in that very hour I looked up and saw him. And he said, ‘The God of our ancestors has appointed you to know his will, to see the Righteous One, and to hear the words from his mouth, since you will be a witness for him to all people of what you have seen and heard. And now, why are you delaying? Get up and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on his name.’” (‭‭Acts‬ ‭22:3-8, 11-16‬ ‭CSB)

When Paul returned to Jerusalem and was seen in the Temple worshipping, unbelieving Jews created a stir and started a riot. They found Paul and began beating him to death… and would have succeeded had the Roman guards not stepped in and arrested Paul. Once the crowds were calmed down, Paul asked if he could address the crowd and began telling his story. Paul was a man who burned with zeal for God – the same zeal that Josiah had. When he believed that this new faith in Jesus was contrary to God and stealing glory from God, he persecuted it vehemently. On his way to Damascus to arrest more “Christians,” he was arrested by the glorified Jesus Christ. When he asked who the Lord was, he was shocked to find out that the Lord was the very Jesus he was persecuting. Blind and humbled, Paul was led by hand to Damascus where a follower of Jesus came and prayed for him. Paul’s eyes were opened and he could see clearly – not just physically, but spiritually as well. His zeal for the Lord never diminished – it just became focused in a new direction. For the rest of his life, Paul lived with a white-hot zeal to live a holy life through grace (not the law) by faith in Jesus Christ, and to take the good news of the Kingdom into all the world, winning as many people to Christ as he could – even if it meant his own suffering and death. To this day, men and women around the world are filled with that same zeal. I know some of them…. People who refuse to compromise the word, will, and ways of the Lord; and faithfully defend, explain, and proclaim the good news of God’s kingdom day after day… People who sell all they have and move to the other side of the world that they may bring the good news of the kingdom to the oppressed and forgotten people trapped in godless religious systems. These people, though they may not be rich, well-known, or powerful – they impact countless numbers of lives and are heroes in heaven. We can be people like that – zealous for God and changing the world one life at a time. The first step is to allow our eyes to be opened to see the Lord for who He really is, repent of our old ways, and walk in His new life.

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